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Reign of Henry IV page 10


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The Orleans family was vehement for vengeance. Isabella, the former Queen of England, now joined her mother-in-law the duchess dowager in this demand of justice from her father. She came with the widowed duchess in a chariot covered with black cloth, and followed by a long train of mourning carriages filled with their domestics. The two ladies sat in front of their chariot weeping, and thus they arrived at the gates of Paris. There they were met by most of the princes of the blood, and this mournful procession passed through the streets of the capital to the gates of the Hotel de St. Pol, where Isabella threw herself at the feet of her wretched father Charles VI, crying for justice on the murder of her uncle. She cried in vain, the poor king was fast sinking again into his delirium, and twelve months afterwards Isabella again joined the Dowager Duchess of Orleans in a similar procession, to seek the same justice from her brother, the dauphin Louis, who was acting as ^gent, but with equal want of success; and the old duchess sank and died in despair of punishment on her enemy. The marriage of Isabella to Charles, now Duke of Orleans, took place soon after these events, and, as already related, she died in 1410, in giving birth to an infant daughter.

The Orleans family, finding that no justice was to be obtained from the feeble and corrupt government, but, on the contrary, that the people of Paris hailed John of Burgundy as a second Brutus, who had freed his country of a tyrant aiming at the crown, and that the very lawyers and clergy justified the murder on the same pleas, declaring that Orleans had produced the king's Insanity through sorcery and drugs, determined to take arms and enforce it for themselves.

Burgundy, to strengthen himself with the Parisians, promised to reduce the monstrous weight of taxation under which they groaned, and they applauded him as their saviour. Revolt amongst Burgundy's subjects in Flanders withdrew him for a time from Paris, during which the queen, in the name of her son, the dauphin, declared Burgundy an enemy of the state, and threw all her energies into the interests of the Orleanists. But Burgundy returned victorious from his contest with his subjects, and in November entered Paris at the head of 6,000 men.

Once more, in the following March, the farce of a reconciliation took place between Burgundy and the young Duke of Orleans, at Chartres, where the children of Orleans embraced their father's murderer. But this base and unnatural union was as hollow as the former one; all the old animosity burst forth anew; and the young Duke of Orleans, who had lost the amiable Isabella, and married a daughter of the Count of Armagnac, was supported by that able and energetic nobleman in his opposition to Burgundy. From this day the whole of France was divided into the great hostile factions - the Orleanists and the Armagnacs - so called from the Count of Armagnac assuming the lead in his son-in-law's quarrel by his superior vigour and experience. The Dukes of Berri and Brittany, and the Count d'Alencon, embraced the cause of Orleans, and Burgundy was compelled to retire from Paris.

Henry IV., relieved from his own domestic foes, had watched this contest from the commencement with the deepest interest. His calculating soul saw that now the time was coming for him to take vengeance on France for its insults and injuries during the whole period of his struggles with his rebellious nobles. Into Henry's mind no feeling of commiseration for the sufferings of the French people was likely to enter; his very intellectual constitution was policy; his feelings led him only towards self-advancement. He foresaw that the first failing combatant would turn to him for aid, and he determined that it should be granted, because it would damage France. "What he knew must come came now; and it was the more agreeable, because it enabled him to pay to the son of Orleans the debt of hate which he owed to the father for his haughty defiance and his taunts of murder.

Burgundy solicited his aid, and it was immediately granted in the shape of 1,000 archers and 800 men-at-arms. Perhaps there might be a secret fellow-feeling, which made Henry "thus wondrously kind;" for it was one murderer succouring another. Burgundy, with this force, formidable though small - for the fame of the English bowmen in France was not forgotten - drove the Orleanists from Paris, and took their place in October of 1411, amid the acclamations of the people. Burgundy had now secured the persons of the king and the dauphin, and with this semblance of being the royal party, he marched against the Orleanists, and besieged them in Bourges. In their retreat from Paris they had plundered the Abbey of St. Denis, and carried off a treasure of the queen deposited there, which naturally alienated the mind of that lady.

In their distress the Orleanists now in their turn sought aid from Henry of England, and it was granted with equal alacrity. Henry had satisfied his resentment against the Orleans family by punishing and humbling them; and he was rendered placable by still more powerful motives. The Orleanists offered very tempting terms. They offered to acknowledge him as the rightful Duke of Aquitaine, and to assist him to recover all the ancient rights and lands of that duchy. They agreed to hold of him, as their feudal lord, whatever they possessed there, to restore to him twenty towns which had been severed from it; and to give security that, on the deaths of the present lords, the counties of Angouleme and Ponthieu should return to him and his successors. Henry, on his part, agreed to assist them as his faithful vassals in all their just quarrels; to enter into no treaty with the Duke of Burgundy or his family without their consent; and to send at once to their assistance 3,000 archers and 1,000 men-at-arms, to serve for three months at the proper wages, which are stated to be, men-at-arms one shilling and sixpence, and archers ninepence per day.

The news of this convention altered greatly the position of the contending parties. The Armagnacs received the Duke of Burgundy with an unusual display of spirit. The Duke of Berri threw himself, with 800 men-at-arms, into Bourges, and threatened to defend it while a man was left. But there was a large party in Prance who beheld with alarm and sorrow their common country thus torn by her own children, and the English, who had aforetime perpetrated such horrors there, thus introduced by them. Their utmost exertions were used to reconcile the hostile factions; and happily they succeeded. Burgundy met his uncle, the Duke of Berri, at an appointed place outside the walls of Bourges, where an accommodation was agreed upon; and as a means of making the peace permanent, the Duke of Burgundy agreed to give one of his daughters to a younger brother of Orleans. The two leaders took a very extraordinary mode of convincing the people of the sincerity of their alliance. They rode into the city both mounted on one horse; and the spectators, transported with joy at the sight, shouted with all their might, and sang, "Gloria in excelsis,"

In the midst of this exultation, the news arrived that Thomas Duke of Clarence, the second son of King Henry, had landed in Normandy, with 4,000 men, and was joined by the Counts of Alencon and Richmont, A deputation was immediately dispatched to inform the English leader of the peace, and to beg him to retire, as his aid was no longer needed. But Clarence naturally demanded the payment of the expenses of the expedition; and as they were not forthcoming, he advanced through Normandy into Maine, laying waste the country as he proceeded; while another body of English from Calais occupied great part of Artois. Six hundred men-at-arms hastened to the standard of the duke, who overran and plundered Maine and Anjou. Attempts were made, by promises of payment, to gain time for the assembling of troops; but Clarence was deaf to any such decoys. He had a very simple course laid down for him by his deeply calculating father: to do all the mischief he could prepayment of the various descents of the French on the English coasts, and their destruction of the English merchant ships; and by this very mischief to compel the Government to liberal terms for his withdrawal.

As there was no money in the national exchequer, there was a loud cry to arms, but it was very feebly responded to. Meantime, Clarence having overrun Maine and Anjou, prepared to invade the duchy of Orleans; this had the effect of bringing the young duke to the English camp with all the money he could muster, and having arranged with the invader for the payment of the whole cost of the expedition, 209,000 crowns, he left his brother, the Duke of Angouleme, as hostage in Clarence's hands for its payment.

On this, the Duke of Clarence did not quit the country, as was hoped, but marched on into Guienne, forbidding his troops to commit further devastations by the way, but allowing them to inform the inhabitants as they went along that they should not be long before they came again in the name of their own King Henry to carry on the war; words which were afterwards fulfilled to a terrible extent.

This was the last great operation of the reign of Henry IV. By a singular combination of tact, cool calculation, vigilant watchings of every movement around him, and a purpose which was delayed through no conscientious scruples, nor weakened by a single tender feeling, he had put down all his foes. He was at peace at home and abroad. Not a man was left alive who dared to tell him that he was a usurper, except the undaunted Glendower, who was too far off amid his mountains to be heard. He was the most sagacious and successful monarch in Europe, and perhaps its most miserable man.

Though by nature not peculiarly sanguinary or ferocious, the ambition of mounting a throne had led him into the deepest crimes and through torrents of blood. Had his title been good and his throne unassailed, he might have won the character of a mild and even excellent monarch, though it is not probable that he could under any circumstances have won the character of a generous or magnanimous one. But stung by the taunts and nerved by the determined hostility of his enemies, he defended himself with the vigour of a giant, and punished his fallen opponents with the deadly cruelty of the tiger. In the ardour of his active strife, called now here, now there, to encounter foes continually springing like the teeth of Cadmus from the earth, he seemed insensible to the feeling that his crown was a theft, and his throne was the tomb of his murdered sovereign and near kinsman. He received with a face smooth as the visage of a statue, unimpressed by a feeling, unclouded by a frown, the sharpest words of his many enemies, crowned and uncrowned, hissing murder at him between their teeth; yet all the while his very soul winced and withered within him, and the deadly hand of remorse pulled at his heart-strings. While youth remained, and rapid and incessant action engrossed him, he seemed to soar above all the feelings and fears of an ordinary man. He boldly replied to those who upbraided him with his criminal seizure of his cousin's crown and realm, that the successful issue announced the approbation of the Almighty. But his health decayed prematurely. His body had been overworked, his mind had been overtasked, his conscience had been overburdened. As his strength gave way, his stoicism gave way with it. In his youth he has been described as gay and agreeable, and in his most active years, even when overwhelmed with business and menaced by the greatest dangers, he was cheerful, affable, ready to converse with the people that he came amongst. As disease and debility announced a not distant end, he grew gloomy, retiring, ascetic in his devotions, and suspicious even of his own son.

His false position had forced on him every species of false conduct, and deeds which brought their certain punishment. There is every reason to believe that he sacrificed his sincere conviction of the truth of the Protestant doctrines, in order to purchase the powerful sanction of the Church for his unrighteous title; for before his usurpation he went along with his father in the protection of Wycliffe and the Lollards. To please the hierarchy he persecuted the Lollards, and was the first to give his sanction to the death of religious dissentients by the terrible means of fire. Yet, as if Providence would punish his apostacy by a striking antithesis, he was compelled, by the rebellion of an archbishop, to be the first in England to visit with capital punishment a prelate of the Established Church.

It is curious that soon after his execution of the Archbishop of York he was attacked by the most loathsome eruptions on the face, or, as it appears to have been, an inveterate leprosy. This the people naturally believed to be a judgment from Heaven upon him for that sacrilegious act, and probably some such conviction might haunt his own mind. Though in stature somewhat below the middle size, he was vigorously and finely formed. His features were regularly beautiful in his youth, and in some of his penitential communications he confessed to having been greatly proud of them. But, by the ravages of this repulsive complaint, they became so hideous that he was compelled at length to avoid appearing in public. To this were added attacks of epilepsy, which became more and more violent, so that he would lie in death-like trances for hours.

As Henry declined in health, he seems to have grown increasingly jealous of the popularity of his son, the Prince of Wales. The young prince had acquired great glory by his conduct at the battle of Shrewsbury, and in his warfare against Owen Glendower. He was free, jocund, fond of pleasure, and of mixing with all classes of the people. Shakespeare has made his life and character the most living and familiar of things. He has surrounded him by a set of jolly companions, the fat and witty Sir John Falstaff, Bardolph, "mine ancient Pistol," and the whole band of roysterers who haunted the Boar's Head, Eastcheap. He has drawn his inimitable portraiture of the merry Prince Hal from the chroniclers of the time, who describe him as the idol of the people. He was as dissipated as an heir-apparent generally is, but with his follies he displayed what his father never possessed - a generous temperament. No sooner was he on the throne than he offered terms of pacification to his most persevering enemy, Owen Glendower. The anecdote of his conduct before Judge Gascoigne has been represented as doubtful by some of our modern historians, but it is gravely related by Hardyng and Elm-ham, his contemporaries, and there is, therefore, no just right to question it.

One of the prince's associates had been arraigned for felony before Chief-Justice Gascoigne, the upright magistrate whom we have seen refusing to execute his father's illegal acts at York. The prince appeared before the magistrate, and peremptorily demanded the release of his boon companion. The chief-justice refused, when Henry drew his sword upon him, and swore that he would have the man liberated. The judge coolly ordered the prince to be committed to prison himself as a greater offender, since he was, by his position, bound expressly to be a maintainer of the laws. Henry at once, in the innate nobility of his own nature, felt and admired the lofty virtue of the magistrate. He submitted quietly to his order, and it is related that when the fact was mentioned to his father, he said, "Happy is the monarch who possesses a judge so resolute in the discharge of his duty, and a son so willing to yield to the authority of the law."

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Pictures for Reign of Henry IV page 10

Henry IV
Henry IV >>>>
Great Seal of Henry IV
Great Seal of Henry IV >>>>
Owen Glendower's Oak
Owen Glendower's Oak >>>>
The Return of the Douglas
The Return of the Douglas >>>>
Restoration of Isabella to her Father
Restoration of Isabella to her Father >>>>
The Field of the Battle of Shrewsbury
The Field of the Battle of Shrewsbury >>>>
The French Fleet reaching Milford Haven
The French Fleet reaching Milford Haven >>>>
Execution of the Archbishop of York
Execution of the Archbishop of York >>>>
Judge Gascoigne
Judge Gascoigne >>>>
Dukes of Burgundy and Orleans
Dukes of Burgundy and Orleans >>>>
Owen Glendower
Owen Glendower >>>>
Judge Gascoigne and Prince Henry
Judge Gascoigne and Prince Henry >>>>
Tomb of Henry IV
Tomb of Henry IV >>>>

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