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Reign of Henry IV page 4

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The expedition was far from equalling the prestige of those of his predecessors, especially the Edwards I. and III., but at the same time it must be allowed that it far exceeded them in humanity. Whether the real motive were humanity or policy, it was in effect both. His protection was instantly afforded to all who sought it, and the royal banner displayed from tower or steeple was a signal that no violence or plunder of the inhabitants was permitted. Thus he mitigated the terrors of war, and set an example of moderation to both friend and enemy, such as had hitherto been unknown in European warfare.

Henry was hastily recalled from the borders of Scotland by a formidable revolt in Wales. There a new enemy, and a most troublesome one, had been needlessly provoked by the injustice of a nobleman, Lord Grey de Ruthyn. Lord Grey, who had large estates in the marches of Wales, appropriated a part of the demesne of a Welsh gentleman, Owen ap Griffith Vaughan, commonly called Owen Glen-dower, or Owen of Glendowerdy. In his youth Owen had studied the law in the inns of court; was called to the bar, but afterwards became an esquire to the Earl of Arundel; and then, during the campaign in Ireland, to Richard II., to whom he was much attached. When Richard was deposed Owen retired to his paternal estate in Wales, where the aggression of Lord Grey took place. Lord Grey was closely connected with the new king; Owen was an adherent to the old one; and this probably encouraged Lord Grey to attempt the injustice. But Owen Vaughan was possessed of the high spirit and quick blood of the Welsh. He disdained to submit to this arrogant oppressor. He petitioned the king in Parliament for redress, but met with the fate which was only too probable from a poor partisan of the fallen king in opposition to the powerful one of the reigning dynasty. Though his cause was ably pleaded by the Bishop of St. Asaph, his petition was rejected, and Owen, who boasted that he was descended from Llewellyn, the last of the ancient Princes of Wales, boldly took his cause into his own hands, and drove Lord Grey by force of arms from his lands. The indignant nobleman appealed to Henry, who embraced his cause, and issued a proclamation at Northampton on the 19th of September, 1400, commanding all men of the nine neighbouring counties to repair instantly to his standard, to march into Wales, and reduce Glen-dower, who was declared a rebel. The fiery patriot, burning with indignation at this gross injustice, the very day that the news of it reached him, rushed forth, burnt Lord Grey's town of Ruthyn, declared himself Prince of Wales, and called on his countrymen to follow him and assert the liberty of their country. The spark was thrown into the magazine of combustible material of which Wales was full, for it was crushed but not contented. The people flocked from all quarters to Owen's standard. They admitted his claims to the princedom of the country without much inquiry, for they saw in him a champion and a deliverer from the English yoke. Owen's superior education in London inspired them with profound respect, and hence their opinion that he was a potent magician, possessing dominion over the elements. Henry marched against him, but Owen retired into the mountains, and the king was compelled to return.

The remainder of the year was spent in negotiations for the return of Queen Isabella to France. This return had hitherto been delayed by the anxiety of Henry still to obtain her for his son the Prince of Wales; but Isabella, as well as her relatives, is said to have stood firm not to listen to any alliance with the family of her husband's murderer. In the following year, 1401, Henry concluded a treaty of marriage between Louis of Bavaria, the eldest son of the Emperor of Germany, and his eldest daughter, the Princess Blanche, to whom he gave a portion of 40,000 nobles.

This done, Henry marched once more against the Welsh, who continued to assemble in still greater bodies under the banner of Owen Glendower, and make inroads into England, plundering and killing wherever they came. Twice in this year Henry took the field against them, but on his approach they retired into their mountains and eluded his pursuit. As regularly as he returned, they again rushed down into the champaign country, and in one of these incursions in Pembrokeshire, Owen gained a considerable victory, thus raising his reputation and augmenting his force.

Wearied by these fruitless attempts to subdue the insurgent Welsh, Henry returned towards the end of the year to London, but found as little repose or satisfaction there. Secret enemies were around him, treason dogged his steps into his very chamber, and he was very near losing his life by means of a sharp instrument of steel, having three long points, which was concealed in his bed.

In 1402 Henry was at length reluctantly obliged to relax his hold on the young Queen Isabella. When Charles VI., her father, recovered his sanity for a time, he sent the Count d'Albret into England to demand an interview with Isabella, in order to ascertain the real condition in which she was kept, and to demand her release with her dower and jewels, according to the marriage contract with Richard. The ambassador found the king at Eltham, who received him and his suite with great hospitality, gave ready access to the young queen on condition that neither the ambassador nor any one accompanying him should speak of Richard of Bordeaux to her. He declared that she should possess the most perfect security and every comfort, state, and dignity which was due to her rank and position; but he did not seem the more prepared to yield up the desired princess. His council, however, ventured to take a different view of the matter. They suggested that as no accommodation respecting her marriage with the prince could be effected, it was time that she should be given up to her friends. That as she was but of tender age, she could not of right claim revenue as a queen dowager of England, but that it was fitting that she should receive back again her dowry and her jewels, with all the other effects which she brought With her.

On this point Henry demurred, and submitted to the council whether he were really bound by the engagements of his predecessor. The council, with an evidently growing firmness, decided that he was. But Henry pleaded another difficulty. He had, it came out, actually taken possession of the young queen's jewels, and distributed them amongst his six children; the Prince of Wales, though he could not have the lady, being consoled with the largest share of her spoils. Henry announced to his council that his children were all absent, but that he had written to them commanding them to give up the jewels of "their dear cousin, Queen Isabella," and they were to be sent to London.

If the poor young queen waited for them she waited in vain; for we find that she actually was compelled to take her leave stripped of everything except her silver drinking cup, a few silver saucers and dishes, and some pieces of old tapestry. Nothing in the whole reign of Henry is more characteristic of the grasping and unjust nature of the man, even in such small matters as a lady's jewels, finding in himself no capability of arousing a generous feeling within him. He was pre-eminently of a cold, unimpassioned, acquisitive nature. He excused himself from making restitution of her dowry on the plea of a great debt still owed by France to this country for the ransom of King John, and deducted the amount as a great favour, and with all the punctual scrupulosity of a scrivener. But the jewels were never returned or accounted for, as we shall presently hear from her indignant kinsmen.

In other respects the unfortunate and amiable young queen seems to have been sent home with all due state and respect. She was, accompanied from her residence, Havering-atte-Bower, to London, by the Duchess of Ireland and the Countess of Hereford, the mother of the Duchess of Gloucester, and by Eleanor Holland, the widow of Roger, Earl of Marche, and mother of the young earl, the rightful heir of England. Besides these princesses there were the Ladies Poynings and Mowbray, and seven maids of honour, in- addition to her own suite of French gentlemen and ladies. She was escorted by the Bishops of Durham and Hereford, the Earl of Somerset, half-brother of Henry, four knights bannerets, and six chevaliers.

It is said that still Henry was most unwilling to let her go, and that both he and his son did all in their power to bend her inclination, but in vain. At length, in July, Sir Thomas Percy was appointed to conduct her across the Channel, and deliver her into the hands of her friends. This took place at Leulinghen, a town betwixt Calais and Boulogne, on the 26th of July, 1402. Isabella was at this time nearly fifteen, strikingly handsome, and extremely amiable. Every one is said to have parted from her with regret, and, on the other hand, she was received by her royal relatives and countrymen with an enthusiasm which probably had as much design as affection in it, for they wished to mark the contrast between the sordid behaviour of Henry and their own. She was overwhelmed with rich presents, as if to make amends for the widowed destitution in which she returned, and her uncle, the Duke of Orleans, who was anxious to secure her for his son, outdid every one else in his liberality. He was not satisfied with this, but sent a letter to Henry, upbraiding him in the severest terms for his meanness, for his murder of Richard, and challenging him to mortal combat. This was not the only epistle which Henry received from France in the same strain, for the Count Walleran de Ligny and St. Pol had written to him before the queen arrived, and sent his heralds with his letter into England, also defying him, and protesting that he would everywhere, on land and sea, do him all the harm that he possibly could.

Henry was stung to answer these missives in a similar strain, but they did not prevent him still cherishing the idea of yet securing Isabella for his son. In 1406, if we are to believe Monstrellet, he made singular offers for this purpose, but the Duke of Orleans declared in the council that the hand of Isabella was now promised to his son, Charles of Angouleme. To this young prince the widowed queen of England was married, and died in childbirth in September, 1410. Such was the last of the fortunes of King Richard and his little queen; and it has been well argued that nothing is so decisive in proof of Richard being actually dead as the pertinacity of Henry to obtain Isabella for his son's wife, as he certainly would not have done this had he known that Richard was living, for it would have illegitimatised the issue of the marriage, and the claim of succession to the throne.

Meantime the revolt of Owen Glendower had been acquiring strength. Not only did the Welsh, amid their native mountains, flock to his standard, but such of them as were in England left their various employments and hastened back to join in the great efforts for the independence of their country. Not only labourers and artisans, but the apprentices in London and other cities caught the contagion, and went streaming back. The students left the universities, and the Commons at length presented themselves before the king, representing to him how all these various classes of men were hastening to Wales laden with armour, arrows, bows, and swords. Owen took the field early, engaged his original adversary, Lord Grey, defeated and made him prisoner on the banks of the Vurnway. Sir Edmund Mortimer, uncle to the young Earl of Marche, collected all the friends and vassals of the family to prevent the devastation of their lands. They mustered 12,000, with whom they attacked Glendower near Knighton, in Radnorshire, but were defeated, and Sir Edmund was made prisoner, with a loss of 1,100 of his men. At the same time the young earl himself, who had been allowed by Henry to retire to his castle of Wigmore, though a mere boy, took the field, but was also captured by Glendower and carried into the mountains.

Henry, who had the strongest reasons for wishing the Mortimers out of his way, we may suppose was by no means displeased at their seizure by Glendower; and this was sufficiently evident, for he refused to allow the Earl of Northumberland, who was closely allied to the Mortimers, to treat for their ransom with Glendower. Still, Henry put forth all his vigour to reduce the Welsh chieftain. He entered Wales at three different points; his son, the Prince of Wales, leading one division of the army, the Earl of Arundel the second, and himself the third. The Prince of Wales pushed into the heart of the mountains with a bravery which was the herald of Agincourt. He reached the very estate of Glendower and burnt down his house, and laid waste his property; but Glendower kept aloof on the hills till he saw young Henry retire, when he poured down like one of his native torrents, and carried desolation in his rear. The English armies found it impossible to come to close quarters with these enemies, and equally impossible to procure provisions. The weather was insupportable. The rains descended in incessant deluges, the tempest tore away the king's tent, and everything appeared to confirm the ideas of the people, and indeed of contemporary historians, that Owen Glendower, by the power of necromancy, could "call spirits from the vasty deep," and bring the elements in league against his foes. Henry was compelled to return baffled from the contest.

The news which reached the king from Scotland was equally extraordinary. It was that King Richard was alive and residing at the Scottish court, and about to invade England at the head of a large army. The king issued repeated proclamations against the propagation of these rumours, and it was now that he put to death Sir Roger Clarendon, the natural son of the Black Prince, the nine Franciscan friars, and several other persons, for disseminating this account. But his efforts only added force to the popular belief. The circumstance most in his favour was the distraction of the Scottish court, where a most terrible tragedy had been the consequence of the criminal ambition of the Duke of Albany, the king's brother.

Robert III. had never been a martial monarch, owing to a kick which he received in his youth from a horse, which left him very lame. He was of peaceful habits, a religious and just temperament, but of feeble mind, and readily influenced by those around him. His aspiring brother, the Duke of Albany, had taken advantage of these circumstances to grasp the whole power of the state in his hands.

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