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Reign of Henry IV page 7

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Percy and Douglas, who had so often fought in opposition, now rushed on side by side, like two young lions, beating and bearing down all before them. Everywhere they sought out the king, determined to take him, alive or dead. But again the cunning Scottish Earl of March, who seemed to think of everything, had advised the king to take the field in the armour of a simple captain, and to dress up several captains in the royal garb. The ruse succeeded admirably for the king, but fatally for his representatives. Douglas and Hotspur raged everywhere. They broke through the English ranks with thirty picked followers, and wherever they saw a royally-dressed and mounted champion they attacked and slew him. Douglas, who is described as performing, as well as Hotspur, prodigies of valour, is said to have killed three of the sham kings with his own hand. When at length they approached the real king, he exclaimed in astonishment, "Where the devil do all these kings come from?" The two brave generals attacked Henry himself with the same fury with which they had assaulted those who resembled him. They came so near to him that they slew Sir Walter Blount, the standard-bearer, threw down the standard, killed the Earl of Stafford and two other knights, and were within a few yards of Henry, when his good genius, the Scottish Earl of March, rushed forward and entreated him, if he valued his life, to keep somewhat more aback.

The battle now raged here portentously, and knights and gentlemen fell promiscuously on all sides. For three hours the struggle and carnage went on, every one fighting, Scot against Scot, Englishman against Englishman, with the fury of demons; the archers all the while pouring in their showers of arrows on their opponents, so that, as Walsingham. says, "the dead lay thick as leaves in autumn;" and so encumbered were the ranks, that there was scarcely any advancing over them. Still, everywhere the forces of Percy and Douglas were carrying the day; yet, at length, Henry's fortune once more prevailed. He had fought everywhere with a gallantry not surpassed by any man in the field. When unhorsed he was rescued by the Prince of Wales, who, though wounded early in the battle with an arrow in the face, fought through it with the most distinguished bravery, giving full promise of his future martial fame. But Hotspur and Douglas, finding that the ranks of the royal army through which they had broken had closed after them, endeavoured at length to cut their way back to their own troops. In this, however, they were not easily successful. The battle was in its full fury, every man fought like a hero, and they found themselves assailed on all sides by the points of spears, swords, and flights of arrows. In the heat of the melee, Hotspur, nearly suffocated in his armour from his prodigious exertions, for an instant raised his visor for air. That instant an arrow struck him in the face, passed through his brain, and he fell dead on the field.

At this sight, which was beheld by both armies, the royal ranks set up the jubilant shout of "St. George and victory!" The Scots and Percy's forces gave way, and the flight and pursuing massacre became general. The Scots were almost entirely cut to pieces. Douglas, in endeavouring to escape, fell over a precipice; or, as others say, his horse stumbled in ascending a hill, he was thrown, severely injured, and taken.

The numbers of killed and wounded in this terrific action are said to have been 5,000 on the side of the king, and a much greater number on that of the insurgents. Otterburn says that nearly 2,300 gentlemen fell, and about 6,000 private men, of whom two-thirds were of the insurgent army. The most distinguished persons who perished on the royal side were the Earl of Stafford, Sir Walter Blount, Sir Hugh Shirley, Sir Nicholas Gausel, Sir Hugh Mortimer, Sir John Massey, and Sir John Calverley. Besides Hotspur and Sir Robert Stuart being killed, the uncle of Hotspur, the Earl of Worcester, the Baron of Kinderton, and Sir Richard Vernon were taken prisoners. Douglas was treated by Henry with the courtesy due to his rank and reputation, and as a foreign enemy, not as a rebel; but Worcester, Kinderton, and Vernon were immediately beheaded.

The rapidity with which Henry had broken in upon the plans of the insurgents had prevented one of the most formidable coalitions imaginable. The Duke of Albany in Scotland had assembled 50,000 men, and advanced to join Hotspur at the tower of Cocklaws; but on arriving there he found Percy and his army gone thence; and, soon after hearing that he was defeated and slain at Shrewsbury, he gave out that his expedition had only been intended to drive that nobleman from Scotland; and returned quietly to Edinburgh.

The Earl of Northumberland, recovering from his illness, was far advanced in his march with a considerable body of men to join the main army, when he was met by the intelligence of the defeat and death of his son, and his brother, the Earl of Worcester. Completely dejected by this calamitous news, he disbanded his little army, and retired to his castle of Warkworth. Owen Glen-dower, from some cause, never appeared. No sooner was this destructive battle over than Henry marched northward to disperse any remains of disaffection or armed force. He acted with consummate policy, prohibiting his troops from plundering, and offering pardon to all concerned in the late rebellion who laid down their arms. The Earl of Northumberland hastened to avail himself of this lenity, and presented himself before Henry at York, who received him, as might be expected, with evident displeasure and reproaches for the perfidy of his conduct. It is said that the old earl was mean enough to declare that he never intended any disloyalty, but was marching his troops to join the royal army - a circumstance which, if true, would induce us to believe all that writers of the time have insinuated of the dubious character of the indisposition which prevented him appearing at the moment of action. Henry seems to have received his miserable plea with deserved contempt, and he retained him in honourable custody for judgment by the approaching Parliament. He then proceeded to issue orders for the arrest of the Lady Elizabeth, the widow of Hotspur, and compelled the knights of Northumberland to swear fealty to him.

When Parliament assembled, Northumberland presented his petition to the king, acknowledging his assembling his retainers, but pleading Henry's promise of pardon at York, on condition of his surrender. The king referred the decision of his case to the judges, but the lords claimed it as their right to try their brother peer; and many of them having been more or less involved in the recent league with him, they pronounced him not guilty of treason or felony, but only of trespasses, for which they adjudged him bound to pay a fine at the king's pleasure. He then swore fealty to Henry, to the Prince of Wales, and to the other sons of the king and their issue, whereupon Henry granted him;jjis pardon, and in a few months restored him to his lands and honours, with the exception of the Isle of Man, the governorship of Berwick, and some other fortresses.

Henry had thus quelled this dangerous rebellion with great spirit and address, but he was still surrounded by dangers; he still found himself pursued by all the evils and annoyances of a usurper. The French friends and families of the slain insurgents were full of animosity; the country complained of the weight of taxes imposed to put down these continual disturbances, the direct consequences of Henry's arbitrary seizure of the crown; and his enemies abroad were insulting the country, and plundering its coasts in revenge of his offences.

The French attacked Guienne, and plundered every English ship and every 'part of the English coasts that they could approach. They captured a whole fleet of merchantmen; they attacked and took Jersey and Guernsey; they made a descent on Plymouth, burnt it, and laid waste the whole neighbourhood. Walleran de St. Pol put his threat in force, of annoying and injuring Henry by every means in his power. He cruised along our coasts with a squadron of ships, landed on the Isle of Wight, and inflicted severe injuries on the inhabitants before he was repulsed. The admiral of Brittany scoured our coasts and the narrow seas, and carried off no less than fifty prizes, and nearly 2,000 prisoners. No less than three princes of the House of Bourbon were engaged in thus discharging on the people of England their vengeance for the crimes of their king.

Henry granted letters of marque to make reprisals, and the inhabitants of the English seaports associated and carried on a vigorous maritime warfare. They retaliated on the French, ravaged their coasts, burnt their towns, and often even penetrated into the interior. They brought several fleets, laden with wine and other valuable cargo, into the British ports. They burnt Pennareh and St. Mane. The Flemings and Easterlings, instigated by the Duke of Orleans and St. Pol, joined with the French in this piratical persecution of the English; and Henry sent out his second son, Thomas, afterwards Duke of Clarence, with a fleet, who committed great havoc on their coasts, destroying ships, people, and towns, without mercy. Thus did the people, as is too commonly the case, suffer for the crimes and feuds of their rulers.

To relieve the pressure of his wants, he made an attempt, through the Commons, to resume the grants of the Crown, and to appropriate some of the property of the Church; which resulted in nothing but exasperation of the minds of both laity and clergy. The widow of the Lord Spenser, who had been executed at Bristol, formed a scheme to liberate from Henry's custody the young Earl of Marche and his brother. She reached their apartments at Windsor by means of false keys, succeeded in getting them safely out of the castle, and was on her way with them towards Wales, where their uncle Mortimer was in close alliance with Glendower. But the vigilance of Henry was quickly aroused; the fugitives were pursued and captured. Lady Spenser, on being interrogated by the council, avowed that her brother, the Duke of York, the notorious Rutland, who betrayed everybody, and who had now succeeded his father in his title and estates, was at the bottom of the scheme. York was immediately arrested; but he protested his entire innocence, and, after a few months' confinement in the castle of Pevensey, he was released and restored to the full enjoyment of his rank and property.

Meantime Robert, King of Scotland, crushed by the murder of his eldest son, the Duke of Rothsay, and trembling for the fate of his second son, James, Earl of Carrick, still a boy of only fourteen years of age, was too much enfeebled by age and adversity to be able to contend with the wicked Albany, or find any means of security for his son at home, where that nobleman held unlimited sway. He. therefore agreed to place him in charge of the King of France, and the young prince, accompanied by the Earl of Orkney, Fleming of Cumbernauld, the Lords of Dirleton and Hermandston, and a strong body of the barons of the Lothians, proceeded to North Berwick, and embarked in a ship which awaited him at the Bass. The Earl of Orkney and a small personal suite alone accompanied him on the voyage, and as the truce was still existing with England, they had no apprehensions from that quarter. But they were already watched by the sleepless eyes of Henry of Lancaster, and when the vessel was off Flamborough Head, they were captured by an armed merchantman of Wye, and carried to London.

The Earl of Orkney presented a letter to Henry, written by Robert of Scotland, entreating him, should his son be compelled by stress of weather to put into an English port, to show him kindness. The earl added, that the young prince was on his way to France for the purpose of his education, and prayed that they might be permitted to pursue their way in peace and security. But Henry had not planned their capture on trivial grounds, and was not, therefore, to be persuaded to give up his prize by mere words. His interest was his paramount principle, and with that he rarely suffered feelings of justice or a sense of honour to interfere. The seizure of the son of a neighbouring king, at entire peace with him, was as gross a breach of the laws of nations as could be conceived; but then Henry had by it obtained a pledge of good behaviour on the part of Scotland. He had now the heir-apparent in his hands, and could employ that advantage in counteraction of the use made by Scotland of the pretended King Richard. Henry, therefore, merely replied to the entreaties of the attendants of the Scottish prince, that he would be perfectly safe with him; and that as to his education, he spoke French as well as the King of France or the Duke of Orleans; and that his father, in fact, could not have sent him to a better master. James and his suite were consigned to the safe keeping of the Tower. That nothing could be more agreeable to the Duke of Albany than to have the heir to the throne safely secured at a distance, was apparent to all the world, as it would leave him, in case of the king's death, regent, and all but king in name. So much was this felt, that many did not hesitate to declare the whole affair to have been planned between Albany and Henry; and the feeble public remonstrances of Albany confirmed this belief. Douglas, on the other hand, who would fain have had the young prince in his hands as a means of gratifying his own lust of power, and of curbing that of Albany, was so enraged at the conveyance of the Earl of Carrick out of the kingdom, that his son, James Douglas of Abercorn, attacked the party of nobles who had accompanied the prince, on their return from North Berwick, and at the moor of Lang-Hermandston slew Sir David Fleming, and took most of the other nobles prisoners. This disastrous termination of the scheme which Robert of Scotland had devised for the safety of his son, hastened his death, which took place in 1406, and Albany was appointed regent during the absence of the young prince, which he was not, therefore, likely to reduce by any very strenuous exertions of his own.

It might have been expected that Henry's decisive suppression of the Percy insurrection would have procured him some considerable interval of peace; but this was by no means the case. The Percies were on fire with resentment, and resolved to take revenge for their humiliation and the deaths of Hotspur and Worcester on the very first opportunity. The Earl of Nottingham, son of the Duke of Norfolk, and Scrope, the Archbishop of York, who, though they had remained passive while Hotspur was in the field, now did their best to fan the flame of revolt in the heart of the old earl. He had been compelled at the time of his pardon to sign an obligation to surrender into the hands of the king the castles of Berwick and Jedburgh, and was deprived of the offices of constable and warden of the marches.

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