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Reign of Henry IV page 9


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Henry had left his son to continue the campaign in Wales, and he himself endeavoured to manage the domestic concerns of the kingdom; but in addition to the calamities of war, and the difficulties just enumerated, which were chiefly the consequence of them, there now appeared the plague, which ravaged both town and country for several years. In London alone it carried off no less than 30,000 people; and in other places it extirpated whole families, and left whole houses and almost villages empty.

To escape its violence, the court removed from London to Leeds Castle, in Kent. Desiring to be still farther from the capital, the king took shipping at Queenborough, on the Isle of Sheppey, and, accompanied by a small squadron, commanded by Thomas Lord Camois, descended the Thames. Near its mouth the royal fleet was attacked by French pirates, and was in the greatest jeopardy. Four of his vessels, containing much valuable furniture, plate, and wearing apparel, and several persons of distinction, were taken, including Sir Thomas Rampstone, the vice-chamberlain, and Henry only escaped by the swiftness of his ship. This was a very admonitory proof of the truth of the representations of the House of Commons as to the condition of our naval affairs. Some suspicion was cast on Lord Camois, the commander, and he was arraigned on a charge of treason or cowardice before the peers, but was honourably acquitted.

Encouraged by Henry's domestic difficulties, and the strong opposition manifested by Parliament, the Earl of Northumberland and Lord Bardolf, having vainly waited for any decisive support from Owen Glendower, who indeed was now gradually sinking beneath the vigorous efforts of Prince Henry, determined to make one more descent on England. Northumberland had tried in vain to induce Albany to embrace his cause. He had then gone over to France, and thence to Flanders, with equally little success. His last hope was placed on the co-operation of the exiled nobles and knights in Scotland, and the disaffected in the borders and in Northumberland. A correspondence was opened with Sir Thomas Eokeby, sheriff of Yorkshire, and that gentleman is said, by Buchanan, to have lured them on in order to make their defeat certain. They advanced from Scotland into Northumberland, surprised several castles, and raised the Percy tenantry, who were attached to the old chief. Hence they marched on into Yorkshire, and having reached Knaresborough, were joined by Sir Nicholas Tempest. They crossed the Wharfe at Wetherby, and Sir Thomas Rokeby, who appears to have allowed them uninterrupted progress hitherto, that he might effectually cut off their retreat, now following them closely, overtook them on Bramham Moor, near Tadcaster, and brought them to an engagement. The Earl of Northumberland was killed in the battle, Lord Bardolf was taken prisoner, but died in a few days of his wounds. Thus did the old Percy of Northumberland, after a long and hard contest to put down the man he had helped to set up, close his stormy career on the 28th of February, 1408, as his son Hotspur had done five years before at Shrewsbury. The bodies of the earl and of Lord Bardolf were cut in quarters and sent to London and other towns, where they were exposed.

Henry was in full march to encounter the insurgents when he was met by the pleasing intelligence of their defeat and death. He proceeded to Pontefract, where he continued for a month, busily employed in punishing and fining the prisoners of any rank or substance who had been taken at the battle. He was in pressing need of money, and he coined as much out of ransoms as possible. The Abbot of Hayles, having taken arms, was executed like a layman, as the Archbishop of York had been before.

There remained now, of all Henry's enemies within the kingdom, only the Welsh to subdue. The contest between Owen Glendower and Prince Henry had now been going on for upwards of four years, with every demonstration of art, activity, and bravery with which two such commanders could conduct a difficult contest amongst mountains and marshes. Glendower, one of the most devoted patriots and most spirited and able generals that are to be found in history, had disputed every inch of ground with unconquerable pugnacity and never-exhausted stratagem. He may be said to have taught Henry of Monmouth that discipline and military science which afterwards enabled him to win the battle of Azincourt, and achieve such brilliant triumphs in France. But Henry, full of youth and martial ardour, and supported from England by troops and provisions, was an antagonist who was sure, in time, to bear down the limited means of Glendower. During nearly five years he had completely reduced South Wales, and was slowly but steadily advancing in the north.

In the summer of 1409, Glendower, finding his indefatigable young enemy steadily advancing upon him, and the support of the disheartened and plundered people growing weaker, determined to make one desperate effort to supply himself with provisions, and to inflict a severe punishment, even if it were the last, upon the foe. He therefore sent all the forces he could muster, under the command of his two bravest officers, his son-in-law, Philpot Scudamore, and Rees ap Dhu, to make a grand foray in Shropshire. These commanders executed their commission with great bravery and ferocity; but they were at length defeated, their troops cut to pieces, and themselves taken prisoners, carried to London, and there executed.

This was the last expiring effort of the Welsh in that glorious struggle which they had maintained for ten years under their illustrious countryman, Owen ap Griffith Vaughan, better known as the unconquerable Owen Glendower. We say unconquerable, for though Wales, a small country, engaged in an unequal contest with a far greater and more wealthy nation, and with two of the most renowned generals of the age, Henry of Lancaster and his son, was compelled to yield, it is very clear, from abundant historic facts, that Owen himself never retired from the struggle - never was subdued. He contrived to live on amid his native mountains, the same free, high-hearted, independent man as when, in all the pride of his youth, he quitted the temples of the law, and gave to the mountain winds the banners of his native land. Sometimes he traversed the hills that he could not emancipate disguised in the dress of a shepherd. Sometimes he managed to collect a little band of warriors, and came suddenly on the unguarded lines and lands of his English foes. Sometimes, worn out by fatigue, or driven from the woods and rocks by the storms of winter, he sought a hidden repose at his daughter's house at Monington, in Herefordshire. But wherever he was, in whatever guise, whether that of a peasant in the lowland hut, or the soldier on the hills, he was still the unbending, un-conquered patriot, of whom any country must be proud. In the Rolls of Parliament, and in Rymer's "Foedera." we find that in 1411 he was excepted by Henry in a general amnesty; in 1412 he was on foot and made prisoner; in 1416, just before the battle of Azincourt, Henry V., his old antagonist, who seems to have respected him as he deserved, commissioned Sir Gilbert Talbot to treat with Meredith, the son of Glendower, for a pacification of his father, and his still unconquered associates; and again, three months after the great triumph of Azincourt, Henry renewed the honourable overture. But Glendower was resolved to live and die free, a prince without subjects or a country, rather than the subject of the conqueror of Wales. He still, as appears by several writers yet extant, continued to haunt the wilds and mountains of Snowdon; and, if we may believe one tradition, died peaceably at his daughter's house at Monington, in 1415, while another shows us his burial-place beneath the great window of the south aisle in Bangor Cathedral. Both accounts may very well be true; but, wherever Owen Glendower rests, there rests the dust of a man who only wanted a wider field and a more numerous people to have become the saviour, as he was the true hero, of his country.

The nine years which Henry had now been on the throne had been years of constant insurrections, bloodshed in battle, and bloodshed on the block. He had put down all his internal enemies, and, save some occasional struggles with the remaining power of Glendower in the marshes of Wales, the kingdom was at peace with itself, and continued so during the few remaining years of this reign. At sea there were still attacks from the French, though the Government disclaimed them, and pretended to maintain the truce between the two countries. That truce, however, had been badly preserved in regard to the English provinces in France. In 1406 the Constable of France and the Count of Armagnac had made extensive inroads on Guienne and Saintonge. According to the complaint of Sir John Tibetot, the Speaker of the House of Commons, they had taken ninety-six towns and castles there. Nothing, indeed, but the miserable and distracted condition of France could have prevented them taking the whole, and driving the English totally out of that kingdom; for Henry, perpetually occupied in battling with his own insurgent subjects, had neither money, men, nor time to devote to his French provinces. The most pitiable entreaties were sent over from time to time for aid, but in vain; Henry was engaged in a life and death struggle at home.

In 1406 there were great efforts made on the part of the French court to seize the tempting opportunity to gain possession of all Henry's continental territories. The two most powerful nobles of the realm were commissioned to execute this great enterprise. The Duke of Orleans, the king's brother, was to lead the forces against Guienne, whilst the Duke of Burgundy, called "John Sans-peur," or the Fearless, was to expel the English from Calais. Both of these schemes were absolute failures. The Duke of Orleans, who, though the king's brother, lived in shameless adultery with the queen, had secured the king's daughter, Isabella, the late Queen of England, for his eldest son, the Count of Angouleme, and the betrothment was now celebrating with great fetes and rejoicings. The poor young queen, who had known nothing but trouble in her English marriage, now was about to be introduced into a fresh series of calamities, from which, however, she was freed by an early death. She wept bitterly at pledging her hand to her new husband, which the French, attributed to her losing, by this act, the title of the Queen of England; but her own attendants, to the fact of her retaining an unshaken and affectionate memory of King Richard. She might have wept in prophetic sorrow, for though her husband, much younger than herself, was extremely attached to her, the whole circumstances of the family were such as were not only disgraceful at the present moment, but speedily produced murder and civil distraction.

At present, however, all went "merry as a marriage bell," and not only the Duke of Orleans, the commander- in-chief of the expedition against Guienne, but the other royal officers, the Counts of Clermont and Alencon, left the army, and were deeply engaged in the matrimonial gaieties of Paris.

When they were over, these exemplary generals set out for their camps; but the season was then past for action, and, therefore, instead of fighting, Orleans and his princely and aristocratic officers endeavoured to amuse themselves during the miserably wet and stormy weather by gambling, while their troops were suffering all the extremities of famine and cold, destitute of food or proper tents. Having spent all the money provided for the campaign, they rode back to Paris, followed by the curses of the soldiers, and received by the murmurs of the people.

John the Fearless of Burgundy had shown the same wonderful generalship against the town of Calais, so desirable as it was to recover it from the English. He cut down a whole forest to construct machines which should batter down the walls, and burst in the gates of that strongly-fortified town, and reduce the houses to heaps of ruins by flinging in whole rocks. He was provided with two hundred pieces of cannon, and the most complete success was anticipated from his efforts. They resulted in nothing, and, like the Duke of Orleans, he returned to Paris complaining of not having been supplied with sufficient funds, and demanding not only the costs of his useless machinery, but immense sums which he asserted had been due to his father. These he was not very likely to obtain, for France, Paris, and the court were in the most wretched condition of anarchy and exhaustion imaginable. The malady of the king, recurring fits of insanity, had left the Government in the hands of the contending princes, especially of Orleans and Burgundy. The queen and Orleans, united in a guilty alliance, managed to keep the main power in their hands. The king was a cipher, and the country a ruin. At this time the royal household had not even food, except such as it took by force from the bakers, butchers, and dealers, in which they were imitated by the great nobles.

To this unhappy condition of things was now added the fierce disputes and recriminations of the rival dukes; but Orleans, supported by the queen's interest, maintained his stand, and Burgundy, in high dudgeon and disgust, retired to his own dominions, vowing vengeance against his great opponent.

The Duke of Berri, uncle to both the contending princes, exerted himself to effect a reconciliation between them, and prevent the menaced civil strife, in addition to the already crushing calamities of France. In this he at length appeared successful; but the success was only apparent, the result was really tragical. Burgundy returned to Paris, visited the Duke of Orleans, who was somewhat indisposed, and there appeared the most cordial reconciliation. The Duke of Berri, enchanted with the happy effect of his good offices, on the 30th of November, 1407, accompanied his two nephews to the Church of the Augustines to hear mass, and there these seemingly amicable relatives took the sacrament together in token of their perfectly reconciled minds. In three days after, Orleans was murdered in the Rue Barbette, by eighteen assassins in the pay of his dear friend, the newly-reconciled and forgiving Burgundy. What was worse, it came out that both these thoroughly depraved princes had entertained the same design of dispatching his rival, and that Burgundy had only got the start with his assassins. Burgundy absented himself from Paris for a short time, when he returned again, and boldly justified his deed. The king, who was at the moment in one of his more lucid intervals, wept over the fate of his brother, and vowed to avenge it; but the power of Burgundy was beyond that of the feeble monarch.

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Pictures for Reign of Henry IV page 9

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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