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Reign of Henry V. Part 1 page 11

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Such were, not improbably, the thoughts of the king, for he resolved to spare the city, but to win it. He therefore pressed on his works, which, extending over a circuit of several miles, required enormous labour and much time. The troops of Bouteillier did not allow him to construct these in quiet. They continued to make daring sorties; and many a gallant deed of arms was done under the walls of the city. But Henry continually brought up fresh troops; the camp on St. Catherine itself, as is obvious to all who contemplate the immense traces of its fortifications, could, if necessary, shelter 10,000 men. He collected vast numbers of workmen also from the country round; and, finally, so completed his circumvallations, that neither could the sallying garrison make any impression, nor could a single article of provisions find its way into the city. All such supplies from the river he had cut off by drawing three strong chains of iron across it above the city, and three similar ones below. Above, near his own troops, and protecting them, he threw across a bridge, and near the bridge he moored a squadron of boats, which he had had dragged over land by enormous labour of men and horses. He had a fleet of hired Portuguese ships guarding the mouth of the river; and the banks and islands of the Seine were protected by detachments of soldiers. Supporting these strong defences he had a numerous garrison at Pont de l'Arche; and, while he shut out all supplies from the town, his 200 small vessels in the river plied to and fro, bringing in abundance to his camp from the whole country.

These stringent measures soon began to tell. Before two instead of ten months had expired, famine had shown its hideous face. Though the governor had reduced the population greatly before the siege commenced, he now expelled from the city 12,000 more useless mouths, as they were termed in the iron language of war. Henry forbade them to be admitted within the lines, for the tender mercies of sieges are cruel under the most humane of commanders. To permit at will the expulsion of the people was to prolong the siege, and, therefore, as at Calais, under Edward I., notwithstanding some of these wretched outcasts were fed by the humanity of the troops, the greater number perished through want of food and shelter.

But within the city famine stalked on, and the misery was terrible. During the third month the besieged killed and subsisted on their horses. After that, for ten months, they killed the dogs and cats; and the necessity growing more and more desperate, they descended to rats, mice, and any species of vermin they could clutch in their famine-sharpened fingers. It is said that, in the whole siege, from famine, from the wretched unwholesome food eaten, by the sword, and other means, no less than 50,000 of the inhabitants perished.

All this time the unhappy people cried vehemently to the Duke of Burgundy, the head of the Government, for succour. Their messengers returned with flattering but fallacious promises, and no relief was ever sent. On one occasion the heartless minister even fixed the precise day on which he would arrive in force and compel the English to raise the siege. At this news a wild joy ran like lightning through the famishing city. The bells were rung with mad exultation; people ran to and fro spreading the glad tidings and uttering mutual congratulations. The troops were ordered to be every man in readiness to rush forth at the right moment, and second the assault of their friends without. The day came and went; no deliverer appeared, and a deadly despair sank down on the devoted city.

It was in the midst of these horrors that the Cardinal Ursini, who had in vain exerted himself to reconcile the insensate factions, now turned to Henry, and entreated him to moderate his pretensions, and incline to peace. But Henry was too sagacious a politician to renounce the advantages which the folly and crimes of his enemies opened up to him. He was willing to make overtures of peace, and he did so to both parties, but it was still on his fixed terms of the sovereignty of France. He repeated his clear persuasion that his work was the work of an avenging Providence. "Do you not perceive," he said to Ursini, "that it is God who has led me hither by the hand? France has no sovereign. There is nothing here but confusion; there is no law, no order. No one thinks of resisting me. Can I, therefore, have a more convincing proof that the Being who disposes of empires, has determined to put the crown of France upon my head?"

After the union of Burgundy and the queen, Armagnac grew more savage in his retaliative warfare. He sent from Paris his captains Tannegui du Chastel and Barbazan to attack the Burgundians. They carried on a murderous warfare, taking several towns and fortresses, and putting their garrisons to the sword. Armagnac himself took the field, and, being repulsed from Senlis, in revenge he beheaded all his prisoners. Then the Bastard of Thian, the Burgundian commander, in retaliation, also put to death his prisoners. Such was the devilish atrocity to which the contending chiefs had arrived, that it began to revolt the most callous. The Bishop of Paris took courage and opened a correspondence with Burgundy. The dauphin, who, as well as his imbecile father, was in the hands of Armagnac, also sent agents to treat with the duke and the queen his mother. The Pope, Martin V., had sent the cardinals Ursini and St. Mark to endeavour to mediate between the factions, and to put an end to this scandalous condition of things, and they succeeded in making a treaty with Burgundy and the queen. The people of Paris were in raptures at the news, but Armagnac was still in the city with a strong garrison; he had still the wretched king and the dauphin in his power; and he refused to recognise the treaty, and proceeded to proscribe and put to death as traitors all who dared to utter a different sentiment. The city was deluged with blood. But his time was now come. The whole people were weary of his savage despotism, and were ripe themselves for some desperate deed.

A company of young men had entered into secret correspondence with the Burgundians; and on the night of the 29th of May, Perrinet le Clerk, one of their number, opened the gate of St. Germain-des-Pres to L'Isle-Adam, a captain of the Duke of Burgundy, and his troop marched in profound silence to the Chatelet, where they were joined by 500 of the inhabitants. They then divided into different bodies, and, having admitted the whole garrison of Pontoise, they ran through the streets, crying, "Our Lady of Peace! Long live Burgundy! Let those who are for peace come and follow us!"

The mass of the people obeyed the summons with instant alacrity. They threw on their clothes and followed the Burgundians, who hastened to the houses of the chief Armagnacs, dragged them from their beds, and thrust them into prison. Tannegui du Chastel, a Breton, and one of the most daring of the Armagnacs, ran to the chamber of the dauphin, and carried him off, wrapped merely in his bed-clothes, to the Bastile, from whence he escaped to Melun. But scarcely did Du Chastel disappear from one door of the dauphin's chamber, when the mob broke in, and, missing him, seized all the gentlemen of his retinue, and sent them to prison. L'Isle-Adam, meantime, had hurried to the Hotel St. Pol, where the king lived, and, securing him, they set him on a horse, idiotic as he was, and paraded him through the streets, to convince the people that all they did was by his orders. The Count of Armagnac himself, who had fled and concealed himself in the house of a mason, was given up to L'Isle-Adam by this man, in terror of the denunciation against all who protected him.

On the 11th of June, Tannegui du Chastel made a sortie with 1,600 men from the Bastile, in the hope of recovering Paris; but he was driven back to his retreat, the people flinging down upon him and his followers at every step all kinds of missiles from their windows and roofs. The Armagnacs had killed a considerable number of poor people in the Faubourg St. Antoine, and now the mob, in their rage, fell on the Armagnac citizens, and massacred all they could find, without the least compunction. Women, and even children, like demons in their fury, dragged the dead Armagnacs about the streets, mutilating and insulting them in their diabolical frenzy.

No sooner had the news of this revolution spread through the land than the equally brutalised population of the country came pouring into Paris to share in the plunder and carnage. The Burgundian butchers once more walked the streets of the capital in sanguinary ascendancy, and Paris was nothing more nor less than a perfect hell! Had not avarice - that mighty passion which has swayed men in all ages, often and often influencing the destinies and fortunes of great countries - come in to stay the hand of murder, in the hope of ransom, not a single Armagnac would have been left alive.

But even yet the horror had not culminated. Instead of the Duke of Burgundy and the queen, now in the ascendant, exerting themselves to restrain the cruelty and restore order, as they might easily have done, had they so desired, they kept aloof - Burgundy at Montbelliard, and the queen at Troyes; and they are accused of even stimulating the massacre of their defeated enemies. Nothing short of the monstrosity of crime to which those long and deadly feuds had led at this time could induce us to credit such appalling suggestions. But the queen is related to have replied to a deputation sent to invite her to Paris, that she would never set foot again in that city while a single Armagnac breathed in it. On the other hand, though Tannegui du Chastel had fled to Bourges with the dauphin, 150 miles off, rumours, said to be traceable to the Burgundian camp, were constantly spreading that he was on his way to surprise Paris, release all the Armagnac captives, and slay every Burgundian, man, woman, and child.

These rumours were incessantly revived, keeping the people in perpetual alarm, and irritating them to a state of mind bordering on desperation. At length, on the night of Sunday, the 12th of June, cries were heard in the streets that Tannegui was at the gates, and that all Paris would be butchered. The people, roused to a pitch of uncontrolled fury, swore that there would be no peace while one Armagnac lived. They rushed out, armed and implacable, crying, "Peace for ever! Long live the Duke of Burgundy!" L'Isle-Adam endeavoured, at the head of his soldiery, to appease their murderous designs; but he and his 1,000 men were nothing in the path of a whole city breathing destruction. They gave way, and the wild mob rushed on, crying that the Armagnacs were dogs; that they had ruined France; were now in treaty to make it over to the English; and had prepared English flags to plant on the walls of Paris. They burst open the prison doors, they ranged like wild beasts through the houses of the Armagnacs; and there was one fierce, deadly, universal massacre.

The Count of Armagnac, who had so long ridden on the crest of the troubled sea of French affairs, was one of the first on whom they glutted their thirst of blood; and his mangled remains were dragged with curses for three days through the streets of Paris by the excited women and children. The wild work of extermination went on for many days. In the first outbreak of this carnival of Moloch, between four o'clock in the morning and mid-day, 1,500 persons perished. In the three first days, besides the constable, the chancellor, and six bishops, 3,500 persons of eminent rank and character were put to death. The streets ran with blood; and when murder had wearied itself out, or ceased for want of fresh, victims, pestilence took up the work, and the whole tale of the victims of this outbreak is said to have amounted to 14,000 persons, of whom 5,000 were women. V In the midst of these horrors, the queen and the Duke of Burgundy made their entry into Paris in triumph on the 14th of July. The streets, not yet dried from the blood of the massacred, were strown with flowers; and these contemptible princes, themselves stained with more than one murder, or the reputation of it, rode on as if nothing had occurred. The butcheries had not ceased when they entered Paris, and they rather encouraged than put a stop to them, for they had spites of their own which they sought to gratify. They got the poor doting king into their possession, and, thus armed with the royal authority, they made use of the leaders of the mob to execute their own vengeance' on those they hated, and then executed their tools to pacify the people. They made strenuous endeavours to secure the person of the dauphin; but Tannegui du Chastel and the Armagnacs had him at Bourges, and kept good watch over him. They then entered into negotiations with him, offering him terms of coalition, and doing all in their power to allure him to Paris; but such overtures were hopeless while the whole Armagnac party were burning for revenge of their late butchery. Though the old Count of Armagnac was dead, his son was alive, and vowing the most signal retribution. "With the Count of Dreux, and other French barons, he had been harassing Henry's province of Guienne as a diversion in favour of Normandy; but he and his associates at once made peace with the King of England and joined the dauphin, demanding justice on his father's assassins. Tannegui du Chastel, equally eager for revenge, and more truculent, denounced extermination to the Burgundians. By their advice the dauphin assumed the title of regent, repudiating his mother's right to it, and opened a Parliament at Poictiers.

Thus France, after all the murders of the heads of its factions, had still two factions a-s decided and iniquitous as ever. Each of these factions sought to make an alliance with Henry, the common enemy of their claims. Henry amused them as long as it suited his purpose. He sent commissioners to meet those of the dauphin at Alencon, and those of Burgundy at Pont de l'Arche; and having heard all they had to say, without at all communicating his own views, at length dismissed them with the insulting observations that the dauphin was a minor, the king not of sound mind, and Burgundy's authority doubtful, so that no safe treaty could be made with any of them.

During these attempts at negotiation Henry still pressed on the siege of Rouen. Winter was now setting in, and the famished citizens saw its approach with horror. They had long been reduced to the severest condition of starvation, and still the determined De Bouteillier held out. They had consumed every green and every living thing but themselves and their children. The inky Robec, flowing through and under Rouen, the Styx of the place, had long ceased to furnish one desperate rat to the hungry watchers. The time was come when a man looked at his neighbour's leathern girdle with fierce desire, and an old shoe was the only material for a stew. A lizard, a bat, or a snail were luxuries which only could be purchased by the rich. Gaunt Famine, the sternest of all conquerors, now subdued the iron hardihood of the governor, and he offered on the 3rd of January to capitulate; but Henry insisted on unconditional surrender. Bouteillier, indignant and in despair, assembled the garrison, and proposed to them to set fire to the city, to throw down a portion of the wall, which was already undermined by the English, and burst headlong into the camp of the enemy, where, if they could not cut their way through, they should at least perish as became soldiers.

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