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Reign of Henry V. Part 1 page 8


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The English army, heavily laden with spoil, reached Calais, where they learned that Bardolf, the governor, had gone out with 300 men-at-arms, to assist in rescuing his sovereign from his apparent danger before the battle, but that he had been intercepted by an overwhelming body of the people of Picardy? and his troops nearly all made prisoners. Here on the 29th Henry called a council to decide his next movement. Had he been prepared, nothing could be more obvious than that if he meant to win France, now was his time, while the whole country was paralysed by this signal defeat, and the chief leaders slain or captive. A rapid march on Paris would probably have made him at once master of the country. But Providence had wisely decreed otherwise, for France won would have reduced England from a great nation to a province; and, indeed, Henry was in no condition to pursue his success. His army was partly already arrived in England: that left with him was surfeited with spoil, and impatient to be there too.

In the council of Calais, therefore, language was held which it was known was such as the king wished, namely, that he had done enough to demonstrate his title to the crown of France; that God by the victory of Azincourt had declared his sanction to his claim, and would, therefore, undoubtedly support him in his endeavours at a proper time to complete his conquest.

Henry set sail, and, landing at Dover on the 16th of November, was received by the whole population with the most enthusiastic demonstrations of joy. He was carried in the arms of the people from his ship to the strand, whole crowds plunging in the madness of their delight into the waves, and surrounding him in his triumphal progress with the most deafening acclamations. Never did victor receive a more rapturous and nattering ovation. The whole road to London exhibited one great throng and procession. At Canterbury, Rochester, and every town through which he had to pass, the inhabitants poured forth en masse to receive him. At Blackheath, the Lords, the Commons, the clergy, the mayor, aldermen, and the people of London met him and conducted him into London in one vast and dense crowd. The houses of the streets through which he passed were decorated with tapestry emblazoned with the deeds of his ancestors; wine ran from all the conduits; pageants were erected at intervals, and bands of children festively arrayed sang hymns in his praise. The city terminated its reception by presenting the king with two basins of gold, each worth 500. Henry had gratified the -vanity of his people to the highest degree, and they poured upon him the incense of applause with unbounded measure. The whole nation was intoxicated with proud delight.

Parliament gave him a substantial proof of its participation in the universal satisfaction. It ordered the tenth and fifteenth voted in its preceding session to be collected at once, and added to it another tenth and fifteenth. It granted him tonnage and poundage for the protection of the seas, and conferred on him for life the subsidy on wool, woolfells, and leather, falling into the same error as Richard II.'s Parliament, which by this very measure rendered him independent of annual aid, and the possession of which was made a capital charge against him on his deposition. From Henry, however, they never had cause to repent of their rashness. His fault was not an ambition of arbitrary government; and his affable and generous temperament, combined with the splendour of his deeds, made him during the whole of his short reign one of the most popular of monarchs.

In the spring of the following year, 1416, Henry had the honour of a visit from Sigismund, King of the Romans, and Emperor Elect of Germany. The object of Sigismund was to secure Henry's aid in accomplishing his great scheme of putting an end to the division in the popedom, which was still raging. Sigismund had visited France, and was flattered by cordial promises of co-operation by Charles and his ministers. Henry, who at this time was by far the most famous sovereign in Europe, was determined to receive Sigismund in a manner which should convince him that the wealth of his kingdom and the splendour of the English crown were in full correspondence with his great fame. He summoned all the knights and esquires of the realm to attend him in London. A fleet of 300 sail waited at Calais to bring over this unusual guest with all his retinue, amounting to 1,000 horsemen; and officers were appointed to escort him from Dover to the capital, discharging all the expenses by the way.

Yet amidst his magnificent arrangements for the reception of his distinguished guest, Henry was cautious not to endanger in the slightest degree his national rights. Sigismund, while in Paris, had attended a cause which was pleaded before Parliament, and was in courtesy invited to occupy the throne, and while sitting there, had been so incautious as to knight an esquire who was in danger of suffering wrong because of his inferior rank. To prevent any such mistake, a precaution was taken which, for a moment, had an aspect anything but hospitable. No sooner did the emperor's ship cast anchor, than Sigismund saw the Duke of Gloucester and several noblemen ride into the water with drawn swords, and demand to know whether in coming thus, he designed to exercise or claim any authority in England. On Sigismund replying in the negative, this hostile reception immediately gave way to one of courtesy and honour. Besides his main object, the settlement of the papal schism, Sigismund was also anxious to effect a peace between the kings of England and France; and accordingly he was accompanied by ambassadors from Charles, whose propositions were zealously seconded by William, Duke of Bavaria and Count of Hainault, who was become a great admirer of Henry. It is said that Henry^ went to such a length of concession as to waive his claims on the crown, and content, himself with the provisions of the treaty of Bretigni, concluded by Edward III. But even this would have dismembered France of its most valuable provinces; and, though Charles is stated to have given a full assent to the proposal, there were others who were more averse to any such terms with England.

In the very midst of this apparently amicable negotiation, amid the frightful anarchy of France, the Count of Armagnac had now succeeded to the authority of the Dauphin John, recently dead, and being also constable in the place of D'Albret, slain at Azincourt, he determined, if possible, to win popularity by wresting from England its recent conquest of Harfleur. He marched there with a large army, drew lines around the town, while a fleet of French ships, aided by a number of Genoese caracks, which he had hired, blockaded the harbour. It was in vain he was reminded of the negotiations pending at London; he determinedly rejected all proposals of truce or peace, and pressed on with all his characteristic ardour the siege of the place.

Henry, alarmed and indignant at the news of this investment at this moment, proposed, in his impetuous promptness, to rush across the Channel and fall on Armagnac in person; but Sigismund, his royal guest, suggested to him that it was not a cause of sufficient importance to demand his own presence. He sent the Duke of Bedford, his brother, with a fleet to the relief of Harfleur. The duke mustered at Eye such ships as he could procure in haste, and on the 14th of August, 1416, reached the mouth of the Seine. He found the blockade of a formidable character. The galleys of the Genoese were so tall that the loftiest of the duke's ships could not reach to their upper decks by more than a spear's length. Besides these, there were also Spanish ships of great size, and all were posted with great judgment. Nothing daunted, the duke resolved on attacking them in the morning. At sunset he summoned on board of his ship all the captains of his fleet to concert the plan of the battle, and during the night he kept his squadron together by displaying a light at his masthead.

The next morning, the 15th of August, 1416, Bedford was agreeably surprised to see the French quit their secure moorings, and, in their rash confidence, leave behind their powerful allies of Genoa and Spain, and come out into the open sea to attack him. He very soon captured two of their ships, and, after a long and desperate conflict, most of the rest were taken or destroyed; a few escaping up the river. Bedford lost no time in bearing down on the Genoese galleys, which, notwithstanding their height, his sailors clambered up like squirrels, and boarded in gallant style. The garrison within the town now joined their countrymen in an attack on the land forces, which speedily raised the siege and fled. The duke remained to see the town put into a complete state of defence; and during this time, which was three weeks, the vast number of bodies which had been plunged into the Seine during the fight, rose and covered the whole of the waters all round the ships, much to the horror of the sailors. The duke led them away as soon as possible, and returned to England, having most successfully completed his mission.

In the following month of September, Henry proceeded to Calais, accompanied by his imperial guest Sigismund, who had concluded an alliance with him, and been enrolled a Knight of the Garter, and by the Duke of Bavaria, to meet John Sanspeur, Duke of Burgundy. Burgundy., during the late campaign, had professed to remain neuter. Though summoned by Charles to assist in expelling the English, he neither went himself nor permitted his vassals to do so. His county of Flanders not only maintained an avowed neutrality with England, but carried on their usual lucrative trade with it without any regard to French interests. Yet Burgundy had been cautious not to enter into direct engagements with Henry, or to lend any assistance to his invading army. Nay, after the battle of Azincourt, where his brothers the Duke of Brabant and the Count of Nevers fell, he had expressed great resentment, and even defied Henry to mortal combat. But now circumstances had occurred in France which stung him to the quick, and made him ready to forget even the destruction of his brothers; but to understand the motives for this congress with the King of England and his allies at Calais, we must once more glance at the unhappy condition of France.

Blind to all dangers without, that wretched country was still torn by its mad factions. Not even the thunderbolt which had fallen in their midst in the terrible defeat of Azincourt could long arouse them to a sense of their peril. There was scarcely a family in the kingdom but had to mourn the loss of one or more of its members in that enormous carnage. But these feelings rapidly died out before the demon spirit of party hatred. The Burgundians, who had kept in a great measure out of the campaign, soon began to express their joy that the Armagnacs had been so sanguinarily chastised and humbled by the English. The common people held much the same language as the King of England, and denounced the crimes and imbecility of their rulers as the cause of their calamities and their national disgrace. When the Count of Armagnac was placed at the head of affairs, the Duke of Burgundy was forbidden to approach Paris, and even insulted by Armagnac with the offer of a pension and the government of Picardy for his son Philip. Burgundy set out on his march to Paris to expel the Armagnacs, but at Troyes was met by a proclamation in the king's name ordering him to disband his troops. He continued his march in defiance of it, pretending that ha was in arms only against the English invaders. By the end of November he had reached Lagny, only six leagues from the capital. Here he waited to try the effect of the butcher-faction in the city. He had with him the ferocious Caboche, and other leaders of that terrible clan, and trusted through their means to raise all their savage tribes again in his favour. But the constable, Armagnac, kept them down with a strong hand; and, instead of the long hoped-for success, came the news of the sudden death of the Dauphin Louis, his son-in-law. The rumour was that he had been dispatched by poison, lest he should join his father-in-law, Burgundy, and admit him to the city. The duke demanded that his daughter, the dauphin's widow, should be given up to him, which was done, but without either her jewels or her dowry; and, disappointed in his attempt on the capital, Burgundy returned home to Flanders.

The condition of that unfortunate city was now as frightful as in some periods of the tremendous revolutions of late years. The Armagnacs raged in their triumph over Burgundy as furiously as Jacobins of our time against the Girondists. They thrust into prison or drove out of the city all who opposed their arbitrary conduct, not merely of the butcher-faction, but the professors of the university who denounced their unpatriotic proceedings, expelling no less than forty of them. But now the Count of Armagnac was seized with the ambition of recovering Harfleur from the English, and thus winning popularity; and no sooner had he set out with his army than the partisans of Burgundy produced a new plot in favour of Burgundy. This was to seize on the government in the name of the new dauphin, Prince John, and by uniting with him for Burgundy to exercise the administration. But the vigilance of the Armagnac party again defeated this scheme. The chiefs of the agitators were seized. Belloy, a wealthy cloth merchant, and Begnaud, a clergyman highly esteemed for his learning and piety, were seized and beheaded. Orgemont, a canon of Paris, was brought to execution, but was there claimed by the chapter of the cathedral, and sent back to prison, where he died miserably.

Armagnac, at once defeated by the English, and thus endangered by revolt in his absence, returned to Paris in the worst of tempers. He abolished the chief privileges of the city, annihilated the fraternity of butchers, and placed the public under the most stringent despotism. No meetings or assemblings of the citizens, even for the most innocent domestic purposes, were permitted. Not a marriage or a christening could be celebrated without, licence from the Government, and it must be attended by soldiery. Everything which could be possibly used as a missile by the populace was removed. Bottles, heavy pots, iron utensils, were taken away and secured, and not a flower-pot was allowed to stand in the windows, lest it should be thrown down on the heads of the troops. All arms were ordered to be delivered up on pain of death, and were deposited in that since so celebrated fortress, the Bastile. The city was in a state of siege, and the infuriated Armagnacs having disarmed their enemies, began to put the most dreaded of them to death.

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