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Reign of Henry V. Part 2

Reign of Henry V. concluded - Henry meets the French Court, and demands the Princess Catherine in Marriage - Deluded by his Allies - Assassination of the Duke of Burgundy - Treaty of Peace at Troyes - Henry's Marriage - Siege and Conquest of Melun - Henry's Triumphal Entry into Paris as Regent of Prance and Heir to the Throne -Return to London and Coronation of the Queen - Death of the Duke of Clarence at the Battle of Beauje' - Henry returns to Prance - Siege of Meaux - Birth of Prince Henry - The King's Sickness and Death.
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The surrender of Rouen was a shock to the whole kingdom of France, sufficient, one would have thought, to bring the contending factions to a pause, and unite them for the protection of their common country; but for a time it appeared to produce little effect on the rival parties themselves. The people at large were struck with consternation, and loudly complained that they were made the victims of the vices and jealousies of their rulers. The people of Paris saw with indignation the Duke of Burgundy and the queen flee out of the city, carrying the king with them, and establish their headquarters at Lagny. They looked upon themselves as basely betrayed, and that the capital was left exposed to the arms of the victor, who, it was well known, was preparing to march along the Seine and invest the city with all his forces. They represented that the people of the provincial towns had been left to fight their own battles, but in vain; and now Paris was abandoned to its fate in the same scandalous manner. The most vehement representations were made to the heads of the hostile factions to settle their quarrels and combine to repulse the invader. This wise counsel was wholly thrown away. Neither party showed any disposition to reconciliation, but each hastened to open negotiations with Henry of England, in order, by his means, to be able to crush the other.

The Duke of Burgundy, who always courted popularity, endeavoured to pacify the Parisians by issuing a proclamation, assuring them that he was doing all in his power to remove the impediments to peace and the settlement of the country. All, however, that was visible, was that he sent an embassy to Henry at Rouen, proposing to attempt terms of agreement betwixt him and France. The dauphin, on his part, went further, and offered to meet Henry, and endeavour personally to accommodate matters. Henry listened courteously to both parties, accepting their proposals with the utmost frankness, at the same time that he promised nothing. The dauphin, however, himself of a treacherous disposition, hesitated to put himself into the power of Henry, and failed to keep his appointment. Burgundy was no sooner informed of this, than availing himself of it, as a favourable opportunity on his side, he sent a fresh deputation to Rouen; armed, as he believed, with peculiar temptations. These were a beautiful portrait of the Princess Catherine, accompanied by a message from the queen, her mother, significantly asking whether so charming a princess really needed so great a dowry as he demanded with her. The ambassadors reported on their return that they found the young conqueror at Rouen, "as proud as a lion;" that he took the portrait of Catherine, gazed long and earnestly upon it, acknowledged that it certainly was beautiful; but refused to abate a jot of his demands. What was still more decisive was the news that he had left Rouen, recrossed the Seine, and had advanced along its banks already as far as Mantes, within fifty miles of Paris.

No time was to be lost. Burgundy and Isabella sent off a fresh embassy, proposing to meet Henry, accompanied by Catherine, from whose personal charms they hoped much, being apprised that the mere picture of her had made an obvious impression on the victor's imagination. Henry acceded promptly to the proposal; but as promptly made another advance to Vernon. Meantime he dispatched the Earl of Warwick to Burgundy and the queen at Provins. High and unbending as were the demands of Henry, it was not a time for the Burgun-dians to boggle at them. The conqueror was in full march on the undefended capital; they had no forces able to cope with his victorious troops; and the dauphin was watching with the most jealous anxiety this attempt to forestall him in an alliance with the dominant power of England. The dauphin attempted to cut off the bearers of the English king's despatches. The fierce Tannegui du Chastel lay in wait for the Earl of Warwick on the road, and made an impetuous attack upon him; but he was repulsed with great loss.

Warwick was received with marked attention. Both Burgundy and Isabella held out every hope of an accommodation; and it was arranged that the Kings of England and France, accompanied by Burgundy, Isabella, and Catherine, on the part of France, and the Dukes of Clarence and Gloucester on that of England, should meet on the banks of the Seine, near Meulan. The rendezvous of the French court was to be at Pontoise, on the Oise; and that of the English one at Mantes. The time fixed was the 30th of May. The ground selected for the conference was a square, one side of which was washed by the Seine, and the other three were enclosed by a strong ditch and palisades. Two magnificent pavilions were erected for the two kings, and between them was a third, which was to be the place of conference. All these pavilions were of green and blue, worked with gold; and from the centre of the tent of conference rose a tall flagstaff. There were opposite entrances, well defended by barriers; and the ground before the entrance on the right was allotted to the attendants of Henry, that before the entrance on the left to the attendants of the French court.

At the hour appointed the two cavalcades were seen approaching from the opposite quarters; each attended by banners, by bands of music, and about 1,000 men-at-arms. After the principal persons had taken possession of their respective tents, at the concerted signal of trumpets and clarions, the King of England and the Queen of France left their tents at the same moment, and advanced into the central ground towards each other with an air of great ceremony and dignity. It was found that the poor King of France was unable to present himself, as it was alleged, from indisposition; but the queen was followed by the Princess Catherine and the Duke of Burgundy; Henry by his two brothers, the Dukes of Clarence and Gloucester, and the Earl of Warwick.

Henry was at this time in the flower of his prime; one of the most handsome, graceful, and accomplished men in Europe. Catherine, his proposed bride, was, notwithstanding the long nose and peculiar features of the House of Valois, reputed to be one of the handsomest women of the age. Henry found her even to surpass her picture; and it was well known that Catherine had set her resolve on being the Queen of England. Under these circumstances Henry advanced with marked respect towards the queen, bowed profoundly, and then embraced and kissed her; repeating the same royal compliment to the princess. He then gave his hand to Isabella, and conducted her into the tent of conference, whither they were followed by the immediate princely members of the conference. Henry took his place directly opposite to the queen and Catherine; the fair damsel being carefully arrayed to produce the most striking effect. She wore an arched crown, and a veil trimmed on each side with ermine, which reached to the shoulders. She had on a mantle of regal form, beneath which appeared a close-fitting gown, tight to the throat, and with a strip of ermine passing down the front, studded with diamonds. Henry was visibly struck with the charms of the princess; and this, no doubt, was the grand achievement of this opening conference. For the rest, the Earl of Warwick, as secretary or president of the conference, delivered a long speech in French, which chiefly related to the mode in which the business was to be conducted, and the topics to be discussed. These formalities settled, the parties adjourned for a couple of days, and each returned as they had come to their respective camps.

At the second meeting Henry looked in vain for the princess. The wily old mother, deeply versed in every scheme and practice of intrigue, had satisfied herself of the effect produced by her daughter on the young king, and she, now studiously kept her out of sight, as a means of exciting his impatience, and inducing him to lower his demands. In vain. Chagrined as Henry obviously was, this chagrin only made him the more obstinate. He now presented his demands in writing, abating not one item of all that he had at first insisted upon. These were, first and foremost, the hand of the princess; then the full possession of Normandy, with all his other conquests, in addition to the territories ceded by the peace of Bretigni; the whole to be held in absolute independence of the crown of Prance.

The queen and Burgundy demanded four days to deliberate on these sweeping requisitions. When they met again they made no decided objection to them, but they brought forward a string of counter-claims, eight in number, regarding the relinquishment of these territories, the amount of dowry, and the payment of debts. Henry began to flatter himself that the necessities of the French court were in reality about to compel them to concede to his extraordinary terms. He set himself earnestly to work to meet these objections, to modify, and even to contract, in some degree, his demands. But he was not long in perceiving that no progress was made. Difficulties were started at each conference, which were seized upon to seek further consultation, further explanations; and he perceived at the end of a month that only seven meetings had been held, between each of which the intervals were growing longer and longer. The princess, in spite of his inquiries, was never again permitted to appear, and the indignant monarch at length broke out in wrathful language to Burgundy, the only person now sent to the conference, saying - "I tell you, fair cousin, that we will have the daughter of your king to wife, and will have her on our own terms, or we will drive both him and you out of this kingdom."

The astute Burgundy replied, "Sire, you are pleased to say so; but I make no doubt that, before you have succeeded in driving us out, you will be heartily tired."

All this denoted that a new game was playing behind the scenes. The fact was, that the dauphin and the Armagnacs had become greatly alarmed at the apparent progress making towards an alliance between the royal party and Henry of England. If it succeeded they were to be crushed. Every engine was instantly put in motion to defeat this object. Overtures for reconciliation were made to Burgundy and the queen; means had been found to purchase the interest of an artful and abandoned woman, a Madame de Giac, the mistress of Burgundy, who, attended by several of the leaders of the Armagnac party, had been going to and fro between the dauphin's retreat and Pontoise. It was represented that it was far better for the French princes to arrange their own differences than to admit the great enemy of the nation, who would only cajole one party in order to destroy both. Accordingly, when Henry, determined to dally no longer, insisted on a final meeting, he went to the tent of conference at the day and hour appointed, and found - nobody. The queen, Burgundy, and the dauphin, had patched up a reconciliation, and dropped the mask unceremoniously at the feet of the insulted King of England. The reconciled princes met on the road at Poilly-le-Fort, and there, with all outward signs of affection, embraced and vowed eternal amity for the good of France.

The indignation and chagrin of Henry may be imagined. Independently of the promised bride, and sovereignty over a vast portion of France, being thus rudely snatched from him, his position was by no means encouraging. He had only about 25,000 men to enable him to hold his conquests and to pursue them to completion. Whilst Burgundy and the dauphin were uniting all the power of France to oppose him, his own subjects at home were beginning to grumble at the expenditure of the war; and as they saw it likely to succeed in reducing France, to look with dismay on such a result as likely to remove the seat of government to Paris, and make a province of England. The Scots, he found, were at the same time entering into treaty with the dauphin against him, and the Kings of Castile and Arragon had already fitted out a great armament, with which they scoured the coasts of Guienne and menaced Bayonne.

The French were in ecstacies of delight at the turn which affairs had taken; in every quarter of the kingdom vigorous efforts were making to take advantage of it, and the army of Henry was proportionably depressed.

But Henry, though, in addition to this insulting display of the perfidy of his enemies, his treasury was very low, never for a moment suffered an air of doubt or despondency to shade his countenance, much less an expression of it to escape him. He immediately ordered his army to advance on Paris, crossed the Seine, fell on the town of Pontoise, and took it. The leaders of the Burgundian party, after accomplishing their agreement with the dauphin, had quitted it, and Burgundy himself was at St. Denis; but even there he did not deem himself safe, and hastily retreated to Troyes, carrying the poor King of France with him.

Henry had recruited his coffers for the present by the discovery of a grand hoard which L'Isle-Adam had accumulated from the plunder of the Armagnacs during the late massacre. St. Denis was left by Burgundy in charge of the Marshal Chastelluc, whose rude and debauched soldiers expelled the monks of the celebrated abbey, and took up their quarters there with their lewd women. The people were greatly enraged. They exclaimed, "Are these the fruits of the union of our rulers? What could the English do worse?" and they began to call to mind that when Burgundy and the dauphin proclaimed they reconciliation there fell a fierce tempest, in which the thunder and lightning were of a terrible and ominous kind.

Meantime, the victorious troops of Henry appeared before the very gates of the capital, which was left almost wholly destitute of soldiers, and must soon fall into the hands of the enemy if not relieved. The English beat up the whole neighbourhood, and seized all the supplies which should have entered the city, where famine and fever were the only reigning powers. So far from any real union having taken place betwixt the Burgundians and the dauphin, they were paralysed by the rapid pursuit of Henry, and were too conscious of their own internal hatred and treachery to approach each other. Two months had already elapsed since the much-vaunted union, and Burgundy was still unavailingly entreating the dauphin to join his father's council at Troyes, and the dauphin recommending Burgundy and the queen to meet Mm at Montereau-sur-Yonne. As neither would move, the influence of Madame de Giac was again employed, who succeeded in prevailing on the duke to go as far as Bray-sur-Seine, only two leagues from Montereau. Having succeeded so far, fitting instruments were then chosen to induce the unfortunate Burgundy to proceed to Montereau to an interview with the dauphin, for that base prince would not budge a step out of his safe quarters to bring about this necessary interview. The notorious Tannegui du Chastel was set to complete the work of the equally notorious Madame de Giac. He took with him some companions of his own stamp, and with them the Bishop of Valence, whose brother, the Bishop of Langres, either a weak dupe, or a traitor inferior to none of them, was with the duke.

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