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Reign of Henry V. Part 2 page 5


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During Henry's reign the long schism which had prevailed in the Church was terminated. It had lasted forty years, during which time there were two rival Popes; and towards the end of the time three. The Emperor Sigismund then set himself to remove this scandal, and by his exertions all the leading governments of Europe were brought to combine for the purpose. At the Council of Constance they compelled one Pope to resign, and excommunicated the two others; a new one, under the name of Martin V., being elected at the next conclave.

The reign of Henry V. is also remarkable for a fact which demonstrated that the old feudal system was at an end so far as it regarded the constitution of the army. The kings could no longer calculate on the nobles supplying their proper quotas of men. Henry, therefore, in 1415, before setting out for France, empowered commissioners to take in each county a registration of all the free men capable of bearing arms; to divide them into companies, and keep them in a state of discipline, ready to resist any invader. Thus arose a fixed militia, and this left him more at liberty to obtain contracts with powerful barons to serve with their vassals under his banners, or to enlist men. To keep his armies efficient he paid very high wages - two shillings per day to men-at-arms, equal to thirty shillings now; and from six to nine pence per day to archers - equal to from seven to ten shillings now. Yet, notwithstanding this, Henry was never supplied with a force capable of carrying out his designs of permanent conquest, but owed his success rather to the disunion of his enemies. The whole of his royal revenue was only about 45,000 - equal in value to about 600,000 of our present money.

Henry IV. had never ventured, like the Edwards, to impose taxes without consent of Parliament, because he felt the weakness of his title to the throne. But Henry V., whose doubtful claims to the usurped power were forgotten in his fame and his popularity, appeared to grant popular privileges with a good will, resulting from a more generous nature. The Commons complained that their petitions, after being delivered to the king, were so altered by the nobles or the legal advisers of the crown, as often to become laws directly opposite to their intentions; upon which Henry instantly ordained that the Commons should in no way be bound by anything which had been put into the laws contrary to their petitions. On the whole, therefore, whether we regard the foreign or the domestic career of Henry V., we may in a great measure concur in the opinion of the historian Henry, "that he was one of the best, bravest, and most fortunate princes that ever wore the diadem of England."

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