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Reign of Henry the Eighth page 4


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This bold deed startled Henry from his effeminate inertia, and the information that a strong force was advancing under the Duke of Longueville, to support another attempt at relief, by Fontrailles; he marched out of Calais on the 21st of July, with a splendid force of 15,000 foot and horse. Sir Charles Brandon, now created Viscount Lisle, and the Earl of Essex, led the van; his minister, old Bishop Fox, and his rising favourite, Wolsey, brought up the rear; and Henry advanced in the centre, which was commanded by the Duke of Buckingham and Sir Edward Poynings. Scarcely had they passed Ardres when they saw a powerful body o French cavalry manoeuvring before them. At this sight preparation was made for a battle. Henry threw himself from his horse, determined to imitate the example of his great predecessors, and fight on foot, in the midst of his chosen body-guard of 1,200 men, armed with his battle-axe. The celebrated Bayard, le chevalier sans peur et sans reproche, who led on the cavalry, was ready to charge them; but he was held back by Longueville, who had strict orders from the cautious Louis to avoid the fatal temerity of their ancestors in engaging the English in the open field. Accordingly, the French, after closely reconnoitring the advancing force, turned and rode off, giving great triumph to Henry and his commanders, who saw them thus fly at the very sight of them. But the clever Frenchmen, while they had drawn not only the attention of the monarch and his detachment, but also that of the officers before Terouenne, to their movements, had managed again to throw supplies into that town.

On arriving before Terouenne, on the 4th of August, Henry was soon joined by Maximilian, the emperor. This strange ally, who had received 120,000 crowns to raise and bring with him an army, appeared with only a miserable complement of 4,000 horse. Henry had taken up his quarters in a magnificent tent, blazing in silks, blue damask, and cloth of gold, but the bad weather had driven, him out of it into a wooden house. To do all honour to his German ally - who, by rank, was the first p nice in Christendom - Henry arrayed himself and his nobles in all their bravery of attire. They and their horses were loaded with gold and silver tissue; the camp glittered with the display of golden ornaments and utensils; and, in this royal splendour, he rode at the head of his Court and commanders to meet and escort his guest. They encountered the Emperor and his attendants clad in simple black, mourning for the recent death of the empress. But there was little opportunity for comparisons - for the weather was terrible; and they exchanged their greetings amid tempests of wind and deluges of rain. Maximilian, to prevent any too-well founded complaints as to the smallness of his force compared with the greatness of his position, his promises in the alliance, and his princely pay, declared himself only the king's volunteer, ready to serve under him as his own soldier, for the payment of 100 crowns a day. He adopted Henry's badge of the red rose, was adorned with the cross of St. George, and, by nattering Henry's vanity, made him forget all his deficiencies.

The pleasure of receiving his great ally was somewhat dashed with bitter by the arrival of the Scottish Lion king-at-arms with the declaration of war from James IV., accompanied by the information that his master was already in the field, and had sent a fleet to the succour of the French king. Henry proudly replied that he left the Earl of Surrey to entertain James, who would know very well how to do it.

The French still continued to throw succours into Terouenne, in spite of all the vigilance of the English. In this service no one was more active than the Duke of Angouleme, the heir-apparent to the crown, and afterwards Francis I. When the siege had lasted about six weeks, and the whole energy of the British army was roused to cut off these introductions of provisions and ammunition, the French advanced in great force to effect a diversion in favour of the place. A formidable display of cavalry issued from Blangy, and marched along the opposite bank of the Lis. As they approached Terouenne they divided into two bodies, one under Longueville, the other under the Duke of Alencon. Henry wisely followed the advice of Maximilian, who knew the country well, and had before this won two victories over the ^French in that very quarter. The troops were drawn but, and Maximilian crossed the river with his German horse and the English archers, also mounted on horseback. Henry followed with the infantry.

The French cavalry, who had won a high reputation for bravery and address in the Italian campaigns, charged the united army brilliantly; but speedily gave way and rode off. The English archers and German horse gave chase; the Trench fled faster and faster, till in hot pursuit they were driven upon the lines of the main body, and threw them into confusion. This was, no doubt, more than was intended; for the probable solution of the mystery is, that the retreat of the advanced body of cavalry was a feint, to enable the Duke of Alencon to seize the opportunity of the pursuit by the English to throw the necessary supplies into the city. This he attempted. Dashing across the river, he made for the gates of the city, whence simultaneously was made an impetuous sally. But Lord Herbert met and beat back Alencon; and the Earl of Shrewsbury chased back the sallying party. Meantime the feigned retreat of the decoy cavalry, by the brisk pursuit of the German and English horse had become a real one. After galloping almost four miles before their enemies, they rushed upon their own main body with such fiery haste that they communicated a real panic. All wheeled about to fly; the English came on with vehement shouts of "St. George! St. George!" The French commanders, full of wonder, called to their terror-stricken men to halt, and face the enemy, in vain; every man dashed his spurs into the flanks of his steed, and the huge army, in irretrievable confusion, galloped away, without striking a single blow. The officers, while using every endeavour to bring the terrified soldiers to a stand, soon found themselves abandoned and in the hands of the enemy. The Duke de Longueville, the famous Chevalier Bayard, Bussy d'Amboise, the Marquis of Rotelin, Clermont, and La Fayette, men of the highest reputation in the French army, were instantly surrounded and taken, with many other distinguished officers. La Palice and Imbrecourt were also taken, but effected their escape.

When these commanders, confounded by the unaccountable flight of their whole army, were presented to Henry and Maximilian, who had witnessed the sudden rout with equal amazement, Henry, laughing, complimented them ironically on the speed of their men, when the light-hearted Frenchmen, entering into the monarch's humour, declared that it was only a battle of spurs, for they were the only weapons that had been used. The Battle of Spurs has ever since been the name of this singular action, though it is sometimes called the battle of Guinegate, from, the place where the officers were come up with. This event took place on the 22nd of August.

The garrison of Terouenne, seeing that all hope of relief was now over, surrendered; but, instead of leaving a sufficient force in the place to hold it, Henry, at the artful suggestion of the emperor, who was anxious to destroy such a stronghold on the frontiers of his grandson Charles, Duke of Burgundy, first wasted his time in demolishing the fortifications of the town, and then, under the same mischievous counsel, perpetrated a still grosser error. He was now at the head of a victorious force of 50,000 men. The French, annoyed at the late astonishing defeat of their army, were perfectly paralysed. Whilst they expected Henry to march directly upon Paris, they beheld with augmenting consternation an army of 20,000 Swiss, in the English pay, descend from their mountains, having crossed the Jura, and pour into the plains of Burgundy as far as Dijon, without any effectual check. With Henry on the one side of the capital and this menacing force on the other, and with no confidence in Ferdinand of Spain, who, notwithstanding his truce, was believed capable of seizing on such a crisis to his own advantage, France experienced the most terrible alarm-Had Henry been as great a general as he imagined himself, the most brilliant finish to his campaign, if not the surrender of Paris itself, was inevitable. But whilst the inhabitants of Paris were contemplating where they could flee to save themselves and their property from the approaching ruin, the folly of the English king and the cunning of the German emperor rescued them. They beheld, with equal wonder and exultation, Henry coolly commence his march, not towards Paris, which lay without defence, but towards the neighbouring city of Tournay.

Tournay was another of those cities which Maximilian was anxious to reduce for the benefit of his grandson,

Charles. It was a wealthy place, formerly belonged to Flanders, and lay properly within its boundaries. It had, ever since it had been in the French possession, proved a most troublesome neighbour to the Flemings, and opened an easy road for the French monarchs into the heart of the Netherlands. To get possession of such a prize was a strong temptation to Maximilian. In persuading Henry to this fatal scheme, he had made a powerful instrument of Wolsey, the king's new favourite, for the bishopric was rich, the bishop was lately dead, and the new bishop, though elected, was not yet installed. Maximilian promised Wolsey the see if they took the city, and the plan was adopted. Leaving Terouenne, therefore, at the mercy of the Flemings, the subjects of Maximilian's son, who razed the walls, filled up the ditches, and in the fury of their old enmity almost utterly destroyed the city, Henry proceeded by slow and stately marches towards Tournay. On the 22nd of September, a whole month after the Battle of Spurs, Henry and his artful ally sat down before that city. It contained 80,000 inhabitants, and having a charter which exempted it from the admission of a garrison, it was accustomed to defend itself by its own trained guards. When Louis had urged them to receive a sufficient supply of the royal troops, they had haughtily refused; when summoned to surrender by Henry, they as haughtily refused. Yet in eight days their courage had so thoroughly evaporated, that they capitulated, submitting to receive an English garrison, to swear fealty to the king, to pay 50,000 livres down, and ,000 livres per annum for ten years.

Here ended this extraordinary campaign, where so much had been prognosticated, and what was done should have only been the stepping-stones to infinitely greater advantages. But Henry entered the city of Tournay with as much pomp as if he had really entered into Paris instead. Wolsey received the promised wealthy bishopric, and Henry gratified his overweening vanity by his favourite tournaments and revelries. Charles, the young Duke of Burgundy, accompanied by his aunt Margaret, the Duchess Dowager of Savoy, and Regent of the Netherlands, hastened to pay his respects to the English monarch, who had been so successfully fighting for his advantage.

During the reign of Henry VII., Charles had been affianced to Mary, the daughter of Henry, and sister of the present King of England. As he was then only four years of age, oaths had been plighted, and bonds to a heavy amount entered into by Henry and Maximilian for the preservation of the contract. The marriage was to take place on Charles reaching his fourteenth year. That time was now approaching; and, therefore, a new treaty was now subscribed, by which Maximilian, Margaret, and Charles were bound to meet Henry, Catherine, and Mary in the following spring to complete this union.

Henry endeavoured, moreover, to accomplish another match. His prime favourite at this period was Sir Charles Brandon, the son of that Sir Robert Brandon, who had fallen by his father's side at Bosworth. As Henry could never heap too many favours on his reigning favourite, he had created Brandon Viscount Lisle, and betrothed him, before leaving England, to the infant daughter and heiress of the late Lord Lisle, so that he might succeed to both the honours and estate of that nobleman. But now he took it into his head to marry Brandon to no other than Margaret, the Dowager Duchess of Savoy. This lady was the daughter of the Emperor of Germany, the Regent of the Netherlands, the aunt of the heir to the mighty kingdoms of Austria, the Netherlands, and Spain. She had been already married to John, Prince of Spain, and afterwards to Philibert, Duke of Savoy. She had all the pride of her race and her position; yet Henry saw no difficulty in asking her to become the wife of a simple English knight, of an origin plebeian. Margaret repelled the attempt with astonishment and indignation; but whether it were from some sudden fit of passion and ambition on the part of the favourite, or the whim of the monarch, he pressed his suit, and managed to extort from her some expression which seemed to favour his proposal. It is not likely that the lady would ever really have consented to this marriage - but we shall see that another equally extraordinary alliance was reserved for Brandon.

In affairs like these, the great hero of imaginary Crecys and Azincourts had wasted the precious moments which might have made him master of Paris. For himself or his country he had done nothing; for his ally, the calculating Maximilian, he had done much. Henry had paid enormous sums of money, Maximilian had received a very desirable share of the disbursement. He had got Terouenne destroyed, and Tournay into his hands, and was left in possession of the whole of the conquered district; for in the late league he was engaged to keep on foot an army of 6,000 infantry and 4,000 cavalry for the protection of the Low Countries, the security of Tournay, and the harassing of the French frontiers - all purposes entirely concerning himself and Charles his grandson; and yet for this Henry was to pay him 200,000 crowns, at the rate of 30,000 per month. When Henry returned to France in the following spring to complete the marriage of his sister, the Princess of England, with Charles of Burgundy, he was to bring a fresh army, and fresh funds for the prosecution of the war with France.

Meantime, the Swiss, discovering what sort of an ally they had got, entered into a negotiation with Tremoille, the Governor of Burgundy, who paid them handsomely in money, promised them much more, and saw them march off again to their mountains. Relieved from those dangerous visitants, Louis once more breathed freely. He concentrated his forces in the north, watched the movements of Henry VIII. with increasing satisfaction, and at length saw him embark for England with a secret resolve to accumulate a serious amount of difficulties in the way of his return, France had escaped from one of the most imminent perils of its history by the folly of the vain-glorious English king. Yet he returned with all the assumption of a great conqueror, and utterly unconscious that he had been a laughing-stock and a dupe.

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Pictures for Reign of Henry the Eighth page 4

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