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Reign of Henry IV page 8

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Henry had called two great councils of barons and prelates at St. Albans, but found in them a spirit very uncompliant with his demands. Foremost in opposition and in denouncing the measures of the king was the Lord Bardolf. He soon found it safest to absent himself from court, and he therefore hastened north to the Earl of Northumberland, and added his overflowing discontent to that which was already effervescing in the bosoms of the earl and of his partisans. The insurgents took the field, but, as in all their attempts during this reign, without any concert. First appeared in arms Sir John Falconberg and three other knights in Cleveland, in May of 1405. They were immediately assaulted and dispersed by Prince John, the third son of King Henry, and the Earl of Westmoreland. Then the Archbishop of York and the Earl of Nottingham, more commonly called the Earl Mowbray, who also was earl marshal, with unexampled rashness appeared in arms without waiting for the forces of the Duke of Northumberland. They fixed on the doors of the churches in York and other places a defiance of the king, charging him with the same crimes and misdemeanors which were contained in the proclamation of Shrewsbury - perjury, usurpation, murder, extortion, and the like. They assembled 8,000 men at Skipton-on-the-Moor. The Prince and Earl of Westmoreland having defeated Falconberg's force, marched against them, and came up with them in the forest of Galtres on the 29th of May.

Finding that the forces of the insurgents exceeded their own, the Earl of Westmoreland proposed a friendly conference, which was acceded to. There the earl acted with an art not more remarkable than the simplicity of those on whom it was practised. The archbishop presented a list of grievances, which Westmoreland read and declared to be perfectly reasonable, and presenting, in his opinion, no difficulties but such as might readily be got over. The matters in dispute were discussed. Westmoreland approved of all that they suggested, conceded all their demands, and solemnly swore to procure the royal ratification of every condition.

Having thus amicably terminated their differences, the earl called for wine, which the negotiators partook of in sight of both armies. Westmoreland then proposed that they should embrace, in sign of amity, which also took place in view of the two armies. While they were thus drinking and embracing, the earl pleasantly suggested that, as they were now friends, there could be no necessity for keeping their armies assembled, and proposed that they should disband them all on the spot, let them know that peace was concluded, and allow every man to go home.

To this the Earl Mowbray made some objection; but the archbishop, who was sincerity and simplicity embodied, overruled his caution, and gave orders for the dismissal of their troops. No sooner was this done, and the army of the insurgents dispersing on all sides in confusion, than it was seen that the soldiers of the Crown remained stationary, having been duly instructed beforehand; and Westmoreland, throwing off the mask, arrested the archbishop, the earl marshal, and the other leaders who had come to the conference. This news reaching the insurgents, every one made the best of his way in flight for his own safety.

Henry was already on his way to support his son and Westmoreland. He had already arrived at Pontefract, and at that spot, so suggestive of his unrelenting disposition, the insurgent leaders, thus perfidiously entrapped, were brought before him. He ordered them to follow him to Bishopsthorpe, the palace of the primate, near York; as if, with a refinement of cruelty, he would make the fate which he designed for him the more bitter by inflicting it on the spot of his past greatness and authority. There he commanded the chief justice, Gascoigne, to pronounce on them sentence of death; but that upright and inflexible judge refused, declaring that he had no jurisdiction over either archbishop or earl, who must be tried by their peers. Sir William Fulthorpe was appointed on the spot Chief Justice of the King's Bench for the occasion; and this pliant tool, no doubt selected with full knowledge of his obsequious nature, called them at once before him, and, without any form of law, indictment, trial, or jury, condemned them to be beheaded as traitors; and the sentence was carried instantly into execution, with many circumstances of wanton and unworthy cruelty.

This was the first time that a prelate had suffered capital punishment in England. Prelates had been imprisoned-and punished by forfeiture and banishment, but no king had yet dared to put to death a bishop; and the circumstance did not pass without the Pope launching the thunders of excommunication against all persons concerned in this ominous innovation, though without especially naming the king. The archbishop, on hearing his sentence, protested that he never intended any evil to the person of Henry, and merely sought redress of grievances; but after having twice incited the insurgents to arms, and being believed to have written the last proclamation, if not that also at Shrewsbury, he was not likely to obtain credence. When afterwards the king called upon the House of Lords to record a judgment of high treason against the archbishop and the earl marshal, they demurred, and required the question to lie over till the next Parliament - a significant hint of their disapproval, which Henry was wise enough to take. The matter was never mentioned again.

Henry punished the city of York for "its disposition to support the views of the archbishop, by depriving it of its franchises, and then, at the head of 37,000 men, marched in pursuit of the Earl of Northumberland and Lord Bardolf. Northumberland had delayed his demonstration this time to secure the assistance of Albany, the regent of Scotland, and aid from France. He had readily formed an alliance with Albany, but failed in procuring any support from the French court. As Henry advanced north, Northumberland retired. Henry took successive possession of the duke's castles of Prudhoe, Warkworth, and Alnwick; and as he drew near Berwick, Northumberland, who never showed much courage, surrendered it into the hands of the Scots, and fell back still further on his Scottish allies. The Scots themselves, not thinking the town tenable against Henry's forces, set it on fire and deserted it. The castle alone appeared disposed to make resistance; Hut the shot of an enormous cannon having shattered one of the towers, it opened its gates; and the son of the Baron of Gray stock, with the six principal officers, were immediately executed. Henry turned southward victorious, and at Pontefract - which no thoughts of the murder he was charged with committing prevented his visiting - he conferred upon his queen the several great estates of the Earl of Northumberland and Lord Bardolf.

Henry now marched to Wales, whither he had sent his son, Prince Henry, in the spring. That gallant young prince, who had acquired such renown on the field of Shrewsbury, had pursued Glendower into his fortresses, with all the ardour and impetuosity of youth. For some time that artful general eluded his attacks, and set him at defiance by a variety of stratagems, but in the month of March he had obtained a signal victory over the Welsh at Grosmont, in Monmouthshire, and taken Griffin, the son of Glendower, who commanded, prisoner. He next laid siege to Lampeter Castle, in Cardiganshire, and after a long siege reduced it. But now the French appeared upon the scene with a force of 12,000 men, if we are to credit Otter burn.

Glendower, finding his power gradually undermined by the efforts of Henry and his valiant son, had applied to the French, or, as some writers assert, had gone in person to solicit the aid of France. That country at the time was in a deplorable state of misgovernment. The malady of Charles VI. had reduced him to a condition of absolute imbecility. The powerful Duke of Burgundy was dead, and the dissolute Orleans, living in open adultery with the queen, had usurped the whole powers of the state. As Albany was in Scotland, so was Orleans in France. Hating Henry with an inveterate hatred, he readily promised Glendower his assistance. A fleet was fitted out and entrusted to the Count of La Marche, a gay young prince of the royal family, but engrossed in pleasures and gaieties, It was so late in the year when this courtly admiral reached his fleet at Brest, that his most sensible followers refused to venture to sea; and with a fragment of his force La Marche made an abortive descent on the English coast at Falmouth.

In the spring of 1405, however, a fresh fleet, assembled by the resolute Orleans, reached Wales, and debarked at Milford Haven. The fleet consisted of 120 ships, and had taken on board a great number of cavalry horses, which, however, had nearly all perished during the stormy passage; and no sooner was the fleet moored than the squadron of the Cinque Ports sailed in after it, and burnt fifteen ships. It, moreover, cut off all supplies by sea, and soon after succeeded in capturing a portion of the French transports bringing ammunition and provisions.

The French army was commanded by the Count Montmorency, Marshal of Rieux, and the Sire de Hugueville, grand master of the arbalisters. They marched to Haver-fordwest, and burnt the town, but suffered great loss in attempting to take the castle, and were repulsed. They next advanced to Caermarthen, laying the country waste as they went; they took Caermarthen, and there were joined by Owen Grlendower with a force of 10,000 men. This united force took its way towards England, and Prince Henry, being in possession of an inferior force, was compelled to avoid an engagement,

It was this which had made Henry hasten his march from the north. Before setting oat, he granted the Isle of Man, forfeited by the Earl of Northumberland, to Sir William Stanley, in whose family it continued till the reign of Elizabeth. On reaching Hereford the king was compelled to issue a proclamation representing that the kingdom was in great danger from the junction of the French and the Welsh; that his finances were totally exhausted; and that the tenths and fifteenths granted by Parliament could not be levied till Martinmas. He, therefore, commanded the sheriffs of all the neighbouring counties to summon before them the richest men of their several shires, and prevail upon them to advance money on the credit of the taxes already voted.

To such extremity was Henry IV. reduced, in one of the most critical epochs of his troubled reign; and this total want of means for paying and feeding his army delayed him so long, that it was not till late in the year that he came face to face with the invaders. They had aow reached the very gates of Worcester, and menaced that town. Henry having united his forces with those of his son, now advanced upon the enemy, who were posted on a considerable hill, and took up his position on an opposite height. For eight days the two armies lay with a deep valley between them, neither of them willing to risk the loss of its vantage ground, and give battle under the unequal circumstances. There were occasional skirmishes, and three of the French lords were slain, including the brother of the marshal.

At length the Welsh and French beat a retreat into Wales, and Henry pursued them; but having reached their marshes and mountains, they turned upon the king's forces when they had, in their ardour, advanced incautiously amongst them, and inflicted great loss upon them, taking or destroying fifty of his wagons, containing the most valuable portion of his baggage. It was now the middle of October; the season was such as all the world then believed to be at the command of Glendower - tempestuous and incessantly raining. The roads became impassable, provisions were unattainable, and the king was heartily glad to draw off his army. Nor were the French less delighted to quit the country of the great necromancer, where they reaped more labours than laurels; and soon after they embarked and sailed back to France.

Freed for a moment from his anxiety, by the retreat of the Welsh and their allies, Henry turned his attention to the Earl of Northumberland and Lord Bardolf, who were still in Scotland. Knowing the secret disposition of Albany to encourage seditious enterprises against England, which was only kept in check by Henry holding the young King James in his hands, ready at any favourable moment to put him forward against him, he was by no means easy at the abode of those noblemen in that country.

For more than two years those noblemen had maintained their liberty in exile, wandering from place to place, to avoid the incessant arts and efforts of Henry to obtain possession of their persons. Sometimes they were soliciting aid from the Scots, sometimes from the Welsh, to renew their attempt to overturn the usurper. Henry was always on the watch to seize some advantage over them, and they were equally vigilant to inflict some injury on his troops or government. They did not neglect an endeavour to obtain an interview with the pretended Richard in Stirling Castle, and Albany would have been a bad tactician if he had openly refused them this. Nothing can be more obvious than that, if the Scottish Government really were in possession of the person of Richard, they would have taken care to show him to the numbers of English exiles always at that court, that they might be perfectly satisfied of the fact. No such means of placing this question on an unquestionable basis ever appears to have been used, though both French and English had taken pains to satisfy themselves on this head.

The French, when it was first rumoured that Richard had escaped, received the news with general delight. They formed plans for his restoration; they were ready to make a descent on England with a large army to support his cause; and the bravest knights vowed to peril their lives and fortunes in defence of the rights of Richard and Isabella.

But they were puzzled by the very natural circumstance that Richard, if alive, and at liberty in Scotland, sent no message to his wife, or her father and friends. Why was this? Why did he seek no means to regain his throne? Why did he hold no communication with his faithful adherents? Why not give his friends the satisfaction and the strength of an unmistakable assurance of his existence? To decide this question they resolved to send over a trustworthy agent. Creton, the former page of Richard, who had accompanied him to Ireland, and was taken prisoner with him in Wales, had recently written a poem on the wrongs and sufferings of his master. The French Court selected Creton as their emissary to Scotland to penetrate the heart of this mystery. He went, and the result was that the Scottish Richard was declared to be an impostor, and that there remained no doubt but that Richard himself had been murdered. The French ordinance for the payment of Creton remains, and may be seen in the "Archaeologia." It is without date, but is supposed to have been issued in the year 1402; and the outburst of the indignation of the French Court against Henry in 1403, and the defiances of the Duke of Orleans and Walleran de St. Pol, in which they charge Henry boldly with the murder of his king, seem a very natural consequence.

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