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Reign of Henry V. Part 1 page 3

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About thirty of these captives were executed on the spot of their reputed rendezvous, St. Giles's Fields, being drawn and hanged as traitors, and then burnt; amongst them Sir Thomas Acton, whose body, instead of being burnt, was buried under the gallows.

In the whole of these strange transactions there is not the slightest evidence of the presence or complicity of Lord Cobham; but the anxious object of the clergy is manifested in the proclamation which was issued on the ninth of January, offering 1,000 marks for the apprehension of Sir John Oldcastle, Lord Cobham. Sir John was nowhere to be found, for not a man would betray him; but the House of Commons had fully imbibed the intended alarm, and in their address to the king, they declared their conviction that the insurgents sought "to destroy the Christian faith, the king, the spiritual and temporal estates, and all manner of policy and law." The king would seem fully to have arrived at the same fearful conclusion; for in his proclamation he states that they meant "to destroy him, his brothers, and several of the spiritual and temporal lords, to confiscate the possessions of the Church, to secularise the religious orders, to divide the realm into confederate districts, and to appoint Sir John Oldcastle president of the commonwealth."

The singularity of this charge, and its real nature as a plea of the hierarchy which had thus early raised the cry of "the Church in danger," in order to crush the new Church which was arising out of its own corruptions and neglects, is shown most luminously by the fact that the very Parliament which joined in the cry, and was lending itself to the suppression of the Lollards, at this very time was itself vehemently bent on the very object which they thus made criminal in the Protestant body. We find in Hall, folio 35, that on the king demanding supplies, they renewed the offer which they had made to his father to seize all the ecclesiastical revenues, and convert them to the use of the crown.

The clergy were greatly alarmed by this demonstration from their own coadjutors, and feeling that the age was ripe for compelling them to disgorge a good portion of their enormous wealth, they agreed to confer upon Henry all the alien priories which depended on capital abbeys in Normandy, and had been bequeathed to those abbeys when that province continued united to England. The great originator of Church persecution in this country, the man who first planted the stake and lit the flame around the bodies of his fellow-men for Christ's sake - a deed prolific of centuries of crime and horror, of civil dissension, and disgrace to the Christian name - was now gone to his account, and his successor Chicheley, as determined a persecutor as himself, endeavoured to turn the attention of the king by recommending him to carry war into France.

Henry was himself already meditating that very step. It was the dying advice of his father not to permit his subjects to remain long in inaction; which, in an age which possessed few resources but hunting or war to sufficiently occupy the minds of the great barons, was sure to breed domestic factions, while successful war kept them about the person of their prince, and attached them to him by every motive of honour and advantage. The state of France at that epoch was such as rendered a fresh attempt to conquer it most alluring, and even to suggest the idea to a monarch like Henry, chivalrous and ambitious of glory, that he was, in a manner, called by God to the salutary work of rescuing a great nation from its own suicidal frenzy, and punishing the iniquity of its people - which was actually monstrous - as the Israelites were led up to punish the corrupt inhabitants of Canaan. Having, therefore, consented to the desires of the Church, and of that unique Parliament which, while it recommended the stripping of the Church, was deadly in its resentment against any other body attempting the same thing - that all judges and magistrates should arrest any persons suspected even of Lollardism, and deliver them over to the tender mercies of the ecclesiastical courts, and that these unfortunate schismatics should, on conviction, forfeit all their lands, goods, and chattels, as in cases of felony - he addressed himself to his great enterprise, the conquest of France.

That unfortunate country was in the most deplorable condition. The dissension, the unbounded dissoluteness, and the mutual murder of the princes, seemed to have utterly debauched and demoralised the people. From head to foot, the whole body, political and social, was diseased. Every principle of honour or of rectitude, every feeling of conscience or of pity appeared extinct. Cruelty, rapacity, crime, and lawlessness were become the grand features of the nation. It was high time that some power should interpose to scourge that debased generation and restore some sense of patriotism and virtue through a bitter regime, if possible; and that was, in truth, the only title which Henry had to interfere. Bad as had been the claims set up by the Edwards, his was far worse; for he was the son of the usurper even in his own country, and if any just right to the crown of France could be established by the English Plantagenets, it resided in the Earl of Marche, and not at all in him. But, while Henry in a most amusingly confident manner still talked of his hereditary title to the French throne, he did not omit to add what really appeared more obvious, that he was the appointed instrument of Providence to chastise the flagrant iniquity of the rulers of France.

That reconciliation of the Duke of Orleans to Burgundy, the murderer of his father, which we have recorded, did not last three months. After the retirement of the Duke of Clarence to Guienne, this feud broke out with fresh fury. The Count of Armagnac, the father-in-law of Orleans, one of the most clear-sighted men amongst them, indeed, never laid down his arms. Burgundy continued in Paris, and there he got up a popular faction which gradually drew the whole city into scenes and outrages which remind us of the Parisian revolutions of our own times. He made a league with the butchers, who came out with ferocious alacrity, glad of such a sanction to play a conspicuous part on that great theatre of national confusion. They adopted a white hood as their badge; and, being in alliance with the Duke of Burgundy, they also opened a communication with his revolutionary subjects in Flanders. The men of Ghent and Bruges had lost none of their taste for insurrection, and entered with delight into the scheme of revolutionising France under cover of the leadership of their own ruler. The white hood was distributed freely in those towns, and sent by delegates all over France, As the faction grew it proceeded to show its authority; and very soon the Dukes of Burgundy and Berri, the dauphin, the king himself, found themselves compelled to don the white hood, and show themselves as members of the honourable fraternity of political butchers. The judges, the barristers, the members of Parliament, the noblesse, the professors and students of the university, the clergy, the monks, every class of the community, in short, were obliged to wear the white hood, as the only livery of patriotism. A reign of terror now commenced; the whole of the populace were ranged under the white hood, and had acquired the name of Cabochiens from one of their most ferocious leaders. They had reduced the upper classes of all descriptions to an ostensible submission to their despotism, and they now began to perpetrate every species of disorder. They seized on all such of the citizens as had wealth enough to yield a heavy ransom, and, if they refused to pay freely, they threw them into prison and detained them there till their resistance gave way. Their cry through all this was for the good of la belle France. They broke into the palace, and, besides plundering it, they carried away in triumph the Duke of Bavaria, the brother of the infamous Queen Isabella. They mounted the ladies of the court, two by two, on horseback, and bore them in triumph to the prison of the Louvre. Nor did they content themselves with plunder, and with these fantastic escapades; blood was literally mingled with their wine, and amongst their victims was the Sire de la Riviere, one of the most learned men of France, of an ancient and most honourable family.

To make confusion worse confounded, the dissolute and heartless Louis, the dauphin, quarrelled with the Duke of Burgundy, and fomented intrigues and parties against him. Chief was arrayed against chief, and mob against mob. The respectable portion of the citizens long made dumb with terror, took heart as the host of their plebeian tyrants began to direct their terrible energies against each other, and sent secretly to the Armagnacs. From being stout Burgundians thousands now declared openly for Orleans and his father-in-law; and when the Duke of Berri endeavoured to force on the city a heavy tax, to carry on the war against the Armagnacs, they rebelled resolutely. In vain were the master butchers employed to levy the hateful impost; their rude compulsion only drove the burghers more rapidly into the arms of the opposite faction.

The professors of the university had risen into consideration in consequence of the divisions in the Church; which were quite as unhappy as those of the state, no less than three different Popes now claiming the chair of infallibility and the allegiance of the religious world. The clergy, by their violent animosities in contending with each other for this or that pontiff, had lost greatly the confidence of the people, who now in Paris turned to the men of learning. The professors were equally engaged in discussing, the pretensions of the rival Popes; but they displayed so much more erudition and ability in their party warfare, that the rose in public estimation, while the regular clergy declined. To them the factions continually referred their own disputes. No sooner did they feel their influence than they began to exert it against the butchers. They had seen with indignation their monarch, their princes, their princesses, and high-born ladies continually captives in the hands of these brutal men. They saw their favourite ministers butchered or cast into dungeons, and a most hateful and bloody despotism treading down everybody who dared to oppose them, or who refused to submit to their insolent demands.

But the professors might have preached and harangued in vain if they had not unexpectedly raised up an unlooked-for alliance. The butchers had beheaded the Provost of Paris on the 1st of July, 1413, and this put the finish to their horrible domination. The carpenters determined to take the field against them, and, adopting the white scarf of the Orleans party, they came forth in all their strength. The conflict of white scarfs and white hoods became furious; but the carpenters prevailed. The butchers mustered in formidable force in the Place de Greve, so memorable for its horrors on a more recent day; but, after a vigorous fight, they were vanquished, and were eventually driven out of Paris. The Duke of Burgundy was soon compelled to follow his butcher faction, and in August, after making an abortive attempt to carry off the king, he retired to Flanders. The Duke of Orleans entered the city with the Armagnacs; the white hoods vanished, and the white scarfs became the universal wear. Everything, except disorder, was changed. The ministers and magistrates were removed, and replaced by others of the party in the ascendant. Those who had imprisoned and persecuted, now had the same, or a severer measure meted out to themselves. The faction of the dauphin was there struggling with that of the Armagnacs, and that of the queen against her own son. Louis, who had been amongst the first to call in the Armagnacs, now as earnestly implored the return of the Duke of Burgundy.

Early in 1414 Burgundy accordingly marched to Paris with a large army, expecting to find the gates opened to him by the dauphin; but, on the contrary, it was stoutly defended by Orleans and the Count of Armagnac, who threatened to hang up any one on the spot who showed the least disposition to favour Burgundy. The duke was compelled to retreat again into Flanders, and leave the Armagnacs in complete superiority. They had the king in their hands, and they compelled him to sign anything they pleased. The Duke of Burgundy was declared by royal proclamation guilty of "the damnable murder of the late Duke of Orleans," as well as of sundry other high crimes and treasons, and condemned to the forfeiture of all his territories.

The Armagnacs, having issued this proclamation, marched out of Paris, seized the duke's city of Compiegne and laid siege to Soissons. This town was defended by the brave Count de Bournonville, and at this siege the archers of England were found fighting against their fellow-subjects, the archers of Guienne. But the English very soon opened the gates to their countrymen from Bordeaux; the Armagnacs rushed in, and perpetrated one of the most frightful massacres in history. The rabble of Armagnacs appeared possessed with a demoniac frenzy, which sought the destruction of everything. Men, women, and children were massacred without mercy or discrimination. They pillaged the churches and monasteries; tore down the sacred ornaments of the altars; trod under foot the consecrated wafer; scattered the relics of saints, and demolished or defaced the images. The king was in their hands a complete puppet, and they made him the scapegoat of all their crimes. In his name the head of the brave governor, De Bournonville, was struck off, as well as those of a number of the principal officers and citizens; and, notwithstanding the English had admitted them, they hanged 200 of their archers from the walls. Others of the distinguished inhabitants were sent under guard to Paris, where they met with the same fate.

From the butchery of Soissons this fanatic army marched to Arras, into which Burgundy had managed to retire; but they were there successfully resisted. "While meditating to raise the siege, the alarming news arrived of the King of England's preparations for the invasion of France. A hollow truce was patched up between the contending parties; but, before the Armagnacs withdrew from the city, the house in which the king lodged was found to be on fire (probably from design by some of the desperadoes of one or other faction), and he escaped with difficulty.

Once more Paris became the rendezvous of the various chiefs of these revolting factions; where, in the autumn, the infamous dauphin originated a conspiracy to drive both Burgundians and Armagnacs from the capital, secure the person of the king, and make himself dictator. The scheme failed; and Louis was himself obliged to flee to Bourges. The Armagnacs once more rose on his retreat, fell on the Burgundians with great fury, and expelled their wives and children from the city.

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