OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Reign of Henry V. Part 1 page 9

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 <9> 10 11 12

This had the effect of causing all who could to escape from the city, who, adding to the already vast numbers of the expelled Burgundians and butchers, formed themselves into bands, and laid waste the country round Paris. They were soon joined by other predatory forces from Artois, and disorder once let loose grew with terrible rapidity. The whole of France was very soon desolated by wild troops of various descriptions, who preyed on the inhabitants at pleasure. It was one universal anarchy. The numerous mercenary forces of Germans, Lombards, and Savoyards, who had been brought into the country by one or other of the factions which had so long torn the very vitals of France, helped themselves now without control, and ravaged the miserable country at will. The troops which were actually in the pay of the Government perpetrated the same outrages 011 the helpless people, and numerous swarms of the very scum of all these, brigands of the vilest and most lawless character, ranged through the land, committing every species of villany and horror under the name of "Begeaux." They were still more demoralised than the bands of Free Companions in the time of the Black Prince.

The condition of France was such as defied description. No country ever presented such, a spectacle of ruin, misery, crime, and desolation. According to their own writers of the time, whole districts were deserted by their inhabitants, who had many of them been destroyed in the most shocking manner. Many of the most fertile farms had not been cultivated for twenty years. But in the country all round Paris the horrors of this period raged in tenfold degree. Within the city sate the brooding and leaden despotism of the Armagnacs, crushing every motion in the cruel terror of reaction; without raged fire and the most devilish passions of defeated faction. You might have ridden a whole day (say the chroniclers) without seeing a house or farm which was not burnt or plundered. One of the leaders, John de Poix, entered St. Germain-in-Laye, where the king was residing, and, followed by 400 of his partisans in disguise, attempted to carry him off. De Solre, another, burned the chateaux in the very environs of the city, and, seizing one of the gates, was near entering the city with his brutal hordes.

The Count of Armagnac struggled desperately with these legions of savage enemies; and the war of the factions went on, ever more desperate, deadly, and exterminating. He procured a papal ban against these various marauders, and issued a proclamation authorising any one to pursue and destroy them as wild beasts. He sent out troops in different directions to quell them where they could, and, under the pretence of executing their orders, the most sanguinary vengeance was inflicted on the Burgundian partisans. In the neighbourhood of Noyon one of his captains, Raymond de la Guerre, is said to have laden all the trees in the neighbourhood with noblemen and gentlemen of that faction, whom he hanged without ceremony or mercy.

Such was the condition of France when the Duke of Burgundy consented to meet Henry, Sigismund, and the Duke of Bavaria at Calais. The spirit of enmity betwixt him and the Armagnacs had reached its height. It was between them war to the death; neither party was any longer capable of a thought besides that of the extermination of the other. Burgundy was expelled and worsted by Armagnac, and he sought the aid of England.

There had been through the year continual correspondence between the courts of Burgundy and England, which purported to concern treaties of trade; and now the congress opened on the 3rd of October, 1416, for the ostensible purpose of healing the schism in the Church. The Armagnacs were struck with direst consternation at this ominous conference. They neither gave credit to the object being trade nor the peace of the Church; but they believed, and asserted, that Burgundy had sold himself to Henry, had formally acknowledged his title to the throne of France, and done homage to him for his provinces of Burgundy and Alost, in order to avenge himself of his Armagnac opponents. That such a treaty was agitated at the congress is certain, for the protocol is preserved in Rymer, and by it Burgundy was not only to acknowledge Henry's claim, but to assist him in establishing it. There is, however, no proof that he actually signed it.

Whatever was determined upon remains unknown, any farther than it can be surmised from what followed. Henry returned to England to make immediate and extensive preparations for the invasion of France, on the conclusion of the existing armistice. Sigismund went on to Constance in prosecution of his plans for the Church, and Burgundy retired to Valenciennes, as if also about to co-operate with Henry by the muster of his Flemish forces. But here a new and unexpected turn of affairs appears to have taken place. John, the new dauphin, had shaken himself loose of the Armagnac party, and made overtures to Burgundy. The duke caught at the opportunity of having the dauphin in his hands, and by such an alliance regaining his ascendency in the state without incurring the odium of supporting a foreign invader against the rightful sovereign.

The two princes swore eternal friendship to each other. The dauphin pledged himself to assist the duke in driving from power the Armagnacs, and the duke engaged to aid the dauphin in expelling the English from France. The Armagnacs, confounded at this new coalition, issued a summons in the king's name to the dauphin to return to Paris, with which the prince offered to comply on condition that he brought the Duke of Burgundy and his followers with him. Finding that they could not induce the prince to quit his new ally, there is every reason to believe that they dispatched him with poison, for on the 14th of April, 1417, he was taken suddenly ill, and died in agonies with all the symptoms of poison. No one at that time doubted that it was the work of the Armagnacs, and it was generally believed that the abandoned Queen Isabella, or more properly Jezebel, was an active accomplice in the destruction of both this and her preceding son, whom she hated for their opposition and exposure of her flagitious life.

But if Isabella was guilty of these revolting crimes, she was speedily punished. Her youngest son, Charles, who now became dauphin, though but sixteen, was extremely artful, and by no means disposed to yield to the domination of his mother, whom he as heartily despised as his elder brothers had done. Isabella, through all the calamities which had afflicted France, had pursued the same unbroken course of vice and dissipation. Her court was a vile sty of sensuality and profligacy, without one particle of pity for the miseries of the people. As one paramour was assassinated, as was the case with the Duke of Orleans, she provided herself with another, and this modern Messalina outraged the feelings of the suffering people by a constant round of balls, masquerades, fetes, and court galas, while France was pouring its best blood on the battle-field, or famine was raging in the most opulent towns. Age had not abated her heartless follies; the old king was in a state of imbecility, alternating with madness, and was so totally neglected by her, that he was sometimes found half-starved, without attendants, and covered with vermin, from the want of clean linen.

Meantime Isabella lived in royal state in the castle of

Vincennes, in the midst of her voluptuous court, and protected by a strong guard, commanded by her paramour, Bois-Bourdon, the Sieurs De Graville and De Giac. The moment that there became a strife for power between Isabella and the new dauphin, Charles, the king, who had been hitherto perfectly indifferent to the queen's proceedings, and lived obscurely with his own mistress, evinced a wonderful sensitiveness to Isabella's peccadilloes. He had De Bois-Bourdon arrested, put to the torture, and then flung into the Seine, sewn up in a leathern sack, with a label attached - "Let pass the justice of the king." Isabella herself was arrested and sent into close confinement at Tours. The Count of Armagnac is said to have the more willingly executed this severity on Isabella, because she had violently complained of his seizure of her treasures both at Paris and Melun, a measure to which the public necessities had driven him.

Enraged to frenzy by the loss of her favourite, of her power, and of her money, Isabella now meditated deep revenge. She had hated the Duke of Burgundy with a mortal hatred ever since he assassinated her beloved Duke of Orleans; and he had now added to his offences by implicating her in a manner in the murder of her own son, the Dauphin John. He had sent all over France a circular letter, accusing in the most unmeasured terms the Armagnac party, with whom Isabella was then actively united, of having poisoned the dauphin, charging on them all the miseries and disgraces that afflicted France, and calling on the people to come forward and punish the murderous traitors. "One evening," said the duke in his letter, "our most redoubtable lord and nephew fell so grievously sick, that he died forthwith. His lips, tongue, and face were swollen \ his eyes started out of his head; it was a horrible sight to see, for so look people that are poisoned."

Yet the very next thing which the public heard was that Isabella had escaped from her prison at Tours, and thrown herself into the arms of the Duke of Burgundy, her old and most detested enemy. Such are the terrible extremes of a bad woman's vengeance. She now burned, at any cost, to revenge herself on Armagnac, and not less so on her own son Charles, whose destruction she sought as earnestly as she had done that of his brothers. This most unnatural woman had bribed her keepers to allow her to attend early mass at the church of Marmontier, in the suburbs of Tours. They accompanied her, but suddenly found themselves surprised by the Duke of Burgundy, who had secreted himself for the purpose in a neighbouring forest, with 800 men-at-arms. The moment Isabella was in the guardianship of this prince, she proclaimed herself regent of the kingdom during the continuance of the king's malady, and the Duke of Burgundy her lieutenant.

Such was the position of affairs in France at the moment that Henry Y. of England landed at Touque, on the coast of Normandy, on the 1st of August, 1417, with 16,000 men-at-arms, an equal number of archers, and a long train of artillery, and other military engines, attended by an efficient body of sappers, miners, carpenters, and other artificers, and a fleet of 1,500 ships. Two years had elapsed since the fatal battle of Azincourt; yet the infatuated princes of France, though they knew that Henry never had his eyes off their country, but was constantly employed in planning its subjugation, had taken no measures whatever for its defence. On the contrary, they had spent the time in mutual destruction, and in doing all in their power to exhaust its strength, and demoralise the people. They appeared given up by an indignant Providence to the destroying force of their own base passions, a nation of suicidal monsters rather than of men; and while Henry of England was landing on their coasts with his invading army, the Duke of Burgundy was in full march on Paris, accompanied by the queen, breathing vengeance on the Armagnacs.

Burgundy, after the sudden death of the dauphin, had besieged that city with an army of 60,000 cavalry. He promised to restore peace, and abolish all oppressive taxes. The people in the country were ready to look upon him as a deliverer; and many cities, including Amiens, Abbeville, Dourlens, Montreuil, and other towns in Picardy opened their gates to him. Paris, in the hands of the Armagnacs, made a steadfast resistance. He, however, became master of Chalons, Troyes, Auxerre, and on being joined by Isabella, most of the towns, except those taken by the King of England, declared for Burgundy and the queen. Isabella had a great seal engraved, and appointed her officers of state. She declared that the Armagnacs held the king and dauphin prisoners in Paris, and were, therefore, traitors. She made Burgundy governor-general of the whole kingdom, appointed the Duke of Lorraine constable, and the Prince of Orange governor of Languedoc. There was a great flocking of princes and nobility to the Queen's court, and thus there were established two royal parties and two courts, the one with the king and dauphin in Paris, the other with the queen at Chartres. The people, elated by the promises of Burgundy, rose in many places and killed the tax-gatherers, crying, "Long live Burgundy, and no taxes!" They regarded every rich man as an Armagnac, for that was a good plea on which to plunder him; and thus passed the winter of 1417.

Meantime, Henry of England advanced into the heart of Normandy, having, on setting out, issued to his army orders in consonance with those enlightened principles of humanity and policy which he had adopted in such noble contrast to the practice of the Edwards. He forbade, on pain of the severest punishment, all breaches of discipline, all injury to the lives and property of the peaceable inhabitants, and especially of insult to clergymen, or outrage to the wives, widows, and maidens of the country. Yet the Normans, neglected by their own rulers, who were engaged like wolves in tearing each other's throats instead of defending their common soil, still retained their allegiance, and regarding Henry, not as the descendant of their ancient dukes, but as a foreign invader, rejected him with great bravery. Probably the atrocities committed on them by the Edwards had thoroughly alienated their hearts from the English. But they were unable to contend with the superior forces and martial skill of Henry; and Fouques, Auvillers, and Villers surrendered after short sieges; Caen resisted, but was taken by assault; Bayeaux submitted voluntarily; and l'Aigle, Lisieux, Alencon, and Falaise, after some stout resistance. Henry then went into comfortable winter quarters, intending to proceed, on the return of spring, with his proposed task of reducing every fortress in Normandy. During the winter, however, he made occasional military demonstrations as the weather permitted, and received deputations from both the great parties in the state; but he steadily refused to treat on any other terms than that he should receive the hand of the Princess Catherine, should be at once appointed regent of the country, and declared successor to the crown on the king's death. The attempts at reconciliation between the factions themselves were equally abortive.

<<< Previous page <<< >>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 <9> 10 11 12

Pictures for Reign of Henry V. Part 1 page 9

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About