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Reign of Henry V. Part 2 page 3

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From Montereau the united forces of England and France proceeded to Villeneuve-le-Roy, and thence to Melun, which resisted all their efforts for four months. The dauphin had escaped into Languedoc, where he joined the young Count Armagnac, who had a strong party there. But Barbazan, the governor of Melun, was one of the men suspected of being engaged in the murder of the Duke of Burgundy, and the present duke was eager to secure him and other of his accomplices. Henry, therefore, excepted in the terms of capitulation all such as were participators in the guilt of that deed; but, on surrender, he interceded for Barbazan, and saved his life. During this obstinate siege, which continued till the 18th of November, the court resided at Corbeil, where the poor old King of France was accustomed to have his melancholy soothed by the fine military band of his English son-in-law - the first expressly mentioned in history. The siege over, the two courts and all their attendants returned in a species of triumph to Paris. Henry and his father-in-law went first, as a matter of precaution, and made their entry into the city accompanied by a strong body of troops. The place was in a state of absolute starvation - to such a condition had the protracted civil war and the many massacres and emeutes which had taken place within and around its walls reduced it. Children were running through the streets in the agonies of famine, and old and young were actually perishing on the pavement. Yet, amid all its horrors and miseries, this strange capital put on an air of high rejoicing. The streets and houses were hung with tapestry and gay carpets, and if there was little to eat, the conduits were made to run with wine. The entrance of the two kings side by side was something like that of Saul and David into Jerusalem. The acclamations of the multitude were chiefly directed towards the hero of Azincourt. At the sight of him the people seemed to think themselves almost in possession of the wealth and the fat beeves of England. The principal citizens appeared wearing the red cross, the badge of the English; and the clergy in solemn procession chanted, "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord." The next day the two queens made their entree amid similar pageants and acclamations.

Charles summoned the three estates of the kingdom, and explained to them in a long speech the reasons which had induced him to make "a final and perpetual peace with his dear son, the King of England." The assembly gave its unanimous approbation to the treaty, and after that the Duke of Burgundy, apparelled in deep mourning, appeared before them, and demanded justice on the assassins of his father. The king pronounced judgment against them, as guilty of high treason, and they were proclaimed incapable of holding any office or property, their vassals, at the same time, being absolved from all their oaths of fealty and obligations of service. The dauphin was mentioned as Charles, calling himself dauphin; but he was not directly implicated as the author or abettor of the crime.

At this assembly Isabella was also proclaimed regent of France during the absence of Henry, who now proceeded to England, there to introduce his queen to his subjects and to see her crowned. The whole of this journey and the coronation were like the ovation of an ancient conqueror. After spending their Christmas at Paris, Henry and his young queen set out at the head of 6,000 men, commanded by the Duke of Bedford. They were received with great festivity at the different towns on their way; and on the 1st of February they left Calais, and landed at Dover, where, according to Monstrelet, "Catherine was received as if she had been an angel of God." The whole reception of the young conqueror and his beautiful bride was of the most enthusiastic kind. They proceeded first to Eltham, and thence, after due rest, to London, where Catherine was crowned with high state, on the 24th of February.

She was conducted on foot from Westminster Palace to the Abbey by two bishops; "and after the coronation was ended," says Holinshed, "Queen Catherine was conveyed into the great hall of Westminster, and there sat at dinner. Upon her right hand sat, at the end of the table, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Cardinal Beaufort. Upon the left hand of the queen sat James I., King of Scotland, under his canopy, who was served with messes in covered silver dishes, but after the aforesaid bishops. By the King of Scots sat the Duchess of York and the Countess of Huntingdon. The Countess of Kent sat under the table, at the queen's feet, holding a napkin. The Earl of Marche, holding the queen's sceptre in his hand, kneeled on the steps of the dais at her right side; the earl-marshal, holding her other sceptre, knelt on her left. The Duke of Gloucester was that day overseer of the feast, and stood before Queen Catherine bare-headed. Sir Richard Neville was her cupbearer; Sir James Stuart, server; the Lord Clifford pantler, in the Earl of Warwick's stead; the Lord Grey of Ruthin was her napere; and the Lord Audley her almoner."

In such proud royalty did the hero of Azincourt crown his queen - -a subject king sitting at table at once as captive and guest; and the circumstance seems to have made its due impression on the daughter of the house of Valois, for it is stated that the only instance of active benevolence ever recorded of Catherine was now exhibited in favour of the King of Scots. He had been at this court a captive from his boyhood. Catherine engaged Henry to promise him his liberation on condition that he should bear arms under him in the succeeding campaign in France. She did more - she took in hand the love-suit of the young poet-king, and Stowe assures us that James of Scotland was affianced to the beautiful Joanna Beaufort before the festival of Catherine's coronation ended.

After the coronation, the royal pair made a progress northward as far as the shrine of St. John of Beverley. They celebrated the spring festival at Leicester, and advanced, visiting the shrine of every saint on their way. The object of Henry was to prepare his subjects for the extraordinary demands he was about to make upon them for the completion of his French conquests. Yet, in one respect, his conduct was not calculated to render him popular. He was so assiduous in his devotions to the saints, and so severe in his suppression of the writings of the Lollards against the clergy, that he obtained from the reformers the name of the "Prince of the Priests." In another respect, however, his conduct was more palatable. He harangued the corporation of every town on his way, and, introducing to the delighted officials his fair young queen as a proof of the standing he had gained in France, he exerted all his eloquence to make them sensible of the money and the troops which he should require to accomplish this great object. He did not hesitate to carry his wife to the castle of Pontefract, so notorious as the scene of his father's murder of Richard II., and where he himself now kept confined his brother-in-law, the poet-Duke of Orleans, captured at the battle of Azincourt.

But here Henry's gay progress was cut short by the disastrous news of the defeat of his troops in France at the battle of Beauje. Henry had left his brother, the Duke of Clarence, in command of his forces in Normandy, and Clarence, intending to strike a blow at the power of the dauphin in Anjou, marched into that country, and fell in, not only with the Armagnacs, but with a body of 6,000 or 7,000 auxiliary Scots, near the town of Beauje. These Scots had been engaged by the Armagnac party to serve against the English as a fitting counterpart. They were commanded by the Earl of Buchan, second son of the Duke of Albany, the Regent of Scotland. He had under him the Earl of Wigton, Lord Stuart of Darnley, Sir John Swinton, and other brave officers.

The Duke of Clarence, deceived by the false report of some prisoners, hastened to surprise what he considered this inconsiderable body of troops. In his rash haste, and in opposition to the earnest advice of his officers, he left behind him his archers, and thus gave another convincing proof that in that force, and not in his men-at-arms, lay the secret of the English victories. He was assured that the Scots were keeping very indifferent watch and discipline, and made sure of securing an easy conquest. Having forced the passage of a bridge, Clarence was dashing on at the head of his cavalry, distinguished by a magnificent suit of armour, and a coronet of gold set with jewels, when he was mot by the Scottish knights in full charge. Sir John Swinton spurred his horse right upon the duke, and bore him from his saddle with his lance, and the Earl of Buchan, as he fell, dashed out his brains with his battle-axe. The archers, however, came up in time to prevent the Scots carrying off the body, and they speedily cleared the field of them with their clothyard shafts. In this encounter the English lost about 1,200 men, and had 300 taken prisoners; the Scots and French lost together about 1,000 men.

The moral effect of this battle was immense. Though the victory actually remained with the English, yet the impression which the Scots made before the arrival of the archers, and their having killed the royal duke, the brother of the victorious Henry, and the Governor of Normandy, and having taken prisoner the Earls of Somerset, Dorset, and Huntingdon, seemed to point out the only soldiers in the world capable of contending with the English. Pope Martin Y., when this news reached him, exclaimed, "Ha! the Scots are the only antidote to the English!"

The joy of the dauphin's party at this first small gleam of success for many years over the dreaded islanders, was ecstatic. He created the Earl of Buchan Constable of France, the highest office of the kingdom, and Count of Aubigny.

The fame of this exploit on the field of Beauje, and of the rewards showered in consequence on their countrymen, roused the martial Scots, and they poured over in great numbers into France. The spell of England's invincibility seemed for a moment broken, and enemies began to start up in various quarters. Jacques de Harcourt issued from his castle of Crotoy, in Picardy, and harassed the English both at sea and on shore. Poitou de Saintraille and Vignolles, called La Hire, also infested Picardy. The fickle Parisians, who so lately shouted and carolled on the entrance of Henry into their city, now openly expressed their discontent, and proceeded to such lengths, that the English commander there, the Duke of Exeter, was compelled to drive them from the streets with his inimitable archers. The dauphin, taking courage from all these circumstances, began to advance from the south towards the capital.

Henry, greatly chagrined at these events - calculated, if not checked, to add infinitely to the difficulties in the path of his ambition - lost no time in preparing to reach the scene of action. He ordered troops to assemble wit:: all celerity at Dover. He called together Parliament an Convocation, both of which met his views with the greater: alacrity. Parliament ratified at once the treaty of Troyes. and authorised his council to raise loans on its own security. The clergy granted him a tenth. To take a signal vengeance on the Scots, whose valour and the rashness of Clarence had thus broken in on ins triumphs and enjoyments at home, he called on the young King of Scots to fulfil his engagement to serve in France under his banners; the condition being his return to Scotland three months after the termination of the campaign. Henry deemed that by this measure he should not only put Scot against Scot, but should, by having the Scottish king with him, deter any of his subjects from taking arms on the other side, and thus actually fighting against their own monarch. In this hope he was disappointed; but as the Scots had entered the French service without any declaration of war made by Scotland against England, the presence of the Scottish king on his side furnished him with the plea of treating every Scot who did battle on the other side as a traitor; and he sullied his fair fame when he came into the field by hanging every such Scot as fell into his hands.

Besides having the person of James I. in his army, Henry also prevailed on Archibald, Earl Douglas, to engage in his service with 200 men-at-arms and 200 foot-soldiers. Earl Douglas had been for some years a prisoner in England in the reign of Henry IV., and he had his causes of discontent with Albany, the regent, who had sent out his son, the Earl of Buchan, and the Scots army to aid the dauphin. The estates of the expatriated Earl of Marche, who figured so conspicuously in England in the last reign, had been granted to Douglas; but Albany, without consulting Parliament, had recalled Marche, and restored to him all his forfeited estates. Douglas, therefore, readily took arms against the army of Albany in France. He agreed to serve Henry on the usual terms of pay for his men, and an annuity of 200. Besides this, the fact of their young monarch going out with Henry speedily brought to his standard, at Dover, Alexander, Lord Forbes, Alexander de Seton, Lord of Gordon, Sir William Blair, and other Scottish knights and gentlemen.

Henry saw there collected under his banner a gallant army of 4,000 men-at-arms and 24,000 archers. With these he landed at Calais by the 12th of June, sent on 1,200 men-at-arms by forced marches to Paris, to strengthen the garrison of the Duke of Exeter, and followed himself at more leisure. At Montreuil he met the Duke of Burgundy, and arranged the plans of action. Burgundy, in consequence, marched into Picardy, attacked and defeated the dauphinites at Mons-en-Vimeu, and took Saintraille and others of their bravest leaders prisoners. This revived the spirit of the royalists, and they speedily reduced various other places in the northwest.

Henry left the army under command of the Earl of Dorset, and hastening to Paris, paid a hasty visit to his father-in-law at the Bois de Vincennes. He then joined the army and advanced against Chartres, which was besieged by the dauphin. The siege of Chartres was raised at Henry's approach, Beaugency was next taken, and the dauphin retreated beyond the Loire. Meantime, the King of Scots, to whom Henry had assigned the siege of Dreux, prosecuted his mission with equal zeal and talent, and brought that strong place to capitulate on the 30th of August.

The whole of France, from the north to Paris, and from Paris to the Loire, was almost entirely in the hands of the English and their allies the Burgundians. The dauphin, unable to stand a moment before the superior genius and troops of Henry, fell back successively from post to post, till he took refuge in the well fortified city of Bourges. The troops of Henry had suffered considerably by their rapid marches and from scarcity of provisions. Henry, therefore, quitted the pursuit of the dauphin for a space; the country, from its past calamities, still lying a desert, and the miserable people perishing of hunger. He sought out sufficiently good quarters for his army, and left them to refresh themselves while he paid a short visit to Paris. He was very soon, however, in the field again, and by the 6th of October had sat down before the city of Meaux on the Marne. He was induced to undertake this siege from the earnest solicitations of the people of Paris. They represented that it was the stronghold of one of the most ferocious monsters who in those fearful times spread horror through afflicted France. This was an old companion of the late Count of Armagnac, called the Bastard of Vaurus, who had become so infuriated by the murder of his master, that the whole of mankind hardly seemed sufficient to appease, by death and suffering, his revenge. Meaux was his place of retreat. It was reputed to be one of the very strongest towns of France, about twenty-five miles distant only from Paris. One part of the town in particular, called the Marketplace, was deemed impregnable. Sallying forth, ever and anon, from this fortress, the Bastard of Vaurus swept the whole country, and up to the very gates of Paris. He plundered and murdered the poor people of both town and country; and such of the farmers and tradesmen as were worth a ransom, he tied to the tails of his horses and dragged them after him to Meaux. Here he kept them till they were ransomed by their friends, occasionally applying torture to quicken the motions of their families on their behalf. Against the English and the Burgundians his rage and cruelty knew no bounds. He often massacred them on the spot with the most incredible barbarities; but his favourite pastime was to hang them, and all such unlucky wretches as were not redeemed with a good sum, on a great tree outside Meaux, thence called the Oak of Vaurus. This man and his companions became the terror of Paris.

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