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The Reign of Henry VI page 2

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The new King of France, meanwhile, was not idle. He sought to strengthen himself in the only quarter from which he had hitherto received essential aid - namely, amongst the Scots. The Duke of Albany, the Begent of Scotland, was now dead, and his son and successor Murdoch, a man of an easy disposition, not finding any employment for the more restless and martial spirits amongst his subjects, those Scots eagerly offered their services to Charles VII., who gave them every encouragement, and heaped all the distinctions in his power upon them. The Earl of Buchan, the brother of the Scottish regent, was himself not only their leader, but the Constable of France. Continued arrivals of these Scotch adventurers swelled the ranks of Charles. Amongst others the Earl of Douglas brought over 5,000 men. These strengthened Charles in the south, but as he possessed some fortresses in the north, Bedford determined first to clear those of the enemy, in order that he might afterwards advance with more confidence southwards. The castles of Dorsoy and Noyelle, the town of Rue in Picardy, and Pont-sur-Seine, Vertus, and Montaigne, successively fell before the English arms. But a still more decisive action took place in June at Crevant in Burgundy. There James Stuart, Lord Darnley, at the head of a body of Scottish auxiliaries, and the Marshal of Severac with a number of French troops, sat down before the town. The Duke of Burgundy, feeling himself too weak in that quarter to cope with them, sent a pressing message to Bedford for aid. The duke at once dispatched the Earls of Salisbury and Suffolk to raise the siege of Crevant. But the French, relying on their numbers, and still more on the well-known valour of their Scottish allies, stood their ground, and awaited the attack. On their march the English fell in with the Burgundians at Auxerre, under the Count of Toulongeon, hastening to the same goal. Still their united numbers were inferior to the enemy, and they had to force the passage of the Tonne in the face of the main body of the enemy.

The discipline of the combined army may be conceived from the regulations issued at Auxerre for its conduct. The soldiers were ordered to love and treat each other as brothers; that the vanguard should consist of 120 men-at-arms, and the same number of archers, taken in equal proportions from each nation. When the orders were given for dismounting in the presence of the enemy, disobedience was to be punished with death. The horses were to be left half a league in the rear; and any man leaving his post in the line should suffer death. No prisoners were to be made till the victory was secure; or all such prisoners should be put to death, and the captor, too, if he resisted. Finally, every archer was ordered to supply himself with a stake sharpened at both ends, as used by Henry Y. at Azincourt. The men carried each provision for two days; and thus they came in sight of the town. They found the French and Scots drawn up in great force on the 'right bank of the river. To draw them away from the place where they meant to cross, they appeared to direct the whole force of their attack upon the bridge. For three hours the battle raged there; but then, seeing that their stratagem had taken effect, the English at once plunged into the river, and were followed by the Burgundians. They forced their way over, gained the opposite bank, and the battle became fierce and general. The Scots fought valiantly; but the French, galled by a rear attack from the arrows of the garrison, soon gave way, and left their brave allies to bear the whole brunt of the battle. Attacked both in front and flank, the heroic Scots were mowed down mercilessly. The combined army cleared the field and entered the place in triumph, carrying with them prisoners two of the commanders - the Count of Yenta-dour and Lord Darnley - each of whom had lost an eye in the battle. Of the Scots, 3,000 were said to be slain, and 2,000 taken with their general.

This was a most disastrous blow to Charles, and the ruin of his affairs seemed imminent; but just at this crisis came reinforcements from both Italy and Scotland, and retrieved j his fortunes. The Duke of Milan sent him a strong body of Lombards, who surprised the Burgundian marshal, Toulongeon, and took him prisoner; and thus they were enabled to exchange him for Lord Darnley. It was at this moment also that the Earl of Douglas landed with his 5,000 Scots at Rochelle. Charles, delighted at this most timely succour, selected his body-guard from these Scottish auxiliaries; and, as he had already given to Lord Stuart of Darnley the two lordships of Aubigny and Concressault, he now conferred on Douglas the more valuable dukedom of Tourraine, which had belonged to himself as dauphin. The French ambassador also reported that the regent of Scotland and the Scottish nobility had sworn in his presence to maintain the ancient alliance between the two countries, and promised - what was not in their power to perform - that, should their king be liberated, he should ratify their engagements.

In these circumstances there were many things to encourage Charles and mortify the English. This Earl of Douglas, who now came to reinforce the new French monarch, had formerly fought for Henry Y.; and it is probable this going over was the main cause of his being rewarded with the dukedom of Tourraine. Besides this, John de la Pole, brother to the Duke of Suffolk, was, on his return from Anjou into Normandy, laden with plunder, met at La Gravelle by a strong force under Harcourt, Count of Aumale, one of the chiefs of the royal party. The English were taken by surprise, encumbered by their booty, and especially by 10,000 head of cattle. Taken at this disadvantage, the archers, however, planted their sharp stakes, and for some time maintained the unequal contest; but they were eventually compelled to give way, and leave their cattle behind them, as well as 500 of their comrades slain, and their commander, De la Pole, prisoner.

De la Pole was soon afterwards exchanged; but these successes greatly encouraged all those who were inclined to go over to the French king. Several towns in the north and north-west of France had declared for their native prince. There was a spirit abroad there alarming to the English, and therefore, instead of being able to cross the Loire and bear down effectually on Charles, they were compelled to defend their hold on their own northern territories. To add to this disquietude, the Count of Richemont, whose friendship had been so anxiously sought by Bedford, soon proved that his character was of a kind not to be depended upon. That he was not bound by any principle of honour he had sufficiently shown by breaking his parole, and he soon showed Bedford that he who is contented to wink at the perfidy of such a man when it suits his interest, will soon have cause to open his eyes again in vexation. Richemont, haughty and ambitious, was not contented to serve but at the head of an army. This Bedford had not sufficient confidence in his abilities or his integrity to concede. Nothing short of that would satisfy him. Bedford had secured him an alliance with himself and the Duke of Burgundy, by the marriage of Margaret, the sister of Burgundy; he had granted him ample lands, and he now offered him a liberal pension; but all would not soothe his offended dignity. He withdrew to his brother of Brittany, and used all his influence to detach him from the English interest.

Chagrined by this, Bedford strove all the more to rivet the good-will of Burgundy; but at the very time when Bedford entered into the alliance with Burgundy and Brittany at Amiens, which was to be so brotherly, and to last for ever, those two princes had made a separate and secret treaty, which boded no good to England at some future day. Seeing how precarious the friendship of these princes was, Bedford turned his attention to another source of strength. It was of the utmost consequence to deprive Charles of the assistance of Scotland, and to obtain, if possible, the co-operation of the brave Scots for England. He wrote, therefore, to the council at home, earnestly recommending that the Scottish king should be liberated, allowed to return to his kingdom with honour, and on such terms as should make him a fast friend to the country.

It will be recollected that James, the son of Robert III. of Scotland, was kidnapped at sea by Henry IV. of England, as his father was sending him to France for security, this being his only remaining son and successor - the elder son, the Duke of Rothsay, haying been murdered by Ramorgny. James was well treated and well educated by Henry; but the Duke of Albany, the young prince's uncle, having usurped the government of Scotland under the name of regent, it was equally the interest of Henry and Albany to retain the young king in England. He had, accordingly, remained a royal captive at the English court now eighteen years. On the death of Henry IY., Henry Y. had still retained James, who could not have been restored without incurring a war with Albany, for which his continual wars in France left him no leisure. On the Scots engaging in France against him, he endeavoured to prevail on James to issue an order forbidding his subjects to serve in the army of the dauphin. James is said to have replied that so long as he was a captive, and his government in the hands of another, it neither became him to issue any such orders, nor for the Scots to obey it. He therefore steadfastly refused; but added that it would be a pleasure and an advantage to himself to make the campaign in France under so renowned a captain as himself. We have, therefore, seen James of Scotland commanding a detachment of Henry's army, on condition that within three months after its close he should be allowed to return to Scotland.

It would seem that the Government of the infant Henry VI. did not feel themselves bound by the engagement between James and Henry V., for he was still in captivity when Bedford suggested the policy of his release. The father and grandfather of James, Robert II., and Robert III., had been monarchs rather amiable than of great capacity; James was a very different person. His English education, his life and experience at the English court in the midst of very stirring times, and men of great talents, had operated on a mind naturally vigorous to such advantage, so that he was not only a very accomplished man, but, as he showed, endowed with all the qualities of a great and active monarch.

James I. was in person handsome, in constitution vigorous, in mind frank, affable, generous, and just. His accomplishments were of a high order. He had cultivated a knowledge of books and music in his many long years of solitary life in the Tower and at Windsor. At Windsor love had made a poet of him. He beheld from his window one of the queen's ladies in the court below, who wonderfully attracted his attention. This lady was Joan Beaufort, daughter of the Duke of Somerset, grand-daughter of John of Gaunt, and niece of Bishop Beaufort, afterwards the cardinal, the educator of the boy-king. Joan Beaufort was a fitting consort for the youthful King of Scotland. When he came, under Henry V., to have more liberty and freer intercourse with the court, her beauty and excellence entirely won his heart, and in honour of her he wrote the "King's Quhair," that is, the King's Book, a poem which to this day continues to be admired by all lovers of our old, genuine poetry. On the arrival of Catherine of Valois, the young brideSomerset, grand-daughter of John of Gaunt, and niece of Bishop Beaufort, afterwards the cardinal, the educator of the boy-king. Joan Beaufort was a fitting consort for the youthful King of Scotland. When he came, under Henry V., to have more liberty and freer intercourse with the court, her beauty and excellence entirely won his heart, and in honour of her he wrote the "King's Quhair," that is, the King's Book, a poem which to this day continues to be admired by all lovers of our old, genuine poetry. On the arrival of Catherine of Valois, the young bride of Henry V., at Windsor, she was naturally interested in this handsome and accomplished captive king. She learned his attachment to the Lady Beaufort, and, as we have seen, promoted his suit with the king and with her family. They were affianced; yet James was still detained in England. The time was now come when circumstances combined for his release. The old Duke of Albany had been long dead, and his son Murdoch, who had succeeded him, was neither able to keep in order the rude barons of Scotland, nor his still ruder sons. Two of them were so haughty and licentious that they were said to respect neither the authority of God nor man. Their behaviour to their father was destitute of all reverence, so much so, that one of them importuning the father for a favourite falcon, and he refusing it, the brutal son snatched it from the regent's wrist, and wrung its neck. The loss of his falcon did what numberless greater insults had not effected. "Since thou wilt give me neither reverence nor obedience," said the enraged Murdoch, "I will fetch home one whom we all must obey."

Murdoch Stuart was as good as his word. He began to make overtures to the English Government for the return of James. As the young king was greatly attached to the English court, and likely to be more closely connected with it by marriage, the restoration to his throne was obviously much to the advantage of England under existing circumstances. At this juncture came the recommendation of Bedford, and the matter was accomplished. The Scots agreed to pay a considerable ransom by annual instalments. James was married to his admired Joan Beaufort, and, returning to his kingdom, was crowned with his queen at Scone, on the 21st of May, 1424.

While this great event was taking place, the Duke of Bedford was engaged in active warfare. The Count of Richemont and several Burgundian nobles had gone over to Charles; and, thus encouraged, his partisans had surprised Compeigne and Crotoy, and then the garrison of Ivry, which consisted of Bretons, opened the gates to the French. The duke procured fresh troops from England, re-took Compeigne and Crotoy, and sat down before Ivry with 2,000 men-at-arms and 7,000 archers. Charles collected, by great exertion, an army of 14,000 men, half of which were Scots. They were under the command of the Earl of Buchan, Constable of France, attended by the Earl of Douglas, the Duke of Alencon, the Marshal La Fayette, the Count of Aumale, and the Viscount of Narbonne. On reaching Ivry, he found it surrounded, and the position of the English too strong for attack; he therefore marched to Verneuil, which opened its gates to him.

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