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Chapter 20

HENRY V., OF MONMOUTH. A.D. 1413--1423.


The young King Henry was full of high, good thoughts. He was devout in going to church, tried to make good Bishops, gave freely to the poor, and was so kindly, and hearty, and merry in all his words and ways, that everyone loved him. Still, he thought it was his duty to go and make war in France. He had been taught to believe the kingdom belonged to him, and it was in so wretched a state that he thought he could do it good. The poor king, Charles VI., was mad, and had a wicked wife besides; and his sons, and uncles, and cousins were always fighting, till the streets of Paris were often red with blood, and the whole country was miserable. Henry hoped to set all in order for them, and gathering an army together, crossed to Normandy. He called on the people to own him as their true king, and never let any harm be done to them, for he hung any soldier who was caught stealing, or misusing anyone. He took the town of Harfleur, on the coast of Normandy, but not till after a long siege, when his camp was in so wet a place that there was much illness among his men. The store of food was nearly used up, and he was obliged to march his troops across to Calais, which you know belonged to England, to get some more. But on the way the French army came up to meet him--a very grand, splendid-looking army, commanded by the king's eldest son the dauphin. Just as the English kings' eldest son was always Prince of Wales, the French kings' eldest son was always called Dauphin of Vienne, because Vienne, the country that belonged to him, had a dolphin on its shield. The French army was very large--quite twice the number of the English-- but, though Henry's men were weary and half-starved, and many of them sick, they were not afraid, but believed their king when he told them that there were enough Frenchmen to kill, enough to run away, enough to make prisoners. At night, however, the English had solemn prayers, and made themselves ready, and the king walked from tent to tent to see that each man was in his place; while, on the other hand, the French were feasting and revelling, and settling what they would do the English when they had made them prisoners. They were close to a little village which the English called Agincourt, and, though that is not quite its right name, it is what we have called the battle ever since. The French, owing to the quarrelsome state of the country, had no order or obedience among them. Nobody would obey any other; and when their own archers were in the way, the horsemen began cutting them down as if they were the enemy. Some fought bravely, but it was of little use; and by night all the French were routed, and King Henry's banner waving in victory over the field. He went back to England in great glory, and all the aldermen of London came out to meet him in red gowns and gold chains, and among them was Sir Richard Whittington, the great silk mercer.

Henry was so modest that he would not allow the helmet he had worn at Agincourt, all knocked about with terrible blows, to be carried before him when he rode into London, and he went straight to church, to give thanks to God for his victory. He soon went back to France, and went on conquering it till the queen came to an agreement with him that he should marry his daughter Catherine, and that, though poor, crazy Charles VI. should reign to the end of his life, when he died Henry and Catherine should be king and queen of France. So Henry and Catherine were married, and he took her home to England with great joy and pomp, leaving his brother Thomas, Duke of Clarence to take care of his army in France. For, of course, though the queen had made this treaty for her mad husband, most brave, honest Frenchmen could not but feel it a wicked and unfair thing to give the kingdom away from her son, the Dauphin Charles. He was not a good man, and had consented to the murder of his cousin, the Duke of Burgundy, and this had turned some against him; but still he was badly treated, and the bravest Frenchmen could not bear to see their country given up to the English. So, though he took no trouble to fight for himself, they fought for him, and got some Scots to help them; and by and by news came to Henry that his army had been beaten, and his brother killed.

He came back again in haste to France, and his presence made everything go well again; but all the winter he was besieging the town of Meaux, where there was a very cruel robber, who made all the roads to Paris unsafe, and by the time he had taken it his health was much injured. His queen came to him, and they kept a very grand court at Paris, at Whitsuntide; but soon after, when Henry set out to join his army, he found himself so ill and weak that he was obliged to turn back to the Castle of Vincennes, where he grew much worse. He called for all his friends, and begged them to be faithful to his little baby son, whom he had never even seen; and he spoke especially to his brother John, Duke of Bedford, to whom he left the charge of all he had gained. He had tried to be a good man, and though his attack on France was really wrong, and caused great misery, he had meant to do right. So he was not afraid to face death, and he died when only thirty-four years old, while he was listening to the 51st Psalm. Everybody grieved for him-- even the French--and nobody had ever been so good and dutiful to poor old King Charles, who sat in a corner lamenting for his good son Henry, and wasting away till he died, only three weeks later, so that he was buried the same day, at St. Denys Abbey, near Paris, as Henry was buried at Westminster Abbey, near London.


Charlotte M. Yonge