A Child's History of England
Charles Dickens

Part 4 out of 8

bats: and came safely to the bottom of the main tower of the
Castle, where the King met them, and took them up a profoundly-dark
staircase in a deep silence. They soon heard the voice of Mortimer
in council with some friends; and bursting into the room with a
sudden noise, took him prisoner. The Queen cried out from her bed-
chamber, 'Oh, my sweet son, my dear son, spare my gentle Mortimer!'
They carried him off, however; and, before the next Parliament,
accused him of having made differences between the young King and
his mother, and of having brought about the death of the Earl of
Kent, and even of the late King; for, as you know by this time,
when they wanted to get rid of a man in those old days, they were
not very particular of what they accused him. Mortimer was found
guilty of all this, and was sentenced to be hanged at Tyburn. The
King shut his mother up in genteel confinement, where she passed
the rest of her life; and now he became King in earnest.

The first effort he made was to conquer Scotland. The English
lords who had lands in Scotland, finding that their rights were not
respected under the late peace, made war on their own account:
choosing for their general, Edward, the son of John Baliol, who
made such a vigorous fight, that in less than two months he won the
whole Scottish Kingdom. He was joined, when thus triumphant, by
the King and Parliament; and he and the King in person besieged the
Scottish forces in Berwick. The whole Scottish army coming to the
assistance of their countrymen, such a furious battle ensued, that
thirty thousand men are said to have been killed in it. Baliol was
then crowned King of Scotland, doing homage to the King of England;
but little came of his successes after all, for the Scottish men
rose against him, within no very long time, and David Bruce came
back within ten years and took his kingdom.

France was a far richer country than Scotland, and the King had a
much greater mind to conquer it. So, he let Scotland alone, and
pretended that he had a claim to the French throne in right of his
mother. He had, in reality, no claim at all; but that mattered
little in those times. He brought over to his cause many little
princes and sovereigns, and even courted the alliance of the people
of Flanders - a busy, working community, who had very small respect
for kings, and whose head man was a brewer. With such forces as he
raised by these means, Edward invaded France; but he did little by
that, except run into debt in carrying on the war to the extent of
three hundred thousand pounds. The next year he did better;
gaining a great sea-fight in the harbour of Sluys. This success,
however, was very shortlived, for the Flemings took fright at the
siege of Saint Omer and ran away, leaving their weapons and baggage
behind them. Philip, the French King, coming up with his army, and
Edward being very anxious to decide the war, proposed to settle the
difference by single combat with him, or by a fight of one hundred
knights on each side. The French King said, he thanked him; but
being very well as he was, he would rather not. So, after some
skirmishing and talking, a short peace was made.

It was soon broken by King Edward's favouring the cause of John,
Earl of Montford; a French nobleman, who asserted a claim of his
own against the French King, and offered to do homage to England
for the Crown of France, if he could obtain it through England's
help. This French lord, himself, was soon defeated by the French
King's son, and shut up in a tower in Paris; but his wife, a
courageous and beautiful woman, who is said to have had the courage
of a man, and the heart of a lion, assembled the people of
Brittany, where she then was; and, showing them her infant son,
made many pathetic entreaties to them not to desert her and their
young Lord. They took fire at this appeal, and rallied round her
in the strong castle of Hennebon. Here she was not only besieged
without by the French under Charles de Blois, but was endangered
within by a dreary old bishop, who was always representing to the
people what horrors they must undergo if they were faithful - first
from famine, and afterwards from fire and sword. But this noble
lady, whose heart never failed her, encouraged her soldiers by her
own example; went from post to post like a great general; even
mounted on horseback fully armed, and, issuing from the castle by a
by-path, fell upon the French camp, set fire to the tents, and
threw the whole force into disorder. This done, she got safely
back to Hennebon again, and was received with loud shouts of joy by
the defenders of the castle, who had given her up for lost. As
they were now very short of provisions, however, and as they could
not dine off enthusiasm, and as the old bishop was always saying,
'I told you what it would come to!' they began to lose heart, and
to talk of yielding the castle up. The brave Countess retiring to
an upper room and looking with great grief out to sea, where she
expected relief from England, saw, at this very time, the English
ships in the distance, and was relieved and rescued! Sir Walter
Manning, the English commander, so admired her courage, that, being
come into the castle with the English knights, and having made a
feast there, he assaulted the French by way of dessert, and beat
them off triumphantly. Then he and the knights came back to the
castle with great joy; and the Countess who had watched them from a
high tower, thanked them with all her heart, and kissed them every

This noble lady distinguished herself afterwards in a sea-fight
with the French off Guernsey, when she was on her way to England to
ask for more troops. Her great spirit roused another lady, the
wife of another French lord (whom the French King very barbarously
murdered), to distinguish herself scarcely less. The time was fast
coming, however, when Edward, Prince of Wales, was to be the great
star of this French and English war.

It was in the month of July, in the year one thousand three hundred
and forty-six, when the King embarked at Southampton for France,
with an army of about thirty thousand men in all, attended by the
Prince of Wales and by several of the chief nobles. He landed at
La Hogue in Normandy; and, burning and destroying as he went,
according to custom, advanced up the left bank of the River Seine,
and fired the small towns even close to Paris; but, being watched
from the right bank of the river by the French King and all his
army, it came to this at last, that Edward found himself, on
Saturday the twenty-sixth of August, one thousand three hundred and
forty-six, on a rising ground behind the little French village of
Crecy, face to face with the French King's force. And, although
the French King had an enormous army - in number more than eight
times his - he there resolved to beat him or be beaten.

The young Prince, assisted by the Earl of Oxford and the Earl of
Warwick, led the first division of the English army; two other
great Earls led the second; and the King, the third. When the
morning dawned, the King received the sacrament, and heard prayers,
and then, mounted on horseback with a white wand in his hand, rode
from company to company, and rank to rank, cheering and encouraging
both officers and men. Then the whole army breakfasted, each man
sitting on the ground where he had stood; and then they remained
quietly on the ground with their weapons ready.

Up came the French King with all his great force. It was dark and
angry weather; there was an eclipse of the sun; there was a
thunder-storm, accompanied with tremendous rain; the frightened
birds flew screaming above the soldiers' heads. A certain captain
in the French army advised the French King, who was by no means
cheerful, not to begin the battle until the morrow. The King,
taking this advice, gave the word to halt. But, those behind not
understanding it, or desiring to be foremost with the rest, came
pressing on. The roads for a great distance were covered with this
immense army, and with the common people from the villages, who
were flourishing their rude weapons, and making a great noise.
Owing to these circumstances, the French army advanced in the
greatest confusion; every French lord doing what he liked with his
own men, and putting out the men of every other French lord.

Now, their King relied strongly upon a great body of cross-bowmen
from Genoa; and these he ordered to the front to begin the battle,
on finding that he could not stop it. They shouted once, they
shouted twice, they shouted three times, to alarm the English
archers; but, the English would have heard them shout three
thousand times and would have never moved. At last the cross-
bowmen went forward a little, and began to discharge their bolts;
upon which, the English let fly such a hail of arrows, that the
Genoese speedily made off - for their cross-bows, besides being
heavy to carry, required to be wound up with a handle, and
consequently took time to re-load; the English, on the other hand,
could discharge their arrows almost as fast as the arrows could

When the French King saw the Genoese turning, he cried out to his
men to kill those scoundrels, who were doing harm instead of
service. This increased the confusion. Meanwhile the English
archers, continuing to shoot as fast as ever, shot down great
numbers of the French soldiers and knights; whom certain sly
Cornish-men and Welshmen, from the English army, creeping along the
ground, despatched with great knives.

The Prince and his division were at this time so hard-pressed, that
the Earl of Warwick sent a message to the King, who was overlooking
the battle from a windmill, beseeching him to send more aid.

'Is my son killed?' said the King.

'No, sire, please God,' returned the messenger.

'Is he wounded?' said the King.

'No, sire.'

'Is he thrown to the ground?' said the King.

'No, sire, not so; but, he is very hard-pressed.'

'Then,' said the King, 'go back to those who sent you, and tell
them I shall send no aid; because I set my heart upon my son
proving himself this day a brave knight, and because I am resolved,
please God, that the honour of a great victory shall be his!'

These bold words, being reported to the Prince and his division, so
raised their spirits, that they fought better than ever. The King
of France charged gallantly with his men many times; but it was of
no use. Night closing in, his horse was killed under him by an
English arrow, and the knights and nobles who had clustered thick
about him early in the day, were now completely scattered. At
last, some of his few remaining followers led him off the field by
force since he would not retire of himself, and they journeyed away
to Amiens. The victorious English, lighting their watch-fires,
made merry on the field, and the King, riding to meet his gallant
son, took him in his arms, kissed him, and told him that he had
acted nobly, and proved himself worthy of the day and of the crown.
While it was yet night, King Edward was hardly aware of the great
victory he had gained; but, next day, it was discovered that eleven
princes, twelve hundred knights, and thirty thousand common men lay
dead upon the French side. Among these was the King of Bohemia, an
old blind man; who, having been told that his son was wounded in
the battle, and that no force could stand against the Black Prince,
called to him two knights, put himself on horse-back between them,
fastened the three bridles together, and dashed in among the
English, where he was presently slain. He bore as his crest three
white ostrich feathers, with the motto ICH DIEN, signifying in
English 'I serve.' This crest and motto were taken by the Prince
of Wales in remembrance of that famous day, and have been borne by
the Prince of Wales ever since.

Five days after this great battle, the King laid siege to Calais.
This siege - ever afterwards memorable - lasted nearly a year. In
order to starve the inhabitants out, King Edward built so many
wooden houses for the lodgings of his troops, that it is said their
quarters looked like a second Calais suddenly sprung around the
first. Early in the siege, the governor of the town drove out what
he called the useless mouths, to the number of seventeen hundred
persons, men and women, young and old. King Edward allowed them to
pass through his lines, and even fed them, and dismissed them with
money; but, later in the siege, he was not so merciful - five
hundred more, who were afterwards driven out, dying of starvation
and misery. The garrison were so hard-pressed at last, that they
sent a letter to King Philip, telling him that they had eaten all
the horses, all the dogs, and all the rats and mice that could be
found in the place; and, that if he did not relieve them, they must
either surrender to the English, or eat one another. Philip made
one effort to give them relief; but they were so hemmed in by the
English power, that he could not succeed, and was fain to leave the
place. Upon this they hoisted the English flag, and surrendered to
King Edward. 'Tell your general,' said he to the humble messengers
who came out of the town, 'that I require to have sent here, six of
the most distinguished citizens, bare-legged, and in their shirts,
with ropes about their necks; and let those six men bring with them
the keys of the castle and the town.'

When the Governor of Calais related this to the people in the
Market-place, there was great weeping and distress; in the midst of
which, one worthy citizen, named Eustace de Saint Pierre, rose up
and said, that if the six men required were not sacrificed, the
whole population would be; therefore, he offered himself as the
first. Encouraged by this bright example, five other worthy
citizens rose up one after another, and offered themselves to save
the rest. The Governor, who was too badly wounded to be able to
walk, mounted a poor old horse that had not been eaten, and
conducted these good men to the gate, while all the people cried
and mourned.

Edward received them wrathfully, and ordered the heads of the whole
six to be struck off. However, the good Queen fell upon her knees,
and besought the King to give them up to her. The King replied, 'I
wish you had been somewhere else; but I cannot refuse you.' So she
had them properly dressed, made a feast for them, and sent them
back with a handsome present, to the great rejoicing of the whole
camp. I hope the people of Calais loved the daughter to whom she
gave birth soon afterwards, for her gentle mother's sake.

Now came that terrible disease, the Plague, into Europe, hurrying
from the heart of China; and killed the wretched people -
especially the poor - in such enormous numbers, that one-half of
the inhabitants of England are related to have died of it. It
killed the cattle, in great numbers, too; and so few working men
remained alive, that there were not enough left to till the ground.

After eight years of differing and quarrelling, the Prince of Wales
again invaded France with an army of sixty thousand men. He went
through the south of the country, burning and plundering
wheresoever he went; while his father, who had still the Scottish
war upon his hands, did the like in Scotland, but was harassed and
worried in his retreat from that country by the Scottish men, who
repaid his cruelties with interest.

The French King, Philip, was now dead, and was succeeded by his son
John. The Black Prince, called by that name from the colour of the
armour he wore to set off his fair complexion, continuing to burn
and destroy in France, roused John into determined opposition; and
so cruel had the Black Prince been in his campaign, and so severely
had the French peasants suffered, that he could not find one who,
for love, or money, or the fear of death, would tell him what the
French King was doing, or where he was. Thus it happened that he
came upon the French King's forces, all of a sudden, near the town
of Poitiers, and found that the whole neighbouring country was
occupied by a vast French army. 'God help us!' said the Black
Prince, 'we must make the best of it.'

So, on a Sunday morning, the eighteenth of September, the Prince
whose army was now reduced to ten thousand men in all - prepared to
give battle to the French King, who had sixty thousand horse alone.
While he was so engaged, there came riding from the French camp, a
Cardinal, who had persuaded John to let him offer terms, and try to
save the shedding of Christian blood. 'Save my honour,' said the
Prince to this good priest, 'and save the honour of my army, and I
will make any reasonable terms.' He offered to give up all the
towns, castles, and prisoners, he had taken, and to swear to make
no war in France for seven years; but, as John would hear of
nothing but his surrender, with a hundred of his chief knights, the
treaty was broken off, and the Prince said quietly - 'God defend
the right; we shall fight to-morrow.'

Therefore, on the Monday morning, at break of day, the two armies
prepared for battle. The English were posted in a strong place,
which could only be approached by one narrow lane, skirted by
hedges on both sides. The French attacked them by this lane; but
were so galled and slain by English arrows from behind the hedges,
that they were forced to retreat. Then went six hundred English
bowmen round about, and, coming upon the rear of the French army,
rained arrows on them thick and fast. The French knights, thrown
into confusion, quitted their banners and dispersed in all
directions. Said Sir John Chandos to the Prince, 'Ride forward,
noble Prince, and the day is yours. The King of France is so
valiant a gentleman, that I know he will never fly, and may be
taken prisoner.' Said the Prince to this, 'Advance, English
banners, in the name of God and St. George!' and on they pressed
until they came up with the French King, fighting fiercely with his
battle-axe, and, when all his nobles had forsaken him, attended
faithfully to the last by his youngest son Philip, only sixteen
years of age. Father and son fought well, and the King had already
two wounds in his face, and had been beaten down, when he at last
delivered himself to a banished French knight, and gave him his
right-hand glove in token that he had done so.

The Black Prince was generous as well as brave, and he invited his
royal prisoner to supper in his tent, and waited upon him at table,
and, when they afterwards rode into London in a gorgeous
procession, mounted the French King on a fine cream-coloured horse,
and rode at his side on a little pony. This was all very kind, but
I think it was, perhaps, a little theatrical too, and has been made
more meritorious than it deserved to be; especially as I am
inclined to think that the greatest kindness to the King of France
would have been not to have shown him to the people at all.
However, it must be said, for these acts of politeness, that, in
course of time, they did much to soften the horrors of war and the
passions of conquerors. It was a long, long time before the common
soldiers began to have the benefit of such courtly deeds; but they
did at last; and thus it is possible that a poor soldier who asked
for quarter at the battle of Waterloo, or any other such great
fight, may have owed his life indirectly to Edward the Black

At this time there stood in the Strand, in London, a palace called
the Savoy, which was given up to the captive King of France and his
son for their residence. As the King of Scotland had now been King
Edward's captive for eleven years too, his success was, at this
time, tolerably complete. The Scottish business was settled by the
prisoner being released under the title of Sir David, King of
Scotland, and by his engaging to pay a large ransom. The state of
France encouraged England to propose harder terms to that country,
where the people rose against the unspeakable cruelty and barbarity
of its nobles; where the nobles rose in turn against the people;
where the most frightful outrages were committed on all sides; and
where the insurrection of the peasants, called the insurrection of
the Jacquerie, from Jacques, a common Christian name among the
country people of France, awakened terrors and hatreds that have
scarcely yet passed away. A treaty called the Great Peace, was at
last signed, under which King Edward agreed to give up the greater
part of his conquests, and King John to pay, within six years, a
ransom of three million crowns of gold. He was so beset by his own
nobles and courtiers for having yielded to these conditions -
though they could help him to no better - that he came back of his
own will to his old palace-prison of the Savoy, and there died.

There was a Sovereign of Castile at that time, called PEDRO THE
CRUEL, who deserved the name remarkably well: having committed,
among other cruelties, a variety of murders. This amiable monarch
being driven from his throne for his crimes, went to the province
of Bordeaux, where the Black Prince - now married to his cousin
JOAN, a pretty widow - was residing, and besought his help. The
Prince, who took to him much more kindly than a prince of such fame
ought to have taken to such a ruffian, readily listened to his fair
promises, and agreeing to help him, sent secret orders to some
troublesome disbanded soldiers of his and his father's, who called
themselves the Free Companions, and who had been a pest to the
French people, for some time, to aid this Pedro. The Prince,
himself, going into Spain to head the army of relief, soon set
Pedro on his throne again - where he no sooner found himself, than,
of course, he behaved like the villain he was, broke his word
without the least shame, and abandoned all the promises he had made
to the Black Prince.

Now, it had cost the Prince a good deal of money to pay soldiers to
support this murderous King; and finding himself, when he came back
disgusted to Bordeaux, not only in bad health, but deeply in debt,
he began to tax his French subjects to pay his creditors. They
appealed to the French King, CHARLES; war again broke out; and the
French town of Limoges, which the Prince had greatly benefited,
went over to the French King. Upon this he ravaged the province of
which it was the capital; burnt, and plundered, and killed in the
old sickening way; and refused mercy to the prisoners, men, women,
and children taken in the offending town, though he was so ill and
so much in need of pity himself from Heaven, that he was carried in
a litter. He lived to come home and make himself popular with the
people and Parliament, and he died on Trinity Sunday, the eighth of
June, one thousand three hundred and seventy-six, at forty-six
years old.

The whole nation mourned for him as one of the most renowned and
beloved princes it had ever had; and he was buried with great
lamentations in Canterbury Cathedral. Near to the tomb of Edward
the Confessor, his monument, with his figure, carved in stone, and
represented in the old black armour, lying on its back, may be seen
at this day, with an ancient coat of mail, a helmet, and a pair of
gauntlets hanging from a beam above it, which most people like to
believe were once worn by the Black Prince.

King Edward did not outlive his renowned son, long. He was old,
and one Alice Perrers, a beautiful lady, had contrived to make him
so fond of her in his old age, that he could refuse her nothing,
and made himself ridiculous. She little deserved his love, or -
what I dare say she valued a great deal more - the jewels of the
late Queen, which he gave her among other rich presents. She took
the very ring from his finger on the morning of the day when he
died, and left him to be pillaged by his faithless servants. Only
one good priest was true to him, and attended him to the last.

Besides being famous for the great victories I have related, the
reign of King Edward the Third was rendered memorable in better
ways, by the growth of architecture and the erection of Windsor
Castle. In better ways still, by the rising up of WICKLIFFE,
originally a poor parish priest: who devoted himself to exposing,
with wonderful power and success, the ambition and corruption of
the Pope, and of the whole church of which he was the head.

Some of those Flemings were induced to come to England in this
reign too, and to settle in Norfolk, where they made better woollen
cloths than the English had ever had before. The Order of the
Garter (a very fine thing in its way, but hardly so important as
good clothes for the nation) also dates from this period. The King
is said to have picked 'up a lady's garter at a ball, and to have
said, HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE - in English, 'Evil be to him who
evil thinks of it.' The courtiers were usually glad to imitate
what the King said or did, and hence from a slight incident the
Order of the Garter was instituted, and became a great dignity. So
the story goes.


RICHARD, son of the Black Prince, a boy eleven years of age,
succeeded to the Crown under the title of King Richard the Second.
The whole English nation were ready to admire him for the sake of
his brave father. As to the lords and ladies about the Court, they
declared him to be the most beautiful, the wisest, and the best -
even of princes - whom the lords and ladies about the Court,
generally declare to be the most beautiful, the wisest, and the
best of mankind. To flatter a poor boy in this base manner was not
a very likely way to develop whatever good was in him; and it
brought him to anything but a good or happy end.

The Duke of Lancaster, the young King's uncle - commonly called
John of Gaunt, from having been born at Ghent, which the common
people so pronounced - was supposed to have some thoughts of the
throne himself; but, as he was not popular, and the memory of the
Black Prince was, he submitted to his nephew.

The war with France being still unsettled, the Government of
England wanted money to provide for the expenses that might arise
out of it; accordingly a certain tax, called the Poll-tax, which
had originated in the last reign, was ordered to be levied on the
people. This was a tax on every person in the kingdom, male and
female, above the age of fourteen, of three groats (or three four-
penny pieces) a year; clergymen were charged more, and only beggars
were exempt.

I have no need to repeat that the common people of England had long
been suffering under great oppression. They were still the mere
slaves of the lords of the land on which they lived, and were on
most occasions harshly and unjustly treated. But, they had begun
by this time to think very seriously of not bearing quite so much;
and, probably, were emboldened by that French insurrection I
mentioned in the last chapter.

The people of Essex rose against the Poll-tax, and being severely
handled by the government officers, killed some of them. At this
very time one of the tax-collectors, going his rounds from house to
house, at Dartford in Kent came to the cottage of one WAT, a tiler
by trade, and claimed the tax upon his daughter. Her mother, who
was at home, declared that she was under the age of fourteen; upon
that, the collector (as other collectors had already done in
different parts of England) behaved in a savage way, and brutally
insulted Wat Tyler's daughter. The daughter screamed, the mother
screamed. Wat the Tiler, who was at work not far off, ran to the
spot, and did what any honest father under such provocation might
have done - struck the collector dead at a blow.

Instantly the people of that town uprose as one man. They made Wat
Tyler their leader; they joined with the people of Essex, who were
in arms under a priest called JACK STRAW; they took out of prison
another priest named JOHN BALL; and gathering in numbers as they
went along, advanced, in a great confused army of poor men, to
Blackheath. It is said that they wanted to abolish all property,
and to declare all men equal. I do not think this very likely;
because they stopped the travellers on the roads and made them
swear to be true to King Richard and the people. Nor were they at
all disposed to injure those who had done them no harm, merely
because they were of high station; for, the King's mother, who had
to pass through their camp at Blackheath, on her way to her young
son, lying for safety in the Tower of London, had merely to kiss a
few dirty-faced rough-bearded men who were noisily fond of royalty,
and so got away in perfect safety. Next day the whole mass marched
on to London Bridge.

There was a drawbridge in the middle, which WILLIAM WALWORTH the
Mayor caused to be raised to prevent their coming into the city;
but they soon terrified the citizens into lowering it again, and
spread themselves, with great uproar, over the streets. They broke
open the prisons; they burned the papers in Lambeth Palace; they
destroyed the DUKE OF LANCASTER'S Palace, the Savoy, in the Strand,
said to be the most beautiful and splendid in England; they set
fire to the books and documents in the Temple; and made a great
riot. Many of these outrages were committed in drunkenness; since
those citizens, who had well-filled cellars, were only too glad to
throw them open to save the rest of their property; but even the
drunken rioters were very careful to steal nothing. They were so
angry with one man, who was seen to take a silver cup at the Savoy
Palace, and put it in his breast, that they drowned him in the
river, cup and all.

The young King had been taken out to treat with them before they
committed these excesses; but, he and the people about him were so
frightened by the riotous shouts, that they got back to the Tower
in the best way they could. This made the insurgents bolder; so
they went on rioting away, striking off the heads of those who did
not, at a moment's notice, declare for King Richard and the people;
and killing as many of the unpopular persons whom they supposed to
be their enemies as they could by any means lay hold of. In this
manner they passed one very violent day, and then proclamation was
made that the King would meet them at Mile-end, and grant their

The rioters went to Mile-end to the number of sixty thousand, and
the King met them there, and to the King the rioters peaceably
proposed four conditions. First, that neither they, nor their
children, nor any coming after them, should be made slaves any
more. Secondly, that the rent of land should be fixed at a certain
price in money, instead of being paid in service. Thirdly, that
they should have liberty to buy and sell in all markets and public
places, like other free men. Fourthly, that they should be
pardoned for past offences. Heaven knows, there was nothing very
unreasonable in these proposals! The young King deceitfully
pretended to think so, and kept thirty clerks up, all night,
writing out a charter accordingly.

Now, Wat Tyler himself wanted more than this. He wanted the entire
abolition of the forest laws. He was not at Mile-end with the
rest, but, while that meeting was being held, broke into the Tower
of London and slew the archbishop and the treasurer, for whose
heads the people had cried out loudly the day before. He and his
men even thrust their swords into the bed of the Princess of Wales
while the Princess was in it, to make certain that none of their
enemies were concealed there.

So, Wat and his men still continued armed, and rode about the city.
Next morning, the King with a small train of some sixty gentlemen -
among whom was WALWORTH the Mayor - rode into Smithfield, and saw
Wat and his people at a little distance. Says Wat to his men,
'There is the King. I will go speak with him, and tell him what we

Straightway Wat rode up to him, and began to talk. 'King,' says
Wat, 'dost thou see all my men there?'

'Ah,' says the King. 'Why?'

'Because,' says Wat, 'they are all at my command, and have sworn to
do whatever I bid them.'

Some declared afterwards that as Wat said this, he laid his hand on
the King's bridle. Others declared that he was seen to play with
his own dagger. I think, myself, that he just spoke to the King
like a rough, angry man as he was, and did nothing more. At any
rate he was expecting no attack, and preparing for no resistance,
when Walworth the Mayor did the not very valiant deed of drawing a
short sword and stabbing him in the throat. He dropped from his
horse, and one of the King's people speedily finished him. So fell
Wat Tyler. Fawners and flatterers made a mighty triumph of it, and
set up a cry which will occasionally find an echo to this day. But
Wat was a hard-working man, who had suffered much, and had been
foully outraged; and it is probable that he was a man of a much
higher nature and a much braver spirit than any of the parasites
who exulted then, or have exulted since, over his defeat.

Seeing Wat down, his men immediately bent their bows to avenge his
fall. If the young King had not had presence of mind at that
dangerous moment, both he and the Mayor to boot, might have
followed Tyler pretty fast. But the King riding up to the crowd,
cried out that Tyler was a traitor, and that he would be their
leader. They were so taken by surprise, that they set up a great
shouting, and followed the boy until he was met at Islington by a
large body of soldiers.

The end of this rising was the then usual end. As soon as the King
found himself safe, he unsaid all he had said, and undid all he had
done; some fifteen hundred of the rioters were tried (mostly in
Essex) with great rigour, and executed with great cruelty. Many of
them were hanged on gibbets, and left there as a terror to the
country people; and, because their miserable friends took some of
the bodies down to bury, the King ordered the rest to be chained up
- which was the beginning of the barbarous custom of hanging in
chains. The King's falsehood in this business makes such a pitiful
figure, that I think Wat Tyler appears in history as beyond
comparison the truer and more respectable man of the two.

Richard was now sixteen years of age, and married Anne of Bohemia,
an excellent princess, who was called 'the good Queen Anne.' She
deserved a better husband; for the King had been fawned and
flattered into a treacherous, wasteful, dissolute, bad young man.

There were two Popes at this time (as if one were not enough!), and
their quarrels involved Europe in a great deal of trouble.
Scotland was still troublesome too; and at home there was much
jealousy and distrust, and plotting and counter-plotting, because
the King feared the ambition of his relations, and particularly of
his uncle, the Duke of Lancaster, and the duke had his party
against the King, and the King had his party against the duke. Nor
were these home troubles lessened when the duke went to Castile to
urge his claim to the crown of that kingdom; for then the Duke of
Gloucester, another of Richard's uncles, opposed him, and
influenced the Parliament to demand the dismissal of the King's
favourite ministers. The King said in reply, that he would not for
such men dismiss the meanest servant in his kitchen. But, it had
begun to signify little what a King said when a Parliament was
determined; so Richard was at last obliged to give way, and to
agree to another Government of the kingdom, under a commission of
fourteen nobles, for a year. His uncle of Gloucester was at the
head of this commission, and, in fact, appointed everybody
composing it.

Having done all this, the King declared as soon as he saw an
opportunity that he had never meant to do it, and that it was all
illegal; and he got the judges secretly to sign a declaration to
that effect. The secret oozed out directly, and was carried to the
Duke of Gloucester. The Duke of Gloucester, at the head of forty
thousand men, met the King on his entering into London to enforce
his authority; the King was helpless against him; his favourites
and ministers were impeached and were mercilessly executed. Among
them were two men whom the people regarded with very different
feelings; one, Robert Tresilian, Chief Justice, who was hated for
having made what was called 'the bloody circuit' to try the
rioters; the other, Sir Simon Burley, an honourable knight, who had
been the dear friend of the Black Prince, and the governor and
guardian of the King. For this gentleman's life the good Queen
even begged of Gloucester on her knees; but Gloucester (with or
without reason) feared and hated him, and replied, that if she
valued her husband's crown, she had better beg no more. All this
was done under what was called by some the wonderful - and by
others, with better reason, the merciless - Parliament.

But Gloucester's power was not to last for ever. He held it for
only a year longer; in which year the famous battle of Otterbourne,
sung in the old ballad of Chevy Chase, was fought. When the year
was out, the King, turning suddenly to Gloucester, in the midst of
a great council said, 'Uncle, how old am I?' 'Your highness,'
returned the Duke, 'is in your twenty-second year.' 'Am I so
much?' said the King; 'then I will manage my own affairs! I am
much obliged to you, my good lords, for your past services, but I
need them no more.' He followed this up, by appointing a new
Chancellor and a new Treasurer, and announced to the people that he
had resumed the Government. He held it for eight years without
opposition. Through all that time, he kept his determination to
revenge himself some day upon his uncle Gloucester, in his own

At last the good Queen died, and then the King, desiring to take a
second wife, proposed to his council that he should marry Isabella,
of France, the daughter of Charles the Sixth: who, the French
courtiers said (as the English courtiers had said of Richard), was
a marvel of beauty and wit, and quite a phenomenon - of seven years
old. The council were divided about this marriage, but it took
place. It secured peace between England and France for a quarter
of a century; but it was strongly opposed to the prejudices of the
English people. The Duke of Gloucester, who was anxious to take
the occasion of making himself popular, declaimed against it
loudly, and this at length decided the King to execute the
vengeance he had been nursing so long.

He went with a gay company to the Duke of Gloucester's house,
Pleshey Castle, in Essex, where the Duke, suspecting nothing, came
out into the court-yard to receive his royal visitor. While the
King conversed in a friendly manner with the Duchess, the Duke was
quietly seized, hurried away, shipped for Calais, and lodged in the
castle there. His friends, the Earls of Arundel and Warwick, were
taken in the same treacherous manner, and confined to their
castles. A few days after, at Nottingham, they were impeached of
high treason. The Earl of Arundel was condemned and beheaded, and
the Earl of Warwick was banished. Then, a writ was sent by a
messenger to the Governor of Calais, requiring him to send the Duke
of Gloucester over to be tried. In three days he returned an
answer that he could not do that, because the Duke of Gloucester
had died in prison. The Duke was declared a traitor, his property
was confiscated to the King, a real or pretended confession he had
made in prison to one of the Justices of the Common Pleas was
produced against him, and there was an end of the matter. How the
unfortunate duke died, very few cared to know. Whether he really
died naturally; whether he killed himself; whether, by the King's
order, he was strangled, or smothered between two beds (as a
serving-man of the Governor's named Hall, did afterwards declare),
cannot be discovered. There is not much doubt that he was killed,
somehow or other, by his nephew's orders. Among the most active
nobles in these proceedings were the King's cousin, Henry
Bolingbroke, whom the King had made Duke of Hereford to smooth down
the old family quarrels, and some others: who had in the family-
plotting times done just such acts themselves as they now condemned
in the duke. They seem to have been a corrupt set of men; but such
men were easily found about the court in such days.

The people murmured at all this, and were still very sore about the
French marriage. The nobles saw how little the King cared for law,
and how crafty he was, and began to be somewhat afraid for
themselves. The King's life was a life of continued feasting and
excess; his retinue, down to the meanest servants, were dressed in
the most costly manner, and caroused at his tables, it is related,
to the number of ten thousand persons every day. He himself,
surrounded by a body of ten thousand archers, and enriched by a
duty on wool which the Commons had granted him for life, saw no
danger of ever being otherwise than powerful and absolute, and was
as fierce and haughty as a King could be.

He had two of his old enemies left, in the persons of the Dukes of
Hereford and Norfolk. Sparing these no more than the others, he
tampered with the Duke of Hereford until he got him to declare
before the Council that the Duke of Norfolk had lately held some
treasonable talk with him, as he was riding near Brentford; and
that he had told him, among other things, that he could not believe
the King's oath - which nobody could, I should think. For this
treachery he obtained a pardon, and the Duke of Norfolk was
summoned to appear and defend himself. As he denied the charge and
said his accuser was a liar and a traitor, both noblemen, according
to the manner of those times, were held in custody, and the truth
was ordered to be decided by wager of battle at Coventry. This
wager of battle meant that whosoever won the combat was to be
considered in the right; which nonsense meant in effect, that no
strong man could ever be wrong. A great holiday was made; a great
crowd assembled, with much parade and show; and the two combatants
were about to rush at each other with their lances, when the King,
sitting in a pavilion to see fair, threw down the truncheon he
carried in his hand, and forbade the battle. The Duke of Hereford
was to be banished for ten years, and the Duke of Norfolk was to be
banished for life. So said the King. The Duke of Hereford went to
France, and went no farther. The Duke of Norfolk made a pilgrimage
to the Holy Land, and afterwards died at Venice of a broken heart.

Faster and fiercer, after this, the King went on in his career.
The Duke of Lancaster, who was the father of the Duke of Hereford,
died soon after the departure of his son; and, the King, although
he had solemnly granted to that son leave to inherit his father's
property, if it should come to him during his banishment,
immediately seized it all, like a robber. The judges were so
afraid of him, that they disgraced themselves by declaring this
theft to be just and lawful. His avarice knew no bounds. He
outlawed seventeen counties at once, on a frivolous pretence,
merely to raise money by way of fines for misconduct. In short, he
did as many dishonest things as he could; and cared so little for
the discontent of his subjects - though even the spaniel favourites
began to whisper to him that there was such a thing as discontent
afloat - that he took that time, of all others, for leaving England
and making an expedition against the Irish.

He was scarcely gone, leaving the DUKE OF YORK Regent in his
absence, when his cousin, Henry of Hereford, came over from France
to claim the rights of which he had been so monstrously deprived.
He was immediately joined by the two great Earls of Northumberland
and Westmoreland; and his uncle, the Regent, finding the King's
cause unpopular, and the disinclination of the army to act against
Henry, very strong, withdrew with the Royal forces towards Bristol.
Henry, at the head of an army, came from Yorkshire (where he had
landed) to London and followed him. They joined their forces - how
they brought that about, is not distinctly understood - and
proceeded to Bristol Castle, whither three noblemen had taken the
young Queen. The castle surrendering, they presently put those
three noblemen to death. The Regent then remained there, and Henry
went on to Chester.

All this time, the boisterous weather had prevented the King from
receiving intelligence of what had occurred. At length it was
conveyed to him in Ireland, and he sent over the EARL OF SALISBURY,
who, landing at Conway, rallied the Welshmen, and waited for the
King a whole fortnight; at the end of that time the Welshmen, who
were perhaps not very warm for him in the beginning, quite cooled
down and went home. When the King did land on the coast at last,
he came with a pretty good power, but his men cared nothing for
him, and quickly deserted. Supposing the Welshmen to be still at
Conway, he disguised himself as a priest, and made for that place
in company with his two brothers and some few of their adherents.
But, there were no Welshmen left - only Salisbury and a hundred
soldiers. In this distress, the King's two brothers, Exeter and
Surrey, offered to go to Henry to learn what his intentions were.
Surrey, who was true to Richard, was put into prison. Exeter, who
was false, took the royal badge, which was a hart, off his shield,
and assumed the rose, the badge of Henry. After this, it was
pretty plain to the King what Henry's intentions were, without
sending any more messengers to ask.

The fallen King, thus deserted - hemmed in on all sides, and
pressed with hunger - rode here and rode there, and went to this
castle, and went to that castle, endeavouring to obtain some
provisions, but could find none. He rode wretchedly back to
Conway, and there surrendered himself to the Earl of
Northumberland, who came from Henry, in reality to take him
prisoner, but in appearance to offer terms; and whose men were
hidden not far off. By this earl he was conducted to the castle of
Flint, where his cousin Henry met him, and dropped on his knee as
if he were still respectful to his sovereign.

'Fair cousin of Lancaster,' said the King, 'you are very welcome'
(very welcome, no doubt; but he would have been more so, in chains
or without a head).

'My lord,' replied Henry, 'I am come a little before my time; but,
with your good pleasure, I will show you the reason. Your people
complain with some bitterness, that you have ruled them rigorously
for two-and-twenty years. Now, if it please God, I will help you
to govern them better in future.'

'Fair cousin,' replied the abject King, 'since it pleaseth you, it
pleaseth me mightily.'

After this, the trumpets sounded, and the King was stuck on a
wretched horse, and carried prisoner to Chester, where he was made
to issue a proclamation, calling a Parliament. From Chester he was
taken on towards London. At Lichfield he tried to escape by
getting out of a window and letting himself down into a garden; it
was all in vain, however, and he was carried on and shut up in the
Tower, where no one pitied him, and where the whole people, whose
patience he had quite tired out, reproached him without mercy.
Before he got there, it is related, that his very dog left him and
departed from his side to lick the hand of Henry.

The day before the Parliament met, a deputation went to this
wrecked King, and told him that he had promised the Earl of
Northumberland at Conway Castle to resign the crown. He said he
was quite ready to do it, and signed a paper in which he renounced
his authority and absolved his people from their allegiance to him.
He had so little spirit left that he gave his royal ring to his
triumphant cousin Henry with his own hand, and said, that if he
could have had leave to appoint a successor, that same Henry was
the man of all others whom he would have named. Next day, the
Parliament assembled in Westminster Hall, where Henry sat at the
side of the throne, which was empty and covered with a cloth of
gold. The paper just signed by the King was read to the multitude
amid shouts of joy, which were echoed through all the streets; when
some of the noise had died away, the King was formally deposed.
Then Henry arose, and, making the sign of the cross on his forehead
and breast, challenged the realm of England as his right; the
archbishops of Canterbury and York seated him on the throne.

The multitude shouted again, and the shouts re-echoed throughout
all the streets. No one remembered, now, that Richard the Second
had ever been the most beautiful, the wisest, and the best of
princes; and he now made living (to my thinking) a far more sorry
spectacle in the Tower of London, than Wat Tyler had made, lying
dead, among the hoofs of the royal horses in Smithfield.

The Poll-tax died with Wat. The Smiths to the King and Royal
Family, could make no chains in which the King could hang the
people's recollection of him; so the Poll-tax was never collected.


DURING the last reign, the preaching of Wickliffe against the pride
and cunning of the Pope and all his men, had made a great noise in
England. Whether the new King wished to be in favour with the
priests, or whether he hoped, by pretending to be very religious,
to cheat Heaven itself into the belief that he was not a usurper, I
don't know. Both suppositions are likely enough. It is certain
that he began his reign by making a strong show against the
followers of Wickliffe, who were called Lollards, or heretics -
although his father, John of Gaunt, had been of that way of
thinking, as he himself had been more than suspected of being. It
is no less certain that he first established in England the
detestable and atrocious custom, brought from abroad, of burning
those people as a punishment for their opinions. It was the
importation into England of one of the practices of what was called
the Holy Inquisition: which was the most UNholy and the most
infamous tribunal that ever disgraced mankind, and made men more
like demons than followers of Our Saviour.

No real right to the crown, as you know, was in this King. Edward
Mortimer, the young Earl of March - who was only eight or nine
years old, and who was descended from the Duke of Clarence, the
elder brother of Henry's father - was, by succession, the real heir
to the throne. However, the King got his son declared Prince of
Wales; and, obtaining possession of the young Earl of March and his
little brother, kept them in confinement (but not severely) in
Windsor Castle. He then required the Parliament to decide what was
to be done with the deposed King, who was quiet enough, and who
only said that he hoped his cousin Henry would be 'a good lord' to
him. The Parliament replied that they would recommend his being
kept in some secret place where the people could not resort, and
where his friends could not be admitted to see him. Henry
accordingly passed this sentence upon him, and it now began to be
pretty clear to the nation that Richard the Second would not live
very long.

It was a noisy Parliament, as it was an unprincipled one, and the
Lords quarrelled so violently among themselves as to which of them
had been loyal and which disloyal, and which consistent and which
inconsistent, that forty gauntlets are said to have been thrown
upon the floor at one time as challenges to as many battles: the
truth being that they were all false and base together, and had
been, at one time with the old King, and at another time with the
new one, and seldom true for any length of time to any one. They
soon began to plot again. A conspiracy was formed to invite the
King to a tournament at Oxford, and then to take him by surprise
and kill him. This murderous enterprise, which was agreed upon at
secret meetings in the house of the Abbot of Westminster, was
betrayed by the Earl of Rutland - one of the conspirators. The
King, instead of going to the tournament or staying at Windsor
(where the conspirators suddenly went, on finding themselves
discovered, with the hope of seizing him), retired to London,
proclaimed them all traitors, and advanced upon them with a great
force. They retired into the west of England, proclaiming Richard
King; but, the people rose against them, and they were all slain.
Their treason hastened the death of the deposed monarch. Whether
he was killed by hired assassins, or whether he was starved to
death, or whether he refused food on hearing of his brothers being
killed (who were in that plot), is very doubtful. He met his death
somehow; and his body was publicly shown at St. Paul's Cathedral
with only the lower part of the face uncovered. I can scarcely
doubt that he was killed by the King's orders.

The French wife of the miserable Richard was now only ten years
old; and, when her father, Charles of France, heard of her
misfortunes and of her lonely condition in England, he went mad:
as he had several times done before, during the last five or six
years. The French Dukes of Burgundy and Bourbon took up the poor
girl's cause, without caring much about it, but on the chance of
getting something out of England. The people of Bordeaux, who had
a sort of superstitious attachment to the memory of Richard,
because he was born there, swore by the Lord that he had been the
best man in all his kingdom - which was going rather far - and
promised to do great things against the English. Nevertheless,
when they came to consider that they, and the whole people of
France, were ruined by their own nobles, and that the English rule
was much the better of the two, they cooled down again; and the two
dukes, although they were very great men, could do nothing without
them. Then, began negotiations between France and England for the
sending home to Paris of the poor little Queen with all her jewels
and her fortune of two hundred thousand francs in gold. The King
was quite willing to restore the young lady, and even the jewels;
but he said he really could not part with the money. So, at last
she was safely deposited at Paris without her fortune, and then the
Duke of Burgundy (who was cousin to the French King) began to
quarrel with the Duke of Orleans (who was brother to the French
King) about the whole matter; and those two dukes made France even
more wretched than ever.

As the idea of conquering Scotland was still popular at home, the
King marched to the river Tyne and demanded homage of the King of
that country. This being refused, he advanced to Edinburgh, but
did little there; for, his army being in want of provisions, and
the Scotch being very careful to hold him in check without giving
battle, he was obliged to retire. It is to his immortal honour
that in this sally he burnt no villages and slaughtered no people,
but was particularly careful that his army should be merciful and
harmless. It was a great example in those ruthless times.

A war among the border people of England and Scotland went on for
twelve months, and then the Earl of Northumberland, the nobleman
who had helped Henry to the crown, began to rebel against him -
probably because nothing that Henry could do for him would satisfy
his extravagant expectations. There was a certain Welsh gentleman,
named OWEN GLENDOWER, who had been a student in one of the Inns of
Court, and had afterwards been in the service of the late King,
whose Welsh property was taken from him by a powerful lord related
to the present King, who was his neighbour. Appealing for redress,
and getting none, he took up arms, was made an outlaw, and declared
himself sovereign of Wales. He pretended to be a magician; and not
only were the Welsh people stupid enough to believe him, but, even
Henry believed him too; for, making three expeditions into Wales,
and being three times driven back by the wildness of the country,
the bad weather, and the skill of Glendower, he thought he was
defeated by the Welshman's magic arts. However, he took Lord Grey
and Sir Edmund Mortimer, prisoners, and allowed the relatives of
Lord Grey to ransom him, but would not extend such favour to Sir
Edmund Mortimer. Now, Henry Percy, called HOTSPUR, son of the Earl
of Northumberland, who was married to Mortimer's sister, is
supposed to have taken offence at this; and, therefore, in
conjunction with his father and some others, to have joined Owen
Glendower, and risen against Henry. It is by no means clear that
this was the real cause of the conspiracy; but perhaps it was made
the pretext. It was formed, and was very powerful; including
SCROOP, Archbishop of York, and the EARL OF DOUGLAS, a powerful and
brave Scottish nobleman. The King was prompt and active, and the
two armies met at Shrewsbury.

There were about fourteen thousand men in each. The old Earl of
Northumberland being sick, the rebel forces were led by his son.
The King wore plain armour to deceive the enemy; and four noblemen,
with the same object, wore the royal arms. The rebel charge was so
furious, that every one of those gentlemen was killed, the royal
standard was beaten down, and the young Prince of Wales was
severely wounded in the face. But he was one of the bravest and
best soldiers that ever lived, and he fought so well, and the
King's troops were so encouraged by his bold example, that they
rallied immediately, and cut the enemy's forces all to pieces.
Hotspur was killed by an arrow in the brain, and the rout was so
complete that the whole rebellion was struck down by this one blow.
The Earl of Northumberland surrendered himself soon after hearing
of the death of his son, and received a pardon for all his

There were some lingerings of rebellion yet: Owen Glendower being
retired to Wales, and a preposterous story being spread among the
ignorant people that King Richard was still alive. How they could
have believed such nonsense it is difficult to imagine; but they
certainly did suppose that the Court fool of the late King, who was
something like him, was he, himself; so that it seemed as if, after
giving so much trouble to the country in his life, he was still to
trouble it after his death. This was not the worst. The young
Earl of March and his brother were stolen out of Windsor Castle.
Being retaken, and being found to have been spirited away by one
Lady Spencer, she accused her own brother, that Earl of Rutland who
was in the former conspiracy and was now Duke of York, of being in
the plot. For this he was ruined in fortune, though not put to
death; and then another plot arose among the old Earl of
Northumberland, some other lords, and that same Scroop, Archbishop
of York, who was with the rebels before. These conspirators caused
a writing to be posted on the church doors, accusing the King of a
variety of crimes; but, the King being eager and vigilant to oppose
them, they were all taken, and the Archbishop was executed. This
was the first time that a great churchman had been slain by the law
in England; but the King was resolved that it should be done, and
done it was.

The next most remarkable event of this time was the seizure, by
Henry, of the heir to the Scottish throne - James, a boy of nine
years old. He had been put aboard-ship by his father, the Scottish
King Robert, to save him from the designs of his uncle, when, on
his way to France, he was accidentally taken by some English
cruisers. He remained a prisoner in England for nineteen years,
and became in his prison a student and a famous poet.

With the exception of occasional troubles with the Welsh and with
the French, the rest of King Henry's reign was quiet enough. But,
the King was far from happy, and probably was troubled in his
conscience by knowing that he had usurped the crown, and had
occasioned the death of his miserable cousin. The Prince of Wales,
though brave and generous, is said to have been wild and
dissipated, and even to have drawn his sword on GASCOIGNE, the
Chief Justice of the King's Bench, because he was firm in dealing
impartially with one of his dissolute companions. Upon this the
Chief Justice is said to have ordered him immediately to prison;
the Prince of Wales is said to have submitted with a good grace;
and the King is said to have exclaimed, 'Happy is the monarch who
has so just a judge, and a son so willing to obey the laws.' This
is all very doubtful, and so is another story (of which Shakespeare
has made beautiful use), that the Prince once took the crown out of
his father's chamber as he was sleeping, and tried it on his own

The King's health sank more and more, and he became subject to
violent eruptions on the face and to bad epileptic fits, and his
spirits sank every day. At last, as he was praying before the
shrine of St. Edward at Westminster Abbey, he was seized with a
terrible fit, and was carried into the Abbot's chamber, where he
presently died. It had been foretold that he would die at
Jerusalem, which certainly is not, and never was, Westminster.
But, as the Abbot's room had long been called the Jerusalem
chamber, people said it was all the same thing, and were quite
satisfied with the prediction.

The King died on the 20th of March, 1413, in the forty-seventh year
of his age, and the fourteenth of his reign. He was buried in
Canterbury Cathedral. He had been twice married, and had, by his
first wife, a family of four sons and two daughters. Considering
his duplicity before he came to the throne, his unjust seizure of
it, and above all, his making that monstrous law for the burning of
what the priests called heretics, he was a reasonably good king, as
kings went.



THE Prince of Wales began his reign like a generous and honest man.
He set the young Earl of March free; he restored their estates and
their honours to the Percy family, who had lost them by their
rebellion against his father; he ordered the imbecile and
unfortunate Richard to be honourably buried among the Kings of
England; and he dismissed all his wild companions, with assurances
that they should not want, if they would resolve to be steady,
faithful, and true.

It is much easier to burn men than to burn their opinions; and
those of the Lollards were spreading every day. The Lollards were
represented by the priests - probably falsely for the most part -
to entertain treasonable designs against the new King; and Henry,
suffering himself to be worked upon by these representations,
sacrificed his friend Sir John Oldcastle, the Lord Cobham, to them,
after trying in vain to convert him by arguments. He was declared
guilty, as the head of the sect, and sentenced to the flames; but
he escaped from the Tower before the day of execution (postponed
for fifty days by the King himself), and summoned the Lollards to
meet him near London on a certain day. So the priests told the
King, at least. I doubt whether there was any conspiracy beyond
such as was got up by their agents. On the day appointed, instead
of five-and-twenty thousand men, under the command of Sir John
Oldcastle, in the meadows of St. Giles, the King found only eighty
men, and no Sir John at all. There was, in another place, an
addle-headed brewer, who had gold trappings to his horses, and a
pair of gilt spurs in his breast - expecting to be made a knight
next day by Sir John, and so to gain the right to wear them - but
there was no Sir John, nor did anybody give information respecting
him, though the King offered great rewards for such intelligence.
Thirty of these unfortunate Lollards were hanged and drawn
immediately, and were then burnt, gallows and all; and the various
prisons in and around London were crammed full of others. Some of
these unfortunate men made various confessions of treasonable
designs; but, such confessions were easily got, under torture and
the fear of fire, and are very little to be trusted. To finish the
sad story of Sir John Oldcastle at once, I may mention that he
escaped into Wales, and remained there safely, for four years.
When discovered by Lord Powis, it is very doubtful if he would have
been taken alive - so great was the old soldier's bravery - if a
miserable old woman had not come behind him and broken his legs
with a stool. He was carried to London in a horse-litter, was
fastened by an iron chain to a gibbet, and so roasted to death.

To make the state of France as plain as I can in a few words, I
should tell you that the Duke of Orleans, and the Duke of Burgundy,
commonly called 'John without fear,' had had a grand reconciliation
of their quarrel in the last reign, and had appeared to be quite in
a heavenly state of mind. Immediately after which, on a Sunday, in
the public streets of Paris, the Duke of Orleans was murdered by a
party of twenty men, set on by the Duke of Burgundy - according to
his own deliberate confession. The widow of King Richard had been
married in France to the eldest son of the Duke of Orleans. The
poor mad King was quite powerless to help her, and the Duke of
Burgundy became the real master of France. Isabella dying, her
husband (Duke of Orleans since the death of his father) married the
daughter of the Count of Armagnac, who, being a much abler man than
his young son-in-law, headed his party; thence called after him
Armagnacs. Thus, France was now in this terrible condition, that
it had in it the party of the King's son, the Dauphin Louis; the
party of the Duke of Burgundy, who was the father of the Dauphin's
ill-used wife; and the party of the Armagnacs; all hating each
other; all fighting together; all composed of the most depraved
nobles that the earth has ever known; and all tearing unhappy
France to pieces.

The late King had watched these dissensions from England, sensible
(like the French people) that no enemy of France could injure her
more than her own nobility. The present King now advanced a claim
to the French throne. His demand being, of course, refused, he
reduced his proposal to a certain large amount of French territory,
and to demanding the French princess, Catherine, in marriage, with
a fortune of two millions of golden crowns. He was offered less
territory and fewer crowns, and no princess; but he called his
ambassadors home and prepared for war. Then, he proposed to take
the princess with one million of crowns. The French Court replied
that he should have the princess with two hundred thousand crowns
less; he said this would not do (he had never seen the princess in
his life), and assembled his army at Southampton. There was a
short plot at home just at that time, for deposing him, and making
the Earl of March king; but the conspirators were all speedily
condemned and executed, and the King embarked for France.

It is dreadful to observe how long a bad example will be followed;
but, it is encouraging to know that a good example is never thrown
away. The King's first act on disembarking at the mouth of the
river Seine, three miles from Harfleur, was to imitate his father,
and to proclaim his solemn orders that the lives and property of
the peaceable inhabitants should be respected on pain of death. It
is agreed by French writers, to his lasting renown, that even while
his soldiers were suffering the greatest distress from want of
food, these commands were rigidly obeyed.

With an army in all of thirty thousand men, he besieged the town of
Harfleur both by sea and land for five weeks; at the end of which
time the town surrendered, and the inhabitants were allowed to
depart with only fivepence each, and a part of their clothes. All
the rest of their possessions was divided amongst the English army.
But, that army suffered so much, in spite of its successes, from
disease and privation, that it was already reduced one half.
Still, the King was determined not to retire until he had struck a
greater blow. Therefore, against the advice of all his
counsellors, he moved on with his little force towards Calais.
When he came up to the river Somme he was unable to cross, in
consequence of the fort being fortified; and, as the English moved
up the left bank of the river looking for a crossing, the French,
who had broken all the bridges, moved up the right bank, watching
them, and waiting to attack them when they should try to pass it.
At last the English found a crossing and got safely over. The
French held a council of war at Rouen, resolved to give the English
battle, and sent heralds to King Henry to know by which road he was
going. 'By the road that will take me straight to Calais!' said
the King, and sent them away with a present of a hundred crowns.

The English moved on, until they beheld the French, and then the
King gave orders to form in line of battle. The French not coming
on, the army broke up after remaining in battle array till night,
and got good rest and refreshment at a neighbouring village. The
French were now all lying in another village, through which they
knew the English must pass. They were resolved that the English
should begin the battle. The English had no means of retreat, if
their King had any such intention; and so the two armies passed the
night, close together.

To understand these armies well, you must bear in mind that the
immense French army had, among its notable persons, almost the
whole of that wicked nobility, whose debauchery had made France a
desert; and so besotted were they by pride, and by contempt for the
common people, that they had scarcely any bowmen (if indeed they
had any at all) in their whole enormous number: which, compared
with the English army, was at least as six to one. For these proud
fools had said that the bow was not a fit weapon for knightly
hands, and that France must be defended by gentlemen only. We
shall see, presently, what hand the gentlemen made of it.

Now, on the English side, among the little force, there was a good
proportion of men who were not gentlemen by any means, but who were
good stout archers for all that. Among them, in the morning -
having slept little at night, while the French were carousing and
making sure of victory - the King rode, on a grey horse; wearing on
his head a helmet of shining steel, surmounted by a crown of gold,
sparkling with precious stones; and bearing over his armour,
embroidered together, the arms of England and the arms of France.
The archers looked at the shining helmet and the crown of gold and
the sparkling jewels, and admired them all; but, what they admired
most was the King's cheerful face, and his bright blue eye, as he
told them that, for himself, he had made up his mind to conquer
there or to die there, and that England should never have a ransom
to pay for HIM. There was one brave knight who chanced to say that
he wished some of the many gallant gentlemen and good soldiers, who
were then idle at home in England, were there to increase their
numbers. But the King told him that, for his part, he did not wish
for one more man. 'The fewer we have,' said he, 'the greater will
be the honour we shall win!' His men, being now all in good heart,
were refreshed with bread and wine, and heard prayers, and waited
quietly for the French. The King waited for the French, because
they were drawn up thirty deep (the little English force was only
three deep), on very difficult and heavy ground; and he knew that
when they moved, there must be confusion among them.

As they did not move, he sent off two parties:- one to lie
concealed in a wood on the left of the French: the other, to set
fire to some houses behind the French after the battle should be
begun. This was scarcely done, when three of the proud French
gentlemen, who were to defend their country without any help from
the base peasants, came riding out, calling upon the English to
surrender. The King warned those gentlemen himself to retire with
all speed if they cared for their lives, and ordered the English
banners to advance. Upon that, Sir Thomas Erpingham, a great
English general, who commanded the archers, threw his truncheon
into the air, joyfully, and all the English men, kneeling down upon
the ground and biting it as if they took possession of the country,
rose up with a great shout and fell upon the French.

Every archer was furnished with a great stake tipped with iron; and
his orders were, to thrust this stake into the ground, to discharge
his arrow, and then to fall back, when the French horsemen came on.
As the haughty French gentlemen, who were to break the English
archers and utterly destroy them with their knightly lances, came
riding up, they were received with such a blinding storm of arrows,
that they broke and turned. Horses and men rolled over one
another, and the confusion was terrific. Those who rallied and
charged the archers got among the stakes on slippery and boggy
ground, and were so bewildered that the English archers - who wore
no armour, and even took off their leathern coats to be more active
- cut them to pieces, root and branch. Only three French horsemen
got within the stakes, and those were instantly despatched. All
this time the dense French army, being in armour, were sinking
knee-deep into the mire; while the light English archers, half-
naked, were as fresh and active as if they were fighting on a
marble floor.

But now, the second division of the French coming to the relief of
the first, closed up in a firm mass; the English, headed by the
King, attacked them; and the deadliest part of the battle began.
The King's brother, the Duke of Clarence, was struck down, and
numbers of the French surrounded him; but, King Henry, standing
over the body, fought like a lion until they were beaten off.

Presently, came up a band of eighteen French knights, bearing the
banner of a certain French lord, who had sworn to kill or take the
English King. One of them struck him such a blow with a battle-axe
that he reeled and fell upon his knees; but, his faithful men,
immediately closing round him, killed every one of those eighteen
knights, and so that French lord never kept his oath.

The French Duke of Alen‡on, seeing this, made a desperate charge,
and cut his way close up to the Royal Standard of England. He beat
down the Duke of York, who was standing near it; and, when the King
came to his rescue, struck off a piece of the crown he wore. But,
he never struck another blow in this world; for, even as he was in
the act of saying who he was, and that he surrendered to the King;
and even as the King stretched out his hand to give him a safe and
honourable acceptance of the offer; he fell dead, pierced by
innumerable wounds.

The death of this nobleman decided the battle. The third division
of the French army, which had never struck a blow yet, and which
was, in itself, more than double the whole English power, broke and
fled. At this time of the fight, the English, who as yet had made
no prisoners, began to take them in immense numbers, and were still
occupied in doing so, or in killing those who would not surrender,
when a great noise arose in the rear of the French - their flying
banners were seen to stop - and King Henry, supposing a great
reinforcement to have arrived, gave orders that all the prisoners
should be put to death. As soon, however, as it was found that the
noise was only occasioned by a body of plundering peasants, the
terrible massacre was stopped.

Then King Henry called to him the French herald, and asked him to
whom the victory belonged.

The herald replied, 'To the King of England.'

'WE have not made this havoc and slaughter,' said the King. 'It is
the wrath of Heaven on the sins of France. What is the name of
that castle yonder?'

The herald answered him, 'My lord, it is the castle of Azincourt.'
Said the King, 'From henceforth this battle shall be known to
posterity, by the name of the battle of Azincourt.'

Our English historians have made it Agincourt; but, under that
name, it will ever be famous in English annals.

The loss upon the French side was enormous. Three Dukes were
killed, two more were taken prisoners, seven Counts were killed,
three more were taken prisoners, and ten thousand knights and
gentlemen were slain upon the field. The English loss amounted to
sixteen hundred men, among whom were the Duke of York and the Earl
of Suffolk.

War is a dreadful thing; and it is appalling to know how the
English were obliged, next morning, to kill those prisoners
mortally wounded, who yet writhed in agony upon the ground; how the
dead upon the French side were stripped by their own countrymen and
countrywomen, and afterwards buried in great pits; how the dead
upon the English side were piled up in a great barn, and how their
bodies and the barn were all burned together. It is in such
things, and in many more much too horrible to relate, that the real
desolation and wickedness of war consist. Nothing can make war
otherwise than horrible. But the dark side of it was little
thought of and soon forgotten; and it cast no shade of trouble on
the English people, except on those who had lost friends or
relations in the fight. They welcomed their King home with shouts
of rejoicing, and plunged into the water to bear him ashore on
their shoulders, and flocked out in crowds to welcome him in every
town through which he passed, and hung rich carpets and tapestries
out of the windows, and strewed the streets with flowers, and made
the fountains run with wine, as the great field of Agincourt had
run with blood.


THAT proud and wicked French nobility who dragged their country to
destruction, and who were every day and every year regarded with
deeper hatred and detestation in the hearts of the French people,
learnt nothing, even from the defeat of Agincourt. So far from
uniting against the common enemy, they became, among themselves,
more violent, more bloody, and more false - if that were possible -
than they had been before. The Count of Armagnac persuaded the
French king to plunder of her treasures Queen Isabella of Bavaria,
and to make her a prisoner. She, who had hitherto been the bitter
enemy of the Duke of Burgundy, proposed to join him, in revenge.
He carried her off to Troyes, where she proclaimed herself Regent
of France, and made him her lieutenant. The Armagnac party were at
that time possessed of Paris; but, one of the gates of the city
being secretly opened on a certain night to a party of the duke's
men, they got into Paris, threw into the prisons all the Armagnacs
upon whom they could lay their hands, and, a few nights afterwards,
with the aid of a furious mob of sixty thousand people, broke the
prisons open, and killed them all. The former Dauphin was now
dead, and the King's third son bore the title. Him, in the height
of this murderous scene, a French knight hurried out of bed,
wrapped in a sheet, and bore away to Poitiers. So, when the
revengeful Isabella and the Duke of Burgundy entered Paris in
triumph after the slaughter of their enemies, the Dauphin was
proclaimed at Poitiers as the real Regent.

King Henry had not been idle since his victory of Agincourt, but
had repulsed a brave attempt of the French to recover Harfleur; had
gradually conquered a great part of Normandy; and, at this crisis
of affairs, took the important town of Rouen, after a siege of half
a year. This great loss so alarmed the French, that the Duke of
Burgundy proposed that a meeting to treat of peace should be held
between the French and the English kings in a plain by the river
Seine. On the appointed day, King Henry appeared there, with his
two brothers, Clarence and Gloucester, and a thousand men. The
unfortunate French King, being more mad than usual that day, could
not come; but the Queen came, and with her the Princess Catherine:
who was a very lovely creature, and who made a real impression on
King Henry, now that he saw her for the first time. This was the
most important circumstance that arose out of the meeting.

As if it were impossible for a French nobleman of that time to be
true to his word of honour in anything, Henry discovered that the
Duke of Burgundy was, at that very moment, in secret treaty with
the Dauphin; and he therefore abandoned the negotiation.

The Duke of Burgundy and the Dauphin, each of whom with the best
reason distrusted the other as a noble ruffian surrounded by a
party of noble ruffians, were rather at a loss how to proceed after
this; but, at length they agreed to meet, on a bridge over the
river Yonne, where it was arranged that there should be two strong
gates put up, with an empty space between them; and that the Duke
of Burgundy should come into that space by one gate, with ten men
only; and that the Dauphin should come into that space by the other
gate, also with ten men, and no more.

So far the Dauphin kept his word, but no farther. When the Duke of
Burgundy was on his knee before him in the act of speaking, one of
the Dauphin's noble ruffians cut the said duke down with a small
axe, and others speedily finished him.

It was in vain for the Dauphin to pretend that this base murder was
not done with his consent; it was too bad, even for France, and
caused a general horror. The duke's heir hastened to make a treaty
with King Henry, and the French Queen engaged that her husband
should consent to it, whatever it was. Henry made peace, on
condition of receiving the Princess Catherine in marriage, and
being made Regent of France during the rest of the King's lifetime,
and succeeding to the French crown at his death. He was soon
married to the beautiful Princess, and took her proudly home to
England, where she was crowned with great honour and glory.

This peace was called the Perpetual Peace; we shall soon see how
long it lasted. It gave great satisfaction to the French people,
although they were so poor and miserable, that, at the time of the
celebration of the Royal marriage, numbers of them were dying with
starvation, on the dunghills in the streets of Paris. There was
some resistance on the part of the Dauphin in some few parts of
France, but King Henry beat it all down.

And now, with his great possessions in France secured, and his
beautiful wife to cheer him, and a son born to give him greater
happiness, all appeared bright before him. But, in the fulness of
his triumph and the height of his power, Death came upon him, and
his day was done. When he fell ill at Vincennes, and found that he
could not recover, he was very calm and quiet, and spoke serenely
to those who wept around his bed. His wife and child, he said, he
left to the loving care of his brother the Duke of Bedford, and his
other faithful nobles. He gave them his advice that England should
establish a friendship with the new Duke of Burgundy, and offer him
the regency of France; that it should not set free the royal
princes who had been taken at Agincourt; and that, whatever quarrel
might arise with France, England should never make peace without
holding Normandy. Then, he laid down his head, and asked the
attendant priests to chant the penitential psalms. Amid which
solemn sounds, on the thirty-first of August, one thousand four
hundred and twenty-two, in only the thirty-fourth year of his age
and the tenth of his reign, King Henry the Fifth passed away.

Slowly and mournfully they carried his embalmed body in a
procession of great state to Paris, and thence to Rouen where his
Queen was: from whom the sad intelligence of his death was
concealed until he had been dead some days. Thence, lying on a bed
of crimson and gold, with a golden crown upon the head, and a
golden ball and sceptre lying in the nerveless hands, they carried
it to Calais, with such a great retinue as seemed to dye the road
black. The King of Scotland acted as chief mourner, all the Royal
Household followed, the knights wore black armour and black plumes
of feathers, crowds of men bore torches, making the night as light
as day; and the widowed Princess followed last of all. At Calais
there was a fleet of ships to bring the funeral host to Dover. And
so, by way of London Bridge, where the service for the dead was
chanted as it passed along, they brought the body to Westminster
Abbey, and there buried it with great respect.



IT had been the wish of the late King, that while his infant son
KING HENRY THE SIXTH, at this time only nine months old, was under
age, the Duke of Gloucester should be appointed Regent. The
English Parliament, however, preferred to appoint a Council of
Regency, with the Duke of Bedford at its head: to be represented,
in his absence only, by the Duke of Gloucester. The Parliament
would seem to have been wise in this, for Gloucester soon showed
himself to be ambitious and troublesome, and, in the gratification
of his own personal schemes, gave dangerous offence to the Duke of
Burgundy, which was with difficulty adjusted.

As that duke declined the Regency of France, it was bestowed by the
poor French King upon the Duke of Bedford. But, the French King
dying within two months, the Dauphin instantly asserted his claim
to the French throne, and was actually crowned under the title of
CHARLES THE SEVENTH. The Duke of Bedford, to be a match for him,
entered into a friendly league with the Dukes of Burgundy and
Brittany, and gave them his two sisters in marriage. War with
France was immediately renewed, and the Perpetual Peace came to an
untimely end.

In the first campaign, the English, aided by this alliance, were
speedily successful. As Scotland, however, had sent the French
five thousand men, and might send more, or attack the North of
England while England was busy with France, it was considered that
it would be a good thing to offer the Scottish King, James, who had
been so long imprisoned, his liberty, on his paying forty thousand
pounds for his board and lodging during nineteen years, and
engaging to forbid his subjects from serving under the flag of
France. It is pleasant to know, not only that the amiable captive
at last regained his freedom upon these terms, but, that he married
a noble English lady, with whom he had been long in love, and
became an excellent King. I am afraid we have met with some Kings
in this history, and shall meet with some more, who would have been
very much the better, and would have left the world much happier,
if they had been imprisoned nineteen years too.

In the second campaign, the English gained a considerable victory
at Verneuil, in a battle which was chiefly remarkable, otherwise,
for their resorting to the odd expedient of tying their baggage-
horses together by the heads and tails, and jumbling them up with
the baggage, so as to convert them into a sort of live
fortification - which was found useful to the troops, but which I
should think was not agreeable to the horses. For three years
afterwards very little was done, owing to both sides being too poor
for war, which is a very expensive entertainment; but, a council
was then held in Paris, in which it was decided to lay siege to the
town of Orleans, which was a place of great importance to the
Dauphin's cause. An English army of ten thousand men was
despatched on this service, under the command of the Earl of
Salisbury, a general of fame. He being unfortunately killed early
in the siege, the Earl of Suffolk took his place; under whom
(reinforced by SIR JOHN FALSTAFF, who brought up four hundred
waggons laden with salt herrings and other provisions for the
troops, and, beating off the French who tried to intercept him,
came victorious out of a hot skirmish, which was afterwards called
in jest the Battle of the Herrings) the town of Orleans was so
completely hemmed in, that the besieged proposed to yield it up to
their countryman the Duke of Burgundy. The English general,
however, replied that his English men had won it, so far, by their
blood and valour, and that his English men must have it. There
seemed to be no hope for the town, or for the Dauphin, who was so
dismayed that he even thought of flying to Scotland or to Spain -
when a peasant girl rose up and changed the whole state of affairs.

The story of this peasant girl I have now to tell.


IN a remote village among some wild hills in the province of
Lorraine, there lived a countryman whose name was JACQUES D'ARC.
He had a daughter, JOAN OF ARC, who was at this time in her
twentieth year. She had been a solitary girl from her childhood;
she had often tended sheep and cattle for whole days where no human
figure was seen or human voice heard; and she had often knelt, for
hours together, in the gloomy, empty, little village chapel,
looking up at the altar and at the dim lamp burning before it,
until she fancied that she saw shadowy figures standing there, and
even that she heard them speak to her. The people in that part of
France were very ignorant and superstitious, and they had many
ghostly tales to tell about what they had dreamed, and what they
saw among the lonely hills when the clouds and the mists were
resting on them. So, they easily believed that Joan saw strange
sights, and they whispered among themselves that angels and spirits
talked to her.

At last, Joan told her father that she had one day been surprised
by a great unearthly light, and had afterwards heard a solemn
voice, which said it was Saint Michael's voice, telling her that
she was to go and help the Dauphin. Soon after this (she said),
Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret had appeared to her with
sparkling crowns upon their heads, and had encouraged her to be
virtuous and resolute. These visions had returned sometimes; but
the Voices very often; and the voices always said, 'Joan, thou art
appointed by Heaven to go and help the Dauphin!' She almost always
heard them while the chapel bells were ringing.

There is no doubt, now, that Joan believed she saw and heard these
things. It is very well known that such delusions are a disease
which is not by any means uncommon. It is probable enough that
there were figures of Saint Michael, and Saint Catherine, and Saint
Margaret, in the little chapel (where they would be very likely to
have shining crowns upon their heads), and that they first gave
Joan the idea of those three personages. She had long been a
moping, fanciful girl, and, though she was a very good girl, I dare
say she was a little vain, and wishful for notoriety.

Her father, something wiser than his neighbours, said, 'I tell
thee, Joan, it is thy fancy. Thou hadst better have a kind husband
to take care of thee, girl, and work to employ thy mind!' But Joan
told him in reply, that she had taken a vow never to have a
husband, and that she must go as Heaven directed her, to help the

It happened, unfortunately for her father's persuasions, and most
unfortunately for the poor girl, too, that a party of the Dauphin's
enemies found their way into the village while Joan's disorder was
at this point, and burnt the chapel, and drove out the inhabitants.
The cruelties she saw committed, touched Joan's heart and made her
worse. She said that the voices and the figures were now
continually with her; that they told her she was the girl who,
according to an old prophecy, was to deliver France; and she must
go and help the Dauphin, and must remain with him until he should
be crowned at Rheims: and that she must travel a long way to a
certain lord named BAUDRICOURT, who could and would, bring her into
the Dauphin's presence.

As her father still said, 'I tell thee, Joan, it is thy fancy,' she
set off to find out this lord, accompanied by an uncle, a poor
village wheelwright and cart-maker, who believed in the reality of
her visions. They travelled a long way and went on and on, over a
rough country, full of the Duke of Burgundy's men, and of all kinds
of robbers and marauders, until they came to where this lord was.

When his servants told him that there was a poor peasant girl named
Joan of Arc, accompanied by nobody but an old village wheelwright
and cart-maker, who wished to see him because she was commanded to
help the Dauphin and save France, Baudricourt burst out a-laughing,
and bade them send the girl away. But, he soon heard so much about
her lingering in the town, and praying in the churches, and seeing
visions, and doing harm to no one, that he sent for her, and
questioned her. As she said the same things after she had been
well sprinkled with holy water as she had said before the
sprinkling, Baudricourt began to think there might be something in
it. At all events, he thought it worth while to send her on to the
town of Chinon, where the Dauphin was. So, he bought her a horse,
and a sword, and gave her two squires to conduct her. As the
Voices had told Joan that she was to wear a man's dress, now, she
put one on, and girded her sword to her side, and bound spurs to
her heels, and mounted her horse and rode away with her two
squires. As to her uncle the wheelwright, he stood staring at his
niece in wonder until she was out of sight - as well he might - and
then went home again. The best place, too.

Joan and her two squires rode on and on, until they came to Chinon,
where she was, after some doubt, admitted into the Dauphin's
presence. Picking him out immediately from all his court, she told
him that she came commanded by Heaven to subdue his enemies and
conduct him to his coronation at Rheims. She also told him (or he
pretended so afterwards, to make the greater impression upon his
soldiers) a number of his secrets known only to himself, and,
furthermore, she said there was an old, old sword in the cathedral
of Saint Catherine at Fierbois, marked with five old crosses on the
blade, which Saint Catherine had ordered her to wear.

Now, nobody knew anything about this old, old sword, but when the
cathedral came to be examined - which was immediately done - there,
sure enough, the sword was found! The Dauphin then required a
number of grave priests and bishops to give him their opinion
whether the girl derived her power from good spirits or from evil
spirits, which they held prodigiously long debates about, in the
course of which several learned men fell fast asleep and snored
loudly. At last, when one gruff old gentleman had said to Joan,
'What language do your Voices speak?' and when Joan had replied to
the gruff old gentleman, 'A pleasanter language than yours,' they
agreed that it was all correct, and that Joan of Arc was inspired
from Heaven. This wonderful circumstance put new heart into the
Dauphin's soldiers when they heard of it, and dispirited the
English army, who took Joan for a witch.

So Joan mounted horse again, and again rode on and on, until she
came to Orleans. But she rode now, as never peasant girl had
ridden yet. She rode upon a white war-horse, in a suit of
glittering armour; with the old, old sword from the cathedral,
newly burnished, in her belt; with a white flag carried before her,
upon which were a picture of God, and the words JESUS MARIA. In
this splendid state, at the head of a great body of troops
escorting provisions of all kinds for the starving inhabitants of
Orleans, she appeared before that beleaguered city.

When the people on the walls beheld her, they cried out 'The Maid
is come! The Maid of the Prophecy is come to deliver us!' And
this, and the sight of the Maid fighting at the head of their men,
made the French so bold, and made the English so fearful, that the
English line of forts was soon broken, the troops and provisions
were got into the town, and Orleans was saved.

Joan, henceforth called THE MAID OF ORLEANS, remained within the
walls for a few days, and caused letters to be thrown over,
ordering Lord Suffolk and his Englishmen to depart from before the
town according to the will of Heaven. As the English general very
positively declined to believe that Joan knew anything about the
will of Heaven (which did not mend the matter with his soldiers,
for they stupidly said if she were not inspired she was a witch,
and it was of no use to fight against a witch), she mounted her
white war-horse again, and ordered her white banner to advance.

The besiegers held the bridge, and some strong towers upon the
bridge; and here the Maid of Orleans attacked them. The fight was
fourteen hours long. She planted a scaling ladder with her own
hands, and mounted a tower wall, but was struck by an English arrow
in the neck, and fell into the trench. She was carried away and
the arrow was taken out, during which operation she screamed and
cried with the pain, as any other girl might have done; but
presently she said that the Voices were speaking to her and
soothing her to rest. After a while, she got up, and was again
foremost in the fight. When the English who had seen her fall and
supposed her dead, saw this, they were troubled with the strangest
fears, and some of them cried out that they beheld Saint Michael on
a white horse (probably Joan herself) fighting for the French.
They lost the bridge, and lost the towers, and next day set their
chain of forts on fire, and left the place.

But as Lord Suffolk himself retired no farther than the town of
Jargeau, which was only a few miles off, the Maid of Orleans
besieged him there, and he was taken prisoner. As the white banner
scaled the wall, she was struck upon the head with a stone, and was
again tumbled down into the ditch; but, she only cried all the
more, as she lay there, 'On, on, my countrymen! And fear nothing,
for the Lord hath delivered them into our hands!' After this new
success of the Maid's, several other fortresses and places which
had previously held out against the Dauphin were delivered up
without a battle; and at Patay she defeated the remainder of the
English army, and set up her victorious white banner on a field
where twelve hundred Englishmen lay dead.

She now urged the Dauphin (who always kept out of the way when
there was any fighting) to proceed to Rheims, as the first part of
her mission was accomplished; and to complete the whole by being
crowned there. The Dauphin was in no particular hurry to do this,
as Rheims was a long way off, and the English and the Duke of
Burgundy were still strong in the country through which the road
lay. However, they set forth, with ten thousand men, and again the
Maid of Orleans rode on and on, upon her white war-horse, and in
her shining armour. Whenever they came to a town which yielded
readily, the soldiers believed in her; but, whenever they came to a
town which gave them any trouble, they began to murmur that she was
an impostor. The latter was particularly the case at Troyes, which
finally yielded, however, through the persuasion of one Richard, a
friar of the place. Friar Richard was in the old doubt about the
Maid of Orleans, until he had sprinkled her well with holy water,
and had also well sprinkled the threshold of the gate by which she
came into the city. Finding that it made no change in her or the
gate, he said, as the other grave old gentlemen had said, that it
was all right, and became her great ally.

So, at last, by dint of riding on and on, the Maid of Orleans, and
the Dauphin, and the ten thousand sometimes believing and sometimes
unbelieving men, came to Rheims. And in the great cathedral of
Rheims, the Dauphin actually was crowned Charles the Seventh in a
great assembly of the people. Then, the Maid, who with her white
banner stood beside the King in that hour of his triumph, kneeled
down upon the pavement at his feet, and said, with tears, that what
she had been inspired to do, was done, and that the only recompense
she asked for, was, that she should now have leave to go back to
her distant home, and her sturdily incredulous father, and her
first simple escort the village wheelwright and cart-maker. But
the King said 'No!' and made her and her family as noble as a King
could, and settled upon her the income of a Count.

Ah! happy had it been for the Maid of Orleans, if she had resumed
her rustic dress that day, and had gone home to the little chapel
and the wild hills, and had forgotten all these things, and had
been a good man's wife, and had heard no stranger voices than the
voices of little children!

It was not to be, and she continued helping the King (she did a
world for him, in alliance with Friar Richard), and trying to
improve the lives of the coarse soldiers, and leading a religious,
an unselfish, and a modest life, herself, beyond any doubt. Still,
many times she prayed the King to let her go home; and once she
even took off her bright armour and hung it up in a church, meaning
never to wear it more. But, the King always won her back again -
while she was of any use to him - and so she went on and on and on,
to her doom.

When the Duke of Bedford, who was a very able man, began to be
active for England, and, by bringing the war back into France and
by holding the Duke of Burgundy to his faith, to distress and
disturb Charles very much, Charles sometimes asked the Maid of
Orleans what the Voices said about it? But, the Voices had become
(very like ordinary voices in perplexed times) contradictory and
confused, so that now they said one thing, and now said another,
and the Maid lost credit every day. Charles marched on Paris,
which was opposed to him, and attacked the suburb of Saint Honore.
In this fight, being again struck down into the ditch, she was
abandoned by the whole army. She lay unaided among a heap of dead,
and crawled out how she could. Then, some of her believers went
over to an opposition Maid, Catherine of La Rochelle, who said she
was inspired to tell where there were treasures of buried money -
though she never did - and then Joan accidentally broke the old,
old sword, and others said that her power was broken with it.
Finally, at the siege of CompiŠgne, held by the Duke of Burgundy,
where she did valiant service, she was basely left alone in a
retreat, though facing about and fighting to the last; and an
archer pulled her off her horse.

O the uproar that was made, and the thanksgivings that were sung,
about the capture of this one poor country-girl! O the way in
which she was demanded to be tried for sorcery and heresy, and
anything else you like, by the Inquisitor-General of France, and by
this great man, and by that great man, until it is wearisome to
think of! She was bought at last by the Bishop of Beauvais for ten
thousand francs, and was shut up in her narrow prison: plain Joan
of Arc again, and Maid of Orleans no more.

I should never have done if I were to tell you how they had Joan
out to examine her, and cross-examine her, and re-examine her, and
worry her into saying anything and everything; and how all sorts of
scholars and doctors bestowed their utmost tediousness upon her.
Sixteen times she was brought out and shut up again, and worried,
and entrapped, and argued with, until she was heart-sick of the
dreary business. On the last occasion of this kind she was brought
into a burial-place at Rouen, dismally decorated with a scaffold,
and a stake and faggots, and the executioner, and a pulpit with a
friar therein, and an awful sermon ready. It is very affecting to
know that even at that pass the poor girl honoured the mean vermin
of a King, who had so used her for his purposes and so abandoned
her; and, that while she had been regardless of reproaches heaped
upon herself, she spoke out courageously for him.

It was natural in one so young to hold to life. To save her life,
she signed a declaration prepared for her - signed it with a cross,
for she couldn't write - that all her visions and Voices had come
from the Devil. Upon her recanting the past, and protesting that
she would never wear a man's dress in future, she was condemned to
imprisonment for life, 'on the bread of sorrow and the water of

But, on the bread of sorrow and the water of affliction, the
visions and the Voices soon returned. It was quite natural that
they should do so, for that kind of disease is much aggravated by
fasting, loneliness, and anxiety of mind. It was not only got out
of Joan that she considered herself inspired again, but, she was
taken in a man's dress, which had been left - to entrap her - in
her prison, and which she put on, in her solitude; perhaps, in
remembrance of her past glories, perhaps, because the imaginary
Voices told her. For this relapse into the sorcery and heresy and
anything else you like, she was sentenced to be burnt to death.
And, in the market-place of Rouen, in the hideous dress which the
monks had invented for such spectacles; with priests and bishops
sitting in a gallery looking on, though some had the Christian
grace to go away, unable to endure the infamous scene; this
shrieking girl - last seen amidst the smoke and fire, holding a
crucifix between her hands; last heard, calling upon Christ - was
burnt to ashes. They threw her ashes into the river Seine; but
they will rise against her murderers on the last day.

From the moment of her capture, neither the French King nor one
single man in all his court raised a finger to save her. It is no
defence of them that they may have never really believed in her, or
that they may have won her victories by their skill and bravery.
The more they pretended to believe in her, the more they had caused
her to believe in herself; and she had ever been true to them, ever
brave, ever nobly devoted. But, it is no wonder, that they, who
were in all things false to themselves, false to one another, false
to their country, false to Heaven, false to Earth, should be
monsters of ingratitude and treachery to a helpless peasant girl.

In the picturesque old town of Rouen, where weeds and grass grow
high on the cathedral towers, and the venerable Norman streets are
still warm in the blessed sunlight though the monkish fires that
once gleamed horribly upon them have long grown cold, there is a
statue of Joan of Arc, in the scene of her last agony, the square
to which she has given its present name. I know some statues of
modern times - even in the World's metropolis, I think - which
commemorate less constancy, less earnestness, smaller claims upon
the world's attention, and much greater impostors.


BAD deeds seldom prosper, happily for mankind; and the English
cause gained no advantage from the cruel death of Joan of Arc. For
a long time, the war went heavily on. The Duke of Bedford died;
the alliance with the Duke of Burgundy was broken; and Lord Talbot
became a great general on the English side in France. But, two of
the consequences of wars are, Famine - because the people cannot
peacefully cultivate the ground - and Pestilence, which comes of
want, misery, and suffering. Both these horrors broke out in both
countries, and lasted for two wretched years. Then, the war went
on again, and came by slow degrees to be so badly conducted by the
English government, that, within twenty years from the execution of
the Maid of Orleans, of all the great French conquests, the town of
Calais alone remained in English hands.

While these victories and defeats were taking place in the course
of time, many strange things happened at home. The young King, as
he grew up, proved to be very unlike his great father, and showed
himself a miserable puny creature. There was no harm in him - he
had a great aversion to shedding blood: which was something - but,
he was a weak, silly, helpless young man, and a mere shuttlecock to
the great lordly battledores about the Court.

Of these battledores, Cardinal Beaufort, a relation of the King,
and the Duke of Gloucester, were at first the most powerful. The
Duke of Gloucester had a wife, who was nonsensically accused of
practising witchcraft to cause the King's death and lead to her
husband's coming to the throne, he being the next heir. She was
charged with having, by the help of a ridiculous old woman named
Margery (who was called a witch), made a little waxen doll in the
King's likeness, and put it before a slow fire that it might
gradually melt away. It was supposed, in such cases, that the
death of the person whom the doll was made to represent, was sure
to happen. Whether the duchess was as ignorant as the rest of
them, and really did make such a doll with such an intention, I
don't know; but, you and I know very well that she might have made
a thousand dolls, if she had been stupid enough, and might have
melted them all, without hurting the King or anybody else.
However, she was tried for it, and so was old Margery, and so was
one of the duke's chaplains, who was charged with having assisted
them. Both he and Margery were put to death, and the duchess,
after being taken on foot and bearing a lighted candle, three times
round the City, as a penance, was imprisoned for life. The duke,
himself, took all this pretty quietly, and made as little stir
about the matter as if he were rather glad to be rid of the

But, he was not destined to keep himself out of trouble long. The
royal shuttlecock being three-and-twenty, the battledores were very
anxious to get him married. The Duke of Gloucester wanted him to
marry a daughter of the Count of Armagnac; but, the Cardinal and
the Earl of Suffolk were all for MARGARET, the daughter of the King
of Sicily, who they knew was a resolute, ambitious woman and would
govern the King as she chose. To make friends with this lady, the
Earl of Suffolk, who went over to arrange the match, consented to
accept her for the King's wife without any fortune, and even to
give up the two most valuable possessions England then had in
France. So, the marriage was arranged, on terms very advantageous
to the lady; and Lord Suffolk brought her to England, and she was
married at Westminster. On what pretence this queen and her party
charged the Duke of Gloucester with high treason within a couple of
years, it is impossible to make out, the matter is so confused;
but, they pretended that the King's life was in danger, and they
took the duke prisoner. A fortnight afterwards, he was found dead
in bed (they said), and his body was shown to the people, and Lord
Suffolk came in for the best part of his estates. You know by this
time how strangely liable state prisoners were to sudden death.

If Cardinal Beaufort had any hand in this matter, it did him no
good, for he died within six weeks; thinking it very hard and
curious - at eighty years old! - that he could not live to be Pope.

This was the time when England had completed her loss of all her
great French conquests. The people charged the loss principally
upon the Earl of Suffolk, now a duke, who had made those easy terms
about the Royal Marriage, and who, they believed, had even been
bought by France. So he was impeached as a traitor, on a great
number of charges, but chiefly on accusations of having aided the
French King, and of designing to make his own son King of England.
The Commons and the people being violent against him, the King was
made (by his friends) to interpose to save him, by banishing him
for five years, and proroguing the Parliament. The duke had much
ado to escape from a London mob, two thousand strong, who lay in
wait for him in St. Giles's fields; but, he got down to his own
estates in Suffolk, and sailed away from Ipswich. Sailing across
the Channel, he sent into Calais to know if he might land there;
but, they kept his boat and men in the harbour, until an English
ship, carrying a hundred and fifty men and called the Nicholas of
the Tower, came alongside his little vessel, and ordered him on
board. 'Welcome, traitor, as men say,' was the captain's grim and
not very respectful salutation. He was kept on board, a prisoner,
for eight-and-forty hours, and then a small boat appeared rowing
toward the ship. As this boat came nearer, it was seen to have in
it a block, a rusty sword, and an executioner in a black mask. The
duke was handed down into it, and there his head was cut off with
six strokes of the rusty sword. Then, the little boat rowed away
to Dover beach, where the body was cast out, and left until the
duchess claimed it. By whom, high in authority, this murder was
committed, has never appeared. No one was ever punished for it.

There now arose in Kent an Irishman, who gave himself the name of
Mortimer, but whose real name was JACK CADE. Jack, in imitation of
Wat Tyler, though he was a very different and inferior sort of man,
addressed the Kentish men upon their wrongs, occasioned by the bad
government of England, among so many battledores and such a poor
shuttlecock; and the Kentish men rose up to the number of twenty
thousand. Their place of assembly was Blackheath, where, headed by
Jack, they put forth two papers, which they called 'The Complaint
of the Commons of Kent,' and 'The Requests of the Captain of the
Great Assembly in Kent.' They then retired to Sevenoaks. The
royal army coming up with them here, they beat it and killed their
general. Then, Jack dressed himself in the dead general's armour,
and led his men to London.

Jack passed into the City from Southwark, over the bridge, and
entered it in triumph, giving the strictest orders to his men not
to plunder. Having made a show of his forces there, while the
citizens looked on quietly, he went back into Southwark in good
order, and passed the night. Next day, he came back again, having
got hold in the meantime of Lord Say, an unpopular nobleman. Says
Jack to the Lord Mayor and judges: 'Will you be so good as to make
a tribunal in Guildhall, and try me this nobleman?' The court
being hastily made, he was found guilty, and Jack and his men cut
his head off on Cornhill. They also cut off the head of his son-
in-law, and then went back in good order to Southwark again.

But, although the citizens could bear the beheading of an unpopular
lord, they could not bear to have their houses pillaged. And it
did so happen that Jack, after dinner - perhaps he had drunk a
little too much - began to plunder the house where he lodged; upon
which, of course, his men began to imitate him. Wherefore, the
Londoners took counsel with Lord Scales, who had a thousand
soldiers in the Tower; and defended London Bridge, and kept Jack
and his people out. This advantage gained, it was resolved by
divers great men to divide Jack's army in the old way, by making a


Back to Full Books