Imagini ale paginilor
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

England-Conquest and Loss of France


The young King led a second and larger army to France in 1417, and, profiting by the dissensions of the French, captured one city after another, until all Normandy was in his hands. By the treaty of Troyes in 1420, Paris itself surrendered. Henry married Catharine, the daughter of the mad French King, and was to succeed his dying father-in-law upon the throne. Such of France as he had already conquered became England's property at once.

So here was a second crown ready to fall into the hands of this remarkable man, as yet scarcely out of his youth. It was too much of good fortune. Henry died in 1422, while still busy crushing out the smouldering sparks of discontent in his new realm of France. Two months later the mad French King followed him to the grave. Henry's body was brought back to England and buried in Westminster Abbey, where you may see his saddle and helmet suspended over his tomb.

He left a son-also named Henry-only nine months old, whose title was "King of England and France," and whose uncle, the Duke of Bedford, reigned as regent. This uncle carried on the war in France, where some of the nobles upheld the son of Charles VI. to succeed his father. This new king, the young Charles VII., was defeated again and again, until the victorious British laid siege to Orleans. And this brings us to that marvellous event in history, where the siege of the city was raised through the inspiration of the peasant girl, Joan of Arc, the particulars of which you learned in the story of France. In the end, the English were driven out of France, and the Hundred Years' War closed in their defeat in 1453. England no longer owned a foot of Norman soil, her only possession being the city of Calais, while France began climbing to the position of the leading European nation.

By this time Henry VI. had been nominally King of England for thirty years, but he was of feeble intellect; and his wife, Margaret of Anjou, a ferocious woman, and her adviser, William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, continually meddled with the government, and, to add to the distressful situation, the barons wrangled with one another for power. The Duke of Suffolk was banished, but the disorder did not stop. The trouble was that the barons had become so accustomed to wars that they could not endure peace. They lived in their great halls, with their bands of followers as idle and ripe for mischief as they. Then there were a large number of disbanded soldiers, who, not being employed as servants, became tramps and highwaymen, shot the king's deer, and robbed the rich travellers who came their way.

Serfdom had disappeared, so that there were no more men who were obliged to work without pay, and who could be sold and bought with the land they occupied; but many were in a miserable state, for the lands which they used to till had been turned into sheep-farms to furnish the wool that was in great

demand in Flanders. Perforce, these suffering men joined the beggars, and some of them also became highwaymen. Since the sheep-farms took the place of wheat fields, less grain was grown, and bread became dear. And on top of this woful condition of the country came the disgraceful close of the war with France, that had consumed so much money and cost so many lives, for all of which there was nothing to show. So extreme was the universal poverty, that it is said there were times when the royal couple actually went hungry.

But there were magnificent exceptions to this wretchedness. The Earl of Warwick and other great lords had gathered colossal fortunes out of the wars. Warwick, at his regal mansion in London and at his different castles, had more than thirty thousand men in his service, and when he went to Parliament he was attended by six hundred liveried retainers.

Human nature could not submit to all this. The greatest dissatisfaction was among the men of Kent, who, after talking over the matter, decided to go to London and secure redress, even if it had to be done by violence. Their leader was Jack Cade, whose main grievance was that the people were shut out from a free choice of their representatives, and could only elect those whom the nobility approved. He led twenty thousand men into London, first encamping on Blackheath, from which he sent a statement of their grievances to the King. These, it cannot be denied, were very many and very serious. Cade made little effort to control his followers. Indeed, he set them an example by murdering an unpopular member of the government, Lord Saye, on the charge of having sold England's possessions in France. The rioting continued for three days; then the plundering of a number of houses turned the citizens. against Cade, and with the aid of soldiers from the Tower they defended London Bridge against him. The Council promised to consider the complaints. sent to them and to pardon the turbulent mob, which gradually dispersed. Cade fled, and was hotly chased by Iden, sheriff of Kent, who overtook and killed him.

In 1453 a son, Edward, was born to Henry. This promised to perpetuate the rule of the Lancastrian kings who had come into power with Henry IV. Now, there were still living descendants of the older branch of the royal family, who had vaguely hoped to be some day recalled to the throne. Chief of these at the time was Richard, Duke of York, nephew of the Edmund Mortimer who had been set up as a rival to Henry IV. This Richard ranked as the highest nobleman of the kingdom, and when the feeble King Henry VI. became in 1453 temporarily insane, Richard of York was appointed regent.

He took advantage of his power to crush the leading nobles of the Lancastrian party. The King's friends, alarmed, declared him once more capable of reigning, and would have ousted the Duke of York from the regency, but

[graphic][merged small]




« ÎnapoiContinuă »