An Analysis of the causes of the Wars and the course which they took.
Michael D. Miller
|Chapter 15: Henry, Prince of Wales, in disgrace
1411 - 1413
|King Henry IV recovers
King Henry IV had recovered sufficiently to take back the reins of government at the end of 1411 after a two year period of incapacity. The Prince had done much to annoy him since returning from Wales, and now, once he was able to express himself again, the expedition to France aroused a rage which knew no bounds. It did not in any way lessen his wrath to hear repeated once more the opinion, which seems to have emanated from the Prince's party, that he was now so unfitted to govern because of his health that he should abdicate. He called a Parliament to meet in November and December 1411 and pointedly dismissed the Prince and his friends from the Council. The Prince's brother Thomas took the Prince's place. Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury, was again appointed Chancellor. Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester of Winchester, gave place to Henry Bowet,
Archbishop of York. Sir John Pelham became the Treasurer. Nobody could be in any doubt that the Prince was now in disgrace. He was to remain so for the remaining 18 months of his Father's reign.
Further friction soon developed between Father and Son. Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury, saw his chance, this time with greater hopes of success, to renew his attacks upon the Lollards in Oxford University. Thomas Courtenay, who was still the Chancellor of the University, with the Prince's open encouragement, resisted his visitation by force. King Henry IV summoned all the parties before him for his adjudication. This came down heavily on the side of the Archbishop of Canterbury and ended with the dismissal of all the University's officers. Again with the Prince's encouragement, they were re-elected at the first opportunity. The King was livid, but there was nothing he could do about it. He accepted the position with very ill-grace.
Thomas, Duke of Clarence's expedition to France -
It was not long before both the Burgundians and the Armagnacs were appealing for English support, by which they meant armed help, King Charles VI had relapsed into madness again, and was thus unable to make his quarrelsome nobles live in peace. The English soldiers who had fought in France in the autumn of 1411 had proved so formidable, particularly the archers, that each side wanted to have them on their side, if only to deny them to the other. Embassies from both sides arrived in London in January 1412, but it was the Armagnacs who made an offer the King could not refuse. The Dukes of Orleans, Berri and Bourbon offered King Henry IV Acquitaine, and even offered to hold their lands there as his vassals, if he would dispatch 1000 men-at-arms and 3000 archers to Blois. The already generous rates of pay which were currently 6d a day for archers and 1/= for men-at-arms were to be increased by 50%. The King was to pay them until they arrived in Blois, and thereafter they were to be paid by the Armagnacs. The Prince objected strongly at the loss of support to Burgundy, but the most he could induce his Father to do was to confirm to the Burgundians that the truce with them was regarded as still in being. Since English soldiers under English generals would soon be engaged in military operations against them, this reassurance must have sounded unconvincing.
There were already good reasons why the Prince could not command this expedition, even though he had already proved his worth as a soldier. He was known to favour the Burgundian interests, and had objected to the whole expedition from the start. It would have been unlikely that he would have seen eye-to-eye with his new allies when close personal relations were all important. His brother Thomas was appointed overall commander and was also promoted to be Duke of Clarence in July 1412. Thomas had some military experience in Ireland, but it was nothing to compare with the Prince's, and his appointment must have seemed a snub to the Prince. Moreover, in what seems to have been an attempt to detach from the Prince one of his less vociferous supporters, Sir Thomas Beaufort was made Earl of Dorset and, together with Sir John Oldcastle, was sent to keep an eye on the youthful and inexperienced Thomas.
The expedition sailed in August 1412 and landed at La Hogue. It very rapidly made its presence felt. The Cotentin peninsula was rapidly overrun, and shortly afterwards the Orleanist strongholds of Chateau-neuf, Belesme and St Remy du Plain, which were temporarily occupied by the Burgundians, passed into English hands. The English force was obviously not going to stop there, and was already proving too successful for its Armagnac allies. In the meantime it was the turn of King Charles VI, who had recovered his wits, to be enraged with what his vassals had done. He moved to attack the Dukes of Berri and Bourbon. Quite unnecessarily he encamped his army in marshy ground, where it soon became incapacitated by sickness. This did not prevent yet another reconciliation in August 1412 with John the Fearless, in which the Duke of Orleans could, although with very ill grace, be induced to participate. At least for the moment the danger of civil war could be averted. There did remain one very pressing problem which demanded immediate attention, namely how were they to get rid of the English.
Attacking the Duke of Clarence was out of the question. It would certainly have lead to war with England, and this the French were in no position to contemplate. They had seen enough of the English soldiers to realise that there was the possibility of an humiliating defeat, which would mean that the English had come to stay. There was only one alternative, and Charles, Duke of Orleans, having invited them, was given the task of buying them off and inducing them to return home out of his own resources. He succeeded in doing this, but had to interpret his mandate in the broadest possible way. Clarence set his terms high, and even secured the silver cross from Bruges Cathedral in which were set fragments of the nails which had pierced Our Lord's hands and feet. The English returned home with their full pay, a rare experience for a medieval soldier, and so much booty they could scarcely stand up. They also brought home with them the firm impression that the French could not resist the English as soldiers, and that the fair land of France was full of riches which only needed to be seized and carried away.
Henry, Prince of Wales's riotous behaviour
Before coming to the end of this part of the Prince's life which ended with the death of his Father, and before dealing with the actions of the Prince during the period of his disgrace, some mention must be made of the stories of the Prince's wildness during his time as a young man about town. It has proved very difficult to get any firm contemporary evidence, but this may be due to a reluctance to record it during his period as King Henry V when he made it plain that he vastly disapproved of such conduct. The contemporary sources, such as they are, are Hoccleve, Elmham, who was one of King Henry V'S Chaplains and who was deeply attached to him, Thomas Walsingham, who was writing about 1422, and Titus Livius de Frolovisiis, who wrote in about 1440. For reasons already stated, their accounts are a little hazy, and even after Henry's death in 1422 they suffered some inhibitions about defaming a national hero. Most of the entertaining stories that appear in the pages of Shakespeare stem from Tudor sources written at least 100 years after the event. Falstaff may have been a character of Sir John Fastolph, but Fastolph was a grim soldier with little time for such frivolities.[The writer has advanced the theory that Sir John Falstaff was a caricature of the Prince's bother, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester] His name may have been substituted for Sir John Oldcastle's, and Sir John, a close friend of the Prince's from the time of the Welsh wars where he had given outstanding service, was known to have had a predilection for the pleasures of the town. It would have been tactless for Shakespeare to have portrayed one of the leading Lollards of the time as a mere libertine when Lollardy, albeit under another name, had achieved all its aims from the Reformation. There are stories that the Prince waylaid his friends at dead of night and robbed them of their money, making good their loss in the morning with the air of a concerned and comforting friend. The chance black eye and bruised knuckles were tacitly ignored by both sides. There is even a story that the Prince threatened Chief Justice Gascoigne and advanced upon him in a threatening manner in court when the Chief Justice was trying one of the Prince's friends for a particularly vile offence. The Prince is supposed only to have desisted when the Chief Justice, whose manner was firm throughout, threatened to commit him to prison for his outrageous behaviour in court. Later the infuriated King forced the Prince to apologise. There are also stories that, as he had worshipped with enthusiasm and full commitment at the alter of Mars, so he did at that of Venus as well, and that no comely young lady was safe from him. None of this is unlikely, and as has been noted [page ], young noblemen were expected to be rowdy. Indeed in 1410, the Prince's younger brothers Thomas and Humphrey had caused such a rumpus in the streets of the City that the Mayor and Aldermen had to leave their beds to quieten things down.
The unreliability of contemporary accounts, and the wealth of later hearsay evidence, does not mean that the stories of the Prince's unruly behaviour should be dismissed out of hand. It is especially apparent that those who in later years adopt a stuffy attitude of disapproval to the follies of youth, as King Henry V unquestionably did, themselves had a youth which does not bear too close an examination. In our own time, we have seen men whose youth had been taken away from them by the Second World War, when responsibilities were thrust upon them at an early age as they were upon the Prince, making up for lost time when at last they were relieved of these preoccupations. During that war, there were Majors, Colonels, Commanders and Squadron Leaders of 24 and 25, and even Brigadiers of less than 30. Once relieved of their responsibilities and the dreadful and long drawn out agony of the war, in which many of them had suffered most grievously, they saw no reason why they should not stretch the follies of the youth which many of them had never had to be the shame of age. The most riotous parties frequently ended up with a night in the cells, and they cheerfully paid their fines in the morning with no thought of complaint or feeling of grievance. There is no reason to suppose that the Prince, who had early experience of the obscenities of war, was any different. There is also no reason to believe that the considerable bachelor establishment which he maintained in Coldharbour Lane, a house which had once belonged to the Black Prince, had any of the air of the monastery about it. The best that can be done is to say that the stories are most probably true in their essential details, and that the Prince quite certainly took part in some riotous escapades which, when he was himself King, he did not wish to recollect or to have recounted.
Henry, Prince of Wales's relations with his father
As has already been remarked, the Prince was in disgrace during the last 18 months which was all that was left to his father's life. As is always the case with a fallen idol, his enemies traduced him, and one of their first accusations was that he had misappropriated public funds. Never one to flinch from a fight, the Prince decided to face his enemies, and in July 1412 he prepared himself for a difficult interview with his Father. This was on the eve of the departure of his brother Thomas to France. It was unlikely to be a friendly meeting, as the Prince's enemies had put it about that his real motive was to force his Father to abdicate:-
"...because he was so gretli vexed... with the seeknesse of lepre..."
At some uncertain time, but possibly before this meeting could take place, the Prince was nearly assassinated.
Woken by the barking of a spaniel, his attendants found a man lurking behind an arras. He was examined by Thomas, Earl of Arundel, and confessed under torture that Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester, had hired him to murder the Prince. This was quite obviously a wild lie to which nobody could give serious belief. It is more than probable that he did reveal the true names of those who had hired him, and that these people were some of the most prominent men in the land. Arundel must have thought it best to suppress the record and to stop the man's mouth for good and all. This he did by sowing him up in a sack and throwing the unfortunate wretch into the Thames. Arundel, one of the Prince's closest friends, must have told the Prince what he had discovered, and who had plotted his death. It is all the more remarkable that the Prince, after he became King Henry V, did not seek their punishment and never referred to the matter again. He would still have carried in his mind that there were some people who had plotted his death and who he could never completely trust.
Following this hideous incident, the Prince dressed himself in his finest attire and, after taking communion, rode with a large following to Westminster Hall. There he bade his followers to wait behind the fire whist he strode forward to meet the King. After a short while, King Henry IV was carried into the Hall in a litter. Where there had been love and amity between Father and Son there was now only hostility and coldness. In dead silence, the Prince knelt before his Father, drew his dagger from its sheath, and presented it to this Father, bidding him to stab him if ever he thought him disloyal. The poignant moment hung in the air as the King made no move to take the weapon. Still in dead silence the Prince proffered to his Father two rolls of accounts saying that the money had been spent on the Calais garrison whilst he was Captain of Calais. No doubt this was the truth, and no doubt also the Prince had spent some of his own money in paying the garrison's wages; he was heavily in debt at the time, and when his Father died he owed more than £6, 000 which was double his own annual income. Given that the rate of the soldiers pay was known, these accounts should have been easy to examine and to audit. Again the King made no move to take the accounts, saying coldly and formally that they should be laid before Parliament. In September 1412 the Prince made a further attempt to persuade his Father to hear his explanation. He received the same cold answer as before. To such a level had relations between the Father and the Son descended.
Death of King Henry IV
The end could not be far off for King Henry IV. His sickness got steadily worse, and in March 1413, whilst at his devotions in Westminster Abbey, he staggered and collapsed. He was carried into the Jerusalem chamber where the last rites were administered by his confessor, Doctor Tille. The Prince was summoned, and after looking at what everyone supposed to the corpse of his Father, he took the crown from the cushion on which it lay and carried it off. This could have been a mere sensible precaution to prevent anyone presenting it to Edmund, Earl of March. Unexpectedly, the King revived, and asked what had become of it. The Prince explained that he had taken it away for safe keeping. The last words of the dying King, and his last conversation with his Son are only supposition and legend, but they are worth repeating here as something of the sort may well have happened. "What right have you to it my son, seeing that I had none?" "Sire, as you have held and kept it by the sword, so will I hold and keep it while my life shall last." "Do as you will, I commend me to God, and prey that he may have mercy upon me." A few moments of life still remained during which Doctor Tille urged him to repent his usurpation and the death of King Richard II. The dying King replied that he had performed the penance ordered by the Pope and as for the usurpation, his sons would never allow the Crown to leave their hands. In a moment of reconciliation, the Son embraced his Father before his life finally ebbed away.
|Copyright © Michael D. Miller 2003|