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Charles Dickens
A Child's History of England 22 Part 1
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CHAPTER XXII
ENGLAND UNDER HENRY THE SIXTH


PART THE FIRST


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.


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