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Charles Dickens
A Child's History of England 21 Part 2
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CHAPTER XXI

SECOND PART


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.


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