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TO THE RIGHT ILLUSTRIOUS AND PUISSANT LADY ELIZABETH, QUEEN OF ENGLAND, FRANCE, AND IRELAND, DEFENDER OF THE FAITH
Royal Nymph, fostering ruler of the throne of England, you who shine with peace and true religion, you who (if any woman ever has) surpass Zenobia, shining with the merits of your life and manners and your integrity, you who resemble Juno with your scepter, Venus with your countenance, and Minerva with your art, you who are wise beyond the ways of womankind, be kindly and happily insert yourself into my enterprise. Thus, divine one, your smiling countenance will be godlike. This is a great undertaking, I will be unequal to the task and fail unless you shine on me with your lucky star. Shine, divine one, see what your forebears and ancestral trophies have been like over the past three centuries. For since you possess their throne, crown, and office, the glory they gained in war is yours. Nor is it folly to describe battles for the benefit of a woman: Pallas takes pleasure in wars, just as in peace. So I pray you, your majesty, to read this work with an unfurrowed brow, as I stand or fall by your judgment. Let all men toss it aside, let them trample it underfoot, I have no care for them all, for it is enough to please one reader, if I can. God grant that you always enjoy delightful peace, surpassing your ancestors in glory and honor.
Most devoted to your majesty,
Wh0ever weighs these verses of Ocland in an impartial scale as he sings of the arms of English captains, can rightfully call him a morning star of the British, a darling of modern history, who is skilled in plying musical Thalia's golden quill, whose light tunes are inhabited by Clio. Nor will any man find fault in him who is not a blockhead, a clodhopper, a three-penny churl, a log, a clown, a stone, a ranter. His divine power is so great that our reverend mistress should consider she has not gained such great glory from any other source, such faithfulness, such charm, such welcome elegance, such grace and persuasion sine forth in him. Ocland's eloquent sound blares forth such great things as his loud trumpets sing of bloody battles. Bloody battles indeed, in which English virtue has always shone victorious and gained the prize. And while he produces many things with his adroit lyre, he hides many things behind the veil of Timas and brings many hidden things to light, let Italy be jealous, let warlike France fall silent, let the Spanish hold his tongue and the Scotsmen be reduced to muttering. Lucky heroes of England, to have the good fortune to find such a Homer and such a Tyrtaeus! Now your trophies do not lie neglected in the caves of the Phlegethon, and Codrus may burst his guts with envy.
THOMAS NEWTON OF CHESTERSHIRE
With what a steadfast mind the noble nation of England fought its battles, with what a storm it wielded its weapons, with what strength it was borne against its fierce foe, these things are shown by the eloquent tomes of noble history, which relate the glorious deeds of the British people sixteen centuries ago, when its enemies once harried its realms with Caesar’s arms. Had not evil treason furthered Julius Caesar’s attempts, he would have set forth on bright Albion’s shores in vain, in vain Roman youth would have waged war, and the Britons would have paid no tribute to the great Caesars or to the Roman people. What realm has ever been so indomitable or powerful that it could not be conquered by its enemy, once it was vexed by dissension? What does a people not squander, when it is a-boil with the perfervid heat of raging contention? What does discord not rend asunder, weaken and rend helpless, when the savage Fury rules? Caesar was strong, warlike, brave and daring, and he accomplished memorable things until the end of his life, having sent so many peoples beneath his yoke by the sword. But could he have been victorious so often without divine will? Could he have used his mighty arms to defeat nations and their powerful forces? He routed the Germans. That rough and threatening nation was no whit inferior to the Italians, being great in mind and body. He routed the Gauls, always adorned by manly courage as they thrived at home and abroad. So in that age of the world why did martial glory only accrue to the Romans, and why did Augustus rule the world, after the nations had been subdued by his strong weapons or reduced to abject surrender? The answer is, so that peace (which for a while was spread worldwide) might bless mankind after the birth of Christ.
All things have their vicissitudes and their predetermined course of events, and also their fixed end. Babylon contained within its brick walls history’s first battle-famous kings, and Egypt cherished them in your waters, oh Nile, so fruitful in crops and cattle. For the other peoples were still unschooled and ignorant of warfare. After some centuries the high-minded Greeks snatched the glory of martial enterprise away from the others, if you weigh the military glory of their indomitable minds. The virtue of Italy’s nation bested the Greeks, then the Goths drove the Latins from their native homes. Thus one nail drives out another, thus one wave follows upon another. It is God Almighty Who rules all according to His will, Who governs sea, land, and the realms of the sky. He is the God of Arms Who terrifies us with His thunderbolts, He is Lord of Hosts, Who gives and takes away. He instills panic, He gives us manly courage, He grants us to conquer, and subjects conquered foe to our swords. For that man triumphs over his enemies with a victorious hand to whom the divine will has granted first place. The final race which has been ennobled by their fearsome arms is that which the cold north binds with its freezing ice. These folk are robust and fierce, with an inborn predilection for the handiwork of savage Mars and very eager for hot battles: the huge-bodied, battle-hardened German, the Yugoslav, the Pole, the Swede, the very brave Hun, the Belgian, the warlike Frenchman, the Spaniard, the warlike Englishman, and the Scot, do the energetic work of war with a heart full of courage, and all do so bravely. Unbested by cold, undaunted by summer heat, by their excellent stoutheartedness they put their ancestors’ glory in the shade. Implacably, Almighty God, You send war as a punishment and as vengeance for sin whenever You grow angry against any nation, and that impious people plays the penalty for its crime, as the lucky victory is bestowed by high heaven. Therefore all the glory for a thing well done must be ascribed to God, Who governs all by His will. As I am about to speak of wars, let Him stand at the beginning of my poem, the strong supporter of my hard task, and may He smile on my undertakings with His heavenly favor.
Edward, the third of that name, descended from great William, began to rule the English when he was barely fifteen years old. At home he was a prudent councilor and handed down fair decisions for his subjects, shaping the laws for the common advantage. Above all he always adored God’s worship. Four times the bright sun had ranged through all the signs of heaven’s zodiac, and when it had reached the claws of Cancer for a fifth time, doughty Edward tried the fortunes of war with choice soldiers, taking up arms against the hated Scots. The greater part of his realm resounded with words which kindled his royal wrath, namely that the Scots had broken their solemn treaty of peace and that a reproachful taunt had lately been added to the insult of their former deed, that they had shut themselves in Stanhope, and that chests had been opened up at Northampton and the seals of his documents had secretly been broken. This pious cause heartened them as they were about to fight, and rendered the English free of war’s terrors. But the pious Plantagenet thought that he should first attempt to sway the Scots by courteous speech, to see if perchance they might repent their misdeed and concede what was right. And yet that people did not come to their senses, but wickedly indulged in hatred, desiring to kill their overlord Baliol. He for his part perceived their plotting and came to England to avoid the danger, telling Edward what frauds and schemes the ungrateful Scottish nation was attempting against his person. Then in humble tones he begged for aid. Having been given a hearing, he said things such as this with a gloomy expression.
“The Creator of heaven, men and beasts providently ordained this notable ordinance, that one prince should require the help of another, and that he who received the greater benefit should be as grateful as possible to the sovereign who provides it. I believe that it is the work of our everlasting God, that in this world some unhappy men, born under an unlucky star, are plunged in heavier sorrows. Why has the Almighty done this? Because He smiles and out of His goodness bestows bountiful gifts on mortals, and wishes those men like Himself to come to the aid of wretched folk. I do not wish to beat about the bush concerning something that is well known, and so I shall cut short the tedium of a lengthy speech. Lately I have gained my father’s realm as his sole heir, having cast a bridle on my stiff-necked people. I was ruling them in secure peace when suddenly rioting broke out and a throng of men caught me unawares and harboring no suspicions, choosing leaders and besieging my castle. What should I do in my unhappiness, when this danger suddenly impended and I was friendless? Silently I humbly beseeched God for help, and He was at hand. The thought entered my head and I made my escape by night through an open bedroom window. Hence I have come to your lands. This evil nation has accused me of shameful guilt under a pretext, saying that I have neglected the Scottish Lairds and people, and am too devoted to you, Your Majesty, and to the English, and now I am bereft of my nation, my beloved children and my consort. I wander as a needy pauper, an exile in foreign lands. I have nothing left but hope, that sad support of wretches, which will never desert care-oppressed men as long as they are able to breathe. It consoles my failing heart and will bring me better things in future days. Oh pray be merciful and have pity on my suffering. For if you condescend to be the protector of my affairs while harsh fortune afflicts me, and accept me in your retinue with a happy omen, you will make Baliol happy, his fortune having been changed, and your noble fame will flourish for this deed. This is the sum of my wishes, I wish for nothing more.”
Great Edward, England’s supreme hope, answered Baliol with a speech such as this. “In this fragile world all things are set a-whirling with various fortunes, the lofty tower suffers the greater fall. He who is in no way moved by adversity, nor is broken by misfortune, but rather who fearlessly suffers every loss with a steadfast mind, should rightly be considered a prudent man. Patience is a virtue nobler than the others. Suffer these things calmly, with a manly mind. God Himself wants to make an end to these things when He wishes, when the welcome hour has come. Just wait a while, until the harvest has brought its crop and the hot summertime has grown its grass, so that the earth may provide fodder for my horses. Meanwhile I shall be provident and prepare arms against this nation. Armed men shall be mustered from all my kingdom, and whatever is useful for a great war. God willing, the supporters of this scurvy cause will be defeated and I shall place you in your home, where you may bridle this fierce people, and sit on your father’s throne.” The King of England spoke, and his royal hall was filled with a shout, as the cry went up that it was a foul crime for this evil folk to drive out their legitimate sovereign and to wish to kill him.
A few days passed, and within a very little while Edward assembled his excellent lords of fighting age. Quickly the King enlisted a proper number of captains, squadrons of horse and bands of foot, and money stored up in the chests of his fisc for the expenses of war was shifted to wagons to be carried as their welcome pay. Now the two kings, first the Englishman and then the Scots, planted their tents with good auspices next to the high walls of fortified Berwick, in a place bordering on Scottish territory, alongside the Tweed. Berwick is very stout place with its considerable walls of mortared stone, standing on high ground, so that it can easily free those shut up within from enemy swords and withstand the blows of the curved battering-ram. In addition, it has a notable castle carved out of living rock, rising yet higher aloft, which looks downs on the neighboring fields, full of all manner of weaponry for battle and stout soldiery. And all along its walls stand many a turret, which have the effect of making Berwick nearly impregnable. The Tweed reinforces the side watered by the cloud-bringing south wind, and the sea protects in the direction from which Titan rises in the east, illuminating the broad land with his bright life. The northern side possesses the castle as a protection for the the nearby hill-dwellers and all of Scotland.
And yet all those battlements could not protect that King’s subjects, or the castle defend them from violent arms. After the English columns had poured over the sunny fields and surrounded the walls with entrenchments and a modest rampart, the Scots began to shut their iron-clad gates, to man their walls with a great throng, and to roll down huge rocks. On the other side, the English bands, glittering with their brazen armor, launched their assault with a great effort. Part of them applied crackling fire to the gates, while others attempted to pry open their double doors with crowbars. On the other side, the townsmen strove to quench the fire that had been cast into the city with water drawn from fountains scattered about the town. And so that they might avoid the imminent peril of the fire, an earthwork was thrown up blocking the entryway of each gate in order to obstruct the entrance of our men, and they poured down boiling water on the Englishmen seeking entrance with their swords. The Scotsmen did not do this with impunity: some were wounded by missiles hurled by slingshots, and others died when hit by arrows. In no time during the day or dark of night did the besieged gain any rest, as hour by hour English anger and battle-lust increased. In the night they pretended to be mounting the walls with ladders: drums beat, and their shouting for ladders filled their enemy with helpless dread. Now this man sought to gain entry here, and that one there, and the British were visible in the dark of night thanks to their white linen surcoats, so that the besieged Scotsman was compelled to spend sleepless nights, as fear and hope exerted their effects on either side.
Meanwhile a month had passed while they were encamped and dire famine was troubling the Scots pent up within the narrow compass of the walls as the food-supply dwindled. Even a morsel of bread was sold for gold. There was no fish, no meat, no food, only a little sour wine. The governor of the castle called together his comrades, and put the situation in a nutshell. “Who is unaware that our food supply is running out, yet we cannot desert our post? Death by starvation is a cruel, terrible, sad way to die, especially for sturdy men in the pink of health. Ripe fruit falls from the tree of its own volition, but unripe fruit is wrenched off by force. What use do men get from their bodies, what is the fruit of life, if you take away welcome food? Both head and hand will perish by this impending death if our bellies go without nourishment. So what do you propose, my friends? Shall I surrender the town under negotiated terms, a town which the brave English will take by fighting, killing its captured townsmen, or shall I permit this raging famine to overcome us all?”
The castle governor refrained from saying more, and the common people began an inarticulate muttering. In the end many came to agree and on the walls they raised a white flag on a pole as a peace-signal, and humbly requested to speak to the King or one of his lords. Immediately a representative was sent from the camp, asking what they wanted, and one of the more senior soldiers said, “We besieged Scotsman are asking kindly Edward for the grace of a few days’ truce, such is the royal mercy, and promise to surrender our town and castle if within a week a relief force does not come to the north wall of Berwick, sent by the Lairds of their kingdom to bring a supply of foodstuffs. We will abandon our home and yield our private houses to the English, and surrender our castle to King Edward.”
They were bidden to guarantee their pledges by giving hostages, and when twelve had been given both sides entered into a temporary truce. But the deceitfulness of that nation could not long remain in abeyance, for their hearts are full of great trickery and they need no art to instruct them therein. Scarce had Phoebus thrice circled the world while careful watch was maintained within the English camp and their men took turns standing at the posts. On the fourth day, while a south wind was blowing and the sun was sinking towards its western shore, dark night was falling on the land with its shadows. Then welcome sleep was soothing the weary bodies of men, birds, cattle and wild beasts, and watchmen were paying attention only to the north-facing wall of the town, lest the Scots be able to steal in, since it was agreed by the treaty that either the sought-for help should come from that direction or that they consent to surrender the besieged castle to the English. Behold, amidst the darkness there arrived a most energetic enemy, Dacett, the chief Laird: having traced a circuit three miles away from the camp, he had ridden across the Tweed with an accompanying squadron and entered English territory. Now, even though the stone bridge had been broken so as to bar entryway into the town, Dacett reached the lofty castle, albeit at the cost of having had some of his comrades drowned in the river’s current.
In Berwick, the air immediately rang with shouting as the townsmen attested their joy with happy voices, but this quickly turned to sorrow, as a little while thereafter the guilty people, convicted of treachery, justly paid the penalty for their deed. For a report of this event, flying on swift wings, came to the King’s pavilions before daybreak. Afterward , by royal command two hostages were hanged on a gallows at sunrise, and he proclaimed he would kill two a day by a similar death until they were all done in by the noose. Then at length the townsmen regretted their evil deed and broken faith. From a distance this man recognized the body of a dead friend, hanging and swinging in the cool breezes. That man bewailed the brand of shame inflicted by his family by this mean form of death, as his son, the sole hope of his wretched mother, dangled from a tree. Women howled on the walls, their hair let down, beating their breasts with helpless hands. But they were largely distracted from their sorrows, since within the walls the inevitable evil of famine began to rage, emptying their eager mouths of food. And behold, they devised another, similar stratagem, that (against the will of the English) a small band should break through the camp and that armed reinforcements should bring food to the happy besieged, if the King would grant them another week of truce. Excellent Edward laughed as he penetrated their scheme, and yet granted them their wish. For the King was seeking glory, not rich booty, and he cleverly perceived that the matter was being handled with deceit.
It was quiet within the camp, the townsmen of Berwick were now snoring and caring for their bodies with sleep, since sweet food was lacking for their bellies. The sun had completed half its passage through the zodiac, racing over the back of shaggy Leo, and was falling headlong towards the place where the bright evening star rises. On the hills there appeared an army in harness, marching in a lengthy column, just as sheep graze the grass on broad pastures or as lambs caper on sunny hillsides,: the eye cannot count them, since they cover all the land. A horned ram rises up among the milk-white ewes, powerful in its courage and strength, and menacing with its horns. Not otherwise did the armed bands of Scotsmen display themselves on a far-off hill, filling the fields with their soldiery. Then they banded together and marched down to the flat land, boldly planting their steps. Each standard-bearer bore his flag, and a captain went before them, taller than them all by a head. At the moment the Tweed was running deep because it was high tide. When they understood that this removed any hope of escape for the English, relying on human strength rather than any divine aid, in their pride of heart they arrogantly boasted that they were the victors and that they were going to kill the English down to the last man with cast of lance or blow of sword. Thus they sang their victory-hymn before the battle had been fought, and this scurvy race cherished its vain hopes. The hope of the besieged folk also rose when in the distance they saw their forces come to the flat land, and each man recognized his national arms and the linen flags of its Lairds.
In the vanguard marched the brothers Frasier, Walter Stuart, Cardoil, Graham, Parkeys and Godron, Byrd, Gramat, fierce Gilbert Douglas, and Earl Morris Abbhyn, easily distinguished in their purple vestments. The common soldiery was in armored jacks, bearing lances, and the sun glanced off their helmets. With their grim countenances they seemed to be breathing threats. Their comrades led the second rank and the third (although their equals in the honor of battle): Moses, Orris, Valam, Lord Gordon, Alan Stuart (who possessed the honor of Sutherland), Ruffy in his shining armor, Lennox and Campbell, Earl of Athol, comely Alexander Bruce, Seton, Groos, Lindsey, and others born of great forefathers, whose glory was famed throughout Europe. Meanwhile over sixteen thousand common country soldiers stood drawn up in order. On their side, the English were not behindhand in drawing their swords and taking up their sharp-pointed lances, their bowstrings and double-curved bows, their arrows with their iron tips. As their bands stood in the bright sunlight, the plumes on their helmets were conspicuous. And when they had been drawn up in their ranks, their ardent King began to speak.
“You British of ancient stock, I am refreshed by the sight of you. Your eager expression shows that you are bold and gripped by no fear of death. This befits upright men, men worthy of me, their sovereign. Be there a pious cause for the fight, a King who undertakes the noble work of Mars surrounded by such stout soldiers will go against his enemy with greater confidence. Concerning my comrades, I can promise myself that which Alexander did when, relying on the courage of his Macedonians, he was about to wage war against the Persians and Darius, the ruler of Asia. As long as the honorable is being sought, what could be more worthy of a great sovereign? And what could be more honorable than to restore a King, lacking his nation, to his homeland and ancestral home? I shall prudently and willingly hold my silence about the insult done us by this people, and that not just once. If I live, I shall bring it about that they learn not to scorn God, not to violate holy justice, not to drive a lawful King from his right. How long, almighty Father God, will You look on those crimes with calm eyes? Oh God in heaven, be the most vigorous avenger of those crimes, from on high fill our hearts with courage and our enemies with dread. Trust me, God will propitiously take our side, as long as each man boldly assaults our foe. Why am I delaying? I see the omens of a happy outcome. So come, with a confident heart raise your standards aloft and attack their fearful bands.”
Having said such things, King Edward made an ending and suddenly the Englishmen’s great clamor assaulted the air as they all kept repeating “the victory is ours, God inspires our hearts.” Meanwhile their army was defended on both its flanks by bows and arrows made of the customary wood, such as could penetrate jacks of triple thickness. And behold, when they were commanded by their trumpets, the English began the battle with a great effort, and the flight of their arrows blotted out the sunlight, just as a dark and sleet-bearing cloud blackens keeps sunlight from the earth. A sudden panic was thrown into the Scotsmen and they abandoned the field to seek their homes. Thus the light was taken away by the shot of the swift arrow, as the brave Englishman plied his bow (a sweaty task), as the missile flew through the air.
The two battle-lines collided and man engaged with man. Mt. Etna never shook so much thanks to the blows of the Cyclopes, nor in his cave did Vulcan, that lord of fire, ever issue such frightening sounds from the anvil in his blazing-hot cavern, while his helpers took turns in turning a lump of iron with their tongs, as did the ground at Berwick and the entire hill of Halidon, thanks to the din of clashing swords. Some received a whistling arrow in their unprotected front, and fell to the blood-soaked earth as they died. This one, fighting afar off, was shot through his broad shoulders. That one died when his leg was stabbed by sharp steel. But the greater part fell from wounds in the torso, there where the hot liver adjoins the lungs, as their armor was shattered. In the first encounter, the battle surged back and forth, but after a more energetic assault was launched against the center of his enemies, the mighty Plantagenet forced them to give way. As flesh was deprived of its protection of steel, blood began to flow like the water of a rapid stream, or as when the south wind waters the rich soil, sending its winter rains.
Who can describe that day’s slaughter, or equal its sorrows with his tears? Or who can give an account of the number of the slain, as many as the sword sent to the gloomy Underworld, the moans that were heard and the heartfelt groans as men gave up the ghost? Oh the dire aspect of things! The ground was covered with unburied corpses. As is wont to occur when a hunger-driven wolf has invaded the sheepfolds, drinking rivers of blood with its greedy maw, never swerving from its purpose and bypassing half-eaten corpses in its pursuit of living sheep with its sharp fangs, so the furiously raging English gave pursuit to their unwounded foemen, trampling on the bodies of the slain. They drove off the resisting Scotsmen with pikes, swords, and arrows, until the spirits of the Scottish ranks began to flag and they gradually yielded the field. Once more the British raised a great cry to heaven, and vigorously pressed the retreating Scotsmen. As often as the enemy army rallied and in its folly sought to rejoin the battle, in its exhaustion it would yield to the intransigent victor. At length dark night put an end to this bloody fight.
Then by royal decree the trumpet summoned the weary Englishmen to camp, sounding the recall from all parts of the blood field. Then, the enemy routed, it was permitted the soldiers to rejoice and catch their breaths, and they took pleasure in recalling the peril now passed. Bacchus, the gift of Ceres, and foodstuffs refreshed their limbs after the lengthy affray. In the darkness no man could sleep for great happiness, and each of them recounted his earlier fortunes: it is pleasant to recall exertion when it is newly finished. Meanwhile (for nothing passes more swiftly than our short hours) bright Apollo, sending rosy Aurora ahead of himself, illuminated the entire world with his light. Then Edward, mindful of the divine help against his enemies which he had perceived to be sent him amidst the battle, himself kneeled and ordered all the men in his camp humbly to pray to God and sing His praises with a happy hymn. “Let the Lord God alone, our champion Who rules in high heaven, He who is thrice-holy in every age of the world, the Lord God Saboath, be celebrated, for He alone is worthy of honor. Let all nations in all the ages of the world fear Him. Who can withstand the power or might of our heavenly Lord, Who by His will shakes the roaring sea, the winding earth, the moving heaven? Throughout the world His glory will be hymned by the English. This was a heaven-sent victory.”
These rites performed, the King left his pavilion and betook himself to the battlefield. There he learned from captives the names of the fallen, those whose previous vitality had deserted them but who retained their appearance, pale as they were, so that with difficulty you could identify them. And he learned that the army of the mighty English nation was undamaged, and that out of its numbers only thirteen had been lost. Those who were wounded were tended to and regained their health within a few days. And so, raising both hands to heaven, he exclaimed, “How much I am indebted to You, oh thrice-great God, how much! How great is Your favor towards our nation!” Meanwhile one of his captains had surveyed the entire field and its bloody bodies, their faces sad and tearstained. He reported his discovery that twenty-five thousand Scotsmen had fled home safe and sound, that out of the entire opposing Scots army thirty-five thousand had died by the sharp steel. More than five hundred were of noble blood.
Learning these things, the Plantagenet King returned to his friends in the camp, and a messenger came to him announcing that the citizens of Berwick would surrender themselves and their fair town, surrounded by its high walls, if only the King in his mercy would grant them their lives, and allow them to carry off their goods. Wearied with the bloodshed of battle, the pious King said he would spare their lives. But he steadfastly refused to let them carry their goods way, goods destined to fall to the English as the prize for their fine efforts and as an incitement to doing great things in the future. What does dire famine not compel mortals to do? What does not adverse fortune? Necessity is a powerful weapon. And so they compacted for their assured safety, and left the city, clad in a single garment apiece. Now noble Edward possessed the stronghold, the English owned the town, its tower, and all therein. What man did not enrich himself by breaking into vacant houses?
Though the prince’s heart was careworn and stung by a fever of concerns, yet his first consideration was for Baliol. As a victor, he used his helping hand to establish him on his throne, enriched with money and surrounded by stout soldiery. Afterwards, when Baliol had been supplied with a bodyguard, the time warned him that he must leave and return to the southern parts of his realm. When he entered London the sovereign was nobly received in its broad avenues and treated with the greatest honor. The citizenry congratulated him on his return. as did his consort, the famed Queen Philippa, with their infant prince. Edward’s excellent praises were celebrated through the streets. His glory speedily penetrated to the naked Africans and news of the new battle, the wonder of our world, to the banks of the Ganges. The King tirelessly made a progress through his realm, inspecting its cities, its lands, and its human works.
Forfar, not far from the border of Scotland, pleased him above all other places. While he was there, handing down the law and correcting miscreants with fair ordinances, Baliol arrived in the company of the Scots Lairds, to pay his honest respects to his old friend, displaying his traditional dutifulness. This King, given admission before the prudent Privy Council, knelt in homage. Edward was holding the royal scepter in his hand, dressed in a robe and seated on an ivory throne, and with his rosy lips bid the prostrate man arise. He praised the virtue of his neighbor King and promised further support of the kind he had provided, should Baliol’s peoples ever attack him. They had no little conversation about affairs of state, and about the fair art of warfare, and Edward bade him forget his erstwhile misfortune: at present he should be of good cheer and show reverence to kindly God. He for his part expressed his humble thanks, and two days were drawn out in various discussions, until the Plantagenet bid Baliol adieu and he made his way to Edinburgh.
The moon had grown full quite a few times when the Count of Flanders summoned Edward overseas to consult about a matter of mutual advantage. Edward was connected to the Count by close kinship, as was his dear consort. So, having previously discussed the essence of the matter, they formed a league of friendship, calling on God on heaven to witness their treaty, never to be broken by any day in their lives. The lords of Flanders likewise gave their assent on their oaths. This being done, the very happy English sovereign sailed homeward in his curved ships.
When anonymous rumors of this began to spread in proud Paris, this displeased the French and their hearts were struck with icy fear. Valois grew hot and bilious. So he consulted his lords and prepared to make war against the English, inventing some pretexts, unreasonable though they were. But the English King forestalled his fraud by an exercise of virtue. For he declared savage war on the French, as the legitimate heir to their throne. He boldly added the insignia of that nation to his coat of arms, because his uncle Charles had departed this world without issue. This man’s sister had been the fair-faced Isabella, Edward’s mother. born of ancient royal stock. Moved by these considerations, with prodigious skill the Plantagenet now amassed sacks of gold and ingots of pure silver, and anything else of service for the war that was now at hand.
But first he hastened across the sea to his ally the Count of Flanders for consultation, and he was accompanied by a great armed company transported in curved ships. Now the ships were cleaving the vast ocean as a northerly blew. Their admiral ordered crewmen to climb the pine masts. A sailor standing in the crow’s nest reported that countless ships were being driven by the tossing waves. Asked their number, he replied, as many as the smooth ash-trees growing on wooded hills. Again asked whose they were, he sang out that they were French. Then the King commanded all preparations to be made for a battle at sea and that they don their forged armor: they should not shrink to hold a steady course or expose their bodies and dear lives to danger. The sun had divided the sky into two halves with its brilliant light and stood high in the sky, the winds calmed. And behold, noble Valois ordered his men to join battle, the grappling-iron held ships together, and a sharp fight ensued on both sides. This man was thrown overboard to drown and became sweet food for the fish. He had first been killed by a sword, and his shipmates cast him in the sea, so that one man paid a forfeit of two deaths. Stones of great weight were hurled down on the French from the topmasts, crushing their heads and bodies and giving them over to dire death, and the ship-beams were spattered with brains.
The attack on the French was made more energetic by the clashing sword, and they fended off the blows with long poles. Both sides flowed with red blood, and the English pressed their enemies with greater violence. Alas, what stony Alpine stream, swollen by winter rains, is borne towards the ocean with a swifter current? Now the sea was not its usual blue-green color, but ran entirely blood-red. Blood sprayed up from wounds, as when a lead pipe develops a leak and the grassy ground is soaked. No man sought sure safety by flight, nor did the specter of impending death frighten anyone. Phoebus was sinking towards his setting, after eight full hours, for it was mid-summer and Cancer’s hot house held the sun. The fight still raged afresh, their rage kept swelling and they gathered courage: the dark of night did not abate this, nor put an end to their joined battle. This and that shattered ship drank in the water as its planking was wrenched way. You could have seen them slowly sinking as their crews cried out we are ruined. You could have seen ships afire, yet still their anger did not subside. Their spirits raging, the English attacked more fiercely, as if they were engaging in battle for the first time. They were gripped by love of the fight, as if some baleful star were threatening the destruction of one side or the other, but the aspect of Mars was harder on the French. Their wooden structures did not keep them unharmed as they sought to hide there in the dark of night, and cruel death destroyed nearly all of them: thirty thousand died in this savage fight. The end of the night and the uncertain glimmer of dawn put an end the battle. The victory fell to noble Edward, as almost the entire French fleet was either sunken or captured, and only a few fugitives escaped. The Plantagenet King ascribed the credit to the Thunderer, and when the day came he commanded that prayers should be offered up on bended knee, and that God be worshiped with His due honor.
These things thus accomplished, the Plantagenet returned across the waters and came to the Tower of London, past which flows the fishy Thames, the most famous of Albion’s rivers. Then he went to the noble castle of Windsor. Here he appointed a four days’ celebration, inviting all the leading men of the realm and their wives. Each of these noble men proceeded to the chapel, marching in due order, and their senior member presided over the rites as they honored God in the church. When this had been done, they sat down at purple-covered tables an a room richly hung with tapestries, and in the customary way water was passed so they might wash their hands. Ceres’ gift was served, and soon full bumpers of wine were passed, bearing images of Edward’s ancestors. The King and Queen sat aloft on their thrones, and the noble throng of noblemen lower down, each with a cloak on his shoulder. Three hundred servants trooped in in a row, their duty was to serve at the elegant banquet.
When the Peers had made an end of eating and fallen silent, the tables were cleared and once again they washed. Then the King took a full goblet and toasted all his guest, and each man drained his cup. And while they whiled away the swift hours in conversation, pious Edward spoke thus: “Let us put on a pleasant tournament as a spectacle for my people. What say you, my lords?” They all gave their assent. Bits, studded bridles and gilded saddles were readied for the horses and they mounted their steeds. The King, shining gold in his engraved armor, rode a spirited mount, and with a great crash men tilted with their ashen lances, so that splinters went flying high in the air. Each man that could plant the tip of his lance in his opponent’s breast and shatter his lance more often bore off the prize. Nightfall put an end to the jousting, and the King and his lords happily returned to their feasting, so you could say that these nights and their banquets were fit for the gods. When the four days were completed the King gave lavish prizes to the contestants, and dressed their legs in bejeweled garters with a pearl of the orient mixed in, and with the glitter of carbuncle. He furthermore bestowed on them neck-chains made of the pure gold furnished by fragrant India with inset jasper, made of S-shaped links. And he ordained that four and twenty nobles of honorable birth were to be included in the number of this order, those whose martial praise surpassed all others. And he bade his successors to respect this excellent creation, which no amount of time or passage of years will have the power to put in disuse. For glory and proffered honor are great incitements to true virtue. Then the Peers were dismissed to their homes, enriched by royal gifts.
Meanwhile the French King, harmful to the English, made many preparations and impudently challenged the British nation. The noble English sovereign did not take this calmly, but boldly selected four earls as his comrades-in-arms, and laid waste to the western coast of France, and gave the towns located there over to the crackling fires. This he did supported by more than two hundred and forty ships. Then, rejoicing, he returned to his kingdom, not having lost even the least of his camp-followers. Soon thereafter he opened his mind to his Peers, described the great insults he had received from the wily French, how Charles, his mother’s brother, had departed this life childless, and how he was the sole and only heir to his throne. He called a great council from all parts of his realm, so that by decree of Parliament at the very outset of the war the royal fisc might be fattened, as every subject paid his substantial contribution and many men melted down their plate so that there would be adequate coinage for use in the present war. Although this was a rather harsh imposition for many, no man complained about giving to the King. The Members of Parliament who had previously assembled adopted other measures for the common weal and adjourned.
By royal decree weapons were immediately produced and young noblemen donned their engraved armor. Squadrons of horse and companies of foot assembled, and with happy auspices the English set sail from their native port, with a favoring northerly driving them to sea. Normandy, fertile with its crops, received the English ships in its bosom and its harbor.
Here they refreshed themselves a little while, then moved their camp onward and pulled down many a manor, their guards put to rout. They fed their horses with oats and with crops farmers had laid up in barns for their future support, and reserved the straw for its customary purposes, then fired the barns. Little boys with their mothers roved about, orphans of their freshly-killed fathers. These things served the English as a prelude to their savage battles, and as they passed through the open fields they pitched camp at the end of each day’s march.
At length they arrived at Caen. A high bridge over its great river placed the castle and its manor beyond reach. Then a sharp fight arose between the two sides. The captain of Caen stationed some armed men on the bridge to deprive the English of an easy crossing. The British attacked the French with their swift arrows, and then it came to hand-to-hand combat. Cut down, the Frenchmen were laid low in the dark dust. One Count was taken prisoner, and another born of noble blood, to whom Tancarville gave his honorable title, and the greater part of the band acknowledged they were bested and threw away their weapons. The King destroyed the walls and cast them down.
When this manor had been overthrown, the army marched with archers on both flanks to rain arrows on the French, wrecking everything with death and steel, as when a deadly plague steals into mortal bodies and fills them with its harmful poison, or as when the baneful east wind rushes out of its open caves and lays low trees and forests, uprooting lofty mountain-ashes with its blast. Faint of heart, Valois drew up his great army in a field near to the English camp. And yet he did not dare engage the English in a fixed battle and bravely come to blows. Rather, he fearfully kept a distant watch on wooded hills, observing what the English King was doing and where he was preparing to march. Cautious (at least in this thing) and having regard for his nation, his people, and himself, he commanded the French to break town the arching stone bridges, so that by this means he might fend off the English and impede their progress. But when he observed that nothing could deter the mighty British from their advance, he betook himself and his army to Paris and began immediate preparations to defend it. Having destroyed the bridges over the Seine, the French King fancied himself save behind the protecting river. Nonetheless his soldiers kept watch at all times, fearing both an attack by the dreadful English and the mad burning of their fair city.
But the keen English army picked up its pace and came up more quickly than anticipated. After a messenger had reported all the bridges to be broken and the avenues of approach energetically defended, our implacable King grew hot, turning over many things in his angry mind. At length it seemed best to rebuild a bridge over the river that flowed by Paris, and with an display of industry he completed the task within forty-eight hours, providing his men with an easy crossing. Drawn up on the other bank, they challenged the French enemy to battle. But since he was granted no opportunity for a fight on even terms, the King shifted camp, and as he passed from the territories of one burned village to the next, a close observer would have imagined that Phaethon’s rushing fires existed everywhere, until he came to the field adjoining the groves of Crécy. Here he pitched his pavilion.
This was a pleasant valley with grassy meadows and a small clear stream flowing through its middle. On one side, towards Paris, lay a broad field plowed by the unlettered peasant during the happy time of peace. On the other side was a sunny hill and steep ridge, rendered impassible by the oaks and intermixed thickets of Crécy forest, the woodland home of shaggy beasts. In this valley the English slept, relaxing after their heavy exertions, and afterwards they took their supper. Suddenly a scout who had been stationed on the hill came running down crying that royal Valois had come, in the company of countless thousands. Thrice a bugle blared throughout the camp, and with a single voice the English shouted to arms, to arms.
Straightway Edward said, “take up your keen-edged weapons, you brave-hearted sons of Brutus, God on high has heard my prayers. Today our sought-for prey is within our grasp. I hear that not only the King, but all the nobles of ancient French stock are at hand. Why do we, victorious so many times, need to fear this conquered nation? Why should lions begin to fear does? Merciful God forfend! If the leader of the herd is a coward, the cattle will never enter the fray. And today, I tell you, our battle will be against cowards. They have come so that the Englishman may leave the field a wealthier man, laden down with spoils. You will be dressed in silk, you will bear off shining gold and adorn your fingers with jewelry, and gain purses of gold, if you stand your ground, if you dare attack the enemy and work harm on the timid French.”
Edward spoke, and the army drew up in its usual way with archers protecting its flanks with their light armor and winged arrows. The King set his heir the Prince of Wales, over the vanguard, a boy not eighteen years of age and still beardless, so he might learn the art of war. In his ornamented armor he himself occupied the center, and moves the army closer to the forested ridge of Crécy to protect his rear. Thus the French would have to attack uphill, an unfavorable position for his enemy when they joined battle. When the French saw his army moving backwards they confidently set spur to their horses, imagining that the English were retreating. The signals were sounded, and both sides filled the air with their hoarse shouting. The English received the galloping squadrons of French horse with their curved bows, shooting their deadly arrows. Shot, a wound horse would toss his rider out of the saddle, then trample him under his hooves. Another horse, stricken by a long arrow, would go mad and run into his companions, throwing their order into confusion as he sought his customary stable. After that, horses chased each other back and forth, their riders unseated, and neither hedges nor deep ditches checked their course as they ran scattered about the pathless places, bloodying the ground in their onrush.
The French foot ran forward, joining cruel battle with their weaponry, and the English returned their blows. Wounded by sword-blows, the foremost French captains fell on every hand: the prince whom the cruel neighbor to the river Elbe acknowledged as his sovereign, keen Lorraine and the Count d’ Alançon, the Counts of Harcourt, Blois and Aumarles, and others made glorious by the name of their ancestral stock, or from their lofty castles, and a no small part of the common soldiery, as if thunderstruck. For King Edward the father hurled his lightning-bolts, as did his young son, and English virtue displayed its greatness in that battle, in which more than thirty thousand were slain and the ground was soaked with blood. When from his hill Valois saw this to be transpiring, he immediately slipped away and galloped homewards, a great disgrace to the French and to himself. For in his flight he took away with himself more companies of men than were possessed by the warlike King of England.
Such is the value of being aggressive at the first beginning of a bloody battle. Afterwards, with its joy music filled the ears of the Englishmen throughout the field, and or men, having gained the sweet spoils of the French and their gold, sought their camp at nightfall. In the morning, with the sun had risen with its shining light, the French regrouped and came together, bent on using their arms to discover whether the cast of Mars’ dice might be different. By their frequent entreaties, these three Earls, pugnacious Warwick, the Lord Huntington, and he who was the chief glory of Northampton, gained permission of the King to join an unexpected battle. After that, Edward and his companions were free to range the entire field in safety, for no resistance was offered: no longer did the Frenchmen dare oppose the British or meet them in set battles.
Three days later the King moved his camp to the shore of Calais and began to surround the town with a ditch and rampart, when the King of Scots, seduced by Valois’ fraud and entreaties, invaded English territory, putting everything to the torch. In the absence of her husband, the prudent Queen, bent on warding off the incursions of this oath-breaker, mustered bands of soldiers, nor did she have any need to warn the countrymen to come to her aid: of their own free will they flocked, complaining that revenging this crime was overdue. Now, with an unlucky omen, the Scottish King was entering into Country Durham when the savage English joined a fearful battle and attacked this enemy who had broken his sacred pledge. The common Scots soldiery of no breeding were laid low, their unholy throng was cut down by the dire sword. The Earls and captains of Scotland resisted in vain: part were slaughtered, part taken prisoner, their persons surrendered to their conquerors for ransom, as the law of war required. And David King of Scots was taken and brought to London Town to pay the price for his faithlessness, and locked up in its famous Tower. A small number trusted to the swift hooves of their horses and escaped home, bearing the surest testimony that the English had conquered their fellow countryman, and recounted their sad deaths.
Report of this accomplishment flew across the Channel on light wings, telling all to Edward in due order. Then all the shore of Calais resounded as the British filled its broad fields with their shouting. Hearing rumor of it, Valois was aggrieved, and sore-heartedly he envied the English their happy success, their long history of successful battles, all the trophies they had gained from their enemy. Nor did the siege of Calais relax. Its inhabitants had no rest: they were oppressed on two sides, on the one by raging famine (a more violent foe), and on the other by the English missiles shot over their high walls. Dire death confronted them from all sides, as neither winter cold nor fiery summer heat could drive King Edward away from their walls.
The siege was now in its eleventh month, and seemed long enough. Begging for peace and pardon, the French freely surrendered themselves: if they could save their lives by paying a ransom, they asked this in exchange for a great sum. The French soldiery departed out the brazen gates and, without delay, the King installed a garrison and crossed the narrow sea, returning to his native land. Safe and sound, he arrived at the Tower of London in the dead of night, and the citizenry adored him with high honor as he disembarked, attesting their joy with bonfires and banquets in the streets. The same happiness was displayed throughout the numerous towns of the realm. The many-holed boxwood resounded as the common people sang merry tunes about the accomplishments of their King.
But behold, a noxious plague beset the carefree English as a vengeance for their heedlessness of God, a grave requital although far gentler than the cruel sword. Charming babes, who had just now been in the pink of good health, were taken by the disease and died in their mothers’ arms, breathing forth their souls in agony. After the bitter venom had crept into their veins and attacked their heart with poisoned blood, the seat of life, some closed their weary eyes and expired, though the physicians applied their nostrums in vain. Others, impatient of the dire disease, went mad and leapt up from their beds, naked, and while they wished to evade the peril of dire death, alas, they fell as they ran about, and unwillingly left these upper airs. This evil plague raged for a twelvemonth, and no hamlet or village was immune to it. A hundred thousand adults and children fell victim, not taken off by savage violence or hostile sword, but consumed at home by the pestilence.
Meanwhile Valois happened to depart this life, and his son and heir named John succeeded to his throne, a bold-hearted sovereign who surpassed all others in the strength of his youthful frame. Inspired by the hope of expelling the English from his lands, he assembled a great force of men and (being inexperienced in warfare) he started a great war. Edward’s son, who governed all of Gascony and controlled the nearby cities to the west, where the sun faces Spain, was his father’s viceroy at the time. Advised that John was approaching in the company of companies of foot, he quickly drew up his army in the field, a captain in shining armor.
Behold, there is a place surrounded by three walls, and the inhabitants call it Poitiers. Not far away is an ample plain on which no leafy tree thrives, nor are there hedges, and it serves as a fine field for sharp battles. Here the armies collided and soaked all the ground with blood. The enemy joined battle, their riders were unhorsed by lances, they died when overwhelmed, and their army was thrown into confusion. The surviving French fled, and, gasping for breath, their conquerors hot-footed it in pursuit, taking great strides. As when a hunting-hound catches sight of a hare in the broad fields and chases his quarry at a run, while the rabbit runs for its safety, with the one threatening with his open maw and the other dreading being seized by its savage bites, thus the swift English were gripped by hope, the French by fear, and the greater part of their throng was overtaken in this footrace.
The captive King was also brought to the camp, for he preferred to surrender himself to his enemy rather than die by the sword. From there he was dispatched to England on a swift ship, subjected to the servile yoke so he might learn to obey his master, the King of England. Now the noble Plantagenet held prisoner in gentle confinement two kings as well as many of noble blood from both nations, men whom the English had taken in savage battle. Yet such was the mercy of King Edward, and such was the innate virtue of his spirit, that when they were ransomed he dismissed them to their native lands so they might rejoin their kinsmen and friends, for glory attends on kings who wage war thus, fighting in this way begets undying fame: “shepherds are accustomed to shear their wooly sheep with their knives, but not to skin them.” That noble monarch spared the humble, but smote the haughty with his sword.
He was thrice-blessed in all respects, except that harsh Atropos cut the thread of his son’s life before his day. But first he had born a son named Richard in holy wedlock, whom on his deathbed he named as his sole heir, bequeathing him the scepter to wield in accordance with the laws and customs of the realm.
This boy had not yet completed his eleventh year when the crown was set on his young head. But after the sovereign had grown to maturity, it is not easy to describe how greatly he differed from his ancestors in manners and mind. For he was of a very different disposition and nature from his noble mother and his father. And yet the Peers retained their ancient virtue. That strength once thrived innately in the ancient lords of the realm, so that sons matched their fathers in stoutness of heart and martial praise, and freely dared undergo any ardors. Therefore, since the King calmly indulged in peace, and savage arms lay idle at home and abroad, they were afraid lest this idleness would corrupt them, and lest the people grow unaccustomed to war and begin to degenerate, give itself over to base wantonness, pastimes, and idle hours. Having first consulted the King, they undertook a mock-war and appointed twenty-four days for jousting. Then the same number of lords issued a challenge to foreign lands, that the English would hold a month-long tournament. There is a capacious field called Smithfield, hard outside the walls of London, and here a tilting-yard was built, to which might come noblemen of all nations. He who victoriously unhorsed the greatest number of opponents would be given a great sum of gold, with Richard awarding this prize for virtue.
Hearing of this, many foreign men of noble stock from both sides of the cloud-bearing Alps readied their arms and their horses, and crossed the see. From France came the Count de St. Paul and his heir, to whom the fishy land of the Dutch had given his dukedom, and a number of Italians, and many men of good blood arrived at London at the appointed time and day, coming from all quarters of the world. The King of England came forth from the Tower built by Caesar, and a procession of four and twenty knighted lords in their armor followed him through the broad streets of noble London together with an equal number of ladies mounted on white horses with necklaces at their throats and dressed in white embroidered gowns: golden images of harts gleamed on the white linen, and chains of the same metal hung from their necks, for the King had chosen the hart as his familial badge. Nor were their opponents clad in less finery, dressed in bejeweled white garb. Each man rode on a horse mailed with steel and gold, a welcome spectacle for the amazed populace.
Riding through the streets, they came to Smithfield. Then in a lengthy procession both the champions and their opponents circled the fair tiltyard. The spirited steeds pawed the air, flashing their hooves, fair in their studded gear. The trumpeter puffed out his cheeks and blew, and chosen competitors ran at each other, tiring themselves with their great exertions. Now salt sweat flowed down to their ankles and they gasped for breath. The point of a shattered spear goes a-flying into the air as it strikes an opponent’s breast and throws him from his horse, and the excited crowd gives a cheer. Nightfall puts an end to the combats of that one day, but at daybreak they resume their sport for a second day, showing they are as good as their ancestors, for glory is gained by great achievements. The third day dawns, and the audience (assembled from many peoples) wonders at the lords’ strenuous feats, the whir of their lances, the strength of their arms, and the noble spirit of their steeds. From their blows, the clash of arms rises to heaven, and every day brings its delights to the competitors.
And now the four and twenty days had passed, and the time warned the King of the British to turn to new business. The King praised the foreigners for their bravery and, having done so, he bestowed great collars of tawny gold and dismissed them to their homelands, laden down with other gifts, so much so that swollen wallets weighed down their owners. But the British champions only required fame as their reward, being captivated only by the love of praise, and, the contest finished, they sought out their homes.
Then the Duke of Lancaster, born in Gaunt, addressed his nephew. “Nephew dear to his uncle, noble flower of our ancestral stock, I believe you know how hot-blooded we Plantagenets are, whenever we receive an insult, and that we seek to assert our right with battle. This spirit has always lived in our forebear’s hearts. Why should I be ashamed to resemble my kinsmen? Venerable King, fostering peace has prevailed in your realm for many years, for no enemy would dare conspire or wage harsh war against you. Meanwhile I, who share your royal blood, perceive that my Spanish consort, the heir of her father, is being forcibly deprived of her wealthy realm, bestowed on her by public right. Therefore, by your leave, let me be permitted to assemble a few men for a faraway campaign, to seek by arms that which belongs to my wife , and to uphold justice by fearful warfare.” King Richard received his uncle making this friendly speech, and then said in the presence of his noble bystanders, “I praise your noble character, no whit inferior to that of our ancestors. Go with my blessing to the lands watered by the Iber, and if the Spaniards fail to restore your wife her dowry, which all nations join in acknowledging as lawful, swiftly seize it in battle. Law both divine and human forbids an heir to be cheated, and God gives help to those in the right.”
With these words he dismissed Lancaster, and he quickly crossed the water to the intended fight with a fleet and noble soldiery, and with his pious wife and two daughters. Mistrusting his cause, the King of Spain immediately treated for peace compacted to pay an annual price of eight wagons of silver and gold and ten thousand pieces of silver, to be delivered to the fair castle of Bayonne, then in the possession of the King of England. The Englishman for his part gave his elder daughter to him in marriage, so that a happy bond of peace would grow from this union. In accordance with their terms, the King of Portugal received his younger daughter in high estate. And soon, with these things done according to the will of our heavenly God, they returned to their ancestral homeland, having crossed the sea under a lucky star, and the Duke and his companions regained English soil.
A little later, by royal permission Marley made his entry, a bragging Scottish Earl who came a-riding into England, challenging all at London to joust with him. The lords assembled, and Richard desired to be present as a spectator, as did the base-born commoners. The Lord Mowbray could not suffer his empty boasts, and mounting his horse, fair in his chased armor, he mightily unhorsed the Scotsman and knocked his horse into the dust with his iron-tipped lance. At the sight the spectators burst into great applause, and the man lay there senseless with two of his ribs broken, lacking the strength to get to his timid feet. Rather, he was carried to a nearby house where, having suffered increasing pain, he died a few days later. Thus the man who sought honor by a feat of arms lost it that way, and was bested in the fight. In the same way the Scotsman Darell challenged the Englishman Courtney in his eagerness to gain a reputation by winning the struggle, but, being his unequal in might, met the same fate. Their third companion in this match, not their equal in strength, was laid low by five ringing blows, so Cockburn was embarrassed to have entered the lists, and so he went home covered in shame. With their strong right hands mighty Lord Hauberk and brave Courtney defeated these arrogant foreigners who had insolently challenged the English, and were accorded great honor.
After this tournament matters were put in order at home, and King Richard hastened against the unruly Irish rebels, and without any great loss of blood in savage battle, he reduced them to order. A little later he abdicated the crown, leaving the royal scepter to Henry Duke of Lancaster.
Henry IV, whose nobility was sufficiently displayed when his father pressed the King of Spain for his wife’s dowry, received the government of the English people, and in the company of his father and son, and with a small escort, he marched out of Calais and came to Gascony, where he harried his enemy with fire and sword. So the man’s virtue was greatly famed throughout the world and threw fear into England’s enemies, so that no foreigner dared wage savage war. His young son participated in all these events, and to him fell part of the glory for accomplishments at home and abroad. In addition to being wealthy, this King was very blessed in his children. For his wife had presented him with four sons of fine character, of whom the tallest, the oldest and his heir, had in his youth committed many pert feats as he grew towards manhood, acquiring some companions of his own age. Yet he did nothing criminal or disgraceful. Rather, he was beloved both to the wise and to all other men, and in this boy shown for the the image of what he would accomplish as a grown man.
For fourteen years now his father Henry had ruled the English nation with great praise and affection. Now old age was drawing nigh and the end of his life impended, when disease hastened his fatal hour. His son suddenly inherited his father’s crown, and the cheering Peerage acknowledged him as King on bended knee, showing their joy with their happy expressions. After the death of his father he, who had previously played the wanton with his young friends, immediately banished his boon companions of corrupt morals from court, pronouncing a heavy penalty to these layabouts should they return. Thus transformed, everything he did was kingly, and henceforth he relied on counselors of great wisdom. Seldom did he relax his vigilance for the public weal, just as a shepherd staying awake at nights looks out for his sheep in the winter nights. And while he was carefully scrutinizing what was his by right, and what belonged to his forefathers, he discerned that the ill-disposed King of France had committed many offences against the British throne. Without delay he summoned his council, and set forth the pious causes the English had for going to war. All the Peers and lords of the realm gave their assent that the King’s right must be asserted by the sword.
Straightway ambassadors were sent over the sea, men of learning and sage old age, who were make demands, and they said as follows to the King of France: “The King of the British takes it hard that you have broken your word. Why steal other men’s goods with your greedy hand? Why savage the absent English with insults? Truth to tell, whenever they have been present waging war, you always fail in your cause and against your will you make just concessions. Either give back to us English what you have stolen or you may expect our steel and avenging fires. What we cannot obtain from you by friendly speech, unconquerable Mars will give us. This is Henry’s confident hope, that God will be the avenger of injustice. Our King commands us say these things, and adds his royal threat that, if you are unwilling to display wisdom and change your mind for the better, war’s throw of the dice can be deceiving.”
Having received these words of the English King, the King of France waxed bilious, and the lofty royal palace rang with the shouts of the French lords as their minds grew angry. In the presence of them all the King opened his indignant mouth. “It is a great effort to acquire a kingdom, but a great virtue to retain it once acquired. If a victor deserves fame and praise for martial success, unfair though it may be, and for imposing the yoke of servitude on a people, is not the glory greater for the conquered (once they have regained their courage) to have cast the chains from their feet and the yoke from their neck, and to have repelled force by force? One hour is luckier than another, and Fortune does not always remain loyal to a single man. Now the brave Frenchman bears sway, as previously did the Englishman. You were once Trojans, as you say, and after ten years the Trojans experienced defeat at the hands of the Greeks. For the first time in many years, France is beginning to flourish, to regain her pride under my guidance, and to confront her enemies with greater boldness. Go frighten little boys with your threats and little girls with your hobgoblins, such bugbears will not move adults, nor will your frothing and your menacing words as you rattle your sabers. What does your King have to do with war, to which he is a stranger, still being a little boy? Let him rest content playing with balls at home, let him avoid cannon-balls on the battlefield, he should manage such things when he is older. Let this be my reply, you report my words: we will defend our national borders and use our arms to preserve our towns, these things the King of France will protect, though his enemy does not like it.”
When the French King had given this response to the ambassador, straightway they returned home and reported his reply. The King took his insult in bad part, but laughed at the rest. Meanwhile at Southampton he readied a fleet, with which the King, his captains, and a great company of men happily crossed the sea (for in accordance with the will of God the contrary south wind fell still), and gained the enemy shore before they could be anticipated. Disembarking, they laid waste to everything far and wide, wrecking barns, buildings, and homes with fire and devastation. All else fell to the savage English as their booty. Henry had spent one night in camp, when the following day’s sunrise removed the shadows from the land, disclosing all places to human sight. In the direction in which Rouen’s swift-flowing river discharges itself into the sea, striking the shore with its onrush and watering the nearby fields with its floods and with its wide maw receiving the salt seawater for six hours day and night, then spewing them forth again, they had a view of two walled towns, one on the nearer bank and the other on the far side of the river.
Instantly the King commanded bands of his men to surround them both, bombard them, and break down their walls with iron rams. This strange new artillery terrified the besieged French. Children, mothers and old men were faint with fear, nor in any way were they willing to see how they might avoid the danger. The air was filled with a hail of English arrows, so that the business was transacted even from afar. Meanwhile, lest anything obstruct the royal endeavors or could trouble English shipping, the King dispatched some armed ships onto Neptune’s realm, which might patrol back and forth between the two shores. Then he bade his comrades set to the walls the ladders he had readied, and ordered the guns brought up at daybreak. When this was published in the camp and every band had come forth at a run, the rumor of this thing came to the town, called Harfleur, that on the morrow at sunrise the walls were to be leveled together with its houses, and the inhabitants put to the sword because it was too late for mercy. Suddenly the townsmen shivered down to their bones, and began to despair for their fortunes: what to so in such an extremity, when certain death hovered before their eyes and there was no help from their King or hope of safety? At length they should test the mercy of the English King and see if his mind could be swayed by entreaties, so that he would at least grant them their lives. Therefore twelve of the better sort were chosen out of the population, who came out with uncertain steps, bareheaded and wearing hangdog expressions. Their faces were ashen and each one was dressed in mourning.
Escorted to the King’s pavilion each one of them begged Henry for his life. They groveled on the ground, and the eldest began to speak in humble tones. “If we have offended against you, Your Majesty, the reason we took up arms and barred our brass-bound gates shut was our sworn faith to our master. In every age of the world a display of loyalty towards one’s King has justly garnered praises. Whoever has hesitated to die for his country? But our death will do nothing to help our nation. If we offer a show of resistance, we shall all die unavenged, and (let it be admitted) our goods will come into the power of English Harry, as will our citadels and their walls. If we have incurred any guilt thus far, pray forgive us. We are not pleading our case: if our King has not sent us reinforcements within a week, you may enter, possess, keep, and enjoy our town with good auspices. Just let us compound for our lives. This mercy befits a King. This virtue once adorned the dispositions of your ancestors.”
“Let this Frenchman have what he wants,” said Henry, sending the French back home under these terms. A temporary truce was established. After a week had passed, there was no help or succor, and they were required to abide by their promises. Then weeping parents with their tender young children and bevies of maidens abandoned their ancient homes, then the entire French population departed out the gates, sad, unarmed, empty-handed, wretched, sick and helpless, compelled to wander in search of a new home, and the English gained control of the town in accordance with the laws of war.
By royal decree, soon heralds went through the towns of England announcing that if any man wished to be a colonist at Harfleur, be he a craftsman or enterprising merchant, or if he would work the land with the curved plough, he should come to Harfleur, where Henry would freely grant a home to all who asked. Not only he, but his also his heirs would enjoy this dwelling. Without delay men came a-flocking to the shores, seeking a swift ship and favorable winds. And at the place where the crossing to France was the shortest, it is wonderful what a throng assembled within a few days. Now no place became more crowded than empty Harfleur.
The English King installed a garrison, and was beginning to move camp when the news came to his ears that his route was obstructed by broken bridges, and that one hundred twenty thousand were at hand, all clad in armor with plumes in their shining helmets, a mass of cavalry such as no previous age of the world had seen, flying unchecked through every field. Undaunted by such a huge army, the Plantagenet picked up his pace and communicated his confidence to his comrades, always heading towards his enemy. Since night was bringing its darkness to the earth, he encamped not far from a dense wood. Then he bade his lords come to his royal tent, while he considered the impending peril, since the enemy was only three miles away. Thus they were summoned to his quarters late at night, in a supreme council of war deciding every needful thing. Among other things, at nightfall the soldiers were commanded to use their swords to fashion sharp stakes, and the prudent King explained their purpose: these were to be planted in the ground to receive charging cavalry and wound their horses as they galloped, and the forefront of the army would conceal this device. If you devise it for harsh warfare, treachery is the greatest of virtues when employed against your enemy.
Meanwhile the dark night continued to pass, while mortals refresh their exhausted bodies with sleep, forgetful of their cares, so that they might wake refreshed for their tasks. That night few Englishmen could close their weary eyes. Part strung their bows and used whetstones to sharpen the points of their arrows so they could better pierce armor. This man commended his wife and children to heaven’s Creator, as if destined to die on the morrow. That one consigned his coins to Hell as if already dead, thinking that in the morning he would acquire French gold in the traditional way. The gleaming dawn caught the English unawares. “To arms, to arms,” their captains called, their cries reaching up to highest heaven, “take up your arms, we pray. Grasp your missiles in your hand, stretch your bows with might and main, let due order be maintained as you fight.”
And behold, quicker than you could describe it the ranks were formed and marched forth, as with ardent hearts they awaited their enemy. Suddenly one rider spurred his horse, a man who had ranged the land as a scout that night, and cried that the savage French were at hand. Just as the south wind brings rain and thick darkness in wintertime, or as cloud-bringing Orion terrifies lofty mountaintops from afar with is dark aspect, and rages with great winds when he draws closer, so the terrible French army came across the outstretched fields, its standards shining. The earth shook beneath the hoofbeats of their densely-packed cavalry, and the dust went up to heaven, stirred up by the band of horse and companies of foot.
On this morning Henry was plunged in slumbered more deeply than usual, so carefree did he take his rest. Finally one of his Earls entered the great royal pavilion and awakened him from his gentle sleep with a touch, telling him that the French had come within the range of two miles and his subjects were endangered. Therefore he requested that Henry should give his orders for the captains. The King bounded out of bed, his lovely body quite naked, and fell to his knees and prayed, “Almighty God, I humbly beg and beseech you to be favorable. Grant us great strength, all-powerful God. In You is fixed my hope, do not abandon Your servant. Our enemy trust in their horses, but we, great God, trust in You alone. If I prove the victorious King today, in holy churches every man and wife will hymn God’s noble praises for all time.” Having ended his prayer, the prince quickly dressed and armed himself, and commanded the army to be drawn up for battle. Then he passed through their ranks with a light step, testing their confidence. Grinning, they answered that it was great.
For honor’s sake, the Duke of York knelt and said, “I have many reasons for wanting to display my love and duty, thrice-venerable English King, first to you, and then to my country. Grant me my wish, that I be stationed in the forefront of the vanguard. If I fall, I shall gain a memorable reputation, or (if no vain omen deceives my mind), I shall cruelly cut down our hated enemies, and everlasting glory will attend on this feat.” He ceased speaking and the Plantagenet raised him up, and confidently addressed him with friendly words. “Since you are my most dear kinsman, and you are offering a thing than which nothing can be more welcome, I give you my thanks out of a grateful heart. You are asking for a noble task, and I grant you your wish. Choose stout comrades and quickly arm yourself for the impending fight against our violent enemy, and by fighting manfully gain deserved praises.”
Without delay the archers were drawn up, and most of them were divided into two wings, and fighting forces which carried terrible javelins stood closer-packed around the royal standard. The Earl whose famous name was supplied by Suffolk led the right wing, and Warwick guided the left, both accompanied by the traditional soldiery which plied Apollo’s bow. Squadrons of light cavalry supported the wings and those who wielded the sharp battle-hatched were posed in the rear where, like great-boned giants, they boldly enclosed the whole army. This was the army of the English, such was its appearance.
When the army was drawn up, the King asked what time it was. His lords replied that it was the hour on which priests are wont to pray in church throughout the walled cities of England. Then the King said, “Then be of good cheer, my English. At this hour a priest is praying for us. So come, lads, act with manly daring so that this day you show yourselves to be like your forebears: the French nation has not only been defeated at their hands, but has been thrown into panic-stricken rout by the looks on their faces. Let all fear be dismissed, death is no source of fear to noble men. If I do not get the better of the French today, I shall breathe my last. Let no man give ransom for me as a captive, nor let the rich land of England pay that price.” He spoke, and they were all of the same spirit. Redoubling its loud outcry, to a man the army promised that they would die by the steel, should fortune run against them.
Meanwhile the entire company began to move against the French, and raised their standards when the signal was given. Behold, the terrible trumpets of dire Mars sounded their horrid incitements to the coming slaughter, the deadly battle-lines drew near to each other, and the fierce soldiery filled the air with their various shouts. And now they were a strong man’s arrow-shot apart from each other and a captain screamed, “shoot your sharp arrows., we English are drawing near. Use your curved bows and shoot at our horrible enemies.” Arrows went flying like hail in a winter storm, taking away the bright sunlight. A spirited horse, wounded through its armor, reared up, its rider thrown. The French cavalry, believing it would be safer to lower their lances and ride against our footmen, quickly broke into our bristling front. Then a great fight erupted. Just as the King had previously instructed, horses rolled in the dust, impaled on the sharp stakes that had been planted, their riders put to the sword. When the archers ran out of arrows, they laid their enemy low with clubs.
With a great effort the King whirled his sword, as did the nobler part and indeed the whole arm. All the wood rang with the sound of helmets being stricken and the clash of arms, and the nearby hills and their valleys heard the sick groans of the dying, and the ground was as wet as when Saturn soaks the earth in wintertime. His temple pierced by a long lance, the Lord Bar was unhorsed, and breathed forth his life into thin air. Shot by an arrow, the Duc d’Alençon wrenched the shaft from his flesh, but the point remained stuck deep in bone, and death followed this incurable wound. Sliding from his horse, he bit the dust in death, and, Brabant, your Duke died a similar death. These great-hearted lords belonged to the cavalry of the vanguard. In the second rank fell the Count de Nevers, and your archbishop, oh Sans. Furthermore, eight Counts perished from bloody wounds, a hundred of those commonly called Barons, and more than sixteen hundred men of noble blood. More than ten thousand were lost from the French army, whereas Henry lost three hundred and gained the day. York, alas, was laid low by a fatal lance at the place where the most furious attack against the English was launched, and among the nobility the Earl of Suffolk shed his blood after having killed a number of men. Captive French nobles were held in bondage.
When these things had been accomplished and the soldiers had been rewarded with prizes and booty, the victor left the battlefield and hastened to the shore of Calais with his fleet, and then crossed the sea and returned in triumph to the ancient royal palace of England, in the company of a throng. The Lord Mayor of London and townsmen, dressed in shining silk, came to meet him three miles outside the city, for honor’s sake. For duty’s sake, so did townsmen of ever degree, demonstrating their joy over the French defeat. And, abandoning their churches, the priesthood worshipped God in the streets. The people loudly prayed good health for their King, and a long troop of prisoners followed the parade as it wended its way to the royal palace. The French were treated with friendly kindness at King Henry’s command.
And behold, Sigismund took ship and came to England, and as a very welcoming host the English King gave his old friend a kindly reception. Now they chased the swift deer and fleet-foot doe, and now they indulged in hawking, setting the falcon to attack lesser birds flying on fearful wing. Taking advantage of an occasion when the the King’s mind was at ease, the Emperor said, “Noble prince of great fame, which flies throughout the world thanks to your accomplishments, pray spare the conquered. Enough of wars, by your doing enough enemy blood has been consumed. Why tire yourself and your subjects with boundless effort? What more do you seek? Your recent foreign victory will adorn you for all time. Let your heart be at peace, peace is what you must cultivate. God has never granted us mortals anything better than fostering peace. Charles begs for it, and his ambassador tarrying at your court joins me i my prayer. Let peaceful laws be passed, with quarrelling set aside. With the King of France yielding, let Henry take what is right. Do you see the little babes, orphaned of their fathers, and do you see the throngs of women, bereft of their dear husbands? Remember that we are creatures of God.” This urging of Sigismund swayed Henry’s mind somewhat, who was doubtful what he should do, although a lord of gentle nature.
His friend’s speech would doubtless have prevailed, had not (as the French ambassador was begging for what Sigismund had urged) sudden news arrived from Harfleur that the French had renewed their disastrous war, and that a recent slaughter of Englishmen had occurred in the territory of Rouen. When Henry had heard of the murder of his people he blazed up in anger that a numerous enemy had suddenly overcome a handful of English, and shut his ears to Charles’ ambassador as he treated for peace, retorting that vengeance will attend on this crime. The Emperor was ashamed to have humbly entreated his friend on behalf a rebellious folk, and as he was on the point of departure he affirmed his pious friendship with the King. Honored with various gifts, as was the custom, he set sail and, borne over the sea by a favoring wind, he safely landed. Suddenly the trumpets blew their hoarse note, and ardent young men came a-flocking from all sides. At the King’s command they all armed themselves, took ship, and crossed the swelling sea. Normandy with its outspread fields received their companies when they landed on its stony shore.
When Henry had refreshed his men he first set siege to La Touche, and the French resisted might and main, vigorously fending off his assaults with the sword. But it was taken by storm and compelled to obey its powerful master, unwillingly giving its hospitality to the English. Then he marched on Caen, which he took not without loss of life for both the enemy and the English. But true virtue knows not how to be overcome, and he laid them low at the first encounter. No place was ever assaulted with greater force than Caen, and at length the city was surrendered together with its great castle. Just as he spared its churches, so he did their right of asylum. And as soon as the affrighted countryfolk understood this, marveling at such holy justice in an enemy and the pious religion with which he was preserving their churches, the men and women of Normandy entrusted themselves to the King’s faith, and supplied plenty of foodstuffs to his encamped soldiers, bringing basketfuls of bread. Next he victoriously took Alençon, and then Argentan. Fair Constance voluntarily opened its gates, and Laon and populous Falaise, vainly awaiting help from the King of France, were taken and both came under the power of the English sovereign. Pont de l’Arche, sited on the banks of the Seine, and its turreted walls fell prey to the Englishman, and also towns of well-known name. Finally there remained Rouen, wealthy for its wares, gold, silver and precious plate, the capital of Normandy, at the bottom of a high hill alongside the Seine.
Hearing rumors of the English approach, the neighboring farmers, those who possessed farmsteads and surrounding fields, carried here all the dearest possessions they could, imagining that no amount of might could capture the town. Setting a strong siege, English King put ditches and ramparts around it. Whirling rocks and overturning lofty towers with his machine, with his skilled art he brought up the iron ram to smash the high walls with its horns. On their side, the Normans put up a keen fight from the walls, casting down rocks and casting their javelins from above. The battle was spiritedly fought on both sides until the King employed armed skiffs to obstruct the river above and below the town so that no reinforcements or provender could be supplied to the besieged. Then mad famine raged throughout the town because of the failure of foodstuffs, and they attempted to send a great throng of women out of their gates. In vain: the English prevented this at swordpoint, and the energetic siege continued for several months, until despair gripped the townsmen.
Rouen was taken, and now, having gained fine booty, the English King sent home fair trophies. Rumor of the city’s capture spread, and no man could believe how greatly the honor of the British increased, or how greatly fear gripped the French. A little earlier the King of France, undeterred, had sought to be granted peace on terms unfair to the English, but now he could only seek to end the war and make an end to these savage battles. Added to the French woes was the deceitful murder of the Duke of Burgundy and civil discord was breaking out throughout the land. When they came to a conference, the King of France and his Peers unanimously appointed Henry regent of their nation, and agreed that the King of the French should bestow Catherine, his daughter of marriageable age and heir, on the English King: the offspring of this union would govern the fair cities and lands of France. This was affirmed on oath by Charles, his consort, his assembly of nobles, and the people of France and their fickle commons. Henry granted peace, and soon the royal girl was led in high estate, bound by the bonds of marriage. For many a day the British feasted, celebrating a holiday, and offered their condolences to the bride’s mother and father. Their folk pronounced the father blessed for having such an offspring, thanks to whom happy peace and so many advantages were conferred on two peoples. Now the Plantagenet ruled two nations, controlling the lawless with his bridle, when he grew mindful of the English and desired to show his wife the quality of England’s castles and cities, and so he was minded to return home. The two of them happily came to the City of London on a painted ship, where his bashful-looking bride and her husband were drawn through the streets in a gilded carriage, and the royal bride was given the traditional coronation as the common folk repeated long live the King and Queen, striking the stars with their loud outcry.
Not much later, when the the well-governed commonwealth required no further help and the King had devoted his time to its affairs (being a prudent sovereign), in case his father-in-law, now heavy with years, might perhaps miss him, he crossed the sea to Aisne, and when he came there the noble Duke of Burgundy informed him that the Dauphin was stirring up frightful upheavals and working his wiles. So Henry sent squadrons ahead to confront the enemy, such as could shatter his assaults, for he was still concerned with greater affairs. For he made no account of the Dauphin’s strength, realizing he could accomplish no manful deeds in the face of his enemy and always kept a two days’ distance from the English. First he ensured that there would be a food supply for his camp. After everything had been bought and prepared, he offered battle to the forest-lurking Dauphin. But he timidly refused this fight offered on even turns, being unequal on number and sturdy men. Therefore the cautious young man hated worse than dog or snake the regions to which the warlike English King had come and shunned them, directing his comrades elsewhere. Should the spirited Englishman come to Bordeaux, he would hastily abandon it and in his flight enter Narbonne. Having driven off the Dauphin’s army, the Duke of Bedford besieged this people which he had freed with French arms.
Meanwhile an acute fever seized on Henry, broken by heat and exertion, and the dogstar of August, burning mercilessly, made the disease worsen. Nevertheless amidst his great torments the afflicted English King continued to act, until his body began to waste away from the malady and he felt the fires of impending death. His brother Humphrey came a-flying, as did the Lord Bedford, and both of them copiously wept over the unexpected calamity. The the English King said, his hands upraised to heaven, “Oh God Almighty, I owe you much, I cann 0t give You adequate thanks. I am being taken from the world in the flower of my youth, and have not yet experienced adverse fortune. Let whatever great things I have done in my life be ascribed to divine mercy.” Turning to his brothers, he said, “Why are you groaning downheartedly, why are you sobbing? I rejoice that my dying day is at hand and that death is nearby. That which no man can avoid must be tolerated. I beg you by the sacred bond of brotherly love, care for my little son Henry, cherish him, love him, always hold him in honor, and above all else take care to shape his mind towards divine worship. Thus he will be worthy of such an empire and be able to flourish in fame. And you must use your pious offices, as befits Englishmen, to support my wife, the daughter of a great sovereign, who now is rightfully the most sorrowful of mothers. And let their be peace between your hearts. Let the Duke of Bedford, and likewise the Duke of Burgundy, govern the French, and by similar right let Humphrey rule the English. I order, command and enjoin that this be done. By my strong right hand I have recovered the land of Normandy once belonged to our forefathers, which had been lost in war. Use your arms to preserve it, defend it by waging just war.”
Death hastened to occupy great Henry’s frame. He was his nation’s immortal glory for ages to come, and the unquenchable light of virtue, endowed with a lofty mind, but also with a gentle heart which loved not only his subjects but even his honest enemies of proven good faith, and wrath rarely showed on his fair face.
A little while after this King of undying fame was laid to rest, the younger Henry, a most lovely baby, wore the crown as he passed through the streets and boulevards of Paris. But Fortune, rolling along on her wheel, does not remain friendly forever. Holding this boy in scorn, the French defected and broke the faith it had previously pledged in its sacred council. The avenging Duke of Bedford subdued them, inflicting a slaughter that made the Dauphin take to his heels. After he grew of age, the King pursued peace and shunned the sad battles of the bloody field. Never involving himself in civic affairs he sought the leisure of a mind at peace. He was often at prayer, making his devotions in private. But the rascal sort of mankind hates such men, it scorns and detests them. There is no agreement between virtue and vice, darkness shuns the light. And so, when they perceived the mild nature of this English King, the Dauphin and his Counts attempted savage battles. They captured some cities by deceit, others by bravery, and the hopes of the English collapsed. You might say that they grew faint-hearted, now that Henry V, once their vigorous King, was dead. From this flowed a more serious source of loss and sorrow, sedition and depraved contention for domestic power blazed with its fast-spreading flames.
Be silent, my Muse, or hasten through these internal wars, whispering in sorrowful tones, for harsh wounds reopen when touched and their pain is renewed. Forgetful of Henry, the Normans had no concern for the British, so Normandy, bereft of English defenders, could only mourn the death of great William in vain, as its cities were taken by force from their rightful owners. The Dauphin passed through all the fields of France with nobody standing in his way, besieging and capturing cities. It is very easy to subdue a willing populace that surrenders freely, nor do realms gained without bloodshed bestow glory upon their conquerors
When such a conflagration broke out at home, how could your Englishman attack foreigners? He was his own enemy, his wicked hand was probing his own vitals. What happens when the angry foot crushes the head, when citizen murders fellow-citizen in a criminal frame of mind, when the servant kills the master, the master the servant, and impious Mars burns? Alas, brother cuts down brother in battle, neighbor despoils neighbor of life. Nothing is safe from your enemy, in vain you seek the asylum offered wretched mortals in every age of the world.
Among many others, these places were made notorious for their slaughter: St. Albans, Blore, Northampton, Banbury with its fields, Barnet on its hills, Wakefield, St. Albans once more, and Hexham near the border of Scotland. The farmers dwelling nearby these fields grieve even nowadays, as often as a plowman working these lands unearths men’s half-buried bones while cutting furrows for his grain, and with their sad lament they curse this civil war in which more than a hundred thousand were slain. Todcaster became notorious for the death of thirty thousand, and Tewksbury was the site of the final battle. These towns bore sure witness that because of civil war blood flowed in rivers.
Such were the many battles created by this dire division between two kings, a quarrel to which God Himself put an end. I shall hold my silence about the battle fought at Bosworth and much else, thanks to which Henry VII gained his name of enduring fame. This Lord of Lancaster married Edward’s daughter and gained supreme power. Thus the right decreed, thus the laws of the realm and the Peerage of England demanded. This was brought about by God Almighty, the Author of peace, and such was the end of civil strife. He ruled, most beloved to his subjects, and all his enemies rightly feared him. He was a religious devotee of God, piety, and justice. He greatly loathed cunning and evil men, dear to his subject for more than twenty-three years. Dying, he bequeathed his throne and his wealth, a great sum of money, to Henry his heir.