In fact, since usurpation had filled Henry of Lancaster’s mind with distrust and jealousy, his eldest son had been in no such enviable position as to be beyond the capacity of fellow-feeling for the royal prisoner.
Of a peculiarly frank, open, and affectionate nature, young Henry had so warmly loved the gentle and fascinating Richard II., that his trust in the father, of whom he had seen little in his boyhood, had received a severe shock through Richard’s fate. Under the influence of a new, suspicious, and avaricious wife, the King kept his son as much at a distance as possible, chiefly on the Welsh marches, learning the art of war under Hotspur and Oldcastle; and when the father and son were brought together again, the bold, free bearing and extraordinary ability of the Prince filled the suspicious mind of the King with alarm and jealousy. To keep him down, give him no money, and let him gain no influence, was the narrow policy of the King; and Henry, chafing, dreaming, feeling the injustice, and pining for occupation, shared his complaints within James, and in many a day-dream restored him freely to his throne, and together redressed the wrongs of the world. Meantime, James studied deep in preparation, and recreated himself with poetry, inspired by the charms of Joan Beaufort, the lovely daughter of the King’s legitimatized brother, the Earl of Somerset; while Henry persisted in a boy’s passionate love to King Richard’s maiden widow, Isabel of France. Entirely unrequited as his affection was, it had a beneficial effect. Next after his deep sense of religion, it kept his life pure and chivalrous. He was for ever faithful to his future wife, even when Isabel had been returned to France, and his romantic passion had fixed itself on her younger sister Catherine, whom he endowed in imagination with all he had seen or supposed in her.
Credited with every excess by the tongue of his stepmother, too active-minded not to indulge in freakish sports and experiments in life very astounding to commonplace minds, sometimes when in dire distress even helping himself to his unpaid allowance from his father’s mails, and always with buoyant high spirits and unfailing drollery that scandalized the grave seniors of the Court, there is full proof that Prince Hal ever kept free from the gross vices which a later age has fancied inseparably connected with his frolics; and though always in disgrace, the vexation of the Court, and a by-word for mirth, he was true to the grand ideal he was waiting to accomplish, and never dimmed the purity and loftiness of his aim. That little band of princely youths, who sported, studied, laughed, sang, and schemed in the glades of Windsor, were strangely brought together—the captive exiled King, the disinherited heir of the realm, and the sons of the monarch who held the one in durance and occupied the throne of the other; and yet their affection had all the frank delight of youthful friendship.