There are stories told of Henry—Prince Hal, as he was called—leading a wild, merry life, as a sort of madcap; playing at being a robber, and breaking into the wagons that were bringing treasure for his father, and then giving the money back again. Also there is a story that, when one of his friends was taken before the Lord Chief Justice, he went and ordered him to be released and that when the justice refused he drew his sword, upon which the justice sent him to prison; and he went quietly, knowing it was right. The king is said to have declared himself happy to have a judge who maintained the law so well, and a son who would submit to it; but there does not seem to be good reason for believing the story; and it seems clear that young Henry, if he was full of fun and frolic, took care never to do anything really wrong.
The king was an old man before his time. He was always ill, and often had fits, and one of these came on when he was in Westminster Abbey. He was taken to the room called the Jerusalem chamber, and Henry watched him there. Another of the stories is that the king lay as if he were dead, and the prince took the crown that was by his side and carried it away. When the king revived, Henry brought it back, with many excuses. “Ah, fair son,” said the king, “what right have you to the crown? you know your father had none.”
“Sir,” said Henry, “with your sword you took it, and with my sword I will keep it.”
“May God have mercy on my soul,” said the king.
Another story tells show the prince, feeling that his father doubted his loyalty, presented himself one day in disordered attire before the king, and kneeling, offered him a dagger, and begged his father to take his life, if he could no longer trust and love him.
We cannot be quite certain about the truth of these conversations, for many people will write down stories they have heard, without making sure of them. One thing we are certain of which Henry told his son, which seems less like repentance. It was that, unless he made war in France, his lords would never let him be quiet on his throne in England; and this young Henry was quite ready to believe. There had never been a real peace between France and England since Edward III. had begun the war—only truces, which are short rests in the middle of a great war—and the English were eager to begin again; for people seldom thought then of the misery that comes of a great war, but only of the honor and glory that were to be gained, of making prisoners and getting ransoms from them.
So Henry IV. died, after having made his own life miserable by taking the crown unjustly, and, as you will see, leaving a great deal or harm still to come to the whole country, as well as to France.
He died in the year 1399. His family is called the House of Lancaster, because his father had been Duke of Lancaster. You will be amused to hear that Richard Whittington really lived in his time. I cannot answer for his cat, but he was really Lord Mayor of London, and supplied the wardrobe of King Henry’s daughter, when she married the King of Denmark.