Henry V., Of Monmouth. A.D. 1413—1423.
The young King Henry was full of high, good thoughts. He was devout in going to church, tried to make good Bishops, gave freely to the poor, and was so kindly, and hearty, and merry in all his words and ways, that everyone loved him. Still, he thought it was his duty to go and make war in France. He had been taught to believe the kingdom belonged to him, and it was in so wretched a state that he thought he could do it good. The poor king, Charles VI., was mad, and had a wicked wife besides; and his sons, and uncles, and cousins were always fighting, till the streets of Paris were often red with blood, and the whole country was miserable. Henry hoped to set all in order for them, and gathering an army together, crossed to Normandy. He called on the people to own him as their true king, and never let any harm be done to them, for he hung any soldier who was caught stealing, or misusing anyone. He took the town of Harfleur, on the coast of Normandy, but not till after a long siege, when his camp was in so wet a place that there was much illness among his men. The store of food was nearly used up, and he was obliged to march his troops across to Calais, which you know belonged to England, to get some more. But on the way the French army came up to meet him—a very grand, splendid-looking army, commanded by the king’s eldest son the dauphin. Just as the English kings’ eldest son was always Prince of Wales, the French kings’ eldest son was always called Dauphin of Vienne, because Vienne, the country that belonged to him, had a dolphin on its shield. The French army was very large—quite twice the number of the English— but, though Henry’s men were weary and half-starved, and many of them sick, they were not afraid, but believed their king when he told them that there were enough Frenchmen to kill, enough to run away, enough to make prisoners. At night, however, the English had solemn prayers, and made themselves ready, and the king walked from tent to tent to see that each man was in his place; while, on the other hand, the French were feasting and revelling, and settling what they would do the English when they had made them prisoners. They were close to a little village which the English called Agincourt, and, though that is not quite its right name, it is what we have called the battle ever since. The French, owing to the quarrelsome state of the country, had no order or obedience among them. Nobody would obey any other; and when their own archers were in the way, the horsemen began cutting them down as if they were the enemy. Some fought bravely, but it was of little use; and by night all the French were routed, and King Henry’s banner waving in victory over the field. He went back to England in great glory, and all the aldermen of London came out to meet him in red gowns and gold chains, and among them was Sir Richard Whittington, the great silk mercer.