Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

lightly upon Scroop, while it distinctly charged Marche as an accessory. This, together with Marche's impunity, and his being suffered to sit upon the trial of the conspirators, has given rise to a general belief among historians that he disclosed it to Henry as soon as he was informed of the scheme. But, to show how little reliance was even in those days placed upon the confession, Umfraville, whom it charged with the design of bringing the pretended Richard from Scotland, enjoyed the King's entire confidence after the plot was discovered, as appears by the orders issued to him.1

No time was lost in bringing the conspirators to trial. A special commission was issued, and a true bill was found against Cambridge and Grey for high treason, in conspiring to dethrone the King and set up Marche in his stead, and for intending eventually to destroy the King, his brothers, and many other grandees of the realm; against Scroop, for being privy to this conspiracy. Cambridge and Grey confessed the whole matters laid to their charge, and threw themselves on the royal mercy. Scroop admitted a guilty knowledge and concealment of the conspiracy, denying altogether the design of killing the King and his brothers; but, as he desired to be tried by his peers, Grey alone was condemned by the commission, Cambridge and Scroop being carried before a court composed of such peers as happened to be present at Southampton for the purpose of serving in the expedition. In this most irregular, and indeed wholly illegal proceeding, Grey was sentenced without any verdict of a petty jury, and merely on his confession when arraigned. The unlawful court of peers1 had only before it the record of what Cambridge and Scroop had said before the special commission. Upon that, without any further trial, apparently without being heard in their defence, Cambridge and Scroop were immediately condemned to death by the Lords, the more cruel parts of the punishment being remitted;" and this sen- ^u'rust 6 tence was forthwith executed.3 The addi- 1415tional charge which most of the old writers have made against the conspirators, that they had been bribed by the French court to slay the King, or deliver him up with his brothers, appears to be without any foundation. The indictment makes no mention of it, neither does Cambridge's confession; and we can hardly suppose that such an accusation against the French, had there been the least ground for it, would have been left wholly unnoticed in the remonstrances which Henry presented to his adversary.'

1 Rym., ix. 307. Umfraville is called "Notre foial chevalier," August 14, 1415, three weeks after the discovery of the plot.

1 It was as if a peer in a regiment were tried for treason or felony before such of his brother officers as happened to be peers.

• Rot. Pari., iv. 66. Rym., ix. 300.

* Stowe, 346. He very inaccurately states the trial and execution to have taken place the day after the King received the information of the plot. The information was given July 21—the trials were on the 2nd and 5th of August.

4 Hall, 61.—Hoi., iii. 69.—Good., 65.—Grafton gives the common report, but adds that it was denied by many. He, however, speaks of Cambridge having confessed it, 512.—T. Wals.,435, says, " Utfertur." —Fabyan, 79, makes no mention of it. He gives July 29 as the date, and that the execution was the day after the trial. 1 Bot. Pari., iv. 66.

The illegality of all the proceedings at Southampton appears to have struck even the lawyers and statesmen of that age as too glaring to let the conviction be safely rested on its own merits. An act was therefore passed as soon as the Parliament met, declaring the sentence and punishment valid.1

On the 15ths of August the expedition put to sea, and late on the following evening reached the small town of Caux, or Kidcase, in Normandy, where the troops were disembarked without opposition, and, after marching to Harfleur, seven miles distant, encamped near its walls. Henry, true to his policy of conciliating the Church and appealing to the religious sentiments of the people, had knelt down as soon as he landed, and prayed for the Divine blessing on his unjust aggression: this he called supplicating for justice against his enemies. He then issued a proclamation, forbidding, on pain of death, all plunder of the churches, and all violence to any priest or friar; and, when the tents were pitched, he had a large one erected behind his own, to serve for a chapel to the troops. The proclamation had exempted from violence all persons not bearing arms, as well as the priests. But, as soon as the siege commenced, the soldiers were ordered to ravage the surrounding country in all directions, inflicting the utmost misery on the unoffending inhabitants, in order to intercept the supplies of the town, and to secure a booty for the invading army. The siege lasted above five weeks; the garrison and the townsfolk were reduced to the extreme of wretchedness by famine as well as by disease; all hopes of relief were cut off by the feeble state of the French government; and, at last, after showing the greatest fortitude in bearing extraordinary privations, as well as admirable courage in defending themselves, they were compelled to surrender at discretion. The place was given up to indiscriminate sack and slaughter. A large sum was extorted by the avarice of the invaders, as ransom for the soldiers who were taken, and who would have been detained in captivity, had conquest alone, without the more sordid desire of plunder, been the object of the invasion. The greater part of the people, but chiefly the women and children, were driven from the town, with the insulting mockery of a few pence given to each by way of provision; and their place was supplied by crowds of artisans, tradesmen, and labourers brought over from England.

* I have given this date instead of Stowe's, who has the 13th (347). My reason is, that we have in Rym., ix. 307, a Proclamation dated August 14, at Southampton. T. Elm., 36, gives the 13th as the day. T. Liv., 8, in substance agrees with this date.

The siege, however, had proved nearly as disastrous to the conquerors as to the vanquished. Beside many slain in the constant skirmishes which took place, a much greater number perished by sickness; for, the weather proving much more severe than is usual so early in the season, the days were hot, and the nights cold. The ravenous desire of pillage, too, made the English army drive to their camp all the cattle they could collect, and these, being slaughtered far beyond the consumption of the troops, poisoned the air with putrid exhalations.1 Thus, after leaving a garrison in the captured town, the English were reduced to considerably less than half their original strength of 30,000 men. The winter season, too, approached, and the cold, already great, threatened an increase. The Dauphin, acting for his father, was enabled, by the general indignation and alarm which the invasion spread, to collect a large army for the defence of the kingdom, and Henry had no immediate prospect of reinforcements. He therefore abandoned all thoughts of advancing further into the country; and finding it difficult to re-embark his troops, an operation which would certainly have been opposed, and would also have been regarded as a confession of failure, if not of defeat, he resolved to retreat upon Calais by short marches. In the execution of this design, however, he easily perceived that he must be exposed to the greatest dangers, not improbably to the entire destruction of his army, from the daily increase of numbers which the defenders of their country were receiving.

The position, indeed, in which he now found himself, was difficult and distressing in the extreme. The French had driven away all the cattle on the

> T. Wals., Hist., 437. Ypod. Neust., 189. T. Liv., 11. T. Elm., 44. Monstrel., ch. cxliii., cxlvi.

« ZurückWeiter »