« ZurückWeiter »
by the Queen; but he is said to have been much exasperated at finding that the Constable and the Armagnac chiefs had been destroyed, as he had hoped by obtaining possession of their persons to make his own terms with the Dauphin. That prince, acting under the advice of Louvet, President of Provence, Tanneguy du Chatel, and the Viscount Narbonne, had declared himself Regent, and he now made every effort to continue the war. His troops had frequent engagements with the Burgundians. He took Compiegne and Soissons, and was successful in several other affairs. Meanwhile, the curse of pestilence fell upon the capital, where 80,000 are supposed to have died of it. But even this calamity had not power to extinguish the fury of party. Another massacre, and chiefly of the prisoners, was perpetrated by the mob, led on by Capeluche, the common executioner; and the Duke, exasperated by the unruly conduct of his adherents among the commonalty, was under the necessity of sending six thousand, chiefly of men who had been engaged in these bloody scenes, to serve at the siege of Montlheri, then carrying on. During their absence he brought to punishment some of the most guilty, including Capeluche himself, and thus succeeded in restoring the appearance at least of subordination.
Such was the state of France during the year March, 1418, when Henry, encouraged by the sup
1418- port of his Parliament, and still more by the condition of his adversaries, was to prosecute his operations in Normandy. He commenced these by a somewhat extraordinary proceeding. Continuing his assiduous court to the clergy, and minded also to impress the people with an opinion of his extraordinary piety, he retired to Bayeux, where he kept Lent, without allowing even his military pursuits to interrupt his devotions during the whole forty days of that fast. It appears, however, that he had not the same tenderness for the spiritual welfare of his brothers and the other commanders of his army; for they were directed to carry on the operations of the campaign without any regard to the sacredness of the season. Clarence, at the head of one half the army, took the direction of the eastern part of the duchy, and made himself master of Chambrois6, Harcourt, D'Anville; while Gloucester, with the other half, took the towns of the western part called the Isle (or Peninsula) of Constantine, Sirez, St. Lery, Carentin, Pontdun, St. Samer; and at Easter all Lower Normandy except Cherbourg was in his possession.
Works considerable for the age had added to the natural strength of this town, defended on one side by the sea and the river, and on the others protected from attack by the loose sandy texture of the soil, which prevented the construction of batteries; and though the English had the entire command of the sea, so that they could obtain reinforcements and stores, yet they had no ships of force enough to battera fortified place. Gloucester was therefore obliged to form the siege as well as he could, and it lasted nearly six months. In truth, it was rather a blockade than a siege, their naval force enabling the English to prevent any supplies from reaching the town. At one time they were in such hazard of being overpowered by a sally of the numerous garrison, pressed with hunger, that Henry directed succours to be sent from the opposite coast;and a fleet of thirty sail accordingly brought over two thousand men from the west of England. The besieged when they first descried these vessels exulted in the hope that they were coming to their relief; and when they discovered the truth their spirits fell, and the town was sur- Sept. 1418. £
rendered. The chronicles and state papers of the times have preserved no record of the treatment which it received at the hands of the conquerors; but the former represent the Commandant as having ordered the whole of the spacious suburbs to be destroyed by fire when he saw that he was to be attacked. This was indeed necessary in order to deprive the assailants of shelter in carrying on the siege; and it is not easy to conceive the misery which it must have entailed upon the inhabitants.1
While Gloucester was reducing Lower Normandy, Henry, at the end of Lent, emerged from the religious shades within which he had for so many weeks confined himself, and took, after considerable resist1 T. Elm., 147. T. Liv., 51. Monstrelet, ch. clxxxi., says that Gascoyne the governor was bribed to surrender, and that Henry, afterwards quarrelling with him, caused him to be beheaded.
ance, several towns in Upper Normandy; but he suspended for a while his military operations, in order to celebrate at Caen the festival of St. George, the guardian saint of England. The towns of Louviers and Pont de l'Arche cost him most time; and it appears that the terms on which they surrendered were to be protected from pillage, but to have their engineers (those who had fired upon the English army) punished with death as though they had been common malefactors.1 Rouen, the capital of the province, alone remained to be subdued; and before this strong place the King sat down, collecting under his own immediate command all the troops he could spare from his other conquests, reinforced as he had now been by the arrival of Exeter's levies.
But although he had made himself master of all the fortified towns, it became manifest to his clear and acute understanding that he had anything rather than quiet possession of the duchy. His army had behaved with distinguished bravery, and had often succeeded against superior numbers; but the French too had displayed their wonted gallantry, and plainly showed him that he must fight to keep what they had made him fight to win. An attempt of the French to retake Louviers by surprise, undertaken in concert with the inhabitants, had been defeated with some difficulty. The Norman gentry raised a formidable body of volunteers, whose exploits against the invaders were sometimes crowned with victory.
1 T. Liv., 65. T. Elm., 159.
Among these patriotic men, the name of one (Ambrose de Lore) has been preserved by history as successfully defending the Castle of Courciers, and defeating the English detachment before it in an important sally. Eager on all occasions to meet the enemies of his country, he again encountered a body of English horse on the banks of the Sar, and overthrew them after an obstinate combat, which the Sovereign commemorated by giving him the honour of knighthood. Then collecting a larger body of troops, he recovered Beaumont and several other places from Henry's captains. Having intelligence that Marche, with a force of five thousand men, was ravaging the country of Maine, in which no regular operations had as yet been undertaken by the English, De Lore set upon him with an inferior number, killed several hundreds, and took many prisoners. Next, this gallant partizan directed his troops against an English detachment at Leu in Normandy, and, though stoutly resisted, defeated them with great slaughter. The government of Fresnoy, which he had recaptured, was conferred upon him; and finding that the neighbouring country was suffering from the cruelty and depredations of the English garrison in Alencon, he marched out of his citadel, attacked the plundering troops near Meaux, drove them to seek shelter in Les Nones, a village surrounded with water, and there defeated them with the loss of three score men left on the field. At length this brave man was taken prisoner in an action against an English force fourfold superior