David Bruce: THE FAMOUS VICTORIES OF HENRY V: A Retelling — Scene 9

— Scene 9 —

Cutbert Cutter talked to himself and said, “Ah, God, I am now much like a bird that hasescaped out of the cage, for as soon as the Lord Chief Justice heard that the old King was dead, he was glad to let me go, for fear of my Lord the young Prince. But here come some of his companions. Iwill see if I can get anything from them, on account of old acquaintance.”

He had just been released from Newgate Prison and could use some financial and other help.

Tom, Ned, and Jockey were wandering around the neighborhood.

“By God’s wounds,” Tom said, “the King is dead!”

“Dead!” Jockey said. “Then by God’s blood, we shall all be Kings!”

“By God’s wounds,” Ned said, “I shall be the Lord Chief Justice of England.”

Tom said to Cutbert Cutter, “How are you broken out of prison?”

“By God’s wounds,” Ned said, “how the villain stinks!”

“What will become of you now?” Jockey said. “Damn him, how the rascal stinks!”

Cutbert Cutter had been held in Newgate Prison, which was famous for its poor conditions and stench.

“Indeed, I will go and serve my master again,” Cutbert Cutter said.

“By God’s blood,” Tom said, “do you think that he will have any such covered-with-lice-and-scabs knave as you are? Why, man, he is a King now.”

“Wait,” Ned said, “here’s a couple of angels for you, andget yourself gone, for the King will not be long before he comes this way. And hereafter I will tell the King about you.”

Angels are coins.

Cutbert Cutter took the money and exited.

“Oh,” Jockey said, “how it did me good to see the King when he was crowned! I thought his throne was like the figure of heaven and his person was like a god.”

Prince Henry was now King Henry V; he was crowned on 9 April 1413.

“But who would have thought that the King would have so changed his countenance?” Ned said. “He has entirely altered his demeanor.”

Ned did not know it, but Prince Henry had reformed; he was now prepared to rule well as King Henry V. No longer would he be the irresponsible partier he had been.

Jockey asked, “Did you notice with what grace he sent his diplomats into France to tell the French King that Harry of England has sent for the French crown and Harry of England will have it?”

The King of England had a claim on the French crown, and the new King Henry V of England was now demanding to be recognized as the King of France, too.

“But it was only a little something to make the people believe that he was sorry for his father’s death,” Tom said.

He did not know that Prince Henry had been reconciled with his father, King Henry IV. He also did not know that Prince Henry was sincerely mourning the death of his father.

A trumpet sounded.

“By God’s wounds, the King is coming,” Ned said. “Let’s all stand to the side.”

King Henry V arrived with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Earl of Oxford.

“How do you do, my Lord?” Jockey asked.

“How are you now, Harry?” Ned said. “Tut, my Lord, put away these sour manners and this depression. You are a King, and the entire realm is yours. What, man, don’t you remember your old sayings? You know I must be made the Lord Chief Justice of England. Trust me, my Lord, I think that you are very much changed, and your sad appearance is only a little fake sorrowing to make folks believe the death of your father grieves you, and it is nothing more.”

“I order you, Ned, to mend your manners and to be more modest in your choice of words,” the newly crowned King Henry V said, “for my unfeigned grief is not to be subjected to your flattering and dissembling talk. You say that I am changed. So I am, indeed, and so must you be, and that quickly, or else I must cause you to be changed.”

Change could be caused by hanging.

“By God’s wounds!” Jockey said. “How do you like this? By God’s wounds, it is not as sweet as music.”

“I hope that we have not offended your grace in any way,” Tom said.

“Ah, Tom,” King Henry V said, “your former life grieves me and makes me abandon and abolish your company forever, and therefore you are not — upon pain of death — to approach my presence by ten miles’ space. Then, if I hear well of you, it may be I will do something for you; otherwise, look for no more favor at my hands than at any other man’s. And therefore be gone.”

Using the royal plural, he said, “We have other matters to talk about.”

Tom, Ned, and Jockey exited. They all understood that they were not to come within ten miles of the new King.

King Henry V said, “Now, my good Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, what do you say about our diplomatic mission I sent to France?”

“Your right to the French crown came by your great-grandmother Isabel, wife to King Edward the Third and sister to Charles the Fourth of France,” the Archbishop of Canterbury said. “Now, if the French King should deny your claim, as likely enough he will, then you must take your sword in hand and conquer France so you have what is rightfully yours. Let the Frenchman who calls himself King Charles the Sixth despite usurping the French crown from your father know that although your predecessors have let the English claim to the French crown pass, you will not, for your countrymen are willing with money and men to aid you.

“Then, my good Lord, as it has been always known that Scotland has been in league with France by a sort of pensions — monetary bribes — that annually come from thence, I think it therefore best to conquer Scotland, and then I think that you may go more easily into France. And this is all that I can say, my good Lord.”

“I thank you, my good Lord Archbishop of Canterbury,” King Henry V said. “What do you say, my good Earl of Oxford?”

“If it please your majesty,” the Earl of Oxford said, “I agree with my Lord Archbishop, except in this: He who will win Scotland must first begin with France, according to the old saying. Therefore, my good Lord, I think it best first to invade France, for if you conquer Scotland, you conquer only one country, but if you conquer France, then you conquer both countries.”

The Earl of Exeter came into the room and said, “If it pleaseyour majesty, your Lord Ambassador — the Duke of York — has returned from France.”

“Now trust me, my Lord,” King Henry V said, “he was the last man whom we talked of. I am glad that he has come to tell us of the answer France has sent to us. Admit him into our presence.”

The Duke of York entered the room and said, “May God preservethe life of my sovereign Lord the King.”

“Now, my good Lord the Duke of York, what news do you bring us from our brother the French King?” King Henry V asked.

Kings often referred to the Kings of other countries as brothers.

“If it please your majesty, I delivered him my message, about which I took some deliberation. But as for the answer, Charles the Sixth has sent the Lord Ambassador of Bruges, the Duke of Burgundy, Monsieur le Cole, along with two hundred and fifty horsemen, to bring you France’s official answer.”

The Lord Ambassador of Bruges was also theLord Archbishop of Bruges.

King Henry V ordered, “Admit theLord Archbishop of Bruges into our presence.”

The Archbishop of Bruges entered the room.

“Now, my Lord Archbishop of Bruges,” King Henry V said, “we learn by our Lord Ambassador that you have a message to deliver to us from our brother the French King. Here, my good Lord, according to our accustomed order, we give you free liberty and license to speak with good audience.”

“May God preserve the mighty King of England,” the Lord Archbishop of Bruges said. “My Lord and master, the most Christian King, Charles the Sixth, the great and mighty King of France, as a most noble and Christian King, not wanting to shed innocent blood, is instead content to yield somewhat to your unreasonable demands. He says that if you are content to accept fifty thousand crowns a year with his daughter, Lady Katherine, in marriage, and some crowns that go with Dukedoms that he may well spare without hurting his Kingdom, he is content to yield so far to your unreasonable desires.”

“Why, then, it seems as if your Lord and master thinks to puff me up and make me feel important with fifty thousand crowns a year,” King Henry V said. “No, tell your Lord and master that all the crowns in France shall not serve me, except the French crown and the French Kingdom itself — and perhaps thereafter I will have his daughter.”

“If it please your majesty,” the Lord Archbishop of Bruges said, “my Lord Prince Dauphin greets you well with this present.”

The Prince Dauphin was the son of the French King and next in line to the throne.

The Lord Archbishop of Bruges opened a large cask.

“What, a gilded cask?” King Henry V asked. “Please, my Lord Duke of York, see what is in it.”

The Duke of York looked and said, “If it please your grace, here is a carpet and a cask of tennis balls.”

Of course, these were insults. Even in France, the Dauphin had heard that Prince Henry loved to play games. By sending him a carpet, the Dauphin was saying that Prince Henry, who was now King Henry V of England, was a carpet knight — someone so effeminate that he preferred to play games inside a palace rather than fight in battle. At this time, tennis was an indoor game.

“A cask of tennis balls?” King Henry V said. “Please, my good Lord Archbishop, explain the meaning of this.”

“If it please you, my Lord, a messenger, you know, ought to keep confidential and secret from the public his message, and especially an ambassador should,” the Lord Archbishop of Bruges said.

He was saying indirectly that messengers and ambassadors were not responsible for the content of the message, only for delivering it; in addition, he was saying indirectly that the explanation of the gift was insulting and ought not be heard by many people.

“But I know that you may declare your message to a King. The law of arms allows no less,” King Henry V said.

The law of arms stated that an ambassador could deliver even an insulting message to a King without fear of personal reprisal.

“My Lord the Dauphin,” the Lord Archbishop of Bruges said, “hearing of your wildness before your father’s death, has sent you this, my good Lord, meaning that you are fitter for a tennis court than a battlefield and fitter for a carpet than a military camp.”

The Prince Dauphin was saying that King Henry V was not suited to be a military man. This was a major insult.

“The Prince Dauphin is very jocular with me,” King Henry V said. “But tell him that instead of tennis balls made of leather and stuffed with hair, we will toss him balls of solid brass and iron, yes, such cannonballs as never were tossed in France. The proudest tennis court shall rue and regret this gift; yes, and you, Prince of Bruges, shall rue and regret it. Therefore, get yourself away from here and tell him this message quickly, lest I be there in France before you. Away, priest, be gone.”

“I beseech your grace to give me your official safe conduct under your broad seal manual,” the Lord Archbishop of Bruges requested.

He wanted a document guaranteeing him safety as he left England to return to France. This document would be sealed with the Great Seal of England. Safe conduct was part of the protocol of diplomacy.

“Priest of Bruges,” King Henry V said, “know that the hand and seal of a King and his word is all one, and instead of my hand and seal I will bring the Dauphin my hand and my sword. And tell your Lord and master that I, Harry of England, said it and that I, Harry of England, will do what I said.”

He then ordered, “My Lord Duke of York, deliver to the Archbishop of Brugesour official safe conduct under our broad seal manual.”

The Archbishop of Bruges and the Duke of York exited.

“Now, my Lords, to arms, to arms,” King Henry V said, “for I vow by heaven and earth that the proudest Frenchman in all France shall rue and regret the time that ever these tennis balls were sent into England.”

He then said to the Earl of Exeter, who was also the Lord High Admiral, “My Lord, I order that there be provided a great navy of ships with all speed at Southampton, for there I mean to ship my men, for I would be there in France before the Archbishop of Bruges, if it is possible.”

Bad winds could keep the Archbishop of Bruges in England long enough for the English army to be organized.

 King Henry V continued, “Therefore come —”

He started to walk away, but then stopped and said, “— but wait, I almost forgot the most important thing of all, on account of arguing with this French ambassador. Call in the Lord Chief Justice of England.”

The Lord Chief Justice of England entered the room.

The Earl of Exeter said, “Here is the King, my Lord.”

“May God preserve your majesty,” the Lord Chief Justice said.

“Why, how are you now, my Lord?” King Henry V asked. “What is the matter?”

“I want it to remain unknown to your majesty,” the Lord Chief Justice said.

“Why, what ails you?” King Henry V asked again.

“Yourmajesty knows my grief well,” the Lord Chief Justice replied.

King Henry V had the power to behead the Lord Chief Justice.

“Oh, my Lord, you remember that you sent me to the Fleet Prison, don’t you?” King Henry V said.

“I trust that your grace have forgotten that,” the Lord Chief Justice said, referring to King Henry V with the royal plural.

“Yes, truly, my Lord,” King Henry V said, “and for revenge I have chosen you to be my Protector over my realm until it shall please God to give me speedy return out of France.”

“If it please your majesty, I am far unworthy of so high a dignity,” the Lord Chief Justice said.

“Tut, my Lord,” King Henry V said. “You are not unworthy, because I am right when I think you are worthy. For you who would not spare me, I think, will not spare another. What I said must necessarily be so. You will be my Protector over my realm.”

He then said to the others, “And, therefore, come, let us be gone and get our men in a readiness.”

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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