THIS MORNING, HENRY prepared to receive the French envoys at Wolvesey Castle. They were expected for dinner: about 11 or 11.30 a.m. by our reckoning.1. While he waited he dealt with various items of business, including commissioning four men to look after the temporalities of the see of Chichester, which were in the king’s hands following the death of the bishop.2
The French envoys came early. They joined Henry for a special Mass sung by twenty-eight chaplains, and afterwards were led to the great chamber where they had seen the king the previous day. He sat on the golden-tapestry-covered chair near the royal bed, with the same people to his left and right as on the previous day: secular lords on one side and prelates on the other. Archbishop Boisratier opened his address with a sermon on the theme of Kings I, chapter 19. ‘Peace be to you and your household’. He developed this to praise peace in general terms without mentioning the subject of their mission. He quoted various texts of the Old and New Testaments, and stated that ‘he had come in the interests of peace’, demonstrating how it would be better to be certain of this peace, which all men desired, than run the risk of the horrors of war.3
When the archbishop had finished, the chancellor responded, saying the king had heard the archbishop’s speech with great pleasure and considered it most eloquent. He was particularly pleased to hear that the king of France was prepared to do all he could in the interests of peace. In the past he had been tardy in sending negotiators, and this slackness was very dangerous; he hoped that in future the French king would be speedier about matters of peace.
At the dinner that followed, Archbishop Boisratier and the bishop of Lisieux were seated on one side of the king and his youngest brother Humphrey on the other. The count of Vendôme and the seigneur d’Ivry sat next to Humphrey. After the dinner, the king returned to the bishop’s great chamber where he was staying and addressed the ambassadors graciously, saying to them that he was happy that they had arrived because ‘they wished to work efficaciously for peace’. And then he dismissed them, delegating the actual discussions to his ambassadors.4
Michael de la Pole, earl of Suffolk, today set his seal to his will. He was fifty-four years of age, and a grandfather. Knighted by Richard II in 1377, he had seen his family fall completely from grace when his father was impeached in the parliament of 1386. It had taken him a long time to recover his family dignities, but eventually he had done so. He had been appointed to the privy council in 1402, and in 1408 he had been one of the representatives at the council of Pisa. Now he would be heading to France, to war. It was time to contemplate the end of life, as many men were doing in the few quiet moments they were permitted, lying in their beds or kneeling in chapel.
De la Pole wished to be buried in the Charterhouse at Kingston upon Hull, with no tomb but just a flat stone on him, between the tomb of his parents and the altar. But interestingly he declared this was to happen only if he died in the north of England. If he died anywhere else, he desired to be buried in the collegiate church at Wingfield, Suffolk, on the north side of the chapel of the Virgin. To his son he left a small Latin primer. To his wife Katherine he left a small book and the coronet that once had belonged to her father, the earl of Stafford. She was left in charge for the rest of his estate, in conjunction with his aged uncle, Edmund de la Pole.5
In the Franciscan Friary at Constance, Jan Hus was also contemplating death. Today he had to make his final declaration to the council – whether he would recant or not. Would he accept that men could act in God’s name against him? He wrote the following momentous letter:
I, Jan Hus, a priest in hope of Jesus Christ, fearing to offend God and fall into perjury, am unwilling to recant any or all of the articles produced against me in the testimonies of false witnesses. For God is my witness that I neither preached, asserted nor defended them, as they said …
If it were possible for my voice to be heard across the whole world – as it will be at the Day of Judgment, when every lie and all my sins will be revealed – I would most gladly recant before all the world, taking back every falsehood or error I have ever said or thought of saying.
This I say and write of my own free will. With my own hand.6
And with those few small words, in the silence of his cell, Jan Hus decided that he would obey his conscience, and die a martyr’s death.
The French ambassadors assembled this morning ‘in the chapter house of the small church’ with the bishops and lords whom they had met the previous day. In the king’s absence, Chancellor Beaufort presided. He outlined his authority to all those present, and urged the French to cut straight to the main point because the delays so far encountered were prejudicial to the king and contrary to his recommendations. The king had decided they had until the following Saturday to discuss the subject of peace, and after that there would be no more discussion.
Archbishop Boisratier could see that his authority was not great enough to secure peace. No power in the world could have stopped Henry on his march to war. In his letter to the French king, Henry had said that he would extend the time of the ambassadors’ safe conducts if the peace negotiations looked promising. Now he had already set a final date for their discussions: in just four days’ time. And there was to be no let up to the military preparations. Nevertheless the archbishop had to do what he could.
The king, our master, takes as witness the whole of Christendom, which has always wished for peace, and states that he has always searched to come to it by the road to justice, in offering to dismember the realm and to cede to the king of England more important towns in Aquitaine, more counties and lands of an almost unappreciable value, and the hand of his illustrious daughter Katherine with a dowry of 800,000 gold crowns. History does not show a daughter leaving her father’s palace with such a large sum of money. Would you tell us whether you are agreeable with these propositions?
According to the official French chronicler who recorded these words, the English chancellor replied that Henry did not intend to withdraw from his initial demands – specifically his first, most excessive terms. Beaufort maintained that in the course of the year 1414 the king of France had written to Henry stating that he was sending an embassy to treat with him in the way of justice and of the peace treaty, and to conclude the marriage, and to bring together certain key points and particulars in order to hasten the success of negotiations. Henry had been given to understand that the French ambassadors had sufficient authority to offer much more than they had to date. The archbishop of Bourges objected that the letters of authority that he had been given in France should not be supposed to convey more powers than they actually did. However, he had been authorised to offer to augment Princess Katherine’s dowry by 50,000 francs (not crowns), and he promised that the young princess would be sent to England with rich clothes and valuable jewels.7
At this the meeting broke up to confer further.
Archbishop Boisratier sent a formal request to continue the negotiations in the chapter house. After they assembled, Chancellor Beaufort, as spokesman, let it be known that Henry had reduced his demands from 1,000,000 crowns of gold to 900,000. The archbishop responded that he was not authorised to agree to such a sum, unless it be done subtly, by a change of text. There had been discussion in both currencies: francs and crowns. Ten gold crowns was the equivalent of about 10.5 francs.8 The French could stretch to 900,000 francs. But how much income might be assigned to Princess Katherine, when she was queen?
The whole process of negotiations was tiresome to the English; it was a charade. They were going to war – there were no two ways about it – and so the usual negotiating postures were meaningless. Having said that, if the French raised new objections, these could be used as further means to hasten the breakdown of the negotiations with no loss of honour. So the English replied that Katherine when queen would have the use of 10,000 marks (£6,666 13s 4d). The archbishop was appalled and argued that this was not enough, pointing to the illustrious birth of the princess, and stressing the advantages that the union would bring to both kingdoms. He also insisted that the sum allowed her should be relative to the immense wealth that she was bringing Henry in her dowry. Chancellor Beaufort would have none of it.
Discussions on the subject of the marriage stopped there, and the ambassadors departed.9
Henry was not present at these discussions in the chapter house. Only one instruction of his is known for today. He ordered that the keepers of passage in fifteen ports were not to allow anyone at all to leave.10 This was a wise precaution; it was usual to close the ports immediately after the death of a king, for reasons of security, and Edward III had extended this to times of war, to conceal news of his expeditions’ destinations leaking out. But one wonders what the people of the French ports thought, when no more vessels docked from England. They would have known their ambassadors were still overseas. The empty seas must have been ominous.
‘A happy and famous day,’ wrote Cardinal Fillastre in his journal at Constance. In the presence of Sigismund, wearing his imperial insignia, the representatives of Gregory XII – by far the most amenable of the three popes at the start of 1415 – came to abdicate on his behalf. Carlo Malatesta, Friar Giovanni Dominici, cardinal of Ragusa, and the patriarch of Constantinople, sat before the emperor and listened as Gregory’s last two papal bulls were read out, conferring on his delegates the authority to represent him at the council, and on Carlo Malatesta the authority to resign his papal title.
Giovanni Dominici preached a sermon on the theme of ‘Who is he and we will praise him? For in his lifetime he has done marvellous things’, relating this to Pope Gregory XII. After this he reiterated his master’s support for the council and all its acts to date, and all acts to be performed thereafter. Following this Friar Dominici was received into the college of cardinals at Constance – no longer a schismatic – and the patriarch of Constantinople was likewise honoured with a cardinal’s red hat.
Then it was the moment for Carlo Malatesta to read his written permission to abdicate in Gregory XII’s name, when it was considered expedient. The archbishop of Milan declared on the council’s behalf that it was expedient now. The nations all agreed, and following a few words praising his master, he read out the carefully prepared text:
The authentic bull of our most holy lord aforesaid, just read, shows him to be free from pressure and coercion by violence and seduced by no error, so that all may clearly perceive by his deeds with what sincerity and heartfelt love he has laboured and will labour for the sacred union and restoration of Christendom in the unity of the Holy Mother Church. He accepts even the way of his own abdication, honestly, freely and sincerely. Therefore as proctor on behalf of our most holy lord Pope Gregory XII, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, I abdicate and resign as set forth in these letters, in reality and effect all right, title and possession that he holds as pope, and in the name of our said lord I hereby renounce the papal office and every right, title, and possession of the papacy that he now holds, in the presence of our lord Jesus Christ, the head and bridegroom of His Holy Church, and before this sacrosanct synod and universal council, representing the Holy, Roman and Universal Church.11
And with that Gregory XII was once more Angelo Corrario. Where there had been three popes there now was only one.
The French ambassadors came before Henry, in response to his command; they bowed and knelt before him. There too were the archbishop of Canterbury, Chancellor Beaufort and many other lords.12 The king addressed them directly and coldly on the subject of justice: how his kingdom of France had been withheld from him.
As soon as he had finished, Archbishop Boisratier, the count of Vendôme and the seigneur d’Ivry stepped forward and showed Henry the letters of credence that they had been given by the king of France. Henry kindly and courteously asked them to expand on the theme. So the archbishop of Bourges spoke as follows:
To the honour of Jesus Christ, king of kings, I declare here that our serene king – having by your letters the assurance and certainty that you desire peace and an alliance by way of a marriage between you and his illustrious daughter, my lady Katherine, and knowing the fine qualities that distinguish your person – has himself a vital desire to conclude this peace and to establish, by way of kinship and justice, a lasting alliance between you in the interests of both kingdoms. We have been charged, if we find you well disposed to this accommodation, to offer you a further five towns, seven counties and many lordships, which you have been proposed before: the town, the castle and all the lordship of Limoges, including two populous towns, Limoges and Tulle, and by further addition another 50,000 crowns of gold on top of the 800,000 crowns that have been promised for the dowry of Madame Katherine.13
It seemed to the French ambassadors that the king was pleased with this offer. He answered them that he would reflect on it at greater length, and would reply to them on Saturday. With that they were ushered out; the interview was over.
As the ambassadors left the chamber they met Jean Fusoris, who had been waiting there. He did not have permission to enter the rooms where the ambassadors of the two kingdoms met, but he had waited outside the door each day, hoping to meet Richard Courtenay. The bishop had been doing his best to avoid him, but now he came up to him and greeted him in a kindly way. ‘You are most welcome, Master Jean,’ he said. They talked further, and Fusoris asked for the money that Courtenay still owed him. Courtenay told him to come back in the morning.14
Fusoris went to Wolvesey Castle next morning, accompanied by two esquires. He looked for Bishop Courtenay. The man was nowhere to be found. Fusoris then enquired of Courtenay’s whereabouts from a doctor of theology he encountered – who was probably Edmund Lacy, the dean of the royal chapel at Windsor. Lacy informed him that he was a little late; the privy council was already sitting and Richard Courtenay would be with the king. But they would not be long; would Master Fusoris care to have some wine while he waited? The esquires declined but Fusoris said yes, and spent some time chatting to Lacy. They talked about exchanging students – two from France studying in England and two from England in France – and they agreed that such a scheme depended very much on whether peace could be achieved. Dr Lacy asked about astrology and wondered whether there were many astrologers in Paris. Fusoris responded that there were many amateurs but few professionals, as it was not a science that paid great rewards. At this Lacy took out a sextant he had with him, which was marked with the revolutions of the heavens since the king’s birth. Fusoris refused to touch it, on account of the likelihood of war between their countries; not only were the negotiations going badly, he had seen a herald in Winchester wearing the livery of the duke of Burgundy.15 No doubt he suspected that Henry might agree a treaty with John the Fearless, and the two of them jointly attack France. Lacy did not press the matter but said instead how much he would have liked to spend some time in Paris, maybe a year or two. It might have been possible ‘if only your ambassadors had come sooner,’ he added, with the obvious implication that the advanced state of military preparations meant that peace was no longer a possibility. Then he paused and reflected that perhaps he was being too negative; maybe an English embassy might achieve some significant breakthrough after Henry had actually taken his army across the Channel?
The wine was finished and Fusoris joined his friends waiting in the hall of the castle. A little while later he saw Bishop Courtenay leaving the great chamber and walking down to the chapel to sing Mass. Fusoris followed him into the chapel, and while the bishop prepared the altar for the service Fusoris asked him again for his money. Bishop Courtenay explained that he would have sent it sooner but he could not find a reliable enough messenger to take it to Paris. But he assured the tenacious old Frenchman that he would give him what he owed him, but that he had not a penny with him at that time. He asked whether Fusoris had brought any gifts for the king? Fusoris said he had brought an astrolabe and some copies of tracts that he had discussed with Courtenay in Paris. Hearing this, Courtenay asked him to bring them to him the following morning at Mass, when he would present them to the king. In fact, he and Henry had often talked about Fusoris, he said, and suggested that Fusoris might like to meet the king.16
Some idea of what the king and the council had been discussing can be gained from the patent letters issued as ‘by the king’ from Winchester today. Legal cases were being prepared by royal officers in the court of the exchequer against the duke of York for monies owed by him in respect of his custody of the Channel Islands and the alien priories there: Henry ordered these to be dropped, and pardoned his cousin everything he owed the exchequer. He ordered that two men whom he had pardoned for murder in the first year of his reign, and who had subsequently been detained by royal officers, should be released. And a shipbuilder called William Godey was commissioned to take boards, timber, iron, pitch, tar, carpenters and smiths for making a new ship for the king. Given the advanced stage of proceedings, this must have been a ship for use in a future campaign.17 But why Henry was looking so far ahead at this precise juncture, when he was running short of money and there was no guarantee he would survive this forthcoming expedition, is a mystery. Perhaps it was simply that Godey’s services were now available.
Finally, a commission was sent ‘from the king’ to Sir Gilbert Talbot empowering him to draw up a treaty with Owen Glendower. Just in case the Welshman saw an opportunity to rise for one last time while Henry was out of the country, a process of negotiation should be started, to persuade Glendower that he had more to gain by being loyal to Henry than by fighting a guerrilla war against him.18
In Constance, the emperor sent Lord Wenceslas of Dubá, Lord John of Chlum and four bishops to the prison cell in the Franciscan Friary. It fell to Lord John, Hus’s closest friend at Constance, to do the talking.
Look, Master Jan, we are laymen and do not know how to counsel you. Therefore see if you feel that you are guilty in anyway of what you have been charged with. Do not fear to be instructed therein, and to recant. But if you do not feel guilty of those things with which you have been charged, then follow your conscience. Under no circumstances do anything against your conscience, or lie in the sight of God, but rather be steadfast until death in what you know to be the truth.
At this Jan Hus began to weep. But he replied,
Lord John, be sure that if I knew that I had written or preached anything erroneous against the law and against the Holy Catholic Church, I would humbly desire to recant – as God is my witness. I have always desired to be shown better and more relevant scripture than my own teachings and writings.
One of the bishops there could not restrain himself. ‘Do you claim that you are wiser than the whole council?’
Turning to him, Hus responded: ‘I do not claim to be wiser than the whole council; but, I pray, give me one member of the council who would instruct me by better and more relevant scripture, and I am ready instantly to recant!’
‘See how obstinate he is in his heresy!’ declared the bishop triumphantly. And with that exclamation they led Hus back into his cell and locked the door.19
When they had gone, Hus began to write his last letters.20 He addressed one to his friends in Constance, and another to his friends back home in Bohemia. He gave his last remaining possessions away to those who had stood by him. And then he wrote his very last letter, addressed ‘to the entire Christian world’. In this he tried to give a synopsis of his trial. He repeated the words he had used before: ‘I had supposed that in this council would be greater reverence, piety and discipline’. The letter was never finished. But it didnot matter. He would address the entire Christian world the following day.
It was John Wycliffe who was dealt with first by the council of Constance. The first forty-five heretical articles to be identified were execrated once more, and then another 260 were likewise dealt with. Any memory or memorial of him was condemned. And then it was time for Hus.
The archbishop of Riga led him into the cathedral. The emperor was there, wearing his crown, and so were a crowd of prelates. In the middle of them all was a table and a pedestal where the vestments and chasuble were arranged for the purpose of unfrocking him. Hus fell to his knees when he saw the table and pedestal, and stayed there a long time, praying silently. As he knelt there the bishop of Lodi went up into the pulpit and preached a sermon about heresy, stressing how heresy does so much harm to the Church, tearing it to pieces, and how it is the duty of kings to eradicate any and all such heresies.
After the sermon, the charges against Hus were read out. He heard, stopped praying and stood up. He tried to reply but he was forced to be silent. ‘I beseech you, for God’s sake!’ implored Hus. But he was forbidden to speak. He fell to his knees and began praying again.
They began the unfrocking ceremony. Seven bishops forced him to his feet and adorned him in the vestments of the priesthood as if he was about to celebrate Mass. They took no notice as he called out ‘My Lord Jesus Christ was mocked in a white garment when he was led from Herod to Pilate!’ They led him up onto the table, and put a chalice in his hand. Standing there, in tears, facing the multitude of priests, he declared, ‘These bishops exhort me to recant and abjure. But I fear to do so, lest I be a liar in the sight of the Lord, and also lest I offend my own conscience and the truth of God.’
Taken down from the table, the bishops began to unfrock him. They took the chalice from him, declaring, ‘O cursed Judas, because you have abandoned the counsel of peace and have counselled with the Jews we take away from you this cup of redemption!’
‘I trust in the Lord God Almighty,’ Hus replied, ‘for whom I patiently bear this vilification. He will not take from me the cup of redemption, but I firmly hope that I will drink from it today, in his kingdom!’
They cursed him with every holy garment they took from him. And when he stood in just his gown and black coat they took a pair of scissors and obliterated his tonsure, removing most of his hair. They placed a paper mitre on his head, which bore the images of two devils and the word,heresiarch, shouting ‘we commit your soul to the Devil!’
‘And I commit it to the most merciful Lord Jesus Christ, who bore a much heavier and harsher crown of thorns!’ replied Hus.
They led him out of the cathedral and delivered him into the hands of the executioners. His books were being burned nearby, the smoke drifting across the city. Crowds had gathered to watch him go, and more now arrived, accompanying him through the streets. The emperor and authorities had foreseen this, and there were more than a thousand guards ready. Hus sang psalms as he was led along, and called out ‘Have mercy on me, oh God!’
So many people were crowding around Hus that, to avoid the masses, the guards had to force them back from the bridge out of the city. Once across, Hus’s executioners led him off the road that led to Gottleiben Castle and around the edge of a meadow beside the road, to the place where the stake was. Two wagon loads of straw and brushwood stood ready. People in the crowd following started shouting that he should have a confessor before he died but a mounted priest, wearing a green suit with a red silk lining, shouted back that he had been excommunicated, and deserved no confessor.
More people were flocking to the place of execution. Soldiers started running towards Hus, lest matters get out of hand. Ulrich Richental, who was an eyewitness, estimated that there were three thousand armed men there. He was standing near as Hus approached the stake; Richental saw him fall to his knees and scream to Christ for mercy. At the place of execution he was offered a confession on the condition that he recant. ‘I am no mortal sinner!’ he yelled, terrified. So they proceeded.
Hus was tied to the stake with ropes, his hands being tied behind his back. He was made to stand on a stool, and a sooty chain fastened around his neck. The executioners took brushwood and straw from the wagons and piled it around him. They scattered a little pitch over it, and lit the fire.
Hus began to sing. ‘Christ thou son of the living God, have mercy on us.’ As he sang the wind caught the flames and the smoke and flames began to rise into his face, and for those who saw him it seemed his lips were moving but they could hear nothing. Soon they heard not singing but the cries and screams of excruciating pain, as the fire burned his gown and his skin. The executioners piled on more straw and brushwood. And so he died.
The paper mitre on Hus’s head did not burn straightaway, according to Richental, so the executioners knocked it off into the flames with a stick. They had orders to ensure that no trace of him remained. No artefact of his had been removed in the cathedral: everything he wore on the day of his death was to be obliterated with him. His purse, his coat, his clothes, his belt – even his knives. And the full extent of this order became clear as the flames died down. The executioners knocked his charred flesh into the fire, and broke the bones with clubs so that they would be burned more thoroughly. As the fire died down they found his skull, dragged it out, and smashed it open with their clubs. The pieces they threw back into the flames.21
The ashes were guarded. When cold enough, they were gathered up and cast into the Rhine. The very determination to remove Hus entirely from physical existence – like the will to eliminate any memory of Wycliffe – shows how seriously the council regarded him. The first great battle of the year 1415 was over; and although Jan Hus had lost his life, the cause for which he fought had a new martyr and was immeasurably stronger. Christendom was never the same again.
Fusoris went to Wolvesey Castle next morning with his servant, Jean du Berle, taking the astrolabe and astrological tracts that he had mentioned to Courtenay. The French ambassadors were still with the king when he arrived, and he waited in the hall. Eventually the meeting broke up and the king and all the negotiators, including Courtenay, came down the stairs from the great chamber and went into the chapel. Fusoris followed them, and heard Courtenay celebrate Mass. When it was over, Courtenay signalled to him to approach, and led him to the king’s pew.
‘My lord,’ said Courtenay, ‘this is Master Jean Fusoris, that I spoke of, who, thinking there would be a treaty of peace, has brought with him a composition for your solid sphere, another for an instrument wherein may be seen the motions of the planets, their conjunctions, oppositions and aspects, together with a figure of the heavens at all hours, a small astrolabe and a practical guide on how to use it, and a sextant that he offers to your majesty.’
‘Thank you,’ said the king in Latin, as Fusoris – on one knee – produced the articles and passed them to the bishop one by one. ‘Grans merci,’ he added afterwards.
‘I hope they are pleasing to you, serene prince,’ replied Fusoris, in French.
The king said nothing more but Courtenay told Fusoris he was invited to dine with them.22
This tendency to say very little was Henry’s usual manner. However, today he was particularly disinclined to make small talk with a visiting French astrologer. The negotiations had to be brought to a close. He had recalled the French ambassadors to the palace for the final day of negotiations and had delivered his verdict on their offer made on Thursday. He wanted the ambassadors to tell him exactly when he could expect Princess Katherine to be delivered to him with her jewels and 850,000 crowns, and when the towns and lands would be delivered to him. He declared he was happy with these terms on one condition – that the ambassadors agree a truce to last fifty years. Of course he knew well that the ambassadors had no authority to agree this term – so he would send his own ambassadors to Paris to put the proposal to the king of France while the French ambassadors remained here in England. Much lively debate had followed this. Henry Beaufort had insisted the girl be handed over with the money and jewels on St Andrew’s Day (30 November). The French objected, on the grounds that it would be impossible to gather all the money by then. And they maintained they could not agree to the fifty-year truce because they had insufficient authority, and they could not assure the king of the terms on which he was to hold these new lands. He wanted full sovereignty and the French ambassadors would not say exactly on what basis the offer was made.23 At this point they broke to attend Mass and then eat dinner.
After dinner Courtenay came up to Fusoris and shook his hand. The final stage of the embassy now had to take place. Courtenay informed Fusoris that there would be no deal, no peace treaty and no marriage. He expressed his regret, for he believed that had the French envoys come sooner then the whole matter could have been settled. In this way he once more turned reality around to suggest it was all the fault of the French. Fusoris objected that, regarding the marriage, that was the fault of the English, for the usual amount of money had been offered – and more besides. It was Henry’s obstinacy and his excessive demands for the peace that were to blame. Courtenay replied that, no, Henry was a good, wise man. He was chaste and pure – the bishop was sure that he had not slept with a woman since becoming king. But what did Fusoris think of him, now he had met him?
Fusoris’s answer is very revealing. Henry had a great stateliness, and the fine manner of a high lord, but he seemed better suited for the Church than for war. The real soldier in the family was not Henry but his brother Thomas, duke of Clarence – or so it appeared to Fusoris.24
That afternoon the king and the ambassadors reconvened in the great chamber. Fusoris was with them this time. There was no further debate. Henry Beaufort reiterated the whole process of the peace negotiations, from the original demands in 1414 down to the debate that morning.
But you do not have the power or the will, as each of you knows, to agree with our lord the king about the manner and the form in which he will hold these lands: if, for example, it will be as King Edward III of happy memory held them, and without prejudice to his rights, or otherwise. You are no better when it comes to the prolongation of the truce and avoiding the effusion of human blood, nor on the exact date and time of the handing over of the Princess Katherine with the money and jewels.25
Beaufort went on to juxtapose these supposed failings on the part of the French negotiators with the fact that Henry had showed himself prepared to forego ‘great, important and notable things’ such as his claim to the throne of France, the duchies of Normandy and Touraine, the counties of Anjou and Maine, overlordship of Brittany and Flanders, and other lands claimed ‘in the time of Edward of venerable memory’ and delivered to him by treaty. As a result of this, claimed Beaufort, it seemed that the French king had no sincere intention of working towards a permanent peace.
According to the chronicler Enguerrand Monstrelet, it was the archbishop of Canterbury, not Beaufort, who delivered the speech. He states that he ended with the declaration that unless the French delivered Henry everything that had been owed to Edward III by the Treaty of Brétigny, he would invade France and despoil the whole of the kingdom, and that he would remove Charles VI from the throne with his sword. To this Boisratier is supposed to have replied,
O king, how can you consistently with honour and justice, wish to dethrone and iniquitously destroy the most Christian king of the French, our very dear and most redoubted lord, the noblest and most excellent of all the kings in Christendom? O king, with all due reverence and respect, do you think he has offered, by me, such an extent of territory and so large a sum of money with his daughter in marriage, through any fear of you, your subjects or allies? By no means! But moved by pity and his love of peace he has made these offers to avoid the shedding of innocent blood … for whenever you will make your promised attempt, he will call upon God, the blessed Virgin, and on all the saints, making his appeal to them for the justice of his cause … We have now only to entreat you that you will have us safely conducted out of the realm and that you will write to our said king under your hand a seal, the answer you have given us.26
Henry ordered that a letter summarising the final response be drawn up and sealed with the privy seal. It would be ready by the end of the day. The peace negotiations were over.
A later source states that Archbishop Boisratier lost his temper at this point and declared that Henry had no right to claim the throne of France as he had no claim to the throne of England; and he and his fellow ambassadors should have been negotiating with the heirs of Richard II, not Henry.27We cannot be certain whether this preserves a real event – a loss of control that could not have been allowed to stand in the official record – or whether it was just an imaginative embellishment. If Archbishop Boisratier did lose his temper, who could blame him?
Back at Constance, the king of France’s ambassadors succeeded in having the propositions of Jean Petit refuted. Although Petit was not actually named in the edict condemning tyrannicide, it was clear in which direction it was intended. Drafted by Dr Jean Gerson, it stated:
The holy synod, being particularly desirous of finding measures to extinguish the errors and heresies now springing up in various parts of the world, as it is bound and was convened to do, has learned recently that certain propositions have been published, erroneous and scandalous on many counts, both to faith and good morals, and aimed at the overthrow of the whole fabric and order of the state. Among these propositions the following is reported. ‘Any tyrant may and should be rightfully and meritoriously killed by any of his vassals or subjects, even by methods of secret conspiracy, blandishment and flattery, notwithstanding any vow or league the vassal may have made with him and without waiting for a sentence or mandate from any judge whatsoever.’ In order to oppose this error, the holy synod … decrees and affirms that this doctrine is erroneous in faith and morals, and disapproves and condemns it as heretical, scandalous and seditious, opening the way to craft, deceit, falsehood, treachery and perjury. In addition, it declares and decrees and affirms that those who obstinately maintain this most perilous doctrine are heretics and as such should be punished by the rules of the canons and the law.28
By this reckoning, John the Fearless was a heretic and deserved the same punishment as Jan Hus had just received. His lawyers Martin Porée and Pierre Cauchon were going to have a hard time refuting this decision and exonerating their lord.
After the French ambassadors had left, Henry attended to a few more items of business at Wolvesey with his council. He dictated a letter to the Jurade of Bordeaux on behalf of the earl of Dorset, to whom they owed money. He declared he had already asked them once to pay; he now requested they do so immediately, so he did not have to write to them again on the matter. The earl of Westmorland and eight other men were commissioned to enquire into the abduction of Mordach of Fife in Yorkshire, and to arrest and imprison the offenders.29 And finally he consented to see Peter Benefeld, the tenacious envoy of the Teutonic Knights.
Hearing Benefeld’s case, Henry beckoned the chancellor and his secretary to him and asked what was being done about the matter. Beaufort declared that a friendly letter was going to be drafted to the Grand Master of the Order explaining that no money was currently available but that the debt would be honoured in due course. Beaufort would be riding back to the capital on the following day; perhaps Peter would care to travel in his company. Then the letter could be written when they were back at Westminster.
Henry was satisfied. He dismissed Benefeld, and called for supper. Then he set out for Titchfield Abbey, near Southampton.30
Fusoris knew the French embassy would be leaving Southampton this morning, so today was his last chance to get his money. He rose early and went to the town house in Winchester where Courtenay was staying. The bishop was apparently still in bed, but a servant went to a chest and took out 100 nobles for the tenacious Frenchman. Fusoris pointed out that when he had tried to change the last 100 nobles in Paris he had lost out to the tune of 33 crowns. The servant assured him these were all good – in other words, they were all of the correct weight.31
Fusoris had finally got what he came for. His servant came to the house with his horses and belongings, and he set out on the journey back to Paris, catching up with the ambassadors shortly afterwards.
Henry stayed at Titchfield Abbey with the remaining members of his privy council. They discussed the dossier of diplomatic agreements with the French, which Bishop Courtenay had compiled on 10 May. Key to them all was the Treaty of Bourges of 1412: the document in which the Armagnac lords ceded sovereignty of Aquitaine to the king of England. In order to win the approval of the council of Constance for his war, and especially the emperor, he needed to show that his cause was a just one. It was somewhat ironic that the Treaty of Bourges – a document that Henry had been forced to swear to uphold by his late father – was now the best justification for his forthcoming campaign. The French could indeed argue that he had no right to the English claim on the throne of France, but they could not deny that the lords now in authority had once confirmed that Henry was the rightful sovereign lord of Gascony, and had offered to help him regain sovereignty of the duchy.
Henry directed the archbishop of Canterbury to draw up copies of the agreements and to have them witnessed and sealed by a notary public – a common means used on the Continent for authenticating documents – as well as by the archbishop himself. When this was done, the whole file was sent to Sigismund as an explanation for the forthcoming war. According to a contemporary writer, Henry hoped that ‘all Christendom might know what great acts of injustice the French in their duplicity had inflicted on him, and that reluctantly, and against his will, he felt compelled to raise his standards against the rebels’.32
Fusoris and the French ambassadors had now been travelling for three days. An English esquire came among them, asking where the count of Vendôme was staying. He had presents, he said, for the ambassadors. He was pointed in the direction of the right inn, and all the Frenchmen in the party crowded around to see what the squire had brought. Jean Fusoris failed to get near, but met the squire later and was given 40 nobles (£13 6s 8d) in return for the astrolabe and the books he had given the king, together with a message of thanks.
Fusoris was grateful and walked along with the esquire. When he was asked why the ambassadors had taken such a long time to arrive, thereby forcing the kingdom to go on to a war footing (in the esquire’s opinion), Fusoris replied that, as far as he knew, it was because there had already been one embassy; it was not thought that a war was likely. And the king of England was a fool to press for war – he had much more to gain from a marriage than a war. After all, Fusoris had seen that a number of people in England thought the earl of March should be king. Some preferred the idea that Thomas, duke of Clarence, should have inherited the throne instead of his elder brother, and hoped that Henry would die soon without an heir so Thomas would inherit. There had been a rising against Richard II when he had left the country, and Richard had lost his throne; perhaps Henry would find that the same thing happened to him? War was dangerous, in more ways than one. And what did he hope to gain? If he meant just to make a short raid, he would not be met with much of a welcome when he returned – having taxed the country so heavily and forced so many towns and lords to make loans to him. And if he meant to undertake a longer campaign, he would find armies more numerous and better-trained than his army now gathering at Southampton. Henry could not rely on the king of France and the duke of Burgundy fighting each other.
In response to all this the esquire could only say that, with God’s help, there would yet be peace. The two men then parted, Fusoris to ride on to Dover and sail for France with the ambassadors and the Celestine monks from Sheen. If Henry was not going to build them a monastery, and insisted on going to war with their country, they were not going to stay. As Fusoris said, for a Frenchman in 1415 England was a good country to have visited but a bad one in which to linger.
When Henry Beaufort had left Winchester he had carried a number of Henry’s instructions back to London with him. These were all issued in formal letters over the next few days. Henry instructed the collectors of customs in London and various other ports to repay a loan to the Venetians of 1,000 marks, to pay £285 0s 6d for sails, ropes and tackle for the king’s flagship, Trinity Royal; and to repay £9,000 to the treasurer of Calais.33 Sir Ralph Rochford was reimbursed £102 6s 8d for his expenses in going to the council of Constance; and Dr Jean Bordiu, archdeacon of Médoc, was reimbursed £171 16s 8d for his mission to negotiate with the king of Castile at Fuenterrabia, from which he had returned in February. A number of sergeants-at-arms were appointed; and Henry ordered that the wages of the keeper of the privy seal be paid.34 A royal judge, William Loddyngton, was given permission to celebrate Mass in an ancient chapel. Formal assignments were drawn up concerning the major jewels pledged. In particular, an indenture conveying the Crown Henry to Thomas, duke of Clarence, was sealed, stating that he could dispose of it as he saw fit if the king had not redeemed it by 2 February 1417. This document also stipulated that he should not break it up – a direction that Thomas ignored, dividing it among his followers as security for future payment of their wages.35
Henry arrived at Southampton. He wrote a letter under the signet to the council – probably those members with Chancellor Beaufort in London – enclosing a schedule of four carracks that the earl of Huntingdon had been promised. He urged that a warrant be issued to the masters of these ships for each of them to take a hundred mariners to serve in them.36
With the king was one of the royal ‘esquires of the body’, John Cheney. He was about to set out with three men-at-arms on the mission to Harfleur. Today he penned one of the few private letters to survive from this year, addressing Sir John Pelham, who was also due to sail:
Right worshipful and worthy Sir, I recommend myself to you with all my heart thanking you for the great kindness and gentleness that you have shown me up to now without fail, praying you might always be of good continuance; and you will wish to know that the king and all the lords here are well blessed by God. And as regards my lord the earl of Huntingdon now at sea at last, the bearer of this letter shall declare it more plainly by mouth than I can write it at this time. Furthermore, right worshipful and worthy Sir, you will want to know that I am here, and have been at great costs and expense, wherefore I need to borrow a notable sum before I go and fare from my house, and from other friends of mine, save only you, worthy Sir, having full hope and trust in your gracious and gentle person to help and succour me at this time in my greatest necessity, to lend me some notable sum of gold such as the bearer of this, Thomas Garnetier, my servant, shall truly declare … praying the Holy Trinity send you honour prosperity and joy. Written in haste at Southampton, the 12th day of July.37
So the first ships were at sea already, with the earl of Huntingdon. And Henry was not the only one feeling the financial strain of the expedition.
About this time the Teutonic envoys had a final meeting with the chancellor in London. At last he was honest with them: they could expect nothing in the immediate future. If the money was to be paid, it would only be in small instalments, at long intervals; and there really was no point in them pressing for more than that.38 And with that even Peter Benefeld realised he had come to the end of the road. All there remained to do was to write up the whole episode for the benefit of the Grand Master, and to sail back to Marienburg.
It is not clear exactly why the earl of Huntingdon was already at sea. One might speculate that he was guarding against a pre-emptive French attack. However, as the French ambassadors were still on their return journey, this seems unlikely. Rather it seems we should connect the earl of Huntingdon’s expedition with an assault on the Norman town of Fécamp, which took place today.39 People in the area and all along the coast now knew they could not rely on the French government to protect them. Many packed up their belongings and left. The war had begun.
From Bishop’s Waltham, Henry sent out an order to the sheriff of Norfolk. He had been informed that certain men of Norfolk had refused to keep watch for the safety of the coast. He ordered that the sheriff make a proclamation that the king declared that this remained their duty, and they should not fail to do perform it adequately.40
At Constance, Sigismund and the council had achieved the feat of deposing one pope and persuading another to resign. Now they turned their attention to Pope Benedict XIII. The conference to discuss his abdication had been planned to take place at Nice in June, but it had been delayed, partly by an outbreak of the plague in that town and partly because of concerns for Sigismund’s safety, following the threats made against him by John the Fearless. But now the time had come to act. Sigismund appointed the duke of Bavaria-Heidelberg to preside over the council in his absence and urged the deputies to discuss the reform of the Church but not to make any final decisions until his return.41
Sigismund did not want to run the risk of coming across John the Fearless. He set out to travel through Savoy, to the south of the duke’s lands, keeping his route secret.
In Portugal, at the royal estate of Odivelas, Henry’s aunt, Queen Philippa of Portugal breathed her last. She was fifty-five years of age, and a much-loved woman in her adopted country. Among the children she left were such figures as the future king, Duarte I of Portugal and Enrico (Henry the Navigator). But to Henry her death would have meant little beyond the gradual breaking of a diplomatic bond. She had married João I of Portugal in Oporto in February 1387 – when Henry was only a few weeks old. In all probability, Henry had never actually met her.
Sir Thomas Gray of Heton had come down from the north and had spent about a week in London. Yesterday he had saddled up and started his journey westward to Southampton. He had spent last night at Kingston upon Thames, and was riding to Southampton along the road through Guildford.
Treason was on his mind. After throwing the earl of Cambridge’s letter into a cesspit at York, he had been visited by a man called Cresswell, who was a retainer of the imprisoned Lord Percy. Cresswell had shown him some copied documents: an indenture between Sir Robert Umphraville and someone – possibly the duke of Albany – and a copy of a letter from Percy to the earl of Cambridge and Lord Clifford. Gray had commented to Cresswell that the king would like neither the indenture nor the letter. But Cresswell had told him that it was God’s will that Henry Percy should come from Scotland with a strong hand in the name of King Richard II, as the earl of Cambridge and Lord Clifford were urging him to do in their letters. Gray seems to have promised nothing; he had yet to make up his mind about the earl of Cambridge, whose plan to exchange Mordach for Lord Percy had been thwarted and whose new plans were even more dangerous. Cambridge was now considering kidnapping one of eighteen important English lords on a list provided by the duke of Albany, any one of whom he would exchange for Lord Percy.
As he was travelling, an esquire rode up alongside him. It was his cousin, Walter Lucy. They greeted each other and before long their conversation turned to Henry Percy and King Richard II. Lucy asked Gray what had happened about Henry Percy. Gray replied that he did not know, although he added that he had seen ‘an indenture which was not likely to be fulfilled’. Then Lucy told him about the heavy debts that the earl of March had undertaken, and how the earl had borrowed heavily from the earl of Arundel and Lord Scrope, as well as himself, in order to pay back the punitive fine that Henry had levied on him for marrying Anne Stafford. Lucy added that Arundel and Scrope had always been good to the earl of March. Gray was sanguine. It meant nothing, he said, for the earl of March ‘was but a hog’.
At this point the conversation shifted on to more dangerous ground. Lucy said to Gray that the earl of March ‘should be found a man and challenge his right’, meaning that the earl of March should make a claim for the throne. He added that he understood from the earl of March that Lord Scrope had been to see him of his own free will, and ‘the highest and the haughtiest’ had spoken to the earl also, encouraging him to pursue his claim. Scrope had told him that he had the support of the earl of Arundel too, for they had both been intent on helping the earl of March for the last three years. Scrope had finally presented the earl with three alternative strategies. One was to go to France and return at the head of a mercenary army (as the earl’s ancestor, the first earl of March, had done in 1326). Another was to attack the king at sea. The third was to go into Wales and start a rising against the Lancastrians there.
The testimonies on which the above account relies are suspect, being delivered by Gray at a later date, in prison. But even so one can see that Lucy was not being wholly honest with him. The earl of Arundel was one of the king’s closest friends; he was not a man to favour the earl of March’s claim to the throne. Nor was Scrope. But both men had lent the earl money. When Lucy told Gray that Arundel and Scrope would support the earl of March’s claim to the throne, he was lying. When Scrope and Arundel had resolved in 1412 that they would help the earl of March’s cause, they had only meant as far as marrying Anne Stafford. Neither man wanted the earl to be king. And Scrope’s recent visit to the earl was rather more sensitive than either the earl himself or his steward, Lucy, realised. Scrope wanted to know more about the plot – not in order to join it but to learn what was afoot. His observation that the earl of March had three strategies open to him was not delivered as conspiratorial advice but an observation: a warning. He later repeated these same strategies – to show the flaws in each of them.
Nonetheless, Lucy convinced Gray that Lord Scrope and the earl of Arundel would support the cause of the earl of March. He had fooled himself into thinking this, and now he fooled Gray into thinking it too. At this point Gray began to think that the earl of Cambridge’s plot might not be so far-fetched after all. If they could bring about a revolution between them, Gray surmised, then he stood to gain mightily. His son would be married to the king’s niece.42
At Southampton Henry ordered Richard Redeman and John Strange, king’s clerks, to supervise the mustering of the men about to set sail under the command of the duke of Clarence.43 The reason for having royal clerks look over the lordly retinues was in order to count exactly how many had gathered, and to make sure that they were all fit to fight. Henry did not want to pay the wages of useless men, or archers who could not draw a longbow, or men who had simply failed to show up.
At Westminster the king’s clerks acted on an instruction that Henry must have issued some days before. They searched the patent rolls in accordance with their instructions – presumably conveyed by Chancellor Beaufort on his return to London – and drew up a commission to two clerks to assist the prior provincial of the Dominican Order in England to investigate the nuns of Dartford. The Dominican nuns’ house had been founded by Edward III; being a royal foundation, the prior provincial had to petition the king for permission to intervene.44 The king had granted the petition and given the clerks power ‘to enquire into and punish with the said prior provincial any defects, excesses and trespasses in these things and to reduce all the sisters to obedience according to the form of apostolic bulls and letters patent dated 10 November in the 30th year of the reign of Edward III.’45
Sir Thomas Gray received a message at Hambledon, in Hampshire.46 If he should hasten on to Southampton he would hear a ‘new thing’ from the earl of Cambridge. So he did.
When he arrived, Gray told Cambridge about meeting Walter Lucy the previous day, and hearing from him that Lord Scrope and the earl of Arundel had been supporters of the earl of March’s cause for the last three years. That seems to have been the catalyst for Cambridge to discuss his new plans with Gray in detail. Cambridge had decided to shift his attention directly to the earl of March. The idea was to take the earl into Wales, and there proclaim him king of England, declaring that Henry V was a usurper. The earl of Cambridge – whose maternal grandfather had been King Pedro of Castile – had in his custody the Pallet of Spain, a piece of head armour which incorporated a real crown. The earl of March could be crowned with that. He also owned a banner decorated with the arms of England. With a genuinely royal opposition leader to fight for, many of those who did not want to go to France, many Lollards and many Welshmen would be attracted to their cause. Or so he thought.
William, Lord Botreaux, of Cadbury in Somerset, was preparing to set out with sixty men in his retinue. He was twenty-six years old, and normally would not have considered making his will for another twenty years. But like many young men on the verge of setting out for France, he decided that the time had come to consider his final resting place and the final disposal of his worldly goods.
First he declared that he wanted to be buried in the parish church at Cadbury. With regard to his possessions, he bequeathed to his wife Elizabeth ‘all the utensils, ornaments and furniture of my hall, chambers, kitchen, pantry and buttery except the drinking cups, basins and ewers and other vessels of gold and silver’. He also left her ‘a basin and ewer of silver, five newly-made goblets, a drinking cup of gold made in the form of a rose, and suit of vestments for her altar, adorned with peacocks’ feathers and velvet’. He left £1,000 to be shared between his two daughters, for their marriage portions, but if they inherited his estate due to the lack of a son then the £1,000 was to be ‘distributed by my executors to the poor and needy, and to buy books and vestments for such parish churches of my patronage as may want them, and to help the poor tenants in my lordships’. He directed that three priests should celebrate divine services at Cadbury for his soul and the souls of his ancestors, until a college could be founded there according to his directions. He left bequests of £2 to each of the four orders of friars at Bristol and to various friaries and monasteries from Bodmin in Cornwall to Salisbury in Wiltshire. And on every Wednesday and Friday for ten years after his death, his executors were to distribute a penny to each of twenty-four paupers.47
Three envoys arrived from King Ferdinand of Aragon with a present of two fine coursers and a jennet for Henry. Their instructions were to negotiate a new alliance between Aragon and England, and to propose a marriage between Henry and Maria, King Ferdinand’s eldest daughter. They found the king pleasant and open to negotiation on their initial interview but were informed that he was about to cross to France. So they went on a pilgrimage to Canterbury by way of Winchester and London at Henry’s expense. Henry deputed John Waterton and Master John Kempe to meet them on their return to Southampton and to sail to Spain with them to meet Ferdinand.48
The instructions he gave Waterton and Kempe were guarded. They were to admit that Henry was unmarried but they were to stress that it would be ‘a very difficult matter’ to arrange a marriage, even if Maria was a suitable bride. Rather he instructed them to offer the hand of one of his two unmarried brothers (John and Humphrey), with a request for a dowry of 200,000 crowns, although the envoys might allow themselves to be beaten down to 160,000. Henry still intended to take a French princess for himself.49
When Sir Thomas Gray awoke in the guesthouse of the Greyfriars in Southampton, he found Lord Scrope standing at the foot of his bed. Scrope asked how he liked the prospect of the voyage to France. Gray admitted that he was averse to it, and told Scrope about his meeting with Walter Lucy two days earlier. Gray had believed Lucy’s story about Scrope supporting the earl of March’s cause. He further believed that Lord Scrope was prepared to consider rebellion against the Lancastrians on account of the fate of his uncle Archbishop Scrope of York, who had been executed on Henry IV’s personal authority in 1405. So he asked Scrope directly: did he favour the earl of March’s claim to the throne?
Scrope knew that if he simply denied that the earl of March had a claim, then Gray would realise that he had been misled. Gray would inform Cambridge, and he would be unable to find out anything more about the plot. So he answered evasively. He told Gray that he had visited the earl of March and heard him speak about his claim to the throne, following his outrage and frustration at being fined so heavily by the king for marrying Anne Stafford. It was enough to convince Gray that the conversation was worth continuing. As each man had a separate commitment for dinner that morning, Gray suggested they meet up again later.
That afternoon, Sir Thomas Gray went looking for Scrope and met him in the street. Together they went to see the earl of March. Walter Lucy was with him. In their presence Scrope asked Gray what he reckoned the earl of March should do? He had three options, Gray said, repeating the three strategies which Lucy had told him Scrope had outlined. He could take the field, he could go to Wales, or he could attack Henry at sea. The earl of March confirmed that ‘his heart and his will was full thereto’, if he had sufficient forces at his disposal.50
Scrope asked the earl of March if he had discussed any of this with anyone before now.
‘Why?’ asked the earl of March.
‘Because I have heard the earl of Cambridge and Sir Thomas here have spoken in this manner to you.’
‘Who told you?’
Scrope then went on to expound on the dangers the earl faced. As Scrope put it,
if [the earl of March] drew near to Lollards they would subvert this land and the Church; if he drew to Wales it should undo both him and this land; if they made him take a field [the king] would come on him with all [his] host and destroy him; and if he went into Wales he should be enfamined and lost; and if he went by sea with vessels of advantage, he should be taken and undone …51
Hearing these things, the earl promised Scrope that he would do nothing hasty – he ‘would not be stirred until [Scrope] came again’. Walter Lucy promised likewise that he would not do anything treasonable for the time being. After this, the earl and Lucy took to their horses and left.
Following their departure, Gray told Scrope ‘that the earl of Cambridge and he and others … would meet with the earl of March at his house at Cranbury’ on the following day. Scrope was not tempted to join them. Instead he left Gray and took the ferry across the River Itchen to his lodgings. And he sent a verbal message by one of his servants to Walter Lucy – the man who had originally informed him of the emerging plot – stating that he was amazed that such things were being discussed at this present time, for plainly the king ‘had men on every side to espy such governance’.
The reply came back that ‘they did but hunt’ and they were not yet ready to take action. Scrope had to be content with that.
Business was conducted in Henry’s name today from both Southampton and Bishop’s Waltham.52 It was at Bishop’s Waltham that he had a letter drawn up directing the council to pay £500 per year to his brother Thomas during the minority of Henry Beaufort, son of the late John Beaufort, earl of Somerset. The king specified that the arrears since 1410 should be paid, and that 2,000 marks a year should be paid since 14 July 1413.53 The total was £5,166 13s 4d – hardly an easy sum for the treasurer to find at short notice. At Bishop’s Waltham too a letter was drawn up in Henry’s name ordering that a great tabernacle of gold, which had once belonged to his grandfather, John of Gaunt, should be delivered to the archbishop of York, the bishop of Durham and several other northern prelates, as security for the repayment of £993 that they had lent him.54
Also today, but at Southampton, Henry granted the duchy of Lancaster to sixteen trustees with the power to regrant it to his heirs. Like all the other men who were making their wills, he was beginning to consider putting his affairs in order in case he died. Those named as his trustees were the archbishop of Canterbury, Henry and Thomas Beaufort, Thomas Langley, Richard Courtenay, the duke of York, the earls of Arundel and Westmorland, Lord Fitzhugh, Lord Scrope, Sir Roger Leche, Sir Walter Hungerford, Sir John Phelip, Hugh Mortimer, John Woodhouse and John Leventhorpe. The name that sticks out in that list is that of Henry Scrope. Despite any differences they may have had about the king’s war policy, Scrope was clearly still very much in the king’s favour.55
The duke of Albany knew there were plots afoot in England. The list of eighteen names handed to the earl of Cambridge indicates that the Scots were aware of discontented factions. They probably also knew that some men were waiting for news of a northern rising before they would take action in the name of the earl of March. They were also aware that Mordach was back in Henry’s custody and was not now going to be handed over as agreed. Consequently about this time they sent two armed expeditions into the north of England. One, led by the earl of Douglas, went into Westmorland and burnt the town of Penrith; the other went into Northumberland. The latter managed to penetrate just six miles before coming across Sir Robert Umphraville at Yeavering, near Kirknewton. Umphraville had only four hundred men with him but managed to rout the Scots, killing sixty men, capturing four hundred and sending the remainder running for twelve miles back into Scotland.56
If the copied indenture that Cresswell had showed Gray the Friday just past was Umphraville’s promise to allow the Scots to pass, then either it was a forgery or part of a plan of entrapment. Umphraville never meant to observe its terms. Cambridge had been quite foolish to believe it.
Gray and Cambridge gathered this evening for supper at the earl of March’s house at Cranbury, five miles north of Southampton. The plot was no doubt discussed, and so too the warnings of Lord Scrope. There was clearly a feeling that if they actually did nothing, they were innocent. The promise they had given Scrope not to act in the immediate future did not extend to not planning or plotting – or ‘hunting’, as Lucy put it.
In Paris, the five hundred Cabochien supporters of John the Fearless who had been exempted from the Peace of Arras were finally banished from the city.57 No doubt most went straight to John himself, who was then at Rouvres. Their part in the drama of the year 1415 was not yet over.
The Portuguese fleet finally set sail from Lisbon. To the great relief of the French spies who were watching, it did not move north but south, towards the Straits of Gibraltar. It was not going to join with Henry’s fleet in an attack on France; it was heading to Ceuta, in Morocco.
The duke of Clarence’s retinue was mustered on St Catherine’s Hill. The duke of Gloucester’s was at Romsey; the earl of Oxford’s was at Wallopforth; and the earl of Huntingdon’s on Swanwick Heath with the companies of Lord Botreaux, Lord Grey of Ruthin, Roland Leinthal, and much of the royal household. The men of Sir Thomas Erpingham and Sir Lewis Robesart gathered on Southampton Common; other contingents were at Hampton Hill.58 More than twelve thousand men were now in the area, and even more horses.
It was inevitable that there would be discontent. Henry directed a proclamation to be made telling all those who felt they had been harshly treated to complain to the steward of the treasury or the comptroller of the royal household. He also had it proclaimed that all knights, esquires and yeomen in the army were to find sufficient provisions for themselves in France for three months. This was an extraordinary amount of food for each man to provide: feeding the army was a serious concern.59
Part of the problem was that Henry was very late in setting out. Even if his original orders to take ships to Southampton by 8 May had been drawn up in the expectation that they would not actually set out until 1 June, that date had already slipped by almost two months. Even the second revised departure date of 8 July was over two weeks ago. Henry must have been getting frantic. Much more of a delay and there would be little time left for a campaign in France. And his finances were going more awry all the time. Today he had to reiterate his pledge that jewels would be made available to cover the second quarter’s wages.60 And he issued more licences for lords who had received jewels or plate as security to dispose of the said items if they were not redeemed within a certain time. Two days ago, when he had ordered John of Gaunt’s tabernacle to be handed over to the prelates, he had licensed the recipients to sell it if he had not redeemed it within a certain time. Now he issued a licence for Sir Robert Chalons to dispose of a cup of gold, two bowls of silver gilt and a little basin of silver gilt delivered to him for security of £45. Without these licences, the pledges were of only notional value.61
A sense of financial desperation in the royal household may be inferred from such changes of strategy. When Henry had originally planned to sail, he had envisaged paying for the campaign through subsidies and loans. The need for money had grown more intense over the first half of the year; and by the end of April he was resigned to offering items from the royal treasure as security. By early June he was pawning religious artefacts too; and by mid-June he was selling off or breaking up the non-essential utensils of the royal household. Now he had been forced to allow treasures that had been handed over as security to be broken up and sold. The whole six-month progress of financial retreat must have taken a heavy toll on the nerves of the men around Henry who had to deliver this news to the king. He cannot have been pleased to hear that valuable treasures owned by his ancestors had to be broken up to pay for his war. It was not his idea of great kingliness – to dispose of his inheritance. The pressure told on one officer in particular. Today the aged Sir Thomas Erpingham was replaced as steward of the household by Sir Walter Hungerford. One suspects he may have asked to stand down, on account of his age and his inability to cope with the administrative pressure.
Art MacMurrough, the native Irish lord of Norragh, was granted a two-year safe conduct for two of his men to come to see the king.62 What it was the erstwhile rebel had to tell Henry we do not know; but what is striking about this reference is that it is practically the only Irish business which we can associate with Henry all year. After appointing Sir John Talbot to govern the country in 1414, he had simply left him to it. So little had been his involvement with the country he had not even paid Talbot – even though he had budgeted for Talbot’s salary in June. And if Art MacMurrough’s representatives had anything to report to the English council it was about the utter ruthlessness and severity with which Talbot was treating the people. In February he had ordered the arrest of all traitors, outlaws and felons, and the arrest of all the children of rebels, be they Irish or English, so that they could be brought up with the loyal English. He had then proceeded with a savage attack on anyone who dared to oppose English rule, plundering where he went and hanging rebel warriors and their sons. The Irish annals were most indignant on his plundering from the poets of Ireland.63
The irony is that Henry did not deal with even this piece of Irish business. By the time the representatives of Art MacMurrough arrived to let him know what was being done in his name, Henry was in France.
Henry’s will was finalised today. Unlike his father’s will, this was not written in English but in Latin, the language of the Church. It began with the dedication to the Holy and Indivisible Trinity and was immediately followed by acknowledgement of the saints by whom Henry was particularly moved, namely:
The Virgin Mary,
St Michael, Gabriel and all the angels and archangels,
St John the Baptist and all the patriarchs,
St Peter, St John and all the apostles,
St George, St Thomas and all the holy martyrs,
St Edward, St John of Bridlington and all confessors
St Anne, St Mary Magdalene and St Bridget
Catherine, Barbara, Ursula and the Eleven Thousand Virgins, and all the holy virgins, and all the celestial court
Henry specified that he wished to be buried in Westminster Abbey, to the east of the shrine of St Edward, in the place where the relics were then kept. He wanted a fine stone tomb and requiem masses sung in vast numbers, three each day by every monk of the abbey. He wanted a special altar to be set up in front of his tomb, dedicated to the Virgin; and he wanted further Masses to be said daily at the altar. So strong was his instinct to control his reputation in death that he even went so far as to stipulate the types of Masses that were to be sung each day and which times of day each of these Masses was to be sung. He left £100 per annum to pay for all these services.
This was just the beginning of the religious requests. As one would expect, he was generous to his new foundations, Syon Abbey and the Charterhouse at Sheen, to each of which he left 1,000 marks. He left vestments, patens, chalices, candelabra, crucifixes and other religious artefacts to Westminster Abbey. In addition, he wanted thirty paupers to be kept in food and clothing for a whole year after his death: they had to be men who were genuinely in need and they all had to pray to Almighty God every day for Henry’s soul. The king willed that another three thousand Masses should be sung in honour of the Holy Trinity for the benefit of his soul. And fifteen Masses should be sung every day of the year in honour of Christ’s wounds. Five thousand Masses were to be sung in honour of the five joys of the Virgin Mary. Nine more were to be performed in honour of the nine orders of angels, three hundred in honour of the three Patriarchs, twelve in honour of the twelve apostles, and 4,125 in honour of all the saints. And all of these Masses had to be celebrated as soon as possible after his death.
With regard to the individual beneficiaries, the first-named was the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund, to whom Henry left precious stones to the value of 500 marks. The list of names that follow Sigismund’s is the clearest and fullest indication we have of Henry’s friends among the aristocracy and his servants in the year 1415:
1. The Holy Roman Emperor
2. John, duke of Bedford
3. Humphrey, duke of Gloucester
4. Henry Chichele, archbishop of Canterbury
5. Henry Beaufort, bishop of Winchester, chancellor
6. Thomas Langley, bishop of Durham
7. Stephen Patrington, bishop of St David’s, Henry’s confessor
8. Joan Bohun, dowager countess of Hereford, Henry’s grandmother
9. Edmund Mortimer, earl of March
10. Richard Beauchamp, earl of Warwick
11. Thomas Beaufort, earl of Dorset
12. Thomas Fitzalan, earl of Arundel
13. Ralph Neville, earl of Westmorland
14. Joan of Navarre, queen of England, Henry’s stepmother
15. Edward Holland
16. Gilbert, Lord Talbot
17. Henry, Lord Fitzhugh, royal chamberlain
18. Sir Walter Hungerford, royal steward
19. Sir John Rothenhale
20. John Woodhouse
21. Sir Gilbert Umphraville
22. Sir John Gray
23. Roland Leinthal
24. William Porter
25. John Cheney
26. Roger Salvayn
27. John Steward
28. Lewis Robesart
29. John Waterton
30. William Bourchier
31. John Brown
32. Nicholas Merbury
33. John Botteler
34. John Stone, royal secretary
35. Stephen Payne, royal almoner
36. Nicholas Colnet, royal physician
37. John Wickham, royal chaplain
38. Henry Romworth, royal chaplain
39. Thomas Rodburne, royal chaplain
40. Richard Cassy, royal chaplain
Only after listing all these men by name, and many other servants by their offices, did Henry make a bequest ‘to our successor,’ meaning of course Thomas, duke of Clarence. This included his best two crowns, two pairs of astrological spheres, the sceptre of the kingdom, an ensign of Spain, a queen’s crown, and all his armour.64
In many ways Henry’s will confirms all the things that we have known or suspected of him to date: extreme religiosity – excessive, even for the period – huge self-importance, a great favouritism for his uncles, no personal love for his brother Thomas, and no acknowledgement of any women except his grandmother and his stepmother. There was a single note of conscience in the will – he ordered that the 25,000 marks that he still owed to his fathers’ executors should be paid in full – but otherwise the document was a statement of Henry’s vision of his own importance and piety.
His choice of men to be executors was largely predictable: Bishop Beaufort, Bishop Langley, Bishop Courtenay, the earl of Westmorland, Lord Fitzhugh, Sir Walter Hungerford, Sir John Rothenhale, John Woodhouse and John Leventhorpe. Nevertheless, there are some surprising inclusions and omissions. It is interesting that Lord Scrope’s name does not appear – as he had been appointed a trustee of Henry’s Lancastrian inheritance as recently as 22 July and was to be re-appointed later this same month. Probably the most surprising beneficiary was the earl of March, who was also a witness to the sealing of the will.
Henry signed his will as follows: ‘This is my last Will subscribed with my own Hand. R[ex]. H[enricus]. Jesu Mercy and Gremercy Ladie Marie help.’
It is the last word that resonates.
Sir Thomas Gray and the earl of Cambridge made their way to Hamble in the Hook, where the earl of March was lodging. They wanted to know whether March was still with them or whether Lord Scrope’s warnings had dissuaded him. No, said the earl. He was still in favour of the rising. After further discussions about March’s role, Gray and Cambridge left him and went to the Itchen ferry, where they met Lord Scrope.
There are two accounts of what happened next, one by Gray and the other by Scrope. According to Gray, he and Cambridge met Scrope at the ferry and they discussed the expedition to France. Cambridge asked Scrope what he thought, and the latter declared that it was ‘best to break the voyage’ if at all possible. Cambridge agreed, and the two men asked Gray how this might be achieved. Gray responded that he did not know how they could drive so many men away from Southampton. Scrope suggested it could be managed by burning the ships; and Cambridge agreed. If Gray’s testimony on this point is correct, Scrope was contributing ideas that might lead to the disruption of the campaign.65 However, Gray’s testimony also named men such as Robert Umphraville and the earl of Arundel as fellow plotters; it seems that he was out to implicate as many people as he could, Scrope included.
According to Scrope’s own testimony, he spoke to Edward Courtenay, who was brother-in-law to the earl of March, and to Lord Clifford, the earl of Cambridge’s brother-in-law. He tried to show them what folly the rising would be, and to put them in fear of taking action against the king, or helping those that did. On the way home from seeing Lord Clifford he met Cambridge and Gray at the Itchen ferry. They told him they had just been to see the earl of March, and asked him when the ships would set sail. Scrope said he was not sure but said ‘I believe our tarrying should lose us all’. He left it at that, supposing that once the men had set sail, and Gray and Cambridge found themselves with the army on enemy soil, they would see the danger of taking up arms against the king.
Before Cambridge and Gray left him, they urged Scrope to call on the earl of March. He agreed to do so, if the earl was not yet in bed. As it happened, the earl was still up, so Scrope talked to him about the plot. Once again he tried to persuade the earl not to go through with any of Gray’s and Cambridge’s plans, whatever they might be.66
In all this, Lord Scrope’s behaviour and testimony concerning his own actions is consistent with the way that Edward, duke of York, had gathered information about the Epiphany Rising in 1400. York had attended the secret meetings of the conspirators without telling the king for more than two weeks; and when they had been about to act, York had sent an urgent message to the king, warning him.67 Scrope’s evasive and ambiguous answers were clearly designed to lead Cambridge and Gray into revealing more information about their plans. Apart from Gray’s assertion that Scrope thought it best to ‘break the voyage’ and had suggested burning the ships, Scrope was consistently a receiver of information fed to him by others – and someone who warned others about the implications of what they were doing. Even if he had suggested burning the ships, this may have been no more than an attempt to win the trust of the plotters. Still there were things that Scrope did not know, as the earl of Cambridge later pointed out; and so he still had good reason to stay in with the conspirators. But he was not one of them. Why otherwise did he try to dissuade the earl of March and Walter Lucy from rebelling? And why did Cambridge hold back some crucial details about the plot?68
Archbishop Boisratier and the other envoys who had left Southampton on 7 July arrived back in Paris. They went straight to the hôtel de St Pol and delivered their report to the dauphin and the rest of the council. It cannot have been well received. They had found Henry intractable and, despite his honeyed words of peace, they had themselves seen thousands of troops pouring into the Southampton area, as well as cattle for victuals on the campaign, and carts and wagons full of bows, arrows, armour and supplies. There was now not the slightest doubt that Henry meant to follow up his attack on Fécamp with a full-scale onslaught on France.69
Some Englishmen were not waiting for the invasion to start. About this time the garrisons of the castles around Calais prepared to raid the Boulogne region as soon as the truce came to an end.70
John the Fearless could see the mood at Constance shifting against him. The French had been successful in their attempts to have Jean Petit condemned as a heretic. The Justification of the duke of Burgundy looked as if it was going to go the way of John Wycliffe and Jan Hus’s writings. But Duke John still had some cards to play. He had to lift this condemnation, otherwise he too could be classed a heretic, and all hope of regaining influence in France would be lost. So he authorised his ambassadors in Constance to start bribing the cardinals – with good Burgundy wine.71
At Southampton the king was growing desperate. Already late setting out, he was paying the wages of the crews manning the ships that had arrived from Flanders and Holland, and yet he was still short of vessels. So Henry ordered John Acclane and John Scadlock to seize all the ships they could find in the port of London, regardless of whether they were English or foreign, and to bring them straightaway to Southampton. He did not have enough arrows either, and a second commission was issued to John Acclane to acquire bows, arrows, bowstrings and artillery.72
In Bordeaux, the mayor and jurats of the city wrote back to Benedict Espina, their agent in London, telling them that one of the two siege engines called ‘brides’ that Henry had asked for was now ready, and that they would send it whenever he required it. As for the other, it would be ready when Benedict Espina arrived in person, in several weeks’ time.73
Sir Jean le Maingre – better known as Boucicaut – had once been the most feared jousting champion in Christendom. He had fought at the famous St Inglevert tournament of 1390, when he and two other knights had faced more than a hundred knights one by one, all of them jousting with sharpened steel lances – including Henry’s father. He had attended his first battle at the age of twelve, had been knighted at sixteen, and had fought on crusades and campaigns from Prussia to Nicopolis. Now all his experience was to be put to the test. He was commissioned to serve as the King’s Lieutenant and captain general of the French, with responsibility for the defence of Normandy, among other places.
Unfortunately the duke of Alençon had previously been appointed captain general for Normandy. The division of responsibilities was now unclear. It was also a mistake to fail to consider the duke’s pride: he did not take kindly to being overlooked in this way.74
Henry ordered a final letter to be drawn up to send to the king of France. As it is one of the most remarkable documents of the year – indeed, in all English medieval history – it justly deserves to appear here in full:
Most serene prince, our cousin and adversary, the two great and noble kingdoms of England and France, formerly joined as one but now divided, have been accustomed to stand proud through all the world by their glorious triumphs. The sole purpose of their unification was to embellish the house of God, that holiness might reign and peace be established throughout the Church, and to join their arms by a happy accord against her adversaries, to subdue the public enemies. But, alas! The discord that plagues families has troubled this harmony. Lot, blinded by an inhuman feeling, pursued Abraham: the honour of his brotherly union is buried in the tomb, and hatred – the sickness inherent in human nature and the mother of fury – comes to life once more. Nevertheless, the judge of all, who is susceptible neither to prayers nor to corruption, is the witness of our sincere desire for peace; we have done in conscience everything within our power to achieve it, even to the extent of an imprudent sacrifice of legitimate rights that we have inherited from our ancestors, to the prejudice of our posterity. We are not so blinded by fear that we are not ready to fight to the death for the justice of our cause. But the law of Deuteronomy commands that whoever prepares to attack a town begins by offering it peace; thus, since violence, the enemy of justice, has ravished for several centuries the prerogatives of our crown and our hereditary rights, we have done out of charity everything within our power to re-enter possession of our rights and prerogatives, so that now we are able by reason of the denial of justice to have recourse to the force of arms. Nevertheless as we wish to be confident of a clear conscience, we now address you with a final request, at the moment of setting out to demand from you the reason for this denial of justice, and we repeat to you in the name of the entrails of Jesus Christ, following the example shown us by the perfection of evangelical doctrine: friend, give us what we are owed and by the will of the Almighty avoid a deluge of human blood, which has been created according to God; restore to us our inheritance and our rights that have been unjustly stolen, or at least those things that we have demanded earnestly and repeatedly by our various ambassadors and deputies, and with which we would be contented in respect of God and in the interests of peace. And you will find us disposed on our part to forego 50,000 crowns of gold of the sum that we have been offered as dowry, because we prefer peace to avarice, and because we would prefer to enjoy our paternal rights and this great patrimony which we have been left by our venerable predecessors and ancestors with your illustrious daughter Katherine, our very dear cousin, than to acquire guilty treasures in sacrificing to the idol of iniquity, and to the disinheritance of the posterity of the crown of our realm, which would not please God, to the eternal prejudice of our conscience.
Given under our privy seal in our town of Southampton, upon the coast, 28 July.75
‘Upon the coast:’ Henry was on the brink. But the most interesting thing about this extraordinary letter is the line concerning the law of Deuteronomy: ‘whoever prepares to attack a town begins by offering it peace’. This explains Henry’s approach to the peace initiatives since the start of his reign: he was always offering peace while moving to war, as if he was a king before the walls of a town who felt bound to offer the citizens peace first before destroying them and their town – not for their benefit but to justify his actions in the eyes of God. Herein lies the philosophy he was following: he was only offering peace, and sending and receiving ambassadors, because that was what he believed a warrior of God should do prior to attacking.
Before Henry could set sail there were still some administrative issues to deal with. He made a grant for life to John Sutton of Catton, yeoman of the chamber of the duke of Bedford.76 John Waterton, who had now left Southampton with the Aragonese envoys, had to be given formal instructions as to what he might or might not offer, especially with regard to Henry’s brothers’ marriages; these were now issued. At the same time Dr John Hovingham and Simon Flete were empowered to treat for a continuation of the alliance with the duke of Brittany.77 It was important not to let the diplomatic isolation of France weaken.
The earl of Cambridge and Sir Thomas Gray met at Otterbourne, a village a few miles north of Southampton. The earl showed Gray a letter from the earl of March, written in his own hand. It stated how March had been to the king and how badly he had been treated by Henry in connection with the business of his marriage, being fined 10,000 marks. According to Gray, the letter stated that March saw no solution to his jeopardy but to ‘undo’ the king; and therefore he wished the earl of Cambridge to come to him on the following day, or else to suggest how he should act, for he was now ready to do so.
Henry decided the time had come to set the date for embarkation. From Portchester Castle he sent a writ to the sheriff of Hampshire to ensure, on pain of ‘the king’s grievous wrath,’ that all those encamped in the area should be ready to board on Thursday 1 August at the latest. The term ‘grievous wrath’ is repeated in several letters at this time – a note of desperation, one feels, after all the various delays.78
A number of letters and orders were issued from Portchester at the same time. Henry settled his personal inheritance from the late earl of Hereford, his grandfather, on his executors. He named as his trustees the same sixteen men he had with regard to his settlement of the duchy of Lancaster on 22 July – including Lord Scrope.79 The confiscated estates of the French priories that had been intended to endow the abandoned Celestine monastery at Sheen were also granted to trustees.80 And lastly the mayor and bailiffs of Southampton were ordered to put three men in prison until further notice. Presumably they were among the thousands mustering around the town, waiting to sail and fight, who were causing disturbances in their hungry boredom.81
Sir Thomas Gray and the earl of Cambridge rode to Hamble in the Hook to see the earl of March. It was there that the final plans were made. Lord Scrope was not present. It was decided that Sir Walter Lucy would join the earl of Cambridge on the morrow, and then the earl of March would meet them at Cranbury on 31 July – the night before the voyage set out. After supper they would ride to Beaulieu. And there they would proclaim the earl of March and call those who would stand with them to that place. If enough men from the army joined them, they would fight Henry; if not, they would take the earl of March into Wales until Henry Percy had been released, and start a rising in the north. To this end the earl of Cambridge had sent a man to Sir Robert Umphraville to enquire how he might take custody of Percy and the pseudo-Richard II (if he was still alive) without offering the recently recaptured Mordach in return.82
In Paris it had long been a bone of contention that John the Fearless had not sworn to observe the terms of the Peace of Arras. His representatives had done so on 13 March, and had promised that he would do so too. But he had delayed, claiming that if his five hundred supporters were not also pardoned, then he would not swear. Further procrastinations had followed, forcing the government to take further action. First they had sent three ambassadors to the duke; but these men arrived shortly after John had heard that the dauphin had sent away his wife in order to spend more time with his mistress. As the dauphin’s wife was John’s own daughter, John had rebuked the dauphin, stating he would not help the French royal family against the English if he did not mend his ways.83Recently the dauphin had sent two more diplomats to John asking him to swear to abide by the peace.
The new diplomats were more successful: John the Fearless swore the oath today at Rouvres. Of course, it was not a plain capitulation: discussions had been in progress at Dijon throughout June and July, and there were a number of contingent clauses and subtexts. John agreed to forgive the dauphin on certain conditions. He promised to make peace with the duke of Bar, following the duke’s rescue of the envoys of France whom John had kidnapped on their way back from Constance. He instructed his envoys to protest against those who asserted that he had an agreement to help the king of England – technically his agreement was not to hinder Henry – and to state that he was ready to march against the English as soon as he was commanded to do so.
The reason for this change of tone was partly because of the shift of opinion made against him at Constance – and there was only so much John could achieve by bribing cardinals. He wanted the French government to put pressure on the University of Paris, forcing them to discuss Jean Petit’sJustification anew and to clear it of heresy, thereby undermining Dr Gerson’s case. He also wanted all his Cabochien supporters pardoned, including the five hundred previously excluded. The dauphin had no option but to agree that the duke’s demands would be met in full. Just in case the dauphin reneged on his promise, the wily John made his oath conditional on the implementation of all his terms.84
The earl of March was due to ride to Cranbury today to meet the earl of Cambridge, Sir Thomas Gray and Sir Walter Lucy. But when he set out from Hamble in the Hook, he turned a different way: he went to see Henry at Portchester Castle. There he betrayed the conspirators who would have fought to make him king, telling Henry everything he knew.
It must have been a tremendous shock. Henry believed he was performing God’s work. And yet these men – unimportant in God’s eyes, as far as Henry could see – could take it into their heads to rise against his great mission and his divine status.
The implications were even more horrifying. He did not know how many other men were involved. It would have been reasonable to think that all those who stood to benefit from March’s accession would have supported him. That would have included Edward Courtenay, the heir to the earldom of Devon, and Lord Camoys, who was married to the earl’s aunt. It would have included various members of the Holland family – some of whom not only wanted revenge for the Epiphany Rising but also were related to the earl of March through his mother, Eleanor Holland. Then there were the relations of the other plotters: Lord Clifford, Lord Percy, Sir John Gray, Lady Despenser and maybe even the duke of York. What did the duke know about his brother’s plot?
As for Lord Scrope – how could he have known about this plot and not said anything? Scrope had been in Wales with Henry; he had served him and his father loyally for well over a decade. He was a member of the privy council, and one of the trustees of Henry’s estates. The chronicler Monstrelet asserted that Scrope ‘slept every night with the king’.85 It was like Oldcastle’s rebellion all over again – a trusted friend had betrayed him and sought his death. Thomas Walsingham’s Chronica Maiora, made it clear how this betrayal was perceived by contemporaries. Being so close to the king, and so important, Scrope was presumed to have been the leader of the conspiracy; and being so often in France, it was presumed that he must have been bribed by the French. Walsingham describes him as ‘the first and chief’ plotter, and a man
in whose faith and constancy the king had trusted his whole heart … He was so much esteemed by the king that when the latter held public or private deliberations, the discussion was decided by his advice. He pretended, moreover, such gravity of demeanour, such modesty in his bearing, so much religious zeal, that whatever he said the king decided it must be done, as if he were an oracle descended from Heaven. If a solemn embassy had to be sent to France, the king thought that it should be carried out by the ability and person of Henry Scrope. But he entered into negotiations with the enemy, as a hidden foe to his lord the king, whom he soothed with false assurances.86
From this distance in time, and with the original records available to us, we can see that Scrope had not had any dealings with the French other than his official diplomatic ones, and was not part of the conspiracy at all. As we have seen in his will, written only a month earlier, he did not just pretend to be religious, he was deeply devout. His absence at several key meetings – most notably that at Hamble in the Hook on the 29th – shows that he was not a leader of the plot. From the evidence we have it is clear that he was inveigling himself with the conspirators in order to learn when and where they were planning to strike, just as the duke of York had done in 1400. As Scrope himself put it, if he had ‘heard a grounded purpose’, he himself would have come to tell the king.87
Henry ordered the conspirators to come to him at Portchester Castle; the guards who carried this message to Cranbury no doubt were instructed to accompany them. Scrope was also located and asked to speak to the king. He came that evening, possibly of his own volition, although other members of his household were later arrested.88 He told the king everything he knew, naming all those whom he believed would have joined the conspiracy, including several Lollards. Henry sent an urgent message to the mayor of London warning him of the danger and urging him to keep the city safe, perhaps alarmed by the Lollard link.89 He also issued a commission to make enquiries into the plot, to find out who was implicated and what they hoped to achieve. The commissioners were four earls, four barons and two royal justices. They were collectively to report on 2 August, having enquired into
all kinds of treasons, felonies, conspiracies and confederacies committed or perpetrated in the aforesaid county by whomsoever and in any way, and to hear and determine the same treasons, felonies, conspiracies and confederacies according to the law and custom of our realm of England.90
It is difficult to appreciate what emotions the king must have experienced over the course of this one day. Any apprehension or sense of divine commitment arising from his confidence that he would be sailing on the following day must have been dashed against the shock of the conspiracy; and of course the consequent feelings must have been mixed with further frustration that he was going to have to postpone the expedition yet again. And now, with an enquiry underway and several treason trials to be held, he could not say when he would be able to set out.