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  • Title: Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland 1587 (Selection)
  • Editor: James D. Mardock

  • Copyright James D. Mardock. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Author: Raphael Holinshed
    Editor: James D. Mardock
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    Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland 1587 (Selection)

    The campaign in France

    Henry's "express charge" to the army (p. 549)

    But now to proceed with king Henry's doings. After this, when the wind came about prosperous to

    Titus Livius.

    his purpose, he caused the mariners to weigh up anchors and hoist up sails, and to set forward with a

    The king saileth over into France with his host.

    thousand ships on the vigil of Our Lady Day the Assumption, and took land at Caux, commonly called Kidcaux, where the river of Seine runneth into the sea, without resistance. At his first coming on land,

    Titus Livius. A charitable proclamation.

    he caused proclamation to be made, that no person should be so hardy on pain of death either to take any thing out of any church that belonged to the same, or to hurt or do any violence either to priests, women, or any such as should be found without weapon or armor, and not ready to make resistance; also that no man should renew any quarrel or strife,

    Princely and wisely

    whereby any fray might arise to the disquieting of the army [TLN 1556-61].

    The siege of Harfleur (p. 549-51)

    The next day after his landing, he marched toward the town of Harfleur, standing on the river of Seine between two hills; he besieged it on every side,


    raising bulwarks and a bastille, in which the two earls of Kent and Huntington were placed, with Cornwall, Gray, Steward, and Porter. On that side towards the sea the king lodged with his field, and the Duke of Clarence on the further side towards Rouen. There were within the town the lords de Touteville and Gaucourt, with divers other that valiantly defended the siege, doing what damage they could to their adversaries and damming up the river that hath his course through the town. The water rose so high betwixt the king's camp and the Duke of Clarence's camp (divided by the same river) that the Englishmen were constrained to withdraw their artillery from one side, where they had planted the same.

    The French king being advertised that king Henry was arrived on that coast, sent in all hast the Lord d'Albret, Constable of France, the Seneschal of France, the Lord Boucicault Marshal of France, the Seneschal of Hainault, the Lord Ligne, with other, which fortified towns with men, victuals, and artillery on all those frontiers towards the sea. And hearing that Harfleur was besieged, they came

    The king besieged Harfleur.

    to the castle of Caudebec, being not far from Harfleur, to the intent they might succor their friends which were besieged by some policy or means; but the Englishmen, notwithstanding all the damage that the Frenchmen could work against them, foraged the country, spoiled the villages, bringing many a rich prey to the camp before Harfleur. And daily was the town assaulted, for the Duke of Gloucester, to whom the order of the siege was committed, made three mines under the ground, and approaching to the walls with his engines and ordnance, would not suffer them within to take any rest [TLN 1183-84].

    40For although they with their countermining somewhat disappointed the Englishmen [TLN 1179-80] and came to fight with them hand to hand within the mines, so that

    Titus Livius.

    they went no further forward with that work, yet they were so enclosed on each side as well by water as land, that succor they saw could none come to them: for the king lying with his battle on the hill side on the one party, and the Duke of Clarence beyond the river that passeth by the town and runneth into Seine on the other party, beside other lords and captains that were lodged with their retinues for their most advantage, none could be suffered to go in or come forth without their license, insomuch that such powder as was sent to have been conveyed into the town by water was taken by the English ships that watched the river.

    The captains within the town, perceiving that they were not able long to resist the continual assaults of the Englishmen, knowing that their walls were undermined, and like to be overthrown (as


    one of their bulwarks was already, where the earls

    Thom. Walsi.

    of Huntington and Kent had set up their banners) sent an officer at arms forth about midnight after

    The seventeenth of September they within Harfleur pray parley.

    the feast day of Saint Lambert, which fell that year upon the Tuesday, to beseech the King of England to appoint some certain persons as commissioners from him, with whom they within might treat about some agreement. The Duke of Clarence, to whom this messenger first declared his errand, advertised the king of their request, who granting thereto, appointed the Duke of Exeter, with the Lord Fitzhugh and Sir Thomas Erpingham, to understand their minds, who at the first requested a truce until Sunday next following the feast of Saint Michael, in which mean time if no succor came to remove the siege, they would undertake to deliver the town into the king's hands, their lives and goods saved.

    The king advertised hereof sent them word that except they would surrender the town to him the morrow next ensuing, without any condition, they should spend no more time in talk about the matter. But yet at length through the earnest suit of the French lords, the king was contented to grant them truce until nine of the clock the next Sunday, being

    A five days' respite.

    the two-and-twentieth of September; with condition that if in the meantime no rescue came, they should yield the town at that hour, with their bodies and goods to stand at the king's pleasure. And for assurance thereof, they delivered into the king's hands thirty of their best captains and merchants within that town as pledges. . . .

    The king nevertheless was after content to grant a respite upon certain conditions: that the captains within might have time to send to the French king for succor (as before ye have heard) lest he, intending greater exploits, might lose time in such small matters. When this composition was agreed upon, the Lord Bacquevill was sent unto the French king, to declare in what point the town stood. To whom the dauphin answered that the king's power was not yet assembled in such number as was convenient to raise so great a siege [TLN 1304-7]. This answer being brought unto the captains within the town, they rendered it up to the King of England after that the third day was expired, which was on the day of Saint Maurice, being the seven-and-thirtieth

    Harfleur yielded and sacked.

    day after the siege was first laid. The soldiers were ransomed and the town sacked, to the great gain of the Englishmen. Some writing of this yielding

    Abr. Fl. Out of Angl. prae. subHen. 5. and Polychron.

    up of Harfleur do in like sort make mention of the distress whereto the people, then expelled out of their habitations, were driven: insomuch as parents with their children, young maids, and old folk went out of the town gates with heavy hearts (God wot) as put to their present shifts to seek them a new abode. Besides that, King Henry caused proclamation to be made within his own dominions of England that whosoever (either handicraftsman, merchantman, gentleman, or plowman) would inhabit in Harfleur should have his dwelling given him gratis, and his heir after him also enjoy the like grace and favor; insomuch that great multitudes flocked to the seacoasts, waiting wind and weather for their transportage into Harfleur, where being arrived, wonderful it is to tell, within how short a time the town was peopled. . . .

    All this done, the king ordained captain to the town his uncle the Duke of Exeter [TLN 1311-14], who established his lieutenant there one Sir John Fastolf, with fifteen hundred men . . . . And because many of his nobles whilst this siege lay before Harfleur fell sick of the flux and other diseases, divers also dead . . . the king licensed his brother the Duke of Clarence, John Earl Marshal, and John Earl of Arundel, being infected with that disease, to return into England.

    45King Henry, after the winning of Harfleur, determined to have proceeded further in the winning of other towns and fortresses, but because the dead time of the winter approached, it was determined by advice of his council that he should in all convenient speed set forward and march through the country towards Calais by land, lest his return as then homewards should of slanderous tongues be named a running away [TLN 1315-18]. And yet that journey was adjudged

    Great death in the host by the flux.

    perilous, by reason that the number of his people was much minished by the flux and other fevers, which sore vexed and brought to death above fifteen hundred persons of the army; and this was the cause that his return was the sooner appointed and concluded. . . .

    The march to Calais (p. 551-52)

    When the king had repaired the walls, bulwarks and rampires about the town and furnished it with victuals and artillery, he removed from Harfleur toward Pontoise, intending to pass the river of Somme with his army before the bridges were either withdrawn or broken. Such victuals and other necessaries as were to be carried with the army he appointed to be laid on horses, leaving the carts and wagons behind for less encumber.

    The French king, hearing that the town of Harfleur was gotten, and that the King of England was marching forward into the bowels of the realm of France, sent out proclamations and assembled people on every side, committing the whole charge of his army to his son the dauphin and Duke of Aquitaine, who incontinently caused the bridges to

    Corn and victuals destroyed where the Englishmen should pass.

    be broken, and the passages to be kept. Also they caused all the corn and victuals to be conveyed away or destroyed in all places where it was conjectured that the Englishmen would pass. The King of England, nothing dismayed herewith, kept his journey in spite of his enemies, constraining them within divers towns and holds to furnish him with victuals. . . .

    At length the king approached the river of Somme, and finding all the bridges broken, he came to the passage

    Blanche Tâche.

    of Blanche Tâche, where his great-grandfather King Edward the Third a little before had stricken the battle of Crècy, but the passage was now so impeached with stakes in the bottom of the ford that he could not pass, his enemies besides thereaway so swarming on all sides. He therefore marched forwards to Arry, marching with his army and passing with his carriage in so martial a manner that he appeared so terrible to his enemies as they durst not offer him battle. And yet the Lord d'Albret, Constable of France, the Marshal Boucicault, the Earl of Vendôme, Great Master of France, the Duke of Alençon, and the Earl of Richmond, with all the puissance of the dauphin, lay at Abbeville, but ever kept the passages and coasted aloof, like a hawk: though eager, yet not hardy on her prey. The King of England kept on his journey till he came to the bridge of Saint Marence, where he found above thirty thousand Frenchmen, and there pitched his field, looking surely to be fought withal. . . .

    [After a skirmish with the garrison at the town of Corbie,]

    King Henry passeth the river of Somme with his host.

    the king the same day found a shallow, between Corbie and Peron, which never was espied before, at which he with his army and carriages the night ensuing, passed the water of Somme without let or danger [TLN 1380], and therewith determined to make haste towards Calais, and not to seek for battle,

    The king's army but of 15,000.

    except he were thereto constrained, because that his army by sickness was sore diminished, insomuch that he had but only two thousand horsemen and thirteen thousand archers, billmen, and of all sorts of other footmen [TLN 1595-96].

    50An English soldier robs a church (p. 552)

    The English army sore afflicted.

    The Englishmen were brought into some distress in this journey by reason of their victuals in manner spent and no hope to get more, for the enemies had destroyed all the corn before they came. Rest could they none take, for their enemies with alarms did ever so infest them; daily it rained, and nightly it freezed; of fuel there was great scarcity, of fluxes plenty; money enough, but wares for their relief to bestow it on had they none. Yet in this great necessity the poor people of the country were not spoiled, nor any thing taken of them without payment, nor any outrage or offense done by the Englishmen, except one, which was that a soldier took a pix out of a church [TLN 1488-92], for which he was apprehended and

    Justice in war.

    the king not once removed till the box was restored, and the offender strangled [TLN 1553-54]. The people of the countries

    Note the force of justice.

    thereabout, hearing of such zeal in him to the maintenance of justice, ministered to his army victuals, and other necessaries, although by open proclamation


    so to do they were prohibited [TLN 1560-61].

    The French send a herald (p. 552)

    The French king being at Rouen, and hearing

    The French king consulteth how to deal with the Englishmen.

    that King Henry was passed the river of Somme, was much displeased therewith, and assembling his council to the number of five-and-thirty, asked their advice what was to be done. There was amongst these five-and-thirty his son the dauphin, calling

    Dauphin King of Sicily.

    himself King of Sicily; the dukes of Berry and Brittany; the Earl of Pontieu, the king's youngest son; and other high estates. At length thirty of them agreed that the Englishmen should not depart unfought withal [TLN 1390-91], and five were of a contrary opinion,

    The French king sendeth defiance to King Henry.

    but the greater number ruled the matter; and so Montjoy king-at-arms was sent to the King of England to defy him as the enemy of France [TLN 1415-16, 1568-85], and to tell him that he should shortly have battle. King

    King Henry's answer to the defiance.

    Henry advisedly answered:

    Mine intent is to do as it pleaseth God. I will not seek your master at this time, but if he or his seek me, I will meet with them, God willing. If any of your nation attempt once to stop me in my journey now towards Calais, at their jeopardy be it; and yet wish I not any of you so unadvised as to be the occasion that I dye your tawny ground with your red blood [TLN 1589-1612].

    When he had thus answered the herald, he gave him a princely reward and license to depart [TLN 1608]. Upon whose return with this answer, it was incontinently on the French side proclaimed that all men of war should resort to the constable to fight with the King of England. Whereupon all men apt for armor and desirous of honor drew them toward the field. The dauphin sore desired to have been at the battle, but he was prohibited by his father. . . .

    The action at the bridge (p. 552)

    The King of England, hearing that the Frenchmen approached, and that there was another river for him to pass with his army by a bridge, and doubting lest if the same bridge should be broken it would be greatly to his hindrance, appointed certain captains with their hands to go thither with all speed before him, and to take possession thereof, and so to keep it till his coming thither.

    55Those that were sent, finding the Frenchmen busy to break down their bridge, assailed them so vigorously that they discomfited them and took and slew them; and so the bridge was preserved till the king came and passed the river by the same with his whole army [TLN 1451-62, 1537-48]. This was on the two-and-twentieth day of October.