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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 51

Henry V.—(1413-1422)

Henry V.—(1413-1422).

He was succeeded by his son, Henry V., Shakspere's Tiotous Prince Hal. What we know of him for certain is in singular contrast with the Shaksperian delineation. He stands out in history simply as a stern religious bigot and merciless soldier, carrying on unscrupulous wars abroad to divert the minds of his subjects from the defectiveness of his dynastic title.

While Prince of Wales he superintended the burning of a poor heretic, John Badby. He attempted to convert the half-burnt sufferer without success, and then piously recommitted him to the flames. Badby shocked him by maintaining that the bread in the sacrament was not the body of Christ.

His treatment of Sir John Oldcastle, the original of Sir John Falstaff, though Shakspere found it convenient to deny it, was even more shameful. Sir John, afterwards Lord Cobham, was a man of the highest character, a brave and skilful commander, and a personal friend of the king, from whom he had the misfortune to differ in religious opinion. Sir John held, with Wycliffe, that the Pope was anti-Christ, and that the bread in the sacrament was bread, whatever else it might be. The king argued with his friend, and failing to convince him, handed him over without remorse to the page 38 tender mercies of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Oldcastla was condemned to be burnt alive. He escaped, but four years later he was recaptured and executed on the old charge.

Henry's claim to the crown of France was even less defensible than that set up by Edward III., and the war which he waged was, if possible, conducted with greater cruelty and less magnanimity than were exercised by the Black Prince, When a city capitulated, he seized the available goods, put the richer citizens to ransom, expelled all who would not become English, and hanged a selection of its bravest defenders.

His successes at Agincourt and elsewhere were equally astonishing and fruitless. He showed the wind, and his son reaped the whirlwind. He was as pious as the late lamented Mr. Peace of sainted memory, and made about an equally edifying end.