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Heroic Battles

Battles of the Vikings and Knights of the Family 

Richard, Duke of Normandy, (grand-son of Rollo) sur-named SANS-PEUR, had issue (besides his son Richard who succeeded him, his daughter Emma, Queen of England, an other children) two younger sons, Godfrey and William. To Godfrey, his father gave the earldoms of Eu and Brion. On his decease the latter earldom became the heritage of his posterity, branching out into the now extinct houses of the Earls of Clare and Pembroke, while William, the younger brother, succeeeded him in the earldom of Eu.

He had (besides others) his successor, Robert, father of William, who married a sister of Hugh Lupus, Earl of Avranches, (afterwards Earl of Chester) named Jeannne, and niece of William the Conqueror.

There was issue of this marriage (besides Williams's successor in the earldom of Eu and another child) six sons, named Nigel, Geffry, Odard or Huddard, Edard, Horswin and Wlofaith.

Six brothers accompanied their uncle, Hugh Lupus, into England, in the train of William the Conqueror, their great-uncle; and on the establishment of the Norman power had various estates and honors conferred upon them.

Nigel was created Baron of Halton and constable of Cheshire; Geffry was Lord of Stopfort; Odard, Lord of Dutton; Edard, Lord of Haselwell; Horswin, Lord of Shrigley; and Wlofaith, Lord of Halton. Odard, the third son, was the ancestor of the Duttons, now extinct in the male line; the Barons of Chedill, also extinct and the Warburtons. -- Burke's Landed Gentry, p 1508

Odard, son of Yvron, viscount of Constantine, (whose name is written in most records of later date, Hodard or Hudard) was the immediate ancestor of the ancient and numerous family of Dutton of Dutton. -- Lysons' Magna Britannia, Vol. II.


[103] IN process of time, Philip, the King of France, against whom these wars had been waged, died, and John succeeded him. In the course of the reign of John, the Black Prince, when he was about twenty-five years of age, set out from England, at the head of a large body of men, to invade France on the southern and western side. His first destination was Gascony, a country in the southern part of France, between the Garonne, the Pyrenees, and the sea.

From London he went to Plymouth, where the fleet had been assembled in which he was to sail. He was accompanied on his march by an immense number of nobles and barons, all splendidly equipped and armed, and full of enthusiastic expectations of the glory which they were to acquire in serving in such a campaign, under so famed and brilliant a commander.

The fleet which awaited the army at Plymouth consisted of three hundred vessels. The expedition was detained for a long time in the [104] port, waiting for a fair wind and good weather. At length the favorable time arrived. The army embarked, and the ships set sail in sight of a vast assemblage, formed by people of the surrounding country, who crowded the shores to witness the spectacle.

The ships of those times were not large, and, judging from some of the pictures that have come down to us, they were of very odd construction. On the adjoining page is a copy of one of these pictures, from an ancient manuscript of about this time.

These pictures, however, are evidently intended rather as symbols  of ships, as it were, than literally correct representations of them. Still, we can deduce from them some general idea of the form and structure actually employed in the naval architecture of those times.



Prince Edward's fleet had a prosperous voyage, and his army landed safely in Gascony. Soon after landing he commenced his march through the country to the eastward, pillaging, burning, and destroying wherever he went. The inhabitants of the country, whom the progress of his march thus overwhelmed with ruin, had nothing whatever to do with the quarrel between his father and the King of France. It made very little difference to them under whose [107] reign they lived. It is not at all unlikely that far the greater portion of them had never even heard of the quarrel. They were quietly engaged in their various industrial pursuits, dreaming probably of no danger, until the advance of this army, coming upon them mysteriously, no one knew whither, like a plague, or a tornado, or a great conflagration, drove them from their homes, and sent them flying about the country in all directions in terror and despair. The prince enjoyed the credit and the fame of being a generous and magnanimous prince. But his generosity and magnanimity were only shown toward knights, and nobles, and princes like himself, for it was only when such as these were the objects of these virtues that he could gain credit and fame by the display of them.

In this march of devastation and destruction the prince overran all the southern part of France. One of his attendants in this campaign, a knight who served in the prince's household, in a letter which he wrote back to England from Bordeaux, gave the following summary of the results of the expedition:

"My lord rode thus abroad in the countrie of his enimies eight whole weekes, and rested not past eleven daies in all those places where he came. And know it for certeine that since this warre began against the [108] French king, he had never such losse or destruction as he hath had in this journie; for the countries and good townes which were wasted in this journie found to the King of France everie yeare more to the maintainance of his warre than half his realme hath doon beside, except, &c."

After having thus laid waste the southern coast, the prince turned his course northward, toward the heart of the country, carrying devastation and destruction with him wherever he came. He advanced through Auvergne and Berri, two provinces in the central part of France. His army was not very large, for it consisted of only about eight thousand men. It was, however, very compact and efficient, and the prince advanced at the head of it in a very and cautious manner. He depended for the sustenance of his soldiers on the supplies which he could obtain from the country itself. Accordingly, he moved slowly from town to town, so as not to fatigue his soldiers by too long marches, nor exhaust them by too frequent battles. "When he was entered anie towne,'' says the old chronicler, "that was sufficientlie stored of things necessarie, he would tarrie there two or three daies to refresh his soldiers and men of warre, and when they dislodged they would strike out the heads of the wine vessels, [111] and burne the wheat, oats, and barlie, and all other things which they could not take with them, to the intent that their enimies should not therewith be sustained and nourished."


At length, while the prince was advancing through the province of Berri, and approaching the River Loire, he learned that the King of France, John, had assembled a great army at Paris, and was coming down to meet him. Large detachments from this army had already advanced as far as the banks of the Loire, and all the important points on that river had been taken possession of, and were strongly guarded by them. The king himself, at the head of the main force, had reached Chartres, and was rapidly advancing. The prince heard this news at a certain castle which he had taken, and where he had stopped some days to refresh his men.

A council of war was held to determine what should be done. The prevailing voice at this council was in favor of not attempting to cross the Loire in the face of such an enemy, but of turning to the westward toward the province of Poitou, through which a way of retreat to the southward would be open in case a retreat should be necessary. The prince determined to accept this advice, and so he put his army in motion toward the town of Romorantin.

[112] Now the King of France had sent a detachment of his troops, under the command of three famous knights, across the Loire. This detachment consisted of about three hundred horsemen, all armed from head to foot, and mounted on swift chargers. This squadron had been hovering in the neighborhood of the English army for some days, watching for an opportunity to attack them, but without success. Now, foreseeing that Edward would attempt to enter Romorantin, they pushed forward in a stealthy manner to the neighborhood of that town, and placed themselves in ambush at the sides of a narrow and solitary gorge in the mountains, through which they knew the English must necessarily pass.

On the same day that the French knights formed this ambush, several of the commanders in Edward's army asked leave to take a troop of two hundred men from the English army, and ride forward to the gates of the town, in order to reconnoitre the place, and ascertain whether the way was clear for the main body of the army to approach. Edward gave them permission, and they set forward. As might have been expected, they fell into the snare which the French knights had laid for them. The Frenchmen remained quiet and still in their [113] hiding-places, and allowed the English to pass on through the defile. Then, as soon as they had passed, the French rushed out and galloped after them, with their spears in their rests, all ready for a charge.

The English troop, hearing the sound of the galloping of horses in the road behind them, turned round to see what was coming. To their dismay, they found that a troop of their enemies was close upon them, and that they were hemmed in between them and the town. A furious battle ensued. The English, though they were somewhat fewer in number than the French, seem to have been made desperate by their danger, and they fought like tigers. For a time it was uncertain which way the contest would turn, but at length, while the victory was still undecided, the van of the main body of the English army began to arrive upon the ground. The French now saw that they were in danger of being overpowered with numbers, and they immediately began to retreat. They fled in the direction of the town. The English followed them in a headlong pursuit, filling the air with their shouts, and with the clanking of their iron armor as the horses galloped furiously along.

At length they reached the gates of the town, and the whole throng of horsmen, pursuers [114] and pursued, pressed in together. The French succeeded in reaching the castle, and, as soon as they got in, they shut the gates and secured themselves there, but the English got possession of the town. As soon as Edward came in, he sent a summons to the people in the castle to surrender. They refused. Edward then ordered his men to prepare for an assault on the following day.

Accordingly, on the following day the assault was made. The battle was continued all day, but without success on the part of the assailants, and when the evening came on Edward was obliged to call off his men.

The next morning, at a very early hour, the men were called to arms again. A new assaulting force was organized, and at sunrise the trumpet sounded the order for them to advance to the attack. Prince Edward himself took the command at this trial, and by his presence and his example incited the men to make the greatest possible efforts to batter down the gates and to scale the walls. Edward was excited to a high degree of resentment and rage against the garrison of the castle, not only on account of the general obstinacy of their resistance, but because, on the preceding day, a squire, who was attendant upon him, and to whom he was strong- [117] ly attached, was killed at his side by a stone hurled from the castle wall. When he saw this man fall, he took a solemn oath that he would never leave the place until he had the castle and all that were in it in his power.



But, notwithstanding all the efforts of his soldiers, the castle still held out. Edward's troops, thronged the margin of the ditch, and shot arrows so incessantly at the battlements that the garrison could scarcely show themselves for an instant on the walls. Finally, they made hurdles and floats of various kinds, by means of which large numbers succeeded, half by swimming and half by floating, to get across the ditch, and then began to dig in under the wall, while the garrison attempted to stop their work by throwing down big stones upon their heads, and pots of hot lime to eat out their eyes.

At another part the besiegers constructed great engines, such as were used in those days, in the absence of cannon, for throwing rocks and heavy beams of wood, to batter the walls. These machines also threw a certain extraordinary combustible substance called Greek fire. It was this Greek fire that, in the end, turned the scale of victory, for it caught in the lower court of the castle, where it burned so furiously that it baffled all the efforts of the besieged to [118] extinguish it, and at length they were compelled to surrender. Edward made the principal commanders prisoners, but he let the others go free. The castle itself he utterly destroyed.

Having thus finished this work, Edward resumed his march, passing on to the westward through Touraine, to avoid the French king, who he knew was coming down upon him from the direction of Chartres at the head of an overwhelming army. King John advanced to the Loire, and sending different detachments of his army to different points, with orders to cross at any bridges that they could find, he himself came to Blois, where he crossed the river to Amboise, and thence proceeded to Loches. Here he learned that the English were moving off to the westward, through Touraine, in hopes to make their escape. He set off after them at full speed.

He had four sons with him in his army, all young men. Their names were Charles, Louis, John, and Philip.

At length the two armies began to approach each other near the town of Poictiers.

In the mean time, while the crisis had thus been gradually approaching, the Pope, who was at this time residing at Avignon in France, sent one of his cardinals to act as intercessor between [119] the belligerents, in hopes of bringing them to a peace. At the time when the two armies had drawn near to each other and the battle seemed imminent, the cardinal was at Poictiers, and just as the King of France was marshaling his troops in the order of battle, and preparing for the onset, the cardinal, at the head of his suite of attendants, galloped out to the king's camp, and, riding up to him at full speed, he begged him to pause a moment that he might speak to him.

The king gave him leave to speak, and he thus began:

"Most dear sire," said he, "you have here with you a great and powerful army, commanded by the flower of the knighthood of your whole kingdom. The English, compared with you, are but a handful. They are wholly unable to resist you. You can make whatever terms with them you please, and it will be far more honorable and praiseworthy in you to spare their lives, and the lives of your gallant followers, by making peace with them on such terms as you may think right, without a battle, than to fight with them and destroy them. I entreat you, therefore, sire, that before you proceed any farther, you will allow me to go to the English camp to represent to the prince the [120] great danger he is in, and to see what terms you can make with him."

"Very well," replied the king. "We have no objection. Go, but make haste back again."

The cardinal immediately set off, and rode with all speed into the English camp. The English troops had posted themselves at a spot where they were in a great measure concealed and protected among hedges, vineyards, and groves. The cardinal advanced through a narrow lane, and came up to the English prince at last, whom he found in a vineyard. The prince was on foot, and was surrounded by knights and armed men, with whom he was arranging the plan of the battle.

The prince received the cardinal very graciously, and heard what he had to say. The cardinal represented to him how overwhelming was the force which the King of France had brought against him, and how imminent the danger was that he and all his forces would be totally destroyed in case of a conflict, and urged him, for the sake of humanity as well as from a proper regard for his own interest, to enter into negotiations for peace.

Prince Edward replied that he had no objection to enter into such negotiations, and that he was willing to accept of terms of peace, pro- [121] vided his own honor and that of his army were saved.

The cardinal then returned to the King of France, and reported to him what the prince had said, and he entreated the king to grant a truce until the next morning, in order to afford time for the negotiations.

The knights and barons that were around the king were very unwilling that he should listen to this proposal. They were fierce for the battle, and could not brook the idea of delay. But the cardinal was so urgent, and he pleaded so strongly and so eloquently for peace, that, finally, the king yielded.

"But we will not leave our posts," said he. "We will remain on the ground ready for the onset to-morrow morning, unless our terms are accepted before that time."

So they brought the royal tent, which was a magnificent pavilion of red silk, and pitched it on the field for the king. The army were dismissed to their quarters until the following day.

The time when this took place was early in the morning. The day was Sunday. During all the rest of the day the cardinal was employed in riding back and forth between the two armies, conveying proposals and counter-proposals, and doing all in his power to effect an ar- [122] rangement. But all his efforts were unsuccessful. King John demanded that four of the principal persons in Edward's army should be given up unconditionally to his will, and that the whole army should surrender themselves as prisoners of war. This Prince Edward would not consent to. He was willing, he said, to give up all the French prisoners that he had in custody, and also to restore all the castles and towns which he had taken from the French. He was also willing to bind himself for seven years not to take up arms against the King of France. But all this did not satisfy John. He finally offered that, if the prince would surrender himself and one hundred knights as prisoners of war, he would let the rest of the army go free, and declared that that was his ultimatum. Prince Edward positively refused to accept any such conditions, and so the cardinal, greatly disappointed at the failure of his efforts, gave up the case as hopeless, and returned with a sad and sorrowful heart to Poictiers.

An anecdote is related in this connection by one of the ancient chroniclers, which illustrates curiously some of the ideas and manners of those times. During the course of the day, while the truce was in force, and the cardinal was going back and forth between the two armies, parties [123] of knights belonging to the two encampments rode out from time to time from their own quarters along the lines of the enemy, to see what was to be seen. In these cases they sometimes met each other, and held conversation together, both parties being bound in honor by the truce not to commit any act of hostility. There was a certain English knight, named Sir John Chandos, who in this way met a French knight named Clermont. Both these knights were mounted and fully armed. It was the custom in those days for each knight to have something peculiar in the style of his armor to distinguish him from the rest, and it was particularly the usage for each one to have a certain device and motto on his shield, or on some other conspicuous position of his clothing. These devices and mottoes are the origin of the coats of arms  in use at the present day.

It happened that the device of these two knights was nearly the same. It consisted of a representation of the Virgin Mary embroidered in blue, and surrounded by a radiance of sunbeams. Clermont, on perceiving that the device of Chandos was so similar to his own, called out to him when he came near, demanding,

"How long is it, sir, since you have taken the liberty to wear my arms?"

[124] "It is you yourself who are wearing mine," said Chandos.

"It is false," replied Clermont; "and if it were not for the truce, I would soon show you to whom that device rightfully belongs."

"Very well," replied Chandos. "To-morrow, when the truce is over, you will find me on the field ready to settle the question with you by force of arms."

With that the angry noblemen parted, and each rode back to his own lines.

Early on Monday morning both armies prepared for battle. The cardinal, however, being extremely unwilling to give up all hope of preventing the conflict, came out again, at a very early hour, to the French camp, and made an effort to renew the negotiations. But the king peremptorily refused to listen to him, and ordered him to be gone. He would not listen, he said, to any more pretended treaties or pacifications. So the cardinal perceived that he must go away, and leave the armies to their fate. He called at Prince Edward's camp and bade him farewell, saying that he had done all in his power to save him, but it was of no avail. He then returned to Poictiers.

The two armies now prepared for battle. The King of France clothed himself in his royal ar- [125] mor, and nineteen of his knights were armed in the same manner, in order to prevent the enemy from being able to single out the king on the field. This was a common stratagem employed on such occasions. The English were strongly posted on a hill side, among vineyards and groves. The approach to their position was through a sort of lane bordered by hedges. The English archers were posted along these hedges, and when the French troops attempted to advance, the archers poured such a shower of barbed arrows into the horses' sides, that they soon threw them into confusion. The barbed arrows could not be withdrawn, and the horses, terrified with the stinging pain, would rear, and plunge, and turn round upon those behind them, until at length the lane was filled with horses and horsemen piled together in confusion. Now, when once a scene of confusion like this occurred upon a field of battle, it was almost impossible to recover from it, for the iron armor which these knights wore was so heavy and so cumbersome, that when once they were unhorsed they could not mount again, and sometimes could not even rise, but writhed and struggled helplessly on the ground until their squires came to relieve them.

The battle raged for many hours, but, con- [126] trary to the universal expectation, the English were every where victorious. Whether this was owing to the superior discipline of the English troops, or to the reckless desperation with which their situation inspired them, or to the compact disposition that the prince had made of his forces, or to the shelter and protection afforded by the trees, and hedges, and vines, among which they were posted, or to the superior talents of the Black Prince as a commanding officer, or to all these causes combined, it is impossible to say. The result was, however, that the French were every where overcome, thrown into confusion, and put to flight. Three of the French king's sons were led off early from the field, their attendants excusing their flight by their anxiety to save the princes from being taken prisoners or put to death. A large squadron were driven off on the road to Poictiers. The inhabitants of Poictiers, seeing them coming, shut the gates to keep them out, and the horsemen, pursuers and pursued, became jammed together in a confused mass at the gates, and on the causeway leading to them, where they trampled upon and killed each other by hundreds. In every other direction, too, detached portions of the two armies were engaged in desperate conflicts, and the air was filled with [127] the clangor of arms, the notes of the trumpets, the shouts of the victors, and the shrieks and groans of the wounded and dying.

At length Sir John Chandos, who had fought in company with Prince Edward all the day, advanced to the prince, and announced to him that he thought the battle was over.

"Victory!" said he, "victory! The enemy is beaten and driven wholly off the ground. It is time to halt and to call in our men. They are getting greatly scattered. I have taken a survey of the ground, and I do not see any where any French banners flying, or any considerable bodies of French troops remaining. The whole army is dispersed."

So the king gave orders to halt, and the trumpets blew the signal for the men to cease from the pursuit of their enemies, and to gather again around the prince's banner. They set up the banner upon a high bush, near where the prince was standing, and the minstrels, gathering around it, began to play in honor of the victory, while the trumpets in the distance were sounding to recall the men.

The officers of the prince's household brought the royal tent, a beautiful pavilion of crimson silk, and pitched it on the spot. They brought wine, too, and other refreshments; and as the [128] knights, and barons, and other noble warriors arrived at the tent, the prince offered them refreshments, and received their congratulations on the great deliverance which they had achieved. A great many prisoners were brought in by the returning knights to be held for ransom.

While the knights and nobles were thus rejoicing together around the prince's tent, the prince asked if any one knew what had become of the King of France. No one could answer. So the prince dispatched two trusty barons to ride over the field and see if they could learn any tidings of him. The barons mounted their horses at the door of the pavilion and rode away. They proceeded first to a small hillock which promised to afford a good view. When they reached the top of this hillock, they saw at some distance a crowd of men-at-arms coming along together at a certain part of the field. They were on foot, and were advancing very slowly, and there seemed to be some peculiar excitement among them, for they were crowding and pushing each other in a remarkable manner. The truth was, that the men had got the King of France and his youngest son Philip in their possession, and were attempting to bring them in to the prince's tent, but were quarrel- [129] ing among themselves as they came along, being unable to decide which of them was entitled to the custody of the prisoners. The barons immediately put spurs to their horses, and galloped down the hill to the spot, and demanded what was the matter. The people said that it was the King of France and his son who had been made prisoners, and that there were no less than ten knights and squires that claimed them. These men were wrangling and contending together with so much violence and noise that there was danger that the king and the young prince would be pulled to pieces by them. The king, in the mean time, was entreating them to be quiet, and begging them to deal gently with them, and take them at once to Prince Edward's tent.

"Gentlemen, gentlemen," said he, "I pray you to desist, and conduct me and my son in a courteous manner to my cousin the prince, and do not make such a riot about us. There will be ransom enough for you all."

The contending knights and barons, however, paid little heed to these words, but went on vociferating, "It is I  that took him."

I tell you he is my  prisoner."

"No, no, we  took him. Let him alone. He belongs to us."

[130] The two barons pressed their horses forward into the midst of the crowd, and drove the knights back. They ordered them all, in the name of the prince, to let go the prisoners and retire, and they threatened to cut down on the spot any man who refused to obey. The barons then dismounted, and, making a profound reverence before the king, they took him and his son under their protection, and conducted them to the prince's tent.

The prince received the royal prisoners in the kindest and most respectful manner. He made a very low obeisance to the king, and treated him in every respect with the utmost consideration. He provided him with every thing necessary for his comfort, and ordered refreshments to be brought, which refreshments he presented to the king himself, as if he were an honored and distinguished guest instead of a helpless prisoner.

Although there were so many English knights and barons who claimed the honor of having made the King of France prisoner, the person to whom he really had surrendered was a French knight named Denys. Denys had formerly lived in France, but he had killed a man in a quarrel there, and for this crime his property had been confiscated, and he had been banished [131] from the realm. He had then gone to England, where he had entered into the service of the king, and, finally, had joined the expedition of the Prince of Wales. This Denys happened to be in the part of the field where the King of France and his son Philip were engaged. The king was desperately beset by his foes, who were calling upon him all around in English to surrender. They did not wish to kill him, preferring to take him prisoner for the sake of the ransom. The king was not willing to surrender to any person of inferior rank, so he continued the struggle, though almost overpowered. Just then Denys came up, and, calling out to him in French, advised him to surrender. The king was much pleased to hear the sound of his own language, and he called out,

"To whom shall I surrender? Who are you?"

"I am a French knight," said Denys; "I was banished from France, and I now serve the English prince. Surrender to me."

"Where is the prince?" said the king. "If I could see him I would speak to him."

"He is not here," said Denys; "but you had better surrender to me, and I will take you immediately to the part of the field where he is."

So the king drew off his gauntlet, and gave [132] it to Denys as a token that he surrendered to him; but all the English knights who were present crowded around, and claimed the prisoner as theirs. Denys attempted to conduct the king to Prince Edward, all the knights accompanying him, and struggling to get possession of the prisoner by the way. It was while the contention between Denys and these his competitors was going on, that the two barons rode up, and rescued the king and his son from the danger they were in.

That night Prince Edward made a sumptuous supper for the king and his son. The tables were spread in the prince's pavilion. The greater part of the French knights and barons who had been taken prisoners were invited to this banquet. The king and his son, with a few French nobles of high rank, were placed at an elevated table superbly appointed and arranged. There were side tables set for the squires and knights of lower degree. Prince Edward, instead of seating himself at the table with the king, took his place as an attendant, and served the king while he ate, notwithstanding all the entreaties of the king that he would not do so. He said that he was not worthy to sit at the table of so great a king and of so val- [133] iant a man as the king had shown himself to be that day.

In a word, in all his demeanor toward the king, instead of triumphing over him, and boasting of the victory which he had achieved, he did every thing in his power to soothe and assuage the fallen monarch's sorrow, and to diminish his chagrin.

"You must not allow yourself to be dejected, sire," said he, "because the fortune of war has turned against you this day. By the manner in which you acquitted yourself on the field, you have gained imperishable renown; and though, in the decision of divine Providence, the battle has gone against you for the moment, you have nothing personally to fear either for yourself or for your son. You may rely with perfect confidence upon receiving the most honorable treatment from my father. I am sure that he will show you every attention in his power, and that he will arrange for your ransom in so liberal and generous a spirit that you and he will henceforth become warm and constant friends."

This kind and respectful treatment of his prisoners made a very strong impression upon the minds of all the French knights and nobles, and they were warm in their praises of the mag- [134] nanimity of their victorious enemy. He treated these knights themselves, too, in the same generous manner. He liberated a large number of them on their simple promise that they would send him the sums which he named respectively for their ransoms.

Although Edward was thus, on the whole, victorious in this battle, still many of the English knights were killed, and quite a number were taken prisoners and carried off by the French to be held for ranson. One of these prisoners, a Scotch knight named Douglas, made his escape after his capture in a very singular manner. He was standing in his armor among his captors late in the evening, at a place at some distance from the field, where the French had taken him and some other prisoners for safety, and the French were about to take off his armor, which, from its magnificence, led them to suppose that he was a person of high rank and importance, as he really was, and that a grand ransom could be obtained for him, when another Scotch knight, named Ramsay, suddenly fixing his eyes upon him, pretended to be in a great rage, and, advancing toward him, exclaimed,

"You miserable wretch! How comes it that you dare to deck yourself out in this way in [135] your master's armor? You have murdered and robbed him, I suppose. Come here and pull off my boots."

Douglas understood at once Ramsay's design, and so, with pretended tremblings, and looks of guilt and fear, he came to Ramsay and pulled off one of his boots. Ramsay took up the boot and struck Douglas upon the head with it. The other English prisoners, wondering, asked Ramsay what he meant.

"That is Lord Douglas," said they.

"Lord Douglas?" repeated Ramsay, in a tone of contempt. "No such thing. It is his servant. He has killed his master, I suppose, and stolen his armor." Then, turning to Douglas and brandishing the boot over him again, he cried out,

"Off with you, you villain! Go and look over the field, and find your master's body, and when you have found it come back and tell me, that I may at least give him a decent burial."

So saying, he took out forty shillings, and gave the money to the Frenchmen as the ransom of the pretended servant, and then drove Douglas off, beating him with the boot and saying,

"Away with you! Begone!"

Douglas bore this all very patiently, and went [136] away with the air of a detected impostor, and soon got back safely to the English camp.

After the battle of Poictiers Prince Edward moved on toward the westward with his army, taking with him his royal prisoners, and stopping at all the large towns on his way to celebrate his victory with feastings and rejoicings. At last he reached Bordeaux on the coast, and from Bordeaux, in due time, he set sail with his prisoners for London. In the mean time, news of the victory, and of the coming of the King of France as prisoner to England, had reached London, and great preparations were made there for the reception of the prince. The prince took a fleet of ships and a large force of armed men with him on the voyage, being afraid that the French would attempt to intercept him and rescue the prisoners. The King of France and his suite had a ship to themselves. The fleet landed at a place called Sandwich, on the southern coast of England, and then the cortége of the prince proceeded by slow journeys to London.

The party was received at the capital with great pomp and parade. Besides the cavalcades of nobles, knights, and barons which came out to meet them, all the different trades and companies of London appeared in their respect- [137] ive uniforms, with flags and banners, and with the various emblems and insignia of their several crafts. All London flocked into the streets to see the show.

One would have supposed, however, from the arrangements which Prince Edward made in entering the city, that the person whom all this pomp and parade was intended to honor was not himself, but the king his captive; for, instead of riding at the head of the procession in triumph, with the King of France and his son following as captives in his train, he gave the king the place of honor, while he himself took the station of one of his attendants. The king was mounted on a white charger very splendidly caparisoned, while Prince Edward rode a small black horse by his side. The procession moved in this way through the principal streets of the city to a palace on the banks of the river at the West End, which had been fitted up in the most complete and sumptuous manner for the king's reception. Soon after this, the King of England, Prince Edward's father, came to pay his captive cousin a visit, and, though he retained him as a captive, he treated him in other respects with every mark of consideration and honor.

The King of France and his son remained captives in England for some time. The king [138] and the queen treated them with great consideration. They often visited King John at his palace, and they invited him to the most sumptuous entertainments and celebrations made expressly to do him honor.

In the mean time, the war between England and France still went on. Many battles were fought, and many towns and castles were besieged and taken. But, after all, no great progress was made on either side, and at length, when both parties had become wearied and exhausted in the struggle, a peace was concluded, and King John, having paid a suitable ransom for himself and for those who were with him, was allowed to return home. He had been in captivity for about five years.

The conduct of Prince Edward at the battles of Crecy and of Poictiers, in both which contests the English fought against an immense superiority of numbers, and the great eclat of such an achievement as capturing the French king, and conducting him a prisoner to London, joined to the noble generosity which he displayed in his treatment of his prisoners, made his name celebrated throughout the world. Every body was sounding the praises of the Black Prince, the heir apparent to the English throne, and [139] anticipating the greatness and glory to which England would attain when he should become king.

This was an event which might occur at any time, for King Edward his father was drawing gradually into the later years of life, and he himself was now nearly forty years of age.



Henry Percy (AKA Harry Hotspur) was born on the 20th of May 1366 at Alnwick Castle. His father had already been endowed with the Earldom of Northumberland and his Mother Mary Plantagenet was the Granddaughter of the ruthless King Edward the III. At the age of 8 years Lord Harry accompanied his father on a campaign against Du Guesclin as a page, wearing the badge of Percy the Crescent and the manacles. In 1376 he witnessed the bloody fights between the Scots and the English. At 11 years he was knighted at the Coronation of Richard the II to become Sir Harry Percy Knight by the Kings hand.

In the autumn of 1388 Berwick the major border power point was captured by the Scots. This was a slight on Earl Percy’s watchfulness. The siege of Berwick lasted nine days, the final victory being led in person by Sir Harry Percy to whom his father had granted him this most dangerous honour. Sir Harry leapt through with sword shouting ‘esperance’ the Percy motto. He was just 12 years old and was protected by stalwart Northumbrian’s to make sure that he came to no harm. No quarter was given and no Scots survived. But revenge was quick and the Scots tore Northumberland apart for leagues. King Richard intervened on the advice of John of Gaunt Duke of Lancaster also a cousin of Richard (as Hotspur was). This intervention by Lancaster was motivated by his desire to see his son Henry Bolingbroke nominated as Richards’s successor. This caused much mistrust between Lancaster and the Percies who were loyal to Richard and eventually led to the troubles culminating in the battle of Shrewsbury in 1403.

During this time all of England began ringing with the fame of Harry Hotspur who with his youthful good looks and absolute fearlessness had caught the popular fancy. Gentle and simple swore that never since the days of the black Prince had England seen such a Knight as him. Sir Harry was now known by the sobriquet Hotspur so named by his Scottish foe for his devastating speed in battle.

In 1386 Earl Percy entered into a solemn covenant with the Scots Earl of Douglas for the peace and protection of the border. Douglas and Percy set their seals at the water of Eske on the 15th day of March. But still the border skirmishes continued across the frontier and these cross road fights were almost a weekly occurrence as private armies went against the covenant of the wardens to loot rape and pillage the countryside.

All this came to a head in 1388 when a Scots army led by Douglas and Montgomerie and numbering 50,000 men and invaded the North as far as Newcastle laying waste to the whole country side. Their aim was to confront Lord Harry Percy who was constable of Newcastle. But in pushing so recklessly Southward Douglas had failed to take cognisance of Earl Percy’s movements. He had deliberately withdrawn to Alnwick and had let Douglas pass on his way allowing him time to collect a sizeable army.

No sooner had Douglas set down before Newcastle than Earl Percy took his cue and set forth with his assembled army to cut off the enemy’s retreat. Douglas had allowed himself to be drawn into a cleverly devised trap. Douglas was keener to scrap with Hotspur in chivalrous combat than to dwell on strategy and he soon challenged Hotspur to single combat, which was accepted. A course was set before the Newcastle gates and the two champions advanced unattended to the encounter.

Douglas had the advantage of age and strength being 8 years older than Hotspur who had barely attained his majority. But in all other respects the combatants were fairly matched. They met ‘mounted on two greete coursers, with sharpe grounde speares at the utterance’. Fortune did not favour Hotspur that day and he was struck hard on his side and flung from his saddle to the ground and was concussed. Fearing that he might fall into the hands of the Scots Hotspur’s men rescued him back within the walled town.

This untoward event was galling to the Northumbrian’s as much as it filled the Scots with fresh vigour and the victorious Douglas immediately ordered a general assault on Newcastle. Again and again they attacked only to be beaten back each time. Hotspur and his brother Ralph fought in the forefront of the garrison. So resolute was their defence that Douglas raised the siege and began to retire towards the border.

Before he left however he rode up to within earshot of the town wall followed by his esquire holding Hotspur’s captured lance and Pennon. Earl Douglas shouted up to the battlement.

" Syre ", he said " I shall bear this token of of your prowess into Scotland, and shall set it high in my castle of Dalkeith that it may be seen from far off ". Hotspur shouted down in reply. " Ye may be sure ye shall not passe the bounds of the countrye tyll ye be met withal in such wyse that ye shall make none account thereof ". To which Earl Douglas replied. " Well Syre come you this night to my lodgyngs and seek for your pennon. I shall set it before my lodgynge, and see if you will come and take it away ".

Hotspur had already received the cheering news from Alnwick of his fathers advance Meanwhile Douglas waited at Otterbourne for Hotspur’s arrival not knowing that Earl Percy was also on the march with his army.

Most authorities say that the battle of Otterbourne engagement began during the evening of August the 19th 1388 a Wednesday according to the Julian Calendar. Hotspur had indeed followed Douglas but did not bother to wait to join his father’s army from Alnwick. It was not in the Percy way to wait to launch an attack and so Hotspur broke the battle upon the Scottish foe though it was late afternoon. Even so the Scots were clearly surprised at the speed with which Hotspur had travelled and their hastily formed line was shattered by the Northumbrian’s first onslaught. But darkness came quickly saving the Scottish a rout. Douglas shouted out for his men to rally or to never think upon Scotland again. The Scots rallied and counter attacked as the moon shone out sweeping down upon the Northumbrian’s. To make matters worse the Bishop of Durham’s troops coming from the South mistook Hotspur’s force for Scots and attacked from the rear. Hour after hour the fight went on until Earl Percy’s garrison arrived and turned the tide of the battle. Hotspur and Douglas fought in fantastic hand to hand combat, Hotspur mortally wounding Douglas who kept cheering his men on from his bloody position on the ground. The Scots fled and Hotspur and his brother Ralph took after them in hot pursuit only to be captured for being so rash. Hotspur and Ralph Percy were ransomed after a brief sojourn across the border.

The death of Douglas and the cruel slaughter of Otterbourne awed the border into a peace more lasting than it had known for many a long year. The cessation of hostilities gave the Earl of Northumberland time to attend to turn to the most pressing issue of the King. Richard II had allowed himself to to fall into the ways of his unhappy ancestor, Edward Carnarvon. Richards’s favourites, chief among whom was Robert De Vere were elevated to positions of power at the expense of the old nobles so that they could be dominated by the feeble mind of the King. For a time Earl Percy and Hotspur kept aloof and even thought to become peacemaker between Richard and the increasing animosity of the old guard. But the pressure was already being applied on Richard through Parliament and he reluctantly relented. De Vere and his cronies fled and Earl Northumberland took advantage of the Royal repentance by introducing numerous reforms.

Richards fickle favour shone also upon Hotspur and he was made Governor of Carlisle and Warden of the West Marches and a Knight of the Garter joining his father and uncle Thomas in this proud distinction. Hotspur’s elevation though was beginning to cause some jealous irritation with Earl Percy’s (and Richards) cousin the powerful John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster who wanted the crown of England for his own.

From the Scottish border fresh invasions had begun and by 1393 Northumbria was laid bare. Lancaster deliberately criticised Northumberland and Hotspur in Parliament gaining them a Royal reproach.

In 1396 Hotspur accompanied Richard to his meeting with the French King at Guisnes and during the same year Sir Thomas Percy (Hotspur’s uncle) with Hotspur among his Knights went in full state to conduct the child queen, Isabel of France to English territory.

In the meantime King Richard had grown weary of well doing and had permitted his favourites to surreptitiously return to their old places at court. Most of the great Barons and the commons generally regarded the return of Richards’s evil counsellors with anger and disgust. Only the intervention of the Clergy was needed to precipitate a revolution, which Lancaster was lobbying hard for. Sir Thomas Percy had become spokesman for the clergy and his influence saved the day for the King and civil war was stayed and Sir Thomas was elevated to Earl of Worcester but the time was drawing near when even Earl Thomas could no longer uphold his master.

All his life ‘Old John of gaunt’ had been a menace to the peace and prosperity of England, but the evils which he had wrought when living were nothing to those he bequeathed to England upon his deathbed. The unscrupulous Lancaster passed away on February the 4th 1399 beginning what was to be a most terrible eighty years of rapine and bloodshed, which we now call the "Wars of the Roses".

Lancaster’s intrigues to place his own son Henry Bolingbroke in the position of next heir to the throne had already done its damage with Northumberland and Hotspur. These same ambitions had not unnaturally drawn upon Bolingbroke the dislike and suspicion of the King. Richard acted quite foolishly and without council revoking the letters patent granted to the heir of Lancaster and confiscating all his estates and banishing him for life to France. There was great outcry at his Majesties arbitrary proceeding. Fearing their own chastisement the great Lords including Northumberland and Hotspur protested so vehemently against Bolingbroke’s despoilments that the King ordered their arrest. Sir Thomas, Earl Worcester (the kings Lord Steward) warned his brother and nephew in time and they escaped the tower by a swift journey Northward to Warkworth. Richard sent several emissaries to them commanding them to return but this they wisely refused to do, pleading unsettled conditions on the border. Sentences of banishment and confiscation were therefore pronounced against them and they remained under arms in their own territory.

Richard postponed the execution of the warrants against Northumberland and Hotspur due to troubles in Ireland. He set sail for Waterford in a fleet commanded by Worcester! Richard had hardly set foot in Ireland when Hotspur opened communication with his cousin Bolingbroke inviting him to return to attempt the recovery of his inheritance by force of arms. To this Bolingbroke cunningly agreed.

The Percies had no intent whatsoever to forward the banished Plantagenet Bolingbroke as a candidate for the crown. They rather had in mind their regent until the young Mortimer Richards chosen heir became of age should it be necessary. After all Bolingbroke was a blood relative and had to all intents and purposes been unjustly treated by the King. Should Richard have returned to find them unprepared it would surely place them in jeopardy.

Henry Bolingbroke landed at Ravenspur on the 4th of July that same year where he met with Northumberland and Hotspur. From Ravenspur they travelled to Doncaster where wise Northumberland compelled the young Lancaster to sign a solemn oath not to lay claim to the crown but to rest content with the goodly estates and titles of his father.

A transcript from the metrical version of Chaplain William Peeris:

"The said Henry of Darby (Bolingbroke) after he was entered into the land.
At Doncaster in the Whiet-frears was sworn on the sacrement,
To the said seventh Henry, 1st Earl of Northumberland,
And to the Lord percy his eldest son, being there present,
With his uncle the Earl of Worcester, that he would be content
His owne inheritance onely to claim,
Which was the dukedom of Lancaster which of right he would obteine;
And not to usurpe the crowne upon his prince King Richard;
And after he was perjured, and of his oathe had no regarde."

When the King returned in haste from Ireland he found that the might of the nation swayed against him and his armies had disbanded. Seeing that his power had vanished Richard commanded Worcester to break his staff of office and dismiss the Royal household. He then despatched the Duke of Exeter to Chester where Bolingbroke lay with a great army. Asking that Northumberland visit him. From this point on the story of Northumberland and Hotspur’s role varies widely suffice to say that Bolingbroke was so determined in his quest for the crown that any sense of honour or duty was merely a pipe dream. What ever thr truth Richard abdicated and on September the 29th 1399 Bolingbroke read it out to Parliament and Richard was imprisoned in the Tower.

Whether it be true that the Percies wittingly assisted Bolingbroke to climb the throne or whether they were duped by John of Gaunt’s right worthy offspring is still the subject of much conjecture. What is certain though is that Northumberland knew that his son and heir Hotspur had equal right to the crown as Henry Bolingbroke knew so jealously.

A short time after his accession the new King Henry IV saw fit to seek the goodwill of his north - country kinsmen by loading them with many new honours and his first signature as King was attached to a charter making Northumberland Lord High Constable., and he shortly thereafter granted the Percies the Isle of man and its dependencies. Hotspur was granted the Wardenship of the Eastern Marches and the Justiciaryship of North Wales while he was also named Governor or Constable of Berwick, Roxburgh, Bamburgh, Chester, Carnarvon and Flint.

But the political climate on the border was unstable. When the George Dunbar the Scottish Earl of March was banished from Scotland by the mighty Douglas on treason he fled to Alnwick and the Percies refused to surrender him staring another round of bitter border clashes that led to outright war. Although Dunbar was the Percies hereditary enemy Henry IV wanted Dunbar to help with his expert strategic experience. The devastation to both sides of the border was so continuous and fierce that there was no food to be had by man or beast. In March 1401 Northumberland and Douglas endeavoured to patch up their differences to no avail.

All the while the first signs of ill will between the new made King and the House of Percy were becoming obvious. Hotspur urged the strengthening of Carlisle and Berwick castles as protection against possible invasion, but the King took no notice of the appeal. On Good Friday 1401 Conway castle was somehow betrayed to the Welsh but Hotspur succeeded in recovering the stronghold after a month’s siege. When he wrote to the King requesting funds to pay for his endeavours the King refused to pay anywhere near the full amount. This was the first sign of King Henry’s duplicity against the Percies whom he feared. Again Hotspur wrote pleading for the money telling his Majesty that his troops remained unpaid. But the King and his council turned a deaf ear. Hotspur wrote.

" remember how I have repeatedly applied for payment of the kings soldiers who are in such distress as they can no longer endure owing to the lack of money… I therefore implore you to order that they be paid… If better means cannot be found… I shall have to go to you in person to claim payment, to the neglect of other duties."

CLICK HERE for a transcript of the original document in the language it was written.

Hotspur had also written to the King warning him that serious trouble might result from lack of payment to his soldiers. This veiled threat was ignored and declined to offer Hotspur any financial relief although his exchequer was well filled. In September Hotspur resigned his ungrateful post of Justiciary of North Wales and went North to assist his father in the endeavour to preserve peace with the Scots, which was destined to failure.

In May 1402 a considerable body of Scots raiders crossed the border and proceeded to plunder and slay until Hotspur with a considerable force encountered them at Nesbitt Moor. The Scots marauders were taken by surprise and Hotspur’s force won a complete victory. Thousands of Scots were slain and their captain Hepurn and many other notable men of distinction fell into Hotspur’s hands.

To avenge the defeat at Nesbitt a second Scottish expedition invaded England in August this time commanded by the Earl of Douglas. Thirty French Knights of great distinction accompanied the army which numbered over 12,000 picked men. They ravaged Northumberland as far as Durham and to the Wear. Returning homeward weighed down with their plunder the Douglas army was intercepted 6 miles north of Wooler by Harry Hotspur. Sitting at the lead with Hotspur was none other than the banished Scots Earl of March Lord Dunbar. The English occupied a strong position at Millfield on Till commanding the main line of Douglas’s retreat. The Scots halted at Homildoun Hill a mere bow shot away. Hotspur was all for immediately charging the Scots down but the cautious Dunbar succeeded in restraining Hotspur’s eagerness. At the advice of Dunbar the battle was left to the English archers who had been drawn up in the van. The showers of arrows that these archers sent veiled the sun. The exposed Scotsmen were blocked in retreat by their own train and suffered such a massacre that the battle was over in only an hour. The Northumberland men at arms were never called into action the rout was so effective. Five Earls – Douglas, Fife, Angus, Moray and Orkney were taken prisoner and so was Dunbar’s revenge.

King Henry rejoiced in Hotspur’s victory and issued an edict strictly forbidding that any of the prisoners taken should be ransomed or exchanged. His excuse for such a course – wholly at variance with established custom, and designed to cause certain discontent – was that by keeping the Scottish border Lords in durance peace might be insured between the two Kingdoms. Captives and captors alike were enraged, the latter by the loss of their liberty, the former by what they held to be a breach of chivalry and a deliberate insult from the throne. Henry followed up his first order with a second desiring that all the prisoners should be conveyed to London without delay. Hotspur who had taken the Earl Douglas by his own hand simply refused to comply. When the Scots and French Lords arrived in London the Kings prize Douglas was not among them.

The King sent couriers to Warkworth demanding Hotspur’s instant appearance at court together with that of his prisoner Douglas. The second portion of the message was ignored but Harry Percy set out for London by himself. On his way South Hotspur heard news that the young Roger Mortimer the young Earl of march had been captured by Owen Glendower on the Welsh frontier. Hotspur had recently married the Earls aunt Lady Elizabeth Mortimer. Hotspur now had family reasons for being interested in the fate of this unfortunate house. It must also not be forgotten that Roger of March stood next after Richard II in the strict line of succession to the English throne and it must have concerned Hotspur that the legitimate heir to the throne lay at the mercy of the wild Glendower. Hotspur hastened to London to meet the King.

Hotspur made application to henry to have Mortimer ransomed but due to Hotspur’s lack of handing over Douglas this was denied. Angry Hotspur replied publicly thus.

" Behold the heyre of the realme is robbed of his right and the robber with his owne will not redeem him ".

The Kings advisors asked that action be taken against Hotspur but the King made no effort to have Hotspur impeached. The Sovereigns motives were more subtly crafty than those of his advisors. Henry Bolingbroke realising the instability of his throne and the widespread popularity of Hotspur was under the cover of fair words and the pretence of magnanimity trying to provoke the Percies into outright war and so rid himself of their opposition. King Henry’s political machinations were carefully executed. In March 1403 he granted Northumberland all the land of Douglas in persuasion to send them to the North out of London. This was seen as a generous treatment but history ensured that this was not the Kings reasoning. The lands on the border needed to be conquered before they could be sequested and the king was not about to finance these efforts as we saw previously. Hotspur and Northumberland made new submission to the King requesting payment. But this time the King acted and went forth with his army to quell the Percies once and for all precipitating the civil war that had been brewing since Henry refused to ransom Mortimer.

In the interim a son had been born to Harry Hotspur and Elizabeth Mortimer. This offspring of their union furthermore strengthened the alliance between the Percies the Mortimer’s and the legitimate heir to the crown. This young boy Lord Henry Percy through Hotspur’s mothers Plantagenet blood and the Mortimer’s royal line gave him right over Bolingbroke’s child to the crown as reported thus.

" The King began to think that now Hotspur’s son had nearer right to the crown than his own offspring. It was not to be borne with ".

On hearing of the Kings march North Hotspur sent his wife and babe to a secure retreat. Then leaving his father to gather an army in Northumberland he took a large force into Cheshire to where he was to meet with Owen Glendower. Riding with Hotspur was the Earl Douglas and the other Scottish nobles retained by him after the battle at Homildoun. On arriving at Chester Hotspur sent couriers to Wales to Owen Glendower. Glendower had released Roger Mortimer after he took his daughters hand in marriage thus establishing an alliance in blood. Now it became apparent what was going to happen. This newly formed triumvirate between Hotspur, Douglas and Glendower was planning to take England from the King.

The combination against King henry IV was beyond all questions formidable. He rose promptly to the occasion displaying not his qualities of unscrupulous craftiness and other ill qualities.

In Wales was Glendower with the legitimate heirs to the throne by his side, calling his fiery Celts together in the name of liberty pronouncing to his people the supernatural the prophecy of Merlin the Arthurian seer.

" And now after these there shall come out of the North a Dragon and a Wolfe, the which shall be the help of the Lyon, and bring the realme great rest, with peace and glory. These three shall rise agaynst the Moldewarpe which is accursed of god. Also they shall thrust him forth from the realme and the Moldewarpe shall flee and take a ship to save himself ".

It was written that the Plantagenets were spurned from the devil’s seed and it was written that King henry had contacted the great pox of leprosy under this families curse by God.

Many of the great Lords of the land joined Hotspur and Glendower. The rest remained outwardly neutral including the Nevilles of Furnival while secretly sympathising with the insurgents.

In the North the Earl of Northumberland made his headquarters a Berwick drawing a great host of Scottish and English nobles to his standard. Letters were broadcast over the realm requesting support. Worcester left the Kings service and joined Hotspur at Chester jeopardising his high office. He then drew up a manifesto declaring that the King had obtained his crown by fraud and perjury. Meanwhile at Berwick Northumberland had delayed his departure South due to illness. Had he gone then the outcome might have been very different.

In Chester the Blue Lion of Percy hung side by side with the arms of Douglas. The galleried courtyard was thronged with envoys and couriers from every corner of the land.

Cheshire loyal to the memory of Richard II sent its Knights and Squires to battle with Hotspur for Richard heir while reinforcements poured in from Lancashire, Derbyshire and the Marches. On about the 17th of July Worcester declared his manifesto and he and Hotspur issued a proclamation to the effect that the Earl of March was the rightful King of England and that Henry of Bolingbroke was deposed and that they themselves had assumed the " style and title of joint protectors of the Commonwealth ". They also sent out letters of defiance accusing Henry of breaking the oath that he made at Doncaster that he would not claim the Crown and further stating that he arranged Richards murder.

Learning that Glendower was on the march Hotspur set his force in motion and on the morning of Saturday the 21st of July he appeared down the Ostwestry road before the Castle Foregate of Shrewsbury. But dire disappointment greeted him. On the walls of Shrewsbury the banner of King Henry IV hung.

By one splendid strategic stroke the King had resolved to win or lose all. Hearing of the revolution on the 16th of July he knew there was only one hope of survival. That was to go into the heart of the war to cut off the insurgents before Northumberland and Glendower could join them. It has been suggested that Earl Dunbar promoted this strategy the Scottish refugee on whose advice Henry commissioned.

At the site of the Royal standard over Shrewsbury Hotspur drew back along the Whitchurch road for about three and a half miles and chose a position of considerable strength on the slope of the Hayteley field to the left of the road in the Parish of Albright Hussey. A mass of tangled pea vines and three small ponds protected his front. The King advancing from Shrewsbury took up a position at the foot of the slope. Then he sent messengers to Hotspur asking Hotspur and Worcester to come forward into the Royal line in order to avert bloodshed. Perhaps under the circumstances this was sincere on Henries part but his proven duplicity led the Percies to believe otherwise.

Glendower and Northumberland had been sighted to the West and North respectively although both at least a days ride away. Hotspur refused to go in person to the King worried about assassination, but he allowed Worcester to go on his behalf. King Henry asked Worcester to convey terms of peace to Hotspur proposing the Prince of Wales as guarantee. Worcester did not trust Henry and advised Hotspur not to harken to them. Worcester went to the King with Hotspur’s final response. " I put no trust in thee ". To which Henry replied " I pray the Lord that thou and not I may be held responsible for the blood spilt this day. "

Before the ranks of clattering horse and armour had begun to move an omen happened which blanched the cheeks of Hotspur and his friends. Turning to his Esquire Hotspur called for his favourite sword, the staunch crescent handled weapon with which he had won so many fights. The Esquire replied that the sword had been left behind were they camped the previous night a village called Berwick. Hotspur groaned and cried that his plough had reached its last furrow. A soothsayer had long aside prophesied that Harry Percy would die before Berwick, but naturally the Northern hero had thought this to be the Berwick on the border not a tiny hamlet in Shropshire and Hotspur was know to have a very suspicious nature.

Hotspur’s fears soon left him and taking a leaf out of Dunbar’s book he placed the Cheshire archers (the most renowned soldiers in England) at the foremost line of fight. Not long after this and before Northumberland or Glendower could offer Hotspur their support King Henry gave the word to attack. " En avent baner ! " Hotspur’s force reacted shouting out " Esperance! Esperance Percy! " To which the Royal troops shouted " St George ".


The Cheshire archer’s arrows hummed into the fray, six shafts a minute in an endless whirring cacophony of feathers. The arrows broke a part of the Royal line and Hotspur’s army surged forward. Hotspur charged ahead the haughty Douglas by his side. Douglas saw what he thought to be the King. Hotspur attacked easily killing him. Shouts went out the King is dead but alas the King had been taken to the rear by Dunbar who had put several Knights dressed in the Kings livery in the midst of the battle confusing the enemy. The kings soldiers would have given in then except another fake King ran forward only to be chopped to death by Douglas’s mighty axe. Hotspur did not shelter under such devious tactics but he could not tarry long under such conditions. Lifting his visor so that all could see him he launched forward shouting " Esperance " and calling on those that loved the right to follow. But a chance arrow falling from aloft imbedded itself in his forehead into his brain. On seeing this, the King shouted out " Harry Percy is slain ". Few of the insurgent army survived or left the field alive as the sun set on the cause of Mortimer.

In the twilight Henry Bolingbroke searched for Hotspur’s body. There lay Douglas his great axe by his side, And there beyond them all with his face looking up at the early stars his forehead pierced by the arrow of doom lay the bravest, rashest, staunchest Knight in England, Lord Harry Percy of Northumberland whom men called Hotspur.

" The earth bore him dead,

Bore not alive so stout a gentleman ".

It is said that the King wept over Hotspur’s body. But if he did it was not for long. Thomas Neville removed Hotspur’s body to a family chapel in Whitchurch nearby. But in a state of schizophrenic madness King henry ordered it removed and Hotspur’s corpse was displayed between two millstones outside the gates of Shrewsbury before being beheaded and quartered. The parts thereof were sent to the Four Corners of the land so as to dissuade others from taking up the cause. Worcester Hotspur’s Uncle fared no better and was executed soon after. Friar Peeris wrote that Hotspur’s body was finally interred in York Minster but this has not been verified. The rest of it is history.

Harry Hotspur was immortalised by William Shakespeare in his play Henry IV.


                            The Battle at Agincourt
On 11 August 1415, Henry V, the English king for two years, set sail for France with an army to substantiate his claim to the French Throne. His plan was to take Harfleur as a bridgehead before marching down the Seine to Paris and Bordeaux. There are a number of possible reasons for this campaign. It was an attempt not only to reclaim what Henry believed to be his lawful birthrights, the Duchy of Normandy and the French Throne, but also as a means of securing his reign by diverting attention from the problems at home. Moreover, it was not without provocation by the French who had raided the English coast. After a generation of defeats and setbacks, this English force held three main strengths. If properly deployed, the English archer was one of the most formidable fighting forces in Europe, the strength of Henry as a general and the disorder of the French leadership under the frequent insanity of a weak king.

Contemporary observers describe a fleet of 1500 ships that carried Henry's army across the channel. While this is undoubtedly an exaggeration, a fleet this size being many times larger than England's standing navy, it must have been an impressive array in order to carry a force of 8000 archers and 2000 men-at-arms together with artillery, horses, baggage train and camp followers. They landed unopposed on 14 August, three miles west of Harfleur. Harfleur was a strongly fortified town with strong walls, 26 towers, a moat, three barbicans (fortified gateways with drawbridges) defended by several hundred men-at-arms. The French proved adept at countermining forcing the English to rely on artillery for their attack. Medieval artillery was large and cumbersome with cast iron cannons up to 9 feet long and of over a foot in caliber firing stone balls weighing up to a quarter of a ton. There were problems getting them into position as the French also possessed cannon and crossbowmen placed on their walls overlooking their attackers. This, together with numerous sallies by the defenders, combined to make the lives of the English gunners miserable as they sustained heavy losses.

The besieging Englishmen were forced to sleep mainly on the ground drinking contaminated cider, wine and water. As a result, dysentery and disease was rife. Harfleur finally surrendered on the 22nd September which according to the laws of war, saved it from sacking. In the process, however, Henry had lost over one third of his army and many of the survivors were sick.

His original plan of marching on Bordeaux was now out of the question. Against advice, he decided the best way to "show the flag" was to feign battle with the gathering French army before outmarching them to Calais, 120 miles away.

Abandoning the artillery and baggage train, Henry placed The Earl of Dorset in command of Harfleur with a force of up to 500 men-at-arms and 1000 archers. He left on the 8th October with a force of about 900 men-at-arms and 5000 archers carrying only eight days provisions. The advance guard was commanded by Sir Gilbert Umfraville and Sir John Cornwall, the main body by Henry himself, the Duke of Gloucester and the Earl of Huntington while the rear guard was commanded by the Duke of York and the Earl of Oxford. They found the Bethune river flooded and were forced to march upstream in search of a ford which they crossed on the 11th. The following day, they crossed the Breste having marched 80 miles in five days.

On the 13th, they swung inland to cross the Somme above its mouth but discovered from a prisoner that a French force numbering 6000 blocked the crossing. Turning southeast, in search of a crossing, they marched for five days, becoming hungrier and hungrier before managing to cross the Somme at Bellencourt and Voyenes where a French cavalry attack was beaten off. All the time, the French kept pace. After crossing on the 19th, Henry declared the 20th a rest day that saw the arrival of French heralds to issue a challenge for battle.

"Our lords have heard how you intend with your army to conquer the towns, castles and cities of the realm of France and to depopulate French cities. And because of this, and for the sake of their country and their oaths, many of our lords are assembled to defend their rights; and they inform you by us that before you come to Calais they will meet you to fight you and be revenged of your conduct"

Henry simply replied "Be all things according to the will of God."

Agincourt Campaign Map The 21st saw the English march 18 miles and 53 in the next three to be within two days of safety. Late on the 24th, the Duke of York's scouts informed Henry that the main French army had crossed their path and blocked the way to Calais. The English took up position along a ridge and the French also took up battle positions within half a mile but didn't attack, having learnt from Crecy.

Henry, realizing he was heavily outnumbered and the weakened state of his army; many had dysentery and all were exhausted and hungry having lived off nothing but nuts and raw vegetables for days, offered to return Harfleur and pay for damages in return for free and safe passage to Calais. The French, however, demanded that he also renounce all claims to French soil apart from Guyene. While Henry then modified his offer slightly, the negotiations proved unfruitful and they soon broke off after darkness fell.

Prisoners who had been taken during the campaign were released on oath that they would return if God granted Henry and the English victory in battle.

The English camp that night became very quiet, not only due to the exhaustion of the army and their precarious position; most expecting to die the following day in battle but on Henry's order. Silence was to be enforced at the risk of the loss of horse and harness for a knight or the right ear of a person of lesser standing. So quiet did the camp become that French outposts came to believe that the few fires in the English camp marked the position of an abandoned position.

The French camp, on the other hand, could not have been more different. So confident of victory were they that many sat up late drinking, gambling and boasting about who would kill or capture whom. Some knights even painted a cart in which Henry would be paraded through the streets of Paris!