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lowed the French Revolution; but we will hope that Europe at least has now adopted the better and happier means of that friendly diffusion of persons and ideas, in which are discernible the real elements of the security and improvement of mankind.
Where are we to look for the benefits produced by the famous contests of the Plantagenets for the unattainable possession of France? The mere glory which attaches to these victories is an insufficient result. When it was proposed in the House of Commons in the days of Pitt to omit the lilies from the escutcheons of England, and the "D. G. Franciæ Rex" from the legend of George III.'s coinage, the minister objected at first to an attack upon a "harmless feather." The "feather"—the object of Henry's or Edward's ambition-might have been as unimportant, although not so harmless as the armorial bearings and titles transmitted to their successors. But it is not in France, the scene of all their glory, that we are able to detect any thing like a real advantage purchased by their vast expenditure of blood and treasure. We are, however, in England not wholly unable both to see and to feel something which has come down to us from those times and those actions to which we may appeal for proof that all this warfare was not waged in vain, "Delirant quicquid reges, plectuntur Achivi," is the usual effect of such contests, not so exactly with the Plantagenets and the commons of England. Harry V. easily obtained his subsidies and fifteenths from a Parliament, which appeared dazzled by his success, and disposed to assist his ambitious projects, but all this time it quietly pursued its own course, little solicitous about acquisitions in France, but especially careful to preserve and extend, and assist the privileges of the English House of Commons. A few years beheld all these mighty foreign acquisitions melt away like the gifts of fairies, and all the disasters of the reign of Henry VI.
In sua victrici conversum viscera dextrâ.
But in the midst of reverses abroad, and strife at home, the Parliament never lost sight of what it had gained during the days of Agincourt, and at this hour we are in the enjoyment of the plenary results, which have terminated in the establishment of a free constitution. These are matters for reflection at home-but on the fields, bravely fought and fairly won, we may willingly do justice to the merits and glories of our countrymen, which have invested the scenes with an unfading interest. It is one great charm in visiting these places that we may with perfect confidence believe ourselves beholding, unchanged, the very scene, as far as the face of the country is concerned, which presented itself to the eyes of the actors themselves in those great events. In an open champaign country, unless plantations and houses spring up, or positive violence is done to the surface, the aspect remains unaltered by any thing, but the common variations of agricultural crops. What open violence can do, we know well from what it has done upon the arena of another conflict, more desperate and important than Cressy or Agincourt; those who now visit the impressive plain of Waterloo, and were present at the action, can scarcely at first recognise the original ground, the crest of the position is gone:-" pour construire," as a French writer expresses it, "la montagne artificielle, immense cone haut de plus de cent cinquante pieds et recouvert de gazon ;
qui supporte le ridicule lion Belge placé là par l'ancien gouvernement des Pays Bas comme monument de la victoire Anglo-Prussienne du 18th Juin. Le sol, à la sommité, du plateau de Mont Saint Jean, à été baissé de près de dix pieds. L'aspect général du terrain est dont completement changé."
Far different is the case at Cressy. Not a tree has been planted, not a house built to alter the original lineaments of the field. The opponent heights have their three or four windmills on the plateaus once occupied by the hostile armies; but even those objects are probably in keeping with the ancient scene. The intermediate valley lies quietly in its pristine state, nothing has stirred its soil except the patient plough in its annual labour. At Agincourt it is the same-no change is likely to have come over the spirit of the plain. "Henri," said St. Rémy, sur une belle plaine de jeunes blez ordonna sa bataille ;" and there I found the young wheat, "aliusque et idem," and except that it was April instead of October, there seemed nothing to destroy the illusion. I seemed to be walking over the very same corn.
The ages that have elapsed since these victories were achieved, have nearly extinguished any feelings of animosity between the rival nations, such as rankle sometimes at the recollections of more recent events. Each party now can afford to look over Cressy and Agincourt, and discuss the subject of the conflicts with impartial indifference; it must be owned a secret satisfaction comes across our minds at the thought that our countrymen remained superior in the contest; but it must be admitted that much mismanagement existed on the part of the gallant nation to whose faults these amazing victories were in a great measure owingfaults themselves on the right side-the fault of excessive and able courage, rashly and fruitlessly expended, and then quickly converted into despondency and defeat.
Victories are not so easily purchased in these days of better discipline ; but it is marvellous that the compass of a single life should have been a sufficient period to embrace all the great conquests of Cressy, Poitiers, and Agincourt. I say a single life, for we may well suppose that although at the interval of sixty-nine years, there must have been men in both France and England who on hearing of Agincourt in their old age, would have called to mind what Cressy had been in their youth. Nay, more-it is upon record that the same veteran French chief who gave the signal for advance at Agincourt, had been actually engaged at Cressy in his early military career. I must throw myself upon your memory for his name,* for my own will not supply me with it at this moment. Such things, however, are not unparalleled; in fact, if we believe the words put into the mouth of Aper by Tacitus, they can be surpassed. "Ipse ego," he says, "in Britanniâ vidi senem qui se fateretur eæ pugnæ interfuisse quâ Cæsarem inferentem arma Britanniæ arcere litoribus et pellere aggressi sunt." Ninety-six years had passed between Cæsar's invasion, and the next under Claudius; Aper's British friend must have been, indeed, a warrior of no ordinary standing.
A single life, with such severe lessons at its commencement, ought to have been sufficient for any military man of genius to have corrected
This was the Duke de Berry-he advised the French to an action at Agincourt-he had been in the battle of Poitiers fifty-nine years before.
the miserable errors of his country; but we find, in innumerable minor affairs, the English retained their superiority, and their great victories were obtained with a disparity of force truly astonishing, compared with the hosts which opposed them. This inequality was even aggravated at Cressy, for the division under the king himself, amounting to nearly a third of the army, does not appear to have been engaged in the action at all-the Black Prince alone won the day.
Whiles his most mighty father on the hill
Oh, noble English, that could entertain,
With half their forces, the full pride of France!
At Poitiers again, thrice were the massive columns of the French brought up to attack and overwhelm the handful of English under the Black Prince, thrice repulsed with slaughter, and under the influence of the third repulse, while fatigued and disheartened, they were charged in their turn, and utterly defeated. Many an historian has attempted the solution of the mysterious cause of these extraordinary defeats-evidently proceeding from something more than the mere caprice and chance of
Sismondi, in his "Histoire des Francais," remarking upon the battle of Cressy, has these important observations :
"L'infanterie de Philippe était fort inferieure en qualité à celle des Anglais. Ceux-ci peut-être par une suite de leur hostilité contre la noblesse Normande, qui était établie et fixée chez eux, avait conservé plus d'independance de caractère; accoutumés à se servir sans cesse de l'arbalette, leur armes leur donnaient du courage, et la noblesse les respectait et les craignait. Les gentilhommes Francais, au contraire, ne permettaient jamais à leurs serfs de fair usage d'aucune arme ; ils les maintenaient dans la terreur, et l'avilissement, et ne pouvoient au besoin en faire des soldats. Ce n'étaient que les Bourgeois des villes qui formaient l'infanterie nationale leurs habitudes casanières avaient moins fortifié leurs corps que celui des paysans, et les rendaient moins propres aux fatigues de la guerre, leurs armes et leur discipline étaient pour eux des gênes accoutumées. Tout fois quand ils avoient combattu pour leur liberté ils avoient souvent montré un brilliant courage. Mais sous les Valois, ils se sentaient opprimés, humiliés, et la force de corvetère ne suppleait plus en eux à la faiblesse du corps. La noblesse accoutumée à mépriser les islains et l'infanterie bourgeoise, etendait le même mépris à l'infanterie étrangère que le roi avait prise à sa solde."
Without acquiescing in the whole of this passage, we may allow Sismondi to be correct in asserting that the French feudal seigneurs dared not place arms in the hands of their peasantry; a similar apprehension was expressed in our House of Lords in a recent debate on the " Army Enlistment Bill," which was denounced as likely to turn loose upon the country a number of men, formidable, as having been accustomed to the exercise of fire-arms.
Sismondi is however, in error in speaking of the arbalette, or crossbow, as the weapon to which the English were continually trained. M. Louandre also specified the arbalète, and the skill with which the English used it, as one of the causes of their success at Cressy, nor is this mistake
of a trivial nature. The arbalète was considered an unfair weapon, so formidable from its force, and so dangerous from the facility with which it could be used, that the spiritual weapons of Rome were brought to act against it, and in a council of the Lateran, held in 1139, it was regularly anathematised. The French were said to regard it as a cowardly instrument, and refused to avail themselves of it. "Avec cette arme perfide," they said, "un poltron peut tuer sans risque le plus vaillant homme." They held the bow in equal detestation, as "Ennemie de prouesse." The sword principally was held in estimation by them, and with it the lance, and similar weapons, which required close action, and granted the palm of superiority to valour and strength alone. This fastidiousness may remind us of the objections against gunpowder, urged so feelingly by Hotspur's Dandy:
It was a pity, so it was,
That villanous saltpetre should be digg'd
Without perfect coincidence with these becoming sentiments, which the depravity of mankind somehow has overruled, we may say as regards the arbalète, that whether perfidious and cowardly or not, it was not the English, but the French who made use of it at Cressy and Agincourt. The strength and glory of the English lay in their long bows; and superior skill in the use of a weapon common to all mankind is, of itself, a distinguished military merit. It was the French who at Cressy and Agincourt employed the cross-bow, first, with their Genoese mercenaries, and then with their own force under Rambures, a distinguished nobleman of Ponthieu, who filled the high office of "Grand maître des arbalètes."
Sir Walter Raleigh has some remarks on the English troops of that period, which appear to me particularly interesting, coming from him, whose observations are always of value, and who lived so much nearer that period than we do. I wish we had some convenient edition of the writings of this able man; it is impossible to abridge his animated and vigorous language, therefore, prepare yourself for a pretty long quotation. He is discussing the problem started by Livy, whether the Romans could have resisted Alexander, and he takes a somewhat different view to that of the Roman historian. This leads him to a notice of the English soldiers as compared with the Roman troops under Julius Cæsar, in Gaul. "The things performed in the same country, by our common English soldiers, levied in haste from following the cart, or sitting in the shopstall."-After describing the advantages possessed by the Romans over the Gauls, he goes on to say, "What such help, or what other worldly help than the golden metal of their soldiers had our English kings against the French? Were not the French as well experienced in feats of war? Yea, did they not think themselves therein our superiors? Let us hear what a French writer saith of the inequality that was between the French and English, when their King John was ready to give the onset upon the Black Prince at the battle of Poitiers. John had all advantages over Edward, both in number, force, show, country and CONCEIT, (the which is commonly a consideration of no small importance in worldly affairs) and withal the choice of all his horsemen, esteemed then the best
in Europe, with the greatest and wisest captains of his whole realm,"* and what could he more?
"I think it would trouble a Roman antiquary to find the like example in their histories. The example, I say, of a king brought prisoner to Rome by an army of 8000, which he had surrounded with 40,000 better appointed and no less expert warriors. This, I am sure of, that neither Syphax, the Numidian, followed by a rabble of half scullions, as Livy rightly terms them, not those cowardly kings, Perseus and Gentius, are worthy patterns. All that we have read of Cressy and Agincourt will bear me witness, that I do not allege the Battle of Poitiers for lack of other good examples of the English virtue, the proof whereof hath left many hundred better marks, in all quarters of France, than ever did the valour of the Romans.
"If any man impute these victories to the long bow, as carrying further, piercing more strongly, and quicker of discharge than the French cross-bow-my answer is ready; that in all these respects, it is also (being drawn with a strong arm) superior to the musket; yet is the musket a weapon of more use. The gun and the cross-bow are of like force, when discharged by a boy or woman, as when by a strong man; weakness or sickness, or a sore finger makes the long-bow unserviceable, more particularly, I say, that it was the custom of our ancestors to shoot, for the most part, point blank, and so he shall perceive, that will note the circumstances of any one battle. This takes away all objection: for when two armies are within distance of a butt's length, one flight of arrows, or two at the most, can be delivered before they close. Neither is it in general true that the long-bow reacheth further, or that it pierceth more strongly than the cross-bow. But this is the rare effect of an extraordinary arm, whereupon can be founded no common rule. If any man shall ask, how then came it to pass that the English won so many great battles, having no advantage to help him? I may, with best commendation of modesty, refer him to the French historian, who, relating the victory of our men at Crevant, where they passed a bridge in face of the enemy, useth these words' The English comes with a conquering bravery, as he that was accustomed to gain everywhere without any stay: he forceth our guard placed upon the bridge to keep the passage' (Jean de Serres). Or may I cite another place of the same author, where he tells how the Bretons being invaded by Charles VIII., King of France, thought it good policy to apparel 1500 of their own men in English cassocks, hoping that the very sight of the English red cross would be enough to terrify the French.
"But I will not stoop to borrow of French historians (all of which, excepting de Serres and Paulus Æmilius, report wonders of our nation), the proposition which I first undertook to maintain, that the military virtue of the English, prevailing against all manner of difficulties, ought to be preferred before that of the Romans, which was assisted with all advantages that could be desired.' If it be demanded why then did not our kings finish the conquest as Cæsar had done? My answer may be (I hope without offence) that our kings were like to the race of the Æacidæ, of whom
*"Jean avoit tout l'avantage par dessus Edouard, le nombre, la force, le lustre, le pays, le prejuge (qui n'est pas communement une considération de peu d'importance aux affaires du monde) et avec soi l'élite de sa cavallerie lors estimée la meilleur de toute sa Royaume."-John de Serres.