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Henry of Monmouth, Volume 1 by James Endell Tyler

King Henry laid hands on that unfortunate prelate


[Footnote 203: A review of this "aged Earl's" behaviour, from the first occasion on which he is introduced to our notice in these Memoirs to the day of his death, supplies only a melancholy succession of acts of broken faith. On the 7th of February 1404, before the assembled estates of the realm, on receiving the King's pardon for the past, he most solemnly swore upon the cross of Canterbury to be true and faithful to his sovereign Henry IV: he "swore also, on the peril of his soul, that he knew of no evil intentions on the part of the Duke of York, or of the Archbishop; and that the King might place full trust and confidence in them as his liege subjects."]

The Editor of the Proceedings of the Privy Council says nothing of Scrope, Archbishop of York, who had risen in open rebellion against the royal authority; but we cannot pass on without some notice of him. Early in June, King Henry laid hands on that unfortunate prelate, surrounded by followers, and armed in a coat of mail; and he commanded Gascoyne, who was with him, to pass sentence of death upon his prisoner in a summary way. The Chief Justice refused,[204] with these words: "Neither you, my lord the King, nor any of your lieges

acting in your name, can lawfully, according to the laws of the kingdom, condemn any bishop to death." The King then ordered one Fulthorp to sentence him to decapitation, who forthwith complied; and the Archbishop was carried to execution with every mark of disgrace, on Whitmonday, June 8th. Many legends shortly became current about this warlike prelate, who was one of the most determined enemies of the House of Lancaster. Of the stories propagated soon after his death, one declares that in the field of his last earthly struggle the corn was trodden down, and destroyed irremediably, both by his enemies, who were preparing for his execution, and by his friends and poor neighbours, who came (p. 210) to weep and bewail the fate of their beloved chief pastor. The Archbishop, seeing the destruction which his death was causing, spoke with words of comfort to the multitude, and promised to intercede with heaven that the evil might be averted. The field, continues the story, brought forth at the ensuing harvest six-fold above the average crop. The same page tells that the King was smitten with the leprosy in the face on the very hour of the very day in which the Archbishop was beheaded. The manuscript adds, that many miracles were shown day by day by the Lord at the tomb of this prelate, to which people flocked from every side. The enemies of the King endeavoured to exalt this zealous son of the church into a saint; and to propagate the belief that the King's disease, which never left him, was a signal and miraculous visitation of Heaven, avenging the foul murder of so dauntless a martyr.[205]

[Footnote 204: Gascoyne does not appear to have been even suspended from his office in consequence of his refusal to sentence the Archbishop; he continued Chief Justice till after the King's death.]

[Footnote 205: Sloane, 1776.]

Pope Innocent, in the course of the year, sent a peremptory mandate to the Archbishop of Canterbury to fulminate the curse of excommunication against all those who had participated in the prelate's murder: but the Archbishop did not dare to execute the mandate; for both the King and a large body of the nobility were implicated more or less directly in Scrope's execution, and must have been involved in the same general sentence. The King, on hearing of the decided countenance thus (p. 211) given by the Pope to his rebellious subjects, despatched a messenger to Rome, conveying the military vest of the Archbishop, and charged him to present it to his Holiness; delivering at the same time, as his royal master's message, the words of Jacob's sons, "Lo! this have we found; know now whether it be thy son's coat, or no." A passage in Hardyng seems to imply that, during the life of Henry IV, the devotions of the people to this warrior bishop were forbidden; for he records, apparently with approbation, the permission granted by his son Henry V, to all persons to make their offerings at the shrine of their sainted prelate:


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