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Henry of Monmouth, Volume 1 by James Endell Tyler

William Gascoyne died on Sunday


If,

then, Prince Henry was ever guilty of the gross insult and violence in a court of justice, and the firm, intrepid Judge, to uphold and vindicate the majesty of the law, committed him to prison for the offence, the probabilities preponderate in favour of Gascoyne having been the individual. But this supposition also is not free from difficulties. He was made Chief Justice of the King's Bench[334] 15th November, 2 Henry IV. (1401.) And of his intrepidity[335] in the discharge of that office, we have already mentioned an especial (p. 372) instance at the death of Archbishop Scrope, if what Clemens Maydestone, a contemporary, says, be true. Henry IV, who had the person of the Archbishop in his power, called upon Gascoyne, who was with him, to pass on his prisoner the sentence of death; but, at the risk of losing the King's favour and his own appointment, he positively refused, on the ground of its illegality. The Archbishop, however, was condemned to be beheaded by one Fulthorp, (or, as some say, Fulford,) afterwards a judge, as we have stated in its place. Gascoyne was subsequently sent with Lord Ross, by the council, to the north, as one of those in whom the King was known to have especial confidence, as soon as the news arrived in London of Lord Bardolf's hostile movement; and we find him still continued in the office of Chief Justice, apparently without having incurred the King's displeasure.

[Footnote 334: Pat. 2 Henry

IV. p. 1. m. 28.]

[Footnote 335: How far the high esteem in which the memory of Judge Gascoyne has been held may be owing to the tradition concerning Henry of Monmouth, we need not inquire. His name has constantly been held in great honour. Judge Denison, by his own especial desire, was buried close to the grave of Gascoyne.]

No adage is more sound than that which affirms a little learning to be a dangerous thing. More than fifty years ago, the Gentleman's Magazine[336] triumphantly maintained, that, at all events, Shakspeare had deviated from history in bringing Henry V. and Gascoyne (p. 373) together after the Prince's accession, because Gascoyne died in the life-time of Henry IV. This view has generally been acquiesced in, and the powerfully delineated scene of our great dramatist has been pronounced altogether the groundless fiction of an event which could not by possibility have transpired. The whole question turns upon the date of Gascoyne's death. He was buried in Harewood Church in Yorkshire; and Fuller gives the following as his monumental inscription: "Gulielmus Gascoyne, Die Dominica, 17? Dec^ris. 1412, 14 H. IV."--"William Gascoyne [died] on Sunday, December 17th, 1412, in the fourteenth year of Henry IV." If this were correct, there would be an end of the question; but the brass was torn from the tomb during the civil wars, and the copy cannot be verified. The inscription, however, as given by Fuller, is at all events self-contradictory. The 17th of December fell on a Saturday, not on a Sunday, in 1412.

[Footnote 336: The Magazine is followed in its erroneous views by subsequent writers.]

The process of the argument, and the accession of new evidence by which we are now at length enabled to set this point at rest, are very curious. The Author, indeed, confesses himself to have been one of those who were induced, by the documents then before them, to believe that Judge Gascoyne died on Sunday, December 17, 1413, somewhat more than half a year after Henry V.'s accession; and although the late discovery of the Judge's last Will proves that the argument (p. 374) was then sound only so far as it established the fact that he died after Henry's accession, and was unsound in fixing the period of his death at so early a period as December 1413; yet the statement of that argument may perhaps not be altogether uninteresting, whilst it may suggest a valuable caution as to the jealous vigilance with which circumstantial evidence should always be sifted before the conclusions built upon it be admitted.


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