— 4.1 —
At the rebel camp in Gaultree Forest in Yorkshire, the Archbishop of York, Mowbray, Lord Hastings, and others were meeting in an open area.
The Archbishop of York asked, “What is this forest called?”
Hastings replied, “It is Gaultree Forest, if it shall please your grace.”
“Let us stand here, my lords,” the Archbishop of York said, “and send out scouts to learn the numbers of our enemies.”
“We have sent them out already,” Hastings said.
“That is well done,” the Archbishop of York said. “My friends and brethren in these great affairs, I must tell you that I have received letters recently from Northumberland. This is their cold intent, tenor, and substance: He says that he wishes that he could be here with such an army as someone of his rank and position ought to have, but he could not raise such an army, and therefore he has gone to Scotland to increase his power, and he concludes with hearty prayers that you and your armies may survive the hazard and fearful meeting of the armies that oppose them.”
“Thus do the hopes we have in him touch bottom like a ship and dash themselves to pieces,” Hastings said. “We will receive no reinforcements from Northumberland.”
A messenger arrived and Hastings asked, “What news do you bring?”
“West of this forest, scarcely a mile away, in well-ordered formation marches the enemy,” the messenger said. “And, by the ground they hide, I judge their number to be approximately thirty thousand.”
“That is exactly the number of opposing soldiers that we thought the opposing army would have,” Mowbray said. “Let us move on and face them in the field.”
Seeing someone from the enemy approaching, the Archbishop of York asked, “Who is the leader in full military regalia coming toward us?”
Mowbray replied, “I think it is the Lord of Westmoreland.”
Westmoreland rode up to them and said, “Health and fair greetings from our general: Prince John.”
“Speak in peace, Lord of Westmoreland,” the Archbishop of York said. “What do you have to say to us?”
“My lord,” Westmoreland replied, “I chiefly address my speech to you. If rebellion came like it truly is, in base and abject routs, led on by bloody youth, trimmed with rags, and escorted by Rage, and approved by boys and beggars — I say, if damned rebellion were to so appear in its true, native, and most proper shape, you, reverend father, and these noble lords would not be here to dress the ugly form of base and bloody insurrection with your fair honors. You are lending dignity to undignified rebellion. You, Lord Archbishop, whose diocese is maintained by a civil peace, whose silver beard the hand of peace has touched, whose learning and good letters have been tutored by peace, whose white robes symbolize innocence, the dove and very blessed spirit of peace, why do you so badly translate yourself out of the speech of peace that bears such grace, transforming it to the harsh and boisterous tongue of war? Why are you transforming your books into graves, your ink into blood, your pens into lances, and your divine tongue into a trumpet and call to war?”
“Why do I do this?” the Archbishop of York said. “That is your question to me. Briefly, this is the answer: We are all diseased, and with our gluttonous and overindulgent and wanton hours we have brought ourselves into a burning fever, and we must bleed because of it. Our late sovereign, King Richard II, being infected with this disease, died.
“But, my most noble Lord of Westmoreland, I do not take on me here the role of a physician who makes men bleed, or do I as an enemy to peace troop here in the throngs of military men. Instead, I am making a show of fearful war in order to cure minds that are sick because of overindulgence and in order to purge the obstructions that begin to stop our very veins of life.
“Hear me more plainly. I have in equal and unbiased balance justly weighed what wrongs our arms may do against what wrongs we suffer, and I have found that our griefs are heavier than our offences. The rough torrent of occasion and the present rough circumstances have forced us away from the quiet we enjoyed. We have the summary of all our griefs written down so that we can reveal them at the proper time. Long ago, we offered this document to King Henry IV, but we were not allowed to see him and give him the document. We are denied access to the King by those men who have most done us wrong.
“The dangers of the days but newly gone, whose memory is written on the earth with still visible blood, and the bad events that happen every minute now, have made us put on this seemingly unbefitting armor.
“We do not wish to disrupt the peace or any part of it; instead, we wish to establish here a peace — one that is worthy of the name.”
Westmoreland replied, “When has your appeal ever been denied? How have you been oppressed by the King? What lord has been ordered to harm you? What has been done to you that you should seal this lawless bloody book of forged rebellion with a divine seal and consecrate the bitter edge of rebellion?”
“I am here with the rebellion because of my brothers general and my brother born. My brothers general are the citizens in this commonwealth who suffer. They are my brothers because they are my fellow citizens. King Henry IV had my birth brother, Lord Scroop, executed, and that is my personal and particular reason for being involved with this rebellion. My brother died without even being allowed to receive the final sacrament.”
“There is no need of any such redress — reparation and compensation — as you are demanding,” Westmoreland said, “and if there were, the redress would not go to you.”
Mowbray replied, “Why shouldn’t the redress go to him in part because of the murder of his brother, and to us all who feel the bruises of these days and suffer the condition of these times that lay a heavy and unequal hand upon our honors? We have suffered wrongs.”
“My good Lord Mowbray,” Westmoreland said, “this is a time of war, and some things are necessary to do in times of war. Consider the times, and you shall say indeed that it is the times, and not the King, that are doing you injuries.
“Yet for your part, it does not appear to me that you have any inch of any ground — any reason — on which to build a grief against either King Henry IV or the times,” Westmoreland said. “The estates of your father, the noble and very well remembered Duke of Norfolk, were taken from him, but haven’t they been restored to you?”
Thomas Mowbray, the Duke of Norfolk, was a rival of Henry Bolingbrook, now King Henry IV. King Richard II had banished Thomas Mowbray, the Duke of Norfolk. His son was also named Thomas Mowbray — he was the Thomas Mowbray who now was speaking.
Mowbray replied, “What thing, in honor, had my father lost that now needs to be revived and animated in me? King Richard II respected him, but because of circumstances was forced to banish him.
“At Coventry, Harry Bolingbroke and my father intended to fight a duel. They had mounted their horses and were eager to face each other. Their neighing coursers waited excitedly for the spurs that would order them to charge. The beavers of the dueling men’s helmets were down. Their eyes of fire sparked through sights of steel, and the loud trumpet blew that it was time for them to charge each other. Then, then, when there was nothing that could have stopped my father from attacking the breast of Bolingbroke, King Richard II threw down his staff of command and stopped the duel. His own life hung upon the staff he threw down. When he threw down his staff of command, at the same time he threw down his own life and all the lives of those who have died because of Bolingbroke’s indictments and wars. If the duel had been allowed to continue, my father would have killed Bolingbroke and there would be no King Henry IV.”
“Lord Mowbray, you don’t know what you are saying,” Westmoreland said. “Bolingbroke was then reputed to be the most valiant gentleman in England. Who knows on whom fortune would then have smiled? Who knows who would have won the duel? But if your father had been victor there, he would never have made it alive out of Coventry because everyone there hated him, and they gave all their prayers and love to Bolingbrook, whom they loved and blessed and graced more than they did King Richard II.
“But this is mere digression from my purpose in coming here. I have come here from Prince John, our general, to learn your grievances and to tell you from his grace that he will give you audience; and if it should appear that your demands are just, they shall be met. Of course, he will not agree to any demands that make him think that you are enemies of the King.”
“But he has forced us to compel him to make this offer to us,” Mowbray said. “And he is making this offer from political considerations, not from any respect for us. This is a cold, calculated political maneuver.”
“Mowbray, you are presumptuous to think that,” Westmoreland said. “This offer comes from mercy, not from fear. Look! Our army is within our sight. Upon my honor, I swear that our army is much too confident to give a single thought to fear. Our army has many more men of military renown than yours, our men are better trained in the use of arms, our armor is at least as strong, our cause is the best. You should be thinking that we are making this offer because our heart is good, not because we are forced to make it.”
“Well, I say we shall admit no parley,” Mowbray said. “We will not have a conference with Prince John of Lancaster.”
“That is evidence that you are in the wrong,” Westmoreland said. “A rotten case abides no handling. A rotten container falls apart when it is touched, and a rotten cause falls apart when it is examined.”
Hastings asked, “Has Prince John full authority, as a plenipotentiary of his father, King Henry IV, to listen to our grievances and to come to a legal agreement with us?”
“Obviously, he does,” Westmoreland said. “The King made the Prince the general of this army. I am surprised that you would ask such a question.”
The Archbishop of York said, “Then take, my Lord of Westmoreland, this document; it contains a list of our general grievances. If each of the several different grievances herein is redressed, and if all the members of our rebellion, both here and elsewhere, that strengthen and form a part of our rebellion, are given a true and substantial and legal pardon and immediate satisfaction of our requests, we will again return to our boundaries and will return to peace. We will no longer be like a flooding river but will instead return to within the peaceful banks of the river.”
“I will show Prince John, our general, this document,” Westmoreland said. “If you agree, lords, we can meet in the middle of the no-man’s-land in between our armies. Within sight of our armies, we can either make an agreement that ends in peace, if God is willing, or we can make an agreement to do battle against each other.”
“My lord, we will meet Prince John,” the Archbishop of York said.
Westmoreland departed, carrying the document.
Mowbray said, “I have a feeling in my heart that no conditions of our peace can stand. Even if we agree to a peace, there will be no peace.”
“Don’t think that,” Hastings said. “If we can make our peace with such large and absolute terms as we shall insist on, then our peace shall stand on ground as firm as rocky mountains.”
“Yes, but the King shall be suspicious of us. He will regard us in such a way that every supposed slight and every false accusation and every idle, petty, and frivolous fault shall remind the King of this rebellion. Even if we were as devoted to the King as martyrs, we shall be winnowed with so rough a wind that even our corn shall seem as light as chaff. He will hold us to a standard that no one can attain, and he will not see the good things that we will do. He will see only bad even when we do good.”
“No, no, my lord,” the Archbishop of York said. “Note this; the King is weary of dainty and trifling grievances. He has learned that to end one danger by killing the offender results in reviving two greater dangers among those who are still alive. Killing one supposed enemy results in the creation of two real enemies. Therefore, King Henry IV will wipe the tablet clean and will forget anything that would bring to mind what has happened here. He knows very well that he cannot weed this land of just anyone whom he suspects of being an enemy. His foes are so enrooted with his friends that, when he plucks an enemy to remove him, he ends up hurting a friend. He is in the situation of a husband who has been so enraged that he wants to strike his wife. He raises his arm so that he can hit her, but she hold his infant up, and he stops his arm before it lashes out at her.”
“Besides,” Hastings said, “King Henry IV has wasted all his rods on recent offenders, and he now lacks the instruments of chastisement. He is like a fangless lion: He can threaten to hurt someone, but he cannot hurt anyone.”
“That is very true,” the Archbishop of York said. “And therefore be assured, my good Lord Marshal Mowbray, if we do now well make our atonement, our peace will be like a broken bone that has mended. It has grown stronger after being broken.”
“I hope that you are right,” Mowbray said. “I see that Westmoreland is returning now.”
Westmoreland arrived and said, “Prince John is near. Does it please you to meet him at an equal distance between our armies? Does it please you to meet him in no-man’s-land? If it does, Archbishop of York, move forward.”
“Go ahead of us and greet Prince John,” the Archbishop of York said. “Tell him that we are coming to meet him.”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved