Young Folks' History of England HTML version

21. Henry VI, Of Windsor, A.D. 1423—1461
The poor little baby, Henry VI., was but nine months old when—over the
grave of his father in England, and his grandfather in France—he was
proclaimed King of France and England. The crown of England was held over
his head, and his lords made their oaths to him: and when he was nine years
old he was sent to Paris, and there crowned King of France. He was a very
good, little, gentle boy, as meek and obedient as possible; but his friends,
who knew that a king must be brave, strong, and firm for his people's sake,
began to be afraid that nothing would ever make him manly. The war in
France went on all the time: the Duke of Bedford keeping the north and the
old lands in the south-west for little Henry, and the French doing their best
for their rightful king —though he was so lazy and fond of pleasure that he let
them do it all alone.
Yet a wonderful thing happened in his favor. The English were besieging
Orleans, when a young village girl, named Joan of Arc, came to King Charles
and told him that she had had a commission from Heaven to save Orleans,
and to lead him to Rheims, where French kings were always crowned. And
she did! She always acted as one led by Heaven. Many wonderful things are
told of her, and one circumstance that produced a great impression on the
public mind was that when brought into the presence of Charles, whom she
had never before seen, she recognized him, although he was dressed plainly,
and one of the courtiers had on the royal apparel. She never let anything
wrong be done in her sight—no bad words spoken, no savage deeds done;
and she never fought herself, only led the French soldiers. The English
thought her a witch, and fled like sheep whenever they saw her; and the
French common men were always brave with her to lead them. And so she
really saved Orleans, and brought the king to be crowned at Rheims. But
neither Charles nor his selfish bad nobles liked her. She was too good for
them; so, though they would not let her go home to her village as she
wished, they gave her no proper help; and once, when there was a fight
going on outside the walls of a town, the French all ran away and left her
outside, where she was taken by the English. And then, I grieve to say, the
court that sat to judge her— some English and some French of the English
party—sentenced her to be burnt to death in the market place at Rouen as a
witch, and her own king never tried to save her.
But the spirit she had stirred up never died away. The French went on
winning back more and more; and there were so many quarrels among the
English that they had little chance of keeping anything. The king's youngest
uncle, Humfrey, Duke of Gloucester, was always disputing with the Beaufort
family. John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster—father to Henry IV.—had, late in
life, married a person of low birth, and her children were called Beaufort,
after the castle where they were born—not Plantagenet—and were hardly
reckoned as princes by other people; but they were very proud, and thought