A Vous Entier: John of Lancaster, 1389-1435

Alex R. Myers introduces the conciliatory and resourceful, hard-working and generousthe brother of Henry V, who was both an able soldier and a gifted Regent of France. Even his treatment of St. Joan by contemporary standards seems neither harsh nor dishonourable.

Few Englishmen of importance have enjoyed from their own time to the present day so high a reputation as Henry V. After his death, the English mourned him as a great King, whose untimely end had robbed them of a leader who would have accomplished a brilliant and lasting victory in France. Even the French chroniclers of the time spoke well of him; they praised particularly his zeal for justice, his courage, his loyalty and uprightness, his prudence, his energy and resolution, his ability, his chivalry, and his trust in God.

The genius of Shakespeare has ensured that for the English-speaking world, and beyond, this image of the ideal warrior king has been intensified and perpetuated. It is true that Henry has occasionally met with harsh criticism from modern historians—especially French. One of them, M. Perroy, has recently classed him with Louis XI and the Italian Renaissance tyrants, and has accused him of deceit and bullying in negotiation and of brutality and ruthlessness in conquest. This view has not won general acceptance. Even critical students of the King’s life would mostly find themselves much nearer to the judgment of an English biographer, W. T. Waugh, when he wrote: “ Hard, domineering, over-ambitious, bigoted, sanctimonious, priggish Henry may have been. His will was doubtless set on purposes unworthy of a great or good man—he cannot, as a patron of arts or letters, approach his brother Humphrey, or even equal his uncle Bishop Beaufort. Nevertheless, take him for all in all, he was indisputably the greatest Englishman of his day; and placed beside the flashy Sigismund, the afflicted Charles VI, the sluggish Dauphin, the treacherous John the Fearless, the unstable Duke Philip, he towers above them all—more forceful in arms, more discreet in council, more steadfast in purpose, and, with all his imperfections, more honourable in life.”

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