Cambridge Historical Reader: Primary - Cambridge Press

A Merry Young Prince, or the Story of "Madcap Harry"

Most of you will think "Madcap Harry" a strange nick-name for a prince—yet this was what one of our greatest kings was called, when a young man. He was so full of fun and mischief that all his friends thought the name suited him very well.

Everyone loved the gay young prince, who was very handsome and strong. He was very fond of all kinds of sport, and once, we are told, he and a friend caught a deer without the help of horses and dogs. At another time, he chased a fox until he caught it; and for a long while afterwards wore the fox's brush in his cap.

Once, the prince is said to have got into serious trouble. He heard that one of his friends had been taken before the judge, for some wrong thing he had done. Without thinking much of what he was doing, prince Hal boldly entered the court, and ordered the judge to let his friend go free.

Now, although the judge knew that Hal was the king's eldest son, or prince of Wales, he was not afraid to do what he thought to be right. So he ordered the prince to be sent to prison, for not showing proper respect to one of the king's judges.

By this time, Hal could see he was wrong to have acted in such a rude way, and so he quietly obeyed the order of the judge. This story, if true, shows that the prince was not only a faithful friend, but also, that he had much good sense.

Prince Henry and Judge


Now, his father, king Henry IV, was a cold, selfish and unhappy man, and could not understand the free and happy nature of his son; so, when he heard of prince Hal's wild doings, he was angry with him, and you may be sure that the prince soon heard of it.

But Hal really loved his father and wished to please him. You will think, however, that he showed this in a very quaint way. He went to the king, wearing a coat full of large buttonholes. The stitching of these holes was not quite finished; and, hanging from each hole, was the needle and silk with which it was worked.

Now, what do you think this meant? Very likely the king understood by it that his son was going to give up his idle ways, and settle down to the serious work expected of a prince.

We believe prince Hal did so: for we know that, before he was twenty, he had fought bravely against the king's foes, and helped to rule the country.

During the last few years of king Henry IV's life, he suffered from a terrible disease, and very often, too, he would fall into a kind of fit. While this lasted, he seemed like a dead man. One day, the prince entered his father's bedroom, and thought by his look that he must be dead.

On a cushion by the bedside was the crown. Perhaps prince Hal remembered that some of our kings had been robbed as they lay dying; so he removed the crown into the next room for safety.

Soon, however, the king opened his eyes, and at once saw what had happened. He thought that his son must be in a great hurry to be king, by taking away the crown. So he sent for the prince, and told him how grieved he was at what he had done.

However, the king was very pleased to find that his son still loved him, and did not wish him to die. Our great poet, Shakespeare, has told us, in some beautiful lines, how Henry then gave his son some very good advice, as to how he should rule the land when he became king.

In another book, you will read of our prince, when king Henry V, winning great battles in France, and how, for a short time, he ruled both that country and England.