One death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic. — Joseph Stalin

Story of the English - Helene Guerber

Madcap Harry

As we have seen, Henry IV. was often troubled by remorse. He suffered greatly, and had so many worries that, if the poet Shakespeare is to be believed, he once said, "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown." Besides his remorse, his disease, and his wars, Henry had another source of anxiety, for his son, Prince Hal, was a very wild young fellow.

He was not altogether bad, for he had proved himself very brave as a soldier and had even shown a great deal of wisdom in his father's council; but the gay life of London was too tempting, and in the company of noisy, bragging companions, Madcap Harry, as the prince was often called, indulged in all manner of unprincely occupations. He even went so far, it is said, as to waylay and rob peaceful travellers. In doing this he was, of course, breaking the law, which, as prince, he should have been the first to respect.

After one of these highway robberies, so the story runs, some of his companions were arrested and brought before Judge Gascoigne. He tried them, and, finding them guilty, sentenced them to the usual punishment. Prince Hal, who was present at the trial, strove to beg them off; and when the judge refused to grant his request, the indignant prince struck him.

The judge, knowing that the majesty of the law is greater than that of any prince, now ordered Madcap Harry off to prison. This made the young man realize how wrong he had been, so he apologized to the judge, and accepted his punishment submissively. When this was told to King Henry he joyfully exclaimed: "Happy is the king who possesses a judge who is not afraid to do his duty, and a son who is wise enough to submit to the law!"

In the end of Henry's reign troops were sent to France to side with one of the parties engaged in civil war there. But although the king had been a mighty fighter, he no longer took great interest in the war, for he was rapidly growing worse.

During one of his prolonged fainting fits it is said that Prince Hal came into the room, and, fancying he was dead, carried off the crown. As soon as Henry recovered, he asked for it, and when the prince brought it back, he said: "Alas, fair son! what right have you to the crown, when you know your father had none?"

"My liege," answered the prince, firmly, "with your sword you won it, and with the sword I will keep it."

A few days later the king had another fainting fit, while he was at prayers in Westminster Abbey. He was carried into the abbot's room; there he opened his eyes and asked where he was. They told him he was in the "Jerusalem Chamber." Suddenly he remembered an old prophecy that he should die in Jerusalem, and, refusing to be removed, he breathed his last in that apartment.

Perhaps the most famous man in Henry's reign was Whittington, whose name you may have heard in nursery rhymes. He was the son of a nobleman; but as his father had lost all his money, he went off to London to make his fortune. He became the apprentice of a cloth merchant, but grew discouraged because he had no friends, and left London.

But, so runs the story, when he got outside the city and sat down to rest, his only friend, a cat, rubbing against his knees, he suddenly heard the Bow bells ring. The sound came to his ears, loud and clear, and the bells seemed to say: "Turn again, Whittington, thrice Lord Mayor of London." Encouraged by such prospects, Whittington picked up his cat and went back to London. There he tried so hard that he became a good and rich man, and was actually elected three times Lord Mayor of London. When Whittington died, ten years after Henry IV., he left all his immense fortune to the poor, to found several charitable institutions.

Some people, however, say that Whittington's fortune was all made by a ship called the Cat, which brought coal from Newcastle to London to be sold at great profit. Others say that Whittington's cat was his old friend the real pussy, which he sent away to be sold in the East; there it brought a large price, and thus proved the beginning of his fortune.


Front Matter

Early Times
The Druids
The Britons
Caesar in Britain
Queen Boadicea
The Great Walls
The Great Irish Saint
The Anglo-Saxons
Brave King Arthur
The Laws of the Saxons
The Story of St Augustine
Three Great Men
The Danish Pirates
King Alfred and the Cakes
Alfred conquers the Danes
A King's Narrow Escape
The King and the Outlaw
The Monasteries
An Unlucky Couple
St Dunstan
King Canute and the Waves
A Saxon Nobleman
Lady Godiva's Ride
The Battle of Hastings
The Conquest
Lords and Vassals
Death of William
The Brothers' Quarrels
Arms and Armour
The "White Ship"
Matilda's Narrow Escapes
Story of Fair Rosamond
Thomas a Becket
Murder of Thomas a Becket
Richard's Adventures
Richard and the Saracens
The Faithful Minstrel
Death of Richard
The Murder of Arthur
The Great Charter
The Rule of Henry III
A Race
Persecution of the Jews
The Conquest of Wales
A Quarrel with France
The Coronation Stone
The Insolent Favourite
Bruce and the Spider
Death of Edward II
The Murderers punished
The Battle of Crecy
The Siege of Calais
The Age of Chivalry
The Battle of Poitiers
The Peasants' Revolt
Richard's Presence of Mind
A Tiny Queen
Henry's Troubles
Madcap Harry
A Glorious Reign
The Maid of Orleans
The War of the Roses
The Queen and the Brigand
The Triumph of the Yorks
The Princes in the Tower
Richard's Punishment
Two Pretenders
A Grasping King
Field of the Cloth of Gold
The New Opinions
Death of Wolsey
Henry's Wives
The King and the Painter
A Boy King
Lady Jane Grey
The Death of Cranmer
A Clever Queen
Elizabeth's Lovers
Mary, Queen of Scots
Captivity of Mary Stuart
Wreck of the Spanish Armada
The Elizabethan Age
Death of Elizabeth
A Scotch King
The Gunpowder Plot
Sir Walter Raleigh
King and Parliament
Cavaliers and Roundheads
The Royal Oak
The Commonwealth
The Restoration
Plague and Fire
The Merry Monarch
James driven out of England
A Terrible Massacre
William's Wars
The Duke of Marlborough
The Taking of Gibraltar
The South Sea Bubble
Bonny Prince Charlie
Black Hole of Calcutta
Loss of the Colonies
The Battle of the Nile
Nelson's Last Signal
The Battle of Waterloo
First Gentleman of Europe
Childhood of Queen Victoria
The Queen's Marriage
Wars in Victoria's Reign
The Jubilee