Tales from Froissart

edited by Steve Muhlberger, Nipissing University

High Words between Lancaster and Northumberland.

In the aftermath of the Peasants' Revolt, the duke of Lancaster returns from his mission to Scotland angry at the earl of Northumberland.

Book II, ch. 79. When the duke of Lancaster was returned from Scotland, and had explained to the council the truce he had negotiated between the two kingdoms, he did not forget to mention how sir Matthew Redmayne, governor of Berwick, (though he blamed not that knight) had shut the gates of Berwick against him, by orders from the earl of Northumberland. It was such an act, he said, as he could never forgive; and thus spoke of it, with the intent to see if the king his nephew would own it. This the king did, but it seemed to the duke as if it were faintly. The duke was appeased for that time; but he waited for the feast of our Lady at mid-August, when the king was to hold a solemn court at Westminster. There were at this court great numbers of the nobles and barons of England; the earls of Northumberland and Nottingham, with many barons from the north. ...

During this feast, and after the dinner, high words passed between the duke of Lancaster and the earl of Northumberland. The duke said, -- "Harry Percy, I did not think you was so great a man in England, that you would dare to order any cities, towns, or castles, to be shut against the duke of Lancaster."

The earl respectfully answered, "My lord, I do not deny the knight's act at Berwick: but I was ordered by strict commands of my lord the king, who sits there, on my honour and under pain of death, not to suffer any one, lord or otherwise, to enter the cities, towns or castles of Northumberland, if he were not an inhabitant of those places; and the king, if he please, or the lords of his council, may make my excuses; for they well knew you were in Scotland, and you ought to have been excepted out of these orders."

"How, earl of Northumberland," replied the duke, "do you think it was necessary there should have been a reservation in regard to me? who am uncle to the king, and who have my inheritance to guard, which, next to the king's, is the greatest, and who for the good of the realm have made this journey into Scotland? Your answer does not excuse you from having much wronged my honour, in thus giving credit to the reports in circulation that I wished to commit treason with the Scots, by shutting against me the king my lord's towns, and in particular that in which my provision and stores were. For which reasons I tell you, you have ill behaved; and for the blame you have thus cast on me, and to clear myself in the presence of my lord the king, I throw down my glove: take it up if you dare."

Upon this, the king stepped forth and said, -- "Fair uncle of Lancaster, whatever has been done I avow as my orders. Take up your glove, and recall your words. I must excuse the earl of Northumberland; for strictly, and on his life, did we order him to keep every town close shut that was on the borders of Scotland: and know, that our kingdom was in such confusion and peril, when you were in those parts, that it could not support itself. It must, therefore, have been through the fault to the secretary, or the neglect of our council; for, in truth, you ought to have been excepted. I therefore beg of you, and will, that you lay aside your ill humour: I take all on myself, and clear the earl of Northumberland."

The earls of Arundel, Salisbury, Suffolk, Stafford and Devonshire, cast themselves on their knees to the duke, and said -- "My lord, you hear how amicably the king speaks to you: you ought to condescend to what he requests." The duke, who was much inflamed, said, "I will not say more about it." He was silent a short space, when, raising the barons, and thanking them, he said: "Fair gentlemen, there is not one of you, if such an affront had happened to him, who would not have been as much angered as I am; but since the king wishes otherwise, it but right that I should comply."

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