While the Princess was having her English lesson her father, King Charles was conferring with the Dauphin, the Constable of France, the Duke of Britaine and members of the court.
‘He’s definitely crossed the River Somme,’ he said.
‘And if he isn’t resisted immediately, my lord, said the Constable, let us not live in France. Let us quit everything and give our vineyards to barbarians.’
‘Oh, the living God!’ exclaimed the Dauphin, ‘shall a few shoots of the French tree, the results of our ancestors’ lust – our healthy buds grafted to the wild and savage race – sprout up so suddenly and look down on those who grafted them?’
‘They’re Normans, only bastard Normans,’ exclaimed Britaine. ‘Norman bastards. God strike me dead if they march along unchallenged and I don’t sell my dukedom to buy a dirty, mired farm in that god-forsaken island, Britain.’
‘God of Battles!’ The Constable shook his head. ‘Where have they got this mettle from? Isn’t their climate foggy, raw and dull: the sun shining grudgingly on them – feebly – killing their fruit with frost? Can cooked water, a drink for worked-out nags – their beer – warm their cold blood to such a courageous heat? And will our vigorous blood, aroused with wine, seem frosty? Oh, for the honour of our country, don’t let’s hang like dripping icicles from thatch eaves while a colder-blooded nation sheds drops of gallant young blood on our rich fields – which seem poor though, in their ownership.’
‘By my faith and honour,’ agreed the Dauphin,’our wives mock us and say quite bluntly that we’re past it and that they’ll give their bodies to the lusty English youths to restock France with bastard fighters.’
‘They tell us to go to the English dancing schools and teach the fashionable dancing steps, because our only talents are in our feet and we’re just glorified runaways,’ said Britaine.
The King could see that he had no option but to engage with the English.
‘Where is Montjoy, the herald?’ he said. ‘Send him off immediately. Let him greet England with our determined defiance. Up, princes, and with your sense of honour even sharper than your swords, hurry to the battlefield. Charles Delabret, High Constable of France: you, Dukes of Orleans, Bourbon, Berri, Alencon, Brabant, Bar, Burgundy: Jacques Chatillon, Rambures, Vaudemont, Beaumont, Grandpre, Roussi, Fauconbridge, Foix, Lestrelles, Boucicault, Charolois: high dukes, great princes, barons, lords, and knights, with your great ranks, now prevent great shame. Stop Harry of England, who is sweeping through our country with pennants stained with the blood of Harfleur. Pour down on his army like the melted snow into the valleys that the high Alps spit on. Descend on him – you have enough forces – and bring him to Rouen in a captive chariot as our prisoner.’
The Constable bowed. ‘This is worthy of a great king. I’m only sorry his forces are so meagre, with his soldiers sick and famished from marching. I’m sure that when he sees our army his heart will sink with fear and he’ll offer us a ransom instead of fighting.’
‘And so, Lord Constable, hurry to Montjoy,’ said Charles, ‘and let him inform England that we want to know what ransom he will voluntarily give. Prince Dauphin, you will stay with us in Rouen.’
‘No! I beg your majesty,’ said the Dauphin.
‘Resign yourself to it,’ said Charles. ‘You’re staying with us. Go now, Lord Constable, and all you princes, and shortly bring us news of England’s defeat.’
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