Hung be the heavens with black, yield day to night!
Comets, importing change of times and states,
Brandish your crystal tresses in the sky,
And with them scourge the bad revolting stars
That have consented unto Henry’s death!
King Henry the Fifth, too famous to live long!
England ne’er lost a king of so much worth.
John Lancaster, Duke of Bedford, Henry VI, Act 1, Scene 1
Henry was too famous to live long? In any event, he did not. At the age of 35, during his siege of Meaux, he contracted dysentery, always the greatest killer of soldiers before the last century. He lingered for three weeks before dying in the small hours before dawn of September 1, 1422. By the standards of his devout age he was judged quite pious in his observation of the Faith. He was liberal in his alms to the poor and ever gave an attentive ear to the cries for justice of the weak.
He had suppressed Lollardy, his age doubtless viewing the concept of freedom of religion as strange as we would someone asserting a freedom to sell tainted milk or moldy bread. The overwhelming majority of people in Western Europe were Catholic, which they were certain was the True Faith. Anyone trying to promulgate another version of Christianity was regarded by those same people as a dangerous purveyor of false and dangerous beliefs that would lead people to Hell.
On his deathbed he expressed only one regret, that he had not achieved his life’s goal of leading a Crusade to redeem Jerusalem. (more…)