Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
Piety of King Henry the Fifth
By William Caxton (c. 14151491)
From Caxtons continuation of Trevisas Polycronicon
HERE is to be noted that this King Harry the fifth was a much noble prince after he was king and crowned, howbeit tofore in his youth he had been wild, reckless, and spared nothing of his lusts nor desires, but accomplished them after his liking. But as soon as he was crowned, anointed, and sacred, anon suddenly he was changed into a new man and set all his intent to live virtuously in maintaining of holy church, destroying of heretics, keeping justice and defending his realm and subjects. And forasmuch as his father had deposed by his labour the good King Richard and piteously made him to die, and for the offence done to him against his allegiance, he had sent to Rome to be assoiled thereof. For which offence the pope, our holy father, enjoined him to make him be prayed for perpetually and, like as he had done to be taken from him his natural life, therefore he should do found four tapers to burn perpetually about his body that, for the extinction of his bodily life, his soul may ever be remembered, and live in Heaven in spiritual life. And also that he should, every week, on the day as it cometh about of his death, have a solemn mass of Requiem, and, on the even tofore, a dirige with nine lessons, and a dole to poor people, alway on that day, of enleven1 shillings eight pence, to be dealed penny meal. And once in the year, at his anniversary, his terment2 to be holden in the most honest wise, and to be dealed that day twenty pounds in pence to poor people, and to every monk to have twenty shillings; which all these things performed this noble King for his father. For King Harry the fourth, his father, performed it not during his life, whom, as it is said, God touched and was a leper ere he died. Also then this noble prince let do call all the abbots and priors of saint Benedicts order in England, and had them in the Chapter House of Westminster, for the reformation of the order, wherein he had communication, and also with bishops and men of the spirituality, in so forth that they doubted sore that he would have had the temporalities out of their hands. Wherefore, by the advice, labour, and procuring of the spirituality, encouraged the King to challenge Normandy and his right that he had in France, to the end to set him a work there that he should not seek occasions to enter into such matters. And so, all his life after, he laboured in the wars in conquering great part of the realm of France, that by the agreement of the King Charles, he had all the governance of the realm of France, and was proclaimed regent and heir of France. And so, notwithstanding all this great war that he had, yet he remembered his soul and also that he was mortal and must die. For which he ordained, by his life, the place of his sepulchre where he is now buried, and every day three masses perpetually to be sung in a fair chapel over his sepulchre.