King Henry and his commanders, mounted, were at the gates of Honfleur. The Governor of Honfleur and some of the citizens stood on the wall to hear what he had to say.
‘What’s the decision of the Governor of the town?’ said Henry. ‘This is the last conference we will allow. Therefore, throw yourselves on our mercy or, like men determined to retain their pride to the extent of destruction, defy us to do our worst. As I am a soldier – a description which best defines me – if I begin the onslaught once again I will not leave the half-won Harfleur till she lies buried in her ashes. The gates of mercy will be slammed shut and the soldiers, tough and battle hardened will, in their bloody business, range about freely, without restraint, mowing down your beautiful fresh virgins and blossoming children like grass. What is it then to me if unholy war, dressed in flames like the Prince of Demons himself does, with blackened features, every cruel deed associated with devastation and destruction? What is it to me if your pure maidens fall into the hands of lustful rapists when it is you yourselves who are responsible? What can stop unbridled wickedness when it’s careering downhill? We may as uselessly issue our hopeless command to the aroused soldiers in their orgy as persuade the whale to come ashore. Therefore, you men of Harfleur, take pity on your town and your people while my soldiers are still susceptible to my command while the cool and temperate wind of mercy dominates the filthy and contagious clouds of full blown murder, plunder and crime. If not – why, expect any moment now to see the conscienceless blood-stained soldier put his filthy hands on the silken hair of your shrill-shrieking daughters: your fathers grabbed by their silver beards and their most revered heads bashed against the walls: your naked babies spitted on pikes, while their crazed mothers rend the clouds with their distraught howls as the Jewish women did at Herod’s blood-thirsty butchers. What do you say? Will you surrender and avoid it? Or persisting in your defence, be destroyed like that?’
The Governor conferred briefly with his advisers then called down to the King. ‘Today our hopes have ended. The Dauphin, to whom we appealed for help, replies that his forces are not yet ready to counter such a big siege. Therefore, great King, we surrender our town and our lives to your tender mercy. Enter through our gates – do what you like with us and our loved ones because we’re no longer capable of defending ourselves.’
Henry saluted. ‘Open your gates!’
The Governor and his supporters disappeared from view as they went to give the instructions.
‘Come, Uncle Exeter,’ said Henry. ‘You go and enter Harfleur. Stay there and fortify it strongly against the French. As for us, dear Uncle, with the winter coming on and sickness spreading among our soldiers, we will retire to Calais. We’ll be your guest in Harfleur tonight. We intend to march off tomorrow.’
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