Terry Foreman • Link
Henry the Fifth (1664), by Roger Boyle, 1st Earl of Orrery, a tragedy dealing with the English annexation of France
"In August of 1664, the parallel between Henry V and Charles II was particularly timely. Like Henry, Charles faced increasing insolence and hostility from France, a country over which the English monarchs had claimed sovereignty since Edward III. The young Louis XIV, consolidating his power after the death of Cardinal Mazarin in 1661, soon afterwards forced Charles to forgo his ceremonial title of king of France as well as other ritual deferences; these included the precedence of the English ambassador before the princes of the French royal family and mandatory French salute of English warships at sea. (19) More serious injuries were to come. Over the following three years, France sealed an alliance with England's main commercial enemy, the United Netherlands--a pact, as Charles saw it, "against himself." (20) As relations with both France and the United Netherlands deteriorated in the early 1660s, the memory of Henry's victory over the French at the Battle of Agincourt (1415) and his ensuing diplomatic triumphs, culminating in the entailing of the French crown on his heirs, must have served as a cheering antidote to England's increasing marginalization.
"Boyle's Henry the Fifth is very much a history play of the Restoration moment and bears little relationship to Shakespeare's play. From the beginning of Boyle's play, the leadership of France is in acute disarray. King Charles VI, discreetly kept off stage, has succumbed to a bout of madness, and the court and aristocracy are divided between rival factions led by the queen-regent and her son, the dauphin. In this nightmare of political and domestic inversion, the madness of the king and corruption of the court reflect the ideological bankruptcy of Valois rule, founded on the usurpation of Henry's superior title to the throne through his great-great-grandmother, Isabel of France. The play opens as Henry, frustrated by his failure to achieve his ends through diplomatic means, invades France to "Prove to the French, our claim to France is just" (I.i.2)."
The restoration English history plays of Roger Boyle, earl of Orrery
Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, Summer, 2003 by Tracey E. Tomlinson
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