Study Guide

Men of Iron

by Howard Pyle

Men of Iron eText - eText

Introduction

The year 1400 opened with more than usual peacefulness in England. Only a few months before, Richard II--weak, wicked, and treacherous --had been dethroned, and Henry IV declared King in his stead. But it was only a seeming peacefulness, lasting but for a little while; for though King Henry proved himself a just and a merciful man--as justice and mercy went with the men of iron of those days--and though he did not care to shed blood needlessly, there were many noble families who had been benefited by King Richard during his reign, and who had lost somewhat of their power and prestige from the coming in of the new King.

Among these were a number of great lords--the Dukes of Albemarle, Surrey, and Exeter, the Marquis of Dorset, the Earl of Gloucester, and others--who had been degraded to their former titles and estates, from which King Richard had lifted them. These and others brewed a secret plot to take King Henry's life, which plot might have succeeded had not one of their own number betrayed them.

Their plan had been to fall upon the King and his adherents, and to massacre them during a great tournament, to be held at Oxford. But Henry did not appear at the lists; whereupon, knowing that he had been lodging at Windsor with only a few attendants, the conspirators marched thither against him. In the mean time the King had been warned of the plot, so that, instead of finding him in the royal castle, they discovered through their scouts that he had hurried to London, whence he was even then marching against them at the head of a considerable army. So nothing was left them but flight. Some betook themselves one way, some another; some sought sanctuary here, some there; but one and another, they were all of them caught and killed.

The Earl of Kent--one time Duke of Surrey-- and the Earl of Salisbury were beheaded in the market-place at Cirencester; Lord Le Despencer --once the Earl of Gloucester--and Lord Lumley met the same fate at Bristol; the Earl of Huntingdon was taken in the Essex fens, carried to the castle of the Duke of Gloucester, whom he had betrayed to his death in King Richard's time, and was there killed by the castle people. Those few who found friends faithful and bold enough to afford them shelter, dragged those friends down in their own ruin.

Just such a case was that of the father of the boy hero of this story, the blind Lord Gilbert Reginald Falworth, Baron of Falworth and Easterbridge, who, though having no part in the plot, suffered through it ruin, utter and complete.

He had been a faithful counsellor and adviser to King Richard, and perhaps it was this, as much and more than his roundabout connection with the plot, that brought upon him the punishment he suffered.