A Child's History of England

 

By

 

Charles Dickens

 


CONTENTS:

 

CHAPTER I - ANCIENT ENGLAND AND THE ROMANS. 4

CHAPTER II - ANCIENT ENGLAND UNDER THE EARLY SAXONS. 11

CHAPTER III - ENGLAND UNDER THE GOOD SAXON, ALFRED.. 15

CHAPTER IV - ENGLAND UNDER ATHELSTAN AND THE SIX BOY-KINGS. 19

CHAPTER V - ENGLAND UNDER CANUTE THE DANE. 27

CHAPTER VI - ENGLAND UNDER HAROLD HAREFOOT, HARDICANUTE, AND EDWARD  THE CONFESSOR.. 29

CHAPTER VII - ENGLAND UNDER HAROLD THE SECOND, AND CONQUERED BY THE  NORMANS  34

CHAPTER VIII - ENGLAND UNDER WILLIAM THE FIRST, THE NORMAN  CONQUEROR   37

CHAPTER IX - ENGLAND UNDER WILLIAM THE SECOND, CALLED RUFUS. 42

CHAPTER X - ENGLAND UNDER HENRY THE FIRST, CALLED FINE-SCHOLAR.. 47

CHAPTER XI - ENGLAND UNDER MATILDA AND STEPHEN.. 54

CHAPTER XII - ENGLAND UNDER HENRY THE SECOND - PART THE FIRST. 57

CHAPTER XIII - ENGLAND UNDER RICHARD THE FIRST, CALLED THE LION-HEART  70

CHAPTER XIV - ENGLAND UNDER KING JOHN, CALLED LACKLAND.. 77

CHAPTER XV - ENGLAND UNDER HENRY THE THIRD, CALLED, OF WINCHESTER   86

CHAPTER XVI - ENGLAND UNDER EDWARD THE FIRST, CALLED LONGSHANKS  95

CHAPTER XVII - ENGLAND UNDER EDWARD THE SECOND.. 106

CHAPTER XVIII - ENGLAND UNDER EDWARD THE THIRD.. 113

CHAPTER XIX - ENGLAND UNDER RICHARD THE SECOND.. 122

CHAPTER XX - ENGLAND UNDER HENRY THE FOURTH, CALLED BOLINGBROKE  130

CHAPTER XXI - ENGLAND UNDER HENRY THE FIFTH.. 134

CHAPTER XXII - ENGLAND UNDER HENRY THE SIXTH.. 141

CHAPTER XXIII - ENGLAND UNDER EDWARD THE FOURTH.. 154

CHAPTER XXIV - ENGLAND UNDER EDWARD THE FIFTH.. 160

CHAPTER XXV - ENGLAND UNDER RICHARD THE THIRD.. 164

CHAPTER XXVI - ENGLAND UNDER HENRY THE SEVENTH.. 167

CHAPTER XXVII - ENGLAND UNDER HENRY THE EIGHTH, CALLED BLUFF KING  HAL AND BURLY KING HARRY.. 174

CHAPTER XXVIII - ENGLAND UNDER HENRY THE EIGHTH.. 182

CHAPTER XXIX - ENGLAND UNDER EDWARD THE SIXTH.. 189

CHAPTER XXX - ENGLAND UNDER MARY.. 194

CHAPTER XXXI - ENGLAND UNDER ELIZABETH.. 203

CHAPTER XXXII - ENGLAND UNDER JAMES THE FIRST. 220

CHAPTER XXXIII - ENGLAND UNDER CHARLES THE FIRST. 231

CHAPTER XXXIV - ENGLAND UNDER OLIVER CROMWELL. 250

CHAPTER XXXV - ENGLAND UNDER CHARLES THE SECOND, CALLED THE MERRY  MONARCH   261

CHAPTER XXXVI - ENGLAND UNDER JAMES THE SECOND.. 276

CHAPTER XXXVII 285

 


CHAPTER I - ANCIENT ENGLAND AND THE ROMANS

 

IF you look at a Map of the World, you will see, in the left-hand  upper corner of the Eastern Hemisphere, two Islands lying in the  sea.  They are England and Scotland, and Ireland.  England and  Scotland form the greater part of these Islands.  Ireland is the  next in size.  The little neighbouring islands, which are so small  upon the Map as to be mere dots, are chiefly little bits of  Scotland, - broken off, I dare say, in the course of a great length  of time, by the power of the restless water.

 

In the old days, a long, long while ago, before Our Saviour was  born on earth and lay asleep in a manger, these Islands were in the  same place, and the stormy sea roared round them, just as it roars  now.  But the sea was not alive, then, with great ships and brave  sailors, sailing to and from all parts of the world.  It was very  lonely.  The Islands lay solitary, in the great expanse of water.   The foaming waves dashed against their cliffs, and the bleak winds  blew over their forests; but the winds and waves brought no  adventurers to land upon the Islands, and the savage Islanders knew  nothing of the rest of the world, and the rest of the world knew  nothing of them.

 

It is supposed that the Phoenicians, who were an ancient people,  famous for carrying on trade, came in ships to these Islands, and  found that they produced tin and lead; both very useful things, as  you know, and both produced to this very hour upon the sea-coast.  The most celebrated tin mines in Cornwall are, still, close to the  sea.  One of them, which I have seen, is so close to it that it is  hollowed out underneath the ocean; and the miners say, that in  stormy weather, when they are at work down in that deep place, they  can hear the noise of the waves thundering above their heads.  So,  the Phoenicians, coasting about the Islands, would come, without  much difficulty, to where the tin and lead were.

 

The Phoenicians traded with the Islanders for these metals, and  gave the Islanders some other useful things in exchange.  The  Islanders were, at first, poor savages, going almost naked, or only  dressed in the rough skins of beasts, and staining their bodies, as  other savages do, with coloured earths and the juices of plants.   But the Phoenicians, sailing over to the opposite coasts of France  and Belgium, and saying to the people there, 'We have been to those  white cliffs across the water, which you can see in fine weather,  and from that country, which is called BRITAIN, we bring this tin  and lead,' tempted some of the French and Belgians to come over  also.  These people settled themselves on the south coast of  England, which is now called Kent; and, although they were a rough  people too, they taught the savage Britons some useful arts, and  improved that part of the Islands.  It is probable that other  people came over from Spain to Ireland, and settled there.

 

Thus, by little and little, strangers became mixed with the  Islanders, and the savage Britons grew into a wild, bold people;  almost savage, still, especially in the interior of the country  away from the sea where the foreign settlers seldom went; but  hardy, brave, and strong.

 

The whole country was covered with forests, and swamps.  The  greater part of it was very misty and cold.  There were no roads,  no bridges, no streets, no houses that you would think deserving of  the name.  A town was nothing but a collection of straw-covered  huts, hidden in a thick wood, with a ditch all round, and a low  wall, made of mud, or the trunks of trees placed one upon another.   The people planted little or no corn, but lived upon the flesh of  their flocks and cattle.  They made no coins, but used metal rings  for money.  They were clever in basket-work, as savage people often  are; and they could make a coarse kind of cloth, and some very bad  earthenware.  But in building fortresses they were much more  clever.

 

They made boats of basket-work, covered with the skins of animals,  but seldom, if ever, ventured far from the shore.  They made  swords, of copper mixed with tin; but, these swords were of an  awkward shape, and so soft that a heavy blow would bend one.  They  made light shields, short pointed daggers, and spears - which they  jerked back after they had thrown them at an enemy, by a long strip  of leather fastened to the stem.  The butt-end was a rattle, to  frighten an enemy's horse.  The ancient Britons, being divided into  as many as thirty or forty tribes, each commanded by its own little  king, were constantly fighting with one another, as savage people  usually do; and they always fought with these weapons.

 

They were very fond of horses.  The standard of Kent was the  picture of a white horse.  They could break them in and manage them  wonderfully well.  Indeed, the horses (of which they had an  abundance, though they were rather small) were so well taught in  those days, that they can scarcely be said to have improved since;  though the men are so much wiser.  They understood, and obeyed,  every word of command; and would stand still by themselves, in all  the din and noise of battle, while their masters went to fight on  foot.  The Britons could not have succeeded in their most  remarkable art, without the aid of these sensible and trusty  animals.  The art I mean, is the construction and management of  war-chariots or cars, for which they have ever been celebrated in  history.  Each of the best sort of these chariots, not quite breast  high in front, and open at the back, contained one man to drive,  and two or three others to fight - all standing up.  The horses who  drew them were so well trained, that they would tear, at full  gallop, over the most stony ways, and even through the woods;  dashing down their masters' enemies beneath their hoofs, and  cutting them to pieces with the blades of swords, or scythes, which  were fastened to the wheels, and stretched out beyond the car on  each side, for that cruel purpose.  In a moment, while at full  speed, the horses would stop, at the driver's command.  The men  within would leap out, deal blows about them with their swords like  hail, leap on the horses, on the pole, spring back into the  chariots anyhow; and, as soon as they were safe, the horses tore  away again.

 

The Britons had a strange and terrible religion, called the  Religion of the Druids.  It seems to have been brought over, in  very early times indeed, from the opposite country of France,  anciently called Gaul, and to have mixed up the worship of the  Serpent, and of the Sun and Moon, with the worship of some of the  Heathen Gods and Goddesses.  Most of its ceremonies were kept  secret by the priests, the Druids, who pretended to be enchanters,  and who carried magicians' wands, and wore, each of them, about his  neck, what he told the ignorant people was a Serpent's egg in a  golden case.  But it is certain that the Druidical ceremonies  included the sacrifice of human victims, the torture of some  suspected criminals, and, on particular occasions, even the burning  alive, in immense wicker cages, of a number of men and animals  together.  The Druid Priests had some kind of veneration for the  Oak, and for the mistletoe - the same plant that we hang up in  houses at Christmas Time now - when its white berries grew upon the  Oak.  They met together in dark woods, which they called Sacred  Groves; and there they instructed, in their mysterious arts, young  men who came to them as pupils, and who sometimes stayed with them  as long as twenty years.

 

These Druids built great Temples and altars, open to the sky,  fragments of some of which are yet remaining.  Stonehenge, on  Salisbury Plain, in Wiltshire, is the most extraordinary of these.   Three curious stones, called Kits Coty House, on Bluebell Hill,  near Maidstone, in Kent, form another.  We know, from examination  of the great blocks of which such buildings are made, that they  could not have been raised without the aid of some ingenious  machines, which are common now, but which the ancient Britons  certainly did not use in making their own uncomfortable houses.  I  should not wonder if the Druids, and their pupils who stayed with  them twenty years, knowing more than the rest of the Britons, kept  the people out of sight while they made these buildings, and then  pretended that they built them by magic.  Perhaps they had a hand  in the fortresses too; at all events, as they were very powerful,  and very much believed in, and as they made and executed the laws,  and paid no taxes, I don't wonder that they liked their trade.   And, as they persuaded the people the more Druids there were, the  better off the people would be, I don't wonder that there were a  good many of them.  But it is pleasant to think that there are no  Druids, NOW, who go on in that way, and pretend to carry  Enchanters' Wands and Serpents' Eggs - and of course there is  nothing of the kind, anywhere.

 

Such was the improved condition of the ancient Britons, fifty-five  years before the birth of Our Saviour, when the Romans, under their  great General, Julius Caesar, were masters of all the rest of the  known world.  Julius Caesar had then just conquered Gaul; and  hearing, in Gaul, a good deal about the opposite Island with the  white cliffs, and about the bravery of the Britons who inhabited it  - some of whom had been fetched over to help the Gauls in the war  against him - he resolved, as he was so near, to come and conquer  Britain next.

 

So, Julius Caesar came sailing over to this Island of ours, with  eighty vessels and twelve thousand men.  And he came from the  French coast between Calais and Boulogne, 'because thence was the  shortest passage into Britain;' just for the same reason as our  steam-boats now take the same track, every day.  He expected to  conquer Britain easily:  but it was not such easy work as he  supposed - for the bold Britons fought most bravely; and, what with  not having his horse-soldiers with him (for they had been driven  back by a storm), and what with having some of his vessels dashed  to pieces by a high tide after they were drawn ashore, he ran great  risk of being totally defeated.  However, for once that the bold  Britons beat him, he beat them twice; though not so soundly but  that he was very glad to accept their proposals of peace, and go  away.

 

But, in the spring of the next year, he came back; this time, with  eight hundred vessels and thirty thousand men.  The British tribes  chose, as their general-in-chief, a Briton, whom the Romans in  their Latin language called CASSIVELLAUNUS, but whose British name  is supposed to have been CASWALLON.  A brave general he was, and  well he and his soldiers fought the Roman army!  So well, that  whenever in that war the Roman soldiers saw a great cloud of dust,  and heard the rattle of the rapid British chariots, they trembled  in their hearts.  Besides a number of smaller battles, there was a  battle fought near Canterbury, in Kent; there was a battle fought  near Chertsey, in Surrey; there was a battle fought near a marshy  little town in a wood, the capital of that part of Britain which  belonged to CASSIVELLAUNUS, and which was probably near what is now  Saint Albans, in Hertfordshire.  However, brave CASSIVELLAUNUS had  the worst of it, on the whole; though he and his men always fought  like lions.  As the other British chiefs were jealous of him, and  were always quarrelling with him, and with one another, he gave up,  and proposed peace.  Julius Caesar was very glad to grant peace  easily, and to go away again with all his remaining ships and men.   He had expected to find pearls in Britain, and he may have found a  few for anything I know; but, at all events, he found delicious  oysters, and I am sure he found tough Britons - of whom, I dare  say, he made the same complaint as Napoleon Bonaparte the great  French General did, eighteen hundred years afterwards, when he said  they were such unreasonable fellows that they never knew when they  were beaten.  They never DID know, I believe, and never will.

 

Nearly a hundred years passed on, and all that time, there was  peace in Britain.  The Britons improved their towns and mode of  life:  became more civilised, travelled, and learnt a great deal  from the Gauls and Romans.  At last, the Roman Emperor, Claudius,  sent AULUS PLAUTIUS, a skilful general, with a mighty force, to  subdue the Island, and shortly afterwards arrived himself.  They  did little; and OSTORIUS SCAPULA, another general, came.  Some of  the British Chiefs of Tribes submitted.  Others resolved to fight  to the death.  Of these brave men, the bravest was CARACTACUS, or  CARADOC, who gave battle to the Romans, with his army, among the  mountains of North Wales.  'This day,' said he to his soldiers,  'decides the fate of Britain!  Your liberty, or your eternal  slavery, dates from this hour.  Remember your brave ancestors, who  drove the great Caesar himself across the sea!'  On hearing these  words, his men, with a great shout, rushed upon the Romans.  But  the strong Roman swords and armour were too much for the weaker  British weapons in close conflict.  The Britons lost the day.  The  wife and daughter of the brave CARACTACUS were taken prisoners; his  brothers delivered themselves up; he himself was betrayed into the  hands of the Romans by his false and base stepmother:  and they  carried him, and all his family, in triumph to Rome.

 

But a great man will be great in misfortune, great in prison, great  in chains.  His noble air, and dignified endurance of distress, so  touched the Roman people who thronged the streets to see him, that  he and his family were restored to freedom.  No one knows whether  his great heart broke, and he died in Rome, or whether he ever  returned to his own dear country.  English oaks have grown up from  acorns, and withered away, when they were hundreds of years old -  and other oaks have sprung up in their places, and died too, very  aged - since the rest of the history of the brave CARACTACUS was  forgotten.

 

Still, the Britons WOULD NOT yield.  They rose again and again, and  died by thousands, sword in hand.  They rose, on every possible  occasion.  SUETONIUS, another Roman general, came, and stormed the  Island of Anglesey (then called MONA), which was supposed to be  sacred, and he burnt the Druids in their own wicker cages, by their  own fires.  But, even while he was in Britain, with his victorious  troops, the BRITONS rose.  Because BOADICEA, a British queen, the  widow of the King of the Norfolk and Suffolk people, resisted the  plundering of her property by the Romans who were settled in  England, she was scourged, by order of CATUS a Roman officer; and  her two daughters were shamefully insulted in her presence, and her  husband's relations were made slaves.  To avenge this injury, the  Britons rose, with all their might and rage.  They drove CATUS into  Gaul; they laid the Roman possessions waste; they forced the Romans  out of London, then a poor little town, but a trading place; they  hanged, burnt, crucified, and slew by the sword, seventy thousand  Romans in a few days.  SUETONIUS strengthened his army, and  advanced to give them battle.  They strengthened their army, and  desperately attacked his, on the field where it was strongly  posted.  Before the first charge of the Britons was made, BOADICEA,  in a war-chariot, with her fair hair streaming in the wind, and her  injured daughters lying at her feet, drove among the troops, and  cried to them for vengeance on their oppressors, the licentious  Romans.  The Britons fought to the last; but they were vanquished  with great slaughter, and the unhappy queen took poison.

 

Still, the spirit of the Britons was not broken.  When SUETONIUS  left the country, they fell upon his troops, and retook the Island  of Anglesey.  AGRICOLA came, fifteen or twenty years afterwards,  and retook it once more, and devoted seven years to subduing the  country, especially that part of it which is now called SCOTLAND;  but, its people, the Caledonians, resisted him at every inch of  ground.  They fought the bloodiest battles with him; they killed  their very wives and children, to prevent his making prisoners of  them; they fell, fighting, in such great numbers that certain hills  in Scotland are yet supposed to be vast heaps of stones piled up  above their graves.  HADRIAN came, thirty years afterwards, and  still they resisted him.  SEVERUS came, nearly a hundred years  afterwards, and they worried his great army like dogs, and rejoiced  to see them die, by thousands, in the bogs and swamps.  CARACALLA,  the son and successor of SEVERUS, did the most to conquer them, for  a time; but not by force of arms.  He knew how little that would  do.  He yielded up a quantity of land to the Caledonians, and gave  the Britons the same privileges as the Romans possessed.  There was  peace, after this, for seventy years.

 

Then new enemies arose.  They were the Saxons, a fierce, sea-faring  people from the countries to the North of the Rhine, the great  river of Germany on the banks of which the best grapes grow to make  the German wine.  They began to come, in pirate ships, to the sea-coast of Gaul and Britain, and to plunder them.  They were repulsed  by CARAUSIUS, a native either of Belgium or of Britain, who was  appointed by the Romans to the command, and under whom the Britons  first began to fight upon the sea.  But, after this time, they  renewed their ravages.  A few years more, and the Scots (which was  then the name for the people of Ireland), and the Picts, a northern  people, began to make frequent plundering incursions into the South  of Britain.  All these attacks were repeated, at intervals, during  two hundred years, and through a long succession of Roman Emperors  and chiefs; during all which length of time, the Britons rose  against the Romans, over and over again.  At last, in the days of  the Roman HONORIUS, when the Roman power all over the world was  fast declining, and when Rome wanted all her soldiers at home, the  Romans abandoned all hope of conquering Britain, and went away.   And still, at last, as at first, the Britons rose against them, in  their old brave manner; for, a very little while before, they had  turned away the Roman magistrates, and declared themselves an  independent people.

 

Five hundred years had passed, since Julius Caesar's first invasion  of the Island, when the Romans departed from it for ever.  In the  course of that time, although they had been the cause of terrible  fighting and bloodshed, they had done much to improve the condition  of the Britons.  They had made great military roads; they had built  forts; they had taught them how to dress, and arm themselves, much  better than they had ever known how to do before; they had refined  the whole British way of living.  AGRICOLA had built a great wall  of earth, more than seventy miles long, extending from Newcastle to  beyond Carlisle, for the purpose of keeping out the Picts and  Scots; HADRIAN had strengthened it; SEVERUS, finding it much in  want of repair, had built it afresh of stone.

 

Above all, it was in the Roman time, and by means of Roman ships,  that the Christian Religion was first brought into Britain, and its  people first taught the great lesson that, to be good in the sight  of GOD, they must love their neighbours as themselves, and do unto  others as they would be done by.  The Druids declared that it was  very wicked to believe in any such thing, and cursed all the people  who did believe it, very heartily.  But, when the people found that  they were none the better for the blessings of the Druids, and none  the worse for the curses of the Druids, but, that the sun shone and  the rain fell without consulting the Druids at all, they just began  to think that the Druids were mere men, and that it signified very  little whether they cursed or blessed.  After which, the pupils of  the Druids fell off greatly in numbers, and the Druids took to  other trades.

 

Thus I have come to the end of the Roman time in England.  It is  but little that is known of those five hundred years; but some  remains of them are still found.  Often, when labourers are digging  up the ground, to make foundations for houses or churches, they  light on rusty money that once belonged to the Romans.  Fragments  of plates from which they ate, of goblets from which they drank,  and of pavement on which they trod, are discovered among the earth  that is broken by the plough, or the dust that is crumbled by the  gardener's spade.  Wells that the Romans sunk, still yield water;  roads that the Romans made, form part of our highways.  In some old  battle-fields, British spear-heads and Roman armour have been  found, mingled together in decay, as they fell in the thick  pressure of the fight.  Traces of Roman camps overgrown with grass,  and of mounds that are the burial-places of heaps of Britons, are  to be seen in almost all parts of the country.  Across the bleak  moors of Northumberland, the wall of SEVERUS, overrun with moss and  weeds, still stretches, a strong ruin; and the shepherds and their  dogs lie sleeping on it in the summer weather.  On Salisbury Plain,  Stonehenge yet stands:  a monument of the earlier time when the  Roman name was unknown in Britain, and when the Druids, with their  best magic wands, could not have written it in the sands of the  wild sea-shore.

 


CHAPTER II - ANCIENT ENGLAND UNDER THE EARLY SAXONS

 

THE Romans had scarcely gone away from Britain, when the Britons  began to wish they had never left it.  For, the Romans being gone,  and the Britons being much reduced in numbers by their long wars,  the Picts and Scots came pouring in, over the broken and unguarded  wall of SEVERUS, in swarms.  They plundered the richest towns, and  killed the people; and came back so often for more booty and more  slaughter, that the unfortunate Britons lived a life of terror.  As  if the Picts and Scots were not bad enough on land, the Saxons  attacked the islanders by sea; and, as if something more were still  wanting to make them miserable, they quarrelled bitterly among  themselves as to what prayers they ought to say, and how they ought  to say them.  The priests, being very angry with one another on  these questions, cursed one another in the heartiest manner; and  (uncommonly like the old Druids) cursed all the people whom they  could not persuade.  So, altogether, the Britons were very badly  off, you may believe.

 

They were in such distress, in short, that they sent a letter to  Rome entreating help - which they called the Groans of the Britons;  and in which they said, 'The barbarians chase us into the sea, the  sea throws us back upon the barbarians, and we have only the hard  choice left us of perishing by the sword, or perishing by the  waves.'  But, the Romans could not help them, even if they were so  inclined; for they had enough to do to defend themselves against  their own enemies, who were then very fierce and strong.  At last,  the Britons, unable to bear their hard condition any longer,  resolved to make peace with the Saxons, and to invite the Saxons to  come into their country, and help them to keep out the Picts and  Scots.

 

It was a British Prince named VORTIGERN who took this resolution,  and who made a treaty of friendship with HENGIST and HORSA, two  Saxon chiefs.  Both of these names, in the old Saxon language,  signify Horse; for the Saxons, like many other nations in a rough  state, were fond of giving men the names of animals, as Horse,  Wolf, Bear, Hound.  The Indians of North America, - a very inferior  people to the Saxons, though - do the same to this day.

 

HENGIST and HORSA drove out the Picts and Scots; and VORTIGERN,  being grateful to them for that service, made no opposition to  their settling themselves in that part of England which is called  the Isle of Thanet, or to their inviting over more of their  countrymen to join them.  But HENGIST had a beautiful daughter  named ROWENA; and when, at a feast, she filled a golden goblet to  the brim with wine, and gave it to VORTIGERN, saying in a sweet  voice, 'Dear King, thy health!' the King fell in love with her.  My  opinion is, that the cunning HENGIST meant him to do so, in order  that the Saxons might have greater influence with him; and that the  fair ROWENA came to that feast, golden goblet and all, on purpose.

 

At any rate, they were married; and, long afterwards, whenever the  King was angry with the Saxons, or jealous of their encroachments,  ROWENA would put her beautiful arms round his neck, and softly say,  'Dear King, they are my people!  Be favourable to them, as you  loved that Saxon girl who gave you the golden goblet of wine at the  feast!'  And, really, I don't see how the King could help himself.

 

Ah!  We must all die!  In the course of years, VORTIGERN died - he  was dethroned, and put in prison, first, I am afraid; and ROWENA  died; and generations of Saxons and Britons died; and events that  happened during a long, long time, would have been quite forgotten  but for the tales and songs of the old Bards, who used to go about  from feast to feast, with their white beards, recounting the deeds  of their forefathers.  Among the histories of which they sang and  talked, there was a famous one, concerning the bravery and virtues  of KING ARTHUR, supposed to have been a British Prince in those old  times.  But, whether such a person really lived, or whether there  were several persons whose histories came to be confused together  under that one name, or whether all about him was invention, no one  knows.

 

I will tell you, shortly, what is most interesting in the early  Saxon times, as they are described in these songs and stories of  the Bards.

 

In, and long after, the days of VORTIGERN, fresh bodies of Saxons,  under various chiefs, came pouring into Britain.  One body,  conquering the Britons in the East, and settling there, called  their kingdom Essex; another body settled in the West, and called  their kingdom Wessex; the Northfolk, or Norfolk people, established  themselves in one place; the Southfolk, or Suffolk people,  established themselves in another; and gradually seven kingdoms or  states arose in England, which were called the Saxon Heptarchy.   The poor Britons, falling back before these crowds of fighting men  whom they had innocently invited over as friends, retired into  Wales and the adjacent country; into Devonshire, and into Cornwall.   Those parts of England long remained unconquered.  And in Cornwall  now - where the sea-coast is very gloomy, steep, and rugged -  where, in the dark winter-time, ships have often been wrecked close  to the land, and every soul on board has perished - where the winds  and waves howl drearily and split the solid rocks into arches and  caverns - there are very ancient ruins, which the people call the  ruins of KING ARTHUR'S Castle.

 

Kent is the most famous of the seven Saxon kingdoms, because the  Christian religion was preached to the Saxons there (who domineered  over the Britons too much, to care for what THEY said about their  religion, or anything else) by AUGUSTINE, a monk from Rome.  KING  ETHELBERT, of Kent, was soon converted; and the moment he said he  was a Christian, his courtiers all said THEY were Christians; after  which, ten thousand of his subjects said they were Christians too.   AUGUSTINE built a little church, close to this King's palace, on  the ground now occupied by the beautiful cathedral of Canterbury.   SEBERT, the King's nephew, built on a muddy marshy place near  London, where there had been a temple to Apollo, a church dedicated  to Saint Peter, which is now Westminster Abbey.  And, in London  itself, on the foundation of a temple to Diana, he built another  little church which has risen up, since that old time, to be Saint  Paul's.

 

After the death of ETHELBERT, EDWIN, King of Northumbria, who was  such a good king that it was said a woman or child might openly  carry a purse of gold, in his reign, without fear, allowed his  child to be baptised, and held a great council to consider whether  he and his people should all be Christians or not.  It was decided  that they should be.  COIFI, the chief priest of the old religion,  made a great speech on the occasion.  In this discourse, he told  the people that he had found out the old gods to be impostors.  'I  am quite satisfied of it,' he said.  'Look at me!  I have been  serving them all my life, and they have done nothing for me;  whereas, if they had been really powerful, they could not have  decently done less, in return for all I have done for them, than  make my fortune.  As they have never made my fortune, I am quite  convinced they are impostors!'  When this singular priest had  finished speaking, he hastily armed himself with sword and lance,  mounted a war-horse, rode at a furious gallop in sight of all the  people to the temple, and flung his lance against it as an insult.   From that time, the Christian religion spread itself among the  Saxons, and became their faith.

 

The next very famous prince was EGBERT.  He lived about a hundred  and fifty years afterwards, and claimed to have a better right to  the throne of Wessex than BEORTRIC, another Saxon prince who was at  the head of that kingdom, and who married EDBURGA, the daughter of  OFFA, king of another of the seven kingdoms.  This QUEEN EDBURGA  was a handsome murderess, who poisoned people when they offended  her.  One day, she mixed a cup of poison for a certain noble  belonging to the court; but her husband drank of it too, by  mistake, and died.  Upon this, the people revolted, in great  crowds; and running to the palace, and thundering at the gates,  cried, 'Down with the wicked queen, who poisons men!'  They drove  her out of the country, and abolished the title she had disgraced.   When years had passed away, some travellers came home from Italy,  and said that in the town of Pavia they had seen a ragged beggar-woman, who had once been handsome, but was then shrivelled, bent,  and yellow, wandering about the streets, crying for bread; and that  this beggar-woman was the poisoning English queen.  It was, indeed,  EDBURGA; and so she died, without a shelter for her wretched head.

 

EGBERT, not considering himself safe in England, in consequence of  his having claimed the crown of Wessex (for he thought his rival  might take him prisoner and put him to death), sought refuge at the  court of CHARLEMAGNE, King of France.  On the death of BEORTRIC, so  unhappily poisoned by mistake, EGBERT came back to Britain;  succeeded to the throne of Wessex; conquered some of the other  monarchs of the seven kingdoms; added their territories to his own;  and, for the first time, called the country over which he ruled,  ENGLAND.

 

And now, new enemies arose, who, for a long time, troubled England  sorely.  These were the Northmen, the people of Denmark and Norway,  whom the English called the Danes.  They were a warlike people,  quite at home upon the sea; not Christians; very daring and cruel.   They came over in ships, and plundered and burned wheresoever they  landed.  Once, they beat EGBERT in battle.  Once, EGBERT beat them.   But, they cared no more for being beaten than the English  themselves.  In the four following short reigns, of ETHELWULF, and  his sons, ETHELBALD, ETHELBERT, and ETHELRED, they came back, over  and over again, burning and plundering, and laying England waste.   In the last-mentioned reign, they seized EDMUND, King of East  England, and bound him to a tree.  Then, they proposed to him that  he should change his religion; but he, being a good Christian,  steadily refused.  Upon that, they beat him, made cowardly jests  upon him, all defenceless as he was, shot arrows at him, and,  finally, struck off his head.  It is impossible to say whose head  they might have struck off next, but for the death of KING ETHELRED  from a wound he had received in fighting against them, and the  succession to his throne of the best and wisest king that ever  lived in England.

 


CHAPTER III - ENGLAND UNDER THE GOOD SAXON, ALFRED

 

ALFRED THE GREAT was a young man, three-and-twenty years of age,  when he became king.  Twice in his childhood, he had been taken to  Rome, where the Saxon nobles were in the habit of going on journeys  which they supposed to be religious; and, once, he had stayed for  some time in Paris.  Learning, however, was so little cared for,  then, that at twelve years old he had not been taught to read;  although, of the sons of KING ETHELWULF, he, the youngest, was the  favourite.  But he had - as most men who grow up to be great and  good are generally found to have had - an excellent mother; and,  one day, this lady, whose name was OSBURGA, happened, as she was  sitting among her sons, to read a book of Saxon poetry.  The art of  printing was not known until long and long after that period, and  the book, which was written, was what is called 'illuminated,' with  beautiful bright letters, richly painted.  The brothers admiring it  very much, their mother said, 'I will give it to that one of you  four princes who first learns to read.'  ALFRED sought out a tutor  that very day, applied himself to learn with great diligence, and  soon won the book.  He was proud of it, all his life.

 

This great king, in the first year of his reign, fought nine  battles with the Danes.  He made some treaties with them too, by  which the false Danes swore they would quit the country.  They  pretended to consider that they had taken a very solemn oath, in  swearing this upon the holy bracelets that they wore, and which  were always buried with them when they died; but they cared little  for it, for they thought nothing of breaking oaths and treaties  too, as soon as it suited their purpose, and coming back again to  fight, plunder, and burn, as usual.  One fatal winter, in the  fourth year of KING ALFRED'S reign, they spread themselves in great  numbers over the whole of England; and so dispersed and routed the  King's soldiers that the King was left alone, and was obliged to  disguise himself as a common peasant, and to take refuge in the  cottage of one of his cowherds who did not know his face.

 

Here, KING ALFRED, while the Danes sought him far and near, was  left alone one day, by the cowherd's wife, to watch some cakes  which she put to bake upon the hearth.  But, being at work upon his  bow and arrows, with which he hoped to punish the false Danes when  a brighter time should come, and thinking deeply of his poor  unhappy subjects whom the Danes chased through the land, his noble  mind forgot the cakes, and they were burnt.  'What!' said the  cowherd's wife, who scolded him well when she came back, and little  thought she was scolding the King, 'you will be ready enough to eat  them by-and-by, and yet you cannot watch them, idle dog?'

 

At length, the Devonshire men made head against a new host of Danes  who landed on their coast; killed their chief, and captured their  flag; on which was represented the likeness of a Raven - a very fit  bird for a thievish army like that, I think.  The loss of their  standard troubled the Danes greatly, for they believed it to be  enchanted - woven by the three daughters of one father in a single  afternoon - and they had a story among themselves that when they  were victorious in battle, the Raven stretched his wings and seemed  to fly; and that when they were defeated, he would droop.  He had  good reason to droop, now, if he could have done anything half so  sensible; for, KING ALFRED joined the Devonshire men; made a camp  with them on a piece of firm ground in the midst of a bog in  Somersetshire; and prepared for a great attempt for vengeance on  the Danes, and the deliverance of his oppressed people.

 

But, first, as it was important to know how numerous those  pestilent Danes were, and how they were fortified, KING ALFRED,  being a good musician, disguised himself as a glee-man or minstrel,  and went, with his harp, to the Danish camp.  He played and sang in  the very tent of GUTHRUM the Danish leader, and entertained the  Danes as they caroused.  While he seemed to think of nothing but  his music, he was watchful of their tents, their arms, their  discipline, everything that he desired to know.  And right soon did  this great king entertain them to a different tune; for, summoning  all his true followers to meet him at an appointed place, where  they received him with joyful shouts and tears, as the monarch whom  many of them had given up for lost or dead, he put himself at their  head, marched on the Danish camp, defeated the Danes with great  slaughter, and besieged them for fourteen days to prevent their  escape.  But, being as merciful as he was good and brave, he then,  instead of killing them, proposed peace:  on condition that they  should altogether depart from that Western part of England, and  settle in the East; and that GUTHRUM should become a Christian, in  remembrance of the Divine religion which now taught his conqueror,  the noble ALFRED, to forgive the enemy who had so often injured  him.  This, GUTHRUM did.  At his baptism, KING ALFRED was his  godfather.  And GUTHRUM was an honourable chief who well deserved  that clemency; for, ever afterwards he was loyal and faithful to  the king.  The Danes under him were faithful too.  They plundered  and burned no more, but worked like honest men.  They ploughed, and  sowed, and reaped, and led good honest English lives.  And I hope  the children of those Danes played, many a time, with Saxon  children in the sunny fields; and that Danish young men fell in  love with Saxon girls, and married them; and that English  travellers, benighted at the doors of Danish cottages, often went  in for shelter until morning; and that Danes and Saxons sat by the  red fire, friends, talking of KING ALFRED THE GREAT.

 

All the Danes were not like these under GUTHRUM; for, after some  years, more of them came over, in the old plundering and burning  way - among them a fierce pirate of the name of HASTINGS, who had  the boldness to sail up the Thames to Gravesend, with eighty ships.   For three years, there was a war with these Danes; and there was a  famine in the country, too, and a plague, both upon human creatures  and beasts.  But KING ALFRED, whose mighty heart never failed him,  built large ships nevertheless, with which to pursue the pirates on  the sea; and he encouraged his soldiers, by his brave example, to  fight valiantly against them on the shore.  At last, he drove them  all away; and then there was repose in England.

 

As great and good in peace, as he was great and good in war, KING  ALFRED never rested from his labours to improve his people.  He  loved to talk with clever men, and with travellers from foreign  countries, and to write down what they told him, for his people to  read.  He had studied Latin after learning to read English, and now  another of his labours was, to translate Latin books into the  English-Saxon tongue, that his people might be interested, and  improved by their contents.  He made just laws, that they might  live more happily and freely; he turned away all partial judges,  that no wrong might be done them; he was so careful of their  property, and punished robbers so severely, that it was a common  thing to say that under the great KING ALFRED, garlands of golden  chains and jewels might have hung across the streets, and no man  would have touched one.  He founded schools; he patiently heard  causes himself in his Court of Justice; the great desires of his  heart were, to do right to all his subjects, and to leave England  better, wiser, happier in all ways, than he found it.  His industry  in these efforts was quite astonishing.  Every day he divided into  certain portions, and in each portion devoted himself to a certain  pursuit.  That he might divide his time exactly, he had wax torches  or candles made, which were all of the same size, were notched  across at regular distances, and were always kept burning.  Thus,  as the candles burnt down, he divided the day into notches, almost  as accurately as we now divide it into hours upon the clock.  But  when the candles were first invented, it was found that the wind  and draughts of air, blowing into the palace through the doors and  windows, and through the chinks in the walls, caused them to gutter  and burn unequally.  To prevent this, the King had them put into  cases formed of wood and white horn.  And these were the first  lanthorns ever made in England.

 

All this time, he was afflicted with a terrible unknown disease,  which caused him violent and frequent pain that nothing could  relieve.  He bore it, as he had borne all the troubles of his life,  like a brave good man, until he was fifty-three years old; and  then, having reigned thirty years, he died.  He died in the year  nine hundred and one; but, long ago as that is, his fame, and the  love and gratitude with which his subjects regarded him, are  freshly remembered to the present hour.

 

In the next reign, which was the reign of EDWARD, surnamed THE  ELDER, who was chosen in council to succeed, a nephew of KING  ALFRED troubled the country by trying to obtain the throne.  The  Danes in the East of England took part with this usurper (perhaps  because they had honoured his uncle so much, and honoured him for  his uncle's sake), and there was hard fighting; but, the King, with  the assistance of his sister, gained the day, and reigned in peace  for four and twenty years.  He gradually extended his power over  the whole of England, and so the Seven Kingdoms were united into  one.

 

When England thus became one kingdom, ruled over by one Saxon king,  the Saxons had been settled in the country more than four hundred  and fifty years.  Great changes had taken place in its customs  during that time.  The Saxons were still greedy eaters and great  drinkers, and their feasts were often of a noisy and drunken kind;  but many new comforts and even elegances had become known, and were  fast increasing.  Hangings for the walls of rooms, where, in these  modern days, we paste up paper, are known to have been sometimes  made of silk, ornamented with birds and flowers in needlework.   Tables and chairs were curiously carved in different woods; were  sometimes decorated with gold or silver; sometimes even made of  those precious metals.  Knives and spoons were used at table;  golden ornaments were worn - with silk and cloth, and golden  tissues and embroideries; dishes were made of gold and silver,  brass and bone.  There were varieties of drinking-horns, bedsteads,  musical instruments.  A harp was passed round, at a feast, like the  drinking-bowl, from guest to guest; and each one usually sang or  played when his turn came.  The weapons of the Saxons were stoutly  made, and among them was a terrible iron hammer that gave deadly  blows, and was long remembered.  The Saxons themselves were a  handsome people.  The men were proud of their long fair hair,  parted on the forehead; their ample beards, their fresh  complexions, and clear eyes.  The beauty of the Saxon women filled  all England with a new delight and grace.

 

I have more to tell of the Saxons yet, but I stop to say this now,  because under the GREAT ALFRED, all the best points of the English-Saxon character were first encouraged, and in him first shown.  It  has been the greatest character among the nations of the earth.   Wherever the descendants of the Saxon race have gone, have sailed,  or otherwise made their way, even to the remotest regions of the  world, they have been patient, persevering, never to be broken in  spirit, never to be turned aside from enterprises on which they  have resolved.  In Europe, Asia, Africa, America, the whole world  over; in the desert, in the forest, on the sea; scorched by a  burning sun, or frozen by ice that never melts; the Saxon blood  remains unchanged.  Wheresoever that race goes, there, law, and  industry, and safety for life and property, and all the great  results of steady perseverance, are certain to arise.

 

I pause to think with admiration, of the noble king who, in his  single person, possessed all the Saxon virtues.  Whom misfortune  could not subdue, whom prosperity could not spoil, whose  perseverance nothing could shake.  Who was hopeful in defeat, and  generous in success.  Who loved justice, freedom, truth, and  knowledge.  Who, in his care to instruct his people, probably did  more to preserve the beautiful old Saxon language, than I can  imagine.  Without whom, the English tongue in which I tell this  story might have wanted half its meaning.  As it is said that his  spirit still inspires some of our best English laws, so, let you  and I pray that it may animate our English hearts, at least to this  - to resolve, when we see any of our fellow-creatures left in  ignorance, that we will do our best, while life is in us, to have  them taught; and to tell those rulers whose duty it is to teach  them, and who neglect their duty, that they have profited very  little by all the years that have rolled away since the year nine  hundred and one, and that they are far behind the bright example of  KING ALFRED THE GREAT.

 


CHAPTER IV - ENGLAND UNDER ATHELSTAN AND THE SIX BOY-KINGS

 

ATHELSTAN, the son of Edward the Elder, succeeded that king.  He  reigned only fifteen years; but he remembered the glory of his  grandfather, the great Alfred, and governed England well.  He  reduced the turbulent people of Wales, and obliged them to pay him  a tribute in money, and in cattle, and to send him their best hawks  and hounds.  He was victorious over the Cornish men, who were not  yet quite under the Saxon government.  He restored such of the old  laws as were good, and had fallen into disuse; made some wise new  laws, and took care of the poor and weak.  A strong alliance, made  against him by ANLAF a Danish prince, CONSTANTINE King of the  Scots, and the people of North Wales, he broke and defeated in one  great battle, long famous for the vast numbers slain in it.  After  that, he had a quiet reign; the lords and ladies about him had  leisure to become polite and agreeable; and foreign princes were  glad (as they have sometimes been since) to come to England on  visits to the English court.

 

When Athelstan died, at forty-seven years old, his brother EDMUND,  who was only eighteen, became king.  He was the first of six boy-kings, as you will presently know.

 

They called him the Magnificent, because he showed a taste for  improvement and refinement.  But he was beset by the Danes, and had  a short and troubled reign, which came to a troubled end.  One  night, when he was feasting in his hall, and had eaten much and  drunk deep, he saw, among the company, a noted robber named LEOF,  who had been banished from England.  Made very angry by the  boldness of this man, the King turned to his cup-bearer, and said,  'There is a robber sitting at the table yonder, who, for his  crimes, is an outlaw in the land - a hunted wolf, whose life any  man may take, at any time.  Command that robber to depart!'  'I  will not depart!' said Leof.  'No?' cried the King.  'No, by the  Lord!' said Leof.  Upon that the King rose from his seat, and,  making passionately at the robber, and seizing him by his long  hair, tried to throw him down.  But the robber had a dagger  underneath his cloak, and, in the scuffle, stabbed the King to  death.  That done, he set his back against the wall, and fought so  desperately, that although he was soon cut to pieces by the King's  armed men, and the wall and pavement were splashed with his blood,  yet it was not before he had killed and wounded many of them.  You  may imagine what rough lives the kings of those times led, when one  of them could struggle, half drunk, with a public robber in his own  dining-hall, and be stabbed in presence of the company who ate and  drank with him.

 

Then succeeded the boy-king EDRED, who was weak and sickly in body,  but of a strong mind.  And his armies fought the Northmen, the  Danes, and Norwegians, or the Sea-Kings, as they were called, and  beat them for the time.  And, in nine years, Edred died, and passed  away.

 

Then came the boy-king EDWY, fifteen years of age; but the real  king, who had the real power, was a monk named DUNSTAN - a clever  priest, a little mad, and not a little proud and cruel.

 

Dunstan was then Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey, whither the body of  King Edmund the Magnificent was carried, to be buried.  While yet a  boy, he had got out of his bed one night (being then in a fever),  and walked about Glastonbury Church when it was under repair; and,  because he did not tumble off some scaffolds that were there, and  break his neck, it was reported that he had been shown over the  building by an angel.  He had also made a harp that was said to  play of itself - which it very likely did, as AEolian Harps, which  are played by the wind, and are understood now, always do.  For  these wonders he had been once denounced by his enemies, who were  jealous of his favour with the late King Athelstan, as a magician;  and he had been waylaid, bound hand and foot, and thrown into a  marsh.  But he got out again, somehow, to cause a great deal of  trouble yet.

 

The priests of those days were, generally, the only scholars.  They  were learned in many things.  Having to make their own convents and  monasteries on uncultivated grounds that were granted to them by  the Crown, it was necessary that they should be good farmers and  good gardeners, or their lands would have been too poor to support  them.  For the decoration of the chapels where they prayed, and for  the comfort of the refectories where they ate and drank, it was  necessary that there should be good carpenters, good smiths, good  painters, among them.  For their greater safety in sickness and  accident, living alone by themselves in solitary places, it was  necessary that they should study the virtues of plants and herbs,  and should know how to dress cuts, burns, scalds, and bruises, and  how to set broken limbs.  Accordingly, they taught themselves, and  one another, a great variety of useful arts; and became skilful in  agriculture, medicine, surgery, and handicraft.  And when they  wanted the aid of any little piece of machinery, which would be  simple enough now, but was marvellous then, to impose a trick upon  the poor peasants, they knew very well how to make it; and DID make  it many a time and often, I have no doubt.

 

Dunstan, Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey, was one of the most sagacious  of these monks.  He was an ingenious smith, and worked at a forge  in a little cell.  This cell was made too short to admit of his  lying at full length when he went to sleep - as if THAT did any  good to anybody! - and he used to tell the most extraordinary lies  about demons and spirits, who, he said, came there to persecute  him.  For instance, he related that one day when he was at work,  the devil looked in at the little window, and tried to tempt him to  lead a life of idle pleasure; whereupon, having his pincers in the  fire, red hot, he seized the devil by the nose, and put him to such  pain, that his bellowings were heard for miles and miles.  Some  people are inclined to think this nonsense a part of Dunstan's  madness (for his head never quite recovered the fever), but I think  not.  I observe that it induced the ignorant people to consider him  a holy man, and that it made him very powerful.  Which was exactly  what he always wanted.

 

On the day of the coronation of the handsome boy-king Edwy, it was  remarked by ODO, Archbishop of Canterbury (who was a Dane by  birth), that the King quietly left the coronation feast, while all  the company were there.  Odo, much displeased, sent his friend  Dunstan to seek him.  Dunstan finding him in the company of his  beautiful young wife ELGIVA, and her mother ETHELGIVA, a good and  virtuous lady, not only grossly abused them, but dragged the young  King back into the feasting-hall by force.  Some, again, think  Dunstan did this because the young King's fair wife was his own  cousin, and the monks objected to people marrying their own  cousins; but I believe he did it, because he was an imperious,  audacious, ill-conditioned priest, who, having loved a young lady  himself before he became a sour monk, hated all love now, and  everything belonging to it.

 

The young King was quite old enough to feel this insult.  Dunstan  had been Treasurer in the last reign, and he soon charged Dunstan  with having taken some of the last king's money.  The Glastonbury  Abbot fled to Belgium (very narrowly escaping some pursuers who  were sent to put out his eyes, as you will wish they had, when you  read what follows), and his abbey was given to priests who were  married; whom he always, both before and afterwards, opposed.  But  he quickly conspired with his friend, Odo the Dane, to set up the  King's young brother, EDGAR, as his rival for the throne; and, not  content with this revenge, he caused the beautiful queen Elgiva,  though a lovely girl of only seventeen or eighteen, to be stolen  from one of the Royal Palaces, branded in the cheek with a red-hot  iron, and sold into slavery in Ireland.  But the Irish people  pitied and befriended her; and they said, 'Let us restore the girl-queen to the boy-king, and make the young lovers happy!' and they  cured her of her cruel wound, and sent her home as beautiful as  before.  But the villain Dunstan, and that other villain, Odo,  caused her to be waylaid at Gloucester as she was joyfully hurrying  to join her husband, and to be hacked and hewn with swords, and to  be barbarously maimed and lamed, and left to die.  When Edwy the  Fair (his people called him so, because he was so young and  handsome) heard of her dreadful fate, he died of a broken heart;  and so the pitiful story of the poor young wife and husband ends!   Ah!  Better to be two cottagers in these better times, than king  and queen of England in those bad days, though never so fair!

 

Then came the boy-king, EDGAR, called the Peaceful, fifteen years  old.  Dunstan, being still the real king, drove all married priests  out of the monasteries and abbeys, and replaced them by solitary  monks like himself, of the rigid order called the Benedictines.  He  made himself Archbishop of Canterbury, for his greater glory; and  exercised such power over the neighbouring British princes, and so  collected them about the King, that once, when the King held his  court at Chester, and went on the river Dee to visit the monastery  of St. John, the eight oars of his boat were pulled (as the people  used to delight in relating in stories and songs) by eight crowned  kings, and steered by the King of England.  As Edgar was very  obedient to Dunstan and the monks, they took great pains to  represent him as the best of kings.  But he was really profligate,  debauched, and vicious.  He once forcibly carried off a young lady  from the convent at Wilton; and Dunstan, pretending to be very much  shocked, condemned him not to wear his crown upon his head for  seven years - no great punishment, I dare say, as it can hardly  have been a more comfortable ornament to wear, than a stewpan  without a handle.  His marriage with his second wife, ELFRIDA, is  one of the worst events of his reign.  Hearing of the beauty of  this lady, he despatched his favourite courtier, ATHELWOLD, to her  father's castle in Devonshire, to see if she were really as  charming as fame reported.  Now, she was so exceedingly beautiful  that Athelwold fell in love with her himself, and married her; but  he told the King that she was only rich - not handsome.  The King,  suspecting the truth when they came home, resolved to pay the  newly-married couple a visit; and, suddenly, told Athelwold to  prepare for his immediate coming.  Athelwold, terrified, confessed  to his young wife what he had said and done, and implored her to  disguise her beauty by some ugly dress or silly manner, that he  might be safe from the King's anger.  She promised that she would;  but she was a proud woman, who would far rather have been a queen  than the wife of a courtier.  She dressed herself in her best  dress, and adorned herself with her richest jewels; and when the  King came, presently, he discovered the cheat.  So, he caused his  false friend, Athelwold, to be murdered in a wood, and married his  widow, this bad Elfrida.  Six or seven years afterwards, he died;  and was buried, as if he had been all that the monks said he was,  in the abbey of Glastonbury, which he - or Dunstan for him - had  much enriched.

 

England, in one part of this reign, was so troubled by wolves,  which, driven out of the open country, hid themselves in the  mountains of Wales when they were not attacking travellers and  animals, that the tribute payable by the Welsh people was forgiven  them, on condition of their producing, every year, three hundred  wolves' heads.  And the Welshmen were so sharp upon the wolves, to  save their money, that in four years there was not a wolf left.

 

Then came the boy-king, EDWARD, called the Martyr, from the manner  of his death.  Elfrida had a son, named ETHELRED, for whom she  claimed the throne; but Dunstan did not choose to favour him, and  he made Edward king.  The boy was hunting, one day, down in  Dorsetshire, when he rode near to Corfe Castle, where Elfrida and  Ethelred lived.  Wishing to see them kindly, he rode away from his  attendants and galloped to the castle gate, where he arrived at  twilight, and blew his hunting-horn.  'You are welcome, dear King,'  said Elfrida, coming out, with her brightest smiles.  'Pray you  dismount and enter.'  'Not so, dear madam,' said the King.  'My  company will miss me, and fear that I have met with some harm.   Please you to give me a cup of wine, that I may drink here, in the  saddle, to you and to my little brother, and so ride away with the  good speed I have made in riding here.'  Elfrida, going in to bring  the wine, whispered an armed servant, one of her attendants, who  stole out of the darkening gateway, and crept round behind the  King's horse.  As the King raised the cup to his lips, saying,  'Health!' to the wicked woman who was smiling on him, and to his  innocent brother whose hand she held in hers, and who was only ten  years old, this armed man made a spring and stabbed him in the  back.  He dropped the cup and spurred his horse away; but, soon  fainting with loss of blood, dropped from the saddle, and, in his  fall, entangled one of his feet in the stirrup.  The frightened  horse dashed on; trailing his rider's curls upon the ground;  dragging his smooth young face through ruts, and stones, and  briers, and fallen leaves, and mud; until the hunters, tracking the  animal's course by the King's blood, caught his bridle, and  released the disfigured body.

 

Then came the sixth and last of the boy-kings, ETHELRED, whom  Elfrida, when he cried out at the sight of his murdered brother  riding away from the castle gate, unmercifully beat with a torch  which she snatched from one of the attendants.  The people so  disliked this boy, on account of his cruel mother and the murder  she had done to promote him, that Dunstan would not have had him  for king, but would have made EDGITHA, the daughter of the dead  King Edgar, and of the lady whom he stole out of the convent at  Wilton, Queen of England, if she would have consented.  But she  knew the stories of the youthful kings too well, and would not be  persuaded from the convent where she lived in peace; so, Dunstan  put Ethelred on the throne, having no one else to put there, and  gave him the nickname of THE UNREADY - knowing that he wanted  resolution and firmness.

 

At first, Elfrida possessed great influence over the young King,  but, as he grew older and came of age, her influence declined.  The  infamous woman, not having it in her power to do any more evil,  then retired from court, and, according, to the fashion of the  time, built churches and monasteries, to expiate her guilt.  As if  a church, with a steeple reaching to the very stars, would have  been any sign of true repentance for the blood of the poor boy,  whose murdered form was trailed at his horse's heels!  As if she  could have buried her wickedness beneath the senseless stones of  the whole world, piled up one upon another, for the monks to live  in!

 

About the ninth or tenth year of this reign, Dunstan died.  He was  growing old then, but was as stern and artful as ever.  Two  circumstances that happened in connexion with him, in this reign of  Ethelred, made a great noise.  Once, he was present at a meeting of  the Church, when the question was discussed whether priests should  have permission to marry; and, as he sat with his head hung down,  apparently thinking about it, a voice seemed to come out of a  crucifix in the room, and warn the meeting to be of his opinion.   This was some juggling of Dunstan's, and was probably his own voice  disguised.  But he played off a worse juggle than that, soon  afterwards; for, another meeting being held on the same subject,  and he and his supporters being seated on one side of a great room,  and their opponents on the other, he rose and said, 'To Christ  himself, as judge, do I commit this cause!'  Immediately on these  words being spoken, the floor where the opposite party sat gave  way, and some were killed and many wounded.  You may be pretty sure  that it had been weakened under Dunstan's direction, and that it  fell at Dunstan's signal.  HIS part of the floor did not go down.   No, no.  He was too good a workman for that.

 

When he died, the monks settled that he was a Saint, and called him  Saint Dunstan ever afterwards.  They might just as well have  settled that he was a coach-horse, and could just as easily have  called him one.

 

Ethelred the Unready was glad enough, I dare say, to be rid of this  holy saint; but, left to himself, he was a poor weak king, and his  reign was a reign of defeat and shame.  The restless Danes, led by  SWEYN, a son of the King of Denmark who had quarrelled with his  father and had been banished from home, again came into England,  and, year after year, attacked and despoiled large towns.  To coax  these sea-kings away, the weak Ethelred paid them money; but, the  more money he paid, the more money the Danes wanted.  At first, he  gave them ten thousand pounds; on their next invasion, sixteen  thousand pounds; on their next invasion, four and twenty thousand  pounds:  to pay which large sums, the unfortunate English people  were heavily taxed.  But, as the Danes still came back and wanted  more, he thought it would be a good plan to marry into some  powerful foreign family that would help him with soldiers.  So, in  the year one thousand and two, he courted and married Emma, the  sister of Richard Duke of Normandy; a lady who was called the  Flower of Normandy.

 

And now, a terrible deed was done in England, the like of which was  never done on English ground before or since.  On the thirteenth of  November, in pursuance of secret instructions sent by the King over  the whole country, the inhabitants of every town and city armed,  and murdered all the Danes who were their neighbours.

 

Young and old, babies and soldiers, men and women, every Dane was  killed.  No doubt there were among them many ferocious men who had  done the English great wrong, and whose pride and insolence, in  swaggering in the houses of the English and insulting their wives  and daughters, had become unbearable; but no doubt there were also  among them many peaceful Christian Danes who had married English  women and become like English men.  They were all slain, even to  GUNHILDA, the sister of the King of Denmark, married to an English  lord; who was first obliged to see the murder of her husband and  her child, and then was killed herself.

 

When the King of the sea-kings heard of this deed of blood, he  swore that he would have a great revenge.  He raised an army, and a  mightier fleet of ships than ever yet had sailed to England; and in  all his army there was not a slave or an old man, but every soldier  was a free man, and the son of a free man, and in the prime of  life, and sworn to be revenged upon the English nation, for the  massacre of that dread thirteenth of November, when his countrymen  and countrywomen, and the little children whom they loved, were  killed with fire and sword.  And so, the sea-kings came to England  in many great ships, each bearing the flag of its own commander.   Golden eagles, ravens, dragons, dolphins, beasts of prey,  threatened England from the prows of those ships, as they came  onward through the water; and were reflected in the shining shields  that hung upon their sides.  The ship that bore the standard of the  King of the sea-kings was carved and painted like a mighty serpent;  and the King in his anger prayed that the Gods in whom he trusted  might all desert him, if his serpent did not strike its fangs into  England's heart.

 

And indeed it did.  For, the great army landing from the great  fleet, near Exeter, went forward, laying England waste, and  striking their lances in the earth as they advanced, or throwing  them into rivers, in token of their making all the island theirs.   In remembrance of the black November night when the Danes were  murdered, wheresoever the invaders came, they made the Saxons  prepare and spread for them great feasts; and when they had eaten  those feasts, and had drunk a curse to England with wild  rejoicings, they drew their swords, and killed their Saxon  entertainers, and marched on.  For six long years they carried on  this war:  burning the crops, farmhouses, barns, mills, granaries;  killing the labourers in the fields; preventing the seed from being  sown in the ground; causing famine and starvation; leaving only  heaps of ruin and smoking ashes, where they had found rich towns.   To crown this misery, English officers and men deserted, and even  the favourites of Ethelred the Unready, becoming traitors, seized  many of the English ships, turned pirates against their own  country, and aided by a storm occasioned the loss of nearly the  whole English navy.

 

There was but one man of note, at this miserable pass, who was true  to his country and the feeble King.  He was a priest, and a brave  one.  For twenty days, the Archbishop of Canterbury defended that  city against its Danish besiegers; and when a traitor in the town  threw the gates open and admitted them, he said, in chains, 'I will  not buy my life with money that must be extorted from the suffering  people.  Do with me what you please!'  Again and again, he steadily  refused to purchase his release with gold wrung from the poor.

 

At last, the Danes being tired of this, and being assembled at a  drunken merry-making, had him brought into the feasting-hall.

 

'Now, bishop,' they said, 'we want gold!'

 

He looked round on the crowd of angry faces; from the shaggy beards  close to him, to the shaggy beards against the walls, where men  were mounted on tables and forms to see him over the heads of  others:  and he knew that his time was come.

 

'I have no gold,' he said.

 

'Get it, bishop!' they all thundered.

 

'That, I have often told you I will not,' said he.

 

They gathered closer round him, threatening, but he stood unmoved.   Then, one man struck him; then, another; then a cursing soldier  picked up from a heap in a corner of the hall, where fragments had  been rudely thrown at dinner, a great ox-bone, and cast it at his  face, from which the blood came spurting forth; then, others ran to  the same heap, and knocked him down with other bones, and bruised  and battered him; until one soldier whom he had baptised (willing,  as I hope for the sake of that soldier's soul, to shorten the  sufferings of the good man) struck him dead with his battle-axe.

 

If Ethelred had had the heart to emulate the courage of this noble  archbishop, he might have done something yet.  But he paid the  Danes forty-eight thousand pounds, instead, and gained so little by  the cowardly act, that Sweyn soon afterwards came over to subdue  all England.  So broken was the attachment of the English people,  by this time, to their incapable King and their forlorn country  which could not protect them, that they welcomed Sweyn on all  sides, as a deliverer.  London faithfully stood out, as long as the  King was within its walls; but, when he sneaked away, it also  welcomed the Dane.  Then, all was over; and the King took refuge  abroad with the Duke of Normandy, who had already given shelter to  the King's wife, once the Flower of that country, and to her  children.

 

Still, the English people, in spite of their sad sufferings, could  not quite forget the great King Alfred and the Saxon race.  When  Sweyn died suddenly, in little more than a month after he had been  proclaimed King of England, they generously sent to Ethelred, to  say that they would have him for their King again, 'if he would  only govern them better than he had governed them before.'  The  Unready, instead of coming himself, sent Edward, one of his sons,  to make promises for him.  At last, he followed, and the English  declared him King.  The Danes declared CANUTE, the son of Sweyn,  King.  Thus, direful war began again, and lasted for three years,  when the Unready died.  And I know of nothing better that he did,  in all his reign of eight and thirty years.

 

Was Canute to be King now?  Not over the Saxons, they said; they  must have EDMUND, one of the sons of the Unready, who was surnamed  IRONSIDE, because of his strength and stature.  Edmund and Canute  thereupon fell to, and fought five battles - O unhappy England,  what a fighting-ground it was! - and then Ironside, who was a big  man, proposed to Canute, who was a little man, that they two should  fight it out in single combat.  If Canute had been the big man, he  would probably have said yes, but, being the little man, he  decidedly said no.  However, he declared that he was willing to  divide the kingdom - to take all that lay north of Watling Street,  as the old Roman military road from Dover to Chester was called,  and to give Ironside all that lay south of it.  Most men being  weary of so much bloodshed, this was done.  But Canute soon became  sole King of England; for Ironside died suddenly within two months.   Some think that he was killed, and killed by Canute's orders.  No  one knows.

 


CHAPTER V - ENGLAND UNDER CANUTE THE DANE

 

CANUTE reigned eighteen years.  He was a merciless King at first.   After he had clasped the hands of the Saxon chiefs, in token of the  sincerity with which he swore to be just and good to them in return  for their acknowledging him, he denounced and slew many of them, as  well as many relations of the late King.  'He who brings me the  head of one of my enemies,' he used to say, 'shall be dearer to me  than a brother.'  And he was so severe in hunting down his enemies,  that he must have got together a pretty large family of these dear  brothers.  He was strongly inclined to kill EDMUND and EDWARD, two  children, sons of poor Ironside; but, being afraid to do so in  England, he sent them over to the King of Sweden, with a request  that the King would be so good as 'dispose of them.'  If the King  of Sweden had been like many, many other men of that day, he would  have had their innocent throats cut; but he was a kind man, and  brought them up tenderly.

 

Normandy ran much in Canute's mind.  In Normandy were the two  children of the late king - EDWARD and ALFRED by name; and their  uncle the Duke might one day claim the crown for them.  But the  Duke showed so little inclination to do so now, that he proposed to  Canute to marry his sister, the widow of The Unready; who, being  but a showy flower, and caring for nothing so much as becoming a  queen again, left her children and was wedded to him.

 

Successful and triumphant, assisted by the valour of the English in  his foreign wars, and with little strife to trouble him at home,  Canute had a prosperous reign, and made many improvements.  He was  a poet and a musician.  He grew sorry, as he grew older, for the  blood he had shed at first; and went to Rome in a Pilgrim's dress,  by way of washing it out.  He gave a great deal of money to  foreigners on his journey; but he took it from the English before  he started.  On the whole, however, he certainly became a far  better man when he had no opposition to contend with, and was as  great a King as England had known for some time.

 

The old writers of history relate how that Canute was one day  disgusted with his courtiers for their flattery, and how he caused  his chair to be set on the sea-shore, and feigned to command the  tide as it came up not to wet the edge of his robe, for the land  was his; how the tide came up, of course, without regarding him;  and how he then turned to his flatterers, and rebuked them, saying,  what was the might of any earthly king, to the might of the  Creator, who could say unto the sea, 'Thus far shalt thou go, and  no farther!'  We may learn from this, I think, that a little sense  will go a long way in a king; and that courtiers are not easily  cured of flattery, nor kings of a liking for it.  If the courtiers  of Canute had not known, long before, that the King was fond of  flattery, they would have known better than to offer it in such  large doses.  And if they had not known that he was vain of this  speech (anything but a wonderful speech it seems to me, if a good  child had made it), they would not have been at such great pains to  repeat it.  I fancy I see them all on the sea-shore together; the  King's chair sinking in the sand; the King in a mighty good humour  with his own wisdom; and the courtiers pretending to be quite  stunned by it!

 

It is not the sea alone that is bidden to go 'thus far, and no  farther.'  The great command goes forth to all the kings upon the  earth, and went to Canute in the year one thousand and thirty-five,  and stretched him dead upon his bed.  Beside it, stood his Norman  wife.  Perhaps, as the King looked his last upon her, he, who had  so often thought distrustfully of Normandy, long ago, thought once  more of the two exiled Princes in their uncle's court, and of the  little favour they could feel for either Danes or Saxons, and of a  rising cloud in Normandy that slowly moved towards England.

 


CHAPTER VI - ENGLAND UNDER HAROLD HAREFOOT, HARDICANUTE, AND EDWARD  THE CONFESSOR

 

CANUTE left three sons, by name SWEYN, HAROLD, and HARDICANUTE; but  his Queen, Emma, once the Flower of Normandy, was the mother of  only Hardicanute.  Canute had wished his dominions to be divided  between the three, and had wished Harold to have England; but the  Saxon people in the South of England, headed by a nobleman with  great possessions, called the powerful EARL GODWIN (who is said to  have been originally a poor cow-boy), opposed this, and desired to  have, instead, either Hardicanute, or one of the two exiled Princes  who were over in Normandy.  It seemed so certain that there would  be more bloodshed to settle this dispute, that many people left  their homes, and took refuge in the woods and swamps.  Happily,  however, it was agreed to refer the whole question to a great  meeting at Oxford, which decided that Harold should have all the  country north of the Thames, with London for his capital city, and  that Hardicanute should have all the south.  The quarrel was so  arranged; and, as Hardicanute was in Denmark troubling himself very  little about anything but eating and getting drunk, his mother and  Earl Godwin governed the south for him.

 

They had hardly begun to do so, and the trembling people who had  hidden themselves were scarcely at home again, when Edward, the  elder of the two exiled Princes, came over from Normandy with a few  followers, to claim the English Crown.  His mother Emma, however,  who only cared for her last son Hardicanute, instead of assisting  him, as he expected, opposed him so strongly with all her influence  that he was very soon glad to get safely back.  His brother Alfred  was not so fortunate.  Believing in an affectionate letter, written  some time afterwards to him and his brother, in his mother's name  (but whether really with or without his mother's knowledge is now  uncertain), he allowed himself to be tempted over to England, with  a good force of soldiers, and landing on the Kentish coast, and  being met and welcomed by Earl Godwin, proceeded into Surrey, as  far as the town of Guildford.  Here, he and his men halted in the  evening to rest, having still the Earl in their company; who had  ordered lodgings and good cheer for them.  But, in the dead of the  night, when they were off their guard, being divided into small  parties sleeping soundly after a long march and a plentiful supper  in different houses, they were set upon by the King's troops, and  taken prisoners.  Next morning they were drawn out in a line, to  the number of six hundred men, and were barbarously tortured and  killed; with the exception of every tenth man, who was sold into  slavery.  As to the wretched Prince Alfred, he was stripped naked,  tied to a horse and sent away into the Isle of Ely, where his eyes  were torn out of his head, and where in a few days he miserably  died.  I am not sure that the Earl had wilfully entrapped him, but  I suspect it strongly.

 

Harold was now King all over England, though it is doubtful whether  the Archbishop of Canterbury (the greater part of the priests were  Saxons, and not friendly to the Danes) ever consented to crown him.   Crowned or uncrowned, with the Archbishop's leave or without it, he  was King for four years:  after which short reign he died, and was  buried; having never done much in life but go a hunting.  He was  such a fast runner at this, his favourite sport, that the people  called him Harold Harefoot.

 

Hardicanute was then at Bruges, in Flanders, plotting, with his  mother (who had gone over there after the cruel murder of Prince  Alfred), for the invasion of England.  The Danes and Saxons,  finding themselves without a King, and dreading new disputes, made  common cause, and joined in inviting him to occupy the Throne.  He  consented, and soon troubled them enough; for he brought over  numbers of Danes, and taxed the people so insupportably to enrich  those greedy favourites that there were many insurrections,  especially one at Worcester, where the citizens rose and killed his  tax-collectors; in revenge for which he burned their city.  He was  a brutal King, whose first public act was to order the dead body of  poor Harold Harefoot to be dug up, beheaded, and thrown into the  river.  His end was worthy of such a beginning.  He fell down  drunk, with a goblet of wine in his hand, at a wedding-feast at  Lambeth, given in honour of the marriage of his standard-bearer, a  Dane named TOWED THE PROUD.  And he never spoke again.

 

EDWARD, afterwards called by the monks THE CONFESSOR, succeeded;  and his first act was to oblige his mother Emma, who had favoured  him so little, to retire into the country; where she died some ten  years afterwards.  He was the exiled prince whose brother Alfred  had been so foully killed.  He had been invited over from Normandy  by Hardicanute, in the course of his short reign of two years, and  had been handsomely treated at court.  His cause was now favoured  by the powerful Earl Godwin, and he was soon made King.  This Earl  had been suspected by the people, ever since Prince Alfred's cruel  death; he had even been tried in the last reign for the Prince's  murder, but had been pronounced not guilty; chiefly, as it was  supposed, because of a present he had made to the swinish King, of  a gilded ship with a figure-head of solid gold, and a crew of  eighty splendidly armed men.  It was his interest to help the new  King with his power, if the new King would help him against the  popular distrust and hatred.  So they made a bargain.  Edward the  Confessor got the Throne.  The Earl got more power and more land,  and his daughter Editha was made queen; for it was a part of their  compact that the King should take her for his wife.

 

But, although she was a gentle lady, in all things worthy to be  beloved - good, beautiful, sensible, and kind - the King from the  first neglected her.  Her father and her six proud brothers,  resenting this cold treatment, harassed the King greatly by  exerting all their power to make him unpopular.  Having lived so  long in Normandy, he preferred the Normans to the English.  He made  a Norman Archbishop, and Norman Bishops; his great officers and  favourites were all Normans; he introduced the Norman fashions and  the Norman language; in imitation of the state custom of Normandy,  he attached a great seal to his state documents, instead of merely  marking them, as the Saxon Kings had done, with the sign of the  cross - just as poor people who have never been taught to write,  now make the same mark for their names.  All this, the powerful  Earl Godwin and his six proud sons represented to the people as  disfavour shown towards the English; and thus they daily increased  their own power, and daily diminished the power of the King.

 

They were greatly helped by an event that occurred when he had  reigned eight years.  Eustace, Earl of Bologne, who had married the  King's sister, came to England on a visit.  After staying at the  court some time, he set forth, with his numerous train of  attendants, to return home.  They were to embark at Dover.   Entering that peaceful town in armour, they took possession of the  best houses, and noisily demanded to be lodged and entertained  without payment.  One of the bold men of Dover, who would not  endure to have these domineering strangers jingling their heavy  swords and iron corselets up and down his house, eating his meat  and drinking his strong liquor, stood in his doorway and refused  admission to the first armed man who came there.  The armed man  drew, and wounded him.  The man of Dover struck the armed man dead.   Intelligence of what he had done, spreading through the streets to  where the Count Eustace and his men were standing by their horses,  bridle in hand, they passionately mounted, galloped to the house,  surrounded it, forced their way in (the doors and windows being  closed when they came up), and killed the man of Dover at his own  fireside.  They then clattered through the streets, cutting down  and riding over men, women, and children.  This did not last long,  you may believe.  The men of Dover set upon them with great fury,  killed nineteen of the foreigners, wounded many more, and,  blockading the road to the port so that they should not embark,  beat them out of the town by the way they had come.  Hereupon,  Count Eustace rides as hard as man can ride to Gloucester, where  Edward is, surrounded by Norman monks and Norman lords.  'Justice!'  cries the Count, 'upon the men of Dover, who have set upon and  slain my people!'  The King sends immediately for the powerful Earl  Godwin, who happens to be near; reminds him that Dover is under his  government; and orders him to repair to Dover and do military  execution on the inhabitants.  'It does not become you,' says the  proud Earl in reply, 'to condemn without a hearing those whom you  have sworn to protect.  I will not do it.'

 

The King, therefore, summoned the Earl, on pain of banishment and  loss of his titles and property, to appear before the court to  answer this disobedience.  The Earl refused to appear.  He, his  eldest son Harold, and his second son Sweyn, hastily raised as many  fighting men as their utmost power could collect, and demanded to  have Count Eustace and his followers surrendered to the justice of  the country.  The King, in his turn, refused to give them up, and  raised a strong force.  After some treaty and delay, the troops of  the great Earl and his sons began to fall off.  The Earl, with a  part of his family and abundance of treasure, sailed to Flanders;  Harold escaped to Ireland; and the power of the great family was  for that time gone in England.  But, the people did not forget  them.

 

Then, Edward the Confessor, with the true meanness of a mean  spirit, visited his dislike of the once powerful father and sons  upon the helpless daughter and sister, his unoffending wife, whom  all who saw her (her husband and his monks excepted) loved.  He  seized rapaciously upon her fortune and her jewels, and allowing  her only one attendant, confined her in a gloomy convent, of which  a sister of his - no doubt an unpleasant lady after his own heart -  was abbess or jailer.

 

Having got Earl Godwin and his six sons well out of his way, the  King favoured the Normans more than ever.  He invited over WILLIAM,  DUKE OF NORMANDY, the son of that Duke who had received him and his  murdered brother long ago, and of a peasant girl, a tanner's  daughter, with whom that Duke had fallen in love for her beauty as  he saw her washing clothes in a brook.  William, who was a great  warrior, with a passion for fine horses, dogs, and arms, accepted  the invitation; and the Normans in England, finding themselves more  numerous than ever when he arrived with his retinue, and held in  still greater honour at court than before, became more and more  haughty towards the people, and were more and more disliked by  them.

 

The old Earl Godwin, though he was abroad, knew well how the people  felt; for, with part of the treasure he had carried away with him,  he kept spies and agents in his pay all over England.

 

Accordingly, he thought the time was come for fitting out a great  expedition against the Norman-loving King.  With it, he sailed to  the Isle of Wight, where he was joined by his son Harold, the most  gallant and brave of all his family.  And so the father and son  came sailing up the Thames to Southwark; great numbers of the  people declaring for them, and shouting for the English Earl and  the English Harold, against the Norman favourites!

 

The King was at first as blind and stubborn as kings usually have  been whensoever they have been in the hands of monks.  But the  people rallied so thickly round the old Earl and his son, and the  old Earl was so steady in demanding without bloodshed the  restoration of himself and his family to their rights, that at last  the court took the alarm.  The Norman Archbishop of Canterbury, and  the Norman Bishop of London, surrounded by their retainers, fought  their way out of London, and escaped from Essex to France in a  fishing-boat.  The other Norman favourites dispersed in all  directions.  The old Earl and his sons (except Sweyn, who had  committed crimes against the law) were restored to their  possessions and dignities.  Editha, the virtuous and lovely Queen  of the insensible King, was triumphantly released from her prison,  the convent, and once more sat in her chair of state, arrayed in  the jewels of which, when she had no champion to support her  rights, her cold-blooded husband had deprived her.

 

The old Earl Godwin did not long enjoy his restored fortune.  He  fell down in a fit at the King's table, and died upon the third day  afterwards.  Harold succeeded to his power, and to a far higher  place in the attachment of the people than his father had ever  held.  By his valour he subdued the King's enemies in many bloody  fights.  He was vigorous against rebels in Scotland - this was the  time when Macbeth slew Duncan, upon which event our English  Shakespeare, hundreds of years afterwards, wrote his great tragedy;  and he killed the restless Welsh King GRIFFITH, and brought his  head to England.

 

What Harold was doing at sea, when he was driven on the French  coast by a tempest, is not at all certain; nor does it at all  matter.  That his ship was forced by a storm on that shore, and  that he was taken prisoner, there is no doubt.  In those barbarous  days, all shipwrecked strangers were taken prisoners, and obliged  to pay ransom.  So, a certain Count Guy, who was the Lord of  Ponthieu where Harold's disaster happened, seized him, instead of  relieving him like a hospitable and Christian lord as he ought to  have done, and expected to make a very good thing of it.

 

But Harold sent off immediately to Duke William of Normandy,  complaining of this treatment; and the Duke no sooner heard of it  than he ordered Harold to be escorted to the ancient town of Rouen,  where he then was, and where he received him as an honoured guest.   Now, some writers tell us that Edward the Confessor, who was by  this time old and had no children, had made a will, appointing Duke  William of Normandy his successor, and had informed the Duke of his  having done so.  There is no doubt that he was anxious about his  successor; because he had even invited over, from abroad, EDWARD  THE OUTLAW, a son of Ironside, who had come to England with his  wife and three children, but whom the King had strangely refused to  see when he did come, and who had died in London suddenly (princes  were terribly liable to sudden death in those days), and had been  buried in St. Paul's Cathedral.  The King might possibly have made  such a will; or, having always been fond of the Normans, he might  have encouraged Norman William to aspire to the English crown, by  something that he said to him when he was staying at the English  court.  But, certainly William did now aspire to it; and knowing  that Harold would be a powerful rival, he called together a great  assembly of his nobles, offered Harold his daughter ADELE in  marriage, informed him that he meant on King Edward's death to  claim the English crown as his own inheritance, and required Harold  then and there to swear to aid him.  Harold, being in the Duke's  power, took this oath upon the Missal, or Prayer-book.  It is a  good example of the superstitions of the monks, that this Missal,  instead of being placed upon a table, was placed upon a tub; which,  when Harold had sworn, was uncovered, and shown to be full of dead  men's bones - bones, as the monks pretended, of saints.  This was  supposed to make Harold's oath a great deal more impressive and  binding.  As if the great name of the Creator of Heaven and earth  could be made more solemn by a knuckle-bone, or a double-tooth, or  a finger-nail, of Dunstan!

 

Within a week or two after Harold's return to England, the dreary  old Confessor was found to be dying.  After wandering in his mind  like a very weak old man, he died.  As he had put himself entirely  in the hands of the monks when he was alive, they praised him  lustily when he was dead.  They had gone so far, already, as to  persuade him that he could work miracles; and had brought people  afflicted with a bad disorder of the skin, to him, to be touched  and cured.  This was called 'touching for the King's Evil,' which  afterwards became a royal custom.  You know, however, Who really  touched the sick, and healed them; and you know His sacred name is  not among the dusty line of human kings.

 


CHAPTER VII - ENGLAND UNDER HAROLD THE SECOND, AND CONQUERED BY THE  NORMANS

 

HAROLD was crowned King of England on the very day of the maudlin  Confessor's funeral.  He had good need to be quick about it.  When  the news reached Norman William, hunting in his park at Rouen, he  dropped his bow, returned to his palace, called his nobles to  council, and presently sent ambassadors to Harold, calling on him  to keep his oath and resign the Crown.  Harold would do no such  thing.  The barons of France leagued together round Duke William  for the invasion of England.  Duke William promised freely to  distribute English wealth and English lands among them.  The Pope  sent to Normandy a consecrated banner, and a ring containing a hair  which he warranted to have grown on the head of Saint Peter.  He  blessed the enterprise; and cursed Harold; and requested that the  Normans would pay 'Peter's Pence' - or a tax to himself of a penny  a year on every house - a little more regularly in future, if they  could make it convenient.

 

King Harold had a rebel brother in Flanders, who was a vassal of  HAROLD HARDRADA, King of Norway.  This brother, and this Norwegian  King, joining their forces against England, with Duke William's  help, won a fight in which the English were commanded by two  nobles; and then besieged York.  Harold, who was waiting for the  Normans on the coast at Hastings, with his army, marched to  Stamford Bridge upon the river Derwent to give them instant battle.

 

He found them drawn up in a hollow circle, marked out by their  shining spears.  Riding round this circle at a distance, to survey  it, he saw a brave figure on horseback, in a blue mantle and a  bright helmet, whose horse suddenly stumbled and threw him.

 

'Who is that man who has fallen?' Harold asked of one of his  captains.

 

'The King of Norway,' he replied.

 

'He is a tall and stately king,' said Harold, 'but his end is  near.'

 

He added, in a little while, 'Go yonder to my brother, and tell  him, if he withdraw his troops, he shall be Earl of Northumberland,  and rich and powerful in England.'

 

The captain rode away and gave the message.

 

'What will he give to my friend the King of Norway?' asked the  brother.

 

'Seven feet of earth for a grave,' replied the captain.

 

'No more?' returned the brother, with a smile.

 

'The King of Norway being a tall man, perhaps a little more,'  replied the captain.

 

'Ride back!' said the brother, 'and tell King Harold to make ready  for the fight!'

 

He did so, very soon.  And such a fight King Harold led against  that force, that his brother, and the Norwegian King, and every  chief of note in all their host, except the Norwegian King's son,  Olave, to whom he gave honourable dismissal, were left dead upon  the field.  The victorious army marched to York.  As King Harold  sat there at the feast, in the midst of all his company, a stir was  heard at the doors; and messengers all covered with mire from  riding far and fast through broken ground came hurrying in, to  report that the Normans had landed in England.

 

The intelligence was true.  They had been tossed about by contrary  winds, and some of their ships had been wrecked.  A part of their  own shore, to which they had been driven back, was strewn with  Norman bodies.  But they had once more made sail, led by the Duke's  own galley, a present from his wife, upon the prow whereof the  figure of a golden boy stood pointing towards England.  By day, the  banner of the three Lions of Normandy, the diverse coloured sails,  the gilded vans, the many decorations of this gorgeous ship, had  glittered in the sun and sunny water; by night, a light had  sparkled like a star at her mast-head.  And now, encamped near  Hastings, with their leader lying in the old Roman castle of  Pevensey, the English retiring in all directions, the land for  miles around scorched and smoking, fired and pillaged, was the  whole Norman power, hopeful and strong on English ground.

 

Harold broke up the feast and hurried to London.  Within a week,  his army was ready.  He sent out spies to ascertain the Norman  strength.  William took them, caused them to be led through his  whole camp, and then dismissed.  'The Normans,' said these spies to  Harold, 'are not bearded on the upper lip as we English are, but  are shorn.  They are priests.'  'My men,' replied Harold, with a  laugh, 'will find those priests good soldiers!'

 

'The Saxons,' reported Duke William's outposts of Norman soldiers,  who were instructed to retire as King Harold's army advanced, 'rush  on us through their pillaged country with the fury of madmen.'

 

'Let them come, and come soon!' said Duke William.

 

Some proposals for a reconciliation were made, but were soon  abandoned.  In the middle of the month of October, in the year one  thousand and sixty-six, the Normans and the English came front to  front.  All night the armies lay encamped before each other, in a  part of the country then called Senlac, now called (in remembrance  of them) Battle.  With the first dawn of day, they arose.  There,  in the faint light, were the English on a hill; a wood behind them;  in their midst, the Royal banner, representing a fighting warrior,  woven in gold thread, adorned with precious stones; beneath the  banner, as it rustled in the wind, stood King Harold on foot, with  two of his remaining brothers by his side; around them, still and  silent as the dead, clustered the whole English army - every  soldier covered by his shield, and bearing in his hand his dreaded  English battle-axe.

 

On an opposite hill, in three lines, archers, foot-soldiers,  horsemen, was the Norman force.  Of a sudden, a great battle-cry,  'God help us!' burst from the Norman lines.  The English answered  with their own battle-cry, 'God's Rood!  Holy Rood!'  The Normans  then came sweeping down the hill to attack the English.

 

There was one tall Norman Knight who rode before the Norman army on  a prancing horse, throwing up his heavy sword and catching it, and  singing of the bravery of his countrymen.  An English Knight, who  rode out from the English force to meet him, fell by this Knight's  hand.  Another English Knight rode out, and he fell too.  But then  a third rode out, and killed the Norman.  This was in the first  beginning of the fight.  It soon raged everywhere.

 

The English, keeping side by side in a great mass, cared no more  for the showers of Norman arrows than if they had been showers of  Norman rain.  When the Norman horsemen rode against them, with  their battle-axes they cut men and horses down.  The Normans gave  way.  The English pressed forward.  A cry went forth among the  Norman troops that Duke William was killed.  Duke William took off  his helmet, in order that his face might be distinctly seen, and  rode along the line before his men.  This gave them courage.  As  they turned again to face the English, some of their Norman horse  divided the pursuing body of the English from the rest, and thus  all that foremost portion of the English army fell, fighting  bravely.  The main body still remaining firm, heedless of the  Norman arrows, and with their battle-axes cutting down the crowds  of horsemen when they rode up, like forests of young trees, Duke  William pretended to retreat.  The eager English followed.  The  Norman army closed again, and fell upon them with great slaughter.

 

'Still,' said Duke William, 'there are thousands of the English,  firms as rocks around their King.  Shoot upward, Norman archers,  that your arrows may fall down upon their faces!'

 

The sun rose high, and sank, and the battle still raged.  Through  all the wild October day, the clash and din resounded in the air.   In the red sunset, and in the white moonlight, heaps upon heaps of  dead men lay strewn, a dreadful spectacle, all over the ground.

 

King Harold, wounded with an arrow in the eye, was nearly blind.   His brothers were already killed.  Twenty Norman Knights, whose  battered armour had flashed fiery and golden in the sunshine all  day long, and now looked silvery in the moonlight, dashed forward  to seize the Royal banner from the English Knights and soldiers,  still faithfully collected round their blinded King.  The King  received a mortal wound, and dropped.  The English broke and fled.   The Normans rallied, and the day was lost.

 

O what a sight beneath the moon and stars, when lights were shining  in the tent of the victorious Duke William, which was pitched near  the spot where Harold fell - and he and his knights were carousing,  within - and soldiers with torches, going slowly to and fro,  without, sought for the corpse of Harold among piles of dead - and  the Warrior, worked in golden thread and precious stones, lay low,  all torn and soiled with blood - and the three Norman Lions kept  watch over the field!


CHAPTER VIII - ENGLAND UNDER WILLIAM THE FIRST, THE NORMAN  CONQUEROR

 

UPON the ground where the brave Harold fell, William the Norman  afterwards founded an abbey, which, under the name of Battle Abbey,  was a rich and splendid place through many a troubled year, though  now it is a grey ruin overgrown with ivy.  But the first work he  had to do, was to conquer the English thoroughly; and that, as you  know by this time, was hard work for any man.

 

He ravaged several counties; he burned and plundered many towns; he  laid waste scores upon scores of miles of pleasant country; he  destroyed innumerable lives.  At length STIGAND, Archbishop of  Canterbury, with other representatives of the clergy and the  people, went to his camp, and submitted to him.  EDGAR, the  insignificant son of Edmund Ironside, was proclaimed King by  others, but nothing came of it.  He fled to Scotland afterwards,  where his sister, who was young and beautiful, married the Scottish  King.  Edgar himself was not important enough for anybody to care  much about him.

 

On Christmas Day, William was crowned in Westminster Abbey, under  the title of WILLIAM THE FIRST; but he is best known as WILLIAM THE  CONQUEROR.  It was a strange coronation.  One of the bishops who  performed the ceremony asked the Normans, in French, if they would  have Duke William for their king?  They answered Yes.  Another of  the bishops put the same question to the Saxons, in English.  They  too answered Yes, with a loud shout.  The noise being heard by a  guard of Norman horse-soldiers outside, was mistaken for resistance  on the part of the English.  The guard instantly set fire to the  neighbouring houses, and a tumult ensued; in the midst of which the  King, being left alone in the Abbey, with a few priests (and they  all being in a terrible fright together), was hurriedly crowned.   When the crown was placed upon his head, he swore to govern the  English as well as the best of their own monarchs.  I dare say you  think, as I do, that if we except the Great Alfred, he might pretty  easily have done that.

 

Numbers of the English nobles had been killed in the last  disastrous battle.  Their estates, and the estates of all the  nobles who had fought against him there, King William seized upon,  and gave to his own Norman knights and nobles.  Many great English  families of the present time acquired their English lands in this  way, and are very proud of it.

 

But what is got by force must be maintained by force.  These nobles  were obliged to build castles all over England, to defend their new  property; and, do what he would, the King could neither soothe nor  quell the nation as he wished.  He gradually introduced the Norman  language and the Norman customs; yet, for a long time the great  body of the English remained sullen and revengeful.  On his going  over to Normandy, to visit his subjects there, the oppressions of  his half-brother ODO, whom he left in charge of his English  kingdom, drove the people mad.  The men of Kent even invited over,  to take possession of Dover, their old enemy Count Eustace of  Boulogne, who had led the fray when the Dover man was slain at his  own fireside.  The men of Hereford, aided by the Welsh, and  commanded by a chief named EDRIC THE WILD, drove the Normans out of  their country.  Some of those who had been dispossessed of their  lands, banded together in the North of England; some, in Scotland;  some, in the thick woods and marshes; and whensoever they could  fall upon the Normans, or upon the English who had submitted to the  Normans, they fought, despoiled, and murdered, like the desperate  outlaws that they were.  Conspiracies were set on foot for a  general massacre of the Normans, like the old massacre of the  Danes.  In short, the English were in a murderous mood all through  the kingdom.

 

King William, fearing he might lose his conquest, came back, and  tried to pacify the London people by soft words.  He then set forth  to repress the country people by stern deeds.  Among the towns  which he besieged, and where he killed and maimed the inhabitants  without any distinction, sparing none, young or old, armed or  unarmed, were Oxford, Warwick, Leicester, Nottingham, Derby,  Lincoln, York.  In all these places, and in many others, fire and  sword worked their utmost horrors, and made the land dreadful to  behold.  The streams and rivers were discoloured with blood; the  sky was blackened with smoke; the fields were wastes of ashes; the  waysides were heaped up with dead.  Such are the fatal results of  conquest and ambition!  Although William was a harsh and angry man,  I do not suppose that he deliberately meant to work this shocking  ruin, when he invaded England.  But what he had got by the strong  hand, he could only keep by the strong hand, and in so doing he  made England a great grave.

 

Two sons of Harold, by name EDMUND and GODWIN, came over from  Ireland, with some ships, against the Normans, but were defeated.   This was scarcely done, when the outlaws in the woods so harassed  York, that the Governor sent to the King for help.  The King  despatched a general and a large force to occupy the town of  Durham.  The Bishop of that place met the general outside the town,  and warned him not to enter, as he would be in danger there.  The  general cared nothing for the warning, and went in with all his  men.  That night, on every hill within sight of Durham, signal  fires were seen to blaze.  When the morning dawned, the English,  who had assembled in great strength, forced the gates, rushed into  the town, and slew the Normans every one.  The English afterwards  besought the Danes to come and help them.  The Danes came, with two  hundred and forty ships.  The outlawed nobles joined them; they  captured York, and drove the Normans out of that city.  Then,  William bribed the Danes to go away; and took such vengeance on the  English, that all the former fire and sword, smoke and ashes, death  and ruin, were nothing compared with it.  In melancholy songs, and  doleful stories, it was still sung and told by cottage fires on  winter evenings, a hundred years afterwards, how, in those dreadful  days of the Normans, there was not, from the River Humber to the  River Tyne, one inhabited village left, nor one cultivated field -  how there was nothing but a dismal ruin, where the human creatures  and the beasts lay dead together.

 

The outlaws had, at this time, what they called a Camp of Refuge,  in the midst of the fens of Cambridgeshire.  Protected by those  marshy grounds which were difficult of approach, they lay among the  reeds and rushes, and were hidden by the mists that rose up from  the watery earth.  Now, there also was, at that time, over the sea  in Flanders, an Englishman named HEREWARD, whose father had died in  his absence, and whose property had been given to a Norman.  When  he heard of this wrong that had been done him (from such of the  exiled English as chanced to wander into that country), he longed  for revenge; and joining the outlaws in their camp of refuge,  became their commander.  He was so good a soldier, that the Normans  supposed him to be aided by enchantment.  William, even after he  had made a road three miles in length across the Cambridgeshire  marshes, on purpose to attack this supposed enchanter, thought it  necessary to engage an old lady, who pretended to be a sorceress,  to come and do a little enchantment in the royal cause.  For this  purpose she was pushed on before the troops in a wooden tower; but  Hereward very soon disposed of this unfortunate sorceress, by  burning her, tower and all.  The monks of the convent of Ely near  at hand, however, who were fond of good living, and who found it  very uncomfortable to have the country blockaded and their supplies  of meat and drink cut off, showed the King a secret way of  surprising the camp.  So Hereward was soon defeated.  Whether he  afterwards died quietly, or whether he was killed after killing  sixteen of the men who attacked him (as some old rhymes relate that  he did), I cannot say.  His defeat put an end to the Camp of  Refuge; and, very soon afterwards, the King, victorious both in  Scotland and in England, quelled the last rebellious English noble.   He then surrounded himself with Norman lords, enriched by the  property of English nobles; had a great survey made of all the land  in England, which was entered as the property of its new owners, on  a roll called Doomsday Book; obliged the people to put out their  fires and candles at a certain hour every night, on the ringing of  a bell which was called The Curfew; introduced the Norman dresses  and manners; made the Normans masters everywhere, and the English,  servants; turned out the English bishops, and put Normans in their  places; and showed himself to be the Conqueror indeed.

 

But, even with his own Normans, he had a restless life.  They were  always hungering and thirsting for the riches of the English; and  the more he gave, the more they wanted.  His priests were as greedy  as his soldiers.  We know of only one Norman who plainly told his  master, the King, that he had come with him to England to do his  duty as a faithful servant, and that property taken by force from  other men had no charms for him.  His name was GUILBERT.  We should  not forget his name, for it is good to remember and to honour  honest men.

 

Besides all these troubles, William the Conqueror was troubled by  quarrels among his sons.  He had three living.  ROBERT, called  CURTHOSE, because of his short legs; WILLIAM, called RUFUS or the  Red, from the colour of his hair; and HENRY, fond of learning, and  called, in the Norman language, BEAUCLERC, or Fine-Scholar.  When  Robert grew up, he asked of his father the government of Normandy,  which he had nominally possessed, as a child, under his mother,  MATILDA.  The King refusing to grant it, Robert became jealous and  discontented; and happening one day, while in this temper, to be  ridiculed by his brothers, who threw water on him from a balcony as  he was walking before the door, he drew his sword, rushed up-stairs, and was only prevented by the King himself from putting  them to death.  That same night, he hotly departed with some  followers from his father's court, and endeavoured to take the  Castle of Rouen by surprise.  Failing in this, he shut himself up  in another Castle in Normandy, which the King besieged, and where  Robert one day unhorsed and nearly killed him without knowing who  he was.  His submission when he discovered his father, and the  intercession of the queen and others, reconciled them; but not  soundly; for Robert soon strayed abroad, and went from court to  court with his complaints.  He was a gay, careless, thoughtless  fellow, spending all he got on musicians and dancers; but his  mother loved him, and often, against the King's command, supplied  him with money through a messenger named SAMSON.  At length the  incensed King swore he would tear out Samson's eyes; and Samson,  thinking that his only hope of safety was in becoming a monk,  became one, went on such errands no more, and kept his eyes in his  head.

 

All this time, from the turbulent day of his strange coronation,  the Conqueror had been struggling, you see, at any cost of cruelty  and bloodshed, to maintain what he had seized.  All his reign, he  struggled still, with the same object ever before him.  He was a  stern, bold man, and he succeeded in it.

 

He loved money, and was particular in his eating, but he had only  leisure to indulge one other passion, and that was his love of  hunting.  He carried it to such a height that he ordered whole  villages and towns to be swept away to make forests for the deer.   Not satisfied with sixty-eight Royal Forests, he laid waste an  immense district, to form another in Hampshire, called the New  Forest.  The many thousands of miserable peasants who saw their  little houses pulled down, and themselves and children turned into  the open country without a shelter, detested him for his merciless  addition to their many sufferings; and when, in the twenty-first  year of his reign (which proved to be the last), he went over to  Rouen, England was as full of hatred against him, as if every leaf  on every tree in all his Royal Forests had been a curse upon his  head.  In the New Forest, his son Richard (for he had four sons)  had been gored to death by a Stag; and the people said that this so  cruelly-made Forest would yet be fatal to others of the Conqueror's  race.

 

He was engaged in a dispute with the King of France about some  territory.  While he stayed at Rouen, negotiating with that King,  he kept his bed and took medicines:  being advised by his  physicians to do so, on account of having grown to an unwieldy  size.  Word being brought to him that the King of France made light  of this, and joked about it, he swore in a great rage that he  should rue his jests.  He assembled his army, marched into the  disputed territory, burnt - his old way! - the vines, the crops,  and fruit, and set the town of Mantes on fire.  But, in an evil  hour; for, as he rode over the hot ruins, his horse, setting his  hoofs upon some burning embers, started, threw him forward against  the pommel of the saddle, and gave him a mortal hurt.  For six  weeks he lay dying in a monastery near Rouen, and then made his  will, giving England to William, Normandy to Robert, and five  thousand pounds to Henry.  And now, his violent deeds lay heavy on  his mind.  He ordered money to be given to many English churches  and monasteries, and - which was much better repentance - released  his prisoners of state, some of whom had been confined in his  dungeons twenty years.

 

It was a September morning, and the sun was rising, when the King  was awakened from slumber by the sound of a church bell.  'What  bell is that?' he faintly asked.  They told him it was the bell of  the chapel of Saint Mary.  'I commend my soul,' said he, 'to Mary!'  and died.

 

Think of his name, The Conqueror, and then consider how he lay in  death!  The moment he was dead, his physicians, priests, and  nobles, not knowing what contest for the throne might now take  place, or what might happen in it, hastened away, each man for  himself and his own property; the mercenary servants of the court  began to rob and plunder; the body of the King, in the indecent  strife, was rolled from the bed, and lay alone, for hours, upon the  ground.  O Conqueror, of whom so many great names are proud now, of  whom so many great names thought nothing then, it were better to  have conquered one true heart, than England!

 

By-and-by, the priests came creeping in with prayers and candles;  and a good knight, named HERLUIN, undertook (which no one else  would do) to convey the body to Caen, in Normandy, in order that it  might be buried in St. Stephen's church there, which the Conqueror  had founded.  But fire, of which he had made such bad use in his  life, seemed to follow him of itself in death.  A great  conflagration broke out in the town when the body was placed in the  church; and those present running out to extinguish the flames, it  was once again left alone.

 

It was not even buried in peace.  It was about to be let down, in  its Royal robes, into a tomb near the high altar, in presence of a  great concourse of people, when a loud voice in the crowd cried  out, 'This ground is mine!  Upon it, stood my father's house.  This  King despoiled me of both ground and house to build this church.   In the great name of GOD, I here forbid his body to be covered with  the earth that is my right!'  The priests and bishops present,  knowing the speaker's right, and knowing that the King had often  denied him justice, paid him down sixty shillings for the grave.   Even then, the corpse was not at rest.  The tomb was too small, and  they tried to force it in.  It broke, a dreadful smell arose, the  people hurried out into the air, and, for the third time, it was  left alone.

 

Where were the Conqueror's three sons, that they were not at their  father's burial?  Robert was lounging among minstrels, dancers, and  gamesters, in France or Germany.  Henry was carrying his five  thousand pounds safely away in a convenient chest he had got made.   William the Red was hurrying to England, to lay hands upon the  Royal treasure and the crown.

 


CHAPTER IX - ENGLAND UNDER WILLIAM THE SECOND, CALLED RUFUS

 

WILLIAM THE RED, in breathless haste, secured the three great forts  of Dover, Pevensey, and Hastings, and made with hot speed for  Winchester, where the Royal treasure was kept.  The treasurer  delivering him the keys, he found that it amounted to sixty  thousand pounds in silver, besides gold and jewels.  Possessed of  this wealth, he soon persuaded the Archbishop of Canterbury to  crown him, and became William the Second, King of England.

 

Rufus was no sooner on the throne, than he ordered into prison  again the unhappy state captives whom his father had set free, and  directed a goldsmith to ornament his father's tomb profusely with  gold and silver.  It would have been more dutiful in him to have  attended the sick Conqueror when he was dying; but England itself,  like this Red King, who once governed it, has sometimes made  expensive tombs for dead men whom it treated shabbily when they  were alive.

 

The King's brother, Robert of Normandy, seeming quite content to be  only Duke of that country; and the King's other brother, Fine-Scholar, being quiet enough with his five thousand pounds in a  chest; the King flattered himself, we may suppose, with the hope of  an easy reign.  But easy reigns were difficult to have in those  days.  The turbulent Bishop ODO (who had blessed the Norman army at  the Battle of Hastings, and who, I dare say, took all the credit of  the victory to himself) soon began, in concert with some powerful  Norman nobles, to trouble the Red King.

 

The truth seems to be that this bishop and his friends, who had  lands in England and lands in Normandy, wished to hold both under  one Sovereign; and greatly preferred a thoughtless good-natured  person, such as Robert was, to Rufus; who, though far from being an  amiable man in any respect, was keen, and not to be imposed upon.   They declared in Robert's favour, and retired to their castles  (those castles were very troublesome to kings) in a sullen humour.   The Red King, seeing the Normans thus falling from him, revenged  himself upon them by appealing to the English; to whom he made a  variety of promises, which he never meant to perform - in  particular, promises to soften the cruelty of the Forest Laws; and  who, in return, so aided him with their valour, that ODO was  besieged in the Castle of Rochester, and forced to abandon it, and  to depart from England for ever:  whereupon the other rebellious  Norman nobles were soon reduced and scattered.

 

Then, the Red King went over to Normandy, where the people suffered  greatly under the loose rule of Duke Robert.  The King's object was  to seize upon the Duke's dominions.  This, the Duke, of course,  prepared to resist; and miserable war between the two brothers  seemed inevitable, when the powerful nobles on both sides, who had  seen so much of war, interfered to prevent it.  A treaty was made.   Each of the two brothers agreed to give up something of his claims,  and that the longer-liver of the two should inherit all the  dominions of the other.  When they had come to this loving  understanding, they embraced and joined their forces against Fine-Scholar; who had bought some territory of Robert with a part of his  five thousand pounds, and was considered a dangerous individual in  consequence.

 

St. Michael's Mount, in Normandy (there is another St. Michael's  Mount, in Cornwall, wonderfully like it), was then, as it is now, a  strong place perched upon the top of a high rock, around which,  when the tide is in, the sea flows, leaving no road to the  mainland.  In this place, Fine-Scholar shut himself up with his  soldiers, and here he was closely besieged by his two brothers.  At  one time, when he was reduced to great distress for want of water,  the generous Robert not only permitted his men to get water, but  sent Fine-Scholar wine from his own table; and, on being  remonstrated with by the Red King, said 'What! shall we let our own  brother die of thirst?  Where shall we get another, when he is  gone?'  At another time, the Red King riding alone on the shore of  the bay, looking up at the Castle, was taken by two of Fine-Scholar's men, one of whom was about to kill him, when he cried  out, 'Hold, knave!  I am the King of England!'  The story says that  the soldier raised him from the ground respectfully and humbly, and  that the King took him into his service.  The story may or may not  be true; but at any rate it is true that Fine-Scholar could not  hold out against his united brothers, and that he abandoned Mount  St. Michael, and wandered about - as poor and forlorn as other  scholars have been sometimes known to be.

 

The Scotch became unquiet in the Red King's time, and were twice  defeated - the second time, with the loss of their King, Malcolm,  and his son.  The Welsh became unquiet too.  Against them, Rufus  was less successful; for they fought among their native mountains,  and did great execution on the King's troops.  Robert of Normandy  became unquiet too; and, complaining that his brother the King did  not faithfully perform his part of their agreement, took up arms,  and obtained assistance from the King of France, whom Rufus, in the  end, bought off with vast sums of money.  England became unquiet  too.  Lord Mowbray, the powerful Earl of Northumberland, headed a  great conspiracy to depose the King, and to place upon the throne,  STEPHEN, the Conqueror's near relative.  The plot was discovered;  all the chief conspirators were seized; some were fined, some were  put in prison, some were put to death.  The Earl of Northumberland  himself was shut up in a dungeon beneath Windsor Castle, where he  died, an old man, thirty long years afterwards.  The Priests in  England were more unquiet than any other class or power; for the  Red King treated them with such small ceremony that he refused to  appoint new bishops or archbishops when the old ones died, but kept  all the wealth belonging to those offices in his own hands.  In  return for this, the Priests wrote his life when he was dead, and  abused him well.  I am inclined to think, myself, that there was  little to choose between the Priests and the Red King; that both  sides were greedy and designing; and that they were fairly matched.

 

The Red King was false of heart, selfish, covetous, and mean.  He  had a worthy minister in his favourite, Ralph, nicknamed - for  almost every famous person had a nickname in those rough days -  Flambard, or the Firebrand.  Once, the King being ill, became  penitent, and made ANSELM, a foreign priest and a good man,  Archbishop of Canterbury.  But he no sooner got well again than he  repented of his repentance, and persisted in wrongfully keeping to  himself some of the wealth belonging to the archbishopric.  This  led to violent disputes, which were aggravated by there being in  Rome at that time two rival Popes; each of whom declared he was the  only real original infallible Pope, who couldn't make a mistake.   At last, Anselm, knowing the Red King's character, and not feeling  himself safe in England, asked leave to return abroad.  The Red  King gladly gave it; for he knew that as soon as Anselm was gone,  he could begin to store up all the Canterbury money again, for his  own use.

 

By such means, and by taxing and oppressing the English people in  every possible way, the Red King became very rich.  When he wanted  money for any purpose, he raised it by some means or other, and  cared nothing for the injustice he did, or the misery he caused.   Having the opportunity of buying from Robert the whole duchy of  Normandy for five years, he taxed the English people more than  ever, and made the very convents sell their plate and valuables to  supply him with the means to make the purchase.  But he was as  quick and eager in putting down revolt as he was in raising money;  for, a part of the Norman people objecting - very naturally, I  think - to being sold in this way, he headed an army against them  with all the speed and energy of his father.  He was so impatient,  that he embarked for Normandy in a great gale of wind.  And when  the sailors told him it was dangerous to go to sea in such angry  weather, he replied, 'Hoist sail and away!  Did you ever hear of a  king who was drowned?'

 

You will wonder how it was that even the careless Robert came to  sell his dominions.  It happened thus.  It had long been the custom  for many English people to make journeys to Jerusalem, which were  called pilgrimages, in order that they might pray beside the tomb  of Our Saviour there.  Jerusalem belonging to the Turks, and the  Turks hating Christianity, these Christian travellers were often  insulted and ill used.  The Pilgrims bore it patiently for some  time, but at length a remarkable man, of great earnestness and  eloquence, called PETER THE HERMIT, began to preach in various  places against the Turks, and to declare that it was the duty of  good Christians to drive away those unbelievers from the tomb of  Our Saviour, and to take possession of it, and protect it.  An  excitement such as the world had never known before was created.   Thousands and thousands of men of all ranks and conditions departed  for Jerusalem to make war against the Turks.  The war is called in  history the first Crusade, and every Crusader wore a cross marked  on his right shoulder.

 

All the Crusaders were not zealous Christians.  Among them were  vast numbers of the restless, idle, profligate, and adventurous  spirit of the time.  Some became Crusaders for the love of change;  some, in the hope of plunder; some, because they had nothing to do  at home; some, because they did what the priests told them; some,  because they liked to see foreign countries; some, because they  were fond of knocking men about, and would as soon knock a Turk  about as a Christian.  Robert of Normandy may have been influenced  by all these motives; and by a kind desire, besides, to save the  Christian Pilgrims from bad treatment in future.  He wanted to  raise a number of armed men, and to go to the Crusade.  He could  not do so without money.  He had no money; and he sold his  dominions to his brother, the Red King, for five years.  With the  large sum he thus obtained, he fitted out his Crusaders gallantly,  and went away to Jerusalem in martial state.  The Red King, who  made money out of everything, stayed at home, busily squeezing more  money out of Normans and English.

 

After three years of great hardship and suffering - from shipwreck  at sea; from travel in strange lands; from hunger, thirst, and  fever, upon the burning sands of the desert; and from the fury of  the Turks - the valiant Crusaders got possession of Our Saviour's  tomb.  The Turks were still resisting and fighting bravely, but  this success increased the general desire in Europe to join the  Crusade.  Another great French Duke was proposing to sell his  dominions for a term to the rich Red King, when the Red King's  reign came to a sudden and violent end.

 

You have not forgotten the New Forest which the Conqueror made, and  which the miserable people whose homes he had laid waste, so hated.   The cruelty of the Forest Laws, and the torture and death they  brought upon the peasantry, increased this hatred.  The poor  persecuted country people believed that the New Forest was  enchanted.  They said that in thunder-storms, and on dark nights,  demons appeared, moving beneath the branches of the gloomy trees.   They said that a terrible spectre had foretold to Norman hunters  that the Red King should be punished there.  And now, in the  pleasant season of May, when the Red King had reigned almost  thirteen years; and a second Prince of the Conqueror's blood -  another Richard, the son of Duke Robert - was killed by an arrow in  this dreaded Forest; the people said that the second time was not  the last, and that there was another death to come.

 

It was a lonely forest, accursed in the people's hearts for the  wicked deeds that had been done to make it; and no man save the  King and his Courtiers and Huntsmen, liked to stray there.  But, in  reality, it was like any other forest.  In the spring, the green  leaves broke out of the buds; in the summer, flourished heartily,  and made deep shades; in the winter, shrivelled and blew down, and  lay in brown heaps on the moss.  Some trees were stately, and grew  high and strong; some had fallen of themselves; some were felled by  the forester's axe; some were hollow, and the rabbits burrowed at  their roots; some few were struck by lightning, and stood white and  bare.  There were hill-sides covered with rich fern, on which the  morning dew so beautifully sparkled; there were brooks, where the  deer went down to drink, or over which the whole herd bounded,  flying from the arrows of the huntsmen; there were sunny glades,  and solemn places where but little light came through the rustling  leaves.  The songs of the birds in the New Forest were pleasanter  to hear than the shouts of fighting men outside; and even when the  Red King and his Court came hunting through its solitudes, cursing  loud and riding hard, with a jingling of stirrups and bridles and  knives and daggers, they did much less harm there than among the  English or Normans, and the stags died (as they lived) far easier  than the people.

 

Upon a day in August, the Red King, now reconciled to his brother,  Fine-Scholar, came with a great train to hunt in the New Forest.   Fine-Scholar was of the party.  They were a merry party, and had  lain all night at Malwood-Keep, a hunting-lodge in the forest,  where they had made good cheer, both at supper and breakfast, and  had drunk a deal of wine.  The party dispersed in various  directions, as the custom of hunters then was.  The King took with  him only SIR WALTER TYRREL, who was a famous sportsman, and to whom  he had given, before they mounted horse that morning, two fine  arrows.

 

The last time the King was ever seen alive, he was riding with Sir  Walter Tyrrel, and their dogs were hunting together.

 

It was almost night, when a poor charcoal-burner, passing through  the forest with his cart, came upon the solitary body of a dead  man, shot with an arrow in the breast, and still bleeding.  He got  it into his cart.  It was the body of the King.  Shaken and  tumbled, with its red beard all whitened with lime and clotted with  blood, it was driven in the cart by the charcoal-burner next day to  Winchester Cathedral, where it was received and buried.

 

Sir Walter Tyrrel, who escaped to Normandy, and claimed the  protection of the King of France, swore in France that the Red King  was suddenly shot dead by an arrow from an unseen hand, while they  were hunting together; that he was fearful of being suspected as  the King's murderer; and that he instantly set spurs to his horse,  and fled to the sea-shore.  Others declared that the King and Sir  Walter Tyrrel were hunting in company, a little before sunset,  standing in bushes opposite one another, when a stag came between  them.  That the King drew his bow and took aim, but the string  broke.  That the King then cried, 'Shoot, Walter, in the Devil's  name!'  That Sir Walter shot.  That the arrow glanced against a  tree, was turned aside from the stag, and struck the King from his  horse, dead.

 

By whose hand the Red King really fell, and whether that hand  despatched the arrow to his breast by accident or by design, is  only known to GOD.  Some think his brother may have caused him to  be killed; but the Red King had made so many enemies, both among  priests and people, that suspicion may reasonably rest upon a less  unnatural murderer.  Men know no more than that he was found dead  in the New Forest, which the suffering people had regarded as a  doomed ground for his race.

 


CHAPTER X - ENGLAND UNDER HENRY THE FIRST, CALLED FINE-SCHOLAR

 

FINE-SCHOLAR, on hearing of the Red King's death, hurried to  Winchester with as much speed as Rufus himself had made, to seize  the Royal treasure.  But the keeper of the treasure who had been  one of the hunting-party in the Forest, made haste to Winchester  too, and, arriving there at about the same time, refused to yield  it up.  Upon this, Fine-Scholar drew his sword, and threatened to  kill the treasurer; who might have paid for his fidelity with his  life, but that he knew longer resistance to be useless when he  found the Prince supported by a company of powerful barons, who  declared they were determined to make him King.  The treasurer,  therefore, gave up the money and jewels of the Crown:  and on the  third day after the death of the Red King, being a Sunday, Fine-Scholar stood before the high altar in Westminster Abbey, and made  a solemn declaration that he would resign the Church property which  his brother had seized; that he would do no wrong to the nobles;  and that he would restore to the people the laws of Edward the  Confessor, with all the improvements of William the Conqueror.  So  began the reign of KING HENRY THE FIRST.

 

The people were attached to their new King, both because he had  known distresses, and because he was an Englishman by birth and not  a Norman.  To strengthen this last hold upon them, the King wished  to marry an English lady; and could think of no other wife than  MAUD THE GOOD, the daughter of the King of Scotland.  Although this  good Princess did not love the King, she was so affected by the  representations the nobles made to her of the great charity it  would be in her to unite the Norman and Saxon races, and prevent  hatred and bloodshed between them for the future, that she  consented to become his wife.  After some disputing among the  priests, who said that as she had been in a convent in her youth,  and had worn the veil of a nun, she could not lawfully be married -  against which the Princess stated that her aunt, with whom she had  lived in her youth, had indeed sometimes thrown a piece of black  stuff over her, but for no other reason than because the nun's veil  was the only dress the conquering Normans respected in girl or  woman, and not because she had taken the vows of a nun, which she  never had - she was declared free to marry, and was made King  Henry's Queen.  A good Queen she was; beautiful, kind-hearted, and  worthy of a better husband than the King.

 

For he was a cunning and unscrupulous man, though firm and clever.   He cared very little for his word, and took any means to gain his  ends.  All this is shown in his treatment of his brother Robert -  Robert, who had suffered him to be refreshed with water, and who  had sent him the wine from his own table, when he was shut up, with  the crows flying below him, parched with thirst, in the castle on  the top of St. Michael's Mount, where his Red brother would have  let him die.

 

Before the King began to deal with Robert, he removed and disgraced  all the favourites of the late King; who were for the most part  base characters, much detested by the people.  Flambard, or  Firebrand, whom the late King had made Bishop of Durham, of all  things in the world, Henry imprisoned in the Tower; but Firebrand  was a great joker and a jolly companion, and made himself so  popular with his guards that they pretended to know nothing about a  long rope that was sent into his prison at the bottom of a deep  flagon of wine.  The guards took the wine, and Firebrand took the  rope; with which, when they were fast asleep, he let himself down  from a window in the night, and so got cleverly aboard ship and  away to Normandy.

 

Now Robert, when his brother Fine-Scholar came to the throne, was  still absent in the Holy Land.  Henry pretended that Robert had  been made Sovereign of that country; and he had been away so long,  that the ignorant people believed it.  But, behold, when Henry had  been some time King of England, Robert came home to Normandy;  having leisurely returned from Jerusalem through Italy, in which  beautiful country he had enjoyed himself very much, and had married  a lady as beautiful as itself!  In Normandy, he found Firebrand  waiting to urge him to assert his claim to the English crown, and  declare war against King Henry.  This, after great loss of time in  feasting and dancing with his beautiful Italian wife among his  Norman friends, he at last did.

 

The English in general were on King Henry's side, though many of  the Normans were on Robert's.  But the English sailors deserted the  King, and took a great part of the English fleet over to Normandy;  so that Robert came to invade this country in no foreign vessels,  but in English ships.  The virtuous Anselm, however, whom Henry had  invited back from abroad, and made Archbishop of Canterbury, was  steadfast in the King's cause; and it was so well supported that  the two armies, instead of fighting, made a peace.  Poor Robert,  who trusted anybody and everybody, readily trusted his brother, the  King; and agreed to go home and receive a pension from England, on  condition that all his followers were fully pardoned.  This the  King very faithfully promised, but Robert was no sooner gone than  he began to punish them.

 

Among them was the Earl of Shrewsbury, who, on being summoned by  the King to answer to five-and-forty accusations, rode away to one  of his strong castles, shut himself up therein, called around him  his tenants and vassals, and fought for his liberty, but was  defeated and banished.  Robert, with all his faults, was so true to  his word, that when he first heard of this nobleman having risen  against his brother, he laid waste the Earl of Shrewsbury's estates  in Normandy, to show the King that he would favour no breach of  their treaty.  Finding, on better information, afterwards, that the  Earl's only crime was having been his friend, he came over to  England, in his old thoughtless, warm-hearted way, to intercede  with the King, and remind him of the solemn promise to pardon all  his followers.

 

This confidence might have put the false King to the blush, but it  did not.  Pretending to be very friendly, he so surrounded his  brother with spies and traps, that Robert, who was quite in his  power, had nothing for it but to renounce his pension and escape  while he could.  Getting home to Normandy, and understanding the  King better now, he naturally allied himself with his old friend  the Earl of Shrewsbury, who had still thirty castles in that  country.  This was exactly what Henry wanted.  He immediately  declared that Robert had broken the treaty, and next year invaded  Normandy.

 

He pretended that he came to deliver the Normans, at their own  request, from his brother's misrule.  There is reason to fear that  his misrule was bad enough; for his beautiful wife had died,  leaving him with an infant son, and his court was again so  careless, dissipated, and ill-regulated, that it was said he  sometimes lay in bed of a day for want of clothes to put on - his  attendants having stolen all his dresses.  But he headed his army  like a brave prince and a gallant soldier, though he had the  misfortune to be taken prisoner by King Henry, with four hundred of  his Knights.  Among them was poor harmless Edgar Atheling, who  loved Robert well.  Edgar was not important enough to be severe  with.  The King afterwards gave him a small pension, which he lived  upon and died upon, in peace, among the quiet woods and fields of  England.

 

And Robert - poor, kind, generous, wasteful, heedless Robert, with  so many faults, and yet with virtues that might have made a better  and a happier man - what was the end of him?  If the King had had  the magnanimity to say with a kind air, 'Brother, tell me, before  these noblemen, that from this time you will be my faithful  follower and friend, and never raise your hand against me or my  forces more!' he might have trusted Robert to the death.  But the  King was not a magnanimous man.  He sentenced his brother to be  confined for life in one of the Royal Castles.  In the beginning of  his imprisonment, he was allowed to ride out, guarded; but he one  day broke away from his guard and galloped of.  He had the evil  fortune to ride into a swamp, where his horse stuck fast and he was  taken.  When the King heard of it he ordered him to be blinded,  which was done by putting a red-hot metal basin on his eyes.

 

And so, in darkness and in prison, many years, he thought of all  his past life, of the time he had wasted, of the treasure he had  squandered, of the opportunities he had lost, of the youth he had  thrown away, of the talents he had neglected.  Sometimes, on fine  autumn mornings, he would sit and think of the old hunting parties  in the free Forest, where he had been the foremost and the gayest.   Sometimes, in the still nights, he would wake, and mourn for the  many nights that had stolen past him at the gaming-table;  sometimes, would seem to hear, upon the melancholy wind, the old  songs of the minstrels; sometimes, would dream, in his blindness,  of the light and glitter of the Norman Court.  Many and many a  time, he groped back, in his fancy, to Jerusalem, where he had  fought so well; or, at the head of his brave companions, bowed his  feathered helmet to the shouts of welcome greeting him in Italy,  and seemed again to walk among the sunny vineyards, or on the shore  of the blue sea, with his lovely wife.  And then, thinking of her  grave, and of his fatherless boy, he would stretch out his solitary  arms and weep.

 

At length, one day, there lay in prison, dead, with cruel and  disfiguring scars upon his eyelids, bandaged from his jailer's  sight, but on which the eternal Heavens looked down, a worn old man  of eighty.  He had once been Robert of Normandy.  Pity him!

 

At the time when Robert of Normandy was taken prisoner by his  brother, Robert's little son was only five years old.  This child  was taken, too, and carried before the King, sobbing and crying;  for, young as he was, he knew he had good reason to be afraid of  his Royal uncle.  The King was not much accustomed to pity those  who were in his power, but his cold heart seemed for the moment to  soften towards the boy.  He was observed to make a great effort, as  if to prevent himself from being cruel, and ordered the child to be  taken away; whereupon a certain Baron, who had married a daughter  of Duke Robert's (by name, Helie of Saint Saen), took charge of  him, tenderly.  The King's gentleness did not last long.  Before  two years were over, he sent messengers to this lord's Castle to  seize the child and bring him away.  The Baron was not there at the  time, but his servants were faithful, and carried the boy off in  his sleep and hid him.  When the Baron came home, and was told what  the King had done, he took the child abroad, and, leading him by  the hand, went from King to King and from Court to Court, relating  how the child had a claim to the throne of England, and how his  uncle the King, knowing that he had that claim, would have murdered  him, perhaps, but for his escape.

 

The youth and innocence of the pretty little WILLIAM FITZ-ROBERT  (for that was his name) made him many friends at that time.  When  he became a young man, the King of France, uniting with the French  Counts of Anjou and Flanders, supported his cause against the King  of England, and took many of the King's towns and castles in  Normandy.  But, King Henry, artful and cunning always, bribed some  of William's friends with money, some with promises, some with  power.  He bought off the Count of Anjou, by promising to marry his  eldest son, also named WILLIAM, to the Count's daughter; and indeed  the whole trust of this King's life was in such bargains, and he  believed (as many another King has done since, and as one King did  in France a very little time ago) that every man's truth and honour  can be bought at some price.  For all this, he was so afraid of  William Fitz-Robert and his friends, that, for a long time, he  believed his life to be in danger; and never lay down to sleep,  even in his palace surrounded by his guards, without having a sword  and buckler at his bedside.

 

To strengthen his power, the King with great ceremony betrothed his  eldest daughter MATILDA, then a child only eight years old, to be  the wife of Henry the Fifth, the Emperor of Germany.  To raise her  marriage-portion, he taxed the English people in a most oppressive  manner; then treated them to a great procession, to restore their  good humour; and sent Matilda away, in fine state, with the German  ambassadors, to be educated in the country of her future husband.

 

And now his Queen, Maud the Good, unhappily died.  It was a sad  thought for that gentle lady, that the only hope with which she had  married a man whom she had never loved - the hope of reconciling  the Norman and English races - had failed.  At the very time of her  death, Normandy and all France was in arms against England; for, so  soon as his last danger was over, King Henry had been false to all  the French powers he had promised, bribed, and bought, and they had  naturally united against him.  After some fighting, however, in  which few suffered but the unhappy common people (who always  suffered, whatsoever was the matter), he began to promise, bribe,  and buy again; and by those means, and by the help of the Pope, who  exerted himself to save more bloodshed, and by solemnly declaring,  over and over again, that he really was in earnest this time, and  would keep his word, the King made peace.

 

One of the first consequences of this peace was, that the King went  over to Normandy with his son Prince William and a great retinue,  to have the Prince acknowledged as his successor by the Norman  Nobles, and to contract the promised marriage (this was one of the  many promises the King had broken) between him and the daughter of  the Count of Anjou.  Both these things were triumphantly done, with  great show and rejoicing; and on the twenty-fifth of November, in  the year one thousand one hundred and twenty, the whole retinue  prepared to embark at the Port of Barfleur, for the voyage home.

 

On that day, and at that place, there came to the King, Fitz-Stephen, a sea-captain, and said:

 

'My liege, my father served your father all his life, upon the sea.   He steered the ship with the golden boy upon the prow, in which  your father sailed to conquer England.  I beseech you to grant me  the same office.  I have a fair vessel in the harbour here, called  The White Ship, manned by fifty sailors of renown.  I pray you,  Sire, to let your servant have the honour of steering you in The  White Ship to England!'

 

'I am sorry, friend,' replied the King, 'that my vessel is already  chosen, and that I cannot (therefore) sail with the son of the man  who served my father.  But the Prince and all his company shall go  along with you, in the fair White Ship, manned by the fifty sailors  of renown.'

 

An hour or two afterwards, the King set sail in the vessel he had  chosen, accompanied by other vessels, and, sailing all night with a  fair and gentle wind, arrived upon the coast of England in the  morning.  While it was yet night, the people in some of those ships  heard a faint wild cry come over the sea, and wondered what it was.

 

Now, the Prince was a dissolute, debauched young man of eighteen,  who bore no love to the English, and had declared that when he came  to the throne he would yoke them to the plough like oxen.  He went  aboard The White Ship, with one hundred and forty youthful Nobles  like himself, among whom were eighteen noble ladies of the highest  rank.  All this gay company, with their servants and the fifty  sailors, made three hundred souls aboard the fair White Ship.

 

'Give three casks of wine, Fitz-Stephen,' said the Prince, 'to the  fifty sailors of renown!  My father the King has sailed out of the  harbour.  What time is there to make merry here, and yet reach  England with the rest?'

 

'Prince!' said Fitz-Stephen, 'before morning, my fifty and The  White Ship shall overtake the swiftest vessel in attendance on your  father the King, if we sail at midnight!'

 

Then the Prince commanded to make merry; and the sailors drank out  the three casks of wine; and the Prince and all the noble company  danced in the moonlight on the deck of The White Ship.

 

When, at last, she shot out of the harbour of Barfleur, there was  not a sober seaman on board.  But the sails were all set, and the  oars all going merrily.  Fitz-Stephen had the helm.  The gay young  nobles and the beautiful ladies, wrapped in mantles of various  bright colours to protect them from the cold, talked, laughed, and  sang.  The Prince encouraged the fifty sailors to row harder yet,  for the honour of The White Ship.

 

Crash!  A terrific cry broke from three hundred hearts.  It was the  cry the people in the distant vessels of the King heard faintly on  the water.  The White Ship had struck upon a rock - was filling -  going down!

 

Fitz-Stephen hurried the Prince into a boat, with some few Nobles.   'Push off,' he whispered; 'and row to land.  It is not far, and the  sea is smooth.  The rest of us must die.'

 

But, as they rowed away, fast, from the sinking ship, the Prince  heard the voice of his sister MARIE, the Countess of Perche,  calling for help.  He never in his life had been so good as he was  then.  He cried in an agony, 'Row back at any risk!  I cannot bear  to leave her!'

 

They rowed back.  As the Prince held out his arms to catch his  sister, such numbers leaped in, that the boat was overset.  And in  the same instant The White Ship went down.

 

Only two men floated.  They both clung to the main yard of the  ship, which had broken from the mast, and now supported them.  One  asked the other who he was?  He said, 'I am a nobleman, GODFREY by  name, the son of GILBERT DE L'AIGLE.  And you?' said he.  'I am  BEROLD, a poor butcher of Rouen,' was the answer.  Then, they said  together, 'Lord be merciful to us both!' and tried to encourage one  another, as they drifted in the cold benumbing sea on that  unfortunate November night.

 

By-and-by, another man came swimming towards them, whom they knew,  when he pushed aside his long wet hair, to be Fitz-Stephen.  'Where  is the Prince?' said he.  'Gone! Gone!' the two cried together.   'Neither he, nor his brother, nor his sister, nor the King's niece,  nor her brother, nor any one of all the brave three hundred, noble  or commoner, except we three, has risen above the water!'  Fitz-Stephen, with a ghastly face, cried, 'Woe! woe, to me!' and sunk to  the bottom.

 

The other two clung to the yard for some hours.  At length the  young noble said faintly, 'I am exhausted, and chilled with the  cold, and can hold no longer.  Farewell, good friend!  God preserve  you!'  So, he dropped and sunk; and of all the brilliant crowd, the  poor Butcher of Rouen alone was saved.  In the morning, some  fishermen saw him floating in his sheep-skin coat, and got him into  their boat - the sole relater of the dismal tale.

 

For three days, no one dared to carry the intelligence to the King.   At length, they sent into his presence a little boy, who, weeping  bitterly, and kneeling at his feet, told him that The White Ship  was lost with all on board.  The King fell to the ground like a  dead man, and never, never afterwards, was seen to smile.

 

But he plotted again, and promised again, and bribed and bought  again, in his old deceitful way.  Having no son to succeed him,  after all his pains ('The Prince will never yoke us to the plough,  now!' said the English people), he took a second wife - ADELAIS or  ALICE, a duke's daughter, and the Pope's niece.  Having no more  children, however, he proposed to the Barons to swear that they  would recognise as his successor, his daughter Matilda, whom, as  she was now a widow, he married to the eldest son of the Count of  Anjou, GEOFFREY, surnamed PLANTAGENET, from a custom he had of  wearing a sprig of flowering broom (called Genˆt in French) in his  cap for a feather.  As one false man usually makes many, and as a  false King, in particular, is pretty certain to make a false Court,  the Barons took the oath about the succession of Matilda (and her  children after her), twice over, without in the least intending to  keep it.  The King was now relieved from any remaining fears of  William Fitz-Robert, by his death in the Monastery of St. Omer, in  France, at twenty-six years old, of a pike-wound in the hand.  And  as Matilda gave birth to three sons, he thought the succession to  the throne secure.

 

He spent most of the latter part of his life, which was troubled by  family quarrels, in Normandy, to be near Matilda.  When he had  reigned upward of thirty-five years, and was sixty-seven years old,  he died of an indigestion and fever, brought on by eating, when he  was far from well, of a fish called Lamprey, against which he had  often been cautioned by his physicians.  His remains were brought  over to Reading Abbey to be buried.

 

You may perhaps hear the cunning and promise-breaking of King Henry  the First, called 'policy' by some people, and 'diplomacy' by  others.  Neither of these fine words will in the least mean that it  was true; and nothing that is not true can possibly be good.

 

His greatest merit, that I know of, was his love of learning - I  should have given him greater credit even for that, if it had been  strong enough to induce him to spare the eyes of a certain poet he  once took prisoner, who was a knight besides.  But he ordered the  poet's eyes to be torn from his head, because he had laughed at him  in his verses; and the poet, in the pain of that torture, dashed  out his own brains against his prison wall.  King Henry the First  was avaricious, revengeful, and so false, that I suppose a man  never lived whose word was less to be relied upon.

 


CHAPTER XI - ENGLAND UNDER MATILDA AND STEPHEN

 

THE King was no sooner dead than all the plans and schemes he had  laboured at so long, and lied so much for, crumbled away like a  hollow heap of sand.  STEPHEN, whom he had never mistrusted or  suspected, started up to claim the throne.

 

Stephen was the son of ADELA, the Conqueror's daughter, married to  the Count of Blois.  To Stephen, and to his brother HENRY, the late  King had been liberal; making Henry Bishop of Winchester, and  finding a good marriage for Stephen, and much enriching him.  This  did not prevent Stephen from hastily producing a false witness, a  servant of the late King, to swear that the King had named him for  his heir upon his death-bed.  On this evidence the Archbishop of  Canterbury crowned him.  The new King, so suddenly made, lost not a  moment in seizing the Royal treasure, and hiring foreign soldiers  with some of it to protect his throne.

 

If the dead King had even done as the false witness said, he would  have had small right to will away the English people, like so many  sheep or oxen, without their consent.  But he had, in fact,  bequeathed all his territory to Matilda; who, supported by ROBERT,  Earl of Gloucester, soon began to dispute the crown.  Some of the  powerful barons and priests took her side; some took Stephen's; all  fortified their castles; and again the miserable English people  were involved in war, from which they could never derive advantage  whosoever was victorious, and in which all parties plundered,  tortured, starved, and ruined them.

 

Five years had passed since the death of Henry the First - and  during those five years there had been two terrible invasions by  the people of Scotland under their King, David, who was at last  defeated with all his army - when Matilda, attended by her brother  Robert and a large force, appeared in England to maintain her  claim.  A battle was fought between her troops and King Stephen's  at Lincoln; in which the King himself was taken prisoner, after  bravely fighting until his battle-axe and sword were broken, and  was carried into strict confinement at Gloucester.  Matilda then  submitted herself to the Priests, and the Priests crowned her Queen  of England.

 

She did not long enjoy this dignity.  The people of London had a  great affection for Stephen; many of the Barons considered it  degrading to be ruled by a woman; and the Queen's temper was so  haughty that she made innumerable enemies.  The people of London  revolted; and, in alliance with the troops of Stephen, besieged her  at Winchester, where they took her brother Robert prisoner, whom,  as her best soldier and chief general, she was glad to exchange for  Stephen himself, who thus regained his liberty.  Then, the long war  went on afresh.  Once, she was pressed so hard in the Castle of  Oxford, in the winter weather when the snow lay thick upon the  ground, that her only chance of escape was to dress herself all in  white, and, accompanied by no more than three faithful Knights,  dressed in like manner that their figures might not be seen from  Stephen's camp as they passed over the snow, to steal away on foot,  cross the frozen Thames, walk a long distance, and at last gallop

 

away on horseback.  All this she did, but to no great purpose then;  for her brother dying while the struggle was yet going on, she at  last withdrew to Normandy.

 

In two or three years after her withdrawal her cause appeared in  England, afresh, in the person of her son Henry, young Plantagenet,  who, at only eighteen years of age, was very powerful:  not only on  account of his mother having resigned all Normandy to him, but also  from his having married ELEANOR, the divorced wife of the French  King, a bad woman, who had great possessions in France.  Louis, the  French King, not relishing this arrangement, helped EUSTACE, King  Stephen's son, to invade Normandy:  but Henry drove their united  forces out of that country, and then returned here, to assist his  partisans, whom the King was then besieging at Wallingford upon the  Thames.  Here, for two days, divided only by the river, the two  armies lay encamped opposite to one another - on the eve, as it  seemed to all men, of another desperate fight, when the EARL OF  ARUNDEL took heart and said 'that it was not reasonable to prolong  the unspeakable miseries of two kingdoms to minister to the  ambition of two princes.'

 

Many other noblemen repeating and supporting this when it was once  uttered, Stephen and young Plantagenet went down, each to his own  bank of the river, and held a conversation across it, in which they  arranged a truce; very much to the dissatisfaction of Eustace, who  swaggered away with some followers, and laid violent hands on the  Abbey of St. Edmund's-Bury, where he presently died mad.  The truce  led to a solemn council at Winchester, in which it was agreed that  Stephen should retain the crown, on condition of his declaring  Henry his successor; that WILLIAM, another son of the King's,  should inherit his father's rightful possessions; and that all the  Crown lands which Stephen had given away should be recalled, and  all the Castles he had permitted to be built demolished.  Thus  terminated the bitter war, which had now lasted fifteen years, and  had again laid England waste.  In the next year STEPHEN died, after  a troubled reign of nineteen years.

 

Although King Stephen was, for the time in which he lived, a humane  and moderate man, with many excellent qualities; and although  nothing worse is known of him than his usurpation of the Crown,  which he probably excused to himself by the consideration that King  Henry the First was a usurper too - which was no excuse at all; the  people of England suffered more in these dread nineteen years, than  at any former period even of their suffering history.  In the  division of the nobility between the two rival claimants of the  Crown, and in the growth of what is called the Feudal System (which  made the peasants the born vassals and mere slaves of the Barons),  every Noble had his strong Castle, where he reigned the cruel king  of all the neighbouring people.  Accordingly, he perpetrated  whatever cruelties he chose.  And never were worse cruelties  committed upon earth than in wretched England in those nineteen  years.

 

The writers who were living then describe them fearfully.  They say  that the castles were filled with devils rather than with men; that  the peasants, men and women, were put into dungeons for their gold  and silver, were tortured with fire and smoke, were hung up by the  thumbs, were hung up by the heels with great weights to their  heads, were torn with jagged irons, killed with hunger, broken to  death in narrow chests filled with sharp-pointed stones, murdered  in countless fiendish ways.  In England there was no corn, no meat,  no cheese, no butter, there were no tilled lands, no harvests.   Ashes of burnt towns, and dreary wastes, were all that the  traveller, fearful of the robbers who prowled abroad at all hours,  would see in a long day's journey; and from sunrise until night, he  would not come upon a home.

 

The clergy sometimes suffered, and heavily too, from pillage, but  many of them had castles of their own, and fought in helmet and  armour like the barons, and drew lots with other fighting men for  their share of booty.  The Pope (or Bishop of Rome), on King  Stephen's resisting his ambition, laid England under an Interdict  at one period of this reign; which means that he allowed no service  to be performed in the churches, no couples to be married, no bells  to be rung, no dead bodies to be buried.  Any man having the power  to refuse these things, no matter whether he were called a Pope or  a Poulterer, would, of course, have the power of afflicting numbers  of innocent people.  That nothing might be wanting to the miseries  of King Stephen's time, the Pope threw in this contribution to the  public store - not very like the widow's contribution, as I think,  when Our Saviour sat in Jerusalem over-against the Treasury, 'and  she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.'

 


CHAPTER XII - ENGLAND UNDER HENRY THE SECOND - PART THE FIRST

 

HENRY PLANTAGENET, when he was but twenty-one years old, quietly  succeeded to the throne of England, according to his agreement made  with the late King at Winchester.  Six weeks after Stephen's death,  he and his Queen, Eleanor, were crowned in that city; into which  they rode on horseback in great state, side by side, amidst much  shouting and rejoicing, and clashing of music, and strewing of  flowers.

 

The reign of King Henry the Second began well.  The King had great  possessions, and (what with his own rights, and what with those of  his wife) was lord of one-third part of France.  He was a young man  of vigour, ability, and resolution, and immediately applied himself  to remove some of the evils which had arisen in the last unhappy  reign.  He revoked all the grants of land that had been hastily  made, on either side, during the late struggles; he obliged numbers  of disorderly soldiers to depart from England; he reclaimed all the  castles belonging to the Crown; and he forced the wicked nobles to  pull down their own castles, to the number of eleven hundred, in  which such dismal cruelties had been inflicted on the people.  The  King's brother, GEOFFREY, rose against him in France, while he was  so well employed, and rendered it necessary for him to repair to  that country; where, after he had subdued and made a friendly  arrangement with his brother (who did not live long), his ambition  to increase his possessions involved him in a war with the French  King, Louis, with whom he had been on such friendly terms just  before, that to the French King's infant daughter, then a baby in  the cradle, he had promised one of his little sons in marriage, who  was a child of five years old.  However, the war came to nothing at  last, and the Pope made the two Kings friends again.

 

Now, the clergy, in the troubles of the last reign, had gone on  very ill indeed.  There were all kinds of criminals among them -  murderers, thieves, and vagabonds; and the worst of the matter was,  that the good priests would not give up the bad priests to justice,  when they committed crimes, but persisted in sheltering and  defending them.  The King, well knowing that there could be no  peace or rest in England while such things lasted, resolved to  reduce the power of the clergy; and, when he had reigned seven  years, found (as he considered) a good opportunity for doing so, in  the death of the Archbishop of Canterbury.  'I will have for the  new Archbishop,' thought the King, 'a friend in whom I can trust,  who will help me to humble these rebellious priests, and to have  them dealt with, when they do wrong, as other men who do wrong are  dealt with.'  So, he resolved to make his favourite, the new  Archbishop; and this favourite was so extraordinary a man, and his  story is so curious, that I must tell you all about him.

 

Once upon a time, a worthy merchant of London, named GILBERT A  BECKET, made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and was taken prisoner  by a Saracen lord.  This lord, who treated him kindly and not like  a slave, had one fair daughter, who fell in love with the merchant;  and who told him that she wanted to become a Christian, and was  willing to marry him if they could fly to a Christian country.  The  merchant returned her love, until he found an opportunity to  escape, when he did not trouble himself about the Saracen lady, but  escaped with his servant Richard, who had been taken prisoner along  with him, and arrived in England and forgot her.  The Saracen lady,  who was more loving than the merchant, left her father's house in  disguise to follow him, and made her way, under many hardships, to  the sea-shore.  The merchant had taught her only two English words  (for I suppose he must have learnt the Saracen tongue himself, and  made love in that language), of which LONDON was one, and his own  name, GILBERT, the other.  She went among the ships, saying,  'London! London!' over and over again, until the sailors understood  that she wanted to find an English vessel that would carry her  there; so they showed her such a ship, and she paid for her passage  with some of her jewels, and sailed away.  Well!  The merchant was  sitting in his counting-house in London one day, when he heard a  great noise in the street; and presently Richard came running in  from the warehouse, with his eyes wide open and his breath almost  gone, saying, 'Master, master, here is the Saracen lady!'  The  merchant thought Richard was mad; but Richard said, 'No, master!   As I live, the Saracen lady is going up and down the city, calling  Gilbert!  Gilbert!'  Then, he took the merchant by the sleeve, and  pointed out of window; and there they saw her among the gables and  water-spouts of the dark, dirty street, in her foreign dress, so  forlorn, surrounded by a wondering crowd, and passing slowly along,  calling Gilbert, Gilbert!  When the merchant saw her, and thought  of the tenderness she had shown him in his captivity, and of her  constancy, his heart was moved, and he ran down into the street;  and she saw him coming, and with a great cry fainted in his arms.   They were married without loss of time, and Richard (who was an  excellent man) danced with joy the whole day of the wedding; and  they all lived happy ever afterwards.

 

This merchant and this Saracen lady had one son, THOMAS A BECKET.   He it was who became the Favourite of King Henry the Second.

 

He had become Chancellor, when the King thought of making him  Archbishop.  He was clever, gay, well educated, brave; had fought  in several battles in France; had defeated a French knight in  single combat, and brought his horse away as a token of the  victory.  He lived in a noble palace, he was the tutor of the young  Prince Henry, he was served by one hundred and forty knights, his  riches were immense.  The King once sent him as his ambassador to  France; and the French people, beholding in what state he  travelled, cried out in the streets, 'How splendid must the King of  England be, when this is only the Chancellor!'  They had good  reason to wonder at the magnificence of Thomas a Becket, for, when  he entered a French town, his procession was headed by two hundred  and fifty singing boys; then, came his hounds in couples; then,  eight waggons, each drawn by five horses driven by five drivers:   two of the waggons filled with strong ale to be given away to the  people; four, with his gold and silver plate and stately clothes;  two, with the dresses of his numerous servants.  Then, came twelve  horses, each with a monkey on his back; then, a train of people  bearing shields and leading fine war-horses splendidly equipped;  then, falconers with hawks upon their wrists; then, a host of  knights, and gentlemen and priests; then, the Chancellor with his  brilliant garments flashing in the sun, and all the people capering  and shouting with delight.

 

The King was well pleased with all this, thinking that it only made  himself the more magnificent to have so magnificent a favourite;  but he sometimes jested with the Chancellor upon his splendour too.   Once, when they were riding together through the streets of London  in hard winter weather, they saw a shivering old man in rags.   'Look at the poor object!' said the King.  'Would it not be a  charitable act to give that aged man a comfortable warm cloak?'   'Undoubtedly it would,' said Thomas a Becket, 'and you do well,  Sir, to think of such Christian duties.'  'Come!' cried the King,  'then give him your cloak!'  It was made of rich crimson trimmed  with ermine.  The King tried to pull it off, the Chancellor tried  to keep it on, both were near rolling from their saddles in the  mud, when the Chancellor submitted, and the King gave the cloak to  the old beggar:  much to the beggar's astonishment, and much to the  merriment of all the courtiers in attendance.  For, courtiers are  not only eager to laugh when the King laughs, but they really do  enjoy a laugh against a Favourite.

 

'I will make,' thought King Henry the second, 'this Chancellor of  mine, Thomas a Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury.  He will then be  the head of the Church, and, being devoted to me, will help me to  correct the Church.  He has always upheld my power against the  power of the clergy, and once publicly told some bishops (I  remember), that men of the Church were equally bound to me, with  men of the sword.  Thomas a Becket is the man, of all other men in  England, to help me in my great design.'  So the King, regardless  of all objection, either that he was a fighting man, or a lavish  man, or a courtly man, or a man of pleasure, or anything but a  likely man for the office, made him Archbishop accordingly.

 

Now, Thomas a Becket was proud and loved to be famous.  He was  already famous for the pomp of his life, for his riches, his gold  and silver plate, his waggons, horses, and attendants.  He could do  no more in that way than he had done; and being tired of that kind  of fame (which is a very poor one), he longed to have his name  celebrated for something else.  Nothing, he knew, would render him  so famous in the world, as the setting of his utmost power and  ability against the utmost power and ability of the King.  He  resolved with the whole strength of his mind to do it.

 

He may have had some secret grudge against the King besides.  The  King may have offended his proud humour at some time or other, for  anything I know.  I think it likely, because it is a common thing  for Kings, Princes, and other great people, to try the tempers of  their favourites rather severely.  Even the little affair of the  crimson cloak must have been anything but a pleasant one to a  haughty man.  Thomas a Becket knew better than any one in England  what the King expected of him.  In all his sumptuous life, he had  never yet been in a position to disappoint the King.  He could take  up that proud stand now, as head of the Church; and he determined  that it should be written in history, either that he subdued the  King, or that the King subdued him.

 

So, of a sudden, he completely altered the whole manner of his  life.  He turned off all his brilliant followers, ate coarse food,  drank bitter water, wore next his skin sackcloth covered with dirt  and vermin (for it was then thought very religious to be very  dirty), flogged his back to punish himself, lived chiefly in a  little cell, washed the feet of thirteen poor people every day, and  looked as miserable as he possibly could.  If he had put twelve  hundred monkeys on horseback instead of twelve, and had gone in  procession with eight thousand waggons instead of eight, he could  not have half astonished the people so much as by this great  change.  It soon caused him to be more talked about as an  Archbishop than he had been as a Chancellor.

 

The King was very angry; and was made still more so, when the new  Archbishop, claiming various estates from the nobles as being  rightfully Church property, required the King himself, for the same  reason, to give up Rochester Castle, and Rochester City too.  Not  satisfied with this, he declared that no power but himself should  appoint a priest to any Church in the part of England over which he  was Archbishop; and when a certain gentleman of Kent made such an  appointment, as he claimed to have the right to do, Thomas a Becket  excommunicated him.

 

Excommunication was, next to the Interdict I told you of at the  close of the last chapter, the great weapon of the clergy.  It  consisted in declaring the person who was excommunicated, an  outcast from the Church and from all religious offices; and in  cursing him all over, from the top of his head to the sole of his  foot, whether he was standing up, lying down, sitting, kneeling,  walking, running, hopping, jumping, gaping, coughing, sneezing, or  whatever else he was doing.  This unchristian nonsense would of  course have made no sort of difference to the person cursed - who  could say his prayers at home if he were shut out of church, and  whom none but GOD could judge - but for the fears and superstitions  of the people, who avoided excommunicated persons, and made their  lives unhappy.  So, the King said to the New Archbishop, 'Take off  this Excommunication from this gentleman of Kent.'  To which the  Archbishop replied, 'I shall do no such thing.'

 

The quarrel went on.  A priest in Worcestershire committed a most  dreadful murder, that aroused the horror of the whole nation.  The  King demanded to have this wretch delivered up, to be tried in the  same court and in the same way as any other murderer.  The  Archbishop refused, and kept him in the Bishop's prison.  The King,  holding a solemn assembly in Westminster Hall, demanded that in  future all priests found guilty before their Bishops of crimes  against the law of the land should be considered priests no longer,  and should be delivered over to the law of the land for punishment.   The Archbishop again refused.  The King required to know whether  the clergy would obey the ancient customs of the country?  Every  priest there, but one, said, after Thomas a Becket, 'Saving my  order.'  This really meant that they would only obey those customs  when they did not interfere with their own claims; and the King  went out of the Hall in great wrath.

 

Some of the clergy began to be afraid, now, that they were going  too far.  Though Thomas a Becket was otherwise as unmoved as  Westminster Hall, they prevailed upon him, for the sake of their  fears, to go to the King at Woodstock, and promise to observe the  ancient customs of the country, without saying anything about his  order.  The King received this submission favourably, and summoned  a great council of the clergy to meet at the Castle of Clarendon,  by Salisbury.  But when the council met, the Archbishop again  insisted on the words 'saying my order;' and he still insisted,  though lords entreated him, and priests wept before him and knelt  to him, and an adjoining room was thrown open, filled with armed  soldiers of the King, to threaten him.  At length he gave way, for  that time, and the ancient customs (which included what the King  had demanded in vain) were stated in writing, and were signed and  sealed by the chief of the clergy, and were called the  Constitutions of Clarendon.

 

The quarrel went on, for all that.  The Archbishop tried to see the  King.  The King would not see him.  The Archbishop tried to escape  from England.  The sailors on the coast would launch no boat to  take him away.  Then, he again resolved to do his worst in  opposition to the King, and began openly to set the ancient customs  at defiance.

 

The King summoned him before a great council at Northampton, where  he accused him of high treason, and made a claim against him, which  was not a just one, for an enormous sum of money.  Thomas a Becket  was alone against the whole assembly, and the very Bishops advised  him to resign his office and abandon his contest with the King.   His great anxiety and agitation stretched him on a sick-bed for two  days, but he was still undaunted.  He went to the adjourned  council, carrying a great cross in his right hand, and sat down  holding it erect before him.  The King angrily retired into an  inner room.  The whole assembly angrily retired and left him there.   But there he sat.  The Bishops came out again in a body, and  renounced him as a traitor.  He only said, 'I hear!' and sat there  still.  They retired again into the inner room, and his trial  proceeded without him.  By-and-by, the Earl of Leicester, heading  the barons, came out to read his sentence.  He refused to hear it,  denied the power of the court, and said he would refer his cause to  the Pope.  As he walked out of the hall, with the cross in his  hand, some of those present picked up rushes - rushes were strewn  upon the floors in those days by way of carpet - and threw them at  him.  He proudly turned his head, and said that were he not  Archbishop, he would chastise those cowards with the sword he had  known how to use in bygone days.  He then mounted his horse, and  rode away, cheered and surrounded by the common people, to whom he  threw open his house that night and gave a supper, supping with  them himself.  That same night he secretly departed from the town;  and so, travelling by night and hiding by day, and calling himself  'Brother Dearman,' got away, not without difficulty, to Flanders.

 

The struggle still went on.  The angry King took possession of the  revenues of the archbishopric, and banished all the relations and  servants of Thomas a Becket, to the number of four hundred.  The  Pope and the French King both protected him, and an abbey was  assigned for his residence.  Stimulated by this support, Thomas a  Becket, on a great festival day, formally proceeded to a great  church crowded with people, and going up into the pulpit publicly  cursed and excommunicated all who had supported the Constitutions  of Clarendon:  mentioning many English noblemen by name, and not  distantly hinting at the King of England himself.

 

When intelligence of this new affront was carried to the King in  his chamber, his passion was so furious that he tore his clothes,  and rolled like a madman on his bed of straw and rushes.  But he  was soon up and doing.  He ordered all the ports and coasts of  England to be narrowly watched, that no letters of Interdict might  be brought into the kingdom; and sent messengers and bribes to the  Pope's palace at Rome.  Meanwhile, Thomas a Becket, for his part,  was not idle at Rome, but constantly employed his utmost arts in  his own behalf.  Thus the contest stood, until there was peace  between France and England (which had been for some time at war),  and until the two children of the two Kings were married in  celebration of it.  Then, the French King brought about a meeting  between Henry and his old favourite, so long his enemy.

 

Even then, though Thomas a Becket knelt before the King, he was  obstinate and immovable as to those words about his order.  King  Louis of France was weak enough in his veneration for Thomas a  Becket and such men, but this was a little too much for him.  He  said that a Becket 'wanted to be greater than the saints and better  than St. Peter,' and rode away from him with the King of England.   His poor French Majesty asked a Becket's pardon for so doing,  however, soon afterwards, and cut a very pitiful figure.

 

At last, and after a world of trouble, it came to this.  There was  another meeting on French ground between King Henry and Thomas a  Becket, and it was agreed that Thomas a Becket should be Archbishop  of Canterbury, according to the customs of former Archbishops, and  that the King should put him in possession of the revenues of that  post.  And now, indeed, you might suppose the struggle at an end,  and Thomas a Becket at rest.  NO, not even yet.  For Thomas a  Becket hearing, by some means, that King Henry, when he was in  dread of his kingdom being placed under an interdict, had had his  eldest son Prince Henry secretly crowned, not only persuaded the  Pope to suspend the Archbishop of York who had performed that  ceremony, and to excommunicate the Bishops who had assisted at it,  but sent a messenger of his own into England, in spite of all the  King's precautions along the coast, who delivered the letters of  excommunication into the Bishops' own hands.  Thomas a Becket then  came over to England himself, after an absence of seven years.  He  was privately warned that it was dangerous to come, and that an  ireful knight, named RANULF DE BROC, had threatened that he should  not live to eat a loaf of bread in England; but he came.

 

The common people received him well, and marched about with him in  a soldierly way, armed with such rustic weapons as they could get.   He tried to see the young prince who had once been his pupil, but  was prevented.  He hoped for some little support among the nobles  and priests, but found none.  He made the most of the peasants who  attended him, and feasted them, and went from Canterbury to Harrow-on-the-Hill, and from Harrow-on-the-Hill back to Canterbury, and on  Christmas Day preached in the Cathedral there, and told the people  in his sermon that he had come to die among them, and that it was  likely he would be murdered.  He had no fear, however - or, if he  had any, he had much more obstinacy - for he, then and there,  excommunicated three of his enemies, of whom Ranulf de Broc, the  ireful knight, was one.

 

As men in general had no fancy for being cursed, in their sitting  and walking, and gaping and sneezing, and all the rest of it, it  was very natural in the persons so freely excommunicated to  complain to the King.  It was equally natural in the King, who had  hoped that this troublesome opponent was at last quieted, to fall  into a mighty rage when he heard of these new affronts; and, on the  Archbishop of York telling him that he never could hope for rest  while Thomas a Becket lived, to cry out hastily before his court,  'Have I no one here who will deliver me from this man?'  There were  four knights present, who, hearing the King's words, looked at one  another, and went out.

 

The names of these knights were REGINALD FITZURSE, WILLIAM TRACY,  HUGH DE MORVILLE, and RICHARD BRITO; three of whom had been in the  train of Thomas a Becket in the old days of his splendour.  They  rode away on horseback, in a very secret manner, and on the third  day after Christmas Day arrived at Saltwood House, not far from  Canterbury, which belonged to the family of Ranulf de Broc.  They  quietly collected some followers here, in case they should need  any; and proceeding to Canterbury, suddenly appeared (the four  knights and twelve men) before the Archbishop, in his own house, at  two o'clock in the afternoon.  They neither bowed nor spoke, but  sat down on the floor in silence, staring at the Archbishop.

 

Thomas a Becket said, at length, 'What do you want?'

 

'We want,' said Reginald Fitzurse, 'the excommunication taken from  the Bishops, and you to answer for your offences to the King.'   Thomas a Becket defiantly replied, that the power of the clergy was  above the power of the King.  That it was not for such men as they  were, to threaten him.  That if he were threatened by all the  swords in England, he would never yield.

 

'Then we will do more than threaten!' said the knights.  And they  went out with the twelve men, and put on their armour, and drew  their shining swords, and came back.

 

His servants, in the meantime, had shut up and barred the great  gate of the palace.  At first, the knights tried to shatter it with  their battle-axes; but, being shown a window by which they could  enter, they let the gate alone, and climbed in that way.  While  they were battering at the door, the attendants of Thomas a Becket  had implored him to take refuge in the Cathedral; in which, as a  sanctuary or sacred place, they thought the knights would dare to  do no violent deed.  He told them, again and again, that he would  not stir.  Hearing the distant voices of the monks singing the  evening service, however, he said it was now his duty to attend,  and therefore, and for no other reason, he would go.

 

There was a near way between his Palace and the Cathedral, by some  beautiful old cloisters which you may yet see.  He went into the  Cathedral, without any hurry, and having the Cross carried before  him as usual.  When he was safely there, his servants would have  fastened the door, but he said NO! it was the house of God and not  a fortress.

 

As he spoke, the shadow of Reginald Fitzurse appeared in the  Cathedral doorway, darkening the little light there was outside, on  the dark winter evening.  This knight said, in a strong voice,  'Follow me, loyal servants of the King!'  The rattle of the armour  of the other knights echoed through the Cathedral, as they came  clashing in.

 

It was so dark, in the lofty aisles and among the stately pillars  of the church, and there were so many hiding-places in the crypt  below and in the narrow passages above, that Thomas a Becket might  even at that pass have saved himself if he would.  But he would  not.  He told the monks resolutely that he would not.  And though  they all dispersed and left him there with no other follower than  EDWARD GRYME, his faithful cross-bearer, he was as firm then, as  ever he had been in his life.

 

The knights came on, through the darkness, making a terrible noise  with their armed tread upon the stone pavement of the church.   'Where is the traitor?' they cried out.  He made no answer.  But  when they cried, 'Where is the Archbishop?' he said proudly, 'I am  here!' and came out of the shade and stood before them.

 

The knights had no desire to kill him, if they could rid the King  and themselves of him by any other means.  They told him he must  either fly or go with them.  He said he would do neither; and he  threw William Tracy off with such force when he took hold of his  sleeve, that Tracy reeled again.  By his reproaches and his  steadiness, he so incensed them, and exasperated their fierce  humour, that Reginald Fitzurse, whom he called by an ill name,  said, 'Then die!' and struck at his head.  But the faithful Edward  Gryme put out his arm, and there received the main force of the  blow, so that it only made his master bleed.  Another voice from  among the knights again called to Thomas a Becket to fly; but, with  his blood running down his face, and his hands clasped, and his  head bent, he commanded himself to God, and stood firm.  Then they  cruelly killed him close to the altar of St. Bennet; and his body  fell upon the pavement, which was dirtied with his blood and  brains.

 

It is an awful thing to think of the murdered mortal, who had so  showered his curses about, lying, all disfigured, in the church,  where a few lamps here and there were but red specks on a pall of  darkness; and to think of the guilty knights riding away on  horseback, looking over their shoulders at the dim Cathedral, and  remembering what they had left inside.

 

PART THE SECOND

 

WHEN the King heard how Thomas a Becket had lost his life in  Canterbury Cathedral, through the ferocity of the four Knights, he  was filled with dismay.  Some have supposed that when the King  spoke those hasty words, 'Have I no one here who will deliver me  from this man?' he wished, and meant a Becket to be slain.  But few  things are more unlikely; for, besides that the King was not  naturally cruel (though very passionate), he was wise, and must  have known full well what any stupid man in his dominions must have  known, namely, that such a murder would rouse the Pope and the  whole Church against him.

 

He sent respectful messengers to the Pope, to represent his  innocence (except in having uttered the hasty words); and he swore  solemnly and publicly to his innocence, and contrived in time to  make his peace.  As to the four guilty Knights, who fled into  Yorkshire, and never again dared to show themselves at Court, the  Pope excommunicated them; and they lived miserably for some time,  shunned by all their countrymen.  At last, they went humbly to  Jerusalem as a penance, and there died and were buried.

 

It happened, fortunately for the pacifying of the Pope, that an  opportunity arose very soon after the murder of a Becket, for the  King to declare his power in Ireland - which was an acceptable  undertaking to the Pope, as the Irish, who had been converted to  Christianity by one Patricius (otherwise Saint Patrick) long ago,  before any Pope existed, considered that the Pope had nothing at  all to do with them, or they with the Pope, and accordingly refused  to pay him Peter's Pence, or that tax of a penny a house which I  have elsewhere mentioned.  The King's opportunity arose in this  way.

 

The Irish were, at that time, as barbarous a people as you can well  imagine.  They were continually quarrelling and fighting, cutting  one another's throats, slicing one another's noses, burning one  another's houses, carrying away one another's wives, and committing  all sorts of violence.  The country was divided into five kingdoms  - DESMOND, THOMOND, CONNAUGHT, ULSTER, and LEINSTER - each governed  by a separate King, of whom one claimed to be the chief of the  rest.  Now, one of these Kings, named DERMOND MAC MURROUGH (a wild  kind of name, spelt in more than one wild kind of way), had carried  off the wife of a friend of his, and concealed her on an island in  a bog.  The friend resenting this (though it was quite the custom  of the country), complained to the chief King, and, with the chief  King's help, drove Dermond Mac Murrough out of his dominions.   Dermond came over to England for revenge; and offered to hold his  realm as a vassal of King Henry, if King Henry would help him to  regain it.  The King consented to these terms; but only assisted  him, then, with what were called Letters Patent, authorising any  English subjects who were so disposed, to enter into his service,  and aid his cause.

 

There was, at Bristol, a certain EARL RICHARD DE CLARE, called  STRONGBOW; of no very good character; needy and desperate, and  ready for anything that offered him a chance of improving his  fortunes.  There were, in South Wales, two other broken knights of  the same good-for-nothing sort, called ROBERT FITZ-STEPHEN, and  MAURICE FITZ-GERALD.  These three, each with a small band of  followers, took up Dermond's cause; and it was agreed that if it  proved successful, Strongbow should marry Dermond's daughter EVA,  and be declared his heir.

 

The trained English followers of these knights were so superior in  all the discipline of battle to the Irish, that they beat them  against immense superiority of numbers.  In one fight, early in the  war, they cut off three hundred heads, and laid them before Mac  Murrough; who turned them every one up with his hands, rejoicing,  and, coming to one which was the head of a man whom he had much  disliked, grasped it by the hair and ears, and tore off the nose  and lips with his teeth.  You may judge from this, what kind of a  gentleman an Irish King in those times was.  The captives, all  through this war, were horribly treated; the victorious party  making nothing of breaking their limbs, and casting them into the  sea from the tops of high rocks.  It was in the midst of the  miseries and cruelties attendant on the taking of Waterford, where  the dead lay piled in the streets, and the filthy gutters ran with  blood, that Strongbow married Eva.  An odious marriage-company  those mounds of corpse's must have made, I think, and one quite  worthy of the young lady's father.

 

He died, after Waterford and Dublin had been taken, and various  successes achieved; and Strongbow became King of Leinster.  Now  came King Henry's opportunity.  To restrain the growing power of  Strongbow, he himself repaired to Dublin, as Strongbow's Royal  Master, and deprived him of his kingdom, but confirmed him in the  enjoyment of great possessions.  The King, then, holding state in  Dublin, received the homage of nearly all the Irish Kings and  Chiefs, and so came home again with a great addition to his  reputation as Lord of Ireland, and with a new claim on the favour  of the Pope.  And now, their reconciliation was completed - more  easily and mildly by the Pope, than the King might have expected, I  think.

 

At this period of his reign, when his troubles seemed so few and  his prospects so bright, those domestic miseries began which  gradually made the King the most unhappy of men, reduced his great  spirit, wore away his health, and broke his heart.

 

He had four sons.  HENRY, now aged eighteen - his secret crowning  of whom had given such offence to Thomas a Becket.  RICHARD, aged  sixteen; GEOFFREY, fifteen; and JOHN, his favourite, a young boy  whom the courtiers named LACKLAND, because he had no inheritance,  but to whom the King meant to give the Lordship of Ireland.  All  these misguided boys, in their turn, were unnatural sons to him,  and unnatural brothers to each other.  Prince Henry, stimulated by  the French King, and by his bad mother, Queen Eleanor, began the  undutiful history,

 

First, he demanded that his young wife, MARGARET, the French King's  daughter, should be crowned as well as he.  His father, the King,  consented, and it was done.  It was no sooner done, than he  demanded to have a part of his father's dominions, during his  father's life.  This being refused, he made off from his father in  the night, with his bad heart full of bitterness, and took refuge  at the French King's Court.  Within a day or two, his brothers  Richard and Geoffrey followed.  Their mother tried to join them -  escaping in man's clothes - but she was seized by King Henry's men,  and immured in prison, where she lay, deservedly, for sixteen  years.  Every day, however, some grasping English noblemen, to whom  the King's protection of his people from their avarice and  oppression had given offence, deserted him and joined the Princes.   Every day he heard some fresh intelligence of the Princes levying  armies against him; of Prince Henry's wearing a crown before his  own ambassadors at the French Court, and being called the Junior  King of England; of all the Princes swearing never to make peace  with him, their father, without the consent and approval of the  Barons of France.  But, with his fortitude and energy unshaken,  King Henry met the shock of these disasters with a resolved and  cheerful face.  He called upon all Royal fathers who had sons, to  help him, for his cause was theirs; he hired, out of his riches,  twenty thousand men to fight the false French King, who stirred his  own blood against him; and he carried on the war with such vigour,  that Louis soon proposed a conference to treat for peace.

 

The conference was held beneath an old wide-spreading green elm-tree, upon a plain in France.  It led to nothing.  The war  recommenced.  Prince Richard began his fighting career, by leading  an army against his father; but his father beat him and his army  back; and thousands of his men would have rued the day in which  they fought in such a wicked cause, had not the King received news  of an invasion of England by the Scots, and promptly come home  through a great storm to repress it.  And whether he really began  to fear that he suffered these troubles because a Becket had been  murdered; or whether he wished to rise in the favour of the Pope,  who had now declared a Becket to be a saint, or in the favour of  his own people, of whom many believed that even a Becket's  senseless tomb could work miracles, I don't know:  but the King no  sooner landed in England than he went straight to Canterbury; and  when he came within sight of the distant Cathedral, he dismounted  from his horse, took off his shoes, and walked with bare and  bleeding feet to a Becket's grave.  There, he lay down on the  ground, lamenting, in the presence of many people; and by-and-by he  went into the Chapter House, and, removing his clothes from his  back and shoulders, submitted himself to be beaten with knotted  cords (not beaten very hard, I dare say though) by eighty Priests,  one after another.  It chanced that on the very day when the King  made this curious exhibition of himself, a complete victory was  obtained over the Scots; which very much delighted the Priests, who  said that it was won because of his great example of repentance.   For the Priests in general had found out, since a Becket's death,  that they admired him of all things - though they had hated him  very cordially when he was alive.

 

The Earl of Flanders, who was at the head of the base conspiracy of  the King's undutiful sons and their foreign friends, took the  opportunity of the King being thus employed at home, to lay siege  to Rouen, the capital of Normandy.  But the King, who was  extraordinarily quick and active in all his movements, was at  Rouen, too, before it was supposed possible that he could have left  England; and there he so defeated the said Earl of Flanders, that  the conspirators proposed peace, and his bad sons Henry and  Geoffrey submitted.  Richard resisted for six weeks; but, being  beaten out of castle after castle, he at last submitted too, and  his father forgave him.

 

To forgive these unworthy princes was only to afford them  breathing-time for new faithlessness.  They were so false,  disloyal, and dishonourable, that they were no more to be trusted  than common thieves.  In the very next year, Prince Henry rebelled  again, and was again forgiven.  In eight years more, Prince Richard  rebelled against his elder brother; and Prince Geoffrey infamously  said that the brothers could never agree well together, unless they  were united against their father.  In the very next year after  their reconciliation by the King, Prince Henry again rebelled  against his father; and again submitted, swearing to be true; and  was again forgiven; and again rebelled with Geoffrey.

 

But the end of this perfidious Prince was come.  He fell sick at a  French town; and his conscience terribly reproaching him with his  baseness, he sent messengers to the King his father, imploring him  to come and see him, and to forgive him for the last time on his  bed of death.  The generous King, who had a royal and forgiving  mind towards his children always, would have gone; but this Prince  had been so unnatural, that the noblemen about the King suspected  treachery, and represented to him that he could not safely trust  his life with such a traitor, though his own eldest son.  Therefore  the King sent him a ring from off his finger as a token of  forgiveness; and when the Prince had kissed it, with much grief and  many tears, and had confessed to those around him how bad, and  wicked, and undutiful a son he had been; he said to the attendant  Priests:  'O, tie a rope about my body, and draw me out of bed, and  lay me down upon a bed of ashes, that I may die with prayers to God  in a repentant manner!'  And so he died, at twenty-seven years old.

 

Three years afterwards, Prince Geoffrey, being unhorsed at a  tournament, had his brains trampled out by a crowd of horses  passing over him.  So, there only remained Prince Richard, and  Prince John - who had grown to be a young man now, and had solemnly  sworn to be faithful to his father.  Richard soon rebelled again,  encouraged by his friend the French King, PHILIP THE SECOND (son of  Louis, who was dead); and soon submitted and was again forgiven,  swearing on the New Testament never to rebel again; and in another  year or so, rebelled again; and, in the presence of his father,  knelt down on his knee before the King of France; and did the  French King homage:  and declared that with his aid he would  possess himself, by force, of all his father's French dominions.

 

And yet this Richard called himself a soldier of Our Saviour!  And  yet this Richard wore the Cross, which the Kings of France and  England had both taken, in the previous year, at a brotherly  meeting underneath the old wide-spreading elm-tree on the plain,  when they had sworn (like him) to devote themselves to a new  Crusade, for the love and honour of the Truth!

 

Sick at heart, wearied out by the falsehood of his sons, and almost  ready to lie down and die, the unhappy King who had so long stood  firm, began to fail.  But the Pope, to his honour, supported him;  and obliged the French King and Richard, though successful in  fight, to treat for peace.  Richard wanted to be Crowned King of  England, and pretended that he wanted to be married (which he  really did not) to the French King's sister, his promised wife,  whom King Henry detained in England.  King Henry wanted, on the  other hand, that the French King's sister should be married to his  favourite son, John:  the only one of his sons (he said) who had  never rebelled against him.  At last King Henry, deserted by his  nobles one by one, distressed, exhausted, broken-hearted, consented  to establish peace.

 

One final heavy sorrow was reserved for him, even yet.  When they  brought him the proposed treaty of peace, in writing, as he lay  very ill in bed, they brought him also the list of the deserters  from their allegiance, whom he was required to pardon.  The first  name upon this list was John, his favourite son, in whom he had  trusted to the last.

 

'O John! child of my heart!' exclaimed the King, in a great agony  of mind.  'O John, whom I have loved the best!  O John, for whom I  have contended through these many troubles!  Have you betrayed me  too!'  And then he lay down with a heavy groan, and said, 'Now let  the world go as it will.  I care for nothing more!'

 

After a time, he told his attendants to take him to the French town  of Chinon - a town he had been fond of, during many years.  But he  was fond of no place now; it was too true that he could care for  nothing more upon this earth.  He wildly cursed the hour when he  was born, and cursed the children whom he left behind him; and  expired.

 

As, one hundred years before, the servile followers of the Court  had abandoned the Conqueror in the hour of his death, so they now  abandoned his descendant.  The very body was stripped, in the  plunder of the Royal chamber; and it was not easy to find the means  of carrying it for burial to the abbey church of Fontevraud.

 

Richard was said in after years, by way of flattery, to have the  heart of a Lion.  It would have been far better, I think, to have  had the heart of a Man.  His heart, whatever it was, had cause to  beat remorsefully within his breast, when he came - as he did -  into the solemn abbey, and looked on his dead father's uncovered  face.  His heart, whatever it was, had been a black and perjured  heart, in all its dealings with the deceased King, and more  deficient in a single touch of tenderness than any wild beast's in  the forest.

 

There is a pretty story told of this Reign, called the story of  FAIR ROSAMOND.  It relates how the King doted on Fair Rosamond, who  was the loveliest girl in all the world; and how he had a beautiful  Bower built for her in a Park at Woodstock; and how it was erected  in a labyrinth, and could only be found by a clue of silk.  How the  bad Queen Eleanor, becoming jealous of Fair Rosamond, found out the  secret of the clue, and one day, appeared before her, with a dagger  and a cup of poison, and left her to the choice between those  deaths.  How Fair Rosamond, after shedding many piteous tears and  offering many useless prayers to the cruel Queen, took the poison,  and fell dead in the midst of the beautiful bower, while the  unconscious birds sang gaily all around her.

 

Now, there WAS a fair Rosamond, and she was (I dare say) the  loveliest girl in all the world, and the King was certainly very  fond of her, and the bad Queen Eleanor was certainly made jealous.   But I am afraid - I say afraid, because I like the story so much -  that there was no bower, no labyrinth, no silken clue, no dagger,  no poison.  I am afraid fair Rosamond retired to a nunnery near  Oxford, and died there, peaceably; her sister-nuns hanging a silken  drapery over her tomb, and often dressing it with flowers, in  remembrance of the youth and beauty that had enchanted the King  when he too was young, and when his life lay fair before him.

 

It was dark and ended now; faded and gone.  Henry Plantagenet lay  quiet in the abbey church of Fontevraud, in the fifty-seventh year  of his age - never to be completed - after governing England well,  for nearly thirty-five years.

 


CHAPTER XIII - ENGLAND UNDER RICHARD THE FIRST, CALLED THE LION-HEART

 

IN the year of our Lord one thousand one hundred and eighty-nine,  Richard of the Lion Heart succeeded to the throne of King Henry the  Second, whose paternal heart he had done so much to break.  He had  been, as we have seen, a rebel from his boyhood; but, the moment he  became a king against whom others might rebel, he found out that  rebellion was a great wickedness.  In the heat of this pious  discovery, he punished all the leading people who had befriended  him against his father.  He could scarcely have done anything that  would have been a better instance of his real nature, or a better  warning to fawners and parasites not to trust in lion-hearted  princes.

 

He likewise put his late father's treasurer in chains, and locked  him up in a dungeon from which he was not set free until he had  relinquished, not only all the Crown treasure, but all his own  money too.  So, Richard certainly got the Lion's share of the  wealth of this wretched treasurer, whether he had a Lion's heart or  not.

 

He was crowned King of England, with great pomp, at Westminster:   walking to the Cathedral under a silken canopy stretched on the  tops of four lances, each carried by a great lord.  On the day of  his coronation, a dreadful murdering of the Jews took place, which  seems to have given great delight to numbers of savage persons  calling themselves Christians.  The King had issued a proclamation  forbidding the Jews (who were generally hated, though they were the  most useful merchants in England) to appear at the ceremony; but as  they had assembled in London from all parts, bringing presents to  show their respect for the new Sovereign, some of them ventured  down to Westminster Hall with their gifts; which were very readily  accepted.  It is supposed, now, that some noisy fellow in the  crowd, pretending to be a very delicate Christian, set up a howl at  this, and struck a Jew who was trying to get in at the Hall door  with his present.  A riot arose.  The Jews who had got into the  Hall, were driven forth; and some of the rabble cried out that the  new King had commanded the unbelieving race to be put to death.   Thereupon the crowd rushed through the narrow streets of the city,  slaughtering all the Jews they met; and when they could find no  more out of doors (on account of their having fled to their houses,  and fastened themselves in), they ran madly about, breaking open  all the houses where the Jews lived, rushing in and stabbing or  spearing them, sometimes even flinging old people and children out  of window into blazing fires they had lighted up below.  This great  cruelty lasted four-and-twenty hours, and only three men were  punished for it.  Even they forfeited their lives not for murdering  and robbing the Jews, but for burning the houses of some  Christians.

 

King Richard, who was a strong, restless, burly man, with one idea  always in his head, and that the very troublesome idea of breaking  the heads of other men, was mightily impatient to go on a Crusade  to the Holy Land, with a great army.  As great armies could not be  raised to go, even to the Holy Land, without a great deal of money,  he sold the Crown domains, and even the high offices of State;  recklessly appointing noblemen to rule over his English subjects,  not because they were fit to govern, but because they could pay  high for the privilege.  In this way, and by selling pardons at a  dear rate and by varieties of avarice and oppression, he scraped  together a large treasure.  He then appointed two Bishops to take  care of his kingdom in his absence, and gave great powers and  possessions to his brother John, to secure his friendship.  John  would rather have been made Regent of England; but he was a sly  man, and friendly to the expedition; saying to himself, no doubt,  'The more fighting, the more chance of my brother being killed; and  when he IS killed, then I become King John!'

 

Before the newly levied army departed from England, the recruits  and the general populace distinguished themselves by astonishing  cruelties on the unfortunate Jews:  whom, in many large towns, they  murdered by hundreds in the most horrible manner.

 

At York, a large body of Jews took refuge in the Castle, in the  absence of its Governor, after the wives and children of many of  them had been slain before their eyes.  Presently came the  Governor, and demanded admission.  'How can we give it thee, O  Governor!' said the Jews upon the walls, 'when, if we open the gate  by so much as the width of a foot, the roaring crowd behind thee  will press in and kill us?'

 

Upon this, the unjust Governor became angry, and told the people  that he approved of their killing those Jews; and a mischievous  maniac of a friar, dressed all in white, put himself at the head of  the assault, and they assaulted the Castle for three days.

 

Then said JOCEN, the head-Jew (who was a Rabbi or Priest), to the  rest, 'Brethren, there is no hope for us with the Christians who  are hammering at the gates and walls, and who must soon break in.   As we and our wives and children must die, either by Christian  hands, or by our own, let it be by our own.  Let us destroy by fire  what jewels and other treasure we have here, then fire the castle,  and then perish!'

 

A few could not resolve to do this, but the greater part complied.   They made a blazing heap of all their valuables, and, when those  were consumed, set the castle in flames.  While the flames roared  and crackled around them, and shooting up into the sky, turned it  blood-red, Jocen cut the throat of his beloved wife, and stabbed  himself.  All the others who had wives or children, did the like  dreadful deed.  When the populace broke in, they found (except the  trembling few, cowering in corners, whom they soon killed) only  heaps of greasy cinders, with here and there something like part of  the blackened trunk of a burnt tree, but which had lately been a  human creature, formed by the beneficent hand of the Creator as  they were.

 

After this bad beginning, Richard and his troops went on, in no  very good manner, with the Holy Crusade.  It was undertaken jointly  by the King of England and his old friend Philip of France.  They  commenced the business by reviewing their forces, to the number of  one hundred thousand men.  Afterwards, they severally embarked  their troops for Messina, in Sicily, which was appointed as the  next place of meeting.

 

King Richard's sister had married the King of this place, but he  was dead:  and his uncle TANCRED had usurped the crown, cast the  Royal Widow into prison, and possessed himself of her estates.   Richard fiercely demanded his sister's release, the restoration of  her lands, and (according to the Royal custom of the Island) that  she should have a golden chair, a golden table, four-and-twenty  silver cups, and four-and-twenty silver dishes.  As he was too  powerful to be successfully resisted, Tancred yielded to his  demands; and then the French King grew jealous, and complained that  the English King wanted to be absolute in the Island of Messina and  everywhere else.  Richard, however, cared little or nothing for  this complaint; and in consideration of a present of twenty  thousand pieces of gold, promised his pretty little nephew ARTHUR,  then a child of two years old, in marriage to Tancred's daughter.   We shall hear again of pretty little Arthur by-and-by.

 

This Sicilian affair arranged without anybody's brains being  knocked out (which must have rather disappointed him), King Richard  took his sister away, and also a fair lady named BERENGARIA, with  whom he had fallen in love in France, and whom his mother, Queen  Eleanor (so long in prison, you remember, but released by Richard  on his coming to the Throne), had brought out there to be his wife;  and sailed with them for Cyprus.

 

He soon had the pleasure of fighting the King of the Island of  Cyprus, for allowing his subjects to pillage some of the English  troops who were shipwrecked on the shore; and easily conquering  this poor monarch, he seized his only daughter, to be a companion  to the lady Berengaria, and put the King himself into silver  fetters.  He then sailed away again with his mother, sister, wife,  and the captive princess; and soon arrived before the town of Acre,  which the French King with his fleet was besieging from the sea.   But the French King was in no triumphant condition, for his army  had been thinned by the swords of the Saracens, and wasted by the  plague; and SALADIN, the brave Sultan of the Turks, at the head of  a numerous army, was at that time gallantly defending the place  from the hills that rise above it.

 

Wherever the united army of Crusaders went, they agreed in few  points except in gaming, drinking, and quarrelling, in a most  unholy manner; in debauching the people among whom they tarried,  whether they were friends or foes; and in carrying disturbance and  ruin into quiet places.  The French King was jealous of the English  King, and the English King was jealous of the French King, and the  disorderly and violent soldiers of the two nations were jealous of  one another; consequently, the two Kings could not at first agree,  even upon a joint assault on Acre; but when they did make up their  quarrel for that purpose, the Saracens promised to yield the town,  to give up to the Christians the wood of the Holy Cross, to set at  liberty all their Christian captives, and to pay two hundred  thousand pieces of gold.  All this was to be done within forty  days; but, not being done, King Richard ordered some three thousand  Saracen prisoners to be brought out in the front of his camp, and  there, in full view of their own countrymen, to be butchered.

 

The French King had no part in this crime; for he was by that time  travelling homeward with the greater part of his men; being  offended by the overbearing conduct of the English King; being  anxious to look after his own dominions; and being ill, besides,  from the unwholesome air of that hot and sandy country.  King  Richard carried on the war without him; and remained in the East,  meeting with a variety of adventures, nearly a year and a half.   Every night when his army was on the march, and came to a halt, the  heralds cried out three times, to remind all the soldiers of the  cause in which they were engaged, 'Save the Holy Sepulchre!' and  then all the soldiers knelt and said 'Amen!'  Marching or  encamping, the army had continually to strive with the hot air of  the glaring desert, or with the Saracen soldiers animated and  directed by the brave Saladin, or with both together.  Sickness and  death, battle and wounds, were always among them; but through every  difficulty King Richard fought like a giant, and worked like a  common labourer.  Long and long after he was quiet in his grave,  his terrible battle-axe, with twenty English pounds of English  steel in its mighty head, was a legend among the Saracens; and when  all the Saracen and Christian hosts had been dust for many a year,  if a Saracen horse started at any object by the wayside, his rider  would exclaim, 'What dost thou fear, Fool?  Dost thou think King  Richard is behind it?'

 

No one admired this King's renown for bravery more than Saladin  himself, who was a generous and gallant enemy.  When Richard lay  ill of a fever, Saladin sent him fresh fruits from Damascus, and  snow from the mountain-tops.  Courtly messages and compliments were  frequently exchanged between them - and then King Richard would  mount his horse and kill as many Saracens as he could; and Saladin  would mount his, and kill as many Christians as he could.  In this  way King Richard fought to his heart's content at Arsoof and at  Jaffa; and finding himself with nothing exciting to do at Ascalon,  except to rebuild, for his own defence, some fortifications there  which the Saracens had destroyed, he kicked his ally the Duke of  Austria, for being too proud to work at them.

 

The army at last came within sight of the Holy City of Jerusalem;  but, being then a mere nest of jealousy, and quarrelling and  fighting, soon retired, and agreed with the Saracens upon a truce  for three years, three months, three days, and three hours.  Then,  the English Christians, protected by the noble Saladin from Saracen  revenge, visited Our Saviour's tomb; and then King Richard embarked  with a small force at Acre to return home.

 

But he was shipwrecked in the Adriatic Sea, and was fain to pass  through Germany, under an assumed name.  Now, there were many  people in Germany who had served in the Holy Land under that proud  Duke of Austria who had been kicked; and some of them, easily  recognising a man so remarkable as King Richard, carried their  intelligence to the kicked Duke, who straightway took him prisoner  at a little inn near Vienna.

 

The Duke's master the Emperor of Germany, and the King of France,  were equally delighted to have so troublesome a monarch in safe  keeping.  Friendships which are founded on a partnership in doing  wrong, are never true; and the King of France was now quite as  heartily King Richard's foe, as he had ever been his friend in his  unnatural conduct to his father.  He monstrously pretended that  King Richard had designed to poison him in the East; he charged him  with having murdered, there, a man whom he had in truth befriended;  he bribed the Emperor of Germany to keep him close prisoner; and,  finally, through the plotting of these two princes, Richard was  brought before the German legislature, charged with the foregoing  crimes, and many others.  But he defended himself so well, that  many of the assembly were moved to tears by his eloquence and  earnestness.  It was decided that he should be treated, during the  rest of his captivity, in a manner more becoming his dignity than  he had been, and that he should be set free on the payment of a  heavy ransom.  This ransom the English people willingly raised.   When Queen Eleanor took it over to Germany, it was at first evaded  and refused.  But she appealed to the honour of all the princes of  the German Empire in behalf of her son, and appealed so well that  it was accepted, and the King released.  Thereupon, the King of  France wrote to Prince John - 'Take care of thyself.  The devil is  unchained!'

 

Prince John had reason to fear his brother, for he had been a  traitor to him in his captivity.  He had secretly joined the French  King; had vowed to the English nobles and people that his brother  was dead; and had vainly tried to seize the crown.  He was now in  France, at a place called Evreux.  Being the meanest and basest of  men, he contrived a mean and base expedient for making himself  acceptable to his brother.  He invited the French officers of the  garrison in that town to dinner, murdered them all, and then took  the fortress.  With this recommendation to the good will of a lion-hearted monarch, he hastened to King Richard, fell on his knees  before him, and obtained the intercession of Queen Eleanor.  'I  forgive him,' said the King, 'and I hope I may forget the injury he  has done me, as easily as I know he will forget my pardon.'

 

While King Richard was in Sicily, there had been trouble in his  dominions at home:  one of the bishops whom he had left in charge  thereof, arresting the other; and making, in his pride and  ambition, as great a show as if he were King himself.  But the King  hearing of it at Messina, and appointing a new Regency, this  LONGCHAMP (for that was his name) had fled to France in a woman's  dress, and had there been encouraged and supported by the French  King.  With all these causes of offence against Philip in his mind,  King Richard had no sooner been welcomed home by his enthusiastic  subjects with great display and splendour, and had no sooner been  crowned afresh at Winchester, than he resolved to show the French  King that the Devil was unchained indeed, and made war against him  with great fury.

 

There was fresh trouble at home about this time, arising out of the  discontents of the poor people, who complained that they were far  more heavily taxed than the rich, and who found a spirited champion  in WILLIAM FITZ-OSBERT, called LONGBEARD.  He became the leader of  a secret society, comprising fifty thousand men; he was seized by  surprise; he stabbed the citizen who first laid hands upon him; and  retreated, bravely fighting, to a church, which he maintained four  days, until he was dislodged by fire, and run through the body as  he came out.  He was not killed, though; for he was dragged, half  dead, at the tail of a horse to Smithfield, and there hanged.   Death was long a favourite remedy for silencing the people's  advocates; but as we go on with this history, I fancy we shall find  them difficult to make an end of, for all that.

 

The French war, delayed occasionally by a truce, was still in  progress when a certain Lord named VIDOMAR, Viscount of Limoges,  chanced to find in his ground a treasure of ancient coins.  As the  King's vassal, he sent the King half of it; but the King claimed  the whole.  The lord refused to yield the whole.  The King besieged  the lord in his castle, swore that he would take the castle by  storm, and hang every man of its defenders on the battlements.

 

There was a strange old song in that part of the country, to the  effect that in Limoges an arrow would be made by which King Richard  would die.  It may be that BERTRAND DE GOURDON, a young man who was  one of the defenders of the castle, had often sung it or heard it  sung of a winter night, and remembered it when he saw, from his  post upon the ramparts, the King attended only by his chief officer  riding below the walls surveying the place.  He drew an arrow to  the head, took steady aim, said between his teeth, 'Now I pray God  speed thee well, arrow!' discharged it, and struck the King in the  left shoulder.

 

Although the wound was not at first considered dangerous, it was  severe enough to cause the King to retire to his tent, and direct  the assault to be made without him.  The castle was taken; and  every man of its defenders was hanged, as the King had sworn all  should be, except Bertrand de Gourdon, who was reserved until the  royal pleasure respecting him should be known.

 

By that time unskilful treatment had made the wound mortal and the  King knew that he was dying.  He directed Bertrand to be brought  into his tent.  The young man was brought there, heavily chained,  King Richard looked at him steadily.  He looked, as steadily, at  the King.

 

'Knave!' said King Richard.  'What have I done to thee that thou  shouldest take my life?'

 

'What hast thou done to me?' replied the young man.  'With thine  own hands thou hast killed my father and my two brothers.  Myself  thou wouldest have hanged.  Let me die now, by any torture that  thou wilt.  My comfort is, that no torture can save Thee.  Thou too  must die; and, through me, the world is quit of thee!'

 

Again the King looked at the young man steadily.  Again the young  man looked steadily at him.  Perhaps some remembrance of his  generous enemy Saladin, who was not a Christian, came into the mind  of the dying King.

 

'Youth!' he said, 'I forgive thee.  Go unhurt!'  Then, turning to  the chief officer who had been riding in his company when he  received the wound, King Richard said:

 

'Take off his chains, give him a hundred shillings, and let him  depart.'

 

He sunk down on his couch, and a dark mist seemed in his weakened  eyes to fill the tent wherein he had so often rested, and he died.   His age was forty-two; he had reigned ten years.  His last command  was not obeyed; for the chief officer flayed Bertrand de Gourdon  alive, and hanged him.

 

There is an old tune yet known - a sorrowful air will sometimes  outlive many generations of strong men, and even last longer than  battle-axes with twenty pounds of steel in the head - by which this  King is said to have been discovered in his captivity.  BLONDEL, a  favourite Minstrel of King Richard, as the story relates,  faithfully seeking his Royal master, went singing it outside the  gloomy walls of many foreign fortresses and prisons; until at last  he heard it echoed from within a dungeon, and knew the voice, and  cried out in ecstasy, 'O Richard, O my King!'  You may believe it,  if you like; it would be easy to believe worse things.  Richard was  himself a Minstrel and a Poet.  If he had not been a Prince too, he  might have been a better man perhaps, and might have gone out of  the world with less bloodshed and waste of life to answer for.

 


CHAPTER XIV - ENGLAND UNDER KING JOHN, CALLED LACKLAND

 

AT two-and-thirty years of age, JOHN became King of England.  His  pretty little nephew ARTHUR had the best claim to the throne; but  John seized the treasure, and made fine promises to the nobility,  and got himself crowned at Westminster within a few weeks after his  brother Richard's death.  I doubt whether the crown could possibly  have been put upon the head of a meaner coward, or a more  detestable villain, if England had been searched from end to end to  find him out.

 

The French King, Philip, refused to acknowledge the right of John  to his new dignity, and declared in favour of Arthur.  You must not  suppose that he had any generosity of feeling for the fatherless  boy; it merely suited his ambitious schemes to oppose the King of  England.  So John and the French King went to war about Arthur.

 

He was a handsome boy, at that time only twelve years old.  He was  not born when his father, Geoffrey, had his brains trampled out at  the tournament; and, besides the misfortune of never having known a  father's guidance and protection, he had the additional misfortune  to have a foolish mother (CONSTANCE by name), lately married to her  third husband.  She took Arthur, upon John's accession, to the  French King, who pretended to be very much his friend, and who made  him a Knight, and promised him his daughter in marriage; but, who  cared so little about him in reality, that finding it his interest  to make peace with King John for a time, he did so without the  least consideration for the poor little Prince, and heartlessly  sacrificed all his interests.

 

Young Arthur, for two years afterwards, lived quietly; and in the  course of that time his mother died.  But, the French King then  finding it his interest to quarrel with King John again, again made  Arthur his pretence, and invited the orphan boy to court.  'You  know your rights, Prince,' said the French King, 'and you would  like to be a King.  Is it not so?'  'Truly,' said Prince Arthur, 'I  should greatly like to be a King!'  'Then,' said Philip, 'you shall  have two hundred gentlemen who are Knights of mine, and with them  you shall go to win back the provinces belonging to you, of which  your uncle, the usurping King of England, has taken possession.  I  myself, meanwhile, will head a force against him in Normandy.'   Poor Arthur was so flattered and so grateful that he signed a  treaty with the crafty French King, agreeing to consider him his  superior Lord, and that the French King should keep for himself  whatever he could take from King John.

 

Now, King John was so bad in all ways, and King Philip was so  perfidious, that Arthur, between the two, might as well have been a  lamb between a fox and a wolf.  But, being so young, he was ardent  and flushed with hope; and, when the people of Brittany (which was  his inheritance) sent him five hundred more knights and five  thousand foot soldiers, he believed his fortune was made.  The  people of Brittany had been fond of him from his birth, and had  requested that he might be called Arthur, in remembrance of that  dimly-famous English Arthur, of whom I told you early in this book,  whom they believed to have been the brave friend and companion of  an old King of their own.  They had tales among them about a  prophet called MERLIN (of the same old time), who had foretold that  their own King should be restored to them after hundreds of years;  and they believed that the prophecy would be fulfilled in Arthur;  that the time would come when he would rule them with a crown of  Brittany upon his head; and when neither King of France nor King of  England would have any power over them.  When Arthur found himself  riding in a glittering suit of armour on a richly caparisoned  horse, at the head of his train of knights and soldiers, he began  to believe this too, and to consider old Merlin a very superior  prophet.

 

He did not know - how could he, being so innocent and  inexperienced? - that his little army was a mere nothing against  the power of the King of England.  The French King knew it; but the  poor boy's fate was little to him, so that the King of England was  worried and distressed.  Therefore, King Philip went his way into  Normandy and Prince Arthur went his way towards Mirebeau, a French  town near Poictiers, both very well pleased.

 

Prince Arthur went to attack the town of Mirebeau, because his  grandmother Eleanor, who has so often made her appearance in this  history (and who had always been his mother's enemy), was living  there, and because his Knights said, 'Prince, if you can take her  prisoner, you will be able to bring the King your uncle to terms!'   But she was not to be easily taken.  She was old enough by this  time - eighty - but she was as full of stratagem as she was full of  years and wickedness.  Receiving intelligence of young Arthur's  approach, she shut herself up in a high tower, and encouraged her  soldiers to defend it like men.  Prince Arthur with his little army  besieged the high tower.  King John, hearing how matters stood,  came up to the rescue, with HIS army.  So here was a strange  family-party!  The boy-Prince besieging his grandmother, and his  uncle besieging him!

 

This position of affairs did not last long.  One summer night King  John, by treachery, got his men into the town, surprised Prince  Arthur's force, took two hundred of his knights, and seized the  Prince himself in his bed.  The Knights were put in heavy irons,  and driven away in open carts drawn by bullocks, to various  dungeons where they were most inhumanly treated, and where some of  them were starved to death.  Prince Arthur was sent to the castle  of Falaise.

 

One day, while he was in prison at that castle, mournfully thinking  it strange that one so young should be in so much trouble, and  looking out of the small window in the deep dark wall, at the  summer sky and the birds, the door was softly opened, and he saw  his uncle the King standing in the shadow of the archway, looking  very grim.

 

'Arthur,' said the King, with his wicked eyes more on the stone  floor than on his nephew, 'will you not trust to the gentleness,  the friendship, and the truthfulness of your loving uncle?'

 

'I will tell my loving uncle that,' replied the boy, 'when he does  me right.  Let him restore to me my kingdom of England, and then  come to me and ask the question.'

 

The King looked at him and went out.  'Keep that boy close  prisoner,' said he to the warden of the castle.

 

Then, the King took secret counsel with the worst of his nobles how  the Prince was to be got rid of.  Some said, 'Put out his eyes and  keep him in prison, as Robort of Normandy was kept.'  Others said,  'Have him stabbed.'  Others, 'Have him hanged.'  Others, 'Have him  poisoned.'

 

King John, feeling that in any case, whatever was done afterwards,  it would be a satisfaction to his mind to have those handsome eyes  burnt out that had looked at him so proudly while his own royal  eyes were blinking at the stone floor, sent certain ruffians to  Falaise to blind the boy with red-hot irons.  But Arthur so  pathetically entreated them, and shed such piteous tears, and so  appealed to HUBERT DE BOURG (or BURGH), the warden of the castle,  who had a love for him, and was an honourable, tender man, that  Hubert could not bear it.  To his eternal honour he prevented the  torture from being performed, and, at his own risk, sent the  savages away.

 

The chafed and disappointed King bethought himself of the stabbing  suggestion next, and, with his shuffling manner and his cruel face,  proposed it to one William de Bray.  'I am a gentleman and not an  executioner,' said William de Bray, and left the presence with  disdain.

 

But it was not difficult for a King to hire a murderer in those  days.  King John found one for his money, and sent him down to the  castle of Falaise.  'On what errand dost thou come?' said Hubert to  this fellow.  'To despatch young Arthur,' he returned.  'Go back to  him who sent thee,' answered Hubert, 'and say that I will do it!'

 

King John very well knowing that Hubert would never do it, but that  he courageously sent this reply to save the Prince or gain time,  despatched messengers to convey the young prisoner to the castle of  Rouen.

 

Arthur was soon forced from the good Hubert - of whom he had never  stood in greater need than then - carried away by night, and lodged  in his new prison:  where, through his grated window, he could hear  the deep waters of the river Seine, rippling against the stone wall  below.

 

One dark night, as he lay sleeping, dreaming perhaps of rescue by  those unfortunate gentlemen who were obscurely suffering and dying  in his cause, he was roused, and bidden by his jailer to come down  the staircase to the foot of the tower.  He hurriedly dressed  himself and obeyed.  When they came to the bottom of the winding  stairs, and the night air from the river blew upon their faces, the  jailer trod upon his torch and put it out.  Then, Arthur, in the  darkness, was hurriedly drawn into a solitary boat.  And in that  boat, he found his uncle and one other man.

 

He knelt to them, and prayed them not to murder him.  Deaf to his  entreaties, they stabbed him and sunk his body in the river with  heavy stones.  When the spring-morning broke, the tower-door was  closed, the boat was gone, the river sparkled on its way, and never  more was any trace of the poor boy beheld by mortal eyes.

 

The news of this atrocious murder being spread in England, awakened  a hatred of the King (already odious for his many vices, and for  his having stolen away and married a noble lady while his own wife  was living) that never slept again through his whole reign.  In  Brittany, the indignation was intense.  Arthur's own sister ELEANOR  was in the power of John and shut up in a convent at Bristol, but  his half-sister ALICE was in Brittany.  The people chose her, and  the murdered prince's father-in-law, the last husband of Constance,  to represent them; and carried their fiery complaints to King  Philip.  King Philip summoned King John (as the holder of territory  in France) to come before him and defend himself.  King John  refusing to appear, King Philip declared him false, perjured, and  guilty; and again made war.  In a little time, by conquering the  greater part of his French territory, King Philip deprived him of  one-third of his dominions.  And, through all the fighting that  took place, King John was always found, either to be eating and  drinking, like a gluttonous fool, when the danger was at a  distance, or to be running away, like a beaten cur, when it was  near.

 

You might suppose that when he was losing his dominions at this  rate, and when his own nobles cared so little for him or his cause  that they plainly refused to follow his banner out of England, he  had enemies enough.  But he made another enemy of the Pope, which  he did in this way.

 

The Archbishop of Canterbury dying, and the junior monks of that  place wishing to get the start of the senior monks in the  appointment of his successor, met together at midnight, secretly  elected a certain REGINALD, and sent him off to Rome to get the  Pope's approval.  The senior monks and the King soon finding this  out, and being very angry about it, the junior monks gave way, and  all the monks together elected the Bishop of Norwich, who was the  King's favourite.  The Pope, hearing the whole story, declared that  neither election would do for him, and that HE elected STEPHEN  LANGTON.  The monks submitting to the Pope, the King turned them  all out bodily, and banished them as traitors.  The Pope sent three  bishops to the King, to threaten him with an Interdict.  The King  told the bishops that if any Interdict were laid upon his kingdom,  he would tear out the eyes and cut off the noses of all the monks  he could lay hold of, and send them over to Rome in that  undecorated state as a present for their master.  The bishops,  nevertheless, soon published the Interdict, and fled.

 

After it had lasted a year, the Pope proceeded to his next step;  which was Excommunication.  King John was declared excommunicated,  with all the usual ceremonies.  The King was so incensed at this,  and was made so desperate by the disaffection of his Barons and the  hatred of his people, that it is said he even privately sent  ambassadors to the Turks in Spain, offering to renounce his  religion and hold his kingdom of them if they would help him.  It  is related that the ambassadors were admitted to the presence of  the Turkish Emir through long lines of Moorish guards, and that  they found the Emir with his eyes seriously fixed on the pages of a  large book, from which he never once looked up.  That they gave him  a letter from the King containing his proposals, and were gravely  dismissed.  That presently the Emir sent for one of them, and  conjured him, by his faith in his religion, to say what kind of man  the King of England truly was?  That the ambassador, thus pressed,  replied that the King of England was a false tyrant, against whom  his own subjects would soon rise.  And that this was quite enough  for the Emir.

 

Money being, in his position, the next best thing to men, King John  spared no means of getting it.  He set on foot another oppressing  and torturing of the unhappy Jews (which was quite in his way), and  invented a new punishment for one wealthy Jew of Bristol.  Until  such time as that Jew should produce a certain large sum of money,  the King sentenced him to be imprisoned, and, every day, to have  one tooth violently wrenched out of his head - beginning with the  double teeth.  For seven days, the oppressed man bore the daily  pain and lost the daily tooth; but, on the eighth, he paid the  money.  With the treasure raised in such ways, the King made an  expedition into Ireland, where some English nobles had revolted.   It was one of the very few places from which he did not run away;  because no resistance was shown.  He made another expedition into  Wales - whence he DID run away in the end:  but not before he had  got from the Welsh people, as hostages, twenty-seven young men of  the best families; every one of whom he caused to be slain in the  following year.

 

To Interdict and Excommunication, the Pope now added his last  sentence; Deposition.  He proclaimed John no longer King, absolved  all his subjects from their allegiance, and sent Stephen Langton  and others to the King of France to tell him that, if he would  invade England, he should be forgiven all his sins - at least,  should be forgiven them by the Pope, if that would do.

 

As there was nothing that King Philip desired more than to invade  England, he collected a great army at Rouen, and a fleet of  seventeen hundred ships to bring them over.  But the English  people, however bitterly they hated the King, were not a people to  suffer invasion quietly.  They flocked to Dover, where the English  standard was, in such great numbers to enrol themselves as  defenders of their native land, that there were not provisions for  them, and the King could only select and retain sixty thousand.   But, at this crisis, the Pope, who had his own reasons for  objecting to either King John or King Philip being too powerful,  interfered.  He entrusted a legate, whose name was PANDOLF, with  the easy task of frightening King John.  He sent him to the English  Camp, from France, to terrify him with exaggerations of King  Philip's power, and his own weakness in the discontent of the  English Barons and people.  Pandolf discharged his commission so  well, that King John, in a wretched panic, consented to acknowledge  Stephen Langton; to resign his kingdom 'to God, Saint Peter, and  Saint Paul' - which meant the Pope; and to hold it, ever  afterwards, by the Pope's leave, on payment of an annual sum of  money.  To this shameful contract he publicly bound himself in the  church of the Knights Templars at Dover:  where he laid at the  legate's feet a part of the tribute, which the legate haughtily  trampled upon.  But they DO say, that this was merely a genteel  flourish, and that he was afterwards seen to pick it up and pocket  it.

 

There was an unfortunate prophet, the name of Peter, who had  greatly increased King John's terrors by predicting that he would  be unknighted (which the King supposed to signify that he would  die) before the Feast of the Ascension should be past.  That was  the day after this humiliation.  When the next morning came, and  the King, who had been trembling all night, found himself alive and  safe, he ordered the prophet - and his son too - to be dragged  through the streets at the tails of horses, and then hanged, for  having frightened him.

 

As King John had now submitted, the Pope, to King Philip's great  astonishment, took him under his protection, and informed King  Philip that he found he could not give him leave to invade England.   The angry Philip resolved to do it without his leave but he gained  nothing and lost much; for, the English, commanded by the Earl of  Salisbury, went over, in five hundred ships, to the French coast,  before the French fleet had sailed away from it, and utterly  defeated the whole.

 

The Pope then took off his three sentences, one after another, and  empowered Stephen Langton publicly to receive King John into the  favour of the Church again, and to ask him to dinner.  The King,  who hated Langton with all his might and main - and with reason  too, for he was a great and a good man, with whom such a King could  have no sympathy - pretended to cry and to be VERY grateful.  There  was a little difficulty about settling how much the King should pay  as a recompense to the clergy for the losses he had caused them;  but, the end of it was, that the superior clergy got a good deal,  and the inferior clergy got little or nothing - which has also  happened since King John's time, I believe.

 

When all these matters were arranged, the King in his triumph  became more fierce, and false, and insolent to all around him than  he had ever been.  An alliance of sovereigns against King Philip,  gave him an opportunity of landing an army in France; with which he  even took a town!  But, on the French King's gaining a great  victory, he ran away, of course, and made a truce for five years.

 

And now the time approached when he was to be still further  humbled, and made to feel, if he could feel anything, what a  wretched creature he was.  Of all men in the world, Stephen Langton  seemed raised up by Heaven to oppose and subdue him.  When he  ruthlessly burnt and destroyed the property of his own subjects,  because their Lords, the Barons, would not serve him abroad,  Stephen Langton fearlessly reproved and threatened him.  When he  swore to restore the laws of King Edward, or the laws of King Henry  the First, Stephen Langton knew his falsehood, and pursued him  through all his evasions.  When the Barons met at the abbey of  Saint Edmund's-Bury, to consider their wrongs and the King's  oppressions, Stephen Langton roused them by his fervid words to  demand a solemn charter of rights and liberties from their perjured  master, and to swear, one by one, on the High Altar, that they  would have it, or would wage war against him to the death.  When  the King hid himself in London from the Barons, and was at last  obliged to receive them, they told him roundly they would not  believe him unless Stephen Langton became a surety that he would  keep his word.  When he took the Cross to invest himself with some  interest, and belong to something that was received with favour,  Stephen Langton was still immovable.  When he appealed to the Pope,  and the Pope wrote to Stephen Langton in behalf of his new  favourite, Stephen Langton was deaf, even to the Pope himself, and  saw before him nothing but the welfare of England and the crimes of  the English King.

 

At Easter-time, the Barons assembled at Stamford, in Lincolnshire,  in proud array, and, marching near to Oxford where the King was,  delivered into the hands of Stephen Langton and two others, a list  of grievances.  'And these,' they said, 'he must redress, or we  will do it for ourselves!'  When Stephen Langton told the King as  much, and read the list to him, he went half mad with rage.  But  that did him no more good than his afterwards trying to pacify the  Barons with lies.  They called themselves and their followers, 'The  army of God and the Holy Church.'  Marching through the country,  with the people thronging to them everywhere (except at  Northampton, where they failed in an attack upon the castle), they  at last triumphantly set up their banner in London itself, whither  the whole land, tired of the tyrant, seemed to flock to join them.   Seven knights alone, of all the knights in England, remained with  the King; who, reduced to this strait, at last sent the Earl of  Pembroke to the Barons to say that he approved of everything, and  would meet them to sign their charter when they would.  'Then,'  said the Barons, 'let the day be the fifteenth of June, and the  place, Runny-Mead.'

 

On Monday, the fifteenth of June, one thousand two hundred and  fourteen, the King came from Windsor Castle, and the Barons came  from the town of Staines, and they met on Runny-Mead, which is  still a pleasant meadow by the Thames, where rushes grow in the  clear water of the winding river, and its banks are green with  grass and trees.  On the side of the Barons, came the General of  their army, ROBERT FITZ-WALTER, and a great concourse of the  nobility of England.  With the King, came, in all, some four-and-twenty persons of any note, most of whom despised him, and were  merely his advisers in form.  On that great day, and in that great  company, the King signed MAGNA CHARTA - the great charter of  England - by which he pledged himself to maintain the Church in its  rights; to relieve the Barons of oppressive obligations as vassals  of the Crown - of which the Barons, in their turn, pledged  themselves to relieve THEIR vassals, the people; to respect the  liberties of London and all other cities and boroughs; to protect  foreign merchants who came to England; to imprison no man without a  fair trial; and to sell, delay, or deny justice to none.  As the  Barons knew his falsehood well, they further required, as their  securities, that he should send out of his kingdom all his foreign  troops; that for two months they should hold possession of the city  of London, and Stephen Langton of the Tower; and that five-and-twenty of their body, chosen by themselves, should be a lawful  committee to watch the keeping of the charter, and to make war upon  him if he broke it.

 

All this he was obliged to yield.  He signed the charter with a  smile, and, if he could have looked agreeable, would have done so,  as he departed from the splendid assembly.  When he got home to  Windsor Castle, he was quite a madman in his helpless fury.  And he  broke the charter immediately afterwards.

 

He sent abroad for foreign soldiers, and sent to the Pope for help,  and plotted to take London by surprise, while the Barons should be  holding a great tournament at Stamford, which they had agreed to  hold there as a celebration of the charter.  The Barons, however,  found him out and put it off.  Then, when the Barons desired to see  him and tax him with his treachery, he made numbers of appointments  with them, and kept none, and shifted from place to place, and was  constantly sneaking and skulking about.  At last he appeared at  Dover, to join his foreign soldiers, of whom numbers came into his  pay; and with them he besieged and took Rochester Castle, which was  occupied by knights and soldiers of the Barons.  He would have  hanged them every one; but the leader of the foreign soldiers,  fearful of what the English people might afterwards do to him,  interfered to save the knights; therefore the King was fain to  satisfy his vengeance with the death of all the common men.  Then,  he sent the Earl of Salisbury, with one portion of his army, to  ravage the eastern part of his own dominions, while he carried fire  and slaughter into the northern part; torturing, plundering,  killing, and inflicting every possible cruelty upon the people;  and, every morning, setting a worthy example to his men by setting  fire, with his own monster-hands, to the house where he had slept  last night.  Nor was this all; for the Pope, coming to the aid of  his precious friend, laid the kingdom under an Interdict again,  because the people took part with the Barons.  It did not much  matter, for the people had grown so used to it now, that they had  begun to think nothing about it.  It occurred to them - perhaps to  Stephen Langton too - that they could keep their churches open, and  ring their bells, without the Pope's permission as well as with it.   So, they tried the experiment - and found that it succeeded  perfectly.

 

It being now impossible to bear the country, as a wilderness of  cruelty, or longer to hold any terms with such a forsworn outlaw of  a King, the Barons sent to Louis, son of the French monarch, to  offer him the English crown.  Caring as little for the Pope's  excommunication of him if he accepted the offer, as it is possible  his father may have cared for the Pope's forgiveness of his sins,  he landed at Sandwich (King John immediately running away from  Dover, where he happened to be), and went on to London.  The  Scottish King, with whom many of the Northern English Lords had  taken refuge; numbers of the foreign soldiers, numbers of the  Barons, and numbers of the people went over to him every day; -  King John, the while, continually running away in all directions.

 

The career of Louis was checked however, by the suspicions of the  Barons, founded on the dying declaration of a French Lord, that  when the kingdom was conquered he was sworn to banish them as  traitors, and to give their estates to some of his own Nobles.   Rather than suffer this, some of the Barons hesitated:  others even  went over to King John.

 

It seemed to be the turning-point of King John's fortunes, for, in  his savage and murderous course, he had now taken some towns and  met with some successes.  But, happily for England and humanity,  his death was near.  Crossing a dangerous quicksand, called the  Wash, not very far from Wisbeach, the tide came up and nearly  drowned his army.  He and his soldiers escaped; but, looking back  from the shore when he was safe, he saw the roaring water sweep  down in a torrent, overturn the waggons, horses, and men, that  carried his treasure, and engulf them in a raging whirlpool from  which nothing could be delivered.

 

Cursing, and swearing, and gnawing his fingers, he went on to  Swinestead Abbey, where the monks set before him quantities of  pears, and peaches, and new cider - some say poison too, but there  is very little reason to suppose so - of which he ate and drank in  an immoderate and beastly way.  All night he lay ill of a burning  fever, and haunted with horrible fears.  Next day, they put him in  a horse-litter, and carried him to Sleaford Castle, where he passed  another night of pain and horror.  Next day, they carried him, with  greater difficulty than on the day before, to the castle of Newark  upon Trent; and there, on the eighteenth of October, in the forty-ninth year of his age, and the seventeenth of his vile reign, was  an end of this miserable brute.

 


CHAPTER XV - ENGLAND UNDER HENRY THE THIRD, CALLED, OF WINCHESTER

 

IF any of the English Barons remembered the murdered Arthur's  sister, Eleanor the fair maid of Brittany, shut up in her convent  at Bristol, none among them spoke of her now, or maintained her  right to the Crown.  The dead Usurper's eldest boy, HENRY by name,  was taken by the Earl of Pembroke, the Marshal of England, to the  city of Gloucester, and there crowned in great haste when he was  only ten years old.  As the Crown itself had been lost with the  King's treasure in the raging water, and as there was no time to  make another, they put a circle of plain gold upon his head  instead.  'We have been the enemies of this child's father,' said  Lord Pembroke, a good and true gentleman, to the few Lords who were  present, 'and he merited our ill-will; but the child himself is  innocent, and his youth demands our friendship and protection.'   Those Lords felt tenderly towards the little boy, remembering their  own young children; and they bowed their heads, and said, 'Long  live King Henry the Third!'

 

Next, a great council met at Bristol, revised Magna Charta, and  made Lord Pembroke Regent or Protector of England, as the King was  too young to reign alone.  The next thing to be done, was to get  rid of Prince Louis of France, and to win over those English Barons  who were still ranged under his banner.  He was strong in many  parts of England, and in London itself; and he held, among other  places, a certain Castle called the Castle of Mount Sorel, in  Leicestershire.  To this fortress, after some skirmishing and  truce-making, Lord Pembroke laid siege.  Louis despatched an army  of six hundred knights and twenty thousand soldiers to relieve it.   Lord Pembroke, who was not strong enough for such a force, retired  with all his men.  The army of the French Prince, which had marched  there with fire and plunder, marched away with fire and plunder,  and came, in a boastful swaggering manner, to Lincoln.  The town  submitted; but the Castle in the town, held by a brave widow lady,  named NICHOLA DE CAMVILLE (whose property it was), made such a  sturdy resistance, that the French Count in command of the army of  the French Prince found it necessary to besiege this Castle.  While  he was thus engaged, word was brought to him that Lord Pembroke,  with four hundred knights, two hundred and fifty men with cross-bows, and a stout force both of horse and foot, was marching  towards him.  'What care I?' said the French Count.  'The  Englishman is not so mad as to attack me and my great army in a  walled town!'  But the Englishman did it for all that, and did it -  not so madly but so wisely, that he decoyed the great army into the  narrow, ill-paved lanes and byways of Lincoln, where its horse-soldiers could not ride in any strong body; and there he made such  havoc with them, that the whole force surrendered themselves  prisoners, except the Count; who said that he would never yield to  any English traitor alive, and accordingly got killed.  The end of  this victory, which the English called, for a joke, the Fair of  Lincoln, was the usual one in those times - the common men were  slain without any mercy, and the knights and gentlemen paid ransom  and went home.

 

The wife of Louis, the fair BLANCHE OF CASTILE, dutifully equipped  a fleet of eighty good ships, and sent it over from France to her  husband's aid.  An English fleet of forty ships, some good and some  bad, gallantly met them near the mouth of the Thames, and took or  sunk sixty-five in one fight.  This great loss put an end to the  French Prince's hopes.  A treaty was made at Lambeth, in virtue of  which the English Barons who had remained attached to his cause  returned to their allegiance, and it was engaged on both sides that  the Prince and all his troops should retire peacefully to France.   It was time to go; for war had made him so poor that he was obliged  to borrow money from the citizens of London to pay his expenses  home.

 

Lord Pembroke afterwards applied himself to governing the country  justly, and to healing the quarrels and disturbances that had  arisen among men in the days of the bad King John.  He caused Magna  Charta to be still more improved, and so amended the Forest Laws  that a Peasant was no longer put to death for killing a stag in a  Royal Forest, but was only imprisoned.  It would have been well for  England if it could have had so good a Protector many years longer,  but that was not to be.  Within three years after the young King's  Coronation, Lord Pembroke died; and you may see his tomb, at this  day, in the old Temple Church in London.

 

The Protectorship was now divided.  PETER DE ROCHES, whom King John  had made Bishop of Winchester, was entrusted with the care of the  person of the young sovereign; and the exercise of the Royal  authority was confided to EARL HUBERT DE BURGH.  These two  personages had from the first no liking for each other, and soon  became enemies.  When the young King was declared of age, Peter de  Roches, finding that Hubert increased in power and favour, retired  discontentedly, and went abroad.  For nearly ten years afterwards  Hubert had full sway alone.

 

But ten years is a long time to hold the favour of a King.  This  King, too, as he grew up, showed a strong resemblance to his  father, in feebleness, inconsistency, and irresolution.  The best  that can be said of him is that he was not cruel.  De Roches coming  home again, after ten years, and being a novelty, the King began to  favour him and to look coldly on Hubert.  Wanting money besides,  and having made Hubert rich, he began to dislike Hubert.  At last  he was made to believe, or pretended to believe, that Hubert had  misappropriated some of the Royal treasure; and ordered him to  furnish an account of all he had done in his administration.   Besides which, the foolish charge was brought against Hubert that  he had made himself the King's favourite by magic.  Hubert very  well knowing that he could never defend himself against such  nonsense, and that his old enemy must be determined on his ruin,  instead of answering the charges fled to Merton Abbey.  Then the  King, in a violent passion, sent for the Mayor of London, and said  to the Mayor, 'Take twenty thousand citizens, and drag me Hubert de  Burgh out of that abbey, and bring him here.'  The Mayor posted off  to do it, but the Archbishop of Dublin (who was a friend of  Hubert's) warning the King that an abbey was a sacred place, and  that if he committed any violence there, he must answer for it to  the Church, the King changed his mind and called the Mayor back,  and declared that Hubert should have four months to prepare his  defence, and should be safe and free during that time.

 

Hubert, who relied upon the King's word, though I think he was old  enough to have known better, came out of Merton Abbey upon these  conditions, and journeyed away to see his wife:  a Scottish  Princess who was then at St. Edmund's-Bury.

 

Almost as soon as he had departed from the Sanctuary, his enemies  persuaded the weak King to send out one SIR GODFREY DE CRANCUMB,  who commanded three hundred vagabonds called the Black Band, with  orders to seize him.  They came up with him at a little town in  Essex, called Brentwood, when he was in bed.  He leaped out of bed,  got out of the house, fled to the church, ran up to the altar, and  laid his hand upon the cross.  Sir Godfrey and the Black Band,  caring neither for church, altar, nor cross, dragged him forth to  the church door, with their drawn swords flashing round his head,  and sent for a Smith to rivet a set of chains upon him.  When the  Smith (I wish I knew his name!) was brought, all dark and swarthy  with the smoke of his forge, and panting with the speed he had  made; and the Black Band, falling aside to show him the Prisoner,  cried with a loud uproar, 'Make the fetters heavy! make them  strong!' the Smith dropped upon his knee - but not to the Black  Band - and said, 'This is the brave Earl Hubert de Burgh, who  fought at Dover Castle, and destroyed the French fleet, and has  done his country much good service.  You may kill me, if you like,  but I will never make a chain for Earl Hubert de Burgh!'

 

The Black Band never blushed, or they might have blushed at this.   They knocked the Smith about from one to another, and swore at him,  and tied the Earl on horseback, undressed as he was, and carried  him off to the Tower of London.  The Bishops, however, were so  indignant at the violation of the Sanctuary of the Church, that the  frightened King soon ordered the Black Band to take him back again;  at the same time commanding the Sheriff of Essex to prevent his  escaping out of Brentwood Church.  Well! the Sheriff dug a deep  trench all round the church, and erected a high fence, and watched  the church night and day; the Black Band and their Captain watched  it too, like three hundred and one black wolves.  For thirty-nine  days, Hubert de Burgh remained within.  At length, upon the  fortieth day, cold and hunger were too much for him, and he gave  himself up to the Black Band, who carried him off, for the second  time, to the Tower.  When his trial came on, he refused to plead;  but at last it was arranged that he should give up all the royal  lands which had been bestowed upon him, and should be kept at the  Castle of Devizes, in what was called 'free prison,' in charge of  four knights appointed by four lords.  There, he remained almost a  year, until, learning that a follower of his old enemy the Bishop  was made Keeper of the Castle, and fearing that he might be killed  by treachery, he climbed the ramparts one dark night, dropped from  the top of the high Castle wall into the moat, and coming safely to  the ground, took refuge in another church.  From this place he was  delivered by a party of horse despatched to his help by some  nobles, who were by this time in revolt against the King, and  assembled in Wales.  He was finally pardoned and restored to his  estates, but he lived privately, and never more aspired to a high  post in the realm, or to a high place in the King's favour.  And  thus end - more happily than the stories of many favourites of  Kings - the adventures of Earl Hubert de Burgh.

 

The nobles, who had risen in revolt, were stirred up to rebellion  by the overbearing conduct of the Bishop of Winchester, who,  finding that the King secretly hated the Great Charter which had  been forced from his father, did his utmost to confirm him in that  dislike, and in the preference he showed to foreigners over the  English.  Of this, and of his even publicly declaring that the  Barons of England were inferior to those of France, the English  Lords complained with such bitterness, that the King, finding them  well supported by the clergy, became frightened for his throne, and  sent away the Bishop and all his foreign associates.  On his  marriage, however, with ELEANOR, a French lady, the daughter of the  Count of Provence, he openly favoured the foreigners again; and so  many of his wife's relations came over, and made such an immense  family-party at court, and got so many good things, and pocketed so  much money, and were so high with the English whose money they  pocketed, that the bolder English Barons murmured openly about a  clause there was in the Great Charter, which provided for the  banishment of unreasonable favourites.  But, the foreigners only  laughed disdainfully, and said, 'What are your English laws to us?'

 

King Philip of France had died, and had been succeeded by Prince  Louis, who had also died after a short reign of three years, and  had been succeeded by his son of the same name - so moderate and  just a man that he was not the least in the world like a King, as  Kings went.  ISABELLA, King Henry's mother, wished very much (for a  certain spite she had) that England should make war against this  King; and, as King Henry was a mere puppet in anybody's hands who  knew how to manage his feebleness, she easily carried her point  with him.  But, the Parliament were determined to give him no money  for such a war.  So, to defy the Parliament, he packed up thirty  large casks of silver - I don't know how he got so much; I dare say  he screwed it out of the miserable Jews - and put them aboard ship,  and went away himself to carry war into France:  accompanied by his  mother and his brother Richard, Earl of Cornwall, who was rich and  clever.  But he only got well beaten, and came home.

 

The good-humour of the Parliament was not restored by this.  They  reproached the King with wasting the public money to make greedy  foreigners rich, and were so stern with him, and so determined not  to let him have more of it to waste if they could help it, that he  was at his wit's end for some, and tried so shamelessly to get all  he could from his subjects, by excuses or by force, that the people  used to say the King was the sturdiest beggar in England.  He took  the Cross, thinking to get some money by that means; but, as it was  very well known that he never meant to go on a crusade, he got  none.  In all this contention, the Londoners were particularly keen  against the King, and the King hated them warmly in return.  Hating  or loving, however, made no difference; he continued in the same  condition for nine or ten years, when at last the Barons said that  if he would solemnly confirm their liberties afresh, the Parliament  would vote him a large sum.

 

As he readily consented, there was a great meeting held in  Westminster Hall, one pleasant day in May, when all the clergy,  dressed in their robes and holding every one of them a burning  candle in his hand, stood up (the Barons being also there) while  the Archbishop of Canterbury read the sentence of excommunication  against any man, and all men, who should henceforth, in any way,  infringe the Great Charter of the Kingdom.  When he had done, they  all put out their burning candles with a curse upon the soul of any  one, and every one, who should merit that sentence.  The King  concluded with an oath to keep the Charter, 'As I am a man, as I am  a Christian, as I am a Knight, as I am a King!'

 

It was easy to make oaths, and easy to break them; and the King did  both, as his father had done before him.  He took to his old  courses again when he was supplied with money, and soon cured of  their weakness the few who had ever really trusted him.  When his  money was gone, and he was once more borrowing and begging  everywhere with a meanness worthy of his nature, he got into a  difficulty with the Pope respecting the Crown of Sicily, which the  Pope said he had a right to give away, and which he offered to King  Henry for his second son, PRINCE EDMUND.  But, if you or I give  away what we have not got, and what belongs to somebody else, it is  likely that the person to whom we give it, will have some trouble  in taking it.  It was exactly so in this case.  It was necessary to  conquer the Sicilian Crown before it could be put upon young  Edmund's head.  It could not be conquered without money.  The Pope  ordered the clergy to raise money.  The clergy, however, were not  so obedient to him as usual; they had been disputing with him for  some time about his unjust preference of Italian Priests in  England; and they had begun to doubt whether the King's chaplain,  whom he allowed to be paid for preaching in seven hundred churches,  could possibly be, even by the Pope's favour, in seven hundred  places at once.  'The Pope and the King together,' said the Bishop  of London, 'may take the mitre off my head; but, if they do, they  will find that I shall put on a soldier's helmet.  I pay nothing.'   The Bishop of Worcester was as bold as the Bishop of London, and  would pay nothing either.  Such sums as the more timid or more  helpless of the clergy did raise were squandered away, without  doing any good to the King, or bringing the Sicilian Crown an inch  nearer to Prince Edmund's head.  The end of the business was, that  the Pope gave the Crown to the brother of the King of France (who  conquered it for himself), and sent the King of England in, a bill  of one hundred thousand pounds for the expenses of not having won  it.

 

The King was now so much distressed that we might almost pity him,  if it were possible to pity a King so shabby and ridiculous.  His  clever brother, Richard, had bought the title of King of the Romans  from the German people, and was no longer near him, to help him  with advice.  The clergy, resisting the very Pope, were in alliance  with the Barons.  The Barons were headed by SIMON DE MONTFORT, Earl  of Leicester, married to King Henry's sister, and, though a  foreigner himself, the most popular man in England against the  foreign favourites.  When the King next met his Parliament, the  Barons, led by this Earl, came before him, armed from head to foot,  and cased in armour.  When the Parliament again assembled, in a  month's time, at Oxford, this Earl was at their head, and the King  was obliged to consent, on oath, to what was called a Committee of  Government:  consisting of twenty-four members:  twelve chosen by  the Barons, and twelve chosen by himself.

 

But, at a good time for him, his brother Richard came back.   Richard's first act (the Barons would not admit him into England on  other terms) was to swear to be faithful to the Committee of  Government - which he immediately began to oppose with all his  might.  Then, the Barons began to quarrel among themselves;  especially the proud Earl of Gloucester with the Earl of Leicester,  who went abroad in disgust.  Then, the people began to be  dissatisfied with the Barons, because they did not do enough for  them.  The King's chances seemed so good again at length, that he  took heart enough - or caught it from his brother - to tell the  Committee of Government that he abolished them - as to his oath,  never mind that, the Pope said! - and to seize all the money in the  Mint, and to shut himself up in the Tower of London.  Here he was  joined by his eldest son, Prince Edward; and, from the Tower, he  made public a letter of the Pope's to the world in general,  informing all men that he had been an excellent and just King for  five-and-forty years.

 

As everybody knew he had been nothing of the sort, nobody cared  much for this document.  It so chanced that the proud Earl of  Gloucester dying, was succeeded by his son; and that his son,  instead of being the enemy of the Earl of Leicester, was (for the  time) his friend.  It fell out, therefore, that these two Earls  joined their forces, took several of the Royal Castles in the  country, and advanced as hard as they could on London.  The London  people, always opposed to the King, declared for them with great  joy.  The King himself remained shut up, not at all gloriously, in  the Tower.  Prince Edward made the best of his way to Windsor  Castle.  His mother, the Queen, attempted to follow him by water;  but, the people seeing her barge rowing up the river, and hating  her with all their hearts, ran to London Bridge, got together a  quantity of stones and mud, and pelted the barge as it came  through, crying furiously, 'Drown the Witch!  Drown her!'  They  were so near doing it, that the Mayor took the old lady under his  protection, and shut her up in St. Paul's until the danger was  past.

 

It would require a great deal of writing on my part, and a great  deal of reading on yours, to follow the King through his disputes  with the Barons, and to follow the Barons through their disputes  with one another - so I will make short work of it for both of us,  and only relate the chief events that arose out of these quarrels.   The good King of France was asked to decide between them.  He gave  it as his opinion that the King must maintain the Great Charter,  and that the Barons must give up the Committee of Government, and  all the rest that had been done by the Parliament at Oxford:  which  the Royalists, or King's party, scornfully called the Mad  Parliament.  The Barons declared that these were not fair terms,  and they would not accept them.  Then they caused the great bell of  St. Paul's to be tolled, for the purpose of rousing up the London  people, who armed themselves at the dismal sound and formed quite  an army in the streets.  I am sorry to say, however, that instead  of falling upon the King's party with whom their quarrel was, they  fell upon the miserable Jews, and killed at least five hundred of  them.  They pretended that some of these Jews were on the King's  side, and that they kept hidden in their houses, for the  destruction of the people, a certain terrible composition called  Greek Fire, which could not be put out with water, but only burnt  the fiercer for it.  What they really did keep in their houses was  money; and this their cruel enemies wanted, and this their cruel  enemies took, like robbers and murderers.

 

The Earl of Leicester put himself at the head of these Londoners  and other forces, and followed the King to Lewes in Sussex, where  he lay encamped with his army.  Before giving the King's forces  battle here, the Earl addressed his soldiers, and said that King  Henry the Third had broken so many oaths, that he had become the  enemy of God, and therefore they would wear white crosses on their  breasts, as if they were arrayed, not against a fellow-Christian,  but against a Turk.  White-crossed accordingly, they rushed into  the fight.  They would have lost the day - the King having on his  side all the foreigners in England:  and, from Scotland, JOHN  COMYN, JOHN BALIOL, and ROBERT BRUCE, with all their men - but for  the impatience of PRINCE EDWARD, who, in his hot desire to have  vengeance on the people of London, threw the whole of his father's  army into confusion.  He was taken Prisoner; so was the King; so  was the King's brother the King of the Romans; and five thousand  Englishmen were left dead upon the bloody grass.

 

For this success, the Pope excommunicated the Earl of Leicester:   which neither the Earl nor the people cared at all about.  The  people loved him and supported him, and he became the real King;  having all the power of the government in his own hands, though he  was outwardly respectful to King Henry the Third, whom he took with  him wherever he went, like a poor old limp court-card.  He summoned  a Parliament (in the year one thousand two hundred and sixty-five)  which was the first Parliament in England that the people had any  real share in electing; and he grew more and more in favour with  the people every day, and they stood by him in whatever he did.

 

Many of the other Barons, and particularly the Earl of Gloucester,  who had become by this time as proud as his father, grew jealous of  this powerful and popular Earl, who was proud too, and began to  conspire against him.  Since the battle of Lewes, Prince Edward had  been kept as a hostage, and, though he was otherwise treated like a  Prince, had never been allowed to go out without attendants  appointed by the Earl of Leicester, who watched him.  The  conspiring Lords found means to propose to him, in secret, that  they should assist him to escape, and should make him their leader;  to which he very heartily consented.

 

So, on a day that was agreed upon, he said to his attendants after  dinner (being then at Hereford), 'I should like to ride on  horseback, this fine afternoon, a little way into the country.'  As  they, too, thought it would be very pleasant to have a canter in  the sunshine, they all rode out of the town together in a gay  little troop.  When they came to a fine level piece of turf, the  Prince fell to comparing their horses one with another, and  offering bets that one was faster than another; and the attendants,  suspecting no harm, rode galloping matches until their horses were  quite tired.  The Prince rode no matches himself, but looked on  from his saddle, and staked his money.  Thus they passed the whole  merry afternoon.  Now, the sun was setting, and they were all going  slowly up a hill, the Prince's horse very fresh and all the other  horses very weary, when a strange rider mounted on a grey steed  appeared at the top of the hill, and waved his hat.  'What does the  fellow mean?' said the attendants one to another.  The Prince  answered on the instant by setting spurs to his horse, dashing away  at his utmost speed, joining the man, riding into the midst of a  little crowd of horsemen who were then seen waiting under some  trees, and who closed around him; and so he departed in a cloud of  dust, leaving the road empty of all but the baffled attendants, who  sat looking at one another, while their horses drooped their ears  and panted.

 

The Prince joined the Earl of Gloucester at Ludlow.  The Earl of  Leicester, with a part of the army and the stupid old King, was at  Hereford.  One of the Earl of Leicester's sons, Simon de Montfort,  with another part of the army, was in Sussex.  To prevent these two  parts from uniting was the Prince's first object.  He attacked  Simon de Montfort by night, defeated him, seized his banners and  treasure, and forced him into Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire,  which belonged to his family.

 

His father, the Earl of Leicester, in the meanwhile, not knowing  what had happened, marched out of Hereford, with his part of the  army and the King, to meet him.  He came, on a bright morning in  August, to Evesham, which is watered by the pleasant river Avon.   Looking rather anxiously across the prospect towards Kenilworth, he  saw his own banners advancing; and his face brightened with joy.   But, it clouded darkly when he presently perceived that the banners  were captured, and in the enemy's hands; and he said, 'It is over.   The Lord have mercy on our souls, for our bodies are Prince  Edward's!'

 

He fought like a true Knight, nevertheless.  When his horse was  killed under him, he fought on foot.  It was a fierce battle, and  the dead lay in heaps everywhere.  The old King, stuck up in a suit  of armour on a big war-horse, which didn't mind him at all, and  which carried him into all sorts of places where he didn't want to  go, got into everybody's way, and very nearly got knocked on the  head by one of his son's men.  But he managed to pipe out, 'I am  Harry of Winchester!' and the Prince, who heard him, seized his  bridle, and took him out of peril.  The Earl of Leicester still  fought bravely, until his best son Henry was killed, and the bodies  of his best friends choked his path; and then he fell, still  fighting, sword in hand.  They mangled his body, and sent it as a  present to a noble lady - but a very unpleasant lady, I should  think - who was the wife of his worst enemy.  They could not mangle  his memory in the minds of the faithful people, though.  Many years  afterwards, they loved him more than ever, and regarded him as a  Saint, and always spoke of him as 'Sir Simon the Righteous.'

 

And even though he was dead, the cause for which he had fought  still lived, and was strong, and forced itself upon the King in the  very hour of victory.  Henry found himself obliged to respect the  Great Charter, however much he hated it, and to make laws similar  to the laws of the Great Earl of Leicester, and to be moderate and  forgiving towards the people at last - even towards the people of  London, who had so long opposed him.  There were more risings  before all this was done, but they were set at rest by these means,  and Prince Edward did his best in all things to restore peace.  One  Sir Adam de Gourdon was the last dissatisfied knight in arms; but,  the Prince vanquished him in single combat, in a wood, and nobly  gave him his life, and became his friend, instead of slaying him.   Sir Adam was not ungrateful.  He ever afterwards remained devoted  to his generous conqueror.

 

When the troubles of the Kingdom were thus calmed, Prince Edward  and his cousin Henry took the Cross, and went away to the Holy  Land, with many English Lords and Knights.  Four years afterwards  the King of the Romans died, and, next year (one thousand two  hundred and seventy-two), his brother the weak King of England  died.  He was sixty-eight years old then, and had reigned fifty-six  years.  He was as much of a King in death, as he had ever been in  life.  He was the mere pale shadow of a King at all times.

 


CHAPTER XVI - ENGLAND UNDER EDWARD THE FIRST, CALLED LONGSHANKS

 

IT was now the year of our Lord one thousand two hundred and  seventy-two; and Prince Edward, the heir to the throne, being away  in the Holy Land, knew nothing of his father's death.  The Barons,  however, proclaimed him King, immediately after the Royal funeral;  and the people very willingly consented, since most men knew too  well by this time what the horrors of a contest for the crown were.   So King Edward the First, called, in a not very complimentary  manner, LONGSHANKS, because of the slenderness of his legs, was  peacefully accepted by the English Nation.

 

His legs had need to be strong, however long and thin they were;  for they had to support him through many difficulties on the fiery  sands of Asia, where his small force of soldiers fainted, died,  deserted, and seemed to melt away.  But his prowess made light of  it, and he said, 'I will go on, if I go on with no other follower  than my groom!'

 

A Prince of this spirit gave the Turks a deal of trouble.  He  stormed Nazareth, at which place, of all places on earth, I am  sorry to relate, he made a frightful slaughter of innocent people;  and then he went to Acre, where he got a truce of ten years from  the Sultan.  He had very nearly lost his life in Acre, through the  treachery of a Saracen Noble, called the Emir of Jaffa, who, making  the pretence that he had some idea of turning Christian and wanted  to know all about that religion, sent a trusty messenger to Edward  very often - with a dagger in his sleeve.  At last, one Friday in  Whitsun week, when it was very hot, and all the sandy prospect lay  beneath the blazing sun, burnt up like a great overdone biscuit,  and Edward was lying on a couch, dressed for coolness in only a  loose robe, the messenger, with his chocolate-coloured face and his  bright dark eyes and white teeth, came creeping in with a letter,  and kneeled down like a tame tiger.  But, the moment Edward  stretched out his hand to take the letter, the tiger made a spring  at his heart.  He was quick, but Edward was quick too.  He seized  the traitor by his chocolate throat, threw him to the ground, and  slew him with the very dagger he had drawn.  The weapon had struck  Edward in the arm, and although the wound itself was slight, it  threatened to be mortal, for the blade of the dagger had been  smeared with poison.  Thanks, however, to a better surgeon than was  often to be found in those times, and to some wholesome herbs, and  above all, to his faithful wife, ELEANOR, who devotedly nursed him,  and is said by some to have sucked the poison from the wound with  her own red lips (which I am very willing to believe), Edward soon  recovered and was sound again.

 

As the King his father had sent entreaties to him to return home,  he now began the journey.  He had got as far as Italy, when he met  messengers who brought him intelligence of the King's death.   Hearing that all was quiet at home, he made no haste to return to  his own dominions, but paid a visit to the Pope, and went in state  through various Italian Towns, where he was welcomed with  acclamations as a mighty champion of the Cross from the Holy Land,  and where he received presents of purple mantles and prancing  horses, and went along in great triumph.  The shouting people  little knew that he was the last English monarch who would ever  embark in a crusade, or that within twenty years every conquest  which the Christians had made in the Holy Land at the cost of so  much blood, would be won back by the Turks.  But all this came to  pass.

 

There was, and there is, an old town standing in a plain in France,  called Chƒlons.  When the King was coming towards this place on his  way to England, a wily French Lord, called the Count of Chƒlons,  sent him a polite challenge to come with his knights and hold a  fair tournament with the Count and HIS knights, and make a day of  it with sword and lance.  It was represented to the King that the  Count of Chƒlons was not to be trusted, and that, instead of a  holiday fight for mere show and in good humour, he secretly meant a  real battle, in which the English should be defeated by superior  force.

 

The King, however, nothing afraid, went to the appointed place on  the appointed day with a thousand followers.  When the Count came  with two thousand and attacked the English in earnest, the English  rushed at them with such valour that the Count's men and the  Count's horses soon began to be tumbled down all over the field.   The Count himself seized the King round the neck, but the King  tumbled HIM out of his saddle in return for the compliment, and,  jumping from his own horse, and standing over him, beat away at his  iron armour like a blacksmith hammering on his anvil.  Even when  the Count owned himself defeated and offered his sword, the King  would not do him the honour to take it, but made him yield it up to  a common soldier.  There had been such fury shown in this fight,  that it was afterwards called the little Battle of Chƒlons.

 

The English were very well disposed to be proud of their King after  these adventures; so, when he landed at Dover in the year one  thousand two hundred and seventy-four (being then thirty-six years  old), and went on to Westminster where he and his good Queen were  crowned with great magnificence, splendid rejoicings took place.   For the coronation-feast there were provided, among other eatables,  four hundred oxen, four hundred sheep, four hundred and fifty pigs,  eighteen wild boars, three hundred flitches of bacon, and twenty  thousand fowls.  The fountains and conduits in the street flowed  with red and white wine instead of water; the rich citizens hung  silks and cloths of the brightest colours out of their windows to  increase the beauty of the show, and threw out gold and silver by  whole handfuls to make scrambles for the crowd.  In short, there  was such eating and drinking, such music and capering, such a  ringing of bells and tossing of caps, such a shouting, and singing,  and revelling, as the narrow overhanging streets of old London City  had not witnessed for many a long day.  All the people were merry  except the poor Jews, who, trembling within their houses, and  scarcely daring to peep out, began to foresee that they would have  to find the money for this joviality sooner or later.

 

To dismiss this sad subject of the Jews for the present, I am sorry  to add that in this reign they were most unmercifully pillaged.   They were hanged in great numbers, on accusations of having clipped  the King's coin - which all kinds of people had done.  They were  heavily taxed; they were disgracefully badged; they were, on one  day, thirteen years after the coronation, taken up with their wives  and children and thrown into beastly prisons, until they purchased  their release by paying to the King twelve thousand pounds.   Finally, every kind of property belonging to them was seized by the  King, except so little as would defray the charge of their taking  themselves away into foreign countries.  Many years elapsed before  the hope of gain induced any of their race to return to England,  where they had been treated so heartlessly and had suffered so  much.

 

If King Edward the First had been as bad a king to Christians as he  was to Jews, he would have been bad indeed.  But he was, in  general, a wise and great monarch, under whom the country much  improved.  He had no love for the Great Charter - few Kings had,  through many, many years - but he had high qualities.  The first  bold object which he conceived when he came home, was, to unite  under one Sovereign England, Scotland, and Wales; the two last of  which countries had each a little king of its own, about whom the  people were always quarrelling and fighting, and making a  prodigious disturbance - a great deal more than he was worth.  In  the course of King Edward's reign he was engaged, besides, in a war  with France.  To make these quarrels clearer, we will separate  their histories and take them thus.  Wales, first.  France, second.   Scotland, third.

 

LLEWELLYN was the Prince of Wales.  He had been on the side of the  Barons in the reign of the stupid old King, but had afterwards  sworn allegiance to him.  When King Edward came to the throne,  Llewellyn was required to swear allegiance to him also; which he  refused to do.  The King, being crowned and in his own dominions,  three times more required Llewellyn to come and do homage; and  three times more Llewellyn said he would rather not.  He was going  to be married to ELEANOR DE MONTFORT, a young lady of the family  mentioned in the last reign; and it chanced that this young lady,  coming from France with her youngest brother, EMERIC, was taken by  an English ship, and was ordered by the English King to be  detained.  Upon this, the quarrel came to a head.  The King went,  with his fleet, to the coast of Wales, where, so encompassing  Llewellyn, that he could only take refuge in the bleak mountain  region of Snowdon in which no provisions could reach him, he was  soon starved into an apology, and into a treaty of peace, and into  paying the expenses of the war.  The King, however, forgave him  some of the hardest conditions of the treaty, and consented to his  marriage.  And he now thought he had reduced Wales to obedience.

 

But the Welsh, although they were naturally a gentle, quiet,  pleasant people, who liked to receive strangers in their cottages  among the mountains, and to set before them with free hospitality  whatever they had to eat and drink, and to play to them on their  harps, and sing their native ballads to them, were a people of  great spirit when their blood was up.  Englishmen, after this  affair, began to be insolent in Wales, and to assume the air of  masters; and the Welsh pride could not bear it.  Moreover, they  believed in that unlucky old Merlin, some of whose unlucky old  prophecies somebody always seemed doomed to remember when there was  a chance of its doing harm; and just at this time some blind old  gentleman with a harp and a long white beard, who was an excellent  person, but had become of an unknown age and tedious, burst out  with a declaration that Merlin had predicted that when English  money had become round, a Prince of Wales would be crowned in  London.  Now, King Edward had recently forbidden the English penny  to be cut into halves and quarters for halfpence and farthings, and  had actually introduced a round coin; therefore, the Welsh people  said this was the time Merlin meant, and rose accordingly.

 

King Edward had bought over PRINCE DAVID, Llewellyn's brother, by  heaping favours upon him; but he was the first to revolt, being  perhaps troubled in his conscience.  One stormy night, he surprised  the Castle of Hawarden, in possession of which an English nobleman  had been left; killed the whole garrison, and carried off the  nobleman a prisoner to Snowdon.  Upon this, the Welsh people rose  like one man.  King Edward, with his army, marching from Worcester  to the Menai Strait, crossed it - near to where the wonderful  tubular iron bridge now, in days so different, makes a passage for  railway trains - by a bridge of boats that enabled forty men to  march abreast.  He subdued the Island of Anglesea, and sent his men  forward to observe the enemy.  The sudden appearance of the Welsh  created a panic among them, and they fell back to the bridge.  The  tide had in the meantime risen and separated the boats; the Welsh  pursuing them, they were driven into the sea, and there they sunk,  in their heavy iron armour, by thousands.  After this victory  Llewellyn, helped by the severe winter-weather of Wales, gained  another battle; but the King ordering a portion of his English army  to advance through South Wales, and catch him between two foes, and  Llewellyn bravely turning to meet this new enemy, he was surprised  and killed - very meanly, for he was unarmed and defenceless.  His  head was struck off and sent to London, where it was fixed upon the  Tower, encircled with a wreath, some say of ivy, some say of  willow, some say of silver, to make it look like a ghastly coin in  ridicule of the prediction.

 

David, however, still held out for six months, though eagerly  sought after by the King, and hunted by his own countrymen.  One of  them finally betrayed him with his wife and children.  He was  sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered; and from that time  this became the established punishment of Traitors in England - a  punishment wholly without excuse, as being revolting, vile, and  cruel, after its object is dead; and which has no sense in it, as  its only real degradation (and that nothing can blot out) is to the  country that permits on any consideration such abominable  barbarity.

 

Wales was now subdued.  The Queen giving birth to a young prince in  the Castle of Carnarvon, the King showed him to the Welsh people as  their countryman, and called him Prince of Wales; a title that has  ever since been borne by the heir-apparent to the English throne -  which that little Prince soon became, by the death of his elder  brother.  The King did better things for the Welsh than that, by  improving their laws and encouraging their trade.  Disturbances  still took place, chiefly occasioned by the avarice and pride of  the English Lords, on whom Welsh lands and castles had been  bestowed; but they were subdued, and the country never rose again.   There is a legend that to prevent the people from being incited to  rebellion by the songs of their bards and harpers, Edward had them  all put to death.  Some of them may have fallen among other men who  held out against the King; but this general slaughter is, I think,  a fancy of the harpers themselves, who, I dare say, made a song  about it many years afterwards, and sang it by the Welsh firesides  until it came to be believed.

 

The foreign war of the reign of Edward the First arose in this way.   The crews of two vessels, one a Norman ship, and the other an  English ship, happened to go to the same place in their boats to  fill their casks with fresh water.  Being rough angry fellows, they  began to quarrel, and then to fight - the English with their fists;  the Normans with their knives - and, in the fight, a Norman was  killed.  The Norman crew, instead of revenging themselves upon  those English sailors with whom they had quarrelled (who were too  strong for them, I suspect), took to their ship again in a great  rage, attacked the first English ship they met, laid hold of an  unoffending merchant who happened to be on board, and brutally  hanged him in the rigging of their own vessel with a dog at his  feet.  This so enraged the English sailors that there was no  restraining them; and whenever, and wherever, English sailors met  Norman sailors, they fell upon each other tooth and nail.  The  Irish and Dutch sailors took part with the English; the French and  Genoese sailors helped the Normans; and thus the greater part of  the mariners sailing over the sea became, in their way, as violent  and raging as the sea itself when it is disturbed.

 

King Edward's fame had been so high abroad that he had been chosen  to decide a difference between France and another foreign power,  and had lived upon the Continent three years.  At first, neither he  nor the French King PHILIP (the good Louis had been dead some time)  interfered in these quarrels; but when a fleet of eighty English  ships engaged and utterly defeated a Norman fleet of two hundred,  in a pitched battle fought round a ship at anchor, in which no  quarter was given, the matter became too serious to be passed over.   King Edward, as Duke of Guienne, was summoned to present himself  before the King of France, at Paris, and answer for the damage done  by his sailor subjects.  At first, he sent the Bishop of London as  his representative, and then his brother EDMUND, who was married to  the French Queen's mother.  I am afraid Edmund was an easy man, and  allowed himself to be talked over by his charming relations, the  French court ladies; at all events, he was induced to give up his  brother's dukedom for forty days - as a mere form, the French King  said, to satisfy his honour - and he was so very much astonished,  when the time was out, to find that the French King had no idea of  giving it up again, that I should not wonder if it hastened his  death:  which soon took place.

 

King Edward was a King to win his foreign dukedom back again, if it  could be won by energy and valour.  He raised a large army,  renounced his allegiance as Duke of Guienne, and crossed the sea to  carry war into France.  Before any important battle was fought,  however, a truce was agreed upon for two years; and in the course  of that time, the Pope effected a reconciliation.  King Edward, who  was now a widower, having lost his affectionate and good wife,  Eleanor, married the French King's sister, MARGARET; and the Prince  of Wales was contracted to the French King's daughter ISABELLA.

 

Out of bad things, good things sometimes arise.  Out of this  hanging of the innocent merchant, and the bloodshed and strife it  caused, there came to be established one of the greatest powers  that the English people now possess.  The preparations for the war  being very expensive, and King Edward greatly wanting money, and  being very arbitrary in his ways of raising it, some of the Barons  began firmly to oppose him.  Two of them, in particular, HUMPHREY  BOHUN, Earl of Hereford, and ROGER BIGOD, Earl of Norfolk, were so  stout against him, that they maintained he had no right to command  them to head his forces in Guienne, and flatly refused to go there.   'By Heaven, Sir Earl,' said the King to the Earl of Hereford, in a  great passion, 'you shall either go or be hanged!'  'By Heaven, Sir  King,' replied the Earl, 'I will neither go nor yet will I be  hanged!' and both he and the other Earl sturdily left the court,  attended by many Lords.  The King tried every means of raising  money.  He taxed the clergy, in spite of all the Pope said to the  contrary; and when they refused to pay, reduced them to submission,  by saying Very well, then they had no claim upon the government for  protection, and any man might plunder them who would - which a good  many men were very ready to do, and very readily did, and which the  clergy found too losing a game to be played at long.  He seized all  the wool and leather in the hands of the merchants, promising to  pay for it some fine day; and he set a tax upon the exportation of  wool, which was so unpopular among the traders that it was called  'The evil toll.'  But all would not do.  The Barons, led by those  two great Earls, declared any taxes imposed without the consent of  Parliament, unlawful; and the Parliament refused to impose taxes,  until the King should confirm afresh the two Great Charters, and  should solemnly declare in writing, that there was no power in the  country to raise money from the people, evermore, but the power of  Parliament representing all ranks of the people.  The King was very  unwilling to diminish his own power by allowing this great  privilege in the Parliament; but there was no help for it, and he  at last complied.  We shall come to another King by-and-by, who  might have saved his head from rolling off, if he had profited by  this example.

 

The people gained other benefits in Parliament from the good sense  and wisdom of this King.  Many of the laws were much improved;  provision was made for the greater safety of travellers, and the  apprehension of thieves and murderers; the priests were prevented  from holding too much land, and so becoming too powerful; and  Justices of the Peace were first appointed (though not at first  under that name) in various parts of the country.

 

And now we come to Scotland, which was the great and lasting  trouble of the reign of King Edward the First.

 

About thirteen years after King Edward's coronation, Alexander the  Third, the King of Scotland, died of a fall from his horse.  He had  been married to Margaret, King Edward's sister.  All their children  being dead, the Scottish crown became the right of a young Princess  only eight years old, the daughter of ERIC, King of Norway, who had  married a daughter of the deceased sovereign.  King Edward  proposed, that the Maiden of Norway, as this Princess was called,  should be engaged to be married to his eldest son; but,  unfortunately, as she was coming over to England she fell sick, and  landing on one of the Orkney Islands, died there.  A great  commotion immediately began in Scotland, where as many as thirteen  noisy claimants to the vacant throne started up and made a general  confusion.

 

King Edward being much renowned for his sagacity and justice, it  seems to have been agreed to refer the dispute to him.  He accepted  the trust, and went, with an army, to the Border-land where England  and Scotland joined.  There, he called upon the Scottish gentlemen  to meet him at the Castle of Norham, on the English side of the  river Tweed; and to that Castle they came.  But, before he would  take any step in the business, he required those Scottish  gentlemen, one and all, to do homage to him as their superior Lord;  and when they hesitated, he said, 'By holy Edward, whose crown I  wear, I will have my rights, or I will die in maintaining them!'   The Scottish gentlemen, who had not expected this, were  disconcerted, and asked for three weeks to think about it.

 

At the end of the three weeks, another meeting took place, on a  green plain on the Scottish side of the river.  Of all the  competitors for the Scottish throne, there were only two who had  any real claim, in right of their near kindred to the Royal Family.   These were JOHN BALIOL and ROBERT BRUCE:  and the right was, I have  no doubt, on the side of John Baliol.  At this particular meeting  John Baliol was not present, but Robert Bruce was; and on Robert  Bruce being formally asked whether he acknowledged the King of  England for his superior lord, he answered, plainly and distinctly,  Yes, he did.  Next day, John Baliol appeared, and said the same.   This point settled, some arrangements were made for inquiring into  their titles.

 

The inquiry occupied a pretty long time - more than a year.  While  it was going on, King Edward took the opportunity of making a  journey through Scotland, and calling upon the Scottish people of  all degrees to acknowledge themselves his vassals, or be imprisoned  until they did.  In the meanwhile, Commissioners were appointed to  conduct the inquiry, a Parliament was held at Berwick about it, the  two claimants were heard at full length, and there was a vast  amount of talking.  At last, in the great hall of the Castle of  Berwick, the King gave judgment in favour of John Baliol:  who,  consenting to receive his crown by the King of England's favour and  permission, was crowned at Scone, in an old stone chair which had  been used for ages in the abbey there, at the coronations of  Scottish Kings.  Then, King Edward caused the great seal of  Scotland, used since the late King's death, to be broken in four  pieces, and placed in the English Treasury; and considered that he  now had Scotland (according to the common saying) under his thumb.

 

Scotland had a strong will of its own yet, however.  King Edward,  determined that the Scottish King should not forget he was his  vassal, summoned him repeatedly to come and defend himself and his  judges before the English Parliament when appeals from the  decisions of Scottish courts of justice were being heard.  At  length, John Baliol, who had no great heart of his own, had so much  heart put into him by the brave spirit of the Scottish people, who  took this as a national insult, that he refused to come any more.   Thereupon, the King further required him to help him in his war  abroad (which was then in progress), and to give up, as security  for his good behaviour in future, the three strong Scottish Castles  of Jedburgh, Roxburgh, and Berwick.  Nothing of this being done; on  the contrary, the Scottish people concealing their King among their  mountains in the Highlands and showing a determination to resist;  Edward marched to Berwick with an army of thirty thousand foot, and  four thousand horse; took the Castle, and slew its whole garrison,  and the inhabitants of the town as well - men, women, and children.   LORD WARRENNE, Earl of Surrey, then went on to the Castle of  Dunbar, before which a battle was fought, and the whole Scottish  army defeated with great slaughter.  The victory being complete,  the Earl of Surrey was left as guardian of Scotland; the principal  offices in that kingdom were given to Englishmen; the more powerful  Scottish Nobles were obliged to come and live in England; the  Scottish crown and sceptre were brought away; and even the old  stone chair was carried off and placed in Westminster Abbey, where  you may see it now.  Baliol had the Tower of London lent him for a  residence, with permission to range about within a circle of twenty  miles.  Three years afterwards he was allowed to go to Normandy,  where he had estates, and where he passed the remaining six years  of his life:  far more happily, I dare say, than he had lived for a  long while in angry Scotland.

 

Now, there was, in the West of Scotland, a gentleman of small  fortune, named WILLIAM WALLACE, the second son of a Scottish  knight.  He was a man of great size and great strength; he was very  brave and daring; when he spoke to a body of his countrymen, he  could rouse them in a wonderful manner by the power of his burning  words; he loved Scotland dearly, and he hated England with his  utmost might.  The domineering conduct of the English who now held  the places of trust in Scotland made them as intolerable to the  proud Scottish people as they had been, under similar  circumstances, to the Welsh; and no man in all Scotland regarded  them with so much smothered rage as William Wallace.  One day, an  Englishman in office, little knowing what he was, affronted HIM.   Wallace instantly struck him dead, and taking refuge among the  rocks and hills, and there joining with his countryman, SIR WILLIAM  DOUGLAS, who was also in arms against King Edward, became the most  resolute and undaunted champion of a people struggling for their  independence that ever lived upon the earth.

 

The English Guardian of the Kingdom fled before him, and, thus  encouraged, the Scottish people revolted everywhere, and fell upon  the English without mercy.  The Earl of Surrey, by the King's  commands, raised all the power of the Border-counties, and two  English armies poured into Scotland.  Only one Chief, in the face  of those armies, stood by Wallace, who, with a force of forty  thousand men, awaited the invaders at a place on the river Forth,  within two miles of Stirling.  Across the river there was only one  poor wooden bridge, called the bridge of Kildean - so narrow, that  but two men could cross it abreast.  With his eyes upon this  bridge, Wallace posted the greater part of his men among some  rising grounds, and waited calmly.  When the English army came up  on the opposite bank of the river, messengers were sent forward to  offer terms.  Wallace sent them back with a defiance, in the name  of the freedom of Scotland.  Some of the officers of the Earl of  Surrey in command of the English, with THEIR eyes also on the  bridge, advised him to be discreet and not hasty.  He, however,  urged to immediate battle by some other officers, and particularly  by CRESSINGHAM, King Edward's treasurer, and a rash man, gave the  word of command to advance.  One thousand English crossed the  bridge, two abreast; the Scottish troops were as motionless as  stone images.  Two thousand English crossed; three thousand, four  thousand, five.  Not a feather, all this time, had been seen to  stir among the Scottish bonnets.  Now, they all fluttered.   'Forward, one party, to the foot of the Bridge!' cried Wallace,  'and let no more English cross!  The rest, down with me on the five  thousand who have come over, and cut them all to pieces!'  It was  done, in the sight of the whole remainder of the English army, who  could give no help.  Cressingham himself was killed, and the Scotch  made whips for their horses of his skin.

 

King Edward was abroad at this time, and during the successes on  the Scottish side which followed, and which enabled bold Wallace to  win the whole country back again, and even to ravage the English  borders.  But, after a few winter months, the King returned, and  took the field with more than his usual energy.  One night, when a  kick from his horse as they both lay on the ground together broke  two of his ribs, and a cry arose that he was killed, he leaped into  his saddle, regardless of the pain he suffered, and rode through  the camp.  Day then appearing, he gave the word (still, of course,  in that bruised and aching state) Forward! and led his army on to  near Falkirk, where the Scottish forces were seen drawn up on some  stony ground, behind a morass.  Here, he defeated Wallace, and  killed fifteen thousand of his men.  With the shattered remainder,  Wallace drew back to Stirling; but, being pursued, set fire to the  town that it might give no help to the English, and escaped.  The  inhabitants of Perth afterwards set fire to their houses for the  same reason, and the King, unable to find provisions, was forced to  withdraw his army.

 

Another ROBERT BRUCE, the grandson of him who had disputed the  Scottish crown with Baliol, was now in arms against the King (that  elder Bruce being dead), and also JOHN COMYN, Baliol's nephew.   These two young men might agree in opposing Edward, but could agree  in nothing else, as they were rivals for the throne of Scotland.   Probably it was because they knew this, and knew what troubles must  arise even if they could hope to get the better of the great  English King, that the principal Scottish people applied to the  Pope for his interference.  The Pope, on the principle of losing  nothing for want of trying to get it, very coolly claimed that  Scotland belonged to him; but this was a little too much, and the  Parliament in a friendly manner told him so.

 

In the spring time of the year one thousand three hundred and  three, the King sent SIR JOHN SEGRAVE, whom he made Governor of  Scotland, with twenty thousand men, to reduce the rebels.  Sir John  was not as careful as he should have been, but encamped at Rosslyn,  near Edinburgh, with his army divided into three parts.  The  Scottish forces saw their advantage; fell on each part separately;  defeated each; and killed all the prisoners.  Then, came the King  himself once more, as soon as a great army could be raised; he  passed through the whole north of Scotland, laying waste whatsoever  came in his way; and he took up his winter quarters at Dunfermline.   The Scottish cause now looked so hopeless, that Comyn and the other  nobles made submission and received their pardons.  Wallace alone  stood out.  He was invited to surrender, though on no distinct  pledge that his life should be spared; but he still defied the  ireful King, and lived among the steep crags of the Highland glens,  where the eagles made their nests, and where the mountain torrents  roared, and the white snow was deep, and the bitter winds blew  round his unsheltered head, as he lay through many a pitch-dark  night wrapped up in his plaid.  Nothing could break his spirit;  nothing could lower his courage; nothing could induce him to forget  or to forgive his country's wrongs.  Even when the Castle of  Stirling, which had long held out, was besieged by the King with  every kind of military engine then in use; even when the lead upon  cathedral roofs was taken down to help to make them; even when the  King, though an old man, commanded in the siege as if he were a  youth, being so resolved to conquer; even when the brave garrison  (then found with amazement to be not two hundred people, including  several ladies) were starved and beaten out and were made to submit  on their knees, and with every form of disgrace that could  aggravate their sufferings; even then, when there was not a ray of  hope in Scotland, William Wallace was as proud and firm as if he  had beheld the powerful and relentless Edward lying dead at his  feet.

 

Who betrayed William Wallace in the end, is not quite certain.   That he was betrayed - probably by an attendant - is too true.  He  was taken to the Castle of Dumbarton, under SIR JOHN MENTEITH, and  thence to London, where the great fame of his bravery and  resolution attracted immense concourses of people to behold him.   He was tried in Westminster Hall, with a crown of laurel on his  head - it is supposed because he was reported to have said that he  ought to wear, or that he would wear, a crown there and was found  guilty as a robber, a murderer, and a traitor.  What they called a  robber (he said to those who tried him) he was, because he had  taken spoil from the King's men.  What they called a murderer, he  was, because he had slain an insolent Englishman.  What they called  a traitor, he was not, for he had never sworn allegiance to the  King, and had ever scorned to do it.  He was dragged at the tails  of horses to West Smithfield, and there hanged on a high gallows,  torn open before he was dead, beheaded, and quartered.  His head  was set upon a pole on London Bridge, his right arm was sent to

 

Newcastle, his left arm to Berwick, his legs to Perth and Aberdeen.   But, if King Edward had had his body cut into inches, and had sent  every separate inch into a separate town, he could not have  dispersed it half so far and wide as his fame.  Wallace will be  remembered in songs and stories, while there are songs and stories  in the English tongue, and Scotland will hold him dear while her  lakes and mountains last.

 

Released from this dreaded enemy, the King made a fairer plan of  Government for Scotland, divided the offices of honour among  Scottish gentlemen and English gentlemen, forgave past offences,  and thought, in his old age, that his work was done.

 

But he deceived himself.  Comyn and Bruce conspired, and made an  appointment to meet at Dumfries, in the church of the Minorites.   There is a story that Comyn was false to Bruce, and had informed  against him to the King; that Bruce was warned of his danger and  the necessity of flight, by receiving, one night as he sat at  supper, from his friend the Earl of Gloucester, twelve pennies and  a pair of spurs; that as he was riding angrily to keep his  appointment (through a snow-storm, with his horse's shoes reversed  that he might not be tracked), he met an evil-looking serving man,  a messenger of Comyn, whom he killed, and concealed in whose dress  he found letters that proved Comyn's treachery.  However this may  be, they were likely enough to quarrel in any case, being hot-headed rivals; and, whatever they quarrelled about, they certainly  did quarrel in the church where they met, and Bruce drew his dagger  and stabbed Comyn, who fell upon the pavement.  When Bruce came  out, pale and disturbed, the friends who were waiting for him asked  what was the matter?  'I think I have killed Comyn,' said he.  'You  only think so?' returned one of them; 'I will make sure!' and going  into the church, and finding him alive, stabbed him again and  again.  Knowing that the King would never forgive this new deed of  violence, the party then declared Bruce King of Scotland:  got him  crowned at Scone - without the chair; and set up the rebellious  standard once again.

 

When the King heard of it he kindled with fiercer anger than he had  ever shown yet.  He caused the Prince of Wales and two hundred and  seventy of the young nobility to be knighted - the trees in the  Temple Gardens were cut down to make room for their tents, and they  watched their armour all night, according to the old usage:  some  in the Temple Church:  some in Westminster Abbey - and at the  public Feast which then took place, he swore, by Heaven, and by two  swans covered with gold network which his minstrels placed upon the  table, that he would avenge the death of Comyn, and would punish  the false Bruce.  And before all the company, he charged the Prince  his son, in case that he should die before accomplishing his vow,  not to bury him until it was fulfilled.  Next morning the Prince  and the rest of the young Knights rode away to the Border-country  to join the English army; and the King, now weak and sick, followed  in a horse-litter.

 

Bruce, after losing a battle and undergoing many dangers and much  misery, fled to Ireland, where he lay concealed through the winter.   That winter, Edward passed in hunting down and executing Bruce's  relations and adherents, sparing neither youth nor age, and showing  no touch of pity or sign of mercy.  In the following spring, Bruce  reappeared and gained some victories.  In these frays, both sides  were grievously cruel.  For instance - Bruce's two brothers, being  taken captives desperately wounded, were ordered by the King to  instant execution.  Bruce's friend Sir John Douglas, taking his own  Castle of Douglas out of the hands of an English Lord, roasted the  dead bodies of the slaughtered garrison in a great fire made of  every movable within it; which dreadful cookery his men called the  Douglas Larder.  Bruce, still successful, however, drove the Earl  of Pembroke and the Earl of Gloucester into the Castle of Ayr and  laid siege to it.

 

The King, who had been laid up all the winter, but had directed the  army from his sick-bed, now advanced to Carlisle, and there,  causing the litter in which he had travelled to be placed in the  Cathedral as an offering to Heaven, mounted his horse once more,  and for the last time.  He was now sixty-nine years old, and had  reigned thirty-five years.  He was so ill, that in four days he  could go no more than six miles; still, even at that pace, he went  on and resolutely kept his face towards the Border.  At length, he  lay down at the village of Burgh-upon-Sands; and there, telling  those around him to impress upon the Prince that he was to remember  his father's vow, and was never to rest until he had thoroughly  subdued Scotland, he yielded up his last breath.

 


CHAPTER XVII - ENGLAND UNDER EDWARD THE SECOND

 

KING Edward the Second, the first Prince of Wales, was twenty-three  years old when his father died.  There was a certain favourite of  his, a young man from Gascony, named PIERS GAVESTON, of whom his  father had so much disapproved that he had ordered him out of  England, and had made his son swear by the side of his sick-bed,  never to bring him back.  But, the Prince no sooner found himself  King, than he broke his oath, as so many other Princes and Kings  did (they were far too ready to take oaths), and sent for his dear  friend immediately.

 

Now, this same Gaveston was handsome enough, but was a reckless,  insolent, audacious fellow.  He was detested by the proud English  Lords:  not only because he had such power over the King, and made  the Court such a dissipated place, but, also, because he could ride  better than they at tournaments, and was used, in his impudence, to  cut very bad jokes on them; calling one, the old hog; another, the  stage-player; another, the Jew; another, the black dog of Ardenne.   This was as poor wit as need be, but it made those Lords very  wroth; and the surly Earl of Warwick, who was the black dog, swore  that the time should come when Piers Gaveston should feel the black  dog's teeth.

 

It was not come yet, however, nor did it seem to be coming.  The  King made him Earl of Cornwall, and gave him vast riches; and, when  the King went over to France to marry the French Princess,  ISABELLA, daughter of PHILIP LE BEL:  who was said to be the most  beautiful woman in the world:  he made Gaveston, Regent of the  Kingdom.  His splendid marriage-ceremony in the Church of Our Lady  at Boulogne, where there were four Kings and three Queens present  (quite a pack of Court Cards, for I dare say the Knaves were not  wanting), being over, he seemed to care little or nothing for his  beautiful wife; but was wild with impatience to meet Gaveston  again.

 

When he landed at home, he paid no attention to anybody else, but  ran into the favourite's arms before a great concourse of people,  and hugged him, and kissed him, and called him his brother.  At the  coronation which soon followed, Gaveston was the richest and  brightest of all the glittering company there, and had the honour  of carrying the crown.  This made the proud Lords fiercer than  ever; the people, too, despised the favourite, and would never call  him Earl of Cornwall, however much he complained to the King and  asked him to punish them for not doing so, but persisted in styling  him plain Piers Gaveston.

 

The Barons were so unceremonious with the King in giving him to  understand that they would not bear this favourite, that the King  was obliged to send him out of the country.  The favourite himself  was made to take an oath (more oaths!) that he would never come  back, and the Barons supposed him to be banished in disgrace, until  they heard that he was appointed Governor of Ireland.  Even this  was not enough for the besotted King, who brought him home again in  a year's time, and not only disgusted the Court and the people by  his doting folly, but offended his beautiful wife too, who never  liked him afterwards.

 

He had now the old Royal want - of money - and the Barons had the  new power of positively refusing to let him raise any.  He summoned  a Parliament at York; the Barons refused to make one, while the  favourite was near him.  He summoned another Parliament at  Westminster, and sent Gaveston away.  Then, the Barons came,  completely armed, and appointed a committee of themselves to  correct abuses in the state and in the King's household.  He got  some money on these conditions, and directly set off with Gaveston  to the Border-country, where they spent it in idling away the time,  and feasting, while Bruce made ready to drive the English out of  Scotland.  For, though the old King had even made this poor weak  son of his swear (as some say) that he would not bury his bones,  but would have them boiled clean in a caldron, and carried before  the English army until Scotland was entirely subdued, the second  Edward was so unlike the first that Bruce gained strength and power  every day.

 

The committee of Nobles, after some months of deliberation,  ordained that the King should henceforth call a Parliament  together, once every year, and even twice if necessary, instead of  summoning it only when he chose.  Further, that Gaveston should  once more be banished, and, this time, on pain of death if he ever  came back.  The King's tears were of no avail; he was obliged to  send his favourite to Flanders.  As soon as he had done so,  however, he dissolved the Parliament, with the low cunning of a  mere fool, and set off to the North of England, thinking to get an  army about him to oppose the Nobles.  And once again he brought  Gaveston home, and heaped upon him all the riches and titles of  which the Barons had deprived him.

 

The Lords saw, now, that there was nothing for it but to put the  favourite to death.  They could have done so, legally, according to  the terms of his banishment; but they did so, I am sorry to say, in  a shabby manner.  Led by the Earl of Lancaster, the King's cousin,  they first of all attacked the King and Gaveston at Newcastle.   They had time to escape by sea, and the mean King, having his  precious Gaveston with him, was quite content to leave his lovely  wife behind.  When they were comparatively safe, they separated;  the King went to York to collect a force of soldiers; and the  favourite shut himself up, in the meantime, in Scarborough Castle  overlooking the sea.  This was what the Barons wanted.  They knew  that the Castle could not hold out; they attacked it, and made  Gaveston surrender.  He delivered himself up to the Earl of  Pembroke - that Lord whom he had called the Jew - on the Earl's  pledging his faith and knightly word, that no harm should happen to  him and no violence be done him.

 

Now, it was agreed with Gaveston that he should be taken to the  Castle of Wallingford, and there kept in honourable custody.  They  travelled as far as Dedington, near Banbury, where, in the Castle  of that place, they stopped for a night to rest.  Whether the Earl  of Pembroke left his prisoner there, knowing what would happen, or  really left him thinking no harm, and only going (as he pretended)  to visit his wife, the Countess, who was in the neighbourhood, is  no great matter now; in any case, he was bound as an honourable  gentleman to protect his prisoner, and he did not do it.  In the  morning, while the favourite was yet in bed, he was required to  dress himself and come down into the court-yard.  He did so without  any mistrust, but started and turned pale when he found it full of  strange armed men.  'I think you know me?' said their leader, also  armed from head to foot.  'I am the black dog of Ardenne!'  The  time was come when Piers Gaveston was to feel the black dog's teeth  indeed.  They set him on a mule, and carried him, in mock state and  with military music, to the black dog's kennel - Warwick Castle -  where a hasty council, composed of some great noblemen, considered  what should be done with him.  Some were for sparing him, but one  loud voice - it was the black dog's bark, I dare say - sounded  through the Castle Hall, uttering these words:  'You have the fox  in your power.  Let him go now, and you must hunt him again.'

 

They sentenced him to death.  He threw himself at the feet of the  Earl of Lancaster - the old hog - but the old hog was as savage as  the dog.  He was taken out upon the pleasant road, leading from  Warwick to Coventry, where the beautiful river Avon, by which, long  afterwards, WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE was born and now lies buried,  sparkled in the bright landscape of the beautiful May-day; and  there they struck off his wretched head, and stained the dust with  his blood.

 

When the King heard of this black deed, in his grief and rage he  denounced relentless war against his Barons, and both sides were in  arms for half a year.  But, it then became necessary for them to  join their forces against Bruce, who had used the time well while  they were divided, and had now a great power in Scotland.

 

Intelligence was brought that Bruce was then besieging Stirling  Castle, and that the Governor had been obliged to pledge himself to  surrender it, unless he should be relieved before a certain day.   Hereupon, the King ordered the nobles and their fighting-men to  meet him at Berwick; but, the nobles cared so little for the King,  and so neglected the summons, and lost time, that only on the day  before that appointed for the surrender, did the King find himself  at Stirling, and even then with a smaller force than he had  expected.  However, he had, altogether, a hundred thousand men, and  Bruce had not more than forty thousand; but, Bruce's army was  strongly posted in three square columns, on the ground lying  between the Burn or Brook of Bannock and the walls of Stirling  Castle.

 

On the very evening, when the King came up, Bruce did a brave act  that encouraged his men.  He was seen by a certain HENRY DE BOHUN,  an English Knight, riding about before his army on a little horse,  with a light battle-axe in his hand, and a crown of gold on his  head.  This English Knight, who was mounted on a strong war-horse,  cased in steel, strongly armed, and able (as he thought) to  overthrow Bruce by crushing him with his mere weight, set spurs to  his great charger, rode on him, and made a thrust at him with his  heavy spear.  Bruce parried the thrust, and with one blow of his  battle-axe split his skull.

 

The Scottish men did not forget this, next day when the battle  raged.  RANDOLPH, Bruce's valiant Nephew, rode, with the small body  of men he commanded, into such a host of the English, all shining  in polished armour in the sunlight, that they seemed to be  swallowed up and lost, as if they had plunged into the sea.  But,  they fought so well, and did such dreadful execution, that the  English staggered.  Then came Bruce himself upon them, with all the  rest of his army.  While they were thus hard pressed and amazed,  there appeared upon the hills what they supposed to be a new  Scottish army, but what were really only the camp followers, in  number fifteen thousand:  whom Bruce had taught to show themselves  at that place and time.  The Earl of Gloucester, commanding the  English horse, made a last rush to change the fortune of the day;  but Bruce (like Jack the Giant-killer in the story) had had pits  dug in the ground, and covered over with turfs and stakes.  Into  these, as they gave way beneath the weight of the horses, riders  and horses rolled by hundreds.  The English were completely routed;  all their treasure, stores, and engines, were taken by the Scottish  men; so many waggons and other wheeled vehicles were seized, that  it is related that they would have reached, if they had been drawn  out in a line, one hundred and eighty miles.  The fortunes of  Scotland were, for the time, completely changed; and never was a  battle won, more famous upon Scottish ground, than this great  battle of BANNOCKBURN.

 

Plague and famine succeeded in England; and still the powerless  King and his disdainful Lords were always in contention.  Some of  the turbulent chiefs of Ireland made proposals to Bruce, to accept  the rule of that country.  He sent his brother Edward to them, who  was crowned King of Ireland.  He afterwards went himself to help  his brother in his Irish wars, but his brother was defeated in the  end and killed.  Robert Bruce, returning to Scotland, still  increased his strength there.

 

As the King's ruin had begun in a favourite, so it seemed likely to  end in one.  He was too poor a creature to rely at all upon  himself; and his new favourite was one HUGH LE DESPENSER, the son  of a gentleman of ancient family.  Hugh was handsome and brave, but  he was the favourite of a weak King, whom no man cared a rush for,  and that was a dangerous place to hold.  The Nobles leagued against  him, because the King liked him; and they lay in wait, both for his  ruin and his father's.  Now, the King had married him to the  daughter of the late Earl of Gloucester, and had given both him and  his father great possessions in Wales.  In their endeavours to  extend these, they gave violent offence to an angry Welsh  gentleman, named JOHN DE MOWBRAY, and to divers other angry Welsh  gentlemen, who resorted to arms, took their castles, and seized  their estates.  The Earl of Lancaster had first placed the  favourite (who was a poor relation of his own) at Court, and he  considered his own dignity offended by the preference he received  and the honours he acquired; so he, and the Barons who were his  friends, joined the Welshmen, marched on London, and sent a message  to the King demanding to have the favourite and his father  banished.  At first, the King unaccountably took it into his head  to be spirited, and to send them a bold reply; but when they  quartered themselves around Holborn and Clerkenwell, and went down,  armed, to the Parliament at Westminster, he gave way, and complied  with their demands.

 

His turn of triumph came sooner than he expected.  It arose out of  an accidental circumstance.  The beautiful Queen happening to be  travelling, came one night to one of the royal castles, and  demanded to be lodged and entertained there until morning.  The  governor of this castle, who was one of the enraged lords, was  away, and in his absence, his wife refused admission to the Queen;  a scuffle took place among the common men on either side, and some  of the royal attendants were killed.  The people, who cared nothing  for the King, were very angry that their beautiful Queen should be  thus rudely treated in her own dominions; and the King, taking  advantage of this feeling, besieged the castle, took it, and then  called the two Despensers home.  Upon this, the confederate lords  and the Welshmen went over to Bruce.  The King encountered them at  Boroughbridge, gained the victory, and took a number of  distinguished prisoners; among them, the Earl of Lancaster, now an  old man, upon whose destruction he was resolved.  This Earl was  taken to his own castle of Pontefract, and there tried and found  guilty by an unfair court appointed for the purpose; he was not  even allowed to speak in his own defence.  He was insulted, pelted,  mounted on a starved pony without saddle or bridle, carried out,  and beheaded.  Eight-and-twenty knights were hanged, drawn, and  quartered.  When the King had despatched this bloody work, and had  made a fresh and a long truce with Bruce, he took the Despensers  into greater favour than ever, and made the father Earl of  Winchester.

 

One prisoner, and an important one, who was taken at Boroughbridge,  made his escape, however, and turned the tide against the King.   This was ROGER MORTIMER, always resolutely opposed to him, who was  sentenced to death, and placed for safe custody in the Tower of  London.  He treated his guards to a quantity of wine into which he  had put a sleeping potion; and, when they were insensible, broke  out of his dungeon, got into a kitchen, climbed up the chimney, let  himself down from the roof of the building with a rope-ladder,  passed the sentries, got down to the river, and made away in a boat  to where servants and horses were waiting for him.  He finally  escaped to France, where CHARLES LE BEL, the brother of the  beautiful Queen, was King.  Charles sought to quarrel with the King  of England, on pretence of his not having come to do him homage at  his coronation.  It was proposed that the beautiful Queen should go  over to arrange the dispute; she went, and wrote home to the King,  that as he was sick and could not come to France himself, perhaps  it would be better to send over the young Prince, their son, who  was only twelve years old, who could do homage to her brother in  his stead, and in whose company she would immediately return.  The  King sent him:  but, both he and the Queen remained at the French  Court, and Roger Mortimer became the Queen's lover.

 

When the King wrote, again and again, to the Queen to come home,  she did not reply that she despised him too much to live with him  any more (which was the truth), but said she was afraid of the two  Despensers.  In short, her design was to overthrow the favourites'  power, and the King's power, such as it was, and invade England.   Having obtained a French force of two thousand men, and being  joined by all the English exiles then in France, she landed, within  a year, at Orewell, in Suffolk, where she was immediately joined by  the Earls of Kent and Norfolk, the King's two brothers; by other  powerful noblemen; and lastly, by the first English general who was  despatched to check her:  who went over to her with all his men.   The people of London, receiving these tidings, would do nothing for  the King, but broke open the Tower, let out all his prisoners, and  threw up their caps and hurrahed for the beautiful Queen.

 

The King, with his two favourites, fled to Bristol, where he left  old Despenser in charge of the town and castle, while he went on  with the son to Wales.  The Bristol men being opposed to the King,  and it being impossible to hold the town with enemies everywhere  within the walls, Despenser yielded it up on the third day, and was  instantly brought to trial for having traitorously influenced what  was called 'the King's mind' - though I doubt if the King ever had  any.  He was a venerable old man, upwards of ninety years of age,  but his age gained no respect or mercy.  He was hanged, torn open  while he was yet alive, cut up into pieces, and thrown to the dogs.   His son was soon taken, tried at Hereford before the same judge on  a long series of foolish charges, found guilty, and hanged upon a  gallows fifty feet high, with a chaplet of nettles round his head.   His poor old father and he were innocent enough of any worse crimes  than the crime of having been friends of a King, on whom, as a mere  man, they would never have deigned to cast a favourable look.  It  is a bad crime, I know, and leads to worse; but, many lords and  gentlemen - I even think some ladies, too, if I recollect right -  have committed it in England, who have neither been given to the  dogs, nor hanged up fifty feet high.

 

The wretched King was running here and there, all this time, and  never getting anywhere in particular, until he gave himself up, and  was taken off to Kenilworth Castle.  When he was safely lodged  there, the Queen went to London and met the Parliament.  And the  Bishop of Hereford, who was the most skilful of her friends, said,  What was to be done now?  Here was an imbecile, indolent, miserable  King upon the throne; wouldn't it be better to take him off, and  put his son there instead?  I don't know whether the Queen really  pitied him at this pass, but she began to cry; so, the Bishop said,  Well, my Lords and Gentlemen, what do you think, upon the whole, of  sending down to Kenilworth, and seeing if His Majesty (God bless  him, and forbid we should depose him!) won't resign?

 

My Lords and Gentlemen thought it a good notion, so a deputation of  them went down to Kenilworth; and there the King came into the  great hall of the Castle, commonly dressed in a poor black gown;  and when he saw a certain bishop among them, fell down, poor  feeble-headed man, and made a wretched spectacle of himself.   Somebody lifted him up, and then SIR WILLIAM TRUSSEL, the Speaker  of the House of Commons, almost frightened him to death by making  him a tremendous speech to the effect that he was no longer a King,  and that everybody renounced allegiance to him.  After which, SIR  THOMAS BLOUNT, the Steward of the Household, nearly finished him,  by coming forward and breaking his white wand - which was a  ceremony only performed at a King's death.  Being asked in this  pressing manner what he thought of resigning, the King said he  thought it was the best thing he could do.  So, he did it, and they  proclaimed his son next day.

 

I wish I could close his history by saying that he lived a harmless  life in the Castle and the Castle gardens at Kenilworth, many years  - that he had a favourite, and plenty to eat and drink - and,  having that, wanted nothing.  But he was shamefully humiliated.  He  was outraged, and slighted, and had dirty water from ditches given  him to shave with, and wept and said he would have clean warm  water, and was altogether very miserable.  He was moved from this  castle to that castle, and from that castle to the other castle,  because this lord or that lord, or the other lord, was too kind to  him:  until at last he came to Berkeley Castle, near the River  Severn, where (the Lord Berkeley being then ill and absent) he fell  into the hands of two black ruffians, called THOMAS GOURNAY and  WILLIAM OGLE.

 

One night - it was the night of September the twenty-first, one  thousand three hundred and twenty-seven - dreadful screams were  heard, by the startled people in the neighbouring town, ringing  through the thick walls of the Castle, and the dark, deep night;  and they said, as they were thus horribly awakened from their  sleep, 'May Heaven be merciful to the King; for those cries forbode  that no good is being done to him in his dismal prison!'  Next  morning he was dead - not bruised, or stabbed, or marked upon the  body, but much distorted in the face; and it was whispered  afterwards, that those two villains, Gournay and Ogle, had burnt up  his inside with a red-hot iron.

 

If you ever come near Gloucester, and see the centre tower of its  beautiful Cathedral, with its four rich pinnacles, rising lightly  in the air; you may remember that the wretched Edward the Second  was buried in the old abbey of that ancient city, at forty-three  years old, after being for nineteen years and a half a perfectly  incapable King.

 


CHAPTER XVIII - ENGLAND UNDER EDWARD THE THIRD

 

ROGER MORTIMER, the Queen's lover (who escaped to France in the  last chapter), was far from profiting by the examples he had had of  the fate of favourites.  Having, through the Queen's influence,  come into possession of the estates of the two Despensers, he  became extremely proud and ambitious, and sought to be the real  ruler of England.  The young King, who was crowned at fourteen  years of age with all the usual solemnities, resolved not to bear  this, and soon pursued Mortimer to his ruin.

 

The people themselves were not fond of Mortimer - first, because he  was a Royal favourite; secondly, because he was supposed to have  helped to make a peace with Scotland which now took place, and in  virtue of which the young King's sister Joan, only seven years old,  was promised in marriage to David, the son and heir of Robert  Bruce, who was only five years old.  The nobles hated Mortimer  because of his pride, riches, and power.  They went so far as to  take up arms against him; but were obliged to submit.  The Earl of  Kent, one of those who did so, but who afterwards went over to  Mortimer and the Queen, was made an example of in the following  cruel manner:

 

He seems to have been anything but a wise old earl; and he was  persuaded by the agents of the favourite and the Queen, that poor  King Edward the Second was not really dead; and thus was betrayed  into writing letters favouring his rightful claim to the throne.   This was made out to be high treason, and he was tried, found  guilty, and sentenced to be executed.  They took the poor old lord  outside the town of Winchester, and there kept him waiting some  three or four hours until they could find somebody to cut off his  head.  At last, a convict said he would do it, if the government  would pardon him in return; and they gave him the pardon; and at  one blow he put the Earl of Kent out of his last suspense.

 

While the Queen was in France, she had found a lovely and good  young lady, named Philippa, who she thought would make an excellent  wife for her son.  The young King married this lady, soon after he  came to the throne; and her first child, Edward, Prince of Wales,  afterwards became celebrated, as we shall presently see, under the  famous title of EDWARD THE BLACK PRINCE.

 

The young King, thinking the time ripe for the downfall of  Mortimer, took counsel with Lord Montacute how he should proceed.   A Parliament was going to be held at Nottingham, and that lord  recommended that the favourite should be seized by night in  Nottingham Castle, where he was sure to be.  Now, this, like many  other things, was more easily said than done; because, to guard  against treachery, the great gates of the Castle were locked every  night, and the great keys were carried up-stairs to the Queen, who  laid them under her own pillow.  But the Castle had a governor, and  the governor being Lord Montacute's friend, confided to him how he  knew of a secret passage underground, hidden from observation by  the weeds and brambles with which it was overgrown; and how,  through that passage, the conspirators might enter in the dead of  the night, and go straight to Mortimer's room.  Accordingly, upon a  certain dark night, at midnight, they made their way through this  dismal place:  startling the rats, and frightening the owls and  bats:  and came safely to the bottom of the main tower of the  Castle, where the King met them, and took them up a profoundly-dark  staircase in a deep silence.  They soon heard the voice of Mortimer  in council with some friends; and bursting into the room with a  sudden noise, took him prisoner.  The Queen cried out from her bed-chamber, 'Oh, my sweet son, my dear son, spare my gentle Mortimer!'   They carried him off, however; and, before the next Parliament,  accused him of having made differences between the young King and  his mother, and of having brought about the death of the Earl of  Kent, and even of the late King; for, as you know by this time,  when they wanted to get rid of a man in those old days, they were  not very particular of what they accused him.  Mortimer was found  guilty of all this, and was sentenced to be hanged at Tyburn.  The  King shut his mother up in genteel confinement, where she passed  the rest of her life; and now he became King in earnest.

 

The first effort he made was to conquer Scotland.  The English  lords who had lands in Scotland, finding that their rights were not  respected under the late peace, made war on their own account:   choosing for their general, Edward, the son of John Baliol, who  made such a vigorous fight, that in less than two months he won the  whole Scottish Kingdom.  He was joined, when thus triumphant, by  the King and Parliament; and he and the King in person besieged the  Scottish forces in Berwick.  The whole Scottish army coming to the  assistance of their countrymen, such a furious battle ensued, that  thirty thousand men are said to have been killed in it.  Baliol was  then crowned King of Scotland, doing homage to the King of England;  but little came of his successes after all, for the Scottish men  rose against him, within no very long time, and David Bruce came  back within ten years and took his kingdom.

 

France was a far richer country than Scotland, and the King had a  much greater mind to conquer it.  So, he let Scotland alone, and  pretended that he had a claim to the French throne in right of his  mother.  He had, in reality, no claim at all; but that mattered  little in those times.  He brought over to his cause many little  princes and sovereigns, and even courted the alliance of the people  of Flanders - a busy, working community, who had very small respect  for kings, and whose head man was a brewer.  With such forces as he  raised by these means, Edward invaded France; but he did little by  that, except run into debt in carrying on the war to the extent of  three hundred thousand pounds.  The next year he did better;  gaining a great sea-fight in the harbour of Sluys.  This success,  however, was very shortlived, for the Flemings took fright at the  siege of Saint Omer and ran away, leaving their weapons and baggage  behind them.  Philip, the French King, coming up with his army, and  Edward being very anxious to decide the war, proposed to settle the  difference by single combat with him, or by a fight of one hundred  knights on each side.  The French King said, he thanked him; but  being very well as he was, he would rather not.  So, after some  skirmishing and talking, a short peace was made.

 

It was soon broken by King Edward's favouring the cause of John,  Earl of Montford; a French nobleman, who asserted a claim of his  own against the French King, and offered to do homage to England  for the Crown of France, if he could obtain it through England's  help.  This French lord, himself, was soon defeated by the French  King's son, and shut up in a tower in Paris; but his wife, a  courageous and beautiful woman, who is said to have had the courage  of a man, and the heart of a lion, assembled the people of  Brittany, where she then was; and, showing them her infant son,  made many pathetic entreaties to them not to desert her and their  young Lord.  They took fire at this appeal, and rallied round her  in the strong castle of Hennebon.  Here she was not only besieged  without by the French under Charles de Blois, but was endangered  within by a dreary old bishop, who was always representing to the  people what horrors they must undergo if they were faithful - first  from famine, and afterwards from fire and sword.  But this noble  lady, whose heart never failed her, encouraged her soldiers by her  own example; went from post to post like a great general; even  mounted on horseback fully armed, and, issuing from the castle by a  by-path, fell upon the French camp, set fire to the tents, and  threw the whole force into disorder.  This done, she got safely  back to Hennebon again, and was received with loud shouts of joy by  the defenders of the castle, who had given her up for lost.  As  they were now very short of provisions, however, and as they could  not dine off enthusiasm, and as the old bishop was always saying,  'I told you what it would come to!' they began to lose heart, and  to talk of yielding the castle up.  The brave Countess retiring to  an upper room and looking with great grief out to sea, where she  expected relief from England, saw, at this very time, the English  ships in the distance, and was relieved and rescued!  Sir Walter  Manning, the English commander, so admired her courage, that, being  come into the castle with the English knights, and having made a  feast there, he assaulted the French by way of dessert, and beat  them off triumphantly.  Then he and the knights came back to the  castle with great joy; and the Countess who had watched them from a  high tower, thanked them with all her heart, and kissed them every  one.

 

This noble lady distinguished herself afterwards in a sea-fight  with the French off Guernsey, when she was on her way to England to  ask for more troops.  Her great spirit roused another lady, the  wife of another French lord (whom the French King very barbarously  murdered), to distinguish herself scarcely less.  The time was fast  coming, however, when Edward, Prince of Wales, was to be the great  star of this French and English war.

 

It was in the month of July, in the year one thousand three hundred  and forty-six, when the King embarked at Southampton for France,  with an army of about thirty thousand men in all, attended by the  Prince of Wales and by several of the chief nobles.  He landed at  La Hogue in Normandy; and, burning and destroying as he went,  according to custom, advanced up the left bank of the River Seine,  and fired the small towns even close to Paris; but, being watched  from the right bank of the river by the French King and all his  army, it came to this at last, that Edward found himself, on  Saturday the twenty-sixth of August, one thousand three hundred and  forty-six, on a rising ground behind the little French village of  Crecy, face to face with the French King's force.  And, although  the French King had an enormous army - in number more than eight  times his - he there resolved to beat him or be beaten.

 

The young Prince, assisted by the Earl of Oxford and the Earl of  Warwick, led the first division of the English army; two other  great Earls led the second; and the King, the third.  When the  morning dawned, the King received the sacrament, and heard prayers,  and then, mounted on horseback with a white wand in his hand, rode  from company to company, and rank to rank, cheering and encouraging  both officers and men.  Then the whole army breakfasted, each man  sitting on the ground where he had stood; and then they remained  quietly on the ground with their weapons ready.

 

Up came the French King with all his great force.  It was dark and  angry weather; there was an eclipse of the sun; there was a  thunder-storm, accompanied with tremendous rain; the frightened  birds flew screaming above the soldiers' heads.  A certain captain  in the French army advised the French King, who was by no means  cheerful, not to begin the battle until the morrow.  The King,  taking this advice, gave the word to halt.  But, those behind not  understanding it, or desiring to be foremost with the rest, came  pressing on.  The roads for a great distance were covered with this  immense army, and with the common people from the villages, who  were flourishing their rude weapons, and making a great noise.   Owing to these circumstances, the French army advanced in the  greatest confusion; every French lord doing what he liked with his  own men, and putting out the men of every other French lord.

 

Now, their King relied strongly upon a great body of cross-bowmen  from Genoa; and these he ordered to the front to begin the battle,  on finding that he could not stop it.  They shouted once, they  shouted twice, they shouted three times, to alarm the English  archers; but, the English would have heard them shout three  thousand times and would have never moved.  At last the cross-bowmen went forward a little, and began to discharge their bolts;  upon which, the English let fly such a hail of arrows, that the  Genoese speedily made off - for their cross-bows, besides being  heavy to carry, required to be wound up with a handle, and  consequently took time to re-load; the English, on the other hand,  could discharge their arrows almost as fast as the arrows could  fly.

 

When the French King saw the Genoese turning, he cried out to his  men to kill those scoundrels, who were doing harm instead of  service.  This increased the confusion.  Meanwhile the English  archers, continuing to shoot as fast as ever, shot down great  numbers of the French soldiers and knights; whom certain sly  Cornish-men and Welshmen, from the English army, creeping along the  ground, despatched with great knives.

 

The Prince and his division were at this time so hard-pressed, that  the Earl of Warwick sent a message to the King, who was overlooking  the battle from a windmill, beseeching him to send more aid.

 

'Is my son killed?' said the King.

 

'No, sire, please God,' returned the messenger.

 

'Is he wounded?' said the King.

 

'No, sire.'

 

'Is he thrown to the ground?' said the King.

 

'No, sire, not so; but, he is very hard-pressed.'

 

'Then,' said the King, 'go back to those who sent you, and tell  them I shall send no aid; because I set my heart upon my son  proving himself this day a brave knight, and because I am resolved,  please God, that the honour of a great victory shall be his!'

 

These bold words, being reported to the Prince and his division, so  raised their spirits, that they fought better than ever.  The King  of France charged gallantly with his men many times; but it was of  no use.  Night closing in, his horse was killed under him by an  English arrow, and the knights and nobles who had clustered thick  about him early in the day, were now completely scattered.  At  last, some of his few remaining followers led him off the field by  force since he would not retire of himself, and they journeyed away  to Amiens.  The victorious English, lighting their watch-fires,  made merry on the field, and the King, riding to meet his gallant  son, took him in his arms, kissed him, and told him that he had  acted nobly, and proved himself worthy of the day and of the crown.   While it was yet night, King Edward was hardly aware of the great  victory he had gained; but, next day, it was discovered that eleven  princes, twelve hundred knights, and thirty thousand common men lay  dead upon the French side.  Among these was the King of Bohemia, an  old blind man; who, having been told that his son was wounded in  the battle, and that no force could stand against the Black Prince,  called to him two knights, put himself on horse-back between them,  fastened the three bridles together, and dashed in among the  English, where he was presently slain.  He bore as his crest three  white ostrich feathers, with the motto ICH DIEN, signifying in  English 'I serve.'  This crest and motto were taken by the Prince  of Wales in remembrance of that famous day, and have been borne by  the Prince of Wales ever since.

 

Five days after this great battle, the King laid siege to Calais.   This siege - ever afterwards memorable - lasted nearly a year.  In  order to starve the inhabitants out, King Edward built so many  wooden houses for the lodgings of his troops, that it is said their  quarters looked like a second Calais suddenly sprung around the  first.  Early in the siege, the governor of the town drove out what  he called the useless mouths, to the number of seventeen hundred  persons, men and women, young and old.  King Edward allowed them to  pass through his lines, and even fed them, and dismissed them with  money; but, later in the siege, he was not so merciful - five  hundred more, who were afterwards driven out, dying of starvation  and misery.  The garrison were so hard-pressed at last, that they  sent a letter to King Philip, telling him that they had eaten all  the horses, all the dogs, and all the rats and mice that could be  found in the place; and, that if he did not relieve them, they must  either surrender to the English, or eat one another.  Philip made  one effort to give them relief; but they were so hemmed in by the  English power, that he could not succeed, and was fain to leave the  place.  Upon this they hoisted the English flag, and surrendered to  King Edward.  'Tell your general,' said he to the humble messengers  who came out of the town, 'that I require to have sent here, six of  the most distinguished citizens, bare-legged, and in their shirts,  with ropes about their necks; and let those six men bring with them  the keys of the castle and the town.'

 

When the Governor of Calais related this to the people in the  Market-place, there was great weeping and distress; in the midst of  which, one worthy citizen, named Eustace de Saint Pierre, rose up  and said, that if the six men required were not sacrificed, the  whole population would be; therefore, he offered himself as the  first.  Encouraged by this bright example, five other worthy  citizens rose up one after another, and offered themselves to save  the rest.  The Governor, who was too badly wounded to be able to  walk, mounted a poor old horse that had not been eaten, and  conducted these good men to the gate, while all the people cried  and mourned.

 

Edward received them wrathfully, and ordered the heads of the whole  six to be struck off.  However, the good Queen fell upon her knees,  and besought the King to give them up to her.  The King replied, 'I  wish you had been somewhere else; but I cannot refuse you.'  So she  had them properly dressed, made a feast for them, and sent them  back with a handsome present, to the great rejoicing of the whole  camp.  I hope the people of Calais loved the daughter to whom she  gave birth soon afterwards, for her gentle mother's sake.

 

Now came that terrible disease, the Plague, into Europe, hurrying  from the heart of China; and killed the wretched people -  especially the poor - in such enormous numbers, that one-half of  the inhabitants of England are related to have died of it.  It  killed the cattle, in great numbers, too; and so few working men  remained alive, that there were not enough left to till the ground.

 

After eight years of differing and quarrelling, the Prince of Wales  again invaded France with an army of sixty thousand men.  He went  through the south of the country, burning and plundering  wheresoever he went; while his father, who had still the Scottish  war upon his hands, did the like in Scotland, but was harassed and  worried in his retreat from that country by the Scottish men, who  repaid his cruelties with interest.

 

The French King, Philip, was now dead, and was succeeded by his son  John.  The Black Prince, called by that name from the colour of the  armour he wore to set off his fair complexion, continuing to burn  and destroy in France, roused John into determined opposition; and  so cruel had the Black Prince been in his campaign, and so severely  had the French peasants suffered, that he could not find one who,  for love, or money, or the fear of death, would tell him what the  French King was doing, or where he was.  Thus it happened that he  came upon the French King's forces, all of a sudden, near the town  of Poitiers, and found that the whole neighbouring country was  occupied by a vast French army.  'God help us!' said the Black  Prince, 'we must make the best of it.'

 

So, on a Sunday morning, the eighteenth of September, the Prince  whose army was now reduced to ten thousand men in all - prepared to  give battle to the French King, who had sixty thousand horse alone.   While he was so engaged, there came riding from the French camp, a  Cardinal, who had persuaded John to let him offer terms, and try to  save the shedding of Christian blood.  'Save my honour,' said the  Prince to this good priest, 'and save the honour of my army, and I  will make any reasonable terms.'  He offered to give up all the  towns, castles, and prisoners, he had taken, and to swear to make  no war in France for seven years; but, as John would hear of  nothing but his surrender, with a hundred of his chief knights, the  treaty was broken off, and the Prince said quietly - 'God defend  the right; we shall fight to-morrow.'

 

Therefore, on the Monday morning, at break of day, the two armies  prepared for battle.  The English were posted in a strong place,  which could only be approached by one narrow lane, skirted by  hedges on both sides.  The French attacked them by this lane; but  were so galled and slain by English arrows from behind the hedges,  that they were forced to retreat.  Then went six hundred English  bowmen round about, and, coming upon the rear of the French army,  rained arrows on them thick and fast.  The French knights, thrown  into confusion, quitted their banners and dispersed in all  directions.  Said Sir John Chandos to the Prince, 'Ride forward,  noble Prince, and the day is yours.  The King of France is so  valiant a gentleman, that I know he will never fly, and may be  taken prisoner.'  Said the Prince to this, 'Advance, English  banners, in the name of God and St. George!' and on they pressed  until they came up with the French King, fighting fiercely with his  battle-axe, and, when all his nobles had forsaken him, attended  faithfully to the last by his youngest son Philip, only sixteen  years of age.  Father and son fought well, and the King had already  two wounds in his face, and had been beaten down, when he at last  delivered himself to a banished French knight, and gave him his  right-hand glove in token that he had done so.

 

The Black Prince was generous as well as brave, and he invited his  royal prisoner to supper in his tent, and waited upon him at table,  and, when they afterwards rode into London in a gorgeous  procession, mounted the French King on a fine cream-coloured horse,  and rode at his side on a little pony.  This was all very kind, but  I think it was, perhaps, a little theatrical too, and has been made  more meritorious than it deserved to be; especially as I am  inclined to think that the greatest kindness to the King of France  would have been not to have shown him to the people at all.   However, it must be said, for these acts of politeness, that, in  course of time, they did much to soften the horrors of war and the  passions of conquerors.  It was a long, long time before the common  soldiers began to have the benefit of such courtly deeds; but they  did at last; and thus it is possible that a poor soldier who asked  for quarter at the battle of Waterloo, or any other such great  fight, may have owed his life indirectly to Edward the Black  Prince.

 

At this time there stood in the Strand, in London, a palace called  the Savoy, which was given up to the captive King of France and his  son for their residence.  As the King of Scotland had now been King  Edward's captive for eleven years too, his success was, at this  time, tolerably complete.  The Scottish business was settled by the  prisoner being released under the title of Sir David, King of  Scotland, and by his engaging to pay a large ransom.  The state of  France encouraged England to propose harder terms to that country,  where the people rose against the unspeakable cruelty and barbarity  of its nobles; where the nobles rose in turn against the people;  where the most frightful outrages were committed on all sides; and  where the insurrection of the peasants, called the insurrection of  the Jacquerie, from Jacques, a common Christian name among the  country people of France, awakened terrors and hatreds that have  scarcely yet passed away.  A treaty called the Great Peace, was at  last signed, under which King Edward agreed to give up the greater  part of his conquests, and King John to pay, within six years, a  ransom of three million crowns of gold.  He was so beset by his own  nobles and courtiers for having yielded to these conditions -  though they could help him to no better - that he came back of his  own will to his old palace-prison of the Savoy, and there died.

 

There was a Sovereign of Castile at that time, called PEDRO THE  CRUEL, who deserved the name remarkably well:  having committed,  among other cruelties, a variety of murders.  This amiable monarch  being driven from his throne for his crimes, went to the province  of Bordeaux, where the Black Prince - now married to his cousin  JOAN, a pretty widow - was residing, and besought his help.  The  Prince, who took to him much more kindly than a prince of such fame  ought to have taken to such a ruffian, readily listened to his fair  promises, and agreeing to help him, sent secret orders to some  troublesome disbanded soldiers of his and his father's, who called  themselves the Free Companions, and who had been a pest to the  French people, for some time, to aid this Pedro.  The Prince,  himself, going into Spain to head the army of relief, soon set  Pedro on his throne again - where he no sooner found himself, than,  of course, he behaved like the villain he was, broke his word  without the least shame, and abandoned all the promises he had made  to the Black Prince.

 

Now, it had cost the Prince a good deal of money to pay soldiers to  support this murderous King; and finding himself, when he came back  disgusted to Bordeaux, not only in bad health, but deeply in debt,  he began to tax his French subjects to pay his creditors.  They  appealed to the French King, CHARLES; war again broke out; and the  French town of Limoges, which the Prince had greatly benefited,  went over to the French King.  Upon this he ravaged the province of  which it was the capital; burnt, and plundered, and killed in the  old sickening way; and refused mercy to the prisoners, men, women,  and children taken in the offending town, though he was so ill and  so much in need of pity himself from Heaven, that he was carried in  a litter.  He lived to come home and make himself popular with the  people and Parliament, and he died on Trinity Sunday, the eighth of  June, one thousand three hundred and seventy-six, at forty-six  years old.

 

The whole nation mourned for him as one of the most renowned and  beloved princes it had ever had; and he was buried with great  lamentations in Canterbury Cathedral.  Near to the tomb of Edward  the Confessor, his monument, with his figure, carved in stone, and  represented in the old black armour, lying on its back, may be seen  at this day, with an ancient coat of mail, a helmet, and a pair of  gauntlets hanging from a beam above it, which most people like to  believe were once worn by the Black Prince.

 

King Edward did not outlive his renowned son, long.  He was old,  and one Alice Perrers, a beautiful lady, had contrived to make him  so fond of her in his old age, that he could refuse her nothing,  and made himself ridiculous.  She little deserved his love, or -  what I dare say she valued a great deal more - the jewels of the  late Queen, which he gave her among other rich presents.  She took  the very ring from his finger on the morning of the day when he  died, and left him to be pillaged by his faithless servants.  Only  one good priest was true to him, and attended him to the last.

 

Besides being famous for the great victories I have related, the  reign of King Edward the Third was rendered memorable in better  ways, by the growth of architecture and the erection of Windsor  Castle.  In better ways still, by the rising up of WICKLIFFE,  originally a poor parish priest:  who devoted himself to exposing,  with wonderful power and success, the ambition and corruption of  the Pope, and of the whole church of which he was the head.

 

Some of those Flemings were induced to come to England in this  reign too, and to settle in Norfolk, where they made better woollen  cloths than the English had ever had before.  The Order of the  Garter (a very fine thing in its way, but hardly so important as  good clothes for the nation) also dates from this period.  The King  is said to have picked 'up a lady's garter at a ball, and to have  said, HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE - in English, 'Evil be to him who  evil thinks of it.'  The courtiers were usually glad to imitate  what the King said or did, and hence from a slight incident the  Order of the Garter was instituted, and became a great dignity.  So  the story goes.

 


CHAPTER XIX - ENGLAND UNDER RICHARD THE SECOND

 

RICHARD, son of the Black Prince, a boy eleven years of age,  succeeded to the Crown under the title of King Richard the Second.   The whole English nation were ready to admire him for the sake of  his brave father.  As to the lords and ladies about the Court, they  declared him to be the most beautiful, the wisest, and the best -  even of princes - whom the lords and ladies about the Court,  generally declare to be the most beautiful, the wisest, and the  best of mankind.  To flatter a poor boy in this base manner was not  a very likely way to develop whatever good was in him; and it  brought him to anything but a good or happy end.

 

The Duke of Lancaster, the young King's uncle - commonly called  John of Gaunt, from having been born at Ghent, which the common  people so pronounced - was supposed to have some thoughts of the  throne himself; but, as he was not popular, and the memory of the  Black Prince was, he submitted to his nephew.

 

The war with France being still unsettled, the Government of  England wanted money to provide for the expenses that might arise  out of it; accordingly a certain tax, called the Poll-tax, which  had originated in the last reign, was ordered to be levied on the  people.  This was a tax on every person in the kingdom, male and  female, above the age of fourteen, of three groats (or three four-penny pieces) a year; clergymen were charged more, and only beggars  were exempt.

 

I have no need to repeat that the common people of England had long  been suffering under great oppression.  They were still the mere  slaves of the lords of the land on which they lived, and were on  most occasions harshly and unjustly treated.  But, they had begun  by this time to think very seriously of not bearing quite so much;  and, probably, were emboldened by that French insurrection I  mentioned in the last chapter.

 

The people of Essex rose against the Poll-tax, and being severely  handled by the government officers, killed some of them.  At this  very time one of the tax-collectors, going his rounds from house to  house, at Dartford in Kent came to the cottage of one WAT, a tiler  by trade, and claimed the tax upon his daughter.  Her mother, who  was at home, declared that she was under the age of fourteen; upon  that, the collector (as other collectors had already done in  different parts of England) behaved in a savage way, and brutally  insulted Wat Tyler's daughter.  The daughter screamed, the mother  screamed.  Wat the Tiler, who was at work not far off, ran to the  spot, and did what any honest father under such provocation might  have done - struck the collector dead at a blow.

 

Instantly the people of that town uprose as one man.  They made Wat  Tyler their leader; they joined with the people of Essex, who were  in arms under a priest called JACK STRAW; they took out of prison  another priest named JOHN BALL; and gathering in numbers as they  went along, advanced, in a great confused army of poor men, to  Blackheath.  It is said that they wanted to abolish all property,  and to declare all men equal.  I do not think this very likely;  because they stopped the travellers on the roads and made them  swear to be true to King Richard and the people.  Nor were they at  all disposed to injure those who had done them no harm, merely  because they were of high station; for, the King's mother, who had  to pass through their camp at Blackheath, on her way to her young  son, lying for safety in the Tower of London, had merely to kiss a  few dirty-faced rough-bearded men who were noisily fond of royalty,  and so got away in perfect safety.  Next day the whole mass marched  on to London Bridge.

 

There was a drawbridge in the middle, which WILLIAM WALWORTH the  Mayor caused to be raised to prevent their coming into the city;  but they soon terrified the citizens into lowering it again, and  spread themselves, with great uproar, over the streets.  They broke  open the prisons; they burned the papers in Lambeth Palace; they  destroyed the DUKE OF LANCASTER'S Palace, the Savoy, in the Strand,  said to be the most beautiful and splendid in England; they set  fire to the books and documents in the Temple; and made a great  riot.  Many of these outrages were committed in drunkenness; since  those citizens, who had well-filled cellars, were only too glad to  throw them open to save the rest of their property; but even the  drunken rioters were very careful to steal nothing.  They were so  angry with one man, who was seen to take a silver cup at the Savoy  Palace, and put it in his breast, that they drowned him in the  river, cup and all.

 

The young King had been taken out to treat with them before they  committed these excesses; but, he and the people about him were so  frightened by the riotous shouts, that they got back to the Tower  in the best way they could.  This made the insurgents bolder; so  they went on rioting away, striking off the heads of those who did  not, at a moment's notice, declare for King Richard and the people;  and killing as many of the unpopular persons whom they supposed to  be their enemies as they could by any means lay hold of.  In this  manner they passed one very violent day, and then proclamation was  made that the King would meet them at Mile-end, and grant their  requests.

 

The rioters went to Mile-end to the number of sixty thousand, and  the King met them there, and to the King the rioters peaceably  proposed four conditions.  First, that neither they, nor their  children, nor any coming after them, should be made slaves any  more.  Secondly, that the rent of land should be fixed at a certain  price in money, instead of being paid in service.  Thirdly, that  they should have liberty to buy and sell in all markets and public  places, like other free men.  Fourthly, that they should be  pardoned for past offences.  Heaven knows, there was nothing very  unreasonable in these proposals!  The young King deceitfully  pretended to think so, and kept thirty clerks up, all night,  writing out a charter accordingly.

 

Now, Wat Tyler himself wanted more than this.  He wanted the entire  abolition of the forest laws.  He was not at Mile-end with the  rest, but, while that meeting was being held, broke into the Tower  of London and slew the archbishop and the treasurer, for whose  heads the people had cried out loudly the day before.  He and his  men even thrust their swords into the bed of the Princess of Wales  while the Princess was in it, to make certain that none of their  enemies were concealed there.

 

So, Wat and his men still continued armed, and rode about the city.   Next morning, the King with a small train of some sixty gentlemen -  among whom was WALWORTH the Mayor - rode into Smithfield, and saw  Wat and his people at a little distance.  Says Wat to his men,  'There is the King.  I will go speak with him, and tell him what we  want.'

 

Straightway Wat rode up to him, and began to talk.  'King,' says  Wat, 'dost thou see all my men there?'

 

'Ah,' says the King.  'Why?'

 

'Because,' says Wat, 'they are all at my command, and have sworn to  do whatever I bid them.'

 

Some declared afterwards that as Wat said this, he laid his hand on  the King's bridle.  Others declared that he was seen to play with  his own dagger.  I think, myself, that he just spoke to the King  like a rough, angry man as he was, and did nothing more.  At any  rate he was expecting no attack, and preparing for no resistance,  when Walworth the Mayor did the not very valiant deed of drawing a  short sword and stabbing him in the throat.  He dropped from his  horse, and one of the King's people speedily finished him.  So fell  Wat Tyler.  Fawners and flatterers made a mighty triumph of it, and  set up a cry which will occasionally find an echo to this day.  But  Wat was a hard-working man, who had suffered much, and had been  foully outraged; and it is probable that he was a man of a much  higher nature and a much braver spirit than any of the parasites  who exulted then, or have exulted since, over his defeat.

 

Seeing Wat down, his men immediately bent their bows to avenge his  fall.  If the young King had not had presence of mind at that  dangerous moment, both he and the Mayor to boot, might have  followed Tyler pretty fast.  But the King riding up to the crowd,  cried out that Tyler was a traitor, and that he would be their  leader.  They were so taken by surprise, that they set up a great  shouting, and followed the boy until he was met at Islington by a  large body of soldiers.

 

The end of this rising was the then usual end.  As soon as the King  found himself safe, he unsaid all he had said, and undid all he had  done; some fifteen hundred of the rioters were tried (mostly in  Essex) with great rigour, and executed with great cruelty.  Many of  them were hanged on gibbets, and left there as a terror to the  country people; and, because their miserable friends took some of  the bodies down to bury, the King ordered the rest to be chained up  - which was the beginning of the barbarous custom of hanging in  chains.  The King's falsehood in this business makes such a pitiful  figure, that I think Wat Tyler appears in history as beyond  comparison the truer and more respectable man of the two.

 

Richard was now sixteen years of age, and married Anne of Bohemia,  an excellent princess, who was called 'the good Queen Anne.'  She  deserved a better husband; for the King had been fawned and  flattered into a treacherous, wasteful, dissolute, bad young man.

 

There were two Popes at this time (as if one were not enough!), and  their quarrels involved Europe in a great deal of trouble.   Scotland was still troublesome too; and at home there was much  jealousy and distrust, and plotting and counter-plotting, because  the King feared the ambition of his relations, and particularly of  his uncle, the Duke of Lancaster, and the duke had his party  against the King, and the King had his party against the duke.  Nor  were these home troubles lessened when the duke went to Castile to  urge his claim to the crown of that kingdom; for then the Duke of  Gloucester, another of Richard's uncles, opposed him, and  influenced the Parliament to demand the dismissal of the King's  favourite ministers.  The King said in reply, that he would not for  such men dismiss the meanest servant in his kitchen.  But, it had  begun to signify little what a King said when a Parliament was  determined; so Richard was at last obliged to give way, and to  agree to another Government of the kingdom, under a commission of  fourteen nobles, for a year.  His uncle of Gloucester was at the  head of this commission, and, in fact, appointed everybody  composing it.

 

Having done all this, the King declared as soon as he saw an  opportunity that he had never meant to do it, and that it was all  illegal; and he got the judges secretly to sign a declaration to  that effect.  The secret oozed out directly, and was carried to the  Duke of Gloucester.  The Duke of Gloucester, at the head of forty  thousand men, met the King on his entering into London to enforce  his authority; the King was helpless against him; his favourites  and ministers were impeached and were mercilessly executed.  Among  them were two men whom the people regarded with very different  feelings; one, Robert Tresilian, Chief Justice, who was hated for  having made what was called 'the bloody circuit' to try the  rioters; the other, Sir Simon Burley, an honourable knight, who had  been the dear friend of the Black Prince, and the governor and  guardian of the King.  For this gentleman's life the good Queen  even begged of Gloucester on her knees; but Gloucester (with or  without reason) feared and hated him, and replied, that if she  valued her husband's crown, she had better beg no more.  All this  was done under what was called by some the wonderful - and by  others, with better reason, the merciless - Parliament.

 

But Gloucester's power was not to last for ever.  He held it for  only a year longer; in which year the famous battle of Otterbourne,  sung in the old ballad of Chevy Chase, was fought.  When the year  was out, the King, turning suddenly to Gloucester, in the midst of  a great council said, 'Uncle, how old am I?'  'Your highness,'  returned the Duke, 'is in your twenty-second year.'  'Am I so  much?' said the King; 'then I will manage my own affairs!  I am  much obliged to you, my good lords, for your past services, but I  need them no more.'  He followed this up, by appointing a new  Chancellor and a new Treasurer, and announced to the people that he  had resumed the Government.  He held it for eight years without  opposition.  Through all that time, he kept his determination to  revenge himself some day upon his uncle Gloucester, in his own  breast.

 

At last the good Queen died, and then the King, desiring to take a  second wife, proposed to his council that he should marry Isabella,  of France, the daughter of Charles the Sixth:  who, the French  courtiers said (as the English courtiers had said of Richard), was  a marvel of beauty and wit, and quite a phenomenon - of seven years  old.  The council were divided about this marriage, but it took  place.  It secured peace between England and France for a quarter  of a century; but it was strongly opposed to the prejudices of the  English people.  The Duke of Gloucester, who was anxious to take  the occasion of making himself popular, declaimed against it  loudly, and this at length decided the King to execute the  vengeance he had been nursing so long.

 

He went with a gay company to the Duke of Gloucester's house,  Pleshey Castle, in Essex, where the Duke, suspecting nothing, came  out into the court-yard to receive his royal visitor.  While the  King conversed in a friendly manner with the Duchess, the Duke was  quietly seized, hurried away, shipped for Calais, and lodged in the  castle there.  His friends, the Earls of Arundel and Warwick, were  taken in the same treacherous manner, and confined to their  castles.  A few days after, at Nottingham, they were impeached of  high treason.  The Earl of Arundel was condemned and beheaded, and  the Earl of Warwick was banished.  Then, a writ was sent by a  messenger to the Governor of Calais, requiring him to send the Duke  of Gloucester over to be tried.  In three days he returned an  answer that he could not do that, because the Duke of Gloucester  had died in prison.  The Duke was declared a traitor, his property  was confiscated to the King, a real or pretended confession he had  made in prison to one of the Justices of the Common Pleas was  produced against him, and there was an end of the matter.  How the  unfortunate duke died, very few cared to know.  Whether he really  died naturally; whether he killed himself; whether, by the King's  order, he was strangled, or smothered between two beds (as a  serving-man of the Governor's named Hall, did afterwards declare),  cannot be discovered.  There is not much doubt that he was killed,  somehow or other, by his nephew's orders.  Among the most active  nobles in these proceedings were the King's cousin, Henry  Bolingbroke, whom the King had made Duke of Hereford to smooth down  the old family quarrels, and some others:  who had in the family-plotting times done just such acts themselves as they now condemned  in the duke.  They seem to have been a corrupt set of men; but such  men were easily found about the court in such days.

 

The people murmured at all this, and were still very sore about the  French marriage.  The nobles saw how little the King cared for law,  and how crafty he was, and began to be somewhat afraid for  themselves.  The King's life was a life of continued feasting and  excess; his retinue, down to the meanest servants, were dressed in  the most costly manner, and caroused at his tables, it is related,  to the number of ten thousand persons every day.  He himself,  surrounded by a body of ten thousand archers, and enriched by a  duty on wool which the Commons had granted him for life, saw no  danger of ever being otherwise than powerful and absolute, and was  as fierce and haughty as a King could be.

 

He had two of his old enemies left, in the persons of the Dukes of  Hereford and Norfolk.  Sparing these no more than the others, he  tampered with the Duke of Hereford until he got him to declare  before the Council that the Duke of Norfolk had lately held some  treasonable talk with him, as he was riding near Brentford; and  that he had told him, among other things, that he could not believe  the King's oath - which nobody could, I should think.  For this  treachery he obtained a pardon, and the Duke of Norfolk was  summoned to appear and defend himself.  As he denied the charge and  said his accuser was a liar and a traitor, both noblemen, according  to the manner of those times, were held in custody, and the truth  was ordered to be decided by wager of battle at Coventry.  This  wager of battle meant that whosoever won the combat was to be  considered in the right; which nonsense meant in effect, that no  strong man could ever be wrong.  A great holiday was made; a great  crowd assembled, with much parade and show; and the two combatants  were about to rush at each other with their lances, when the King,  sitting in a pavilion to see fair, threw down the truncheon he  carried in his hand, and forbade the battle.  The Duke of Hereford  was to be banished for ten years, and the Duke of Norfolk was to be  banished for life.  So said the King.  The Duke of Hereford went to  France, and went no farther.  The Duke of Norfolk made a pilgrimage  to the Holy Land, and afterwards died at Venice of a broken heart.

 

Faster and fiercer, after this, the King went on in his career.   The Duke of Lancaster, who was the father of the Duke of Hereford,  died soon after the departure of his son; and, the King, although  he had solemnly granted to that son leave to inherit his father's  property, if it should come to him during his banishment,  immediately seized it all, like a robber.  The judges were so  afraid of him, that they disgraced themselves by declaring this  theft to be just and lawful.  His avarice knew no bounds.  He  outlawed seventeen counties at once, on a frivolous pretence,  merely to raise money by way of fines for misconduct.  In short, he  did as many dishonest things as he could; and cared so little for  the discontent of his subjects - though even the spaniel favourites  began to whisper to him that there was such a thing as discontent  afloat - that he took that time, of all others, for leaving England  and making an expedition against the Irish.

 

He was scarcely gone, leaving the DUKE OF YORK Regent in his  absence, when his cousin, Henry of Hereford, came over from France  to claim the rights of which he had been so monstrously deprived.   He was immediately joined by the two great Earls of Northumberland  and Westmoreland; and his uncle, the Regent, finding the King's  cause unpopular, and the disinclination of the army to act against  Henry, very strong, withdrew with the Royal forces towards Bristol.   Henry, at the head of an army, came from Yorkshire (where he had  landed) to London and followed him.  They joined their forces - how  they brought that about, is not distinctly understood - and  proceeded to Bristol Castle, whither three noblemen had taken the  young Queen.  The castle surrendering, they presently put those  three noblemen to death.  The Regent then remained there, and Henry  went on to Chester.

 

All this time, the boisterous weather had prevented the King from  receiving intelligence of what had occurred.  At length it was  conveyed to him in Ireland, and he sent over the EARL OF SALISBURY,  who, landing at Conway, rallied the Welshmen, and waited for the  King a whole fortnight; at the end of that time the Welshmen, who  were perhaps not very warm for him in the beginning, quite cooled  down and went home.  When the King did land on the coast at last,  he came with a pretty good power, but his men cared nothing for  him, and quickly deserted.  Supposing the Welshmen to be still at  Conway, he disguised himself as a priest, and made for that place  in company with his two brothers and some few of their adherents.   But, there were no Welshmen left - only Salisbury and a hundred  soldiers.  In this distress, the King's two brothers, Exeter and  Surrey, offered to go to Henry to learn what his intentions were.   Surrey, who was true to Richard, was put into prison.  Exeter, who  was false, took the royal badge, which was a hart, off his shield,  and assumed the rose, the badge of Henry.  After this, it was  pretty plain to the King what Henry's intentions were, without  sending any more messengers to ask.

 

The fallen King, thus deserted - hemmed in on all sides, and  pressed with hunger - rode here and rode there, and went to this  castle, and went to that castle, endeavouring to obtain some  provisions, but could find none.  He rode wretchedly back to  Conway, and there surrendered himself to the Earl of  Northumberland, who came from Henry, in reality to take him  prisoner, but in appearance to offer terms; and whose men were  hidden not far off.  By this earl he was conducted to the castle of  Flint, where his cousin Henry met him, and dropped on his knee as  if he were still respectful to his sovereign.

 

'Fair cousin of Lancaster,' said the King, 'you are very welcome'  (very welcome, no doubt; but he would have been more so, in chains  or without a head).

 

'My lord,' replied Henry, 'I am come a little before my time; but,  with your good pleasure, I will show you the reason.  Your people  complain with some bitterness, that you have ruled them rigorously  for two-and-twenty years.  Now, if it please God, I will help you  to govern them better in future.'

 

'Fair cousin,' replied the abject King, 'since it pleaseth you, it  pleaseth me mightily.'

 

After this, the trumpets sounded, and the King was stuck on a  wretched horse, and carried prisoner to Chester, where he was made  to issue a proclamation, calling a Parliament.  From Chester he was  taken on towards London.  At Lichfield he tried to escape by  getting out of a window and letting himself down into a garden; it  was all in vain, however, and he was carried on and shut up in the  Tower, where no one pitied him, and where the whole people, whose  patience he had quite tired out, reproached him without mercy.   Before he got there, it is related, that his very dog left him and  departed from his side to lick the hand of Henry.

 

The day before the Parliament met, a deputation went to this  wrecked King, and told him that he had promised the Earl of  Northumberland at Conway Castle to resign the crown.  He said he  was quite ready to do it, and signed a paper in which he renounced  his authority and absolved his people from their allegiance to him.   He had so little spirit left that he gave his royal ring to his  triumphant cousin Henry with his own hand, and said, that if he  could have had leave to appoint a successor, that same Henry was  the man of all others whom he would have named.  Next day, the  Parliament assembled in Westminster Hall, where Henry sat at the  side of the throne, which was empty and covered with a cloth of  gold.  The paper just signed by the King was read to the multitude  amid shouts of joy, which were echoed through all the streets; when  some of the noise had died away, the King was formally deposed.   Then Henry arose, and, making the sign of the cross on his forehead  and breast, challenged the realm of England as his right; the  archbishops of Canterbury and York seated him on the throne.

 

The multitude shouted again, and the shouts re-echoed throughout  all the streets.  No one remembered, now, that Richard the Second  had ever been the most beautiful, the wisest, and the best of  princes; and he now made living (to my thinking) a far more sorry  spectacle in the Tower of London, than Wat Tyler had made, lying  dead, among the hoofs of the royal horses in Smithfield.

 

The Poll-tax died with Wat.  The Smiths to the King and Royal  Family, could make no chains in which the King could hang the  people's recollection of him; so the Poll-tax was never collected.

 


CHAPTER XX - ENGLAND UNDER HENRY THE FOURTH, CALLED BOLINGBROKE

 

DURING the last reign, the preaching of Wickliffe against the pride  and cunning of the Pope and all his men, had made a great noise in  England.  Whether the new King wished to be in favour with the  priests, or whether he hoped, by pretending to be very religious,  to cheat Heaven itself into the belief that he was not a usurper, I  don't know.  Both suppositions are likely enough.  It is certain  that he began his reign by making a strong show against the  followers of Wickliffe, who were called Lollards, or heretics -  although his father, John of Gaunt, had been of that way of  thinking, as he himself had been more than suspected of being.  It  is no less certain that he first established in England the  detestable and atrocious custom, brought from abroad, of burning  those people as a punishment for their opinions.  It was the  importation into England of one of the practices of what was called  the Holy Inquisition:  which was the most UNholy and the most  infamous tribunal that ever disgraced mankind, and made men more  like demons than followers of Our Saviour.

 

No real right to the crown, as you know, was in this King.  Edward  Mortimer, the young Earl of March - who was only eight or nine  years old, and who was descended from the Duke of Clarence, the  elder brother of Henry's father - was, by succession, the real heir  to the throne.  However, the King got his son declared Prince of  Wales; and, obtaining possession of the young Earl of March and his  little brother, kept them in confinement (but not severely) in  Windsor Castle.  He then required the Parliament to decide what was  to be done with the deposed King, who was quiet enough, and who  only said that he hoped his cousin Henry would be 'a good lord' to  him.  The Parliament replied that they would recommend his being  kept in some secret place where the people could not resort, and  where his friends could not be admitted to see him.  Henry  accordingly passed this sentence upon him, and it now began to be  pretty clear to the nation that Richard the Second would not live  very long.

 

It was a noisy Parliament, as it was an unprincipled one, and the  Lords quarrelled so violently among themselves as to which of them  had been loyal and which disloyal, and which consistent and which  inconsistent, that forty gauntlets are said to have been thrown  upon the floor at one time as challenges to as many battles:  the  truth being that they were all false and base together, and had  been, at one time with the old King, and at another time with the  new one, and seldom true for any length of time to any one.  They  soon began to plot again.  A conspiracy was formed to invite the  King to a tournament at Oxford, and then to take him by surprise  and kill him.  This murderous enterprise, which was agreed upon at  secret meetings in the house of the Abbot of Westminster, was  betrayed by the Earl of Rutland - one of the conspirators.  The  King, instead of going to the tournament or staying at Windsor  (where the conspirators suddenly went, on finding themselves  discovered, with the hope of seizing him), retired to London,  proclaimed them all traitors, and advanced upon them with a great  force.  They retired into the west of England, proclaiming Richard  King; but, the people rose against them, and they were all slain.   Their treason hastened the death of the deposed monarch.  Whether  he was killed by hired assassins, or whether he was starved to  death, or whether he refused food on hearing of his brothers being  killed (who were in that plot), is very doubtful.  He met his death  somehow; and his body was publicly shown at St. Paul's Cathedral  with only the lower part of the face uncovered.  I can scarcely  doubt that he was killed by the King's orders.

 

The French wife of the miserable Richard was now only ten years  old; and, when her father, Charles of France, heard of her  misfortunes and of her lonely condition in England, he went mad:   as he had several times done before, during the last five or six  years.  The French Dukes of Burgundy and Bourbon took up the poor  girl's cause, without caring much about it, but on the chance of  getting something out of England.  The people of Bordeaux, who had  a sort of superstitious attachment to the memory of Richard,  because he was born there, swore by the Lord that he had been the  best man in all his kingdom - which was going rather far - and  promised to do great things against the English.  Nevertheless,  when they came to consider that they, and the whole people of  France, were ruined by their own nobles, and that the English rule  was much the better of the two, they cooled down again; and the two  dukes, although they were very great men, could do nothing without  them.  Then, began negotiations between France and England for the  sending home to Paris of the poor little Queen with all her jewels  and her fortune of two hundred thousand francs in gold.  The King  was quite willing to restore the young lady, and even the jewels;  but he said he really could not part with the money.  So, at last  she was safely deposited at Paris without her fortune, and then the  Duke of Burgundy (who was cousin to the French King) began to  quarrel with the Duke of Orleans (who was brother to the French  King) about the whole matter; and those two dukes made France even  more wretched than ever.

 

As the idea of conquering Scotland was still popular at home, the  King marched to the river Tyne and demanded homage of the King of  that country.  This being refused, he advanced to Edinburgh, but  did little there; for, his army being in want of provisions, and  the Scotch being very careful to hold him in check without giving  battle, he was obliged to retire.  It is to his immortal honour  that in this sally he burnt no villages and slaughtered no people,  but was particularly careful that his army should be merciful and  harmless.  It was a great example in those ruthless times.

 

A war among the border people of England and Scotland went on for  twelve months, and then the Earl of Northumberland, the nobleman  who had helped Henry to the crown, began to rebel against him -  probably because nothing that Henry could do for him would satisfy  his extravagant expectations.  There was a certain Welsh gentleman,  named OWEN GLENDOWER, who had been a student in one of the Inns of  Court, and had afterwards been in the service of the late King,  whose Welsh property was taken from him by a powerful lord related  to the present King, who was his neighbour.  Appealing for redress,  and getting none, he took up arms, was made an outlaw, and declared  himself sovereign of Wales.  He pretended to be a magician; and not  only were the Welsh people stupid enough to believe him, but, even  Henry believed him too; for, making three expeditions into Wales,  and being three times driven back by the wildness of the country,  the bad weather, and the skill of Glendower, he thought he was  defeated by the Welshman's magic arts.  However, he took Lord Grey  and Sir Edmund Mortimer, prisoners, and allowed the relatives of  Lord Grey to ransom him, but would not extend such favour to Sir  Edmund Mortimer.  Now, Henry Percy, called HOTSPUR, son of the Earl  of Northumberland, who was married to Mortimer's sister, is  supposed to have taken offence at this; and, therefore, in  conjunction with his father and some others, to have joined Owen  Glendower, and risen against Henry.  It is by no means clear that  this was the real cause of the conspiracy; but perhaps it was made  the pretext.  It was formed, and was very powerful; including  SCROOP, Archbishop of York, and the EARL OF DOUGLAS, a powerful and  brave Scottish nobleman.  The King was prompt and active, and the  two armies met at Shrewsbury.

 

There were about fourteen thousand men in each.  The old Earl of  Northumberland being sick, the rebel forces were led by his son.   The King wore plain armour to deceive the enemy; and four noblemen,  with the same object, wore the royal arms.  The rebel charge was so  furious, that every one of those gentlemen was killed, the royal  standard was beaten down, and the young Prince of Wales was  severely wounded in the face.  But he was one of the bravest and  best soldiers that ever lived, and he fought so well, and the  King's troops were so encouraged by his bold example, that they  rallied immediately, and cut the enemy's forces all to pieces.   Hotspur was killed by an arrow in the brain, and the rout was so  complete that the whole rebellion was struck down by this one blow.   The Earl of Northumberland surrendered himself soon after hearing  of the death of his son, and received a pardon for all his  offences.

 

There were some lingerings of rebellion yet:  Owen Glendower being  retired to Wales, and a preposterous story being spread among the  ignorant people that King Richard was still alive.  How they could  have believed such nonsense it is difficult to imagine; but they  certainly did suppose that the Court fool of the late King, who was  something like him, was he, himself; so that it seemed as if, after  giving so much trouble to the country in his life, he was still to  trouble it after his death.  This was not the worst.  The young  Earl of March and his brother were stolen out of Windsor Castle.   Being retaken, and being found to have been spirited away by one  Lady Spencer, she accused her own brother, that Earl of Rutland who  was in the former conspiracy and was now Duke of York, of being in  the plot.  For this he was ruined in fortune, though not put to  death; and then another plot arose among the old Earl of  Northumberland, some other lords, and that same Scroop, Archbishop  of York, who was with the rebels before.  These conspirators caused  a writing to be posted on the church doors, accusing the King of a  variety of crimes; but, the King being eager and vigilant to oppose  them, they were all taken, and the Archbishop was executed.  This  was the first time that a great churchman had been slain by the law  in England; but the King was resolved that it should be done, and  done it was.

 

The next most remarkable event of this time was the seizure, by

 

Henry, of the heir to the Scottish throne - James, a boy of nine  years old.  He had been put aboard-ship by his father, the Scottish  King Robert, to save him from the designs of his uncle, when, on  his way to France, he was accidentally taken by some English  cruisers.  He remained a prisoner in England for nineteen years,  and became in his prison a student and a famous poet.

 

With the exception of occasional troubles with the Welsh and with  the French, the rest of King Henry's reign was quiet enough.  But,  the King was far from happy, and probably was troubled in his  conscience by knowing that he had usurped the crown, and had  occasioned the death of his miserable cousin.  The Prince of Wales,  though brave and generous, is said to have been wild and  dissipated, and even to have drawn his sword on GASCOIGNE, the  Chief Justice of the King's Bench, because he was firm in dealing  impartially with one of his dissolute companions.  Upon this the  Chief Justice is said to have ordered him immediately to prison;  the Prince of Wales is said to have submitted with a good grace;  and the King is said to have exclaimed, 'Happy is the monarch who  has so just a judge, and a son so willing to obey the laws.'  This  is all very doubtful, and so is another story (of which Shakespeare  has made beautiful use), that the Prince once took the crown out of  his father's chamber as he was sleeping, and tried it on his own  head.

 

The King's health sank more and more, and he became subject to  violent eruptions on the face and to bad epileptic fits, and his  spirits sank every day.  At last, as he was praying before the  shrine of St. Edward at Westminster Abbey, he was seized with a  terrible fit, and was carried into the Abbot's chamber, where he  presently died.  It had been foretold that he would die at  Jerusalem, which certainly is not, and never was, Westminster.   But, as the Abbot's room had long been called the Jerusalem  chamber, people said it was all the same thing, and were quite  satisfied with the prediction.

 

The King died on the 20th of March, 1413, in the forty-seventh year  of his age, and the fourteenth of his reign.  He was buried in  Canterbury Cathedral.  He had been twice married, and had, by his  first wife, a family of four sons and two daughters.  Considering  his duplicity before he came to the throne, his unjust seizure of  it, and above all, his making that monstrous law for the burning of  what the priests called heretics, he was a reasonably good king, as  kings went.

 


CHAPTER XXI - ENGLAND UNDER HENRY THE FIFTH

 

FIRST PART

 

THE Prince of Wales began his reign like a generous and honest man.   He set the young Earl of March free; he restored their estates and  their honours to the Percy family, who had lost them by their  rebellion against his father; he ordered the imbecile and  unfortunate Richard to be honourably buried among the Kings of  England; and he dismissed all his wild companions, with assurances  that they should not want, if they would resolve to be steady,  faithful, and true.

 

It is much easier to burn men than to burn their opinions; and  those of the Lollards were spreading every day.  The Lollards were  represented by the priests - probably falsely for the most part -  to entertain treasonable designs against the new King; and Henry,  suffering himself to be worked upon by these representations,  sacrificed his friend Sir John Oldcastle, the Lord Cobham, to them,  after trying in vain to convert him by arguments.  He was declared  guilty, as the head of the sect, and sentenced to the flames; but  he escaped from the Tower before the day of execution (postponed  for fifty days by the King himself), and summoned the Lollards to  meet him near London on a certain day.  So the priests told the  King, at least.  I doubt whether there was any conspiracy beyond  such as was got up by their agents.  On the day appointed, instead  of five-and-twenty thousand men, under the command of Sir John  Oldcastle, in the meadows of St. Giles, the King found only eighty  men, and no Sir John at all.  There was, in another place, an  addle-headed brewer, who had gold trappings to his horses, and a  pair of gilt spurs in his breast - expecting to be made a knight  next day by Sir John, and so to gain the right to wear them - but  there was no Sir John, nor did anybody give information respecting  him, though the King offered great rewards for such intelligence.   Thirty of these unfortunate Lollards were hanged and drawn  immediately, and were then burnt, gallows and all; and the various  prisons in and around London were crammed full of others.  Some of  these unfortunate men made various confessions of treasonable  designs; but, such confessions were easily got, under torture and  the fear of fire, and are very little to be trusted.  To finish the  sad story of Sir John Oldcastle at once, I may mention that he  escaped into Wales, and remained there safely, for four years.   When discovered by Lord Powis, it is very doubtful if he would have  been taken alive - so great was the old soldier's bravery - if a  miserable old woman had not come behind him and broken his legs  with a stool.  He was carried to London in a horse-litter, was  fastened by an iron chain to a gibbet, and so roasted to death.

 

To make the state of France as plain as I can in a few words, I  should tell you that the Duke of Orleans, and the Duke of Burgundy,  commonly called 'John without fear,' had had a grand reconciliation  of their quarrel in the last reign, and had appeared to be quite in  a heavenly state of mind.  Immediately after which, on a Sunday, in  the public streets of Paris, the Duke of Orleans was murdered by a  party of twenty men, set on by the Duke of Burgundy - according to  his own deliberate confession.  The widow of King Richard had been  married in France to the eldest son of the Duke of Orleans.  The  poor mad King was quite powerless to help her, and the Duke of  Burgundy became the real master of France.  Isabella dying, her  husband (Duke of Orleans since the death of his father) married the  daughter of the Count of Armagnac, who, being a much abler man than  his young son-in-law, headed his party; thence called after him  Armagnacs.  Thus, France was now in this terrible condition, that  it had in it the party of the King's son, the Dauphin Louis; the  party of the Duke of Burgundy, who was the father of the Dauphin's  ill-used wife; and the party of the Armagnacs; all hating each  other; all fighting together; all composed of the most depraved  nobles that the earth has ever known; and all tearing unhappy  France to pieces.

 

The late King had watched these dissensions from England, sensible  (like the French people) that no enemy of France could injure her  more than her own nobility.  The present King now advanced a claim  to the French throne.  His demand being, of course, refused, he  reduced his proposal to a certain large amount of French territory,  and to demanding the French princess, Catherine, in marriage, with  a fortune of two millions of golden crowns.  He was offered less  territory and fewer crowns, and no princess; but he called his  ambassadors home and prepared for war.  Then, he proposed to take  the princess with one million of crowns.  The French Court replied  that he should have the princess with two hundred thousand crowns  less; he said this would not do (he had never seen the princess in  his life), and assembled his army at Southampton.  There was a  short plot at home just at that time, for deposing him, and making  the Earl of March king; but the conspirators were all speedily  condemned and executed, and the King embarked for France.

 

It is dreadful to observe how long a bad example will be followed;  but, it is encouraging to know that a good example is never thrown  away.  The King's first act on disembarking at the mouth of the  river Seine, three miles from Harfleur, was to imitate his father,  and to proclaim his solemn orders that the lives and property of  the peaceable inhabitants should be respected on pain of death.  It  is agreed by French writers, to his lasting renown, that even while  his soldiers were suffering the greatest distress from want of  food, these commands were rigidly obeyed.

 

With an army in all of thirty thousand men, he besieged the town of  Harfleur both by sea and land for five weeks; at the end of which  time the town surrendered, and the inhabitants were allowed to  depart with only fivepence each, and a part of their clothes.  All  the rest of their possessions was divided amongst the English army.   But, that army suffered so much, in spite of its successes, from  disease and privation, that it was already reduced one half.   Still, the King was determined not to retire until he had struck a  greater blow.  Therefore, against the advice of all his  counsellors, he moved on with his little force towards Calais.   When he came up to the river Somme he was unable to cross, in  consequence of the fort being fortified; and, as the English moved  up the left bank of the river looking for a crossing, the French,  who had broken all the bridges, moved up the right bank, watching  them, and waiting to attack them when they should try to pass it.   At last the English found a crossing and got safely over.  The  French held a council of war at Rouen, resolved to give the English  battle, and sent heralds to King Henry to know by which road he was  going.  'By the road that will take me straight to Calais!' said  the King, and sent them away with a present of a hundred crowns.

 

The English moved on, until they beheld the French, and then the  King gave orders to form in line of battle.  The French not coming  on, the army broke up after remaining in battle array till night,  and got good rest and refreshment at a neighbouring village.  The  French were now all lying in another village, through which they  knew the English must pass.  They were resolved that the English  should begin the battle.  The English had no means of retreat, if  their King had any such intention; and so the two armies passed the  night, close together.

 

To understand these armies well, you must bear in mind that the  immense French army had, among its notable persons, almost the  whole of that wicked nobility, whose debauchery had made France a  desert; and so besotted were they by pride, and by contempt for the  common people, that they had scarcely any bowmen (if indeed they  had any at all) in their whole enormous number:  which, compared  with the English army, was at least as six to one.  For these proud  fools had said that the bow was not a fit weapon for knightly  hands, and that France must be defended by gentlemen only.  We  shall see, presently, what hand the gentlemen made of it.

 

Now, on the English side, among the little force, there was a good  proportion of men who were not gentlemen by any means, but who were  good stout archers for all that.  Among them, in the morning -  having slept little at night, while the French were carousing and  making sure of victory - the King rode, on a grey horse; wearing on  his head a helmet of shining steel, surmounted by a crown of gold,  sparkling with precious stones; and bearing over his armour,  embroidered together, the arms of England and the arms of France.   The archers looked at the shining helmet and the crown of gold and  the sparkling jewels, and admired them all; but, what they admired  most was the King's cheerful face, and his bright blue eye, as he  told them that, for himself, he had made up his mind to conquer  there or to die there, and that England should never have a ransom  to pay for HIM.  There was one brave knight who chanced to say that  he wished some of the many gallant gentlemen and good soldiers, who  were then idle at home in England, were there to increase their  numbers.  But the King told him that, for his part, he did not wish  for one more man.  'The fewer we have,' said he, 'the greater will  be the honour we shall win!'  His men, being now all in good heart,  were refreshed with bread and wine, and heard prayers, and waited  quietly for the French.  The King waited for the French, because  they were drawn up thirty deep (the little English force was only  three deep), on very difficult and heavy ground; and he knew that  when they moved, there must be confusion among them.

 

As they did not move, he sent off two parties:- one to lie  concealed in a wood on the left of the French:  the other, to set  fire to some houses behind the French after the battle should be  begun.  This was scarcely done, when three of the proud French  gentlemen, who were to defend their country without any help from  the base peasants, came riding out, calling upon the English to  surrender.  The King warned those gentlemen himself to retire with  all speed if they cared for their lives, and ordered the English  banners to advance.  Upon that, Sir Thomas Erpingham, a great  English general, who commanded the archers, threw his truncheon  into the air, joyfully, and all the English men, kneeling down upon  the ground and biting it as if they took possession of the country,  rose up with a great shout and fell upon the French.

 

Every archer was furnished with a great stake tipped with iron; and  his orders were, to thrust this stake into the ground, to discharge  his arrow, and then to fall back, when the French horsemen came on.   As the haughty French gentlemen, who were to break the English  archers and utterly destroy them with their knightly lances, came  riding up, they were received with such a blinding storm of arrows,  that they broke and turned.  Horses and men rolled over one  another, and the confusion was terrific.  Those who rallied and  charged the archers got among the stakes on slippery and boggy  ground, and were so bewildered that the English archers - who wore  no armour, and even took off their leathern coats to be more active  - cut them to pieces, root and branch.  Only three French horsemen  got within the stakes, and those were instantly despatched.  All  this time the dense French army, being in armour, were sinking  knee-deep into the mire; while the light English archers, half-naked, were as fresh and active as if they were fighting on a  marble floor.

 

But now, the second division of the French coming to the relief of  the first, closed up in a firm mass; the English, headed by the  King, attacked them; and the deadliest part of the battle began.   The King's brother, the Duke of Clarence, was struck down, and  numbers of the French surrounded him; but, King Henry, standing  over the body, fought like a lion until they were beaten off.

 

Presently, came up a band of eighteen French knights, bearing the  banner of a certain French lord, who had sworn to kill or take the  English King.  One of them struck him such a blow with a battle-axe  that he reeled and fell upon his knees; but, his faithful men,  immediately closing round him, killed every one of those eighteen  knights, and so that French lord never kept his oath.

 

The French Duke of Alen‡on, seeing this, made a desperate charge,  and cut his way close up to the Royal Standard of England.  He beat  down the Duke of York, who was standing near it; and, when the King  came to his rescue, struck off a piece of the crown he wore.  But,  he never struck another blow in this world; for, even as he was in  the act of saying who he was, and that he surrendered to the King;  and even as the King stretched out his hand to give him a safe and  honourable acceptance of the offer; he fell dead, pierced by  innumerable wounds.

 

The death of this nobleman decided the battle.  The third division  of the French army, which had never struck a blow yet, and which  was, in itself, more than double the whole English power, broke and  fled.  At this time of the fight, the English, who as yet had made  no prisoners, began to take them in immense numbers, and were still  occupied in doing so, or in killing those who would not surrender,  when a great noise arose in the rear of the French - their flying  banners were seen to stop - and King Henry, supposing a great  reinforcement to have arrived, gave orders that all the prisoners  should be put to death.  As soon, however, as it was found that the  noise was only occasioned by a body of plundering peasants, the  terrible massacre was stopped.

 

Then King Henry called to him the French herald, and asked him to  whom the victory belonged.

 

The herald replied, 'To the King of England.'

 

'WE have not made this havoc and slaughter,' said the King.  'It is  the wrath of Heaven on the sins of France.  What is the name of  that castle yonder?'

 

The herald answered him, 'My lord, it is the castle of Azincourt.'   Said the King, 'From henceforth this battle shall be known to  posterity, by the name of the battle of Azincourt.'

 

Our English historians have made it Agincourt; but, under that  name, it will ever be famous in English annals.

 

The loss upon the French side was enormous.  Three Dukes were  killed, two more were taken prisoners, seven Counts were killed,  three more were taken prisoners, and ten thousand knights and  gentlemen were slain upon the field.  The English loss amounted to  sixteen hundred men, among whom were the Duke of York and the Earl  of Suffolk.

 

War is a dreadful thing; and it is appalling to know how the  English were obliged, next morning, to kill those prisoners  mortally wounded, who yet writhed in agony upon the ground; how the  dead upon the French side were stripped by their own countrymen and  countrywomen, and afterwards buried in great pits; how the dead  upon the English side were piled up in a great barn, and how their  bodies and the barn were all burned together.  It is in such  things, and in many more much too horrible to relate, that the real  desolation and wickedness of war consist.  Nothing can make war  otherwise than horrible.  But the dark side of it was little  thought of and soon forgotten; and it cast no shade of trouble on  the English people, except on those who had lost friends or  relations in the fight.  They welcomed their King home with shouts  of rejoicing, and plunged into the water to bear him ashore on  their shoulders, and flocked out in crowds to welcome him in every  town through which he passed, and hung rich carpets and tapestries  out of the windows, and strewed the streets with flowers, and made  the fountains run with wine, as the great field of Agincourt had  run with blood.

 

SECOND PART

 

THAT proud and wicked French nobility who dragged their country to  destruction, and who were every day and every year regarded with  deeper hatred and detestation in the hearts of the French people,  learnt nothing, even from the defeat of Agincourt.  So far from  uniting against the common enemy, they became, among themselves,  more violent, more bloody, and more false - if that were possible -  than they had been before.  The Count of Armagnac persuaded the  French king to plunder of her treasures Queen Isabella of Bavaria,  and to make her a prisoner.  She, who had hitherto been the bitter  enemy of the Duke of Burgundy, proposed to join him, in revenge.   He carried her off to Troyes, where she proclaimed herself Regent  of France, and made him her lieutenant.  The Armagnac party were at  that time possessed of Paris; but, one of the gates of the city  being secretly opened on a certain night to a party of the duke's  men, they got into Paris, threw into the prisons all the Armagnacs  upon whom they could lay their hands, and, a few nights afterwards,  with the aid of a furious mob of sixty thousand people, broke the  prisons open, and killed them all.  The former Dauphin was now  dead, and the King's third son bore the title.  Him, in the height  of this murderous scene, a French knight hurried out of bed,  wrapped in a sheet, and bore away to Poitiers.  So, when the  revengeful Isabella and the Duke of Burgundy entered Paris in  triumph after the slaughter of their enemies, the Dauphin was  proclaimed at Poitiers as the real Regent.

 

King Henry had not been idle since his victory of Agincourt, but  had repulsed a brave attempt of the French to recover Harfleur; had  gradually conquered a great part of Normandy; and, at this crisis  of affairs, took the important town of Rouen, after a siege of half  a year.  This great loss so alarmed the French, that the Duke of  Burgundy proposed that a meeting to treat of peace should be held  between the French and the English kings in a plain by the river  Seine.  On the appointed day, King Henry appeared there, with his  two brothers, Clarence and Gloucester, and a thousand men.  The  unfortunate French King, being more mad than usual that day, could  not come; but the Queen came, and with her the Princess Catherine:   who was a very lovely creature, and who made a real impression on  King Henry, now that he saw her for the first time.  This was the  most important circumstance that arose out of the meeting.

 

As if it were impossible for a French nobleman of that time to be  true to his word of honour in anything, Henry discovered that the  Duke of Burgundy was, at that very moment, in secret treaty with  the Dauphin; and he therefore abandoned the negotiation.

 

The Duke of Burgundy and the Dauphin, each of whom with the best  reason distrusted the other as a noble ruffian surrounded by a  party of noble ruffians, were rather at a loss how to proceed after  this; but, at length they agreed to meet, on a bridge over the  river Yonne, where it was arranged that there should be two strong  gates put up, with an empty space between them; and that the Duke  of Burgundy should come into that space by one gate, with ten men  only; and that the Dauphin should come into that space by the other  gate, also with ten men, and no more.

 

So far the Dauphin kept his word, but no farther.  When the Duke of  Burgundy was on his knee before him in the act of speaking, one of  the Dauphin's noble ruffians cut the said duke down with a small  axe, and others speedily finished him.

 

It was in vain for the Dauphin to pretend that this base murder was  not done with his consent; it was too bad, even for France, and  caused a general horror.  The duke's heir hastened to make a treaty  with King Henry, and the French Queen engaged that her husband  should consent to it, whatever it was.  Henry made peace, on  condition of receiving the Princess Catherine in marriage, and  being made Regent of France during the rest of the King's lifetime,  and succeeding to the French crown at his death.  He was soon  married to the beautiful Princess, and took her proudly home to  England, where she was crowned with great honour and glory.

 

This peace was called the Perpetual Peace; we shall soon see how  long it lasted.  It gave great satisfaction to the French people,  although they were so poor and miserable, that, at the time of the  celebration of the Royal marriage, numbers of them were dying with  starvation, on the dunghills in the streets of Paris.  There was  some resistance on the part of the Dauphin in some few parts of  France, but King Henry beat it all down.

 

And now, with his great possessions in France secured, and his  beautiful wife to cheer him, and a son born to give him greater  happiness, all appeared bright before him.  But, in the fulness of  his triumph and the height of his power, Death came upon him, and  his day was done.  When he fell ill at Vincennes, and found that he  could not recover, he was very calm and quiet, and spoke serenely  to those who wept around his bed.  His wife and child, he said, he  left to the loving care of his brother the Duke of Bedford, and his  other faithful nobles.  He gave them his advice that England should  establish a friendship with the new Duke of Burgundy, and offer him  the regency of France; that it should not set free the royal  princes who had been taken at Agincourt; and that, whatever quarrel  might arise with France, England should never make peace without  holding Normandy.  Then, he laid down his head, and asked the  attendant priests to chant the penitential psalms.  Amid which  solemn sounds, on the thirty-first of August, one thousand four  hundred and twenty-two, in only the thirty-fourth year of his age  and the tenth of his reign, King Henry the Fifth passed away.

 

Slowly and mournfully they carried his embalmed body in a  procession of great state to Paris, and thence to Rouen where his  Queen was:  from whom the sad intelligence of his death was  concealed until he had been dead some days.  Thence, lying on a bed  of crimson and gold, with a golden crown upon the head, and a  golden ball and sceptre lying in the nerveless hands, they carried  it to Calais, with such a great retinue as seemed to dye the road  black.  The King of Scotland acted as chief mourner, all the Royal  Household followed, the knights wore black armour and black plumes  of feathers, crowds of men bore torches, making the night as light  as day; and the widowed Princess followed last of all.  At Calais  there was a fleet of ships to bring the funeral host to Dover.  And  so, by way of London Bridge, where the service for the dead was  chanted as it passed along, they brought the body to Westminster  Abbey, and there buried it with great respect.

 


CHAPTER XXII - ENGLAND UNDER HENRY THE SIXTH

 

PART THE FIRST

 

IT had been the wish of the late King, that while his infant son  KING HENRY THE SIXTH, at this time only nine months old, was under  age, the Duke of Gloucester should be appointed Regent.  The  English Parliament, however, preferred to appoint a Council of  Regency, with the Duke of Bedford at its head:  to be represented,  in his absence only, by the Duke of Gloucester.  The Parliament  would seem to have been wise in this, for Gloucester soon showed  himself to be ambitious and troublesome, and, in the gratification  of his own personal schemes, gave dangerous offence to the Duke of  Burgundy, which was with difficulty adjusted.

 

As that duke declined the Regency of France, it was bestowed by the  poor French King upon the Duke of Bedford.  But, the French King  dying within two months, the Dauphin instantly asserted his claim  to the French throne, and was actually crowned under the title of  CHARLES THE SEVENTH.  The Duke of Bedford, to be a match for him,  entered into a friendly league with the Dukes of Burgundy and  Brittany, and gave them his two sisters in marriage.  War with  France was immediately renewed, and the Perpetual Peace came to an  untimely end.

 

In the first campaign, the English, aided by this alliance, were  speedily successful.  As Scotland, however, had sent the French  five thousand men, and might send more, or attack the North of  England while England was busy with France, it was considered that  it would be a good thing to offer the Scottish King, James, who had  been so long imprisoned, his liberty, on his paying forty thousand  pounds for his board and lodging during nineteen years, and  engaging to forbid his subjects from serving under the flag of  France.  It is pleasant to know, not only that the amiable captive  at last regained his freedom upon these terms, but, that he married  a noble English lady, with whom he had been long in love, and  became an excellent King.  I am afraid we have met with some Kings  in this history, and shall meet with some more, who would have been  very much the better, and would have left the world much happier,  if they had been imprisoned nineteen years too.

 

In the second campaign, the English gained a considerable victory  at Verneuil, in a battle which was chiefly remarkable, otherwise,  for their resorting to the odd expedient of tying their baggage-horses together by the heads and tails, and jumbling them up with  the baggage, so as to convert them into a sort of live  fortification - which was found useful to the troops, but which I  should think was not agreeable to the horses.  For three years  afterwards very little was done, owing to both sides being too poor  for war, which is a very expensive entertainment; but, a council  was then held in Paris, in which it was decided to lay siege to the  town of Orleans, which was a place of great importance to the  Dauphin's cause.  An English army of ten thousand men was  despatched on this service, under the command of the Earl of  Salisbury, a general of fame.  He being unfortunately killed early  in the siege, the Earl of Suffolk took his place; under whom  (reinforced by SIR JOHN FALSTAFF, who brought up four hundred  waggons laden with salt herrings and other provisions for the  troops, and, beating off the French who tried to intercept him,  came victorious out of a hot skirmish, which was afterwards called  in jest the Battle of the Herrings) the town of Orleans was so  completely hemmed in, that the besieged proposed to yield it up to  their countryman the Duke of Burgundy.  The English general,  however, replied that his English men had won it, so far, by their  blood and valour, and that his English men must have it.  There  seemed to be no hope for the town, or for the Dauphin, who was so  dismayed that he even thought of flying to Scotland or to Spain -  when a peasant girl rose up and changed the whole state of affairs.

 

The story of this peasant girl I have now to tell.

 

PART THE SECOND:  THE STORY OF JOAN OF ARC

 

IN a remote village among some wild hills in the province of  Lorraine, there lived a countryman whose name was JACQUES D'ARC.   He had a daughter, JOAN OF ARC, who was at this time in her  twentieth year.  She had been a solitary girl from her childhood;  she had often tended sheep and cattle for whole days where no human  figure was seen or human voice heard; and she had often knelt, for  hours together, in the gloomy, empty, little village chapel,  looking up at the altar and at the dim lamp burning before it,  until she fancied that she saw shadowy figures standing there, and  even that she heard them speak to her.  The people in that part of  France were very ignorant and superstitious, and they had many  ghostly tales to tell about what they had dreamed, and what they  saw among the lonely hills when the clouds and the mists were  resting on them.  So, they easily believed that Joan saw strange  sights, and they whispered among themselves that angels and spirits  talked to her.

 

At last, Joan told her father that she had one day been surprised  by a great unearthly light, and had afterwards heard a solemn  voice, which said it was Saint Michael's voice, telling her that  she was to go and help the Dauphin.  Soon after this (she said),  Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret had appeared to her with  sparkling crowns upon their heads, and had encouraged her to be  virtuous and resolute.  These visions had returned sometimes; but  the Voices very often; and the voices always said, 'Joan, thou art  appointed by Heaven to go and help the Dauphin!'  She almost always  heard them while the chapel bells were ringing.

 

There is no doubt, now, that Joan believed she saw and heard these  things.  It is very well known that such delusions are a disease  which is not by any means uncommon.  It is probable enough that  there were figures of Saint Michael, and Saint Catherine, and Saint  Margaret, in the little chapel (where they would be very likely to  have shining crowns upon their heads), and that they first gave  Joan the idea of those three personages.  She had long been a  moping, fanciful girl, and, though she was a very good girl, I dare  say she was a little vain, and wishful for notoriety.

 

Her father, something wiser than his neighbours, said, 'I tell  thee, Joan, it is thy fancy.  Thou hadst better have a kind husband  to take care of thee, girl, and work to employ thy mind!'  But Joan  told him in reply, that she had taken a vow never to have a  husband, and that she must go as Heaven directed her, to help the  Dauphin.

 

It happened, unfortunately for her father's persuasions, and most  unfortunately for the poor girl, too, that a party of the Dauphin's  enemies found their way into the village while Joan's disorder was  at this point, and burnt the chapel, and drove out the inhabitants.   The cruelties she saw committed, touched Joan's heart and made her  worse.  She said that the voices and the figures were now  continually with her; that they told her she was the girl who,  according to an old prophecy, was to deliver France; and she must  go and help the Dauphin, and must remain with him until he should  be crowned at Rheims:  and that she must travel a long way to a  certain lord named BAUDRICOURT, who could and would, bring her into  the Dauphin's presence.

 

As her father still said, 'I tell thee, Joan, it is thy fancy,' she  set off to find out this lord, accompanied by an uncle, a poor  village wheelwright and cart-maker, who believed in the reality of  her visions.  They travelled a long way and went on and on, over a  rough country, full of the Duke of Burgundy's men, and of all kinds  of robbers and marauders, until they came to where this lord was.

 

When his servants told him that there was a poor peasant girl named  Joan of Arc, accompanied by nobody but an old village wheelwright  and cart-maker, who wished to see him because she was commanded to  help the Dauphin and save France, Baudricourt burst out a-laughing,  and bade them send the girl away.  But, he soon heard so much about  her lingering in the town, and praying in the churches, and seeing  visions, and doing harm to no one, that he sent for her, and  questioned her.  As she said the same things after she had been  well sprinkled with holy water as she had said before the  sprinkling, Baudricourt began to think there might be something in  it.  At all events, he thought it worth while to send her on to the  town of Chinon, where the Dauphin was.  So, he bought her a horse,  and a sword, and gave her two squires to conduct her.  As the  Voices had told Joan that she was to wear a man's dress, now, she  put one on, and girded her sword to her side, and bound spurs to  her heels, and mounted her horse and rode away with her two  squires.  As to her uncle the wheelwright, he stood staring at his  niece in wonder until she was out of sight - as well he might - and  then went home again.  The best place, too.

 

Joan and her two squires rode on and on, until they came to Chinon,  where she was, after some doubt, admitted into the Dauphin's  presence.  Picking him out immediately from all his court, she told  him that she came commanded by Heaven to subdue his enemies and  conduct him to his coronation at Rheims.  She also told him (or he  pretended so afterwards, to make the greater impression upon his  soldiers) a number of his secrets known only to himself, and,  furthermore, she said there was an old, old sword in the cathedral  of Saint Catherine at Fierbois, marked with five old crosses on the  blade, which Saint Catherine had ordered her to wear.

 

Now, nobody knew anything about this old, old sword, but when the  cathedral came to be examined - which was immediately done - there,  sure enough, the sword was found!  The Dauphin then required a  number of grave priests and bishops to give him their opinion  whether the girl derived her power from good spirits or from evil  spirits, which they held prodigiously long debates about, in the  course of which several learned men fell fast asleep and snored  loudly.  At last, when one gruff old gentleman had said to Joan,  'What language do your Voices speak?' and when Joan had replied to  the gruff old gentleman, 'A pleasanter language than yours,' they  agreed that it was all correct, and that Joan of Arc was inspired  from Heaven.  This wonderful circumstance put new heart into the  Dauphin's soldiers when they heard of it, and dispirited the  English army, who took Joan for a witch.

 

So Joan mounted horse again, and again rode on and on, until she  came to Orleans.  But she rode now, as never peasant girl had  ridden yet.  She rode upon a white war-horse, in a suit of  glittering armour; with the old, old sword from the cathedral,  newly burnished, in her belt; with a white flag carried before her,  upon which were a picture of God, and the words JESUS MARIA.  In  this splendid state, at the head of a great body of troops  escorting provisions of all kinds for the starving inhabitants of  Orleans, she appeared before that beleaguered city.

 

When the people on the walls beheld her, they cried out 'The Maid  is come!  The Maid of the Prophecy is come to deliver us!'  And  this, and the sight of the Maid fighting at the head of their men,  made the French so bold, and made the English so fearful, that the  English line of forts was soon broken, the troops and provisions  were got into the town, and Orleans was saved.

 

Joan, henceforth called THE MAID OF ORLEANS, remained within the  walls for a few days, and caused letters to be thrown over,  ordering Lord Suffolk and his Englishmen to depart from before the  town according to the will of Heaven.  As the English general very  positively declined to believe that Joan knew anything about the  will of Heaven (which did not mend the matter with his soldiers,  for they stupidly said if she were not inspired she was a witch,  and it was of no use to fight against a witch), she mounted her  white war-horse again, and ordered her white banner to advance.

 

The besiegers held the bridge, and some strong towers upon the  bridge; and here the Maid of Orleans attacked them.  The fight was  fourteen hours long.  She planted a scaling ladder with her own  hands, and mounted a tower wall, but was struck by an English arrow  in the neck, and fell into the trench.  She was carried away and  the arrow was taken out, during which operation she screamed and  cried with the pain, as any other girl might have done; but  presently she said that the Voices were speaking to her and  soothing her to rest.  After a while, she got up, and was again  foremost in the fight.  When the English who had seen her fall and  supposed her dead, saw this, they were troubled with the strangest  fears, and some of them cried out that they beheld Saint Michael on  a white horse (probably Joan herself) fighting for the French.   They lost the bridge, and lost the towers, and next day set their  chain of forts on fire, and left the place.

 

But as Lord Suffolk himself retired no farther than the town of  Jargeau, which was only a few miles off, the Maid of Orleans  besieged him there, and he was taken prisoner.  As the white banner  scaled the wall, she was struck upon the head with a stone, and was  again tumbled down into the ditch; but, she only cried all the  more, as she lay there, 'On, on, my countrymen!  And fear nothing,  for the Lord hath delivered them into our hands!'  After this new  success of the Maid's, several other fortresses and places which  had previously held out against the Dauphin were delivered up  without a battle; and at Patay she defeated the remainder of the  English army, and set up her victorious white banner on a field  where twelve hundred Englishmen lay dead.

 

She now urged the Dauphin (who always kept out of the way when  there was any fighting) to proceed to Rheims, as the first part of  her mission was accomplished; and to complete the whole by being  crowned there.  The Dauphin was in no particular hurry to do this,  as Rheims was a long way off, and the English and the Duke of  Burgundy were still strong in the country through which the road  lay.  However, they set forth, with ten thousand men, and again the  Maid of Orleans rode on and on, upon her white war-horse, and in  her shining armour.  Whenever they came to a town which yielded  readily, the soldiers believed in her; but, whenever they came to a  town which gave them any trouble, they began to murmur that she was  an impostor.  The latter was particularly the case at Troyes, which  finally yielded, however, through the persuasion of one Richard, a  friar of the place.  Friar Richard was in the old doubt about the  Maid of Orleans, until he had sprinkled her well with holy water,  and had also well sprinkled the threshold of the gate by which she  came into the city.  Finding that it made no change in her or the  gate, he said, as the other grave old gentlemen had said, that it  was all right, and became her great ally.

 

So, at last, by dint of riding on and on, the Maid of Orleans, and  the Dauphin, and the ten thousand sometimes believing and sometimes  unbelieving men, came to Rheims.  And in the great cathedral of  Rheims, the Dauphin actually was crowned Charles the Seventh in a  great assembly of the people.  Then, the Maid, who with her white  banner stood beside the King in that hour of his triumph, kneeled  down upon the pavement at his feet, and said, with tears, that what  she had been inspired to do, was done, and that the only recompense  she asked for, was, that she should now have leave to go back to  her distant home, and her sturdily incredulous father, and her  first simple escort the village wheelwright and cart-maker.  But  the King said 'No!' and made her and her family as noble as a King  could, and settled upon her the income of a Count.

 

Ah! happy had it been for the Maid of Orleans, if she had resumed  her rustic dress that day, and had gone home to the little chapel  and the wild hills, and had forgotten all these things, and had  been a good man's wife, and had heard no stranger voices than the  voices of little children!

 

It was not to be, and she continued helping the King (she did a  world for him, in alliance with Friar Richard), and trying to  improve the lives of the coarse soldiers, and leading a religious,  an unselfish, and a modest life, herself, beyond any doubt.  Still,  many times she prayed the King to let her go home; and once she  even took off her bright armour and hung it up in a church, meaning  never to wear it more.  But, the King always won her back again -  while she was of any use to him - and so she went on and on and on,  to her doom.

 

When the Duke of Bedford, who was a very able man, began to be  active for England, and, by bringing the war back into France and  by holding the Duke of Burgundy to his faith, to distress and  disturb Charles very much, Charles sometimes asked the Maid of  Orleans what the Voices said about it?  But, the Voices had become  (very like ordinary voices in perplexed times) contradictory and  confused, so that now they said one thing, and now said another,  and the Maid lost credit every day.  Charles marched on Paris,  which was opposed to him, and attacked the suburb of Saint Honore.   In this fight, being again struck down into the ditch, she was  abandoned by the whole army.  She lay unaided among a heap of dead,  and crawled out how she could.  Then, some of her believers went  over to an opposition Maid, Catherine of La Rochelle, who said she  was inspired to tell where there were treasures of buried money -  though she never did - and then Joan accidentally broke the old,  old sword, and others said that her power was broken with it.   Finally, at the siege of CompiŠgne, held by the Duke of Burgundy,  where she did valiant service, she was basely left alone in a  retreat, though facing about and fighting to the last; and an  archer pulled her off her horse.

 

O the uproar that was made, and the thanksgivings that were sung,  about the capture of this one poor country-girl!  O the way in  which she was demanded to be tried for sorcery and heresy, and  anything else you like, by the Inquisitor-General of France, and by  this great man, and by that great man, until it is wearisome to  think of! She was bought at last by the Bishop of Beauvais for ten  thousand francs, and was shut up in her narrow prison:  plain Joan  of Arc again, and Maid of Orleans no more.

 

I should never have done if I were to tell you how they had Joan  out to examine her, and cross-examine her, and re-examine her, and  worry her into saying anything and everything; and how all sorts of  scholars and doctors bestowed their utmost tediousness upon her.   Sixteen times she was brought out and shut up again, and worried,  and entrapped, and argued with, until she was heart-sick of the  dreary business.  On the last occasion of this kind she was brought  into a burial-place at Rouen, dismally decorated with a scaffold,  and a stake and faggots, and the executioner, and a pulpit with a  friar therein, and an awful sermon ready.  It is very affecting to  know that even at that pass the poor girl honoured the mean vermin  of a King, who had so used her for his purposes and so abandoned  her; and, that while she had been regardless of reproaches heaped  upon herself, she spoke out courageously for him.

 

It was natural in one so young to hold to life.  To save her life,  she signed a declaration prepared for her - signed it with a cross,  for she couldn't write - that all her visions and Voices had come  from the Devil.  Upon her recanting the past, and protesting that  she would never wear a man's dress in future, she was condemned to  imprisonment for life, 'on the bread of sorrow and the water of  affliction.'

 

But, on the bread of sorrow and the water of affliction, the  visions and the Voices soon returned.  It was quite natural that  they should do so, for that kind of disease is much aggravated by  fasting, loneliness, and anxiety of mind.  It was not only got out  of Joan that she considered herself inspired again, but, she was  taken in a man's dress, which had been left - to entrap her - in  her prison, and which she put on, in her solitude; perhaps, in  remembrance of her past glories, perhaps, because the imaginary  Voices told her.  For this relapse into the sorcery and heresy and  anything else you like, she was sentenced to be burnt to death.   And, in the market-place of Rouen, in the hideous dress which the  monks had invented for such spectacles; with priests and bishops  sitting in a gallery looking on, though some had the Christian  grace to go away, unable to endure the infamous scene; this  shrieking girl - last seen amidst the smoke and fire, holding a  crucifix between her hands; last heard, calling upon Christ - was  burnt to ashes.  They threw her ashes into the river Seine; but  they will rise against her murderers on the last day.

 

From the moment of her capture, neither the French King nor one  single man in all his court raised a finger to save her.  It is no  defence of them that they may have never really believed in her, or  that they may have won her victories by their skill and bravery.   The more they pretended to believe in her, the more they had caused  her to believe in herself; and she had ever been true to them, ever  brave, ever nobly devoted.  But, it is no wonder, that they, who  were in all things false to themselves, false to one another, false  to their country, false to Heaven, false to Earth, should be  monsters of ingratitude and treachery to a helpless peasant girl.

 

In the picturesque old town of Rouen, where weeds and grass grow  high on the cathedral towers, and the venerable Norman streets are  still warm in the blessed sunlight though the monkish fires that  once gleamed horribly upon them have long grown cold, there is a  statue of Joan of Arc, in the scene of her last agony, the square  to which she has given its present name.  I know some statues of  modern times - even in the World's metropolis, I think - which  commemorate less constancy, less earnestness, smaller claims upon  the world's attention, and much greater impostors.

 

PART THE THIRD

 

BAD deeds seldom prosper, happily for mankind; and the English  cause gained no advantage from the cruel death of Joan of Arc.  For  a long time, the war went heavily on.  The Duke of Bedford died;  the alliance with the Duke of Burgundy was broken; and Lord Talbot  became a great general on the English side in France.  But, two of  the consequences of wars are, Famine - because the people cannot  peacefully cultivate the ground - and Pestilence, which comes of  want, misery, and suffering.  Both these horrors broke out in both  countries, and lasted for two wretched years.  Then, the war went  on again, and came by slow degrees to be so badly conducted by the  English government, that, within twenty years from the execution of  the Maid of Orleans, of all the great French conquests, the town of  Calais alone remained in English hands.

 

While these victories and defeats were taking place in the course  of time, many strange things happened at home.  The young King, as  he grew up, proved to be very unlike his great father, and showed  himself a miserable puny creature.  There was no harm in him - he  had a great aversion to shedding blood:  which was something - but,  he was a weak, silly, helpless young man, and a mere shuttlecock to  the great lordly battledores about the Court.

 

Of these battledores, Cardinal Beaufort, a relation of the King,  and the Duke of Gloucester, were at first the most powerful.  The  Duke of Gloucester had a wife, who was nonsensically accused of  practising witchcraft to cause the King's death and lead to her  husband's coming to the throne, he being the next heir.  She was  charged with having, by the help of a ridiculous old woman named  Margery (who was called a witch), made a little waxen doll in the  King's likeness, and put it before a slow fire that it might  gradually melt away.  It was supposed, in such cases, that the  death of the person whom the doll was made to represent, was sure  to happen.  Whether the duchess was as ignorant as the rest of  them, and really did make such a doll with such an intention, I  don't know; but, you and I know very well that she might have made  a thousand dolls, if she had been stupid enough, and might have  melted them all, without hurting the King or anybody else.   However, she was tried for it, and so was old Margery, and so was  one of the duke's chaplains, who was charged with having assisted  them.  Both he and Margery were put to death, and the duchess,  after being taken on foot and bearing a lighted candle, three times  round the City, as a penance, was imprisoned for life.  The duke,  himself, took all this pretty quietly, and made as little stir  about the matter as if he were rather glad to be rid of the  duchess.

 

But, he was not destined to keep himself out of trouble long.  The  royal shuttlecock being three-and-twenty, the battledores were very  anxious to get him married.  The Duke of Gloucester wanted him to  marry a daughter of the Count of Armagnac; but, the Cardinal and  the Earl of Suffolk were all for MARGARET, the daughter of the King  of Sicily, who they knew was a resolute, ambitious woman and would  govern the King as she chose.  To make friends with this lady, the  Earl of Suffolk, who went over to arrange the match, consented to  accept her for the King's wife without any fortune, and even to  give up the two most valuable possessions England then had in  France.  So, the marriage was arranged, on terms very advantageous  to the lady; and Lord Suffolk brought her to England, and she was  married at Westminster.  On what pretence this queen and her party  charged the Duke of Gloucester with high treason within a couple of  years, it is impossible to make out, the matter is so confused;  but, they pretended that the King's life was in danger, and they  took the duke prisoner.  A fortnight afterwards, he was found dead  in bed (they said), and his body was shown to the people, and Lord  Suffolk came in for the best part of his estates.  You know by this  time how strangely liable state prisoners were to sudden death.

 

If Cardinal Beaufort had any hand in this matter, it did him no  good, for he died within six weeks; thinking it very hard and  curious - at eighty years old! - that he could not live to be Pope.

 

This was the time when England had completed her loss of all her  great French conquests.  The people charged the loss principally  upon the Earl of Suffolk, now a duke, who had made those easy terms  about the Royal Marriage, and who, they believed, had even been  bought by France.  So he was impeached as a traitor, on a great  number of charges, but chiefly on accusations of having aided the  French King, and of designing to make his own son King of England.   The Commons and the people being violent against him, the King was  made (by his friends) to interpose to save him, by banishing him  for five years, and proroguing the Parliament.  The duke had much  ado to escape from a London mob, two thousand strong, who lay in  wait for him in St. Giles's fields; but, he got down to his own  estates in Suffolk, and sailed away from Ipswich.  Sailing across  the Channel, he sent into Calais to know if he might land there;  but, they kept his boat and men in the harbour, until an English  ship, carrying a hundred and fifty men and called the Nicholas of  the Tower, came alongside his little vessel, and ordered him on  board.  'Welcome, traitor, as men say,' was the captain's grim and  not very respectful salutation.  He was kept on board, a prisoner,  for eight-and-forty hours, and then a small boat appeared rowing  toward the ship.  As this boat came nearer, it was seen to have in  it a block, a rusty sword, and an executioner in a black mask.  The  duke was handed down into it, and there his head was cut off with  six strokes of the rusty sword.  Then, the little boat rowed away  to Dover beach, where the body was cast out, and left until the  duchess claimed it.  By whom, high in authority, this murder was  committed, has never appeared.  No one was ever punished for it.

 

There now arose in Kent an Irishman, who gave himself the name of  Mortimer, but whose real name was JACK CADE.  Jack, in imitation of  Wat Tyler, though he was a very different and inferior sort of man,  addressed the Kentish men upon their wrongs, occasioned by the bad  government of England, among so many battledores and such a poor  shuttlecock; and the Kentish men rose up to the number of twenty  thousand.  Their place of assembly was Blackheath, where, headed by  Jack, they put forth two papers, which they called 'The Complaint  of the Commons of Kent,' and 'The Requests of the Captain of the  Great Assembly in Kent.'  They then retired to Sevenoaks.  The  royal army coming up with them here, they beat it and killed their  general.  Then, Jack dressed himself in the dead general's armour,  and led his men to London.

 

Jack passed into the City from Southwark, over the bridge, and  entered it in triumph, giving the strictest orders to his men not  to plunder.  Having made a show of his forces there, while the  citizens looked on quietly, he went back into Southwark in good  order, and passed the night.  Next day, he came back again, having  got hold in the meantime of Lord Say, an unpopular nobleman.  Says  Jack to the Lord Mayor and judges:  'Will you be so good as to make  a tribunal in Guildhall, and try me this nobleman?'  The court  being hastily made, he was found guilty, and Jack and his men cut  his head off on Cornhill.  They also cut off the head of his son-in-law, and then went back in good order to Southwark again.

 

But, although the citizens could bear the beheading of an unpopular  lord, they could not bear to have their houses pillaged.  And it  did so happen that Jack, after dinner - perhaps he had drunk a  little too much - began to plunder the house where he lodged; upon  which, of course, his men began to imitate him.  Wherefore, the  Londoners took counsel with Lord Scales, who had a thousand  soldiers in the Tower; and defended London Bridge, and kept Jack  and his people out.  This advantage gained, it was resolved by  divers great men to divide Jack's army in the old way, by making a  great many promises on behalf of the state, that were never  intended to be performed.  This DID divide them; some of Jack's men  saying that they ought to take the conditions which were offered,  and others saying that they ought not, for they were only a snare;  some going home at once; others staying where they were; and all  doubting and quarrelling among themselves.

 

Jack, who was in two minds about fighting or accepting a pardon,  and who indeed did both, saw at last that there was nothing to  expect from his men, and that it was very likely some of them would  deliver him up and get a reward of a thousand marks, which was  offered for his apprehension.  So, after they had travelled and  quarrelled all the way from Southwark to Blackheath, and from  Blackheath to Rochester, he mounted a good horse and galloped away  into Sussex.  But, there galloped after him, on a better horse, one  Alexander Iden, who came up with him, had a hard fight with him,  and killed him.  Jack's head was set aloft on London Bridge, with  the face looking towards Blackheath, where he had raised his flag;  and Alexander Iden got the thousand marks.

 

It is supposed by some, that the Duke of York, who had been removed  from a high post abroad through the Queen's influence, and sent out  of the way, to govern Ireland, was at the bottom of this rising of  Jack and his men, because he wanted to trouble the government.  He  claimed (though not yet publicly) to have a better right to the  throne than Henry of Lancaster, as one of the family of the Earl of  March, whom Henry the Fourth had set aside.  Touching this claim,  which, being through female relationship, was not according to the  usual descent, it is enough to say that Henry the Fourth was the  free choice of the people and the Parliament, and that his family  had now reigned undisputed for sixty years.  The memory of Henry  the Fifth was so famous, and the English people loved it so much,  that the Duke of York's claim would, perhaps, never have been  thought of (it would have been so hopeless) but for the unfortunate  circumstance of the present King's being by this time quite an  idiot, and the country very ill governed.  These two circumstances  gave the Duke of York a power he could not otherwise have had.

 

Whether the Duke knew anything of Jack Cade, or not, he came over  from Ireland while Jack's head was on London Bridge; being secretly  advised that the Queen was setting up his enemy, the Duke of  Somerset, against him.  He went to Westminster, at the head of four  thousand men, and on his knees before the King, represented to him  the bad state of the country, and petitioned him to summon a  Parliament to consider it.  This the King promised.  When the  Parliament was summoned, the Duke of York accused the Duke of  Somerset, and the Duke of Somerset accused the Duke of York; and,  both in and out of Parliament, the followers of each party were  full of violence and hatred towards the other.  At length the Duke  of York put himself at the head of a large force of his tenants,  and, in arms, demanded the reformation of the Government.  Being  shut out of London, he encamped at Dartford, and the royal army  encamped at Blackheath.  According as either side triumphed, the  Duke of York was arrested, or the Duke of Somerset was arrested.   The trouble ended, for the moment, in the Duke of York renewing his  oath of allegiance, and going in peace to one of his own castles.

 

Half a year afterwards the Queen gave birth to a son, who was very  ill received by the people, and not believed to be the son of the  King.  It shows the Duke of York to have been a moderate man,  unwilling to involve England in new troubles, that he did not take  advantage of the general discontent at this time, but really acted  for the public good.  He was made a member of the cabinet, and the  King being now so much worse that he could not be carried about and  shown to the people with any decency, the duke was made Lord  Protector of the kingdom, until the King should recover, or the  Prince should come of age.  At the same time the Duke of Somerset  was committed to the Tower.  So, now the Duke of Somerset was down,  and the Duke of York was up.  By the end of the year, however, the  King recovered his memory and some spark of sense; upon which the  Queen used her power - which recovered with him - to get the  Protector disgraced, and her favourite released.  So now the Duke  of York was down, and the Duke of Somerset was up.

 

These ducal ups and downs gradually separated the whole nation into  the two parties of York and Lancaster, and led to those terrible  civil wars long known as the Wars of the Red and White Roses,  because the red rose was the badge of the House of Lancaster, and  the white rose was the badge of the House of York.

 

The Duke of York, joined by some other powerful noblemen of the  White Rose party, and leading a small army, met the King with  another small army at St. Alban's, and demanded that the Duke of  Somerset should be given up.  The poor King, being made to say in  answer that he would sooner die, was instantly attacked.  The Duke  of Somerset was killed, and the King himself was wounded in the  neck, and took refuge in the house of a poor tanner.  Whereupon,  the Duke of York went to him, led him with great submission to the  Abbey, and said he was very sorry for what had happened.  Having  now the King in his possession, he got a Parliament summoned and  himself once more made Protector, but, only for a few months; for,  on the King getting a little better again, the Queen and her party  got him into their possession, and disgraced the Duke once more.   So, now the Duke of York was down again.

 

Some of the best men in power, seeing the danger of these constant  changes, tried even then to prevent the Red and the White Rose  Wars.  They brought about a great council in London between the two  parties.  The White Roses assembled in Blackfriars, the Red Roses  in Whitefriars; and some good priests communicated between them,  and made the proceedings known at evening to the King and the  judges.  They ended in a peaceful agreement that there should be no  more quarrelling; and there was a great royal procession to St.  Paul's, in which the Queen walked arm-in-arm with her old enemy,  the Duke of York, to show the people how comfortable they all were.   This state of peace lasted half a year, when a dispute between the  Earl of Warwick (one of the Duke's powerful friends) and some of  the King's servants at Court, led to an attack upon that Earl - who  was a White Rose - and to a sudden breaking out of all old  animosities.  So, here were greater ups and downs than ever.

 

There were even greater ups and downs than these, soon after.   After various battles, the Duke of York fled to Ireland, and his  son the Earl of March to Calais, with their friends the Earls of  Salisbury and Warwick; and a Parliament was held declaring them all  traitors.  Little the worse for this, the Earl of Warwick presently  came back, landed in Kent, was joined by the Archbishop of  Canterbury and other powerful noblemen and gentlemen, engaged the  King's forces at Northampton, signally defeated them, and took the  King himself prisoner, who was found in his tent.  Warwick would  have been glad, I dare say, to have taken the Queen and Prince too,  but they escaped into Wales and thence into Scotland.

 

The King was carried by the victorious force straight to London,  and made to call a new Parliament, which immediately declared that  the Duke of York and those other noblemen were not traitors, but  excellent subjects.  Then, back comes the Duke from Ireland at the  head of five hundred horsemen, rides from London to Westminster,  and enters the House of Lords.  There, he laid his hand upon the  cloth of gold which covered the empty throne, as if he had half a  mind to sit down in it - but he did not.  On the Archbishop of  Canterbury, asking him if he would visit the King, who was in his  palace close by, he replied, 'I know no one in this country, my  lord, who ought not to visit ME.'  None of the lords present spoke  a single word; so, the duke went out as he had come in, established  himself royally in the King's palace, and, six days afterwards,  sent in to the Lords a formal statement of his claim to the throne.   The lords went to the King on this momentous subject, and after a  great deal of discussion, in which the judges and the other law  officers were afraid to give an opinion on either side, the  question was compromised.  It was agreed that the present King  should retain the crown for his life, and that it should then pass  to the Duke of York and his heirs.

 

But, the resolute Queen, determined on asserting her son's right,  would hear of no such thing.  She came from Scotland to the north  of England, where several powerful lords armed in her cause.  The  Duke of York, for his part, set off with some five thousand men, a  little time before Christmas Day, one thousand four hundred and  sixty, to give her battle.  He lodged at Sandal Castle, near  Wakefield, and the Red Roses defied him to come out on Wakefield  Green, and fight them then and there.  His generals said, he had  best wait until his gallant son, the Earl of March, came up with  his power; but, he was determined to accept the challenge.  He did  so, in an evil hour.  He was hotly pressed on all sides, two  thousand of his men lay dead on Wakefield Green, and he himself was  taken prisoner.  They set him down in mock state on an ant-hill,  and twisted grass about his head, and pretended to pay court to him  on their knees, saying, 'O King, without a kingdom, and Prince  without a people, we hope your gracious Majesty is very well and  happy!'  They did worse than this; they cut his head off, and  handed it on a pole to the Queen, who laughed with delight when she  saw it (you recollect their walking so religiously and comfortably  to St. Paul's!), and had it fixed, with a paper crown upon its  head, on the walls of York.  The Earl of Salisbury lost his head,  too; and the Duke of York's second son, a handsome boy who was  flying with his tutor over Wakefield Bridge, was stabbed in the  heart by a murderous, lord - Lord Clifford by name - whose father  had been killed by the White Roses in the fight at St. Alban's.   There was awful sacrifice of life in this battle, for no quarter  was given, and the Queen was wild for revenge.  When men  unnaturally fight against their own countrymen, they are always  observed to be more unnaturally cruel and filled with rage than  they are against any other enemy.

 

But, Lord Clifford had stabbed the second son of the Duke of York -  not the first.  The eldest son, Edward Earl of March, was at  Gloucester; and, vowing vengeance for the death of his father, his  brother, and their faithful friends, he began to march against the  Queen.  He had to turn and fight a great body of Welsh and Irish  first, who worried his advance.  These he defeated in a great fight  at Mortimer's Cross, near Hereford, where he beheaded a number of  the Red Roses taken in battle, in retaliation for the beheading of  the White Roses at Wakefield.  The Queen had the next turn of  beheading.  Having moved towards London, and falling in, between  St. Alban's and Barnet, with the Earl of Warwick and the Duke of  Norfolk, White Roses both, who were there with an army to oppose  her, and had got the King with them; she defeated them with great  loss, and struck off the heads of two prisoners of note, who were  in the King's tent with him, and to whom the King had promised his  protection.  Her triumph, however, was very short.  She had no  treasure, and her army subsisted by plunder.  This caused them to  be hated and dreaded by the people, and particularly by the London  people, who were wealthy.  As soon as the Londoners heard that  Edward, Earl of March, united with the Earl of Warwick, was  advancing towards the city, they refused to send the Queen  supplies, and made a great rejoicing.

 

The Queen and her men retreated with all speed, and Edward and  Warwick came on, greeted with loud acclamations on every side.  The  courage, beauty, and virtues of young Edward could not be  sufficiently praised by the whole people.  He rode into London like  a conqueror, and met with an enthusiastic welcome.  A few days  afterwards, Lord Falconbridge and the Bishop of Exeter assembled  the citizens in St. John's Field, Clerkenwell, and asked them if  they would have Henry of Lancaster for their King?  To this they  all roared, 'No, no, no!' and 'King Edward!  King Edward!'  Then,  said those noblemen, would they love and serve young Edward?  To  this they all cried, 'Yes, yes!' and threw up their caps and  clapped their hands, and cheered tremendously.

 

Therefore, it was declared that by joining the Queen and not  protecting those two prisoners of note, Henry of Lancaster had  forfeited the crown; and Edward of York was proclaimed King.  He  made a great speech to the applauding people at Westminster, and  sat down as sovereign of England on that throne, on the golden  covering of which his father - worthy of a better fate than the  bloody axe which cut the thread of so many lives in England,  through so many years - had laid his hand.

 


CHAPTER XXIII - ENGLAND UNDER EDWARD THE FOURTH

 

KING EDWARD THE FOURTH was not quite twenty-one years of age when  he took that unquiet seat upon the throne of England.  The  Lancaster party, the Red Roses, were then assembling in great  numbers near York, and it was necessary to give them battle  instantly.  But, the stout Earl of Warwick leading for the young  King, and the young King himself closely following him, and the  English people crowding round the Royal standard, the White and the  Red Roses met, on a wild March day when the snow was falling  heavily, at Towton; and there such a furious battle raged between  them, that the total loss amounted to forty thousand men - all  Englishmen, fighting, upon English ground, against one another.   The young King gained the day, took down the heads of his father

 

and brother from the walls of York, and put up the heads of some of  the most famous noblemen engaged in the battle on the other side.   Then, he went to London and was crowned with great splendour.

 

A new Parliament met.  No fewer than one hundred and fifty of the  principal noblemen and gentlemen on the Lancaster side were  declared traitors, and the King - who had very little humanity,  though he was handsome in person and agreeable in manners -  resolved to do all he could, to pluck up the Red Rose root and  branch.

 

Queen Margaret, however, was still active for her young son.  She  obtained help from Scotland and from Normandy, and took several  important English castles.  But, Warwick soon retook them; the  Queen lost all her treasure on board ship in a great storm; and  both she and her son suffered great misfortunes.  Once, in the  winter weather, as they were riding through a forest, they were  attacked and plundered by a party of robbers; and, when they had  escaped from these men and were passing alone and on foot through a  thick dark part of the wood, they came, all at once, upon another  robber.  So the Queen, with a stout heart, took the little Prince  by the hand, and going straight up to that robber, said to him, 'My  friend, this is the young son of your lawful King!  I confide him  to your care.'  The robber was surprised, but took the boy in his  arms, and faithfully restored him and his mother to their friends.   In the end, the Queen's soldiers being beaten and dispersed, she  went abroad again, and kept quiet for the present.

 

Now, all this time, the deposed King Henry was concealed by a Welsh  knight, who kept him close in his castle.  But, next year, the  Lancaster party recovering their spirits, raised a large body of  men, and called him out of his retirement, to put him at their  head.  They were joined by some powerful noblemen who had sworn  fidelity to the new King, but who were ready, as usual, to break  their oaths, whenever they thought there was anything to be got by  it.  One of the worst things in the history of the war of the Red  and White Roses, is the ease with which these noblemen, who should  have set an example of honour to the people, left either side as  they took slight offence, or were disappointed in their greedy  expectations, and joined the other.  Well! Warwick's brother soon  beat the Lancastrians, and the false noblemen, being taken, were  beheaded without a moment's loss of time.  The deposed King had a  narrow escape; three of his servants were taken, and one of them  bore his cap of estate, which was set with pearls and embroidered  with two golden crowns.  However, the head to which the cap  belonged, got safely into Lancashire, and lay pretty quietly there  (the people in the secret being very true) for more than a year.   At length, an old monk gave such intelligence as led to Henry's  being taken while he was sitting at dinner in a place called  Waddington Hall.  He was immediately sent to London, and met at  Islington by the Earl of Warwick, by whose directions he was put  upon a horse, with his legs tied under it, and paraded three times  round the pillory.  Then, he was carried off to the Tower, where  they treated him well enough.

 

The White Rose being so triumphant, the young King abandoned  himself entirely to pleasure, and led a jovial life.  But, thorns  were springing up under his bed of roses, as he soon found out.   For, having been privately married to ELIZABETH WOODVILLE, a young  widow lady, very beautiful and very captivating; and at last  resolving to make his secret known, and to declare her his Queen;  he gave some offence to the Earl of Warwick, who was usually called  the King-Maker, because of his power and influence, and because of  his having lent such great help to placing Edward on the throne.   This offence was not lessened by the jealousy with which the Nevil  family (the Earl of Warwick's) regarded the promotion of the  Woodville family.  For, the young Queen was so bent on providing  for her relations, that she made her father an earl and a great  officer of state; married her five sisters to young noblemen of the  highest rank; and provided for her younger brother, a young man of  twenty, by marrying him to an immensely rich old duchess of eighty.   The Earl of Warwick took all this pretty graciously for a man of  his proud temper, until the question arose to whom the King's  sister, MARGARET, should be married.  The Earl of Warwick said, 'To  one of the French King's sons,' and was allowed to go over to the  French King to make friendly proposals for that purpose, and to  hold all manner of friendly interviews with him.  But, while he was  so engaged, the Woodville party married the young lady to the Duke  of Burgundy!  Upon this he came back in great rage and scorn, and  shut himself up discontented, in his Castle of Middleham.

 

A reconciliation, though not a very sincere one, was patched up  between the Earl of Warwick and the King, and lasted until the Earl  married his daughter, against the King's wishes, to the Duke of  Clarence.  While the marriage was being celebrated at Calais, the  people in the north of England, where the influence of the Nevil  family was strongest, broke out into rebellion; their complaint  was, that England was oppressed and plundered by the Woodville  family, whom they demanded to have removed from power.  As they  were joined by great numbers of people, and as they openly declared  that they were supported by the Earl of Warwick, the King did not  know what to do.  At last, as he wrote to the earl beseeching his  aid, he and his new son-in-law came over to England, and began to  arrange the business by shutting the King up in Middleham Castle in  the safe keeping of the Archbishop of York; so England was not only  in the strange position of having two kings at once, but they were  both prisoners at the same time.

 

Even as yet, however, the King-Maker was so far true to the King,  that he dispersed a new rising of the Lancastrians, took their  leader prisoner, and brought him to the King, who ordered him to be  immediately executed.  He presently allowed the King to return to  London, and there innumerable pledges of forgiveness and friendship  were exchanged between them, and between the Nevils and the  Woodvilles; the King's eldest daughter was promised in marriage to  the heir of the Nevil family; and more friendly oaths were sworn,  and more friendly promises made, than this book would hold.

 

They lasted about three months.  At the end of that time, the  Archbishop of York made a feast for the King, the Earl of Warwick,  and the Duke of Clarence, at his house, the Moor, in Hertfordshire.   The King was washing his hands before supper, when some one  whispered him that a body of a hundred men were lying in ambush  outside the house.  Whether this were true or untrue, the King took  fright, mounted his horse, and rode through the dark night to  Windsor Castle.  Another reconciliation was patched up between him  and the King-Maker, but it was a short one, and it was the last.  A  new rising took place in Lincolnshire, and the King marched to  repress it.  Having done so, he proclaimed that both the Earl of  Warwick and the Duke of Clarence were traitors, who had secretly  assisted it, and who had been prepared publicly to join it on the  following day.  In these dangerous circumstances they both took  ship and sailed away to the French court.

 

And here a meeting took place between the Earl of Warwick and his  old enemy, the Dowager Queen Margaret, through whom his father had  had his head struck off, and to whom he had been a bitter foe.   But, now, when he said that he had done with the ungrateful and  perfidious Edward of York, and that henceforth he devoted himself  to the restoration of the House of Lancaster, either in the person  of her husband or of her little son, she embraced him as if he had  ever been her dearest friend.  She did more than that; she married  her son to his second daughter, the Lady Anne.  However agreeable  this marriage was to the new friends, it was very disagreeable to  the Duke of Clarence, who perceived that his father-in-law, the  King-Maker, would never make HIM King, now.  So, being but a weak-minded young traitor, possessed of very little worth or sense, he  readily listened to an artful court lady sent over for the purpose,  and promised to turn traitor once more, and go over to his brother,  King Edward, when a fitting opportunity should come.

 

The Earl of Warwick, knowing nothing of this, soon redeemed his  promise to the Dowager Queen Margaret, by invading England and  landing at Plymouth, where he instantly proclaimed King Henry, and  summoned all Englishmen between the ages of sixteen and sixty, to  join his banner.  Then, with his army increasing as he marched  along, he went northward, and came so near King Edward, who was in  that part of the country, that Edward had to ride hard for it to  the coast of Norfolk, and thence to get away in such ships as he  could find, to Holland.  Thereupon, the triumphant King-Maker and  his false son-in-law, the Duke of Clarence, went to London, took  the old King out of the Tower, and walked him in a great procession  to Saint Paul's Cathedral with the crown upon his head.  This did  not improve the temper of the Duke of Clarence, who saw himself  farther off from being King than ever; but he kept his secret, and  said nothing.  The Nevil family were restored to all their honours  and glories, and the Woodvilles and the rest were disgraced.  The  King-Maker, less sanguinary than the King, shed no blood except  that of the Earl of Worcester, who had been so cruel to the people  as to have gained the title of the Butcher.  Him they caught hidden  in a tree, and him they tried and executed.  No other death stained  the King-Maker's triumph.

 

To dispute this triumph, back came King Edward again, next year,  landing at Ravenspur, coming on to York, causing all his men to cry  'Long live King Henry!' and swearing on the altar, without a blush,  that he came to lay no claim to the crown.  Now was the time for  the Duke of Clarence, who ordered his men to assume the White Rose,  and declare for his brother.  The Marquis of Montague, though the  Earl of Warwick's brother, also declining to fight against King  Edward, he went on successfully to London, where the Archbishop of  York let him into the City, and where the people made great  demonstrations in his favour.  For this they had four reasons.   Firstly, there were great numbers of the King's adherents hiding in  the City and ready to break out; secondly, the King owed them a  great deal of money, which they could never hope to get if he were  unsuccessful; thirdly, there was a young prince to inherit the  crown; and fourthly, the King was gay and handsome, and more  popular than a better man might have been with the City ladies.   After a stay of only two days with these worthy supporters, the  King marched out to Barnet Common, to give the Earl of Warwick  battle.  And now it was to be seen, for the last time, whether the  King or the King-Maker was to carry the day.

 

While the battle was yet pending, the fainthearted Duke of Clarence  began to repent, and sent over secret messages to his father-in-law, offering his services in mediation with the King.  But, the  Earl of Warwick disdainfully rejected them, and replied that  Clarence was false and perjured, and that he would settle the  quarrel by the sword.  The battle began at four o'clock in the  morning and lasted until ten, and during the greater part of the  time it was fought in a thick mist - absurdly supposed to be raised  by a magician.  The loss of life was very great, for the hatred was  strong on both sides.  The King-Maker was defeated, and the King  triumphed.  Both the Earl of Warwick and his brother were slain,  and their bodies lay in St. Paul's, for some days, as a spectacle  to the people.

 

Margaret's spirit was not broken even by this great blow.  Within  five days she was in arms again, and raised her standard in Bath,  whence she set off with her army, to try and join Lord Pembroke,  who had a force in Wales.  But, the King, coming up with her  outside the town of Tewkesbury, and ordering his brother, the DUKE  OF GLOUCESTER, who was a brave soldier, to attack her men, she  sustained an entire defeat, and was taken prisoner, together with  her son, now only eighteen years of age.  The conduct of the King  to this poor youth was worthy of his cruel character.  He ordered  him to be led into his tent.  'And what,' said he, 'brought YOU to  England?'  'I came to England,' replied the prisoner, with a spirit  which a man of spirit might have admired in a captive, 'to recover  my father's kingdom, which descended to him as his right, and from  him descends to me, as mine.'  The King, drawing off his iron  gauntlet, struck him with it in the face; and the Duke of Clarence  and some other lords, who were there, drew their noble swords, and  killed him.

 

His mother survived him, a prisoner, for five years; after her  ransom by the King of France, she survived for six years more.   Within three weeks of this murder, Henry died one of those  convenient sudden deaths which were so common in the Tower; in  plainer words, he was murdered by the King's order.

 

Having no particular excitement on his hands after this great  defeat of the Lancaster party, and being perhaps desirous to get  rid of some of his fat (for he was now getting too corpulent to be  handsome), the King thought of making war on France.  As he wanted  more money for this purpose than the Parliament could give him,  though they were usually ready enough for war, he invented a new  way of raising it, by sending for the principal citizens of London,  and telling them, with a grave face, that he was very much in want  of cash, and would take it very kind in them if they would lend him  some.  It being impossible for them safely to refuse, they  complied, and the moneys thus forced from them were called - no  doubt to the great amusement of the King and the Court - as if they  were free gifts, 'Benevolences.'  What with grants from Parliament,  and what with Benevolences, the King raised an army and passed over  to Calais.  As nobody wanted war, however, the French King made  proposals of peace, which were accepted, and a truce was concluded  for seven long years.  The proceedings between the Kings of France  and England on this occasion, were very friendly, very splendid,  and very distrustful.  They finished with a meeting between the two  Kings, on a temporary bridge over the river Somme, where they  embraced through two holes in a strong wooden grating like a lion's  cage, and made several bows and fine speeches to one another.

 

It was time, now, that the Duke of Clarence should be punished for  his treacheries; and Fate had his punishment in store.  He was,  probably, not trusted by the King - for who could trust him who  knew him! - and he had certainly a powerful opponent in his brother  Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who, being avaricious and ambitious,  wanted to marry that widowed daughter of the Earl of Warwick's who  had been espoused to the deceased young Prince, at Calais.   Clarence, who wanted all the family wealth for himself, secreted  this lady, whom Richard found disguised as a servant in the City of  London, and whom he married; arbitrators appointed by the King,  then divided the property between the brothers.  This led to ill-will and mistrust between them.  Clarence's wife dying, and he  wishing to make another marriage, which was obnoxious to the King,  his ruin was hurried by that means, too.  At first, the Court  struck at his retainers and dependents, and accused some of them of  magic and witchcraft, and similar nonsense.  Successful against  this small game, it then mounted to the Duke himself, who was  impeached by his brother the King, in person, on a variety of such  charges.  He was found guilty, and sentenced to be publicly  executed.  He never was publicly executed, but he met his death  somehow, in the Tower, and, no doubt, through some agency of the  King or his brother Gloucester, or both.  It was supposed at the  time that he was told to choose the manner of his death, and that  he chose to be drowned in a butt of Malmsey wine.  I hope the story  may be true, for it would have been a becoming death for such a  miserable creature.

 

The King survived him some five years.  He died in the forty-second  year of his life, and the twenty-third of his reign.  He had a very  good capacity and some good points, but he was selfish, careless,  sensual, and cruel.  He was a favourite with the people for his  showy manners; and the people were a good example to him in the  constancy of their attachment.  He was penitent on his death-bed  for his 'benevolences,' and other extortions, and ordered  restitution to be made to the people who had suffered from them.   He also called about his bed the enriched members of the Woodville  family, and the proud lords whose honours were of older date, and  endeavoured to reconcile them, for the sake of the peaceful  succession of his son and the tranquillity of England.

 


CHAPTER XXIV - ENGLAND UNDER EDWARD THE FIFTH

 

THE late King's eldest son, the Prince of Wales, called EDWARD  after him, was only thirteen years of age at his father's death.   He was at Ludlow Castle with his uncle, the Earl of Rivers.  The  prince's brother, the Duke of York, only eleven years of age, was  in London with his mother.  The boldest, most crafty, and most  dreaded nobleman in England at that time was their uncle RICHARD,  Duke of Gloucester, and everybody wondered how the two poor boys  would fare with such an uncle for a friend or a foe.

 

The Queen, their mother, being exceedingly uneasy about this, was  anxious that instructions should be sent to Lord Rivers to raise an  army to escort the young King safely to London.  But, Lord  Hastings, who was of the Court party opposed to the Woodvilles, and  who disliked the thought of giving them that power, argued against  the proposal, and obliged the Queen to be satisfied with an escort  of two thousand horse.  The Duke of Gloucester did nothing, at  first, to justify suspicion.  He came from Scotland (where he was  commanding an army) to York, and was there the first to swear  allegiance to his nephew.  He then wrote a condoling letter to the  Queen-Mother, and set off to be present at the coronation in  London.

 

Now, the young King, journeying towards London too, with Lord  Rivers and Lord Gray, came to Stony Stratford, as his uncle came to  Northampton, about ten miles distant; and when those two lords  heard that the Duke of Gloucester was so near, they proposed to the  young King that they should go back and greet him in his name.  The  boy being very willing that they should do so, they rode off and  were received with great friendliness, and asked by the Duke of  Gloucester to stay and dine with him.  In the evening, while they  were merry together, up came the Duke of Buckingham with three  hundred horsemen; and next morning the two lords and the two dukes,  and the three hundred horsemen, rode away together to rejoin the  King.  Just as they were entering Stony Stratford, the Duke of  Gloucester, checking his horse, turned suddenly on the two lords,  charged them with alienating from him the affections of his sweet  nephew, and caused them to be arrested by the three hundred  horsemen and taken back.  Then, he and the Duke of Buckingham went  straight to the King (whom they had now in their power), to whom  they made a show of kneeling down, and offering great love and  submission; and then they ordered his attendants to disperse, and  took him, alone with them, to Northampton.

 

A few days afterwards they conducted him to London, and lodged him  in the Bishop's Palace.  But, he did not remain there long; for,  the Duke of Buckingham with a tender face made a speech expressing  how anxious he was for the Royal boy's safety, and how much safer  he would be in the Tower until his coronation, than he could be  anywhere else.  So, to the Tower he was taken, very carefully, and  the Duke of Gloucester was named Protector of the State.

 

Although Gloucester had proceeded thus far with a very smooth  countenance - and although he was a clever man, fair of speech, and  not ill-looking, in spite of one of his shoulders being something  higher than the other - and although he had come into the City  riding bare-headed at the King's side, and looking very fond of him  - he had made the King's mother more uneasy yet; and when the Royal  boy was taken to the Tower, she became so alarmed that she took  sanctuary in Westminster with her five daughters.

 

Nor did she do this without reason, for, the Duke of Gloucester,  finding that the lords who were opposed to the Woodville family  were faithful to the young King nevertheless, quickly resolved to  strike a blow for himself.  Accordingly, while those lords met in  council at the Tower, he and those who were in his interest met in  separate council at his own residence, Crosby Palace, in  Bishopsgate Street.  Being at last quite prepared, he one day  appeared unexpectedly at the council in the Tower, and appeared to  be very jocular and merry.  He was particularly gay with the Bishop  of Ely:  praising the strawberries that grew in his garden on  Holborn Hill, and asking him to have some gathered that he might  eat them at dinner.  The Bishop, quite proud of the honour, sent  one of his men to fetch some; and the Duke, still very jocular and  gay, went out; and the council all said what a very agreeable duke  he was!  In a little time, however, he came back quite altered -  not at all jocular - frowning and fierce - and suddenly said, -

 

'What do those persons deserve who have compassed my destruction; I  being the King's lawful, as well as natural, protector?'

 

To this strange question, Lord Hastings replied, that they deserved  death, whosoever they were.

 

'Then,' said the Duke, 'I tell you that they are that sorceress my  brother's wife;' meaning the Queen:  'and that other sorceress,  Jane Shore.  Who, by witchcraft, have withered my body, and caused  my arm to shrink as I now show you.'

 

He then pulled up his sleeve and showed them his arm, which was  shrunken, it is true, but which had been so, as they all very well  knew, from the hour of his birth.

 

Jane Shore, being then the lover of Lord Hastings, as she had  formerly been of the late King, that lord knew that he himself was  attacked.  So, he said, in some confusion, 'Certainly, my Lord, if  they have done this, they be worthy of punishment.'

 

'If?' said the Duke of Gloucester; 'do you talk to me of ifs?  I  tell you that they HAVE so done, and I will make it good upon thy  body, thou traitor!'

 

With that, he struck the table a great blow with his fist.  This  was a signal to some of his people outside to cry 'Treason!'  They  immediately did so, and there was a rush into the chamber of so  many armed men that it was filled in a moment.

 

'First,' said the Duke of Gloucester to Lord Hastings, 'I arrest  thee, traitor!  And let him,' he added to the armed men who took  him, 'have a priest at once, for by St. Paul I will not dine until  I have seen his head of!'

 

Lord Hastings was hurried to the green by the Tower chapel, and  there beheaded on a log of wood that happened to be lying on the  ground.  Then, the Duke dined with a good appetite, and after  dinner summoning the principal citizens to attend him, told them  that Lord Hastings and the rest had designed to murder both himself  and the Duke if Buckingham, who stood by his side, if he had not  providentially discovered their design.  He requested them to be so  obliging as to inform their fellow-citizens of the truth of what he  said, and issued a proclamation (prepared and neatly copied out  beforehand) to the same effect.

 

On the same day that the Duke did these things in the Tower, Sir  Richard Ratcliffe, the boldest and most undaunted of his men, went  down to Pontefract; arrested Lord Rivers, Lord Gray, and two other  gentlemen; and publicly executed them on the scaffold, without any  trial, for having intended the Duke's death.  Three days afterwards  the Duke, not to lose time, went down the river to Westminster in  his barge, attended by divers bishops, lords, and soldiers, and  demanded that the Queen should deliver her second son, the Duke of  York, into his safe keeping.  The Queen, being obliged to comply,  resigned the child after she had wept over him; and Richard of  Gloucester placed him with his brother in the Tower.  Then, he  seized Jane Shore, and, because she had been the lover of the late  King, confiscated her property, and got her sentenced to do public  penance in the streets by walking in a scanty dress, with bare  feet, and carrying a lighted candle, to St. Paul's Cathedral,  through the most crowded part of the City.

 

Having now all things ready for his own advancement, he caused a  friar to preach a sermon at the cross which stood in front of St.  Paul's Cathedral, in which he dwelt upon the profligate manners of  the late King, and upon the late shame of Jane Shore, and hinted  that the princes were not his children.  'Whereas, good people,'  said the friar, whose name was SHAW, 'my Lord the Protector, the  noble Duke of Gloucester, that sweet prince, the pattern of all the  noblest virtues, is the perfect image and express likeness of his  father.'  There had been a little plot between the Duke and the  friar, that the Duke should appear in the crowd at this moment,  when it was expected that the people would cry 'Long live King  Richard!'  But, either through the friar saying the words too soon,  or through the Duke's coming too late, the Duke and the words did  not come together, and the people only laughed, and the friar  sneaked off ashamed.

 

The Duke of Buckingham was a better hand at such business than the  friar, so he went to the Guildhall the next day, and addressed the  citizens in the Lord Protector's behalf.  A few dirty men, who had  been hired and stationed there for the purpose, crying when he had  done, 'God save King Richard!' he made them a great bow, and  thanked them with all his heart.  Next day, to make an end of it,  he went with the mayor and some lords and citizens to Bayard  Castle, by the river, where Richard then was, and read an address,  humbly entreating him to accept the Crown of England.  Richard, who  looked down upon them out of a window and pretended to be in great  uneasiness and alarm, assured them there was nothing he desired  less, and that his deep affection for his nephews forbade him to  think of it.  To this the Duke of Buckingham replied, with  pretended warmth, that the free people of England would never  submit to his nephew's rule, and that if Richard, who was the  lawful heir, refused the Crown, why then they must find some one  else to wear it.  The Duke of Gloucester returned, that since he  used that strong language, it became his painful duty to think no  more of himself, and to accept the Crown.

 

Upon that, the people cheered and dispersed; and the Duke of  Gloucester and the Duke of Buckingham passed a pleasant evening,  talking over the play they had just acted with so much success, and  every word of which they had prepared together.

 


CHAPTER XXV - ENGLAND UNDER RICHARD THE THIRD

 

KING RICHARD THE THIRD was up betimes in the morning, and went to  Westminster Hall.  In the Hall was a marble seat, upon which he sat  himself down between two great noblemen, and told the people that  he began the new reign in that place, because the first duty of a  sovereign was to administer the laws equally to all, and to  maintain justice.  He then mounted his horse and rode back to the  City, where he was received by the clergy and the crowd as if he  really had a right to the throne, and really were a just man.  The  clergy and the crowd must have been rather ashamed of themselves in  secret, I think, for being such poor-spirited knaves.

 

The new King and his Queen were soon crowned with a great deal of  show and noise, which the people liked very much; and then the King  set forth on a royal progress through his dominions.  He was  crowned a second time at York, in order that the people might have  show and noise enough; and wherever he went was received with  shouts of rejoicing - from a good many people of strong lungs, who  were paid to strain their throats in crying, 'God save King  Richard!'  The plan was so successful that I am told it has been  imitated since, by other usurpers, in other progresses through  other dominions.

 

While he was on this journey, King Richard stayed a week at  Warwick.  And from Warwick he sent instructions home for one of the  wickedest murders that ever was done - the murder of the two young  princes, his nephews, who were shut up in the Tower of London.

 

Sir Robert Brackenbury was at that time Governor of the Tower.  To  him, by the hands of a messenger named JOHN GREEN, did King Richard  send a letter, ordering him by some means to put the two young  princes to death.  But Sir Robert - I hope because he had children  of his own, and loved them - sent John Green back again, riding and  spurring along the dusty roads, with the answer that he could not  do so horrible a piece of work.  The King, having frowningly  considered a little, called to him SIR JAMES TYRREL, his master of  the horse, and to him gave authority to take command of the Tower,  whenever he would, for twenty-four hours, and to keep all the keys  of the Tower during that space of time.  Tyrrel, well knowing what  was wanted, looked about him for two hardened ruffians, and chose  JOHN DIGHTON, one of his own grooms, and MILES FOREST, who was a  murderer by trade.  Having secured these two assistants, he went,  upon a day in August, to the Tower, showed his authority from the  King, took the command for four-and-twenty hours, and obtained  possession of the keys.  And when the black night came he went  creeping, creeping, like a guilty villain as he was, up the dark,  stone winding stairs, and along the dark stone passages, until he  came to the door of the room where the two young princes, having  said their prayers, lay fast asleep, clasped in each other's arms.   And while he watched and listened at the door, he sent in those  evil demons, John Dighton and Miles Forest, who smothered the two  princes with the bed and pillows, and carried their bodies down the  stairs, and buried them under a great heap of stones at the  staircase foot.  And when the day came, he gave up the command of  the Tower, and restored the keys, and hurried away without once  looking behind him; and Sir Robert Brackenbury went with fear and  sadness to the princes' room, and found the princes gone for ever.

 

You know, through all this history, how true it is that traitors  are never true, and you will not be surprised to learn that the  Duke of Buckingham soon turned against King Richard, and joined a  great conspiracy that was formed to dethrone him, and to place the  crown upon its rightful owner's head.  Richard had meant to keep  the murder secret; but when he heard through his spies that this  conspiracy existed, and that many lords and gentlemen drank in  secret to the healths of the two young princes in the Tower, he  made it known that they were dead.  The conspirators, though  thwarted for a moment, soon resolved to set up for the crown  against the murderous Richard, HENRY Earl of Richmond, grandson of  Catherine:  that widow of Henry the Fifth who married Owen Tudor.   And as Henry was of the house of Lancaster, they proposed that he  should marry the Princess Elizabeth, the eldest daughter of the  late King, now the heiress of the house of York, and thus by  uniting the rival families put an end to the fatal wars of the Red  and White Roses.  All being settled, a time was appointed for Henry  to come over from Brittany, and for a great rising against Richard  to take place in several parts of England at the same hour.  On a  certain day, therefore, in October, the revolt took place; but  unsuccessfully.  Richard was prepared, Henry was driven back at sea  by a storm, his followers in England were dispersed, and the Duke  of Buckingham was taken, and at once beheaded in the market-place  at Salisbury.

 

The time of his success was a good time, Richard thought, for  summoning a Parliament and getting some money.  So, a Parliament  was called, and it flattered and fawned upon him as much as he  could possibly desire, and declared him to be the rightful King of  England, and his only son Edward, then eleven years of age, the  next heir to the throne.

 

Richard knew full well that, let the Parliament say what it would,  the Princess Elizabeth was remembered by people as the heiress of  the house of York; and having accurate information besides, of its  being designed by the conspirators to marry her to Henry of  Richmond, he felt that it would much strengthen him and weaken  them, to be beforehand with them, and marry her to his son.  With  this view he went to the Sanctuary at Westminster, where the late  King's widow and her daughter still were, and besought them to come  to Court:  where (he swore by anything and everything) they should  be safely and honourably entertained.  They came, accordingly, but  had scarcely been at Court a month when his son died suddenly - or  was poisoned - and his plan was crushed to pieces.

 

In this extremity, King Richard, always active, thought, 'I must  make another plan.'  And he made the plan of marrying the Princess  Elizabeth himself, although she was his niece.  There was one  difficulty in the way:  his wife, the Queen Anne, was alive.  But,  he knew (remembering his nephews) how to remove that obstacle, and  he made love to the Princess Elizabeth, telling her he felt  perfectly confident that the Queen would die in February.  The  Princess was not a very scrupulous young lady, for, instead of  rejecting the murderer of her brothers with scorn and hatred, she  openly declared she loved him dearly; and, when February came and  the Queen did not die, she expressed her impatient opinion that she  was too long about it.  However, King Richard was not so far out in  his prediction, but, that she died in March - he took good care of  that - and then this precious pair hoped to be married.  But they  were disappointed, for the idea of such a marriage was so unpopular  in the country, that the King's chief counsellors, RATCLIFFE and  CATESBY, would by no means undertake to propose it, and the King  was even obliged to declare in public that he had never thought of  such a thing.

 

He was, by this time, dreaded and hated by all classes of his  subjects.  His nobles deserted every day to Henry's side; he dared  not call another Parliament, lest his crimes should be denounced  there; and for want of money, he was obliged to get Benevolences  from the citizens, which exasperated them all against him.  It was  said too, that, being stricken by his conscience, he dreamed  frightful dreams, and started up in the night-time, wild with  terror and remorse.  Active to the last, through all this, he  issued vigorous proclamations against Henry of Richmond and all his  followers, when he heard that they were coming against him with a  Fleet from France; and took the field as fierce and savage as a  wild boar - the animal represented on his shield.

 

Henry of Richmond landed with six thousand men at Milford Haven,  and came on against King Richard, then encamped at Leicester with  an army twice as great, through North Wales.  On Bosworth Field the  two armies met; and Richard, looking along Henry's ranks, and  seeing them crowded with the English nobles who had abandoned him,  turned pale when he beheld the powerful Lord Stanley and his son  (whom he had tried hard to retain) among them.  But, he was as  brave as he was wicked, and plunged into the thickest of the fight.   He was riding hither and thither, laying about him in all  directions, when he observed the Earl of Northumberland - one of  his few great allies - to stand inactive, and the main body of his  troops to hesitate.  At the same moment, his desperate glance  caught Henry of Richmond among a little group of his knights.   Riding hard at him, and crying 'Treason!' he killed his standard-bearer, fiercely unhorsed another gentleman, and aimed a powerful  stroke at Henry himself, to cut him down.  But, Sir William Stanley  parried it as it fell, and before Richard could raise his arm  again, he was borne down in a press of numbers, unhorsed, and  killed.  Lord Stanley picked up the crown, all bruised and  trampled, and stained with blood, and put it upon Richmond's head,  amid loud and rejoicing cries of 'Long live King Henry!'

 

That night, a horse was led up to the church of the Grey Friars at  Leicester; across whose back was tied, like some worthless sack, a  naked body brought there for burial.  It was the body of the last  of the Plantagenet line, King Richard the Third, usurper and  murderer, slain at the battle of Bosworth Field in the thirty-second year of his age, after a reign of two years.

 


CHAPTER XXVI - ENGLAND UNDER HENRY THE SEVENTH

 

KING HENRY THE SEVENTH did not turn out to be as fine a fellow as  the nobility and people hoped, in the first joy of their  deliverance from Richard the Third.  He was very cold, crafty, and  calculating, and would do almost anything for money.  He possessed  considerable ability, but his chief merit appears to have been that  he was not cruel when there was nothing to be got by it.

 

The new King had promised the nobles who had espoused his cause  that he would marry the Princess Elizabeth.  The first thing he  did, was, to direct her to be removed from the castle of Sheriff  Hutton in Yorkshire, where Richard had placed her, and restored to  the care of her mother in London.  The young Earl of Warwick,  Edward Plantagenet, son and heir of the late Duke of Clarence, had  been kept a prisoner in the same old Yorkshire Castle with her.   This boy, who was now fifteen, the new King placed in the Tower for  safety.  Then he came to London in great state, and gratified the  people with a fine procession; on which kind of show he often very  much relied for keeping them in good humour.  The sports and feasts  which took place were followed by a terrible fever, called the  Sweating Sickness; of which great numbers of people died.  Lord  Mayors and Aldermen are thought to have suffered most from it;  whether, because they were in the habit of over-eating themselves,  or because they were very jealous of preserving filth and nuisances  in the City (as they have been since), I don't know.

 

The King's coronation was postponed on account of the general ill-health, and he afterwards deferred his marriage, as if he were not  very anxious that it should take place:  and, even after that,  deferred the Queen's coronation so long that he gave offence to the  York party.  However, he set these things right in the end, by  hanging some men and seizing on the rich possessions of others; by  granting more popular pardons to the followers of the late King  than could, at first, be got from him; and, by employing about his  Court, some very scrupulous persons who had been employed in the  previous reign.

 

As this reign was principally remarkable for two very curious  impostures which have become famous in history, we will make those  two stories its principal feature.

 

There was a priest at Oxford of the name of Simons, who had for a  pupil a handsome boy named Lambert Simnel, the son of a baker.   Partly to gratify his own ambitious ends, and partly to carry out  the designs of a secret party formed against the King, this priest  declared that his pupil, the boy, was no other than the young Earl  of Warwick; who (as everybody might have known) was safely locked  up in the Tower of London.  The priest and the boy went over to  Ireland; and, at Dublin, enlisted in their cause all ranks of the  people:  who seem to have been generous enough, but exceedingly  irrational.  The Earl of Kildare, the governor of Ireland, declared  that he believed the boy to be what the priest represented; and the  boy, who had been well tutored by the priest, told them such things  of his childhood, and gave them so many descriptions of the Royal  Family, that they were perpetually shouting and hurrahing, and  drinking his health, and making all kinds of noisy and thirsty  demonstrations, to express their belief in him.  Nor was this  feeling confined to Ireland alone, for the Earl of Lincoln - whom  the late usurper had named as his successor - went over to the  young Pretender; and, after holding a secret correspondence with  the Dowager Duchess of Burgundy - the sister of Edward the Fourth,  who detested the present King and all his race - sailed to Dublin  with two thousand German soldiers of her providing.  In this  promising state of the boy's fortunes, he was crowned there, with a  crown taken off the head of a statue of the Virgin Mary; and was  then, according to the Irish custom of those days, carried home on  the shoulders of a big chieftain possessing a great deal more  strength than sense.  Father Simons, you may be sure, was mighty  busy at the coronation.

 

Ten days afterwards, the Germans, and the Irish, and the priest,  and the boy, and the Earl of Lincoln, all landed in Lancashire to  invade England.  The King, who had good intelligence of their  movements, set up his standard at Nottingham, where vast numbers  resorted to him every day; while the Earl of Lincoln could gain but  very few.  With his small force he tried to make for the town of  Newark; but the King's army getting between him and that place, he  had no choice but to risk a battle at Stoke.  It soon ended in the  complete destruction of the Pretender's forces, one half of whom  were killed; among them, the Earl himself.  The priest and the  baker's boy were taken prisoners.  The priest, after confessing the  trick, was shut up in prison, where he afterwards died - suddenly  perhaps.  The boy was taken into the King's kitchen and made a  turnspit.  He was afterwards raised to the station of one of the  King's falconers; and so ended this strange imposition.

 

There seems reason to suspect that the Dowager Queen - always a  restless and busy woman - had had some share in tutoring the  baker's son.  The King was very angry with her, whether or no.  He  seized upon her property, and shut her up in a convent at  Bermondsey.

 

One might suppose that the end of this story would have put the  Irish people on their guard; but they were quite ready to receive a  second impostor, as they had received the first, and that same  troublesome Duchess of Burgundy soon gave them the opportunity.   All of a sudden there appeared at Cork, in a vessel arriving from  Portugal, a young man of excellent abilities, of very handsome  appearance and most winning manners, who declared himself to be  Richard, Duke of York, the second son of King Edward the Fourth.   'O,' said some, even of those ready Irish believers, 'but surely  that young Prince was murdered by his uncle in the Tower!' - 'It IS  supposed so,' said the engaging young man; 'and my brother WAS  killed in that gloomy prison; but I escaped - it don't matter how,  at present - and have been wandering about the world for seven long  years.'  This explanation being quite satisfactory to numbers of  the Irish people, they began again to shout and to hurrah, and to  drink his health, and to make the noisy and thirsty demonstrations  all over again.  And the big chieftain in Dublin began to look out  for another coronation, and another young King to be carried home  on his back.

 

Now, King Henry being then on bad terms with France, the French  King, Charles the Eighth, saw that, by pretending to believe in the  handsome young man, he could trouble his enemy sorely.  So, he  invited him over to the French Court, and appointed him a body-guard, and treated him in all respects as if he really were the  Duke of York.  Peace, however, being soon concluded between the two  Kings, the pretended Duke was turned adrift, and wandered for  protection to the Duchess of Burgundy.  She, after feigning to  inquire into the reality of his claims, declared him to be the very  picture of her dear departed brother; gave him a body-guard at her  Court, of thirty halberdiers; and called him by the sounding name  of the White Rose of England.

 

The leading members of the White Rose party in England sent over an  agent, named Sir Robert Clifford, to ascertain whether the White  Rose's claims were good:  the King also sent over his agents to  inquire into the Rose's history.  The White Roses declared the  young man to be really the Duke of York; the King declared him to  be PERKIN WARBECK, the son of a merchant of the city of Tournay,  who had acquired his knowledge of England, its language and  manners, from the English merchants who traded in Flande