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A Child's History of England: Ch. 13-16
A Child's History of England: Chapters 1 - 2
A Child's History of England: Chapters 3 - 6
A Child's History of England: Chapters 7 - 10
A Child's History of England: Chapters 11 - 12
A Child's History of England: Chapters 13 - 16
A Child's History of England: Chapters 17 - 21
A Child's History of England: Chapters 22 - 25
A Child's History of England: Chapters 26 - 30
A Child's History of England: Chapters 31 - 35
A Child's History of England: Chapters 36 - 37
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
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
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
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
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
There was, and there is, an old town standing in a plain in France,
called Châlons. When the King was coming towards this place on his
way to England, a wily French Lord, called the Count of Châlons,
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 Châlons 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
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 Châlons.
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
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
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
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
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.