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Title: A Popular History Of England From the Earliest Times To The Reign Of Queen Victoria; Vol. I
Author: Guizot, François, Witt, Henriette Guizot de
Language: English
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[Transcriber's note: This production is based on
http://www.archive.org/details/popularhistoryeng01guiz.

Spoiler alert: If you expect to hear about Cinderella and Prince
Charming living in Camelot, here are some of the most frequently
used words in this book, ordered by number of occurrences.

  war, armies, enemies, soldiers, weapon, prison, attack,
  defence, conquer, battle, invade, fortifications, dead, suffer,
  anger, seize, kill, insurrection, threat, fight, traitor,
  surrender, fear, escape, pursue, opposition, strike, wound,
  condemn, blood, victor, quarrel, insurgent, punish, capture,
  rival, pirate, danger, crime, violence, destroy, arrest,
  trouble, archer, unhappy, murder, disorder, combat,
  reinforcement, pillage, dying, anxiety, exile, besiege,
  repulse, executed, captive, hostages, cruel, bitter,
  conspiracy, insult, revenge, humiliated, imprisoned, ruin,
  assassin, plunder, barbarian, rampart, jealous, confiscate,
  avenge, alarmed, usurpation, tyrannical, savage, malcontents,
  massacre, slaughter, despair, military, misfortunes,
  unfortunate, widow, detested, succumb, die, dagger, languished,
  assault, mercenaries, disaster, armor, booty, perjury, drown,
  repugnance, fatal, slave, armistice, robber, odious, greed,
  poison, incursion, false, foe, impeached, ambush, capricious,
  perfidious, scaffold, dungeon, decapitated.]


[Image]
Murder Of Thomas A-Becket.

{1}

    A Popular History Of England

       From the Earliest Times

  _To The Reign Of Queen Victoria



                M.  Guizot

  Author of "The Popular History of France,"  etc.



          _Authorized Edition_



                Illustrated



                  Vol. I



                 New York


           John W. Lovell Company

    150 Worth Street, Corner Mission Place


{2}

{3}

               Volume One.


  Murder of Thomas A'Becket -- Frontispiece.

  Caractacus and his Wife before Claudius. -- 16

  Augustine preaching to Ethelbert. -- 32

  Alfred in the Herdsman's Hut -- 44

  Canute by the Seashore -- 72

  William the Conqueror reviewing his Troops. -- 98

  Robert's Encounter with his Father -- 110

  Azelin forbidding the burial of William the Conqueror -- 116

  Death of William Rufus -- 122

  Escape of the Empress Maud from Oxford. -- 144

  Richard Removing the Archduke's Banner. -- 188

  Richard's farewell to the Holy Land. -- 192

  King John's Anger After Signing Magna Charta. -- 214

  King Henry and his Barons -- 228

  That is the Title by which I Hold my Lands. -- 242

  Bruce warned by Gilbert de Clare -- 262

  Robert Bruce Regretting His Battle-Axe. -- 274

  The Battle of Sluys. -- 294

  Van Arteveldt at his Door -- 298

  Queen Philippa on her knees before the King. -- 314

  King John Taken Prisoner by the Black Prince. -- 320

  The Black Prince Serving the French King. -- 322

  Death of Wat Tyler. -- 346

{4}

{5}

              Table Of Contents.


Chapter I.  Ancient Populations of Britain
      --Roman Dominion (55 B.C. to 411 A.D.) -- 9

Chapter II. The Rule of the Saxons to the Invasion of
    the Danes (449 -832) -- 24

Chapter III. The Danes. -- Alfred the Great (836-901) -- 37

Chapter IV. The Saxon and Danish Kings.-- The Conquest
of England by the Normans (901-1066) -- 59

Chapter  V. Establishment of the Normans in England (1066-1087) -- 103

Chapter VI. The Norman Kings. -- (1087-1154) -- 117
    William Rufus
    Henry I.
    Stephen

Chapter  VII. Henry II. (1154-1189) -- 146

Chapter  VIII. Richard Cœur-de-Lion.-- John Lackland. --
    Magna Charta (1189-1216) -- 182

Chapter IX. King and Barons. -- Henry III. (1216-1272) -- 218

Chapter X. Malleus Scotorum -- Edward I. (1272-1307.)
    -- Edward II. (1307-1327) -- 238

Chapter XI. The Hundred Years' War. -- Edward III.  (1327-1377) -- 285

Chapter XII. Bolingbroke. -- Richard II. (1377-1308).--
  Henry IV. (1398-1413) -- 335

{6}

{7}

                   Preface.


"The History of France," related to his grandchildren by M.
Guizot, is now universally known. It has supplied a want which
every one must have felt; it has been welcome both to children
and to parents. Our national history enjoyed one indisputable
privilege: it had everywhere the right to the first place. But
after the "History of France," my father had related for the
benefit of his grandchildren the "History of England." He had
adopted a plan slightly different from that which he had followed
in his previous narratives. He felt that in this case the
knowledge which would enable the reader to supply any hiatus is
less extended; he was, in consequence, careful to preserve the
regular and chronological sequence of events. I have collected
these lessons as I collected those of "The History of France." My
father foresaw that he would not himself make use of the notes
which I preserved. He therefore requested me to edit them, and he
took a pleasure in re-perusing my work. I have thus written this
"History of England," step by step, as he related, and in great
part revised it; and I now publish it in accordance with his
desire, and, in the hope of enabling others to share in the
useful instruction which we all derived from it, both parents and
children.
{8}
The French have often been charged with ignorance of the history
of foreign nations. It is time to remove that reproach. For us
the "History of England" is important and interesting above all
others. In peaceful times and in times of war it is everywhere
connected with our own by a national bond, which all the causes
of dissension have not been able to destroy. In studying the
History of England we study again the History of France; and we
may draw from it useful lessons for the service and the welfare
of that country whose trials and sorrows have rendered her a
thousand times dearer to us.

      Guizot De Witt.
      [Henriette Guizot de Witt, daughter of François Guizot.]


{9}

              History Of England.


                   Chapter I.

      Ancient Populations Of Britain.
      Roman Dominion, 55 B.C. TO 411 A.D.


The earliest periods of English History are obscure, and even the
origin of its inhabitants is still a subject of discussion. The
first authentic information which we possess with regard to them
is derived from their conqueror. Julius Caesar remarked their
resemblance to the Gauls, and modern researches have confirmed
his testimony. Every thing seems to show that the inhabitants of
Britain were Celts, or Gaels, a name which the population of the
highlands of Scotland retain to this day. On the Southern Coasts,
an invasion of Cimrys, or Belgians, appears to have mingled with
the Celtic population and to have brought with it some elements
of civilization. Long before the advent of Cæsar, the Phoenicians
and Greeks established at Marseilles, had entered into relations
of commerce with the Scilly Isles, which they called the
Cassiterides, and also with the extremity of the County of
Cornwall, where the tin-mines were situated.
{10}
Pytheas, who lived at Marseilles at the commencement of the
Fourth Century B.C., has related his voyage along the coast of
Britain; but it is with the invasion of the Romans that the
history of England commences. It is here that we penetrate for
the first time into those islands which, though separated from
the rest of the world, sent to the Gauls, who were struggling for
their independence, succor, which furnished Cæsar with a pretext
for the attempt to conquer them. After his fourth campaign in
Gaul, about the year 55 B.C., the great Roman general set sail on
the 26th of August for Britain. He had brought with him the
infantry of two legions,--about twelve thousand men, and he
disembarked near the point where the town of Deal is now
situated. The Britons had gathered in a mass upon the shore. A
great number were on horseback, urging their horses into the
waves, and insulting and defying the foreigners. They were almost
entirely naked, having cast off the clothing of skins with which
they were ordinarily covered, in order to prepare for the combat.
Their war chariots were driven rapidly along the shore. For a
moment the Roman soldiers hesitated, troubled by the unaccustomed
sight, perhaps from a dread of offending the unknown gods of
people celebrated among their Gaulish brethren for the devotion
with which they surrounded the Druidical faith. The
standard-bearer of the tenth legion was the first to precipitate
himself into the sea. "Follow me, my fellow-soldiers," said he,
"unless you will give up your eagle to the enemy. I at least will
do my duty to the Republic and to our general." His comrades
followed his example, and the savage inhabitants of Britain
retired in disorder, driven back, in spite of their bravery,
after a short engagement.

On the morrow, ambassadors from the Britons came to solicit
peace. At the first rumor of the projected invasion they had sent
emissaries into Gaul to offer their submission to the Romans, in
the hope of turning them from their enterprise.
{11}
Cæsar had listened to them with kindness and had had them
conducted by his own envoy Comius, king of the Belgian Atrebates;
but he did not relinquish his intentions, and the Britons in
their irritation had put the delegate of Cæsar in irons. This was
the first matter with which the conqueror reproached them, at the
same time demanding hostages for their future good behavior. Some
hostages were immediately given. The British chiefs asked for
time to send others, and Cæsar entered into separate negotiations
with the chiefs who came one after the other to treat with the
conqueror.

During these negotiations the sea rendered aid to the Britons.
Great part of the Roman fleet was destroyed. The barbarians
perceived their advantage and were dilatory in sending the
hostages. Meanwhile Cæsar had promptly set his soldiers to the
task of repairing the vessels, and making requisitions upon the
Gauls for the materials which were required. The vessels were
beginning to be in a state to take the sea when the seventh
legion, detached on a foraging expedition in the country, was
surprised in the only field of grain then standing, by a number
of Britons who were lying in ambush concealed by the long stalks
of the corn. Horsemen and war chariots issued forth from the
surrounding forests. The Romans ran the risk of being crushed,
when Cæsar came to their assistance with the remainder of his
forces, and defeated the barbarians, who sued for peace. The
equinox was approaching. The general did not even wait for the
hostages, but set sail for Gaul in the middle of September,
sending at the same time news to Rome which induced the Senate to
decree twenty days of public thanksgivings to the Immortal Gods.
In his _Commentaries_, however, Caesar modestly describes
this first campaign in Britain as a reconnoitring expedition. He
cherished the design of returning thither later.

{12}

Accordingly in the following year (54 B.C.), Caesar embarked at
the same point upon the coast of Gaul, in order to land at the
same spot, though with very different forces. He carried with him
the infantry of five legions (about thirty thousand men) and two
thousand cavalry. Eight hundred transport vessels covered the
sea.

From the summits of their cliffs the Britons had perceived this
formidable expedition, and had sought refuge in the vast forests
which cover their shores. Cæsar marched forward to drive them
back into their retreats, when a violent tempest destroyed forty
of his ships and drove a great number ashore. The first care of
the conqueror was to protect his fleet against the fury of the
sea and the hostility of the islanders. He caused all his vessels
to be hauled ashore, in order to surround them afterwards by a
strong intrenchment. His largest galleys were diminutive in
comparison with our vessels of war. His transport ships were
hardly more than barges. The Roman soldiers labored without
intermission ten days and ten nights before they had rendered
their fleet secure.

They then resumed their march against the Britons, whose army was
still increasing. All the chiefs had united their forces under
the orders of a commander-in-chief, Cassivelanus, king of the
Cassii, renowned for his bravery and skill. The Britons avoided a
general engagement. Assailing the Romans incessantly with their
cavalry and their war-chariots, which they conducted with the
ease of habit even along the edge of precipices, they retired
again into the forests from the moment that the advantage was no
longer on their side. But this barbarian intrepidity was not
accompanied by experience. Cæsar's cavalry, supported by three
legions, having scoured the country in quest of forage, the enemy
had remained concealed all day, when suddenly they issued in a
mass from the neighboring forests and swept down upon the Romans
who were scattered about the country.
{13}
Already the Britons imagined themselves victors; but the
well-disciplined Roman detachments formed again as if by
enchantment, the horsemen rallied, and the Britons, enclosed in a
formidable circle, sustained losses so great that on the morrow
the allies of Cassivelanus nearly all deserted him and returned
into their territories, leaving him to face the Romans
unsupported. The king in his turn fell back upon his kingdom,
which was situated on the left bank of the Thames.

In their pursuit the Romans had traversed the fertile country
which now forms the counties of Kent and Surrey, while this
skirmishing species of warfare continued, often with results
favorable to the Britons. But the fatal want of union common to
barbarous tribes lent aid to the Romans. Cassivelanus was
detested by his neighbors the Trinobantes, who sent ambassadors
to Cæsar, asking the restoration of their king Mandubratius, a
fugitive in Gaul, where he had implored the protection of the
Romans against this same Cassivelanus, who had conquered and put
to death the father of his rival. On this condition the the
Trinobantes offered their submission. Some other tribes followed
their example. These seceders acquainted the Romans with the road
to Cassivelanus's capital situated on the environs of the spot
now occupied by the town of St. Alban's. This was a collection of
huts reminding beholders of the dwellings of the Gauls. They
rested on a foundation made of stones, from which arose the walls
composed of timber, earth, and reeds, and surmounted by a conical
roof which served at once to admit daylight and to allow smoke to
escape through a hole in the top. Fens and woods surrounded by a
ditch and earthworks protected this primitive capital, which soon
fell into the hands of the Romans.

{14}

Cassivelanus had only one hope left. He had given orders to the
four chiefs who had the command in Kent to attack the Roman
vessels. They obeyed, but the detachment charged with the
protection of the fleet was on its guard. The Britons were
repulsed. Cassivelanus, beaten and discouraged, humbled himself
so far as to sue for peace. Nevertheless when Cæsar at the
commencement of September retired once more to Gaul, he left in
Britain neither a soldier nor a fortress. The second campaign,
longer and more fortunate than the first, had not produced any
greater results.

Ninety-six years elapsed; the Roman Republic had become the Roman
Empire; but the Britons had been troubled by no new invasion. The
Belgian population of the sea-coast had continued to cultivate
their fields, to which they already knew how to apply marl for
manure. They had woven in peace their long brogues, or chequered
breeches, their square mantles, and their tunics. The Celts, more
savage, had seen their flocks multiply around them. Even this,
the only kind of wealth among barbarous tribes, did not exist in
the northern part of Britain. The rude inhabitants of Scotland
depended only on the products of the chase, and found a shelter
for their almost naked state in the hollow of rocks or in the
obscurity of caverns; but no invader had come to trouble their
wild liberty up to the day when the Emperor Claudius, in the year
45 of the Christian Era, conceived the project of marching in the
footsteps of Cæsar and subduing the savage land of Britain. One
of the most experienced of his generals, Aulus Plautius, sent
forward with a force of fifty thousand men, obtained at first
some successes, notwithstanding the resistance of the chief of
the Silures, Caractacus.
{15}
When the Emperor arrived, the capital of this people was
captured, and several tribes had submitted almost without a
struggle. Claudius returned to Rome to enjoy there the honors of
an easy triumph.

Thirty battles fought by Aulus Plautius were insufficient to
reduce Caractacus. Ostorius Scapula was the first to succeed in
establishing on the Severn a line of forts separating from the
rest of the island the country, now become Roman, which comprised
nearly all the Southern tribes. The Britons, who appeared to be
subdued, were disarmed. But a new insurrection soon broke forth.
The Iceni, who occupied the country now known as the counties of
Norfolk and Suffolk, were the first to rise. The Cangi followed
their example; and in order to reduce them the Praetor was
compelled to pursue them as far as to within one day's march of
the sea which separates England from Ireland. From the territory
of the Brigantes, which embraced a portion of the present
counties of Lancashire and York, Ostorius hastened to invade the
Silures, who inhabited the southern portion of Wales, and who
were always the most indomitable opponents of a foreign
domination. "Behold the day which is to decide the fate of
Britain!" exclaimed Caractacus at the sight of the Romans.
"To-day begins the era either of liberty or eternal slavery.
Remember that your ancestors were able to drive back the great
Cæsar, and to save their liberty, their life, and their honor!"
He spoke in vain. The naked breasts and bare heads of the Britons
could not resist the broad swords of the Roman soldiers. The
massacre was horrible. The wife and the daughter of Caractacus
were captured, but the chief himself had disappeared. Hoping to
renew the struggle, he had taken refuge with his mother-in-law,
Cartismandua, queen of the Brigantes. She delivered him up to the
Romans.
{16}
Caractacus was sent to Rome with his family. "How can men who
possess such palaces make such efforts to conquer our miserable
hovels?" exclaimed the British hero, while traversing the streets
of Rome. He appeared before the tribunal of the emperor.
Agrippina was there by the side of her husband. The wife of
Caractacus threw herself at her feet, imploring her pity; but the
conquered chief asked for nothing, and exhibited no sign of fear.
This greatness in defeat penetrated to the heart and to the
sluggish mind of Claudius. He gave the order to set the captives
free. Tradition states that he even restored to his prisoner a
portion of his territory, but Tacitus does not mention this; he
leaves the story of the vanquished chief at the point where the
fetters fall from his hands.

For a moment Nero, who had become emperor, thought of abandoning
the conquest of Britain, so difficult to secure. It was not until
the year 59 A.D. that Paulinus Suetonius, at that time prætor,
resolved to crush the resistance of the Britons in their
innermost retreat. The island of Mona (now Anglesey) was
consecrated to the Druid worship; the priests had nearly all
taken refuge there, and there the defeated chiefs found an
asylum. Religion even then exercised a considerable power over
the minds of the inhabitants of Britain. In no part were the
Druids more numerous and powerful; nowhere had they a greater
number of disciples diligently occupied during long years in
engraving upon their memory the regulations of their worship, the
sacred maxims, the ancient poems, which the priests did not allow
to be committed to writing. Great, therefore, was the emotion in
Britain when the Romans were seen to attack the holy isle.

[Image]
Caractacus and his Wife before Claudius.
{17}

On the shore a great crowd awaited the advance of the enemy,
"savage and diversified" in appearance, says Tacitus. The armed
men were assembled in a mass; the women, attired in sombre dress,
running about with dishevelled hair, like furies brandishing
their torches; and the Druids were standing, clothed in their
long white robes, as if about to sacrifice to their gods, their
heads shaved, their beards long, their hands raised to heaven,
while they pronounced the terrible maledictions of the Celtic
races against the enemies of their people and their divinities.
The Roman soldiers hesitated; their limbs seemed paralyzed by
fear, and they exposed themselves, without resisting, to the
blows of their enemies. Their general urged them to advance. At
length, each encouraging the other to despise the infuriated
cries of a band of priests and women, they rushed upon the
Britons, and precipitated them upon the stakes which they had
prepared in order to sacrifice the Roman prisoners to their gods.
A garrison was placed on the island; the sacred grove was cut
down; and the fugitive Druids disappeared, to seek an asylum
among the tribes which still offered a resistance.

The number of these tribes had increased in the absence of the
prætor. The infamous treatment inflicted upon Boadicea, queen of
the Iceni, and her children, by order of the procurator Catus,
had aroused the indignation of her neighbors as well as of her
own subjects. By secret intrigues the malcontents from all
quarters were invited to strike a great blow for the recovery of
their liberty. The colony of Camalodunum was first attacked and
put to fire and sword. Suetonius hastened from the isle of Mona,
and marched first towards London, already an important and
populous city. Defence was impossible. The prætor withdrew the
garrison to protect the rest of the provinces, and all the
citizens who had not been able to retire under the shelter of the
Roman eagles were massacred. The Roman colony of Verulam suffered
the same fate.
{18}
It is said that more than 70,000 Romans and their allies had
already perished under the blows of the insurgents, when the two
armies found themselves confronted. Queen Boadicea rode along the
ranks of the Britons, clothed in a robe of various colors, with a
golden zone around her waist. She reminded her countrymen that
she was not the first woman who had led them to battle, since the
custom of the country often called to the throne the widow of a
sovereign, passing over his children. She spoke of the
irreparable insults which she had undergone, of the misfortunes
of the nation, and she exhorted the warriors to immolate all the
Romans to Andrasta, the goddess of victory. The Romans remained
motionless; they were awaiting the attack of the Britons.

The barbarians, excited by the glowing words of the queen, rushed
upon the legions; the Romans bestirred themselves at length, and
their broad swords opened for them a passage through the midst of
the mass of Britons. The latter fell without flinching; but their
enemy advanced to the line of chariots, and put to the sword
women and children. It is said, though no doubt, with the usual
exaggeration of the time, that 80,000 Britons perished on that
day. Boadicea, resolved not to survive her hopes of vengeance,
poisoned herself upon the battle-field.

Successive prætors had failed to establish tranquillity in
Britain, or to obtain the submission of the people, when
Agricola, father-in-law of the celebrated historian Tacitus,
arrived in his turn in this indomitable island. His brilliant
exploits soon caused him to be respected; but, while pursuing
year by year the course of his conquests, he endeavored to found
the Roman rule upon the most durable basis. In his hands the
civil administration became milder; the Britons governed with
justice, became gradually less estranged from their conquerors.
{19}
A taste for luxury and Roman civilization began to distinguish
the chiefs admitted to the prætorian court; the Roman toga took
the place of the British mantle; buildings arose upon the model
of the Roman constructions; children began to speak Latin; and at
the same time the spirit of liberty and resistance diminished
among the inhabitants of the south of Britain. "The Britons
willingly furnish recruits to our armies," wrote Tacitus; "they
pay the taxes without murmuring, and they perform with zeal their
duties towards the government, provided they have not to complain
of oppression. When they are offended their resentment is prompt
and violent; they may be conquered, but not tamed; they may be
led to obedience, but not to servitude."

The military progress of the Roman general was no less important
than his moral conquests. He had reached the Firth of Forth and
the narrow isthmus which separates this river from the mouth of
the Clyde. After every new victory he protected the subjected
territory with forts. He even constructed a wall, the ruins of
which, crossing the north of England from the Solway to the mouth
of the Tyne, bear to this day his name. In the eighth and ninth
year of his government he passed the line of the forts and
penetrated into Scotland, the country of the Caledonians, savage
tribes who had not yet beheld the Roman eagles. Scarcely had the
conquerors invaded this new territory when the Caledonians, under
the command of their chief, Galgacus, descended from the Grampian
hills and fell upon the invader. On Ardoch Moor traces of the
combat still exist, together with the lines of the Roman
encampment. The struggle lasted all day, and the barbarians were
defeated; but on the morrow at sunrise they had disappeared, and
the Romans found themselves alone in the midst of a wild country.
{20}
In their flight the Caledonians had set fire to their
habitations, and with their own hands had slain their wives and
children, to prevent their falling victims to the vengeance of
the conqueror. The savage tribes had returned into their
mountains, leaving, according to the chronicles, 10,000 dead upon
the field of battle. Agricola made no effort to pursue them.
Falling back towards the south, he despatched his vessels to make
a voyage of exploration all round the island, the northern shores
of which had not yet been visited. The mariners returned,
reporting that no tongue of land connected Britain with the
continent, that they had seen in the distance Thule (Iceland),
enveloped in mists and eternal snow, and that the seas which they
had traversed were of a sluggish kind, heavy under the oar, and
never agitated by wind or storms. Agricola was recalled to Rome
through the jealousy of the Emperor Domitian, but his wise
government had appeased the passions of the Britons, and for
thirty years afterwards the Roman annals contain no mention of
British affairs--an evidence that peace reigned in the island.

An invasion of the Caledonians brought the Emperor Hadrian to
Britain (120 A.D.). Having driven them back beyond the forts
which connected the mouth of the Solway on the west with that of
the Tyne on the eastern coast, he caused to be raised behind this
rampart an enormous wall, fortified by a wide fosse and provided
with towers which received a garrison. This redoubt is still
partly in existence, as is the wall of Antoninus, constructed
some years later across the isthmus of the Forth, after a fresh
invasion of the barbarians.

{21}

No rampart, however, could resist the warlike ardor of these
savage populations; and the disorganization which had attacked
the vast body of the Empire began to make itself felt among the
legions established in Britain. The soldiers often murmured; the
general, Albinus, after having refused the title of Cæsar from
the hands of the Emperor Commodus, accepted it upon the offer of
Septimius Severus, and, suddenly rejecting his allegiance, he was
proclaimed emperor by his troops. Crossing immediately into Gaul
to sustain his pretensions by force of arms, he was defeated near
Revoux, and paid for his ambition by the loss of his head; but he
had brought with him and had sacrificed the best of the troops in
Britain, both Roman and native. The Caledonians took advantage of
this opportunity to redouble their efforts, and the case became
so grave that the emperor left Rome to oppose them (207 A.D.).

Septimius Severus was old and infirm, but his spirit was still
unsubdued. When he entered into Caledonia with his son Caracalla,
he brought in his train enormous armaments. His enemies were
badly armed; they carried only the short sword and the target,
which their descendants in the highlands still employed during
the wars of the last century. But they were skilled to take
advantage of the natural defences of their country, and without
being able to meet the Caledonians in a fixed battle the emperor
had lost, it is said, 50,000 men before abandoning his
expedition. He had carried the name and arms of the Romans so far
that he had no intention of retaining the territory which he had
traversed. He left there neither fortress nor garrison, but when
he had returned into the subjected territory he separated it from
Caledonia by a new rampart, more imposing than all those of his
predecessors. For two years the legions were employed in
constructing it in stone, fortifying it with towers, and
surrounding it with roads. The remains of this gigantic work
attest to this day the power of those who raised it.
{22}
The Caledonians, however, had just attempted another invasion
when the emperor, who was marching against them, died at York
(211 A.D.), and his son Caracalla, compelled to hasten back to
Rome to protect the safety of the empire, hurriedly concluded
with the rude tribes a peace which lasted for some years.

It was not until the year 228, under the reign of Diocletian and
Maximilian, that the dangers which threatened Britain again
disturbed the repose of the Emperors. Her shores were threatened
by Saxon and Scandinavian pirates. A commander of Belgian origin
named Carausius was sent against them, who crowned his success by
causing himself to be proclaimed emperor by his legions.
Diocletian conferred on him the title of Cæsar. This new
sovereign was assassinated at York, and succeeded in the year 297
by his minister Allectus, who himself fell soon after before the
power of Constantius Chlorus. When this prince died at York, his
son Constantine, proclaimed emperor by his troops, carried with
him on leaving Britain a great number of the young men of the
country eager to serve in his armies.

The Roman empire no longer existed. The distant seat of power had
been transferred to Constantinople. The province of Britain
escaped from the imperial watchfulness. It was at the same time
ill defended. The Caledonians at this period had yielded their
place, either in fact or in name, to the Picts, so called perhaps
by the Romans on account of the colors with which they painted
their bodies. Side by side with them, and often driving them back
upon their own territory were the Scots, originally from Ireland,
from which country they crossed over in so great a number in
their little flat-bottomed boats that they finally gave their own
name to the country they invaded. Under the Emperor Valentinian
we find them pursuing their depredations as far as London, and
driven back to their own country with great difficulty by
Theodosius, father of Theodosius the Great. Before him and after
his death, in the year 393, Britain presented a similar spectacle
to that of the other Roman provinces.
{23}
The generals who were in command there, were proclaimed emperors
by their legions, assassinated by their rivals, or decapitated by
order of the sovereign rulers of Rome or Constantinople, from the
moment that they attempted to leave the island to extend their
conquests. Every one of these attempts cost Britain a number of
soldiers and contributed to weaken a race already deteriorated by
foreign domination. In 420, under the Emperor Honorius, when the
Empire was expiring under the attacks of the barbarians, the
Britons deposing the Roman magistrates, proclaimed their
independence, which was immediately recognized by the emperor.
But the Britons were not in a condition to struggle against the
invaders who were pressing them on all sides. Like the Roman
Empire, their country was fated to fall into the hands of the
barbarians.

Like the Roman Empire, however, Britain had already received the
principle which was destined to save her from complete
desolation. In the midst of political disorganization, and of
power distributed among a hundred petty chiefs, all enemies and
rivals, she had already heard the only name which has been given
to men for their salvation. The gospel of Jesus Christ had been
proclaimed upon her shores. At what epoch or by whom is not
known. Probably Rome brought with her arms the Christian faith to
the British people; the Christians were numerous in the imperial
armies, and their zeal often won to Jesus Christ the souls of the
vanquished. Up to the reign of Diocletian the progress of
Christianity in Britain was not impeded by any severity. At that
epoch (303--305) the great persecution which was raging
throughout the empire extended itself to Britain.
{24}
Constantius Chlorus, who was then governor, favorable though he
was to the Gospel, was nevertheless unable to avoid calling
around him the officers of his household and announcing to them
the necessity of either relinquishing their trusts or abjuring
the name of Christ. Those who were cowardly enough to prefer
earthly greatness to Christian fidelity found themselves
disappointed in their ambitious hopes. The general immediately
deprived them of office, remarking that men faithless to their
God would be equally wanting in fidelity to their emperor. But
the moderation of Constantius Chlorus was insufficient to
extinguish the persecuting zeal of the inferior magistrates; and
the British Church soon counted its martyrs. The Christians took
refuge in the forests and the hills. They were able to find
brethren among the rude tribes of the north; for Tertullian tells
us that, in the portion of Britain where the arms of the Romans
had failed to penetrate, Jesus Christ had conquered souls. With
the power of Constantine Christianity ascended the throne; the
British Church was organized; she had sent three Bishops to the
Council of Arles in 314; but Britain was about to undergo a new
yoke: and her dawning Christianity was destined to encounter
other enemies.


                   Chapter II.

    The Rule Of The Saxons
    To The Invasion Of The Danes (449--832).

Discord prevailed in Britain. The petty rival chiefs, sometimes
triumphant, sometimes defeated, united in vain against the Picts
and Scots, whom the Roman walls no longer impeded now that the
Roman power had disappeared.
{25}
In this disorder, the Britons were dwindling in numbers day by
day, when Vortigern, chief of Kent, conceived the project of
calling to his assistance the Saxons, a famous people who
inhabited the northern coasts of Germany and Denmark and extended
their power even to a portion of the territory now known as
Holland. Several tribes were descended from a common origin. The
Jutes, the Angles, the Saxons (properly so called) all led the
life of pirates, and many a time had they suddenly appeared upon
the coasts of Britain or of Gaul, scattering terror among the
inhabitants, whose houses they pillaged and burnt, killing all
who resisted them. For a long time they risked their lives and
sported with the dangers of the sea in mere skiffs; but in 449,
when Vortigern called to his aid two celebrated pirates among the
Jutes, named Hengist and Horsa, the Saxon vessels were long,
strongly built, and capable of carrying a considerable number of
men and of wrestling with the fury of the waves. The pirates
responded promptly to the appeal, and for some time they
faithfully observed their engagements, driving the Picts and
Scots back into their territory and fighting for Vortigern
against his British enemies. It is related that the Saxon
Hengist, having fortified himself at Thong-Caster, situated in
the county of Lincoln, gave there a feast to King Vortigern.
Hengist had sent for his daughter, the beautiful Rowena, who,
bending the knee before the British sovereign, offered him the
cup of welcome. Her beauty enchanted Vortigern, and he could not
rest until he had obtained her hand.

Whether from a weakness for the father of his wife, or from
gratitude for services, or from the impossibility of ridding
himself of the allies whom he had sent for, Vortigern permitted
Hengist to establish himself in the isle of Thanet; and gradually
fresh vessels arrived bringing reinforcements for the foreign
colony.
{26}
Angles followed Jutes; and the Britons began to be anxious about
these powerful neighbors. At the first quarrel swords were drawn
from their scabbards. Their blades were equally good and keen;
for the Britons had derived their military equipments from the
Romans, and the Saxons, passionately fond of iron, attached more
importance to their arms than to any other possession. But the
Britons had been weakened by their old dissensions; the Saxons
allied themselves with the Picts and Scots, against whom they had
been originally called to fight, and several indecisive battles
ended in a truce. It is even related that the two parties being
assembled at a banquet at Stonehenge, on the 1st of May, Hengist
cried out to the Saxons, in their language, "Draw your swords!"
and, at the same moment, the long knives concealed under the
garments of the Saxons were plunged into the hearts of their
entertainers. Vortigern alone was spared, no doubt at the
intercession of Rowena. The war began; the Britons were defeated,
and Eric, son of Hengist, became in 457 the first Saxon king of
the county of Kent, the Isle of Wight, and that part of the coast
of Hampshire which faces that island.

The success of Hengist and Horsa naturally attracted new hordes.
In the year 477 the Saxons, under the command of Ella, founded
the kingdom of Sussex (South Sax), which comprised only the
present county of Sussex. In the year 519 other Saxons, under the
orders of Cerdic, completed the invasion of South Britain, and
extended themselves from the county of Surrey, bordering upon
Sussex and Kent, to the eastern extremity of England; they
occupied also Surrey and all that portion of Hampshire not in the
possession of the Jutes, together with Hampshire, Wiltshire,
Somersetshire, and Devonshire, not even leaving to the Britons
the whole of the county of Cornwall. This new kingdom took the
name of Wessex (West Sax).

{27}

The invaders grew bolder. In 530 a new body of Saxons, the name
of whose leader is not recorded in history, arrived, and
established themselves upon the northern border of the kingdoms
of Kent and Wessex, founding there the kingdom of Essex (East
Sax), the importance of which was due to the Thames and London,
since it comprised only the county of Essex, the small territory
of Middlesex, and the southern part of the county of Herts.

"Thus," says M. Guillaume Guizot in his _History of Alfred the
Great_, "the Saxons originally rested their power upon the
first state founded by the Jutes at the south-eastern extremity
of England. They surrounded it by their own settlements, and all
established themselves in the southern part of the island." They
had scarcely completed their migrations when the Angles, who had
then arrived only in small numbers, and were mingled with the
Jutes, began on their own account to invade the eastern coast.
About the year 527 several bands of Angles arrived under
different chiefs, but it was not until some years later that they
united to form the kingdom of East Anglia, which comprised the
counties of Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridge, the isle of Ely, and
probably a portion of Bedfordshire. The territories of Norfolk
and Suffolk owe even their names to two tribes of Angles, the
North folk and the South folk, while the entire race have given
their name to England. This new kingdom, still isolated as well
as defended by the sea, was fortified by fens and by many rivers.
Where natural defences were wanting the Angles raised earthworks,
long known as the Giant's Dyke, then as the Devil's Dyke. In
spite of the draining of the fen, the line of these works can be
traced to this day.

{28}

In the year 547, new bands of Angles, led by a chief named Ida,
landed upon the north-east coast and founded there the kingdom of
Bernicia, which comprised Northumberland and the south of
Pentland, between the Tweed and the Firth of Forth. Some years
later, in 560, other Angles, no less enterprising than their
predecessors, established themselves from the southern limit of
Bernicia as far as the Humber, and from one sea to the other,
occupying all the territory of the counties of Lancaster, York,
Westmoreland, Cumberland, and Durham. This was the kingdom of
Deira. These two colonies were united under the same sceptre in
617, and took the name of Northumbria.

The Angles began to advance from the coasts. In the year 586 they
occupied all the country bounded on the north by the river Humber
and the kingdom of Deira; on the west, by Wales, which alone
remained in the hands of the Britons; on the south, by the Saxon
kingdoms; and on the south-east, by the Angles of East Anglia.
Mercia, as the new kingdom was called, comprised then on the
south-east the northern part of the counties of Hertford and
Bedford; on the east, all the counties of Northampton,
Huntingdon, and Rutland; on the north, the counties of Lincoln,
Nottingham, Derby, and Chester; on the west, Staffordshire,
Shropshire, Worcestershire, and Herefordshire; in the centre of
the island, Warwickshire and Leicestershire; on the south,
Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, and the county of Buckingham. In
this kingdom, the most extensive of all, the British population
had not been destroyed or driven back, as they had in the greater
portion of other parts; they continued to inhabit their ancient
country, mingled with and subject to the Angles.

{29}

Such was the division of Britain among the conquerors, and the
constitution of the Saxon kingdoms. This is what is known as the
Heptarchy, or Octarchy, according to whether we place the
denomination before or after the union of the kingdoms of Deira
and Bernicia in a single kingdom of Northumbria. Such was the new
scene of the wars which were destined to break out again and
deluge Britain, now become England, with blood.

A more gentle influence was soon to exercise its effect upon the
sanguinary passion of the barbarous races. The British
Christians, though vanquished and driven back into the narrow
territory of Cambria or Wales, do not seem to have attempted to
convert their conquerors. For a moment they had themselves run
the risk of falling into the heresies of Pelagius, an Irish monk
who denied the doctrine of original sin; but the missionaries
from Gaul, Saint Germain and Saint Loup, had succeeded in 429 and
446 in uprooting among them these disastrous tendencies. One day
Saint Germain, who had been a soldier before being a bishop,
found himself in the presence of a band of Picts and Saxons who
were laying waste the coast. Putting himself at the head of his
flock, he marched against the enemy amidst loud cries of
"Alleluia!" These cries taken up by the neighboring echoes
terrified the pirates, who fled; hence this peaceful victory
became known by the name of "The Battle of the Alleluias."

The Britons were not heretics, but with the independence which
always characterized their race they differed from Rome and from
the Eastern Church upon various points of little importance in
themselves, though they had often created divisions in
Christendom.
{30}
For no reason that has come down to us the Britons celebrated
Easter in accordance with the customs of the Eastern Church--that
is to say, at the fourteenth day of the moon, whatever might be
the day on which that event fell, in imitation of the Jews who on
that day offered up the Paschal lamb. The Western Church, on the
contrary, postponed the celebration of Easter till the Sunday
following. Nothing more was needed to breed dissensions between
the British bishops and the missionaries despatched from Rome by
Pope Gregory the Great. For some years previously, Gregory, not
yet become a bishop, and being in fact only a simple priest,
passing through the slave-market in Rome, had been struck by the
handsome appearance of some young persons offered there for sale.
Learning that they belonged to the race of Angles, or Saxons,
"They would not be Angles but angels," he exclaimed, "if they
were Christians;" and he conceived the project of going himself
to preach the faith of Jesus Christ to a people so well endowed
by nature. His friends were only able to prevail on him to
renounce his intention by inducing the Pope to forbid his
departure from Rome. When in his turn he was elevated to the
episcopal dignity in the most important see of the Western
Church, he did not forget the Saxons whose conversion had
previously occupied his thoughts. He endeavored first to inflame
with his zeal the young slaves whom he had caused to be placed in
convents; but the Saxons were apparently not disposed to become
Missionaries, for in the year 595 the Pope despatched to Britain
a young monk named Augustine, prior of the Convent of St. Andrew
at Rome, accompanied by forty friars. They took the road towards
Gaul; but they had scarcely arrived at Aix, when they heard such
terrible accounts of the ferocity of the Anglo-Saxons that they
were alarmed and wrote to the Pope to ask his leave to retrace
their footsteps. Gregory, on the contrary, encouraged them to
persevere in their enterprise, and furnished with interpreters by
the good offices of Brunehaut, who was reigning over Austrasia in
the name of her grandsons, they arrived in 597 in the Isle of
Thanet. Augustine sent immediately one of his monks to Ethelbert,
king of Kent, announcing his intention of coming to preach
Christianity to his court.

{31}

The place could not have been better chosen. A powerful prince in
his domains, Ethelbert was their Bretwalda, or general chief of
all the Heptarchy. This title, which was in no way well defined,
but which conferred a certain influence in the counsels of the
seven Saxon states, seems to have been accorded to a kind of
merit understood by all. Two chiefs had already borne it before
Ethelbert-- Ella, first king of Sussex, and Ceawlin, king of
Wessex. The new Bretwalda was a pagan, but he had married a
Christian wife, Bertha, daughter of Charibert, king of Paris: she
had reserved to herself the free exercise of her religion; a
French bishop had even accompanied her. Ethelbert had no
repugnance towards Christianity and he consented to receive the
Roman missionaries. "Be careful to grant them an audience in the
open air," said the pagan priests, however; "their maledictions
will be less powerful there than under a roof." It was therefore
in the open field that the Saxon Bretwalda awaited the approach
of the Christian priests. They advanced bearing a crucifix and a
banner on which was painted the image of the Saviour. They made
the air resound with their grave canticles. The imagination of
the barbarians was no doubt struck by these ceremonies, and when
Augustine by the aid of an interpreter, had explained to the king
the leading doctrines of the Christian faith and asked permission
to preach to his subjects the religion which they had come to
proclaim to him, Ethelbert mildly replied, "I am not disposed to
abandon the gods of my fathers for an unknown and uncertain
faith; but since your intentions are good and your words full of
gentleness, you can speak freely to my people.
{32}
I will prevent any one interfering with you, and will furnish
food to you and your monks." Augustine overjoyed, directed his
steps towards the neighboring city of Canterbury, which he
entered chanting, "O Eternal Father, we supplicate Thee according
to Thy mercy turn Thy anger from this city and from Thy sacred
place, for we have sinned. Alleluia!"

The preaching of Augustine and the sanctity of his life exercised
a powerful influence over the Saxons. Numerous converts already
pressed around him when King Ethelbert decided to embrace the
Christian religion. His conversion attracted his subjects in a
mass to the new Faith, and Pope Gregory, delighted with the
success of the Mission, sent to Augustine the episcopal pallium
[Footnote 1] with the title of Archbishop of Canterbury. At the
same time Gregory advised the new prelate not to destroy the
pagan temples to which the people had been accustomed, but to
consecrate them to the worship of Jesus Christ, and to transform
the pagan festivals into joyful family meetings at which the
Christian Saxons could eat their oxen instead of sacrificing them
to false gods.

    [Footnote 1: An ornament of woollen texture, sprinkled with
    black crosses, which the Pope sends to the Archbishops and
    sometimes to Bishops.]

With these sage counsels Gregory sent a reinforcement of
missionaries; but they did not suffice for the zeal or the views
of Augustine, who resolved to address himself to the British
bishops in Wales asking their assistance in the work of
evangelization. The Britons were jealous and anxious. They
consulted a hermit of great reputation for sanctity upon the
claims of Augustine to their trust and obedience. "If the
stranger comes from God, follow him," said the hermit. "But how
shall we know if he is from God?" asked the Britons. "By his
humility." ... The reply still appeared to the envoys to be
vague.

[Image]
Augustine preaching to Ethelbert.

{33}

"If he rises at your approach, know that he is the leader sent by
God to direct his people," continued the hermit. "If he remains
seated reject him because of his pride." Fortified with this
precise instruction the British priests, with seven Bishops and
the Abbot of Bangor, presented themselves at the conference.
Augustine was seated, and did not rise to receive them. The
question was already settled in their minds when the Archbishop
of Canterbury stated his demands. He desired that the British
priests should henceforth celebrate the festival of Easter on the
same day as the Western Church; that they should employ the Roman
forms in the ceremony of baptism, and that they should join their
efforts with his for the conversion of the Saxons. All these
proposals were rejected. Then Augustine rose and in a loud voice
exclaimed, "You refuse to labor to convert the Saxons! You will
perish by the swords of the Saxons." This prediction was
remembered some years later when all the monks of Bangor were
massacred by the Northumbrians in a Saxon expedition into
Cambria.

In spite of the coolness of the British Bishops the work of
conversion went on. The zeal of Ethelbert had already engaged his
nephew Sebert, king of Essex, to receive baptism. A church had
been founded in London which possessed a bishop. Another prelate
had his seat at Rochester. Ethelbert had also gained over to the
Christian faith the chief of East Anglia, Redwald, who became
after him Bretwalda of the Heptarchy. But the wife of Redwald was
still a pagan and his subjects were attached to the religion of
their ancestors. The king set up two altars in the same temple,
one dedicated to Odin and the other to the God of the Christians;
but the new faith soon prevailed over its rival, and East Anglia
took its place among the Christian kingdoms of the Heptarchy.

{34}

Christianity had not yet penetrated into Northumbria when the
king Edwin married a daughter of Ethelbert, a Christian like her
father. The queen came accompanied by a Roman bishop named
Paulinus; but the king remained faithful to the worship of his
forefathers in spite of the solicitations of his wife, of
Paulinus, and even of the Pope. He had, however, consented to the
child of Ethelburga being baptized; and the day was at hand when
his scruples were destined to be overcome. In his youth, during a
long exile and in the midst of serious perils, there had appeared
before him, doubtless in a dream, a person of venerable aspect,
who asked him, "What wouldst thou give to one who should deliver
thee to-day?" "All that I possess," replied the Saxon. "If he
asked thee only to follow his counsels, wouldst thou obey?" "Unto
death," was the answer. "It is well," said the apparition, at the
same time placing his hand softly upon his head; "when one shall
return and make thee this sign, follow him." Edwin had escaped
from the dangers which threatened him, and his dream had remained
deeply engraved upon his memory.

One day when he was alone, the door of his apartment opened, and
Paulinus entering softly placed his hand upon his head. "Dost
thou remember?" he asked, and the Saxon, falling on his knees,
promised to do whatever he should desire. Still thoughtful and
prudent, however, while accepting baptism for himself, he
reserved the right of his subjects to act as might seem well to
them. The Council of Wise Men or Aldermen was called together,
and the king having informed them of his change of faith, as the
basis of a new doctrine, asked them what they thought of it. The
chief of the priests was there, and spoke first.
{35}
"Our gods are powerless," he said; "I have served them with more
zeal and fidelity than all the people, yet I am neither richer
nor more honored. I am weary of the gods."

An ancient warrior near the king rose at this speech. "O king,"
he said, "thou rememberest perhaps in the winter days when thou
art seated with thy captain near a good fire, lighted in a warm
apartment, while it is raining and snowing out of doors, that a
little bird has entered by one door and gone out by another with
fluttering wings. He has passed a moment of happiness, sheltered
from the rain and the storm; but the bird vanishes with the
quickness of a glance, and from winter he returns again to
winter. Such it appears to me is the life of man upon this earth.
The unknown time is irksome to us. It perplexes us because we
know nothing of it. If thy new faith teaches us something, it is
worthy of our adherence."

The whole assembly took the side of the two chiefs; but when
Paulinus proposed, as a token of renunciation to false gods, that
their idols should be cast down, all hesitated except the high
priest. He demanded a horse and a javelin in place of the mare
and the white rod which pertained to his old office, and
galloping towards the temple he struck the image with his weapon.
The people trembling awaited some token of the wrath of the gods;
but the heavens and the earth remained silent, and the king was
baptized with all the most distinguished of his people, who were
accompanied by a crowd of warriors. Edwin soon became Bretwalda,
and his reign was an epoch of repose and happiness for his
subjects.

During the struggles which recommenced after the death of Edwin,
three kingdoms fortified themselves, and took the lead over the
others. These were Northumbria, Mercia, and Wessex.
{36}
These three divisions of the Heptarchy were predominant in the
year 800, when Egbert, prince of Wessex, returned to his country
after a long exile. He had passed a considerable portion of the
time at the court of Charlemagne, and had thus acquired a
development of intellect and of knowledge rare at that time among
the Saxon princes. The first part of his reign was peaceful; but
from the year 809 forward, the sword of Egbert was drawn from the
scabbard, and for many years he pursued his conquests from
kingdom to kingdom. He had already extended his dominion over the
British people of Cornwall, who had consented to pay him tribute,
when he subjugated Mercia and the kingdom of Kent, Essex, and
East Anglia. He had carried his victorious arms up to the
frontiers of Northumbria. The chiefs, anxious and already beaten
in anticipation, came to meet him, recognizing him for their
sovereign, and promising him obedience. Egbert accepted their
homage, and retired without fighting a battle. Nearly the whole
Heptarchy had accepted his laws, and the title of Bretwalda had
conferred upon him an authority more considerable than in the
case of any of his predecessors. He continued, however, to assume
the simple title of king of Wessex. He reigned until the year
836, happy and powerful; but the last years of his reign were
troubled by the first invasions of the Danes. Egbert repulsed
them with glory; but if he had possessed a spark of the almost
prophetic foresight of Charlemagne, he would have wept, like the
Frankish hero, over the infinite woes with which these men from
the North menaced his country.

{37}
                   Chapter III.

    The Danes.--Alfred The Great (836-901.)

For nearly four centuries the Saxons had been established in
Britain; they had become the sole masters of the country, and had
there forgotten the original source of their wealth. But the
nation from which they had sprung was still prolific in warriors,
vigorous, enterprising, and possessed of nothing in the world but
their arms and their ships, for all the property of the family
belonged by right to the eldest son: warriors too ardent in
conquering and in obtaining wealth at the point of the sword. The
peninsula of Jutland and the provinces still further north of
Scandinavia sent year by year to the French and English coasts a
great number of ships, manned by the "Sea-kings," as they styled
themselves: "The tempest is our friend," they would say; "it
takes us wherever we wish to go." Repulsed three times from the
coast of England by Egbert, these pirates soon reappeared under
the reign of his son Ethelwulf; the whole island became
surrounded by their light skiffs. The Saxons had been compelled
to organize along the shores a continual resistance, and to
appoint officers whose duty it was to call out the people in a
body to repulse the enemy. Three serious contests took place in
839--at Rochester, at Canterbury, and at London. King Ethelwulf
himself was wounded in battle. But shortly after, the internal
dissensions which were agitating the whole of France, attracted
the pirates as the dead body attracts the vulture. During twelve
years the Danish fleets altered their course, and repaired to the
French coasts.
{38}
When they reappeared, in 831, in England, their successes were at
first alarming; three hundred and fifty of their vessels ascended
the Thames as far as London, and the town was sacked. But the
king awaited the enemy at Oakley: they were defeated, and
suffered great losses. After having met with severe reverses at
several other parts of the Saxon territory, the Danes withdrew
from there, and respected the English coasts during the remainder
of the reign of Ethelwulf.

It is at this period that there appears in the pages of history
the name of the fourth son of Ethelwulf, him whom England was one
day to call Alfred the Great, Alfred the Well-beloved. He had
first seen the light of day at Wantage, in the heart of the
forests of Berkshire, in 849, two years before the departure of
the Danes. His mother Osberga, a noble and pious woman, gave
herself up entirely to the task of rearing her little son, who
soon began to excite the hope and admiration of all who saw him.
Doubtless the predilection which his father had for this little
child, induced him to give a startling proof of his affection,
for Alfred was scarcely four years of age when he was sent to
Rome with a numerous suite of nobles and servants, to ask for
himself, of Pope Leo IV., the title of king, and the holy
unction. The Pope was aware of the piety of the Saxon monarch,
and he consecrated with his own hands the little king, and even
administered to him the sacrament of confirmation. Alfred
returned to England, and it was no doubt the recollection of what
he had seen at Rome, which began thenceforward to instil into his
soul the desire to gain knowledge, the pursuit of which was
probably very rare among the young Saxons. His mother, one day,
was holding a pretty manuscript in her hand, a collection of
ancient Saxon poems, and was showing it to her four sons, who
were playing beside her. "I will give this pretty book," she
said, "to whichever of you shall learn it the soonest by heart."
{39}
Ethelbald, Ethelbert, and Ethelred eyed the book with
indifference, and went on with their game; but little Alfred
approached his mother: "Really," said he, "will you give this
beautiful manuscript to whoever shall learn it by heart the
quickest and who shall come and repeat it all to you?" The large,
round eyes of the child were fixed upon his mother: she repeated
her promise, and even gave up the manuscript into the keeping of
the little prince. He quickly hurried away with it to his master,
who was able to read aloud to him the verses which it contained,
for, alas! Alfred could not read until he was twelve years of
age. He soon returned, triumphant, repeated the lines, received
the book from his mother, and preserved thenceforth throughout
his life a taste for the old Saxon ballads of which he had thus
first made the acquaintance.

Alfred was six years old and had lost his mother, when his
father, wishing to make the pilgrimage to Rome in his turn, took
his youngest son with him: the Saxon king spent a year with the
Pope, carrying from church to church his sumptuous devotion. On
his return journey, he stopped at the court of Charles the Bold,
a court elegant and polite in comparison with the still rude
customs of the Saxons; and, attracted by the beauty as well as
the arts of Princess Judith, daughter of Charles, Ethelwulf
married her, notwithstanding the disparity in their ages, and
brought her in triumph into his kingdom. But the two persons whom
the old king loved best, his young wife and his youngest son,
were distrusted by the rest of his family, as well as by his
people; Judith claimed a share of the sovereign power, according
to the old custom in Britain and Germany, which had become odious
to the Saxons by reason of the crimes of several queens; the
elder sons of Ethelwulf feared that their young brother, so dear
to their father, might be raised above themselves; the eldest,
Ethelbald, revolted, and his father found a general rising
against him when he returned to England.
{40}
The old king did not resist: he ceded to his son the greater
portion of his states and died at the end of two years, having
shared equally between his sons his kingdom of Wessex, previously
enlarged by the addition of Kent and Sussex. The tributary states
of Northumbria and Mercia had shaken off the feeble authority of
Ethelwulf and had recommenced their internal wars. The Danes
profited by these disputes, and had taken up with renewed ardor
their terrible incursions upon the English coasts.

In this alarming situation of affairs the sons of Ethelwulf
foresaw that the division of Wessex would be their ruin; instead,
therefore, of sharing it among themselves they agreed that each
should reign over the whole in turn, according to their ages. The
reigns of the three eldest were short. Supported successively by
their brothers, they fought against the Danes, and all died in
the flower of their youth; the last, Ethelred, was still on the
throne, when an invasion of the Danes, who penetrated as far as
Reading, called all the men of Wessex to arms. The war had a
short time before assumed a new aspect; the Danes did not content
themselves with descending upon the most fertile portions of the
coast with their long ships, or with taking possession of all the
horses. Overrunning the country, they ravaged and sacked
everything in their passage, and re-embarked in their vessels
before the frightened inhabitants had had time to rise up to
resist them. From pirates, the Danes had become conquerors, and
desired to establish themselves in that England which their
predecessors, the Saxons, had formerly snatched from the Britons.
Already possessed of East Anglia and a portion of Northumbria,
they were threatening Wessex, and had intrenched themselves at
Reading.
{41}
Alfred had recently been married to a princess of Mercia, but his
new relations did not give him any support against the Danes,
when, having beaten several detached corps of the pirates,
Ethelred and Alfred attacked the citadel. The greater number of
the Danes sprang outside the walls, "like veritable wolves," says
Asser, the historian of Alfred, and the struggle recommenced.

The Danes were nearly all tall men; their wandering and
adventurous life favored the development of their muscular
powers; they did not fear death, for the Walhalla or Paradise of
their god Odin, promised to the brave warriors who fell in battle
all the pleasure which they esteemed most on earth. The figure of
the raven, the confidant of their god, floated on the red flags
of the Danes; if its dark wings fluttered on the long folds of
silk, victory was certain; if they remained motionless, the
Northmen feared defeat. The wings of the raven were fluttering
triumphantly before Reading, for the Saxons were defeated and
were obliged to retreat.

They had not lost courage, however, and four days later they
returned to give battle once more to their enemies; the Danes had
already issued forth from their intrenchments, but Ethelred was
still in his tent, attending holy mass, and would not hurry to
the scene of battle, in spite of urgent messages from Alfred. The
latter, therefore, attacked their opponents single-handed,
opposite a little tree which the Danes had chosen as a
rallying-spot. The Saxons fought with the fury of despair;
Ethelred soon came to support his brother, and the Danes, beaten
upon the great plain of Assendon, took to flight; but only to
return a fortnight afterwards, their number swelled by the
reinforcements which were continually arriving by sea.
{42}
Wessex alone had sustained eight battles in one year; her
resources were becoming exhausted in such an unequal struggle;
Ethelred, wounded, had just died, and Alfred found himself alone
at the age of twenty-two years (871), subject to a peculiar
illness which had succeeded to a slow fever of his boyhood, and
of which the attacks would frequently bring him to the very verge
of the grave. His men and his resources exhausted, a ninth and
unfortunate battle completely disabled him; he was compelled to
sue for peace. The Danes willingly consented to his proposal;
there were other princes to vanquish, other territories to
conquer, less valiantly defended than Wessex, on which they
proposed to revenge themselves when it should stand alone in its
resistance to them. In 875 they had finished their conquest;
Wessex alone still preserved its independence, and three Danish
kings who had passed the winter at Cambridge embarked secretly,
by night, to attack the coast of Dorset. Vainly did Alfred strive
to resist his enemies by sea; his ships were beaten, and soon the
long line of incendiarism and murder which always marked the
progress of the Danes extended as far as Wareham. This was past
endurance, and Alfred, stricken down on a sick-bed, asked for and
obtained peace at the price of gold. The Danes retired after
having sworn friendship upon some relics brought by the Christian
king and on their sacred bracelets steeped in the blood of their
victims, exchanging hostages, whose fate they troubled themselves
very little about. The very night after peace was concluded, the
Saxon horsemen were destroyed and cut up piecemeal by the Danes,
who took possession of their horses in order to make a raid into
the interior of the country. The remonstrances of Alfred were
powerless to stop these disastrous expeditions, so easy for an
enemy who threatened the country from all sides.

{43}

Alfred took to arms once more; and for awhile the issue of the
war seemed to incline in his favor; he had been the first to see
the necessity for attacking the Danes on the ocean, which was
incessantly bringing them inexhaustible reinforcements, and his
vessels having met the pirates during a storm had defeated and
dispersed them, thus cutting off all hope of succor to the Danes
whom Alfred was besieging in Exeter. This glimmering of success
did not last however; in 878 the enemy was once more invading
Wessex in two formidable troops; one of them was stopped and even
defeated by some faithful retainers of Alfred's, but the second
army, which had entered the kingdom by land, was advancing
without opposition from town to town. The subjects of Alfred were
weary and discouraged. The king, on whom they had founded such
great hopes, had lost in their eyes his prestige; brave but
uncertain, he had not profited by the advantages which his
military genius had sometimes given him, and his people
complained of his inflexibility, of his pride, of the severity
which he manifested towards offenders; of the indifference which
he displayed towards the unfortunate. They did not enter with any
spirit into the struggle against the invaders, and the Saxon
kings held no power but by the free will of their subjects. The
clergy, who were especially hated by the pagan enemy, fled to
France, carrying with them from their country its relics and the
treasures from the churches. The agricultural population
submitted to cultivate the land for the Danes. The latter were
seeking Alfred; but the king had suddenly abandoned his post, and
left by the struggle sick and wounded to the heart by the
defection of his subjects, he had disappeared, his place of
concealment being unknown and not even suspected.

{44}

The fugitive king did not know where to go. Wandering from forest
to forest, from cave to cave, he went his way, trying to conceal
his deep disgrace, learning in his cruel wanderings, as his
historian and friend Asser says, "that there is one Lord alone,
Master of all things and all men, before whom every knee bends,
who holds in His hand the hearts of kings, and who sometimes
makes His happy servants feel the lash of adversity, to teach
them, when they suffer, not to despair of the Divine mercy, and
to be without pride when they prosper."

Alfred wanted confidence in God, when he arrived in the island of
the Nobles (Ethelingaia), now called Athelney, in order to hide
himself there in the hovel of a cowherd. He received him at first
as a traveller who had lost his way, and ended by learning in
confidence from his guest that he was a Saxon noble of the court
of King Alfred, flying from the vengeance of the Danes. The
worthy Ulfoath was perfectly satisfied with the explanation, and
allowed the fugitive to remain at his house.

His wife was not in the secret, and was annoyed, no doubt, to see
her work increased by the presence of this unknown guest. She
would ask him at times to perform little services, and would
leave him in charge of some household duties. One Sunday, while
the husband was gone to lead the beasts to the field and the wife
was busy with several little matters, she had left some loaves or
thin cakes by the fire, which were baking slowly on the red stone
of the hearth. Alfred had been commissioned to watch them, but,
absorbed in his sad meditations, he had forgotten that the bread
was burning; the smell warned the housewife; she sprang at a
bound to the fireplace, and quickly turning her cakes, she called
out angrily to the king, "Whoever you may be, are you too proud
to turn the loaves? You will not take the slightest heed of them,
but you will be very glad to eat some of them presently." Alfred
did not lose his temper; he laughed, and helped the woman to
finish her task. A few days later the cowherd's wife learnt with
dismay the name of the guest whom she had thus scolded.

[Image]
Alfred in the Herdsman's Hut.

{45}

Some of the faithful subjects of Alfred, pursued by the Danes,
took refuge also in the island of Nobles, where they discovered
to their great astonishment their king. Secretly and by degrees
the rumor that Alfred was living spread through his family, who
came in search of him. The little band became greater day by day,
and the king was beginning to gain courage. In his solitude and
humiliation, God had taken charge of this great soul which had
hitherto forgotten Him, and which regained through religious
faith the necessary energy to struggle against the enemies of his
country.

The Danes had not profited by their victory. They had established
themselves in the conquered country as plunderers, and not as
owners. The inhabitants of Wessex were writhing under their cruel
and capricious rule. They had now forgotten the rigorous acts
with which they had reproached Alfred, and regretted that the
Christian king was no longer at their head. Exasperated by their
sufferings, the Saxons were ripe for revolt.

Such were Alfred's prospects when he began with his companions
the work of re-establishing himself in his country. A solid
bridge, defended by two towers, enabled the king to issue out
easily from his retreat in his fortress. He gathered around him
all the malcontents before making anybody aware of his identity,
and without announcing his great projects; each day he saw his
little army swell in numbers, and he defeated the Danes in every
skirmish which he chanced to have with them. He then went back to
the island of Nobles. It is even said that he went by day,
disguised as a minstrel, into the very camp of the Danes, in
order to ascertain their numerical strength.
{46}
In the month of May, 878, he finally decided to attack them
openly. Secret messengers were despatched through the
neighborhood, who said to the Saxons; "King Alfred is alive.
Assemble in the forest of Selwood, at Egbert's field; he will be
there, and you shall all march together against the Danes." The
Saxons, desperate, were rushing there in crowds, and soon
Alfred's standard, bearing the golden dragon, was boldly unfurled
before the Danish raven.

The secret had been well kept. The Danish king, Godrun, was
vaguely aware that a number of Saxons were assembled in the
neighborhood, but he knew neither how many they mustered, nor the
name of their chief, when he found himself suddenly attacked on
the plain of Ethandune. The Saxons were in high spirits: "It is
for your own sakes that you are about to fight," Alfred had said
to them. "Show that you are men, and deliver your country from
the hands of these strangers." The Danes had not had time to
recover from their surprise before Alfred was upon them, his
whole army following him. The standard-bearer was pushing to the
front, accomplishing prodigies of valor: "It is St. Neots
himself," Alfred cried, designating a saint held in great
reverence by the Saxons, and an ancestor of his own. His soldiers
gained fresh courage at these words; the Danes were beaten, and
pursued, and they perished in great numbers. King Godrun, shut up
with his court at the fortress of Chippenham, was compelled to
surrender after a siege which lasted three weeks. He gave
hostages without taking any in exchange, a proceeding very
humiliating to the Danes, and Alfred wisely imposed upon him an
agreement useful in securing the definitive tranquillity of
England, if not consistent with the spiritual welfare of the
Danes; the conqueror exacted that the defeated enemy should
embrace the Christian religion.
{47}
Godrun and his son were baptized and settled in the portion of
land which Alfred conceded to them. Finding the impossibility of
driving from the country the whole of the Danes, who were already
masters of the land in Northumbria, in Mercia, and in East
Anglia, Alfred hoped to accomplish, by the aid of Christianity
and his right over part of the land, a fusion of the Danish and
Saxon races, and to secure by that union a kind of rampart
against any new Scandinavian invasions.

He was not mistaken. In the year following, a Danish fleet
entered the Thames; but in vain did the warriors call for help to
Godrun, who was established in the country He remained deaf to
their voices, and they, discouraged by his refusal, went away
again and pursued their ravages on the coast of Flanders.

For more than thirteen years peace reigned over all England. One
or two little isolated invasions served to exercise the energy of
Alfred's troops, and each day his forces were augmenting. But
Godrun was dead, and a dangerous enemy now threatened the Saxon
king: the famous pirate Hastings, already advanced in age, but
still passionately fond of the "game of war" was encamped upon
the coast of France, at Boulogne, in 892. Wherever he appeared,
death and ruin followed in his wake. The black raven always
unfurled its wings for him; he was always assured of victory
before the fray began. He sailed forth in the spring of 893, and
instead of descending upon the lands already held by the Danes,
he disembarked in Kent, a country rich and fertile, inhabited
entirely by Saxons; and dividing his army into two corps, he lay
awaiting Alfred, who was advancing in haste to resist him.
{48}
The Danish pirate had cleverly organized the attack. Already the
Danish population of East Anglia were profiting by his presence
to attack the Saxon towns; but Alfred had studied too well the
art of war to disperse his army over the country; he led the
whole of his available forces against Hastings. There the greater
portion of the enemy's army, protected by a forest and a river,
were met by the Saxon king, who sent out at the same time several
small bodies of men in pursuit of the Danish warriors who were
pillaging the country, staying by these means the progress of the
invasion, and opposing with exemplary patience the ruses of the
barbarians. Hastings appeared to grow weary of this: he asked for
peace, and sent his young sons as hostages. Alfred had just
returned them to him after having baptized them, when the Danes,
caring little for their plighted Word, began to march towards
Essex, which they intended to attack, passing by way of the
Thames. The king hastened at once in pursuit of them and to the
support of his eldest son, Edward, who was defending the
frontier. They joined their forces; a great battle was fought
near Farnham in the county of Surrey; the Danes were vanquished
and driven as far as the isle of Mersey, which they fortified for
their defence. The king attacked them at once; but while he had
been away recruiting his forces a Danish fleet threatened the
coast of Devonshire. Alfred marched against the new invaders,
while the forces which he left behind fought against Hastings,
and in a sortie got possession of the wife and children of that
chief. These were sent to Alfred; but the Christian warrior could
not forget that he had presented the young barbarians at the
baptismal fount, and sent them back to their father loaded with
presents.

{49}

The pirate, however, was not overcome by his foe's generosity. He
attacked Mercia, sustained by the Danish hordes established in
the country. Abandoning all thought of the conquests which he had
originally intended, and the kingdom which he had wished to
found, he once more took up the irregular invasions by which he
had acquired so much wealth, and thought only of plundering the
Saxon territory. But the subjects of Alfred had learnt some
useful lessons; they rose with one accord against the foreign
enemy, and when the king, returning in haste from Devonshire,
arrived in the vicinity of the Severn, he found himself at the
head of a numerous army which allowed him to completely surround
the trenches of Hastings. The Danes had been decimated by hunger:
they had even eaten their horses. Making a last desperate effort,
they opened up a passage straight through the ranks of their
enemies, and took refuge in Chester, where they spent the winter.

In the spring-time, the long vessels, the "water-serpents," as
the pirates would affectionately call them, invariably brought
reinforcements to them. In 895, Hastings began by attacking
Wales, finding the states of King Alfred too well defended. He
ended, however, by retreating to the isle of Mersey, from whence
he set out in 896 to establish himself on the river Lea, in the
north of London. He had raised a fortress and there defended
himself valiantly, when King Alfred perceived that he could stop
all the enemy's navigation by river. He accordingly constructed a
canal, and reduced the Danes to despair: their fleet was on dry
ground. They abandoned it, and marched in a northern direction.
This time the old pirate was beaten. Wearied by this struggle
against a man of energy equal to his own, and in the enjoyment of
the youth and vigor which he no longer possessed, he assembled
his vessels in the spring of 897, and leaving definitively the
English coast, he ascended the Seine and extorted from Charles
the Simple a donation of land in the vicinity of Chartres. He
established himself there, and Rollo found him there fifteen
years later, spending in peace the remainder of his stormy life.

{50}

The Danes who remained in England had reacquired a taste for
adventurous expeditions. They assembled along the coast of
Northumberland to organize an attack on the southern portion of
the kingdom; but Alfred had long resolved to fight his enemies
with their own weapons. Having ridded himself of Hastings, he had
had time to look to his navy, and the Danes found themselves
opposed by vessels larger and more rapid than their own. The
struggle began on all sides. Wherever the pirates advanced to the
attack they found Saxon vessels to check them. The contests were
of frequent occurrence; they were not invariably favorable to the
Saxons, but the Danes suffered great losses: their ships would
often founder on the coast and the cargo would be lost. In 897,
the last Danish ships disappeared from England. Alfred had now
only to heal his country of the wounds left on it after all its
struggles, which had cemented the union of the several kingdoms,
in calling them all to the common defence under a single chief
placed above them by reason of his conspicuous ability. After the
war with the Danes, Alfred, who had merely assumed the title of
King of Wessex, had added to his states Mercia, Wales, and Kent.

It was a kingdom composed of incongruous elements; but Alfred
understood the management of them by reason of his far-seeing
wisdom. In Mercia, originally peopled by the English, he
established a viceroy chosen from their royal family, the
Ealderman, or duke Ethelred, and gave him his own daughter in
marriage. When Ethelred died, after having faithfully served his
father-in-law, the Mercians themselves placed in the hands of his
widow Ethelfleda the reins of government.

{51}

Kent already belonged to Alfred. Its unhappy inhabitants, subject
more than any others to the Danish invasions, had displayed the
most passionate affection and gratitude towards the prince who
had effected their deliverance. The Welsh chiefs swore allegiance
to him. Alfred established one of them, Amorant, as viceroy of
Wales, leaving him thus all his prerogatives and full command
over his subjects.

While he was thus organizing his Saxon kingdom, Alfred was
maintaining firm and friendly relations with the Danish kingdom,
which he had allowed to be established near to his own. The
propagation of Christianity amongst the pagans was his principal
means of effecting the fusion of the races, which he foresaw and
which he hoped ardently to see accomplished, but which he could
not completely finish during his own lifetime. Some laws were
already in force and respected by both races: the crime of murder
was punished in the same manner in each state, and Alfred caused
the people to rigorously respect the treaties which bound them
together; the pirates of East Anglia who came to pursue their
ravages along the coasts, being hanged without mercy. The Danes
established in England had already become Englishmen in the eyes
of Alfred, and were compelled to observe the laws of the English
population.

But although thus providing for the future, Alfred felt
completely safe for the present. The Saxon kings had never
maintained a standing army: at the time of an invasion, when the
necessity for defending himself or attacking was felt by the
sovereign, he would send into the boroughs and through the
country a messenger carrying his sword, unsheathed, who would cry
aloud: "Whoever shall not wish to be held a worthless fellow, let
him leave his house and come and join in the expedition."
{52}
But the day after the battle the warriors would disperse, and if
the enemy should recommence hostilities, the king and the country
found themselves unprepared. Alfred divided into two great
divisions all his subjects capable of bearing arms: one was
always on a war footing, ready to march against the enemy; the
other portion of them would work in the fields and cultivate the
soil until the very day when they would be called out to follow
the golden dragon, while their companions would disperse and
quietly retire to their cottages. The king made use of these
soldiers in fortifying towns, in constructing citadels, and in
putting the whole country in a position to defend itself. It was
thus that he was able to withstand the attacks of Hastings, the
most severe which England had as yet encountered.

So much wisdom and foresight on the part of Alfred, naturally
increased his regal importance and authority. Until this time,
the Saxon kings had been essentially warriors; each "ealderman,"
or chief proprietor, ruled supreme in his own district, without
troubling his sovereign; the clergy were nearly upon an equality
with the king, and the offences committed against a bishop were
punished with the same penalties as those committed against the
king himself. Alfred re-established the royal supremacy by the
force of his own intellectual superiority; his ealdermen became
his officers, and his profound piety, as well as his respect for
the clergy, did not prevent his disengaging himself from any
servile submission to the Church. The priests had suffered and
trembled more than any other class under the rule of the pagan
Danes; they obeyed without a murmur the orders of their
liberator.

Justice was but badly administered in England, divided though it
had been for a long time into tythings, hundredths and counties,
and provided with local assemblies which corresponded to these
territorial denominations.
{53}
During the troubles which the Danish invasion had caused, and in
the miseries which had followed, the Saxon proprietors had ceased
to attend to their internal affairs; they neglected to select the
judges. The assessors, or free men who should be present on the
occasion of any trial, to help the judge with their advice, no
longer answered when called upon to do so; only small numbers of
witnesses would appear. The king undertook to re-establish order;
he himself nominated the judges, and punished them severely when
they ventured to give any decision in a case without previously
consulting the assessors, whom he re-established in their
original form--the germ of the institution now known as the jury.
He was not even satisfied with all these cares; it often happened
that he would revise the sentences of the judges, so zealously
did he occupy himself with the administration of justice in his
kingdom.

The judges hitherto had been charged with the civil
administration as well as that of justice; they were succumbing
under the weight of such onerous functions. Alfred relieved them,
however, by nominating dukes, earls, and viscounts, who were
entrusted with the administration of justice in the counties, the
tythings and hundreds. He himself compiled for these magistrates
a code of laws borrowed, some from the old mode of legislation in
Kent, Wessex, and Mercia, and others from the Bible, from the
books of Moses as well as from the New Testament; and they all
unmistakeably bore the imprint of, and were modified by, the real
Christian spirit which animated the king.

All these laws, the fruits of revealed wisdom or of the ancient
experience of the people, Alfred submitted for approval to his
subjects: "I have shown these laws to my wise men," said he in
the preamble at the beginning of his code, "and the result was
that they were unanimous in wishing that they should be
observed."
{54}
These wise men, or "witans," forming an assembly called a
"witenagemote" (an assembly of wise men), no longer represented,
under Alfred, the entire nation, as in the time when the Saxons
still preserved in their simplicity their Germanic institutions.
At that period all the free men (cearls), whether proprietors or
not, composed part of it. By degrees the free men disappeared
from it, and the "thanes," or proprietors, alone remained; but
the lower class of "thanes," although invested with the same
rights as the royal  "thanes," were less wealthy; it was more
difficult for them to leave their affairs in order to repair to
the Witenagemote. In the time of Alfred, these great proprietors
alone made up this assembly of wise men, whose functions were as
vaguely defined as the number and the periods of their meetings
were uncertain, but who thenceforth maintained in England the
principle of a national representative assembly, or the
institution whereby the country undertakes its own government,
which is the foundation and key of English history.

While Alfred was drawing up laws of an equitable and merciful
character, while he was rebuilding the ruined convents and
churches, and erecting new ones, he did not forget the poorest
and most unhappy of his subjects. Slaves were numerous in
England, and suffering under a heavy yoke. The king provided for
their protection, granting to them the right of enjoying and
transmitting to their heirs whatever goods they might have
acquired; he even applied in favor of Christian slaves the
Biblical law, granting to them their freedom at the end of six
years of servitude. In his will he ordered that all the serfs on
his entire domains should be emancipated. His example was
followed: the serfs and the emancipated slaves became day by day
more numerous, and began thenceforth to form in England the lower
middle class, which did not yet exist anywhere upon the
Continent.

{55}

So many efforts and so much foresight must necessarily have
proceeded from a great and enlightened mind. Alfred had neglected
nothing in order to add to his stock of knowledge. He had not
studied during his childhood, in spite of his ardent desire to
acquire knowledge, for there were no intellectual resources at
the court of King Ethelwulf. The ancient kind of erudition which
had already been remarkable in England, where the means of study,
at the beginning of the eighth century, were far superior to
anything of the kind which could be found upon the Continent, had
become extinct during the wars with the Danes. "When I began to
reign," wrote Alfred the Great in the preface to his translation
of the Pastoral of Gregory I., "very few people on this side of
the Humber could say their daily prayers in English, or could
explain in English a Latin epistle, and I suspect that there was
not a greater number on the other side of the Humber." It was
thus that, notwithstanding his eagerness to instruct himself,
Alfred had arrived at the age of thirty-five years without
understanding Latin, and he only began the study of it in 884,
after having made prodigious efforts to secure masters who were
to instruct himself and his people. In the way of embassies,
presents, negotiations, he spared no trouble in order to attract
John, the old Saxon of the monastery of Corbie; Grimbald, monk at
Saint-Omcr; and Plecmund, a learned Mercian, who had taken refuge
in a solitary island of the county of Chester during the Danish
wars, and whom he made archbishop of Canterbury; finally, he
invited the monk Asser, living at the extremity of Wales, in the
convent of St. David, and whom he soon secured, not only as a
master, but as a friend. It is to Asser that we owe a biography
of Alfred, so minute in its details that it proves beyond
question the great intimacy which existed between the monarch and
the historian.

{56}

Alfred was looking about in all parts for learned men, and was
studying Latin like a schoolboy; but he understood that the
period of purely classical education had passed away. His
childish taste for Saxon poetry had not been obliterated, and his
reverence for his native tongue stimulated him to spread
education among those of his subjects who were not in a position
to devote themselves to the Greek and Latin languages. "It has
appeared to me very useful," he wrote to Bishop Wulfsege, "to
choose a certain number of books, those which it is most
important to render easily accessible to all, and to translate
them into the language which we all understand. We shall thus
easily insure, with God's help, and if peace continues, that all
the youth of this nation, and particularly the young men of rich
and free families, shall apply themselves to the study of
letters, and shall not sacrifice their time in any other exercise
than that of learning the Anglo-Saxon writers. The masters shall
then teach the Latin language to those who shall wish to know
more, and to attain a higher standard of instruction. After
having reflected upon the nature of this instruction, I have
chosen the book which is called in Latin _Pastoralis_, and
which we call _The Book of the Pastor_. The learned men whom
I have around me explained it to me, and when I fully arrived at
the precise meaning of it, I translated it into Anglo-Saxon,
sometimes literally, sometimes taking only the thoughts, and
writing them in the manner which appeared best in order to make
them easily comprehensible, and I have sent a copy of the work to
each bishop in the kingdom."

{57}

After having begun this great work of clothing in a scarcely
formed language the beauties of classical literature, Alfred did
not remain idle. Impossible labors have been attributed to him; a
translation of the entire Bible; the revision of a portion of
_The Saxon Chronicles_, &c. It is positively known, however,
that he translated, besides _The Pastor_, long fragments of
_The Soliloquies_ of St. Augustine, which he called
_Culled Flowers;_ _The Ecclesiastical History_ of Bede;
the historian Orosius; and the book of Boethius on _The
Consolation of Philosophy_. There even exist of his, some
poems, translations or rather imitations of the verses which
Boethius had scattered throughout his book, and which Alfred
often altered to suit his own taste and the tastes of the race of
men for whom he was writing.

How can such great tasks, which would have sufficed to fill up
the lifetime of an author, have been accomplished during that of
a king whose reign was partly taken up by his wars against the
Danes? The good order which prevailed in all the undertakings of
Alfred can alone answer this problem. Subject to violent attacks
of sickness, loaded with work and with cares, he had divided his
time into three parts: the first belonged to his regal duties;
the second to his religion, to prayer and study; the third was
devoted to his repasts, to sleep, and to bodily exercise; but the
portion allotted to sleep was very short. The king was often
awake during a great portion of the night, and having neither a
clock, nor a sand time-measurer, he was struck with the idea of
having some tapers or candles made, which should burn for a
certain time, and by means of which he should be enabled to count
the hours. Unluckily, however, a gust of wind would sometimes
penetrate into the royal tent and make the candles burn too
rapidly, and then the king would suddenly lose all means of
reckoning the time, until the sun came to give him its infallible
direction.

{58}

His strength was quickly consumed in this struggle against human
weakness. When scarcely fifty-two years of age, Alfred was dying.
He sent for his son Edward: "Come and stand beside me," he said;
"I feel that my last moment is near; we must part. I am going to
another world, and you will be alone with all my riches. I beg
you, for you are my beloved child, strive to be a good master and
a father to your people. Relieve the poor, support the weak, and
apply yourself with all your might to the redress of wrongs. And
then, my son, govern yourself according to your own laws; then
the Lord will help you and will grant you His supreme reward.
Invoke Him that He may advise and direct you in your
difficulties, and He will help you to accomplish as well as
possible your designs." It was in the same manner that, three
hundred and fifty years later, when dying upon the shore at
Tunis, St. Louis recommended his son to France. Great kings and
great Christians both, although very different in character and
ideas, Alfred and St. Louis both deserved the name of "pastors"
of their people, which the gratitude of Englishmen has accorded
to Alfred.

He died on the 20th of October, 901, after having reigned
twenty-nine years, and he was interred at Winchester, in the
monastery which he had founded there. It is not there, but at
Wantage--at the spot where he was born--that the grateful memory
of England caused the celebration of the jubilee on the occasion
of the thousandth anniversary of the birthday of Alfred the
Great. On the 25th of October, 1849, a vast concourse of people
went to Wantage to do honor to the memory of a king so much
beloved. The assemblage decided on the publication of his
complete works, a monument less durable than the gratitude graven
by his deeds on the heart of his people.

{59}

                   Chapter IV.

    The Saxon And Danish Kings.
    The Conquest Of England By The Normans (901-1066).


One hundred and sixty-five years elapsed between the death of
Alfred and the Invasion of England by William the Conqueror. Two
dynasties reigned during that period in England: first, the
Saxon, which numbered ten sovereigns, and secondly, the Danish,
which was represented by four princes. The first of the Saxon
kings, Edward, the son of Alfred, did not enjoy a very brilliant
reign, but contrived to make his authority recognized, with the
help of his sister Ethelfleda, widow of Ethelred, the viceroy of
Mercia. He drove back the Danes into their territory, a portion
of which he conquered, and, at the death of his sister, he
annexed Mercia to his states, which he left thus augmented, to
his son Athelstan, when he died, in 925.

This young prince was brave as well as able. He placed the Welsh
tribes, always ripe for revolt, under subjection, and imposed
upon them an annual tribute of gold, silver, and cattle; he
repelled the people of Cornwall, who had never been thoroughly
subjected by Alfred. But the Danes had not accepted their defeat.
King Olaf, who was established in Northumbria, and who had
recently pushed his conquests so far in Ireland as to capture the
town of Dublin, ascended the Humber with more than 600 vessels:
the Scots at the same time attacked the frontiers, and the
Britons from Wales once more revolted. So many enemies rising
suddenly did not daunt Athelstan.
{60}
He triumphed over his opponents: five Danish kings remained on
the soil, as well as the king of Scotland's son. They all retired
into their territories, there to remain until the end of the
reign of Athelstan, whose court attained a degree of luxury
hitherto unknown to the Saxon kings. It was there that Louis
d'Outre-Mer took refuge when driven from France, and it was
thence that he was recalled to the throne at the death of Charles
the Simple. All England recognized the laws of Athelstan, and he
had taken the title of king of the Anglo-Saxons, instead of the
less assuming one of king of Wessex, when he died in 940, at the
age of forty-seven years, leaving the throne to his brother
Edmund. The reign of the latter, like that of his brother Edred,
presents nothing remarkable with the exception of a series of
battles with the Danes, who were sometimes daring and victorious,
and sometimes beaten and repulsed. At the death of Edred, in 955,
the Danes of Northumbria were apparently almost entirely
subjected; their chiefs had lost the title of kings, and their
territory was governed by an earl chosen by the Saxons. The
progress had been great since the time of Alfred.

Young Edwy, the son of Edmund, was only fifteen years of age when
he succeeded to the throne. The Danes left him in peace; but he
commenced a struggle against the clergy of his kingdom, enemies
more powerful than the "Sea-Kings." He had married Elgiva, a
young and beautiful princess whose family was related to his own
within the degree of kinship prohibited by the Church, and he
refused to abandon his wife, as also to submit to be reproved by
the archbishop of Canterbury, Odo, who was supported by the
famous abbot of Glastonbury, Dunstan, renowned throughout England
for his austere mode of living. On the occasion of the coronation
of the young king, Dunstan, being annoyed, retired during the
banquet. Edwy flew into a passion, and threats were so quickly
followed by action, that Dunstan was obliged to make his escape
and was immediately pursued by the emissaries of the king, who
were instructed to burn out his eyes.

{61}

Archbishop Odo, however, had remained in England at the head of
the austere party of the Church. The disagreement between the
king and the clergy was growing more and more serious, when a
revolt of the Danes took place in Northumbria and extended into
Mercia. Soon afterwards Edgar, a younger brother of Edwy, until
then king of Mercia, was declared the independent sovereign of
the two provinces. Family afflictions assailed the young king at
the same time: his wife had been seized in one of his castles by
a wandering band of soldiers, and carried to Ireland, where her
beautiful face had been disfigured by red-hot irons. Dunstan had
just reappeared in England after a short period of exile, at the
time when the young queen, who had been tended and looked after
by the friends whom she had made in Ireland, and had now
recovered from the effects of her disfigurement, was returning to
England to rejoin her husband. She was stopped, however, near
Gloucester by her implacable enemies, who no doubt credited her
with a fatal influence over her husband. She was so cruelly
mutilated by them that she died a few days afterwards. Edwy
survived her but a short time, and died at the age of nineteen in
958 The beauty of his personal appearance had gained him the
title of Edwy the Beautiful.

When Edgar ascended the throne of his brother Edwy, Dunstan
shared it with him, and whatever may have been the part played by
him in the events of the last reign, the authority of the king
bore, in the hands of the monk, the fruits of order and justice.
The Danes, attached to young Edgar, who had been brought up
amongst them, submitted voluntarily to his authority.
{62}
Their territory was divided and placed under the rule of several
earls; the fleet, greatly augmented, kept the "Sea-Kings" in
constant fear, and the young sovereign of England, assisted by
his able minister, who had become archbishop of Canterbury,
traversed his state every year, presiding at courts of justice
and gathering around him the principal chiefs of each province.
Ardent and ambitious, Dunstan was at the same time of a firm
disposition and character; his practical knowledge was as
conspicuous as his religious zeal. He was one of that great race
of priests, whose influence, preeminent in the middle ages, was
the source of much good and evil alike, until the period when the
magnitude of their pretensions and the abuse of their power
brought about the great revolt of the Reformation. It was under
King Edgar that the Welshmen saw their annual tribute of gold and
silver commuted for an annual presentation of three hundred
wolves' heads, a measure which insured the destruction of these
ferocious animals, who were very numerous in England.

King Edgar, who was under the authority of Dunstan, contrived,
however, sometimes to escape from his influence and to indulge in
all kinds of excesses; but the archbishop on such occasions would
reprove him severely. He imposed upon him as a penance, for a
serious transgression, the disuse of his golden crown during a
period of seven years--a severe punishment for the vain Edgar,
who dearly loved to bestow upon himself titles as pompous as
those of the Oriental princes. Death soon put an end to this
penance. Edgar died in 975, leaving two sons. The elder, Edward,
who succeeded him, had been born of his first wife; the younger,
Ethelred, was the son of the beautiful but treacherous Elfrida,
for whom the king had conceived a violent passion, and whom he
had married after the death of her husband. Edgar was even
accused of having wilfully killed the latter in the
hunting-field.

{63}

Whatever crime may have been committed by the king in order to
gain the hand of Elfrida, the expiation fell to the lot of his
children. From the commencement of his reign, the young Edward,
although supported by Archbishop Dunstan, sat very insecurely
upon his throne, which was undermined by intrigues in favor of
his brother Ethelred. Three years after his accession, Edward was
hunting one day in Dorsetshire, when he conceived the fatal idea
of paying a visit to his brother, who was then residing in Corfe
Castle. It may be, that on his arrival he was struck with a
terrible presentiment at the sight of his step-mother Elfrida,
for he refused to dismount, and asked only for some refreshment
in order to drink to the health of the queen. A goblet was
brought to him; but, while he was carrying it to his lips, a
dagger was plunged in his back. His body quivered with agony, and
the horse, alarmed, rushed away, carrying across the forest the
body of the young king, held fast by the stirrups. When the body
was found, it was disfigured by the shrubs and stones of the
roads, and the long fair hair of the martyred king was clotted
with blood and dirt. Queen Elfrida had accomplished her object,
but not without trouble; for the young Ethelred, grieved at the
death of his brother, burst in tears, which irritated his mother
to such a degree that he nearly fell a victim to her blows. There
remained no other heir to the throne; Dunstan and his friends
decided, not without some reluctance, to recognize the claims of
the son of Elfrida; but in crowning him, Dunstan, it is said,
gave utterance to some sinister predictions concerning the
misfortunes which threatened his reign, and it was he who gave to
this young king that title of "careless," which the latter seemed
only anxious to justify.

{64}

For several years the Danes, who were established in England,
seemed to have identified themselves with the Saxon race; the
invasions of the Norsemen had ceased, occupied as they were with
devastating the coasts of France, which were but badly defended
by the feeble Carlovingians. But a new dynasty was about to be
established in France, more powerful and more warlike than the
descendants of Charlemagne. Already the Danes began to return to
their old habits, and to turn their vessels towards the English
coasts. The son of the king of Denmark, Prince Sweyn, resolved to
seek his fortune in foreign lands. A band of bold adventurers
gathered round him, and after several little preliminary
expeditions, they landed in 991 on the coast of East Anglia,
between Ipswich and Maldon. They hoped to find friends there
among the Danes who had formerly settled in that territory; but
Earl Brethnolte who was in command there, although a Dane by
birth, remained faithful to his new country and religion; he
fought valiantly against his brothers from across the seas, and
was killed in battle. King Ethelred became frightened; he sent
offers of money to the Norsemen. The latter accepted ten thousand
pounds of silver which they stowed away in their long vessels;
and carrying with them the head of Count Brethnolte, they started
to return to their own country. But the plan of defence, so often
resorted to by the Carlovingian kings in France, was a sure means
of bringing back the "Sea-kings" the following year. Soon
Ethelred found himself compelled to establish a regular tax which
was known as "danegelt" (Danish money), and which served to pay
the ever-increasing tribute exacted by the pirates. In 993, the
Danes of Northumbria and of East Anglia rose up to support their
countrymen in invading the country.
{65}
Sweyn had become king of Denmark, and had the whole forces of
that country at his command. In 994 his ships appeared off the
English coasts, accompanied by the vessels of Olaf, king of
Norway, his ally. The invaders encountered no resistance from the
king, nor any serious opposition from his subjects. Silver was
again offered, but this time, as though to lessen the humiliation
of the treaty, the Saxons demanded the conversion of the Danes to
Christianity. Sweyn did not hesitate to accede to this: he caused
himself to be baptized, a ceremony which was considered very
unimportant by the majority of the pirates, some of whom openly
boasted that they had been washed twenty times in the baptismal
water. But Sweyn's ally, King Olaf, who was sincerely touched,
and moved, no doubt, by the grace of God, made a vow never to
return to invade England, and kept his promise. Sweyn reappeared
alone the following years. In 1001 the Danes overran the country,
from the Isle of Wight to Bristol, without meeting with the
slightest resistance. The price of their withdrawal that year
amounted to twenty thousand pounds of silver.

The Danes had disappeared; but the unlucky king of England had
become involved in fresh difficulties, through his quarrels with
Richard, duke of Normandy. A fleet was being raised against him
on the Norman coast when Richard died, leaving to his son Richard
II. the burden of carrying on the war. The interference of the
Pope put an end to the quarrel, which was followed by the
marriage of Ethelred with the Countess Emma, sister of Richard,
who was called the "flower of Normandy." Ethelred already had six
sons and four daughters by his first wife.

{66}

The young queen had just arrived in England, and the rejoicings
were scarcely at an end, when a prolonged cry was heard
throughout the country. Either by a spontaneous movement, or in
consequence of secret orders, the Saxons had risen in every
direction and had slaughtered the Danes who were established in
their midst, and whose reiterated insults had become unendurable.
"A Norseman is equal to ten Saxons," the Danish lords haughtily
said; but the ten Saxons united had triumphed over the Norsemen.
Taken by surprise on the 13th of November, St. Brice's Day,
"women, old men, and children, good and wicked, big and little,
pagans and Christians," succumbed under the effects of the
popular hate and revenge. The sister of King Sweyn, Gunhilda, who
had embraced the Christian faith in order to marry Palric, Earl
of Northumbria, a chief of Danish extraction, saw her husband and
children murdered before her eyes, and afterwards encountered the
general fate herself. "My brother will drown your country in
blood when he revenges me," she exclaimed when dying.

Gunhilda had not been mistaken. Already the news of the crime
which had been committed in England had spread to Denmark; an
immense fleet was being prepared. The Norsemen, actuated this
time by their thirst for revenge as well as by their natural love
of plunder, were gathering eagerly round their king; not a serf,
not a freedman, not an old soldier was admitted into this chosen
band; the freemen, in the flower of their youth and strength,
alone had the privilege of avenging their brothers slaughtered in
a foreign land.

The ships of the Sea-kings were resplendent with the golden and
silver ornaments with which they were decked, from prow to stern,
when the great Dragon, with King Sweyn on board, was the first to
land, in the neighborhood of Exeter. The defence of the town had
been entrusted to a Norman, Count Hugo, who had come from France
with Queen Emma. He betrayed King Ethelred, and gave up the town
to the invaders.
{67}
Having pillaged and burnt down Exeter, the Danes spread
throughout Wiltshire. On arriving at a farm or at a house, or a
village, they would order the trembling inmates to prepare a
meal; then, having satiated their appetites with meat and mead,
they would murder the inmates upon the threshold of their huts,
which they would then burn down, and remount their horses to go
forth and extend their fearful ravages.

The Saxon king, meanwhile, was organizing an army; but he had
entrusted the command of it to the Mercian Elfric, the chief who
had already upon a previous occasion betrayed him, and whose
son's eyes had been put out in consequence as a punishment.
Arrived before Sweyn and his army, Elfric declared that he was
taken ill, and recalling his soldiers, who were prepared for the
struggle, he allowed Sweyn to pass with the enormous booty that
he was going to place on board his ships before descending upon
the Eastern Counties, which all suffered in the same manner. When
the Danes returned into their country, in 1004, they were
escaping, not from the Saxon arms, but from the famine which
their ravages had brought upon England.

In vain did King Ethelred solicit the help of his father-in-law,
Richard, the Norman duke; the disdain which he evinced towards
his young wife had irritated the Normans to such a degree that
their duke had caused to be thrown into prison all English
subjects who happened to be within his dominion. Ethelred
therefore found himself alone and a prey to the pirates, who
reappeared in 1006 upon the English coasts. England was
exhausted. Scarcely had the Danes left a house, after exacting a
ransom for each member of the family and for each head of cattle,
than the king's collectors would follow in their steps, demanding
the sums necessary for paying off the invaders, and imposing a
fresh penalty for the punishment of the unhappy wretches who had
given money to the Danes.

{68}

While the Saxon king was plundering his subjects in order to pay
an ever-increasing "danegeld," while the people, exhausted, were
writhing under the double extortion of the conquerors and of the
legitimate sovereign, an old man was enabled, single-handed, to
resist the demands of the proud Danes. The archbishop of
Canterbury, Elphege, had for twenty days defended his town
against the reiterated assaults of the enemy, when a traitor
opened the gates to the Danes. They rushed into the place, mad
with anger and thirsting for revenge. They sent for the old
archbishop, who had not sought refuge in any hiding-place. He was
brought forth, bound in chains, before their chief, Thurkill.
"Buy your life," cried the chief, touched with compassion. "I
have no money," the archbishop calmly replied. The Danes were
beginning to close round him. "He is a servant of God," said
Thurkill; "perhaps he is poor." And he suggested a small sum as
ransom for the archbishop. "Prevail upon your king to collect
together the value of all his property, so that we may leave
England," he added. The old man looked at him impassively. "I
have not the money which you ask for," he repeated, "and I shall
not urge the king to further oppress his people in order to
purchase your departure." The eyes of the Dane flashed with
anger; he no longer endeavored to protect the archbishop against
his soldiers. But the firmness of the old man had produced a
wonderful effect upon them: he was led into prison without
suffering the slightest injury. Towards dusk, when he was alone,
his brother found a means of reaching him; he brought the sum
fixed upon for the ransom of the archbishop. "No," the latter
said, "I cannot consent to enrich the enemies of my country." The
Danes came hourly, urging the old man to purchase his freedom.
"You will urge me in vain," at last said Elphege; "I am not the
man to provide Christian flesh for pagan teeth, by robbing my
flock to enrich their enemies."
{69}
The pirates had lost all patience; it was late; they were already
heated with drink; they dragged the old man out of prison. "Gold,
bishop! Give us gold!" they all cried together, and they closed
round him threateningly. The old man was silent; he was praying.
Hustled, beaten, wounded, the archbishop fell upon a pile of
bones, the remains of the rude banquet. His enemies seized these
primitive weapons, and he fell under their blows. A Dane, to whom
he was still preaching the Gospel an hour before, and whom he had
baptized with his own hands, at length took a hatchet and put an
end to the old man's agony.

While Elphege was resisting and dying, Ethelred was submitting
and paying an enormous sum of money, abandoning at the same time
several counties to the Danes. Thurkill settled in England, after
swearing fidelity to the Saxon monarch. His conquests excited the
envy of Sweyn. In the following year a large fleet appeared in
the Humber, and landed near York. This time the invaders planted
their lances in the ground or threw them into the rivers, to
intimate that they took possession of the soil. The Saxons
offered no resistance. Sweyn had overrun all the Midland and
Northern Counties, and, leaving the fleet to the care of his son
Canute, he marched towards the South. He was stopped near London,
where the king had taken refuge, and where the brave citizens
stood firm behind their massive walls. Sweyn did not attempt to
conquer their town; he turned towards the West, and all
Devonshire received him with open arms. He was proclaimed king at
Bath. Ethelred was gradually losing the little power which he
still retained. He suddenly left London, which surrendered soon
afterwards, and he took refuge in the Isle of Wight.
{70}
From thence he sent his wife Emma to Normandy with the two sons
whom she had borne to him, Edward and Alfred. In spite of his
disagreements with his brother-in-law, the duke Richard received
his sister with so much kindness that Ethelred soon followed her,
and arrived at Rouen while Sweyn was taking the title of King of
England (January, 1013).

Titles are easily taken, but conquests are sometimes difficult to
keep. Six weeks after the flight of the Saxon king the Danish
king died suddenly at Gainsborough, and the power was slipping
from the hands of his son Canute. The nobility and people of
England had recalled Ethelred to the throne; they added, however,
the words "providing that he will govern us better than
heretofore." The king did not rely entirely upon the promises of
his subjects. He sent his son Edward to negotiate with the
principal chief. When he re-entered London his first care was to
declare that no Danish prince could have any pretensions to the
throne; but Canute had already been proclaimed king by his army
and by the Danes established in England, and the war had
recommenced. Ethelred died in the year 1016, in the midst of all
this confusion, and at the time when the Danes were preparing to
lay siege to London.

Three sons by his first wife yet remained to Ethelred. One of
them, Edmund, called "Ironsides," on account of his strength and
prowess, had already commanded the armies during the lifetime of
his father; he was proclaimed king. But the country was divided:
the Danes established throughout the kingdom were powerful and
numerous; treason crept even into the most intimate councils of
the new king. Twice he delivered London when besieged; he fought
five pitched battles, and repulsed on several occasions the
Danes, driving them northwards.
{71}
At length he proposed to Canute that they should decide their
pretensions to the crown by the fate of arms in a single combat.
Unlike the majority of his race, Canute was not tall, and he was
quite unfitted to sustain a struggle against the gigantic stature
of Edmund. "Let us rather divide the kingdom, as our ancestors
did before us," he said. The two armies received this proposition
with acclamation. The North of England was allotted to Canute,
and Edmund contented himself with the South, with a nominal right
of sovereignty over the whole kingdom. One month afterwards, the
Saxon king was dead, and Canute, convoking the "wittenagemot" of
the South, protested that the treaty contained no stipulation in
favor of Edmund's heirs. The chiefs declared themselves of the
same opinion; the Dane was proclaimed King of all England, and
the children of Ironsides were placed in his hands.

Canute had proclaimed an amnesty; but on seizing power, he
immediately proscribed all the partisans of Edmund whom he did
not put to death. "Whoever brings me the head of an enemy shall
be dearer to me than a brother," said he. Many heads were brought
to him. The wittenagemot which had until then excluded from the
throne all the Danish princes, voted the same sentence against
the Saxon princes. Canute, however, had not assassinated the
children of Edmund; he sent them to his ally, the king of Sweden;
no doubt, with sinister intentions; but the innocence and beauty
of his victims touched the heart of the proud Scandinavian: he
could not keep them by his side, and he therefore sent them to
the court of the king of Hungary, St. Stephen, who received them
kindly and brought them up carefully. One of them, Edmund, died
early; the second, Edward, subsequently married Agatha, daughter
of the emperor of Germany, and we shall see his children reappear
in history.

{72}

The Duke Richard of Normandy did not protest, in the name of his
nephews against the elevation of Canute; on the contrary, he even
offered his sister, widow of Ethelred, in marriage to the Dane.
Canute accepted this offer, and the Norman princess found herself
placed for the second time on the throne of England, which was so
dear to her heart that, in order to reach it, she stifled all her
natural instincts. As soon as she had borne a son to Canute, she
lost all affection for the children whom she had left in France,
and who became more and more Normans by habit during their
prolonged absence from England.

Power has different effects upon different men: it hardens and
corrupts some, while it humanizes and exalts others. Canute made
good use of his power, and when he was delivered from the enemies
whom he dreaded most, his government became less severe and more
regular than that of the recent Saxon kings. The English followed
their new chief in all his wars, and fought valiantly at his side
to secure to him the crowns of Denmark, Sweden and Norway. The
viceroy of Wales refused to render homage to Canute, whom he
treated as a usurper; Malcolm, king of Scotland, upheld the
rights of the descendants of Ethelred to the throne of England.
The Normans did not lend any help in these demonstrations, and
Canute triumphed over the Welsh and the Scotch.

The influence of the Christian religion was slowly but surely
producing a good effect on the fierce Danes. Sweyn had been
baptized, but he had afterwards sunk again into pagan practices.
His son constructed churches and monasteries, and made a solemn
pilgrimage to Rome, on foot and with a wallet on his back to
obtain forgiveness for the crimes which he had committed.
Already, in the midst of a warlike life, a sense of justice
seemed to have developed itself in his soul; he had been guilty
of killing a soldier in an outburst of passion; he descended from
his throne, convoked his chiefs, and asked them to impose a
penalty upon him.


[Image]
Canute By The Sea-shore.

{73}

All remained silent. The king insisted, however, promising not to
be offended. The chiefs left it to his own discretion, and Canute
condemned himself to pay a fine of three times as much as the sum
fixed by the Danish law, as the penalty for murdering a soldier,
adding at the same time nine golden talents as compensation.

Having returned to England after his pilgrimage to Rome and a
journey to Denmark, Canute applied himself to the administration
of the laws which he had promulgated, "I will have no money
acquired by unjust means," he had said in a letter to Archbishop
Elfric. The latter portion of the reign of the Dane was not
characterized by any crime or act of oppression. Canute had
learnt that there was a tribunal above to which he owed respect
and submission. One day as his courtiers were overrating his
power, the king ordered that his throne should be placed upon the
margin of the sea. The tide was rising: Canute, seated on the
beach, ordered the waves to stop in their onward course. "Ocean,"
he said, "the earth upon which I sit, is mine; you form a portion
of my dominions; do not rise as far as my feet; I forbid you."
The sea still continued rising; it was already bathing the king's
mantle, when he turned to his flatterers. "You see," he said,
"what human power is compared to that of Him who says to the sea:
'Thou shalt go no further.'" And, depositing his golden crown in
the cathedral of Winchester, he refused thereafter to wear that
emblem of sovereignty.

{74}

Canute died in 1035, leaving three sons: Harold and Sweyn, born
of a Danish mother; and Hardicanute, son of Princess Emma. He had
divided his states among his children, leaving England to Harold,
Denmark to Hardicanute, and Norway to Sweyn. These two last
princes already, no doubt, exercised some authority in their
dominions, for both were in the North when their father died. But
England was wont to have a voice in questions of succession, and
Canute left behind him a powerful favorite, who was inclined to
further the interests of Hardicanute. This favorite was Earl
Godwin, a nobleman of Saxon extraction, formerly but a simple
herdsman in the county of Warwick. During the struggle between
Edmund and Canute, a Danish chieftain, named Ulf, had lost his
way in a forest, in the evening after a battle. He had walked in
vain all night when, at daybreak, he met a young countryman who
was driving a herd of cattle. "What is your name?" asked the
Dane. "I am Godwin, son of Ulfuoth," said the young man, "and you
are a Danish soldier." The warrior hesitated. "It is true," he
said at length. "But could you tell me the way to my countrymen's
ships, on the sea coast?" Godwin shook his head. "He is a very
foolish Dane," he said, "who expects a favor from a Saxon." And
he hurried on his cattle. Ulf insisted. "There are many of my
country men close to us," replied the herdsman; "they would spare
neither me nor you if they should meet us." The chieftain
silently offered him the heavy golden ring which he wore on his
finger. Godwin looked at him. "I will accept nothing from you,"
he said; "but I will try and show you the way."

They came to Godwin's hut. He invited the Dane in. "Remember,"
said the herdsman's father to the Dane, "that he is my only son,
and that he sacrifices his safety for you. Try and find
employment for him at your king's court." Ulf promised to do so,
and kept his word.
{75}
Canute took a fancy to the young Saxon, who had attained the rank
of governor of a province when the king died. He immediately
declared himself in favor of the son of Emma, who was not so
thoroughly Danish as his brothers. Leofric, governor of Mercia,
took up the cause of Harold, in common with all the Northern
chiefs. The town of London followed their example. War was about
to break out; but the Wittenagemote convoked at Oxford allotted
all the provinces North of the Thames to Harold; and those on the
South to Hardicanute.

While Queen Emma and Godwin were thus striving to secure the
power for the young king of Denmark, the latter lingered in his
Northern possessions, and had not yet set his foot in England.
His Norman brothers, sons of Ethelred and Emma, had been more
prompt. Scarcely had the news of the death of Canute reached
Normandy, when the elder of the two princes, Edward, who
subsequently became Edward the Confessor, landed at Southampton
with a few ships. But Queen Emma's natural affection was confined
to her son by Canute: she raised the country against her eldest
child, who was obliged to retire precipitately. His ill-success
did not discourage his brother Alfred, and, the following year
(1037), the two princes received a letter, coming, it was said,
from their mother, urging them to come secretly to England, where
the people were anxious to have a king of Saxon origin to rule
over them. Alfred immediately embarked for England, followed by
some troops from Normandy and Boulogne.

He landed in the neighborhood of Herne Bay. Godwin had come to
meet him and appeared friendly; but, either from premeditated
treason, or from annoyance at seeing the strangers who
accompanied the prince, Godwin altered his mind, and took Alfred
to Guildford, lodging the Normans in the houses of that town.
{76}
In the dead of night, while the little band of soldiers were
asleep, Harold's soldiers surrounded Guildford; the Normans were
made prisoners, Godwin meanwhile not appearing on the scene to
defend them, and a fearful massacre took place at daylight. Six
hundred men, it is said, were slaughtered in cold blood, and the
unhappy Alfred was dragged to London, from whence Harold sent
him, bound hand and foot, to the isle of Ely. He appeared before
a Danish council of war, and was condemned to have his eyes put
out, as a disturber of the public peace. He died a few days
afterwards. Harold soon sent Queen Emma into exile, and Godwin
having sworn allegiance to him, he was proclaimed king of all
England, not, however, without some dissatisfaction on the part
of the Saxons. The archbishop of Canterbury, Ethelnoth, who was a
Saxon, refused to crown him. Depositing on the altar the royal
emblems, he exclaimed: "I will not give them to you. I do not
forbid you to take them, but I refuse to bestow my benediction
upon you, and no bishop shall consecrate your throne." It is said
that, thereupon, Harold seized the crown, and placed it upon his
head with his own hands. Some chroniclers state that he
subsequently found favor with the archbishop; but the Dane was
more than half pagan; he had abandoned the Christian Church. When
divine service was being celebrated, when the bells were ringing,
and the priests were mounting the altars, he would let loose his
dogs, and start for the forest to enjoy the pleasure of hunting
or racing; a fondness for which pastimes won him the name of
"Harefoot." He died in 1040, at the time when his brother
Hardicanute had just repaired to Flanders, where Queen Emma had
taken refuge, to consult her preparatory to attempting an
invasion of England. Soon afterwards an embassy of Danish
chieftains and English counts came unsolicited and offered him
his brother's throne. He thereupon came to England with his
mother.

{77}

Hardicanute, like his predecessors, was thoroughly Danish by
nature; he gave himself up to the pleasures of the table,
surrounding himself at the same time by the chieftains whom he
had brought over with him from the North; despising and
oppressing the Saxons, from whom he still exacted danegelt, as in
the old times of the invasions. He had attributed his brother's
misfortunes to Godwin; but the count had been able to justify
himself before a council, in spite of public opinion which
condemned him. The presents which he had offered to the king had
had the effect of putting an end to the prosecution. Hardicanute
had accepted from him a magnificent ship covered with burnished
metal, ornamented with gold, and manned by eighty warriors
furnished with every kind of weapon. By degrees power had
returned entirely into the hands of Godwin and Emma, when, in
1042, Hardicanute, at a banquet, fell a victim to the excesses of
every kind to which he was accustomed.

The Saxon earl had resolved to deliver his country from the
Danish yoke. He immediately sent for Prince Edward, who was still
in Normandy, and was more a monk than a prince. The popular
feeling in his favor which enabled Edward to return to England,
was shared and fostered by the very man to whom he attributed his
brother's death; but the new king was powerless and a stranger in
the country which recalled him after an exile which he had
endured during nearly the whole of his lifetime. He dissembled
and accepted the hand of Edith, daughter of Godwin, a good and
gentle princess, who "was born of Godwin as the rose is born in
the midst of thorns," the chroniclers say. Edward was always cold
towards her, and he manifested something more than coldness
towards Queen Emma.
{78}
He could not forget how she had repulsed him, and how she had
failed to do anything to defend her son Alfred--even if she had
not actually allured him to his ruin. He ordered her to remain
within her domains, which had been greatly reduced, and refused
to see her any more.

The power which Edward had regained was, however, scarcely more
than nominal. The "Great Earl," as Godwin was called, had exacted
the value of his services. He and his six sons held possession of
nearly all the South of England. Besides this, his rival, Earl
Leofric, was all powerful in Mercia. Siward held the whole of the
North, from the Humber to the frontiers of Scotland. Happily for
the king, all these chieftains were opposed to each other. Edward
took advantage of their rivalries, trying from time to time to
redress the wrongs of the people, who were oppressed and deprived
of all power. But in vain did he suppress the danegelt; in vain
did he inspire an almost superstitious veneration towards himself
in his subjects by reason of the austerity of his life: the
English never forgave him for the affection which he manifested
towards the Normans and his preference for them, which induced
him not only to surround himself with the friends of his younger
days, but to lavish all the favors on them which he had at his
disposal. The king's ordinary conversation was carried on in the
Norman language; he dressed in Norman fashion; he raised to
clerical dignities the Norman priests who had come over with him,
and thus contrived to excite considerable jealousy in the people,
all which increased the influence of Godwin.

{79}

An event happened which caused their animosity to break out
openly. Eustace of Boulogne, the brother-in-law of King Edward,
who had married the latter's sister, the Lady Goda, landed in
England with a numerous suite of troops from Boulogne and
Normandy. He was received in a very friendly manner by the king,
and loaded with presents. He was returning home, when, on
arriving at Dover, some of the inhabitants resisted the action of
the strangers in unceremoniously taking up their quarters in the
town. Eustace's soldiers, greatly incensed, killed those who
closed the gate at their approach. The whole town rose against
them in consequence of this act; they were beaten and routed.
They took refuge in Gloucester, where King Edward was staying,
who ordered Earl Godwin to impose a punishment on the inhabitants
of Dover. Godwin told the king to inquire into the affair.
Edward, however, summoned Godwin to appear before him. The earl
was in no hurry to do so. Uneasy at the king's projects, he began
to raise troops throughout his dominions, and his son Harold did
likewise. Godwin soon found himself at the head of a considerable
force. The king summoned to his aid Leofric, Count of Mercia, and
Siward, Earl of Northumbria. These two great rivals of Godwin
immediately advanced with an army; but the old hatred between the
Danes and the Saxons had almost worn itself out. The soldiers
from the North considered themselves English as well as those
from the South, and they all murmured at the idea of coming to
blows. It was agreed to lay the subject before the Wittenagemot;
but, in the meanwhile, before the meeting of the assembly,
Godwin's soldiers, who were nearly all volunteers, were slowly
dispersing, while the king had collected together a numerous
army. When the Wittenagemot began to sit, the earl and his sons
were summoned to appear and establish their innocence. They
hesitated, however, being unwilling to trust to the impartiality
of the judges; and, in consequence of the decision which was come
to in their absence, they were banished, driven from England
within five days, and condemned to have all their goods
confiscated.
{80}
Godwin, his wife, and three of their sons sought refuge at the
court of Flanders. Harold and his brother Leofwin fled to
Ireland. Edward consigned to a convent the only person of
Godwin's family remaining in England, Queen Edith. "It is not
advisable," said the Norman courtiers, "that she should live in
luxury and with wealth at her command, while her relations are
suffering from such misfortunes."

Delivered of the ambitious and powerful Godwin, Edward was
beginning to feel himself a king in reality. He took advantage of
this to surround himself with those persons only who were
personally devoted to him. Among others whom he wished to see at
his court was the Duke of Normandy, William the Bastard, as he
was called, his mother being the daughter of a tanner at Falaise.
Edward was still an exile in Normandy, when the Duke Robert,
William's father, conceived the idea of making a pilgrimage to
Jerusalem to obtain forgiveness for his sins. These expeditions
were of frequent occurrence among the Normans. The barons
represented, however, to the duke that it would be inexpedient to
thus leave his dominions without a ruler. "By my faith," answered
Robert, "I will leave you no lord! I have a little bastard son
who will grow up, please God; select him in the meanwhile, and I
will appoint him my successor afterwards." The Normans did as the
duke proposed, "because it suited them to do so," the chronicle
says, and all the chiefs came, one after the other, and placed
their rough hands between those of the child, swearing allegiance
to him.

But scarcely had the duke, his father, started than the murmuring
began. The Normans were proud, restless, unmanageable; it was
repugnant to their feelings to live under the dominion of a child
and a bastard; a war soon broke out; the partisans of young
William carried him off, but the King of France came to their
aid.
{81}
When the child had reached manhood he soon manifested rare
courage and a strong and ungovernable will, as well as that
ambitious disposition which was destined to make the fortune of
himself and his partisans. He was twenty-seven years old when he
came to England in 1050 to the court of King Edward.

He might almost have imagined that he was not really out of his
dominions; a Norman was in command of the fleet near Dover;
Norman soldiers were in possession of a fort near Canterbury; and
as he advanced into the country, other Normans, priests and
laymen, gathered round him. King Edward received him in a very
friendly manner, and made him presents of arms, horses, dogs, and
hawks; it is not known whether William was incited by any hint
from Edward to claim the inheritance of this rich kingdom which
was to be without a master at the death of the king. Edward did
not mention it, and the duke could keep his secrets.

He had just returned to Normandy, when Count Godwin appeared upon
the coast of Kent with three ships; he had sent some emissaries
to his numerous friends, and the entire population had risen in
his favor. At the same time his sons Harold and Leofwin, coming
from Ireland, joined him with a small army.

The father and his sons sailed round the coast, and everywhere
met with followers. When they at length landed at Sandwich,
nobody ventured to resist them. King Edward was in London,
collecting together his warriors, who came forward very slowly.
Godwin's vessels had ascended the Thames and found themselves
under the very walls of London. They soon passed the bridge, and
landed their troops. The king meanwhile did not stir.

{82}

Godwin had arrived at the capital without discharging an arrow or
unsheathing a sword; he sent a message to the king in which he
demanded the remission of the sentence which had been pronounced
against him. Edward was aware of the desperate state of his
affairs, but he was incensed at the daring of the earl and
refused to listen to his demands. Several other messages were
delivered. The king at this critical moment was still surrounded
by his Norman favorites. He could not order his vessels to attack
those of Godwin, as the former had been seized by the insurgents;
but Edward remained inflexible. The Normans who were with him
foresaw the issue of the conflict, and feared the vengeance of
Godwin. They began to fly. The archbishop of Canterbury, Robert,
and the bishop of London, William, mounted their horses and
fought their way to the seacoast, where they embarked. The king
at length surrendered; a Wittenagemot was convoked and the
sentence of banishment pronounced against Godwin and his sons was
annulled and transferred to the Normans, who were in their turn
expelled from England. Queen Edith reappeared in her husband's
palace. Godwin and his family regained their honors and property.
The younger of the sons and one of the grandsons of the great
earl were the only hostages given to the king, who confided them
to the keeping of the duke of Normandy. Sweyn, in expiation of
his former sins, gave up both his titles and his wealth to
perform a pilgrimage barefooted to Jerusalem. He died long before
reaching the Holy Land.

{83}

Peace seemed re-established in England, but the king still
nourished the bitterest hatred against Godwin. The peace would
probably not have been of long duration had not the death of the
earl, which took place in 1053, put an end to their rivalry. The
Norman chronicles relate that he was seated at the royal table,
when a servant, accidentally losing his balance, supported
himself by leaning against another. "There," said Godwin,
laughing, "that is how brother helps brother." "Yes, certainly,"
said the king, "one brother requires the help of another, and I
would to God that mine were still alive." "King," cried Godwin,
"how comes it that at the slightest remembrance of your brother,
you always look so fiercely at me? If I helped to cause his
misfortune even indirectly, may the Lord of Heaven prevent my
swallowing this piece of bread." At that moment, while carrying
the bread to his mouth, the earl had a fit of choking and fell
back "struck down by the hand of Providence." He died a few days
afterwards, almost at the same moment as his old rival, Siward,
count of Northumbria. The latter was ill and bedridden, when he
said, "Lift me up, that I may die standing, like a soldier, and
not lying down like a cow; give me my cuirass and helmet, that I
may die armed." It is this old Siward whom Shakspeare represents
in _Macbeth_, uneasy in his mind, before mourning the death
of his son, about the situation of the fatal wounds, and
consoling himself amidst his grief with the thought that they had
all been inflicted in front and that his son had died like a
brave warrior.

The son whom Siward left was too young to succeed him in the
government of his vast dominions, which were presented to Tostig,
one of Godwin's sons. Harold had all the estates of his father
left to him, and although very loath to do so, he gave up the
command of the Eastern territories which he had hitherto held, to
Elfgar, son of Leofric of Mercia.

{84}

King Edward was much attached to Harold, the bravest and best of
Godwin's sons; and the English people shared this affection with
him. Tostig, on the contrary, soon caused himself to be detested
in Northumbria. The people organized an insurrection in 1066, and
he was driven from his territories. The king instructed Harold to
quell the insurrection, but the latter knew his brother well, and
understood the grievances of the people whom he had oppressed. He
made proposals to the Northumbrians of a conference for peace,
endeavoring at the same time to exonerate his brother and
promising that the latter's conduct should be more worthy in
future. The insurgents refused haughtily. "A proud and
overbearing chief is unendurable to us," they said; "we have
learned from our ancestors to live free or die." Harold himself
conveyed the message of the Northumbrians to the king, and
Morcar, son of Elfgar, was elected in place of Tostig, who took
refuge at the court of Flanders.

Edward was growing old, and he had no children. His devotion was
becoming day by day more fervent. He thought of making a
pilgrimage to Rome, but the Wittenagemot opposed it. For the
first time the king thought of his nephew Edward, son of Edmund
Ironsides, who was still in Hungary, where he had been brought
up. He sent for him. Edward Atheling, as he was called,
immediately set out with his wife, daughter of the emperor of
Germany, and also with his three children, Edward, Margaret, and
Christiana. The English people were delighted. The memory of
"Ironsides" had remained popular and his son was received with
acclamation. But this was only by the people, for the king, who
had sent for his nephew with the evident intention of making him
his heir, never saw his face. By reason of some intrigues,
probably of Harold, the interview was delayed, and before it
could take place the prince died in London, where he was buried,
in St. Paul's Cathedral. Godwin's son was rapidly approaching the
throne.

{85}

For more than ten years, Harold's brother, Wulfuoth, and his
nephew Heaco had been in Normandy, entrusted to the care of the
Duke William, as Godwin's hostages. The count conceived a desire
to go and set them free. The old king tried to persuade Harold to
abandon his project, either on account of his esteem for him or
because he had, as some chroniclers say, made a will in favor of
the duke of Normandy, and consequently wished to prevent Harold
from making his acquaintance. "I will not hinder you," said the
king, "but if you go, it is not by my wish, for your journey will
assuredly bring down some misfortune upon our country. I know the
Duke William and his astute mind; he hates you, and will grant
you nothing, unless he sees some advantage for himself in doing
so; the way to make him give up the hostages would be to send
somebody else."

Harold was young and presumptuous; he did not heed the advice of
the old king, but embarked at a port in Sussex near Bosham, with
his companions. The wind was unfavorable, and the two little
ships were dashed ashore at the mouth of the river Somme, in the
dominions of Guy, count of Ponthieu. According to the usage of
the time, the crew were taken to the count, who was entitled to
claim them, and they were shut up in the citadel of Beaurain,
near Montreuil.

Harold had declared himself to be the bearer of a message from
the king of England to the duke of Normandy, and William claimed
the prisoners; but the count of Ponthieu only parted with them
for a ransom. Harold was taken to the duke at Rouen. The latter
received the Englishmen magnificently, and at once gave up to
them the hostages, only asking Harold to prolong his stay in
Normandy. The Saxon consented to do so, finding ample amusement
in observing the luxury and civilized customs which he met with
for the first time among the Normans.

{86}

The Duke William had conferred upon his guests the spurs of
knighthood, and he proposed that, in order to enable them to
display their prowess, they should accompany him on an expedition
into Brittany. As long as the war lasted, Harold and William
lived under a single tent and dined at the same table. On one
occasion, after the Saxons had distinguished themselves by their
warlike feats, the two chiefs were returning home together on
horseback. William was speaking of his old relations with King
Edward. "When Edward and I lived like brothers, under the same
roof," he said, "he promised me, that if ever he should become
king of England, he would make me heir to his kingdom. Harold,
help me to get this promise fulfilled. If by your help I should
obtain the kingdom, rest assured that whatever you ask for, I
will immediately grant." Harold, astounded, did not know what to
answer. He stammered a few words. William was resolved to get his
consent. "Since you consent to serve me, you must undertake to
fortify Dover Castle," he said, "to construct a well there for
obtaining a supply of spring water, and to surrender it up to my
soldiers. You must give up your sister to me, whom I will give in
marriage to one of my barons; and you shall marry my daughter
Adela. I also wish that, when you go, you would leave one of the
two hostages whom you have claimed; I will take him back to
England when I go over there as king." Harold shuddered inwardly.
He was at the duke's mercy, and he agreed to all that he desired,
mentally resolving not to fulfil his promises. He did not know
the Norman and his farsighted schemes.

{87}

They were at Avranches (some say at Bayeux), and the Norman
barons were convoked in a great assembly. The Saxon was there by
the side of the duke; a massbook was brought and placed upon a
stool covered with a golden cloth. Suddenly William exclaimed,
"Harold, I call upon you, before this noble assembly, to confirm
on oath all that you have promised to do to help me to obtain the
kingdom of England after the death of King Edward." The
Englishman was again taken aback, and was in great peril. He
advanced slowly, and swore with his hand on the book, to perform
the promises made to the duke, provided that he were alive and
that God should help him to do so. All the Normans cried out,
"May the Lord help him!" Then at a sign from William, the rich
cloth was removed and the Saxon discovered that he had sworn upon
a receptacle filled with precious relics which had been brought,
by order of the duke, from all the neighboring convents. William
did not detain Harold any longer. He left the country, taking his
nephew with him; but his brother remained in the power of the
Normans.

"Did I not warn you that I knew William?" said the old king
Edward when Harold related to him what had happened; and he added
sadly, "May none of these misfortunes happen in my lifetime!"

The death of the king was destined to be the signal for England's
misfortunes to recommence, and he was becoming weaker every day.
Sinister reports had been circulated. Old prophecies were
recalled which threatened England with invasion and subjugation
by a foreign people. The king himself, constantly occupied with
his devotional practices, saw fearful visions in his dreams and
would cry out, with a vague remembrance of biblical imagery, "The
Lord has stretched His bow, He has unsheathed His sword; He moves
and brandishes it like a warrior; His wrath shall be manifested
through fire and by sword."

{88}

His servants shuddered at these threatening prophecies; but the
Archbishop of Canterbury, Stigand, only laughed. "Dreams of the
sick old man," he would say.

It is said that, before dying, Edward designated Harold to the
members of the Wittenagemot as his successor; other chroniclers
(the Norman writers) maintain, on the contrary, that when Harold
and his relations presented themselves in the king's chamber, the
latter said in a feeble whisper, "You know, my thanes, that I
have bequeathed my kingdom to the duke of Normandy; do I not here
see men who have sworn to uphold his rights?" Whatever the dying
man may have wished, the opinion of the English chiefs was not to
be mistaken. Scarcely had Edward the Confessor been buried in
Westminster Abbey, which he had built in place of performing the
pilgrimage to Rome, when the Wittenagemot proclaimed as king of
England, Harold, the son of Godwin, and the grandson of the
herdsman Ulfuoth, overlooking in his favor the rights of Edgar
Atheling, son of Edward Atheling, and grandson of Edward
Ironsides, as well as the more formidable pretensions of the duke
of Normandy.

Harold's first care was to eradicate from the kingdom all traces
of the Norman innovations introduced by King Edward; the ancient
Saxon signature replaced, in the acts, the seals introduced from
Normandy, and the Norman favorites whom Edward affectionately
protected to the last, were deprived of their offices, though
without being exiled or having their property confiscated. It was
through them that the Duke William heard of the death of Edward
and of the election of Harold. He was in a park, near Rouen,
trying a new bow, when the important news reached him. He stopped
immediately, gave his bow to his servants and went back to Rouen.
He walked up and down the great hall in his palace, sat and rose
alternately, and was quite unable to remain still.
{89}
His friends looked at him in silence without daring to accost
him. At length one of them, who was on more familiar terms with
him than most of the others, approached him. "My lord," he said,
"of what use is it to keep your news from us? It is rumored in
the town that the king of England is dead and that Harold has
taken possession of the kingdom, unfaithful to his plighted word
to you." "That is true," answered the duke, "and my grief is
caused as much by the death of Edward as by the wrong which
Harold has done me." "There is no remedy for Edward's death,"
replied the Norman, "but there is for Harold's infidelity; yours
is the willing arm and yours are the willing soldiers; a thing
well begun is half done."

William's courtiers were not the only persons to advise him to
support his pretensions by force of arms. Harold's own brother,
Tostig, who had been driven from Northumbria, and whom his
brother had failed to reestablish in his government, came from
Flanders to offer his help to the duke of Normandy in attempting
the conquest of England. William was too prudent to undertake the
invasion without premeditation; he presented ships to Tostig, who
went to Denmark to seek the support of King Sweyn. Upon meeting
with a refusal from the Dane, Tostig repaired to Norway. The king
of that country was Harold Hardrada, son of Sigurd, a great
voyager and corsair, who had formerly extended his excursions as
far as the seas of Sicily, and who on one occasion on his return
had married a Russian princess. He was a poet and would sing on
board his black vessel, laden with his warriors, who were a
source of great terror to all peaceful people. Tostig approached
him with flattery. "The whole world knows," he said, "that there
is not in the North a warrior who is your equal; you have only to
wish it, and England is yours." The Norwegian allowed himself to
be seduced and promised to put to sea as soon as the ice should
thaw and make the ocean navigable.

{90}

While Tostig was trying his strength on the coast of Northumbria
with a band of adventurers, William, careful to have on his side
all the appearances of right, sent a message to Harold as
follows:--"William, duke of Normandy, reminds you of the oath
which you swore with your own lips and with your hand upon good
and holy relics." "It is true," answered Harold, "but I swore
under constraint, not being free, and I promised what did not
belong to me; besides, my services belong to my country, and I
could not give up my position to anybody else without its
consent, nor marry a strange woman. As to my sister, whom the
duke claims for one of his chiefs, she died during this year.
Does he wish me to send her body to him?" A second message, still
calm and moderate, urged Harold at least to marry the Norman
princess; but the king answered that he would not do so, and soon
afterwards he chose a Saxon wife, a sister of Edwin and Morcar,
the two sons of Elfgar, count of Mercia. William's anger at
length burst forth, and, reproaching Harold bitterly for his
perjury, he declared that he would come before the end of the
year to exact payment of the whole of his debt and to pursue the
perfidious Saxon even into the places wherein he considered his
hold to be firmest. While awaiting the help of his allies from
the North, William was aware of the importance of conciliating
public opinion in Europe, or at least in that portion of Europe
where the people were not altogether ignorant of what was
happening in England and in Normandy. No influence was stronger
than that of the Church for obtaining the good will of the
people. The English were not in favor at Rome.
{91}
They had refused to receive Robert of Jumièges, a Norman priest,
brought up in Canterbury by Edward the Confessor, who had been
appointed to a high position by the Pope, and the Saxon Stigand,
who was still under excommunication from Rome, under pretence
that he had been guilty of simony, was chosen in his stead. The
Saxon Church had often shown itself to be somewhat undisciplined,
and the clergy had been accused of laxity in performing their
duties. William caused these facts to be represented at Rome,
besides employing many other arguments. He had sent Lanfranc
there, a priest of Italian extraction, whom he had made abbot of
St. Stephen's at Caen, and who by reason of his clever and
prudent mind was enabled to render important services to his
master. Harold had sent no ambassador to this tribunal, whose
jurisdiction he did not recognize in temporal affairs; his
perjury was strongly denounced there, and Pope Alexander II.
declared that William of Normandy, cousin of King Edward, and
consequently his heir, could legitimately style himself king of
England and seize upon the kingdom. The king received this
permission sealed by the Pope, with a holy standard and a ring
containing a hair of St. Peter enclosed in a diamond.

Strong in the support of the Pope, to whom he had promised to
place England again under the authority of the Holy See and to
cause the Peter's pence to be levied there annually, as Canute
had done, William began his preparations for the conquest. The
Normans were a free people; they were still conscious of their
rude origin, but nevertheless accustomed to be consulted in their
own affairs. The duke called together all his most intimate
friends, his two maternal brothers, Odo, bishop of Bayeux, Count
Mortaign, and the friend of his childhood, William, son of
Osbert, the seneschal of Normandy. All encouraged him in his
project "But," they said, "you must ask help and advice of the
majority of the inhabitants of this country, for it is right that
whoever pays should be invited to consent to the expenditure."

{92}

William was hot-tempered and haughty, but prudent and sensible.
He convoked at Lillebonne a great assembly of men from every
state of Normandy, the richest and most esteemed of their class.
He unfolded his plans to them, and they retired to discuss them
at their ease, out of the presence of the duke.

The excitement was great and the opinions various. William, son
of Osbert, appeared in the midst of the groups. "Why do you
discuss together?" he exclaimed. "He is your lord, and he has
need of your services; your duty would be to make offers to him,
and not to wait until he asks for anything. If you fail him, and
he attains his object by the will of God, he will not forget it;
show, therefore, that you love him and support him with a will."
Low murmurs were heard; the opposition was beginning to burst
forth. "No doubt he is our lord," they said; "but is it not
enough for him that we should pay his taxes? We do not owe him
any assistance for his foreign excursions; he has already
oppressed us too much by his wars; if his new enterprise should
fail, our country would be ruined." The offers accordingly were
few, when Osbert's son was instructed to communicate them to
William.

The assembly re-entered the room wherein the duke sat. The
seneschal advanced. "Sire," he said, "I do not think that there
are in the world men more zealous than these. You know how many
burdens they have already borne for you? Well, they propose to
add another, and to follow you to the other side of the sea as
they do on this side. Push onward, then, and fear nothing;
whoever has hitherto only supplied you with two good soldiers on
horseback is willing to bear double the expense."
{93}
The seneschal was interrupted by a hundred voices crying "We did
not commission you to make such an answer as that. Let him remain
in his own territory, and we will serve him as we should do; but
we are not compelled to help him to conquer another people's
country. Besides, if we were for once to do him this service, he
would expect it as a right ever afterwards, and would thereby
oppress our children; it shall not be." And the assembly
dispersed in anger.

The duke sent for the noblemen, one after the other, as well as
the abbots and the merchants: he showed his plans to them, asked
for their support as a personal favor which should not compromise
their liberty in any way in future, and by degrees he obtained
what he wanted. The merchants promised vessels and armed
warriors, the priests gave money, and the barons placed
themselves and their vassals at his disposition. The preparations
began forthwith in all the Norman towns; adventurers were
everywhere crowding round William, "who slighted nobody,"
according to the chronicles, "and was always ready to oblige
people as far as he was able." He promised lands, castles, women,
plunder; he even sold an English bishopric to a certain Rémi, of
Fécamp, for a ship and twenty warriors.

While the noise of hammers was resounding throughout all the
shipyards of Normandy, the ice had thawed in the Baltic, and
Harold Hardrada had set sail with his sea-serpents; he had been
joined by Tostig, and had ascended the Humber and the Ouse,
causing great destruction on his way. A certain number of
Englishmen had rallied round the standard of Tostig. Edwin and
Morcar marched to oppose the allies, but they were repulsed with
loss. The citizens of York, fearing an assault, promised to
surrender. The Norwegians were already celebrating the victory in
their camp.

{94}

It was in the early morning, and Hardrada and Tostig, with a
small body of troops, were advancing towards York to hold an
interview with the chiefs of the town. Counting upon the terror
which they inspired among the peaceful citizens, they were but
half armed; Harold Hardrada had left his halbert in his tent, and
wore a blue tunic embroidered with gold and a helmet ornamented
with precious stones. Suddenly a cloud of dust, which was rising
in the horizon, cleared away and revealed a forest of lances. It
was King Harold whom the invaders believed to be in the South
watching the movements of the Duke of Normandy, and who had come
by forced marches to encounter them. The golden dragon of Wessex
was displayed on his standard.

The position of the Norwegian, Hardrada, was critical, but his
courage did not desert him. Planting in the ground his banner,
the motto on which was "The despoiler of the world," he drew up
around it all his forces at the foot of Stamford Bridge; he was
riding backwards and forwards in front of his soldiers, when his
horse stumbled and he fell. "A good omen!" he cried when he saw
the faces of the pirates darken. His soldiers, resting their
lances on the ground, with their points in the direction of the
enemy, awaited the onslaught of the English. Hardrada was
marching along the ranks, singing an improvised "skald." "Let us
fight," he said, "let us march, although without any
breast-plates beneath the edges of the blue steel; our helmets
glisten in the sun; they are sufficient for brave warriors."

{95}

The English were contemplating these valiant preparations. A
small band of men had detached themselves from the body of the
army. "Where is Earl Tostig, son of Godwin?" asked one of the
warriors clad in steel. "He is here!" cried Tostig himself,
stepping out from the ranks. "Your brother salutes you," rejoined
the Saxon; "he offers you peace, friendship, and your former
honors." "This is a sensible offer," said Tostig, "and if my
brother had made it a year ago he would have spared the lives of
many brave men. And what does he offer to my noble ally, King
Harold, son of Sigurd?" "Seven feet of English soil," haughtily
replied the warrior, contemplating the Norwegian's huge person;
"a little more, perhaps, for he is taller than most men." "Then,"
cried Tostig, "my brother. King Harold, may prepare for the fray.
It shall not be said that the son of Godwin abandoned the son of
Sigurd."

The Saxons retired slowly. Tostig was still looking fixedly at
his antagonist. "Who is the warrior with such a proud tongue?"
asked Hadrada. "King Harold, son of Godwin," said Tostig. "Why
did you not tell me so" cried Hardrada; "he would not have lived
to boast of having defeated us." He then added, "He is little,
but he sits firmly in the saddle." At the same moment, King
Harold was asking his companions whether this gigantic warrior
clad in blue was really the formidable sovereign of the seas. It
is the same, they told him. "He is a powerful man," replied
Harold thoughtfully, "but I think his good fortune has deserted
him."

The battle began--Hardrada was killed almost immediately by an
arrow which stuck in his throat. Tostig took command of the army.
Harold sent proposals for peace a second time for Tostig and the
Norwegians. "We will owe nothing to the Saxons," cried the
Norwegians, and the struggle recommenced. Tostig was killed in
his turn, and great havoc was made among his men. The "despoiler
of the world" was now surrounded but by a small number of
warriors.
{96}
They at length pulled up their precious standard, and slowly,
defending themselves step by step, they regained the road leading
to their vessels. A stout Norwegian had taken up his stand upon
Stamford Bridge, covering the retreat of his comrades. They had
nearly all passed the bridge, taking with them young Olof, son of
Hardrada, when an English soldier, pushing his lance through a
crevice in the timber, killed the valiant defender. The
Scandinavian vessels unfurled their sails, and returned to Norway
to spread the sad news of a defeat, indicated beforehand by the
gloomy predictions of the soldiers, who had seen in their dreams
a woman of gigantic stature seated on a wolf, and rushing along
their ranks, making at each step a fresh corpse for the ferocious
animal to devour.

Harold did not attempt to pursue the Norwegians on sea; he was
recalled southward by the near approach of his great peril.
William had assembled all his forces on the coast of Normandy,
almost without any foreign help. The king of France, Philip I.,
had refused to give him any assistance, although the Duke had
proposed to do homage to him when he should obtain possession of
England. "You know," the French barons had said to the king, "how
little the Normans obey you now; they will obey you still less if
they conquer England, and if they fail in their enterprise,
having assisted them we shall make enemies of the English people
for ever afterwards."

The fleet and the army had been lying together for more than a
month at Dive; the wind was unfavorable, and it was impossible to
sail out of port. The south wind at length rose, and drove the
vessels to Saint-Valéry-en-Caux, and then the bad weather began
again. Several ships were dashed to pieces and their crews
perished. In the army the men were murmuring.
{97}
"There has been no fighting," they said, "and yet there are
already some men killed." The Duke caused the sands to be
watched, in order that the dead bodies thrown up by the sea might
be buried immediately; and he allowed good cheer to his soldiers
to induce them to wait patiently. He sent for the relics of the
wrecks from Saint-Valéry, which were carried through the camp
with great pomp. At length a propitious wind arose; all the sails
were unfurled, and four hundred large ships and a thousand
transport vessels sped away from land. The Duke's ship was at the
head of them, bearing on the foremast the banner sent by the
Pope; the sails of various colors were flying in the wind. The
Duke's vessel soon left all the others behind; at daybreak he
found himself alone. He sent a sailor to the foremast. "I only
see the sky and the sea," cried the sailor; but a short time
afterwards he reported four vessels in sight, and the Duke had
not taken his breakfast before a forest of masts and sails was
discovered.

It was a fine morning, on the 28th of September, 1066. Harold's
vessels, which had been cruising along the coast during a whole
month, had put in to land on the previous evening, being short of
provisions. The fleet of the Normans approached, therefore,
without resistance, and landed in Sussex, at Bulverhithe, between
Pevensey and Hastings. The archers landed first, then the
horsemen, and lastly the pioneers carrying their tools and wood
ready prepared for making trenches round their camp. The Duke was
the last to set foot on English soil, after superintending the
disembarking of his men. Immediately upon stepping down, he
stumbled and fell, smearing his hands with dirt. A shudder ran
along the ranks. "What ails you?" cried the Duke, who had
instantly sprung to his feet. "I have seized the land with my
hands, and by the grace of God, throughout its length and
breadth, it is yours." They were reassured at these words; a camp
was at once planned and fortified with wooden trenches, after the
French fashion, and bands of soldiers overran the neighborhood,
ravaging and laying waste the country.
{98}
Harold was still at Stamford, resting after the fatigues of the
campaign against the Norwegians, when a messenger in an exhausted
and breathless condition, burst into the room where he was at
supper. "The enemy," he cried, "the enemy has landed!" Harold
rose, for daybreak had arrived. He knew William and the Normans
sufficiently well to feel confident that the struggle would be
fierce and prolonged.

Time was precious. Harold was accustomed to make forced marches,
and he accordingly started for London, ordering on his road all
the earls and free men to rally round his standard. The whole
country rose at his command, and large forces were being
organized in different parts. "In four days the Saxon will have a
hundred thousand men at his side," William was informed by one of
those Normans formerly established in England during the reign of
King Edward, who served him as spies. But some time was necessary
to bring together these confused masses of men and to assemble
them at a given point. Harold, in his haste, had not given them
time to do so. He had arrived in London; his mother Gytha found
his army worn-out and very small for opposing so formidable an
enemy. "Do not risk a battle, my son," she said; "let the Normans
pursue their ravages in the country, and famine will rid you of
them." Harold trembled with indignation. "Would you have me ruin
my kingdom?" he said. "By my faith, it would be treason; I prefer
to put my trust in the strength of my arm and the justice of my
cause." His young brother, Gurth, persisted, for the oath made to
the Duke William weighed upon his conscience.

[Image]
William the Conqueror Reviewing His Troops.

{99}

"Either under constraint, or by your own free will," he said,
"you swore, and your oath will paralyze your arm during the
conflict. We have promised nothing; leave us to defend the
kingdom. You shall avenge us if we should be killed." Harold
smiled bitterly at the remembrance of the Duke's perfidy, but he
was inflexible, and he started the same day for Hastings with a
force very much less than that of William.

King Harold's first idea was to suddenly attack the enemy, who
had been intrenched during a fortnight in their camp; but the
Normans were well defended; their trenches had been skilfully
constructed, and the Saxon therefore abandoned his project, and
selecting also a strong position upon a hill near Hastings, he
fortified it in the fashion of his country with a line of stakes
of about a man's height, and with a rampart of latticed branches,
which was to protect the bulk of his army when the first line
should have passed outside the stakes to defend the approaches to
the camp.

Harold was uneasy; very few troops had had time to join him, and
the Norman army was as strong as it was well disciplined. He,
however, laughed aloud when three Saxon spies, who had penetrated
into William's camp, came and informed him, that having been
recognized and taken over the camp by order of the Duke, they had
seen more priests than warriors in the Norman army. They had
mistaken for priests all the warriors who had closely shaven
faces and short hair, for the English at that time wore long
flowing hair and long moustaches. "All these priests are good
warriors," said the king, "and you will shortly see them at
work."

{100}

William did not yet begin the attack. A Norman monk presented
himself in Harold's camp. "The Duke William makes three
proposals," said he; "first, to give up your kingdom to him;
secondly, to submit his claim to the arbitration of the Pope; or,
lastly, to decide the quarrel by single combat." "I will not give
up my kingdom, I will not put the matter in the hands of the
Pope, and I refuse the challenge to fight," replied Harold
curtly. The monk returned to the Norman camp; but he soon
reappeared, bearing another message: "if you will be faithful to
your compact with him, the Duke will allow you to keep possession
of all the country north of the Humber, and will give to your
brother Gurth the land which was formerly held by Godwin. If you
refuse, you are a perjurer and a liar, and all who fight for you
shall be excommunicated by the Pope."

The Saxon chiefs looked at each other; but the love of liberty
was stronger than their religious fears. "The Norman has given
away everything beforehand to his soldiers," they said, "both
land and goods. Where should we go, if we should lose our
country?" And they resolved to die fighting to the last.

The night of the 13th of October, 1066, was passed very
differently in the two camps. William's strict discipline only
allowed religious music or devotional practices. After the
fashion of the ancient Saxons and of the Danes, whose blood had
become mixed with theirs, the English soldiers were eating,
laughing, and singing warlike songs. At daybreak, after holy mass
had been celebrated, the Normans issued from their camp. They
were divided into three bodies, all preceded by archers. The duke
was mounted on a Barbary horse which he had brought from Spain.
He bore on his neck, in a golden casket, one of the relics upon
which Harold had sworn the oath, as a silent witness of the
latter's perfidy. By his side a young cavalier, Toustain le
Blanc, was holding up aloft the standard sent by the pope. Odo,
bishop of Bayeux, was marching through the ranks mounted upon his
great white horse, and wearing a breastplate and helmet.

{101}

"See how well he rides," said the Norman, looking at William. "He
is a graceful Duke, and will be a graceful king." And they
advanced joyfully behind him.

At seven o'clock the attack on the Saxon camp began. Taillefer,
the knight-minstrel of the Norman army, was marching in front,
singing the song of Roland. The Normans cried, "Our Lady, help
us!" The monks who had come with them to the field of battle had
retired to pray.

Three times the Normans were repulsed. It was noon. In spite of
the arrows of the archers, which inflicted great losses on the
Saxon, and one of which had destroyed Harold's left eye, the
English camp held good at all points. The duke's horse had been
killed during an assault; a rumor had gone forth that William was
dead; but immediately taking off his helmet, and showing himself
bareheaded to his affrighted soldiers, he cried out, "Here I am!
Look at me; I am living, and I will conquer, with God's help."
Some were already taking to flight; these he held back with his
long lance, and reconducted to the attack on the enemy's camp.
All the defenders of the rampart were killed, but the twig
hurdles still protected the bulk of the Saxon army. The Normans
pretended to fly; the Saxons rushed forth in pursuit of them and
were all killed. The remainder could no longer resist; the
Normans therefore beat down the barrier and entered sword in
hand.

{102}

Around Harold's banner, his chosen warriors had formed themselves
into a compact circle, the "ring of death" as the Danes called
it. Harold was there with his two brothers, Gurth and Leofwin.
The fight recommenced furiously between the Normans and these
brave men; not one of them receded; the heaps of bodies of the
slain Normans formed a rampart for them, when twenty of their
foes advanced together. They had sworn to cut a passage through
the English or to perish to a man. Ten of them fell, but the
ranks of the Saxons remained unbroken. William rushed to the
attack, followed by his best warriors. The English soldiers were
dying at their posts, immovable as the oaks in their forests.
Gurth was dead, Leofwin was dying, bathed in blood, and Harold
alone was still fighting at the foot of his banner. At sunset he
fell, in his turn, and the standard of the pope replaced the
golden Dragon of Wessex. All the English earls were stretched
upon the field of battle, and the few Saxons who still remained
were slowly retreating; yet so dauntless were they, even in
defeat, that the Normans did not dare to disperse while it was
still dark. Eustace of Boulogne, speaking to Duke William, was
struck down by an unexpected blow.

On the morrow, at daybreak, Godwin's widow, whom William's
pretensions to the English crown had deprived of four sons, came
and asked permission to take away the bodies of her relations.
Gurth and Leofwin had fallen together, at the foot of the banner.
No one could find the body of Harold. His own mother could not
distinguish him, but was obliged to send for "Swan-necked" Edith,
whom her son had loved. Edith pointed to a body covered with
wounds and disfigured by sword-thrusts. "That is Harold!" she
said. He was borne with his brothers to Waltham Abbey, where he
was buried beneath a stone bearing simply this inscription:
"Infelix Harold."

{103}


                    Chapter V.

  Establishment Of The Normans In England. 1066-1087.


King Harold was dead, but England was not subdued. The
Wittenagemot had already reassembled in London to choose a new
leader for resistance to the invasion. The sons of Harold were
still children; and in accordance with a passion for hereditary
right remarkable in a country which had often rejected that
principle, the popular assembly chose Edgar Atheling, a
grand-nephew of Edward the Confessor, to receive the perilous
title of king of England. But Edgar was young, his intellect was
feeble, and the chiefs who surrounded him were haughty and
undisciplined. Stigand, the archbishop of Canterbury, was still
endeavoring to organize the army, with the assistance of the
Earls Edwin and Morcar, when the approach of the Normans rendered
it necessary to make an immediate effort. After leaving Hastings,
near which town he afterwards built Battle Abbey, the Conqueror
had begun his march upon London. The city was well defended:
after a slight attack William set fire to Southwark, and,
spreading his troops over the country, pillaged the domains of
all the thanes assembled at the Wittenagemot. He enclosed the
capital in a circle of fire and plunder which raised fears of a
famine. Edwin and Morcar, as well as the Saxon prelates, had
already begun to lose courage. The reinforcements expected from
the distant provinces were stopped by the Normans. William was at
Berkhampstead, still threatening London. An embassy was
despatched with a view to conciliate him.
{104}
Soon afterwards the young king Edgar and all his counsellors,
including Stigand, Edwin, and Morcar, presented themselves before
the Norman--the king to renounce his empty title, the earls to
swear fidelity to the conqueror. The duke received them affably:
he promised in his turn to govern with mildness, in accordance
with the ancient laws, and raising his camp at Berkhampstead he
advanced towards London. For a moment he had appeared to hesitate
with regard to the opportunity for his coronation; but his barons
urged him to take the title which he had won at the point of the
sword, and William voluntarily allowed himself to be guided by
them, though only consenting to stay in London after he should
have built a fortress for his residence.

He had need to defend himself: for at every step the hostility of
the people over whom he sought to rule displayed itself
energetically. On arriving at St. Alban's the Normans found the
way obstructed by a number of large trees thrown across the road.
"Who has done this?" inquired William angrily. "I," replied the
Abbot of St. Alban's, presenting himself before him; "and if
others of my rank and profession had done as much, you would not
have advanced as far as this." The conqueror did no harm to the
proud abbot; but on the day of his coronation he surrounded
Westminster Abbey with battalions of his Normans before entering
beneath its majestic roof, attended by his barons and by the
Saxons who in a small number had rallied round him. Stigand had
submitted; but he had refused to crown the usurper. This duty,
therefore, fell upon the Archbishop of York, Aldred, a prudent
man, who was able to discern the signs of the times. At the
moment when the duke entered the church the acclamations of the
bystanders were so noisy that the Normans posted outside,
believing that they were fighting in the sacred edifice, rushed
into the neighboring houses and set them afire.
{105}
The cries of the inhabitants, the clatter of arms, frightened in
their turn the spectators of the ceremony; they hurried in a
crowd to the door, hastening to get out, and William soon found
himself almost alone in the church with the priests and some
devoted friends. The coronation ceremony, however, continued, and
when the Duke of Normandy had issued from the church to appease
the tumult he had become king of England. The Normans had
dispersed to extinguish the fires or pillage the houses; the
Saxons murmured against them under the sombre prognostications of
a reign thus inaugurated by fire and sword. William left London
almost immediately, and his first measures, mild and conciliatory
in their nature, attracted around him a considerable number of
Saxon chiefs, to whom he confirmed the title to their domains. A
great extent of territory had already fallen into his hands, but
the time for dividing the spoil had not yet arrived. In the month
of March, 1067, William crossed over into Normandy, having
entrusted the government of England to his brother, the Bishop of
Bayeux.

Was his object to place in security the treasures which he had
acquired, or to give time for insurrections to break out in order
to suppress them energetically? Whatever may have been his
motives he remained eight months in Normandy, enriching the
churches and abbeys with the spoils gathered in England, and
conducting through his hereditary states the dangerous subjects
whom he had brought in his suite, Stigand, Edwin, Morcar, and the
youthful Edgar Atheling.

{106}

Meanwhile the Saxons were groaning under the exactions of Odo of
Bayeux, and did not confine themselves to groans. The risings
became numerous; the inhabitants of Kent had called to their
assistance Eustace of Boulogne, who had previously been the cause
of the discontent of the English with Edward the Confessor, and
who was now at enmity with the Conqueror. He came; but Dover
Castle opposed to his attacks an unexpected resistance, which
allowed the Normans time to arrive and repulse him. William had
returned to England when, in 1068, the ill-feeling of the
population of Devon drew upon that county the attention of the
conquerors. The aged Githa, the mother of Harold, was living at
Exeter, whither she had carried all her wealth. The fortress
refused to receive William and his garrison, offering only to pay
the taxes which were wont to be paid to the Saxon kings. "I
desire subjects, and do not accept their conditions," said
William, who ordered the assault to be commenced. The city was
well defended; it resisted for eighteen days. At length the
magistrates, less firm than the citizens, opened the gates, and
the inhabitants paid cruelly for their obstinacy. Githa, and the
ladies of her suite, succeeded in escaping, and in concealing
themselves in the little islands at the mouth of the Severn,
whence they set sail for Flanders. But scarcely was the outbreak
extinguished in the South when it broke forth in the North. Earl
Edwin, to whom William had lately refused to give the hand of one
of his daughters, as he had previously promised, had withdrawn
himself from his court, and the vassals, as well as the friends
of the earl, had already gathered around him in Northumbria. The
Conqueror at once commenced his march, and entering York took up
his position there after expelling the Saxons. While he was
pillaging and ravaging the environs the old Archbishop Aldred,
whose convoys had been seized, came to make complaint to the
king, and reproaching him with the cruelties committed in his
name. "Thou art a foreigner. King William," he exclaimed, "yet
Heaven desiring to punish our nation, thou hast obtained this
kingdom of England at the price of much bloodshed, and I have
anointed thee with my own hands. But I now curse thee and thy
race, because thou hast persecuted the Church of God and
oppressed its servants."
{107}
Several Normans had already grasped the hilts of their swords;
but William restrained them, and permitted the priest to return
in safety into his palace, where he fell sick and died soon
afterward.

The capture of York had not discouraged the Northumbrians; they
attacked the Normans in Durham, and massacred them in numbers;
they had also received important reinforcements. Sweyn, king of
Denmark, at the solicitation of the sons of Harold, had sent
assistance to the insurgents; two hundred and forty Danish
vessels were approaching the coasts. Edgar Atheling, having
sought refuge in Scotland with King Malcolm, who had married his
sister Margaret, had lately joined the Saxon army and promised
support to his brother-in-law. Before the Conqueror was apprised
of this new danger York was recaptured by the insurgents, and
Edgar Atheling had assumed once more the title of king, which he
had formerly laid at the feet of the Norman. But winter came, and
William was already assembling his army. Settling hastily the
affairs which had called him Southward he took once more the road
towards the North, and entered into secret negotiations with the
Danes, insomuch that at the moment that he appeared under the
walls of York the pirates weighed anchor and sailed again down
the coast, pillaging the Saxon villages which the king had
abandoned to them before taking again the road towards their
country.

{108}

Malcolm, the king of Scotland, had now come to the assistance of
the insurgents. York was again taken and put to fire and sword.
King William then carried his anger and his vengeance into all
the counties of the North; not a village which was not burnt, not
a domain which was not confiscated. The churches, and even the
monasteries found no shelter against Norman rapacity. The
inhabitants of Beverley had amassed their treasures in the church
dedicated to St. John of Beverley, a Saxon like themselves, who
owed them protection. This, however, had no effect on the
Normans, and Toutain, one of the battle chiefs of William,
penetrated on horseback into the church of the monastery, in
pursuit of the fugitives who had taken refuge there. His horse
slipped upon the marble pavement of the sanctuary and the
horseman was killed. St. John of Beverley had protected his
countrymen, and the Normans withdrew from his abbey. Edgar
Atheling had taken refuge again in Scotland; but this time the
insurrection had found a true chief. Hereward, lord of Born, a
warrior celebrated by his adventures abroad, had intrenched
himself in the isle of Ely, which he called the Camp of Refuge,
and from all sides the oppressed English gathered around him.
William ordered the Earls Edwin and Morcar, who had returned to
his court, to be carefully watched. They were apprised of the
fact and secretly fled. Edwin was overtaken and slain by the
soldiers who pursued him; but Morcar succeeded in reaching the
isle of Ely. Thence Hereward undertook expeditions into the
surrounding country, and kept at bay all the troops which William
sent against him. He even defied Yves Taillebois, one of the
king's favorites, whom William had recently induced to marry
Lucy, a sister to Edwin and Morcar, and whose intolerable tyranny
contributed to maintain the insurrection in the Eastern counties.
But King William caused the little isle to be invested, cutting
off from it provisions and reinforcements. The monks of the
monastery grew weary of that compulsory fast, and indicated to
the Normans the points of attack.
{109}
The Saxons were beaten: the Bishop of Durham and Earl Morcar were
taken and cast into prison for the remainder of their lives.
Hereward succeeded in escaping, and in maintaining an irregular
warfare; but, won over at last by the proposals of William, who
sincerely admired his indomitable courage, he consented to lay
down his arms. He lived long afterwards upon his domains, which
the Conqueror permitted him to enjoy.

The Camp of Refuge was destroyed, and the county of
Northumberland was given by William to the Saxon Waltheof, a
warrior esteemed by his countrymen, whom William had attached to
him by giving him the hand of his niece Judith. Being called away
into Normandy in consequence of a rising of the inhabitants of
Maine, the king took with him an English army, which fought as
valiantly for him as it had against him shortly before. During
his sojourn on the Continent he received into favor Edgar
Atheling, who had recently failed in a new attempt instigated by
the king of France, Philippe I.; the descendant of King Alfred
took up his abode at Rouen, where he passed eleven years of his
life in amusing himself with his horses and dogs.

A fresh insurrection recalled William into England. On this
occasion it was the Normans themselves who revolted against him.
His faithful companion, William FitzOsbern, was dead, and his son
Roger, earl of Hereford like his father, had contracted a
marriage with the sister of Ralph de Waher, or Guader, a Breton
knight, who had accompanied William, and had been created Earl of
Norfolk. This union was distasteful to the king, who had
endeavored to prevent it, for he did not like the Bretons. After
the nuptials the party was excited: FitzOsbern and Waher spoke of
the tyranny of King William, and proposed his overthrow.
{110}
Waltheof, who was present, had listened, but without taking part
in the conspiracy. He had merely promised secrecy; but the secret
was betrayed by his wife, who disliked him, and desired to rid
herself of her husband. Lanfranc, who had become Archbishop of
Canterbury upon the deposition of Stigand, and who was invested
with power in the absence of his master, despatched an army
against the rebels. The latter had been obliged lo declare
themselves before their preparations were completed. When the
king recrossed the sea the insurrection was already almost
suppressed. Waher was banished, together with a great number of
Bretons; FitzOsbern was put in prison; the unfortunate Waltheof,
who had not taken up arms, but who was a Saxon, son of the
glorious Siward, and Earl of Northumbria, was executed, to the
great indignation of his fellow-countrymen, who came in crowds to
pray at his tomb, and attributed to him numerous miracles.
William did not allow Judith to marry the man for whom she had
sacrificed her husband. She, on her part, refused the marriage
which he offered her; and the king, having stripped her of all
her possessions, this wicked woman was reduced to wander
sometimes in England, sometimes on the Continent, bearing with
her everywhere tokens of her misery and shame.

Thus ended the great insurrection in England. William was master
of the country, and the harsh repressive measures which he had
employed at length bore their fruits. The Saxons murmured under
the weight of their misfortunes, but no longer dared to revolt.
The king, frequently called into Normandy by his quarrels with
his eldest son, Robert Curthose, was able now to leave England
without anxiety. When he arrived at manhood Robert had called on
his father to divest himself in his favor of the duchy of
Normandy.

[Image]
Robert's Encounter With His Father.

{111}

"I am not accustomed to throw off my clothing before going to
bed," replied William, and Robert irritated, had revolted against
his father and endeavored to arouse against him embarrassments
and enemies on all sides. In vain had his mother Matilda, who
loved him tenderly, endeavored many times to reconcile him with
his father. Robert could not endure the yoke of paternal
authority. He journeyed about the Continent, expatiating on his
grievances and squandering the money which his mother sent to him
secretly, to the great vexation of William. He received
assistance from the king of France, Philippe I., who detested his
father, and who installed him in the fortress of Gerberoi, on the
confines of Normandy, whence it was easy for him to pillage the
neighboring territory. William besieged Gerberoi. During a sortie
Robert found himself face to face with a knight of robust form,
concealed by his armor, and having his vizor lowered, with whom
he contended for some time. At length he unseated him, and was on
the point of despatching his antagonist, when the wounded knight
called his people to his aid, and Robert recognized the voice of
his father. In spite of his vanity Robert's heart was accessible
to generous sentiments. He threw himself on his knees before his
prostrate father, entreated his pardon, raised him with his own
hands and set him on his horse. A reconciliation followed, for
Robert was softened and penitent. But a fresh quarrel soon
hurried the son out of Normandy. He set forth bearing with him a
malediction which his father never revoked.

While the rebellions of his eldest son detained the Conqueror in
his Norman domains, his brother Odo, bishop of Bayeux, whom he
had created Earl of Kent, had made himself detested in England. A
brave and able warrior, the bishop had often led to battle the
soldiers of William; but he had taken advantage of his influence
to oppress the poor Saxons, extorting from them enormous riches.
{112}
His vast treasures, the grand position which his brother
occupied, and the conquests of the Normans in Italy had awakened
in the heart of the Bishop of Bayeux the hope of becoming Pope.
He had bought a palace in Rome and had sent there a great deal of
money; when he resolved to go himself into Italy, and began to
make preparations for his journey, gathering around him a number
of Norman pilgrims anxious to obtain pardon for their sins by
that holy enterprise.

Scarcely, however, had William become cognizant of his brother's
project, when he returned from Normandy, and meeting the prelate
in the Isle of Wight, caused him to be immediately arrested.
Then, reassembling his council, he enumerated before the barons
his grievances against the Bishop of Bayeux, his cruelties, his
extortions, his secret manœuvres. "What does such a brother
deserve?" he asked in conclusion. No one replied. "Let him be
arrested," said the king, "and I will see to him." The barons
hesitated: William himself advanced towards his brother. "Thou
hast not the right to touch me," exclaimed Odo, "I am a priest
and a bishop; the Pope alone is empowered to condemn me." "I am
not judging the Bishop of Bayeux, but the Earl of Kent," replied
William; and having sent him across the sea into Normandy, he
imprisoned his brother in a dungeon, to the great satisfaction of
the English, who detested him.

William had lost his wife Queen Matilda in 1083; the only
softening influence which had tempered that imperious will had
disappeared. His two remaining sons, William and Henry,
quarrelled with each other: the Danes were again threatening the
shores of England, where they could easily have found support,
and the English, sullen and subjected, nourished in their hearts
a deep hatred towards the sovereign who had despoiled them, not
only to enrich his Norman adherents, but in favor of the stags
and deer, "whom (says the chronicle) he loved like his children,"
and for whose sake he had created or enlarged forests, while he
had destroyed towns, villages, and monasteries which interfered
with the preservation of game, or the pleasures of the chase, the
passion for which he transmitted to his descendants.

{113}

It was during these years of doubtful repose that William caused
to be compiled the Domesday Book, a complete record of the state
of property in England, in repute to this day, and an
indispensable labor after a conquest which had resulted in the
transfer of nearly all the domains to other hands. William had
divided the immense territories of which he had possessed himself
into 60,215 fees of knights who had all sworn to him the oath of
fidelity. Six hundred great vassals holding directly from the
crown had also sworn to him faith and homage as their suzerain
lord; and lest their united influence should become dangerous,
the king had scattered their fiefs in different parts of the
country among their enemies the Saxons. Perhaps unconsciously
William had thus obviated the greater part of the inconveniences
of the conquest. This was not like the case of a feeble and
effeminate people exhausted by oppression as were the Gauls at
the moment of the invasion of the Germans. In England, two
nations of the same origin and the same religion, equally brave
and obstinate, had found themselves face to face. The Saxons were
strong enough to resist their conquerors step by step. The
Normans could not completely oppress a people always ready to
revolt, who had long possessed institutions fitted for developing
individual liberty.

{114}

Thus compelled to reckon with the conquered, the Normans
necessarily acquired by degrees a greater respect for liberty
than they had felt under the Norman feudal régime. The persecuted
Saxons remained united in order to preserve some power of
resistance: the Normans triumphant, but few in number among their
enemies, were in their turn compelled to agree together, that
they might not be crushed. Governed by the feudal law, they owed
to the king their lord feudal service and certain gifts or dues
under definite conditions: the Saxons, who by degrees allied
themselves with William, accepted the same conditions on
receiving their fiefs, without, however, renouncing the laws
peculiar to their race or the rural institutions which the
conquerors did not use themselves, and did not always permit to
be freely exercised. It was nevertheless to this assemblage of
confused regulations, requiring long years to bring them into
accord, that the two nations owed the preservation of their
strength and their liberties during the fusion which was slowly
in progress. In England, as on the Continent, the feudal lords
were grand justiciaries upon their lands, but they had acquired
the habit of summoning eight or ten of the principal inhabitants
of the neighborhood in testimony to the truth of the facts
alleged, according to the ancient Saxon custom, which is the
origin of juries. When the criminal could not be found, the
parish remained responsible for fines and costs. Thus the Saxons
and the Normans came to perform themselves the duties of police
and of maintaining order. Instead of succumbing, the liberties of
England developed and fortified themselves by the conquest. It
was a struggle, but not an oppression.

Meanwhile William the Conqueror grew weary of his inaction.
Gloomy and alone, he felt the need of the noise of combat and the
excitement of war. Philippe I. had refused to yield up to him the
town of Mantes, and a portion of the French Vexin over which he
claimed to have right as duke of Normandy.
{115}
Philippe had even encouraged his barons to make incursions into
William's territory. Uniting his Norman barons and his English
vassals, whose valor he knew, against his enemies, he crossed the
sea in the latter days of the year 1086, to seize by force of
arms what the King of France refused to yield to negotiations. On
arriving in France, William had been taken ill, and it was not
till the month of June that he was at length able to march
against Mantes, which he captured and cruelly pillaged. While in
the midst of the burning town he was encouraging his soldiers
when his horse slipped. The king was an old man of heavy frame;
he fell and was seriously injured. They carried him to Rouen,
where he languished six weeks. Remorse now seized him; all the
cruelties of his life rose up before him; he endeavored to
expiate them by gifts to the poor and endowments of the churches.
His two younger sons were there, anxious to know in what way the
king was about to divide his heritage. In spite of his anger
against Robert, the king would not deprive him of the duchy of
Normandy, where he had been able to make friends. "I leave to no
one the kingdom of England," he said, "for I did not receive it
as a heritage, but won it by my sword, at the price of much
bloodshed. I confide it therefore to the good-will of God,
desiring nevertheless that it should go to my son William, who
has always obeyed and served me in all things;" and he wrote to
the Archbishop Lanfranc, to recommend him to crown his son.

Henry approached his father's bed. "And I?" said he. "Do you
leave me nothing?" "Five thousand pounds' weight of silver from
my treasury," replied the king, who was now dying. "And what
shall I do with this silver if I have neither house nor land?"
cried the young man. "Be patient, my son," said the king, "and
thou shalt perhaps, be greater than all."
{116}
Henry immediately obtained payment of the money and went his way,
while his brother William set out for England in order to
accomplish his father's wishes by being crowned as soon as
possible. The Conqueror was left alone upon his death-bed.

It was the 9th of September, 1087. William was sleeping heavily
when he was awakened by the sound of bells. "What is that?" he
inquired. "The bells of St. Mary sounding the prime," was the
answer. "I commend my soul to Our Lady, the sainted Mary, and to
God," said the king, raising his hand towards heaven, and he
expired. His sons had left him when dying: his attendants
abandoned him when dead. A sudden stupor seized on the entire
city upon the death of this powerful and terrible ruler. When the
monks recovered themselves, and flocked into the royal palace to
fulfil the duties of their office, they found the chamber
stripped and the body of the Conqueror almost naked, stretched
upon the ground. The king's sons troubled themselves no more with
the funeral of their father than they had done with regard to his
last moments. His body was conveyed to Caen, and it was a country
gentleman named Herluin who undertook the expenses, from a kind
disposition and for the love of God. At the church of St. Stephen
of Caen, which the king had built and endowed, the body of the
monarch was on the point of being placed in a grave, when a
citizen of Caen, named Azelin, advanced from among the crowd and
exclaimed, "Bishop, the man whom you have praised was a robber.
The ground on which we stand is mine; it was the site of my
father's house, which he took from me to build his church. I
claim my right, and in the name of God I forbid you to inter him
in my ground, or to cover his body with earth which is mine." It
was necessary to pay to Azelin the just compensation which he
claimed before the body was allowed to be deposited in the grave
that awaited it. It was found to be too narrow, and they were
compelled to place the coffin in it by force, to the great horror
of the bystanders; and not till then was the Conqueror able to
enjoy in peace the six feet of earth required for his last
resting-place.

[Image]
Azelin Forbidding The Burial Of William The Conqueror.

{117}


                   Chapter VI.

       The Norman Kings.  (1087-1154.)
       William Rufus
       Henry I.
       Stephen.


William Rufus had not yet set sail from Wissant, near Calais,
when he received intelligence of the death of his father. He kept
the news secret; and obtained possession of several important
places on the pretext of orders which he had received from the
deceased king. It was not until he had helped himself freely to
the treasure of the Conqueror at Winchester, and had made
arrangements with the Archbishop Lanfranc, that he proclaimed the
death of his father and his own claim to the crown. The bishop
had been careful to administer to the king an oath binding him to
observe the laws before consenting to give him his support; but
oaths cost little to William. Scarcely had he been declared king
by a council of barons and prelates, hurriedly assembled on the
26th of September, 1087, than he violated his original
engagements, and cast the Saxon prisoners, whom his father had
liberated on his death-bed, again into prisons, together with his
Norman captives.

{118}

The new monarch would have acted more wisely if he had decided on
a directly opposite course. Scarcely had the Bishop of Bayeux and
his companions in captivity been set at liberty than they placed
themselves at the head of the malcontents. The great barons all
possessed fiefs in Normandy and in England: the separation of the
two States, therefore, displeased them. Many of them resolved to
depose William in order to secure to Robert an undivided paternal
inheritance. In consequence of their manœuvres a serious
insurrection broke out simultaneously in several parts of
England. Robert Curthose had promised to support his partisans
with a Norman army, and already some small bodies of troops had
put to sea, confident of meeting with no resistance on the part
of the king, who was without a fleet. William Rufus took his
measures, and called round him that English nation which his
father had scarcely subjected. "Let him who is not a man of
nothing, either in the towns or in the country, leave his home
and come." Such was the proclamation in all the counties
according to the ancient Saxon custom. The Saxons obeyed: thirty
thousand men assembled round King William., while the merchant
ships, already numerous, were cruising in the Channel and
destroying, one after the other, the little flotillas which were
bringing over the Normans. Bishop Odo had fortified himself in
Rochester: the king attacked him there with his Saxon army, and
would have compelled him to surrender at discretion, if the
Normans who had remained faithful to William had not interceded
on his behalf. "We assisted thee in the time of danger," said
they; "we beg thee now to spare our fellow-countrymen; our
relations, who are also thine, and who aided thy father to
possess himself of England." The king consented to allow the
garrison to march out with arms and baggage; but the arrogant
prelate demanded that the trumpets should not celebrate his
defeat. "I would not consent for a thousand marks of gold,"
exclaimed William angrily, and above the sound of the trumpets
arose the cries of the Saxons. "Bring us a halter that we may
hang this traitor bishop and his accomplices. O king, why do you
allow him to retire thus safe and sound?"

{119}

Odo returned to Normandy, Duke Robert negotiated with his
brother, and the Saxons had already lost the advantages which
William had accorded or promised to them in order to secure their
co-operation. Lanfranc was dead: and the oppression had become
more burdensome, the exactions more odious since his influence
had disappeared. The king delayed long to appoint his successor,
taking himself possession of the rich domains and revenues of the
diocese of Canterbury in contempt of ecclesiastical pretensions.
He had for minister and confidant a Norman priest, Ralph
Flambard, whom he had made Bishop of Lincoln, and whose tyranny
was so great that the inhabitants of his diocese, says the
chronicle, "desired his death rather than live under his power."
The hereditary passion of King William for the chase, and the
rigor of the forest laws, were among the most frequent causes of
persecution. "The guardian of the forests and the pastor of the
wild beasts," as the Saxons called him, "took advantage of the
least offence against his tyrannical ordinances to crush the
thanes, who had preserved some remains of power." Fifty Saxons of
considerable influence were accused of having taken, killed, and
eaten deer. They denied the charge, and the Norman judges
compelled them to undergo the ordeal of red hot iron; but their
hands were untouched. When the fact was announced to the king he
burst into laughter. "What matters that?" said he; "God is no
good judge of such matters; it is I who am most concerned in such
affairs, and I will judge these fellows." The chronicle does not
say what became of the poor Saxons.

{120}

Several times war had broken out between William and his brother
Robert. Rufus had conceived the hope of expelling Curthose from
Normandy. He had numerous partisans on the Continent, and but for
the support of the king of France, and the alliance with his
brother Henry, Curthose must soon have succumbed. But in 1096,
after a great insurrection in England, and at the moment when
King William, triumphant over internal commotions, was probably
about to renew his attacks upon Normandy, Duke Robert, seized
with a passion for the Crusades, which were beginning then to
agitate Christendom, suddenly proposed to his brother to mortgage
his duchy for some years for a large sum of money which would
enable him to equip troops and to set out with éclat for the
East. The coffers of the king were no better filled than were
those of the duke, but he was more skilful in replenishing them
at the expense of his subjects. The monasteries and the churches
were taxed like the Saxons. "Have you not coffers of gold and
silver filled with the bones of the dead?" exclaimed Rufus, and
he laid his hand upon the shrines containing the reliques. Robert
received the sums agreed upon and set out joyfully for Palestine,
while William crossed into Normandy, and without meeting
resistance took possession of the duchy, where he already
possessed numerous fortresses. Maine alone exhibited repugnance,
and a revolt broke out there in 1100 while the Red King was
enjoying the chase in England, in the hunting-grounds created by
his father, which bear to this day the name of the New Forest. He
set out instantly for the Continent. His nobles begged him to
take time to assemble his forces. "No, no," replied Rufus, "I
know the country and shall soon have men enough," and he jumped
aboard the first vessel which he met with, in spite of the
violence of the wind. "Did you ever hear of a king being
drowned?" he said to the sailors who were hesitating to set sail;
and he arrived safe and sound at Barfleur. The rumor of his
coming terrified the lord of La Flêche, who was the leader of the
insurrection; he abandoned the siege of Le Mans and took to
flight. The domains of the enemy were soon ravaged, and Rufus
returned to England.

{121}

Sinister rumors were circulating among the Saxons with regard to
the royal forests. One of the sons of William the Conqueror had
wounded himself mortally in chasing the deer in the New Forest.
In the month of May, 1100, the son of Duke Robert, on a visit to
his uncle, was killed there by an arrow. People said that Satan
appeared to the Normans and announced the sinister end which
awaited them; but the Red King continued to devote himself to the
chase.

It was the 1st of August. He had passed the night at Malwood
Keep, a castle used as a hunting-seat in the very heart of the
forest. His brother Henry, with whom he had become reconciled,
was with him. A numerous suite accompanied him, among whom was
one of the private friends of William, a great hunter like
himself, one Walter Tyrrel, a French nobleman, who possessed
large estates in Poix and Ponthieu. During the night the king had
been agitated by terrible dreams: he had been heard to invoke
"the name of Our Lady, which was not his custom;" but he seemed
to have forgotten all this and was preparing cheerfully for the
fatigues and pleasures of the day. While he was putting on his
buskins a workman approached and presented him with six new
arrows. He examined them, and taking four for himself, gave the
two others to Walter Tyrrel, with the remark, "The good marksman
should have the good weapons." As he was breakfasting with a good
appetite, one of the monks of the abbey of St. Peter at
Gloucester brought him letters from his abbot. During the night
one of the brethren had been tormented with dismal visions.
{122}
He had seen Jesus Christ seated upon His throne, and at His feet
a woman supplicating him on behalf of the human beings who were
groaning under the yoke of William. The king laughed at the omen.
"Do they take me for an Englishman," said he, "with their dreams?
Do they think I am one of those idiots who abandon their course
or their affairs because an old woman chances to dream or sneeze?
Come, Walter de Poix! To horse!"

The hunting party had dispersed over the forest: Walter Tyrrel
alone remained with the king. Their dogs hunted in company. Both
were in search of prey when a great stag, disturbed by the
commotion, unexpectedly passed between the king and his
companion. William immediately drew his bow: the string of his
weapon broke, and the arrow did not shoot. The stag had stopped,
surprised by the noise, but not perceiving the hunters. The king
had made a sign to Tyrrel, but he did not draw his bow. The king
became angry. "Shoot, Walter!" he exclaimed; "Shoot, in the
devil's name!" An arrow flew, no doubt that of Tyrrel; but
instead of striking the stag it buried itself in the breast of
the king. He fell without uttering a word. Walter ran to him and
found him dead. Fear or remorse seized upon Tyrrel; he mounted
his horse again and galloping to the sea coast, got aboard a
vessel, passed into Normandy, and did not rest until he had taken
refuge upon the territory of the king of France.

The news of this accident had become known in the forest; but no
one gave a thought to the dead body of the king. Henry had
hastened to Winchester, and had already put his hand upon the
keys of the Royal Treasury when William of Breteuil joined him
out of breath. "We have all," he said, "thou as well as I and the
barons, sworn fidelity and homage to Duke Robert thy brother if
the king should die first. Absent or present, right is right."

[Image]
Death Of William Rufus.

{123}

A quarrel ensued, and it was with sword in hand that Henry
possessed himself of the treasure and the royal jewels. Meanwhile
a charcoal-burner, who had found the corpse of the monarch in the
forest, was bringing it to Winchester wrapped in old linen, and
leaving on the road behind the cart a long trail of blood.

The partisans of Robert in England were not numerous; they had no
leader. The duke was returning from Palestine, but he had stopped
on the way with the hospitable Normans, sons of Robert Guiscard,
established in Calabria and in Sicily. He had even married there.
Henry meantime had taken his measures and had caused himself to
be proclaimed there by the barons assembled in London. The
Archbishop of Canterbury, Anselm, had been expelled from England
three years previously; the archbishopric of York was vacant. It
was the custom of Rufus to delay as long as possible appointing
to the sees, in order that he might himself enjoy their revenues.
The Bishop of London crowned the new monarch. Henry Beau-Clerc,
as he was called, because he was fond of books and of churchmen,
became king under the title of Henry the First.

Henry was more popular among the Saxons than his two brothers had
been. Born and bred in England, he was regarded as an Englishman,
and his first care was to address himself to the English, who
were more powerful than is generally believed, and who after all
still formed the mass of the people of the country. "Friends and
vassals," said he, "natives of the country in which I was born,
you know that my brother has designs upon my kingdom. He is a
proud man, who cannot live in peace: his only wish is to trample
you under his feet.
{124}
On the other hand I, as a mild and pacific sovereign, intend to
maintain your ancient liberties and to govern you according to
your own wishes with wisdom and moderation. I will give you, if
you wish it, a record in my own hand. Stand firm for me; for
while I am seconded by the valor of the English I have no fear of
the foolish menaces of the Normans."

While the king was thus giving to the English a first charter,
which proved of short duration, he determined to seal his
promises by espousing a Saxon woman. He had cast his eyes on
Matilda, daughter of Malcolm, king of Scotland, and of Margaret
Atheling. Matilda had been reared in a convent in England by her
aunt Christina Atheling, the abbess. The young girl hesitated:
she had already been sought in marriage by several noblemen, and
it was repugnant to her to unite herself with the enemy of her
race and country. The Normans were irritated to see their king
seeking support among their enemies, and they spread the report
that Matilda had taken the vows as a nun in her infancy. It was
necessary to convoke the Bishops to decide the question. Anselm,
archbishop of Canterbury, (afterwards St. Anselm) had returned to
England. He had always been just towards the Saxons. When his
patron and friend Lanfranc was ridiculing in his presence the
Saxon devotion to St. Alphege, the archbishop who was massacred
by the Danes, Anselm had said, "For myself I regard that man as a
martyr, and a true martyr. He preferred to face death rather than
to do a wrong to his countrymen. He died for justice, as John
died for the truth, and each alike for Christ, who is truth and
justice." At the head of his bishops and on the personal
testimony of Matilda, Anselm declared that she had never been
consecrated to God, and the marriage took place. The queen was
beautiful, charitable, and virtuous; but she exercised little
influence over her husband, and was not able to prevent his often
oppressing the people.

{125}

Henry had banished the favorites of his brother, who were odious
to the Saxons, and Ralph Flambard, who had been a prisoner in the
Tower, had scarcely escaped from that fortress, when he heard
that Duke Robert had arrived in Normandy with his young wife
Sibylla, daughter of the Count of Conversano. King Henry was
greatly disquieted by the news. He had been careful to spread
abroad the report that his brother had accepted the crown of
Jerusalem, a worthy prize of his exploits in the Holy Land. The
discontent of a certain number of Norman barons, and their
disposition to offer their aid to Robert, compelled him more and
more to depend upon the English as well as on the Church. He paid
court to Anselm, and when Robert, encouraged by Ralph Flambard,
published his declaration of war, the bishops and the common
people of England were all on the side of King Henry. The Norman
barons were divided, and the Saxon sailors, carried away no doubt
by the fame which Robert had acquired in the Crusades, deserted
with the fleet. It was in vessels constructed by his brother that
Robert crossed with his army to English soil.

Duke Robert was undecided and wanting in settled character, but
he was brave, and his affection for his family had resisted the
disunion which had so long prevailed among these three brothers.
Long before, when in company with William Rufus he was besieging
their younger brother, now King Henry, but then only an
adventurer without lands, who had seized upon Mont St. Michael,
the supply of water had failed in the fortress, and the besieged
prince sent to ask permission to obtain some. Robert consented,
to the great vexation of William; he even sent to Henry wine for
his table. "There is nothing now left to do but to send him
provisions," said William moodily.
{126}
"What!" exclaimed the duke, "ought I to let our brother die of
thirst? and what other brother should we have if we lost him?"

Scarcely had Robert set foot in England when those among the
Normans who were averse to war interposed between the two
brothers. Once more Robert renounced his pretensions to the
kingdom conquered by his father. Henry ceded to him the
fortresses which he still held in Normandy, and promised to pay
him a pension of 3000 marks of silver. A general amnesty was
agreed upon on both sides.

Treaties, however, were scarcely more effectual than charters in
binding King Henry. By degrees the barons who had taken the side
of Robert were expelled from their domains and banished from
England. The chief of all, Robert of Belesme, earl of Shrewsbury,
had given ground of dissatisfaction by raising his standard when
he had been called on to appear before the royal tribunal.
Besieged in Bridgnorth, he had friends in the royal camp who
sought to reconcile him with the king. "Do not listen to them.
King Henry," cried the English infantry, "they are desirous of
drawing you into a snare. We arc here and will aid thee, and will
assault the town for thee. Make no peace with the traitor till
you secure him alive or dead." Henry pushed on with the siege;
Bridgnorth was taken, and Robert of Belesme, an exile, passed
over into Normandy, where he possessed thirty castles and vast
domains, which Duke Robert, faithful to the treaty, had begun to
ravage as soon as he saw the Earl of Shrewsbury in revolt against
his sovereign. In his chagrin at seeing the amnesty promised in
his name to the barons violated, Robert went himself to England,
placing himself defenceless in the hands of his brother in order
to intercede for his friends.
{127}
He even made a present to Queen Matilda of 1000 marks of silver a
year, part of the 3000 marks which her husband had engaged to pay
him. He obtained only vague promises, and from the year 1104 the
resolution of King Henry to possess himself of Normandy began
again to show itself clearly.

Robert had lost his wife, and disorder reigned in his court. He
was still in want of money; affairs were unsettled, and Normandy
was suffering all the evils of a weak and capricious government.
Henry openly declared himself the protector of the duchy against
the maladministration of his brother. "I will give thee money,"
he wrote to him, "but yield to me the land. Thou hast the title
of chief, but in reality thou rulest no longer, for those who owe
thee obedience ridicule thee." Robert refused this proposal with
indignation, and Henry began his preparations for invading
Normandy with an armed force.

The wars were always a cruel burden for the people; the levies of
money necessary for the equipment of soldiers were ruinous to the
poor citizens and the unfortunate peasants. Before the departure
of Henry for Normandy crowds of country people presented
themselves on the road by which the king passed, casting at his
feet their ploughshares in token of distress. Nevertheless the
king set out and met his brother at Tinchebrai, not far from
Mortagne. The struggle was fierce. The military talents of Robert
were much superior to those of his brother, but his army was less
considerable, and there were traitors in the camp. In the very
heat of the contest Robert of Belesme took to flight with his
division. The duke was made prisoner, and his forces were
completely defeated. Henry at the same time seized Edgar
Atheling, once the legitimate pretender to the crown, the uncle
of Queen Matilda. In consideration of these facts he was allowed
his liberty in England, and received from the king a small
pension, which enabled him to end his days in such complete
obscurity that we are even ignorant of the date of his death.

{128}

Duke Robert was not fated to enjoy a captivity so mild. He had
suffered defeat on the 14th of October, 1106, the anniversary of
the day when forty years previously his father had won the battle
of Hastings. "God thus disposing," says the Chronicle, "that
Normandy became subject to England on the same day that England
had become subject to Normandy." Ralph Flambard had regained his
bishopric of Durham by giving up to the king the town and
fortress of Lisieux; but Robert had been conveyed to England, and
lodged in the castle of Cardiff, in Wales, which had recently
been conquered by the Normans. He enjoyed there a certain amount
of liberty, and hunted in the surrounding forest. One day he
leaped upon his horse and took to flight. He was not well
acquainted with the way; his horse sank into a bog. He was
captured and taken back to his prison. When the king was
acquainted with this attempt at escape, he ordered that the
prisoner's eyes should be burnt out by means of a bason of
red-hot iron. The captivity of the unhappy duke became complete;
but his robust constitution withstood all these misfortunes. He
lived twenty-eight years in his prison, blind and alone, without
news of the son whom he had left a child in Normandy, and
preserving to the last the dignified pride of his race. One day
some new clothes were brought to him from the king; Robert
handled them and discovered that one of them was unript at the
seam. He was told that Henry had tried on the doublet and had
found it too small for him. The duke threw all the clothes to a
distance, exclaiming, "So then my brother, or rather my traitor,
that cowardly clerk who has dismembered and deprived me of sight,
holds me now in such contempt--I who was once held in such honor
and renown--that he makes me alms of his old clothes as to a
valet!"

{129}

Robert was nearly eighty years of age when he died in 1135, some
months before his brother, King Henry. He had survived in his
captivity and suffering almost all the chief warriors with whom
he had fought before Jerusalem.

Robert had, however, a son, William Cliton, or as they soon
afterwards called him, William of Normandy; but the boy was only
seven years old when his uncle, finding himself in possession of
the whole of Normandy, began to besiege Valaise, where he was
under guard. No one thought of declaring himself in favor of the
little prince. He was taken and conducted to the king. The child
cried and asked for mercy; he had reason to tremble, for his life
was a great obstacle to the repose of his uncle. But making a
violent effort to banish evil thoughts, the king desired to
remove the little William from his presence, and he confided him
to a faithful servant of his household, Helie of St. Saen.
Sometime afterwards the king had changed his mind and desired to
take back the little prince, but Helie carried him off secretly,
and both took refuge at the court of the king of France, Louis
the Fat. He was there growing up when King Henry was marrying his
daughter Matilda, aged eight years, to Henry III., Emperor of
Germany. The marriage of an eldest daughter was one of those
occasions which gave the right to the feudal lord to levy taxes
from their vassals, and King Henry used this right in such a way
that the whole English people groaned under the burden. The
splendor of the retinue which accompanied the little princess on
her departure from England was soon forgotten; but when she
returned to her native land people still remembered the tears
which her marriage had cost.

{130}

King Louis VI. had promised William Cliton the investiture of
Normandy, when in 1113 war again broke out between France and
England. It lasted for two years, and all the castles on the
frontiers were captured from Henry. His able diplomacy procured
him in 1115 an advantageous treaty, which assured to prince
William of England the hand of Matilda of Anjou, daughter of the
Count Fulke. No one thought of reserving the rights of William
Cliton over Normandy, and when the great Norman barons were
convoked in 1117 to take the oath of allegiance to Prince
William, no claim was advanced in favor of the exile. His uncle
had made an attempt to entice him into England, promising him the
gift of three large counties; but the young man was not willing
to trust himself to his father's jailor, and we meet with him
again in 1119 at the head of a confederation formed on the
Continent against King Henry. At the battle of Brenville, which
preceded by some years the close of a war of mingled success and
disaster, William Cliton, or FitzRobert as he was often called,
penetrated into the presence of his uncle; but his knights were
repulsed, and the marriage of Prince William with Matilda of
Anjou, celebrated sumptuously in 1120, destroyed the hopes which
his cousin had conceived. King Louis accepted the homage of
Normandy represented by the son of the king of England, thus
sparing the regal pride of Henry. The policy of this prince
prevailed: he resolved to return in triumph to England, and on
the 25th of November, 1120, he prepared to set sail from the
little port of Barfleur, when a mariner well known upon that
coast advanced towards him, presenting a mark of gold. "Stephen,
son of Erard, my father served yours on the sea," said he, "and
it was he who steered the vessel aboard which your father sailed
for the conquest. Sire king, I entreat you to grant me in fief
the same office. I have a vessel called the _Blanchenef_,
well fitted out."

{131}

The king's ship was already prepared; he promised Stephen to give
him as passengers the Prince William and his sister, Lady Mary,
countess of Perche. The _Blanchenef_ was a large vessel.
Three hundred persons went aboard her as he set sail. The king
had preceded them on the sea, but Thomas FitzStephen was proud of
the fast sailing of his vessel, and made no haste to depart,
thinking to overtake the squadron without difficulty. There was
dancing and drinking upon the poop of the vessel: all the company
were excited when at length they set out. Night had come on; the
moon had risen; the wind was fresh. They advanced rapidly, for
the sailors lent aid with the oars. They were coasting, when
suddenly the ship struck upon a rock at the level of the water,
then called the _Raz de Catte,_ now the _Raz de
Catteville_. The _Blanchenef's_ planks were opened by the
shock, and she began to fill with water. The cry of terror which
arose from those aboard reached the vessel of the king, sailing
at a considerable distance; but no one understood the cause of
the noise. Henry disembarked quietly. His children had launched a
boat on the sea; and Prince William had entered it with some of
his companions, but the cries of his sister, the Lady Mary,
induced him to return to the foundering vessel; he had nearly
rescued her when the other passengers, driven wild with despair,
sprang in a mass into the feeble skiff, which immediately
disappeared with all its occupants. The vessel sank almost at the
same instant. Two men only clung to the mast, a butcher of Rouen
and a young nobleman named Gilbert de Laigle.
{132}
For a moment the head of Thomas FitzStephen appeared above the
waves. "What has become of the king's son?" he cried to the two
survivors. "He has disappeared with his sister, and every one
with him," they replied. "Unhappy me!" exclaimed the pilot, as he
plunged again into the waves. Gilbert's hands were frozen; he
relaxed his hold of the mast which supported him and was drowned
before the eyes of his companion, who was well wrapped in his
sheepskin and hardened against the effects of rough weather. He
held out until the morning, and was rescued by some fishermen on
the coast. From his lips they learned the news of the disaster
which had befallen the _Blanchenef's_. In England they did
not dare to apprise King Henry, who was awaiting the arrival of
his children. At length a boy presented himself before him and
cast himself at his feet. Henry assisted him to rise, and the
child related the story of the wreck of the Norman vessel. "And
from that time the king was never seen to smile," say the
chroniclers, without, however, expending any more tenderness over
the fate of Prince William, whose pride and harshness had caused
apprehensions in England. "If I ever come to reign over these
miserable Saxons," he was accustomed to say, "I will compel them
to draw the plough like oxen." "So he perished on a quiet night
and in calm weather," repeated the Saxons; "and it came to pass
that his head, instead of being encircled by a crown of gold, was
broken upon the rocks. It was God himself who decreed that the
son of the Norman should not behold England again."

King Henry had no male heir, although he had married again with
the daughter of the duke of Louvain. Many of the barons seemed
inclined to rally round William FitzRobert, who had lately
excited another revolt. Henry resolved to settle the crown upon
his daughter, the Empress Maud, who had lately become a widow.
{133}
All the ability of the king could not prevent at first a feeling
of repugnance among the great nobles: but the royal power had
become very great, supported as it was by the antagonism of two
hostile races between whom the king alone held the balance. The
Normans yielded. On Christmas Day, 1126, the Empress Maud was
declared heiress to the kingdom, and six months later she married
Geoffrey Plantagenet, [Footnote 2] son of Fulke, count of Anjou,
whose father had transferred to him his domains on setting out
for the Holy Land. Maud had for some time resisted the plans of
her father for her marriage, which had been kept so secret that
the barons protested, maintaining that the king had not the right
to dispose without their approval of their future sovereign. The
nuptial festivities lasted three weeks. Heralds, armed and in
magnificent costume, traversed the streets and squares of Rouen,
crying aloud, "In the name of King Henry, let no man here
present, inhabitant or stranger, dare to absent himself from the
royal rejoicings; for whosoever shall not take part in the
amusements and games shall be deemed guilty of offence towards
his lord the king."

    [Footnote 2: So named because he was accustomed to wear in
    his hat a branch of genet or broom (Planta genista) in
    blossom.]

Henry had obtained the oaths of all the barons, but he had too
much sense and knowledge of human nature not to be aware how
precarious the future situation of his daughter must be if his
nephew, William FitzRobert, should live to dispute the throne.
The young prince appeared, indeed, to be destined to a brilliant
future. King Louis had brought about a marriage between him and
the sister of his wife, a princess of Savoy, and he had given to
her for a portion Pontoise, Chaumont, and the Vexin. Soon
afterwards Charles the Good, count of Flanders, was assassinated
in the church at the foot of the altar.
{134}
Louis entered Flanders for the purpose of punishing the
murderers, and the count not having left any children, Louis
conferred his domains upon William FitzRobert, great grandson of
the old Count Baldwin. The young count, who remained in his new
territory, had soon a cause of quarrel with a certain number of
his subjects, who called the king of England to their aid. The
latter supported, as a rival to his nephew, the landgrave Thierry
of Alsace, who soon made himself master of Lille, of Ghent, and
other important places. The son of Robert Curthose, however, had
inherited the military talents of his father and grandfather: he
completely defeated his adversary under the walls of Alost; but
he had received a wound in the hand from a pike, and this injury,
at first regarded as of little importance, turned to gangrene.
William was carried to the monastery of St. Omer, where he died
on the 27th of July, 1128. He was not yet twenty-six years of
age, and he left no issue. His last care had been to recommend to
the clemency of his uncle the Norman barons who had served his
cause. The king willingly pardoned them, so rejoiced was he to be
delivered from the anxieties which his nephew caused him. Duke
Robert was still living; but these successes had no more effect
than the death of his son upon the dreary captivity of the
unfortunate blind prisoner.

The Empress Maud and her husband often gave trouble to King Henry
by their quarrels. The birth of their eldest son in 1133 for a
moment appeased their dissensions. The child was christened
Henry, after his grandfather, and the Normans called him Henry
FitzEmpress, to distinguish him from the king, whom they called
Henry FitzWilliam Conqueror. Two other sons were born to Count
Geoffrey Plantagenet, and the quarrels recommenced.
{135}
The count claimed Normandy, which the king had promised to
relinquish in his favor; but Henry still refused. He was no more
disposed than his father had been "to strip himself of his
clothing before bedtime." His strength, however, was declining:
he was dejected. On the 25th of November, 1135, anxious to dispel
his low spirits, he set out for the forest of Lion-la-Forèt, in
Normandy. When he returned he was hungry, and at supper he ate
greedily of a dish of lampreys, which his physician regarded as
unwholesome. His digestion was disordered: he fell ill and died
on the 1st of December, at the age of sixty-six, leaving all his
domains on both sides of the sea to his daughter Maud and her
descendants. He had reigned thirty-five years; and, with the
exception of some unimportant expeditions against the French,
England had enjoyed peace under his sway. This great blessing had
been sullied by many crimes. Neither plighted faith nor natural
feeling had ever impeded Henry I. in his ambitious projects; but
he had placed the dominion of the Norman race in England on such
solid foundations that the troubles which followed upon his death
could not shake it; and if success were the test of moral worth
Henry FitzWilliam Conqueror might be regarded as a great king.

All his efforts and all his precautions, however, had not enabled
him to secure the succession to his daughter. Scarcely had he
breathed his last when his nephew Stephen, son of the Count of
Blois and of Adela, daughter of William the Conqueror, set sail
immediately for England. The king had always treated his nephew
with particular favor; he had given him vast fiefs in England.
The Count Stephen was very popular among the Normans and the
Saxons. His wife, Maud, niece of Matilda, first wife of Henry I.,
even belonged to the royal Saxon family. Stephen boldly laid
claim to the throne, which could not, he said, belong to a woman.
{136}
He was descended like her from William the Conqueror, and in the
same degree. England was not a property which could be bequeathed
at pleasure and without respect for the wishes of the people.
Many barons were of Stephen's opinion, and the treasure of King
Henry, which his brother the Bishop of Winchester yielded up to
him, secured to him other adherents. The chief minister of the
deceased king, Roger, Bishop of Salisbury, whom Henry had
originally remarked and attached to his person as "the readiest
priest at saying a mass whom he had ever met with," allowed
himself to be won by money. William Corbois, Archbishop of
Canterbury, was more scrupulous, but was persuaded that the king,
irritated by the conduct of his daughter, had adopted his nephew
on his death-bed. Stephen was elected by the barons and prelates,
who considered themselves absolved from their oath towards the
empress because she had married without their consent; and the
coronation took place at Westminster, on the 26th of December,
St. Stephen's Day. The pope confirmed the election with the more
readiness because Stephen had accepted the oath of the clergy,
under the condition imposed by the bishops, of respect for the
liberties and discipline of the Church. The barons had obtained
new fiefs, with permission to fortify their castles and to
construct new ones. Those who were greedy for gain received
money, and King Stephen was in such high favor on both sides of
the sea that when Geoffrey Plantagenet entered Normandy to claim
the rights of his wife, the natural animosity of the Normans
against the Angevins broke forth with violence. The count was
compelled to retire, and to conclude with Stephen a truce for two
years, in consideration of a pension of 3000 marks of silver. The
king crossed over into Normandy, and received there the homage of
the barons; and Louis VII., surnamed the Young, then king of
France, betrothed his young sister, Constance, to the little
Eustace, son of Stephen, granting to the child the investiture of
Normandy.

{137}

Among the barons who had taken the oath of allegiance to Stephen
was Robert, earl of Gloucester, a natural son of Henry I., who
had renounced all rights to the throne in favor of his sister,
the Empress Maud. Like her, he had pretended to yield, but like
her he had not abandoned the cause. Maintained in the possession
of his large domains through his oath of fidelity, he crossed
from Normandy into England, and very soon the tranquillity which
had reigned there gave place to a secret agitation. Several
partial risings took place; but these were only the precursors of
the great insurrection which Gloucester was preparing, and which
David, king of Scotland, was about to support as protector of the
rights of his sister, the Empress Maud.

The mine was dug. The Earl of Gloucester retired into Normandy,
whence he wrote to Stephen solemnly renouncing his allegiance.
Other great barons followed his example, and, fortifying
themselves in their castles, overwhelmed the king with
reproaches, accusing him of having failed to keep his oath
towards them. "Ah!" exclaimed Stephen, "the traitors! they made
me king, and now they desert me; but, by the Nativity of God!
they shall never make me a deposed king!" In this perilous
situation Stephen displayed great energy, laying siege to the
rebel castles one after the other, and disposing largely of the
domains of the crown in favor of the barons who were faithful or
who became penitent. Meanwhile the king of Scotland had entered
Northumberland at the head of a numerous army from the Highlands
and Lowlands, isles and mountains, the regular troops and
undisciplined savages, knights clad in iron, the best lances in
Europe, and mountaineers half naked, constituting this army of
"Scotch emmets," as the English expressed it, covered all the
country extending from the Tweed to the north of the county of
York, ravaging and pillaging on their way.
{138}
The king was at a distance, detained by the insurrections of the
barons in the South. The northern counties defended themselves.
The Normans called to their aid the inhabitants of the country,
those English who, though so often oppressed, possessed a
vitality which resisted every form of tyranny. They united with
their conquerors to defend the country against this attack. The
archbishop of York, Toustain or Thurstan, a decrepid old man,
sinking under age and infirmities, but full of energy and
foresight, caused a search to be made in the churches for the
standards of St. John of Beverley, St. Cuthbert of Durham, and
St. Wilfred of Ripon, which had remained there since the
Conquest. They raised aloft these consecrated banners upon a car
similar to the _caroccio_ which bore the standards of the
Italian Republics. In the midst of the flags arose a pedestal
bearing the tabernacle and the sacred host. The English
surrounded the sacred car, with their long-bows in their hands.
They halted at Elfertun (now North Allerton), awaiting the
arrival of the Scotch. There was a dense mist, and the enemy
might have taken the English army by surprise, but for Robert
Bruce and Bernard Baliol, who possessed domains in England and
Scotland. The former of these two knights approached King David.
"O king!" he exclaimed, "do you bear in mind against whom you are
going to fight? It is against the Normans and the English, who
have so often served you well with counsel and arms, and have
succeeded in securing to you the obedience of your people of
Celtic race. Remember that it is we who have placed these tribes
in your hands, and thence arise? the hatred with which they are
animated towards our countrymen."
{139}
"These are the words of a traitor," exclaimed William, nephew of
the King of Scotland. At the same instant Malise, earl of
Strathern, was heard to exclaim, "What need have we of this
stranger? I have no breastplate, and yet I will advance as far as
any among them." The old Norman turned his horse's head. "I
retract my oath of fidelity and homage, O king!" he cried, and,
spurring his horse, he hastened towards the English, with Bernard
Baliol, crying out that the Scotch were following them.

The Bishop of Durham was standing erect upon the sacred car, as
representative of the old Archbishop of York. He pronounced
absolution in a loud voice, and the English and Normans, who had
been kneeling, arose, exclaiming "Amen!" The Scotch were already
charging, amidst cries of "Alban, Alban!" the historical name of
their country. Their impetuous attack had broken the ranks of the
English; but the Norman cavalry, in close order around the car,
steadily repulsed the charge. The archers formed again, and began
to harass the mountaineers with their shafts; the long pikes of
the men of Galloway were broken upon the Norman bucklers; the
claymores of the Highlanders could not pierce their breastplates.
The fight lasted two hours, and the confusion was terrible.
Prince Henry, son of the King of Scotland, had succeeded in
cleaving a way up to the standards, but he was repulsed. The
lances and the swords were broken. The fury of the attack abated;
the retreat soon became a rout, protected only by King David and
his corps of knights, who had rallied around him. The Scotch took
refuge in Carlisle, where the English did not attack them. The
treaty of peace, which was concluded in the following year, even
left Cumberland, Westmoreland, and Northumberland in the power of
Scotland.

{140}

The defeat of the Scots at the battle of the Standard had cooled
the ardor of the malcontents. The Empress Maud and the Earl of
Gloucester had not yet appeared in England; but King Stephen
committed a grave error. He alienated from himself the attachment
of the clergy who, up to that time, had been favorable to him, by
suddenly casting into prison the Bishop of Salisbury, one of the
partisans who had had the greatest share in his elevation, and
whom he had up to then loaded with wealth and honors. "By the
Nativity of God!" he exclaimed to one of his attendants, "I would
give him one-half of England if he asked it. He should grow weary
of asking before I would grow weary of giving, until the day when
he should be dumb."

That day had apparently arrived, for Roger of Salisbury and his
two nephews, Bishops of Lincoln and Ely, were suddenly arrested.
The Bishop of Ely succeeded in escaping and taking refuge in a
fortress. He defended himself valiantly; but they threatened to
starve to death his uncle and his brother if he did not yield.
The manners of the time were such that there was reason to fear
the execution of the threat. The Bishop of Ely surrendered, and
the king took possession of the property of the three prelates;
but he had irritated a dangerous enemy. His own brother, the
Bishop of Winchester, and the Legate of the Pope in England,
summoned him to appear before a Synod of bishops to answer for
this breach of the privileges of the Church. It was necessary to
appeal to the Pope against the prelates, and to disperse the
Synod by force. The Bishop of Salisbury died shortly
afterwards--"of chagrin," say the Chronicles. His nephews
embraced the cause of the Empress, and a great part of the clergy
followed their example. The Synod had just been dispersed
(September, 1139) when Maud at length disembarked in England with
one hundred knights only.
{141}
Some Normans went to meet her, but finding her so ill attended
they kept back. King Stephen swept down upon Arundel Castle,
where resided Queen Adelais, widow of Henry I. He found her
engaged in assisting her daughter-in-law, who had just arrived. A
chivalrous sentiment restrained Stephen from insulting the two
princesses. He left Adelais in peaceable possession of the
castle, and the empress was able to proceed and meet her brother
the Earl of Gloucester, who was endeavoring to revive the
discontent in the counties of the West. Her partisans soon
rallied round her, and raising her standard she attacked the
king. Sometimes she was defeated, sometimes victorious; and for
eighteen months England was afflicted by the horrors of civil
war. At last a decisive combat near Lincoln resulted in King
Stephen falling into the hands of the Earl of Gloucester. He was
cast into confinement in Bristol Castle. The barons who had
followed him hastened to the empress, made peace with her, and
acknowledged her right to the crown, the Legate and the Bishop of
Winchester being foremost. On the 7th of April a meeting of
bishops, again presided over by the Legate, ratified the
accession of Maud, absolving all the barons and the prelates from
their oath towards Stephen; but the empress was obliged to allow
some months to elapse before her coronation at Westminster, so
attached were the citizens of London to the cause of the
vanquished king.

Maud was haughty, and she lacked the tact and prudence so
necessary to sovereigns whose throne is insecure. She harshly
refused to give to the Bishop of Winchester the patrimonial lands
of King Stephen, which he claimed on behalf of his nephew, Prince
Eustace; and thus she mortally offended that proud prelate.
{142}
On arriving in London she demanded immediately an enormous
tollage. "The king has left us nothing," said the citizens
piteously. "I understand," replied the new queen, "you have given
everything to my adversary, and you desire me to spare you."
London ended the dispute by promising to pay, presenting at the
same time an humble petition. "Restore to us (they implored) the
good laws of King Edward, thy great uncle, in the place of those
of thy father. King Henry I., which are bad and too harsh towards
us." The queen rudely repulsed the petitioners, and she was
awaiting the arrival of the promised gold when the bells of the
city suddenly sounded the alarum. From each house issued a
combatant armed with an axe, a bar of iron, or a bow, "like bees
issuing from a hive," says the chronicle; all took the direction
of the palace. At the same time a troop of armed men, carrying
the banner of Queen Matilda wife of Stephen, presented themselves
on the bank of the Thames upon the Surrey side. The empress was
at table; she sprang upon her horse and fled by the western gate,
accompanied only by some servants, while the multitude pillaged
the hall which she had just quitted. She was destined never to
return to London.

The empress took refuge at Oxford. She had conceived some doubts
with regard to the fidelity of the Bishop of Winchester, whom she
sent for. "Say that I am preparing," replied the prelate. The
queen had conceived the design of surprising him in his episcopal
city; but at the moment when she entered by one gate she saw him
go forth by another, on his way to place himself at the head of
the partisans of his brother. The queen gathered her adherents
about her; but the bishop had returned, and he laid siege to
Winchester, where the King of Scotland and the Earl of Gloucester
had joined Queen Matilda.
{143}
All military operations had been suspended for the festival of
the Holy Cross (14th September, 1141), when at daybreak Maud
mounted her horse, accompanied by a good escort, and silently
departed from the royal castle. She passed without serious
difficulties through the camp of the besiegers, who were occupied
in the ceremonies of the day. When the pursuit commenced Maud was
already drawing near to the castle of Devizes; but she did not
feel herself to be safe here, thoroughly as that place had been
fortified by the Bishop of Salisbury, and she continued her
course. The Earl of Hereford alone accompanied her as far as
Gloucester. The King of Scotland had set out for his kingdom, but
the Earl of Gloucester was taken prisoner. A great number of his
adherents were disguised as peasants, but their Norman accent
betrayed them, and the English hinds seizing this occasion to
wreak vengeance on their oppressors arrested them, and whip in
hand conducted them into the enemy's camp.

The two parties were without leaders, for Matilda could do
nothing without her brother. It was resolved to exchange the Earl
of Gloucester for King Stephen, and in a grand council of bishops
convened on the 7th of December by the Legate, the latter hurled
all the thunders of the Church against the partisans of the
Countess of Anjou (by which name he described Maud), as he had
done on the 7th of April against the adherents of the Count of
Blois. The war continued in England and in Normandy: the Count of
Anjou had subjected that great province, but he refused to cross
the sea to join his wife, and contented himself with sending his
eldest son Henry into England with his uncle, the Earl of
Gloucester. At the moment when the young prince landed in the
country where he was destined to establish his race, his mother
was besieged in Oxford by King Stephen.
{144}
The winter was one of great severity, and the sufferings of the
nation were unparalleled. The barons fortified themselves each in
his castle, "and even in the churches," say the chronicles,
adding, that "they dug trenches in the churchyards, exposing to
the daylight the bones of the dead. From thence armed men
pillaged the towns and villages, the passers-by, and the lonely
cottages. It was possible to walk all day without meeting a man
upon the road, or seeing an acre of land in cultivation--for to
till the earth was like tilling the sands of the sea-shore. Never
had the pagan pirates inflicted worse evils."

The siege of Oxford lasted three months; the snow covered the
ground. Maud found herself on the point of perishing by famine.
She attired herself in white, as did three knights of her suite,
and the four issued by a little postern, and traversed the
deserted country as far as the town of Abingdon, where they
obtained horses. The castle of Oxford surrendered on the morrow:
but Stephen was soon afterwards defeated before Wilton by the
Earl of Gloucester.

In the midst of these alternate successes and disasters, the
burden of which weighed equally and constantly on the people, the
Earl of Gloucester died (1147). His nephew, whom he had kept in
Bristol Castle, in order to protect him against his enemies,
returned into Normandy, and shortly afterwards the empress
herself, deprived of all support, relinquished the part she had
played with so much fortitude for eight years in order to return
to France. King Stephen was now master of the situation; but his
throne, shaken under him, was not destined to become firm again.

[Image]
Escape Of The Empress Maud From Oxford.

{145}

Pope Innocent II., the protector of the Bishop of Winchester, had
just died: Celestine II. and Lucius II. had enjoyed the
pontifical throne only for the briefest space. Anastasius II.
withdrew the title of legate from the king's brother, and granted
it to his adversary Theobald, archbishop of Canterbury. Stephen
had taken a part in the quarrel of his brother with the
archbishop, whom he had exiled; and a part of the kingdom had
been placed under an interdict. The Church was too strong for a
sovereign so feeble: Stephen was compelled to cede great estates
to the clergy, and to be reconciled with Theobald. But in vain he
sought to obtain the recognition of his eldest son Eustace as his
successor; the archbishop constantly refused his countenance; the
quarrels broke out afresh, and the episcopal domains were
confiscated in several places.

So long as King Stephen had only to contend against a woman,
however divided England was, he had the best chances of success;
but his new rival, Henry, was sixteen years of age: he had just
been knighted in Scotland (1149) by his uncle. King David, and on
his return he received from his uncle the investiture of
Normandy. In 1150 Geoffrey of Anjou died, and his domains
reverted to his eldest son, who two years later married Queen
Eleanora, the divorced wife of King Louis the Young. She brought
him, as her portion, the county of Poitou and the duchy of
Aquitaine. He was nineteen years of age; his personal reputation,
like his power, was growing daily. The party of the Plantagenets
in England began to raise their heads, and when the prince landed
in 1153, with an army small in number but strong in discipline,
many adherents came to take service under his banner. King
Stephen had also gathered together his forces, and the two rivals
found themselves face to face at Wallingford, separated only by
the Thames. They remained there two days without coming to blows.
At length the Earl of Arundel had the courage to declare, that it
was a folly to prolong the suffering of an entire nation for the
sake of the ambition of two princes.
{146}
It was resolved to sign a truce with a view to negotiate a
permanent peace. About that time Eustace, the eldest son of
Stephen, died in consequence of great excesses. The king had now
only one son, who was still young and not ambitious. The two
rival ecclesiastics, the Bishop of Winchester and the Archbishop
of Canterbury, conducted the negotiations, and on the 7th of
November, 1153, in a solemn council held at Winchester, King
Stephen adopted Prince Henry as a son, giving the kingdom of
England as an inheritance to him and his descendants for ever.
Henry took the oath of fidelity and homage, receiving in his turn
the allegiance of Prince William, the son of Stephen, on whom he
conferred all the patrimonial lands of his father. A year later,
on the 25th of October, 1154, King Stephen expired at Dover in
his fiftieth year. For a while, at least, civil war was not to
desolate England.


                   Chapter VII.
              Henry II. (1154-1189).


When King Henry II. ascended the throne in 1154, he was the most
powerful monarch that had ever reigned in England, and one of the
most powerful in Christendom. To his hereditary possessions,
Anjou, Normandy, and Maine, and his beautiful kingdom of England,
he had added by his marriage with Eleanor of Aquitaine, Poitou,
and Aquitaine, which comprised Saintonge, Auvergne, Perigord,
Limousin, Angoumois, and Guienne.
{147}
He was ambitious and greedy of power. His father, who knew him
well, had provided by his will that Anjou should return to his
second son Geoffrey, if the eldest should become King of England,
and in order to secure this arrangement he had forbidden his own
interment before Henry should have sworn to conform to it. The
prince hesitated long, then took the oath, and Count Geoffrey
Plantagenet was consigned to the tomb. But Henry had become king
and his brother had claimed the execution of his promise. The
monarch contrived to be relieved of his oath by Nicholas
Breakspeare, who had been raised to the pontifical dignity under
the name of Adrian IV., the only Englishman who has ever become
Pope. Henry Plantagenet retained Anjou, the cradle of that family
which he was destined to render so powerful.

When the new king landed in England, six weeks after the death of
Stephen, he found his kingdom a prey to horrible anarchy. In the
intervals of their power Maud and Stephen had both endeavored to
attach to themselves the great nobles by important grants of
lands and castles: hence the royal domains were reduced to
insignificance and were surrounded on all sides by menacing
fortresses guarded by resolute soldiers who recognized no
authority but that of their chiefs. Many of these fortresses were
in the hands of Flemish and Brabantine mercenaries whom each
party in turn had summoned to their assistance. It was by dealing
with these men that Henry began the reform which he reckoned upon
introducing into the condition of territorial property. On a
given day, to the great joy of the Normans and Saxons, he ordered
all foreigners to leave the kingdom. "We saw them (says a
chronicler), we saw all those Brabantines and Flemings recross
the sea to return to their plough-tails, and from being lords
become serfs again."

{148}

The expulsion of the foreign mercenaries had been popular; but
this was not the principal object of the king, who desired to
reconstitute the royal domain, and with that object convoked a
grand council, which admitted, though not without difficulty,
that Henry was under the necessity of resuming the grants made by
Stephen and Maud. The king was not more sparing of the partisans
of his mother than of her enemies. From the moment that right was
on his side he never stopped in his efforts: from castle to
castle, from domain to domain, he triumphed over the malcontents,
either by the sword or by negotiation. When he became master of
one fortress he instantly had it razed to the ground. In this way
eleven hundred castles disappeared from the face of England; they
had been mere haunts of robbers who oppressed the country
roundabout. The peasants and the townspeople applauded the work
of destruction.

King Henry had already triumphed over his vassals and defeated
his brother Geoffrey, who had refused to acquiesce in his
spoliation. He had compelled him to take refuge at Nantes, the
population of which town had offered him the government. In 1157
he came to the determination to bring to an end the struggle with
the Welsh, who were still fighting proudly for their
independence. But Henry did not know well that country of
mountains and defiles. He became entangled in the environs of the
forest of Coleshill, and the Welsh sallying forth in a mass from
the obscure lurking-places where they had been lying in ambush,
fell upon the English army. The massacre was great. The Earl of
Essex, hereditary standard-bearer of the crown, let fall the
royal banner, and took to flight. The rumor spread abroad at once
that the king was killed, but he soon rallied his troops and
effected his retreat to a more open country, where he pitched his
camp, and thence inflicted so much annoyance on the Welsh that
without venturing a second time upon a fixed battle they
consented to restore to Henry the territory which they had won
back from Stephen, and to swear fidelity and homage to him for
the lands which they retained.
{149}
The struggles of King Henry with the Welsh were not ended.
Repeated insurrections were destined to recall him into the
mountains; but he succeeded nevertheless in securing and
extending his dominion over that indomitable population, proud of
the antiquity of their race, and convinced that all England
belonged to them by right of birth.

Geoffrey had lately died at Nantes (1158) and his brother claimed
that city as belonging to him by inheritance. In vain the
citizens protested: in vain Conan, duke of Brittany, and earl of
Richmond in England, maintained the rights of his vassals, King
Henry confiscated the lands of the Earl of Richmond and crossed
the sea with so powerful an army that the inhabitants of Nantes
were terrified and opened their gates to him. Henry immediately
took possession of all the territory between the Loire and the
Vilaine, and proposed to the duke to terminate their differences
by affiancing his daughter Constance to Geoffrey, the third of
the English princes. In order to obtain the consent of the King
of France, Louis VII., to this increase of his power upon French
soil, Henry had sought the hand of Margaret of France on behalf
of Henry, his eldest son.

This gleam of a good understanding between the great powers of
the earth was very soon disturbed by new ambitious dreams of
Henry Plantagenet. Eleanor of Aquitaine had, or believed herself
to have through her grandmother, claims to the countship of
Toulouse. Her first husband, Louis VII., had relinquished those
rights by treaty after an attempt to seize them by force of arms;
but by virtue of the divorce, Eleanor had vested her pretensions
in her second husband, Henry, king of England, who claimed the
cession pure and simple of the countship by Raymond of St.
Gilles, count of Toulouse.
{150}
The latter invoked the aid of his suzerain lord, the King of
France. In the prospect of this distant struggle, Henry commuted
the military service which his vassals were bound to render into
a tax, and by means of this money he secured the services of an
army of Brabantines. With these marched Malcolm, king of
Scotland; and the King of Aragon, who like the King of France and
the Duke of Brittany had lately affianced his daughter to one of
the sons of Henry, and the most warlike of the English barons.
But Louis VII. had already entered Toulouse, when Henry advanced
against that city. Louis had but few troops with him and the King
of England might easily have attempted an assault: scruples based
upon his position of vassal of his lord, however, restrained him.
When the French army had joined Louis VII. a few feats of arms of
little importance soon brought the war to an end; but it had left
indelible traces. The inhabitants of the south of France had
acquired the habit of calling to their aid sometimes the King of
France, sometimes the King of England, and their independence was
destined to succumb under these powerful protectors. It was so
well known upon the banks of the Garonne that the southern
provinces were at peace when their dangerous allies were
quarrelling elsewhere that people openly asked, in the form of a
prayer, "When will the truce between the English and the Tournois
come to an end?"

In the midst of these wars and negotiations, these invasions and
these treaties. King Henry relied on all sides upon the advice
and the support of Thomas Becket, or à Becket, chancellor of
England, the son of Gilbert à Becket, a merchant of the city of
London, of Norman origin.
{151}
A romantic story attaches to the birth of Thomas Becket. It is
related that the busy passers-by in the streets of London, had,
to their great surprise, observed one day a woman wearing
Oriental costume who was wandering about repeating the name of
Gilbert. To questions put to her she gave no answer, and she knew
no other English words than "Gilbert" and "London." The people
around her had begun to murmur, when she was recognized by a
servant who had accompanied Gilbert Becket to the crusades. Both
had been made prisoners and had succeeded in escaping: but the
daughter of the Emir who had held them captive had conceived a
passion for Gilbert; she had followed his traces to the shore and
had found means of going to England, and then to London, without
any other guide to the whereabouts of him she loved than this
name of Gilbert, at that time a very common one. Becket consulted
his confessor; the Saracen princess was baptized under the name
of Matilda, and Gilbert married her. Her husband made a great
fortune and his son Thomas, a handsome and intelligent youth, had
been brought up with great care, then sent into France and Italy
to finish his education. He had been taken notice of from his
childhood by Theobald, archbishop of Canterbury, who took him
into his house as soon as he had completed his studies and
employed him in the most delicate diplomatic affairs, when at the
accession of King Henry II. he himself fulfilled the functions of
prime minister. The king took a liking to the young archdeacon,
and in 1156 appointed him chancellor, at the same time confiding
to him the education of his eldest son. He also made him
constable of the Tower, with the custody of considerable domains.
The ecclesiastical benefices often vacant, which the chancellor
was in no haste to fill up, caused to flow into the treasury the
rich revenues of the bishoprics and abbeys.
{152}
Gilbert Becket was dead, and his son had inherited a great
fortune. He was forty years of age, elegant in his person
magnificent in his attire, skilled in all bodily exercises, and
at the same time learned, courageous, enterprising, and able. The
king, who saw only through his eyes, kept him incessantly at his
side, and could not endure his absence. Becket kept a splendid
retinue, remarkable, even at that period of magnificent
extravagance. His house was filled with knights and daughters of
great lords who designed to secure by this means the favor of the
king, and to bring up their children in the manners of the court.
His sumptuously furnished table was open to all comers, and when
a diplomatic mission led the chancellor abroad, the retinue which
accompanied him was so magnificent and so numerous that the
spectators exclaimed, "What must the king of England be, when his
servant travels with such pomp?" It was in this way that Thomas
Becket presented himself at the French court to negotiate on the
affair of Brittany and the alliance of Prince Henry with Margaret
of France. With similar grand display, although of a different
nature, he accompanied the king in his campaign through the
countship of Toulouse, of which he directed in person the greater
part of the operations. He was at the head of seven hundred
knights and men of arms, supported at his expense, when he
attacked the town of Cahors and the castles which surrounded it.
His sagacity, his good humor, his caustic and fertile wit were to
the king a continual source of amusement. He lived with his
favorite in almost brotherly intimacy, and the administrative
talents which the chancellor displayed in domestic affairs added
to his popularity. "I will make thee Archbishop of Canterbury,"
Henry often said. Becket smiled and shook his head. When the
prior of Leicester, a rigid ecclesiastic, reproached him with the
worldliness and outward show of his mode of living, reminding him
that he was destined to become primate of England, the chancellor
exclaimed, "I know three poor priests more fitted than I for that
dignity. If ever I attained it, I should either lose the king's
favor, or forget my duty towards God."

{153}

The Archbishop Theobald was dead (1161). For thirteen months the
king left the see vacant, in order to appropriate its revenues:
but he did not lose sight of the choice on which he had resolved.
Becket was devoted to him: he had always displayed great respect
for the royal prerogative, exacting so rigorously what was due to
the crown, even from the clergy, that the Bishop of London,
Gilbert Folliot, accused him angrily of plunging a dagger into
the maternal bosom of his Church. Henry believed himself sure of
thus raising to the ecclesiastical supremacy a friend who would
support him in the reforms which he was meditating. He sent for
Thomas Becket at Toulouse, where he happened to be, and ordered
him to set out immediately for England, where he would be elected
archbishop of Canterbury. Becket smiled as he pointed to the
magnificent dress in which he was clothed. "You choose fine
dresses to figure at the head of your monks at Canterbury," he
said. "If you do as you say, sire, you will hate me very soon as
much as you now love me; for you will meddle in the affairs of
the Church more than I can consent to, and people will not be
wanting to embroil us."

The king paid no heed to the views of the chancellor. The bishops
and the chapter of Canterbury proclaimed Becket unanimously, with
the exception of Gilbert Folliot, who had hoped to secure that
promotion for himself. The new archbishop received the order of
priesthood, for he was hitherto only a deacon, and he was
consecrated by Henry of Winchester, brother of King Stephen. The
pallium was brought from Rome, and Becket took possession of the
archiepiscopal throne.

{154}

In placing his hand upon the pastoral crozier Becket had
completely changed his way of living. From the most ostentatious
luxury he suddenly passed to the austerest life. No more
festivities; no more horses; no more sumptuous clothing. The rich
revenues were expended in alms; the archbishop had resigned his
position as chancellor, saying that he could not do justice to
the affairs of the king as well as those of the Church. Henry was
astonished at this transformation; but as yet it caused him no
irritation. When the court returned to England the archbishop
conducted his royal pupil to his father and the king exhibited
towards him the affection and the confidence to which he had been
accustomed.

Meanwhile the storm was approaching. Becket had resolved to
restore to the see of Canterbury its primitive splendor; and to
take back from the hands of the despoiler the property of which
the chapter had been deprived by slow degrees. This measure,
similar to that which Henry had long before applied to the crown
property, seemed to the king objectionable when the matter in
hand was the lands of the archbishopric. Becket even dared to
demand a castle, and he had excommunicated a vassal holding
directly from the crown who had expelled a priest from his
domains. It was with an ill will and after much difficulty that
the archbishop withdrew his sentence in obedience to the king's
orders.

While these clouds were gathering in the sky Henry was preparing
a measure fatal to the good understanding between himself and his
favorite. The priests and all those who depended, directly or
indirectly, on the Church, had the right of being judged
exclusively by ecclesiastical tribunals; and clerical justice was
accused of great partiality.
{155}
Its very laws forbade the shedding of blood. Thus a servant of
the Church could not be condemned to death even for murder, and
this assurance often led to the most odious crimes, the
repression of which was uncertain. The king had resolved to
remedy this inconvenience by requiring that every priest degraded
for his misdeeds should be given up to the civil tribunals, who
should judge him in their turn. Becket maintained that it would
be unjust to judge and punish twice the same culprit. The greater
number of the bishops were of his opinion. The king shifted the
question: "Will you," he asked the assembly of prelates, "swear
to maintain the ancient customs of the realm?" "Save the honor of
our order," replied all the bishops, with the exception of Hilary
of Chichester. The king was furious. He convoked a great council
at Clarendon (January 25, 1164), where he presented to the
bishops a series of decrees and laws regulating the relations of
the civil and ecclesiastical tribunals, which have since been
known under the name of "The Constitutions of Clarendon." He had
striven to intimidate the bishops by stripping Becket of the
castles and the titles which he had given to him long before.
Alternately threatening and yielding, the archbishop had arrived
at Clarendon: he had consented to sign the Constitutions; the act
was complete, and it only remained now to affix the seals when
Becket was seized with remorse. "I will never affix my seal to
this," he said, and without listening to the representations of
his colleagues, or the counsels of the Grand Master of the
Templars, or taking heed of the anger of the king, who had left
the hall of council in a fit of rage, he remounted his horse and
returned gloomily to Canterbury, lamenting over his sins as the
cause of the enslavement of the Church in England. "I was taken
from the court to become a bishop--vain and proud as I was--not
from the school of the Saviour, but from the palace of Cæsar.
{156}
I was a feeder of birds, and I was suddenly called on to be the
pastor of men; I was the patron of of mummers and took delight in
following the hounds. I have become the keeper of many souls. I
neglected my own vineyard, and now I am entrusted with the
vineyard of others." He fasted and prayed, refusing to ascend the
steps of the altar; and he found no rest until the Pope had sent
him absolution for his failings. The pontiff had not ratified the
Constitutions of Clarendon.

The king had not abandoned his project. His anger was directed
against the archbishop, whom he rightly regarded as the only
serious obstacle to his designs. He summoned him to appear before
his council which met at Southampton (October 1164), under
pretext of a denial of justice on the part of his archiepiscopal
court. Becket excused himself, but was condemned to forfeit his
personal property, a sentence which was commuted into a fine of
five hundred pounds sterling. The charges against him were not
yet exhausted. A demand was made for the rents which he had
received from lands given to him by the king. The archbishop
promised payment. Each day brought some new claim. The king, who
was furious against his old favorite, demanded at length a sum of
44,000 marks of silver, on account of the ecclesiastical revenues
which Becket had appropriated as chancellor during the vacancies
of the sees. This was absolute ruin, and war to the knife. The
archbishop replied that it was not in his power to pay such a
sum, and that he had been declared free from all such claims when
he had resigned his place as chancellor in order to become
Primate of England. At the same time he requested a conference
with the bishops; but all had abandoned him. Henry of Winchester
alone proposed to pay the sums demanded of the archbishop.
{157}
The king would not listen to him. "What he desires is your
resignation," said the Bishops of London and Winchester to
Becket. "The life of this man is in danger," exclaimed the Bishop
of Lincoln. "He will lose his bishopric or his life; and I would
like to know of what use his bishopric will be when he is dead."

Under the effects of so many violent emotions the archbishop had
been taken ill; he sincerely believed himself to be bound to
maintain the juridical rights of the Church, and in his mind this
cause was absolutely identified with the cause of God. To allow
the ecclesiastical privileges to be trammelled by the royal
authority, appeared to him "an act of treason against the Lord
God who had elevated him, unworthy as he was, to the office of
pastor of souls." Defeated and troubled, he at one time thought
of throwing himself at the king's feet, and begging him to spare
the Church for the sake of their old friendship; but Becket's was
a proud and ungovernable spirit, and such humiliation appeared
impossible to him; he therefore resolved to fight it out to the
last. It was on the 18th of October, 1164, that he was to appear
before the court to receive his final sentence. Clad in his
episcopal robes, he celebrated mass in honor of St. Stephen, the
first martyr; and then, after laying down his mitre, he advanced,
holding a crucifix in his hand, and followed by the priests into
the council-chamber. As he was entering, the Bishop of Hereford
came to him, with the intention of taking the crucifix from him.
"Allow me to keep it, my lord," he said; "it is the banner of the
Prince whom I serve." The Bishop of London, Gilbert Folliot, was
there, and also wished to take the crucifix from the hands of the
prelate. "You defy the king," cried he, "by coming in this garb
to his court; but the king holds a sword, the point of
which is sharper than your crucifix."
{158}
The archbishop had, however, entered the council-chamber, and on
seeing him Henry blushed deeply and hastily retired. The
archbishop sat down, but the bishops had been called away by the
king; discord reigned in the royal chamber. Henry was furious,
and railed bitterly first against the obstinacy of the
archbishop, and then against the cowardice of his own advisers.
The Archbishop of York retired, calling all his followers, in
order, as he said, to avoid seeing bloodshed. The Bishop of
Exeter went and threw himself at Becket's feet, imploring him to
give in and to save his life. "Go," said the archbishop, "you do
not understand those things which are of God." At length the
bishops returned with Hilary of Chichester at their head. "You
were our primate," he said, "but in putting yourself in
opposition to the royal will you have broken your oath of
allegiance; a perjured archbishop has no longer any claim upon
our obedience; we will submit the affair to the pope, and call
upon you to answer before him for your conduct." "I understand,"
replied the archbishop coldly.

The noblemen had followed the bishops, and the Earl of Leicester
approached Becket. "Hear your sentence," he began. "My sentence!"
cried Becket; "my son, listen to me first: you know how
faithfully I have served the king, and with what repugnance I
accepted this duty to please him. You are my children in God; can
a son sit in judgment on his father? I take exception to your
tribunal and appeal to the Pope. I place myself, as well as my
Church, under his protection, and summon the bishops who have
obeyed the king rather than their God, to answer at that
tribunal; it is under the protection of the Holy Catholic Church
and of the apostolic see that I leave this court."

{159}

He had risen from his seat, and all the bishops had done
likewise; followed by his priests, he strode slowly across the
room; the courtiers insulted him and threw at him the bundles of
straw which covered the floor. Somebody called out "traitor."
"Were it not for the garments which I wear, that coward would
repent his insolence," said the archbishop, who then mounted his
horse, while he was saluted by the cries of the people who were
prostrating themselves and asking his benediction. The prelate
caused the doors of the monastery in which he resided to be
opened, and the poor entered in crowds, the archbishop giving
them a supper, and sitting down to table with them himself.

The Scriptures were being read, and Becket was struck by these
words of the Lord: "If you are persecuted in one town, fly to
another." He sent to the king for a passport. "You shall be
answered to-morrow," was the message sent back from the palace.
The friends of Becket were in great fear. "This night will be
your last if you do not fly," said the clergy. The archbishop at
length decided to leave England. Mounted on horseback, and
accompanied by three priests, he set out in the direction of
Kent, amidst torrents of rain that compelled him to cut off the
skirts of his long mantle, which were wet and heavy and were
irksome to him. He wandered about in the disguise of a monk, and
under the name of Brother Christian, during twenty days in Kent,
meeting with many adventures. At length he procured a little
vessel, and landed on the 2nd of November, 1164, in the countship
of Boulogne, near Gravelines, whence he repaired on foot and in
the same disguise, to the convent of Saint-Bertin, near Namur.

{160}

The fugitive's first thought was to ask shelter of the King of
France and protection of Pope Alexander II., who was then
residing at Sens; the anti-Pope Victor held possession of Rome.
The ambassadors of Henry II. had preceded Becket at both courts;
but Louis the Young, an enemy to the King of England and
therefore unwilling to do the latter a service, haughtily
declared that it was the ancient privilege of the French crown to
succor the oppressed against their persecutors. The Pope at first
received Becket's representative rather coldly; but he ended by
deciding to brave the anger of Henry II. and received the fallen
archbishop with great kindness. "If I had been willing to do the
bidding of the king in all things," said Becket, "nobody in his
kingdom would now be as great as I; but I know that I obtained
through him the position which I occupy to the prejudice of the
liberty of the Church; that is the reason that I throw myself at
your Holiness's feet; your Holiness must appoint a new primate of
England." The Pope did not accept this resignation, and having
caused the Constitutions of Clarendon to be read to the prelate,
he condemned them, with the exception of six clauses; then
raising the archbishop, whom he had reinvested with his
ecclesiastical dignity, "Go," said he, "and learn in poverty to
console the poor." The Pope assigned the abbey of Pontigny to him
as his residence, and authorized him to excommunicate the enemies
of the Church.

When Henry heard of the success of his adversary, his anger knew
no bounds; not only did he confiscate both the goods and revenues
of Becket and the priests who had followed him, but he included
in his revenge all the members of the archbishop's family as well
as all his friends. He proscribed more than four hundred persons,
men, women, and children, whom he sent, divested of everything,
to Becket, to complain of the misfortune which he had brought
upon them.
{161}
Every day these unhappy people would present themselves at the
convent of Pontigny, breaking the heart of the archbishop, who
found no rest until the time when the combined charity of King
Louis, the Pope, and the Queen of Sicily, provided for the
necessities of the exiles.

Meanwhile, King Henry had on hand grave affairs which would soon
have made him forget his grievances against the archbishop, if he
had been of a less vindictive disposition. The Welsh had
revolted, and the war against them had been unfortunate in
consequence of bad weather; the king had consoled himself for
this by causing the noses of the hostages to be cut off and their
eyes destroyed; but this was not sufficient to appease his anger.
He found satisfaction in Brittany, where he profited by the
rebellion against Conan. Henry took advantage of it to seize upon
the country. He celebrated, in 1166, the marriage of his son
Geoffrey with Constance. Brittany was pacified, but Becket had
just excommunicated all those who held the property of the
Church, and particularly several of the king's favorites, whom he
mentioned by name.

When Henry heard this news, he was at Chinon, near Tours. His
anger was so violent that he threw himself upon his bed, tearing
the clothes, biting the straw of the mattress and howling with
rage. He immediately informed the abbot of Pontigny that if the
order of Cistercians wished to retain their property in the
provinces dependent on the King of England, he must refuse the
shelter of his house to the enemy who so haughtily defied his
sovereign. The abbot went and saw Becket. "God forbid that upon
such injunctions the chapter should think of sending you away,"
he said; "consider for yourself what you had better do." The
archbishop immediately made preparation to leave the place, and
went to the convent of Saint Colomba near Sens, where King Louis
had ordered that he should be received (1168).

{162}

Up to this period political considerations had created an
ill-feeling between the King of France and the King of England,
and in this lay Becket's security; in 1169 similar influences
brought them to an understanding. They met at a solemn conference
at Montmirail, and when the young princes, Henry's sons, had done
homage to the King of France for Normandy, Aquitaine, and
Brittany, the case of Becket was considered, and he was ordered
to appear before the august assembly. The archbishop was growing
weary of his exile, and his protectors were growing weary of
defending him. It was therefore hoped that he would tender his
submission, in order to end the struggle. Becket presented
himself before King Henry with a grave and modest air. Bending
his knee, the archbishop said, "My liege, in all the disputes
which have taken place between us, I submit to your judgment, as
arbitrary sovereign in all points, except the honor of God."
Immediately this restriction was uttered, the king burst into a
passion, and turning towards King Louis, "Do you know," he cried,
"what would happen if I were to accept this reservation?
Everything that should displease him would be contrary to the
honor of God, and I should lose all power. There have been
archbishops at Canterbury much more pious than he, and there have
been kings in England less powerful than I; let him only treat me
as the least pious of his predecessors treated the smallest of
mine, and I shall be satisfied." "Save the honor of God,"
repeated the archbishop. The assembly cried out aloud that it was
past endurance, that the king could ask no less, and that Becket
was too exacting. "Do you wish then to be more than a saint?"
asked Louis angrily, but he got no further concession; and the
two kings remounted their horses without taking leave of the
archbishop, whose fate was now very much harder by reason of the
estrangement of the King of France.
{163}
He was reduced to live by alms, until the day when Louis again
sent for him. "It is to banish us from his dominions," the clergy
said, in alarm; but scarcely had the king seen the archbishop
when he threw himself in his arms. "Forgive me, father," he
cried, "you are right, we were mistaken; we wished to subject the
honor of God to the will of a man. Absolve me." Henry had failed
to fulfil his contracts with King Louis, who had thereupon
hastened to express his approval of Becket's conduct.

A fresh attempt at a reconciliation broke down in consequence of
the king's firm decision never to give to the archbishop the kiss
of peace, with which it was usual to ratify all oaths. Meanwhile
Prince Henry had been crowned in England, his father wishing to
secure the succession to him. Becket's office had been usurped,
the young prince having received the crown from the hands of the
Archbishop of York. The Pope had returned to Rome, after the
death of the anti-Pope Victor, and the displeasure or favor of
the King of England now had fewer attractions or horrors for him.
Henry was afraid that he might authorize Becket to excommunicate
him personally, and to place his kingdom under an interdict, and
he at length yielded, under the advice of the king of France,
with whom he had just effected a reconciliation. In the month of
July, 1170, the two antagonists met within the confines of
Touraine. As soon as the king perceived the archbishop, he came
forward, helmet in hand, and accosted him. They conversed in a
friendly manner, with a certain amount of their old familiarity,
and when they parted from each other, the king said to his
courtiers, "I found the archbishop most favorably disposed
towards me, and if the feeling were not mutual I should be the
worst of men."
{164}
Within two days of this event the reconciliation took
place. Becket bent his knee to the king, who held the stirrup for
the archbishop to remount his horse; but the kiss of peace was
not given. However, the restitution of the archbishop's property
was agreed upon. Henry promised to supply Becket with the money
requisite to defray his travelling expenses to England, and the
two enemies, apparently reconciled, took leave of each other. "I
do not believe that I shall ever see you again," said the
archbishop, looking fixedly at the king. "What! Do you take me
for a traitor?" cried Henry angrily. The prelate only bowed in
answer. He never saw the king again.

The archbishop had proceeded to Rouen, awaiting the money which
had been promised to him, and during the sojourn which he was
compelled to make in Normandy, he received frequent warnings of
the dangers which awaited him on the other side of the Channel.
"They will not even allow Becket time enough to eat a whole
loaf," said Ranulph de Broc, who had been excommunicated by him;
but Becket did not take heed of any warnings. "Even," he said,
"if I had to face the certainty of being cut to pieces on the
other side of the Channel, I should not turn back on my way.
Seven years of absence are sufficient for the pastor and for his
flock."

After having waited for four months, he borrowed three hundred
livres of the Archbishop of Rouen, and set sail in a small vessel
which landed him in Sandwich Bay, whereby he avoided an ambush
which had been prepared for him near Dover. A messenger preceded
the prelate, bearing letters of excommunication from the Pope
against the Archbishop of York, the Bishop of London, and the
Bishop of Chichester, who had all taken part in the ceremony of
the coronation of the young king.
{165}
The letters were publicly consigned to the three bishops, who
were enraged beyond measure. It was on the first of December that
Becket returned to England, to the great delight of the people,
but not a single baron came to meet him. The first who passed
were armed and drew their swords; one of the king's chaplains,
who had accompanied the primate, was at great pains to quiet
them, and to protect Becket on his re-entering his episcopal
city. "He gathers serfs round him on his way," said the noblemen,
"and leads them with him." The archbishop had come back to
Canterbury after having attempted to obtain an interview with the
young king, his old pupil, but the latter had refused to see him,
and Becket, confined to his diocese, surrounded himself with the
poor and the peasants, who constituted a rustic guard round him.
Excommunications were still being proclaimed; on Christmas-day,
after having begun his sermon with these words, "_Venio ad vos,
mori inter vos_" (I come to you to die among you), Becket,
reminding his congregation that one of their archbishops had
suffered martyrdom, added, "You will perhaps see another suffer
in the same manner; but, before dying, I will avenge some of the
wrongs done to the Church." He then excommunicated Ranulph and
Robert de Broc, his bitter enemies.

Meanwhile the suspended bishops had crossed the sea, to go and
lay their complaints before King Henry II., who was still in
Normandy. "We throw ourselves at your mercy, in the name of the
Church and State, for your peace and for ours. There is a man who
is inflaming all England; he marches with troops of armed
horsemen and foot-soldiers, prowling around the fortresses,
trying to effect an entrance." Henry had never sincerely forgiven
his old favorite, and he was very angry at these accounts of his
conduct.
{166}
"What!" cried he, "does this wretch who has eaten my bread, who
came to my court a beggar, upon a lame horse, with all he
possessed behind him, insult me with impunity, while not one of
the cowards whom I feed at my table dares to deliver me from a
priest who is so obnoxious to me."

Words like these are always caught up by willing ears. When the
king convoked a council of his barons to decide what was to be
done with Becket, four of their number were absent--Richard
Brito, Hugh de Moreville, William de Tracy, and Reginald
Fitzurse. When the king observed that they were not there, he
became uneasy, and hastened the departure of the Earl of
Mandeville, who was commissioned to arrest Becket. The four
conspirators preceded him.

On the 29th of December, in the morning, they arrived at
Canterbury, followed by a troop of soldiers whom they had
collected together on their way. They wished to secure the help
of the mayor of the town, but the latter refused. The knights
recommended him at least to keep the townsmen quiet, and they
proceeded to the prelate's house with twelve of their friends.

The archbishop was in his room, and the knights sat down on the
floor without saluting him and in silence. No one dared begin.
The archbishop asked their business. "We have come on behalf of
the king," said Reginald Fitzurse, "in order that those you have
excommunicated may be absolved, that the bishops who have been
suspended may be re-established in their positions, and that you
may justify your designs against the king." '"It is not I who
excommunicated the Archbishop of York," said Becket, "but the
Pope himself. As to the others, I will re-establish them if they
will tender their submission."
{167}
"From whom do you hold your appointment as archbishop?" inquired
Fitzurse, "from the Pope or from the king?" "My spiritual office
I hold by the will of God and the Pope," said the primate, "and
my temporal rights from the king." "It is not from the king,
then, that you obtain everything?" "No." The knights were
restless, and were twisting their gloves angrily. "I am
astonished," said Becket, "that men who formerly swore allegiance
to me come into my house to threaten me." "We will do more than
threaten," cried the barons. They thereupon retired hastily.

The priests and attendants who surrounded Becket were alarmed;
they wanted to close all the doors and barricade the house,
begging the bishop to take refuge in the church. He refused.
Already the noise of battle-axes rattling against the entrance
was heard. Fitzurse was endeavoring to break open the door, which
an attendant had shut upon the intruders, who had now come back
with their weapons. The bell of the church was ringing for
vespers. "Since it is my duty, I will go to the church," said
Becket, and, preceded by a priest carrying a cross, he passed
slowly through the cloisters and entered the cathedral. The door
had not given way, but the conspirators had just entered the
palace by the window. The clergy were hastening to close the
doors of the church. "No," said the archbishop, "the house of God
should not be barricaded like a fortress." He was ascending the
steps leading to the choir when Reginald Fitzurse entered
abruptly at the other end of the church. He was brandishing his
sword and crying, "Come, loyal subjects of the king." It was
late; the movements of the conspirators were scarcely observable,
neither could the latter see the priests distinctly. The
archbishop was urged to descend into the crypt. He refused, and
advanced boldly towards the sacrilegious intruders, who were
brandishing their swords within the holy precincts.
{168}
His cross-bearer alone had not fled "Where is the traitor?" cried
a voice. Becket did not answer. "Where is the archbishop?"
repeated Fitzurse. "I am here," said Becket, "but no traitor,
only a priest of the Lord. What are you here for?" "Absolve all
those whom you have excommunicated." "They have not repented, and
therefore I cannot." "You shall die then." "I am ready, in the
name of the Saviour; but I forbid you, by the Lord Almighty, to
touch any of these present, either priests or laymen." At this
moment he received between the shoulders a blow with the flat
part of a sword. "Fly," they cried, "or you are a dead man." The
archbishop did not stir; the intruders endeavored to drag him
out, not daring to kill him in the sanctuary; he was struggling
in their grasp. At length William de Tracy raised his sword and
wounded the archbishop in the head, striking down at the same
time the hand of Edward Gryme, the brave cross-bearer. Becket had
clasped his hands together: "I confide my soul and the cause of
the Church to God, to the Virgin Mary, to the patron saints of
this church, and to St. Denis," he cried. A second thrust from a
sword laid him prostrate upon the ground near St. Bennet's altar;
a third blow split his skull, and the sword was broken on the
paved floor. "Thus perish all traitors," cried one of the
conspirators, and they left the church hurriedly, while the monks
were tearfully laying the archbishop's body out at the foot of
the altar, taking up his blood in vessels, leaving exposed to
view the hair-cloth which he wore, and already revering him as a
martyr. But on the morrow they were obliged to bury him in great
haste in order to spare his dead body the indignity of being
insulted by Ranulph de Broc, who desired to take it away.
{169}
The Archbishop of York publicly declared that Becket had fallen
in his guilt and his pride like Pharaoh, while other bishops
maintained that the body of the traitor ought not to lie in
consecrated ground, and that he should be thrown into the foulest
ditch or be put upon a gibbet to rot. It was forbidden in the
churches to speak of him as a martyr.

Decrees are incapable of influencing the development of public
opinion; King Henry was the first to discover this. Scarcely had
he heard the news, when a profound feeling of repentance for his
imprudent words overcame him; he shut himself up in his private
apartment, and during three days would not see anybody or take
any food. When he awoke from this sullen depression, he
immediately sent an ambassador to the Pope, assuring the latter
of his innocence and of the grief which the death of the
archbishop caused him. At the same time, he hesitated to punish
the murderers, who had acted according to his suggestion, and he
allowed them the benefit of clergy, the crime having been
committed upon the person of a priest. Thus the liberties of the
Church, for which Becket had just died, protected his assassins.
It is related that the latter were stricken with remorse in their
turn, and that they went and threw themselves at the feet of the
Pope, at Rome, who ordered them to make a pilgrimage to the Holy
Land, where they died sincerely penitent. If the story of the
repentance of the murderers is not well authenticated, that of
Becket's posthumous triumph is incontestable. He had not been
buried two years, and King Henry had scarcely obtained
forgiveness of the Pope (1172) by undertaking to support, during
three years, two hundred horsemen intended for the defence of the
Holy Sepulchre, when pilgrims were already proceeding in crowds
to Canterbury Cathedral, begging the protection of the martyr,
canonized by the public voice before being recognized as a saint
by the Church.
{170}
Two more years elapsed, and on the 10th of July, 1174, the king
was proceeding barefooted along the road leading to Canterbury.
Each step he made left behind him a spot of blood; he wore a
pilgrim's dress, and on his arrival descended into the crypt, and
prostrated himself before the tomb. The Bishop of London, from
the pulpit, assured the people of the innocence of the king, of
the profound grief which the death of the archbishop had caused
him, and of the remorse which he experienced for the fit of anger
which had caused the commission of the crime; the king remained
praying. He rose, uncovered his shoulders, and, passing before
the chapter, he received from each monk three strokes from a
knotted rope; Henry then returned to the tomb, still fasting and
praying. He passed the night in the church, and the morning
after, having attended holy mass, he returned to London so
exhausted by the fatigue and severity of his punishment that he
fell ill on his arrival.

During the anxieties which Henry experienced while he was
quarrelling with Becket, he had not neglected external affairs,
and a new kingdom had been added to his vast dominions, a kingdom
insecurely held, however, as yet, and which was to cost England
much blood and many errors before being united completely to his
crown. Henry II. had made the conquest of Ireland.

After having shone with some brilliancy in letters as well as in
the history of religious faith, Ireland had for some time past
fallen back into a state verging on barbarism. Originally
inhabited by different colonies of the Celtic race, she retained
institutions analogous to those of the Highlands of Scotland. The
clans were called septs, the chief was known as a "Carfinny," and
chose his successor or "Tanist" from his own family, without
regard to the laws of primogeniture; when the "Carfinny" died the
Tanist succeeded him and named his own heir presumptive.
{171}
The same rule existed in the four kingdoms of Ulster, Munster,
Leinster, and Connaught. Enmity and rivalry were constant between
these princes; of one hundred and seventy-eight kings who ruled
over Ireland, seventy-one were killed in war and sixty were
murdered. In 1169 the King of Leinster, Dermod MacMorogh, having
been driven from his possessions, had applied to Henry II. for
assistance, offering to take the oath of allegiance to the
English king. But the king was engrossed in his relations with
France, and he contented himself with authorizing English
warriors to support the cause of Dermod if they chose. Having
obtained this permission, a certain number of adventurers went
over to Ireland; the most notable of whom was the son of the Earl
of Pembroke, Richard de Clare, called Strongbow, who took with
him a force of three thousand men. He fought against Dermod's
enemies, married that chief's daughter, and had just inherited
the kingdom of his father-in-law, when the king, annoyed at his
success, wrote for him, recalling him to England. Strongbow
immediately crossed the sea and came and threw himself at the
king's feet, offering to surrender the town of Dublin to him.
Henry's anger was appeased, and he appointed Strongbow to the
position of seneschal of Ireland. In the following year the king
himself landed in his new dominions with an army so numerous that
the Irish soon made a nominal submission. Henry, however,
intended not to act as a conqueror; he was taking possession, he
said, of Ireland, by virtue of an old bull of Pope Adrian which
conferred upon him the sovereignty of this new kingdom by the
right which the Popes claimed to exercise over all the islands
recognizing the Christian faith. The Irish Bishops answered this
appeal by meeting together in council. Several wise measures were
adopted for the civilization of the savage regions, where
polygamy was still practised, and where dead bodies were not
always buried.
{172}
But Henry did not attempt to impose the English laws upon his new
subjects. That portion of Ireland occupied by the Normans was
alone assimilated to England; the rest of the country remained
subject to its old customs. When Henry returned from thence on
the 17th of April, 1173, nominating Hugh de Lacy governor of
Ireland, he left behind him territories which his armies had not
overrun, and an undisciplined population, who took advantage of
his absence to rebel. The jealousies of the English noblemen
established in Ireland still further complicated the difficulties
of the government. Harassed by their mutual recriminations, the
king would depose, replace, or recall the rivals; disorder
reigned in all parts, when, in 1185, the king, having obtained
from the Pope the investiture of Ireland for his son John, sent
the young prince there with his court. The arrogance, the
severity, and the follies of the new sovereign soon caused fresh
insurrections. John grew alarmed and returned precipitately to
England, leaving to Sir John de Courcy the care of pacifying
Ireland; the lieutenant succeeded in this, and, having become
Earl of Ulster, he governed the new kingdom with as much firmness
as good sense, until, at the end of the reign of Henry II., a
prosperous state of affairs was inaugurated, to which Ireland had
not been accustomed under native kings.

Henry had begun to appropriate Ireland to himself, but without
being able to give his personal attention to that country. He was
a prey to bitter and ever-increasing embarrassments. The crowning
of his son, Prince Henry, had excited in the young man an
ambitious spirit which his father-in-law, Louis VII., constantly
encouraged. He asked for the immediate cession of Normandy or
even of England, in order to be able, he said, to maintain his
position and that of the queen his wife.
{173}
"Wait until my death," replied the king, "you shall have wealth
and power enough." He intended to bequeath England to Henry as
well as Normandy, Anjou, and Maine. Aquitaine he designed for
Richard, Brittany for Geoffrey, and Ireland for John. The young
princes had even already been invested with these magnificent
provinces; but, encouraged by their mother, the vindictive
Eleanor, to whom Henry II. had always been a good husband, they
plotted to seize their inheritance beforehand. In March, 1173,
Prince Henry, who had slept with his father at Chinon, found a
means of escaping during the night, and of reaching the territory
of the King of France. A few days afterwards, his two brothers,
Richard and Geoffrey, also escaped, and Queen Eleanor prepared to
follow her sons; but she was captured by her husband's emissaries
and brought back to England, where she was imprisoned until King
Henry's death.

The father had sent to Paris to ask that his son should be given
up to him; the ambassadors found the young prince clad in regal
robes, seated by the side of Louis VII. "We come from Henry, King
of the English, Duke of Normandy and of Aquitaine, Count of Anjou
and of Maine," began the messengers. "No," said the king,
interrupting them, "King Henry is sitting here, and he has
commissioned you to deliver no message. If you wish to speak of
the king his father, he is dead since his son wears the crown. If
he still has any pretensions to the title of king, I will soon
cure him of them." In accordance with these haughty words, the
young prince caused a seal similar to that of England to be made,
and declared, by letters addressed to the Pope, to his brothers,
and to all the great noblemen of England and of the French
states, that he was at war with his father in order to avenge the
death of Becket, "my foster-father, whose assassins are still
safe and sound.
{174}
I am unable (he added) to bear this criminal negligence, for the
blood of the martyr cries aloud in my ears. My father is incensed
against me; but I do not fear to offend him when the honor of God
is the cause." The Kings of France and Scotland, the Count of
Flanders, and a great number of English and Norman noblemen sided
with the conspirators; King Henry began to see himself abandoned
by his most intimate friends.

He was a match for his four sons. "The King of England neither
rides nor sails," said King Louis, alarmed by the rapidity of his
rival's movements; "he is believed to be in England, and he is in
France; he is believed to be in Ireland, and he is in England."
An army of Brabantines had been raised, and King Henry II. had
called upon all those monarchs who had sons, to support him in
his quarrel; endeavoring to secure their help by the
consideration of the disorder which would reign in their own
dominions if their own children followed the example set by the
English princes. He had implored the Pope to help him to defend
the patrimony of St. Peter, as he called the islands of England
and Ireland; the pontiff replied by sending legates to put an end
to this unnatural struggle; but blood had already been shed. In
the month of June, 1173, the Count of Flanders had entered into
Normandy; but his brother, who was his heir, having been killed
at the first siege, he retired from this impious struggle and
re-entered his states. King Louis VII. and Prince Henry were
defeated by the Brabantines; Prince Geoffrey did not meet with
success in Brittany; a conference convoked at Gisors again
excited their animosity. The war was carried on with alternate
successes and reverses; the insurrection had spread as far as
Aquitaine; the Scots had crossed the frontier, and several towns
of England were in the hands of the insurgents, when, in the
month of July 1174, Henry hastily left Normandy.
{175}
On reaching England he proceeded directly to Becket's tomb. It
was on the morrow of his humiliation and repentance, when he was
already in his bed, overcome by fever, that it was announced to
him that an attendant of Ranulph de Glanville wished to speak
with him. The king inquired whether Ranulph, who was one of his
intimate friends, was well. "My lord is well," replied the
messenger, "and your enemy, the King of Scotland, is in your
hands." The king trembled. "Say that again," he said. The man
tendered some letters to the king; it appeared that on the 12th
of July Glanville had surprised the King of Scotland, William the
Lion, in the neighborhood of Alnwick, and had made a prisoner of
him. This good news effected a cure of the king's disorder; the
people again thronged round his standards. In a few days the
insurrection was quelled in all parts, and Henry, after this
triumph, recrossed the sea with his army to relieve Rouen, which
was besieged by the King of France, Prince Henry, and the Count
of Flanders. A battle took place under the walls of the town,
which was decided in favor of the King of England; the princes
were for the time reduced to obedience. Richard resisted for a
greater length of time than his brothers; he had acquired a taste
for warlike achievements, which were to become the passion of his
life, and he thought besides that he was upholding the rights of
his mother, to whom he was tenderly attached. But he yielded at
length. An interval of peace at length allowed Henry II.
breathing time and leisure to organize the great institution
which he wished to bequeath to England. It was in 1176 that he
definitively established, with the help of his friend Ranulph de
Glanville, the courts of justice, where the assizes were
regularly held for all the civil and criminal business, and which
were presided over by itinerant judges, who made a circuit from
town to town to direct the decisions of the knights of the shire
who then represented the jury.

{176}

Louis VII. was dead. Philip Augustus had ascended the throne
(1180), and war was about to break out afresh. King Henry, who
was now reconciled to his eldest son, wished to compel Richard to
do homage to his brother for the duchy of Aquitaine; the prince
refused, saying that he would not compromise the rights of his
mother. She was greatly beloved in her hereditary dominions, and
the poet Bertrand de Born, powerful among his countrymen, and
devoted to Eleanor's cause, was intriguing successively with
whichever of the three sons appeared the most incensed against
his father. King Henry had caused a picture to be painted
re-presenting four young eagles attacking their sire. "If John
does not join his brothers," he said sadly, "it is because he is
too young."

Richard at length made peace with his father, but Henry and
Geoffrey had raised the standard of rebellion in their turn. They
had invited the king to a conference at Limoges (1183); when he
approached the town he was saluted with a volley of arrows, of
which one wounded his horse in the neck. "Ah! Geoffrey," cried
the king, "what has your unhappy father done to you that you
should thus make a target of him for your arrows?" The prince
laughed at this bitter remonstrance. "We cannot live in peace
amongst ourselves," he said, "without being in league against my
father." His brother Henry was disgusted at this evidence of his
brother's hard-heartedness, and joined the king for awhile; but
soon after, having been again annoyed, he departed and joined
Geoffrey and the Poitevins, who had revolted, when he fell ill at
Limoges.
{177}
In terror, he sent, begging his father to come and grant his
forgiveness. The king did not dare to accede to the request; his
friends would not allow him to venture into the camp of his sons,
who had so recently attempted his life. He contented himself with
sending a ring by the Archbishop of Bordeaux, assuring the prince
of his forgiveness. The prelate found the young man dying upon a
bed of ashes, a prey to remorse and despair. He died pressing to
his lips the ring which his father had sent to him, greatly
distressed at not having received the benediction upon which he
had hitherto set so little value.

A few days afterwards Limoges was taken, and the instigator of
the insurrections, Bertrand de Born, was made a prisoner; he was
brought before the king to receive sentence; he said nothing, and
did not defend himself. "Bertrand," said the king, "you pretend
that at no time do you require one-half of your talents; know
that in this instance the whole of them would avail you little."
"Sire," replied Bertrand, "it is true that I said that, and I
told the truth." "And I think that your talents have deserted
you," cried Henry angrily. "Ah! Sire," said Bertrand, "my powers
deserted me on the day that the brave young king, your son, died;
on that day I lost all my powers." The king burst into tears.
"Bertrand," he cried, "it is but right that my son's death should
have unnerved you, for he was more attached to you than to
anybody else in the world; and I, for love of him, give you your
life, your goods, and your castle."

The poet Dante did not forgive Bertrand de Born, as king Henry
had done, for he placed him in hell. "I saw," said he, "and I
seem to see it still, a headless trunk approach us, and the head
being cut off, it held it in one hand by the hair, like a
lantern: 'Know that I am Bertrand de Born, who gave bad advice to
the young king.'"

{178}

In the midst of the general grief a kind of union was effected
between the father and his remaining sons, as well as between the
father and mother. Eleanor was brought back to Aquitaine, and
restored to liberty; but this mutual understanding, so rare in
this royal family, only lasted for a short time; Geoffrey asked
the king to grant him the countship of Anjou, and on being
refused, he retired to the court of France: death awaited him
there; he was thrown in a tournament, and trampled under foot by
the horse before the attendants could come to his assistance.

Henry had two sons remaining; Richard, who was afterwards called
"Cœur-de-Lion," and who had inherited that majestic countenance
which Peter of Blois attributes to his father, whose almost
square face resembled a lion's head; and John Lackland, as his
father laughingly called him, who had not taken part in the
revolts of his brothers, and whom Henry esteemed very much for
that reason. Richard had already shown fresh signs of
insubordination. Eleanor had returned to her prison at
Winchester, when a call from the East brought a short truce to
the hostilities between France and England. Jerusalem had just
been retaken by the Mussulmans (1187); Pope Urban II. had died of
grief in consequence. Gregory VIII., who had succeeded him,
called the Christians from the West to the deliverance of the
Holy Sepulchre, and the Archbishop of Tyre was preaching in favor
of the crusade. King Henry was the first to respond to the
appeal. Richard assumed the cross as well as his father.
Philip-Augustus manifested the same desire. A conference was held
under the elm of Gisors, the famous tree at the foot of which
many treaties had been ratified which had remained in force but
for a very short time. The treaty of peace which was there agreed
to in the name of the crusade proved to be no more durable than
the others, and the King of France in his anger caused the tree
to be rooted up, saying that no more perfidy should be witnessed
under its branches.
{179}
It was rumored that the King of England had the intention of
bequeathing his kingdom to his youngest son. Richard had another
grievance against his father; the latter had for some time been
detaining in a castle the Princess Alice of France, who had been
promised in marriage to Richard, and far from conniving at the
union, he was endeavoring to obtain a divorce from Eleanor, with
the intention, it was said, of marrying the young princess
himself. Richard demanded an explanation from his father of these
two infringements of his rights, asking for his father's consent
to his marriage and an acknowledgment of himself as heir to the
throne of England.

Henry did not reply; he at length proposed to marry the Princess
Alice to John Lackland. Richard was not infatuated with her, for
he already dreamt of Berengaria of Navarre; but he looked upon
his father's proposal as an indication of his intentions
respecting John. "Is it really so," cried he; "I did not think it
possible, but now, my friends, you will see what you little
expected," And, kneeling before King Philip-Augustus, he placed
his hands in that monarch's, and at once did the latter homage
for the duchies of Normandy, Brittany, and Aquitaine, as well as
for the countships of Poitou. Anjou, and Maine, asking for
assistance in recovering his rights. Philip-Augustus accepted him
as a vassal and liege, and immediately gave up to Richard the
castles which he had taken from the latter's father.

{180}

This time the shot had been sent straight to the king's heart. In
vain did he retire to Saumur, to recommence preparations for war:
his energy and decision had failed him; he awaited the arrival of
the Pope's legates, who were entrusted with the care of
attempting a reconciliation, and contented himself with rewarding
the noblemen of Normandy, who had always remained true to him.
When the legate arrived, King Philip-Augustus, who was too clever
not to discover the weariness of the old king, insisted on the
conditions of peace offered at the last conference, asking
besides that John should accompany his brother in the crusade,
without which he threatened to cause the greatest disorder in the
kingdom. Henry refused. "Then the truce is at an end," said the
King of France. The legate threatened to place the kingdom under
an interdict, and to excommunicate Philip and Richard. "I am not
afraid of your mercenary anathemas," said Philip; and Richard,
drawing his sword, cried, "I will kill any insensate who dares to
excommunicate two princes in a single breath!" His friends
restrained his violence; the legate remounted his mule and
retired in great haste.

The French marched towards Le Mans; the town was taken and
pillaged. Aquitaine, Poitou, and Brittany revolted; treason was
rife among the English barons. Henry felt that he was beaten; he
sued for peace, declaring himself ready to accept the
propositions of Philip and of Richard. The two monarchs met upon
a plain between Tours and Azay. Richard was not present; while
they were conferring in the open field, and still on horseback,
the thunder roared and a violent storm broke forth. The nerves of
King Henry had been shaken by disease and trouble. He reeled in
his saddle, and his servants sustained him with difficulty. When
he had recovered his senses, he was too ill to continue the
conference, and the proposals for peace were sent to his
head-quarters. They were hard and humiliating; an indemnity for
King Philip, permission for his vassals to do homage to Richard,
the restoration of the Princess Alice to a person commissioned to
deliver her with all honor to her brother, or her affianced
husband on the return from the crusade, and so forth.
{181}
King Henry II. stretched upon his couch, listened in silence.
When an end was made he asked to see a list of the barons who had
pledged themselves to maintain the cause of Philip and Richard.
The first name was that of his son John, count of Mortagne; the
unhappy father uttered a cry of pain. "John, the son of my
heart," he exclaimed, "for love of whom I have brought upon
myself all these misfortunes--he, too, has betrayed me!" He was
assured that it was so. "Let all things henceforth proceed as
they will," he said, "I have no longer any regard for myself or
this world." And he turned his face again to the wall in the
bitterness of his soul. His son Richard had followed him, and
leaning towards him asked for the kiss of peace in ratification
of the treaty. The king did not refuse it as he had done before
in the case of Becket; but Richard had scarcely left the chamber
when the indignant father muttered between his teeth, "May I live
to avenge myself on thee!"

He gave orders to be carried to Chinon, oppressed with a profound
melancholy, which was succeeded by a violent fever. In his fits
he raised himself in his bed, invoking the vengeance of Heaven
upon his children. "Shame, shame upon a vanquished king--a king
dispossessed of his rights," he cried; "accursed be the day when
I was born; accursed be the children that I leave behind me!" He
directed his attendants to carry him into the church, where he
expired at the foot of the altar on the 6th of July, 1189. He had
not yet completed his fifty-fifth year, but his features were
worn like those of an aged man. When Richard, stricken with
horror at the intelligence which he had received, hastened to
Fontevrault, whither the corpse of his father had been removed
without ceremony, some one had surrounded the royal forehead with
a golden fringe in imitation of a crown, and it had been
necessary to employ hired horses in order to convey to his last
resting-place the powerful master of so many dominions.

{182}

Richard approached the coffin. A drop of blood appeared under the
nostrils of the corpse. "Yes, it is I who have killed him!" cried
Richard, stricken with repentance. He fell on his knees beside
the dead body of his father, remained there a moment prostrate,
then rising, went out precipitately.

Ten years later, when Richard was dying at the siege of Chalus,
he ordered that his body should be conveyed to Fontevrault, to be
interred at the feet of his father.



                   Chapter VIII.

   (1189-1216.)
   Richard Cœur-de-lion.
   John Lackland.
   Magna Charta.


The first act of the new king was to deliver from her prison his
mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, to whom he had always been tenderly
attached. While she was presiding over the preparations for the
crowning of her son, dispensing amnesties, and calling all free
men to swear allegiance to him, Richard arrested Stephen of
Tours, seneschal of Anjou and treasurer to Henry IL, threw him
into prison, and did not restore him to liberty until he had been
put in possession by him, not only of the treasures of the dead
king, but of all the personal property of the treasurer as well.
On arriving in England, Richard also went in great haste to
Winchester, in order to secure the riches which had been amassed
there by his father. The Jews were uneasy at seeing the new
sovereign display so much avidity; they had been accustomed to
suffer for any want of money on the part of kings, and Philip
Augustus had just set the example of confiscation, by driving
them away from his kingdom on his accession (1180), in order to
seize their property.
{183}
Richard contented himself with forbidding them to enter
Westminster Abbey; but some wealthy Jews, hoping to secure the
favor of the new king by rich presents, ventured to present
themselves among the vassals who brought their offerings to
Richard. The gifts were accepted, but, after the coronation
ceremony, when Richard, having taken the crown from the altar, in
token that he held it from God alone, had deposited it in the
hands of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who placed it upon
Richard's head, a noise was heard proceeding from the gates of
the churchyard. A Jew who attempted to enter was pushed back; on
this disturbance being made, the other Jews were driven away, and
then the popular vengeance was wreaked upon their houses, which
were set a-fire. A great number of Jews were killed. The fury
spread throughout the whole of the country. At York, the unhappy
Jews retired into the citadel, where the governor allowed them to
take refuge. But he went out one day, and the Jews, fearful of
treason, refused to let him re-enter. The fortress was besieged,
and when the Jews found themselves about to be taken, they set
light to an immense wood pile, and threw themselves upon it with
all their riches, after having themselves slain their wives and
children. Richard forbade this persecution of the Jews, but did
not cause anybody to be punished; "and this shedding of the Jews'
blood," says the old chronicler, "although against the wish of
the king, seemed to foretell that Cœur-de-Lion would be a plague
to the Saviour's enemies."

{184}

Richard appeared for the time being to have become imbued with
the commercial spirit of these much despised Israelites. He
turned everything into money, selling the royal domains which his
father had been at such pains to reconstitute: bartering away
towns, castles, and even, sometimes, property which did not
belong to him. "I would sell London, if I could find a buyer," he
said. The most important offices in the kingdom were disposed of
by auction like the domains. Hugh Pudsey, bishop of Durham,
bought the county of Northumberland and the title of Chief
Justicier; the bishoprics and the abbeys were offered to the
highest bidder; the King of Scotland was released of the tribute
imposed upon him and his people during his captivity, for the sum
of 20,000 marks of silver. The crusade which Richard was
projecting, and which occupied his whole attention, required
considerable sums of money, and the king was not very scrupulous
as to the means he adopted for obtaining the money which he
wanted.

Prince John, his brother, had just received some very large gifts
in Normandy and in England, but he was not nominated regent of
the kingdom during Richard's absence; the power was divided
between Bishop Pudsey and William Longchamp, Bishop of Ely and
Chancellor of England. Many duties were entrusted to Queen
Eleanor, and, towards the end of the year 1189, Richard proceeded
to Normandy. He had promised to start on the crusade at Easter in
1190. The emissaries of King Philip-Augustus met him at Rouen,
and took oath upon the soul of the king their master to a treaty
of alliance, both offensive and defensive, between the two
sovereigns,--the King of France undertaking to respect and defend
the rights of the King of England as he would his good city of
Paris; while the English delegates swore, on the soul of the King
of England, to perform the same services for King Philip as he
would for his good city of Rouen. The kings of England wore
still, before all, Dukes of Normandy.

{185}

The Queen of France, Isabella of Hainault, had just died, and the
departure for the crusade was postponed until midsummer. The two
kings at length met on the plains of Vezelay, accompanied, it is
said, by a hundred thousand crusaders. They marched across the
country together as far as Lyons, and then separated, after
having made an appointment to meet at Messina. Philip marched
towards Genoa, where he expected to find those of his vessels
which were destined for foreign service. Richard was going to
Marseilles; his fleet was to come and meet him there. England was
no longer at the mercy of Genoese or Venetian merchants, being in
possession of a considerable number of vessels. But the English
ships were delayed; they experienced some mishaps in the Bay of
Biscay; some had sought shelter in Portugal. Richard became
impatient, and hiring some mercantile barks, he set out with a
portion of his forces, in order to arrive sooner at Messina to
meet the King of France. But the English ships sailed faster than
the Marseilles barks; when the king arrived in Sicily, his fleet
had preceded him.

The kingdom of Sicily had previously lost its sovereign, William
the Good, brother-in-law to King Richard, and his cousin Tancred,
Count of Lecce, had been elected king in his stead. The dowager
queen, Joanna, Richard's sister, claimed her jointure, which
Tancred held unjustly, as she said. Scarcely had Richard set foot
in Sicily when, without waiting for the negotiations to be made,
he took possession of the castle and of the town of Bagnara, and
established his sister there, who had arrived before him; then
returning to Messina, he drove the monks from a convent which
suited his purposes, and converted it into a barracks.
{186}
So many outrages roused the people, who shut the gates against
Richard's troops. A conference was being held in the camp of
Philip-Augustus for adjusting this difference, when a fresh
quarrel broke out between the Sicilians and the English troops.
Richard left the royal tent in great haste, assembled his men,
and running helter-skelter among the citizens, he entered Messina
and planted his banner upon the ramparts. Philip-Augustus at once
demanded that his own banner should also be planted there; but
Richard consented to give up the town into the hands of the
knights templars, pending the decision respecting his sister's
pretensions, and King Tancred hastened the negotiations, being
anxious to rid himself of so turbulent and formidable a guest.
Queen Joanna obtained a large sum of money, and King Richard
received his share of it, which he scattered broadcast amongst
the crusaders, thus finding favor with the French as well as the
English, the Normans, and the Aquitanians.

Philip-Augustus, courageous and bold as he was when necessary,
did not possess in as great a degree as the King of England, the
brilliant qualities which then constituted a true knight; he was
more prudent and cunning than Richard; perhaps he was even given
to dissimulation, for Tancred accused him before the King of
England of having endeavored to dissuade him from negotiating
with Richard; and when the latter came and complained angrily to
Philip, a quarrel was about to break out between the two brothers
in arms, who had sworn to help each other in the holy enterprise.
Richard thereby gained permission, accorded to him by the King of
France, to marry whoever he chose instead of the Princess Alice,
the sister of Philip-Augustus. It was high time for Richard to
disengage himself from previous contracts, for Queen Eleanor was
to bring back to her son the Princess Berengaria, for whom she
had been to Navarre.
{187}
They were only waiting until the departure of Philip to celebrate
the marriage. Bad weather had prolonged the stay of the King of
France at Messina until Lent, and Richard's marriage with
Berengaria had not yet been solemnized when Philip left Sicily,
on the 30th of March, 1191, upon his ship "Franc-la-Mer," at the
head of more than two hundred vessels. The Queen of Sicily took
the young princess away with her.

The weather was unfavorable, and the fleet was dispersed. When
King Richard, suffering from sea-sickness, landed at Rhodes, he
was almost alone, and he learnt that the vessel, the "Lion," with
the princesses on board, had been driven ashore on the coast of
Cyprus; the governor of the island, or, as he called himself, the
Emperor Isaac Comnenus, had not allowed them to disembark; the
sailors who had ventured to land had even been ill-treated.

Much less provocation would have sufficed to arouse the anger and
vengeance of Cœur-de-Lion. He immediately left Rhodes, sailed to
Cyprus, took possession of the island, and made prisoners of the
emperor and his daughter, gave the latter to Berengaria for an
attendant, and placed Isaac Comnenus in silver chains, which the
latter wore until his death. Richard was married in the church of
Limasol on the day after Easter, in order to set out immediately
for Acre, the siege of which town had already commenced, in spite
of the plague, which was decimating the army.

The prowess of King Richard soon attracted towards him the eyes
of the crusaders and of the Mussulmans themselves. Stricken with
the fever, he would cause himself to be carried upon a litter to
the ramparts, and would there direct the movements of the troops.
He distributed among the knights the money taken at Cyprus. The
jealousy of King Philip gained ground day by day.
{188}
Accustomed to consider himself superior to the King of England,
who was his vassal, Philip was annoyed at seeing his own
authority lessened in consequence of the prodigious valor of
Richard, the "king," as he was called everywhere in the East, in
defiance of the rights of the King of France.

The French knights and their adherents on the one hand, the
English knights and their allies on the other, had vainly
endeavored to take the town by storm. Saladin, the sultan of the
Arabs, kept aloof, watching for an opportunity to relieve Acre.
But the Christian army completely surrounded it--"as the eyeball
the eye," say the oriental historians--so completely, in fact,
that at the moment when the chiefs of the Christian army,
temporarily reconciled, were preparing to attack the town in
unison, the Mussulman garrison surrendered, their lives being
spared, on the 12th of July, 1191, and Saladin retired into the
interior of the country. Philip and Richard immediately entered
Acre at the head of their armies, and planted their banners upon
the ramparts. The King of England had taken possession of the
sultan's palace, without troubling himself to find a residence
for Philip, and when he learnt that the Arch-duke of Austria,
Leopold, had set up his banner at the side of the standard of
England, he went and tore it down with his own hands, and threw
it into the trenches, indignantly asking how a duke could have
any pretensions to the honors exclusively reserved for kings.
Richard was destined to pay dearly for these haughty proceedings.

Scarcely had the crusaders entered Acre when King Philip
announced his intention of returning to Europe. In vain was he
urged to persevere in the holy enterprise; in vain his emissaries
who were entrusted to announce this news to King Richard were so
ashamed of it that they wept and said nothing.


[Image]
Richard Removing The Archduke's Banner.

{189}

Philip insisted on returning to France, which country he would
have been wise not to have left in the preceding year. Ten
thousand French crusaders remained in the East, under the command
of the Duke of Burgundy. The King of France solemnly swore not to
make any attempt upon Richard's dominions, and set sail on the
31st of July, leaving the Christian army a prey to the
dissensions to which the succession to the throne of the still
unconquered city of Jerusalem gave rise. Sybil, granddaughter of
Godfrey of Bouillon, had just died, and her husband, Hugh of
Lusignan, was one of the two pretenders to the title of King of
Jerusalem, the other being Conrad of Montferrat, husband of
Isabella, sister of Sybil. The King of France espoused the cause
of Conrad, and Richard supported Lusignan. It was in the midst of
these differences that the crusaders, under the command of the
King of England, commenced a march across the desert of Mount
Carmel. Exhausted by the heat, they were also harassed by the
Arab horsemen, who were more embittered than ever against the
Christians, for the term fixed for the exchange of prisoners
having gone by without Saladin's having sent back those in his
possession, the King of England had caused all the Mussulman
prisoners to be led out of the camp and to be slaughtered before
the sultan's eyes. The soldiers even went as far as searching the
entrails of their victims for any gold or precious stones which
they might have swallowed.

A great battle was fought at Arsouf on the 7th of September; King
Richard performed prodigies of valor and opened up a road to
Jaffa. Saladin was at Ascalon, when the crusaders, who had
arrived at Bethany, were compelled to give up their intention of
laying siege to Jerusalem on account of the bad weather. The
sultan at once abandoned Ascalon, dismantling the ramparts, and
thus making the way clear for Richard.
{190}
The latter hastened to repair the fortifications. In order to
encourage the soldiers, he himself carried stones to the workers,
and urged the Archduke Leopold to do likewise. "I am not the son
of a mason," replied the Austrian, whereupon Richard, in a fit of
passion, struck him in the face. Leopold at once left the army
and set out to return to his states, followed by his soldiers.

In vain was Ascalon fortified; in vain did Richard agree to
confer the crown of Jerusalem upon Conrad of Montferrat, in the
hope of re-establishing a mutual understanding in order to be
able to march against Jerusalem. That prince was almost
immediately murdered by two emissaries of the "Old Man of the
Mountain," a mysterious sovereign, whose devotees, intoxicated by
the fumes of haschich, blindly obeyed his orders. This crime was
attributed to the King of England, who afterwards quarrelled with
the Duke of Burgundy, depriving himself of the support of the
French as he had previously deprived himself of that of the
Austrians. They had again advanced as far as Bethany, and a band
of crusaders had ascended a mountain overlooking Jerusalem. King
Richard was asked to come and see the holy city in the distance.
"No," said he, covering his face with his cloak; "those who are
not worthy of conquering Jerusalem should not look at it." The
crusaders retraced their steps as far as Acre.

On arriving at that town, Richard suddenly learnt that Saladin
was besieging Jaffa. He embarked at once and sailed to the
rescue. The crescent already shone upon the walls, but a priest
who had cast himself into the water in front of the royal vessel
told Richard that he could yet save the garrison, although the
town was already in the hands of the enemy.
{191}
The ship had not yet reached the landing-stage, and already the
king was in the water, which reached his shoulders, and was
uttering the war cry, "St. George!" The infidels, who were busy
plundering the city, took fright, and three thousand men fled,
pursued by four or five knights of the cross. The little corps of
Christians intrenched themselves behind planks of wood and tubs;
ten tents held the whole of the army. Day had scarcely dawned,
when a soldier flew to Richard's bedside. "O king! we are dead
men!" he cried; "the enemy is upon us." The king sprang up from
his bed, scarcely allowing himself time to buckle on his armor,
and omitting his helmet and shield. "Silence!" he said to the
bearer of the bad news, "or I will kill you." Seventeen knights
had gathered round Cœur-de-Lion, kneeling on the ground, and
holding their lances; in their midst were some archers,
accompanied by attendants who were recharging their arquebuses.
The king was standing in the midst. The Saracens endeavored in
vain to overawe this heroic little band; not one of them stirred.
At length, under a shower of arrows, the knights sprang on their
horses, and swept the plain before them. They entered Jaffa
towards evening, and drove the Mussulmans from it. From the time
of daybreak, Richard had not ceased for a moment to deal out his
blows, and the skin of his hand adhered to the handle of his
battle-axe. The remembrance of this day had not faded when, more
than fifty years later, St. Louis led the French troops to the
crusade. Joinville heard the Saracen mothers scolding their
children and threatening them with Malek-Rik, a name which the
Mussulmans gave to King Richard. Such severe fatigue under the
burning sun had affected the health of Cœur-de-Lion. Disquieting
news came from his dominions. He concluded a truce with Saladin,
giving up Ascalon to him, but keeping Jaffa, Tyre, and the
fortresses along the coast, and promising to refrain from any
hostilities during a period of three years, three months, three
weeks, three days, and three hours.
{192}
"Then I will come back," said Richard, "with double the number of
men that I now possess, and will reconquer Jerusalem." Saladin
smiled, acknowledging, however, that if the Holy City was to fall
into the hands of the Christians, no one was more worthy of
conquering it than Malek-Rik. The two adversaries had conceived
for each other a feeling of chivalrous admiration and esteem
which is the theme of Sir Walter Scott's novel "The Talisman."
Numerous presents had been exchanged by them during the war; and
when Richard was suffering from fever, and was perishing with
thirst, he received each day fruits and cooling drinks which were
sent to him by the sultan.

It was on the 9th of October, 1192, that Richard Cœur-de-Lion
left Palestine. Standing upon the poop of his ship, he was
surveying the shore, then fading from sight. "Oh! Holy Land,"
cried he, "I leave you to God, as well as your people. May He
help me to come back to your assistance!" The English ships were
sailing together, when a storm arose and dispersed them. The one
which carried the two queens arrived in Sicily, but King Richard
was not with them, and no one knew what had become of him. Driven
at first towards the island of Corfu, he had hired three small
vessels, which had taken him to Zara, whence he hoped to reach
his nephew Otho of Saxony, son of his sister Matilda. He found
himself surrounded by enemies and threatened on all sides. He
knew that King Philip had entered into a league with John
Lackland, in order to deprive him of his kingdom: the Emperor
Henry had laid claim to the throne of Sicily, and had not
forgiven Richard for his alliance with Tancred; Leopold of
Austria had not abandoned all hope of revenge, and everywhere the
relations of Conrad of Montferrat were accusing the King of
England of having been the cause of the death of their ally.



    [Image]
    Richard's Farewell To The Holy Land.

{193}

Richard assumed the garb of a merchant and started on his journey
through the mountains of the Tyrol. He arrived at Goritz in
Carinthia, where he sent and asked for a passport for Baldwin of
Béthune, one of his knights, and for Hugh the merchant. The
messenger was instructed at the same time to present the governor
with a ring which the merchant sent him. The governor scrutinized
the messenger. "You are not speaking the truth," cried he. "It is
not a merchant who sends me this ring, but King Richard. But as
he honors me with his gifts without knowing me, although I am the
cousin of Conrad of Montferrat, I will do him no injury. Tell
him, however, to leave this place as soon as possible."

The governor of Goritz did not wish to arrest King Richard, but
he had not promised to keep the secret. He informed Frederick of
Montferrat, Conrad's brother, that Cœur-de-Lion was about to
travel across his dominions. Recognized by a Norman knight, the
king was saved by a faithful vassal, and had arrived in the
states of the Duke of Austria, when he fell ill in the village of
Erperg, a short distance from Vienna. A page was despatched to
the capital to exchange some gold bezants for current coin of the
country. He was noticed and interrogated, and being put under
torture he divulged his master's name. Richard was stretched upon
his bed, sleeping, when the mayor of Vienna entered his little
apartment "Good morrow, King of England," he said. "You hide in
vain, for your face betrays you."

The king had already seized his sword, protesting that he would
only surrender to the duke himself. Leopold was unwilling to let
any one else have the honor of making the capture; he soon
arrived, and received the King of England's sword.
{194}
"You should esteem yourself fortunate, Sire," said the duke, with
a smile of revengeful satisfaction; "if you had fallen into the
hands of the relations of Conrad of Montferrat you would have
been a dead man, even if you had had a thousand lives." And
triumphantly leading forth his prisoner, whom he reminded on the
road of the insult which had been formerly offered to the
Austrian flag, he shut Richard up in the castle of Diernstein.
But the emperor at once claimed the illustrious captive. "A duke
cannot possibly keep a king!" he urged; "it is the right of an
emperor." And Richard was conducted to the castle of Treefels,
where he languished for two years.

While King Richard had been acquiring glory in Palestine, without
any signal advantage gained to the Christian cause, disorder
reigned supreme over his kingdom; the Chancellor Longchamp had
seized upon the power, casting his fellow-bishop of Durham into
prison, and only setting him free at the price of all the
dignities which the latter had bought of Richard. The chancellor
was able and devoted to the king, but haughty, arrogant,
despotic, and, above all, rapacious, as all powerful men were at
that time. "If he had remained master," say the chronicles, "he
would not have left a belt to the men, a bracelet to the women, a
ring to the knights, or a jewel to the Jews." But scarcely had
King Richard arrived in Palestine when Prince John unmasked
himself. Having raised an army against the chancellor, he claimed
the supreme authority on the ground of his being heir presumptive
to the crown, resolutely refusing to recognize the rights of
Arthur of Brittany, son of Geoffrey, whom Richard had repeatedly
nominated as his successor. Badly supported by the barons,
Longchamp was beaten, and compelled to agree to a truce.
{195}
By means of intrigue and concessions, John first of all caused
himself to be recognized by the regent and the council as heir to
the throne, then obtained the deposition of the chancellor, and
saw himself raised to the dignity of Governor-General of the
kingdom. It was on the 9th of October, 1191, while King Richard
was fortifying the town of Jaffa, after the victory of Ascalon.
The new regent offered to allow Longchamp to keep his diocese of
Ely, and have the governorship of three royal castles. "No," said
the deposed chancellor, "I will not willingly give up any of my
master's rights; but you are stronger than I, and chancellor and
chief justicier as I am, I yield to superior power." He consigned
the keys of the Tower to Prince John, and made preparation for
leaving England. No doubt he knew the prince too well not to fear
some treachery, for he disguised himself as a travelling
trades-woman, and, accompanied by a large number of boxes, he
waited near Dover for the ship which was to carry him to France.
The vessel was delayed; some fishermen's wives, passing along the
beach, asked if they might look at his goods; but the Chancellor
of England did not understand English, but only spoke Norman, and
therefore could not answer; the women, being impatient, declared
that the owner of the boxes must be a mad woman, and raised her
veil. They started back at seeing a man's face underneath it. The
fishermen rushed to the spot; and, suspecting some sinister
purpose in the disguise, they subjected Longchamp to
ill-treatment until the officers of the guard came, tore him from
their grasp, and took him to prison. The Chancellor had much
difficulty in getting free again, and in obtaining permission to
proceed to France. The Archbishop of Rouen was created chancellor
and chief justicier in his stead.

{196}

It was in the month of October, 1192, when King Richard was just
setting sail from Acre, that rumors of his approaching return
were spread throughout Europe; but in vain did days, weeks,
months elapse. The champion of the Cross, Cœur-de-Lion, had
disappeared, and his fate remained shrouded in mystery, when, at
the beginning of the year 1193, a letter from the Emperor Henry
VI. to the King of France, discovered by accident, revealed the
fact of Richard's incarceration in Austria. "The enemy of the
Empire and the disturber of France," said the Emperor, "is
imprisoned in a castle in the Tyrol, and watched day and night by
faithful guards with naked swords." The exact whereabouts of the
castle remained a secret.

The effect of this news in Europe was wonderful; Richard's
reputation had caused people to forget his pride and avarice.
Prince John was as proud and as avaricious as his brother,
without the fitful generosity and brilliant valor which in
Richard compensated for so many faults: the clergy remembered the
great deeds performed for the deliverance of the Holy Sepulchre;
all the noblemen and knights were disgusted at the treachery
which kept a king and a crusader in an unknown prison; the Pope
excommunicated the Archduke Leopold, and threatened the Emperor
with the same penalty; Prince John and the King of France alone
rejoiced at the powerless state in which their enemy found
himself. The prince hastened to Paris to do homage to Philip for
all the dominions which the King of England held upon the
Continent; and then, recrossing the Channel, he commenced
preparations for raising an army, to enable him to dispute his
brother's claim to the crown; but already the barons and prelates
who remained faithful to Richard had unfurled the royal standard;
the hired soldiers gathered together by John were repulsed, and
the feeble usurper was compelled to consent to an armistice. His
ally of France had been unsuccessful at Rouen, which was defended
by the Earl of Essex, who had recently arrived from Palestine.
Philip had been compelled to quit that town.

{197}

The ex-Chancellor Longchamp had at length discovered the king's
prison, and had gone to see him. He managed to induce the emperor
to convoke the Diet of the Empire at Hagenau, in order to hear
the charges against Richard. The King of England appeared before
the princes there assembled, and cleared himself easily of the
accusations brought against him. The emperor consented to deliver
him up for a ransom; the sum fixed was a hundred and fifty
thousand marks of silver. The king's fetters were removed, and he
was led back to his prison, there to remain until the united
efforts of his people should raise the required sum of money. "My
brother John will never gain a kingdom by his valor!"
Cœur-de-Lion had disdainfully declared on hearing of that
prince's treachery. But John could plot, and, supported by Philip
Augustus, he contributed greatly towards postponing the
deliverance of his brother. Richard was still languishing in
prison at the beginning of the year 1194, lamenting his fate in
Provençal ballads, which may be translated thus:--

  Now know ye well, my barons, people, all,
  English and Norman, Gascon and Poitevin,
  That for no money would I leave in thrall
  The poorest of my comrades thus to pine.
  Reproach I made not nor desire withal,
  Though now two winters here.

The period of his captivity was at length, however, drawing to an
end; in vain did Philip-Augustus and Prince John propose to the
Emperor Henry a much larger sum than Richard's ransom if he would
still keep the latter in prison. The princes of the Empire
opposed the offer indignantly, and when the first half of the
ransom arrived, in the month of February, 1194, the king was at
length restored to liberty.
{198}
He landed at Sandwich on the 13th of March, to the great delight
of his subjects. Prince John had taken refuge in Normandy, and
the other traitors had disappeared. Richard seized upon several
castles, deprived several rebels of their offices, and sold them
to the highest bidder; then, levying another tax upon a country
exhausted by war and by the payment of the royal ransom, he
hastened to France, to punish her king for the injuries inflicted
upon him by that monarch. On disembarking Richard was met by his
brother, who reckoned upon the intercession of his mother to
obtain the forgiveness of the sovereign whom he had so cruelly
wronged. "I forgive him," said Richard; "and I hope that I shall
forget his misdeeds as completely as he will forget my
forgiveness." He refused, however, to reinstate John in his land
and castles.

War was still raging between the two monarchs, with variable
success. Richard was enabled to wreak his vengeance upon the
Bishop of Beauvais, who had formerly been entrusted with missions
from Philip to the Emperor of Germany. That prelate, having been
made a prisoner during a battle, by Merchadec, chief of the
Brabantines in Richard's service, was imprisoned in the castle of
Rouen. In vain did he implore the intervention of Pope Celestine
III. in his favor; the King of England sent the armor, stained
with the bishop's blood, to the Pontiff, with this quotation from
Scripture: "See whether it is your son's garment." The Pope
laughed. "It is the coat of a son of Mars," said he, "let Mars
undertake to deliver him;" and the bishop remained in prison
until the death of King Richard.

{199}

So many struggles were necessarily burdensome; "from sea to sea
England was ruined," say the chroniclers. A citizen of London,
William Fitz-Osbert, better known by his title of "Longbeard,"
constituted himself the champion of the poor, endeavoring, first
of all, by interceding with the king to obtain a lessening of the
burdens which were crushing them. The king wanted money.
Longbeard achieved no result; and came back to England, where he
organized a secret association. He began a series of public
orations, causing dangerous riots in London, where he was looked
upon by the people as their king and saviour. The authorities
endeavored to arrest him, but he took refuge in the church of St.
Mary of the Arches, with a few supporters, where he defended
himself until the building being set afire he was obliged to
leave it; he was wounded, captured and dragged to Smithfield,
where he was hanged. The people had done nothing to rescue him;
but it was found necessary to punish the fanatics who came by
night to scrape up the earth at the foot of his gibbet, to be
preserved as relics.

King Richard had defeated Philip-Augustus at the gates of Gisors.
Whilst making his escape, the King of France had almost been
drowned in the river. "I made him drink the water of the Epte,"
Richard wrote triumphantly. But the day was approaching which was
to see the end of so many heroic, but fruitless struggles; it was
rumored in Normandy that an arrow was being fashioned in
Limousin, which was destined to kill a tyrant. The King of
England learnt that his vassal, the Viscount of Limoges, had
discovered a treasure. He at once sent to claim it of the
Viscount, who sent him one-half of his treasure trove upon a
mule. "Gold treasure belongs to the liege-lord; silver is
divided," said the Viscount. But Richard wanted the whole; he
marched against the castle of Chalus, where he expected to find
the treasure, and laid siege to the place. It was well defended,
but provisions had run short; the garrison wished to capitulate.
{200}
"No," said Richard, "I will take your place by storm, and cause
you all to be hanged on the walls." The defenders of the town
were in despair; the king and Merchadec were examining the point
of attack, when a young archer, Bertrand de Gourdon, pulled his
bow, and, praying to God to direct the arrow, aimed it at the
king; the latter was struck on the left shoulder. The town,
however, was taken by assault, and all the garrison were hanged.
The king sent for Gourdon. He was dying, for an unskilful surgeon
had broken the arrow, and left the steel portion in the wound.
"Wretch!" said he to the archer, "what had I done to you that you
should have attempted my life?" "You have put my father and two
brothers to death," said Bertrand, "and you wanted to hang me."
"I forgive you," cried Richard; "let his chains be removed, and
let him receive one hundred shillings." Merchadec took no heed of
the royal pardon, but caused Bertrand de Gourdon to be flayed
alive. Gourdon's children fled to Scotland, and became, it is
said, the founders of the illustrious family of the Gordons.
Richard died on the 6th of April, 1199. Scarcely had he breathed
his last, when his sister Joanna, whom he had married to the
Count of Toulouse, arrived at the camp before Chalus, to solicit
help for her husband in his dispute with the court of Rome, in
the matter of the Albigenses. She was informed of the death of
her brother, and the shock caused her to give birth to a child
prematurely. The child was stillborn, and the mother died in
delivering it. She was buried with her brother at Fontevraud, at
the foot of the grave of Henry II.

The period of chivalric enterprises in England had gone by, and
that of humiliation and decay was commencing. The reign, however,
of John Lackland, the most cowardly and treacherous of the
sovereigns who have sat on the throne of England, is one of the
most important epochs in history, for from that time dates the
active part played by the nation in its own affairs--the time of
Magna Charta, the germ and foundation of all English liberty.

{201}

                   Magna Charta


John was well known by the people whom he aspired to govern, and
was universally detested. Scarcely had the rumor of the death of
King Richard spread through France, when all the nobility of
Brittany, Touraine, Anjou, and Maine declared themselves in favor
of Prince Arthur, son of Geoffrey Plantagenet and of Constance of
Brittany, born seven months after his father's death, whom
Richard had repeatedly nominated as his successor. Under the
influence of Eleanor, Aquitaine and Poitou recognized John as
their liege-lord: he was in Normandy, and caused himself to be
proclaimed at Rouen on the 25th of April. He had already sent the
Archbishop of Canterbury back to England, to bring together all
the barons, and to make them swear allegiance to John, Duke of
Normandy, son of King Henry, son of the Empress Matilda. The
repugnance felt towards him was very general, but the fear of
anarchy decided several noblemen in favor of John; promises and
presents influenced others, and, on the 25th of May, 1199, when
John arrived in England, the greater number of the barons had
become reconciled to his cause. The new king was crowned on the
27th of May at Westminster, the primate proclaiming aloud that
the crown of England was not an inheritance descending by right
of primogeniture, but that it belonged to the worthiest claimant.
The worthiest claimant on this occasion was Prince John.

There had been no question raised about the rights of Arthur; but
Philip-Augustus was too shrewd not to seize this pretext for
renewing the war against John, whom he knew to be a coward, a
sluggard, and a sovereign unpopular in his kingdom; he claimed,
therefore, in the name of the young prince, whose mother had
placed him under the royal protection, nearly all King John's
continental domains.
{202}
Hostilities recommenced, and Brittany was ravaged both by its
enemies and friends; but the King of France was engaged in a
serious dispute with the Pope; his kingdom had just been placed
under an interdict; he concluded peace with John, sacrificing,
without remorse, the interests of Arthur, who found himself
completely disinherited through the mutual understanding between
his uncle and the King of France.

Meanwhile John had started out for Aquitaine, there to receive
the homage of his subjects. He met, at one of the _fêtes_
which were celebrated, Isabel, daughter of the Count of Angoulême
and wife of the Count of Marche; she was remarkably beautiful,
and as ambitious as she was beautiful. Her beauty attracted the
king, and the ambition of the countess prompting her, she
abandoned her husband to marry John Lackland, who himself had
been married for ten years to the daughter of the Earl of
Gloucester. An insurrection soon broke out in Aquitaine; it was
insignificant at first, but at the beginning of the year 1202
Philip-Augustus, delivered from his quarrels with Pope Innocent
III., stirred the flame of the rebellion in the southern
provinces, organized an insurrection in Brittany, and suddenly
took up Arthur's cause again, who had recently lost his mother.
"You are aware of your rights," he said to the young prince, "do
you wish to become king?" "Decidedly I do," said Arthur. "Very
well then," said Philip, "there are two hundred knights, take
them and march against your own provinces whilst I enter into
Normandy." The Bretons rallied round their young duke, who
advanced with his little army against the town of Mirebeau in
Poitou, where his grandmother Eleanor was staying, whom his
mother had taught him to hate.
{203}
He hoped, by capturing her, to obtain better conditions from his
uncle; but the old queen defended herself valiantly, and held the
castle sufficiently long to allow her son to come to her
assistance. A nobleman of the country delivered up the town to
him on the night of the 31st of July, 1202, on King John's
promising not to do any harm to his nephew. All the noblemen who
supported the young duke, amongst whom was the Count of Marche,
were made prisoners, and Prince Arthur himself was imprisoned in
the Castle of Falaise, whence he was transported a short time
afterwards to Rouen. There all trace of him is lost in history,
and no information concerning him exists except vague and
contradictory tradition. The most probable story relates that the
king arrived by night with his esquire, Peter of Maulac, to see
the unfortunate young prince in his dungeon, and that he took the
latter with him in a little boat upon the Seine. The young man
was in fear, and begged his uncle to spare his life; but John
made a sign and De Maulac, after plunging his dagger into the
prisoner's heart, threw his body overboard; but it is also said
that De Maulac conceived a horror of the crime beforehand and
refused to commit it, and that the king himself struck the fatal
blow. It was on the 3rd of April, 1203. Rumors of the murder
spread throughout France and England, adding fresh indignation to
the hatred which John already inspired. The Bretons proclaimed
Alice of Thouars, daughter of the Duchess Constance by her third
husband, instead of Prince Arthur's sister, Eleanor, the Pearl of
Brittany, who was in the power of her uncle, and was shut up by
him in a convent at Bristol. The appeal of the Bretons to the
liege-lord was listened to by Philip-Augustus; he summoned John,
Duke of Normandy, to appear in Paris to be judged by his peers.
Queen Eleanor had retired to Fontevraud, where she had taken the
veil, overcome, it is said, with despair in consequence of her
son's crime.

{204}

John had not answered Philip's summons: he was at Rouen, occupied
with the festivities, while the King of France had entered
Poitou, supported by the nobility, who had generally revolted in
his favor, and was marching from there into Normandy. The Bretons
had commenced the attack, and were advancing, pillaging the
country. Many Normans joined them, so great was the horror
inspired by the murder of Prince Arthur. The people had also
organized an insurrection in Anjou and Maine, and Philip had
taken possession of all the towns on his way when he effected a
junction with the Bretons at Caen. "Let them go where they
please," John would say in the midst of his revels, "I will take
back in one day all that they have acquired with so much
trouble." But the French army having appeared at Rodepont, in the
neighborhood of Rouen, the King of England fled in great haste
and recrossed the Channel in the month of December, 1203, in
order to seek for succor.

The English reinforcements did not arrive; Rouen had defended
itself valiantly; but the citizens had at length yielded in
consequence of a famine; Verneuil had just been taken; Castle
Gaillard, fortified by Richard Cœur-de-Lion, capitulated after a
siege of seven months. The garrison had defended tower after
tower; there no longer remained a single French knight, when the
French soldiers at length destroyed the last portion of the
ramparts. John had not lifted a finger to defend his dominions,
and the King of France was regaining possession of his duchy of
Normandy, which had been separated from his dominions for two
hundred and ninety-two years. Brittany, Touraine, Anjou, Maine,
and Poitou slipped from the grasp of the King of England;
Aquitaine alone remained to him. King Philip, who was now
satisfied, allowed himself to be persuaded by a legate sent by
the Pope and concluded a truce of two years' duration with King
John, which was to commence in the month of December, 1206.

{205}

The arms of his temporal enemies had triumphed. John Lackland was
about to bring down upon himself the spiritual thunders; a
conflict had arisen between the king and the chapter of
Canterbury about the election of an archbishop. The Pope settled
the question by nominating Cardinal Stephen Langton, who was then
at Rome, and whose merit was known to the pontiff. The monks of
Canterbury recognized him, and John caused them to be driven from
their cloisters by two knights, sword in hand. The Pope
instructed the three bishops to pronounce an interdict in
England, authorizing at the same time the English barons, who
were, he knew, secretly discontented, to aid him in snatching
their country from ruin. The bishops pronounced the terrible
sentence, and at once left King John's dominions. The barons did
not dare to rebel; the king had taken possession of a large
number of children of the noblest families as hostages. He had
sent Peter of Maulac to demand the sons of William of Braose,
Lord of Bramber in Sussex. "By my faith," said the lady of the
castle, "he did not take such care of his nephew that I should
trust my children to him." Peter of Maulac made prisoners of the
lady and her children, who died of hunger in their prison; Lord
Bramber died of grief in consequence.

The interdict had lasted one year; the churches were closed. No
more bell-ringing, no religious services, no marriages, no
prayers over the graves; the baptism of newly born children and
the administration of extreme unction were the only concessions
made by the Church.
{206}
In 1209, the Pope sent a bull of excommunication against the
king; the blow was foreseen, and the approaches were so zealously
guarded that the papal missive could not gain admission; but John
knew that a sentence of deposition would follow that of
excommunication; and this proceeding, although unproductive of
practical results in itself, assumed a terrible degree of
importance when it was known that King Philip-Augustus was ready
to carry it into execution. It is related that at this time John,
in despair at his struggle against the Church, conceived the idea
of begging the assistance of the Mussulmans, and that he sent an
embassy to the Emir El-Hassiz in Spain, proposing to embrace the
religion of Islamism and to become the vassal of the Emir, if the
latter would cross the Pyrenees, enter into France, and thus draw
off the forces of King Philip. The Emir listened gravely, only
giving vague answers. When the emissaries had retired, the
Mussulman called back one of them, a priest "Tell me," he asked
him, "in the name of the Lord, from whom you expect your
salvation, what kind of man your king really is." "He is a tyrant
who will soon feel the effects of his subjects' anger," replied
the monk; and the Emir refused all King John's offers.

In spite of the Pope's discontent and John's terror thereat, the
latter had carried on successfully some expeditions against the
insurgents in Ireland and Wales, when, in 1213, Innocent III. at
length proclaimed his deposition, absolving all his vassals from
their oath of allegiance, and making an appeal to all Christian
princes to dethrone an impious tyrant. Stephen Langton was sent
to King Philip to promise forgiveness of all the latter's sins if
he would carry out the sentence of the Holy See. The French army
was already being formed; King John had obtained a signal success
over his adversary's fleet, and he was at Dover surrounded by an
army of sixty thousand men, ready to encounter the invaders if
their sovereign would lead them; but John was afraid of his
subjects, mistrusting their fidelity; and he shrank as usual from
giving battle to the enemy.
{207}
The Pope's legate, Pandulph, came and met him at Dover. He
represented to the king in the most terrible colors the strength
of the French army, the discontent of the barons, and the anger
of the exiles; the little courage that remained to the degenerate
Plantagenet faded away from his heart. He was, besides, pursued
by the recollection of a prediction of Peter the Hermit of
Wakefield, which ran: "Before the day of the Ascension the king
will have lost his crown." John resolved rather to drag it
through the mire than to relax his hold of it.

The legate was a skilful diplomatist; before making public the
result of his negotiations with the king, he demanded that all
the exiled priests should be allowed to return with Langton at
their head; and he also exacted an assurance that the clergy and
laity would be indemnified for the losses which they had
sustained through the interdict. The king signed this agreement
on the 13th of May, 1213, and four barons affixed their seals to
it. On the 14th John was engaged all day in private conference
with the legate.

On the morning of the 15th of May the king rose early and went to
the church of the Templars at Dover; a great crowd had already
assembled there, and John, kneeling and clasping the hand of the
legate in his own, swore in a loud clear voice an oath of
allegiance to the Holy See. At the same time he placed in the
hands of the pontiff's ambassador a document declaring that he,
John, king of England and Ireland, in expiation of his sins
against God and the Holy Church, without being constrained
thereto by force or by the fear of the interdict, but of his own
free will and with the consent of his barons, ceded to the Holy
Pope Innocent and to his heirs and successors forever, the
kingdom of England and dependency of Ireland, to be held by
himself John and by his successors as a fief of the Holy Church,
by paying an annual sum of a thousand marks of silver.
{208}
At the same time the king offered a purse as an earnest of his
submission. Pandulph threw it on the ground, trampling the money
disdainfully under foot, but he accepted the crown which John had
relinquished, and for five days it remained in his keeping. The
feast of the Ascension had passed,--the king caused the Hermit of
Wakefield to be tied to the tail of an untamed horse as a
punishment for his predictions; but the people maintained that
Peter had not been mistaken, because King John himself gave up
his crown.

Scarcely had the legate accomplished his mission in England when
he recrossed the sea to Philip's camp at Boulogne, announcing to
the latter that the states of his enemy would for the future form
part of the dominions of St. Peter, and that the King of France
no longer had permission to invade them. "But," said Philip, "I
have spent enormous sums of money in the preparations for war at
the Pope's bidding, and on his having granted remission of my
sins." He resolved to carry on the expedition, and was preparing
to set sail, when a quarrel with the Count of Flanders caused him
to turn his arms in that direction. The English fleet came to the
assistance of the Count, and gained a brilliant victory over the
vessels of Philip, who, finding himself deprived of the means of
transport and revictualling, was obliged to renounce, for the
time being, his expedition against England.

{209}

John had called all his subjects to arms; but when the barons met
him at Portsmouth they refused to embark in the ships until the
king had allowed the exiles whom he had called back to re-enter
the country. Langton was hateful in the eyes of John, who looked
upon him as the cause of the first dispute with Rome; but he was
obliged to yield, and the archbishop and the monks of Canterbury
once more set foot on English soil; the kiss of peace was
exchanged, and John embarked, reckoning on the support of the
barons. He arrived at Jersey, but the noblemen had not followed
him, pleading that the period of their service was at an end, and
they met at St. Alban's under the presidency of Chief-Justicier
Fitz-Piers, a man of low origin, whose marriage with the Countess
of Essex had placed him in a position which he maintained by
reason of his ability. They had already published a series of
royal declarations demanding the observance of the old laws, when
John, furious at the desertion of his vassals, returned,
pillaging and burning down everything on his way. The Archbishop
of Canterbury came to him. "You are not fulfilling your oath,
Sire," said he; "your vassals should be judged by their peers,
and not coerced by arms." "Pay attention to your Church," cried
the king angrily, "and leave me to govern the kingdom." Langton
threatened to excommunicate all the agents of the royal
vengeance, and John ended by summoning the barons to appear
before him.

Langton, on the other hand, had convoked them at London. When the
king entered the audience chamber, the cardinal held in his hand
a parchment document. It was the charter of King Henry I.; this
was neither the first nor the last charter which England received
since the Conquest. William the Conqueror, in 1071, had
guaranteed to his barons, by a charter, the performance of a
contract entered into between them, promising to reform the
abuses which had been pointed out to him, and securing to the
Saxons the maintenance of the laws of Edward the Confessor.
{210}
In 1101, King Henry I. had lately been proclaimed King of
England; the Duke Robert was claiming the throne by virtue of his
seniority. In order to secure the support of the Norman, as well
as the Saxon barons, Henry had convoked in London a general
assembly and signed a fresh charter, almost similar to his
brother's. It was this document which Archbishop Langton had
found, and which he was bringing to the barons assembled in
London, like their ancestors, not, as of old, to receive a
charter, but to force one upon the king.

King Stephen had also made the same promises, endowing the Church
likewise with a charter setting forth its rights. Finally, Henry
II., in 1154, had renewed the charters of King Stephen, and had
caused a copy of the document to be deposited in all the
churches; there is one of them remaining now. Cœur-de-Lion did
not sign any charter, but that of John Lackland was destined to
be glorious and powerful for ever afterwards under the title of
Magna Charta. The barons swore to observe the injunctions of
Henry I.'s charter, which had been presented to them by Langton,
to remain faithful to one another, and to secure their liberties
or to die defending them. This was on the 25th of August, 1213.

The Pope had abandoned the cause of English liberty on receiving
homage from King John; the interdict had been raised, and the
hostile forces of King Philip were gathering in all directions.
The Emperor of Germany, the Count of Flanders, and the Count of
Boulogne called the King of England to their aid. John sent
William Longsword, earl of Salisbury, his half-brother, to the
camp of the allies, and marched in person against Brittany, but
he did not come to blows with the heir to the throne of France,
Prince Louis, who had been sent forward by his father, on the
27th of July, while the latter was waging war against the
confederates at Bouvines.
{211}
On the 19th of October, John signed a five years' truce, and
returned to England furious, humiliated, and resolved to revenge
himself upon his English subjects for all the reverses of fortune
which he had suffered on the Continent. Fitz-Piers, whom John
feared and detested, was dead. The king burst into laughter on
learning this news. "God's teeth!" he cried; "this is the first
time that I have felt myself king and sovereign of England." But
Langton was the real chief of the conspiracy; the support which
the Pope lent to King John had not for a single moment shaken the
fidelity of the archbishop to the cause of the barons: they again
met, on the 20th of November, at Bury St. Edmund's, and, placing
their hands upon the altar, they swore one after another, that if
the king refused to grant the just rights which they claimed,
they would withhold their allegiance, and wage war against him
until he should have granted their demands by a charter sealed
with the royal seal.

Christmas-day arrived; the king found himself alone at Worcester,
his barons not having presented themselves to do homage to him.
John retired in great haste to London, and took refuge in the
fortress of the Templars. The barons followed him there this time
in larger numbers than he cared for, and on the day of the
Epiphany they haughtily presented their requests to him. John
eyed the faces which surrounded him, and which bore an inflexible
and resolute expression, both in the case of the priests and the
warriors. He turned pale. "Give me until Easter to reflect upon
all this," he said. Before consenting, the barons stipulated that
Cardinal Langton, the Bishop of Ely, and the Earl of Pembroke
should become sureties that the king would satisfy their claims
upon the day mentioned by him. They knew the value of John
Lackland's promises.
{212}
Scarcely had they left, when he threw himself under the
protection of the Church, renouncing all the prerogatives of the
throne in the choice of ecclesiastical dignitaries, and begging
the assistance of the Pope, who wrote to Langton, but with no
result. At length, John formally assumed the cross, on the 2nd of
February, hoping thus to avoid fulfilling his promises to the
English barons. He did not yet fully understand his subjects.

On Easter-day, the confederates had met together in large numbers
at Stamford; they sent a deputation to the king, who was at
Oxford. When Langton read aloud the claims of the barons, John
angrily exclaimed, "And why do they not also ask for my crown? By
God's teeth! I will not grant liberties which would make a slave
of me." The Pope's legate, who was there, maintained that Langton
ought to excommunicate the confederates. "The intentions of the
Holy Father have been misunderstood," said the archbishop calmly;
"if the mercenary followers of the king do not soon leave the
kingdom, whose ruin they are accomplishing, it is they whom I
will excommunicate." The barons then styled themselves the army
of God and of the Holy Church, and, placing Robert Fitz-Walter at
their head, they marched against Northampton Castle. The
resistance there was so actively carried on that the siege had to
be raised, and the barons advanced towards Bedford. The position
of affairs at this time was critical, and it was imperatively
necessary to know whether the citizens of the towns would support
the noble insurrectionists. Bedford opened its gates, and the
confederates took the road to London; they arrived there on the
morning of the 24th of May. The people received them joyfully,
and good order was maintained in the Army of the Holy Church. The
barons issued a proclamation, calling under their banners all the
knights who had hitherto remained aloof from the contest.
{213}
The king found himself unsupported, all the nobility of the
kingdom having risen against him. He yielded therefore, at least
for a time, to urgent necessity; he sent the Earl of Pembroke to
the barons assembled in London to assure them that he was quite
ready to grant the privileges and liberties which they claimed,
and asking on what day and at what place they would arrange
matters with him. "On the 15th of June, at Runnymede," replied
the barons.

On the 15th of June all the noblemen of England were there. "It
is not necessary to name them," says the chronicle, "for they
consisted of all the nobility of the country." Fitz-Walter was at
their head; the king was accompanied by the legate, by the
Grand-Master of the Templars, by eight bishops brought by
Langton, and by twelve barons, of whom the Earl of Pembroke was
the chief. The king's followers, with the exception of the legate
and the Templar, were as devoted to the liberties of England as
the confederate noblemen.

John did not put in any claim or make any objection; with an
amount of alacrity, which must have appeared suspicious to
far-seeing observers, he signed the charter which was presented
to him, and the great seal was affixed to it. The first real
token of English liberty had been acquired; the first stone of
the noble edifice of the Constitution was laid; the conditions
were well defined; and the rights and interests of the clergy as
well as those of the feudal nobility and of the merchants and
citizens who had supported the barons in their enterprise were
carefully provided for. Effectual guarantees were secured; the
necessity for causing persons who were arrested or punished to be
tried first of all in a court of justice, the establishment of
regular assizes, the maintenance of the integrity of justice, all
formed part of the fundamental rights claimed by the barons, who
also required the disbanding of the mercenary troops, and the
formation of a committee of twenty-five members entrusted with
the task of seeing to the fulfilment of all the clauses of the
compacts, the non-fulfilment of which gave the barons the right
of waging war with the king until their grievances should be
completely redressed. During two months the barons were to retain
possession of the city of London.

{214}

All these precautions were powerless, however, against treachery;
scarcely had the triumphant confederates left Runnymede when King
John flew into a terrible passion, rolling on the ground and
cursing the traitors who had dared to reduce him to slavery. The
mercenary troops, whom he was obliged, according to Magna Charta,
to disband, encouraged him in his anger and his plans for
revenge. John called fresh reinforcements to his aid. After the
treaties had been violated war broke out; the barons prepared for
it; a tournament, which had been announced, was decided to be
held nearer to London, and several gatherings had already taken
place when the thunderbolt which John had invoked fell upon the
heads of the English nobility. The Pope declared Magna Charta to
be void, holding that it was illegitimate, having been obtained
by force, and he commanded Langton to dissolve any confederation
under pain of being excommunicated. The archbishop set out for
Rome, in order to obtain a revocation of this sentence, and the
war commenced in England with the siege of Rochester. The place
was defended by D'Albiney, a member of the council of the
twenty-five. After a resistance, which lasted during two months,
the garrison, having come to the end of their resources, at
length opened the gates. John desired to hang the brave defenders
of the town; the chief of his free bands, Sauvery of Mauléon,
surnamed the Bloody, opposed his determination. "The war is only
beginning, Sire," said he, "if you commence by hanging your
barons, your barons will end by hanging us." The knights' lives
were spared, and the men-at-arms only were executed.

[Image]
King John's Anger After Signing Magna Charta.

{215}

Langton had failed in his mission at Rome, and had been deposed
from his see; the barons were excommunicated, and the city of
London placed under an interdict, but the confederates took no
notice of the two sentences. "The Pope had been misguided," they
said, "and had meddled in the temporal affairs of England, which
do not concern him, as the spiritual domain alone belongs to St.
Peter and his successors."

John however had become possessed of two large armies of
mercenary troops of Brabantines and of freelances, who willingly
executed the sanguinary orders of their chief; one corps was sent
to pursue their work of ravaging the counties of the East and the
Centre, the other marched towards the North under the command of
the king, repulsed into Scotland the young King Alexander, who
had crossed the frontier to lend his aid to the barons, and burnt
down and desolated the buildings in York, Northumberland, and
Cumberland. Everywhere the barons, in retiring, would lay waste
their houses and fields; everywhere the king burnt down whatever
he found standing; but he was still advancing, while the
confederates were retreating. They at length found themselves
shut up in the city of London; all their castles had fallen into
the hands of the tyrant, who had made a present of them to his
followers, to Satan's guards, as the people called them. The
families of the confederates were at the mercy of King John. The
barons resolved upon their course of action, a bitter one, that
of seeking aid abroad, and accordingly sent a deputation to
Philip-Augustus, proposing to give the crown of England to his
son Prince Louis, if he would come to their help with an army.
His arrival, it was thought, would immediately thin the ranks of
King John's supporters, for they were mostly Frenchmen, and would
be unwilling to fight against their own countrymen.

{216}

Philip-Augustus only wanted a pretext to meddle in the affairs of
England. He agreed to the proposals of the barons, not, however,
without requiring hostages as a guarantee of good faith; and in
spite of threats from the Pope, who forbade either the father or
the son to invade a fief of the Holy Church, Prince Louis set
sail in the month of July with a large army, raised chiefly
through the personal efforts of his wife, Blanche of Castile, a
niece of King John, in whose name Louis put forth his claim to
the crown of England. John's fears did not wait for the landing
of the French troops; he had left Dover, and had repaired to
Bristol, where the legate awaited him. Prince Louis landed at
Sandwich, and, almost without striking a blow, he marched to
London, which city he entered on the 2nd of June, 1216. The
entire population came to meet him, and, after having offered up
a prayer to St. Paul, he received homage from the barons and
citizens, promising to govern them according to their laws, to
protect their rights, and to restore their property to them. The
satisfaction was universal: the counties surrounding London
submitted willingly to Prince Louis; the oppressed inhabitants of
the North revolted. A large number of John's mercenary troops
deserted him, to return to their homes or to rally round the
standard of France; the nobility who had become reconciled to the
king, in the presence of the reverses sustained by the national
cause, abandoned him to join their old friends; and, lastly, Pope
Innocent III. was just dead (16th July), and hence the powerful
support of Rome was taken from him. John had only the fortresses
defended by his partisans remaining to him.

{217}

Meanwhile, Prince Louis was stopped at Dover Castle, and the
English barons at Windsor Castle. In vain did they attack the
massive walls with a machine which came from France, and which
was called the "Malvoisine." Hubert de Burgh held his ground
firmly at Dover, and the siege of Windsor had been raised; the
confederates had hoped to surprise the king at Cambridge; but
John had eluded them, and had proceeded to Lincoln, of which city
he took possession. The prospects of the confederation were not
flourishing; the reinforcements, which had been sent from France,
were checked by the English sailors who remained faithful to King
John. Prince Louis displayed little activity, and treated his
English allies in a haughty manner. He had already presented
several estates to the noblemen who had accompanied him from
France; one of them, the Viscount of Melun, was dead; and he had,
it was said, confessed, when dying, that the intention of the
French people, when their prince should be on the throne, was to
treat the English like men who had shown themselves untrustworthy
by reason of their treachery to their sovereign. Distrust and
discord had entered into the allied camps; several barons opened
negotiations with King John. The latter's position was
ameliorating; he had just left Wisbeach, and desired to proceed
to Cross-Keys, on the south of the Wash, when, on arriving at the
ford, he beheld the rising tide suddenly engulf the long line of
wagons which were carrying his luggage, his treasures, and his
provisions. The troops had already crossed the river, and were in
safety, but the king became furious at witnessing such an
irreparable loss; he arrived, exhausted with rage, at the convent
of the Cistercian monks at Swineshead.
{218}
No event, however dreadful, troubled King John while at table; he
ate some peaches and drank some new ale--so immoderately in fact,
that he fell ill on the morrow, and, thinking that he was
poisoned by the monks, he caused himself to be taken to Newark.
Death, the only enemy that John could not escape from, awaited
him there. He sent for a priest, nominated his son Henry as his
successor, and dictated a letter to the new Pope, Honorius, to
recommend his children to the care of the Holy Church. The
remembrance of his crimes did not seem to trouble him on his
death-bed; perhaps he held himself absolved from all his sins by
his allegiance to the Holy See. "I commit my soul to God and my
body to St. Wulstan," he said. He then expired on the 18th of
October, 1216. He was buried at Worcester, in the church of Saint
Wulstan. Death had at length delivered England of the cowardly
and faithless tyrant whom she had for a long while submitted to,
then vanquished, and against whom the country was still
struggling in defence of Magna Charta, which, after the lapse of
more than six centuries, remains the basis of English liberties.


              Chapter IX.

           King And Barons.
        Henry III. (1216-1272.)

King John was buried when his young son was crowned at
Gloucester, on the 28th of October, 1216, by the Pope's legate.
He was ten years of age at the time, and his feeble hands
confirmed without resistance the gift which his father had made
to Rome of the kingdom of England.
{219}
It was the vassal of the Church, who in the month of November,
1216, was confided to the care of the Earl of Pembroke, the most
formidable of the barons who had remained faithful to King John,
by reason of his orderly and prudent character, for he was as
devoted to the liberties of his country as the barons who had
mustered round the banner of Prince Louis. He was nominated
"Protector" of the kingdom and of the king, and his first care
was to make a revision of Magna Charta; he eliminated the
temporary articles; confirmed a great number of clauses; others
remained pending until the raising of a more numerous army; and
the earl directed all his efforts against the French prince and
his foreign adherents. The favors and good graces of the
Protector drew to him all the barons who were deserting the
French prince, and they were becoming every day more numerous.
Their enmity had died out at the death of King John; the child
who had just been crowned was their legitimate sovereign,
descended from the kings whom they had loved and served. Louis
saw his army rapidly decreasing; in consequence of the vigorous
resistance of Hubert de Burgh, he had been unable to obtain
possession of Dover Castle, which he had been besieging for some
time. In vain had they endeavored to seduce him from his duty, by
urging that the king to whom he had sworn allegiance was dead.
"The king has left children," he answered, and Louis raised the
siege to return to London, which still remained true to him. An
armistice soon allowed him to go to France to collect
reinforcements; but, in his absence, the insolence of Enguerrand
of Coucy, whom he had left at the head of affairs, was spreading
discontent, and the forces of the national party sprang up so
rapidly that the prince, attacked on the sea by the sailors of
the Cinque Ports, found some difficulty in returning to England.
An army corps under the command of the Count of Perche was
defeated by the Protector in the very streets of Lincoln, and the
anathemas of Rome began to pour down upon Prince Louis and his
adherents, who were excommunicated in a mass.

{220}

Louis was shut up in London, surrounded by his enemies; he asked
for help from France, but his father, Philip-Augustus, would not
become concerned in a quarrel with the Pope, and did not dare to
act openly in his son's favor. It was Louis's wife, Blanche of
Castile, who succeeded in raising considerable forces, which she
sent to him under the care of a chief of adventurers named
Eustace the Monk, because he had escaped from his monastery. The
French fleet met Hubert de Burgh on the high seas. The struggle
began. Eustace the Monk was defeated, and afterwards beheaded on
the poop of his vessel. Hubert de Burgh returned triumphantly to
Dover with his prizes.

This last check was the death-blow of Louis's cause in England.
On the 11th of September, 1217, a treaty of peace was signed at
Lambeth, granting easy conditions to the French prince, and a
full pardon to his English adherents. The Protector had no other
desire than to put an end to the struggle and to see England
delivered from the foreigners; in spite of its prolonged
resistance the city of London even obtained a confirmation of its
privileges. Louis set sail in the middle of September, and his
more distinguished partisans were kindly received at King Henry's
court; Magna Charta was again confirmed, not, however, without
some modifications favorable to the royal prerogative; the
clauses relating to the protection of the forests were included
in a special charter called the "Forest Charter," which rendered
less severe the Norman legislation as to hunting and the edicts
which related to it.
{221}
The wisdom and moderation of Pembroke prevailed in the councils;
the Queen-mother, Isabel, had fled from England in the midst of
the confusion, and her first husband, the Count of Marche, had
just been solemnly remarried to her; the legate remained with the
young prince, and was instructed by the Pope to look after the
interests of the vassal of the Church as well as those of the
Suzerain mistress of England. Order seemed to have been
re-established, when the Protector died (May, 1219), and the
power which was afterwards divided between Hubert de Burgh and
Pierre des Roches, bishop of Winchester, became a bone of
contention to the rivals and the barons attached to either party.
Habits of insubordination, which had been developed during the
long struggle against arbitrary power, had borne their fruit.
England was rent asunder by internal quarrels which it was not
even hoped would end on the king's attaining his majority, for
Henry III. grew up without becoming a man. Absorbed in the love
of luxury and pageantry, in the songs of minstrels and the
masterpieces of the sculptors or of the artists with whom he
loved to surround himself, he appeared to take no interest in his
affairs, and displayed no war-like inclinations, but left the
barons to quarrel among themselves and the Italian priests to
devour the substance of his kingdom, without manifesting any
desire to find a remedy. France was suffering from the evils of a
minority. Louis VII., who had succeeded Philip-Augustus in 1223,
had reigned but a short time, and Louis IX. was not sixteen years
of age when, in 1230, the King of England, who was of age two
years before, made a raid on Brittany at the instigation of some
noblemen of Normandy, Brittany, and Poitou. But Blanche of
Castile possessed a more vigorous spirit and a stronger arm than
King Henry III.; she herself led her son to the war, and, in
spite of the turbulency of the French barons, who were always
eager to shake off their yoke, she saw her efforts crowned with
success.
{222}
Several towns belonging to the King of England opened their gates
to her, while King Henry was losing time and wasting his
resources on fêtes and tournaments at Nantes. He started back for
England in the month of October, deeply humiliated, leaving his
ally, the Duke of Brittany, at the foot of the throne of Louis
IX., who granted him the pardon which he had humbly solicited
with a rope round his neck. The Parliament (this Norman name was
beginning to be used) which was convoked at Henry's return,
refused to grant any subsidies, alleging that, thanks to the
folly and imprudence of the king, his barons were no richer than
himself.

Hubert de Burgh had for some years past triumphed over his rival,
Pierre des Roches, who was obliged to retire into private life;
but the ill success of the expedition to France had ended by
causing a feeling against the minister among many of the
nobility, who were jealous of his power. Pierre des Roches
reappeared at the court, and soon afterwards formal accusations
were made against Hubert, most of them frivolous, and attesting
nothing but his fidelity to his king, whom he had served and
defended during so many years. But Henry III. was not in a
position to protect his friend, and would scarcely recognize him;
he was prejudiced against Hubert, who took refuge at Merton
Abbey. The king had ordered that he should be arrested there; but
the Archbishop of Dublin reminded him of the privilege of
sanctuary and obtained a passport, which authorized the fallen
minister to retire to his residence and prepare his defence. On
the faith of this promise Hubert de Burgh set out to meet his
wife, the King of Scotland's sister, at Bury St. Edmunds; but he
was attacked on the way by a band of armed men sent by the king.
{223}
Hubert was in bed at the time; but fled half-naked into the
parish church, and, seizing in one hand the crucifix and in the
other the host, he awaited his enemies upon the steps of the
altar. He was dragged into the churchyard, and on the refusal of
a blacksmith, who declared that he would rather die than chain
down the defender of Dover Castle, was tied to a horse and
conducted to the Tower of London. The violation of the
consecrated spot, however, excited the public indignation to such
a degree that the king found himself obliged to send his prisoner
to Brentwood church, which he caused to be surrounded by palings
and trenches, thus compelling Hubert to give himself up
voluntarily. Having been again imprisoned in the Tower, the earl
was deprived of all his property and afterwards languished for
one year in the Castle of Devizes. He contrived to escape, and,
having been rescued by his friends at the very moment when his
enemies were upon him, he regained a certain amount of power; but
he no longer aspired to the dangerous position of prime minister,
which his rival, Pierre des Roches, had lost in consequence of
his manœuvres and excesses. Being satisfied with the recovery of
his liberty and a portion of his property, Hubert left the new
Archbishop of Canterbury, Edmund Rich, in undisturbed possession
of the supreme authority. This prelate, like his predecessor
Stephen Langton, was a patriotic statesman, who contrived for the
moment to conquer, by his good sense and wisdom, the aversion
which the king manifested towards charters, and the restlessness
of the barons, who were always inclined to maintain by force of
arms the privileges which they had gained with so much
difficulty.

{224}

A fresh element of discord had sprung up between the king and his
people. Henry had married in 1236 Eleanor of Provence, sister of
Margaret, wife of Louis IX., King of France. A large number of
Gascons and Provençals had followed her to the court; the queen
was accompanied by four uncles, young brothers of her mother, the
Princess of Savoy. The king immediately conceived a firm
friendship for them; the Bishop of Valence became prime minister;
his brother Boniface was promoted to the archbishopric of
Canterbury, which Edmund Rich had abandoned, weary and disgusted,
to retire into a monastery; and the two other brothers were also
provided for. Even this was not sufficient; the Queen-mother, now
Countess of Marche, sent to the court of England the four sons
whom she had borne to Hugh de Lusignan, and the wealth and honors
which the king lavished on the brothers attracted towards them a
large number of adventurers. The king found himself without
money; all the ecclesiastical benefices were reserved for
Italians, by virtue of the Pope's authority over the country.
Parliament always insisted on the departure of the strangers as a
condition of granting subsidies; but the king, immediately on
obtaining the money, forgot his promises, and even his oaths, and
his frivolous followers laughed at Magna Charta and the
importance which the barons attached to it. "What are the English
laws to us?" they would ask.

By these laws the king was compelled to ask his people for the
means, which he wasted so foolishly on feasts and extravagance.
Each day the Parliament became more reluctant to grant them. The
Queen-mother, offended, she said, by the Countess of Poitou,
sister-in-law of Louis IX., urged her son to declare war with
France, assuring him that the old vassals of his house were eager
to gather round his standard. The English barons refused the
necessary subsidies, saying that the truce agreed to between the
two kingdoms still remained in force.
{225}
Henry was not of a warlike disposition; but his mother was
importunate; he raised some money, and set sail for France with
three hundred knights. A certain number of malcontents soon
joined him, commanded by the Count of Marche, whom his wife sent
to the war, as she had already sent her son. King Louis IX. had
taken the field with forces superior to those of the English. The
two young monarchs met near the castle of Taillebourg, in
Saintonge, on the banks of the Charente. Louis, at the head of
his forces, attacked the bridge defended by the English troops,
and for a moment withstood almost unaided their united efforts.
His signal courage gained the day; the bridge was taken, the
English were routed, and the King of England escaped in company
with his brother, to whom he owed his safety. The two brothers
took refuge in Saintes. A second battle was fought on the morrow,
under the walls of the town, and the English were again defeated.
The Count of Marche surrendered, and King Henry, flying across
Saintonge, embarked at Blaye, leaving the decorations of his
chapel and the money remaining in his coffers in the hands of the
enemy. It was to the moderation of King Louis IX. and to the
scruples of his sensitive conscience that the English were
indebted for a truce of five years.

The barons, humiliated and disgraced, although they had not been
engaged in the quarrel with France, claimed the right of
nominating the chief justicier, the chancellor, and several other
officers of the crown. The king refused, and the Parliament only
allowed him what was strictly necessary on the occasion of the
marriage of his eldest daughter to the King of Scotland. Henry
had conceived a hatred of parliaments.
{226}
In order to manage without them he had recourse to every
expedient by which he could raise money; he exacted enormous
fines, tortured the Jews, and begged presents of all his vassals.
"God gave us this child, but the king sold him to us," said a wag
at the birth of one of the princes. Henry even, on one occasion,
sold a portion of the royal table-plate. He was advised to sell
everything, but the difficulty was to find buyers. "The citizens
of London will buy anything," cried the king bitterly. "By my
faith! if the treasures of Augustus were for sale, the citizens
would make the purchase. These villains live like barons, while
we are in want of the principal necessaries of life." The king
detested the city of London, but he levied as many taxes as
possible upon its inhabitants, instructing the persons of his
household to obtain all the things necessary for his
entertainments without paying for them, and continually claiming
gifts under the most frivolous pretexts from the citizens. In
1253, King Henry had come to an end of all his resources and
expedients. He was compelled to convoke a Parliament, declaring
that he was anxious to assume the cross, and go and deliver the
tomb of Jesus Christ from the hands of the infidels. The barons
had often seen this pious pretext made use of, and were not to be
deceived by it; they were, besides, accustomed in private life,
to hear the same determination announced, in order to set aside
the most solemn obligations. Before making any grant, they
exacted a new and solemn ratification of their liberties. On the
3rd of May the king proceeded to Westminster Hall; the barons
were assembled there, and all the bishops were standing with
tapers in their hands. They offered one to the king. "I am not a
priest," he said, and refused it. The Archbishop of Canterbury
stepped forward, and uttered the sentence of excommunication
against all those who should either directly or indirectly
violate the charters of the kingdom.
{227}
As he finished speaking, all the prelates threw aside their
tapers, which were extinguished at their feet, and the priests
cried: "May the soul of him who may incur this sentence be
extinguished in a like manner in hell." The king, uplifting his
hand, uttered this oath: "May God help me to preserve intact all
these charters, as I am a Christian, as I am a knight, and as I
am a king, anointed and crowned." Scarcely had he received the
subsidies, when he started on an expedition to Guienne, which was
threatened by the intrigues of Alphonse, king of Castile. The
quarrel was soon settled, and a marriage decided upon between
Prince Edward, Henry's elder brother, and Princess Eleanor,
daughter of Alphonse. But the king kept this happy consummation
secret, in order to obtain fresh subsidies from his English
subjects, under the pretence of continuing the war. He only came
back to England when he found himself, as usual, reduced to
beggary.

The king's want of political foresight was as conspicuous as his
prodigality and weakness. The King of Sicily, Frederick II., had
been dead some time (1250). He had been excommunicated, and Pope
Innocent IV. had claimed his kingdom as a fief of the Holy See.
Frederic's son. Prince Conrad, supported generally by the people,
was resisting this pretension by force of arms, and the Pope was
casting about for a foreign prince who might be disposed to take
up the quarrel. He offered the crown of Sicily to Richard,
brother of the King of England, whose immense fortune, derived
from the Cornish mines, rendered him more powerful even than King
Henry himself; but he refused the tempting bait, although he was
quite ready to be seduced, some months later, by the hope of
gaining possession of the empire. The Pope then offered the
kingdom of Sicily to the King of England for his second son
Edmund, and the monarch joyfully accepted the offer, without
troubling himself about the demands of his subjects or the state
of his finances.
{228}
The Pope was borrowing of the Lombards and the Venetians, and
raising troops in his name; but the Holy See was a hard and
urgent creditor. Innocent IV. soon demanded back the money which
he had spent, and ordered the English clergy to lend the
necessary funds to the king. The clergy refused; the king levied
enormous taxes on the abbeys and churches. The legate sent to
England to recover the money encountered on all sides the most
violent opposition. "I would rather die than pay so much money,"
said the Bishop of Worcester. "The king and the Pope are stronger
than we," said the Bishop of London; "but if I am deprived of my
mitre, I shall be able to wear a helmet." The legate returned,
convinced that a storm was about to burst over England.

It was on the 2nd of May, 1258; famine reigned throughout the
kingdom. Henry III. had been reduced to the necessity of
convoking Parliament. When he entered Westminster Hall, the
barons were awaiting him there, clad in their armor. On hearing
the clanking of arms at his arrival, the king suddenly turned
pale. "Am I a prisoner?" he said nervously. "No," said Roger
Bigod, earl of Norfolk; "but your foreign favorites and your own
extravagance have reduced the country to such an abject state of
misery, that we demand that the power may for the future be
vested in a committee of bishops and barons, in order that they
may root out all the abuses, and make good laws for us." One of
the Lusignans began to protest. The king agreed, without any
reservation, to the demands of the barons, who promised, in
return, to help him pay his debts, and to support the pretensions
of his son in Italy, provided that he would give proofs of his
sincerity at the reassembling of Parliament, which was to be
convoked at Oxford.

[Image]
King Henry And His Barons.

{229}

At the head of the barons, in their resistance and indignation
against foreigners, was Simon, earl of Leicester, himself a
foreigner. The youngest son of Simon of Montfort, the persecutor
of the Albigenses, he had inherited the earldom of Leicester
through his mother, and had recovered his property, which had
been confiscated in 1232, through the favor of King Henry, who
had taken a fancy to the young Provençal, whom he had aided in
marrying his sister Eleanor, widow of the Earl of Pembroke, to
the great indignation of the royal family and the nobility of
England.

The favor of the king was short-lived. Montfort had initiated
himself into the good graces of the barons, who had been so
violently opposed to him at first; and the king, jealous and
uneasy, drove him from England in 1239, scarcely allowing the
earl time enough to embark with his wife, who went with her
husband to France. He left her, to assume the cross and proceed
to Palestine, where he distinguished himself by glorious feats of
arms. On his return, the king had forgotten his jealousy and
anger. The earl lived peaceably in England, and was even raised
to the dignity of Governor of Gascony. He was recalled in 1252,
under the pretence of misbehavior, and young Prince Edward was
provided with the office thus snatched from the Earl of
Leicester, who grew more and more attached to the cause of the
refractory barons, of whom he became the real chief.

The king's disorderly habits and want of foresight having at
length reduced him to the last extremities, he decided on
confronting the Parliament assembled at Oxford on the 11th of
June, 1258. The whole town was filled with men-at-arms; all the
barons had brought a numerous following with them. They presented
to the king the list of the council who were to be entrusted with
the administration of the kingdom.
{230}
Twelve members were to be elected by the king, and twelve by the
barons. This assembly, presided over by the Earl of Leicester,
was to be invested during twelve years, with the care of the
royal castles. No expense could be incurred against their will;
they held possession of the great seal, and were to revise the
accounts of the chancellor and of the treasurer; the king was to
be compelled to convoke Parliament three times a year.

Henry agreed without hesitation to these humiliating conditions,
just as his father. King John, had signed Magna Charta. Prince
Edward, whose conscience would not allow him to take oaths as
lightly as his father had done, at first made a show of
resistance, but ended by acceding to the wishes of the barons.
His cousin Henry, son of Richard of Cornwall, who was then known
as the King of the Romans, declared that his oath would not be
valid, if made in the absence of his father. "Let your father
have a care," said Leicester, "if he refuse to do the bidding of
the barons of England, for, in that case, he shall not remain in
possession of one foot of land in the kingdom." The young
nobleman accordingly took the oath.

The king's brothers had refused to give up the castles which they
occupied. "I will have them, or you shall lose your head,"
Montfort declared to William of Valence. And he made such
formidable accusations against them at the council, that the four
brothers took refuge in Wolesham Castle. The barons pursued them,
made them prisoners, and sent them out of the kingdom. The acts
of the Parliament of Oxford, the "Mad Parliament," as the
royalists called it, were strictly observed throughout the
kingdom.

{231}

The barons had taken every precaution against a feeble or
improvident government; but they had not been able to guard
against the temptations of triumphant ambition. The offices left
vacant after the departure of the king's favorites, were filled
up by the favorites of the Earl of Leicester. His allies began to
grow alarmed at his great power; the King of the Romans, who had
recently returned to England, after having taken the oath of
allegiance to the acts of the barons, endeavored to create rivals
to the Earl. The barons, violent and haughty, insulted the king
and oppressed the people. "Why are you so bold with me, my lord,
earl?" said Henry to Roger Bigod; "do you not know that I could
order all your corn to be destroyed?" "Indeed, sir king," said
the earl, "and could I not send you the heads of the destroyers?"

The dissensions among the barons reawakened the hopes of the
king. He had provided himself with a dispensation from the Pope,
which relieved him of his oaths, and, in February, 1261, he
ventured to announce to the barons that they had greatly abused
their power, and that he, the King of England, intended for the
future to govern without them. He had at the same time taken
possession of London. Prince Edward, who had recently returned
from France, had, on the contrary, tendered his support to the
barons, out of respect for his oath, as he said. The king saw a
certain number of his adversaries drawing nearer to him, and in
spite of the rebellion of the nobility, the temporary success of
the king compelled Leicester to escape to France, swearing that
he would never again trust to the oath of a perjured sovereign.

In 1263, the struggle had just begun afresh. The Great Earl, as
Leicester was called, had raised his standard; the king had taken
refuge in London, and Prince Edward was at Windsor Castle. Queen
Eleanor, who was even more detested in the city than the king her
husband, had endeavored to escape by way of the Thames; the
people had recognized her, and her bark had been pelted with mud
and stones.
{232}
Cries were heard of, "Let us drown the witch!" The Lord Mayor of
London had some difficulty in protecting her. The king had given
up everything and agreed to everything, but only to attack his
adversaries again in the month of June, arming himself against
them with the Earl of Leicester's claim that the authority of the
barons in the government was to be continued after Henry's death,
under the reign of his successor. Prince Edward's scruples
disappeared before this arrogant audacity, and he openly embraced
his father's cause.

The bishops made an effort to put an end to the civil war; they
proposed to submit the dispute to the arbitration of Louis IX., a
noble testimony to the fairness and integrity of a prince who was
related to the King of England by family ties. The barons
consented at first; but King Louis, although requiring that Henry
should respect the Great Charter, decided that the power should
be placed in the king's hands, that the sovereign was free to
choose his attendants from among his subjects, or from among
foreigners, and that the royal castles should be given up. The
barons smiled disdainfully at this decision; they had had some
experience of the king's good faith, and expected to lose all the
liberties acquired after so long a struggle, if they did not hold
the tokens of them with a firm hand. The civil war recommenced;
after alternate successes and reverses the two armies met on the
plains of Lewes in Sussex. Prince Edward violently attacked a
body of citizens of London who had followed Leicester to the
field of battle. He was anxious to avenge the insult which his
mother had suffered. He pursued the unfortunate soldiery, whose
lines were soon broken by the king's cavalry. But in his absence,
fortune declared itself in favor of the Earl of Leicester.
{233}
When Edward reappeared upon the field of battle, the king was a
prisoner, as well as his brother, the King of the Romans; the
prince soon suffered the same fate; the Lusignans fled and again
made their escape from England. Leicester was now master of the
situation; the sovereign and the heir-apparent served him as
hostages. His power soon became greater than that of the king had
been at any time. Having been excommunicated by the Pope, he took
no notice of the sentence, notwithstanding his sincere piety.
Rome had abused its power, and a great number of the English
clergy were favorable to Leicester and supported his cause as
that of the people, who adored the earl. Strong in his
popularity, Leicester thought himself able to triumph over all
his rivals. He compelled the barons who had sided with the king
to give up their castles to him, causing them to be tried by
their peers, and then banishing them to Ireland. On a
demonstration being made by a fleet which had been raised in
France by Queen Eleanor, he gathered together soldiers from all
the boroughs and cities to resist the invaders, while he himself,
taking up his position at the head of the English squadron, was
cruising in the Channel, awaiting the enemy. The Queen's vessels
did not dare to leave port, and Leicester returned in triumph to
England.

At the beginning of the year 1265, the earl had convened a
Parliament, and, for the first time, the representatives of the
counties and the towns had taken their seats beside the barons
and prelates. Leicester knew where his real strength lay, and
looked for support from the body of the people. All that was
decreed by the Parliament as thus constituted, was favorable to
the Earl: a certain amount of liberty was, however, granted to
Prince Edward, who was, nevertheless, watched closely. He soon
learnt to profit by the amelioration in his condition.
{234}
Issuing forth one day from Hereford Castle, he organized races
among his guards, reserving to himself the right of awarding the
prize; then, when all the horses were exhausted with the
exception of his own, he galloped off until he met Roger
Mortimer, one of his friends who was coming from the frontiers of
Wales, to join him. The party of resistance to the barons
thenceforth had a chief, and after a year of supreme power,
Leicester was destined to discover the uncertainty of human
affairs.

The earl had five sons; the three eldest were more violent, more
tyrannical and more greedy than all the foreigners who had
formerly surrounded the king. Henry of Montfort had seized upon
all the wool intended for exportation, and sold it for his own
benefit. Guy and Simon of Montfort had armed a fleet, and were
taking possession of any merchantmen that they chanced to come
across, without distinction of parties. They added thus daily to
the number of their enemies, and were quietly undermining the
power of their father. The Earl of Derby and the young Earl of
Gloucester (formerly sincerely devoted to Leicester) embraced the
cause of Prince Edward, who, seeing his forces swell rapidly,
advanced towards Kenilworth Castle, the hereditary property of
the Earls of Leicester. Simon of Montfort, the earl's second son,
had just arrived there; he was marching to meet his father, who
was endeavoring, with little success, to raise an army; in vain
did he summon the king's vassals to come and serve under his
standards; his supporters were not many. Prince Edward attacked
Simon's camp, just outside Kenilworth, made a large number of
prisoners, and captured all the enemy's baggage. Simon had only
time to take refuge in the castle, but was unable to join his
father, when the latter arrived at Evesham, on the 14th of
August, 1265.

{235}

A number of banners were perceptible in the distance, and the
earl's barber declared that he recognized the arms of Simon. "Go
up into the church-steeple, and you will see better," said
Leicester. The barber was trembling with fear when he came down;
he had seen the lions of England, the red chevron of the Earl of
Gloucester, the azure bars of the Mortimers, and innumerable
lances glistened underneath the banners.

"We are dead men, my lord," said he. The earl was observing the
order of battle of the enemy. "They have learnt from me how to
conduct themselves," he said calmly; "may the Lord have mercy on
our souls, for, by the arm of St. James, our bodies belong to the
prince;" and, re-entering his residence, he prepared, as usual,
for the fight by prayer and the sacrament. His son Henry was
encouraging him. "I do not despair, my son," said the earl; "your
presumption and the pride of your brothers have brought us to
this; but I will die for the cause of the Lord and justice."

He had caused the feeble king to be armed, and had taken him
about with him everywhere. The standard of England was displayed
by both armies. The earl was endeavoring to open up a road
towards Kenilworth; his most devoted adherents had formed a
circle round him; the prince still pushed forward; in front of
him, a horseman had just fallen from his steed. "Save me," cried
a plaintive voice; "I am Henry of Winchester!" Edward sprang
forward, and, raising up his wounded father, dragged him into a
place of safety. In his absence, the voice of the earl resounded
upon the field of battle. "Is any quarter given?" he asked. "No
quarter for traitors!" cried a royalist triumphantly, and at the
same moment, Henry of Montfort fell at his father's feet. "By the
arm of St. James, it is time to die!" cried Leicester, who
plunged headlong into the surging crowd, holding his sword with
both hands, and striking down all who came in his way.
{236}
He fell at length, as well as the knights who still surrounded
him. Scarcely a dozen remained standing, when Prince Edward sent
for the body of the earl, his godfather, and that of his cousin
Henry, to transport them to the abbey of Evesham. The body of
Leicester was decapitated, and his hands were severed from his
arms. The head was carried to Lady Mortimer by her husband's
savage warriors.

Thus died "Simon the Just," as he was called by the people of
England; a sincere man, animated by more noble sentiments than
most of his contemporaries; haughty and ambitious without being
cruel; a man who had rendered great services to his country
before allowing himself to abuse his power by the very thirst for
authority and popularity. The remembrance of him remained sacred
among the people, who would assemble round his tomb and invoke
his protection devoutly, complaining of his not having been
canonized. His sons took refuge on the Continent, after having
retained possession for some time of Kenilworth Castle. The
younger ones remained with their mother, who was generously
treated by her nephew Edward; the two eldest, Guy and Simon,
accomplished their revenge by murdering, five years later, at
Viterbo, their cousin Henry of Almagne, in a church, while mass
was being celebrated. They disappeared after this crime--the
House of Montfort had fallen forever.

The king had regained his sceptre, delivered the prisoners, and
called back the exiles who had been banished by the Great Earl;
but the victory gained by Leicester survived his defeat. In the
Parliament convened at Winchester, in the month of September,
1265, the king did not dare to repudiate the liberties acquired
by England.
{237}
The City of London alone lost its charter, but the severe
sentences pronounced against Leicester's partisans excited a
series of insurrections which Prince Edward had great difficulty
in quelling. The want was felt of loosing the reins of
government, and of restoring some trust to the vanquished; a
committee composed of bishops and barons was entrusted to draw up
the conditions of peace, and their decision, known under the
title of the Dictum of Kenilworth, was confirmed by the king and
the parliament. The efforts of the Pope, the uprightness and good
sense of Prince Edward, and the weariness of all parties, at
length brought about a general cessation of hostilities. On the
18th of November, 1267, more than two years after the battle of
Evesham, the Parliament, which had assembled at Marlborough,
adopted several of the liberal guarantees formerly proposed by
the Earl of Leicester; the last of the "patriots," as they called
themselves, who still held the Isle of Ely, laid down their arms;
the citizens of London received a fresh charter, and the country
was at peace.

Scarcely had peace been secured, when Prince Edward took
advantage of it to assume the cross, as did also his wife Eleanor
of Castile, and his cousin Henry of Almagne. They made sail in
the month of July, 1270; Louis IX. had just set out on his second
crusade, and Prince Edward, a great admirer of his uncle of
France, was hastening to join him, when Henry of Almagne, who had
been sent upon a secret mission to Italy, was assassinated by his
cousins, the Montforts. This blow was fatal to the old King of
the Romans, who died in the month of December, 1271; eleven
months afterwards, on the 16th of November, 1272, his brother.
King Henry III., also died. He was interred in Westminster Abbey;
but before being lowered into the grave, the Earl of Gloucester,
placing his naked hand upon the corpse, took an oath of fidelity
to King Edward I.; the other barons followed his example.
{238}
King Henry was sixty-five years of age, and had reigned
fifty-six. King only in name, feeble and frivolous, he had seen
the liberties of his people grow greater under his eyes and
against his wish; his son, who was still vainly contending
against them, was destined to derive from the free support and
energetic ardor of the English nation, the strength which served
him through his wars and conquests.


                Chapter X.

           Malleus Scotorum
           Edward I.  (1272-1307.)
           Edward II. (1307-1327.)


The English fleet was speeding towards the coast of Tunis, to
which place the policy of Charles of Anjou had taken Louis IX.
Prince Edward was already rejoicing at the idea of going back to
his uncle, to gain instruction in Christian chivalry. But with
the land appearing in the horizon, when approaching the port, the
French vessels were seen in mourning, the flag being at
half-mast. A feeling of uneasiness spread through the fleet. A
little bark put out from shore; she came alongside the prince's
vessel. "The holy king is dead," said the sailors, and they burst
into tears. Prince Edward was in despair; he landed, but in
imagination seemed to be walking among ghosts. The French
soldiers, discouraged, sick, and disheartened, resolved to give
up an enterprise the commencement of which had been so
disastrous. The young King of France, Philip the Bold, urged
Prince Edward to return like himself to his country; but Edward
was inflexible. "I would go," said he, "even had I only with me
Torvac, my equerry." As far as Trapani, in Sicily, he accompanied
the funeral procession of King Philip, bearing the coffins of his
father and brother. When he reached France the unfortunate young
monarch had added to these the biers of his wife, his sister, and
his brother-in-law, the King of Navarre.

{239}

Prince Edward left Sicily in the spring of 1271, making sail
towards Acre, the only place which still remained in the hands of
the Christians. He commanded a small band of troops, and the
European knights who were in Palestine did not respond very
readily to his appeal. An attack on Nazareth, followed by the
massacre of the Mussulman garrison, and the repair of the walls
round Acre, was the result of the Seventh Crusade, when Edward
himself nearly fell a victim. He was in his camp, on the Friday
after Whit-Sunday, towards the time of vespers; overcome by the
heat, he was resting upon a couch, when a messenger from the Emir
of Jaffa presented himself at the door of the tent. He was in
frequent communication with the prince, and was, therefore,
allowed to enter. The Arab presented his papers; then, suddenly
drawing a dagger from his long sleeve, he stabbed the Prince in
the region of the heart. Edward sprang up from his couch, and,
knocking down the assassin, fractured his skull with a stool.
Then, repressing with a sign the violence of his attendants, who
had appeared on hearing the commotion, and who were mutilating
the assassin's body,--"Of what use is it," he asked, "to strike a
dead man?"

The prince's wound was slight, but the idea of poison presented
itself to everybody's mind. The Spanish legend relates that
Eleanor of Castile kneeled down before her husband, and, applying
her lips to the wound, sucked the poison from the wound. This
noble instance of conjugal love is disbelieved, however, by some
historians. An English surgeon was called, who commenced a cruel
operation.
{240}
Eleanor was very pale, and her brother-in-law dragged her out of
the tent. She struggled with him, weeping all the while. "It is
better that you should cry," he said abruptly, "than that all
England should be in mourning." Edward's wound was soon healed.
As soon as his wife had recovered, after the birth of a little
girl, called Joan of Acre, in token of her birthplace, the
English troops set sail again, promising themselves, as King
Richard had done, to come back to the Holy Land with larger
forces. But the ardor for the crusades had died out. Saint Louis
and Prince Edward of England were the last crusaders, and
eighteen years later, in 1291, the last remains of Christian
power in the East disappeared in its turn. Acre was retaken from
the Templars by the Sultan Keladeen. The Holy Sepulchre
thenceforth remained in the hands of the infidels.

Prince Edward passed through Italy and paid a visit at Rome to
Pope Gregory X., formerly Archdeacon of Liege, a friend of the
prince, and while with him received tidings of the death of the
king his father. The grief which this loss caused him was so
violent that Charles of Anjou was astonished; a throne would
readily have consoled him for the death of the weak Henry of
Winchester. "You lost two children," he remarked, "without
displaying as much grief." "The Lord who gave me my children, can
give me others," rejoined Edward; "but who can give me back a
father?"

The new king was in no hurry to return to his kingdom. He stayed
in Italy to obtain justice for the murder of Henry of Almagne;
but Simon of Montfort was already dead, and Guy was subjected
only to a term of imprisonment, but contrived to elude his
gaolers. Edward then proceeded to France to do homage for Guienne
to King Philip the Bold; he at the same time visited his
possessions, being apprehensive, no doubt, that some plot might
be on foot to deprive him of them.
{241}
On his return he was challenged to single combat in a tournament
by the Count of Châlons. Edward was warned by the Pope that that
nobleman sought his life. He was by nature distrustful, and when
he saw at Châlons a larger number of knights than he possessed
himself, his suspicions were aroused, and the tournament became a
battle. The English gained the victory; the Count of Châlons
himself was for a moment in danger; Edward compelling him to save
his life by surrendering to a mere man-at-arms.

On the 2nd of August, 1274, the King of England at length landed
at Dover, and on the 19th of the same month was crowned at
Westminster, to the great delight of the people. The nation was
proud of its young king, of his reputation for courage and
virtue, of his exploits and perils in the Holy Land. His reign
commenced under happy auspices. The Jews alone disliked the
accession of a prince so renowned for his austere piety and for
his zeal against the infidels. Their instinct had not deceived
them; Edward was always violently hostile to them, and one of the
first acts of his government, on his return from the crusade, was
to hang all the Jews who were in possession of sweated coin. More
than two hundred of them perished in London alone for this
offence, common among both the Jews and the Christians. It was
but the beginning of their grievances. Persecuted, plundered,
imprisoned, the unlucky Israelites were finally banished from the
country in 1290, and all the property which they were obliged to
leave behind them was confiscated.

While the king was hanging the Jews, he was also instituting a
commission instructed to inquire into the state of landed
property in the kingdom, in order to put to a test the
title-deeds of the Christians.
{242}
When proofs were wanting the king exacted a fine before granting
fresh letters patent; but this useful device was not always
practicable. When Earl Warren was called upon to produce his
documents, he drew his sword. "That is the title by which I hold
my lands," he said, "and that will suffice me to defend them. Our
fathers who came over with William the Bastard acquired the land
with their good lances; he did not conquer the country
unassisted; he was supported by others, and his supporters shared
the spoil with him." The earl's title deeds were deemed
sufficient.

The prosperity of England was great at this time; several years
of rest had allowed its commerce to develope itself. The king
respected the charters in all important particulars; his zealous
judicial administration had diminished the number of robbers who
infested the highways, and secured the integrity of the
magistrates; and in consequence he was popular among his
subjects. But this peaceful glory did not suffice for Edward I.
As ambitious as his ancestors, he had a desire to make conquests
in other quarters. Instead of looking with an envious eye on the
Continent, he had conceived the project of subjecting the whole
of Great Britain to his dominion. Scotland was far off, and he
could find no pretext for declaring war in that direction. Wales
had never recognized anything but a partial authority of the
kings of England, and the reigning prince, Llewellyn, had
neglected to do homage to Edward I. on his accession to the
throne. It was in this direction then that the king turned his
attention. He advanced towards the frontiers of Wales towards the
end of the year 1276. All attempts at negotiation failed, and
Llewellyn was declared a rebel in that part of the year when the
snow was beginning to cover the mountains. The war could not
possibly begin for several months.

[Image]
"That is the title by which I hold my lands."

{243}

Edward however, did not lose time. David, the younger brother of
Llewellyn, had been deprived by the latter of all his property;
the King of England conferred many favors upon him, and the
prince, out of gratitude, summoned all his partisans under the
standard of England. Hostilities began in the summer; Edward
entered the enemy's territory, while his fleet took possession of
the Isle of Anglesey, and, driving Llewellyn from castle to
castle, from retreat to retreat, he reduced him in a short time
to famine in the depths of the forests. The Welsh prince was
obliged to surrender, hard as were the conditions which were
imposed upon him. But Edward was generous, although severe; he
remitted his demands one by one, and ended by consenting to the
marriage of Llewellyn with Eleanor of Montfort, daughter of the
Earl of Leicester; she had for some time been affianced to him,
and had been captured at sea in the preceding year, when she was
proceeding to Wales. David had received a large gift of property.
Edward withdrew his armies, leaving in Wales only some soldiers
in the castles, and the Chief Justice, Roger Clifford, who was
entrusted with the government of the new conquest.

The King of England had not taken into account the patriotic
spirit which endeared their national independence to the Welsh
people. In vain had he raised David to the rank of earl; in vain
had he given him an English wife; as soon as the Welsh prince
found himself in his mountains again, he remembered only that his
country was formerly free and that he had contributed towards
reducing it to subjection. The civil and military measures
ordained by Edward were obnoxious to the people; the highways
which were opened up across forests, the executions of criminals
for crimes which had formerly been punished by fines, according
to the Welsh laws; the encroachments of the king's officers upon
the rights of the Welsh nobility; so many grievances easily
furnished pretexts for David's new resolve.
{244}
He persuaded his brother to break all his engagements with
Edward. An old prophecy of Merlin began to circulate again
throughout the mountains; it was to the effect that the Prince of
Wales would be crowned in London when the money in that town
should be round, and it was rumored in Wales that it was
forbidden to cut in halves the new coin which had recently been
struck in England, as had hitherto been the practice. The day of
victory seemed at length to have arrived.

It was on Palm Sunday, 1282; dark night had come on, and a
violent storm was raging in the forests. David suddenly attacked
Hawarden Castle, where the chief justicier resided. The latter
was seized in his bed, wounded, and dragged into the mountains.
All the country rose; Llewellyn joined his brother and laid siege
to the castles of Flint and Rhuddlam; the English settlers were
everywhere murdered. All Wales was up in arms when tidings of the
insurrection reached the king.

Edward pretended not to believe in the magnitude of the
rebellion; but he adopted active measures to repress it. He soon
arrived in the mountains; the autumn had come, the bad weather
was beginning, and the English suffered greatly from the
inclemency of the climate. A portion of the army who tried to
make use of the temporary bridge uniting the Isle of Anglesey to
the mainland, were attacked by the insurgents and completely
destroyed. Edward himself was several times obliged to retreat.
Llewellyn, emboldened by his success, entrusted David to defend
the defiles of the mountains, and marched to meet the king, who
had gathered large forces near Carmarthen. A detachment
encountered the Welsh prince in a farm where he had slept, and,
without knowing him, an English knight engaged in a combat with
him.
{245}
Llewellyn was killed; the struggle was then carried on between
the English and the Welsh who had come to join their prince. When
the dead were despoiled after the battle, Llewellyn was
recognized, and his head was sent to Edward in token of victory.
David still held his position in the mountains; at length he was
betrayed, delivered up to the English, and imprisoned in Durham
Castle with his wife and children. In the month of September,
1283, the English Parliament condemned him to death as guilty of
high treason, while Edward promised a new prince to the country
which he had just subdued. Queen Eleanor was at Carnarvon Castle,
waiting to be delivered of a child; she gave birth to a son on
the 25th of April, 1284. The child was immediately called Edward
Prince of Wales; and when he found himself heir presumptive to
the throne, by the death of his elder brother Alphonsus, his
title became the appanage of the eldest son of the King of
England, thus perpetuating the remembrance of the definitive
subjection of the Welsh people and the feeble consolation which
the conqueror had offered to them.

A few years of peace followed the conquest of Wales. The king had
been recalled on the Continent to serve as an arbitrator on the
claims of the houses of France, of Arragon, and of Anjou to the
crown of Sicily. His English subjects were clamoring for his
return, and they ended by refusing him the necessary subsidies.
The king then returned to England; but a great misfortune awaited
him; Queen Eleanor died on the 29th of November, 1292. With her
disappeared the softening influence which had modified the
haughty character and ambitious views of the king; and just at
this moment a great temptation offered itself to him.

{246}

The King of Scotland, Alexander III., had died in 1286, leaving
no other heir than his granddaughter Margaret, princess of
Norway. She was still a child, and her father had kept her for
some time past with him. She at length sailed for Scotland in
1290; but she died during the passage, and Scotland became a prey
to all the evils of a contested succession. Thirteen noblemen,
descendants of members of the royal family, set up claims to the
throne simultaneously; but two of them had prospects very much
better than those of any of the others: these were John Baliol
and Robert Bruce, grandson and son of two elder daughters of
David, earl of Huntingdon, the younger brother of King William
the Lion; but no one possessed claims sufficiently strong to
impress the people in their favor. The Scotch, troubled by the
prospect of anarchy without result, sent an embassy to King
Edward to ask him to act as arbitrator in this serious aspect of
affairs, and to decide who should be King of Scotland.

Edward received the deputation at Norham on the 10th of May,
1291, and from the first declared that, as liege lord of
Scotland, he would settle the question of the succession,
insisting, first of all, upon the recognition of his rights of
superiority by the pretenders. The Scotch people hesitated; they
asked for a delay. "By St. Edward, from whom I hold my crown,"
cried the King of England, "I will establish my just rights, or
perish in the attempt." And the assembly was adjourned until the
2nd of June following. Edward had convoked all the barons.

On the appointed day, eight claimants had met near Norham, in the
plain of Hollywell-Haugh, on the Scotch territory. When the
Chancellor of England asked the pretenders, among whom was Robert
Bruce, whether they were willing to abide by the decision of
Edward, king of England, as liege lord of Scotland, Bruce
recognized with out hesitation the rights of the powerful monarch
who could award the crown to him.
{247}
His rivals did likewise, and John Baliol, who arrived on the
morrow, was the more willing to compromise the safety of his
country as he believed he had secured the favor of Edward. The
chancellor had taken care to announce, in the name of his master,
that the right of the king as liege lord, which had just been
recognized, in no way affected the titles to property which he
might think proper to proclaim valid thereafter. On the 3rd of
June, a commission was appointed to examine the rights of the two
great pretenders, and the regents of Scotland consigned all the
royal castles to Edward, on condition that he should give them up
two months after the decision between Bruce and Baliol. On the
15th of the same month, the pretenders took the oath of
allegiance to Edward, as did also a great number of Scotch
barons, and peace was proclaimed in his name, as liege lord of
Scotland. The first step in the path of dependence had been made.

The second act of the drama was enacted at Berwick Castle, on the
17th of November, 1292. There King Edward, having made a scrutiny
of the rights of all the pretenders, and having consulted the
Parliament of Scotland, at length declared that the grandson of
the elder daughter had a prior claim to that of the son of the
younger daughter, thus deciding in favor of Baliol to the
exclusion of Bruce. On the 19th the governors of the castles
received instructions to give up their keys to the new king, and
on the morrow Baliol swore fidelity to Edward at Norham. Having
been crowned on the 30th at Scone, he proceeded to England,
whither King Edward had been called in consequence of the illness
and death of Eleanor of Castile; the new king did homage for the
kingdom of Scotland on the 26th of November, at Newcastle. The
King of England again reserved his rights of property.

{248}

While Edward was laboring to subject the Scotch people, King
Philip the Fair was secretly plotting with the intention of
driving the English from the French soil and depriving them of
Aquitaine. An encounter had taken place between the English and
Norman sailors on the coast of Guienne; the merchantmen of the
two countries taking sides warmly, had been engaged in several
fights with each other. The King of France seized the
opportunity, some outrages having been committed on his subjects,
to summon King Edward to appear at his court, as Duke of
Aquitaine, in order to answer before his peers for the offences
committed against his liege lord. Edward sent his brother Edmund,
who weakly consented to satisfy the feudal honor of King Philip
by placing in the hands of the French officers the duchy of
Gascony for a period of forty days. The conditions were agreed
to. The question was not one of territorial aggrandisement but of
reparation. The English prince waited for forty days. This period
of time having elapsed, he came to claim the restoration of his
domains; the King of France laughed, and declared that the Duke
of Aquitaine had forfeited his rights as a vassal by not
presenting himself personally before his liege lord. The grand
constable was at once sent to all the towns and castles belonging
to King Edward; a large number of them opened their gates to him;
the duchy of Aquitaine was returning, it was said, to the crown.
Edward I., however, had commenced his preparations for reclaiming
his provinces by force of arms. The English ships were about to
weigh anchor, when a violent insurrection broke out in Wales. The
king despatched a little body of troops into Gascony, sent his
fleet to hover round the coasts and seize all the French ships
which might come in their way, and despatched the greater portion
of his forces to Wales.
{249}
In spite of the winter, the snow, the mountains, the impenetrable
forests, and the obstinacy of the insurgents, Edward pursued his
enemies in all directions, and contrived to subdue them. Madoc,
the ringleader, laid down his arms; the most intractable chiefs
were sentenced to be imprisoned for life, and the king,
triumphant, left Wales to embark for France. The Scotch did not
allow him time, however, to accomplish his intention.

Since Edward had placed the feeble Baliol upon the throne of
Scotland, he had spared him no humiliation. Every time that a
petitioner, dissatisfied with the justice of the King of
Scotland, thought proper to appeal to the liege lord, Edward
would summon Baliol to appear at his court to render an account
of his judgment, and this summons was repeated four times during
the first year of his reign. At length, in 1293, in the matter of
a complaint of the Earl of Fife, Baliol, who was tired of these
proceedings, declared that the question concerned his subjects,
and that he could not reply to the appeal without consulting his
people. "What!" cried Edward; "you are my vassal, you have done
homage to me, and it is to answer to me for your acts that you
are here." Baliol persisted; the English Parliament condemned his
conduct, and King Edward only consented to retard by some months
the pronouncing of the sentence. In the interval, the difficulty
about Guienne occurred, and King Edward, occupied with his
struggles against his own liege lord, soon learnt that his
vassal, the King of Scotland, led on by the national movement in
his country, had contracted with King Philip an alliance cemented
by a promise of marriage between his young son Edward and Jane of
Valois, niece of the King of France.
{250}
A short time before, the Parliament of Scotland had decided on
sending back all the Englishmen employed at the court and formed
a council consisting of four earls, four bishops, and four
barons, who were entrusted with the management of the affairs of
the kingdom. Baliol was held by his subjects in a kind of
captivity.

The suspicions which King Edward had conceived, and which had
kept him in England, while he sent his brother into Guienne, were
soon justified. The Scotch invaded the county of Cumberland with
a large army, but were easily repulsed. Edward soon advanced
towards the frontier, marching first of all against Berwick. He
attacked the town by land and sea, and all resistance was
useless. The king, mounted upon his horse Bayard, was the first
to spring across the dyke which protected the town. A fearful
massacre took place; neither age nor sex excited any pity. It was
on the 30th of March, 1296. On the 5th of April, the abbot of
Arbroath presented himself at the English camp; he brought
Baliol's renunciation of all homage towards the King of England.
Edward had a short time before addressed a similar communication
to Philip, king of France; but this coincidence did not appease
his anger. "Ah! then the scoundrel has dared to defy me!" he
cried; "if he will not come to us, we will go to him." And he
marched forward, taking possession on his way of the castles
which resisted him. Dunbar, Roxburgh, Dunbarton, Jedburgh,
Edinburgh, Stirling, had already fallen into Edward's hands, when
a fresh message from Baliol was brought to him. He humbly begged
for peace. The king did not do his revolted vassal the honor of
treating him as a sovereign and of negotiating personally with
him; he ordered Baliol to proceed to the castle of Brechin, to
which place he despatched the Bishop of Durham.
{251}
A few days later, on the 7th of June, 1296, Baliol, deprived of
all his regal insignia, with a white rod in his hand, presented
himself at the cemetery of Strathkathro, in the county of Angus,
acknowledging that he had violated all his obligations towards
his liege lord, who had very justly invaded his fief. After this
act of self-abasement and renunciation, tired, he said, of the
malice and ingratitude of men, he was sent to the Tower in
honorable captivity, and subsequently ended his life in his
domains of Normandy, forgotten or despised by all.

Robert Bruce at once claimed the crown. "Do you think that I have
nothing else to do but to conquer kingdoms for you?" King Edward
harshly replied; and he marched towards the north, receiving
everywhere the homage of the Scotch nobility. He had convened a
Parliament at Berwick; he proceeded there on the 28th of August,
in order to arrange the government of his new acquisition. He
displayed on this occasion great prudence and moderation; he
returned to the Church all property which had been confiscated
from it, and left the inferior offices in the hands of the
functionaries who occupied them; but the guardianship of the
castles was confided to the English. Warren, earl of Surrey, was
nominated governor; Hugh de Cressingham, treasurer; and William
Ormesby, chief justicier. Scotland was treated as a conquered
country. King Edward now thought himself at leisure to devote his
attention to his affairs in France and to prepare to cross the
Channel.

The allies of England upon the Continent were in urgent need of
his help. The Earl of Bar, the son-in-law of Edward, had been
defeated and made a prisoner in an attempt against Champagne, and
his wife, being unable to regain her liberty, had died of grief.
{252}
Guy, count of Flanders, had been attracted to Paris under false
pretences, together with his wife and his daughter Philippa, who
was affianced to Prince Edward of England; all three had been
thrown into prison, and, although the count succeeded in buying
his freedom, he had been compelled to leave his daughter in the
hands of Philip the Fair, who denied the right of vassals to give
their daughters in marriage without the authority of their lord.

King Edward would have had great difficulty in helping his
foreign allies, for he was engaged in a struggle against his
English subjects. The conquest of the countries of Wales and
Scotland had required great efforts, and the nation had borne its
heavy burdens without murmuring. In 1295, however, on a demand of
the king, who required one-half of their revenues, the clergy
appealed to Pope Boniface VIII., who issued a bull in their
favor. But the ecclesiastical thunders had begun to lose their
terrors; Edward had seized upon the property of the clergy, and
the bishops had ended by giving in. The merchants and citizens
were more obstinate than the priests, and when the king, in 1297,
conceived the idea of imposing an enormous tax upon every bale of
wool, making at the same time large requisitions for grain, the
complaints became loud. From remonstrance, the people had arrived
at overt resistance, when the king seized at all the ports the
wool and skins intended for exportation, and sold them for his
own benefit. The merchants met together, protested against this
"evil toll," as they called it, and declared that the Magna
Charta ordered that the English people were not to be taxed
without their own consent. A certain number of powerful noblemen
supported the citizens in this movement.

{253}

King Edward had raised two armies: one was to march to Guienne,
and the other to Flanders, to help the Count Guy, who was anxious
to avenge his injuries on King Philip. Edmund, King Edward's
brother, had died in Guienne. The king himself reckoned upon
commanding the expedition in Flanders. He summoned to Salisbury
Humphrey Bohun, earl of Hereford and constable of England, and
Roger Bigod, earl of Norfolk, field-marshal, to entrust to them
the command of the army of Guienne. Both replied that their
offices compelled them to remain near the king's person during
the war, and that they would not proceed to Guienne without him.
"By the Lord God Almighty, my lord earl!" cried Edward,
addressing himself to Bigod, "You shall go, or you shall be
hanged." "By the Lord God Almighty, Sire king," replied the proud
baron, calmly, "I shall not go, neither shall I be hanged." And
both retired to their estates, immediately followed by thirty
bannerets and by fifteen hundred knights, who everywhere created
an opposition to the levying of the taxes.

The king was in an awkward position. He convoked in London a
popular assembly, having taken care first of all to become
reconciled with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Winchelsea, who had
been the prime mover in the resistance of the clergy, and had
found himself deprived of all his revenues in consequence; then,
accompanied by the prelate, the Earl of Warwick, and Prince
Edward, the king appealed directly to the people, assuring them
that nothing was more disagreeable to him than to impose heavy
burdens upon his well-beloved subjects; but that he had been
compelled to do so in order to defend them against the Scotch,
the Welsh, and the French. "I am now going to expose myself for
you to the risks of war," said he; "if I return alive, I will
repay you for everything; if I should die, there is my son: place
him upon the throne, and his gratitude will reward your
fidelity." The king was weeping, and all those who were present
were profoundly touched.
{254}
Prince Edward was declared regent amid public acclamation; the
Archbishop of Canterbury was nominated as his adviser, and the
king marched towards the coast. He had only arrived at
Winchester, when he was stopped, on the 12th of August, by a
remonstrance from the prelates, the earls, the barons, and the
commoners of England, declaring that they were not obliged to
accompany him into Flanders, their ancestors not having served
the kings of England in that country; and they added that, even
were they so disposed, the poverty to which they had been reduced
did not allow them to do so. "The king," they said, "had already
violated on several occasions the charters which he had solemnly
ratified; his 'evil toll' was intolerable, and his absence was
about to leave the country a prey to the invasions of the Scotch
and the Welsh." The king made an evasive reply to this
declaration; reckoning upon the affection of the common people,
he made sail with the troops who remained with him, and
disembarked at Sluys towards the end of August.

Scarcely had Edward left the coasts of England when Bigod and
Bohun entered London, on the 24th of August, at the head of
considerable forces. The strictest discipline prevailed in the
ranks of their followers. They went straight to the treasury, and
deposited their complaints against the arbitrary exactions and
the violations of Magna Charta committed by the king; then,
proceeding to Guildhall, they exhorted the citizens of London to
maintain their rights. The young regent, being alarmed, convoked
a Parliament, which abolished the impost upon wool, and decreed
that no tax whatever should in future be raised without the
consent of the bishops, peers, citizens, and freemen of the
kingdom, and that the king should not seize upon any goods
without the authority of the owners.
{255}
Orders were sent out to read the Magna Charta in all the churches
once a year, under pain of excommunication against those who
should endeavor to prevent it. This law was to be proclaimed
every Sunday in all the churches.

The act, signed in London, was sent to Ghent, where King Edward
was at the time. They demanded that it should be ratified. The
barons undertook to join the king in Flanders, or to march
against Scotland, where the people had again risen, according to
his pleasure. During three days, the pride of King Edward
resisted; at length he signed the document, promising himself to
make all his concessions void afterwards. As soon as they were
secure in their victory, the barons set out for Scotland.

Edward needed the support and good will of his English subjects,
for he had gained but little success in Flanders. After having
with difficulty quelled the violent rivalries which had occurred
in his fleet between the sailors of the different ports, he had
found a great number of Flemish towns occupied by the French,
supported by a party powerful in the country itself. The Count
Guy had again fallen into the hands of the King of France. The
Flemish and English would often engage in struggles against each
other, after having fought together against the French; Edward's
foreign allies, the Emperor, the Duke of Austria, and the Duke of
Brabant, sent no help, believing they had done their share in
receiving the subsidies of England. King Edward listened to the
overtures of Pope Boniface VIII., who was endeavoring to
re-establish peace. He left Guy of Flanders in prison, where the
latter, as well as his daughter, afterwards died. He affianced
his son Edward to Isabel of France, thus laying the foundation of
the misfortune of his lifetime, and himself married Princess
Margaret, who was then seventeen years of age, contenting himself
with recovering Aquitaine, while Guienne still remained in the
hands of Philip the Fair.
{256}
Peace being thus concluded, Edward started on his return to his
kingdom, where the position of affairs imperatively required his
presence.

The great Scotch noblemen had taken the oath of allegiance to the
King of England, but the less powerful ones had not had the honor
of accomplishing that act of submission. Sir Malcolm Wallace, of
Ellerslie, had not taken the oath, nor had his second son,
William Wallace, who was already outlawed for the murder of an
English soldier in consequence of a dispute. He had lived since
then in the mountains; but, having one day appeared at the market
in Lanark, he was insulted by an Englishman, whom he killed. He
found a friendly shelter, and contrived to escape; but the house
which had protected him was burnt, and the mistress of it lost
her life. Wallace swore to wreak a terrible revenge upon the
English.

Soon, all the adventurers, outlaws, and bold spirits, weary of
subjection, rallied round Wallace. At the moment when King Edward
started for Flanders, the Scottish leader had already become a
dangerous partisan, attacking the English when he met them in
small numbers, and plundering the country under their authority.
His forces were increasing in number; many noblemen had joined
him, and were raising their standards in favor of John, king of
Scotland. A certain number of powerful noblemen followed them.
Robert Bruce himself, grandson of him who had contested the crown
against Baliol, had come over to the national party. "The Pope
will absolve me from all the oaths which I have involuntarily
sworn in favor of King Edward," said the future deliverer of
Scotland. The Earl of Surrey was raising forces in the southern
part of the kingdom.

{257}

When the two armies came in sight of each other, near the town of
Irvine, in the county of Ayr, they were about equal in numbers;
but the English troops were well drilled and obedient to a single
general; Wallace's army was disorderly, divided, led by rival
chiefs, and little disposed to admit the superiority of an outlaw
of low origin. No encounter took place. On the 9th of July, the
great Scotch noblemen laid down their arms and tendered their
submission to King Edward. One baron alone. Sir Andrew Moray of
Bothwell, remained faithful to the national party; but Wallace
took with him a large number of vassals of the noblemen who had
surrendered, and his raids upon the territory occupied by the
English became bolder and bolder every day.

Stirling was seriously threatened by the insurgents, when the
Earls of Surrey and Cressingham advanced with large forces. The
two parties occupied the opposite banks of the Forth; Wallace's
position was excellent, and he was offered terms. "Tell your
masters," he replied to the envoy, "that we are not here to
parley, but to assert our rights and to deliver Scotland. Let
them advance, we are ready." The English hesitated. Surrey deemed
the attack dangerous, but Cressingham, like a true financier, was
complaining loudly of the ravages made upon the king's treasury
by an army which did not fight, and the general yielded. At
daybreak, on the 11th of September, 1297, the English army began
marching across the bridge. It was narrow, and the soldiers
passed over it slowly. When one portion of the army had crossed,
Wallace caused the bridge to be occupied by a detachment, and he
attacked the English, who had not yet had time to form in order
of battle. The slaughter was fearful. Among the dead bodies was
found Cressingham, who was odious to the Scotch by reason of the
severity of his administration.
{258}
His savage enemies flayed him, in order to preserve his skin in
remembrance of their revenge. Surrey retreated with the remainder
of his forces. But Wallace's success had delivered Scotland for
the time being; the castles were surrendering in every direction;
the popular champion entered Northumberland and pillaged the
English territory, while famine kept him away from Scotland. When
he reappeared in his country, laden with plunder, an assembly of
noblemen awarded to him the title of governor of the kingdom and
commander-in-chief of King John's forces. Baliol, still
imprisoned in England, smiled bitterly at this use of his name.

Meanwhile, King Edward had recrossed the sea, and his orders for
the levying of a large army had preceded him. In the eyes of the
conqueror of Scotland the insurrection led by Wallace was a
rebellion, not a patriotic movement. Scarcely had he set foot in
England than he marched towards the North. Having halted for a
while at York, where he was to have convened a Parliament, the
barons who had formerly placed themselves at the head of the
popular resistance came and met him to demand the ratification of
the concessions granted at Ghent. "By and by," cried Edward; "I
have no leisure time just now; I must first of all reduce the
Scotch rebels to obedience." And he swore before three bishops
that he would occupy himself with the liberties of his English
subjects when he should have riveted the chains of his Scottish
subjects. Bigod and Bohun were satisfied with this promise, and
followed him into Scotland.

The king's vessels were delayed. He was detained between
Edinburgh and Linlithgow, when an insurrection broke out in his
camp. The Welsh troops threatened to leave him and to go over to
the Scotch. "I care little," said Edward, "if my enemies join my
enemies; I will punish them all in one day."
{259}
The provisions began to run short, and a retreat was spoken of,
when the Bishop of Durham was warned, on the 10th of July, 1298,
that the Scotch army was encamped in the forest of Falkirk, and
was preparing to attack the English troops. "Glory be to God,"
cried Edward. "He has delivered me up to the present from all
dangers. They need not follow me, for I will go to them." And,
raising his camp, he marched against the Scotch troops. It is
related that, during the night before the battle, being asleep by
the side of his horse, the king had two ribs broken by a kick
from the animal. This circumstance created a profound sensation
throughout the army; it was said that the king was dying through
some treachery. Edward donned his armor, mounted his horse, and
continued the march. The Scotch army was at length in sight. In
front of them was a marsh, and the archers and pikemen were
protected by a palisade. When Wallace saw the lances of the enemy
glistening in the sun, he called out to his men, "I have led you
to the dance, now hop if you can." The Scottish infantry
valiantly withstood the shock of the two army corps led by Bigod,
Bohun, and the bellicose Bishop of Durham, but the cavalry were
terrified on seeing the superior forces of the English, and fled
in confusion. The pikemen and archers began to give way; the
palisades were trampled down, and the victory was complete. The
field of the battle of Falkirk was strewn with the corpses of the
Scottish soldiers, when Wallace contrived to fall back upon
Stirling with the remainder of his army. The English followed him
there; but they found the town burnt. Wallace had disappeared.
King Edward was desolating the country by fire and sword; the
inhabitants of the towns were flying at his approach; St.
Andrew's was deserted when the king set fire to it.
{260}
The citizens of Perth burnt their own town. Provisions were now
scarce; Edward was obliged to retreat towards the end of
September, 1298, leaving all the north of Scotland in the hands
of the patriots, who had just constituted a council of the
regency, at the head of which was John Comyn. Scarcely had the
king crossed the frontier when his enemies threatened Stirling
Castle.

Other troubles awaited Edward in England; he had convoked the
Parliament at Westminster for the month of March, 1299; the
barons claimed the fulfilment of his promises, and the
ratification of the new liberties added by them to the Magna
Charta. The king still delayed, denying the validity of a
confirmation made in a foreign country; he experienced, he said,
displeasure at finding himself thus pressed to grant a favor
against his inclination. The barons, however, insisting, the king
left London, almost secretly, and went into the country under
pretence of being indisposed; the barons followed him there,
renewing their demands. At length the king, wearied of this, sent
to the Parliament the required ratification; but, with a puerile
want of good faith, he added to the concessions so hardly won
this little sentence: "Saving the rights of the crown." The
barons, indignant, left London in their turn, but to prepare for
resistance. The king still reckoned upon the devotion of the
people of the city; he ordered the sheriffs to cause the charter
to be read at the cross of St. Paul's; an immense crowd was
assembled, hailing with applause each of the clauses which
guaranteed the rights of the people; but when the reader came to
the phrase, "Saving the rights of the crown," his voice was
drowned by whistling, shouting, and loud menaces.
{261}
Edward was too shrewd and sagacious to resist the will of the
people when expressed in such an unmistakable manner; he convened
a fresh Parliament, solemnly ratified all the concessions,
without mentioning the rights of the crown, and nominated a
commission of three bishops, three earls, and three barons, to
prepare a charter limiting the royal forests, which had hitherto
been extended at times into private property. This charter was
ratified in the year 1300. Bohun had just died; but Bigod was
still alive, and the victory was definitively assured to the
Barons, in spite of the efforts which the king was still making
to deliver himself from a yoke which was insupportable to his
haughty character and his ambitious projects.

The marriage of King Edward with Margaret of France had taken
place, as had also his son's betrothal to Isabel (September,
1299), and two little incursions into Scotland had produced no
other result than an intervention on the part of Pope Boniface
VIII. in favor of the Scotch, by virtue of the rights which he
claimed over that kingdom. Although haughtily refusing to
recognize this strange pretension, the King of England had three
times granted a truce to the insurgents. The third had just
expired, when the treaty of Montreuil, made between England and
France on the 30th of May, 1303, gave up Guienne to Edward, who
abandoned his Flemish allies as Philip the Fair did his Scottish
allies. Freed from care on the score of continental affairs,
Edward, on the day following the ratification of the treaty,
marched into Scotland. He was already at Edinburgh on the 4th of
June, and his progress across the northern counties resembled a
triumphal march; all the fortresses opened their gates; Buchan
Castle alone remained closed. While the English were attacking,
Sir Thomas Maule, the governor, was marching up and down the
ramparts, with a handkerchief in his hand, wiping off the dust
raised by the battering-rams. On the twentieth day of the siege
he was struck with an arrow, and, when dying, stigmatized the
soldiers as cowards, who were asking permission of him to
surrender.
{262}
Scarcely had the valiant champion breathed his last when his
castle was given up to the English forces. The king established
himself in winter quarters in the abbey of Dunfermline, and it
was there that the Scotch barons came to negotiate for peace;
each one had drawn up his own conditions. Wallace had disappeared
since the battle of Falkirk; the noblemen had supplanted him in
the government of the country, which he had delivered without
their aid. The king caused a proclamation to be made that the
outlaw should surrender at discretion. Wallace, however, took no
notice, but remained in the mountains. The Castle of Stirling now
alone offered any resistance, in spite of the injunctions of the
Scottish Parliament assembled by Edward. Sir William Oliphant,
who commanded it, was compelled to surrender on the 26th of July,
1304.

A last blow was about to strike the patriotic party in Scotland.
Wallace, betrayed by his friend Monteith, was delivered into the
hands of the English in the month of August, 1305. King Edward
had not the generosity to pardon the proud patriot who had so
long resisted him. Wallace had broken no oath; he had never sworn
allegiance to King Edward, and he had fought for the independence
of his country, but he was nevertheless condemned to suffer a
traitor's death. He was executed at Smithfield, on the 23rd of
August, and the portions of his dismembered body were sent to
different towns in Scotland, where, however, the people were more
inclined to treat them as sacred relics than to consider them as
emblems of disgrace. Wallace had kindled a fire which was not
destined to die out, and it was in vain that Edward had thought
to stifle it by severe punishment.

[Image]
Bruce Warned By Gilbert De Clare.

{263}

Scarcely had the government of Scotland been constituted by a
commission of prelates and Scottish barons, pursuing their labors
in London in conjunction with the English members of Parliament,
when a fresh insurrection broke out in Scotland. A new chief
presented himself for the cause of independence, one who was
destined to achieve the task begun by Wallace; it was Robert
Bruce, Earl of Carrick.

For a long time Bruce had vacillated between the two parties;
having been engaged during his youth in the service of Edward by
his father, he had sworn allegiance, then violated his oath, but
finally determined to observe his old professions. After the fall
of Baliol, he had proposed to Comyn, surnamed the Red, a powerful
Scottish lord, and one of his neighbors, that whichever of the
two should establish his claim to the crown should bequeath the
kingdom to the other as an indemnity. Comyn had pretended to
accept the bargain, but had secretly warned Edward of the
conspiracy. Bruce, who was in England, was about to be arrested,
in spite of his kinship to the royal family (he had married Joan
of Valence, Edward's cousin), when Gilbert de Clare sent a pair
of spurs to him by a messenger. Bruce took the hint and
immediately mounted his horse; he did not know what danger
threatened him, or who had betrayed him, yet he was careful to
conceal his traces. Meeting with a servant of Comyn, who was
carrying fresh communications to Edward, he seized the missives
and assured himself of Comyn's treachery, then hastened back to
Scotland. A few days later, on the 10th of February, 1306, these
two enemies met at Dumfries, and Bruce called Comyn into a chapel
of the Minorites, in order to demand an explanation of his
conduct. They were alone; the dispute became furious. Bruce drew
his dagger and struck Comyn, who fell upon the steps of the high
altar. Pale and agitated, Bruce left the chapel hurriedly; his
haggard appearance struck his friends who were in attendance upon
him.
{264}
"What have you done?" Fitz-Patrick of Colesburn asked him. "I
think I have killed Comyn." "You think?" cried Fitz-Patrick,
"then I will make sure of it." And, re-entering the holy place,
he struck the wounded man another blow; killed the latter's
uncle, Sir Robert Comyn, who tried to defend his nephew, and
returned to Bruce. The little band hurried away at a gallop.
Bruce had only one course before him now; he was henceforth an
outlaw, and the boldest action became necessary. But the fire was
smouldering in all the noble hearts of Scotland. As soon as Bruce
raised the standard of independence, some priests and lords
gathered round him and boldly crowned him at Scone. On the day of
the Annunciation (1306) Scotland had a king; Edward I. heard of
it at Winchester a few days later.

In the eyes of the King of England Bruce was a rebel, and was,
moreover, a man who must be punished for having committed
sacrilege; he sent a small army into Scotland under the command
of the Earl of Pembroke, and, tired and sick as he was, began to
make extensive preparations for marching personally against the
insurgents. Prince Edward, his son, was twenty-two years of age,
and had not yet been knighted. On the 23rd of May, during
Whitsuntide, the young man, having received his spurs from the
hands of his father, conferred the same distinction upon two
hundred and seventy young lords, companions of his pleasures, who
were about to become his comrades in arms. All the company then
met at a magnificent banquet; a golden filet was brought upon a
table, containing two swans, emblems of constancy and fidelity;
then the king, placing his hand upon their heads, swore to avenge
the death of Comyn and to punish the rebels of Scotland, without
sleeping for two nights in the same place, and to start
immediately afterwards for Palestine in order to rescue the Holy
Sepulchre.
{265}
The young men swore the same oath as the king, and the latter
made them promise if he should die during the war in Scotland,
not to bury his body until the conquest should have been
achieved. The prince immediately afterwards started for the
frontiers with his companions. The king followed less rapidly, as
he could only travel upon a litter.

Meanwhile Bruce's forces had increased rapidly; the
malcontents--and they were very numerous--were beginning to
declare themselves and to rally round the new king. When the Earl
of Pembroke arrived in Scotland, the insurgents were in high
spirits; but a battle was fought on the 19th of June, near the
woods of Methven, which destroyed their illusions; many Scots
were killed, the prisoners were put to death, and Bruce retired
into the mountains of Athol with five hundred men. Too ill to
proceed further, King Edward had been obliged to stop at
Carlisle, but he was directing all the operations of his troops,
and ordering the execution of the prisoners, thus bearing witness
to his deep-rooted resentment against Scotland. Bruce was leading
the life of a roaming knight in the forests, hunting and fishing,
accompanied only by a few faithful friends; his wife, his two
sisters, and the Countess of Buchan shared with him his
adventurous existence, which the fine weather rendered tolerable,
even in Scotland.

Meanwhile, winter was coming on, and it became necessary to seek
more civilized quarters. Bruce's little band was attacked by Lord
de Lorn, a relation of Comyn's, and a mortal enemy of Bruce. The
King of Scotland's companions were falling under the battle-axes
of Lochaber, when he sounded the retreat, and, clad in armor and
mounted upon a good war-horse, took up his position in a defile,
and defended the approach single-handed.
{266}
Lorn's mountaineers hesitated, being terrified at the immovable
countenance, the long sword always on guard, and the bright eyes
glistening under the helmet; at length three men, a father and
two sons, named Mac-Androsser, famous in their clan for their
strength and courage, sprang forward together upon the royal
champion; one seized the bridle of the horse, and his arm fell at
his side, his hand being severed; another fastened himself to the
leg of the horseman: the horse pranced about, and the unhappy
warrior had his head split open by a sword-stroke. The father,
who was more skilful, as well as maddened at the fate of his
sons, clutched the king's cloak; he was still holding it after
his death, and Bruce was compelled to leave in the hands of the
corpse this token of the desperate struggle. The king had
retreated without being wounded, but it was necessary to place
his wife and sisters in safety, and the castle of Keldrummie
afforded them a shelter, while Bruce took refuge in the Hebrides.
The separation was doomed to be a sad and long one, for the
castle was taken, and Nigel Bruce, Robert's younger brother, was
cruelly put to death. The Queen of Scotland was sent to England,
and Bruce's sisters-in-law, shut up in wooden cages, were exposed
to the public sight of Berwick and Roxburgh. Every time that any
of the adherents of Bruce fell into the hands of the English
troops they were put to death; the king himself, who was now
excommunicated and proscribed, had taken refuge in the little
island of Rachrin. His retreat was unknown to his enemies, and a
reward was offered in Scotland to whoever would give news of
Robert Bruce, who was "lost, stolen, or strayed."

{267}

It was in the spring of 1307, that Bruce suddenly reappeared,
supported by some ships which had been lent to him by Christiana,
Lady of the Isles. Deceived by a false indication, he attacked
Henry Percy, to whom King Edward had recently given the castle of
Carrick, Bruce's own property; and, taking his enemies by
surprise, he defeated them, caused great slaughter, and returned
in triumph to the castle, which however he could not hold for any
length of time, surrounded as he was on all sides, not only by
the English forces, but by his personal enemies, and all the
family of Comyn.

The capture of Carrick Castle was nevertheless Robert's first
step upon the ladder of fortune; but yesterday a fugitive, he was
now rejoined by his scattered supporters: after his success,
warriors who had previously been undecided, embraced the cause of
Bruce, whose forces became so formidable, that Edward, who was
furious, resolved to leave Carlisle to march in person against
the rebels. He caused his litter to be hung up in York cathedral
in memory of his sickness, and was about to mount his horse when
he heard that the Earl of Pembroke had been defeated on the 10th
of May by Bruce at Loudon Hill; the rage of the king lent him
strength for awhile; he started out for Carlisle at the head of a
large corps; but the journey was cut short, and he was obliged to
stop. When not more than three leagues from Carlisle, death came
and chilled the proud heart and the indomitable spirit, once
animated by the noblest and most chivalrous desires, but for
several years absorbed in ambitious projects and cruel schemes of
revenge. His last words were a recommendation to his son to
finish the task which had been begun, to be good to his young
brothers, and to maintain three hundred knights in the Holy Land.
When he was buried at Westminster an inscription was placed upon
his tomb, covered by a block of stone brought from Palestine:--

   Eduardus Primus.
   Edward I.

   Malleus Scotorum.
   The Scourge of the Scots,

   1307 Pactum Serva.
   1307 Keep the Covenant.


{268}

Among the sovereigns who had governed England, very few had held
the power with a firmer hand than Edward I.; very few, however,
saw the foundation of more liberties. In vain, in 1307, when the
king had thought the conquest of Scotland assured, had he hoped
to effect his deliverance from the yoke which his people had
imposed upon him; in vain had he obtained from the Pope a bull on
the 4th of January, 1305, which relieved him of his oaths and
annulled the charters which he had ratified, forbidding any one,
under pain of excommunication, to claim their fulfilment; in
vain, Bohun being dead, had Edward's threats succeeded in
intimidating old Bigod and his faithful ally, the Archbishop of
Canterbury; the attitude taken by the entire nation had caused
the king to hesitate, and he had not yet made public the Papal
bull, when the insurrection in Scotland absorbed all his
attention and necessitated the assistance of Parliament. The
liberties acquired by the barons now had a durable guarantee; the
great lords were not obliged to resort incessantly to arms.
Parliaments having been instituted. We have seen the deputies of
the towns summoned to Parliament for the first time by the Earl
of Leicester. Under King Edward I. the barons began to hold their
deliberations privately, and the knights from the shires and the
deputies from the towns who were summoned less frequently, formed
a second chamber. From this time dates the origin of the House of
Lords and the House of Commons. The most complete Parliament
which had yet sat, was that of 1295, convened by King Edward
before his campaign in Flanders: an Ecclesiastical Parliament had
been convoked at the same time. The subsidies which were then
granted, and which the king endeavored to increase by acts of
extortion, were the cause of the opposition of Bigod and Bohun.
{269}
At the death of Edward, the charters had been so firmly
established in England, that no monarch dreamt of disturbing them
again, until the unhappy days of Charles I. The liberties of the
nation were assured by the frequent meeting of the Parliaments,
their faithful and natural guardians. The constitution of England
was founded.

The burdensome inheritance left by the king who had just died
fell into hands too feeble to support it. Edward II. was
twenty-three years of age when he succeeded his father; the
latter had had six sons, of whom three only survived him; the
young king had already shown signs of frivolity and obstinacy
which augured the misfortunes of his reign. Brought up from
childhood with a young Aquitanian, Piers Gaveston, he had
conceived for this companion so strong an affection, that the
king, his father, had been alarmed thereat, and had on several
occasions banished the young favorite. At the death of Edward I.
Gaveston was in exile; but at the news of the accession of his
young master, he hastened to him, and the first act of the king
was to confer upon him the Earldom of Cornwall, which had
previously been deemed a position sufficiently conspicuous for
princes of the royal blood. Edward did not content himself with
this; while he was pretending to carry on a campaign in Scotland,
the great officers of the crown were changed; the Lord Treasurer,
the Bishop of Lichfield, was even deprived of his property and
cast into prison. In spite of the oath which the old king had
exacted from his son, the latter had returned to London to inter
his father, leaving Bruce free to pursue his successes. Gaveston,
who had lately married Margaret, a niece of the king, was
nominated regent of the kingdom in the month of January, 1308, by
the king, who went over to France to marry the Princess Isabel,
according to Froissart, one of the most beautiful women in the
world.

{270}

King Philip the Fair had just caused the dissolution of the order
of Templars in France, an iniquitous proceeding, inspired rather
by the prince's greed than by the offences of the order. Philip
thereby obtained for the King of England the dowry promised to
the latter, and persuaded him, without great difficulty, to
withhold his protection from the Templars established in England.
A short time afterwards they were prosecuted. Edward set sail on
the 7th of February to return to England; he was accompanied by a
numerous suite of French noblemen, at the head of whom were two
uncles of the Queen. Gaveston came to meet the king, and as soon
as Edward perceived him, forgetting his young wife and his noble
followers, he threw himself into the arms of the favorite,
embracing him and calling him brother, to the great indignation
of Isabel and all the beholders. Their indignation was increased
when they saw Gaveston decked out with all the jewels which the
King of France had recently given Edward. The discontent reached
its height, when, at the ceremony of the coronation, which took
place with great splendor on the 14th of February, Piers
Gaveston, as the people persisted in calling him, in spite of his
elevation to the Earldom of Cornwall, was entrusted with the task
of carrying before the king the crown of St. Edward, to the
exclusion of the highest noblemen of the kingdom, who were all
anxious for this honor.

Isabel had already begun to complain to her father of her husband
and the favorite, when the barons came to the king four days
after his coronation. "Sire," they said, "send back this stranger
who has no business here."
{271}
The king promised to give his reply on the assembling of
Parliament after Easter: meanwhile, he endeavored to lessen the
resentment of the noblemen towards his friend. But Piers was most
imprudent, frivolous and vain; he loved to make a show of his
talent for chivalrous exercises, and threw successively from
their horses in several tournaments the Earls of Lancaster,
Hereford, Pembroke, and Warren, whose wounded pride was added to
the many serious causes of resentment against him. On the
assembling of Parliament, the annoyance of the barons was so
great, that the king was constrained to give way and to banish
Gaveston; he loaded him with presents on his departure, giving
him all the jewels which he had received from Queen Isabel, and
accompanied him as far as Bristol to bid him farewell. Gaveston
was believed to be in Aquitaine, when news came that the king had
appointed him governor of Ireland, and that he had just
established himself there with a degree of splendor almost regal.

The king longed to recall his favorite; he lavished favors upon
the great lords in order to win them over, and, when he had been
relieved by the Pope of the oath which he had sworn never to
recall Gaveston to England, he sent for his friend, and went as
far as Chester to meet him, publicly announcing that the Earl of
Cornwall had been unjustly banished, and that justice demanded a
fresh examination of his conduct. On the other hand, the barons
declared that the king had violated his oath and would not
scruple to break all those which he had sworn for the maintenance
of the public liberties. The discontent was increasing; the queen
complained of the desertion of her husband; the Countess of
Cornwall was representing to her brother, the Earl of Gloucester,
Gaveston's unworthy conduct towards her. The king and his
favorite did not heed the storm which was about to burst; feasts,
dances, and tournaments succeeded each other without intermission
at the court. The king's funds meanwhile had run low, and, in the
month of August, 1311, he found himself compelled to convene
Parliament at Westminster.

{272}

The barons came, discontented but resolute; old Archbishop
Winchelsea had exhorted them to deliver the kingdom from the
power of the favorite; the Earl of Lincoln, when dying, had sent
for his son-in-law, the Earl of Lancaster. "Do not abandon
England to the king and the Pope," he said; "do as the ancient
barons did, and stand firmly by your privileges." Scarcely had
the barons arrived at Westminster, when they renewed the
stipulations of the "Mad Parliament" of Oxford; they demanded the
formation of a temporal council entrusted with the task of
providing for the government of the kingdom; one of the new
concessions forced from the king was that he should convoke
Parliament at least once a year.

The barons had brought with them their men-at-arms. Edward II.
signed all that they demanded, and Gaveston was once more obliged
to leave the country. The king then proceeded to the North, and
was busy raising an army, when his favorite suddenly appeared at
his side. Such daring was beyond endurance. The Earl of
Lancaster, the king's cousin, came unexpectedly upon Edward; the
king only had time to escape with Gaveston, leaving the queen in
the hands of the barons, who treated her with great respect. The
king and his friend had set out in a little bark; they landed at
Scarborough, and Piers shut himself up in the fortress there,
while the king proceeded to York in the hope of joining his army.
But the barons had already set out for Scarborough. Being
besieged in the castle, Gaveston surrendered, on the 17th of May,
to the Earl of Pembroke and Lord Henry Percy, who promised to
spare his life, and then undertook to take him to his castle of
Wallingford.
{273}
The little band started on their journey; but when they arrived
at Dedington, the Earl of Pembroke left his prisoner to go and
see his wife, who was in the neighborhood. On the morning of the
19th, Gaveston received orders to dress himself at once; he
descended into the courtyard, and found that his guards had been
changed; the Earl of Warwick, the "black dog of the Ardennes," as
the favorite called him when jesting with the king, had arrived
during the night; the prisoner was tied on the back of a mule and
led to Warwick Castle. The Earl of Lancaster was there. Piers was
accustomed to call this nobleman the "old boar," but he now threw
himself at his feet, begging for mercy. The judges were
inflexible; he was hastily tried, and being condemned, the
unlucky Piers was conducted to Blacklow Hill, between Warwick and
Coventry, where a scaffold had been erected; the executioners
hesitated for a moment to accomplish so horrible a deed. "You
have caught the fox; if you let him go, you will have to give
chase to him again," cried a voice from among the crowd, and the
favorite's head fell; he was only thirty-three years of age.

While Edward II. was mourning for his murdered friend, Robert
Bruce was slowly conquering Scotland; twice had the king of
England attempted an expedition in support of the power which was
slipping from his hands, and twice he had returned without
result; the authority of Bruce was being established everywhere
in his country; the castles of Perth, Jedburgh, Dunbar, Edinburgh
were in his hands; he was besieging the fortress of Stirling,
when the governor, Sir Philip Mowbray, contrived to make his
appeals for succor reach the king; Edward aroused himself for a
moment from his natural indolence and raised a large army to
march against Scotland; he started from Berwick on the 11th of
June, 1313.

{274}

The forces of the King of England amounted, it is said, to nearly
a hundred thousand men. While they were marching with their
banners flying, the sun, which was glistening upon the armor and
the lances, appeared to inundate the country with a flood of
light. King Robert was concealed in the forests with an army of
forty thousand men, nearly all on foot, awaiting the enemy, and
preparing barriers which were intended to check the onslaught of
the English troops, on the only spot open to attack. On the
morning of the 23rd of June, 1313, the two armies met near
Bannockburn.

The English had hastened their march, and had arrived in some
disorder, in front of the Scottish army. Lord Clifford, who
attempted an ambuscade, was repulsed by Randolph, earl of Moray,
nephew of King Robert and one of his best knights; the king
himself, with a golden crown on his helmet, was marching slowly
along the line of his troops. A relative of the Earl of
Hereford's, Sir Henry Bohun, sprang forward against the "Scottish
traitor," reckoning upon throwing him by the weight of his horse
alone, Bruce being mounted upon one of the small horses of the
country.

The king did not expect the shock; he turned, however, with great
skill, and Bohun's lance passed close by his side without
inflicting any injury upon him. Raising himself up in his
stirrups and displaying his gigantic figure, he struck the rash
Englishman a terrible blow with his battle-axe: the helmet was
shattered by his powerful arm, and Sir Henry Bohun, whose skull
was fractured, was carried off by his horse dead. Bruce returned
slowly to the spot where the greater part of his forces was
concentrated. While his friends were surrounding him, reproaching
him for running so great a risk, the Scottish hero was looking
sorrowfully at his notched axe, and laughingly answered, "I have
spoilt my good battle-axe."


[Image]
Robert Bruce Regretting His Battle-axe.


{275}

The night had been passed in prayer in the Scottish camp and in
feasting and debauchery by the English. King Edward had not
expected a battle, and held his forces assembled in such a manner
as to render any manœuvres impossible. At daybreak the young king
was astonished at the good order observed in the Scottish ranks.
"Do you think they will fight?" he asked of his marshal, Sir
Ingeltram d'Umfreville. At the same moment the Abbot Maurice
d'Inchaffray appeared before the Scottish troops holding a
crucifix in his hand. All bent their knees, all uncovered their
heads. "They are asking for mercy," cried Edward. Umfreville
smiled bitterly. "Of God, not of us, Sire," said he; "these men
will win the battle or die at their posts." "So be it!" replied
the king, as he gave the signal for the attack.

The struggle was furious from the commencement; the Earls of
Gloucester and Hereford sprang towards the Scottish infantry,
which remained firm; their long lances withstood the onslaught of
the English knights. Randolph was still advancing with his best
regiment. Keith was attacking with five hundred mounted
men-at-arms, the English archers, who could not fight at close
quarters and were trampled under foot by the horses. Banners were
torn and lances and swords were shattered to pieces; the feet of
the combatants were slipping in the blood; the majority of the
English began to hesitate. "They fly, they fly!" cried the
Scotch. At the same moment a loud noise was heard behind them
upon the hill; the camp followers and the sick and the wounded
soldiers, excited by the ardor of the struggle, were descending
in a mass towards the scene of action. The English imagined
themselves attacked by a fresh army; a disorderly retreat had
begun, when Robert Bruce, charging with his reserve, decided the
fate of the day beyond the possibility of a doubt.
{276}
The Earl of Gloucester was killed while attacking Edward Bruce,
Robert's brother. Clifford and twenty-seven other barons fell by
the king's side. The Earl of Pembroke seized the bridle of
Edward's horse and dragged him away from the battlefield. Sir
Giles d'Argentine accompanied him out of the crowd, then retraced
his steps, exclaiming, "It is not my custom to fly!" and was
killed by Bruce's soldiers.

Never had a victory been more complete: the fortress of Stirling
surrendered immediately; the Earl of Hereford, who had shut
himself up in Bothwell Castle, offered to capitulate, and was
exchanged for the wife, the sister, and the daughter of the King
of Scotland, who had been detained for several years in England.
There still remained a great deal of territory to conquer, but
the work of Edward the First was destroyed, and Scotland was no
longer a dependency of England.

Edward Bruce's ambition was not satisfied; he had assisted his
brother in conquering a kingdom, and he now wished to secure a
crown for himself. On the 23rd of May, 1315, while England was
beginning to feel the miseries of a famine which was soon to be
followed by a plague, he landed at Carrickfergus in Ireland at
the head of six thousand men. He was soon joined by a large
number of Irish chiefs; and they then proceeded to ravage the
territory of the English colonists there, pillaging and burning
the towns. At length he caused himself to be crowned King of
Ireland on the 2nd of May, 1316. His brother Robert came to his
assistance, and, in spite of the resistance of the English, who
held Dublin and several other important towns, the invading army
overran the whole of Ireland. The northern portion of the country
had been completely subjugated by Edward Bruce, when King Robert
was called back to his kingdom, in consequence of the incursions
of the English.
{277}
Nineteen pitched battles besides numberless skirmishes had been
fought, and had exhausted the resources of the rash conqueror,
when, on the 5th of October, 1318, Edward Bruce was at length
defeated and killed at Fagher, near Dundalk, and the little body
of Scots who escaped returned to Scotland. The death of one man
had sufficed to overthrow the slender edifice, which for three
years he had been striving to raise. The independence of Scotland
was more firmly established than the conquest of Ireland.

Berwick had at length fallen into the power of the Scotch; King
Edward II. resolved, in 1319, to make a fresh effort to regain
that town and to recommence his attempts against Scotland. On the
1st of September he laid siege to Berwick, by land and by sea;
but while he was detained there by the obstinate resistance of
the Lord Stewart of Scotland, Douglas and Randolph, King Robert's
most faithful companions, had crossed the borders into England
with fifteen thousand men, carrying their ravages as far as York,
so that Edward was obliged to abandon Berwick and march against
the invaders of his own dominions. The Scots escaped from him and
re-entered their country; a truce of two years was concluded,
and, in 1323, after several renewals of hostilities, it was
followed by a new treaty which restored peace to the two
countries; not, however, without leaving in England a feeling of
animosity against the little country whose proud independence of
spirit all their power had not been able to subdue.

King Edward had not taken warning by the fate of Piers Gaveston;
he had become attached to a young man at his court, Hugh le
Despencer, who had been placed at his side by his cousin the Earl
of Lancaster, and whom he soon elevated to the dignity of
chamberlain.
{278}
A short time afterwards he married him to Eleanor de Clare,
sister of the young Earl of Gloucester, who had been killed at
Bannockburn; she brought him an enormous estate upon the borders
of Wales. His aunt, Margaret de Clare, had enriched Gaveston in
the same manner. Le Despencer was an Englishman, and Edward had
perhaps hoped to enjoy his friendship in peace; but the benefits
which he heaped upon his new favorite soon excited the jealousy
of the barons. At their head was the Earl of Lancaster, who was
enraged at seeing preferred to himself a man who had formerly
been a member of his own household. An abuse of the royal
authority for the benefit of the royal favorite soon furnished a
pretext to the great noblemen for resisting the king's authority.
They armed their vassals; the lands of the Despencers were
pillaged and their castles destroyed, in 1321. Lancaster joined
the insurrection, swearing not to lay down his arms before
banishing the favorite. They advanced as far as St Alban's, and
the earl sent a messenger to the king to announce the conditions
of peace. Edward was as timid as he was stubborn; he defended his
friends as well as he was able, and declared that they could not
be condemned without a trial. The barons marched towards London
and took up their quarters in the suburbs; Parliament was
convened at Westminster; and with their arms in their hands, the
Earl of Lancaster and his friends accused Hugh le Despencer and
his father of having usurped the royal authority, kept the king
away from his faithful barons, and illegally imposed taxes, &c.
At length they demanded that they should be banished. The bishops
protested that the sentence was irregular; the king gave in; the
two Le Despencers left England, and the barons became so
arrogant, that Queen Isabel, when making a pilgrimage to
Canterbury, was refused admittance to Leeds Castle, in the county
of Kent, although that fortress belonged to the crown. The
governor's wife, Lady Badlesmere, even caused several arrows to
be shot at the royal suite, and several of the queen's attendants
were killed.

{279}

This insolence enraged the king. He punished Lord and Lady
Badlesmere, and at the same time recalled the Despencers.
Lancaster rallied round him all his friends and entered into a
correspondence with the Scots, who promised to invade the
northern provinces. This negotiation had no other effect than to
crush the popularity of the Earl of Lancaster, the Scots being so
much detested. The king had already attacked and defeated the
Earl of Hereford and his ally, Roger Mortimer, and the latter was
a prisoner in the Tower. Hereford had joined Lancaster, and the
king was marching against them. The two earls had raised the
siege of Tichnall Castle and were retreating before the royal
army, when at Boroughbridge, on the borders of the Urc, Lancaster
found the Governors of York and Carlisle with a body of troops,
prepared to dispute his passage. Hereford was killed upon the
bridge, and during the retreat which followed, Lancaster was made
a prisoner. He was brought back in triumph to his Castle of
Pontefract, and the king soon joined him there. Lancaster foresaw
the fate which awaited him. "Lord," he said on being captured,
kneeling before a crucifix, "I surrender to Thee, and throw
myself upon Thy mercy." His conviction was certain, his treason
being flagrant. Lancaster was condemned by six earls and six
barons. The people insulted him while he was being led to the
scaffold. He lifted his pinioned hands towards heaven. "Heavenly
King, have mercy on me," he cried, "for the king of earth has
abandoned me." He was beheaded on the 22nd of March, 1322.
Fourteen bannerets and as many knights also suffered the extreme
penalty. Mortimer was condemned to imprisonment for life.
{280}
The Despencers enriched themselves with the spoils taken from the
victims; the father was created Earl of Winchester, and the
enmity of the people towards the favorites was increased by the
compassion which the condemned men inspired. It was found
necessary to forbid the people to kneel before the portrait of
the Earl of Lancaster in St. Paul's Cathedral, and rumors of
miracles which had taken place at his tomb were spread throughout
England, as had formerly been the case with Simon of Montfort,
Earl of Leicester.

Roger Mortimer had succeeded in escaping from prison, probably
not without having held some communication with Queen Isabel, who
resided at the Tower during his captivity. He was in France and
had just entered the service of Charles the Beautiful. The queen
was enraged at the execution of his uncle, the Earl of Lancaster.
When her husband came back from the expedition in the North, she
received him haughtily, and manifested towards the Despencers the
same hostility which she had formerly displayed towards Piers
Gaveston. The King of France, Charles the Beautiful, seized the
pretext of the grievances of Isabel, to take possession of the
greater number of the towns and castles belonging to Edward. The
latter, in return, seized upon all the property which the queen
held in England, declaring that she should possess nothing while
in communication with his enemies.

Isabel immediately proposed to act as mediator between her
brother and her husband. The weak king fell into the trap, and
allowed her to depart. She was received in France with open arms,
and soon informed her husband that he would have to come and do
homage to the King of France for his duchy of Aquitaine. Edward
was preparing to start when he was detained in England in
consequence of indisposition.
{281}
The Despencers, who did not dare to accompany him into France,
but who would not lose sight of him, persuaded the weak monarch
to cede Guienne and Ponthieu to his son, Prince Edward, the King
of France promising to content himself with receiving homage from
the young man. The Prince of Wales therefore followed his mother
into France. But in vain did the king await the return of his
wife and son, the queen was continually delaying; at length, she
haughtily declared that her life was not safe in England and that
the Despencers were plotting against her and her son.

King Edward, astounded, defended himself as well as he was able,
causing all the prelates in England to write and reassure the
queen; but she would not be convinced, and when King Charles the
Beautiful, tired, no doubt, of the bad conduct of Isabel, and of
the injunctions which he received from England, told his sister
that he could no longer keep her at his court; she set out,
surrounded by the knights who had embraced her cause, the Earl of
Kent, her husband's brother, D'Artois, John of Hainault, and,
still accompanied by her favorite, Mortimer, she embarked at Dort
with a little army of Frenchmen and Brabantines, to land at
Orcewell in Suffolk, on the 24th of September. Scarcely had she
set foot upon English soil with her son, when, in spite of all
the damaging rumors which were afloat concerning her, a large
number of knights flocked round her standard. The people were
tired of the weakness of King Edward, of the avidity of his
favorites, and of the disorder which reigned over the kingdom.
When Edward sent and asked for the assistance of the citizens of
London, they replied that by their charters they were not obliged
to follow him into battle, but that they would be faithful to the
king, the queen, and the princes, by closing their gates to the
foreigners. Edward was alone with the two Despencers, the
Chancellor Baldock and a few knights.
{282}
Scarcely had he set out for Wales, when the people of London
rose, murdered the Bishop of Exeter, who had been elevated by the
king to the position of governor, and sent his head to the queen.
Edward had halted at Gloucester, whence he had sent old Despencer
to defend Bristol; the citizens revolted, and Despencer was
compelled to surrender at the discretion of Isabel. She
immediately caused him to be executed as a traitor, and the old
man's head was exposed to the public sight at Winchester. Hugh le
Despencer and Chancellor Baldock, as well as the king, were
wandering in the county of Glamorgan, where they had been
shipwrecked, after having ineffectually endeavored to take refuge
in Ireland. Le Despencer and the chancellor were recognized and
arrested. The king immediately surrendered to his enemies, having
decided to share the fate of those who loved him, and who were
already condemned in anticipation.

Baldock soon died of ill-treatment, and it was necessary to
hasten the execution of Hugh le Despencer. He had refused to take
any food since his arrest, and he was half dead when he was
dragged to the scaffold to suffer the same fate as his father.
The Earl of Arundel, who had been at the head of the judges who
condemned Lancaster, was beheaded with two of his friends, and
their property was given to Mortimer.

The queen had arrived in London, Parliament had just met; and, on
the 7th of January, 1327, the Bishop of Hereford, Adam Orleton,
Isabel's adviser and able agent, asked this question of the
assembly: "Should the father be re-established upon the throne,
or ought the son to replace him?" He dwelt upon the weakness, the
bad deeds, the treacherous acts of King Edward, and asked the
lords to reply on the morrow to his question.
{283}
The decision was not doubtful. While the barons were pronouncing,
in the great hall of Westminster, the fall of Edward II., King of
England, the people of London, assembled in crowds at the doors
of the palace, loudly demanded his immediate condemnation.
Several bishops alone had the courage to speak in favor of the
unhappy king, who had not seen a sword drawn nor a bow stretched
in his defence: they were insulted, and the Bishop of Rochester
was trampled in the mud on leaving the palace. The young prince
was proclaimed king by the public voice, and all the peers who
were present swore allegiance to him on the spot.

When the queen was informed of the success of all her schemes,
she cried bitterly. "Alas!" she said, "they have deposed my
husband the king. Parliament has overstepped its authority."
These hypocritical tears did not deceive anybody; the young
prince, Edward, alone was touched at them. "Do not be afraid,
mother," said he, "I will never deprive my father of his crown."
A deputation was therefore sent to the poor king, who was a
prisoner in Kenilworth Castle. When Edward II. perceived the
Bishop of Hereford at the head of the embassadors, he fell to the
ground, stricken with grief. The judge who had condemned the two
Despencers, Sir William Trussel, advanced in the name of the
Parliament, and, taking his turn to speak, told Edward that he
was no longer King of England. At the same moment, Sir Thomas
Blount, steward of the royal household, broke his baton,
renouncing his allegiance to the king. Edward listened without
complaining, and without urging anything on his own behalf,
simply thanked the Parliament for having recognized the rights of
his son. On the 24th of January, 1327, King Edward III. was
proclaimed throughout the kingdom. Edward II. was, according to
the decree of Parliament, deposed from the throne by the lords
and commons, and the power was entrusted to Queen Isabel, who was
to administer the affairs of the kingdom for her son, then only
fifteen years of age.

{284}

Isabel was herself under the influence of Mortimer. Edward II.
being dethroned could not hope to live long. The power of the
favorite over the queen became a matter for alarm; several monks
preached against him; the Earl of Lancaster, to whose keeping the
deposed king had been entrusted, seemed to have conceived a
feeling of pity for his prisoner, so the latter was removed to
another place. Being consigned to the charge of Lord Berkeley and
Sir John Maltravers, he was taken to Bristol, where also the
people began to be touched at his fate. Two scoundrels who had
been sent to him as gaolers, dragged him out half naked and took
him to Corfe Castle. The poor king asked to be allowed to dress
himself; some dirty water was brought him in a helmet. Tears
rolled down his cheeks. "I have some purer water, in spite of
you," he said. A crown of dry herbs had been placed upon his
head. At length, moving from place to place, the dethroned
monarch was brought to Berkeley Castle, on the river Severn,
where an attempt was made to poison him, but without success. At
length, one night, the governor of the castle being away,
piercing cries were heard, and immediately afterwards all was
silent again. The inhabitants of the neighborhood shuddered on
hearing them. On the morrow, when the doors were opened, the
death of Edward II. was announced, and the country people were
admitted to view the corpse of him who had been their king. The
expression of agony which rested upon the once handsome features
of the unhappy monarch, terrified all who saw it. The body was
taken to the abbey of Gloucester and buried soon afterwards; but
the people went in crowds to the tomb of this king whom no one
had defended during his life-time.
{285}
The offerings made in his honor at the convent were so
considerable that the monks were enabled to add an aisle to their
church. This unfortunate monarch, so weak and so frivolous,
consistent only in his affection, so harshly abandoned and so
cruelly murdered, was not yet forty-three years of age when he
expired on the 21st of September, 1327.



                   Chapter XI.

             The Hundred Years' War.
             Edward III. (1327-1377.)

The young king, Edward III., was but fifteen years of age when he
was raised to the throne of his deposed father. The Parliament
appointed a council of Regency, composed of five prelates and six
great noblemen, and consigned the young monarch into the keeping
of the Earl of Lancaster. No power was formally vested in the
dowager queen; but her debts were discharged, and a large pension
was granted her, by means of which she was enabled to strengthen
her own influence and increase the authority of Mortimer.

While England had been engrossed in its internal dissensions and
struggles, Scotland, under the firm government of Robert Bruce,
had been recovering from the effects of its misfortunes. The
thirst for vengeance raged, however, in the hearts of all the
Scots; and respect for the truce was powerless to restrain them.
Hearing that King Edward II. had been dethroned, and that a
council of Regency had been appointed, they crossed the frontier
on the 3rd of February, 1327, and began to lay waste the northern
counties. Their army gradually increased in numbers.
{286}
King Robert was ill, but his two faithful friends, James, earl of
Douglas, and Randolph, earl of Moray, were at the head of his
troops. The Scottish army consisted entirely of mounted soldiers,
whose light, robust steeds, steady as themselves, bore them with
the swiftness of the wind, without rest, and almost without
provender. No baggage, no tents,--a bag of oatmeal in front of
each horseman, under his saddle an iron plate, which served for
baking his cakes; the English farms and villages furnished the
rest.

Rumors of the ravages to which the northern counties had been
subjected, touched the feelings of the young king, and awakened
his martial ardor. In the beginning of July, the English troops,
supported by an army corps from Hainault, the members of which
had been brought with great difficulty to live at peace with
their English allies, arrived at Durham. The exact whereabouts of
the Scottish army was unknown; but the king pressed forward in
pursuit. Like his enemies, he had left the camp baggage behind
him. After a week of pursuit, the Scots were still invisible, and
the English, on the verge of starvation, were beginning to
murmur. The king promised the honor of knighthood and a pension
of a hundred pounds to whoever should bring tidings of the enemy.
They had crossed the Wear; on the fourth day a messenger galloped
up on horseback. "Sire," said Thomas Rokeby, "the Scots are
within three leagues of this spot, encamped upon a mountain. I
have been their prisoner for a week; but they liberated me that I
might come and inform you that they await your arrival." The king
immediately marched towards the enemy.

{287}

They had arrived on the banks of the Wear; and this time the
Scots were perceived, encamped on the summit of a hill. They were
drawn up in battle array, but they did not stir. Edward
despatched a herald to them, with a proposal that they should
cross the river, in order that the combat might take place upon
the open plain. "I have not come here for the king's pleasure,"
said Douglas, "and I will not leave my post for love of him. If
he is not satisfied, let him cross the water and drive us before
him." The undertaking was too perilous, and the two armies
remained in their respective positions for two days. On the third
night, the Scots raised their camp, and were soon afterwards
perceived to have taken up a still stronger position, upon
another hill. The King of England broke up his camp likewise, and
followed them. For eighteen days the two armies had watched each
other without result, not a blow being struck; the English troops
were sleeping in their tents, when a loud cry was heard amid the
silence: "Douglas! Douglas! Death to the English robbers!" The
terrified soldiers rose in confusion, and in a half-sleeping
condition, and groped about in the dark for their weapons.
Meanwhile sounds of strife were heard, and suddenly the ropes
supporting the royal tent were cut, and by the side of the couch
whereon the young king was sleeping, Black Douglas, the most
valiant knight in Scotland, appeared like a threatening phantom.
The chamberlain and chaplain of the young king sprang forward to
protect their master. The youth had hidden himself within the
folds of the tent. Douglas, however, did not pursue his adventure
further; sounding the horn, he recalled the three hundred men who
had followed him. "What have you done?" asked Randolph, when the
Scots had regained their intrenchments. "We have shed a little
blood, my lord, that is all," said Douglas. "We should have
crossed over with the whole of our army," insisted his friend;
"our provisions are exhausted."
{288}
On the following night, the Scots disappeared in silence,
carrying with them a rich booty, while King Edward, incensed and
humiliated, again marched towards York, whither his affianced
bride, Philippa of Hainault, was being conducted by John of
Hainault. The marriage was celebrated on St. Paul's day, 1328.
The king was sixteen years of age, while the queen was one year
younger. Peace had just been concluded with Scotland; the
independence of that kingdom had thereby been acknowledged; the
crown jewels, which had been seized by Edward I., had been
restored, and the little Princess Joan, who was betrothed to
David, the young son of Robert Bruce, had been taken to Berwick
and given up to the Scots. It seemed as though the deliverer of
Scotland had waited for this great triumph before going to his
last rest. He died in the following year, the fifty-fifth of his
age, leaving wise counsels to his countrymen; and to his faithful
friend, the good lord James Douglas, the task of carrying his
heart to Palestine, in order that his vow to visit the Holy Land
might be fulfilled. The evils of a minority threatened Scotland
at the very moment when England was escaping from that calamity.

The arrogance of Mortimer had increased with his power, and the
great noblemen were beginning to chafe under the yoke which he
imposed upon them. The Earl of Lancaster was the first to make an
attempt against the favorite; but he had been defeated,
notwithstanding that he obtained the temporary support of the
king's uncles, the Earl of Kent and the Earl of Norfolk. Mortimer
ravaged the possessions of Lancaster like a conqueror. A rumor
had been spread abroad that King Edward II. was not dead, and the
Earl of Kent had perhaps been encouraged in this illusion, which
was the cause of his ruin. He was accused of high treason, and
condemned for the strange crime of having endeavored to replace a
dead man upon the throne.
{289}
The execution took place on the 19th of May, 1330, in spite of
the noble birth of the victim, and the public indignation reached
its climax. The young king had hitherto remained silent
concerning State matters, and had appeared as a docile instrument
in the hands of his mother and Mortimer, although he had kept
aloof from them since his marriage, not permitting his young wife
to frequent a corrupt and licentious court.

It was on the 13th of June, 1330, that a son was born to King
Edward, who was to achieve a mighty reputation as Prince of
Wales. The young king, already a father at eighteen years of age,
began to feel the disgrace of his situation, and to experience
some remorse for the wrongs which were perpetrated in his name.
Slowly and prudently, he communicated his opinions to Lord
Montacute, one of his advisers. A Parliament was convoked at
Nottingham, in the month of October, the king being then lodged
in the castle with Mortimer and his mother. On the night of the
19th, the keys of the fortress had been brought as usual to Queen
Isabel, when Lord Montacute, accompanied by several friends,
crept silently into the vaults of the castle, which had been
opened to him by the governor. The king awaited him with great
anxiety at the door of the great tower. The conspirators ascended
a dark staircase and found themselves at the door of the queen's
antechamber. Notwithstanding the lateness of the hour, the voice
of Mortimer was heard discussing with some of his adherents.
Montacute and his friends broke open the door, and killed two
sentinels who endeavored to defend it. Hearing the commotion, the
queen ran forward, calling loudly upon her son, who had remained
behind the door, but whose presence she guessed. "My dear son,"
she cried, "spare the gentle Mortimer, my beloved cousin." The
favorite was, however, dragged out, and, at daybreak, he was
already on his way, under strong escort, to the Tower of London.
Nottingham rang with sounds of joy.

{290}

The king had seized the reins of government; this he announced to
his subjects in dissolving the Parliament and convoking a new
representative assembly at Westminster. On the 26th of November,
1330, the favorite was cited before his judges, the king himself
being present at the trial. His crimes were notorious; and
consequently the decision did not long remain doubtful. As he had
put Hugh le Despencer to death without allowing him time to make
any defence, Mortimer was himself drawn to Tyburn and hanged,
with Sir Simon Beresford, one of his accomplices. His property,
however, was not confiscated, and his family retained the title
of Earl of March, which had been granted by the queen to her
favorite. Isabel was imprisoned in the castle of Rising, treated
with respect by her son, who paid a visit to her every year and
ministered liberally to all her necessities; but she never again
left the retreat, in which she lived for more than twenty-seven
years afterwards. The Regent of Scotland, the Earl of Moray, was
dead. The valiant Douglas had been slain in an expedition against
the Moors of Spain, the first episode in the crusade which he had
undertaken in company with the heart of Bruce. Scotland was now
governed by the Earl of Mar, a warrior far inferior to the great
champions of liberty, the friends and supporters of Robert Bruce.
The time had come when England was to be raised out of the
disgrace of the last treaty. The pretensions of Edward Baliol,
the son of the exiled king, were advanced by several English
peers who had been deprived of property pertaining to them in
Scotland. Baliol advanced into the northern counties, and a
certain number of Scottish malcontents crossed the frontier and
rallied round his standard.

{291}

He then marched into Scotland, but soon confronted two armies
superior to his own; a skilful movement, however, placed the
invaders in an advantageous position; the Earl of Mar imprudently
gave battle in a defile on Duplin Heath, where he and many others
were defeated and killed. Baliol had had time to fortify himself
within Perth before the arrival of the Earl of Mar, and the
Scottish fleet was destroyed by the little squadron brought over
by the pretender. Baliol's forces were increasing day by day; he
was crowned at Scone on the 2nd of September, having secretly
renewed to King Edward III. the allegiance which his father had
rendered to Edward I.

But the crown thus acquired in seven weeks was destined to be
lost in less than three months. On the night of the 16th of
December, the new king was taken by surprise at Annan, in the
county of Dumfries, by a Scottish corps under the command of the
young Earl of Moray and Sir Archibald Douglas. Baliol, in a
semi-naked condition, and mounted upon a barebacked horse, which,
for want of time, he had been unable to properly equip, contrived
to escape to the English frontier, leaving his father, Henry,
dead behind him. King Edward received him so amicably that the
Scottish people, indignant at the support accorded the pretender,
invaded the northern counties of England on several occasions,
carrying their ravages to such an extent that King Edward
determined to enter Scotland. In the month of May, 1333, he
joined Baliol, who, during two months, had been besieging the
town of Berwick. The garrison was preparing to surrender, when,
on the 19th of July, Archibald Douglas, now regent of Scotland,
appeared in sight of the town. The English army was posted on the
heights of Halidon Hill, protected by the marshes. The Scots were
excited by the peril threatening Berwick; they attacked the enemy
in spite of obstacles.
{292}
Arrows fell thick in their midst during their passage across the
marshes, and disorder had already broken out in their ranks, when
they began their fierce onslaught on the hill. The assault was so
vigorous that for a moment victory seemed to incline in their
favor; but the regent fell, and with him and beside him his most
valiant knights. King Edward sprang forward in pursuit of the
Scots, who were beginning to fly. Lord Darcy, who was in command
of the Irish peasants who had joined as auxiliaries, slaughtered
the stragglers. Scotland had never suffered so lamentable a
defeat. King David and his wife took refuge in France, and spent
several years at Château-Gaillard. Baliol was reinstalled upon
the throne, not, however, without ceding to his powerful ally the
finest counties in the south of Scotland, to the general
indignation of the Scottish people. They soon compelled him to
take refuge in the territory which he had thus abandoned, and
there he maintained his position with great difficulty, although
supported from time to time by fresh troops from England. A more
ambitious project had been formed in the mind of the King of
England, and the war with Scotland languished while Edward was
dreaming of conquering France.

The King of France, Charles IV., surnamed the Fair, had died in
1328; and, a short time after his death, the queen his wife had
given birth to a daughter. The Salic law prohibiting the
accession of females to the throne, the peers of the kingdom and
the States-general had decreed that the crown belonged to the
cousin of the deceased king, Philip of Valois, grandson of Philip
the Bold, by his youngest son, Charles of Valois; and the new
sovereign had taken undisputed possession of the throne.
{293}
King Edward III. was scarcely sixteen years of age, and, although
maintaining from that time forth, in England, that his right was
superior to that of Philip of Valois, his mother Isabel being the
daughter of Philip the Fair, he accepted the invitation of the
King of France to render fealty and homage to him for the Duchy
of Aquitaine, and again performed the same ceremony in 1331, when
he had attained his majority and was king _de facto_. But,
in 1336, the young King of England felt that he was securely
seated upon his throne, and being piqued by the support which
Philip of Valois openly gave to the Scotch, he publicly declared
that the peers of France and the States-general had acted as
rogues and robbers rather than as judges, and that for the future
he would not recognize their decisions, but would maintain his
own just rights. Thus began that disastrous war which has been
called the "Hundred Years' War," but which, in reality, was waged
from 1338 until 1453, during the reigns of five kings of
France--Philip VI., John the Good, Charles V., Charles VI., and
Charles VII.--and of as many kings of England--Edward III.,
Richard II., Henry IV., Henry V., and Henry VI. It cost the lives
of millions of men, brought plague and famine with it, and caused
unheard-of misery, without any result for the two nations other
than a feeling of international hatred which has scarcely died
out in our own time.

The preparations on both sides were gigantic. The English people
looked with favor upon the war against France, and, in spite of
the Magna Charta, the king was allowed to seize the Cornish tin
and all the wool grown during the year, although they had already
granted him all the subsidies and loans which he had demanded.
Edward embarked at Orwell on the 15th of July, 1338, and landed
four days afterwards at Antwerp. The Count of Flanders was an
ally of the King of France, but his towns scarcely obeyed him, as
they were then under the influence of a brewer of Ghent, named
Jacques van Arteveldt, who contracted a friendship with King
Edward.
{294}
He had negotiated with even more illustrious allies; the Emperor
of Germany, the Dukes of Brabant and Gueldres, the Counts of
Hainault and Namur. All had received his money; but the troops
did not arrive, and when, on the 1st of July, 1339, the King of
England at length succeeded in crossing the French frontier, the
Counts of Namur and Hainault immediately abandoned him, and his
other confederates soon did likewise. The king was compelled to
return, after having, by the advice of Arteveldt, assumed the
title of King of France, and added to his coat of arms the lily
side by side with the lions of England. The Parliament, as ardent
in the cause of the war as the king himself, voted enormous
subsidies, and, on the 22nd of June, 1340, Edward again left
England, to attack the French vessels of war, huddled together in
the port of Sluys. Queen Philippa had accompanied her husband,
taking with her a great number of ladies in waiting. The French
and Genoese vessels hired by King Philip were numerous and very
large; when they sailed out of port, attached together by iron
chains and formed in four divisions, and advanced to dispute his
passage, Edward uttered a cry of joy. "Ah!" said he, "I have long
desired to fight with the French. So shall I meet some of them
to-day, by the grace of God and St. George." He began to gain the
offing; his adversaries already imagined that he declined an
engagement, but he was really desirous of avoiding the ardent
rays of the sun and of attacking briskly the first division of
the French fleet, of which he soon made himself master in spite
of a vigorous resistance.


[Image]
The Battle Of Sluys.

{295}

A reinforcement arrived at the same time under the command of
Lord Morley; the victors thereupon assailed the three French
divisions at the same time. The French sailors became alarmed;
they could not manage their vessels nor disengage them to
facilitate a retreat. After having fought during several hours,
the French and Genoese sprang into the water, in order to escape
by swimming. Many of them were drowned, and the defeat was so
decisive that nobody was bold enough to communicate the news to
King Philip. His court jester presented himself before the French
monarch. "The English are cowards," he said. "Why so?" inquired
the king. "Because they had not the courage to spring into the
sea at Sluys as did the French and Normans." The king guessed the
sad truth. Edward had landed on French soil, surrounded by the
allies whom his victory had attracted toward him; he laid siege
to Saint-Omer and Tournay, sending thence a challenge to Philip
of Valois, proposing to arrange their quarrel by a singular
contest. He suggested that the fate of the two kingdoms should be
entrusted to a hundred combatants on each side, or that a day
should be fixed on which a pitched battle should be fought.
Philip answered with disdain; and, as in the preceding year, he
left his enemy free to exhaust his strength and resources on
insignificant places, without ever according him the opportunity
of a general engagement The coffers of the King of England soon
became empty, and his allies refused to fight; he was compelled
to consent to the armistice which Pope Benedict XII. advised, and
he returned to his kingdom infuriated by the ill-success of a
campaign which had begun under brilliant auspices. He
unexpectedly appeared in London, cast three judges into prison,
deposed the chancellor and the treasurer, who had not been able,
he said, to supply him with the subsidies necessary to his
requirements, and immediately engaged in a contention with the
Archbishop of Canterbury, president of the council.
{296}
The archbishop exonerated himself before the Parliament, which,
according to its wise custom, refused the subsidies until the
king had promised to reform some existing abuses, and to give new
guarantees against others in the future.

Meanwhile King David Bruce had returned to Scotland; he was
eighteen years of age, was handsome, well shaped, and skilled in
all athletic exercises. The joy of his subjects, therefore, was
great at his arrival. Baliol had been driven back into England,
and, notwithstanding several attempts of the young Scottish king
upon the northern counties, Edward concluded an armistice with
him in 1342, at the same time entrusting him with the task of
defending the English frontier, so much was he absorbed in the
war with France, and in thoughts of revenge for his past checks.

A new opening had presented itself to him upon the French
territory. John III., duke of Brittany, had died without issue in
1341, and his brother, John de Montfort, had immediately seized
the treasury, as well as several important towns. But Joan of
Penthièvre, otherwise Joan the Lame, wife of Charles, Count of
Blois, claimed the duchy as the daughter of Guy de Montfort, a
younger brother of the deceased duke. The Count of Blois was the
nephew of Philip of Valois, and he had invoked the aid of his
uncle. Montfort had been summoned to Paris to render an account
of his claims. After having appeared before the king, he had fled
secretly, and his first care was to repair to London, there to do
homage to the King of England in respect to Brittany. Edward had
promised to support him, but already a French army had marched
into Brittany. John de Montfort had been captured at Nantes, and
his wife, Joan of Flanders, had with difficulty contrived to
escape with her son to the castle of Hennebon, where she was
besieged by the Duke of Normandy.
{297}
The countess "had indeed the heart of a man and a lion," says
Froissart, and she valiantly encouraged her partisans, while
waiting the succor which she had demanded from England. The wind
was unfavorable; the English vessels did not arrive, and
treachery began to do its work in the town, when Joan, leaning on
her casement, perceived sails in the horizon. "Behold there!
behold there!" she cried, "the succor which I have so long
desired." The rising tide brought to her Gautier de Manny, a
valiant knight of Hainault, who had become a faithful servant to
the King of England, and one of the most illustrious amongst his
warriors. He was accompanied by a goodly number of knights and
men-at-arms, and soon caused the siege to be raised. But the war
continued in Lower Brittany. With singular inconsistency, the
King of France, who owed his elevation to the throne to the Salic
law, was maintaining in Brittany the cause of female succession,
while Edward was defending the rights of the male sex, which he
had refused to recognize in the case of Philip of Valois. An
armistice enabled the Countess de Montfort to cross over to
England to obtain reinforcements. When she returned to Brittany,
she was accompanied by Robert of Artois, brother-in-law of King
Philip and his mortal enemy. The town of Vannes was captured and
recaptured. Robert of Artois, wounded, succeeded, although not
without great difficulty, in escaping to England, there to die at
the very moment when Edward was setting sail with the resolution
of directing the war in Brittany in person. He landed in the
month of October, 1343, at Hennebon, with twelve thousand men,
and immediately laid siege to Vannes, Rennes, and Nantes, with no
other result than the devastation of the country, already overrun
by so many enemies, and the retreat of Charles of Blois, whose
forces had been greatly reduced.

{298}

The arrival of the Duke of Normandy, the eldest son of King
Philip, soon enabled the French troops to act once more upon the
aggressive by besieging Edward, encamped before Vannes. The two
armies were suffering severely from the inclemency of the
weather. The Duke of Normandy dreaded the reinforcements which
were expected by the English. Edward foresaw that his provisions
would shortly be exhausted, when the legates of the Pope arrived,
and, by dint of their exertions, a truce of three years was
arranged; the siege of Vannes was then raised.

Notwithstanding the truce, the war still raged in Brittany. King
Philip of Valois aroused a widespread feeling of indignation by
arresting, at a tournament, several Breton nobleman, Oliver de
Clisson, among others, and by causing them to be beheaded without
trial, as guilty of relations with the English. The head of
Clisson was sent to Nantes; but the king had created an
implacable foe in the person of Joan of Belville, the widow of
Clisson, who immediately armed all her vassals and soon vied with
Joan de Montfort herself in courage and intrepidity. The Countess
had recently had the satisfaction of seeing her husband, who had
escaped from prison, where he had been incarcerated for six
years. He brought with him, from England, a small body of troops,
which he landed at Hennebon in the middle of September, 1345; but
his health was impaired, and he died on the 26th of the same
month, naming King Edward guardian of his son.

[Image]
Van Artevelde At His Door.

{299}

Hostilities recommenced openly. During the truce the two kings
had made preparations for a desperate struggle. Among the means
which King Philip had devised for the purpose of filling his
coffers, was the monopoly of salt. "It is indeed by the
_Salic_ law that Philip of Valois reigns," said Edward. "The
King of England is but a wool merchant," was the reply at the
court of France. The parliament had granted fresh subsidies,
recommending merely to the king that he should put an end to the
war promptly either by battle or by treaty.

The Earl of Derby was already in Guienne, retaking, one by one,
all the places which had been captured by the enemy, when King
Edward landed in Flanders, on the 26th of June, 1345, in order to
obtain an interview with the deputies of the great towns of
Flanders. The citizens, under the command of Jacques van
Arteveldt, had by degrees deprived their ruler of his power, and
King Edward had conceived the hope of substituting his son, the
Prince of Wales, for Count Louis of Flanders, who refused to
renounce his alliance with the King of France. But when he
unfolded his plans before the deputies of the cities, and
although ardently supported by Arteveldt, the Flemings eyed each
other, and asked that they might be allowed to consult their
fellow-citizens. "Yes," said the King of England, "by all means;"
and he waited at Sluys while Arteveldt proceeded to Bruges and to
Yprès, there to plead the cause of his patron and ally. He placed
too much reliance, however, upon his good city of Ghent; there
the disaffection on his return was general. "They began to murmur
and _bouter trois têtes en un chaperon_ (says the
_Chronicle_,) saying, 'Here is a man who is too much the
master, and who would compel the county of Flanders to do his
behest, which cannot be tolerated.'" "As Jacques van Arteveldt
rode through the streets he soon perceived that there was some
change in the feeling towards him, and returning quickly to his
residence, he caused the doors thereof to be closed."

{300}

This precaution was not taken too soon; a furious crowd already
surrounded the house, demanding the public treasure of Flanders,
which had been sent, they said, to England by Arteveldt. "He
therefore replied very meekly, 'Verily, gentlemen, as to the
treasures of Flanders, I have not taken one single penny.' 'No,
no,' they cried, 'we know the truth, that you have emptied the
public coffers and sent the contents to England secretly, for
which act you must suffer death.' When Arteveldt heard these
words, he clasped his hands and burst into tears, saying at the
same time, 'Gentlemen, such as I am so have you made me, and you
formerly swore that you would defend and protect me. Do you not
know how trade languished in this country? I restored it to you.
And then I governed you so peacefully that you have had
everything at will: wheat, wool, and every species of commodity
with which you have been clothed and become fat.' But the people
cried out, 'Come down, and do not preach to us from so great a
height.' (Arteveldt was at a window.) Thereupon Arteveldt closed
the shutter of the window, and determined to go out at the rear
and take refuge in a church which adjoined his residence; but
already the doors had been burst open, admitting more than four
hundred persons, all eager to capture him. Finally, he was
captured among them and slain on the spot without mercy. Thus
ended the career of Arteveldt, who in his time was so great a
ruler in Flanders. To the poorer classes he owed his princely
elevation, and at the hands of the malignant populace he came to
his end."

When the news of the death of Arteveldt reached King Edward at
Sluys, he was irritated and despondent; all his schemes were
frustrated through the loss of his faithful ally, and he
therefore set sail for England, vowing to be avenged on the
Flemings. The latter greatly feared his resentment; the wool
which was so necessary in their manufactures was imported almost
exclusively from England.
{301}
They despatched an embassy to London for the purpose of
exonerating themselves, and in order to hint at the possibility
of a marriage between the daughter of King Edward and the young
_damoiseau_, the heir of Flanders. "Thus would the county of
Flanders always remain to one of your children." These
representations, together with others, softened greatly the
resentment of King Edward, who finally declared himself well
pleased with the Flemings, as were the Flemings with him; and
thus by degrees was the death of Jaques van Arteveldt forgotten
on both sides.

Meanwhile the preparations for the passage to France were
completed. The army was numerous and spirited; the project openly
announced was to pass into Gascony, there to sustain the Earl of
Derby, who was hemmed in by the Duke of Normandy; but Godefroy
d'Harcourt, a French baron in exile in England, urged Edward to
attack Normandy, a rich and undefended country. The king resolved
to adopt the course proposed, and, on the 12th of July, 1346, he
disembarked at La Hogue; immediately on landing his foot slipped,
and he fell. "Come hither into our ship, _cher sire_," said
the English knights, "for behold a little omen for you;" to which
the king replied pointedly and without hesitation, "Why so? It is
a very good sign, for the land evidently wishes for me." At which
all the barons were greatly rejoiced.

The soil of Normandy was unwise to wish for King Edward, for he
pillaged and burnt down everything before him. Barfleur,
Carentan, and Saint-Lô had already succumbed when he appeared
before Caen. The burghers had mustered all their forces, and the
Count d'Eu, the Constable of France, with the Count de
Tancarville, was there, supported by gallant knights.
{302}
"But as soon as the burghers beheld the English, who were
approaching in three lines, close and compact, and saw their
banners and pennants flying and streaming in the wind, and heard
the cries of archers whom they were not accustomed to see or
hear, they were so alarmed and discomfitted that nothing in the
world could have hindered their taking to flight; accordingly
they dispersed towards their town in disorder, without consulting
the Constable of France in the matter."

When the knights found that they were no longer supported by the
burghers they surrendered to Sir Thomas Holland, and the King of
England commanded that no harm should be done in the city of
Caen, where "the English remained during three days, and therein
captured such magnificent booty, marvellous to think of, which
they immediately despatched to England, while the king was riding
towards Paris;" taking Louviers, Vernon, and Verneuil, they
arrived at Poissy. The quarter-masters of the English army even
advanced as far as Saint-Germain, Montjoie, Saint-Cloud,
Boulogne, and Bourg-la-Reine, "whereat the inhabitants of Paris
were grievously disquieted."

King Philip had convoked all his followers, and a large army was
beginning to assemble round him; the French endeavored to gain
time, in order to muster in numbers and overwhelm their enemies
by superior forces. The depredations committed around Paris had
meanwhile spread uneasiness at the court, and the king proceeded
to St. Denis, where his allies were assembled, "the King of
Bohemia, John of Hainault, who had become French; the Duke of
Lorraine, the Count of Flanders, the Count of Blois, and a great
number of barons and knights. When the inhabitants of Paris saw
that their sovereign was leaving them, they were more alarmed
than before, and came and knelt down before him.
{303}
'Ah! sire and noble king, what would you do? Would you thus
depart and leave the good city of Paris? Here your enemies are
but two leagues distant and soon will be in this city, where we
have not and shall not have any one to defend us against
them!'--'Fear nothing, my good folk,' said the king, 'the English
will not come to you, for I shall march against them and attack
them, howsoever they may be.'"

King Edward had left Poissy on the 16th of August, 1346, taking
the road to Picardy; he was expecting a reinforcement of the
Flemings, who had promised to invade the French territory, and he
was anxious to be nearer his auxiliaries. King Philip followed
closely upon his steps. The army of the French monarch increased
day by day, and he hoped to overtake his enemies, in order to
give battle to them before they could cross the Somme. The
English were vainly seeking a ford, and tidings had been received
that Philip had arrived at Amiens. Edward had caused all the
prisoners who had been taken in the county of Ponthieu to be
brought to Oisemont, where he was encamped, and said to them,
"very courteously, 'Is there a man among you who knows of a
passage which should be below Abbeville, where we and our army
may cross without danger? If there is any one who will inform us
of this, we will release him from prison, as well as twenty of
his comrades, in gratitude to him.' Whereupon a fellow named
Gobin Agace, who had been born and bred near the passage of the
Blanche-Tache, advanced and said to the king, 'Sire, yes, in the
name of God, I know it and will conduct you to it' When the King
of England heard these words, he was rejoiced, and orders were
given to his soldiery to be in readiness by sunrise; for the salt
tide flowed as high as the Blanche-Tache, and it was desirable to
take advantage of the ebb for crossing over."
{304}
On arriving before the ford, they there saw a noble knight named
Godemar de Fay, who bravely defended the passage, "but he was
defeated with all his men," and the English found themselves on
the other side, whither King Philip was eager to follow them,
when he heard the news; but the flood tide had already returned
and it was necessary to wait until the morrow, while King Edward,
who was still riding forward, had taken possession of Le Crotoy,
and had arrived at the county of Ponthieu.

He was in the open country not far from Crécy, when he said to
his men, "Let us halt here for awhile. I will go no further until
I have seen our enemies, for I stand upon the rightful
inheritance of that noble lady my mother, which was given to her
on her marriage; so will I defend it against my adversary, Philip
of Valois!" And the king and his followers encamped on the open
plain, the king superintending all its labors; for his army was
small in comparison with that of the King of France, who was
constantly being joined by fresh barons and allies, who were
unable to find quarters in the good town of Abbeville, but were
encamped in the surrounding neighborhood.

It was on the morning of the 26th of August. King Edward had
attended mass and taken the communion, as had also his son, the
Prince of Wales; and he had drawn up his men in three battle
corps, entrusting the first to the command of the young prince,
supported by the Earls of Warwick and Oxford; Northampton and
Arundel were placed at the head of the second, while the third he
reserved for himself. "When the three divisions were arranged,
and every earl, baron and knight knew what he had to do, the King
of England, seated upon a small white palfrey, and staff in his
hand, marched slowly from line to line, admonishing and exhorting
the earls, the barons, and the knights to understand and reflect
that for his honor they must guard and defend his right; and he
said these things to them smiling so pleasantly and with so
joyous a manner, that whoever had been previously quite dejected
began to take comfort on hearing and beholding him.
{305}
He then commanded that all the men should eat at their ease and
drink a draught; after which they sat down upon the ground with
their casques and crossbows in front of them, in order to be more
fresh and better prepared on the arrival of their enemies, for it
was the intention of the King of England to await his enemy, the
King of France, upon that spot, and there to oppose him and his
power."

Meanwhile King Philip had marched forward with all his forces,
despatching before him four of his best knights to examine the
position of the English. "Sire," said the most renowned among
them, on his return, called the Monk of Basèle, "the English are
drawn up and arranged in good order, and await you. Therefore it
is well that your men should halt in the fields and rest for the
remainder of this day, for they are fatigued. It is late, and
tomorrow you will be able with more leisure to consider on which
side you can attack your enemies, for you may rest assured that
they will await your coming."

The king perceived the wisdom of the advice, and the
quarter-masters of the army rode on, one in front and the other
in the rear, exclaiming, "Halt, banners! in the name of the Lord
and of his Highness St. Denis." The foremost among them obeyed at
once and drew up; but not so those in the rear, who still urged
their horses forward, saying they would not stop until they had
gone as far as those in advance of them. Whereupon the front
ranks recommenced their onward march, "and through their great
pride and vanity, neither the king nor his quarter-masters could
exact obedience from them, for there were such distinguished
warriors and such a large number of great noblemen, that each
desired on this occasion to show his power."

{306}

This marching soon brought them within sight of the English. When
the French knights in the front ranks first saw them, they were
smitten with shame at their disorderly appearance, and fell back
a few steps; those who were behind thought that an engagement had
taken place, and that they had been defeated, and pressed forward
with all the citizens and inhabitants of Abbeville who had
followed the army. When they saw the enemy, they cried, "Death to
them! Death to them!" drawing and brandishing at the same time
their swords. The confusion increased every minute.

King Philip had seen the enemy, as well as his soldiers, "and his
blood was stirred, for he hated them." He forgot all; the prudent
advice of the Monk of Basèle, the fatigue of his troops and their
disorder; and he exclaimed, "Send our Genoese troops in front,
and let us begin the battle in the name of God and of His
Highness St. Denis."

The Genoese soldiers were weary after their long march; they
murmured; at the same instant a violent tempest arose; the rain
fell in torrents. They were in the presence of the English
troops, who had risen in "very good order, and without any
alarm," and had taken up the positions assigned to them. When the
sky became clear again the sun shone in the faces of the French
soldiers; the Genoese shouted as they marched to the combat, "so
very loud that it was marvellous, in order to terrify the
English; but they kept quite quiet and made no show." The
crossbow-men began to shoot; but in the midst of their compact
numbers the redoubtable English arrows were pouring down like
hail, and the Genoese, "who had not learnt to encounter such
archers as those from England, when they felt these bolts and
arrows which pierced their arms, heads, and lips, were
immediately discomfited, and fell back upon the bulk of the
army."

{307}

The knights were ready, lance in hand, awaiting their turn. King
Philip became incensed on beholding the rout of the Genoese, who
impeded his progress. "Now then," he cried, "kill all this rabble
who bar the way to no purpose." And the unhappy Genoese fell by
the swords of their allies as they had previously fallen by the
arrows of their enemies. The French horsemen waded through their
blood to approach the English.

The mêlée commenced, terrible and confused; the old King of
Bohemia, blind and surrounded by his followers, inquired how
matters were progressing. This was at the moment when the Genoese
were being slaughtered. "They fall back upon each other, and
prevent our advancing," said his knights. "Ah!" replied the king,
"this is the signal for us; therefore, I beg you, my men, friends
and comrades, to lead me so far forward that I may wield a sword
against the enemy." And they, fearing to lose the king in the
confusion, bound their horses together by the bridles, and
"placed the king their lord in front, and thus fell upon the
enemy; on whom the king inflicted blows one after the other, and
all remained there and not one stirred," for all the knights were
on the morrow found dead around their master.

Meanwhile the king of England did not fight; he had not even
donned his helmet, while watching the battle from a little
eminence. The French cavalry were closely pressing the Prince of
Wales; the Earl of Northampton demanded reinforcements from the
king. "Is my son dead or overthrown, or so wounded that he cannot
help himself?" asked Edward of the messenger. "No, my lord, but
he is in the thick of the fray and is in great need of your
assistance." "Return to those who sent you," retorted the king,
"and tell them not to send a request again while my son is still
alive, but to let the youth win his spurs; for I intend, if it
please God, that this day may be his." And thus was it done.

{308}

The French were exhausting themselves in vain; their numbers and
their valor had not been able to triumph over the disorder and
the unskilful arrangement of the troops. Their best warriors lay
stretched upon the field of battle, and nightfall approached.
John of Hainault seized the bridle of the horse upon which the
King of France was seated, and dragged him away from the
struggle. They rode along in silence; five horsemen only followed
the king. They arrived at the gate of a castle, but the
drawbridge was raised. "Open," said Philip, "it is the
unfortunate King of France who entreats you." After resting for a
while he resumed his journey towards Amiens, while the English,
who had not pursued the enemy, were gathering together by
torchlight around the tent of King Edward. The latter had just
left the hill and advanced towards the prince, whom he embraced.
"My gallant son," he said, "God has endowed you with great
perseverance; you are my son, and have loyally justified your
title; you are worthy to hold land." The dead being interred,
King Edward marched towards Calais, to which he laid siege on the
31st of August. The town was strong, and the garrison was known
to be resolute. The English proceeded to build a town of wood
around the ramparts. King Philip had recalled from Guienne the
Duke of Normandy, thus relieving the Earl of Derby, who was
closely besieged in Bordeaux, and Sir Walter de Manny, who was
defending Aiguillon. These two knights had nothing more at
present to do than to rejoin King Edward before Calais. They did
not know how long a time was destined to elapse before the
surrender of that town.

{309}

The position of the King of France was becoming serious; he
endeavored to divert the attention of the enemy. His ally David,
King of Scotland, had promised to attempt an invasion of England;
the moment seemed propitious; all the English commanders and
knights were beyond the sea. At the end of September, 1246, David
marched therefore into the county of Cumberland with a
considerable army, pillaging and sacking everything on their way.
Queen Philippa had already levied some troops, and at Newcastle,
where she was stationed, she was better informed of the movements
of the Scots than the latter were of her preparations for
resistance. The English army assembled in the park of Auckland,
unknown to King David. No commander-in-chief had been appointed;
but four prelates and as many barons marched at the head of the
troops, "and the good dame, Queen Philippa, prayed and admonished
them to do their duty well," says Froissart. As she was returning
to Newcastle, on the 17th of October, Douglas, the Lord of
Liddesdale, who was coming back from a plundering expedition,
fell among the English, whose presence he did not suspect, and
with difficulty cut his way through them. The King of Scotland
immediately drew up his forces on the plain of Nevil's Cross. He
fought valiantly; but, having been twice wounded, he was made a
prisoner by a plain esquire, named John Copeland, who conducted
him to his castle. The Scottish earls and barons lay stretched
upon the field of battle, or had fallen alive into the hands of
their enemies. The queen was rejoicing at Newcastle; she sent to
John Copeland, commanding that the King of Scotland should be
given up to her. "I will surrender him to no man or woman except
my lord, the King of England," replied the worthy esquire; "and
be not uneasy upon his account, for I intend to keep him so
carefully that I will render good account of him."
{310}
The queen was not quite satisfied, however, and with the good
news of victory the reply of the stubborn esquire arrived at
Calais. King Edward had great joy in the good fortune that God
had bestowed on his people, and he immediately summoned John
Copeland to come to him at Calais. The esquire placed his
prisoner in a place of safety, "in a strong castle, on the
borders of Northumberland and Galloway, and proceeded to Calais,
to the quarters of the king."

"Welcome," said Edward, on seeing Copeland, "my faithful esquire,
who by your valor have made a prisoner of our adversary the King
of Scotland." "Sire," said John, kneeling, "God in His great
goodness has so willed it that He has delivered the King of
Scotland into my hands, for He can, if it please Him, bestow His
grace upon a poor esquire as well as upon a great nobleman. And,
sire, do not bear me any ill-will if I did not immediately
surrender him to the queen, for it is to you that I have sworn
allegiance." The king smiled. "But you will now take your
prisoner, John," he said, "and take him to my wife." And he
loaded with presents the esquire, who returned well content. King
David was promptly lodged in the Tower of London.

The war still continued in Brittany. Charles of Blois had been
made a prisoner before Roche-Derrien, on the 18th of June, 1347,
and had joined King David in his captivity; while Joan the Lame
was maintaining the struggle against the allies of the Count of
Montfort, who were still directed by her mother, the Countess
Joan, and against the sudden attacks of Joan de Bellville, the
widow of Oliver de Clisson. This women's war was neither the
least skilful nor the least sanguinary. Edward III. was still
before Calais.

{311}

The town was reduced to the last extremity. Twice already had the
non-combatants been expelled. Sheltered on the first occasion by
King Edward, these unhappy wretches, driven out of the
famine-stricken town, were dying of hunger and misery between the
two camps. John of Vienne, a valiant knight in command at Calais,
had sent information to King Philip of the desperate situation in
which he was placed. "Remember, sire, that there remains nothing
uneaten in the town; not a dog, a cat, or a horse; so that of
provisions we can find none in the place--unless we eat the
flesh of our people." Philip of Valois unfurled the oriflamme,
and summoned his knights round it, to march to the deliverance of
his good town of Calais.

The rejoicing was general inside the town; the banners of the
French army were visible flying in the air, and their white tents
glistened in the sun on the Mount of Sangatte. The citizens
already thought that their deliverance had been effected. But the
King of England had taken his precautions; the road along the
downs was protected by English vessels, well furnished with
archers. The road across the marshes was defended by the Earl of
Derby, who was stationed on the bridge of Nieulay, which the king
had fortified with towers. The quartermasters of the French army,
after having examined the ground, informed the king that it was
impossible to cross it. "Thereupon King Philip sent emissaries to
the King of England, to pray and require him to choose with them
a spot whereon one might fight, and thither to come and confront
the King of France."

Edward had formerly challenged King Philip, who had declined to
encounter him. It was now his turn: "My lord," he said to the
emissary from the French camp, "I duly heard that which you
demand of me on the part of my adversary, who wrongfully holds my
just inheritance to my injury. Therefore tell him that I have
been here during more than a year, that this was well known to
him, and that he might have come sooner had he pleased. I have
spent heavily of my substance, and I expect very shortly to be
master of the town of Calais. Therefore I am not in a mind to
obey his bidding and his convenience, nor to let go what I have
conquered, what I have so ardently desired and so dearly paid
for. If his men cannot pass that way, let them go round to seek a
path."

{312}

This message was reported to the King of France, "who was
incensed thereat," says Froissart, but who made no effort, and
again took the road towards Amiens. The banners disappeared from
Mount Sangatte; the tents were struck, and inside the town
despair succeeded to the hope which had for awhile sustained the
brave citizens. John de Vienne ascended the walls of the town and
made a sign that he wished to hold a parley. Sir Walter de Manny
immediately approached him. "Good sir," said the brave governor,
"you see that our succor has failed. Beg your king to have mercy
upon us, and to let us walk out as we are; he will find in the
town and the castle enough of goods."

Sir Walter de Manny knew of the anger which the king his master
had against the inhabitants of Calais. He shook his head. "Sir
John, Sir John," he said, "the king our master will not let you
go as you have said; it is his intention that you shall all
submit to his will." "Never," said John de Vienne. And he retired
within the town, while the English knights were proceeding to
carry the news of what had passed to the king. "You might well be
wrong sire," said Walter de Manny, "for you set us a bad example.
If you should wish to send us to your fortresses, we should not
go so willingly, if you cause these people to be put to death;
for thus should we be served under similar circumstances." King
Edward remained gloomy; all the barons agreed with Sir Walter. At
length Edward exclaimed, "Gentlemen, I will not remain alone
against you all.
{313}
Walter, you shall go to those in Calais, and inform the commander
that the utmost mercy which they will find in me is, that there
shall issue forth from the town of Calais six of the most
distinguished citizens bareheaded and barefooted, with halters
round their necks, and the keys of the town and the castle in
their hands; and with these I will do as I please. I will show
mercy to the others."

Sir Walter had borne the king's message to Calais. The
consternation was great in the public square, where all the
inhabitants were assembled. They wept bitterly; "even Sir John de
Vienne conceived such pity for them that he cried most tenderly."

"At length arose the richest citizen of the town, who was called
Eustache of Saint-Pierre, and said in the presence of all,
'Gentlemen, great pity and great wrong would it be to leave so
great a number of persons as are here to perish, by famine or
otherwise, when some other means can here be found; and I have
such great hope of receiving grace and forgiveness through our
Lord, if I die to save these people, that I wish to be the first,
and will willingly place myself in my shirt bareheaded,
barefooted, and with a halter round my neck, at the mercy of the
King of England.' And when Eustache had uttered these words,
several men and women threw themselves at his feet, weeping
tenderly, and it was greatly affecting to be there and to hear,
listen to, and look at them."

The example of devotion is contagious. John d'Aire, "a worthy
citizen, who had two beautiful damsels for daughters, declared
that he would accompany his fellow-citizen, Eustache." James and
Peter de Vissant did likewise, then two others, and the six
citizens, in their shirts and barefooted, with a rope round their
necks, the keys of the town in their hands, issued forth from
Calais, conducted by Sir John de Vienne, upon his little horse,
for he was too unwell to walk.
{314}
Amidst the cries and tears of the population he consigned the
condemned men to Walter de Manny. "I beg you, gentle sir," he
said, "to intercede for them with the King of England, that these
poor men may not be put to death." The worthy knight was anxious
to do so, but he advanced without speaking until they arrived
before the King of England.

Edward was in the road outside his residence; all his knights
surrounded him. Queen Philippa was by his side. "When he saw the
citizens, he remained very still and looked very cruelly at them,
for he hated those of Calais for the great damage and checks
which they had caused to his ships in bygone times." The unhappy
men had fallen on their knees, offering to the king the keys of
the town, and begging for mercy. All the barons were in tears,
"being unable to restrain themselves for pity;" but the king eyed
them angrily, for he was so hard-hearted and smitten with such
great anger that he was unable to speak. At length he broke the
silence, and ordered that they should presently be beheaded. All
the knights were weeping and supplicating. Sir Walter de Manny,
who was entitled to speak, reproached the king for his severity;
but Edward gnashed his teeth and said, "Sir Walter, hold your
peace! It shall not be otherwise. Let the headsman come forward."

Queen Philippa had thrown herself on her knees, "crying so
tenderly with compassion that she could not support herself."
"Ah! gentle sire," she said, "since I crossed the sea in great
peril, I have asked nothing of you; to-day I beg of you as a gift
for the Son of the Holy Virgin and the love of me, that you will
have mercy on these six men." The king waited a short time before
speaking; he eyed the good lady his wife. "Ah! lady," he said; "I
should be but too pleased were you elsewhere but here. You beg so
earnestly that I dare not refuse you, and, although I do so with
difficulty, take them; I give them to you; do with them as you
please."



[Image]
Queen Philippa On Her Knees Before The King.

{315}

Then the queen rose, saying, "My lord, many thanks!" And she took
with her the six citizens, and caused them to be clothed and fed
at their ease; she then sent them away from the army in safety.
They went and established themselves in different towns in
Picardy, while Edward took possession of Calais, on the 3rd of
August, 1347. Queen Philippa was quartered in the house of John
d'Aire, which the king had given to her, "and there was such
merrymaking as was marvellous," except among the poor inhabitants
of Calais, who wept secretly in their dwellings. The king had
resolved to establish an English population at Calais, and the
former possessors were about to quit forever that town, which
they had so valiantly defended.

Calais had fallen, and King Edward's vengeance was appeased. The
legates of the Pope had recommenced their work of conciliation. A
truce was concluded, for a few months at first, and afterwards
prolonged from time to time for six years. The finances of France
were exhausted; the English Parliament refused the subsidies, and
the Black Plague, from the East, was ravaging Europe. France and
England, already weakened by wars, saw their populations
decimated by the pestilence. It was in vain that the Flagellants
overran the towns and villages, lacerating themselves with whips,
to appease the anger of God; it was in vain that the Jews,
accused of poisoning the fountains, were slaughtered; the
cemeteries of London could not contain the dead, so that Sir
Walter de Manny made a present to the city of a new site. King
Edward issued an edict, to compel all able-bodied men to accept
work; the fields remained uncultivated, and famine threatened the
districts ravaged by the plague.
{316}
Notwithstanding the amnesty, fighting was still carried on in
Guienne, in Brittany, and as far as Calais. The governor, Aymeric
of Pavia, had promised to surrender the town to the French for a
large sum. Was it an act of treachery, and did he himself cause
King Edward to be informed of the bargain which he had concluded?
This may be supposed, since he escaped the anger of his master;
but the King of England crossed the Channel very secretly, and
arrived at Calais at the moment when Geoffrey de Chargny was
approaching to enter the town. The knights proceeded towards the
gates. Edward had put aside all his insignia of royalty and
fought under the standard of Walter de Manny. Twice he staggered
under the blows of Eustace of Ribaumont; but, having at length
triumphed over the brave Picard, at the moment when the French
were retreating in disorder, he led him into the castle,
Ribaumont not knowing the name of his conqueror. At supper,
Edward rose, and taking the pearl necklace which he wore on his
hood, he placed it upon that of Sir Eustace. "Sir Eustace," said
he, "I give you this chaplet, as the best combatant of the day,
of those within and without the town, and I beg that you will
wear it this year, for love of me, saying everywhere that I gave
it to you. I release you from your prison, and you can depart
to-morrow, if you please." "And Sir Eustace of Ribaumont was much
rejoiced." Aymeric of Pavia had less reason to congratulate
himself upon the success of the day. Geoffrey de Chargny
surprised him in the castle wherein he had taken refuge, and put
him to death as a traitor.

{317}

Another occasion caused graver danger to the life of King Edward.
The Spanish pirates of the Bay of Biscay were desolating the
coast of Flanders and hampering the commerce with England. King
Edward resolved to punish their insolence, and, on the 20th of
August, 1350, after having cruised about during three days
between Dover and Calais, announcement was made of the approach
of the vessels led by Don Carlos de La Cerda, the chief of the
association of pirates. The engagement began with great fury on
both sides. The king had directed his vessel against a large
Spanish ship; several leaks had been opened by the shock, and the
English vessel was about to founder, when the sailors, making a
desperate effort, boarded and seized the enemy's ship, and took
refuge upon their conquest. The Prince of Wales, in a similar
peril, had been saved by the Earl of Derby. After the victory,
which had been dearly bought, King Edward proceeded to rejoin the
queen at Winchelsea. Her servants had already brought her tidings
of the battle, which they had anxiously watched from the heights.
A truce of twenty years was concluded between the King of England
and the seaport towns of Castile.

The armistice, traversed by so many different combats and perils,
was about to expire. Philip of Valois had died in 1350, and his
son John the Good, had at first appeared disposed to accept the
proposals for peace of the King of England. At a conference which
had taken place at Guienne, Edward offered to relinquish his
pretensions upon the kingdom of France, provided that he might
obtain absolute possession of the provinces which he held as
vassal, in his own name or in that of the queen; but the French
barons would not agree to this dismemberment of the territory.
The king was young, ardent, and fond of glory, so did not resist
their entreaties. The proposals of the King of England were
rejected. He complained loudly of the bad faith of his
adversaries, and obtained money of Parliament to prepare for the
renewal of hostilities.
{318}
An expedition of the Prince of Wales in Guienne and an incursion
of King Edward into the north of France, had not achieved great
success. The king was soon recalled to England by an attack of
the Scots upon Berwick. The unhappy town, buffeted about from
master to master by bloody sieges, had recently been retaken by
Edward, who penetrated further into Scotland, and ravaged the
whole country. According to the doctrine of the period, that a
people could be sold or bought, Edward had paid Baliol for his
rights to the throne of Scotland, a pension of two thousand marks
of silver, and once more claimed to enslave the Scotch. The want
of provisions in a devastated country compelled him to retire.
For a long time the memory of this expedition served to animate
the ardor of the Scots during their invasions into England.
"Remember burnt Candlemas," they would cry to each other. It was
the title which had been given to that series of pillages and
conflagrations.

Edward had not yet quitted England, had not even been able to
send reinforcements to the Black Prince, as the Prince of Wales
was called, by reason of the color of his arms, when the latter
took to the field, towards the end of June, 1356, with the object
of ravaging the French provinces. An expedition of this kind, in
the preceding year, had brought him a great deal of booty. He had
overrun Agénois, Limousin, Auvergne, and had arrived as far as
Berry. Repulsed before Bourges and Issondun, he had taken
Vierzon, burnt down Romorantin, and was beginning to fall back in
the direction of Guienne with the fruits of his pillage, when
King John quitting Chartres, advanced towards Poictiers. The
devastation caused by the Black Prince had exasperated the
country populations. Nobody had warned him of the danger to which
he was about to expose himself, when, in his turn, he took the
road to Poictiers with his little army.
{319}
Suddenly, on the 17th of September, 1356, the English advanced
guard found itself immediately in the rear of the French forces;
the couriers saw the country covered with troops; the retreat
towards Guienne was cut off. "May God interpose," said the
Prince, seized with great anxiety; "we must have advice and
counsel how we shall fight them with advantage." And at the same
time the King of France was saying in his army, "Truly,
gentlemen, when you are at Paris, at Chartres, at Rouen, or at
Orleans, you threaten the English and you wish to stand before
them ready for the fray. Now are you there, I show them to you;
here you must show your displeasure, for, without mishap, we
shall fight them," And those who had heard him answered: "May God
decide, all this will we willingly see."

It was on the 18th of September, in the morning. All the flower
of the French chivalry thronged around the king and his four
sons. It is affirmed that the French army numbered more than
fifty thousand men. The forces of the Black Prince did not amount
to twelve thousand; but the English had prudently intrenched
themselves behind some hedges and underwood in the midst of the
vines, so they could only be approached by a narrow road, lined
with archers. At the moment when, by the advice of Eustace of
Ribaumont, the French knights prepared to alight to make an
attack, the Cardinal of Périgord arrived, begging the king to
permit him to negotiate between the two armies. "The English are
but a handful compared with you; if you can capture them, and
cause them to place themselves at your mercy without giving
battle, this manner would be more honorable and profitable to
you." The king consented thereto, and the cardinal promptly
galloped towards the English army. "Gallant son," he said to the
Black Prince, "if you had justly considered the power of the king
of France, you would suffer me to arrange terms with him for you,
if I could."
{320}
Therefore the Prince, who was then a young man, answered, "My
lord, saving my honor and that of my men, I am ready to listen to
anything in reason." Thus the cardinal galloped throughout the
day between the two armies. But no agreement could be made, for
although the English willingly consented to surrender to King
John all the towns and castles taken on their way, to conclude a
truce of seven years, and to release the prisoners; the French
demanded that the Prince of Wales and a hundred of his knights
should surrender before allowing the remainder of the army to
pass, "to which the English could not listen;" and on Monday
morning the French king angrily told the cardinal to return to
Poictiers, or wherever he pleased, and never more to speak of
treaty or agreement, for that he might give offence. Quickly
going away, the cardinal proceeded to the English army. "My
gallant son," he said to the Prince, "do as you are able; you
must fight, for I cannot discover any disposition for concord or
peace in the King of France." And the Prince answered, greatly
irritated, "That is the intention of us and ours, and may God
help the right."

The French army was divided into three great battle-corps: the
first was commanded by the marshals of France; the second by
Charles, duke of Normandy; King John was at the head of the
third, and he had retained by his side his youngest son, Philip.

The Prince of Wales had placed his little army with great care.
It was imperative to fight or perish, for there were no
provisions. "My gallant lords," said the young man, "if we are
few against the might of our enemies, let us not be daunted, for
virtue and victory do not belong to great numbers, but to
whomsoever God chooses to send them. If it happen that the day be
ours, we shall be the most honored in the world; if we should
die, I have still my father and two gallant brothers, and you
good friends, who will avenge us. Thus I beg that you may today
know how to fight well, for, if it please God and St. George, you
will see in me a good knight."

[Image]
King John Taken Prisoner By The Black Prince.

{321}

The French had wavered; a great number had remained on horseback,
against the advice of Ribaumont. A good English knight, Sir James
Audley, awaited them foremost in advance, having vowed to be the
best combatant in the battle. The heavy cavalry and the warriors,
covered with steel, entered the narrow path leading to their
enemies. The arrows of the English archers began to whistle by;
the brave knights looked around them; they saw no assailants, but
they were wounded and their horses were falling. They were
obliged to retreat, leaving the dead, the dying, and the wounded
horses, who encumbered the defile. The army corps of the marshals
was disconcerted, and that of the Duke of Normandy was beginning
to take alarm. The experienced eye of Sir John Chandos was not
deceived in the matter. "Ride forward, sire," he said to the
Prince of Wales, "for the day is yours. Let us devote ourselves
to your adversary, the King of France; for there lies the greater
part of the day's work, and I well know that by reason of his
valor he will not fly." The prince applied his spurs to his
horse, and quitting his rustic rampart, he advanced into the open
space where the King of France was fighting. A detachment of the
archers attacked at the same time the troops of the Duke of
Normandy, who took to flight almost without striking a blow. The
English charged, "St. George and Guienne!"--"Montjoie St.
Denis!" was the answer around King John; but the disorder was
increasing. "The Duke of Orleans had disappeared with the reserve
forces.
{322}
The king was not a man ever to be frightened by the things which
he saw or heard said, but still remained a good knight, and
fought well." "Dismount! dismount!" he cried to all his
followers; and himself alighting from his horse, he marched along
their ranks, battle-axe in hand, and there, around him "there was
a great number of warriors, haughty and cruel, and many heavy
blows were given and received." And the still youthful prince,
Philip, was there, crying to his father: "Sire, have a care on
your right! Sire, have a care on your left!" and defended him as
much as he was able. Meanwhile, on all sides the king was greeted
with, "Surrender, or you are a dead man." He looked around him.
"To whom shall I surrender?" he asked aloud. "Where is my cousin,
the Prince of Wales? If I could see him I would speak."

"Sire," said a knight, "he is not here; but surrender to me, I
will conduct you to him." "Who are you?" asked the king. "Denis
de Morbecque, a knight of Artois; but I serve the King of
England, because I cannot live in the kingdom of France, and
because I have there forfeited all my possessions." The king
tendered his glove to him. "I surrender to you," he said. The
knight endeavored to lead the king away from the crowd; but
although he was tall and powerful, everybody crowded round him,
saying, "I have captured him; I have captured him," and the king
could not advance, nor could his youngest son, Philip. The Earl
of Warwick and Sir Reynold Cobham, who were seeking the king on
behalf of the Prince of Wales, were obliged to deliver him from
his enemies, and to conduct him courteously to the spot where
Chandos had advised that the banner of England should be planted
to reassemble the troops. "It is time that your men should rejoin
you," he had said, "for they are scattered and the day is yours.
You must refresh yourself a little, for I see that you are much
heated."


[Image]
The Black Prince Serving The French King.

{323}

The prince had removed his helmet when the King of France was
brought forward, before whom he made a profound reverence and
received him as a king, well and wisely, and in the evening he
waited upon him without ever consenting to be seated,
notwithstanding any solicitation which the king made in this
respect, and said that he was not yet sufficiently important to
sit down at the table of so great a sovereign and so valiant a
man, who had that day surpassed the ablest. "And all deemed that
the Prince had spoken well."

The towns and castles remained closed in Poitou and in Saintonge,
but the French army was not rallied, and no attempt was made to
deliver the king. The Prince of Wales hastened to Bordeaux, in
order to place in safety his illustrious prisoners, and all the
booty with which his army was loaded. The Duke of Normandy had
been created Regent by the States-general, and the Black Prince
concluded a truce of two years with him. He spent the winter in
Gascony; then in the spring (April, 1357) he set sail to conduct
to England King John and his son Philip. Negotiations were in
progress for the ransom of the king, and the legates of the Pope,
the ordinary negotiators of the great treaties between
sovereigns, followed the Prince of Wales and his prisoners to
England. John entered London on the 24th of April, upon a
magnificent courser, richly caparisoned; the Prince of Wales was
at his side upon a small black horse. King Edward had come
forward to meet his illustrious captive, and all the court
hastened to do him honor. King John consoled himself easily
enough in his captivity.

{324}

Already for six years past Edward had been in treaty with the
Scottish Parliament for the ransom of King David Bruce. Twice the
latter had been enabled to visit his kingdom, in order to induce
his subjects to redeem him; but Scotland was poor, and the
demands of Edward were exorbitant. It was not until the month of
October, 1357, that the treaty was at length concluded, and that
David was enabled to return to his kingdom after an imprisonment
of eleven years. But his subjects soon perceived the influence
which his long sojourn in England had exercised over their weak
sovereign. When Queen Jane died, without issue, in 1362, David
proposed to the Scottish Parliament to select as his heir,
Lionel, the third son of the King of England, to the exclusion of
his nephew, the Stewart [Footnote 3] of Scotland.

    [Footnote 3: _Stewart_, seneschal, an hereditary title,
    which subsequently became the family name of the Stuarts.]

The indignation of the Scottish Parliament did not put an end to
the project. Some delay in the payment of the ransom furnished an
excuse to King Edward, and, until the death of King David, in
1371, the intrigues of the English continued to agitate Scotland.
His nephew succeeded him, without opposition, and assumed the
title of Robert II.

While Scottish affairs were occupying Edward III., the treaty
with France still remained pending. The conditions required by
the English were so harsh, that King John, although a prisoner,
hesitated to accept them. Besides an enormous sum for the ransom
of the king, Edward claimed to retain all his conquests in
France, and to secure all the possessions formerly belonging to
his family, not as an appanage or fief, but as a property. While
the negotiations were being prolonged, the condition of France
became daily more critical. The evil genius of the royal family,
Charles the Bad, king of Navarre, had escaped from the prison
where, for a long time, he had been confined. He had allied
himself to the citizens of Paris, who wished to exert a certain
amount of influence in their affairs, a power which was contested
by the Dauphin [Footnote 4] and his council.

    [Footnote 4: The eldest son of the King of France had recently
    assumed the title of Dauphin, in consequence of the cession
    of Dauphiné to France by Humbert II., the last Dauphin of the
    Viennois.]

{325}

The population of Paris, incited by their chiefs, soon escaped
from the authority of the latter, who found themselves drawn
along irresistibly with the current. Riot succeeded riot; two of
the advisers of the Dauphin were slain under his eyes, on the
22nd of February, 1358, and his chancellor was compelled to fly.
The contagion spread throughout the whole of France; as Paris had
had its Maillotins (workmen armed with mallets), France in
general had its Jacquerie, an insurrection of the serfs, who were
ironically called _Jacques Bonhomme_. Everywhere fearful
massacres took place, and the Dauphin, compelled to arm against
the peasants of his kingdom, had no leisure to think of the
demands of King Edward. The insurrection was scarcely at an end,
when King John accepted the proposals of the King of England; but
as soon as the conditions of the treaty were known in France, the
States-general rejected them with indignation. The dismemberment
of the country was impossible; peace and the liberty of the king
were too dearly bought at this price.

King Edward knew the proud obstinacy of the English Parliament;
he was indignant, however, to find a similar resistance from the
French States-general, and complaining of perfidy, he entered
France on the 28th of October, 1359. He had traversed Picardy,
Artois, and Cambrésis, consigning everything to fire and sword,
when he arrived before Rheims, where he proposed to be crowned
King of France. In vain did he besiege that town during seven
weeks. The Archbishop and the citizens did not suffer themselves
to be intimidated by the fate of Calais, and defended the place
so valiantly that Edward was compelled to retire.
{326}
He entered Burgundy, but the Duke Philip purchased his withdrawal
with a large sum of money and a promise of neutrality. The King
of England took the road to Paris. His army had suffered greatly
during the winter; the month of March had been rough, and the
negotiations which had been opened during the festival of Easter
not having brought about any result, Edward was compelled to
retire. The Dauphin had not responded to his challenge, and the
English army, unfit to attack the capital, fell back towards
Brittany, after having burnt the suburbs of Paris. The road was
strewn with the bodies of men and horses, succumbing to fatigue
and misery. At length, in the neighborhood of Chartres, a fearful
storm surprised the English in the open plain. The son of the
Earl of Warwick was killed by a thunderbolt beside the king.
Struck by this terrible warning, Edward leapt from his horse, and
vowed to God and Our Lady of Chartres no longer to reject the
proposals for peace, provided that they should be consistent with
his honor; and conferences were opened a few days afterwards, at
Brétigny, a small village where Edward halted. Peace was at
length concluded on the 8th of May, 1360. The King of England
renounced his pretensions to the kingdom of France, and restored
all his conquests, with the exception of Calais and Guienne. King
John conceded to him absolutely, for himself and his heirs in
perpetuity, Guienne, Poitou, Saintonge, Agénois, Limousin,
Périgord, and the county of Ponthieu. A ransom of three millions
of golden crowns was to be paid within six years for the release
of the king; twenty-five French barons, forty-two burgesses, and
sixteen of the most important prisoners captured at Poictiers,
were to serve as hostages for the fulfilment of the treaty.

{327}

These conditions, harsh as they yet remained, were so much better
than the first proposals of King Edward, that after much
intriguing and hesitation, they were at length solemnly ratified
by the two sovereigns at Calais, on the 24th of October, 1360,
with this strange clause, that the definitive renunciations by
the monarchs, of the possessions which they ceded, should not
take place until the festival of the Assumption in the following
year. On the morrow, the 25th of October, King John was restored
to liberty, and King Edward embarked for England.

The festival of the Assumption had passed by, as well as many
other holidays, but the conditions of the treaty of Brétigny were
not yet fulfilled: the financial distress of France had not
admitted of raising the sums promised for the ransom. The land
was ravaged by the free bands, formerly in the pay of the
belligerents, but who, having no employment since the peace, had
lived by plunder and rapine. They proceeded from province to
province, wherever there still remained any resources; and they
defeated John of Bourbon, who had been despatched against them by
the Dauphin. The States-general murmured at the conditions of the
treaty. King John saw nothing in his kingdom but oppression and
misery; he could not fulfil his engagements, and as a crowning
disgrace, one of his hostages, his own son, the Duke of Anjou,
having been brought to Calais with the other _knights of the
Lily_--a designation applied to his brother, the Duke of
Berry, his uncle, the Duke of Orleans, and his cousin, the Duke
of Bourbon--shamelessly broke his word, by flying from prison to
repair to Paris. King John was weary of the struggle and wounded
in his pride and his loyalty; perchance also he remembered the
rejoicings which had been instituted in his honor in London, so
he announced that he was about to return to England. "Were honor
banished from the whole earth," he proudly said, "it would be
found again in the heart of a king." He arrived in London at the
beginning of the year 1364; but before being able to resume
negotiations, he fell ill, and died on the 8th of April. His body
was brought back to France, with all royal magnificence, and the
Dauphin became king under the title of Charles V.

{328}

While the perplexities of the government in France had hindered
the consolidation of peace, the Prince of Wales had been married,
on the 10th of October, 1361, to the woman whom he had loved all
his lifetime, his cousin Joan, daughter of Edmund, earl of Kent.
She had already been twice married, and her second husband, Lord
Holland, had recently died. Happy at length, the Black Prince
established himself with his wife, in Aquitaine, and held at
Bordeaux a magnificent court, the school for all good chivalry,
while he labored to restore order in these provinces, so long
desolated by war.

King Charles V. had found means of ridding himself of the free
companies. The King of Castile, Peter IV., had deserved his
surname of "the Cruel" for a series of crimes which had
exasperated the people. His brother, Henry of Transtamare, exiled
by him, and burning with a desire to avenge his mother and all
his relatives assassinated by the tyrant, had taken refuge in
France, asking the assistance of King Charles V. The latter
offered the services of the free companies; the good knight
Bertrand du Guesclin, already famous among the most illustrious
warriors of his time, concluded a treaty with the chiefs of the
different bands, and, placing himself at their head, crossed the
Pyrenees under the orders of Henry of Transtamare, who was soon
placed upon the throne of Castile, almost without striking a
blow. In vain did Peter the Cruel call to his aid all his
vassals; they were too happy to see themselves delivered from his
yoke, and when the tyrant was compelled to take to flight, he
took refuge at Bordeaux, begging the assistance of the Prince of
Wales.

{329}

Passion blinds the most clear-sighted men: the noble character of
the Black Prince had nothing in common with the savage ferocity
and calculating perfidy of Peter the Cruel; but the prince
thought this king ill-used by his brother and his subjects.
France had embraced the cause of Henry of Transtamare, and
England thought herself constrained to support his rival. He had
brought with him his two daughters, who remained at the court of
Bordeaux, where they were married, a few years later, to two sons
of King Edward, the Duke of Lancaster and the Earl of Cambridge.
The first rumor of the intentions of the Black Prince caused a
secession from the army of Du Guesclin of some of his best bands.
Sir John Calverley and Sir Robert Knowles, with twelve thousand
men, immediately abandoned Henry of Transtamare and proceeded
into Guienne, assembling under the banner of their legitimate
chief. The King of Navarre delivered up the passage through the
Pyrenees, and in the month of February, 1367, in spite of cold,
snow, and scarcity of provisions in a poor country, thirty
thousand men crossed the defiles of the mountains under the
command of the Prince of Wales and Peter the Cruel, and on the
third of April a battle was fought between the two pretenders
upon the plain of Navarette. The combat was fierce. A portion of
the Spaniards had given way; but Henry of Transtamare, supported
by Du Guesclin, resolutely defended himself. At length the latter
was made a prisoner, and the rout was complete. Don Henry fled
and took refuge in Arragon. Six thousand men remained upon the
field of battle, and two thousand prisoners were in the hands of
Peter the Cruel. He was preparing to slaughter them, when the
Prince of Wales demanded mercy for them, and the king did not
dare to refuse it; but he had no intention of fulfilling the
promises which he had made at Bordeaux.
{330}
From his camp at Valladolid, the prince repeatedly sent to Peter
the Cruel, demanding the money which he had undertaken to pay for
the expenses of the war. No answer, no visit from the king, no
provisions; while the English army was decimated by sickness, by
the climate, and by want. The prince himself was suffering from a
fever. Weary of waiting, and convinced of the perfidy of his
ally, he raised his camp on the 26th of June, and returned to
Guienne. Peter the Cruel had momentarily regained his throne, but
the treasury of England was empty; the health of the Black Prince
was for ever destroyed, his character embittered by suffering and
deceptions, and the barons of Aquitaine were beginning to murmur
and to turn unwillingly toward France.

Charles V. deserved his title of the "Wise." Prudent and
foreseeing, but too weak in body to have any taste for warfare,
he directed the affairs of the kingdom from his seat, with a firm
moderation to which the French, like their enemies, had not been
accustomed under his predecessors. When the Poitevins presented
themselves before Charles V., as the liege lord, to complain of
the excessive taxes imposed by the Black Prince, he temporized,
gave vague answers, and retained the complainants at Paris, while
his brother, the Duke of Anjou, governor of Languedoc, was
fostering the discontent in the provinces of the south belonging
to the English.

The Spanish ally of the Black Prince had recently received the
reward of all his crimes. Scarcely had the English retired, when
Don Henry had again taken the field, and for the second time he
had dethroned his brother. As he was besieging him in a fortified
castle, they met in the tent of a French knight. Peter
immediately seized his brother by the throat, and threw him to
the ground. Henry drew his dagger, and Peter, stabbed to the
heart, died immediately.
{331}
An offensive and defensive alliance had recently been concluded
between France and Spain (20th of November, 1368), and King
Charles V., publicly taking his course, summoned Edward, Prince
of Aquitaine, to appear at Paris before his peers, there to
answer the complaints of his vassals.

Since the treaty of Brétigny, King Edward and his son had no
longer recognized the superiority of France. "I will go," said
the Black Prince, "but with sixty thousand lances." His father
was better aware of the difficulty of the undertaking; he made
moderate proposals to Charles V., simply claiming the sovereignty
of Aquitaine; but Charles V., seeing the English Parliament
wearied of the wars, King Edward aged and tired, and the Black
Prince ill, maintained his pretension, and the French troops
entered into Poitou, Guienne, and Limousin. The discontented and
capricious inhabitants almost always lent their support to the
French. King Edward sent his second son, the Duke of Lancaster,
with considerable reinforcements, to the assistance of the Black
Prince; but, while he was overrunning the northern provinces.
King Charles not permitting any important engagement to take
place, the conquests of the French extended in the South, and the
Prince of Wales, dangerously ill, found himself compelled to take
the field upon a litter. The Dukes of Anjou and Berry did not
await him; they had left garrisons in the towns, but had retired
when the prince advanced against Limoges. He had formerly
lavished his favors upon that town, which the Bishop had
surrendered to the French, and he had sworn, by the soul of his
father, not to move thence nor do any thing until he should
recapture it. The siege progressed slowly, the citizens bravely
supporting the garrison, for they feared the vengeance of the
prince.
{332}
The latter conducted the military operations with a savage fury
which he had never before manifested. At length, at the end of a
month, a large mine opened a breach in the walls of the town; the
besiegers sprang inside, and the massacre began. Women, children,
and old men fell upon their knees, crying, "Mercy! such poor
folks could not have been concerned in defending the town," but
none received quarter. The knights and men at arms of the
garrison still defended themselves heroically in the streets;
three of them planted themselves against a wall, and made such
good use of their swords that the Prince of Wales, while passing
by in his litter, was struck with admiration, and received them
as prisoners to be ransomed. The humble people, "who were really
martyrs," says Froissart, were all dead; the town was fired, and
the Prince of Wales had retired. He had exhausted his strength,
and, in the hope of regaining his health under his native sky,
set out for England, leaving to his brother John of Gaunt, Duke
of Lancaster, the care of prosecuting the war. The military
career of the Black Prince was ended; six years of illness and
languor were to bring to its close this life so brilliantly
begun, but unhappily sullied by a last act of cruelty, more
consistent with the general morals of the time than with the
character hitherto displayed by the son of King Edward.

The Duke of Lancaster had recently married Constance, the eldest
daughter of Peter the Cruel, and, upon this ground, he aspired to
the crown of Castile, an imprudent pretension which strengthened
the union of the king, Don Henry, with France. The Earl of
Pembroke was bringing reinforcements to the Duke in June, 1372,
when a Spanish fleet stationed between La Rochelle and the Isle
of Ré, barred the passage. An engagement took place, and the
English were completely beaten, their vessels being either
captured or scuttled. This disaster was an unmistakeable blow to
King Edward and to the English nation, which was beginning to
look upon the sea as its legitimate empire.
{333}
The successes of King Charles V. were increasing; he had placed
Bertrand du Guesclin at the head of his armies, and had made him
Constable of France; but the remembrance of Crécy and Poictiers
was always before his eyes; he did not permit any pitched battles
to be fought. From siege to siege, from skirmish to skirmish, Du
Guesclin was still marching forward, sometimes surprising the
enemy, passing through their ranks, as it is said in his memoirs,
by a stratagem, which consisted in striking with the point and
with the edge of the sword; but when the English presented
themselves in a body, the Constable would fall back upon the
fortresses, and allow a passage to the enemy, who overran the
country but could not surround either the large towns or
fortified castles. "Never has king fought so little, and given so
much trouble," said Edward angrily, for his French possessions
were diminishing day by day. Bordeaux and Bayonne, with a narrow
piece of territory, alone remained in his hands in the south, and
Calais only in the north; so, if the faithful ally of England,
the young Count of Montfort, was everywhere recognized in
Brittany, since the death of Charles of Blois, in 1364, his
authority was too well contested by Oliver de Clisson to allow of
supporting English interests beyond his duchy. John of Gaunt
returned to England, and once more, the legates of the Pope
playing the part of peacemakers, a truce of one year was
concluded at Bruges in 1374, to be prolonged almost until the
death of King Edward.

So many reverses after so much glory, had undermined in England
the popularity of the king. The finances of the country were in
default; every resource had been exhausted to support a war which
had borne so little fruit.
{334}
Complaints, which people did not dare to address to the king,
reached his ministers, and even his son, the Duke of Lancaster,
who had gradually secured the power, in consequence of the
weakness of his father and the illness of the Prince of Wales.
The latter remained the idol of the nation, and, either through
jealousy of his brother, or through dissatisfaction at the state
of affairs, he lent his support to the opposition. The Parliament
of 1376, long known under the title of "The Good Parliament,"
addressed to the king a remonstrance concerning the waste of the
public money, and demanded the dismissal of several of the
ministers. Lord Latimer and Lord Nevil were deprived of all their
offices; but the object of the public hatred and mistrust was
especially a woman, named Alice Perrers, formerly a lady of the
bed-chamber to Queen Philippa, but who, since the death of the
latter, had acquired such an influence over King Edward that he
had presented her with the jewels of his wife, and frequently
permitted her to dispense at her pleasure the favors of the
crown. The Commons publicly demanded that she should be banished
from the kingdom.

Amidst this work of reform, the Parliament suddenly lost its
firmest support.

The Black Prince died on the 8th of June, 1376. For a long time
he had been ailing, and unable to assume in the government of his
country the position which by right belonged to him; but the
nation had always reckoned upon his wisdom and justice no less
than on his brilliant valor; a prosperous and happy reign had
been hoped for, and the grief was general and protracted. "The
good fortune of England seemed bound up in his person," says the
chronicler Walsingham; "it had flourished in his health, it
languished in his illness, and died at his death; in him expired
all the hopes of the English. For during his lifetime neither an
invasion of the enemy nor an encounter in battle had been
feared."
{335}
He was interred with great pomp in Canterbury Cathedral, where he
had formerly erected a chapel in memory of his marriage. At the
especial request of Parliament, his eldest son Richard was
thereupon declared heir to the throne. Fears were entertained
concerning the pretensions of the Duke of Lancaster, who had
resumed all his authority. Sir Peter de la Mare, who had
impeached the ministers in the name of Parliament, was arrested.
The Bishop of Winchester, William of Wykeham, formerly at the
head of the opposition, was divested of his revenues. A
Parliament favorable to John of Gaunt was convoked; it proposed
the recall of Alice Perrers, the rehabilitation of Lord Latimer,
and other measures so unpopular that the palace of the duke was
assailed by the citizens of London, and his friend Lord Percy, a
Marshal of England, was pursued by the mob, so that the prince
was obliged to throw himself into a small boat with Percy, and
take refuge at Kennington, in the castle inhabited by the young
Prince Richard and his mother. All the remonstrances of the
Bishop of London scarcely succeeded in calming the disturbance.
The arms of the Duke of Lancaster, at the gate of his palace,
were inverted by the people as the escutcheon of a traitor. When
the duke returned shortly afterwards to London, all the
magistrates of the city were dismissed and replaced by his
creatures. On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the
reign of Edward III., a general amnesty was proclaimed; the
Bishop of Winchester alone was excluded from it.

{336}

It was the last public act of King Edward; this body so active
and robust, this spirit so bold, this will so firm, had
nevertheless undergone the effects of premature old age. The
ministers were ranging themselves beside the Duke of Lancaster;
the opposition was grouped around the young Prince Richard and
the Princess of Wales; the old king was dying alone, with Alice
Perrers. It is even said that she deserted him in his agony,
after having taken the royal ring from him. The king lay in this
isolation; the servants having dispersed in the manor of Shene,
to plunder at their leisure. A monk entered, crucifix in hand; he
approached the unhappy monarch, praying beside him, and
supporting his expiring head until the last sigh. Thus died, on
the 21st of June, 1377, the great Edward III., who had at one
time appeared destined to unite upon his head the two crowns of
France and England. He died alone, in the sixty-fifth year of his
age, leaving to his grandson, a child, instead of the whole of
Aquitaine, which he had received from his father, a few towns
only upon that soil of France of which he claimed possession. The
blood of the two nations had flowed during more than thirty
years, and the struggle was as yet only at its beginning.

{337}

                   Chapter XII.

                   Bolingbroke.
               Richard II. (1377-1398).
               Henry IV. (1398-1413).


The little King Richard was much fatigued on the 16th of July,
1377; it was found necessary to place him in a litter to bring
him back to the palace, after his coronation. All the former
popularity of his grandfather Edward III., all the affection
which his father the Black Prince had inspired, appeared to have
accumulated upon his head, by reason of the fear and aversion
which were felt towards John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster. The
prelates and barons assembled on the morrow of the coronation,
and selected a council of regency of twelve members. The uncles
of the king did not form part of this body, and John of Gaunt
retired to his castle of Kenilworth; but several members of the
council remained devoted to him, and his influence soon began to
be complained of.

The King of France, Charles V., had lost no time in taking
advantage of the weakness of the English government: his fleets
overran the Channel, fettering commerce and seizing the British
vessels; a descent was even made upon the Isle of Wight. The
Parliament was convoked, and the Earl of Buckingham, the uncle of
the king, was placed at the head of the naval forces; his
expedition against the French fleet miscarried, and his defeat
increased the discontent of the nation. The Parliament was
composed chiefly of the enemies of the Duke of Lancaster, and
when a kind of reconciliation had been effected between the
latter and the House of Commons, that assembly demanded that two
citizens of London should be entrusted to receive the money voted
for the defence of the country. John of Gaunt started for France
with a large army (1378).

{338}

The King of Navarre, still at war with Charles V., held a portion
of Normandy; he had surrendered Cherbourg to the English. The
Duke of Brittany, John de Montfort, being reduced to the last
extremity by the successes of Bertrand du Guesclin, had consigned
Brest to them; but these acquisitions were due to the freewill of
the allies of England, and not to its arms. John of Gaunt was
defeated before St. Malo; and, being pursued by Du Guesclin, was
compelled to return to England, while the Scots, at the
instigation of France, invaded the northern counties and took
possession of Berwick Castle. A Scottish pirate, named John
Mercer, devastated the coast as far as Scarborough. A London
merchant, named John Philpot, on the other hand, armed a small
fleet, and hastening to the encounter of Mercer, recaptured from
him all the vessels which the latter had seized; captured,
besides, fifteen Spanish ships, and returned triumphantly into
the Thames, amid the plaudits of his fellow-citizens, and to the
indignation of the council, which reprimanded the alderman for
the boldness of his undertaking.

The Parliament had assembled at Gloucester, disaffected and
exacting. The Commons asked to examine the accounts, which was
granted to them as a favor. John de Montfort had recently taken
refuge in England, banished from his dominions by King Charles
V., who committed the imprudent act of officially annexing the
duchy of Brittany to France. This declaration immediately rallied
all the different factions against him.
{339}
John de Montfort was recalled; the States-general of Brittany
wrote to the King of France, asking him to authorize them to
retain their independent ruler. At the same time an English army,
under the command of the Earl of Buckingham, landed at Calais and
ravaged the provinces of Artois, Picardy, and Champagne without
ever encountering the necessity of a serious combat. The English
were arriving in Brittany when King Charles V. died (1378), and
the Bretons, reassured by the weakness of the young King Charles
VI., began to look coldly upon their English allies. De Montfort
negotiated with the French council of regency, and Buckingham was
only indebted for his safety to the valor of his troops and to
the provisions which he had brought. He retired in the spring of
1379. Great events were in preparation in England.

For some years a double movement, religious and social, had begun
secretly to agitate the English people. A priest, John Wycliffe,
born towards 1324, in Yorkshire, had attracted attention at the
university of Oxford by his rare faculties, and had commenced, in
the year 1356, to denounce the abuses of the papal authority; he
had then attacked the mendicant monks, accusing the Church in
general of greed and corruption. Summoned to appear before the
Bishop of London, in the last year of the reign of Edward III.,
to answer for his opinions, he had been supported by the Duke of
Lancaster and his friend Lord Percy; both had even insulted the
bishop, which had brought about an insurrection in the city.
Wycliffe had retracted some of his ideas, he had explained
others; and, thanks to his powerful protectors, he had obtained
the living of Lutterworth, in Leicestershire, where he spent the
remainder of his life, surrounded by priests, whom he brought up
in truly apostolic poverty, and who subsequently spread his
opinions among the people.
{340}
Wycliffe is the first of the Reformers, or rather, their
precursor. His doctrines acted more powerfully abroad than in his
own country; it is to his books that were due the first germs of
the Reformation in Bohemia; for England, his greatest work was
the translation of the Bible into the vernacular. The most
important of his ideas was the appeal to the private judgment of
the faithful upon the very text of the Holy Scriptures. Wycliffe
had shaken the traditions of submission to the clergy; he had at
the same time preached a dangerous doctrine. "All possessions,"
he said, "come of grace, and may be forfeited by sin." The poor
serfs, who possessed nothing, might be anxious to profit in their
turn by the grace which insured estates. Wycliffe died peacefully
at Lutterworth in 1384.

Already, for two years past, his illustrious friend, Geoffrey
Chaucer, the first creator of English poetry, had been compelled
to quit England, compromised by his attachment to the new ideas;
he had retired into Hainault, where he lived in peace, protected
by the friendship of the Duke of Lancaster. The first works of
Chaucer, _The Court of Love_, the poem of _Troilus and
Cresseide, The Temple of Fame_, had been published several
years before, and had assured to him a reputation which had
largely contributed to his fortune. The English language at this
time, still largely intermixed with French, and difficult to
understand at the present time, assumed, under the pen of
Chaucer, a native grace to which sometimes succeeds an energy
which prepared the way for Spenser and Shakespeare.
{341}
Chaucer again established himself in England when John of Gaunt
returned from his expedition to Castile; he lived to an advanced
age, and composed in his retreat of Dumington his _Canterbury
Tales_, written in the style of the _Decameron_ of
Boccaccio, and the only one of his books which is still read at
the present day. He died in 1400, the year following the
accession of Henry Bolingbroke, the son of his protector. Like
Wycliffe, he had seen the commencement of the popular agitations.
The poll-tax voted by the Parliament in 1379 was their first
opportunity.

A general movement towards the enfranchisement of the lower
classes manifested itself everywhere in Europe. The insurrection
of the Jacquerie in France; the resistance of the Flemish
citizens and artisans, first, to the conduct of Jacques van
Arteveldt and afterwards to that of Philip, his son, had
testified to the awakening of the serfs, the peasants, and the
artisans, so long reduced to the condition of beasts of burden.
The kings had been in need of money, and the taxes weighing upon
all their subjects, it had been necessary to conciliate them. The
soldiery had acquired a new importance; the English archers, in
particular, nearly all peasants by origin, had played an
important part in the wars. When the tax-collectors began in 1380
to demand payment of the poll-tax, of a people already
impoverished by a long series of exactions, they met with a
resistance which increased with the oppression. The tax, at first
collected with leniency, was let out to some courtiers; they
borrowed in advance of the Lombards and Flemings; repayment
became necessary, and the revenue was exacted with great
severity. The peasants became exasperated; they began to assemble
and confer together; the insurrection broke out in Essex.
{342}
The "Commons of England," as the insurgents styled themselves,
broke into several dwelling-houses in the neighborhood; they
obeyed a seditious priest who assumed the name of Jack Straw. The
contagion rapidly spread into the counties of Kent, Suffolk, and
Norfolk. The tax was payable only in the case of persons above
fourteen years of age. A Kentish collector maintained that the
daughter of a tiler had attained the specified age; her mother
maintained the contrary; the collector insulted the young girl,
and was brained with a hammer by the father. A knight had
reclaimed a serf who thought he was entitled to enfranchisement,
and had imprisoned him in Rochester Castle; the peasants attacked
the castle and compelled the garrison to surrender the prisoner.
The Kentish insurgents marched under the command of a chief named
Wat Tyler (Wat the tiler). On the Monday of Trinity week, in
1381, they entered Canterbury, threatening death to the
archbishop, who was absent. The monks of the chapter-house were
compelled to swear fidelity to King Richard and the commons of
England. Three wealthy burgesses were beheaded, and the crowd
proceeded towards London. It is related that one hundred thousand
men followed close upon the steps of Wat Tyler, when he arrived
on the 11th of June at Blackheath.

The Princess of Wales, the mother of the young king, was
returning from a pilgrimage. The crowd of insurgents surrounded
her retinue. She was popular by reason of her husband's memory
and her ransom cost her only some kisses bestowed on the more
audacious of the leaders, who had not forgotten that she had
formerly been called "the fair maid of Kent;" she passed by
without further difficulty.
{343}
The malcontents thronged round an itinerant preacher whom they
had brought with them, and who displayed to them this text, now
famous:--

  "When Adam delved and Eve span,
  Where was then the gentleman?"

The doctrine of equality was received with enthusiasm by these
poor people, hitherto trodden under foot. The outskirts of London
were laid waste when the king proceeded down the Thames, on the
12th of June, to receive the petition of the insurgents. Ten
thousand men awaited his arrival at Rotherhithe; but at the sight
of the royal barge they uttered "such cries," says Froissart,
"that one would have thought that all the demons of hell were in
their midst." The noblemen who accompanied Richard became
alarmed, and dragged him with them as far as the Tower. "The
Commons of England," in a state of fury, advanced along the right
bank of the river as far as Lambeth, burnt down the prisons, and
plundered the palace of the Archbishop. On the other side of the
Thames the insurgents marched along the course of the river, and
at length obtaining a passage over London Bridge, they joined
their brothers of Kent. The whole city was in their power; the
population of London had joined them, and the rich citizens, to
please them, had thrown open their cellars to them. Hitherto, the
multitude had behaved with a certain amount of order, but
intoxication being once added to the joy of triumph, they could
no longer be restrained; the palace of the Duke of Lancaster was
invaded and burnt down; plunder was strictly forbidden; the gold
was reduced to powder, and the precious stones were broken. A
peasant had taken a bowl of money; he was thrown into the river
with his booty. The prisons being opened and destroyed brought
fresh reinforcements to the insurgents.
{344}
The Temple was burnt, with all the valuable books which had been
collected by the knights. The priory of St. John of Jerusalem,
recently constructed by Sir Thomas Hales, a prior of the order
and Chancellor of the Kingdom, was also delivered up to the
flames. A thirst for blood began to take possession of the
populace. Every passer-by was challenged. "For whom are you?" was
asked. If the answer was not "For King Richard and the true
commons," the person answering was immediately slaughtered. All
the Flemings fell by the knife or the hatchet; the popular hatred
sought them out even in the churches. Wine and blood flowed in
the streets; the counsellors of the king resolved to try
concessions.

On the morning of the 14th of June a proclamation was spread
throughout London, recommending the crowd which surrounded the
Tower and demanded the heads of the chancellor and treasurer, to
retreat towards Mile End. The king promised there to come to them
and to grant their requests. A portion of the mob obeyed; when
Richard arrived with a weak retinue at the meeting-place (his
brothers, the Earl of Kent and Lord John Holland, had quitted him
on the road), he saw himself surrounded by sixty thousand
peasants. Their tone was respectful, and their requests, which
then appeared monstrous, do not create the same impression at the
present day. They demanded the definitive abolition of servitude;
the power to sell and purchase in all markets; and a general
amnesty for the past. To this they added a strange claim to fix
the amount of rental on lands. The king promised all that they
wished, and immediately caused to be made a large number of
copies of the charter which he had thus granted.
{345}
These were distributed among the insurgents; the men of Essex and
Hertford retired in a body; but the malcontents of Kent had
remained in the capital, and had not appeared at the
meeting-place in Mile End. Scarcely had the king retired when
these dangerous foes attacked the Tower, beheading the
councillors who had taken refuge therein, the Archbishop of
Canterbury, the treasurer, Sir Thomas Hale, and several others.
The Princess of Wales, while yet in bed, saw a furious mob spring
into her chamber. No injury was done to her, and her attendants
were enabled to throw her, fainting with fright, into a little
boat; she was conveyed to a house in the city belonging to the
king, who there came and joined her when he had learnt the sad
news of the massacre at the Tower.

In the morning, Richard issued forth with a small escort, and
advanced fearlessly towards Smithfield. The multitude thronged
the streets and squares. The king drew up at St. Bartholomew's
Priory. "I will go no further," he said, "without having pacified
the insurgents." Wat Tyler had perceived him, and urging his
horse towards him, "There is the king: I go to speak to him," he
cried to his supporters; "do not move a hand or foot unless I
give you the signal." The horse of the popular chief touched
heads with that of the king. "Sir king," said Wat Tyler, "do you
see those men yonder?" "Yes," replied the young prince without
stirring. "They are at my disposal, and ready to do as I bid
them." And he toyed with his dagger, holding the bridle of the
royal courser; then, perceiving behind Richard an esquire who had
displeased him, "Ah, you here?" he said, "give me your sword."
The esquire refused; Wat Tyler made a motion to take possession
of it; the followers of the king were roused.
{346}
The Lord Mayor of London, William Walworth, urged forward his
horse, and advancing towards the rebel, struck him a blow with a
dagger; the horse reared. Tyler endeavored to return to his
followers; an esquire of the king thrust his sword through his
body; he fell, beating the air with his hands. The mob became
agitated. "Our captain is slain," was the cry, and the bowstrings
began to vibrate. Richard advanced alone towards the crowd. "What
do you, my friends?" he exclaimed. "Tyler was a traitor; it is I
who am your captain and your guide." And he drew after him this
irresolute mob, deprived of their chief, and who marched without
knowing whither they were bound. They arrived in the fields near
Islington. The friends of the king had rallied round him. One of
the chiefs of his free bands, Sir Robert Knowles, brought a body
of men-at-arms. The insurgents took alarm, threw down their bows,
and cried "Mercy!" The king would not suffer them to be
slaughtered in a mass, to the great exasperation of Sir Robert
Knowles. "He said that he would be even with them on another
occasion," says Froissart; "in which he did not fail."

The insurrections subsided everywhere. The Bishop of Norwich had
armed his household and his friends, and hastening to throw
himself upon the peasants, he had easily defeated these confused
masses, little accustomed to arms. He had himself drawn up their
indictment and pronounced their sentence; then resuming his
clerical costume, he had exhorted them, received their
confession, absolved them, and finally accompanied them to the
gallows. The king was at the head of a small army, and had
marched against the remainder of the insurgents of Essex. It was
no longer a question of charters; the courts of commission were
everywhere assembling to try the guilty.

[Image]
Death of Wat Tyler.

{347}
The two priests, Jack Straw and John Ball, were hanged. Lester
and Wistbroom, who had assumed the title of "Kings of the
Commons" in the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk, suffered the
same fate. About fifteen hundred rioters were executed. It was
found necessary to fix them to the gibbet with iron chains; their
friends came by night to carry off their bodies.

The Parliament had assembled, publicly approving of the abolition
of the concessions granted to the villeins during the struggle.
"We would never have consented to them," said the barons, "even
had we all been compelled to perish on the same day." For the
moment, there was some talk of abolishing servitude; but the
opposition was so strenuous, the proprietors of fiefs declared so
loudly that their serfs belonged to them by right, and that they
could not be deprived of them without their consent, that the
idea was immediately abandoned, and the high treason law was
voted, condemning "riots, disturbances, and other analogous
things," in terms as dangerous as they were vague. The king
demanded money, the commons claimed a complete amnesty; neither
would begin to make concessions. The Parliament at length
yielded; the tax upon wool and leather was prolonged for five
years, and the king proclaimed the amnesty; he was about to wed
Anne of Bohemia, soon known throughout the whole of her kingdom
as "the good queen." The Bishop of Norwich was fighting in
Flanders, in support of the citizens of Ghent hard pressed by
their count, recently a victor at the battle of Rosebecque, where
Philip van Arteveldt had been killed; and the uncles of the king
contended with each other for the authority in England. The Earl
of Cambridge had been made Duke of York, and the Earl of
Buckingham Duke of Gloucester.
{348}
Henry Bolingbroke, son of the Duke of Lancaster, had become Earl
of Derby; at the same time, the king had made Earl of Suffolk and
Duke of Ireland, his favorites Michael de la Pole and Robert de
Vere, obscure persons, whom the Princess of Wales had placed
beside her son, by reason of her jealousy towards his uncles; and
who contributed, by their influence, to the struggles and
disputes of the government. The princess had recently died,
having succumbed beneath the weight of the anxieties caused by
one of her sons, Lord John Holland; he had recently assassinated
one of the servants of the king, and was unable to quit the
church in which he had taken refuge. Plot succeeded
plot--denunciation to denunciation. At length, the Duke of
Lancaster started out for Spain, in order to sustain the
pretensions of his wife to the throne of Castile; and he
contrived, after two campaigns, to marry his eldest daughter to
the heir of Henry of Transtamare, thus assuring the crown to her
children. The Scots had crossed the frontier, and King Richard
entered Scotland. France was preparing a great armament.

Amidst these external preoccupations, the Duke of Gloucester had
seized the reins of government; and, when the young king
threatened to dissolve a Parliament devoted to his uncle, the
Commons brought forward the Act which had deposed Edward II. A
council of barons for a while governed the kingdom, under the
presidency of Gloucester. Blood flowed everywhere; the duke
avenged himself upon the favorites of the king, who were as
odious to him as to the English people. He had impeached them
before the Parliament: the innocent were involved in the ruin of
the guilty.
{349}
Gloucester did not even spare Sir Simon Burley, formerly the
tutor of the king, the friend of Edward III. and the Black
Prince, and who had conducted the negotiations for the marriage
of Richard. The queen in vain threw herself at his feet asking
for mercy; in vain did Henry Bolingbroke, who had seconded his
uncle in all his undertakings, claim as a right the pardon of the
condemned man: Burley was executed, and Bolingbroke became
definitively at variance with Gloucester.

The disorder which prevailed in England did not prevent constant
hostilities upon the frontiers of Scotland; it was on August
15th, 1388, that there took place at Otterbourn, the famous
battle celebrated in the ballads under the name of Chevy Chase,
between the Earl of Douglas and Lord Henry Percy, the Hotspur of
Shakespeare. Douglas was slain, but the English ended by being
repulsed from the battle-field. Hotspur and his brother were
prisoners. The king was beginning to weary of the yoke which he
had so long borne. He was subject to gleams of resolution and
courage, which soon disappeared in a long spell of indolence, and
which took by surprise those who calculated upon his habitual
apathy. A council was being held in the month of May, 1389; the
king suddenly addressed the Duke of Gloucester. "How old do you
suppose I am, uncle?" he asked. "Your highness is in your
twenty-second year," replied the duke, much surprised. "Then,"
replied the king, "I am at an age when I should govern my own
affairs. Nobody in my kingdom has been so long held under
tutelage. I thank you for your services, my lord, but I no longer
require them." And he immediately caused the great seal and the
keys of the treasury to be given up to himself, compelling the
Duke of Gloucester to leave the council, and announcing publicly
to the nation that he had henceforth assumed the direction of the
government. But his fleeting energy had already abandoned him.
The Duke of York and Henry Bolingbroke were his masters, instead
of the Duke of Gloucester.

{350}

John of Gaunt had returned from Castile; he had become reconciled
with his brothers. Concord appeared re-established in the royal
family; a truce had been concluded with France and Scotland. The
King of Scotland, Robert II., had died on the 19th of April,
1390, and his eldest son had assumed the title of Robert III.
Queen Anne had also died, in 1394, and King Richard, who had no
children, married two years later, much against the wishes of his
subjects, the Princess Isabel, daughter of Charles VI., king of
France. She was but seven years old; but the king conceived the
liveliest affection for her, and conducted her everywhere with
him upon his travels. An expedition in Ireland against the
insurgent chiefs had been very successful; but the Duke of
Gloucester protested with all his might against the alliance with
France. "Our Edwards," he said, "caused Paris to tremble even in
its entrails; but, under Richard, we court the French, who make
us tremble within London." The duke had his reasons for
trembling: the king had not forgotten the execution of his
favorites, nor the men who had signed their indictment. The Earl
of Warwick, one of the accomplices of Gloucester, was already
arrested; the Earl of Arundel soon followed. The Duke of
Gloucester had retired to Pleshy Castle, in Essex; his nephew
repaired there in gay company: all the family came forward to
meet the king; but, while the duchess was conversing with him,
Gloucester was arrested by the marshal of England, dragged as far
as the river, thrown into a boat, and from thence a vessel bore
him towards Calais.
{351}
A rumor was thereupon spread that he had been assassinated; the
king published a proclamation declaring that the arrests had been
made with the approval of his uncles of Lancaster and York, as
well as of his cousin, the Earl of Derby. He had even obtained,
by a ruse, their signatures to the impeachment. Lord Arundel was
condemned by the Parliament, and immediately executed; his
brother, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was not even admitted to
plead his cause, for the king dreaded his eloquence; he was
banished for life, and the Earl of Warwick, at first condemned to
death, was imprisoned in the Isle of Man. The House of Lords then
called the Duke of Gloucester for judgment; but the marshal
replied that he could not bring the Lord Duke, who had for
several days been dead at Calais. He was condemned, however, and
all his goods were confiscated; it was said that he had been
suffocated between two mattresses. The judges were not without
uneasiness concerning the application which they had just made of
the high treason law: nearly all had been, at different periods,
compromised in plots or insurrections. They obtained of the king
an amnesty for the past; and, as a reward for present services,
Richard made his cousin the Earl of Derby, Duke of Hereford; the
Earl of Nottingham became Duke of Norfolk, and John Holland, the
murderer, was made Duke of Exeter. The Parliament completed its
work of complaisance by granting to the king, for life, a subsidy
upon woollens, and by forming a commission, entrusted to watch
affairs. King Richard was no longer in a hurry to appeal to his
people, or to convoke the Parliament.

{352}

The conduct of the king towards his uncle the Duke of Gloucester
and his friends, the vengeance which had overtaken, after so many
years, the enemies of the favorites, revealed the character of
the sovereign in a light which caused uneasiness in the country.
Indolent and prodigal, habitually engrossed in the pleasures of
luxury and magnificence, Richard was not only capable of
momentary energy, but he maintained in the bottom of his heart
projects which he shaped to his purposes with patient
perseverance. Once delivered of the Parliament and of the Duke of
Gloucester, the Duke of Lancaster aged and in retirement in his
castle, Richard gave himself up to all his whims, certain, as he
thought, of encountering no serious opposition. "At that time,"
says Froissart, "no one was great enough in England to dare to
speak against the will of the king. He had a council obedient to
his wishes, who begged him to do as he pleased; and he had in his
pay ten thousand archers, who guarded him day and night." The
extravagances of the court were insensate, and the people began
to complain, looking back regretfully upon the government of the
king's uncles, who had shown some consideration, they said, for
the nation, and consulted it in its own affairs.

Two great noblemen alone remained of those who had, in 1386,
seconded the efforts of the Duke of Gloucester against the
favorites of the king; and, notwithstanding the favor shown to
them by Richard, they did not feel secure in their positions. The
Duke of Norfolk, galloping upon the road to Windsor, in the month
of December, 1397, encountered the Duke of Hereford. "We are
ruined," said he to his friend. "Wherefore?" asked Bolingbroke.
"For that affair at Radcot Bridge." [Footnote 5]

    [Footnote 5: The Duke of Ireland (Robert de Vere) had been
    defeated by Gloucester and his companions, at Radcot
    Bridge.]

{353}

"What! after so many pardons and declarations by the Parliament?"
rejoined Bolingbroke. "He will annul all that, and we shall pass
through the ordeal like the others; the world in which we live is
strangely perfidious." The Duke of Norfolk soon had reason to be
convinced of this. Either through thoughtlessness or through
treachery, the conversation was reported to the king; he convoked
the Parliament, and his first care in the month of January, 1398,
was to summon Henry Bolingbroke to render an account of the words
of the Duke of Norfolk. The latter was not present, but upon the
summons of the Parliament, he came to throw down his glove at the
feet of the Duke of Hereford, declaring him a traitor and a
perjurer: the combat was authorized between the two noblemen. "I
shall then at length have peace," muttered the king, while
proceeding to Coventry, on the 16th of September, to be present
at the tournament. But having once confronted the two
antagonists, he became fearful of a victory for one of them, and,
forbidding the ordeal, he submitted the question to a
Parliamentary commission chosen by himself. The Duke of Hereford
was condemned to an exile of ten years. The Duke of Norfolk was
banished forever. He thereupon started for the Holy Land, and
died of grief at Venice. But Henry Bolingbroke did not go far
away; he remained in France, watching the movements of his cousin
Richard, who lavished the riches of England with so thoughtless a
hand, that his treasury was constantly empty. His favorites would
then help him to replenish it by exactions of every kind. The
Duke of Lancaster had died three months after the departure of
his son; his immense property was confiscated, notwithstanding
the protests of Bolingbroke. A decree outlawed seventeen counties
of England, as having been favorable to the enemies of the king;
they were compelled to buy back their rights with enormous fines.
{354}
The disaffection increased, but the king took no heed whatever of
it. He embarked towards the end of May, 1390, for Ireland, where
his cousin and heir-apparent, the Earl of March, had recently
been assassinated. He had just taken the field against the
rebels, when Henry Bolingbroke landed, on the 4th of July, at
Ravenspur, in Yorkshire, having escaped from France under the
pretext of paying a visit to the Duke of Brittany.

Bolingbroke had brought with him a feeble following, the exiled
Archbishop of Canterbury, and his nephew, the Earl of Arundel,
fifteen knights and men-at-arms, and a few servants; but scarcely
had he touched the English soil, when the Earls of Northumberland
and Westmoreland joined him, bringing with them considerable
forces. Henry did not disclose his ulterior projects to anybody;
he came, he said, to claim his right, the inheritance of his
father, which the king had wrongly confiscated, and moreover the
public feeling was so favorable to him, the nation was so weary
of seeing itself ill-governed, that the malcontents rose in all
parts to place themselves under his standard. He was, it is said,
at the head of an army of sixty thousand men when he advanced
towards London. The Duke of York, regent of the kingdom in the
absence of Richard, did not rely upon the burgesses of the City;
he had quitted the capital, and displayed the royal standard at
St. Alban's. Terror began to seize the creatures of the king:
instead of marching against the rebels, they cowardly shut
themselves up in fortified castles. The Duke of York had taken
the western road, pending the return of King Richard; but
Bolingbroke had used diligence, and he arrived at the Severn on
the same day as the regent.
{355}
The latter placed little confidence in his troops; he was aware
of the general discontent, and he retained in the bottom of his
heart a bitter resentment for the murder of his brother
Gloucester. He granted an interview to his nephew Bolingbroke:
the firm, bold and cunning mind of Henry triumphed easily over
the feeble will of the Duke of York; the two armies were
amalgamated, and the regent helped the usurper to take Bristol
Castle. There the members of the commission which had formerly
condemned Bolingbroke had taken refuge; they were executed
without any form of trial, and the Duke of Lancaster marched upon
Chester, leaving his uncle at Bristol.

For three weeks Richard had remained in ignorance of what was
taking place in his kingdom. When he at length learnt the news of
the landing of Henry and his formidable progresses, he exclaimed
bitterly, "Ah! my good uncle of Lancaster, the Lord have mercy on
your soul! If I had believed you, although this man might be your
son, he would never have harmed me. Three times I have forgiven
him; this is his fourth offence." The Earl of Salisbury
immediately set sail to assemble together some troops in England;
he had raised pretty considerable forces in Wales; but the king
delayed, the soldiers murmured and dispersed by degrees; a large
number went and joined the rebels. The king at length disembarked
with his cousin, the Duke of Albemarle, and his two brothers, the
Dukes of Exeter and Surrey. The little army which he had taken to
Ireland followed him: but at the second halting-place, when the
king, having risen very early, looked through the window towards
the camp, where on the previous evening, six thousand soldiers
had slept, he no longer saw but a handful of archers and
men-at-arms: all had deserted during the night.
{356}
The king was advised to take refuge at Bordeaux. "That would be
to abdicate," said his brother, the Duke of Exeter. It was
resolved that they should join the Earl of Salisbury, and the
king, disguised as a priest, took the road to Conway, with his
brothers and a few servants, while the Duke of Albemarle,
following the example of his father, the Duke of York, fled by
night to join the army of he usurper.

The Earl of Salisbury had not a hundred men with him when the
king arrived at Conway. In this deplorable situation, the
brothers of King Richard proposed to go to Henry at Chester, in
order to ascertain his pretensions. The two dukes did not return;
their cousin Bolingbroke received them kindly, but he positively
refused to release them: all his efforts were directed towards
seizing the king in person. The Earl of Northumberland was
entrusted with this mission. By false promises he enticed the
king out of Conway, proposing an interview with Bolingbroke at
Flint. Richard was almost alone, abandoned; he followed the earl
with the friends who remained to him. They galloped along slowly,
when suddenly the king cried, "I am betrayed! Lord in Heaven,
help me! Do you not see banners and pennants flying in the
valley?" Northumberland advanced at the same time. "My lord," the
unhappy monarch said to him abruptly, "if I thought you capable
of betraying me, I could yet retreat." "No," replied the Earl,
who had laid hold of his bridle; "I have promised to conduct you
to the Duke of Lancaster." The soldiers of Northumberland began
to appear; the king yielded to necessity. "Our Saviour was sold
and delivered into the hands of His enemies," he murmured.

{357}

They arrived at Flint. Henry Bolingbroke, in all his armor, came
forward to meet his royal cousin, and bent his knee on
approaching. "Good cousin of Lancaster," said Richard
courteously, "you are welcome." "My lord," replied Henry, "I have
come before my time, but I will tell you the reason: your people
complain that you have governed them harshly for twenty-two
years; if it please God, I will help you rule them better."
"Since it pleases you, it pleases me also," meekly replied the
fallen monarch; and, seated upon a wretched courser, like a
prisoner, King Richard took the road to Chester, side by side
with Henry Bolingbroke. Froissart relates that his very dog
abandoned him to lick the hand of the usurper.

At Lichfield Richard attempted to escape; but he was seized as he
had just issued forth through a window, and thereafter was
narrowly guarded. The people of London received him with yells
and insults. The usurper repaired to St. Paul's, prayed upon the
tomb of his father, and then took possession of the palace. The
king had been led to the Tower.

The Parliament was convoked, and ready to depose Richard II., as
it had formerly deposed his great-grand-father; but Henry
Bolingbroke, with a bitter foresight of the mutability of human
things, wished to secure the personal consent and the voluntary
abdication of the king. He held him narrowly confined within the
Tower. "Why do you cause me to be thus guarded?" Richard angrily
exclaimed one day; "Am I your king or your prisoner?" "You are my
king," replied the duke; "but the council of your kingdom have
seen fit to place a guard beside your person." On the eve of the
opening of Parliament, a deputation of prelates and barons paid a
visit to the unhappy king in the Tower, and asked him to
abdicate. Richard felt himself powerless in the hands of his
enemies; he yielded, "willingly and joyfully," say the acts of
Parliament; and, releasing his subjects from their oath, he
consigned his royal ring to his cousin of Lancaster, saying that
he would choose him for his successor, if he had the right to
designate him.
{358}
These details are open to doubt, but the Parliament held them
good, and on the 30th of September, before the empty throne, in
Westminster Hall, the abdication of Richard was read aloud, all
the members giving their consent to it. The people uttered cries
of joy. The coronation oath was then brought, and, at each
article, proclaimed aloud, the impeachment of King Richard was
drawn up. He was accused of the murder of his uncle Gloucester;
of having revoked the amnesties, and of having squandered the
public money. Nobody raised his voice for the dethroned monarch
until the Bishop of Carlisle, Thomas Merks, rose and publicly
denied the right of the Parliament to depose the king and to
change the order of succession, at the same time defending
Richard against his accusers. Scarcely had he finished his
discourse, when he was arrested. While he was being conducted to
St. Alban's, the Parliament pronounced the deposition of Richard,
and the Lord Chief Justice was instructed to announce his fall to
him. "I care not to court the regal authority," said the deposed
king; "I only hope that my good cousin will be a good master to
me."

His good cousin was not yet legally king; the descendants of
Lionel, the third son of Edward III., were the legitimate heirs
to the throne; no one, however, thought of them. The Duke of
Lancaster had remained in his seat; his surrounders waited in
profound silence. He rose, and, solemnly making the sign of the
cross, said in a very loud voice, "In the name of the Father, of
the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, I, Henry of Lancaster, lay claim
to this kingdom of England and to the crown, as a descendant of
the good King Henry III., and by the right which God has given
me, by granting to me the favor, through the support of my
friends, to come to the assistance of this country, which was
about to perish under bad laws and for want of government."

{359}

This mixture of hereditary pretensions with popular rights was
skilful. The Parliament responded to the appeal of Henry
Bolingbroke; acclamations broke out in all parts; the duke showed
the ring which Richard had consigned to him; the Archbishop of
Canterbury took him by the hand and led him to the foot of the
throne. Henry knelt there for a moment; he then ascended the
steps and seated himself resolutely. The plaudits recommenced
during the discourse of the archbishop. "I thank you, my lord,"
said the new monarch; "and I wish everybody to know that, by
right of conquest, I will disinherit nobody of his rights, but
wish that all may be governed by the good laws of the kingdom,
and may hold what he has by right." The officers of the crown and
the great noblemen also vowed fealty and homage: Henry IV. was
king of England.

In the first days of his reign, the new sovereign was enabled to
believe that public opinion fully confirmed his usurpation. All
the great noblemen were eager to fulfil at his coronation their
hereditary offices; the Earl of Northumberland alone, who had
rendered eminent services to him, marched beside him in the
procession, holding aloft in sight of all the sword worn by
Bolingbroke on landing at Ravenspur. The House of Commons
responded to the slightest wishes of the king, and the greater
number of the unpopular measures of the last reign were withdrawn
by common consent.
{360}
A great uproar arose in the House of Lords: the peers who had
appealed against the Duke of Gloucester were summoned to
exculpate themselves; all took their stand upon the wish of King
Richard, upon the fear which he inspired, and upon the unanimous
vote of the House. Recriminations poured down in every part;
forty gauntlets were thrown upon the ground as challenges to
combat. A weak and timid monarch would have taken alarm in the
midst of this violent confusion: Henry IV. was enabled to calm
the agitation. He divested the "lords appellant," as they were
styled, of the titles which Richard had given to them as rewards;
the Dukes of Albemarle, Surrey and Exeter, the Marquis of Dorset
and the Earl of Gloucester, became once more the Earls of
Rutland, Kent, Huntingdon, and Somerset, and Lord Le Despencer;
but the new king wreaked no other vengeance upon them. The high
treason law was restored to more limited and less vague formulae;
appeals to the Houses in cases of treason were abolished, and the
Parliament was forbidden to delegate its authority to a
commission. The eldest son of the king was declared Prince of
Wales, Duke of Guienne, Lancaster, and Cornwall, as well as heir
presumptive to the throne. Henry was too prudent to again raise
the question of the law of succession which he had so boldly
disregarded: he did not wish his hereditary right to the throne
to be discussed; he well knew that the little Earl of March, so
carefully installed in Windsor Castle, was the real heir to the
throne, as great-grand-son of Lionel, Duke of Clarence, the elder
brother of John of Gaunt. The child was not nine years of age;
the king caused him to be well brought up, as well as his
brother, and neither was destined to recover his liberty during
his lifetime; but their sister, soon afterwards married to the
Earl of Cambridge, had transmitted to the House of York those
rights or those pretensions which condemned England to half a
century of civil war.

{361}

Difficulties abound in the path of usurpers. King Richard had not
protested, he had asked for nothing, but he still lived in the
Tower. Before dissolving the Parliament, King Henry IV.
despatched the Earl of Northumberland to the House of Lords. The
latter asked that the message with which he was entrusted should
be kept secret; he then consulted the House upon the manner in
which the dispossessed king was to be treated; "for my master
Henry," he added, "has resolved, at any cost, to preserve the
life of Richard." The Lords all replied that King Richard should
be secretly led away to some castle, and placed in the hands of
faithful custodians, who should prevent all communication with
his friends. This was the sanction which Henry IV. wished for;
the dispossessed monarch was conducted to Leeds Castle, in Kent,
and then transferred by night from castle to castle, as had been
his great-grandfather, Edward II. In the month of January,
Richard had arrived in Pontefract Castle, in Yorkshire.

The removal of the dethroned king could not suffice to strengthen
the power; conspiracies were already beginning. The lords
appellant had scarcely been punished, but their fears as well as
their resentment urged them to revenge. They had formed the
project of assassinating Henry and of replacing Richard upon the
throne. A tournament was announced at Oxford for the 3rd of
January, and the Earl of Huntingdon, the brother-in-law of the
king, invited the latter to be present thereat. The invitation
was accepted.
{362}
The murder was to be accomplished during the jousts; the king and
his son were to succumb beneath numbers. The day came; the king
had not arrived, and the Earl of Rutland was absent from the
place of meeting. The conspirators saw themselves betrayed; but a
bold stroke might yet save them; they galloped to Windsor, and
took possession of the castle. The king was no longer there:
warned in time, he had taken refuge in London. The arrest
warrants were already issued against the traitors, and, on the
morrow, Henry marched against them, at the head of a considerable
force. They did not await him, and fled to arm their vassals.
Civil war appeared imminent; but public opinion was with King
Henry: it administered justice to the conspirators, without the
king being obliged to interfere. The citizens of the Cirencester
seized the Earls of Kent and Salisbury, and struck off their
heads; Lord Le Despencer was beheaded by the citizens of Bristol;
the Earl of Huntingdon was dismembered at Pleshy by the servants
of the late Duke of Gloucester. The King had only to cause the
trial of a few accomplices of low degree, but the attempt of the
lords appellant probably cost the life of King Richard; it was
learnt, towards the end of January, that he had died at
Pontefract. It was related that he had refused to take any food
since the death of his brothers, the Earls of Kent and
Huntingdon; distrustful people asserted that he had been starved
to death. Others maintained that he had been attacked in his
prison by some assassins, and that, after having valiantly
defended himself, he had been killed by a blow behind the head.
When the body of the unhappy monarch was brought to London,
before being interred at Langley, a portion only of the face was
uncovered. The details of his death were forever unknown, and
many people were resolute in denying it.

{363}

The little Queen Isabel had remained in England during the
lifetime of her husband, notwithstanding her father's wish to see
her return to his side. The death of his son-in-law caused one of
the dreaded attacks of insanity to poor King Charles VI.; but his
uncles were anxious to profit by the indignation which was
manifested at Bordeaux, the birthplace of the deposed monarch;
the Dukes of Burgundy and Bourbon advanced towards Guienne, and
the first movement of the population was favorable to their wish.
"Richard was the best man in his kingdom," it was said at
Bordeaux, "and the people of London have treacherously abandoned
him." But as the French army advanced, the ardor of the Gascons
abated. The French were poor, and annoyed by subsidies and taxes,
which were sometimes reproduced upon two or three occasions
during the year. "We are not accustomed to be treated thus," said
the English subjects, "and it would be too hard upon us. We have
still a king, and he will send his ministers to us to explain
himself. Meanwhile, we have a large commerce with England, in
wine, in wool, and in cloth." The uncles of the king were
compelled to retire without having accomplished anything. Henry
IV. was in no hurry to renew the war with France; he caused a
proposal to be made to marry the little Queen to the Prince of
Wales; but the father and the daughter rejected this alliance.
Charles VI. claimed with Isabel his jewels and the two hundred
thousand livres in gold which King Richard had received upon her
dowry. Henry was poor and the sum considerable; when the young
Queen was at length consigned to her family, in the month of
August, 1401, the ambassadors of England replied to the claims of
the French by a demand for a hundred and fifty thousand crowns of
gold which remained due upon the ransom of King John the Good.
{364}
The question of the dowry of Isabel was no longer mooted, and
peace subsisted between the two countries during the greater part
of the reign of Henry IV., notwithstanding the challenges of the
Duke of Orleans and Wallerand of Luxemboug, Count of Ligny and
St. Pol, which gave rise to slight hostilities upon the coasts.
Good warrior as he was, the King of England had too much to do at
home, and too much trouble to consolidate his throne to seek afar
for hazardous adventures.

At the very outset of his reign, however, and on the morrow of
the conspiracy of the lords appellant, Henry had attempted an
expedition into Scotland. Not daring to ask subsidies of the
Parliament, the king had had recourse to the military service of
the feudal system, and, convoking under his banners all holders
of fiefs, and furnished with the tithe voted by the clergy, he
had advanced as far as Edinburgh, to summon King Robert, the Duke
of Rothsay, his son, and all the great Scottish noblemen to come
and render homage to him. Robert III. was aged, feeble, and
infirm; he had abandoned the power to his brother, the Duke of
Albany, constantly at contention with the heir to the throne, the
Duke of Rothsay, sanguine, thoughtless, and venturesome. The
young duke hastened to Edinburgh, to defend it. Henry was
repulsed; his provisions failed him: he was compelled to withdraw
from Scotland, having reaped no other glory in this campaign than
the humanity towards the peasants, of which he had given proofs,
and the discipline which he had been enabled to maintain in his
army.

{365}

While the King of England was fighting and suffering failure in
Scotland, an unexpected insurrection broke out in Wales. A
lawyer, who had afterwards served as esquire in the house of the
Earl of Arundel, a Welshman,--descending, it was said, from
Llewellyn, the last Welsh prince,--Owen Glendower or Glendwyr,
had seen his little estate encroached upon through the avidity of
a powerful neighbor, Lord Grey de Ruthyn. Owen had appealed to
the Parliament; his complaint had been rejected. The Welshman
resolved to avenge himself by force of arms, and drove from his
lands the servants of Lord Grey. He was thereupon outlawed. His
pretensions grew with his anger; it was no longer a question of a
little field or of a cluster of trees; Owen Glendwyr publicly
proclaimed his illustrious origin, laying claim to the
independent sovereignty of Wales. Fire smouldered under the ashes
among these people, subjected for so many years; the love of
national liberty was not extinguished. From all parts the Welsh
hastened round Owen; students quitted their universities,
laborers their ploughshares, at the call of independence. At the
beginning of the year 1401, King Henry IV. found himself
compelled to proceed to Wales with an army. But Owen was too
shrewd to hazard a pitched battle; he left to the climate and to
famine the task of fighting for him. From the mountains in which
he had taken refuge, he soon saw King Henry compelled to retire.
A second campaign, attempted in 1402, was not more fortunate: the
rain fell in torrents; the rivers became swollen at the approach
of the English soldiers, who left Wales convinced that Glendwyr
was a sorcerer in league with the elements.

{366}

The rumor that King Richard was still living had come once more
to be circulated in Scotland and in the North of England,
restoring a certain amount of courage to the malcontents. In vain
had King Henry severely punished the fomenters of this news;
Richard was expected with the Scottish army, when it entered into
England in the spring of 1402. At the head of the English
opposition was a Scotchman, George, Earl of March. The Duke of
Rothsay was to have married his daughter, but he had rejected
her, to unite himself with the family of the Earl of Douglas, the
hereditary enemy of the Earls of March. The Earl of March had
thereupon renounced his allegiance to the King of Scotland, and
had allied himself with the Percies, all powerful in the county
of Northumberland. It was with his assistance that the Scots were
defeated and repulsed at Nesbit Moor, in June, 1402. Internal
rancors soon brought forward a second army; the Earl of Douglas,
furious at the success of his rival, solicited the assistance of
the Duke of Albany, and, at the head of a considerable force, he
soon overran the two banks of Tyne. Having advanced as far as
Newcastle, he was falling back, loaded with booty, when the Earls
of Northumberland and March cut off his road on the 14th of
September. The Scots covered Homildon Hill, and the English were
stationed opposite upon another elevation. Hotspur Percy had
already commanded the charge of his men-at-arms, when the Earl of
March restrained him by the arm. "Let your archers commence," he
said; "the turn of your horsemen will soon come." Arrows rained
down upon the Scots deployed upon the flank of the hill: Douglas
did not stir; his men were falling in their ranks, when a
Scottish baron, Fordun Swinton, at length cried, "Ah! my brave
comrades, who restrains you to-day, that you should remain there,
like deer or stags, to allow yourselves to be killed, instead of
displaying your former valor by fighting man to man! Let us
descend from here in the name of God!"
{367}
And the Scottish men-at-arms, thereupon moving, caused the
English archers to fall back. The latter, however, continued to
shoot, and Douglas received five wounds; he fell from his horse,
and was made a prisoner. Disorder set in in the Scottish ranks;
the flower of their chivalry had been decimated by the arrows or
had surrendered without striking a blow.

The son of the Duke of Albany, Murdoch Stewart, was among the
number of the prisoners. The English knights had not raised their
lances or drawn their swords; the battle had been won by the
archers of old England. The Earl of Northumberland arrived on the
20th of October at the Parliament convoked at Westminister,
gloriously accompanied by all his prisoners.

The Percies had recently gained a victory for King Henry IV.,
whom they had so powerfully assisted in gaining his throne. They
were about to turn their arms against him. Shakspeare attributes
their discontent to the prohibition which the king put upon their
setting ransoms upon their prisoners, a measure which deprived
them of all the pecuniary advantage of the capture; but this
interdiction had been frequent under the preceding reigns,
particularly under Edward III., and King Henry IV. indemnified
the Earl of Northumberland by granting vast domains to him.
Another cause for anger had recently sprung up. During the lucky
campaigns of Owen Glendwyr the latter had captured his old enemy,
Lord Grey de Ruthyn, and Sir Edmund Mortimer, uncle of the young
Earl of March, the legitimate heir to the throne. The relatives
of Lord Grey had been authorized to redeem him; but the king had
refused the same favor to the family of Sir Edmund.
{368}
Hotspur Percy had married his sister, and, acutely wounded by
this refusal, he began to set on foot a conspiracy to overthrow
the king and place the crown upon the head of the little Earl of
March. He was confirmed in this resolution by the Archbishop of
York, Scrope, brother of the favorite of Richard II.; and the
conspirators did not hesitate to call Owen Glendwyr to their aid.
He gave his daughter in marriage to Mortimer, and promised to
invade England with twelve thousand Welshmen. The Earl of Douglas
was liberated without any ransom, on condition of recrossing the
frontier with a Scottish army. It is even said that Hotspur wrote
to the Duke of Orleans, from whom King Henry had recently
received a warlike challenge on account of the insults offered to
Queen Isabel.

So many movements had not escaped the vigilant eye of King Henry.
Hotspur was marching forward, commanding the rebels in place of
his father, who was ill; and supported by his uncle, the Earl of
Worcester. Henry planted his army corps between the earls and
Owen Glendwyr, with whom they were endeavoring to effect a
junction. The Welshman had made no haste, and when, on arriving
at Shrewsbury, Henry received the challenge of his enemies, it
was conceived only in the name of the Percies. They reproached
the king with his usurpation, the death of Richard, the captivity
of the little Earl of March, his manœuvres in the election of
Parliament, the levying of taxes which had not been voted by the
Commons, &c. At the end appeared the real subject of the quarrel,
the denial of the negotiations relating to Sir Edmund Mortimer.
Henry IV. smiled bitterly and disdained to reply. "The sword
shall decide," he said, "and I am assured that God will give me
victory over perjured traitors." It was on the 20th of July,
1403; on the morrow the two armies found themselves face to face
on Shrewsbury Plain.

{369}

The insurgents numbered about fourteen thousand men; the king had
no more. Before fighting, he despatched the Abbot of Shrewsbury
to his adversaries, with proposals for peace. Hotspur, less
impetuous than Shakespeare has depicted him, hesitated: but the
Earl of Worcester persuaded him to reject the royal overtures.
"Banners to the front, then!" cried Henry, The combat began. "St.
George!" was the cry around the king. "Hope! Percy!" responded
the rebels. The archers were drawing on both sides, and the
knights did not abandon to them, as at Homildon Hill, all the
honor of the combat. Percy and Douglas, rivals in glory, had
precipitated themselves together into the midst of the enemy with
a small following; everything gave way before them; the Prince of
Wales had been wounded in the face. They sought for the king;
but, upon the advice of the Scottish refugee, the Earl of March,
he had laid aside, for that day, all the royal insignia, and he
fought valiantly, without having been recognized. At the moment
when the two chiefs of the insurgents endeavored to retrace their
steps, opening up a way through the crowd of the enemies, Percy
was struck by an arrow in the head, and fell dead. Disorder
immediately set in among his partisans. Douglas had been made a
prisoner; the Earl of Worcester shortly afterwards suffered the
same fate, as well as the Lord of Kinderton and Sir Richard
Vernon. The traitors' punishment awaited the three Englishmen.
Douglas was honorably treated. The field of battle was covered
with dead and dying. The insurgents had fled; they went and
carried to the old Earl of Northumberland the news of the defeat
and death of his son.
{370}
He was marching forward to join him, and he thereupon shut
himself up in his castle at Warkworth. Being summoned to appear
before the king at York, he was detained there in honorable
captivity until the Parliament should have decided upon his fate.
He had not taken part personally in the insurrection, and he
declared that his son had acted without his approval. The Lords
treated him with indulgence; he retired after having sworn
fidelity to the king and the Prince of Wales. Eighteen months had
not elapsed before he was again in arms against Henry.

The conspiracies had not ceased in this interval. A former
chamberlain of King Richard, named Serle, had again spread the
rumor that that monarch was living. He led about with him a poor
idiot who resembled Richard, and a certain number of partisans
had rallied round him. Three princes of the House of Bourbon had
attacked the islands of Jersey and Guernsey, and burnt down the
town of Plymouth; the French vessels had brought reinforcements
to Owen Glendwyr, against whom the young Prince of Wales was at
war; and a woman, Lady Le Despencer, had carried off the young
Earl of March and his brother. She was already approaching the
frontiers of Wales when she was seized, and the prisoners were
brought back to Windsor. She exculpated herself by throwing the
responsibility of the undertaking upon her brother, the Duke of
York, formerly Earl of Rutland. He was arrested, and languished
for several years in prison.

{371}

King Henry had always avoided asking large subsidies of the
Parliament; he was not sufficiently assured of the affection of
his people to ask any sacrifices of them. In 1404, however, he
had come to an end of his resources, and in a Parliament which
has preserved the name of unlearned, because the king had, it was
said, dismissed from it all the lawyers, he made a proposal which
was ardently sustained by the Commons: it forbade the king to
alienate the property of the crown without the authorization of
Parliament, but permitted him to take back all the gifts of land
and the pensions granted by his predecessors; he was even allowed
to seize a certain portion of the property of the clergy. The
Church uttered a cry of terror and rage, which arrested the zeal
of the king and the Commons. Henry hastened to renounce his
project, assuring the Archbishop of Canterbury that it was his
intention to leave the Church in a better position than he had
found it in; but he accomplished his resolutions upon the lands
and pensions given by Edward III. and Richard II. The
disaffection of the barons was great, and the uneasiness of the
clergy was not dispelled.

In 1405, two great councils were convoked by the king: in London
and at St. Alban's. There the bad state of feeling was
manifested; all the demands of the king were rejected, and more
than one baron quitted St. Alban's to join the insurgents, who
were again beginning to form in groups round the Earl of
Northumberland. The Archbishop of York had this time taken up
arms; he was made a prisoner, as well as the Earl of Nottingham,
by Prince John, the second son of the king. In vain did the
archbishop claim ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and the earl that
of his peers; in vain did Chief Justice Gascoyne refuse to
preside at their trial: the king had resolved to make an example.
He found some more complaisant magistrates; the archbishop and
the Earl of Nottingham were beheaded; a fine was imposed upon the
city of York, temporarily deprived of its charters, and the king
marched against Berwick, where the Earl of Northumberland had
taken refuge.
{372}
On the way he caused Lord Hastings and Lord Falconbridge to be
tried, and they were beheaded. Berwick surrendered; but the old
Percy had fled to Edinburgh, and the king did not penetrate into
Scotland; he contented himself with ravaging Northumberland,
taking possession of all the castles which belonged to the
rebels. He then turned his arms in the direction of Wales, where
Prince Henry had valiantly sustained the struggle for nearly two
years. He had triumphed over the Welsh at Grosmont, in
Monmouthshire, in the month of March, 1405; one of the sons of
Owen Glendwyr had been made a prisoner, and the prince had only
been arrested in the course of his successes by the arrival of a
French reinforcement sent by the Duke of Orleans, in defiance of
the truce which still reigned between the two nations. The young
Prince Henry had been compelled to withdraw to Worcester; but the
king soon drove the French into the mountains of Wales, whither
he pursued them. The Welsh arrested his march; but the French
were weary of their reverses, of the poverty of their allies, of
the rough life which they led; they retreated into their vessels
again. The king withdrew in his turn; Prince Henry continued the
war with alternations of successes and reverses, always holding
his ground with a skill and perseverance worthy of his adversary,
and which finally wearied the population. Glendwyr found himself
gradually abandoned, and an invasion attempted in 1409 by his
son-in-law, Scudamore, in Shropshire, completed the ruin of his
cause; the Welsh were repulsed, and the chiefs put to death. The
independent character of Owen Glendwyr allowed him neither to
submit not to despair; he no longer appeared in the regions
occupied by the English, but he still maintained himself in the
mountains, resuming his arms when his enemies pressed him closely
in his haunts; his name, published several times in the amnesty
acts, proves that he was neither dead nor subjugated, even after
the battle of Agincourt.
{373}
The period of his death and the place of his burial are unknown;
the end of his life remains enveloped in mystery, as though he
had really possessed the magic power which his friends and
enemies attributed to him in his lifetime.

King Henry had not been under the necessity of prosecuting his
campaigns in Scotland; he held in his hands the heir to the
throne of that kingdom. The Duke of Rothsay, imprudent and bold,
had entered into a contention with his uncle, the Duke of Albany.
Being accused of rebellion and imprisoned in Falkland Castle, he
had there died of hunger, it was said. The unhappy King Robert
had become alarmed for the life of James, the only son who
remained to him, and he had embarked him upon a ship which was to
take him to France, but the vessel had fallen into the hands of
some English cruisers, who brought the prince in triumph to King
Henry. "I speak French as well as my brother Charles," the king
had said laughingly, "and I am as well adapted as he to bring up
a King of Scotland." The young Prince James therefore remained at
the court of England, closely guarded, but educated with care,
kindly treated, and at liberty to devote himself to his passion
for poetry. The old king Robert had died of grief in 1406, and
the Duke of Albany, who continued to govern Scotland, servilely
submitted to the wishes of the King of England, who, at the least
appearance of insubordination, threatened him with the release of
his nephew. This state of affairs was destined to be prolonged
for a considerable time.

{374}

The most irreconcilable adversary of the king had at length
succumbed. The old Earl of Northumberland, homeless, childless,
and without riches, had wandered for more than two years from
kingdom to kingdom, endeavoring to raise up embarrassments and
enemies against King Henry. At the beginning of 1408, he appeared
in Northumberland with Lord Bardolf, the friend and companion of
his whole life. Rallying a certain number of his old vassals, he
overran the country, took possession of several castles, and had
gathered together a small body of troops, when he was defeated on
the 28th of February, by Sir Thomas Rokeby, upon Branham Heath,
near Tadcaster. He was killed in the combat; Lord Bardolf,
grievously wounded, died shortly afterwards, and their bodies,
cut in pieces, were sent to the towns of Northumberland, where
they had found adherents. It was all over with the Percies.

The commotions in France continued to increase. The poor king,
Charles VI., would pass from furious madness to docile
melancholy; his kingdom, rent asunder by factions, was the scene
of the crimes, debaucheries, and exactions of all parties. The
Duke of Orleans had recently been assassinated in the Rue
Barbette (23rd of November, 1407), by the servants of his cousin,
the Duke of Burgundy, a circumstance which had not prevented the
latter from reappearing at court, without fearing the punishment
of the king for the death of his brother, which he caused to be
publicly justified at the Sorbonne, by Maître Jean Petit, doctor
in theology. From treason to treason, from reconciliation to
reconciliation, the Duke of Burgundy was all powerful in 1409,
when the young Duke of Orleans, who had lost his wife, Isabel of
France, widow of King Richard II., was married for a second time,
to Bonne, the daughter of the wealthy Count of Armagnac.
{375}
The time had at length arrived for prosecuting revenge: supported
by the experience and military talents of the count, the
partisans of the House of Orleans assumed the name of Armagnacs;
the red scarf was put on by the Duke of Berry, the Duke of
Brittany, and the Duke of Alencon; John Sans Peur was driven from
Paris, and the Duke of Orleans, sword in hand, demanded justice
for the death of his father.

Then, for the first time, amidst the factions which had desolated
France for ten years, England was called upon to play a part.
John Sans Peur asked assistance of Henry IV. The latter sent in
the month of October, 1411, a small body of a thousand archers
and eight hundred men-at-arms, with whom the duke marched against
Paris. He re-entered there in force on the 23rd, and drove out
the Armagnacs, who had already begun to make themselves detested.
John Sans Peur followed up his advantages, and hoped to crush his
enemies; but they, in their turn, had negotiated with the King of
England, promising to recognize him as Duke of Aquitaine, and to
assure to him after the death of the present possessors, the
counties of Poitou and Angoulême. As the price of these
concessions, the English army was preparing to invade France,
under the orders of the third son of the king, the Duke of
Clarence, when the Duke of Berry, uncle of Charles VI., filled
with horror at the prospect of the evils which the foreigners
were about to bring down upon France, once more interposed
between the belligerents, and effected one of those
reconciliations which prepared the way for fresh acts of perfidy.
The Dukes of Orleans and Burgundy entered Paris mounted upon the
same horse, and repaired thus to church.
{376}
The people cried "Noël," and thanked God for this hope of peace.
But the Duke of Clarence had landed in Normandy; the news of the
pacification had been powerless to arrest him. Maine and Anjou
had already been ravaged. The Duke of Orleans contrived to
purchase the retreat of the allies whom he himself had summoned;
the English, laden with gold and booty, took the road to Guienne,
traversing France without any obstacle. "We will return hither,"
they said as they passed, "to fight with our King Henry." Eight
thousand Englishmen embarked at Bordeaux towards the close of the
year 1412. King Henry had nearly arrived at the end of his
career. He was ill and sad. His throne had always appeared to him
to be tottering; conspiracies had been so often repeated around
him, that he had ended by suspecting them where they did not
exist. A keen jealousy towards his eldest son troubled him. The
Prince of Wales had given proofs of rare courage; when yet young,
he had been wounded at the battle of Shrewsbury; being afterwards
despatched by his father into Wales, he had there constantly held
in check Owen Glendwyr, over whom he had finally triumphed. It is
related--and, in his admirable tragedy of _Henry IV._,
Shakespeare made use of these accounts, of which the authenticity
is not well proved--that the young prince, besides his budding
greatness, had given other causes for anxiety to his father; it
is said that his debauches and coarse amusements had caused alarm
for the fate of the State which he was one day to govern, so that
a judge before whom he had been brought, without knowing him,
thought it his duty to condemn him like a simple private person.
{377}
Perhaps the jealousy of the father and the restraint which he
claimed to impose upon the son, to whom he left neither power nor
resources, had contributed to plunge a sanguine, energetic young
man, full of life and strength, into those excesses with which he
was reproached. It is affirmed that the king had one day swooned,
in consequence of one of the attacks of his distemper; he was
believed to be dead. The Prince of Wales, entering the apartment,
had carried off the crown, which lay upon a cushion. When Henry
IV. came to himself again, he asked for the crown. The prince was
sent for, "You have no right to it," cried the king. "You know
that your father had none." "Your sword gave it to you, sire, and
my sword will be able to defend it," replied the prince,
exonerating himself as well as he could against the suspicions of
his father. He demanded the punishment of those who accused him
of prematurely claiming the throne, and the king referred him to
the next session of the Parliament. He was weary of reigning and
of living. "You shall do as you please," he said; "I have done
with all these matters. May the Lord have mercy upon my soul!"
But the young Prince Henry suffered in mind from the alienation
of his father; he presented himself before him clad in a blue
satin robe, covered with button-holes, a tag still hanging from
each opening, and, in this strange costume, he threw himself at
the feet of the king, drew a dagger from his bosom, and begged
him to take his life if he had deprived him of his favor. The
father and son became reconciled, it is said, after this scene.

The torments of jealousy, added to the troubles of his conscience
and the cares of power, overwhelmed the monarch. He was not yet
forty-seven years of age, and the proud Bolingbroke, formerly so
handsome, so bold, so adventurous, was bowed down like an old
man.
{378}
He was praying, on the 20th of March, 1413, before the shrine of
Edward the Confessor, in Westminster Abbey, when he fell into a
swoon. He was carried into the apartment of the abbot, and as he
recovered his senses, he asked where he was. "In the Jerusalem
Chamber," was the reply; for such was the name of the chamber to
which he had been carried. He closed his eyes. "I was always told
that I should die at Jerusalem," he muttered, and he expired. He
was interred in Canterbury Cathedral, beside his first wife, Lady
Mary de Bohun, the mother of all his children. His second wife.
Queen Joan of Navarre, had not presented any to him.

Ambitious and inflexible, harsh towards his enemies, skilful and
cunning as well as enterprising, Henry IV. had always contrived
to treat the Parliament with respect, and had never made any
attempt against its authority. The House of Commons, especially,
had seen its privileges confirmed under his reign, and its
influence had been constantly growing. Thus the liberties of
England, formerly conquered by the barons at the price of so much
bloodshed, were gradually developing, profiting by the weakness
as well as the temerity of the sovereigns, until the day when the
religious reform was to raise them to their highest pitch.

Absorbed in the internal struggles consequent upon usurpation,
for ever dreading real or supposed conspiracies, Henry IV. had
not had leisure to think of foreign wars. The wish, however, had
not been wanting; he had everywhere plunged himself into the
intrigues and divisions which desolated France under the unhappy
Charles VI., and he had thus prepared the return of the great
English ambitions, which were destined, for awhile, to raise so
high the glory of Henry V., his son, at the price of so much
bloodshed and so many sorrows for the two nations.





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