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A Child's History of England by Charles Dickens

Part 3 out of 8

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know your rights, Prince,' said the French King, 'and you would
like to be a King. Is it not so?' 'Truly,' said Prince Arthur, 'I
should greatly like to be a King!' 'Then,' said Philip, 'you shall
have two hundred gentlemen who are Knights of mine, and with them
you shall go to win back the provinces belonging to you, of which
your uncle, the usurping King of England, has taken possession. I
myself, meanwhile, will head a force against him in Normandy.'
Poor Arthur was so flattered and so grateful that he signed a
treaty with the crafty French King, agreeing to consider him his
superior Lord, and that the French King should keep for himself
whatever he could take from King John.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHAPTER XVI - ENGLAND UNDER EDWARD THE FIRST, CALLED LONGSHANKS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who betrayed William Wallace in the end, is not quite certain.
That he was betrayed - probably by an attendant - is too true. He
was taken to the Castle of Dumbarton, under SIR JOHN MENTEITH, and
thence to London, where the great fame of his bravery and
resolution attracted immense concourses of people to behold him.
He was tried in Westminster Hall, with a crown of laurel on his
head - it is supposed because he was reported to have said that he
ought to wear, or that he would wear, a crown there and was found
guilty as a robber, a murderer, and a traitor. What they called a
robber (he said to those who tried him) he was, because he had
taken spoil from the King's men. What they called a murderer, he
was, because he had slain an insolent Englishman. What they called
a traitor, he was not, for he had never sworn allegiance to the
King, and had ever scorned to do it. He was dragged at the tails
of horses to West Smithfield, and there hanged on a high gallows,
torn open before he was dead, beheaded, and quartered. His head
was set upon a pole on London Bridge, his right arm was sent to
Newcastle, his left arm to Berwick, his legs to Perth and Aberdeen.
But, if King Edward had had his body cut into inches, and had sent
every separate inch into a separate town, he could not have
dispersed it half so far and wide as his fame. Wallace will be
remembered in songs and stories, while there are songs and stories
in the English tongue, and Scotland will hold him dear while her
lakes and mountains last.

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

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

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

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

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

CHAPTER XVII - ENGLAND UNDER EDWARD THE SECOND

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHAPTER XVIII - ENGLAND UNDER EDWARD THE THIRD

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

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

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

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

The young King, thinking the time ripe for the downfall of
Mortimer, took counsel with Lord Montacute how he should proceed.
A Parliament was going to be held at Nottingham, and that lord
recommended that the favourite should be seized by night in
Nottingham Castle, where he was sure to be. Now, this, like many
other things, was more easily said than done; because, to guard
against treachery, the great gates of the Castle were locked every
night, and the great keys were carried up-stairs to the Queen, who
laid them under her own pillow. But the Castle had a governor, and
the governor being Lord Montacute's friend, confided to him how he
knew of a secret passage underground, hidden from observation by
the weeds and brambles with which it was overgrown; and how,
through that passage, the conspirators might enter in the dead of
the night, and go straight to Mortimer's room. Accordingly, upon a
certain dark night, at midnight, they made their way through this
dismal place: startling the rats, and frightening the owls and

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