Part 5 out of 11
Morogh was a peaceable man. Magnus, the Norse King of Man, by way of
defiance, sent him his shoes, ordering him to hang them on his shoulders
on Christmas-day, as he passed through his hall. The Irish were, of
course, much enraged at the insult offered to their master, but Morogh
only laughed at the folly of the conceit, saying, "I will not only bear
his shoes, but I had rather eat them, than that he should destroy one
province in Ireland." Magnus did not, however, give up his purpose of
invasion, but was killed in reconnoitring the coast. Morogh was murdered
at Dublin about 1130, and thenceforward all was dire confusion.
The Irish Church had never been decidedly under the dominion of Rome,
and the Popes, in the divided state of the country, obtained neither
money nor obedience from it. They thought much advantage might be gained
if it were under the rule of England; and in 1154, Adrian IV., assuming
that all islands were at the disposal of the Church, gave Henry II.
a bull, authorizing him to become Lord of Ireland, provided he would
establish the Pope's authority there. However, the Irish, not being
likely readily to receive their new Lord, and Henry having full
occupation at home, allowed his grant to rest in oblivion till
circumstances arose to enable him to avail himself of it.
Dermod MacMorogh, King of Leinster, a cruel savage, who had barbarously
revenged the death of his father, the good Morogh, had, in the year
1152, stolen away Devorghal, the wife of Tigheirnach O'Rourke, Prince of
Breffny. The toparch, Turlogh O'Connor, was the friend of O'Rourke, and
forced Dermod to make restitution, but the husband and lover, of course,
remained bitter enemies; and when O'Connor died, the new chieftain,
O'Lachlan, being on the side of Dermod, O'Rourke was severely oppressed,
till the tables were turned by O'Lachlan being killed, and Roderick
O'Connor, the son of Turlogh, becoming toparch. Thereupon Leinster was
invaded in 1167, and Dermod was obliged to flee, setting fire to his
capital at Ferns. He hastened to Henry II. in Normandy, and offered his
allegiance, provided the King would restore him. But Henry was too much
engaged in his disputes with France to attend to the matter, and all
Dermod could obtain was a letter permitting the English knights to take
up his cause, if they were so inclined.
With these letters Dermod sought the fierce Normans whose estates
bordered on Wales. The first who attended to him was Richard de Clare,
son of the Earl of Pembroke, and surnamed Strongbow--a bold, adventurous
man, ruined by his extravagance, and kept at a distance by the King on
account of his ambition. To him Dermod offered the hand of his daughter
Eva, and the succession of Leinster, provided he would recover for him
the kingdom. Richard accepted, but thought it prudent to obtain the
King's special permission; and in the meantime, Dermod, by his promises,
further engaged in his cause a small band of other knights--Robert
Fitzstephen, Maurice Fitzgerald, Milo Fitzhenry, Herve de Montmarais,
and some others. In May, 1169, thirty knights, sixty men-at-arms, and
three hundred archers, landed at the Creek of Bann, near Wexford, to
They first besieged Wexford, and took it; then attacked the Prince
of Ossory, and gained a great victory; after which they had full
opportunity of seeing of what a savage they had undertaken the defence,
for Dermod mangled with his teeth the face of his chief foe among the
slain, to gratify his revenge.
However, they fought not for the right, but for the spoil; and when
Roderick O'Connor sent to declare war against them, and inform them of
the true character of their ally, they returned a scornful answer; and,
with their heavy armor and good discipline, made such progress against
the half-armed Irish kernes, that Richard Strongbow saw the speculation
was a good one, and was in haste for his share. He went to the King, to
beg him either to give him his inheritance, or to grant him leave to
seek his fortune in other lands. "Go where thou wilt, for what I care,"
said Henry. "Take Daedalus's wings, and fly away."
Taking this as sufficient consent, Strongbow sent before him 3,000 men
under his friend Raymond le Gros, and, landing on St. Bartholomew's day,
joined his forces with Dermod, took Waterford, and in a few days was
married to Eva. The successes of the English continued, and on the death
of Dermod, which took place shortly after, he declared Earl Richard his
heir. However, the vassals would not submit to the Englishman, and the
invaders were for a time hard beset, and found it difficult to keep the
enemy at bay, while the King in great displeasure peremptorily summoned
Strongbow to return, and forbade men, horses, or arms to be sent to his
aid. On this Richard found himself obliged to make his peace with the
King, sending Raymond le Gros and Herve de Montmarais before him. The
King was at Newnham, in Gloucestershire, and at first refused to see
him, but soon relented; and Richard, on entering his presence, threw
himself on his knees, and gave up to him the city of Dublin, and all
other towns and castles on the coast, after which Henry confirmed him
in the possession of the rest of Leinster, and made him Seneschal
of Ireland, though at the same time confiscating his castles in
Pembrokeshire, because his expedition had been unsanctioned. In October
of the next year, 1172, Henry himself came to Ireland, with 500 knights
and 4,000 men-at-arms. The Irish princes felt that it was needful to
submit to such power, nor was it with much reluctance on the part of the
toparchs, who had some pride in being under the sway of the mighty Henry
Fitzempress, rather than that of the petty chieftain of Meath.
Henry professed not to come as a conqueror, but in consequence of the
Pope's grant, and soon received the submission of all the toparchs of
Leinster and Munster. Roderick O'Connor himself did not hold out, though
he would not come to the King, and only met Hugo de Lacy and William
Fitz Adhelm on the Shannon, where he swore allegiance, but, as appeared
afterward, with a mental reservation--Connaught he was willing to hold
under Henry, but Ireland he neither could nor did yield up.
Henry invited all these new subjects of his to keep Christmas with
him at Dublin, where he entertained them in a temporary structure of
wicker-work, outside the gates; and after receiving their homage, he
gave them a banquet of every kind of Norman delicacy, among which were
especially noticed roasted cranes--a food hitherto held in abhorrence by
them, so that partaking of it was a sort of pledge that they were about
to forsake their peculiar and barbarous habits. They are said to have
been much impressed by the splendor of Henry's gold and jewels, the rich
robes of his court, and the chivalrous exercises of the knights and
nobles. Afterward he held a synod of the Irish clergy at Cashel, where
he caused the bull of Adrian to be read, and regulations were made for
the Church, requiring the priests to catechize children and baptize
them, enforcing the payment of tithes, and the performance of Divine
service, as well as that corpses should receive Christian burial. Henry
had intended to subject Ireland to English law, but the danger in which
he had been involved by the murder of Becket obliged him to return at
Easter, before his arrangements were completed. The lands settled by the
Normans around Dublin, which were called the English pale, were alone
under English laws; besides five septs--the O'Neills, the O'Connors, the
O'Briens, the O'Lachlans, and the MacMoroghs--all the rest were under
the Brehon, or Irish law; and an injury, or even murder done by an
Englishman on one of the Irish, was to be atoned for by a fine according
to this code.
Hugo de Lacy, [Footnote: The readers of "The Betrothed" will here
recognise a friend.] constable of Chester, an old, experienced warrior,
much trusted by the King, was made governor of Ireland with a grant
of the county of Meath. Shortly after, Oraric, a chieftain of that
territory, invited De Lacy to a conference on the hill of Tara, whither
each party was to come unarmed. The night before the meeting young
Griffith, the nephew of Maurice Fitzgerald, dreamt that he saw a herd of
wild boars rush upon his uncle and Hugo de Lacy, and tear them to pieces
with their tusks. Treating this dream as a warning, he chose seven tall
men of his own kindred, armed them well, and, leading them near the
place of conference, began to career about with them as if in chivalrous
exercises, always watching the assembly on the hill.
After a time Oraric retired a few steps from the rest, and made a sign,
on which an Irishman came forward and gave him his weapons. He instantly
fell upon Hugo de Lacy, and would have cloven his skull, if the
interpreter had not thrown himself between, and saved his master, with
the loss of his own arm. Oraric's men sprung from their ambush, but at
the same moment the eight Fitzgeralds rushed to the rescue; the traitor
fled, pursued by Griffith, who overtook him, thrust him through with a
lance, cut off his head, and sent it to King Henry.
Hugo de Lacy kept tolerable order until the King recalled him in the
troubles occasioned by the rebellion of the young princes, when trusty
friends were scarce. Earl Strongbow became governor, and was at once
more violent and less firm in the restraint of English and Irish. He
quarrelled with Raymond le Gros for presuming to gain the affections
of his sister Basilia, and took from him the command, conferring it on
Herve de Montmarais, a person much disliked. Raymond went home to Wales,
to receive his inheritance, on his father's death; and the Irish, as
old Campion's history says, rose "tagge and ragge;" headed by Roderick
O'Connor. They be sieged Waterford and Dublin; and Strongbow, in
distress, wrote to Raymond: "As soon as you read this, make all the
haste you can, bring all the help you can raise, and you shall have what
you have so long desired." No further summons was needed; and just as
Waterford was on the point of being taken, and the wild Irish were about
to massacre the English, Raymond, with twenty ships, sailed into the
harbor, dispersed the Irish, relieved Dublin, and in his full armor
wedded the Lady Basilia. The very next morning he pursued the Irish; he
took Limerick, and reduced Roderick to come to a final peace with the
King, to whom that prince sent messengers, disdaining to treat with
Montmarais, being displaced, went in revenge to the King, and maligned
Raymond, so that Henry empowered commissioners to inquire into his
conduct, and send him home. Just as he was departing, the O'Briens of
Thomond broke out in insurrection, and besieged Limerick; the troops
refused to march unless under Raymond, and the commissioners were
obliged to send him to chastise the rebels. He pushed his conquests
into Desmond, and established his good fame. During his absence Earl
Strongbow died, leaving, by Eva, one daughter named Isabel, who, being
of tender age, became the ward of the Crown. It is said that he also had
a son by a former wife, and that this youth, being seized with a panic
in a battle with the Irish, was afterward stricken through with a sword
by his command, though given with streaming tears. He was buried at
Dublin, with an epitaph recording his cowardice.
The friends of Montmarais were resolved to let no tidings of Strongbow's
death reach Raymond, that so they might first gain the ear of the King,
and prevent him being made governor. They turned back all the servants,
and intercepted all the letters sent to him with the news, till they
were outwitted by Lady Basilia. She wrote a letter to her husband, with
no word of her brother, but full of household matters; among others,
that she had lost the "master tooth which had been so long ailing, and
she sent it to him for a token." The tooth was "tipped with gold and
burnished featly," but Raymond knew it was none of his lady's; and
gathering her meaning, hurried home, and was made Protector of Ireland
till the King's pleasure should be known. Henry sent as governor William
Fitz Adhelm, a selfish voluptuary, under whose command all went ill;
and, indeed, the English rule never prospered except when in the hands
of good old Hugo de Lacy, under whom "the priest kept his church, the
soldier his garrison, and the ploughman followed his plough." But Henry,
who was constantly tormented by jealousies of his Anglo-Irish nobles,
was perpetually recalling him on suspicion, and then finding it
necessary to send him back again. He built many castles, and, while
fortifying that of Dernwath, was entreated by some of the Irish to allow
them to work for hire. Glad to encourage any commencement of industry,
he took a pickaxe to show them how to work; when one of them, seizing
the moment when he bent forward to strike with it, cleft his head with
an axe, and killed him on the spot. His less worthy nephew and namesake
succeeded to his Irish estates, and at times held the government.
King Henry intended Ireland as the inheritance of his son John, and
in 1185 wrote to request the Pope to grant him the investiture. Urban
returned a favorable answer, and with it a crown of peacock's feathers
set in gold--a more appropriate present than he intended for the
feather-pated prince, who was then sixteen years of age, and who, having
been knighted by his father, set off for Dublin, accompanied by a train
of youths of his own age, whom the steadier heads of the good knight
Philip Barry, and his clerkly relative Gerald, were unable to keep in
order. This Gerald Barry was the historian commonly known as Giraldus
Cambrensis, to whom we are chiefly indebted for the account of the
conquest of Ireland. The Irish chiefs of Leinster flocked to pay their
respects, but were most improperly received by John and his friends, who
could not restrain their mirth at their homely garb, and soon proceeded
to gibes and practical jokes; pricking them with pins, and rapping them
on the head with a stick as they bent to pay homage, tweaking their
ample mantles, and pulling their long beards and moustaches, all as if
they had studied to enrage this proud and sensitive people. These were
the Irish of the friendly country; and when those of more distant and
unsubdued regions heard what treatment they had met, they turned back,
and soon broke out in insurrection. John and his gay companions did not
stay to meet the storm they had raised, but hastily fled to England, and
the King wrote to Sir John de Courcy to take the government, and do his
best to restore obedience.
It is round this De Courcy that the interest of the Irish wars chiefly
centres. [Footnote: This history of De Courcy is derived from an old
life of him by an Irish priest, which is disputed by many historical
authorities] In his youth, while serving the King in Normandy, he had
made friends with Sir Almeric Tristrem, and, in true chivalrous style,
the two knights plighted their faith in the Church of our Lady at Rouen,
to be sworn brethren-in-arms, to live and die for each other, and to
divide equally whatever they might gain in war. Their friendship was
never broken till death, and their whole career was one of perfect
chivalry. Almeric became the husband of his friend's sister, and in
honor of this closer alliance changed his surname to De St.
Laurence, their wedding-day being the feast of that Saint. The two
brethren-in-arms came into Ireland with Henry in 1172, and De Courcy
received a grant of Ulster, when he could conquer it. Sir Almeric at
once landed at Howth, and fought a bloody battle, in which he gained the
victory, but with the loss of seven of his kindred, and for that reason
Howth was made his portion, and long remained in his family. At the
battle of Daud, fought with Roderick O'Connor, the two friends, with
seven hundred men, were again victorious, owing to a timely charge of
Almeric's with his reserve of forty horse. The next midsummer another
battle took place, with the same result, though Sir Almeric was so
sorely wounded that he was found lying, faint and bleeding, under a
hedge, eating honeysuckles by way of cure, and his son Nicholas received
nine wounds, and was left for dead. These successes made the Irish
submit, and De Courcy was acknowledged as their feudal chief. He
proceeded to build castles, and granted two of them to one MacMahon, who
had made every promise of fidelity. Within a month, De Courcy heard that
the castles were pulled down, and, on his calling his refractory vassal
to account, received a truly Irish answer: MacMahon said he had not
promised to hold stones, but land, and it was contrary to his nature to
couch within cold stones, when the warm woods were so nigh.
De Courcy proceeded to foray his land, and was driving off a great herd
of cattle, when a host of Irish set on him, and by their shouts so
frightened the cows, that they ran on the English, and more were killed
by being trodden down by them than were slain by the Irish; and De
Courcy and De St. Laurence with difficulty collected the remnant in a
little fort. At night Almeric went out to survey the enemy, and reported
that there were five thousand feasting and drinking at no great distance.
If they should fall on the wearied, hungry, and wounded English the next
day, they would make them an easy prey, and he therefore advised a
night-attack, to take them by surprise. The English sat silent, looking
at each other, til Sir John de Courcy spoke: "I looked all this while
for some of these young gallants to deliver their courage; but, Sir
Almeric, where are their horses bestowed?"
"Your white horse and my black," said Sir Almeric, "I have cunningly
conveyed away, and the rest I can point out to you with my finger."
"Then," said Sir John, "let two men ride these two horses, gather their
horses together, and drive them in on the enemy; then, all who can bear
arms shall follow, and we will serve them with their horses as they did
us with our kine."
The stratagem was completely successful; the Irish were entirely routed
with great slaughter, while the English lost only two--though the
preceding day had lost them four hundred men.
By six battles, altogether, Sir John established his power, and he then
received from Henry the rank of Earl of Ulster. He governed Ireland from
the time of Prince John's flight till the accession of Richard Coeur de
Lion, with great prosperity; and during this time Roderick O'Connor was
dethroned by his sons, and forced to retire to a convent, where he died.
King Richard left the management of Irish affairs to his brother, who
took the government from De Courcy, and gave it to Hugo de Lacy, the
nephew. He, comporting himself as a favorite, of John was likely to
do, of course occasioned another war, and Cathal O'Connor, the
Bloody-handed, of Connaught, began to threaten Ulster. De Courcy
summoned Almeric to his aid, and the good knight set out with two
hundred foot and thirty horse; but, while passing through the enemy's
country, he suddenly found himself beset by Cathal, at the head of an
enormous host. The horsemen might easily have saved themselves by their
speed; but though death was certain if he remained, this true knight
would not forsake the foot in their extremity.
In Hanmer's affecting words, "Sir Almeric turned him to the foot
company, and hardly gathering breath with the sorrow of his heart,
resolved himself thus: 'I have no power to fly, and leave my friends, my
flesh and blood, in this extreme distress. I will live with them who for
my sake came hither, if it so please God; or I will die with them, if
it be His pleasure, that, ending here, we shall meet again, bodies and
souls, at the last day. God and the world bear witness that we do as
Christian knights ought to do. I yield my soul into God's hands; my body
to return whence it came; my service to my natural prince; my heart to
my wife, and brother Sir John de Courcy; my might, my force, my bloody
sweat, to the aid of you all that are in the field.' He alighted,
kneeled on his knees, kissed the cross of his sword, ran his horse
through, saying, 'Thou shalt never serve against me, that so worthily
hast served with me.' All the horses were then killed but two, on which
he mounted two of the youngest of his followers, bidding them watch the
fight from the next hill, then make all speed to bear his greetings to
his brother De Courcy, and report that day's service."
When the Irish saw the devoted band so firmly awaiting their attack,
they fancied that succor must be near, and did not venture their onset
till the whole country had been reconnoitred. Every Englishman was
slain, but one thousand Irish also fell, and the death of these brave
men was not in vain. Cathal was so impressed by their courage, that he
sued for peace, and never ventured another pitched battle. He afterward
told Sir Hugo de Lacy that he thought verily there never was the like
seen on earth; for, when the Englishmen could not stand, they set
themselves back to back, and fought on till the last man was slain.
De Courcy long survived his faithful brother-in-arms, and stood so high
in all men's estimation, that De Lacy in jealousy sent information to
King John, soon after the death of Arthur, that the Earl of Ulster was
sowing disaffection by accusing him of his nephew's murder. This was the
very thing for which John had lately starved to death the Lady de Braose
and her children, and he sent orders to De Lacy to attack the person of
De Courcy. Every means of open force failed, and De Lacy was reduced to
tamper with his servants, two of whom at length informed him that it was
vain to think of seizing their master when he had his armor on, as
he was of immense strength and skill, nor did he ever lay aside his
weapons, except on Good Friday, when he was wont to walk up and down the
churchyard of Downe, alone and unarmed.
Accordingly, De Lacy sent a band of horsemen, who fell upon the betrayed
knight. He caught up a wooden cross, and made brave resistance, and so
did his two nephews, sons of Sir Almeric, who were with him; but they
had no weapon, and were both slain, while De Courcy was overpowered, and
carried a prisoner to London. The two traitors begged De Lacy to give
them passports to go to England; on which he gave them a sealed paper,
on condition of their not opening it themselves, nor returning on pain
of death. Now, the paper set forth that they were traitors no better
than Judas, and exhorted every true man to spit in their faces, and
drive them away. However, these letters were never delivered; for the
wretched men were driven, by stress of weather, back on the coast of
Ireland, and De Lacy had them hanged.
De Courcy continued in captivity till one of the many disputes between
John and Philippe Auguste was to be decided by the ordeal of battle.
The most stalwart of all John's subjects was his prisoner, and he
immediately sent to release him from the Tower, offering him immense
rewards if he would become his champion. The old knight answered that
King John himself was not worthy to have one drop of blood shed for him;
and as to rewards, he could never requite the wrongs he had done him,
nor restore the heart's ease he had robbed him of. For John Lackland he
would never fight, nor for such as him, but for the honor of the Crown,
and of England, he undertook the cause. The old warrior, wasted with
imprisonment, was prepared by good feeding, and received his weapons:
the Frenchman fled at once, and De Courcy prepared to return to Ireland.
He made fifteen attempts to cross, and each time was forced to put back.
At length, as old chronicles relate, he was warned in a dream to make
the trial no more: for, said the voice, "Thou hast done ill: thou hast
pulled down the master, and set up the servant."
This was thought to refer to his having newly dedicated the cathedral of
Downe in the name of St. Patrick, whereas before it had been the Church
of the Holy Trinity. He took blame to himself, submitted, and going to
France, there died at an advanced age. For his championship, the right
of wearing the head covered in the presence of royalty was granted to
him and his heirs, and it is still the privilege of his descendants, the
Earls of Kinsale;
"For when every head is unbonneted
They walk in cap and plume."
THE REBELLIOUS EAGLETS.
_King of England_.
1154. Henry II.
_King of Scotland_.
_Kings of France_.
1137. Louis VII.
1180. Philippe II.
_Emperor of Germany_.
1152. Friedrich I.
_Popes of Rome_.
1154. Adrian IV.
1159. Alexander III.
1181. Lucius III.
1185. Urban III.
1187. Gregory VIII.
"The gods are just, and of our pleasant sins make whips to scourge us."
This saying tells the history of the reign of Henry of the Court Mantle.
Ambition and ill faith were the crimes of Henry from his youth upward,
and he was a man of sufficiently warm affections to suffer severely from
the retribution they brought on him, when, through his children, they
recoiled upon his head. "When once he loveth, scarcely will he ever
hate; when once he hateth, scarcely ever receiveth he into grace," was
written of him by his tutor, Peter of Blois, and his life proved that it
was a true estimate of his character.
The root of his misfortunes may be traced to his ambitious marriage with
Eleanor of Aquitaine, twelve years older than himself, and divorced by
Louis VII. of France on account of her flagrant misconduct in Palestine,
in the course of the miserable expedition called the Second Crusade. For
her broad lands, he deserted the woman whom he loved, and who had left
her home and duty for his sake, and on his promise of marriage.
Fair Rosamond Clifford was the daughter of a Herefordshire baron, with
whom Henry became acquainted in his seventeenth year, when he came to
England, in 1149, to dispute the crown with Stephen. He lodged her at
Woodstock, in the tower built, according to ballad lore, "most curiously
of stone and timber strong," and with such a labyrinth leading to it
that "none, but with a clue of thread, could enter in or out." There
Rosamond remained while he returned to France to receive Normandy and
Anjou, on the death of his father, and on going to pay homage to Louis
VII., ingratiated himself with Queen Eleanor, whose divorce was then
impending. Eleanor and her sister Petronella were joint heiresses of the
great duchy of Aquitaine, their father having died on pilgrimage to the
shrine of Santiago de Compostella, and the desire of the fairest and
wealthiest provinces of the south of France led the young prince to
forget his ties to Rosamond and her infant son William, and never take
into consideration what the woman must be of whom her present husband
was resolved to rid himself at the risk of seeing half his kingdom in
the hands of his most formidable enemy.
For some time Rosamond seems to have been kept in ignorance of Henry's
unfaithfulness; but in 1152, the year of his coronation, and of the
birth of her second child, Geoffrey, she quitted Woodstock, and retired
into the nunnery of Godstow, which the King richly endowed. It has been
one of the favorite legends of English history, that the Queen traced
her out in her retreat by a ball of silk that had entangled itself in
Henry's spurs, and that she offered her the choice of death by the
dagger or by poison; but this tale has been refuted by sober proof;
there is no reason to believe that Eleanor was a murderess; and it is
certain that Rosamond, on learning how she had been deceived, took
refuge in the nunnery, where she ended her days twenty years after, in
penitence and peace, far happier than her betrayer. Her sons, William
and Geoffrey, were honorably brought up, and her remains were placed in
the choir, under a silken canopy, with tapers burning round, while the
Sisters of the convent prayed for mercy on her soul and King Henry's.
Even King John paid the costs of this supposed expiation; but St. Hugh,
Bishop of Lincoln, not thinking it well that her history should be
before the minds of the nuns, ordered the corpse to be interred in the
ordinary burial-place of the convent.
During most of these twenty years of Rosamond's repentance, all
apparently prospered with Henry. The rigorous justice administered by
his excellent chancellor, Ranulf de Glanville, had restored order to
England; the only man bold enough to gainsay him had been driven from
the kingdom. Ireland was in course of conquest, and his astute policy
was continually overreaching the simple-minded Louis VI., who, having
derived the surname of _le jeune_ from his age at his accession, was so
boyish a character all his life as never to lose it.
Four sons and three daughters were born to Henry and Eleanor, and in
their infancy he arranged such alliances as might obtain a still wider
power for them--nay, even the kingdom of France. Louis VI. had married
again, but his second wife died, leaving two infant girls, named
Margaret and Alice, and to them Henry betrothed his two eldest sons,
Henry and Richard. It was to ask the hand of Margaret for the prince
that Becket took his celebrated journey to Paris, and the young pair,
Henry and Margaret, were committed to his care for education; but the
disputes with the King prevented their being sufficiently long in his
hands for the correction of the evil spirit of the Angevin princes.
By threats of war, Henry obtained for Geoffrey, his third son,
Constance, the only child of Conan, Duke of Brittany; though the
Bretons, who hated Normans, Angevins, and English with equal bitterness,
were extremely angry at finding themselves thus connected with all
three. On Conan's death, Geoffrey, then ten years old, was called Duke
of Brittany, but his father took the whole government into his hands,
and made it a heavy yoke.
John, Count of Mortagne, for whom no heiress had been obtained, was
gayly called by his father Lackland--a name which his after-life fitted
to him but too well. Richard was intended to be the inheritor of his
mother's beautiful duchy of Aquitaine, where he spent most of his early
years. It was a strange country, where the ordinary events of life
partook so much of romance that we can hardly believe them real.
It had never been so peopled by the Franks as to lose either the
language or the cultivation left by the Romans. The _langue d'oc_ had
much resemblance to the Latin, and was beautifully soft and adapted to
poetry; and when the nobles adopted chivalry, they ornamented it with
all the graces of their superior education. The talent of improvising
verses was common among them; and to be a minstrel, or, as they called
it, a troubadour (a finder of verses), was essential to the character of
a complete gentleman.
Courts of beauty and love took place, where arguments were held on cases
of allegiance of a knight to his lady-love, and competitions in poetry,
in which the reward was a golden violet. Each troubadour thought it
needful to be dedicated to the service of some lady, in whose honor all
his exploits in arms or achievements in minstrelsy were performed. To
what an extravagant length this devotion was carried, is shown in the
story of Jauffred Rudel, Lord of Blieux, who, having heard from some
Crusaders a glowing account of the beauty and courtesy of the Countess
of Tripoli, on their report made her the object of his affections, and
wrote poem after poem upon her, of which one has come down to our times:
"No other love shall e'er be mine,
None save my love so far away;
For one more fair I'll never know,
In region near, or far away."
Thus his last verse may be translated, and his "_amour luench_," or love
far away, occurs in every other line. He embarked for Palestine for the
sole purpose of seeing his _amour luench_, but fell sick on the voyage,
and was speechless when he arrived. The countess, hearing to what a
condition his admiration had brought him, came on board the vessel to
see him; the sight of her so charmed him, that he was able to say a few
words to her before he expired. She caused him to be buried with
great splendor, and erected a porphyry tomb over him, with an Arabic
The romance of the Languedocians was unhappily not accompanied by purity
of manners, and much of Queen Eleanor's misconduct may be ascribed to
the tone prevalent in her native duchy, to which she was much attached.
Her brave son, Richard, growing up in this land of minstrelsy, became
a thorough troubadour, and loved no portion of his father's domains
as well as the sunny south; and his two brothers, Henry and Geoffrey,
likewise fell much under the influence of the poetical knights of
Aquitaine, especially Bertrand de Born, Viscount de Hautefort, an
accomplished noble, who was the intimate friend of all the princes.
The King's first disappointment was when, at length, a son was born to
Louis VI., who had hitherto, to use his own words, "been afflicted
with a multitude of daughters." This son of his old age was christened
"Philippe _Dieu donne_," and the servant who brought the welcome tidings
of his birth was rewarded with a grant of three measures of wheat yearly
from the royal farm of Gonesse. Soon after, Louis dreamt that he saw
his son holding a goblet of blood in his hand, from which his valor was
predicted, and he did indeed seem born to visit the offences of the
Plantagenets on their own heads. Even while quite a child, when present
at a conference between the two kings under the Elm of Gisors, he was
shrewd enough to perceive that Henry was unjustly overreaching his
father, and surprised all present by exclaiming, "Sir, you do my father
wrong. I perceive that you always gain the advantage over him. I cannot
hinder you now, but I give you notice that, when I am grown up, I will
take back all of which you now deprive us." And, by fair means and foul,
he kept his word.
Next Henry began to find that the Church would not allow him to remain
in peace while he kept the Archbishop in exile, and the dread of
excommunication caused him to obviate the danger of his subjects being
released from their oaths of allegiance, by causing his eldest son to
be crowned, and receive their homage. The Princess Margaret was in
Aquitaine with Queen Eleanor; and when she found that the rights of her
former tutor, Becket, were neglected, and the ceremony to be performed
by the Archbishop of York, she refused to come to England, and her
husband was crowned alone. It was then that his father carved at his
banquet, and he made the arrogant speech respecting the son of a count
and the son of a king.
That year was marked by the murder of the Archbishop, and soon after the
storm began to burst. Young Henry, now nineteen years of age, went with
his wife to pay a visit to her father at Paris, and returned full of
discontent, complaining that he was a king only in name, since he had
not even a house to himself, and insisting on his father's giving up to
him at once either England, Normandy, or Anjou.
His complaints were echoed by Richard and Geoffrey, who were with their
mother in Aquitaine. Richard had received investiture of the county of
Poitiers, but the entire authority was in the hands of Castellanes,
appointed by his father, and the proud natives were stirring up the
young prince to shake off the bondage in which he, like them, was held.
Geoffrey, though only fifteen, thought himself aggrieved by not having
yet received his wife's duchy of Brittany, and positively refused to pay
homage for it to his eldest brother, when newly crowned to repair the
irregularity of his first coronation, and for this opposition the
high-spirited Bretons forgave his Angevin blood, and looked on him as
their champion. The boys' discontents were aggravated by their mother,
and the state of feeling was so well known in the South, that when
Henry and his eldest son came to Limoges to receive the homage of Count
Raymond of Toulouse, that noble, on coming to the part of the oath of
fealty where he was engaged to counsel his lord against his enemies,
added, "I should warn you to secure your castles of Poitou and
Aquitaine, and to mistrust your wife and sons."
Henry, who was aware of the danger, under pretext of hunting, visited
his principal fortresses, and, to guard against the evil designs of his
son Henry, caused him to sleep in his own bedroom. At Chinon, however,
the youth contrived to elude his vigilance, stole away, and escaped to
Paris, where he was received in a manner that reflects great discredit
on the French monarch.
When the elder Henry sent to Paris to desire the restoration of the
fugitive, the messengers found him royally robed, and seated by the side
of the French King, who received them, asking from whom they came.
"From Henry, King of England, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, Count of
Anjou and Maine."
"That is not true. Here sits Henry, King of England, who has no message
to send me by you. But if you mean his father, the late King of England,
he has been dead ever since his son has worn the crown; and if he still
pretends to be a king, I will soon find a cure."
Young Henry adopted a great seal, and wrote letters to the Pope, his
mother, and brothers, exciting them against his father, and putting
forth a manifesto declaring that he could not leave unpunished the death
of "his foster-father, the glorious martyr St. Thomas of Canterbury,
whose blood was crying out for vengeance."
On receiving these letters, Richard and Geoffrey hurried to meet him
at Paris, and Queen Eleanor was following in male attire, when she was
seized and made prisoner. Louis caused the two boys to swear that they
would never conclude a peace with their father without his consent, and
they were joined by great numbers of the Norman and Poitevin nobility,
even from among the King's immediate attendants. Each morning some one
was missed from his court, and known to be gone over to the enemy, but
still Henry outwardly kept up his spirits, conversed gaily, and hunted
Only once did he give way. Geoffrey, the son of Rosamond, was
devotedly attached to him, and had at his own expense raised an army of
Brabancons, or mercenary soldiers, and defeated an inroad of the Scots,
and he now brought his victorious force to the aid of his father.
Rosamond was just dead in her nunnery, and at his first meeting with her
son, Henry embraced him with tears, exclaiming, "Thou art my true and
lawful son!" The bishopric of Lincoln was destined to Geoffrey, but he
was only twenty, and was unwilling to take orders, thinking himself
better able to help his father as a layman.
The Brabancons were the only troops on whom the King could rely, and
with them he marched against the Bretons, who had been encouraged by
Louis and their young Duke to rebel. They were defeated, and Louis, not
wishing to run further risks, brought the three youths to the Elm of
Gisors, and held a conference with them, where Henry showed himself far
more ready to forgive than his sons to ask pardon.
Afterward young Henry and Geoffrey returned to Paris, and Richard to
Poitou, whence he soon came to the French court, to receive the order
of knighthood from Louis--another insult to his father. The two queens,
Eleanor and Margaret, were in the old King's hands, and kept in close
captivity; the younger, who seems to have been a gentle and innocent
lady, was soon allowed to join her husband, but Eleanor was retained
in confinement at Winchester. As long as his mother, whom he tenderly
loved, was imprisoned, Richard thought his resistance justified, and
Aquitaine echoed with laments for the Lady of the South in the dungeon
of her cruel husband. Bertrand de Born, who had chosen her daughter
Eleanor, Queen of Castile, as the object of his songs, was especially
ardent in his lamentations.
The elder King's grief at the continued misconduct of his sons led him
to humble himself at the tomb of Becket, and the penance he underwent
brought on a fever. He thought, however, that he had received a token of
pardon, when news was brought that his faithful son Geoffrey of Lincoln,
and his chancellor, Ranulf de Glanville, had defeated the King of Scots,
William the Lion, and made him prisoner at Prudhoe Castle. But King
Henry had far more to suffer!
His eldest son was invading Normandy, and he was forced to march against
him. After a battle at Rouen, the princes were reduced to obedience;
Richard was the last of all to be reconciled, believing, as he did, that
his cause was his mother's, but he kept his oaths better than either of
A time of greater quiet succeeded, during which young Henry set out as
a knight-errant, going from one country to another in search of
opportunities of performing deeds of arms. He came, in 1180, to attend
the coronation of young Philippe II., who had just succeeded his father,
in his fifteenth year, and had, or pretended to have, a great friendship
for Geoffrey of Brittany.
Richard had in the meantime affronted Bertrand de Born, by assisting his
brother Constantine, whom he had deprived of his inheritance. Bertrand
rebelled with other Poitevins, proceeded to lash up, by verses, young
Henry, to join them against Richard, rousing him to be no more a mere
king of cowards, who had no lands, and never would have any.
Henry was worked upon to go to his father, and insist on receiving
Richard's homage; and as he threatened to take the Cross and go to
Palestine, the old King, who doted on him, consented. Richard declared
this would be giving up the rights of his mother; and though he
consented, at his father's entreaty, for the sake of peace, Henry was
now affronted, would not receive it, and, with Geoffrey, placed himself
at the head of the rebels of Poitou, and a fresh war broke out, and
their father was obliged to come to Richard's aid. It seems to have been
about this time that the unhappy King caused a picture to be painted
of four eaglets tearing their father's breast. "It is an emblem of my
children," he said. "If John has not yet acted like his brethren, it is
only because he is not yet old enough!"
Henry and Geoffrey invited their father to a conference in Limoges,
which he was besieging; but as he entered the town, a flight of arrows
was discharged from the battlements, some of which rattled against his
armor, and one pierced his horse's neck. The King held one of them up,
saying, "Ah, Geoffrey! what has thine unhappy father done that thou
shouldest make him a mark for thine arrows?"
Geoffrey treated the matter lightly. His brother was, however, so much
shocked, that for a little while he joined his father, swearing he would
never again rebel.
Only a few days had passed, before, on some trifling dispute, he again
quitted his father, and, vowing he would take the Cross, joined Geoffrey
and the rebel Poitevins. But this was indeed his last rebellion. He had
scarcely entered the town of Limoges, before a violent fever came on,
and in terror of death he sent to entreat his father to come and give
his blessing and forgiveness. It was too late. After that last treason,
the King could not trust himself in the rebel camp, and only sent the
Archbishop of Bordeaux to carry his signet ring, and assure his son of
his pardon. He found the unhappy young man in the agonies of death,
lying on a bed of ashes, accusing himself of having been a "wicked,
undutiful son, and bitterly disappointed at not seeing his father, to
receive the blessing he had once cast from him, and which in vain he
now sought earnestly and with tears." He died, fervently pressing the
ring to his lips. Surely his remorse might have served for a warning to
his brothers; but when the sorrowful father sent a priest to entreat
Geoffrey to make peace over his grave, the fierce youth only answered
that it was vain. "Our grandmother, the Witch, has left us a doom that
none of us shall ever love the rest. It is our heirloom, and the only
one of which we can never be deprived!"
However, Limoges was taken, and in it Bertrand de Born, who was led
before the King to receive the punishment he deserved, and there he
stood silent and dejected. "Hast thou nothing to say for thyself?" said
the King. "Where is all thy ready flow of fine words? I think thou hast
lost thy wits!"
"Ah, sire!" said Bertrand, "I lost them the day the brave young King
The father burst into tears, and exclaimed, "Sir Bertrand, thou mightest
well lose thy senses with grief for my son. He loved thee more than any
man on earth; and I, for love of him, give thee back thy castles and
Geoffrey still held aloof, and spent his time with his friend Philippe
of France. At Paris, in 1186, he who called hatred his inheritance, and
spurned his father's forgiveness, died without space for asking it,
leaving, indeed, his chosen heirloom to his innocent children. He was
in his twenty-fifth year, and the handsomest and the most expert in
chivalrous exercises of all his brothers; but in the midst of a great
tournament he was thrown from his horse, and trampled to death in the
throng before his squires could extricate him.
Richard, the second son, inheriting the "lyonnous visage" that Peter de
Blois ascribes to King Henry, and with it the Lion-heart, that gained
him his surname, had far more feeling and generosity than his brothers,
and, but for King Henry's own crimes, he might have been his blessing
and glory. When Henry had provoked him, by desiring him, as being now
heir of Normandy and England, to yield up Poitou to his brother John,
Richard had refused; but on the King bringing his mother to Aquitaine,
and reinstating her in her duchy, he instantly laid down his arms,
joyfully came to her, and continued perfectly peaceable and dutiful
whilst she still held her rights.
But after all these warnings, Henry was sinning grievously against his
wife and son. Richard had been, in his infancy, betrothed to Alice of
France, who had been placed in his father's keeping; but he had reached
his twenty-seventh year without having been allowed to see her, and
there was but too much reason to believe that the old King had wickedly
betrayed his trust, and corrupted her innocence. Richard had, in the
meantime, become attached to a modest, gentle maiden, Berengaria, sister
to King Sancho of Navarre, and was anxious to know on what ground he
stood with Alice; but the consequence of his first demonstration was,
that Henry sent Eleanor back to her prison at Winchester.
This broke the tie that held him to obedience, and he went to Paris
to consult with Philippe, Alice's brother, on the best measures for
breaking off his unfortunate engagement, as well as on securing the
succession to the crown, which he suspected his father of wishing to
leave to his brother John. Philippe received him most affectionately; so
that it is said they shared the same cup, the same plate, and the same
Just at this time, Archbishop William of Tyre came to preach a new
Crusade, and the description of the miseries of the Christians in
Palestine so affected the two kings and Richard, that they took the
Cross, and agreed to lay aside their disputes, to unite in the rescue of
Jerusalem. However, the concord did not last long; Richard quarrelled
with the Count of Toulouse, and a petty war took place, which the kings
agreed to conclude by a conference, as usual, under the Elm of Gisors.
This noble tree had so large a trunk, that the arms of four men could
not together encircle it; the branches had, partly by Nature, partly
by art, been made to bend downward, so as to form a sort of bower, and
there were seats on the smooth extent of grass which they shaded. King
Henry first arrived at this pleasant spot, and his train stretched
themselves on the lawn, rejoicing in being thus sheltered from the
burning heat of the summer sun; and when the French came up, laughed at
them, left beyond the shade, to be broiled in the sunbeams. This gave
offence, a sharp skirmish took place, the English drew off to Vernon,
and Philippe, mindful of the indignation he had felt in his boyhood
under that tree, swore that no more parleys should be held under it,
and his knights hewed it down with their battle-axes.
The war continued, and Richard fought gallantly on his father's side;
but as winter drew on, it was resolved that a meeting should be held
at Bonmoulins to re-establish peace. Richard thought this a fit
opportunity, in the presence of Alice's brother, for endeavoring to have
his rights confirmed, and to clear up the miserable question of his
betrothal. In the midst of the meeting he called on his father to
promise him, in the presence of the King of France, that he would no
longer delay his marriage, and declaration as his heir.
Henry prevaricated, and talked of bestowing Alice on John.
"This," cried Richard, "forces me to believe what I would fain have
thought impossible! Comrades, you shall see a sight you did not expect."
And ungirding his sword, he knelt down before Philippe, and did homage
to him, asking his assistance to re-establish his rights. Henry
withdrew, followed by a very small number of knights. They mostly held
with the young prince, won by his brilliant talents, great courage, and
liberal manners; and the King found the grief renewed that his son
Henry had caused him, while he himself, aged by cares rather than
years, was less able to cope with them: moreover, Richard was far more
formidable than his elder brother; Philippe a more subtle enemy than
Louis; and above all, the King's own faults were the immediate cause
of the rebellion. He took no active measures; he only caused his
castellanes in Normandy to swear that they would yield their keys up to
no one but to Prince John, on whom he had concentrated his affections.
He awaited the coming of the Cardinal of Anagni, who was sent by the
Pope to pacify these Crusaders, and remind them of their vows.
Again the parties met, and the legate, with four archbishops, began to
speak of peace.
"I consent," said Philippe, "for the love of Heaven and of the Holy
Sepulchre, to restore to King Henry what I have taken from him, provided
he will immediately wed my sister Alice to his son Richard, and secure
to him the succession of the crown, I also demand that his son John
should go to Palestine with his brother, or he will disturb the peace of
"That he will!" exclaimed Richard.
"No," said Henry; "this is more than I can grant. Let your sister marry
John; let me dispose of my own kingdom."
"Then the truce is broken," answered the French King. The Cardinal
interfered, threatening to lay France under an interdict, and
excommunicate Philippe and Richard if they would not consent to Henry's
conditions. Their answers were characteristic.
"I do not fear your curses," said Philippe. "You have no right, to
pronounce them on the realm of France. Your words smell of English
"I'll kill the madman who dares to excommunicate two royal princes in
one breath!" cried Coeur de Lion, drawing his sword; but his friends
threw themselves between, and the Cardinal escaped, mounted his mule,
and rode off in haste.
The French took Mans, and pillaged it cruelly, while Richard looked on
in shame and grief at the desolation of his own inheritance. His father,
weak and unwell, resolved to make peace, and for the last time appointed
a meeting with Philippe on the plain between Tours and Amboise. There it
was arranged that Richard should be acknowledged as heir, and Alice put
into the hands of the Archbishop either of Canterbury or Rouen, as he
should prefer, until he should return from the Crusade. The conference
was interrupted by a vivid flash of lightning and a tremendous burst of
thunder. To the evil conscience of the elder King it was the voice of
avenging Heaven: he reeled in his saddle, and his attendants were forced
to support him in their arms and carry him away. He travelled in a
litter to Chinon, where his first son had deserted him, and there,
while he lay dangerously ill, the treaty was sent to him to receive his
signature, and the conditions read over to him. By one of them, those
who had engaged in Richard's party were to transfer their allegiance to
"Who are they--the ungrateful traitors?" he asked. "Let me hear their
His secretary began the list: "John, Count of Mortagne."
"John!"--and the miserable father started up in his bed. "John! It
cannot be true!--my heart, my beloved son! He whom I cherished beyond
the rest--he for whose sake I have suffered all this--can he also have
deserted me?" He was told it was too true. "Well," said he, falling back
on his bed, and turning his face from the light, "let the rest go as it
will! I care not what becomes of me, or of the world!"
He was roused in a few moments by the entrance of Richard, come, as a
matter of form, to ratify the treaty by the kiss of peace. The King,
without speaking, gave it with rigid sternness of countenance; but
Richard, as he turned away, heard him mutter, "May I but live to be
revenged on thee!" and when he was gone, the King burst out into such
horrible imprecations against his two sons, that the faithful Geoffrey
of Lincoln and the clergy of Canterbury, who attended him, were shocked,
and one of the monks reminded him that such hasty words had occasioned
the death of Becket. But he gnashed his teeth at them with fury. "I have
been and I am your lord, traitors that ye are!" he cried. "Away with
you! I'll have none but trusty ones here."
The monks left him; but one, turning round, said boldly, "If the life
and sufferings of the martyr Thomas were acceptable with God. He will do
prompt justice on thy body."
The King threw himself out of bed, with his dagger in his hand; but was
carried back again, and continued to rave, though growing weaker. In
an interval of calm he was taken into the church, and absolution was
pronounced over him; but no persuasion would induce him to revoke his
curses against his sons: the delirium returned, and the last words that
were heard from his dying lips were, "Shame, shame on a conquered King!
Cursed be the day I was born! Cursed be the sons I leave!"
In his fifty-fifth year he thus miserably expired, and his son Geoffrey
of Lincoln with difficulty found any one to attend to his funeral; the
attendants had all fled away, with everything valuable that they could
lay their hands on. A piece of gold fringe was made to serve for a
crown, and an old sceptre and ring were brought from the treasury
at Chinon; horses were hired, and the corpse was carried, as he had
desired, to be interred in the beautiful Abbey of Fontevraud. In the
midst of the service a hurried step was heard. It was Richard, who,
while laughing with his false friend Philippe over his ungracious
reception at Chinon, had been horror-struck by the news that his father
was dead, and that there was no more forgiveness to be looked for.
He had hastily left the French, and now stood beside the coffin, looking
at the fine but worn and prematurely aged face, which bore the stamp
of rage and agony. A drop of blood oozed from the nostril--a token,
according to the belief of those times, that the murderer was present.
Richard hid his face in his hands in the misery of remorse, and groaned
aloud, "Yes, it was I who killed him." He threw himself on his knees
before the altar, so remained "about as long as it would take to say a
_Pater_" and then, rising up in silence, dashed out of the church.
Ten years later, his corpse was, by his own desire, laid in humility at
his father's feet.
THE THIRD CRUSADE.
_King of England_.
1189. Richard I.
_King of Scotland_.
_King of France_.
1180. Philippe II.
_Emperor of Germany_.
1152. Friedrich I.
1191. Henry VI.
1183. Clement III
1191. Celestine III
The vices of the Christians of Palestine brought their punishment.
Sybilla of Anjou, Queen of Jerusalem, had married the handsome but
feeble-minded Guy de Lusignan, who was no match for the Kurdish
chieftain, Joseph Salah-ed-deen, usually called Saladin, who had risen to
the supreme power in Egypt and Damascus. The battle of Tiberias ruined
the kingdom, and the fall of Jerusalem followed in a few weeks, filling
Christendom with grief.
The archbishop and historian, William of Tyre, preached a Crusade in
Europe, and among the first to take the Cross were the Plantagenet
princes and Philippe Auguste of France.
The unhappy discord between Henry II. and Coeur de Lion hindered the
enterprise until the death of the father, which left the son a prey to
the bitterest remorse; and in the hope to expiate his crimes, he hurried
on the preparations with all the vehemence of his impetuous nature.
He hastened his coronation, and began to raise money by the most
unscrupulous means, declaring he would even have sold London itself
could he have found a bidder. He made his half-brother, Geoffrey, pay
L3,000 for the possession of the temporalities of the see of York, and
sold the earldom of Northumberland to the aged Bishop of Durham, Hugh
Pudsey, saying, laughing, that it had been a clever stroke to make a
young earl of an old bishop. William the Lion of Scotland was also
allowed to purchase exemption from his engagements to Henry II., by the
payment of a large sum of money and the supply of a body of troops under
the command of his brother David, Earl of Huntingdon.
These arrangements made, Richard marched to meet Philippe Auguste at
Vezelai, and agree on the regulations for the discipline of their
host. If rules could have kept men in order, these were strict enough,
forbidding all gaming, all foul language, all disputing, and all
approach to licence, and ordering all acquisitions to be equally
divided; but with a prince whose violent temper broke through all
restraint, there was little hope of their observance. The English wore
white crosses, the French red, the Flemings green, to distinguish the
They marched together to Lyons, whence Philippe proceeded across the
Alps to embark at Genoa in the vessels he had hired, and Richard went to
Marseilles, where his own fleet was appointed to meet him and transport
him to Messina, the place where the whole crusading army was to winter.
He waited for his ships till his patience failed, and, hiring those
which he found in the harbor, he sailed to Pisa, whence he rode to
Salerno, and there learning that his fleet had touched at Marseilles,
and arrived at Messina, he set out for the coast, attended by only one
knight. On the way he saw a fine hawk, kept at a cottage in a small
village, and forgetting that there were no such forest laws as in his
own domains, he was enraged to see the bird in the keeping of mean
"_villeins_" seized upon it, and bore it off on his wrist. This was no
treatment for Italian peasants, who, in general, were members of small,
self-ruling republics, and they swarmed out of their houses to recover
the bird. One man attacked the King with a long knife, and though
Richard beat him off with the flat of his sword, the assault with sticks
and stones was severe enough to drive the King off the field, and force
him to ride at full speed to a convent.
He thence went to Bagnata, where he found his own ship _Trenc-la-Mer_
awaiting him. In full state he sailed into the harbor of Messina at the
head of his fleet, streamers flying from the masts, and music playing
upon the decks. He was received by the King of Sicily, Tancred, Count of
Lecce, who without much right had assumed the crown on the recent death
of William the Good, the last of the direct Norman line.
This William, had been married to Joan Plantagenet, Richard's youngest
sister, who now came to join him, making complaints that Tancred was
withholding from her the treasures bequeathed to her by her husband; and
these were indeed of noted value, for she specified among them a golden
table twelve feet long, and a tent of silk large enough to contain two
Tancred, who had lodged his royal guests, the one in a palace within the
town, the other in a pleasant house among the vineyards, was confounded
at these claims, and on his declaring that he had duly paid the Queen's
dowry, Richard seized upon two of his castles, and, on a slight quarrel
with the inhabitants, upon the city of Messina itself.
Philippe Auguste interfered, not on behalf of the unfortunate Sicilian,
but to obtain a share of the spoil; requiring that the French standard
should be placed beside the English one on the walls, and that half the
plunder should be his. It was, however, agreed that the keeping of the
city should be committed to the Knights Templars until the three kings
should come to an agreement.
It was at this time that Richard again showed his violent nature. A
peasant happening to pass with an ass loaded with long reeds, or canes,
the knights began in sport to tilt at each other with them, and Richard
was thus opposed to a certain Guillaume des Barres, who had once placed
him in great danger in a battle in Normandy. Both reeds were broken, and
Richard's mantle was torn; his jest turned to earnest, and he dashed his
horse against Des Barres, meaning to throw him from the saddle; but he
swerved aside, and the King's horse stumbled, and fell. He took another,
and returned to the charge, but in vain; however, when the Earl of
Leicester was coming to his aid, he ordered him off. "It is between him
and me alone," he said. At length repeated failures so inflamed his
anger, that he shouted, "Away with thee! Never dare appear in my
presence again! I am a mortal foe to thee and thine!" and it was only on
the threat of excommunication that he could be prevailed on to consent
to the knight remaining with the army.
In March, a meeting took place between the Kings of England and Sicily,
in which Tancred agreed to pay Richard and his sister 20,000 ounces of
gold; and Richard remitted his share as a portion for Tancred's infant
daughter, whom he asked in marriage for his nephew, Arthur of Brittany.
The two Kings were much pleased with each other, and an exchange of
presents was made.
Tancred disclosed that the French monarch had falsely sent him a warning
that it was useless to trust the King of England, who only intended to
break his treaties; and when Richard refused to believe that his former
friend would so slander him, showed him the very letters in which
Philippe offered to assist in expelling him from the island.
Unwisely, Richard called his rival to account for his treachery; on
which Philippe retorted with the old engagement to his sister Alice,
declaring that this was only an excuse, for casting her off. Richard
answered, that her conduct made no excuse necessary for not marrying
her, and proved it so entirely, that Philippe was glad to hush the
matter up, and rest satisfied with a promise that she should be restored
to her own count with a sufficient pension.
It was time indeed for Richard to be free from his bonds to Alice, for
he had already sent his mother to conduct to him his own chosen and
long-loved lady, Berengaria of Navarre, a gentle, delicate, fair-haired,
retiring maiden, to whom he had devoted his Lion-heart in his days of
poetry and song in his beloved Aquitaine, and who was now willing to
share the toils and perils of his crusade.
She arrived on the 29th of March; but the season of Lent prevented the
celebration of their wedding, and Queen Eleanor, placing her under the
charge of Joan, the widowed Queen of Sicily, returned to England to
watch over her son's interests there. The next day the fleet set sail,
Richard in his royal vessel, the ladies in another called the Lion; but
a tempest arose and scattered the ships, and though a lantern was hung
from the mast of _Trenc-la-Mer_ as a guide to the others, she was almost
alone when she put into the harbor of Rhodes.
The King had suffered so much from sea-sickness, that he was forced to
remain there ten days, in much anxiety, and there his vessels gradually
joined him, and he heard tidings of the rest. Philippe Auguste, with six
vessels, was safe at Acre, and the Lion had been driven to the coast
of Cyprus. Isaac Comnenus, a Greek, who called himself Emperor of
the island, had behaved with great discourtesy, forbidding the poor
princesses to land, and maltreating the crews of the vessels that had
been cast ashore.
All Coeur de Lion's chivalry was on fire at this insult to his bride. He
sailed at once to Cyprus, made a rapid conquest of the whole island,
and took prisoners both the Emperor and his daughter. The only request
Comnenus made was, that he might not be put into iron chains; and he was
gratified by wearing silver ones, until his death, four years after. His
daughter became an attendant on Berengaria, and as the feast of Easter
had now arrived, Richard no longer deferred his marriage, which was
celebrated in the church of Limasol by the Bishop of Evreux. It is
certainly one of the strangest stories in our history, that one of our
Kings should have been married in that distant isle of Cyprus, after
conquering it, as a sort of episode in his crusade.
It was a victory not without great benefit to the Crusaders, for the
island was extremely fertile, and Richard appointed a knight, named
Robert de Turnham, to send constant supplies of provisions to the army
in the Holy Land; after which he set sail.
Guy de Lusignan had already laid siege to St. Jean d'Acre, or Ptolemais,
a city on the bay formed by the projection of the promontory of Mount
Carmel, admirably adapted as a stronghold, in which succor from Europe
might be received. Leopold of Austria brought the first instalment of
Crusaders; next followed Philippe of France; but the increase of the
number of besiegers only caused famine, until the conquest of Cyprus
insured supplies. Richard had sailed first for Tyre; but Conrade,
Marquis of Montferrat, Prince of Tyre, who was related to the Comneni,
had given orders that he should be excluded from the city; and he
continued his course to Acre, capturing, on his way, a large galley
filled with troops and provisions sent from Egypt to the relief of the
On his arrival, Richard at once resigned to Philippe half the booty,
whereupon the French King claimed half the island of Cyprus: this Coeur
de Lion replied he might have, if he was willing likewise to divide the
county of Flanders, which had just fallen to his wife by the death of
her brother. The siege was pressed on with the greatest ardor on the
arrival of the English, and Philippe was extremely jealous of the
reputation acquired by the brilliant deeds of daring in which Richard
delighted, while he himself was left completely in the shade. Cool,
wary, and prudent, he contemned the boisterous manners, animal strength,
and passionate nature of his rival, and nothing could be more galling
than to find himself disregarded, while all the "talk was of Richard the
King," and all the independent bands from Europe clustered round the
banner of the Plantagenet. Philippe tried to win the hearts of the army
by liberality, and offered two pieces of gold a week to any knight who
might be distressed; Richard instantly promised four, adding a reward of
high value to any soldier who should bring him a stone from the walls of
the city; and such allurements led many to leave the French service for
The heat of the climate soon brought on fevers, and both the kings were
attacked. Richard, when unable to mount his horse, was carried on a
mattress to the front of the army, to superintend the machines and
military engines, often himself aiming a ballista at the walls. He thus
slew a Saracen whom he beheld parading on the ramparts in the armor of a
Christian knight who had lately fallen. Saladin was hovering around
with his army, attempting to relieve the town; but the Christian army
enclosed it, said the Arab writers, close as the eyelid does the eye,
and he could only obtain intelligence from the inhabitants by means of
carrier-pigeons; while at the same time some friend to the Christians
within the town used to shoot arrows into the camp, with letters
attached, containing information of all the plans of the besieged. The
name of this secret ally was never discovered, but his tidings often
proved of the greatest service..
A curious interview took place, between Saladin's brother,
Malek-el-Afdal (Just King), and a deputy sent by Richard, to arrange for
a conference on his recovery. The meeting was held in Saladin's camp.
"It is the custom of our kings to make each other presents, even in time
of war," said the deputy, "My master wishes to offer some worthy of the
"The present shall be well received," said Malek-el-Afdal, "so that we
offer others in return."
"We have falcons, and other birds of prey, which have suffered much from
the voyage, and are dying of hunger. Would it please you to give us some
poultry to feed them with? When recovered, they shall be a gift to the
"Say rather," returned Malek, "that your master is ill, and wishes for
poultry. He shall have what he will."
Richard restored a Mussulman prisoner, and thereupon Saladin gave the
deputy a robe of honor, and sent an emir to the camp with presents of
Damascus pears, Syrian grapes, and mountain snow, which much conduced to
the convalescence of the Malek Rik, as the Saracens, who much admired
and feared King Richard, were wont to call him.
On his recovery, the siege was pressed on, fierce battles daily taking
place, though the heat was such that the burning rays of the sun had
their share of the slain. At last Saladin, much to his grief, was
obliged to send permission to the inhabitants to surrender; which they
did, on condition of being allowed to ransom themselves for a fixed sum
of money and the release of 2,600 Christian captives. Thus ended the
three years' siege of Acre. The Kings of France and England set up their
standards on the chief towers, and it was here that Richard insulted the
banner of Austria, which had been planted beside them. He caused it to
be torn down and thrown into the moat, demanding how a Duke dared assume
the rights of a King. Leopold maintained a sullen silence, brooding over
This overbearing conduct of Richard alienated the chief Crusaders, and
Philippe Auguste, whose health was really much impaired, resolved
to return home, and sent a deputation to acquaint Richard with his
intention. They were so much grieved at their King abandoning the
enterprise, that, when admitted into Richard's presence, they could not
utter a word for tears. "It will be an eternal disgrace to himself and
his kingdom," said Coeur de Lion; "but let him go, since he is dying for
want of his fair court of Paris." He accordingly parted, after taking an
oath to offer no injury to the English possessions in Richard's absence,
and leaving Hugh, Duke of Burgundy, with the portion of his army which
remained in Palestine. There was a dispute, too, on the succession to
the crown of Jerusalem. Sybilla's death transferred her rights to her
sister, Isabel, the wife of Conrade of Montferrat; but Guy de Lusignan
refused to give up the title of King, and the Christians' camp was rent
At the end of August, Richard led his crusading troops from Acre into
the midst of the wilderness of Mount Carmel, where their sufferings were
terrible; the rocky, sandy, and uneven ground was covered with bushes
full of long, sharp prickles, and swarms of noxious insects buzzed in
the air, fevering the Europeans with their stings; and in addition to
these natural obstacles, multitudes of Arab horsemen harassed them
on every side, slaughtering every straggler who dropped behind from
fatigue, and attacking them so unceasingly, that it was remarked that
throughout their day's track there was not one space of four feet
without an arrow sticking in the ground.
Richard fought indefatigably, always in the van, and always ready to
reward the gallant exploits of his knights. It was now that Guillaume
des Barres so signalized himself, that the King offered him his
friendship, and forgot the quarrel at Messina. Here, too, a young
knight, who bore a white shield in hopes of gaining some honorable
bearing, so distinguished himself, that Richard thus greeted him at the
close of the day: "Maiden knight, you have borne yourself as a lion,
and done the deeds of six _croises_" and granted him a lion between
six crosses on a red field, with the motto "_Tinctus cruore Saraceno_"
tinted with Saracen blood, whence he assumed the name of Tynte.
At Arsoof, on the 7th of September, a great battle was fought. Saladin
and his brother had almost defeated the two Religious Orders, and the
gallant French knight, Jacques d'Avesne, after losing his leg by a
stroke from a scimitar, fought bravely on, calling on the English King,
until he fell overpowered by numbers. Coeur de Lion and Guillaume
des Barres retrieved the day, hewed down the enemy on all sides, and
remained masters of the field. It is even said that Richard and Saladin
met hand to hand, but this is uncertain.
This victory opened the way to Joppa, where the Crusaders spent the next
month in the repair of the fortifications, while the Saracen forces lay
at Ascalon. While here, Richard often amused himself with hawking, and,
one day, was asleep under a tree, when he was aroused by the approach
of a party of Saracens, and springing on his horse Frannelle, which had
been taken at Cyprus, he rashly pursued them, and fell into an ambush.
Four knights were slain, and he would have been seized, had not a Gascon
knight, named Guillaume des Porcelets, called out that he himself was
the Malek Rik, and allowed himself to be taken. Richard offered ten
noble Saracens in exchange for this generous knight, whom Saladin
restored, together with a valuable horse that had been captured at
the same time. A present of another Arab steed accompanied them; but
Richard's half-brother, William Longsword, insisted on trying the
creature before the King should mount it. No sooner was he on his back,
than it dashed at once across the country, and before he could stop
it, he found himself in the midst of the enemy's camp. The two Saracen
princes were extremely shocked and distressed lest this should be
supposed a trick, and instantly escorted Longsword back, with gifts of
three chargers which proved to be more manageable.
Malek-el-Afdal was always the foremost in intercourse with the
Christians; Richard knighted his son, and at one time had hopes that
this youth might become a Christian, marry his sister Joan, the widowed
Queen of Sicily, and be established as a sort of neutral King of
Jerusalem; but this project was disconcerted in consequence of his
refusal to forsake the religion of his Prophet. [Footnote: This is the
groundwork of the mysterious negotiations in the "Talisman" and of
Madame Cottin's romance of "Matilde."]
From Joppa the Crusaders marched to Ramla, and thence, on New-Year's
Day, 1192, set out for Jerusalem through a country full of greater
obstacles than they had yet encountered. They were too full of spirit to
be discouraged, until they came to Bethany, where the two Grand
Masters represented to Richard the imprudence of laying siege to such
fortifications as those of Jerusalem at such a season of the year, while
Ascalon was ready in his rear for a post whence the enemy would attack
He yielded, and retreated to Ascalon, which Saladin had ruined and
abandoned, and began eagerly to repair the fortifications, so as to be
able to leave a garrison there. The soldiers grumbled, saying they
had not come to Palestine to build Ascalon, but to conquer Jerusalem;
whereupon Richard set the example of himself carrying stones, and called
on Leopold to do the same. The sulky reply, "He was not the son of
a mason," so irritated Richard, that he struck him a blow. Leopold
straightway quitted the army, and returned to Austria.
The reports from home made Richard anxious to return, and he tried to
bring the Eastern affairs to a settlement. He adjudged the crown of
Jerusalem to Conrade of Montferrat, giving the island of Cyprus and its
princess as a compensation to Lusignan; but Conrade had hardly assumed
the title of King, before his murder, by two assassins from the Old Man
of the Mountain, threw everything into fresh confusion; and the barons
of Palestine chose in his place Henry of Champagne, a nephew of
Richard's, a brave knight, whom Queen Isabel was induced to accept as
her third husband.
It was not without great grief and many struggles that Coeur de Lion
finally gave up his hopes of taking Jerusalem. He again advanced as far
as Bethany; but a quarrel with Hugh of Burgundy, and the defection of
the Austrians, made it impossible for him to proceed, and he turned back
While riding out with a party of knights, one of them called out, "This
way, my lord, and you will see Jerusalem."
"Alas!" said Richard, hiding his face with his mantle, "those who are
not worthy to win the Holy City, are not worthy to behold it!"
He returned to Acre; but there, hearing that Saladin was besieging
Joppa, he embarked his troops, and sailed to its aid. The Crescent shone
on its walls as he entered the harbor; but while he looked on in dismay,
he was hailed by a priest, who had leapt into the sea, and swam out to
inform him that there was yet time to rescue the garrison, though the
town was in the hands of the enemy.
He hurried his vessel forward, leapt into the water breast-high, dashed
upward on the shore, ordered his immediate followers to raise a bulwark
of casks and beams to protect the landing of the rest, and, rushing up a
flight of steps, entered the city alone. "St. George! St. George!" That
cry dismayed the Infidels; and those in the town, to the number of three
thousand, fled in the utmost confusion, and were pursued for two miles
by three knights who had been fortunate enough to find horses.
Richard pitched his tent outside the walls, and remained there, with so
few troops that all were contained in ten tents. Very early one morning,
before the King was out of bed, a man rushed into his tent, crying out,
"O King! we are all dead men!"
Springing up, Richard fiercely silenced him. "Peace! or thou diest by my
hand!" Then, while hastily donning his suit of mail, he heard that the
glitter of arms had been seen in the distance, and in another moment the
enemy were upon them, 7,000 in number!
Richard had neither helmet nor shield, and only seventeen of his knights
had horses; but undaunted, he drew up his little force in a compact
body, the knights kneeling on one knee, covered by their shields, their
lances pointing outward, and between each pair an archer, with an
assistant to load his cross-bow; and he stood in the midst, encouraging
them with his voice, and threatening to cut off the head of the first
who turned to fly. In vain did the Saracens charge that mass of brave
men, not one-seventh of their number; the shields and lances were
impenetrable: and without one forward step, or one bolt from the
crossbows, their passive steadiness turned back wave after wave of the
enemy. At last the King gave the word for the crossbowmen to advance,
while he, with seventeen mounted knights, charged lance in rest. His
curtal axe bore down all before it, and he dashed like lightning from
one part of the plain to another, with not a moment to smile at the
opportune gift from the polite Malek-el-Afdal, who, in the hottest
of the fight, sent him two fine horses, desiring him to use them in
escaping from this dreadful peril. Little did the Saracen prince imagine
that they would find him victorious, and that they would mount two more
pursuers! Next came a terrified fugitive, with news that 3,000 Saracens
had entered Joppa! He summoned a few knights, and, without a word to the
rest, galloped back into the city. The panic inspired by his presence
instantly cleared the streets, and, riding back, he again led his troops
to the charge; but such were the swarms of Saracens, that it was not
till evening that the Christians could give themselves a moment's rest,
or look round and feel that they had gained one of the most wonderful of
victories. Since daybreak Richard had not laid aside his sword or axe,
and his hand was all one blister.
No wonder the terror of his name endured for centuries in Palestine, and
that the Arab chided his starting horse with, "Dost think that yonder
is the Malek Rik?" while the mother stilled her crying child by threats
that the Malek Rik should take it.
These violent exertions seriously injured Richard's health, and a
low fever placed him in great danger, as well as several of his best
knights. No command or persuasion could induce the rest to commence
any enterprise without him, and the tidings from Europe induced him to
conclude a peace, and return home. Malek-el-Afdal came to visit him, and
a truce was signed for three years, three months, three weeks, three
days, three hours, and three minutes--thus so quaintly arranged in
accordance with some astrological views of the Saracens. Ascalon was to
be demolished, on condition free access to Jerusalem was allowed to the
pilgrims; but Saladin would not restore the piece of the True Cross, as
he was resolved not to conduce to what he considered idolatry. Richard
sent notice that he was coming back with double his present force to
effect the conquest; and the Sultan answered, that if the Holy City was
to pass into Frank hands, none could be nobler than those of the Malek
Rik. Fever and debility detained Richard a month longer at Joppa, during
which time he sent the Bishop of Salisbury to carry his offerings to
Jerusalem. The prelate was invited to the presence of Saladin, who spoke
in high terms of Richard's courage, but censured his rash exposure of
his own life.
On October 9th, 1193, Coeur de Lion took leave of Palestine, watching
with tears its receding shores, as he exclaimed, "O Holy Land! I commend
thee and thy people unto God. May He grant me yet to return to aid
The return from this Crusade was as disastrous as that from the siege of
Troy. David, Earl of Huntingdon, the Scottish King's brother (the Sir
Kenneth of the Talisman), who had shared in all Richard's toils and
glories, embarked at the same time, but was driven by contrary winds
to Alexandria, and there seized and sold as a slave. Some Venetian
merchants, discovering his rank, bought him, and brought him to their
own city, where he was ransomed by some English merchants, and conducted
by them to Flanders; but while sailing for Scotland, another storm
wrecked him near the mouth of the Tay, near the town of Dundee, the
name of which one tradition declares to be derived from his
thankfulness--_Donum Dei_, the Gift of God. He founded a monastery in
commemoration of his deliverance.
The two queens, Berengaria and Joan, were driven by the storm to Sicily,
and thence travelled through Italy. At Rome, to their horror, they
recognized the jewelled baldric of King Richard exposed for sale; but
they could obtain no clue to its history, and great was their dread that
he had either perished in the Mediterranean waves, or been cut off by
the many foes who beset its coasts.
His ship had been driven out of its course into the Adriatic, where the
pirates of the Dalmatian coast attacked it. He beat them off, and then
prevailed on them to take him into their vessel and land him on the
coast of Istria, whence he hoped to find his way to his nephew Otho,
Count of Saxony, elder brother of Henry, King of Jerusalem. This was
the only course that offered much hope of safety, since Italy, France,
Austria, and Germany were all hostile, and the rounding Spain was a
course seldom attempted; so that it was but a choice of dangers for him
to attempt to penetrate to his own domains. Another shipwreck threw him
on the coast between Venice and Aquileia; he assumed a disguise, and,
calling himself Hugh the Merchant, set out as if in the train of one
of his own knights, named Baldwin de Bethune, through the lands of the
mountaineers of the Tyrol. The noblesse here were mostly relatives of
Conrade of Montferrat; and Philippe Auguste having spread a report that
Richard had instigated his murder, it was no safe neighborhood. He sent
one of his men to Count Meinhard von Gorby, the first of these, asking
for a safe-conduct, and accompanying the request with a gift of a ruby
ring. Meinhard, on seeing the ring, exclaimed, "Your master is no
merchant. He is Richard of England: but since he is willing to honor me
with his gifts, I will leave him to depart in peace."
However, Meinhard sent intelligence to Frederic of Montferrat, Conrade's
brother, through whose domains Richard had next to pass. He sent a
Norman knight, called Roger d'Argenton, who was in his service, to seek
out the English King; but d'Argenton would not betray his native prince,
warned Richard, and told Frederic that it was only Baldwin de Bethune.
Not crediting him, the Marquis passed on the intelligence to the Duke
of Austria; and Richard, who had left Bethune's suite, and was only
accompanied by a page, found every inhabited place unsafe, and wandered
about for three days, till hunger, fatigue, and illness drove him to a
little village inn at Eedburg.
Thence he sent his servant to Vienna, a distance of a few miles, to
change some gold bezants for the coin of the country. This attracted
notice, and the page was carried before a magistrate, and interrogated.
He professed to be in the service of a rich merchant who would arrive in
a day or two, and, thus escaping, returned to his master, and advised
him to hasten away; but Richard was too unwell to proceed, and remained
at the inn, doing all in his power to avert suspicion--even attending
to the horses, and turning the spit in the kitchen. His precautions were
disconcerted; the page, going again to Vienna, imprudently carried in
his belt an embroidered hawking-glove, which betrayed its owner to be of
high rank; and being again seized and tortured, confessed his master's
name and present hiding-place.
Armed men were immediately sent to surround the inn, and the Mayor of
Vienna, entering, found the worn-out pilgrim lying asleep upon his bed,
and aroused him with the words, "Hail, King of England! In vain thou
disguisest thyself; thy face betrays thee."
Awakening, the Lion-heart grasped his sword, declaring he would yield it
to none but the Duke. The Mayor told him it was well for him that he
had fallen into their hands, rather than into those of the Montferrat
family; and Leopold, arriving, reproached him for the insult to the
Austrian banner, which indeed was far more dishonored by its lord's foul
treatment of a crusading pilgrim, than by its fall into the moat of
Acre. He was conducted to Vienna, and thence to the lonely Castle of
Tierenstein, where he was watched day and night by guards with drawn
swords. Leopold sent information of his capture to the Emperor, Henry
VI., who bore a grudge to Richard for his alliance with Tancred, who had
usurped Sicily from the Empress Constance; he therefore offered a price
for the illustrious prisoner, and placed him in the strong Castle of
Triefels. Months passed away, and no tidings reached him from without.
He deemed himself forgotten in his captivity, and composed an indignant
_sirvente_ in his favorite Provencal tongue. The second verse we give
in the original, for the sake of being brought so near to the royal
"Or sachen ben, mici hom e mici baron,
Angles, Norman, Peytavin, et Gascon,
Qu'yeu non hai ja si pauore compagnon
Que per ave, lou laissesse en prison.
Faire reproche, certes yeu voli. Non;
Mais souis dos hivers prez."
Or, as it may be rendered in modern French:
"Or sachent bien, mes hommes, mes barons,
Anglais, Normands, Poitevins, Gascons,
Que je n'ai point si pauvre compagnon
Que pour argent, je le laisse en prison.
Faire reproche, certes, je ne le veux. Non;
Mais suis deux hivers pris."
This melancholy line, "Two winters am I bound," is the burden of the
song, closing the recurring rhymes of each stanza. In the next he
complains that a captive is without friends or relations, and asks where
will be the honor of his people if he dies in captivity. He laments
over the French King ravaging his lands and breaking the oaths they had
together sworn while he is "_deux hivers pris_," and speaks of two of
his beloved troubadour companions by name, as certain to stir up his
friends in his cause, and to mourn for his loss while he is "_deux
He was right; the troubadours were his most devoted friends; Bertram de
Born was bewailing him, and Blondel de Nesle, guided by his faithful
heart, sang his King's own favorite lays before each keep and fortress,
until the unfinished song was taken up and answered from the windows of
the Castle of Triefels.
The clue was found: Queen Eleanor wrote instantly to the Pope, calling
on him to redress the injury offered to a returning pilgrim, yet signed
with the Cross, and sent two abbots and the Bishop of Ely to visit him.
From them he learnt that his brother John and Philippe of France were
using every means to prevent his return; but this gave him the less
concern, as he said, "My brother John was never made for conquering
His ex-chancellor, William Longchamp, who had been expelled from England
for tyrannical government, thought to serve his cause by a forgery of a
letter in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, purporting to be from the Old Man
of the Mountain, exculpating Richard from the murder of Conrade. It ran
thus: "To Leopold, Duke of Austria, and to all princes and people of the
Christian faith, Greeting. Whereas many kings in countries beyond the
seas impute to Richard, King and Lord of England, the death of the
Marquis, I swear by Him who reigns eternally, and by the law which we
follow, that King Richard had no participation in this murder. Done at
our Castle of Shellia, and sealed with our seal, Midseptember, in the
year 1503 after Alexander."
No one thought of inquiring what brought this confession from the father
of assassins, or why he chose Alexander for his errand, the letter was
deemed conclusive, gave great encouragement to Richard's partisans, and
caused many of the French to refuse to take up arms against him.
Now that his captivity was public, Henry VI. sent for him to Hagenau,
where he pleaded his cause before the diet, was allowed more liberty,
and promised permission to ransom himself, after performing homage
to the Emperor, which probably was required of him to show the
subordination of the Royal to the Imperial rank.
Philippe and John tempted the avarice of Henry by the offer of twice the
sum if he would give them the captive, or 20,000 marks for every month
that he was detained. However, the free princes of Germany, stirred up
by Richard's nephew, the Count of Saxony, were so indignant at their
master's conduct, that he could not venture to accept the tempting
offer, and on the 28th of February, 1194, he indited this note to
his ally, the King of France: "Take care of yourself! The devil is
unchained; but I could not help it."
Philippe forwarded the warning to his accomplice, John, who tried to
raise the English to prevent his brother from landing; but they were
rejoicing at the return of their own King, and even before his arrival
had adjudged John guilty of treason, and sentenced him to lose his
March 20th, Richard landed at Sandwich, and two days after entered
London, among the acclamations of his subjects, who displayed all their
wealth to do him honor, and caused the Germans who accompanied him to
say that, if their Emperor had guessed at half the riches of England,
his ransom would have been doubled.
John was soon brought to sue for the pardon so generously given, and all
ranks vied with each other in raising the ransom. William the Lion of
Scotland presented the King with 2,000 marks, and the first instalment
was sent to Germany; but before it arrived, Henry VI. was dead, and the
Germans were so much ashamed of the transaction, that they returned the
Thus ended the expedition, in which Richard had gained all the glory
that valor and generosity could attain, conquered a kingdom and given
it away, fought battles with desperate courage and excellent skill,
and shown much fortitude and perseverance, but had marred all by his
ARTHUR OF BRITTANY.
_Kings of England_.
1154. Henry II.
1189. Richard I.
_Kings of Scotland_.
1158. Malcolm IV.
_King of France_.
1180. Philippe II.
_Emperors of Germany_.
1152. Friedrich I.
1191. Henry VI.
1183. Clement IV.
1189. Celestine III.
1193. Innocent III.
The son of Geoffrey Plantagenet and Constance, Duchess of Brittany, was
born at Nantes, on Easter-day, 1187, six months after the death of his
father. He was the first grandson of Henry II., for the graceless young
King Henry had died childless. Richard was still unmarried, and the
elder child of Geoffrey was a daughter named Eleanor; his birth was,
therefore, the subject of universal joy. There was a prophecy of Merlin,
that King Arthur should reappear from the realm of the fairy Morgana,
who had borne him away in his death-like trance after the battle of
Camelford, and, returning in the form of a child, should conquer
England from the Saxon race, and restore the splendors of the British
The Bretons, resolved to see in their infant duke this champion of their
glories, overlooked the hated Angevin and Norman blood that flowed in
his veins, and insisted on his receiving their beloved name of Arthur.
Thanksgivings were poured forth in all the churches in Brittany, and the
altars and shrines at the sacred fountains were adorned with wreaths of
At the same a time a Welsh bard directed King Henry to cause search to
be made at Glastonbury, the true Avallon, for the ancient hero's corpse,
which, as old traditions declared, had been buried between two pyramids
within the abbey. There, in fact some distance beneath the surface, was
found a leaden cross, inscribed with the words, "_Hic jacet sepultus
inclytus Rex Arthurus in insula Avallonia_" (Here lies buried the
unconquered King Arthur in the isle of Avallon). A little deeper was a
coffin, hollowed out of an oak tree, and within lay the bones of the
renowned Arthur and his fair Queen Guenever. His form was of gigantic
size; there were the marks of ten wounds upon his skull, and by his side
was a sword, the mighty Caliburn, or Excalibar, so often celebrated in
romances. Guenever's hair was still perfect, to all appearance, and of
a beautiful golden color, but it crumbled into dust on exposure to the
air. The Bretons greatly resented this discovery, which they chose to
term an imposture of Henry's, in order to cast discredit on Merlin's
They were, however, in no condition to oppose the grasping monarch;
Henry entered Brittany, assembled the States at Nantes, and claimed the
guardianship of his grandson's person and domains. They were at first
intimidated by his threats, but Constance showed so much spirit, that
she obtained the keeping of her son, and the immediate government,
though she was not to act without the advice and consent of the King
of England, who received the oaths of the barons present. The widowed
heiress suffered much persecution from the different suitors for her
hand, among whom figured her brother-in-law, John Lackland; and Henry,
fearing her marriage with some powerful prince, so tormented her by
threats of removing her son from her charge, that he forced her into a
marriage with Ranulf de Blondeville, Count of Chester, grandson to an
illegitimate son of Henry I., a man of violent, and ambitious temper,
and of mean and ungraceful appearance. In a dispute which took place
between him and the Count de Perche, in Lincoln Cathedral, the latter
contemptuously called him a dwarf. "Sayest thou so?" cried Ranulf; "ere
long I shall seem to thee as high as that steeple!"--and his words were
fulfilled, when, as Duke of Brittany, he claimed the allegiance of the
He made himself extremely hated in Brittany by his cruelty and
injustice; and no sooner had the news arrived of the death of Henry II.,
than the people rose with one consent, drove him away, and restored the
power to Constance. Richard I. did not interfere in his behalf,
and appeared favorable to his nephew Arthur, acknowledging him as
heir-presumptive of England, and, when at Messina, betrothing him to the
daughter of Tancred, King of Sicily. It was probably in honor of
this intended alliance that Richard presented Tancred with the sword
Excalibar, which certainly should never have passed out of the
possession of the British.
Constance remained at peace for the present, though Richard's absence
left the other territories over which he asserted his power exposed to
much disturbance. He had left the government of England in the hands of
Hugh, Bishop of Durham (the young Earl), and William Longchamp, Bishop
of Ely--a native of Beauvais, who had risen to high favor in the employ
first of Geoffrey, the son of Rosamond, Archbishop of York, and was now
chancellor, and afterward of Richard. He was an arrogant man, and broke
through all restraint, imprisoned his colleague, deprived him of his
offices, and forced him to resign his earldom; then, when Richard
despatched orders that he should be re-instated, declared that he knew
what were the King's private intentions, and should obey no public
instructions. He sealed public acts with his own seal instead of the
King's, kept a guard of fifteen hundred rapacious and disorderly
mercenaries, plundered men of every rank, so that it was said "the
knight could not keep his silver belt, the noble his ring, the lady her
necklace, nor the Jew his merchandise." He travelled in great state,
with a train of minstrels and jesters, who drowned the outcries of the
injured people by songs in his praise. Again Richard sent orders to
restrain him, but in vain; he only declared them a forgery, and pursued
his careless course.
Geoffrey, Archbishop of York, had sworn not to enter the kingdom for
three years, but he now returned; whereupon the chancellor seized
him while at mass, and kept him prisoner. John had no love for his
half-brother: but this was a good opportunity of overthrowing the
chancellor, after such an outrage on the person of an archbishop; and,
at the head of the barons and bishops, he forced Longchamp to resign the
chancellorship, and promise to give up the keys of the King's castles.
To avoid yielding the castles, he attempted to escape from England in
disguise, and arrived at the seashore of Kent in the dress of an old
woman--a gown with large sleeves, a thick veil, and a bundle of linen
and ell-wand in his hand. The tide did not serve, and he was forced to
seat himself on a stone to wait for his vessel. Here the fisherwomen
came up and began to examine his wares, and ask their price; but the
English chancellor and bishop understood no English, and only shook
his head. Thinking him a crazy woman, they peeped under his veil, and,
"spying a great beard under his muffler," raised a shout which brought
their husbands to the spot, who, while he vainly tried to explain
himself, dragged him in derision through the mud, and shut him up in a
cellar. He was, however, released, gave up the keys, and left England.
Geoffrey became chancellor in his stead, and took possession of the see
of York. The next disturbance was caused by the return of Philippe
of France, begging Pope Celestine III. to absolve him of his oath to
respect Richard's dominions. Celestine refused, and no one was found to
second his plans but Richard's own brother John, whom he brought over
by promises of securing to him the succession, and bestowing on him
the continental fiefs. The English, and with them William the Lion of
Scotland and his brother David, maintained the rights of the young
Arthur, and matters continued in suspense till Richard's release from
Easily subduing and more easily pardoning his traitor brother, Richard
carried his arms into France, gained a victory at Vendome, and took the
great seal of France; then entered Guienne, where the turbulent nobility
had revolted, and reducing them, enjoyed a short space of tranquillity
and minstrelsy, and kept on a poetical correspondence with Count Guy of
Arthur, who was now nine years old, was, in 1196, introduced by his
mother to the assembly of the States of Brittany, and associated with
her in the duchy. His uncle at the same time claimed the charge of him
as his heir, and invited Constance to a conference at Pontorson. On her
way--it is much to be feared with his connivance--she was seized by a
body of troops under her husband, the Earl of Chester, and carried a
prisoner to the castle of St. James de Beuvron.
Her nobles met at St. Malo, and deputed the seneschal of Rennes to
inquire of her how they should act, and to assure her of their fidelity.
She thanked them earnestly, but her whole entreaty was that they would
guard her son, watch him like friends, servants, and parents, and save
him from the English. "As for me," wrote she, "that will be as God
wills; but whatever may befall me, do your best for Arthur my son. I
shall always be well, provided he is well, and in the care of good
The vassals wept at this letter, full of maternal love; they swore to
devote themselves to their young lord, even to the death, and obtained
from him a promise never to treat with the English without their
consent. They placed him under the charge of the Sieur de Vitre, who
conducted him from castle to castle with so much secrecy, that Richard
continually failed in his attempts to seize on him. Treaties were
attempted, but failed, with mutual accusations of perfidy, and while
Constance continued a prisoner, a most desolating war raged in the
unfortunate duchy. The dislike and distrust that existed between
Constance and her mother-in-law, Queen Eleanor, seem to have been the
root of many of these troubles; Eleanor was all-powerful with her son,
and contrived to inspire him with distrust of Constance--a suspicion
naturally augmented by her refusal to allow him the care of her son, his
own heir, whom she placed in the hands of the foe of the English.
Richard's troops were chiefly Brabancon mercenaries, or
free-companions--a lawless soldiery, deservedly execrated; and their
captain, Mercadet, was a favorite of the King on account of his
dauntless courage and enterprise. In a skirmish, Mercadot took prisoner
the Bishop of Beauvais, one of the warlike prelates who forgot their
proper office. The Pope demanded his liberation, and Richard returned
the suit of armor in which the bishop had been taken, with the message,
"See if this be thy son's coat, or no."
"No, indeed," said Celestine; "this is the coat of a son of Mars; I will
leave it to Mars to deliver him."
Vitre succeeded in lodging young Arthur, his charge, in the hands of
the King of France, who espoused his cause as an excuse for attacking
Richard. Several battles took place, and at length another treaty of
peace was made, by which Constance was liberated, after eighteen months'
captivity. Doubtless this would soon have proved as hollow as every
other agreement between the French King and the Plantagenet; but it was
Coeur de Lion's last.
The Vicomte de Limoges, in Poitou, sent him two mule-burdens of silver,
part of a treasure found in his hands. Richard rapaciously claimed the
whole. "No," said the Vicomte, "only treasure in gold belongs to the
suzerain; treasure in silver is halved."
Richard, in anger, marched to Poitou with his Brabancons, and besieged
the Castle of Chaluz, where he believed the rest of the riches to be
concealed. In the course of the assault his shoulder was pierced by an
arrow shot from the walls by an archer named Bertrand de Gourdon, and
though the wound at first appeared slight, the surgeons, in attempting
to extract the head of the arrow, so mangled the shoulder, that fever
came on, and his life was despaired of. Mercadet, in the meantime,
pushed on the attack, took the castle, and brought Gourdon a prisoner to
the King's tent.
"Villain, wherefore hast thou slain me?" said Richard.
"Because," replied Gourdon, "thou hast with thine own hand killed my
father and my two brothers. Torture me as thou wilt; I shall rejoice in
having freed the world of a tyrant."
The dying King ordered that the archer should be released, and have a
sum of money given to him; but the Brabancons, in their rage and grief,
flayed the unhappy man alive. Richard's favorite sister Joan, Queen of
Sicily, had married Raymond, Count of Toulouse, who was at this
juncture in great distress from having taken the part of the persecuted
Albigenses. She travelled to her brother's camp to ask his aid, but
arriving to find him expiring, she was taken ill, and, after giving
birth to a dead child, died a few hours after her brother. They were
buried together, at their father's feet, at Fontevraud. Queen Berengaria
survived him thirty years, living peacefully in a convent at Mans, where
she was buried in the church of St. Julien, an English Queen who never
set foot in England.
Loud were the lamentations of the troubadours of Aquitaine over their
minstrel King, Bertrand de Born especially, bewailing him as "_le
roi des courtois, l'empereur des preux_," and declaring that barons,
troubadours, jongleurs, had lost their all. This strange, contradictory
character, the ardent friend yet the turbulent enemy of the Plantagenet
princes, ended his life of rebellion and gallantry as a penitent in the
Abbey of Citeaux. Dante nevertheless introduces him in his Inferno, his
head severed from his body, and explaining his doom thus:
"Sappi ch'i'son Bertram dal Bornio, quelli
Che diedi al re Giovanni i ma' comforti
I' feci'l padre e'l figlio in se ribelli
Achitofel non fe pir d'Absalone
E di David co' malvagi pungelli
Perch' i' parti cosi giunte persone
Partito porto il mio cerebro, lasso
Dal suo principio ch'e n questo troncone
cosi s'osserva in me lo contrapasso."
Queen Eleanor's influence and Richard's own displeasure at the Duchess
of Brittany so prevailed, that Arthur was not even named by the dying
Coeur de Lion; but he directed his barons to swear fealty to his brother
John, and the wish was universally complied with.
Philippe Auguste's voice was the only one uplifted in favor of
Arthur, but it was merely as a means of obtaining a bribe, which John
administered in the shape of the county of Evreux, as a marriage-portion
for his niece, Blanche, the eldest daughter of Eleanor Plantagenet,
Queen of Castile. John, though half-married to various ladies, had no
recognized wife, and to give her to Louis, the eldest son of the King
of France, would therefore, as John hoped, separate France from the
interests of the Breton prince. He little thought what effect that claim
would have on himself! Queen Eleanor, though in her seventieth year,
travelled to Castile to fetch her granddaughter, a beautiful and noble
lady, innocent of all the intrigues that hinged on her espousal, and in
whom France received a blessing.
Philippe Auguste brought young Arthur to this betrothal, and caused him
to swear fealty to his uncle for Brittany as a fief of Normandy. Arthur
was now thirteen, and had newly received the order of knighthood,
adopting as his device the lion, unicorn, and griffin, which tradition
declared to have been borne by his namesake, and this homage must have
been sorely against his will. He was betrothed to Marie, one of the
French King's daughters, and continued to reside at his court, never
venturing into the power of his uncle.
His mother, Constance, had taken advantage of this tranquillity to
obtain a divorce from the hated Earl of Chester, and to give her hand to
the Vicomte Guy de Thouars; but the Bretons appear to have disapproved
of the step, as they never allowed him to bear the title of Duke. She
survived her marriage little more than two years, in the course of which
she gave birth to three daughters, Alix, Catherine, and Marguerite, and
died in the end of 1201.
Arthur set off to take possession of his dukedom, and was soon delighted
to hear of a fresh disturbance between his uncle and the King of France,
hoping that he might thus come to his rights.
John had long ago fallen in love with Avice, granddaughter of Earl
Robert of Gloucester, and had been espoused to her at his brother's
coronation; but the Church had interposed, and refused to permit their
union, as they were second cousins. He was now in the south of France,
where he beheld the beautiful Isabelle, daughter of the Count of
Angouleme, only waiting till her age was sufficient for her to fulfill
the engagement made in her infancy, and become the wife of Hugh de
Lusignan, called _le brun_, Count de la Marche, namely, the borders of
English and French Poitou. Regardless of their former ties, John at once
obtained the damsel from her faithless parents, and made her his queen;
while her lover, who was ardently attached to her, called upon the King
of France, as suzerain, to do him justice.
Philippe was glad to establish the supremacy of his court, and summoned
John to appear. John promised compensation, and offered as a pledge two
of his castles; then broke his word, and refused; whereupon Philippe
took up arms, besieged the castles, and had just destroyed them both,
when Arthur arrived, with all the Breton knights he could collect, and
burning with the eagerness of his sixteen years.
At once Philippe offered to receive his homage for the county of Anjou,
and to send him to conquer it with any knights who would volunteer to
follow him. Hugh de Lusignan was the first to bring him fifteen, and
other Poitevin barons joined him; but, in all, he could muster but one
hundred knights and four or five hundred other troops, and the wiser
heads advised him to wait for reinforcements from Brittany. The fiery
young men, however, asked, "When was it our fashion to count our foes?"
and their rashness prevailed. Arthur marched to besiege the town
of Mirabeau, where there resided one whom he should never have
attacked--his aged grandmother; but Constance had taught him no
sentiment toward her but hatred, and with this ill-omened beginning to
his chivalry he commenced his expedition.
The town was soon taken: but Eleanor's high spirit had not deserted her;
she shut herself up in the castle, and contrived to send intelligence
to her son. John was for once roused, and marched to Mirabeau with such
speed, that Arthur soon found himself surrounded in his turn. The Queen
was in the citadel, the prince in the town, besieging her, and himself
besieged by the King on the outside; but the town wall was strong, and
John could not easily injure his nephew, nor send succor to his mother.
He recollected a knight named Guillaume dos Roches, who had once been
attached to Arthur's service, but was now in his camp; and sending for
him, the wily King thus addressed him: "It is hard that persons who
should be friendly kindred should so disturb each other for want of
meeting and coming to an understanding. Here is Eleanor, my honored
mother, discourteously shut up in a tower in danger of being broken down
by engines of war, and sending forth nothing but cries and tears. Here
is Arthur, my fair nephew, who some day will be an honor to chivalry,
going straight forward, fancying nothing can hurt him, looking on
battles as feasts and sports. And here am I, John, his lord and King,
who could easily take from him at a blow all the rest of his life; I am
waiting, and endeavoring to spare him, though his men-at-arms may come
and catch me like a fox in the toils. Cannot you find some expedient?
Can you remember no friend of my fair nephew who could help you to
restore peace, and obtain a guerdon from me?"
"The only guerdon I desire," replied Des Roches, "is the honor of
serving my lord; but one gift I entreat."
"I grant it, by the soul of my father," said John.
"To-morrow, then," said Des Roches, "the young Duke and all his young
lords shall be at your disposal; but I claim the gift you granted me. It
is, that none of the besieged shall be imprisoned or put to death, and
that Duke Arthur be treated by you as your good and honorable nephew,
and that you leave him such of his lands as rightfully pertain to him."
John promised, and even swore that, if he violated his word, he released
his subjects from their oaths. Arthur's stepfather, Guy de Thouars,
witnessed the agreement, and, thus satisfied, Des Roches introduced his
troops into the town at midnight, and Arthur and his followers were
seized in their sleep. But for John's promise, he regarded it no more
than the wind; he sent twenty-two knights at once to Corfe Castle,
chained two and two together in carts drawn by oxen, where all but Hugh
de Lusignan were starved to death by his orders. He threw the rest into
different prisons, and closely confined his nephew at Falaise. Des
Roches remonstrated, upon which John attempted to arrest both him and
De Thouars, but they escaped from his dominions; and Des Roches was so
grieved at the fatal consequence of his treachery, that he became a
hermit, and ended his life in penance.
The old Queen, whose disposition had softened with her years, charged
John, on pain of her curses, not to hurt his nephew, and exerted herself
to save the victims from barbarity. She prevailed so far as to obtain
the life of Lusignan; but he was shut up at Bristol Castle, where John
likewise imprisoned the elder sister of Arthur, Eleanor, a girl of
eighteen, of such peerless beauty that she was called the Pearl of
Brittany. John held a parley with his nephew at Falaise, when the
following dialogue took place; [Footnote: These particulars are from old
chronicles of slight authority.]
"Give up your false pretentions," said John, "to crowns you will never