Part 7 out of 11
The Crusade was preached, but it had now become a frequent practice, of
which Henry III. was a lamentable example, lightly and hastily to
assume the Cross in a moment of excitement, or even as a means of being
disembarrassed from troublesome claims by the privileges of a Crusader,
and then to purchase from the Pope absolution from the vow. It had
become such an actual matter of traffic, that Richard of Cornwall
positively obtained from Gregory IX. a grant of the money thus raised
from recreant Crusaders. The landless William of Salisbury, going to the
Pope, who was then at Lyons, thus addressed him: "Your Holiness sees
that I am signed with the Cross. My name is great and well known: it is
William Longespee. But my fortune does not match it. The King of England
has bereft me of my earldom, but as this was done judicially, not out of
personal ill-will, I blame him not. Yet, poor as I am, I have undertaken
the pilgrimage. Now, since Prince Richard, the King's brother, who has
not taken the Cross, has obtained from you a grant to take money from
such as lay it aside, surely I may beg for the like--I, who am signed,
and yet without resource."
He obtained the grant, and thus raised 1,000 marks, while Richard of
Cornwall actually gained from one archdeacon L600, and in proportion
Louis, for three years, was detained by the necessity of arranging
matters for the tranquillity of his own kingdom, and not till the Friday
in Whitsun-week, 1248, was he solemnly invested at St. Denis with the
pilgrim's staff and wallet, and presented with the oriflamme, the
standard of the convent, which he bore as Count of Paris. His two
brothers, Robert Comte d'Artois, and Charles Comte d'Anjou, and his wife
Marguerite of Provence, accompanied him, together with a great number
of the nobility, among whom the most interesting was the faithful and
attached Sieur de Joinville, Seneschal of Champagne, who has left us a
minute record of his master's adventures.
They sailed from Aigues Mortes, August 25th, 1248, and Joinville
reflected that he could not imagine how a man in a state of mortal sin
could ever put to sea, since he knew not, when he fell asleep at night,
whether morning would not find him at the bottom of the sea. On coming
near the coast of Barbary, Joinville's ship seems to have been becalmed,
for it continued for three whole days in view of the same round
mountain, to the great dismay of the crew, until a _preux d'homme_
priest suggested, that in his parish, in cases of distress, such as
dearth, or flood, or pestilence, processions chanting the Litany were
made on three Saturdays following. The day was Saturday, and the crew
acted on his advice, making the procession round the masts, even the
sick being carried by their friends. The next day they were out of sight
of the mountain, and on the third Saturday safely landed at Cyprus. Here
the Crusaders remained for eight months, since Egypt was the intended
point of attack, and they wished to allow the inundation of the Nile to
subside. At length, in the summer of 1249, they arrived before Damietta,
which was even better fortified than when it had previously held out for
fifteen months; but it now surrendered, after Fakreddin, the Mameluke
commander, had suffered one defeat under its walls, and the Christians
entered in triumph. Here Louis made an unfortunate delay, while waiting
for reinforcements brought by his brother Alfonse, Comte de Poitiers.
To the rude and superstitious noblesse, a Crusade appeared a certain
means of securing salvation, as indeed the clergy led them to believe;
and this belief seemed to remove all restraint of morality from the
ill-disposed, so that the pure and pious King was bitterly grieved by
the license which he found himself unable to restrain. Much harm was
done by the excess in which the troops indulged while revelling in the
plunder of Damietta. The prudent would have reserved the stores there
laid up for time of need, but old crusaders insisted on "the good old
custom of the Holy Land," as they called it, namely, the distribution of
two-thirds among the army; and though the King ransomed some portion,
the money did as much harm in promoting revelry as the provisions
Longespee arrived, with 200 English knights; but the small band of
English and their landless leader met with nothing but contumely from
their allies, especially the King's brother, Robert Comte d'Artois, a
haughty and impetuous youth. The English took a small castle on the road
to Alexandria, where one of the Saracen Emirs had placed his harem. It
was reported that Longespee had acquired a huge treasure there, and
Robert insulted him to his face, and deprived him of his just share of
the spoil. Longespee, complained to the King; but Louis could give him
no redress. "You are no King, if you cannot do justice," said William.
Louis meekly suffered the reproach. He had, in his submission, made over
his judgment and authority to the papal legates--men far less fit than
he to exercise power--and matters went chiefly as they and his fiery
brothers chose to direct. Wiser counsellors recommended securing the
other seaport, Alexandria; but Prince Alfonse declared, that the only
way to kill a snake, was to strike the head, and persuaded the council
that the move should be upon Grand Cairo, or, as the Crusaders chose to
call it, Babylon.
On November 25th, 1249, the army advanced, and the conjuncture should
have been favorable, for the Sultan was just dead, and his son absent
at Damascus; but nothing could have been worse concerted than the
expedition--ill-provisioned, without boats to cross the canals, without
engines of war, the soldiery disorganized; while the Mameluke force were
picked soldiers, recruited from the handsomest Circassian children, bred
up for arms alone, and with an _esprit de corps_ that rendered them a
terror to friend and foe almost down to our own times. They harassed the
Christians at every step, and destroyed their machines, and terrified
them excessively by showers of Greek fire, a compound of naphtha and
other combustibles launched from hollow engines, which ignited as it
traversed the air, and was very hard to extinguish.
The Franks regarded it with a superstitious horror, as a fiendish
mystery, and compared it to a fiery dragon with a tail as long as a
lance; but it did not actually cause many deaths, and they met with no
serious disaster till they came to the canal of Aschmoum, which flowed
between them and Mansourah. They tried to build a causeway across it,
but their commencement was destroyed by the Greek fire, and a Bedouin
offered, for 500 bezants, to show them a ford on the Shrove Tuesday
of 1250. Robert d'Artois begged to lead the vanguard, and secure the
passage of the rest; and when the King hesitated to confide so important
a charge to one so rash and impetuous, he swore on the Gospels that,
when he should have gained the bank on the other side, nothing should
induce him to leave it till the whole army should have crossed. The King
consented, but placed the command in the hands of the wise Guillaume
de Sonnac, Grand Master of the Templars, who, with his knights, the
Hospitallers, Longespee and the English, and Robert's own band, formed a
body of 1,400.
The Saracens who guarded the ford were taken by surprise, and fled in
confusion; and the Christians, mounting the bank, beheld the inhabitants
and garrison of Mansourah hurrying away in terror.
The temptation made the impetuous prince forget his promises, and he was
dashing forward in pursuit, when the Grand Master tried to check him, by
representing that, though the enemy were at present under the influence
of panic terror, they would soon rally, and that the only safety for the
I,400 was to wait, with the canal in their rear, until the rest of the
army should have crossed; otherwise, as soon as their small number
should be perceived, they would infallibly be surrounded and cut off.
The fiery youth listened with scorn and impatience. "I see," cried he,
"that it is well said, that the Orders have an understanding with the
Infidel! They love power, they love money, and so will not see the war
ended. This is the way that so many crusading princes have been served
"Noble Count," said Pierre de Villebride, the Grand Master of St. John,
trying to calm him, "why do you think we gave up our homes and took
these vows? Was it to overthrow the Church and lose our own souls? Such
things be far, far from us, or from any Christian."
But De Sonnac would not parley; he called to his esquire, "Spread wide
the Beauseant banner. Arms and death must decide our honor and fate. We
might be invincible, united; but division is our ruin."
Longespee interposed. "Lord Count," said he, "you cannot err in following
the counsel of a holy man like the Grand Master, well tried in arms. Young
men are never dishonored by hearkening to their elders."
"The tail! that smacks of the tail!" exclaimed the headstrong Robert.
[Footnote: On Thomas a Becket's last journey to Canterbury, Raoul de
Broc's followers had cut off the tails of his pack-horses. It was a vulgar
reproach to the men of Kent that the outrage had been punished by the
growth of the same appendage on the whole of the inhabitants of the
county; and, whereas the English populace applied the accusation to the
Kentishmen, foreigners extended it to the whole nation when in a humor for
insult and abuse, such as that of this unhappy prince.]
"Count Robert," rejoined William, "I shall be so forward in peril
to-day, that you will not even come near the tail of my horse."
With these words they all set out at full gallop, Robert's old deaf
tutor, Sir Foucault de Nesle, who had not heard one word of the
remonstrance, holding his bridle, and shouting, "_Ores a eux! ores a,
eux!_" They burst into the town, and began to pillage, killing the
Saracen Emir Fakreddin, as he left his bath; but in the meantime,
Bendocdar, another Mameluke chief, had rallied his forces, threw a troop
between them and the ford, and thus, cutting them off, attacked them in
the streets, while the inhabitants hurled stones, boiling water, and
burning brands from above.
Separated and surprised as they were, the little band sold their lives
dearly, forgot their fatal quarrels, and fought as one man from ten
o'clock till three. Robert entrenched himself in a house, defended
himself there for a long time, and finally perished in its ruins.
Longespee was killed at the head of his knights, who almost all fell
with him; and his esquire, Robert de Vere, was found with his banner
wrapped around his dead body. Only thirty-five prisoners were made,
among them Pierre de Villebride. Sonnac, after having lost a hundred
and eighty of his knights, fought his way through with the loss of an
The King had, in the meantime, crossed the canal, and grievous was his
disappointment on finding that the Saracens were between him and his
brother. Every effort was made to break through to the rescue, but in
vain; and at one moment Louis himself was in the utmost danger, finding
himself singly opposed to six Saracens, whom, however, he succeeded in
putting to flight. With difficulty could his forces even maintain their
footing on the Mansourah side of the canal, and it was not till after
a long and desperate conflict that there was time to inquire for the
missing. The Prior de Rosnay came to the royal tent, to ask whether
there were any tidings of the Count, "Only that he is in Paradise," said
the King. "God be praised for what He sends to us." And he lifted up his
eyes, while the tears flowed down his cheeks.
It was believed, in England, that the Countess Ella of Salisbury had on
that day a vision of her son received into Paradise.
The bon Sieur de Joinville had his part in the brave deeds of the day:
he, with the Comte de Soissons and four other knights, guarded a bridge
against a mighty force of Saracens. "Seneschal," cried the Count, "let
this canaille roar and howl; you and I will yet talk of this day in our
And Joinville fought on cheerfully, though twice dismounted, and in
great danger. But he kept up his heart, crying out, "Beau Sire, St.
James, help me, and succor me in my need!" and he came off safely,
though pierced with five arrows, and his horse with fifteen wounds.
The following day was a doubly sorrowful Ash-Wednesday in the Christian
camp; while the Mussulmans triumphed, calling the battle of Mansourah
the key of joy to true believers; and fancying, from the fleur-de-lys on
the surcoat, that the corpse of Robert was that of Louis himself, they
proclaimed throughout their camp, "The Christian army is a trunk without
life or head!"
They learnt their error on the Friday, when they made a furious attack
on the Crusaders, and Louis's valor made itself felt, as he dashed
through showers of arrows and of Greek fire, and drove back the enemy as
they were surrounding his brother Charles. His other brother, Alfonse,
was for a moment made prisoner, but being much beloved, the butchers,
women, and servants belonging to the army, suddenly rushed forward and
rescued him. The Grand Master of the Templars lost his other eye, and
was soon after killed; and though the Christians claimed the victory,
their loss was so severe, especially in horses, that it was impossible
to advance to Cairo, and they therefore remained encamped before
Nothing more fatal could have been done: the marshy ground, the number
of dead bodies that choked the stream, the feeding on fish that had
preyed upon them--for the Lenten fast prevented recourse to solid
food--occasioned disease to break out--fever, dysentery, and a horrible
disorder which turned the skin as black and dry (says Joinville) as an
old boot, and caused great swelling and inflammation of the gums, so
that the barbers cut them away piecemeal.
The Saracens let them alone, only now and then launching volleys of
Greek fire. The King, on seeing these coming, would kneel down, and cry,
"Lord, spare my people!" But worse enemies were at work. Warrior after
warrior succumbed to his sufferings, and the clergy, going about among
the dying, caught the infection, till there were hardly sufficient to
perform the daily offices of religion. Joinville rose from his bed to
lift up his chaplain, who, while singing mass, fainted on the step of
the altar. Supported in his arms, he finished the mass, but, says the
Seneschal, "he never chanted more."
Patiently and steadfastly all was borne: the Christians repented
of their late license, and suffered without murmurs, desertion, or
submission, encouraged by their good King, who spent his time in going
from one bed to another to encourage the sick, attend to their wants,
and offer his prayers with them. He was vainly entreated not to expose
himself to the infection. But love and duty equally led him among his
people, and his sad, resigned face never failed to cheer the sufferers,
till he too was laid on a bed of sickness.
Easter came, but famine was added to their miseries, and those who were
recovering from illness died of hunger. The new Sultan, Touran Chah, or
Almoadan, had at length arrived, and Louis tried to negotiate with him,
offering to surrender the town of Damietta, provided Jerusalem were
placed in his hands. The Sultan would have agreed, but required hostages,
and, when Louis offered his two brothers, refused any guarantee but the
person of the King himself. With one voice the French knights vowed that
they would all be killed rather than make a pledge of their King, and the
project was ineffectual.
Louis now resolved to attempt to retreat in secret, and on the 5th of
April he collected as many boats as possible upon the canal, there by
night to embark the sick, that they might ascend the Nile to Damietta.
Those who yet had strength to fight were to go by land; and he, though
very ill, refused to desert his army, and resolved to accompany them. In
the midst of the embarkation the Saracens discovered what was going on,
and fell upon them, shooting arrows at the sick as they were carried on
board. They hurried the vessels off, notwithstanding loud cries from the
land army of "Wait for the King! wait for the King!"--for the French
soldiery only longed to see their King in safety; but he came not, and
they pushed off. Before long the Sultan's galleys met them with such
showers of Greek fire, that Joinville, one of those unfortunate sick,
declares that it seemed as if all the stars were falling. Soon they
were boarded by the enemy; Joinville gave himself up for lost, threw
overboard all his relics, lest they should be profaned, and prayed
aloud; but a Saracen renegade who knew him, came up to him, and by
calling out, "The King's cousin!" saved his life, and that of a little
boy in his company. All who seemed capable of paying a ransom were made
prisoners; the rest had the choice of death or apostasy, and too many
chose the last.
The rest of the army fared no better by land. Louis had mounted his
horse, though so weak that he could not wear his armor, and rode among
the knights, who strove to cut their way through the foe. The two good
knights, Geoffroi de Sargines and Gautier de Chatillon rode on each side
of him, and, as he afterward said, guarded, him from the Saracens as a
good servant guards his master's cup from flies. They were obliged to
support him in his saddle after a time, so faint and exhausted did he
become; and at last, on arriving at a little village named Minieh,
Sargines look him from his horse, and laid him down just within a house,
his head on the lap of a Frenchwoman whom he found there, and watched
over him, expecting each breath to be the last.
Chatillon defended the entrance, rushing each moment on the Saracens,
and only resting to draw out the arrows with which he was covered. At
last he was overcome by numbers, and slaughtered; and another knight,
Philippe de Montfort, making his way to the King, who had somewhat
revived, told him that five hundred knights remained in full force, and,
with his permission, he could make good terms. Louis consented, and the
Saracen Emir was in the act of concluding a truce, when a traitor cried
out, "Sir French knights, surrender! the King bids you! Do not cause him
to be slain!" They instantly laid down their arms unconditionally, and
the Emir, whose ring had been already off his finger, looking round,
said, "We make no truce with prisoners."
All was thus lost. The Saracens entered the village, and finding the
King, loaded him with chains, and placed him on board a vessel. His
brothers were likewise taken, and even the knights who were far advanced
on the way to Damietta, on hearing of their monarch's captivity, dropped
their arms, and became an easy prey. The crosses and images of the
Saints were trodden under foot and reviled by the Mussulmans, and the
prisoners, when all those of importance had been selected, were placed
in an enclosure, and each man who would not deny his faith was beheaded.
The news of the ruin of the army and the captivity of her husband
reached Queen Marguerite at Damietta, where she was daily awaiting the
birth of an infant. Her despair and terror were such, that her life was
in the utmost danger, and nothing soothed her except holding the hand of
an old knight, aged eighty years, who did his utmost to calm her. If she
slept for a few moments, she awoke starting, and fancying the room was
full of Saracens, and the old knight had to assure her that he was
there, and she need fear nothing. Once she sent every one else out of
the room, and, kneeling down, insisted that he should make oath to do
what she should require of him. It was, that, should the enemy take the
city, he would sweep off her head with his sword, rather than let her
fall into their hands. "Willingly," said the old knight. "Had you not
asked it of me, I had thought of doing so."
The morning after, a son was born to her, and named Jean Tristan, on
account of the sadness that reigned around. On that very day word was
brought to her that the Genoese and Pisans, who garrisoned the town,
were preparing their vessels to depart. The poor Queen sent for their
leaders, and as they stood round her bed, she held up her new-born babe,
and conjured them not to desert the town and destroy all hopes for the
King. They told her that they had no provisions: on which she sent
to buy up all in the town, and promised to maintain them at her own
expense; thus awakening sufficient compassion and honor to make them
promise at least to await her recovery. Her first pledge of hope was
a bulbous root, on which, with a knife, had been cut out the word
"_Esperance_," the only greeting the captive King could send to her. No
wonder that plant has ever since borne the well-omened name.
Louis, meanwhile, was carried by water to Mansourah, where he lay very
ill, and only attended by one servant and two priests. A book of Psalms
and the cloak that covered him were the sole possessions that remained
to him; but with unfailing patience he lay, feebly chanting the Psalms,
never uttering one word of complaint, and showing such honor to the
office of the priests, that he would not endure that they should perform
for him any of the services that his helplessness required. Nor did he
make one request from his enemies for his own comfort; though Touran
Chah, struck with his endurance, sent to him a present of fifty robes
for himself and his nobles; but Louis refused them, considering that to
wear the robes of the Saracen would compromise the dignity of his crown.
The Sultan next sent his physician, under whose care his health began to
return, and negotiations were commenced. The King offered as his ransom,
and that of his troops, the town of Damietta and a million of bezants;
but the Sultan would not be contented without the cities of the
Crusaders in Palestine, Louis replied that these were not his own; and
when Touran Chah threatened him with torture or lifelong captivity, his
only reply was, "I am his prisoner; he can do as he will with me."
His firmness prevailed, and the Sultan agreed to take what he offered.
Louis promised the town and the treasure, provided the Queen consented;
and when the Mahometans expressed their amazement at a woman being
brought forward, "Yes," he said, "the Queen is my lady; I can do
nothing without her consent."
The King ransomed all his companions at his own expense, and there was
general rejoicing at the hopes of freedom; but, alas! the Sultan, Touran
Chan, was murdered by his own Mamelukes, who hunted him into the river,
and killed him close to the ship where Joinville had embarked. They then
rushed into the vessels of the Christians, who, expecting a massacre to
follow, knelt down and confessed their sins to each other. "I absolve you,
as far as God has given me power," replied each warrior to his brother.
Joinville, seeing a Saracen with a battle-axe lifted over him, made the
sign of the Cross, and said, "Thus died St. Agnes." However, they were
only driven down into the hold, without receiving any hurt.
Louis was in his tent with his brothers, unable to account for the
cries he heard, and fearing that Damietta had been seized, and that the
prisoners were being slain. At last there rushed in a Mameluke with a
bloody sword, crying, "What wilt thou give me for delivering thee from
an enemy who intended thy ruin and mine?"
Louis made no answer.
"Dost thou not know," said the furious Mameluke, "that I am master of
thy life? Make me a knight, or thou art a dead man."
"Make thyself a Christian," said the undaunted King, "and I will make
thee a knight."
His calm dignity overawed the assassin; and though several others came
in, brandishing their swords and using violent language, the sight of
the majestic captive made them at once change their demeanor; they spoke
respectfully, and tried to excuse the murder; then, putting their hands
to their brow, and salaaming down to the ground, retired. They sounded
their drums and trumpets outside the tent, and it is even said they
deliberated whether to offer their crown--since the race of Saladin was
now extinct--to the noble Frank prince. Louis had decided that he would
accept it, in hopes of converting them, but the proposal was never made.
The Mamelukes returned to the former conditions of the treaty with the
King, but, when the time came for making oaths on either side for its
observance, a new difficulty arose. The Emirs, as their most solemn
denunciation, declared that, "if they violated their promises, they
would be as base as the pilgrim who journeys bareheaded to Mecca, or as
the man who takes back his wives after having put them away."
In return, they required the King to say that, if he broke his oath, he
should be as one who denied his religion; but the words in which this
was couched seemed to Louis so profane, that be utterly refused to
The Mahometans threatened.
"You are masters of my body," he said, "but you have no power over
my will." His brothers and the clergy entreated in vain, though the
Mamelukes, fancying that his resistance was inspired by the latter,
seized the Patriarch of Jerusalem, an old man of eighty, and tied him up
to a stake, drawing the cords so tight round his hands that the blood
"Sire, sire, take the oath!" he cried; "I take the sin upon myself."
But Louis was immovable, and the Emirs at last contented themselves with
his word, and retired, saying that this was the proudest Christian that
had ever been seen in the East.
They knew not that his pride was for the honor of his God.
On the 6th of May, Geoffroi de Sargines came to Damietta, placed the
Queen and her ladies on board the Genoese vessels, and gave up the keys
to the Emirs.
The King was, on this, set free, but his brother Alfonso was to remain
as a hostage till the bezants were paid. The royal coffers at Damielta
could not supply the whole, and the rest was borrowed of the Templars,
somewhat by force; for Joinville, going to their treasurer in his
worn-out garments and his face haggard from illness, was refused the
keys, till he said "he should use the royal key," on which, with a
protest, the chests were opened.
Philippe de Montfort managed to cheat the Mamelukes of 10,000 bezants,
and came boasting of it to the King; but Louis, much displeased, sent
him back with the remaining sum.
The King then embarked, still in much anxiety whether the Emirs would
fulfil their engagements and liberate his brother; but, late at night,
Montfort came alongside of the vessel, and called out, "Sire, speak to
your brother, who is in the other ship!"
In great joy Louis cried, "Light up! light up!" and the signals of the
two princes joyfully answered each other in the darkness.
The King sailed for Acre, and after some stay there, finding that his
weakened force could effect nothing, and hearing that the death of his
mother, Queen Blanche, had left France without a regent, he returned
home, and landed 5th of September, 1254, six years after his departure.
The Countess Ella and her son Nicholas, Bishop of Salisbury, raised an
effigy to William like that of his father, and the figures of the father
and son lie opposite to each other in the new cathedral founded by
SIMON DE MONTFORT.
(1232-1266.)_King of England._
1216. Henry III.
_Kings of Scotland._
1214. Alexander II.
1249. Alexander III.
_Kings of France._
1226. Louis IX.
_Emperor of Germany._
1209. Friedrich II.
1249. Conrad IV.
1227. Gregory IX.
1241. Celestin IV.
1242. Innocent IV.
1254. Alexander IV.
1261. Urban IV.
The lawlessness of John Lackland led to the enactment of Magna Charta;
the extravagance of Henry of Winchester established the power of
Parliament, and the man who did most in effecting this purpose was a
foreigner by birth.
Amicia, the heiress of the earldom of Leicester, was the wife of Simon,
Count de Montfort, an austere warrior, on whom fell the choice of
Innocent III. to be leader of the so-called crusade against the
unfortunate Albigenses. Heretics indeed they were; but never before had
the sword of persecution been employed by the Church, and their fate is
a grievous disgrace to Rome, and to the Dominican order. Strict in life,
but of cruel temper, Count Simon was a fit instrument for the massacres
committed; and being a leader of great skill, he gained complete
victories over the native princes of the heretics, who, though not
holding their opinions, were unwilling to let them perish without
protection. Raymond de St. Gilles Count de Toulouse, Gaston Count de
Bearn, and all the most famous names of the south of France, took up
arms in their defence; and even Pedro, King of Aragon, joined, the
confederacy; but at the battle of Muret all were totally defeated, and
Pedro lost his life.
The nobles were imprisoned, the peasants murdered by wholesale, villages
burnt down and the inhabitants slain, with out distinction of Catholic
or heretic, and all the time the followers of Montfort deemed themselves
religious men. The Lateran Council actually invested Simon with the
sovereignty of the counties of Toulouse and Carcassonne; but he was
extremely hated there, and Count Raymond, recovering his liberty,
attacked him, and regained great part of his own dominions. Montfort was
besieging the town of Toulouse, when, while hearing mass, intelligence
was brought to him that the garrison were setting fire to his machines.
He rose from his knees, repeating the first verse of the Song of Simeon,
and rushing out to the battle, was struck on the head by a stone from a
mangonel on the walls, and killed on the spot, June 25, 1218. He was a
remarkable type of that character fostered by the system of the Middle
Ages, where ambition and cruelty existed side by side with austere
devotion, and were encouraged as if they did service to Heaven.
His second son, Simon, had the same strong sense of religion, together
with equal talents, and unusual beauty of person, skill in arms, and
winning grace of deportment. The elder son, Amaury, was the heir of
the county of Montfort, and for some time Simon remained landless, the
earldom of Leicester having been forfeited on account of the adherence
of the family to the party of Louis the Lion in the wars that followed
the signing of Magna Charta.
In 1232, however, young Simon came to England to attempt the recovery of
his mother's inheritance, and his graceful manners and Southern tongue
at once delighted Henry III. Another heart was at the same time gained;
the King's sister, Eleanor, who had been left a widow at sixteen by the
death of the brave Earl of Pembroke, had, in her first despair, made a
vow of perpetual widowhood, and received the ring of dedication from the
Archbishop; but at the end of six years all this was forgotten; she
fell in love with the handsome Provencal, and prevailed on the King to
sanction with his presence a hasty private wedding in St. Stephen's
For some time the marriage remained a secret, and when it became known,
great was the indignation alike of clergy and laity. The Barons even
collected troops, and headed by Richard, the King's brother, whom they
called the Staff of Fortitude, assembled at Southwark, and dreadfully
alarmed the poor King; but Montfort, who always possessed a great power
over men's minds, managed to reconcile himself to Prince Richard, and to
disperse the other nobles. Still, the Archbishop termed it no marriage
at all, and Simon therefore set out at once for Rome, carrying letters
from Henry, and raising money by every means in his power, till he was
able to offer a sufficient bribe to obtain from the Pope a dispensation,
with which he returned to England a few days before the birth of his
eldest child, Henry.
Simon was now in high favor; the Barons, who at first looked on him as
one of the hated Southern adventurers, were gained over by his address
and adoption of their manners; and when, by the royal favor and the
formal cession by his brother Amaury, he obtained the earldom of
Leicester, they readily identified him with themselves. At court he was
highly beloved; his children were constantly at the palace; and in 1239,
when Edward, heir of the crown, was baptized, he was one of the nine
godfathers--an honor, perhaps, chiefly owing to his wealth, for this was
at one of the times when Henry's finances were at so low an ebb that
he, or his messengers, made the birth of the child an excuse for their
rapacity. Each noble to whom the tidings were sent was obliged to make a
costly gift; and if he did not offer enough, his present was returned on
his hands with intimation that it must be increased. "God has given us
this child," said a jester; "the King sells him to us."
Montfort's English popularity seems suddenly to have rendered the fickle
King jealous; for, to his great surprise, on the day of the churching
of the Queen, Henry suddenly met him, and forbade him to join in the
service, reviling him furiously for the circumstances of his marriage,
and ordering him at once to leave his dominions. Returning with his wife
to his lodgings, he was at once followed by messengers, ordering them
both away; and before sunset he was obliged to embark with Eleanor in a
small vessel, leaving behind them their infant son.
He placed his wife in safety in France, and proceeded to the Holy Land,
where he highly distinguished himself, and, as usual, gained every one's
affection, so that the Barons of Palestine would fain have had him
for their leader in the absence of their young Queen Yolande and her
husband, Friedrich II. of Germany.
King Henry had forgotten his displeasure by the time he returned, and
the next ten years were spent in peace by the Earl and Countess, at
their castles of Kenilworth and Odiham, and the government of Gascony.
Their five sons were brought up as the playfellows of their royal
cousins, and were under the tutorship of the great Robert Grosteste,
while the noble and magnificent earl stood equally well with sovereign
and people. His chaplain, Adam de Marisco, seems to have been an
admirable man, who never failed to administer suitable reproofs to the
Countess for love of dress and other failings, all which she seems to
have taken in good part.
Meantime Henry was plunging deeper in debt and difficulty. Every time
his council met they charged him with breaches of the Great Charter, and
refusing, in spite of his promises and pleas, to grant him any money,
left him to devise means of obtaining it by extortion. The Jews had
always been considered a sort of lawful property of the sovereign,
who plundered them without remorse; but even this resource was not
inexhaustible, and he looked with covetous eyes on the prosperous
citizens of London. Once, when he was in great distress, and it was
suggested to him to pawn to them his plate and jewels, he broke out
passionately: "If the treasures of Augustus were put up to sale, these
clowns would buy them. Is it for them to assume the style of Barons,
and live sumptuously, while we are in want of the necessaries of life?"
Thenceforth he made still more unscrupulous demands of the citizens,
under the name of New-Year's gifts, loans, &c.; and Queen Eleanor had
even less consideration, so that their Majesties became the objects of
the utmost hatred in the city.
In 1252 the Earl of Leicester was summoned from Gascony to answer
various charges of maladministration. His brother-in-law, Prince
Richard, took his part, with the two great Earls of Gloucester and
Hereford, and it was reported that he had pledged the Gascons by a
solemn oath not to make any complaint of his government. At any rate,
they declared their intention of withdrawing their allegiance if he were
superseded, and he himself refused to resign his post unless he were
repaid the sums he had expended.
"I am not bound to keep my word with a traitor," said Henry--words which
put Simon into a passion, and he replied:
"It is a lie! and whoever said so, I will compel to eat his words. Who
can believe you to be a Christian prince? Do you ever go to confession?"
"A Christian I am; I have often been to confession."
"Vain confession, without repentance and reparation!"
"I repent of nothing so much," cried the King, "as having fattened one
who has so little gratitude and so much ill manners."
The friends of Simon checked further reply. Henry's wrath was like straw
on fire; but he forgot that by it he lighted a flame more enduring,
though at first less visible; and he was vexed when the offended
Montfort removed his eldest son, Henry, from court. However, Gascony was
wanted as a government for Prince Edward, who was only thirteen years
old, and therefore Leicester was forced to resign, though he would not
do so without full compensation, such as Henry was ill able to afford.
Yet, affronted as he was, when the office of high steward of France was
offered to him, he would not accept it, by the advice of Grosteste, lest
he should seem unfaithful to his master.
To carry Prince Edward to Guienne was at present Henry's favorite
scheme, and for this end every means of raising money was resorted
to. The King met the parliament, as he had done often before, with
entreaties for a grant to enable him to go and redeem the Holy
Sepulchre; but this had been far too frequently tried, and was
unnoticed; so he next tried the bribe of confirmation of the charters.
All the assembly went to Westminster Abbey, the bishops and abbots
carrying tapers, and there the Archbishop of Canterbury pronounced
sentence of excommunication against whosoever should infringe these
charters. As he spoke, the tapers were dashed at once on the ground,
with the words, "May his soul who incurs this sentence be thus
extinguished for ever!" while Henry added, "So help me God! I will
keep these charters, as I am a man, as I am a Christian, as I am a
knight, as I am a king crowned and anointed."
Yet a few days after, when the parliament was dismissed and the money in
his hands, the temptation to transgress the charter again occurred. His
conscience was still overawed, and he hesitated; but his uncles and
half-brothers bade him remember that, while he kept his oath, he was but
the shadow of a King, and that, should he scruple, three hundred marks
sent to the Pope would purchase his dispensation and discharge him of
There was real need in Guienne; for Alfonso, King of Castile, had set
up a claim to that county, and threatened to invade it. Arriving there,
Henry gained some advantages, and concluded a peace, which was to be
sealed by a marriage between Edward of England and Dona Leonor of
Castile, Alfonso's sister. Young as they were--Edward only fourteen and
Leonor still younger--they were at once brought to Burgos and there
united; after which a tournament was held, and the prince received
knighthood from the sword of Alfonso. Bringing his bride back to his
father at Bordeaux, Edward was received with a full display of
luxury; all Henry's money, and more too, having been laid out on the
banquetting, so that the King himself stood aghast, and dismally
answered one of his English guests, "Say no more! What would they think
of it in England?"
The young bride, Eleanor, as the English called her, was brought to
England, while Edward remained in Guienne, sometimes visiting the French
court, and going wherever tournaments or knightly exercises invited him.
He was far better thus employed, and in intercourse with St. Louis, than
in the miserable quarrels, expedients, and perplexities, at home; and
thus he grew up generous, chivalrous, and devout, his whole character
strongly influenced by the example he had seen at Paris. His features
were fair, and of the noblest cast, perfectly regular, and only
blemished by a slight trace of his father's drooping eyelid; the
expression full of fire and sweetness, though at times somewhat stern.
His height exceeded that of any man in England, and his strength was in
proportion; he was perfectly skilled in all martial exercises, and we
are told that he could leap into the saddle when in full armor without
putting his hand on it.
All the wealth in the family had always been in the hands of Prince
Richard, Earl of Cornwall, whose tin mines yielded such a revenue that
he was esteemed the richest prince in Europe. He had wisely refused the
Pope's offer of the crown of Sicily; but at this time, the death of
Friedrich II., and of his son Conrad, leaving vacant the imperial crown,
he was so far allured by it, that he set off to offer himself as a
candidate, carrying with him thirty-two wagons, each drawn by eight
horses, and laden with a hogshead of gold. Judiciously distributed,
it purchased his election by the Archbishop of Mainz and some of the
electors, while others gave their votes to Alfonso of Castile, whose
offers had been also considerable.
Alfonso thenceforth was called _El Emperador_, and Richard was generally
known as King of the Romans, and his son as Henry d'Almayne, or of
Germany; but the Germans took no notice of either claimant beyond taking
their presents, and the only consequence was, that Richard was a poorer
man, and that his brother, the King, was ruined.
It was in 1258, while Richard was gone to be crowned at Aix-la-Chapelle,
that the long-gathering peril began to burst. There had been a severe
famine, which added to the general discontent; and though Richard sent
home forty vessels laden with corn, his absence was severely felt, and
his mediation was missed. The King saw Simon de Montfort in conference
with the nobles, and feared the consequences. Once, when overtaken by a
sudden storm on his way to the Tower, Henry was forced to take refuge
at Durham House, then the abode of the Earl, who came down to meet him,
bidding him not to be alarmed, as the storm was over.
"Much as I dread thunder and lightning, I fear thee more than all," said
the poor King.
"My Lord," said Montfort, "you have no need to dread your only true
friend, who would save you from the destruction your false councillors
are preparing for you."
These words were better understood when, on the 2d of May, Henry, on
going to meet his parliament at Westminster, found all his Barons
sheathed in full armor, and their swords drawn. These they laid aside
on his entrance, but when he demanded, "What means this? Am I your
prisoner?" Roger Bigod, Earl of Norfolk, a proud, violent man, who had
once before given the lie to the King, answered:
"Not so, sir; but your love of foreigners, and your own extravagance,
have brought great misery on the realm. We therefore demand that the
powers of government be entrusted to a committee of Barons and Prelates,
who may correct abuses and enact sound laws."
William de Valence, one of Henry's half-brothers, took upon him to
reply, and high words passed between him and the Earl of Leicester; but
the royal party were overmatched, and were obliged to consent to give
a commission to reform the state to twenty-four persons, half from the
King's council, and half to be chosen by the Barons themselves, in a
parliament to be held at Oxford.
This meeting, noted in history as the Mad Parliament, commenced on
the 11th of June, and the Barons brought to it their bands of armed
retainers, so as to overpower all resistance. The regulations were made
entirely at their will, and the chief were thus: That parliaments should
assemble thrice a year, that four knights from each county should lay
before them every grievance, and that they should overlook all the
accounts of the Chancellor and Treasurer. For the next twelve years
this committee were to take to themselves the power of disposing of the
government of the royal castles, of revoking any grant made without
their consent, and of forbidding the great seal to be affixed to any
charter--the same species of restraint as that under which King John had
been placed at Runnymede.
The King's half-brothers would not yield up the castles in their
possession, but Montfort told William de Valence that he would have
them, or his head, and brought charges against them before the council,
which so alarmed them, that they all fled to Wolvesham Castle, belonging
to Aymar, as intended Bishop of Winchester. Thither the Barons pursued
them, and, making them prisoners, sent them out of the realm, with only
six thousand marks in their possession.
Their defeat proved how vain was resistance, and the whole royal family
were obliged to swear to observe the Acts of Oxford, as they were
called. The King's nephew, Henry d'Almayne, protested that they were of
no force in the absence of his father, the King of the Romans. "Let your
father look to himself," said Leicester. "If he refuse to act with the
Barons of England, not a foot of land shall he have in the whole realm."
And accordingly, on his return, Richard was not allowed to land till he
had promised to take the oath, which he did at Dover, in the presence of
the King and Barons.
Queen Eleanor expressed herself petulantly as to the oath, and Prince
Edward was scarcely persuaded to take it; but at length he was forced
to yield, and having done so, retired from the kingdom in grief and
vexation; for, having sworn it, he meant to abide by it, not being
as well accustomed to oaths and dispensations as his father, who, of
course, quickly sent to Rome for absolution.
On the other hand, when the twenty-four had to swear to it, the most
backward to do so was Simon de Montfort himself, who probably discerned
that the pledge was likely to be a mere mockery. When he at length
consented, it was with the words, "By the arm of St. James, though I
take this oath, the last, and by compulsion, yet I will so observe it
that none shall be able to impeach me."
Prince Edward might have said the same; he even incurred the displeasure
of his mother for refusing to elude or transgress his oath, and was for
a time accused of having joined the Barons' party. Meanwhile, the King
and Queen were constantly and needlessly affronting their subjects.
"What! are you so bold with me, Sir Earl?" said the King to Roger Bigod.
"Do you not know I could issue my royal warrant for threshing out all
"Ay," returned the Earl; "and could not I send you the heads of the
The hot-tempered, light-minded Queen Eleanor's open contempt of the
English drew upon her such hatred, that vituperative ballads were made
on her, some of which have come down to our times. One attacks even her
virtue as a wife, and another is entitled a "Warning against Pride,
being the Fall of Queen Eleanor, who for her pride sank into the earth
at Charing Cross, and rose again at Queenhithe, after killing the Lady
Mayoress." Unfortunately, popular inaccuracy has imputed her errors to
the gentle Eleanor of Castile, her daughter-in-law, and thus the ballad
calls her wife to Edward I., instead of Henry III. "A Spanish dame,"
was a term that might fairly be applied to the Provencal Eleanor, whose
language was nearly akin to Spanish, and whose luxury was sufficient to
lead to the accusation of
"Bringing in fashions strange and new,
With golden garments bright;"
"The wheat, that daily made her bread
Was bolted twenty times:
The food that fed this stately dame
Was boiled in costly wines.
The water that did spring from ground
She would not touch at all,
But washed her hands with dew of heaven
That on sweet roses fall.
She bathed her body many a time
In fountains filled with milk,
And every day did change attire
In costly Median silk."
Eleanor of Provence, when "drest in her brief authority" as Lady
Chancellor, had arbitrarily imprisoned the Lord Mayor, and this the
ballad converts into a persecution of the unfortunate Lady Mayoress,
whom she sent"--into Wales with speed,
And kept her secret there,
And used her still more cruelly
Than ever man did bear.
She mude her wash, she made her starch,
She made her drudge alway,
She made her nurse up children small,
And labor night and day,"
and in conclusion slew her by means of two snakes.
Afterward her coach stood still in London, and could not move, when she
was accused of the crime, and, denying it, sunk into the ground, and
rose again at Queenhithe; after which she languished for twenty days,
and made full confession of her sins!
The real disaster that befell Queen Eleanor in London was an attack by
the mob as she was going down the Thames in her barge. She was pelted
with rotten eggs, sheeps' bones, and all kinds of offal, with loud cries
of "Drown the witch!" and at length even stones and beams from some
houses building on the bank assailed her, and she was forced, to return
in speed to the Tower.
Prince Edward was not always blameless. He had been employed against the
Welsh, and after the campaign, not knowing whither to turn for means of
paying his troops, he broke into the chests of the Knights Templars,
to whom his mother's jewels had been pledged, and carried off not only
these, but much property besides that had been committed to the keeping
of the order by other parties.
As to the unfortunate Jews, each party considered them fair game; and
there were frequent attacks upon them, and frightful massacres, when the
choice of death or of Christianity was offered to them, and the Barons
seized their treasures. The curses of Deuteronomy, of the trembling
heart, and the uncertainty of life and possession, were indeed fulfilled
on the unhappy race.
For four years the committee of twenty-four held their power with few
fluctuations, until matters were driven to extremity by a proposal to
render the present state of things permanent, and at the same time by an
attack on the property of the moderate and popular King of the Romans on
the part of the Barons.
On this the royal party determined to submit the dispute to the
arbitration of the King of France, whose wise and fair judgments were so
universally famed that the Barons readily consented, with the exception
of Leicester, who was convinced that Louis would incline to the side of
Henry, both as fellow-king and as brother-in-law, and therefore refused
to attend the conference, or to consider himself bound by its decisions.
The judgment of Louis IX, was perfectly just and moderate. He declared
that Magna Charta was indeed binding on the King of England, and that
he had no right to transgress it; but that the coercion in which he had
been placed by the Mad Parliament was illegal, and that the Acts of
Oxford were null, since no subjects had a right to deprive their
sovereign of the custody of his castles, nor of the choice of his
As Montfort had foreseen, the Barons would not accept this decision, and
its sole effect was to release Prince Edward's conscience, and open the
way to civil war. The two Eleanors, of Provence and Castile, were left
under the charge of St. Louis; and their namesakes of the other party,
the Countess of Leicester and her daughter, the Damoiselle de Montfort,
fortified themselves in their castle of Kenilworth, while arms were
taken up on either side.
Leicester, who held that the guilt of perjury rested with the other
party, and who had with him the clergy opposed to the Italian
usurpation, deemed it a holy war, and marked the breasts of his soldiers
with white crosses, imagining himself the champion of the truth, as he
had been taught to think himself, when bearing his first arms under his
father in what was esteemed the Provencal Crusade. Alas, when honorable
and devout minds have the fine edge of conscience blunted! Thus did the
gallant and beloved "Sir Simon the Righteous" become a traitor and a
The scholars of Oxford, who had not at all forgotten their quarrel with
king and legate, came out _en masse_ under the banner of the University
(for once disloyal), to join Leicester's second son, Simon, who was
collecting a body of troops to lead to his father in London.
Prince Edward, however, attacked them at Northampton, and effected a
breach in the wall. Young Montfort attempted a desperate sally, but
was defeated, and his life only saved by his cousin, the Prince, who
extricated him from beneath his fallen steed, and made him prisoner.
The King and Prince next marched to seize the Cinque Ports, and, while
in Sussex, Leicester followed them, and came up with them in a hollow
valley near Lewes. Here, with a sort of satire, the Barons sent to offer
the King 30,000 marks if he would make peace, and a like sum to the King
of the Romans if he would bring him to terms. The proposals were angrily
repelled by Edward, who, with accusations of his godfather as traitor
and "_foi menti_," sent him a personal challenge.
Leicester spent the night in prayer, and in early morning knighted
Gilbert de Clare, the young Earl of Gloucester, who was at this time
enthusiastically attached to him. The battle then began, each army being
arrayed in three divisions. Prince Edward and Henry d'Almayne were
opposed to their two cousins, Henry and Guy de Montfort, with the bands
from London. Mindful of the outrage that his mother had sustained from
the citizens, Edward charged them furiously, and pursued them with great
slaughter, never drawing rein till he reached Croydon.
But, as they rode back to Lewes, the impetuous young soldiers beheld a
sight very different from their triumphant anticipations. The field
was scattered with the corpses of the Royalists, and the white-crossed
troops of the Barons were closely gathered round the castle and priory
of Lewes. In dismay, William and Guy de Lusignan turned their horses,
and rode off to embark at Pevensey. Seven hundred men followed them, and
Edward and Henry were left with the sole support of Roger Mortimer, a
Welsh-border friend of the former, with his followers.
The hot pursuit of the fugitive plunderers had ruined the day. Montfort
had concentrated his forces, and had totally routed the two kings;
Richard was already his prisoner, and Henry had no chance of holding out
in the priory. The princes undauntedly strove to collect their shattered
forces, and break through to his rescue, but were forced to desist by a
message that, on their first attack, the head of the King of the Romans
should be struck off.
To save his life, the two cousins therefore agreed to a treaty called
the Mise of Lewes, May 15th, 1264, by which they gave themselves up to
the Barons as hostages for their fathers, stipulating that the matter at
issue should be decided by deputies from the King of France, and that
the prisoners on either side should be set free.
Now began the great trial of Simon de Montfort--that of power and
prosperity--and he failed under it. Whatever might have been his first
intentions in taking up arms, he now proved himself unwilling to lay
aside the authority placed in his hands, even though he violated his
oaths in maintaining it, and incurred the sentence of excommunication
which the Pope launched against him. But when the most saintly English
bishops of their own time had died under it, it lost its power on the
No measures were taken for the French arbitration, nor were the
prisoners set free. The King of the Romans was confined at Kenilworth,
and the two young princes at Dover, the custody of which castle was
committed to one of their cousins, the Montforts, who allowed them no
amusement but the companionship of Thomas de Clare, the young brother of
the Earl of Gloucester. King Henry was indeed nominally at liberty, but
watched perpetually by Leicester's guards, and not allowed to take a
step or to write a letter without his superintendence; and when the
Mayor of London swore fealty to him, it was with the words, "As long
as he was good to them." Edward was made, on promise of liberation, to
swear to terms far harder than even the Acts of Oxford, and when the
bitter oath had been taken, he was pronounced at full liberty, and then
carried off, under as close a guard as ever, to Wallingford Castle.
Queen Eleanor was acting with great spirit abroad, gathering money and
collecting troops in hopes of better times, and seven knights still held
out Bristol for the King. They made a sudden expedition to Wallingford,
in hopes of rescuing the Prince; but the garrison were on the alert, and
called out to them that, if they wanted the prince, they might have
him, but only tied hand and foot, and shot from a mangonel; and Edward
himself, appearing on the walls, declared that, if they wished to save
his life, they must retreat.
This violent threat went beyond the instructions of Leicester, who
removed his nephew from the keeping of this garrison, and placed him at
But Simon was made to feel that he had little control over his
followers, and especially over his wild sons, who had learnt no respect
to authority at all, and outran in their violence even the doings of the
Lusignan family. Henry de Montfort seized all the wool in England, which
was sold for his profit, while Simon and Guy fitted out a fleet and
plundered the vessels in the Channel, without distinction of English or
foreigners, and thus turned aside the popularity which Leicester had
hitherto enjoyed in London. The Barons, too, already discontented at
having only changed their masters, so as to have the mighty Montfort
over them instead of the weak Plantagenet, could not bear with the
additional lawlessness of sons who made themselves vile without
restraint. A violent quarrel arose between these youths and Earl Gilbert
de Clare, who challenged them to a joust at Dunstable; but their father,
dreading fatal consequences, forbade it, and Gloucester retired to his
estates in high displeasure.
Here he was joined by his brother Thomas, who came full of descriptions
of the princely courtesy and sweetness of manner of the royal Edward,
which contrasted so strongly with the presumption of his upstart cousins
that the young Earl was brought over to concert measures with the
Prince's friend, Roger Mortimer.
In order to overawe the Welsh borderers, who were much attached to
Edward, Simon had carried his captive to Hereford Castle, whither Thomas
de Clare now returned as his attendant, taking with him a noble steed,
provided by Mortimer, with a message that his friends would be on the
alert to receive him at a certain spot.
Edward mounted his horse, rode out with his guard, set them to race, and
looked on as umpire, till, their steeds being duly tired, he galloped
off, and the last they saw of him was far in advance meeting with a
party of spears, beneath the pennon of Mortimer. And now the Earl of
Leicester experienced that "success but signifies vicissitude." After
his reign of one year, his fall was rapid.
The Earl of Gloucester had at once joined Edward, and in vain did
Leicester use the King's name in calling on the military tenants of the
Crown; only a small proportion of his old partisans came to his aid, and
he remained on the banks of the Severn, waiting to be joined by his son
Simon, who had been besieging Pevensey, but now marched to his aid.
On his way, young Simon summoned Winchester, but was refused admittance.
However, the treacherous monks of St. Swithin's let in his forces
through a window of their convent on the wall, and the city was horribly
sacked, especially the Jewry. Afterward he went to the family castle
of Kenilworth, where he awaited orders from his father. A woman named
Margot informed the Prince that it was the habit of Simon and his
knights to sleep outside the walls, for the convenience of bathing in
the summer mornings; and Edward, suddenly making a night-march, fell
upon them while in the very act, and took most of them prisoners, Simon
just escaping into the castle with his pages in their shirts and
drawers, all his baggage and treasures being taken.
Ignorant of this disaster, the Earl of Leicester proceeded, in hopes of
effecting a junction with his son, and had just arrived at Evesham when
banners were seen in the distance. Nicholas, his barber, who pretended
to have some knowledge of heraldry, declared that they belonged to Sir
Simon's troops; but the Earl, not fully satisfied, bade him mount the
church-steeple and look from thence. The affrighted barber recognized
the Lions of England, the red chevrons of De Clare, the azure bars of
Mortimer, waving over a forest of lances.
"We are dead men, my Lord," he said, as he descended.
And truly, when the Earl beheld the marshalling of the hostile array, he
could not help exclaiming, "They have learnt this style from me! Now God
have mercy on our souls, for our bodies are the Prince's!"
Henry, the only son who was with him, exhorted him not to despair.
"I do not, my son," replied the Earl; "but your presumption, and the
pride of your brothers, have brought me to this pass. I firmly believe I
shall die for the cause of God and justice."
He prayed, and received the sacrament, as he always did before going
into battle; then arrayed his troops, bringing out the poor old King, in
order to make his followers imagine themselves the Royalists. He tried
in vain to force the road to Kenilworth; then drew his troops into a
compact circle, that last resource of gallant men in extremity, such
as those of Hastings and Flodden. Their ranks were hewn down little by
little, and the Prince's troops were pressing on, when a lamentable cry
was heard, "Save me! save me! I am Henry of Winchester!"
Edward knew the voice, and, springing to the rescue, drew out a wounded
warrior, whom he bore away to a place of safety. In his absence,
Leicester's voice asked if quarter was given.
"No quarter for traitors," said some revengeful Royalist; and at the
same moment Henry de Montfort fell, slain, at his father's feet.
"By the arm of St. James, it is time for me to die!" cried the Earl;
and, grasping his sword in both hands, he rushed into the thickest of
the foe, and, after doing wonders, was struck down and slain. Terrible
slaughter was done on the "desperate ring;" one hundred and sixty
knights, with all their followers, were slain, and scarcely twelve
gentlemen survived. The savage followers of Mortimer cut off the head
and hands of Leicester, and carried the former as a present to their
lady; but this was beyond the bounds of the orders of Prince Edward, who
caused the corpses of his godfather and cousin to be brought into the
abbey church of Evesham, wept over the playfellow of his childhood, and
honored the burial with his presence.
The battle of Evesham was fought on the 4th of August, 1265, fourteen
months after the misused victory of Lewes.
So died the Earl of Leicester, termed, by the loving people of England,
"Sir Simon the Righteous"--a man of high endowments and principles of
rectitude unusual in his age. His devotion was sincere, his charities
extensive, his conduct always merciful--no slight merit in one bred up
among the savage devastators of Provence--and his household accounts
prove the order and religious principle that he enforced. His friends
were among the staunch supporters of the English Church, and, unlike
his father, who thought to merit salvation as the instrument of the
iniquities of Rome, he disregarded such injunctions and threats of hers
as disagreed with the plain dictates of conscience. Thinking for himself
at length led to contempt of lawful authority; but it was an age when
the shepherds were fouling the springs, and making their own profit of
the flock; and what marvel was it if the sheep went astray?
He was enthusiastically loved by the English, especially the commonalty,
who, excommunicate as he was, believed him a saint, imputed many
miracles to his remains, and murmured greatly that he was not canonized.
After-times may judge him as a noble character, wrecked upon great
temptations, and dying as befitted a brave and resigned man drawn into
"If ever, in temptation strong,
Thou left'st the right path for the wrong,
If every devious step thus trode
Still led thee further from the road,
Dread thou to speak presumptuous doom
On noble 'Montfort's' lowly tomb;
But say, 'he died a gallant knight,
With sword in hand, for England's right.'"
For, though the rebellion cannot be justified, it was by the efforts and
strife of this reign that Magna Charta was fixed, not as the concession
wrung for a time by force from a reluctant monarch, but as the basis of
Prince Edward, in the plenitude of his victory, did not attempt to
repeal it; but, at a parliament held at Marlborough, 1267, led his
father to accept not this only, but such of the regulations of the
Barons as were reasonable, and consistent with the rigid maintenance of
the authority of the Crown.
Evesham was the overthrow of the Montfort family. Henry was there slain
with his father--though, according to ballad lore, he had another
fate--the blow only depriving him of sight, and he being found on the
field by a "baron's faire daughter," she conveyed him to a place of
safety, tended him, and finally became his wife, and made him "glad
father of pretty Bessee." For years he lived and throve (as it appears)
as the blind beggar of Bethnal Green, till his daughter, who had been
brought up as a noble lady, was courted by various suitors. On her
making known, however, that she was a beggar's daughter,
"'Nay, then,' quoth the merchant, 'thou art not for me.'
'Nor,' quoth the inn-holder, 'my wiffe shalt thou be.'
'I lothe,' said the gentle, 'a beggar's degree;
And therefore adewe, my pretty Bessee.'"
However, there was a gentle knight whose love for "pretty Bessee" was
proof against the discovery of her father's condition and the entreaties
of his friends; and after he had satisfied her by promises not to
despise her parents, the blind beggar counted out so large a portion,
that he could not double it, and on the wedding-day the beggar revealed
his own high birth, to the general joy.
Unfortunately, it does not appear as if Henry de Montfort might not have
prospered without his disguise. His mother was generously treated by
the King and Prince, and retired beyond sea with her sons Amaury and
Richard; and her daughter Eleanor, and his brother Simon, a desperate
and violent man, held out Kenilworth for some months, which was with
difficulty reduced; afterward he joined his brother Guy, and wandered
about the Continent, brooding on revenge for his father's death.
The last rebel to be overcome was the brave outlaw, Adam de Gourdon,
who, haunting Alton Wood as a robber after the death of Leicester, was
sought out by Prince Edward, subdued by his personal prowess, and led to
the feet of the King.
The brave and dutiful Prince became the real ruler of the kingdom, and
England at length reposed.
THE LAST OF THE CRUSADERS.
_Kings of England_.
1216. Henry III.
1272. Edward I.
_Kings of Scotland_.
1249. Alexander III.
_Kings of France_.
1226. Louis IX.
1270. Philippe III.
1285. Philippe IV.
_Emperor of Germany_.
1273. Rodolph I.
1265. Clement IV.
1271. Gregory X.
1276. Innocent V.
1277. John XXI.
1277. Nicholas III.
1281. Martin IV.
1285. Honorius IV.
1288. Nicholas IV.
A hundred and seventy years had elapsed since the hills of Auvergne had
re-echoed the cry of _Dieu le veult_, and the Cross had been signed on
the shoulders of Godfrey and Tancred. Jerusalem had been held by the
Franks for a short space; but their crimes and their indolence had led
to their ruin, and the Holy City itself was lost, while only a few
fortresses, detached and isolated, remained to bear the name of the
Kingdom of Palestine. The languishing Royal Line was even lost, becoming
extinct in Conradine, the grandson of Friedrich II. and of Yolande of
Jerusalem, that last member of the house of Hohenstaufen on whom the
Pope and Charles of Anjou wreaked their vengeance for the crimes of his
fore-fathers. Charles of Anjou, brother of St. Louis, but of utterly
dissimilar character, had seized Conradine's kingdom of the two
Sicilies, and likewise assumed his title to that of Jerusalem, thus
acquiring a personal interest in urging on another Crusade for the
recovery of Palestine.
Less and less of that kingdom existed. Bibars, or Bendocdar
Elbondukdari, one of the Mameluke emirs, who had become Sultan of Egypt
during the confusion that followed the death of Touran Chah, was so
great a warrior that he was surnamed the Pillar of the Mussulman
Religion and the Father of Victories--titles which he was resolved to
merit by exterminating the Franks. Cesarea, Antioch, Joppa, fell into
his hands in succession, and Tripoli and Acre alone remained in the
possession of the Templars and Hospitallers, who appealed to their
brethren in Europe for assistance.
The hope of a more effective crusade than his first had never been
absent from the mind of Louis IX.; he had carried it with him through
court and camp, dwelt on it while framing wise laws for his people,
instructing his nobles, or sitting to do justice beneath the spreading
oak-tree of Vincennes. Since his return from Damietta, he had always
lived as one devoted, never wearing gold on his spurs nor in his robes,
and spending each moment that he could take from affairs of state in
prayer and reading of the Scripture; and though his health was still
extremely frail and feeble, his resolution was taken.
On the 23d of March, 1267, he convoked his barons in the great hall of
the Louvre, and entered the assembly, holding in his hand that sacred
relic, the Crown of Thorns, which had been found by the Empress Helena
with the True Cross. He then addressed them, describing the needs of
their Eastern brethren, and expressing his own intention of at once
taking the Cross. There was a deep and mournful silence among his
hearers, who too well remembered the sufferings of their last campaign,
and who looked with despair at their beloved King's worn and wasted
form, so weak that he could hardly bear the motion of a horse, and yet
bent on encountering the climate and the labors that had well-nigh
proved fatal to him before.
The legate, the Cardinal Ottoboni, then made an exhortation, after which
Louis assumed the Cross, and was imitated by his three sons, Philippe,
Tristan, and Pierre, and his son-in-law, Thibault, King of Navarre, with
other knights, but in no great numbers, for the barons were saying to
each other, that it was one of the saddest days that France had ever
seen. "If we take the Cross," they said, "we lose our King; if we take
it not, we lose our God, since we will not take the Cross for Him." The
Sire de Joinville absolutely refused on account of his vassals, and
openly pronounced it a mortal sin to counsel the King to undertake such
an expedition in his present state of health; but Louis' determination
was fixed, and in the course of the next three years he collected a
number of gallant young Crusaders.
He had always had a strong influence over his nephew, Edward of England,
and the conclusion of the war with Montfort, as well as a personal
escape of his own, had at this period strongly disposed the Prince to
acts of devotion. While engaged in a game at chess with a knight at
Windsor Castle, a sudden impulse seized him to rise from his seat. He
had scarcely done so, when a stone, becoming detached from the groined
roof over his head, fell down on the very spot where he had been
sitting. His preservation was attributed by him to Our Lady of
Walsingham, and the beautiful church still existing there attests the
veneration paid to her in consequence, while he further believed himself
marked out for some especial object, and eagerly embraced the proposal
of accompanying the French King on his intended voyage.
Ottoboni preached the Crusade at Northampton on the 25th of June, 1269,
after which he gave the Cross to King Henry, to the Princes Edward and
Edmund, to their cousin Henry of Almayne, son to Richard of Cornwall,
and to about one hundred and fifty knights. The King intended as little
to go on the expedition as on any of the former ones, and he soon made
over his Cross to his son. Edward, who was fully in earnest, made every
arrangement for the safety of the realm in his absence, taking with
him the turbulent Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, and appointing
guardians for his two infant sons, John and Henry, in case the old King
should die during his absence. His wife, Eleanor of Castile, insisted on
accompanying him; and when the perils of the expedition were represented
to her, she replied, "Nothing ought to part those whom God hath joined
together. The way to heaven is as near, if not nearer, from Syria as
from England or my native Spain."
The last solemnity in which Edward assisted before his departure was the
translation of the remains of Edward the Confessor to their new tomb in
Westminster Abbey, the shrine of gold and precious stones being borne
upon the shoulders of King Henry himself, after which the princes took
leave of their father, and commenced their expedition, meeting on the
way their uncle, the King of the Romans, who was bringing home a young
German wife, Beatrice von Falkmart. Embarking at Dover on the 20th of
August, 1270, the princes made all speed to hasten across France, so as
to come up with Louis, who had set sail from Aigues Mortes on the 1st of
July, with his three sons, his daughter Isabelle, and her husband the
King of Navarre, and Isabelle the wife of his eldest son Philippe, as
well as a gallant host of Crusaders. He had appointed Cagliari as the
place of meeting with Edward of England, and with his brother Charles,
King of Sicily; but he found his sojourn there inconvenient; the Pisans,
who held Sardinia, were unfriendly, provisions were scarce, and the
water unwholesome, and he became desirous of changing his quarters.
The reasons which conduced to his fatal resolution have never been
clearly ascertained: whether he was influenced by his brother, the King
of Sicily, who might reasonably wish to see the Moors of Tunis, his near
neighbors, overpowered; or whether he was drawn along by the impatience
of his forces, who were weary of inaction, and thought the plunder of
any Mahometan praiseworthy; or whether he had any hope of converting
the King of Tunis, Omar, with whom he had at one time been in
correspondence. When some ambassadors from Tunis were at his court, a
converted Jew had been baptized in their presence, and he had said to
them, "Tell your master that I am so desirous of the salvation of his
soul, that I would spend the rest of my life in a Saracen prison, and
never see the light of day, if I could render your King and his people
Christians like that man." It does not seem improbable that Louis might
have hoped that his arrival might encourage Omar to declare himself a
Christian. But be this as it might, he sailed from Cagliari, and on the
17th of June appeared upon the coast of Africa, close to the ruins of
All the inhabitants fled to the mountains, and the shore was deserted,
so that the French might have disembarked at once; but Louis hesitated,
and waited till the next morning, when they found the coast covered
with Moors. However, the landing proceeded, the Moors all taking
flight--happily for the Christians, for their disorder was so great,
that a hundred men might have prevented their disembarkation. A
proclamation was then read, taking possession of the territory in the
name of our Lord, and of Louis, King of France. His servant.
The spot where the army had landed was a sandy island, a league in
length, and very narrow, separated from the mainland by a channel
fordable at low water, without any green thing growing on it, and with
only one spring of fresh water, which was guarded by a tower filled with
Moorish soldiers. A hundred men would have been sufficient to dislodge
them; but few horses had been landed, and those were injured by their
voyage, and the knights could do nothing without them. The men who
went in search of water were killed by the Moorish guard, and thirst,
together with the burning heat of the sun reflected by the arid sand,
caused the Christians to suffer terribly.
As to the King of Tunis, far from fulfilling Louis' hopes, he sent him
word that he was coming to seek him at the head of 100,000 men, and that
he would only seek baptism on the field of battle; and at the same time
he seized and imprisoned every Christian in his dominions, threatening
to cut off all their heads the instant the French should attack Tunis.
After three days' misery in the island, the Christians advanced across
the canal, and entered a beautiful green valley, where Carthage once had
stood, full of rich gardens, watered by springs arranged for irrigation.
The Moors buzzed round them, throwing their darts, but galloping off
on their advance without doing any harm. There was a garrison in the
citadel, which was all that remained of the once mighty town; and the
Genoese mariners, supported by the cavalry, undertook to dislodge them.
This was effected, and the ruinous city was in the hands of the French.
A number of the inhabitants had hidden themselves, with their riches, in
the extensive vaults and catacombs, and, to the shame of the Crusaders,
their employment was to search these wretches out and kill them, often
by filling the vaults with smoke.
Louis had promised his brother Charles to wait for him before marching
against Tunis, and messengers daily arrived with intelligence that the
Sicilian troops were embarking; but, as the days passed on, the malaria
of the ruined city and the heat of the climate were more fatal to the
French army than would have been a lost battle. The desert winds which
swept over them were hot as flame, and brought with them clouds of sand,
which blinded the men and choked up the wells, while the water of the
springs swarmed with insects, and all vegetable food failed. Disease
could not be long wanting in such a situation, and a week after the
taking of Carthage the whole camp was full of fever and dysentery, till
the living had not strength to bury the dead, but heaped them up in the
vaults and the trenches round the camp, where their decay added to the
infection of the air. The Moors charged up to the lines, and killed the
soldiers at their posts every day; and a poet within Tunis made the
menacing verses: "Frank, knowest thou not that Tunis is the sister of
Cairo? Thou wilt find before this town thy tomb, instead of the house
of Lokman; and the two terrible angels, Munkir and Nekir, will take the
place of the eunuch Sahil."
Lokman and Sahil had been Louis' guards in his Egyptian captivity, and
the Moorish poet contrasts them with the two angels whom the Mahometans
believed received and interrogated the dead.
As long as his strength lasted, Louis went about among the tents,
encouraging and succoring the sufferers; but nearly at the same time
himself and his two sons, Philippe and Tristan, were attacked by the
malady. On Tristan, a boy of sixteen, born in the last Crusade, the
illness made rapid progress, and the physicians judged it right to carry
him from his father's tent and place him on board ship. His strength
rapidly gave way, and he expired soon after the transit. Louis
constantly inquired for his son, but was met by a mournful silence until
the eighth day, when he was plainly told of his death, and shed many
tears, though he trusted soon to rejoin his young champion of the Cross
in a better world. The Cardinal of Alba, the papal legate, was the next
to die; and Louis' fever increasing, so that he could no longer attend
to the government of the army, he sent for his surviving children,
Philippe and Isabelle, and addressed to them a few words of advice,
giving them each a letter written with his own hand, in which the same
instructions were more developed. They were beautiful lessons in holy
living, piety, and justice, such as his descendant, the Dauphin, son of
Louis XV., might well call his most precious inheritance. He bids his
daughter to "have one desire that should never part from you--that is to
say, how you may most please our Lord; and set your heart on this, that,
though you should be sure of receiving no guerdon for any good you may
do, nor any punishment for doing evil, you should still keep from doing
what might displease God, and seek to do what may please Him, purely
for love of Him." He desires her, in adornment, to incline "to the less
rather than the more," and not to have too great increase of robes and
jewels, but rather to make of them her alms, and to remember that she
was an example to others. His parting blessing is, "May our Lord make
you as good in all things as I desire, and even more than I know how to
To her he gave two ivory boxes, containing the scourge and hair-cloth
which he used in self-discipline, and which she afterward employed for
the same purpose, though unknown even to her confessor, until she
mentioned it at her death.
To Philippe he said much of justice and mercy, desiring him always to
take part against himself, and to give the preference to the weak over
the strong. He exhorted him to be careful in bestowing the benefices of
the Church, and to keep a careful watch over his nobles and governors,
lest they should injure the clergy or the poor. To reverence in church,
and to guarded language, he also exhorted him. Indeed, Joinville
records, that in all the years that he knew the King, he never heard
from him one careless mention of the name of God, or of the saints,
nor did he hear him ever lightly speak of the devil; and in this the
Seneschal so followed his example, that a blow was given in the Castle
of Joinville for every profane word, so that he hoped the ill habit was
The good King thus concludes: "Dear son, I give thee all the blessing
that father can and ought to give to son. May God of His mercy guard and
defend thee from doing aught against His will; may He give thee grace to
do His will; so that He may be honored and served by thee; and this may
our Lord grant to me and thee by His great largesse, in such manner
that, after this mortal life, we may see and laud and love Him without
His children then took leave of him, and he remained with his
confessors, after which he received the last rites of the Church,
and was so fully conscious, that he made all the responses in the
penitential Psalms. When the Host was brought in, he threw himself out
of bed, and received it kneeling on the ground, after which he refused
to be replaced in bed, but lay upon a hair-cloth strewn with ashes. This
was on Sunday, at three o'clock, and from that time, while voice lasted,
he never ceased praising God aloud, and praying for his people. "Lord
God," he often said, "give us grace to despise earthly things, and to
forget the things of this world, so that we may fear no evil;" or, "Make
Thy people holy, and watch over them." On Monday he became speechless;
but he often looked around him _debonnairement_, and fixed his eyes on
the cross planted at the foot of his bed, while sometimes his attendants
caught a faint whisper of "O Jerusalem! Jerusalem!"
It was the heavenly Jerusalem that was before him now; and after lying
as if asleep for half an hour, he joined his hands, saying, "Good Lord,
have mercy on the people that remain here, and bring them back to their
own land, that they may not fall into the hands of their enemies, nor
be forced to deny Thy holy name!" Soon after, "Father, into Thy hands I
commend my spirit," and, looking up to heaven, "I will enter into Thy
house, and worship in Thy tabernacle."
It was three o'clock in the afternoon of the 25th of August, when Louis
drew his last breath, and his chaplains were still standing round his
bed of ashes, when, the sound of trumpets fell on their ears. The
Sicilian fleet had anchored, and the troops had landed while all the
French were hanging in suspense on each report of the failing strength
of their King, and had not even watched for that long-delayed arrival.
The dead silence that met the newcomers was their first intimation of
the calamity; and when Charles of Anjou reached his brother's tent, and
saw his calm features fixed in death, he threw himself on his knees, and
bitterly reproached himself for his tardiness in coming to his aid.
The Sicilian troops gained some advantages over the Moors, and it was
proposed to finish the enterprise St. Louis had begun; but sickness
still made great ravages in the army, and the new King, Philippe III.,
was so ill, that a speedy departure could alone save his life: a peace
was therefore concluded with the Tunisians, which was hardly signed when
Edward, with his English force, arrived upon the coast. He accompanied
the melancholy remains of the French army to Trapani in Sicily, whither
misfortunes still followed them. The young wife of Philippe III. was
thrown from her horse, and died in consequence; and his sister Isabelle,
and her husband the King of Navarre, both sank under the disorders
brought from Carthage. Broken in health and spirit, Philippe resolved to
desist from the Crusade, and both he and his uncle would have persuaded
the English to do the same, since their small force alone could effect
nothing; but Edward was undaunted. "I would go," said he, "if I had no
one with me but Fowen, my groom."
Philippe set out on his return to France, carrying with him five
coffins--those of his father, his brother, his wife, his sister, and
brother-in-law. Henry d'Almayne took the opportunity of his escort to
return to England, since the failing health of Henry III., and of his
brother Richard, made his presence desirable. He had arrived at Viterbo,
when he entered a church to hear mass. The Host had just been elevated,
when a loud voice broke on the solemnity of the service, "Henry, thou
traitor, thou shalt not escape!"
Henry turned, and beheld his cousins, Simon and Guy de Montfort,
the latter of whom had married the daughter of the Italian Count
Aldobrandini, and was living in the neighborhood. Their daggers were
raised, and Henry was unarmed. He sprang to the altar, and the two
officiating priests interposed; but the sacrilegious Montforts killed
one, and left the other for dead, and, piercing Henry again and again,
slew him at the foot of the altar. Then going to the church-door, where
their horses awaited them, one of them said, "I have satisfied my
"What!" said an attendant, "was not your father dragged through the
streets of Evesham?"
At these words the savages returned, and dragged the corpse by the hair
to the door of the church, after which they rode safely off.
Henry's body was carried home, and buried in the Abbey of Hales. His
father probably never was aware of his death, for his own took place a
few months after.
The murderers were never traced out, and the remissness on the part of
Philippe and Charles left an impression on Edward's mind that they had
connived at the murder. Of this Philippe at least may be acquitted; he
completed his sad journey, and buried his father at St. Denis, amid the
mourning of the whole nation, and yet their exultation, for miracles
were thought to be wrought at his tomb, and the Papal authority enrolled
him among the Saints. Old Joinville was cheered by a dream, in which he
beheld him resplendent with glory, and telling him that he would not
quickly depart from him, whereupon he placed an altar in the castle
chapel to his honor, and caused a mass to be said there every day.
St. Louis' wisdom should be judged of rather by his admirable conduct in
daily life, and in the government of his people, than by his actions in
his unfortunate Crusades, when he seemed to give up all guidance and
common sense. At home he was so prudent, just, and wise, that few kings
have ever equalled him, and even the enemies of the faith that prompted
him cannot withhold their testimony that "virtue could be pushed no
In the spring, Edward, with 300 knights, sailed for Acre, and, on
arriving here [Footnote: Edward at Acre, 1271], made an expedition to
Nazareth, where he put all the garrison to the sword. He spent the winter
in Cyprus, and returned again to Syria in the spring; but he could never
collect more than 7,000 men under his standard, and an advance on
Jerusalem was impossible. He therefore remained in his camp before Acre,
while his knights went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and, while there, he
narrowly escaped becoming a seventh royal victim, to the Crusade.
The heat of the weather had affected his health, and he was lying on his
couch, only covered with a single garment, when a messenger approached
with letters purporting to be from the Emir of Joppa. While he was
reading them, the man suddenly drew out a poniard, and was striking at
his side, when Edward, perceiving his intention, caught the blow on his
arm, and threw him to the ground by a kick on the breast. The murderer
arose, and took aim again, but had only grazed his; forehead, when the
Prince dashed out his brains with a wooden stool. The attendants rushed
in, and were beginning to make up for their negligence by blows on the
corpse, when Edward stopped them, by sternly demanding what was the use
of striking a dead man.
It is on the authority of a Spanish chronicle that we hear that Eleanor,
apprehending that the weapon had been poisoned, at once sucked the blood
from her husband's wounds. The fear was too well founded, and Edward was
in great danger; so that his men, in their first rage, were about to put
to death all their Saracen captives, when he roused himself to prevent
them, by urging, that not only were these men innocent, but that the
enemy would retaliate upon the many Christian pilgrims absent from the
The Grand Master of the Templars brought a surgeon, who gave hopes of
saving the gallant English prince by cutting out the flesh around the
wound. Edward replied by bidding him work boldly, and spare not; but
Eleanor could not restrain her lamentations, till he desired his brother
Edmund to lead her from the tent, when she was carried away, struggling
and sobbing, while Edmund roughly told her that it was better she should
scream and cry, than all England mourn and lament.
The operation was safely performed, but Edward made his will, and
resigned himself to die. In fifteen days, however, he was able to mount
his horse, and nearly at the same time Eleanor gave birth to her eldest
daughter, Joan, called of Acre, whose wild, headstrong temper was little
fitted to the child of a Crusade.
The army was weakened by sickness, and Edward decided on prolonging his
stay no longer; therefore, as soon as Eleanor had recovered, he left
the Holy Land, with keen regret, and many vows to return with a greater
force. These vows were never fulfilled, nor was it well they should
have been. Acre was a nest of corruption, filled with the scum of the
European nations, and a standing proof that the Latin Christians were
unworthy to hold a foot of the hallowed ground; and in 1291, eighteen
years after the conclusion of the seventh Crusade, it was taken by the
Sultan Keladun, after a brave defence by the Templars and Hospitallers;
and since that time Palestine has remained under the Mahometan,
Louis and Edward were the last princely Crusaders, though the idea lived
on in almost every high-souled man through the Middle Ages. Henry V.
and Philip le Bon of Burgundy both schemed the recovery of the Holy
Sepulchre; and the hope that chiefly impelled the voyage of Columbus
was, that his Western discoveries might open a way to the redemption of
the Holy Land. "Remember the Holy Sepulchre!" is a cry that can never
pass from the ears of men.
Death had been busy in England as in the crusading host, and the tidings
met Edward in Sicily that his home was desolate. His kind and generous
uncle, Richard, his gentle, affectionate father, and his two young
children, had all died during his absence. The grief that the stern
Edward showed for his father's death was so overpowering, that Charles
of Sicily, who probably had little esteem for Henry, and thought the
kingdom a sufficient consolation, marvelled that he could grieve more
for an aged father than for two promising sons. "The Lord, who gave me
these, can give me other children," said Edward; "but a father can never
Before his return to England, Edward obtained from Pope Gregory X.
justice upon the murderers of Henry d'Almayne. Simon was dead, but Guy
was declared incapable of inheriting or possessing property, or of
filling any office of trust, and was excommunicated and outlawed. After
Edward had left Italy, the unhappy man ventured to meet the Pope at
Florence in his shirt, with a halter round his neck, and implored that
his sentence might be changed to imprisonment. The Pope had pity on him,
and, after a confinement of eleven years, he was liberated, and returned
to his wife's estates. He afterward was taken prisoner in the wars in
Sicily, but his subsequent fate does not appear.
The history of the last of the Crusaders must not be quitted without
mentioning that the scene of St. Louis' death is now in the hands of the
French, and that the spot has been marked by a chapel erected by his
descendant, Louis Philippe; and that our own Edward sleeps in his
father's church of Westminster, beneath a huge block, unornamented
indeed, but of the same rock as the hills of Palestine; nay, it is
believed that it is probably one of those great stones whereof it was
said; that not one should remain on another.
(B.C. 66 A.D. 1269.)
In ancient times the whole of Europe seems to have been inhabited by the
Keltic nation, until they were dispossessed by the more resolute tribes
of Teuton origin, and driven to the extreme West, where the barrier
of rugged hills that guards the continent from the Atlantic waves has
likewise protected this primitive race from extinction.
Cym, or Cyn, denoting in their language "first," was the root of their
name of Cymry, applied to the original tribe, and of which we find
traces across the whole map of Europe, beginning from the Cimmerian
Bosphorus, going on to the Cimbri, conquered by Marius, while in our own
country we still possess Cumberland and Cambria, the land inhabited by
The Gael, another pure Keltic tribe, who followed the Cymry, have
bestowed more names, as living more near to the civilized world, and
being better known to history. Even in Asia Minor, a settlement of them
had been called Galatians, and the whole tract from the north of Italy
to the Atlantic was, to the Romans, Gallia. The name still survives in
the Cornouailles of Brittany and the Cornwall of England (both meaning
the horn of Gallia), in Gaul, in Galles, in the Austrian and Spanish
Galicias, in the Irish Galway and the Scottish Galloway, while the Gael
themselves are still a people in the Highlands.
Mingling with the Teutons, though receding before them, there was
a third tribe, called usually by the Teuton word "_Welsh_"
meaning strange; and these, being the first to come in contact with
the Romans, were termed by them Belgae. The relics of this
appellation are found in the German "Welschland," the name given
to Italy, because the northern part of that peninsula had a Keltic
population, in Wallachia, in the Walloons of the Netherlands, who have
lately assumed the old Latinized name of Belgians, and in the Welsh of
our own Wales.
This last was the region, scarcely subdued by the Romans, where the
Cymry succeeded in maintaining their independence, whilst the Angles and
Saxons gained a footing in the whole of the eastern portion of Britain.
The Britons were for the most part Christian, and partly civilized by
the Romans; but there was a wild element in their composition, and about
the time of the departure of the Roman legions there had been a reaction
toward the ancient Druidical religion, as if the old national faith was
to revive with the national independence. The princes were extremely
savage and violent, and their contemporary historian, Gildas, gives a
melancholy account of their wickedness, not even excepting the great
Pendragon, Arthur, in spite of his twelve successful battles with the
Saxons. Merlin, the old, wild soothsayer of romance, seems to have
existed at this period under the name of Merddyn-wilt, or the Wild, and
bequeathed dark sayings ever since deemed prophetic, and often curiously
Out of the attempt to blend the Druid philosophy with Christianity arose
the Pelagian heresy, first taught by Morgan, or Pelagius, a monk of
Bangor, and which made great progress in Wales even after its refutation
by St. Jerome. It was on this account that St. Germain preached in
Wales, and produced great effect. The Pelagians gave up their errors,
and many new converts were collected to receive the rite of baptism at
Mold, in Flintshire, when a troop of marauding enemies burst, on them.
The neophytes were unarmed and in their white robes, but, borne up by
the sense of their new life, they had no fears for their body, and with
one loud cry of "Hallelujah!" turned, with the Bishop at their head, to
meet the foe. The enemy retreated in terror; and the name of Maes Garman
still marks the scene of this bloodless victory.
After this the heresy died away, but the more innocent customs of the
Druids continued, and the system of bards was carried on, setting apart
the clergy, the men of wisdom, and the poets, by rites derived from
ancient times. Be it observed, that a Christian priest was not
necessarily of one of the Druidical or Bardic orders, although this was
generally preferred. Almost all instructions were still oral, and, for
convenience of memory, were drawn up in triads, or verses of three--a
mystic number highly esteemed. Many of these convey a very deep
philosophy. For instance, the three unsuitable judgments in any person
whatsoever: The thinking himself wise--the thinking every other person
unwise--the thinking all he likes becoming in him. Or the three
requisites of poetry: An eye that can see Nature--a heart that can feel
Nature--a resolution that dares to follow Nature. And the three objects
of poetry: Increase of goodness--increase of understanding--increase
Such maxims were committed to the keeping of the Bards, who were
admitted to their office after a severe probation and trying initiatory
rites, among which the chief was, that they should paddle alone, in
a little coracle, to a shoal at some distance from the coast of
Caernarvonshire--a most perilous voyage, supposed to be emblematic both
of the trials of Noah and of the troubles of life. Afterward the Bard
wore sky-blue robes, and was universally honored, serving as the
counsellor, the herald, and the minstrel of his patron. The domestic
Bard and the chief of song had their office at the King's court, with
many curious perquisites, among which was a chessboard from the King.
The fine for insulting the Bard was 6 cows and 120 pence; for slaying
him, 126 cows. With so much general respect, and great powers of
extemporizing, the Bards were well able to sway the passions of
the nation, and greatly contributed to keep up the fiery spirit of
independence which the Cymry cherished in their mountains.
When the Saxons began to embrace Christianity, and Augustine came on
his mission from Rome, the Welsh clergy, who had made no attempts at
converting their enemies, looked on him with no friendly eyes. He
brought claims, sanctioned by Gregory the Great, to an authority over
them inconsistent with that of the Archbishop of Caerleon; and the
period for observing Easter was, with them, derived from the East, and
differed by some weeks from that ordained by the Roman Church. An old
hermit advised the British clergy, who went to meet Augustine, to try
him by the test of humility, and according as he should rise to greet
them, or remain seated, to listen to his proposals favorably or
otherwise. Unfortunately, Augustine retained his seat: they rejected his
plans of union; and he told them that, because they would not preach to
the Angles the way of life, they would surely at their hands suffer death.
Shortly after, the heathen king, Ethelfrith, attacked Brocmail, the
Welsh prince of Powys, who brought to the field 1,200 monks of Bangor
to pray for his success. The heathens fell at once on the priests, and,
before they could be protected, slew all except fifty; and this, though
the Welsh gained the victory, was regarded by the Saxon Church as a
judgment, and by the Welsh, unhappily, as a consequence of Augustine's
throat. The hatred became more bitter than ever, and the Welsh would not
even enter the same church with the Saxons, nor eat of a meal of which
they had partaken.
Cadwallader, the last of the Pendragons, was a terrible enemy to the
kings of Mercia and Northumbria, and with him the Cymry consider that
their glory ended. Looking on themselves for generation after generation
as the lawful owners of the soil, and on the Saxons as robbers, they
showed no mercy in their forays, and inflicted frightful cruelties on
their neighbors on the Marches. Offa's curious dyke, still existing in
Shropshire, was a bulwark raised in the hope of confining them within
their own bounds:
"That Offa (when he saw his countries go to wrack), From bick'ring with
his folk, to keep the Britons back, Cast up that mightly mound of eighty
miles in length, Athwart from sea to sea."
The Danish invasions, by ruining the Saxons, favored the Welsh; and
contemporary with Alfred lived Roderic Mawr, or the Great, who had his
domains in so peaceful a state, that Alfred turned thither for aid in
his revival of learning, and invited thence to his court his bosom
friend Asser, the excellent monk and bard. Roderic divided his
dominions--Aberfraw, or North Wales, Dinasvawr, or South Wales, and
Powys, or Shropshire--between his three sons; but they became united
again under his grandson, Howell Dha, the lawgiver of Wales.
Actuated perhaps by the example of Alfred, Howell collected his clergy
and bards at his hunting-lodge at Tenby, a palace built of peeled rods,
and there, after fasting and praying for inspiration, the collective
wisdom of the kingdom compiled a body of laws, which the King afterward
carried in person to Rome to receive the confirmation of the Pope; and
much edified must the Romans have been if they chanced to glance over
the code, since, besides many wise and good laws, it regulated the
minute etiquettes and perquisites of the royal household. If any one
should insult the King, the fine was to be, among other valuables, a
golden dish as broad as the royal face, and as thick as the nail of
a husbandman who has been a husbandman, seven years. Each officer's
distance from the royal fire was regulated, and even the precedence of
each officer's horse in the stable--proving plainly the old saying, that
the poorer and more fiery is a nation, the more precise is their point
of honor. It seems to have been in his time, as a more enlightened
prince, that the Welsh conformed their time of keeping Easter to that of
the rest of the Western Church. But Howell was no longer independent of
the English: he had begun to pay a yearly tribute of dogs, horses, and
hawks, to Ethelstane, and the disputes that followed his death brought
the Welsh so much lower, that Edgar the Peaceable easily exacted his
toll of wolves' heads; and Howell of North Wales was one of the eight
royal oarsmen who rowed the Emperor of Britain to the Minster of St.
John, on the river Dee.
The Welsh had destroyed all their wolves before the close of Dunstan's
regency, and Ethelred the Unready not being likely to obtain much
respect, the tribute was discontinued, until the marauding Danes again
exacted it under another form and title of "Tribute of the Black Army."
Fierce quarrels of their own prevented the Welsh from often taking
advantage of the disturbances of England. As in Ireland, the right of
gavelkind was recognized; yet primogeniture was also so far regarded as
to make both claims uncertain; and the three divisions of Wales were
constantly being first partitioned, and then united, by some prince who
ruled by the right of the strongest, till dethroned by another, who, to
prove his right of birth, carried half his genealogy in his patronymic.
Thus Llewellyn ap Sithfylht, under whom "the earth brought forth double,
the cattle increased in great number, and there was neither beggar nor
poor man from the South to the North Sea," was slain in battle, in 1021,
by Howell ap Edwin ap Eneon ap Owayn ap Howell Dha, who reigned over
South Wales till the son of Llewellyn, or, rather, Gryflyth ap Llewellyn
ap Sithfylht ap, &c., coming to age, dispossessed him, and gained all
Wales. It was this Gryffyth who received and sheltered Fleance, the
son of Banquo, when flying from Macbeth, and gave him in marriage his
daughter Nesta, who became the mother of Walter, the ancestor of the
line of kings shadowed in Macbeth's mirror.
In the early part of Gryffyth's reign, the Welsh flourished greatly.
Earl Godwin, in his banishment, made friends with him, and, favored by
Saxon treachery, he overran Herefordshire, and pillaged the cathedral.
But, after Godwin's death, Harold, as Earl of Wessex, deemed it time
to repress these inroads, and, training his men to habits of diet and
methods of warfare that rendered them as light and dexterous as the wild
mountaineers, he pursued them into their own country, and burnt the
palace and ships at Rhuddlan, while Gryffyth was forced to take refuge
in one of his vessels.
Harold set up a pillar with the inscription, "Here Harold conquered;"
and the Welsh gave hostages, and promised to pay tribute, while Harold
erected a hunting-seat in Monmouthshire, and made an ordinance that any
Welshman seen bearing weapons beyond Offa's dyke should lose his right
hand. Welshwomen might marry Englishmen, but none of the highborn Cymry
might aspire to wed an Englishwoman. Hating the prince under whom
they had come to so much disgrace, the Welsh themselves captured poor
Gryffyth, and sent his head, his hands, and the beak of his ship, to
Edward the Confessor, from whom they accepted the appointment of three
of their native princes to the three provinces.
Thus the strength of Wales was so far broken, that William the Conqueror
had only to bring a force with him, under pretext of a pilgrimage to the
shrine of St. David, to obtain the submission of the princes; and, in
fact, the Cymry found the Norman nobles far more aggressive neighbors
than the Angles had been since their first arrival in Britain.
The mark, or frontier, once the kingdom of Mercia, was now called the
March of Wales, where the Norman knights began to effect settlements, by
the right of the strongest, setting up their impregnable castles, round
which the utmost efforts of the Welsh were lost. Martin de Tours was one
of the first, and his glittering host of mail-clad men so overawed the
inhabitants of Whitchurch that they readily submitted, and he quietly
established himself in their bounds, treating them, as it appears, with
more fairness and friendliness than was then usual. He was a great
chess-player, and the sport descended from father to son, even among the
peasantry of Whitchurch, who long after were most skilful in the game.
Hugh Lupus, the fierce old Earl of Chester, was likewise a Lord Marcher,
and had, like the Bishop of Durham, the almost royal powers of a Count
Palatine, because, dwelling on the frontier, it was necessary that
the executive power should be prompt and absolute. Indeed, the Lords
Marchers, as these border barons were called, lived necessarily in a
state of warfare, which made it needful to entrust them with greater
powers than their neighbors, around whom they formed a sort of _cordon_,
to protect them from the forays of the half-savage Welsh.
Twenty-one baronies were formed in this manner along the March of Wales,
which constantly travelled toward the west. Robert Fitzaymon, by an
alliance with one Welsh chief, dispossessed another of Glamorgan, which
he left to his daughter Amabel, the wife of Earl Robert of Gloucester;
and Gilbert de Clare, commonly called Strongbow (the father of the Irish
Conqueror), obtained a grant from Henry I. of Chepstow and Pembroke, but
had to fight hard for the lands which had more lawful owners. In and
out among these Lords Marchers, and making common cause with them,
were settlements of Flemings. Flanders, that commercial state where
cloth-weaving first flourished as a manufacture, had suffered greatly
from the inundations of the sea, and the near connection subsisting
between the native princes and the sons of the Conqueror had led to an
intercourse, which ended in the weavers, who had lost their all, being
invited by Henry I. to take up their abode in Pembrokeshire, where they
carried on their trade while defending themselves against the Welsh,
and thus first commenced the manufactures of England. Resolute in
resistance, though not rash nor aggressive, and of industrious habits,
they acted as a great protection to the English counties, and down even
to the time of Charles I. they had a language of their own.
Owayn ap Gwynned, King of Aberfraw, or North Wales, had many wars
with Henry II.; and, uniting with the bard king, Owayn Cyvelioc, of
Powysland, did fearful damage to the English, which Henry attempted to
revenge by an incursion into Merionethshire; but though he gained a
battle at Ceiroc, he was forced to retreat through the inhospitable
country, his troops harassed by the weather, and cut off by the Welsh,
who swarmed on the mountains, so that his army arrived at Chester in
a miserable state. He had many unfortunate hostages in his hands, the
children of the noblest families, and on these he wreaked a cowardly
vengeance, cutting off the noses and ears of the maidens, and putting
out the eyes of the boys.
Well might Becket, in his banishment, exclaim, on hearing such tidings,
"His wise men are become fools; England reels and stagers like a drunken
"You will never subdue Wales, unless Heaven be against them," said an
old hermit to the King.
However, Henry had been carried by a frightened horse over a ford, of
which the old prophecies declared that, when it should be crossed by a
freckled king, the power of the Cymry should fall, and this superstition
took away greatly from satisfaction in the victory. The Welsh princes
were becoming habituated to the tribute, and in 1188, under pretext of
preaching a Crusade, Archbishop Baldwin came into Wales, and asserted
the long-disputed supremacy of Canterbury over the Welsh bishopries.
He was attended by Gerald Barry, or Giraldus Cambrensis, a half-Norman
half-Welsh ecclesiastic, who was one of the chief historians of the
period, and had the ungracious office of tutor to Prince John.
When Owayn ap Gwynned died, in 1169, the kingdom of Aberfraw, or North
Wales, was reduced to the isle of Anglesea and the counties of Merioneth
and Caernarvon, with parts of Denbigh and Cardigan. A great dispute
broke out for the succession. Jorwarth, the oldest son, was set aside
because he had a broken nose; and Davydd, the eldest son by a second
wife, seized the inheritance, and slew all the brethren save one, named
Madoc, who sailed away to the West in search of new regions. Several
years after, he again made his appearance in Aberfraw, declaring that he
had found a pleasant country, and was come to collect colonists, with
whom, accordingly, he departed, and returned no more. Many have believed
that his Western Land was no other than America, and on this supposition
Drayton speaks of him, in the "Polyolbion," as having reached the great
continent "Ere the Iberian powers had found her long-sought bay,
or any western ear had heard the sound of Florida."
Southey has, in his poem, made Madoc combine with the Aztecs in the
settlement of Mexico, but traces were said to be found of habits and
countenances resembling those of the Welsh among the Indians of the
Missouri; and, in our own days, the traveller Mr. Buxton was struck by
finding the Indians of the Rocky Mountains weaving a fabric resembling
the old Welsh blanket. If this be so, Christianity and civilization must
have died out among Madoc's descendants: but the story is one of the
exciting riddles of history, such as the similar one of the early
Norwegian discovery of America.
THE ENGLISH JUSTINIAN.
_King of England_.
1272. Edward I.