Part 9 out of 11
Dances, sports, and gayeties were the occupation of the court, heedless
of the storm that was preparing. The Barons, jealous, alarmed, and
irritated, looked on in displeasure, and on the All-Saints' Day of 1310,
after high mass at St. Paul's, the bold-spirited Archbishop Winchelsea,
in his pontifical robes, standing on the step of the altar, made a
discourse to the Earls of Lancaster, Lincoln, Pembroke, Hereford, and
eight other persons, after which he bound them by an oath to unite to
deliver the kingdom from the exactions of the favorite, and pronounced
sentence of excommunication against any who should reveal any part of
their confederation before the time.
The Earl of Lincoln, the last of the Lacys, shortly after fell sick, and
made what he thought a death-bed exhortation to the Earl of Lancaster,
who had married his only daughter, not to abandon England to the King
and the Pope, but, like the former barons, to resist all infractions of
This Earl of Lancaster was the son of Edmund Crouchback and of Blanche
of Artois, mother of the Queen of France. He was a fine-looking man,
devout and gracious, and much beloved by the people, who called him the
Gentle Count; but Gaveston's nickname for him of the "stage-player"
may not have been unmerited, for he seems to have been over-greedy of
popular applause and influence, and to have had much personal ambition;
and it does not seem certain, though Gaveston might be vain, and
his master weak and foolish, that Lancaster and his friends did not
exaggerate their faults, and excite the malevolence of a nation never
tolerant either of royal favorites or of an expensive court. Pembroke
was Aymar de Valence, son of one of the foreign brothers who had been
the bane of Henry III.; but now, becoming a thorough Englishman, he bore
the like malice to the unfortunate Gascon who held the same post as his
own father had done. Hereford, though husband to the King's favorite
sister Elizabeth, was true to the stout old Bohun, his father, who
had sworn to Edward I. that he would neither go nor hang. Two poor
butterflies, such as Edward II. and Gaveston, could have done little
injury to the realm, but the fierce warriors were resolved to crush
them, impatient of the calls upon their purses made needful by their
A tournament had been announced at Kennington, and preparations were
made; but Gaveston's jousts were not popular. None of the Barons
accepted the invitation, and in the night the lists and scaffolding were
secretly carried away. This mortification was ominous, but Edward's
funds were so low that he could not avoid summoning a parliament to meet
at Westminster; and at their meeting the nobles again resorted to the
device of Montfort at the Mad Parliament. They brought their armed
followers, and forced the King to consent to the appointment of a
committee of ordainers, who made him declare that this measure proceeded
of his own free will, and was not to prejudice the rights of the
Crown; but that their office would expire of itself on the ensuing
Michaelmas-Day. So strangely and inconsistently did they try to bring
about their own ends without infringing on the constitution.
Gaveston had either previously hidden himself, or was driven away by
the ordainers; but the King, anxious to escape from their surveillance,
proclaimed an expedition to Scotland, and summoned his vassals to meet
him at York. Hardly any noble came except Gaveston, and they made an
ineffectual inroad into Scotland together, after which Gaveston shut
himself up in Bamborough Castle, while the King went to London to
receive the decision of the ordainers. The foremost was, of course, the
banishment of Gaveston; and he went, but only again to appear, before
two months were past, in the company of the King, at York.
Lancaster and his friends now look up arms and marched northward. Edward
and his court had proceeded to Newcastle, but no army was with them; and
on the report of the advance of the enemy the King fled to Tynemouth,
and embarked in a little boat with his friend, leaving behind him his
wife, discourteously perhaps, but hardly cruelly, for Isabel was the
niece of Lancaster, and probably would have been in more danger from
a sea-voyage in a rude vessel, than from the rebel lords. She was,
however, greatly offended, and was far more inclined to her uncle, who
wrote her an affectionate letter, than to her regardless husband.
Edward and Piers landed at Scarborough, where the King was obliged to
leave his friend for security, while he went on to raise his standard
at York. Few obeyed the summons, and Pembroke hastened to besiege
Scarborough. It was impossible to hold out, and Gaveston surrendered,
Pembroke and Henry Percy binding themselves for his safety to the King,
under forfeiture of life and limb. Gaveston was to be confined in his
own castle of Wallingford, and the Earl proceeded to escort him thither.
But at Dedington Pembroke left the party to visit his wife, who was in
the neighborhood, and, on rising in the morning, Gaveston beheld the
guard changed. They bore the badge of Warwick, and the grim black dog
of Ardennes rode exulting at their head. The unhappy man was set upon
a mule, and carried to Warwick Castle, where Lancaster, Hereford, and
Surrey, were met to decide his fate in the noble pile newly raised by
Earl Guy, to whom the loftiest tower owes its name.
They set Piers before them, and gave him a mock trial. At first there
was a reluctance to shed blood, but a voice exclaimed, "Let the fox
go, and you will have to hunt him again." And it was resolved that, in
defiance of law and of their own honor, Piers Gaveston should die.
He flung himself on his knees before Lancaster, and implored mercy; but
in vain he called him "Gentle Count." "Old hog" rankled in the mind of
the Earl, who, with his two confederates, rode-forth to Blacklow Hill,
a knoll between Warwick and Coventry, and there, beneath the clump of
ragged pine-trees, they sternly and ruthlessly looked on while, on June
19th, 1312, the head of the unfortunate young Gaveston was struck off, a
victim to his own vanity and the inordinate affection of his master.
Pembroke, regretting either his carelessness or his treachery, when he
saw the dreadful consequences, went to the King, and satisfied him of
his innocence. Poor Edward was at first wild with grief and rage, but
his efforts to punish the murderers were fruitless; and gradually his
wrath cooled enough to listen to the mediation of the Pope and King of
France, and he consented to grant the Barons a pardon. They wanted to
force him, for their own justification, to declare Gaveston a traitor;
but weak as Edward was, his affection could not be overcome. He could
forgive the murderers, but he could not denounce the memory of the
murdered friend of his youth. And the Barons were forced to content
themselves with receiving a free pardon after they had come to profess
their penitence on their knees before the King enthroned in Westminster
Gaveston had been buried by some friars at Oxford; but, twelve years
after, Edward showed how enduring his love had been, by transporting the
corpse to the church he had newly built at Langley, and placing with his
own hands two palls of gold on the tomb.
_King of England_.
1307. Edward II.
_King of Scotland_.
1306. Robert I.
_King of France_.
1285. Philippe IV.
_Emperor of Germany_.
1308. Henry VII.
1305. Clement VI.
While the son of the Hammer of the Scots wasted his manhood in silken
ease, the brave though savage patriots of the North were foot by foot
winning back their native soil.
Lord Clifford had posted an English garrison in Douglas Castle, and
reigned over Douglasdale, which had been granted to him by Edward I. on
the forfeiture of Baron William. It sorely grieved the spirit of James
Douglas to see his inheritance held by the stranger, and, with Bruce's
permission, he sought his own valley in disguise, revealing himself only
to an old servant, named Thomas Dickson, who burst into tears at the
first sight of his young lord, and gave him shelter in his cottage.
Here Douglas lay concealed, while Dickson conducted to him, one by one,
his trusty vassals, and measures were concerted with total disregard to
the sacred holiday. Once, all Passion-tide would have been peaceful for
the sake of the Truce of God; but the wrongs of the Scots had blotted
out all the gentler influences that soften war, and in their eyes
justified treachery and sacrilege. On the Palm-Sunday of 1307, when
the English troops would come forth in procession to the Church of
St. Bride, carrying willow boughs in memory of the palm-branches at
Jerusalem, the adherents of Douglas intended to attack and beset them on
all sides, and Douglas, by way of encouragement, made a grant to Dickson
of the lands of Hisleside. Dickson and the other secret friends of the
Scots mingled in the procession, with their arms concealed, and entered
the church with the English, and no sooner had they disappeared within
the low doorway, than the loud slogan of "Douglas! Douglas!" was heard
without. Dickson drew his sword and ran upon the English, but the signal
had been given too soon, and he was overthrown and slain before Sir
James came up. The English bravely defended the chancel, but Douglas
and his armed followers prevailed, killed twenty-six, took twelve
prisoners, and set out for the castle, which, in full security, had
been left with all the gates open, with no one within but the porter,
and the cook dressing the dinner, which was eaten by very different
guests from those whom they expected. Douglas had not men enough to hold
the castle, and had a great dislike to standing a siege. "I had rather
hear the lark sing, than the mouse squeak," was his saying, and he
therefore resolved to return to his king on the mountains, and carry off
all the treasure and arms that could be transported from Douglasdale. As
to the remainder, he showed that French breeding had not rooted the
barbarian even out of the "gentil Lord James." He broke up every barrel
of wheat, flour, or meal, staved every cask of wine or ale among them on
the floor of the hall, flung the corpses of dead men and horses upon
them, slew his prisoners on the top of the horrible compound, and
finally set fire to the castle, calling it, in derision, the Douglas
Clifford, enraged at this horrible foray, came in person to Douglasdale,
cleansed the fire-scathed walls, built a new tower, and entrusted the
defence to a captain named Thirlwall. Him Sir James deluded by sending
fourteen men to drive a herd of cattle past the castle, when Thirlwall,
intending to plunder the drovers, came forth, fell into the ambush laid
for him by Douglas, and was slain with all his men.
It went forth among the English, that Black Sir James had made oath
that, if he abode not within his father's castle, neither should any
Englishman dwell there. The knights of Edward's court named it the
"Perilous Castle of Douglas," and Lord Clifford found that even brave
men made excuses, and were unwilling to risk the dishonor of the loss,
or to run the chance of serving to furnish a second Douglas larder. At
this juncture a young lady, enthusiastic in romance, bethought her of
making her hand the reward of any knight who would hold out the Perilous
Castle for a year and a day. The spirited Sir John de Walton took the
damsel at her word, and shut himself up in Douglas Castle; but his
prudence did not equal his courage, and he fell a prey to the same
stratagem which had deluded Thirlwall, except that the bait, in this
case, was sacks of corn instead of wandering cattle. The young knight
was slain in the encounter, when his lady's letters were found in
his bosom, and brought to Sir James, who was so much touched by this
chivalrous incident that he spared the remainder of the garrison, and
gave them provisions and money to return in safety to Clifford
[Footnote: The wild adventures at the Perilous Castle derive a most
affecting interest from the chord they never failed to touch in the
heart of "The Last Minstrel." Seen by him when a schoolboy, the Dale of
Douglas, the ruin of the castle, and the tombs at St. Bride's, aided to
form his spirit of romance; the Douglas ballad lore rang in his ears
through life, stirring his heart and swelling his eyes with tears; and
the home of the Douglas was the last spot he sought to explore, in the
land which he loved with more than a patriot's love. Castle Dangerous
was the last tale he told; and though the hand was feeble, the brain
over-tasked, and the strain faltering, yet still the same heart breathed
in every word, and it was a fit farewell from Scott to the haunted
castles, glens, and hills of his home.]
Douglasdale, Ettrick Forest, and Jeddart, were thus made too terrible to
be held by the English; but Bruce himself was for a long time disabled
by a severe illness which gave slight hope of recovery. At Inverary, the
Earl of Buchan made an attack on him when he was still so weak as to be
obliged to be supported on horseback by a man on either side of him;
but he gained a complete victory, and followed it up by such a dreadful
devastation, that "the harrying of Buchan" was a proverb for half a
century. The oaks sunk deep in the mosses bear marks of fire on their
trunks, as if in memory of this destruction.
Another victory, a "right fair point of chivalry," was gained in
Galloway by Edward Bruce, who in one year, 1308, took thirteen
fortresses in that district. Robert might well say that "he was more
afraid of the bones of Edward I. than of the living Edward of
Caernarvon, and that it was easier to win a kingdom from the son than
half a foot of land from the father." Edward II. was always intending to
come to Scotland in person, and wasting time in preparations, spending
subsidies as fast as he collected them, and changing his governors. In
less than a year six different rulers were appointed, and, of course no
consistent course could be pursued by nobles following each other in
such quick succession.
At a lonely house near Lyme Water, Sir James Douglas captured the King's
sister's son, Thomas Randolph, and led him to Bruce.
"Nephew" said Bruce, "you have forgotten your allegiance."
"Have Done nothing of which I have been ashamed," returned Randolph.
"You blame me, but you deserve blame. If you choose to defy the King
of England, why not debate the matter like a true knight in a pitched
"That may be hereafter," replied Bruce, calmly; "but since thou art so
rude of speech, it is fitting thy proud words should be punished, till
thou learn my right and thy duty."
Whatever was, strictly speaking, Bruce's _right_, his nephew learnt
in captivity to respect it, gave in his adhesion to King Robert, was
created Earl of Moray, and became one of the firmest friends of
his throne. The world was beginning to afford the successful man
countenance, and the cunning Philippe le Bel wrote letters which were
to pass through England under the address of the Earl of Carrick, but,
within, bore the direction to King Robert of Scotland.
A vain march of Edward II into Scotland was revenged by a horrible
inroad of the Scots into Northumberland, up to the very gates of Durham.
On his return, Robert tried to surprise Berwick, but was prevented by
the barking of a dog, which awakened the garrison. He next besieged
Perth. After having discovered the shallowest part of the moat, he made
a feint of raising the siege, and, after an absence of eight days, made
a sudden night-attack, wading through the moat with the water up to his
neck, and a scaling-ladder in one hand, while with the other he felt his
way with his spear.
"What," cried a French knight, "shall we say of our lords, who live at
home in ease and jollity, when so brave a knight is here risking his
life to win a miserable hamlet?"
So saying, the Frenchman rushed after the King and his men, and the
town was taken before the garrison were well awake.
About the same time Douglas came upon Roxburgh, when the garrison were
enjoying the careless mirth of Shrovetide. Hiding their armor with dark
cloaks, Sir James and his men crept on all-fours through the brushwood
till they came to the very foot of the battlements, and could hear a
woman singing to her child that the Black Douglas should not touch it,
and the sentries saying to each other that yonder oxen were out late.
Planting their ladders, the Scots gained the summit of the tower,
killed the sentinels, and burst upon the revelry with shouts of
"Douglas! Douglas!" The governor, a gallant Burgundian knight, named
Fiennes, retreated into the keep, and held out till he was badly
wounded, and forced to surrender, when he was spared, and retreated
to die in England, while the castle was levelled to the ground by
The destruction of these strongholds was matter of great joy to the
surrounding peasantry, who had been cruelly despoiled by the English
soldiers there stationed; and a farmer, named Binning, actually made an
attempt upon the great fortress of Linlithgow, which was well
garrisoned by the English. He had been required to furnish the troops
with hay, and this gave him the opportunity of placing eight strong
peasants well armed, lying hidden, in the wagon, by which he walked
himself, while it was driven by a stout countryman with an axe at his
belt, and another party were concealed close without the walls.
The drawbridge was lowered, and the portcullis raised to admit the
forage, when, at the moment that the wagon stood midway beneath the
arch, at a signal from the farmer, the driver with his axe cut asunder
the yoke, the horses started forward, and Binning, with a loud cry,
"Call all! call all!" drew the sword hidden under his carter's frock,
and killed the porter. The eight men leaped out from among the hay, and
were joined by their friends from the ambush without; the cart under
the doorway prevented the gates from being closed, and the pile of
hay caught the portcullis as it fell. The Englishmen, surprised and
discomfited, had no time to make head against the rustics, and were
slaughtered or made prisoners; the castle was given up to the King,
and Binning received the grant of an estate, and became a gentleman of
coat-armor, with a wagon argent on his shield, and the harnessed head of
a horse for a crest.
Jedburgh, Stirling, and Edinburgh, were the last castles still in the
hands of the invaders. The Castle of Edinburgh, aloft on the rock
frowning above the town, had been held by the English full twenty years,
and, when Randolph was sent to besiege it, was governed by a Gascon
knight named Piers Luband, a kinsman of Gaveston. In hatred and
suspicion of all connected with the minion, the English soldiers rose
against the foreigner, threw him into a dungeon, and, electing a fresh
captain, made oath to hold out to the last. The rock was believed to be
inaccessible, and a blockade appeared to be the only means of reducing
the garrison. This had already lasted six weeks, when a man named Frank,
coming secretly to Randolph, told him that his father had formerly been
governor, and that he, when a youth, had been in the habit of scrambling
down the south face of the rock, at night, to visit a young damsel who
lived in the Grass-market, and returning in the same manner; and he
undertook to guide a party by this perilous ascent into the very heart
of the castle.
Randolph caught at the proposal, desperate as it was, and, selecting
thirty men, chose an excessively dark night for the adventure. Frank
went the first, climbing up the face of the precipice with hands and
feet; then followed Sir Andrew Grey; thirdly, Randolph himself; and
then the rest of the party. The ascent was exceedingly difficult and
dangerous, especially in utter darkness and to men in full armor,
fearing to make the slightest noise. Coming to a projecting crag, close
under the wall, they rested to collect their breath, and listen. It
was the moment when the guards were going their rounds, and, to their
horror, they heard a soldier exclaim, as he threw a pebble down on them,
"Away! I see you well!" A few more stones, and every man of them might
have been hurled from the cliff by the soldiers merely rolling down
stones on them. They dared not more, and a few moments' silence proved
that the alarm had been merely a trick to startle the garrison--a jest
soon to turn to earnest.
When the guard had passed on, the brave Scots crept to the foot of the
wall, where it was only twelve feet high, and fixed the iron hook of
their rope-ladder to the top of it. Ere all had mounted, the clank
of their weapons had been heard, shouts of "Treason!" arose, and the
sentinels made a brave resistance; but it was too late, and, after some
hard fighting, the survivors of the garrison were forced to surrender.
Sir Piers Luband, on being released from his dungeon, offered his
services to King Robert, whereupon the English laid all the blame of
the loss of the castle upon him, declaring that he had betrayed them.
Randolph's seizure of Edinburgh was considered as the most daring of all
the many gallant exploits of the Scots.
Bruce forayed Cumberland, and threatened Berwick, so that the poor
Countess of Buchan was removed from thence to a more secure place of
captivity. He also pursued his enemies, the Macdougals of Lorn, up the
passes of Cruachan Ben, and even hunted them into the Isle of Man, where
he took Rushyn Castle, and conquered the whole island. In his absence,
Edward Bruce took Dundee, and besieged Stirling, until the governor,
Philip Mowbray, was reduced to such straits by famine, that he begged
for a truce, in which to go and inform the King of England of the state
of affairs, promising to surrender on the Midsummer Day of the following
year, if he were not relieved before that time. Edward Bruce granted
these terms, and allowed Mowbray to depart. Robert was displeased at
such a treaty, giving a full year to the enemy to collect their forces:
but his brother boldly answered, "Let Edward bring every man he has; we
will fight them--ay, and more too!" King Robert saw more danger than did
the reckless prince, but he resolved to abide by his brother's word,
though so lightly given. It was, in fact, a challenge to the decisive
battle, which was to determine whether Bruce or Plantagenet should reign
Mowbray's appeal met with attention at court. Edward II. had newly
recovered from the loss of Gaveston, and hoped by some signal success
to redeem his credit with his subjects. He sent his cousin, the Earl
of Pembroke, who was well experienced in Scottish wars, to the North;
despatched writs to ninety-three Barons to meet him with their retainers
at Newcastle, three weeks after Easter, 1313; summoned all the Irish
chiefs under his obedience to come with Richard de Burgh, Earl of
Ulster; called in Gascon troops, placed a fleet under the charge of
John of Argyle, and took every measure for the supply of his army with
provisions, tents, and every other necessary. For once the activity and
spirit of his father seemed to have descended upon him, and, as the
summer of 1313 drew on, he set out with Queen Isabel, and their infant
son the Prince of Wales, to St. Alban's Abbey, where, amid prayers and
offerings for the success of his enterprise, he bade her farewell.
At Berwick he met his host, and, to his disappointment, found that four
of the disaffected earls, Lancaster, Warwick, Arundel, and Warrenne,
had absented themselves; but they had sent their vassals in full force.
Edward's troops, at the lowest computation, could not have been less
than 100,000, of whom 40,000 were mounted, and 3,000 of these were
knights and squires, both men and horses sheathed in plate-armor.
To meet this force, Bruce could only muster 40,000 men, poorly armed,
and few of them mounted, and those on small, rough mountain steeds,
utterly incapable of withstanding the shock of the huge Flemish chargers
ridden by the English knights. The fatal power of the English long-bow
was like wise well known to the Scots; but Bruce himself was a tried
captain, and the greater part of his followers had been long trained by
succession of fierce conflicts. They had many a wrong to revenge, and
they fought for home and hearth; stern, severe, savage, and resolute,
they were men to whom defeat would have brought far worse than
death--unlike the gay chivalry who had ridden from England as to a
The army met in the Torwood, near Stirling, and were reviewed with
cheerfulness by King Robert. He resolved to compensate for the
inferiority of his cavalry by fighting on foot, and by abiding the
attack in a field called the New Park, which was so covered with trees
and brushwood, and broken by swamps, that the enemy's horse would lose
their advantage; and on the left, in the only open and level ground
near, he dug pits and trenches, and filled them with pointed stakes and
iron weapons called calthorps, so as to impede the possible charge of
The little burn, or brook, of Bannock, running through rugged ground
covered with wood, protected his right, and the village of St. Ninian
was in front. He divided his little army into four parts: the first
under his brother Edward; the second under Douglas and young Walter,
High Steward of Scotland; the third under Randolph; and the fourth body,
the reserve, under his own command. The servants and baggage were placed
on an eminence in the rear, still called Gillies Hill.
By this time it was the 23d of June, and early on Sunday morning the
soldiers heard mass and confessed as dying men, then kept the vigil of
St. John by fasting on bread and water. Douglas and Sir Robert Keith
rode out to reconnoitre, and came back, reporting to the King that
the enemy were advancing in full force, with banners displayed and in
excellent array; but warily spreading a rumor among the Scots that they
were confused and disorderly.
In effect, Edward II. had hurried on so hastily and inconsiderately,
that his men and horses were spent and ill-fed when he arrived in the
neighborhood of Stirling. Two miles from thence, he sent 800 horsemen
with Sir Robert Clifford, with orders to outflank the Scottish army, and
throw themselves into the town. Concealed by the village of St. Ninian,
this body had nearly effected their object, when they were observed by
the keen eye of Bruce, who had directed his nephew to be on the watch
against this very manoeuvre. Riding up on his little pony to Randolph,
he upbraided him, saying, "Thoughtless man, you have lightly kept your
trust! A rose has fallen from your chaplet!"
Randolph at once hurried off with a small body of his best men to repair
his error; but presently his little party were seen so hotly pressed
by the English, that Douglas entreated to be allowed to hasten to his
rescue. "You shall not move," said the King. "Let Randolph free himself
as he may. I will not alter my order of battle, nor lose my vantage of
"My liege," cried Lord James, as the heavily-armed knights and horses
closed in on the few Scottish foot, "I cannot stand by and see Randolph
perish, when I can give him help! By your leave, I must go to his
Robert sighed consent, and Douglas hastened off; but at that moment
he beheld the English troop in confusion, some horses rushing away
masterless, and the rest galloping off, while the Scots stood compactly
among their dead enemies.
"Halt!" then said Douglas, "they have won; we will not lessen their
glory by seeking to share it."
By this time the foremost English battalions, with the Earls of
Gloucester and Hereford, had come into the New Park, and were near
enough to see King Robert, with a gold crown on his helmet, riding on
his pony along the front of his lines. A relation of Hereford's, Sir
Henry Bohun, upon this sight, rode impetuously forward to make a sudden
attack on the leader, expecting to bear him down at once by the weight
of his war-horse.
Bruce swerved aside, so as to avoid the thrust of the lance, and at the
same moment, rising in his stirrups, with his battle-axe in hand, he
dealt a tremendous blow as Sir Henry was carried past; and such was the
force of his arm, that the knight dropped dead from his horse, with his
skull cleft nearly in two.
The Scottish chiefs, proud of their King's prowess, but terrified by the
peril he had run, entreated him to be more careful of his person; but he
only returned by a tranquil smile, as he looked at the blunted edge of.
his weapon, saying "he had spoilt his good battle-axe."
In revenge for this attack, the Scots pursued the English vanguard for
a short distance, but the King recalled them to their ranks, and made a
speech, calling on them all to be in arms by break of day, forbidding
any man to break his line for pursuit or plunder, and promising that the
heirs of such as might fall should receive their inheritance without the
accustomed feudal fine.
All night there was the usual scene; the smaller and more resolute army
watched and prayed, the larger revelled and slept. Edward, among his
favorites and courtiers, had hardly believed that there would "be
any battle, and had no notion of generalship, keeping his whole army
compressed together, so that their large numbers were encumbering
instead of being available. Five hundred horse were closely attached to
his person, with the Earl of Pembroke, Sir Ingeltram de Umfraville, and
Sir Giles de Argentine, the last a gallant knight of St. John. When he
rode forward in the morning, Edward was absolutely amazed at the
sight of the well-ordered lines of Scottish infantry, and turning to
Umfraville, asked if he really thought those Scots would fight. At that
moment Abbot Maurice, of Inchaffray, who had just been celebrating mass,
came barefooted before the array, holding up a crucifix, and raising his
hand in blessing, as all the army bent to the earth, with the prayers of
men willingly offering themselves.
"They kneel! they kneel!" cried Edward. "They are asking mercy."
"They are, my liege," said Umfraville, "but it is of God, not of us.
These men will win the day, or die upon the field."
"Be it so," said the King, and gave the word.
The Earls of Gloucester and Hereford rushed to the charge with loud
war-cries. Each Scot stood fast, blowing wild notes on the horn he wore
at his neck, and the close ranks of infantry stood like rocks against
the encounter of the mailed horse, their spears clattering against the
armor in the shock till the hills rang again. Randolph meanwhile led his
square steadily on, till it seemed swallowed up in the sea of English;
and Keith, with the five hundred horsemen of the Scots army, making a
sudden turn around Milton Bog, burst in flank upon the English archery,
ever the main strength of the army. The long-bow had won, and was again
to win, many a fair field; but at Bannockburn the manoeuvre of the
Scots was ruinous to the yeomanry, who had no weapons fit for a close
encounter with mounted men-at-arms, and were trodden down and utterly
The ground was hotly contested by the two armies; banners rose and fell,
and the whole field was slippery with blood, and strewn with fragments
of armor, shivers of lances and arrows, and rags of scarfs and pennons.
The English troops began to waver. "They fail! they fail!" was the
Scottish cry, and as they pressed on with double vehemence, there rose
a shout that another host was coming to their aid. It was only the
servants on the Gillies Hill, crowding down in the excitement of
watching the battle, but to the dispirited English they appeared a
formidable reinforcement of the enemy; and Robert Bruce, profiting by
the consternation thus occasioned, charged with his reserve, and decided
the fate of the day. His whole line advancing, the English array finally
broke, and began to disperse. Earl Gilbert of Gloucester made an attempt
to rally, and, mounted on a noble steed--a present from the King--rode
furiously against Edward Bruce; but his retainers hung back, and he
was borne down and slain before his armorial bearings were recognized.
Clifford and twenty-seven other Barons were slain among the pits, and
the rout became general. The Earl of Pembroke, taking the King's horse
by the bridle, turned him from the field, and his five hundred guards
went with him. Sir Giles de Argentine saw them safely out of the battle,
then, saying, "It is not my custom to fly!" he bade Edward farewell, and
turned back, crying, "An Argentine!" and was slain by Edward Bruce's
Douglas followed hotly on the King, with sixty horse, and on the way met
Sir Laurence Abernethy with twenty more, coming to join the English; but
finding how matters stood, the time-serving knight gladly proceeded to
hunt the fugitives, and they scarcely let Edward II. draw rein till he
had ridden sixty miles, even to Dunbar, whence he escaped by sea.
Bannockburn was the most total defeat which has ever befallen an English
army. Twenty-seven nobles were killed, twenty-two more and sixty knights
made prisoners, and the number of obscure soldiers slain, drowned in the
Forth, or killed by the peasantry, exceeds calculation. The camp was
taken, with an enormous booty in treasure, jewels, rich robes, fine
horses, herds of cattle, machines for the siege of towns, and, in short,
such an amount of baggage that the wagons for the transport were
numerous enough to extend in one line for sixty miles. Even the King's
signet was taken, and Edward was forced to cause another to be made to
supply its place. One prisoner was a Carmelite friar named Baston, whom
Edward of Caernarvon had brought with him to celebrate his victory in
verse; whereupon Robert imposed the same task by way of ransom; and the
poem, in long, rhyming Latin verses, is still extant.
The plunder was liberally shared among the Scottish army, and the
prisoners were treated with great courtesy and generosity. The slain
were reverently buried where they fell, except Lord Clifford and the
Earl of Gloucester, whose corpses were carried to St. Ninian's kirk, and
sent with all honor to England.
Bruce had not forgotten that the blood of the Clares ran in his own
veins, and that Gloucester had warned him of his danger at King Edward's
court: he not only lamented for the young Earl, but he released Ralph de
Monthermer, the stepfather of Earl Gilbert, and gave him the signet-ring
of Edward II. to bear home.
Gilbert was the last male of the stout old line of De Clares.
Gloucester, and his estates descended to his three sisters--Margaret,
the widow of Gaveston; Eleanor, the wife of Hugh le Despenser; and
Elizabeth, who shortly after married John de Burgh, Earl of Ulster.
The Earl of Hereford had taken refuge in Bothwell Castle, but was unable
to hold it out, and surrendered. He was exchanged for captives no less
precious to Robert Bruce than his well-earned crown. The wife, daughter,
and sister, who had been prisoners for eight years, were set free,
together with the Bishop of Glasgow, now blind, and the young Earl of
Mar. Marjory Bruce had grown from a child to a maiden in her English
prison, and she was soon betrothed to the young Walter, Steward of
Scotland; but it was enacted that, if she should remain without a
brother, the crown should descend to her uncle Edward.
That midsummer battle of Bannockburn undid all the work of Edward I.,
and made Scotland an independent kingdom for three hundred years longer.
Ill-government, a discontented nobility, and a feeble King, had brought
England so low, that the troops could not shake off their dejection,
and a hundred would flee before two or three Scottish soldiers.
Bruce ravaged the northern counties every summer, leaving famine and
pestilence behind him; but Edward II. had neither spirit nor resolution
to make war or peace. The mediation of the Pope and King of France
was ineffectual, and years of warfare passed on, impressing habits of
perpetual license and robbery upon the borderers of either nation.
THE KNIGHTS OF THE TEMPLE.
_Kings of England_.
1272. Edward I.
1307. Edward II.
_King of Scotland_.
1306. Robert I.
_Kings of France_.
1285. Philippe IV.
1314. Louis X.
_Emperors of Germany_.
1296. Albert I.
1308. Henry VII.
1314. Louis V.
1296. Boniface VIII.
1303. Benedict XI.
1305. Clement V.
Crusades were over. The dream of Edward I. had been but a dream, and
self-interest and ambition directed the swords of Christian princes
against each other rather than against the common foe. The Western
Church was lapsing into a state of decay and corruption, from which she
was only partially to recover at the cost of disruption and disunion,
and the power which the mighty Popes of the twelfth century had gathered
into a head became, for that very cause, the tool of an unscrupulous
The colony of Latins left in Palestine had proved a most unsuccessful
experiment; the climate enervated their constitutions; the _poulains_,
as those were called who were born in the East, had all the bad
qualities of degenerate races, and were the scorn, and derision of Arabs
and Europeans alike; nor could the defence have been kept up at all, had
it not been for the constant recruits from cooler climates. Adventurous
young men tried their swords in the East, banished men there sought to
recover their fame, the excommunicate strove to win pardon by his sword,
or the forgiven to expiate his past crime; and, besides these irregular
aids, the two military and monastic orders of Templars and Hospitallers
were constantly fed by supplies of young nobles trained to arms and
discipline in the numerous commanderies and preceptories scattered
throughout the West.
Admirable as warriors, desperate in battle, offering no ransom but
their scarf, these knightly monks were the bulwark of Christendom, and
would have been doubly effective save for the bitter jealousies of the
two orders against each other, and of both against all other Crusaders.
Not a disaster happened in the Holy Land but the treachery of one order
or the other was said to have occasioned it; and, on the whole, the
greater degree of obloquy seems usually, whether justly or not, to have
lighted on the Knights of the Temple. They were the richer and the
prouder of the two orders; and as the duties of the hospital were not
included in their vows, they neither had the same claims to gratitude,
nor the softening influence of the exercise of charity, and were simply
stern, hated, dreaded soldiers.
After a desperate siege, Acre fell, in 1292, and the last remnant of the
Latin possessions in the East was lost. The Templars and Hospitallers
fought with the utmost valor, forgot their feuds in the common danger,
and made such a defence that the Mussulmans fancied that, when one
Christian died, another came out of his mouth and renewed the conflict;
but at last they were overpowered by force of numbers, and were finally
buried under the ruins of the Castle of the Templars. The remains of
the two orders met in the Island of Cyprus, which belonged to Henry de
Lusignan, claimant of the crown of Jerusalem. There they mustered their
forces, in the hope of a fresh Crusade; but as time dragged on, and
their welcome wore out, they found themselves obliged to seek new
quarters. The Knights of the Hospital, true to their vows, won sword in
hand the Isle of Rhodes from the Infidel, and prolonged their existence
for five centuries longer as a great maritime power, the guardians of
the Mediterranean and the terror of the African corsairs. The Knights
Templars, in an evil hour for themselves, resolved to spend their time
of expectation in their numerous rich commanderies in Europe, where they
had no employment but to collect their revenues and keep their swords
bright; and it cannot but be supposed that they would thus be tempted
into vicious and overbearing habits, while the sight of so formidable a
band of warriors, owning no obedience but to their Grand Master and the
Pope, must have been alarming to the sovereign of the country. Still
there are no tokens of their having disturbed the peace during the
twenty-two years that their exile lasted, and it was the violence of a
king and the truckling of a pope that effected their ruin.
Philippe IV., the pest of France, had used his power over the French
clergy to misuse and persecute the fierce old pontiff, Boniface VIII.,
and it was no fault of Philippe that the murder of Becket was not
parodied at Anagni. Fortunately for the malevolent designs of the King,
his messengers quailed, and contented themselves with terrifying the old
man into a frenzied suicide, instead of themselves slaying him. The next
Pope lived so few days after his election, that it was believed that
poison had removed him; and the cardinals remained shut up for nine
months at Perugia, trying in vain to come to a fresh choice. Finally,
Philippe fixed their choice on a wretched Gascon, who took the name of
Clement V., first, however, making him swear to fulfil six conditions,
the last and most dreadful of which was to remain a secret until the
time when the fulfilment should be required of him.
Lest his unfortunate tool should escape from his grasp, or gain the
protection of any other sovereign, Philippe transplanted the whole papal
court to Avignon, which, though it used to belong to the Roman empire,
had, in the break-up after the fall of the Swabian house, become in
effect part of the French dominions.
There the miserable Clement learned the sixth condition, and, not daring
to oppose it, gave the whole order of the Templars up into his cruel
hands, promising to authorize his measures, and pronounce their
abolition. Philippe's first measure was to get them all into his hands,
and for this purpose he proclaimed a Crusade, and actually himself took
the Cross, with his son-in-law Edward II., at the wedding of Isabel.
Jacque de Molay, the Grand Master, hastened from Cyprus, and convoked
all his chief knights to take counsel with the French King on this
laudable undertaking. He was treated with great distinction, and even
stood godfather to a son of the King. The greater number of the Templars
were at their own Tower of the Temple at Paris, with others dispersed
in numbers through the rest of France, living at ease and securely,
respected and feared, if not beloved, and busily preparing for an
onslaught upon the common foe.
Meanwhile, two of their number, vile men thrown into prison for former
crimes--one French, the other Italian--had been suborned by Philippe's
emissaries to make deadly accusations against their brethren, such as
might horrify the imagination of an age unused to consider evidence.
These tales, whispered into the ear of Edward II. by his wily
father-in-law, together with promises of wealth and lands to be wrested
from them, gained from him a promise that he would not withstand the
measures of the French King and Pope; and, though he was too much shocked
by the result not to remonstrate, his feebleness and inconsistency
unfitted him either to be a foe or a champion.
On the 14th of September, 1307, Philippe sent out secret orders to his
seneschals. On the 13th of October, at dawn of day, each house of the
Templars was surrounded with armed men, and, ere the knights could rise
from their beds, they were singly mastered, and thrown into prison.
Two days after, on Sunday, after mass, the arrest was made known, and
the crimes of which the unfortunate men were accused. They were to be
tried before the grand inquisitor, Guillaume Humbert, a Dominican friar;
but in the meantime, to obtain witness against them, they were starved,
threatened, and tortured in their dungeons, to gain from them some
confession that could be turned against them. Out of six hundred
knights, besides a much greater number of mere attendants, there could
not fail to be some few whose minds could not withstand the misery of
their condition, and between these and the two original calumnies, a
mass of horrible stories was worked up in evidence.
It was said that, while outwardly wearing the white cross on their robe,
bearing the vows of chivalry, exercising the holy offices of priests,
and bound by the monastic rules, there was in reality an inner society,
bound to be the enemies of all that was holy, into which they were
admitted upon their reviling and denying their faith, and committing
outrages on the cross and the images of the saints. It was further said
that they worshipped the devil in the shape of a black cat, and wore his
image on a cord round their waists; that they anointed a great silver
head with the fat of murdered children; that they practised every kind
of sorcery, performed mass improperly, never went to confession, and had
betrayed Palestine to the Infidels.
For the last count of the indictment the blood that had watered Canaan
for two hundred years was answer enough. As to the confessional, the
accusation emanated from the Dominicans, who were jealous of the
Templars confessing to priests of their own order. With respect to the
mass, it appears that the habits of the Templars were similar to those
of the Cistercian monks; who, till The Lateran Council, had not elevated
the Host to receive adoration from the people.
The accusation of magic naturally adhered to able men conversant with
the East. The head was found in the Temple at Paris. It was made of
silver, resembled a beautiful woman, and was, in fact, a reliquary
containing the bones of one of the 11,000 virgins of Cologne. But truth
was not wanted; and under the influence of solitary imprisonment,
hunger, damp and loathsome dungeons, and two years of terror and misery,
enough of confessions had been extorted for Philippe's purpose by the
Many had died under their sufferings, and some had at first confessed
in their agonies, and, when no longer tortured, had retracted all their
declarations with horror. These became dangerous, and were therefore
declared to be relapsed heretics, and fifty-six were burnt by slow
degrees in a great inclosure, surrounded by stakes, all crying out, and
praying devoutly and like good Christians till the last.
Having thus horribly intimidated recusant witnesses, the King caused the
Pope to convoke a synod at Paris, before which the Grand Master, Jacques
de Molay, was cited. He was a brave old soldier, but no scholar, and
darkness, hunger, torture, and distress had so affected him, that, when
brought into the light of day, he stood before the prelates and barons,
among whom he had once been foremost, so utterly bewildered and
confused, that the judges were forced to remand him for two days to
recover his faculties.
When brought before them again, he was formally asked whether he would
defend his order, or plead for himself. He made answer that he should
be contemptible in his own eyes, and those of all the world, did he not
defend an order which had done so much for him, but that he was in such
poverty that he had not fourpence left in the world, and that he must
beg for an advocate, to whom he would mention the great kings, princes,
barons, bishops, and knights whose witness would at once clear his
knights from the monstrous charges brought against them.
Thereupon he was told that advocates were not allowed to men accused of
heresy, and that he had better take care how he contradicted his own
deposition, or he would be condemned as relapsed. His own deposition,
as three cardinals avouched that he had made it before them, was then
translated to him from the Latin, which he did not understand. In
horror-struck amazement at hearing such words ascribed to himself, the
old knight twice made the sign of the cross, and exclaimed, "If the
cardinals were other sort of men, he should know how to deal with them!"
He was told that the cardinals were not there to receive a challenge to
battle. "No," he said, "that was not what he meant; he only wished that
might befall them which was done by the Saracens and Tartars to infamous
liars--whose heads they cut off."
He was sent back to prison and brought back again, less vehement against
his accusers, but still declaring himself a faithful Christian, and
begging to be admitted to the rites of religion; but he was left to
languish in his dungeon for two years longer, while two hundred and
thirty-one witnesses were examined before the commissaries. In May,
1311, five hundred and forty-four persons belonging to the order were
led before the judges from the different prisons, while eight of the
most distinguished knights, and their agent at Rome, undertook their
defence. Their strongest plea was, that not a Templar had criminated
himself, except in France, where alone torture had been employed;
but they could obtain no hearing, and a report was drawn up by the
commissaries to the so-called Council of Vienne. This was held by
Clement V. in the early part of 1312; and on the 6th of March it passed
a decree abolishing the Order of the Temple, and transmitting its
possessions to the Knights of St. John.
There were other councils held to try the Templars in the other lands
where they had also been seized. In England, the confessions of the
knights tortured in France were employed as evidence, together with the
witness of begging friars, minstrels, women, and discreditable persons;
and on the decision of the Council of Vienne, the poor knights
confessed, as well they might, that their order had fallen under evil
report, and were therefore pardoned and released, with the forfeiture of
all their property to the hospital. Their principal house in England was
the Temple in Fleet street, where they had built a curious round church
in the twelfth century, when it was consecrated by the Patriarch
Heraclius of Jerusalem. The shape was supposed to be like the Holy
Sepulchre, to whose service they were devoted; but want of space obliged
them to add a square building of three aisles beyond. This, with the
rest of their property, devolved on the Order of St. John, who, in
the next reign, let the Temple buildings for L10 per annum to the
law-students of London, and in their possession it has ever since
continued. The ancient seal of the knights, representing two men mounted
upon one horse, was assumed by the benchers of one side of the Temple,
though in the classical taste of later times the riders were turned into
wings, and the steed into Pegasus; while their brethren bear the lamb
and banner, likewise a remembrance of the Crusaders who founded the
round church, eight of whom still lie in effigy upon the floor.
In Spain the bishops would hardly proceed at all against the Templars,
and secured pensions for them out of the confiscated property. In
Portugal they were converted into a new order for the defence of the
realm. In Germany, they were allowed to die out unmolested; but in Italy
Philippe's influence was more felt, and they were taken in the same net
with those in France. There the King's coffers were replenished with
their spoil, very little of which ever found its way to the Knights of
St. John. The knights who half confessed, and then recanted, were put to
death; those who never confessed at all, were left in prison; those who
admitted the guilt of the order, were rewarded by a miserable existence
at large. The great dignitaries--Jacques de Molay, the Grand Master, and
Guy, the son of the Dauphin of Auvergne, the Commander of Normandy, and
two others--languished in captivity till the early part of 1314, when
they were led out before Notre Dame to hear their sentence read,
condemning them to perpetual imprisonment, and rehearsing their own
confession once more against them.
The Grand Master and Guy of Auvergne, both old men, wasted with
imprisonment and torture, no sooner saw the face of day, the grand old
cathedral, and the assembly of the people, than they loudly protested
that these false and shameful confessions were none of theirs; that
their dead brethren were noble knights and true Christians; and that
these foul slanders had never been uttered by them, but invented
by wicked men, who asked them questions in a language they did not
understand, while they, noble barons, belted knights, sworn Crusaders,
were stretched on the rack.
The Bishops present were shocked at the exposure of their treatment, and
placed them in the hands of the Provost of Paris, saying that they would
consider their case the next morning. But Philippe, dreading a reaction
in their favor, declared them relapsed, and condemned them to the flames
that very night, the 18th of March. A picture is extant in Germany, said
to have been of the time, showing the meek face of the white-haired,
white-bearded Molay, his features drawn with wasting misery, his eyes
one mute appeal, his hands bound over the large cross on his breast. He
died proclaiming aloud the innocence of his order, and listened to with
pity and indignation by the people. His last cry, ere the flames stifled
his voice, was an awful summons to Pope Clement to meet him before the
tribunal of Heaven within forty days; to King Philippe to appear there
in a year and a day.
Clement V. actually died on the 20th of April; and while his nephews and
servants were plundering his treasures, his corpse was consumed by fire
caught from the wax-lights around his bier. His tyrant, Philippe le Bel,
was but forty-six years of age, still young-looking and handsome; but
the decree had gone forth against him, and he fell into a bad state of
health. He was thrown from his horse while pursuing a wild boar, and the
accident brought on a low fever, which, on the 29th of November, 1314,
brought him likewise to the grave. He left three sons, all perishing,
after unhappy marriages, in the flower of their age, and one daughter,
the disgrace and misery of France and England alike.
So perished the Templars; so their persecutors! It is one of the darkest
tragedies of that age of tragedies; and in many a subsequent page shall
we trace the visitation for their blood upon guilty France and on the
line of Valois. They were not perfect men. They have left an evil name,
for they were hard, proud, often, licentious men, and the "Red Monk"
figures in many a tradition of horror; but there can be no doubt that
the brotherhood had its due proportion of gallant, devoted warriors, who
fought well for the cross they bore. Their fate has been well sung by
"The warriors of the sacred grave,
Who looked to Christ for laws,
And perished for the faith they gave
Their comrades and the cause;
They perished, in one fate alike,
The veteran and the boy,
Where'er the regal arm could strike,
To torture and destroy:
While darkly down the stream of time,
Devised by evil fame,
Float murmurs of mysterious crime,
And tales of secret shame.
How oft, when avarice, hate, or pride,
Assault some noble hand,
The outer world, that scorns the side
It does not understand,
Echoes each foul derisive word,
Gilds o'er each hideous sight,
And consecrates the wicked sword
With names of holy right.
Yet by these lessons men awake
To know they cannot bind
Discordant will's in one, and make
An aggregate of mind.
For ever in our best essays
At close fraternal ties
An evil narrowness waylays
Our present sympathies;
And love, however bright it burns
For what it holds roost fond,
Is tainted by its unconcern
For all that lies beyond.
And still the earth has many a knight
By high vocation bound
To conquer in enduring tight
The Spirit's holy ground.
And manhood's pride and hopes of youth
Still meet the Templar's doom,
Crusaders of the ascended truth,
Not of the empty tomb."
THE BARONS' WARS.
_King of England_.
1307. Edward II.
1314. Louis X.
1316. Philippe V.
1322. Charles IV.
_King of Scotland_.
1306. Robert I.
1314. Louis V.
_Kings of France_.
1285. Philippe IV
_Emperors of Germany.
1308. Henry VII.
1305. Clement V.
1316. John XXII.
It was the misfortune of Edward of Caernarvon that he could not attach
himself in moderation. Among the fierce Earls, and jealous, distrustful
Barons, he gladly distinguished a man of gentle mould, who could return
his affection; but he could not bestow his favor discreetly, and always
ended by turning the head of his favorite and offending his subjects.
There was at his court a noble old knight, Sir Hugh le Despenser, whose
ancestors had come over with William the Conqueror, and whose father had
been created a Baron in 1264, as a reward for his services against Simon
de Montfort. To this gentleman, and to his son Hugh, Edward became
warmly attached; and apparently not undeservedly, for they were both
gallant and knightly, and the son was highly accomplished, and of fine
person. Edward made him his chamberlain, and gave him in marriage
Eleanor de Clare, the sister of the Earl of Gloucester who was killed at
Bannockburn, and one of the heiresses of the great earldom, with all its
rights on the Welsh marches.
Still, the love and sympathy of the nation were with the King's cousin,
Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, who probably obtained favor by liberality, or
by the arts for which poor Gaveston had named him the "stage-player,"
since his life seems to have been dissolute under much appearance
of devotion. The last great Earl of Lincoln had chosen him as his
son-in-law, while the intended bride, Alice, was yet a young child. In
1310, just after Gaveston's fall, Lincoln died, and the little Countess
Alice, then only twelve years old, became the wife of Lancaster; but in
1317 mutual accusations were made on the part of the Earl and Countess,
and Alice claimed to be set free, on account of a previous promise of
marriage; while Lancaster complained of Earl Warrenne for having allowed
a humpbacked knight, named Richard St. Martin, to carry Alice off to one
of his castles, called Caneford, and there to obtain from her the troth
now pleaded against him. Edward II. told Lancaster that he might proceed
against Warrenne in the ordinary course of law: but this he would not
do, as he did not wish to prove his wife's former contract, lest he
should lose her great estates with herself; and instead of going
honorably to work, he added this reply to his list of discontents
against the King.
His friends even set it about that Edward II. was not the true son of
Edward I.; and a foolish man, named John Deydras, even came forward
professing to be the real Edward of Caernarvon, who had been changed at
nurse; but no one believed him, and he was hanged for treason. A like
story was invented, and even a ballad was current, making Queen Eleanor
of Provence confess that Edmund Crouchback, not Edward I., was the
rightful heir, but that he was set aside on account of his deformity;
and Lancaster, as Edmund's son, was on the watch to profit by the King's
unpopularity. Discontents were on the increase, and were augmented by a
severe famine, and by the constant incursions of the Scots. Such was the
want of corn, that, to prevent the consumption of grain, an edict was
enacted that no beer should be brewed; and meat of any kind was so
scarce, that, though the King decreed that, on pain of forfeiture, an ox
should be sold for sixteen shillings, a sheep for three and sixpence,
and a fowl for a penny, none of these creatures were forthcoming on any
terms. Loathsome animals were eaten; and it was even said that parents
were forced to keep a strict watch over their children, lest they should
be stolen and devoured.
While the King and Queen were banquetting at Westminster, at
Whitsuntide, 1317, a masked lady rode into the hall on horseback, and
delivered a letter to the King. Imagining it to be some sportive
challenge or gay compliment, he ordered that it should be read aloud;
but it proved to be a direful lamentation over the state of England, and
an appeal to him to rouse himself from his pleasures and attend to the
good of his people. The bearer was at once pursued and seized, when she
confessed that she had been sent by a knight; and he, on being summoned,
asked pardon, saying he had not expected that the letter would be read
in public, but that he deemed it the only means of drawing the King's
attention to the miseries of his people. It may be feared that the
letter met with the fate of Jeremiah's roll.
A cloud was already rising in the West, which seemed small and
trifling, but which was fraught with bitter hatred and envy, ere long to
burst in a storm upon the heads of the King and his friends. The first
seeds of strife were sown by the dishonesty of a knight on the borders
of Wales, one William de Breos. He began his career by trying to cheat
his stepmother of her dower of eight hundred marks; and when the law
decided against him, he broke out into such unseemly language against
the judge, that he was sentenced to walk bareheaded from the King's
Bench to the Exchequer to ask pardon, and then committed to the Tower.
In after years he returned to his lordship of Gower, and there committed
an act of fraud which led to the most fatal consequences. Having two
daughters, Aliva and Jane, the eldest of whom was married to John de
Mowbray and the second to James de Bohun, he executed a deed, settling
his whole estate upon Aliva, and, in case of her death without children,
upon Jane. But concealing this arrangement, he next proceeded to sell
Gower three times over--to young Le Despenser, to Roger Mortimer, and to
the Earl of Hereford; and having received all their purchase-money, he
Mowbray took possession of Gower in right of his wife, and was thus
first in the field; but Hugh le Despenser, whose purchase had been
sanctioned by the King, came down upon him with a strong hand, and drove
him out of the property. Thereupon Mowbray made common cause with all
the other cheated claimants, De Bohun joining the head of his house, the
great Earl of Hereford, who, with Roger Mortimer and his uncle, another
Mortimer of the same name, revenged their wrongs by a foray upon Lady
Eleanor le Despenser's estates in Glamorganshire, killing her servants,
burning her castles, and driving off her cattle, so that in a few nights
they had done several thousand pounds' worth of damage. The King, much
incensed, summoned the Earl of Hereford to appeal before the council;
but the Earl demanded that Hugh le Despenser should be previously placed
in the custody of the Earl of Lancaster until the next parliament; and,
on the King's refusal, made another inroad on the lands of the
Despensers, and betook himself to Yorkshire, where the Earl of Lancaster
was collecting all the malcontents.
The two Earls, the Lords of the Marches or borders of Wales, and
thirty-four Barons and Knights, bound themselves by a deed, agreeing to
prosecute the two Despensers until they should be driven into exile, and
to maintain the quarrel to the honor of Heaven and Holy Church, and the
profit of the King and his family. Lancaster proceeded to march upon
London, allowing his men to live upon the plunder of the estates of the
two favorites. From St. Alban's he sent a message to the King, requiring
the banishment of the father and son, and immunity for his own party.
Edward made a spirited answer, that the father was beyond sea in his
service; the son with the fleet; that he would never sentence any man
unheard; and that it would be contrary to his coronation oath to promise
immunity to men in arms against the public peace.
The Barons advanced to London, and, quartering their followers in
Holborn and Clerkenwell, spent a fortnight in deliberation. It appears
that the token of adherence to their party was the wearing of a white
favor, on which account the session of 1321 was called the Parliament of
the White Bands. One day, when these white ensigns mustered strongly,
the Barons brought forward an accusation on eleven counts against the
two Despensers, and on their own authority, in the presence of the King,
banished them from the realm, and pardoned themselves for their rising
in arms. Edward had no power to resist, and, accordingly, the act was
entered on the rolls, and the younger Hugh was driven from Dover, to
join his father on the Continent.
This success rendered the Barons' party insolent, and about two months
after, when Queen Isabel was on pilgrimage to Canterbury, and had sent
her purveyors to prepare a lodging for her at her own royal Castle
of Leeds, the Lady Badlesmere, wife to the Castellane, who was also
governor of Bristol and had received numerous favors from Edward,
refused admittance, fearing damage to her party; and the Queen riding up
in the midst of the parley, a volley of arrows was discharged from the
castle, and six of the royal escort were killed.
Isabel of course complained loudly of such a reception at her own castle,
whereupon Bartholomew Badlesmere himself wrote from Bristol Castle an
impudent letter, justifying his wife's conduct. Isabel was much hurt,
since she had always been friendly to the Barons' party; and when she
found that even her uncle of Lancaster stood by the Badlesmeres, she
persuaded the King to raise an army to revenge the affront offered to her.
Summonses were therefore sent out, and the Londoners, with whom the Queen
was very popular, came in great force, and laid siege to Leeds Castle.
Lady Badlesmere expected to be succored by Lancaster; but he would not
come forward, and in a few days her castle was taken, her steward, Walter
Culpepper, hanged, and herself committed to the Tower.
Such a bold stroke on the King's part emboldened the elder Le Despenser
return to England and join his master. Thereupon Lancaster summoned the
other nobles to meet him at Doncaster, to consult what measures should
be taken against the minions, and led an army to seize Warwick Castle,
which, during the minority of Earl Thomas of Warwick, belonged to the
King. In the meantime, Hugh followed his father, but, with English
respect for order, put himself under custody until his sentence of
banishment should be revoked. The matter was tried before the Bishops of
the province of Canterbury, when it was argued, on behalf of Hugh,
that Magna Charta had been set at naught by his condemnation without a
hearing, and that the King's consent had been extorted by force; and the
Earl of Kent, Edward's brother, with several others, making oath that
they had been overawed by the White Bands, the banishment was declared
illegal, and the prisoners set at liberty.
Lancaster proceeded to raise the north of England; Hereford and the two
Mortimers went to the marches of Wales to collect their forces; and
Edward, for once under the wise counsel of the Chancellor John de
Salmon, set forth alertly in December toward the West, that he might
deal with the two armies separately. He was very popular on the Welsh
border, and met with rapid success, breaking up the forces of the Lords
Marchers before they could come to a head, and finally making both the
Mortimers prisoners, sending them to the Tower. Hereford, with 8,000 men,
made his way to join Lancaster, who was at the head of a considerable
force, and had already taken the miserable step of entering into
correspondence with Robert Bruce, Douglas, and Randolph. Elated by the
succor which they promised, Lancaster advanced and laid siege to Ticknall
Castle, but was forced to retreat on the approach of the King. At
Burton-upon-Trent, however, they halted for three days, with Edward
opposite to them.
"Upon the mount the King his tentage fixt,
And in the town the Barons lay in sight,
When as the Trent was risen so betwixt,
That for a while prolonged the unnatural fight."
However, a ford was found, and the royal army crossing, Lancaster
set fire to Burton, and retreated into Yorkshire, writing again from
Puntefract Castle under the signature of King Arthur, to ask aid from
the Scots, and secure his retreat.
As Michael Drayton observes, "Bridges should seem to Barons ominous;"
for at Boroughbridge, upon the Ure, Lancaster found Sir Andrew Harclay
and Sir Simon Ward, Governors of York and Carlisle, with a band of
northern troops, ready to cut off his retreat. The bridge was too narrow
for cavalry, and Hereford therefore led a charge on foot; but in this
perilous undertaking he was slain by a Welshman who was hidden under the
bridge, and who thrust a lance through a crevice of the boarding into
his body as he passed. His fall discomfited the rest, and Lancaster, who
had been attempting a ford, was driven back by the archery. He tried to
bribe Sir Andrew Harclay. and, failing, begged for a truce of one night,
still hoping that the Scots might arrive. Harclay granted this, but in
early morning summoned the sheriff and the county-force to arrest the
Earl. Lancaster retired into a chapel and, looking on the crucifix,
said, "Good Lord, I render myself to Thee, and put myself into Thy
mercy." He was taken to York for one night, and afterward, to his own
Castle of Pontefract, where, on the King's last disastrous retreat
from Scotland, he had mocked and jeered at his sovereign from the
battlements: and Harclay took care to make generally known the
treasonable correspondence with Scotland, proofs of which had been found
on the person of the dead Hereford.
The King presently arriving at Pontefract, brought Lancaster to trial
before six Earls and a number of Barons; and as his treason was
manifest, he was told that it would be to no purpose to speak in his own
defence, and was sentenced to the death of a traitor. In consideration
of his royal blood, Edward remitted the chief horrors of the execution,
and made it merely decapitation; but as the Earl was led to a hill
outside the town, on a gray pony without a bridle, the mob pelted him
and jeered him by his assumed name of King Arthur. "King of Heaven,"
he cried, "grant me mercy! for the king of earth hath forsaken me." He
knelt by the black with his face to the east, but he was bidden to turn
to the north, that he might look toward his friends, the Scots; and in
this manner he was beheaded. The inhabitants of the northern counties
were not likely to think lightly of the offence of bringing in the
Scots, and yet in a short time there was a strong change of feeling.
Lancaster was mourned as "the good Earl," and miracles were said to be
wrought at his tomb. The King was obliged to write orders to the Bishop
of London to forbid the people from offering worship to his picture hung
up in St. Paul's Church; and Drayton records a tradition that "grass
would never grow where the battle of Boroughbridge had been fought." It
seemed as if Lancaster had succeeded to the reputation of Montfort, as
a protector of the liberties of the country: but to our eyes he appears
more like a mere factious, turbulent noble, acting rather from spite and
party spirit than as a redresser of wrongs; never showing the respect
for law and justice manifested by the opponents of Edward I.; and, in
fact, constraining the Royalists to appeal to Magna Charta against him.
Still there must have been something striking and attractive about him,
for, after his death, even his injured cousin Edward lamented him, and
reproached his nobles for not having interceded for him. Fourteen
bannerets and fourteen other knights were executed, being all who were
taken in arms against the King; the others were allowed to make peace;
and the Mortimers, who had been condemned to death, had their sentence
changed to perpetual imprisonment. Hereford's estates passed on to the
eldest of his large family, the King's own nephews. Lancaster left no
children, but his brother, Henry Wryneck, Earl of Derby, did not
receive his estates till they had been mulcted largely on behalf of
the Despensers. The father was created Earl of Winchester, and the son
received such bounty from the King, that all the old hatred against
Piers Gaveston was revived, though it does not appear that Hugh provoked
dislike by any such follies or extravagances.
The elder Roger Mortimer, the uncle, died in the Tower. The younger
contrived, after a year's imprisonment, to make interest with one of the
servants in the Tower, Gerard de Asplaye, with whose assistance he gave
an entertainment to his guards, drugged their liquor, so as to throw
them into a heavy sleep, broke through the wall into the royal kitchen,
and thence escaped by a rope-ladder. Report afterward averred that it
was the fairest hand in England that drugged the wine and held the rope,
and that Queen Isabel,
"From the wall's height, as when he down did slide,
Had heard him cry, 'Now, Fortune, be my guide!'"
Thus far is certain, that Isabel and Mortimer were inmates of the Tower
at the same time, in the year 1321; for she was left there while the
King was gone in pursuit of Lancaster, and she there gave birth to her
fourth child, Joan. Whether the prisoner then sought an interview with
her, is not known, but he was a remarkably handsome man, and Isabel, at
twenty-six years of age, was beautiful, proud, and with bitterness in
her heart against her husband for his early neglect. She had been on
fairly good terms with him ever since the birth of the Prince of Wales,
and her grace and beauty, her affable manners, and the idea that she was
ill-used, made her a great favorite with the English nation; but she was
angered by the execution of her uncle, the Earl of Lancaster, and from
the time of the King's return she proceeded to manifest great discontent,
and as much dislike and jealousy of the Despensers as she had previously
shown toward Gaveston.
Mortimer escaped to France, and subsequent events made it seem as if
she had been acting in concert with him. He had married a French lady,
Jeanne de Joinville, and was taken at once into the service of King
Charles IV., le Bel, was the youngest of Isabel's brothers, who had
succeeded each other so quickly that it seemed as though the
sacrilegious murder of the Templars was to be visited by the extinction
of the male line of Philippe IV. To Charles, Isabel sent great
complaints, declaring that she was "married to a gripple miser, and was
no better than a waiting-woman, living on a pension from the
Despensers." There had, in fact, been a fierce struggle with them for
power, and they had prevailed to have all her French attendants
dismissed, very probably on the discovery of the transactions with
Mortimer in the Tower, and a yearly income had been assigned to her in
lieu of her royal estates. This was very irregularly paid, for affairs
were in a most confused and disorderly state, managed in a most childish
manner. It appears that, when hunting at Windsor, the Chancellor Baldock
gave the great seal to the King to keep, and that the King made it over
to William de Ayremyne.
There were no doubt grounds for complaint on both sides; but Charles le
Bel saw only his sister's view of the question, and resolved to quarrel
with his brother-in-law. Homage for the Duchy of Aquitaine had not been
rendered to him, and on this pretext he began to exercise all possible
modes of annoyance on the borders, and to give judgment against any
Guiennois or Poitevins who sued against Edward as their liege lord,
Edward remonstrated in vain, and sent his brother Edmund, Earl of Kent,
a fine-looking but weak young man of twenty-two, to endeavor to make
peace, but in vain: on the first pretext, a war on the borders broke
Thereupon Edward took into his custody all the castles belonging to his
wife, declaring that he could not leave them in her hands while she was
in correspondence with the enemies of the country; and yet, with his
usual inconsistent folly, he listened to a proposal from her that she
should go to Paris to bring about a peace with her brother.
With four knights, Isabel crossed the sea, and presently made her
appearance at Paris in the character of an injured Princess, kneeling
before her brother, and asking his protection against the cruelty of her
husband; to which Charles replied, "Sister, be comforted; for, by my
faith to Monseigneur St. Denis, I will find a remedy."
Isabel was lodged at the court of France, and treated with distinction.
Mortimer and all the banished English repaired to her abode, and all the
chivalry of France regarded her as an exiled heroine. She wrote to her
husband that peace might be scoured by the performance of the neglected
homage, and he was actually setting out for the purpose, when, in a
second letter, she told him that his own presence was not needed, but
that his ceremony might be gone through by his son Edward, Prince of
Wales, provided the duchy were placed in his hands as an appanage.
This proposal met with approval, and young Edward, then twelve years
old, under the charge of the Bishops of Exeter and Oxford, was sent to
Paris, after having promised his father to hasten his return, and not to
marry without his consent.
No sooner had the boy arrived, than the homage was performed, and Edward
expected the return of both mother and son; but they still delayed, and
on receiving urgent letters from him, the Queen made public declaration
that she did not believe her life in safety from the Despensers.
Poor King Edward, amazed, and almost thinking her under a delusion,
roused all the prelates in the realm to write to her in defence of his
friends, and himself wrote to her brother, saying that she could have no
reasonable fear of any man in his dominions, since, if Hugh or any other
person wished to do her any harm, he himself would be the first to
resent it. He wrote likewise pre-emptorily to the Prince to return, but
all in vain; and a light was thrown on their proceedings, when Walter
Stapleton, Bishop of Exeter, returned home as a fugitive, having
discovered a plot on Mortimer's part against his own life, and bringing
word that Isabel's affection for Mortimer was the true cause of delay.
It would also seem that the Bishop had in part detected a conspiracy
against his master, for there were orders instantly sent to search all
letters arriving at any of the ports.
After Stapleton's return, Edward's letters to Charles, and even to the
Pope, became so pressing, that for very shame Charles could not allow
his sister to remain at Paris any longer, and, rather than provoke a
war, he dismissed her. She was a woman of great plausibility and
fascination, and she not only persuaded her young son to believe her in
danger from his father, but she also won over her brother-in-law, the
Earl of Kent, as well as her cousin, the Sieur Robert d'Artois; and
setting out from Paris in their company, she proceeded to the
independent German principalities in the guise of a dame-errant of
romance, misused by her husband, maltreated by her brother, denied a
refuge even in her native country, and seeking aid from foreign princes.
Every chivalrous heart, deluded by appearances, glowed with enthusiasm.
At Ostrevant, John, the brother of the Count of Hainault, came and vowed
himself her knight, promising to redress her wrongs. He conducted her to
his brother's court at Hainault; and there the young Edward first beheld
the plump, blue-eyed, fair-haired, honest Philippa, a girl of about his
own age, and a youthful true-love sprang up between them--the sole gleam
of light in this dark period.
Isabel's beautiful face and mournful tale deluded the young, as did
Mortimer's promises the covetous. She finally set sail from Dort with
2,500 French and Brabancons, under the charge of Sir John of Hainault,
and landed at Orwell, in Suffolk. The King had ordered that any one who
landed on the coast should be treated as a traitor, except the Queen
and the Prince, and had set a price on the head of Mortimer; but no
one attended to him. Isabel had won the sympathy of the nation by her
fancied wrongs; and Adam Orleton, Bishop of Hereford, a former partisan
of Lancaster, was working in her cause.
Both the King's brothers, and his cousin, Henry of Lancaster, were of
her party; and the universal dislike and jealousy of Despenser made the
more loyal disinclined to exert themselves in the King's behalf. He
summoned the Londoners to take up arms, but was answered, that though
they would shut the gates against all foreigners, they would not be led
more than a day's march beyond the city walls. He could only seek a
refuge among his more attached subjects, the Welsh; and leaving his
younger children and his niece, the wife of Hugh le Despenser, in the
Tower, he set off for the marches of Wales. No sooner was he gone, than
the citizens rose, seized the Tower, and murdered the loyal Bishop of
Exeter at St. Paul's Cross, throwing his body into the mud of the river,
and sending his head to the Queen.
The Queen, whose army increased every day, had arrived at Oxford, where
Adam Orleton preached a disgraceful sermon on the text, "My head, my
head acheth," wherein he averred the startling prescription that the
cure for an aching head was to cut it off, and that the present head of
England needed this decisive remedy.
The poor King had gone to Gloucester, whence he sent the elder Le
Despenser to hold out Bristol Castle; but the townspeople proved so
disaffected, that the castle was forced to surrender to the rebels on
the third day. The Queen appointed a judge, who sentenced the old man,
ninety years of age, to be put to death; and the murder was committed
the following day, with all the circumstances of atrocity that had been
spared to Lancaster. At Bristol, Isabel became aware that her husband
had fled farther to the West; he had, in fact, sailed, with Hugh le
Despenser and the Chancellor Baldock, for Ireland, but he was driven
back by contrary winds, and forced to land in Glamorganshire. He
wandered from castle to castle, and was besieged at Caerphilli, whence
it is said that he escaped at night in the disguise of a peasant; and,
to avoid detection, himself assisted in carrying brushwood to feed the
fires of the besiegers. He next took refuge in a farmhouse, where the
farmer tried to baffle the pursuers by setting him to dig; but his
awkwardness in handling the spade had nearly betrayed him. For a short
time he tarried at Neath Abbey, but left it lest the monks should suffer
for giving him shelter. At the end of another week Despenser and Baldock
were discovered, and delivered up to Henry of Lancaster; and on this
Edward came forward and gave himself up, to save them, or to share their
There was no hope; the King was kept in close custody, and Baldock was
so ill-treated that he died shortly after. Hugh le Despenser would eat
no food after he was taken; and, lest death should balk revenge, he was
at once brought to a sham trial, and accused of every misfortune that
had befallen England--of the loss of Bannockburn; of conspiracy against
the Queen; of counselling the death of Lancaster; and of suppressing
the miracles at his tomb. For all which deeds Sir Hugh le Despenser was
sentenced to die as a wicked and attainted traitor; and immediately
after he was drawn to execution in a black gown, with his scutcheon
reversed, and a wreath of nettles around his head--but, happily, nearly
insensible from exhaustion--and was hanged on a gallows fifty feet high.
His son Hugh, a spirited young man of nineteen, held out Caerphilli
Castle manfully, until he actually obtained a promise of safety, and
lived to transmit the honors of the oldest barony now existing in
The Earl of Arundel was likewise executed, and Mortimer seized his
property; after which the Queen set out for London, summoning the
Parliament to meet at Westminster.
In this Parliament Adam Orleton began by making outrageous speeches as
to the certain death it would be to the Queen and Prince if the King
were released and restored to his authority, and he called upon the
Lords to choose whether father or son should be King. The London mob
clamored in fury without, ardent for the ruin of the King; and the
Archbishop, saying, _Vox populi vox Dei_, added his influence. Young
Edward was led forward, and a few hymns being hastily sung, received the
oaths of allegiance of all the peers present, except the prelates of
York, London, Rochester, and Carlisle, who boldly maintained the rights
of the captive King, though with great danger to themselves.
The Bishop of Rochester was thrown down by the furious mob, and nearly
murdered; and the sight so terrified the other friends of the poor King,
that not a voice was raised in his defence. A bill was passed declaring
Edward II. deposed, and Edward III. the sovereign; whereupon Isabel, to
keep up appearances, lamented so much, that she actually deceived her
son, who came forward, and with great spirit declared that he would
never deprive his father of the crown.
The King was at Kenilworth, honorably treated by his cousin, Henry of
Lancaster, and thither a deputation was sent to force him to resign his
dignity. The Bishops of Winchester and Lincoln were first sent to him to
argue, threaten, and persuade, and, when they thought him sufficiently
prepared, led him in a plain black gown to make his formal renunciation.
At the sight of his mortal enemy, Orleton, Edward sank to the ground,
but recovered enough to listen to a violent discourse from that rebel
prelate, reproaching him with all his misconduct, and requiring him
to lay aside his crown. Meekly, and weeping floods of tears, Edward
replied, that "he was in their hands, and they must do what seemed good
to them; he only thanked them for their goodness to his son, and owned
his own sins to be the sole cause of his misfortunes."
Then Sir William Trussel, in the name of all England, revoked the oath
of allegiance, and the steward of the household broke his staff of
office, as he would have done had it been the funeral of his master.
Would that it had been his funeral, must have been the wish of the
unfortunate Sir Edward of Caernarvon, as he was thenceforth termed;
disowned, degraded, with wife, son, and brothers turned against him; not
one voice uplifted in his favor; all his friends murdered. He wrote some
melancholy Latin verses during his captivity, full of sad complaints of
the inconstancy of Fortune; but he had not yet experienced the worst
that was in store for him. At first, presents of clothes and kindly
messages were sent to him by the Queen; and when he begged to see her or
his children, she replied that it would not be permitted by Parliament.
He pleaded again and again, and Henry of Lancaster began so far to
appear his friend, that Isabel took alarm. The Pope refused her request
that Thomas of Lancaster should be canonized as a saint and martyr, and
she feared that he might even interfere on the King's behalf, and oblige
her to give up Mortimer, and return to her husband.
Orleton had been sent on an embassy to the Papal court, but he was there
consulted by the Queen whether the King should be allowed to live. His
answer was the ambiguous line: "Edwardum occidere nolite timere bonum
est." (Edward to kill be unwilling to fear it is good.)
Doubt, in such a case, is certain to end in evil. That the King should
die, was determined, and the charge of the unfortunate monarch was
therefore transferred to Maurice, Lord Berkeley, and to Sir John
Maltravers. The latter set out with two men, named Ogle and Gurney, to
escort the King from Kenilworth. At Bristol such demonstrations were
made in his favor, that, taking alarm, his keepers clad him in mean and
scanty garments, and made him ride toward Corfe in the chilly April
night, scoffing and jeering him; and when, in the morning, they paused
to arrange their dress, they set a crown of hay in derision on his head,
and brought him, in an old helmet, filthy ditch-water to shave with.
With a shower of tears he strove to smile, saying that, in spite of
them, his cheeks were covered with pure warm water enough. They brought
him to Berkeley Castle, on the Severn, and there, it is said, tried to
poison him; but his strength of constitution resisted the potion, and
did not fail, under confinement or insufficient diet. At last, when
Berkeley was ill, and absent, came the night,
"When Severn should re-echo with affright
The sounds of death through Berkeley's roofs that ring,
Shrieks of an agonizing king."
At those cries many a countryman awoke, crossed himself, and prayed as
for a soul departing in torment. Seven months after his deposition,
Edward of Caernarvon lay dead in Berkeley Castle, and the gates were
thrown open, and the chief burghers of Bristol admitted to see his
corpse. No sign of violence was visible, but the features, once so
beautiful, were writhed into such a look of agony, that the citizens
came away awed and horrified; and hearing the villagers speak of the
cries that had rung from the walls the night before, felt certain that
the late King had perished by a strange and frightful murder.
But those were no days for inquiry, and the royal corpse was hastily
borne to Gloucester Abbey Church, and there buried. The impression,
however, could not be forgotten; multitudes flocked to pray at the
shrine of the dead sovereign, whom living no one would befriend: and
such offerings were made at his tomb, that the monks raised a beautiful
new south aisle to the church; nay, they could have built the church
over again with the means thus acquired. A monument was raised over his
grave, and his effigy was carved on it--a robed and crowned figure, with
hands meekly folded, and a face of such exquisite, appealing sweetness,
dignity, and melancholy, that it is hardly possible to look at it
without tears, or to help believing that even thus might Edward have
looked when, in all the nobleness of patience, he stood forgiving his
persecutors, as they crowned him in scorn with grass, and derided his
misfortunes. A weak and frivolous man, cruelly sinned against, Edward of
Caernarvon was laid in his untimely grave in the forty-third year of his
Thus ended the Barons' Wars, no patriotic resistance of an opposition
who used sword and lance instead of the tongue and the pen, but the
factious jealousy of men who became ferocious in their hatred of
GOOD KING ROBERT'S TESTAMENT.
_Kings of England_.
1307. Edward II.
1327. Edward III.
1322. Charles IV.
_King of Scotland_.
1306. Robert I.
_King of France_.
1314. Louis X.
1316. Philippe V.
_Emperor of Germany_.
1314. Louis V.
1305. Clement V.
1316. John XXII.
As England waxed feebler, Scotland waxed stronger and became aggressive.
Robert's queen was dead, and he married Elizabeth, daughter of the Earl
of Ulster, thus making his brother Edward doubtful whether the Scottish
crown would descend to him, and anxious to secure a kingdom for himself.
Ireland had not been reconciled in two centuries to the domination of
the Plantagenets. The Erse, or Irish, believed themselves brethren of
the Scots, and in all their wanderings and distresses the Bruces had
found shelter, sympathy, and aid in the wild province of Ulster. It
seemed, therefore, to Edward Bruce a promising enterprise to offer the
Irish chieftains deliverance from the English yoke; and they eagerly
responded to his proposal. In 1314, he crossed the sea with a small
force, before any one was ready for him, and was obliged at once to
return, having thus given the alarm; so that Sir Edward Butler, the Lord
Deputy, hurried to the defence, and had mustered his forces by the time
Edward Bruce arrived, the next spring, with 6,000 men. He was actually
crowned King, and laid siege to Carrickfergus, while the wild chieftains
of Connaught broke into the English settlements, and did great mischief,
till they were defeated at Athenry by the Earl of Ulster's brother and
Sir Richard Bermingham. After the battle, Sir Richard Bermingham sent
out his page, John Hussy, with a single attendant, to "turn up and
peruse" the bodies, to see whether his mortal foe O'Kelly were among
them. O'Kelly presently started out of a bush where he had been hidden,
and thus addressed the youth: "Hussy, thou seest I am at all points
armed, and have my esquire, a manly man, beside me. Thou art thin, and
a youngling; so that, if I loved thee not for thine own sake, I might
betray thee for thy master's. But come and serve me at my request, and I
promise thee, by St. Patrick's staff, to make thee a lord in Connaught
of more ground than thy master hath in Ireland." Hussy treated the offer
with scorn, whereupon his attendant, "a stout lubber, began to reprove
him for not relenting to so rich a proffer." Hussy's answer was, to cut
down the knave; next, "he raught to O'Kelly's squire a great rap under
the pit of the ear, which overthrew him; thirdly, he bestirred himself
so nimbly, that ere any help could be hoped for, he had also slain
O'Kelly, and perceiving breath in the squire, he drawed him up again,
and forced him upon a truncheon to bear his lord's head into the high
These notable exploits were rewarded by knighthood and the lordship of
Robert Bruce brought a considerable army to the assistance of his
brother, and wasted the country up to the walls of Dublin; but Roger
Mortimer coming to the relief of the city, he was forced to retreat. It
was a horrible devastation that he made, and yet this was only what was
then supposed to be the necessity of war, for it was while burning many
a homestead, and reducing multitudes to perish with famine, that Bruce
halted his whole army to protect one sick and suffering washerwoman.
"This was a full great courtesy,
That swilk a king and so mighty
Gert his men dwell on this manner
But for a poor lavender."
Bruce was one of the many men tender to the friend, ruthless to the foe;
merciful to sufferings he beheld, merciless to those out of his sight.
He returned to Scotland, and Mortimer to England, both leaving horrible
hunger and distress behind them, and Mortimer in debt L1,000 to the city
of Dublin, "whereof he payde not one smulkin, and many a bitter curse he
carried with him beyond sea."
Edward Bruce continued to reign in Ulster until the 5th of October,
1318, when the last and nineteenth battle was fought between him and the
English, contrary to the advice of his wisest captains. His numbers were
very inferior, and almost the whole were slain. Edward Bruce and Sir
John Malpas, an English knight, were found lying one upon the other,
slain by each other's hands in the deadly conflict. Robert, who was on
the way to bring reinforcements to his brother, turned back on hearing
the tidings, and employed his forces against his old foe, John of
Lorn, in the Western Isles, and it was on this occasion that, to avoid
doubling the Mull of Cantire, he dragged his ships upon a wooden slide
across the neck of land between the two locks of Tarbut--a feat often
performed by the fishermen, and easy with the small galleys of his
fleet, but which had a great effect on the minds of the Islemen, for
there was an old saying--
"That he should gar shippes sua
Betwixt those seas with sailis gae
Should win the Islis sua till hand,
That nane with strength should him withstand."
Accordingly they submitted, and Lorn, being taken, was shut up for life
in Lochleven Castle.
It was about the time of Edward Bruce's wild reign in Ulster that Dublin
University was founded by Archbishop Bigmore; and in contrast to this
advance in learning, a few years later, a horrible and barbarous warfare
raged, because Lord de la Poer was supposed to have insulted Maurice of
Desmond by calling him a rhymer. Moreover, at Kilkenny, a lady, called
Dame Alice Kettle, was cited before the Bishop of Ossory for witchcraft.
It was alleged that she had a familiar spirit, to whom she was wont to
sacrifice nine red cocks, and nine peacocks' eyes; that she had a staff
"on which she ambled through thick and thin;" and that between compline
and twilight she was wont to sweep the streets, singing,
"To the house of William, my son,
Hie all the wealth of Kilkenny town."
She was acquitted on the charge of witchcraft, but her enemies next
attacked her on the ground of heresy, and succeeded in accomplishing her
The Pope at Avignon assisted the English cause by keeping Bruce and his
kingdom under an interdict; but the Scots continued to make inroads
on England, and year after year the most frightful devastation was
committed. In 1319, the Archbishop of York, hoping for another Battle of
the Standard, collected all his clergy and their tenants, and led
them against Douglas and Randolph at Mitton; but their efforts were
unavailing, and such multitudes were slain, that the field was covered
with the white surplices they wore over their armor, and the combat was
called the Chapter of Mitton.
For many long years were the northern provinces the constant prey of
the Scots, as the discords of the English laid their country open to
invasion. Bruce himself was indeed losing his strength, the leprosy
contracted during his life of wandering and distress was gaining ground
on his constitution, and unnerving his strong limbs; but Douglas and
Randolph gallantly supplied his place at the head of his armies, and
his affairs were everywhere prospering. He had indeed lost his eldest
daughter Marjorie, but she had left a promising son, Robert Stuart; and
to himself a son had likewise been born, named David, after the royal
Saint of Scotland, and so handsome and thriving a child, that it was
augured that he would be a warrior of high prowess.
Rome was induced, in 1323, to acknowledge Robert as King, on his promise
to go on a crusade to recover the Holy Land--a promise he was little
likely to be in a condition to fulfil; and Edward II began to enter into
negotiations, and make proposals, that disputes should be set aside by
the betrothal of the little David and his youngest daughter, Joan. But
these arrangements were broken off by the rebellion of Isabel, and the
deposition of Edward of Caernarvon; and Bruce sent Douglas and Randolph
to make a fresh attack upon Durham and Northumberland. The wild army
were all on horseback; the knights and squires on tolerable steeds, the
poorer sort on rough Galloways. They needed no forage for their animals
save the grass beneath their feet, no food for themselves except the
cattle which they seized, and whose flesh they boiled in their hides.
Failing these, each man had a bag of oatmeal, and a plate of metal on
which he could bake his griddle-cakes. This was their only baggage; true
to the Lindsay motto, the stars were their only tents: and thus they
flashed from one county to another, doing infinite mischief, and the
dread of every one.
While young Edward III was being crowned, they had well-nigh seized the
Castle of Norham. The tidings filled the boy with fire and indignation.
He was none of the meek, indifferent stock that the Planta Genista
sometimes bore, but all the resolution and brilliancy of the line had
descended on him in full measure, and all the sweetness and courtesy,
together with all the pride and ambition of his race, shone in his blue
eye, and animated his noble and gracious figure. He was well-read in
chivalrous tales, and it was time that he should perform deeds of arms
worthy of his ladye-love, the flaxen-haired Philippa of Hainault.
Strange was the contrast of the pure, ardent spirit, with the scenes of
shame and disgrace of which he was as yet unconscious. He knew not that
he was a usurper--that one parent was perishing in a horrible captivity,
the other holding himself and his kingdom in shameful trammels, and
giving them over into the power of her traitorous lover.
But Edward was sixteen, and Isabel and Mortimer could only hope to
continue their dominion by keeping him at a distance; and he was
therefore placed at the head of a considerable army, with Sir John of
Hainault as his adviser, and sent forth to deliver his country from the
Good Sir John of Hainault, accustomed to prick his heavy Flemish
war-horse over the Belgian undulating plains, that Nature would seem
to have designed for fair battle-fields, was no match for the light
horsemen of the Scots, trained to wild, desultory warfare. He and his
young King thought the respectable way of fighting was for one side to
wait civilly for the other, interchange polite defiances on either side,
take no advantage of ground, but ride fairly at each other with pennons
flying and trumpets sounding, like a tournament; and they did not at all
approve of enemies of whom they saw no trace but a little distant smoke
in the horizon, and black embers of villages wherever they marched.
There was no coming up with them. The barons set forth in the morning,
fierce, and wound up for a battle, pennons displayed, and armor
burnished; but by and by the steeds floundered in the peat-bogs, the
steep mountain-sides were hard to climb for men and horses cased in
proof armor, and when shouts or cries broke out at a distance, and with
sore labor the knights struggled to the spot in hopes of an engagement,
it proved to have been merely the hallooing of some other part of the
army at the wild deer that bounded away from the martial array. When, at
night, they reached the banks of the Tyne, and had made their way across
the ford, they found themselves in evil case, for all their baggage
and provisions were far behind, stuck in the bogs, or stumbling up the
mountain-sides, and they had nothing to eat but a single loaf, which
each man had carried strapped behind him, and which had a taste of all
the various peat-bogs into which he had sunk. The horses had nothing to
eat, and there was nothing to fasten them to, so that their masters were
forced to spend the whole night holding them by the bridles. They hoped
for better things at dawn, but with it came rain, which swelled the
river so much that none of the foot or baggage could hope to cross, nor,
indeed, could any messenger return to find out where they were. The
gentlemen were forced to set to work with their swords to cut down green
boughs to weave into huts, and to seek for grass and leaves for their
horses. By and by came some peasants, who told them they were fourteen
miles from Newcastle and eleven from Carlisle, and no provisions could
be obtained any nearer. Messengers were instantly sent off, promising
safety and large prices to any one who would bring victuals to the
famishing camp, and the burghers of Newcastle and Carlisle seem to have
reaped a rich harvest, by sending a moderate supply of bread and wine
at exorbitant prices. For a whole week of rain did the army continue in
this disconsolate position, without tents, fire, or candle, and with
perpetual rain, till the saddles and girths were rotted, the horses
wasted to skeletons, and the army, with rusted mail and draggled banners
and plumes, a dismal contrast to the gay troops who had lately set
After waiting a week, fancying the Scots must pass the ford, they gave
up this hope, and resolved to re-cross higher up. Edward set forth a
proclamation, that the man who should lead him where he could cope on
dry ground with the Scots, should be knighted by his own hand, and
receive a hundred pounds a year in land. Fifteen gentlemen, thus
incited, galloped off in quest of the enemy, and one of them, an esquire
named Thomas Rokeby, who made toward Weardale, not only beheld the Scots
encamped on the steep hill-side sloping toward the Wear, but was seized
by their outposts, and led before Douglas. Sir James was in a
position where he had no objection to see King Edward, with a natural
fortification of rocks on his flanks, a mountain behind, and the river
foaming in a swollen torrent over the rocks in the ravine in front of
him. So, when Rokeby had told his tale, Douglas gave him his ransom
and liberty, on the sole condition that he should not rest till he had
brought the tidings to the King--terms which he was not slow to fulfil.
He found the English army on the Derwent, at the ruined Augustinian
monastery of Blanchland; and, highly delighted, Edward gave the promised
reward, and the army prepared for a battle by confession and hearing
mass. Then all set forth in high spirits, and came to the spot, where
they were so close to the enemy that they could see the arms on the
shields of the nobles, and the red, hairy buskins of the ruder sort,
shaped from the hides of the cattle they had killed.
Edward made his men dismount, thinking to cross the river; but, on
examination, he found this impossible. He then sent an invitation to the
Scottish leaders to come out and have a fair fight; but at this they
laughed, saying that they had burnt and spoiled in his land, and it was
his part to punish them as he could; they should stay there as long as
they pleased. As it was known that there was neither bread nor wine in
their camp, it was hoped that this would not be very long; but from the
merriment nightly heard round the watchfires, it seemed that oatmeal
and beef satisfied them just as well, and the English were far more
miserable in their position.
On the third night, though the fires blazed and the horns resounded at
midnight, by dawn nothing was to be seen but the bare, gray hill-side.
The Scots had made off during the night, and were presently discovered
perched in a similar spot on the river side, only with a wood behind
them, called Stanhope Park.
Again Edward encamped on the other side of the river, and watched the
foe in vain. One night, however, Douglas, with a small body of men,
crept across the river at a ford higher up, and stealing to the
precincts of the camp, rode past the sentry, crying out in an English
tone, "Ha, St. George! no watch here!" and made his way into the midst
of the tents, smiling to himself at the murmur of an English soldier,
that the Black Douglas might yet play them some trick. Presently, with
loud shouts of "Douglas! Douglas! English thieves, ye shall die!" his
men fell on the sleeping army, and had slain three hundred in a very
short time, while he made his way to the royal tent, cut the ropes,
and as the boy, "a soldier then for holidays," awoke, "by his couch,
a grisly chamberlain," stood the Black Lord James! His chaplain threw
himself between, and fell in the struggle, while Edward crept out under
the canvas, and others of the household came to his rescue. The whole
army was now awakened, and Douglas fought his way out on the other
side of the camp, blowing his horn to collect his men. On his return,
Randolph asked him what he had done. "Only drawn a little blood," said
"Ah!" said Randolph, "we should have gone down with the whole army."
"The risk would have been over-great," said Douglas.
"Then must we fight them, by open day, for our provisions are failing,
and we shall soon be famished."
"Nay," said Sir James, "let us treat them as the fox did the fisherman,
who, finding him eating a salmon before the fire in his hut, drew his
sword, and stood in the doorway, meaning to slay him without escape. But
the fox seized a mantle, and drew it over the fire; the fisherman flew
to save his mantle, and Master Fox made off safely with the salmon by
the door unguarded!"
On this model the wary Scot arranged his retreat, making a multitude of
hurdles of wattled boughs to be laid across the softer places in the bog
behind them, and giving secret orders that all should be ready to move
at night. This could not be done so secretly that some tidings did not
reach the English; but they expected another night-attack, and, though
they continued under arms, made no attempt to ascertain the proceedings
of the enemy till daybreak, when, crossing the river, they found nothing
alive but five poor English prisoners bound naked to trees, with their
legs broken. Around them lay five hundred large cattle, killed because
they went too slowly to be driven along, three hundred skins filled with
meat and water hung over the fires, one hundred spits with meat on
them, and ten thousand of the hairy shoes of the Scots--the enemy were
entirely gone; and Edward, baffled, grieved, and ashamed, fairly burst
into tears at his disappointment.
His army was unable to continue the pursuit, and in two days arrived at
Durham, where the honest burghers had stored under outhouses all the
wagons that had been left behind in the advance thirty-two days before,
each with a little flag to show whose property it was. Tidings being
brought that the Scots had gone to their own country, Edward turned
his face southward, and, by the time he reached York, had had the
mortification of losing all his horses, from the privations the poor
creatures had undergone; while the discontent of his subjects found
vent in ascribing all the misfortunes to Roger Mortimer's treachery--an
additional crime of which he may fairly be acquitted. Edward continued
at York all that autumn, apparently keeping aloof from his mother's
court; or else it was her object to prevent him from perceiving the
guilty counsels that there prevailed, and which resulted in the murder
of his father. To York Sir John of Hainault fetched the young bride,
his niece Philippa, and the marriage took place in the cathedral on St.
Paul's Day, 1328, the two young people being then sixteen and fifteen
years of age. Meantime, Robert Bruce, partially recovering, laid siege
to Norham, and in the exhausted state of England it was decided to offer
him peace, fully acknowledging his right to the throne, yielding up the
regalia and the royal stone of Scotland, and uniting his son David with
the little Princess Joan.
The nation were exceedingly angry at the peace, necessary as it was, and
charged the disgrace upon Mortimer. They rose in tumult, and prevented
the coronation-stone from being taken away, and they called the marriage
a base alliance. Even Edward himself refused to be present with his
young wife at the marriage of his little sister, which was to take place
at Berwick. His mother tried to induce him to come, by arranging a
joust; she had six spears painted splendidly for his use, others for
his companions, and three hundred and sixty more for other English
gentlemen; but he was resolved to keep his Philippa aloof from the
company of Mortimer and his mother, and remained with her at Woodstock,
notwithstanding all temptations to display.
Bruce was too ill to go to Berwick, but gave his son, then five years
old, into the charge of Douglas and Randolph. The little bride, called
by the Scots Joan Makepeace, was conducted by her mother and Mortimer
with the most brilliant pomp.
Mortimer's display and presumption outdid even poor Piers Gaveston: he
had one hundred and eighty knights in his own train alone, and their
dress was so fantastically gay that the Scots jested on them, and made
rhymes long current in the North:
Gay coats, graceless,
Painted hoods, witless,
Maketh England thriftless."
Queen Isabel herself was wont to wear such a tower on her head, that
doorways had to be altered to enable her to pass under them; and her
expenses were so great, that no revenue was left to maintain her young
Henry, sometimes called Wryneck, Earl of Derby, brother of the rebel
Thomas of Lancaster, and Thomas and Edmund, Earls of Norfolk and Kent,
the youngest sons of Edward I., had begun bitterly to repent of having
been deceived by this wicked woman. Even Adam Orleton had quarrelled
with her for attempting to exact a monstrous bribe for making him Bishop
of Winchester; but Mortimer was determined to keep up his power by
violence. At a parliament at Salisbury, where the young King and Queen
were presiding, he broke in with his armed followers, and carried them
off in a sort of captivity to Winchester. The three Earls took up arms,
but the Earls of Kent and Norfolk, who seem to have had their full share
of the family folly, deserted Lancaster, and he was forced to make
peace, after paying an immense fine.
Still Isabel and Mortimer felt their insecurity, or else they had such
an appetite for treachery and murder, that they were driven on to commit
further crimes. A report was set about that Edward of Caernarvon
was still living in Corfe Castle, and one of his actual murderers,
Maltravers, offered the unfortunate Edmund of Kent to convey letters
from him to his brother; nay, it was arranged, for his further
deception, that he should peep into a dungeon and behold at a distance a
captive, who had sufficient resemblance to the late King to be mistaken
for him in the gloom. Letters were written by the Earl and his wife to
the imaginary prisoner, and entrusted to Maltravers, who carried them
at once to Queen Isabel. A sufficient body of evidence having thus been
procured for her purposes, the unfortunate Edmund was arraigned before
the parliament at Winchester, when he confessed that the letters had
been written by himself; and, further, that a preaching friar had
conjured up a spirit on whose authority he believed his brother to be
alive. He was found guilty of treason, and sentenced to death by persons
who expected that his rank would save him; but the She-wolf of France
was resolved on having his blood, and decreed that he should die the
next day. Such was the horror at the sentence, that the headsman stole
secretly away from Winchester to avoid performing his office, and for
four long hours of the 13th of March, 1329, did Earl Edmund Plantagenet
stand on the scaffold above the castle gate, waiting till some one could
be found to put him to death, in the name of his own nephew and by the
will of his mother's niece. He was only twenty-eight, and had four
little children; and, in those dreary hours, what must not have been his
hopes that the young Edward would awaken to a sense of the wickedness
that was being perpetrated, so abhorrent to his warm and generous
nature! But hopes were vain. Queen Isabel "kept her son so beset" all