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[Illustration: LANDING OF THE ROMANS 54 B.C.]
Comic History of England
HEREIN WILL BE FOUND A RECITAL OF THE MANY EVENTFUL EVENTS WHICH
TRANSPIRED IN ENGLAND FROM THE DRUIDS TO HENRY VIII. THE AUTHOR DOES NOT
FEEL IT INCUMBENT ON HIM TO PRESERVE MORE THAN THE DATES AND FACTS, AND
THESE ARE CORRECT, BUT THE LIGHTS AND SHADES OF THE VARIOUS PICTURES AND
THE ORNAMENTAL WORDS FURNISHED TO ADORN THE CHARACTERS AND EVENTS ARE
THE SOLE INVENTION OF THIS HISTORIAN.
[Illustration: KING RICHARD TRAVELING INCOG. THROUGH GERMANY.]
W.W. GOODES & A.M. RICHARDS
The readers of this volume will share our regret that the preface cannot
be written by Mr. Nye, who would have introduced his volume with a
characteristically appropriate and humorous foreword in perfect harmony
with the succeeding narrative.
We need only say that this work is in the author's best vein, and will
prove not only amusing, but instructive as well; for the events,
successions, dates, etc., are correct, and the trend of actual facts is
adhered to. Of course, these facts are "embellished," as Mr. Nye would
say, by his fancy, and the leading historical characters are made to
play in fantastic _roles_. Underneath all, however, a shrewd knowledge
of human nature is betrayed, which unmasks motives and reveals the true
inwardness of men and events with a humorous fidelity.
The unfortunate illness to which Mr. Nye finally succumbed prevented the
completion of his history beyond the marriage of Henry VIII. to Anne
[Illustration: LANDING OF WILLIAM, PRINCE OF ORANGE, AT TORBAY
TABLE OF CONTENTS.
INVASION OF CAESAR: THE DISCOVERY OF TIN AND CONSEQUENT ENLIGHTENMENT OF
THE VARIOUS ROMAN YOKES: THEIR GROWTH, DEGENERATION, AND FINAL
THE ADVENT OF THE ANGLES: CAUSES WHICH LED TO THE REHABILITATION OF
BRITAIN ON NEW LINES
THE INFLUX OF THE DANES: FACTS SHOWING CONCLUSIVELY THEIR INFLUENCE ON
THE BRITON OF TO-DAY
THE TROUBLOUS MIDDLE AGES: DEMONSTRATING A SHORT REIGN FOR THOSE WHO
TRAVEL AT A ROYAL GAIT
THE DANISH OLIGARCHY: DISAFFECTIONS ATTENDING CHRONIC USURPATION
OTHER DISAGREEABLE CLAIMANTS: FOREIGN FOIBLES INTRODUCED, ONLY TO BE
EXPUNGED WITH CHARACTERISTIC PUGNACITY
THE NORMAN CONQUEST: COMPLEX COMMINGLING OF FACETIOUS ACCORD AND
THE FEUDAL SYSTEM: SUCCESSFUL INAUGURATION OF HOMOGENEAL METHODS FOR
RESTRICTING INCOMPATIBLE DEMAGOGUES
THE AGE OF CHIVALRY: LIGHT DISSERTATION ON THE KNIGHTS-ERRANT, MAIDS,
FOOLS, PRELATES, AND OTHER NOTORIOUS CHARACTERS OF THAT PERIOD
CONQUEST OF IRELAND: UNCOMFORTABLE EFFECTS FOLLOWING THE CULTIVATION OF
AN ACQUISITORIAL PROPENSITY
MAGNA CHARTA INTRODUCED: SLIGHT DIFFICULTIES ENCOUNTERED IN OVERCOMING
AN UNPOPULAR AND UNREASONABLE PREJUDICE
FURTHER DISAGREEMENTS RECORDED: ILLUSTRATING THE AMIABILITY OF THE JEW
AND THE PERVERSITY OF THE SCOT
IRRITABILITY OF THE FRENCH: INTERMINABLE DISSENSION, ASSISTED BY THE
PLAGUE, CONTINUES REDUCING THE POPULATION
MORE SANGUINARY TRIUMPHS: ONWARD MARCH OF CIVILIZATION GRAPHICALLY
DELINEATED WITH THE HISTORIAN'S USUAL COMPLETENESS
UNPLEASANT CAPRICES OF ROYALTY: INTRODUCTION OF PRINTING AS A SUBSIDIARY
AID IN THE PROGRESS OF EMANCIPATION
BIOGRAPHY OF RICHARD III.: BEING AN ALLEGORICAL PANEGYRIC OF THE
INCONTROVERTIBLE MACHINATIONS OF AN EGOTISTICAL USURPER
DISORDER STILL THE POPULAR FAD: GENERAL ADMIXTURE OF PRETENDERS,
RELIGION, POLITICS, AND DISGRUNTLED MONARCHS
[Illustration: THE DEATH OF MARY REVIVED THE HOPES OF THE
FRIENDS OF JAMES II., AND CONSPIRACIES WERE FORMED.]
[Illustration: DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH.]
[Illustration: GEORGE FOX.]
[Illustration: GENERAL BANKRUPTCY AND RUIN FOLLOWED THE CLOSING OF THE
EXCHEQUER OR TREASURY BY CHARLES II. (1672).]
[Illustration: CHARLES II.]
[Illustration: DUKE OF MONMOUTH IMPLORING FORGIVENESS OF JAMES II.
INVASION OF CAESAR: THE DISCOVERY OF TIN AND CONSEQUENT ENLIGHTENMENT OF
[Illustration: BUST OF CAESAR.]
From the glad whinny of the first unicorn down to the tip end of the
nineteenth century, the history of Great Britain has been dear to her
descendants in every land, 'neath every sky.
But to write a truthful and honest history of any country the historian
should, that he may avoid overpraise and silly and mawkish sentiment,
reside in a foreign country, or be so situated that he may put on a
false moustache and get away as soon as the advance copies have been
sent to the printers.
The writer of these pages, though of British descent, will, in what he
may say, guard carefully against permitting that fact to swerve him for
one swift moment from the right.
England even before Christ, as now, was a sort of money centre, and
thither came the Phoenicians and the Carthaginians for their tin.
[Illustration: THE DISCOVERY OF TIN IN BRITAIN.]
[Illustration: CAESAR CROSSING THE CHANNEL.]
These early Britons were suitable only to act as ancestors. Aside from
that, they had no good points. They dwelt in mud huts thatched with
straw. They had no currency and no ventilation,--no drafts, in other
words. Their boats were made of wicker-work plastered with clay. Their
swords were made of tin alloyed with copper, and after a brief skirmish,
the entire army had to fall back and straighten its blades.
They also had short spears made with a rawhide string attached, so that
the deadly weapon could be jerked back again. To spear an enemy with
one of these harpoons, and then, after playing him for half an hour or
so, to land him and finish him up with a tin sword, constituted one of
the most reliable boons peculiar to that strange people.
[Illustration: CAESAR TREATING WITH THE BRITONS.]
Caesar first came to Great Britain on account of a bilious attack. On
the way across the channel a violent storm came up. The great emperor
and pantata believed he was drowning, so that in an instant's time
everything throughout his whole lifetime recurred to him as he went
down,--especially his breakfast.
Purchasing a four-in-hand of docked unicorns, and much improved in
health, he returned to Rome.
Agriculture had a pretty hard start among these people, and where now
the glorious fields of splendid pale and billowy oatmeal may be seen
interspersed with every kind of domestic and imported fertilizer in
cunning little hillocks just bursting forth into fragrance by the
roadside, then the vast island was a quaking swamp or covered by
impervious forests of gigantic trees, up which with coarse and shameless
glee would scamper the nobility.
(Excuse the rhythm into which I may now and then drop as the plot
Caesar later on made more invasions: one of them for the purpose of
returning his team and flogging a Druid with whom he had disagreed
religiously on a former trip. (He had also bought his team of the
The Druids were the sheriffs, priests, judges, chiefs of police,
plumbers, and justices of the peace.
[Illustration: PLOUGHING 51 B.C.]
They practically ran the place, and no one could be a Druid who could
not pass a civil service examination.
[Illustration: DRUID SACRIFICES.]
They believed in human sacrifice, and often of a bright spring morning
could have been seen going out behind the bush to sacrifice some one who
disagreed with them on some religious point or other.
The Druids largely lived in the woods in summer and in debt during the
winter. They worshipped almost everything that had been left out
overnight, and their motto was, "Never do anything unless you feel like
it very much indeed."
Caesar was a broad man from a religious point of view, and favored
bringing the Druids before the grand jury. For uttering such sentiments
as these the Druids declared his life to be forfeit, and set one of
their number to settle also with him after morning services the question
as to the matter of immersion and sound money.
Religious questions were even then as hotly discussed as in later times,
and Caesar could not enjoy society very much for five or six days.
[Illustration: MONUMENT OF AGRICULTURE, OR ANCIENT SCARECROW.]
At Stonehenge there are still relics of a stone temple which the Druids
used as a place of idolatrous worship and assassination. On Giblet Day
people came for many miles to see the exercises and carry home a few
cutlets of intimate friends.
After this Rome sent over various great Federal appointees to soften and
refine the people. Among them came General Agricola with a new kind of
seed-corn and kindness in his heart.
[Illustration: AGRICOLA ENCOURAGES AGRICULTURE.]
He taught the barefooted Briton to go out to the pump every evening and
bathe his chapped and soil-kissed feet and wipe them on the grass before
retiring, thus introducing one of the refinements of Rome in this cold
and barbaric clime.
Along about the beginning of the Christian "Erie," says an elderly
Englishman, the Queen Boadicea got so disgusted with the Romans who
carried on there in England just as they had been in the habit of doing
at home,--cutting up like a hallowe'en party in its junior year,--that
she got her Britons together, had a steel dress made to fight in
comfortably and not tight under the arms, then she said, "Is there any
one here who hath a culverin with him?" One was soon found and fired.
This by the Romans was regarded as an opening of hostilities. Her fire
was returned with great eagerness, and victory was won in the city of
London over the Romans, who had taunted the queen several times with
being seven years behind the beginning of the Christian Era in the
matter of clothes.
[Illustration: ROMAN COAT OF ARMS.]
Boadicea won victories by the score, and it is said that under the besom
of her wrath seventy thousand Roman warriors kissed the dust. As she
waved her sceptre in token of victory the hat-pin came out of her crown,
and wildly throwing the "old hot thing" at the Roman general, she missed
him and unhorsed her own chaperon.
Disgusted with war and the cooking they were having at the time, she
burst into tears just on the eve of a general victory over the Romans
and poisoned herself.
[Illustration: DEATH OF BOADICEA.]
N.B.--Many thanks are due to the author, Mr. A. Barber, for the use of
his works entitled "Half-Hours with Crowned Heads" and "Thoughts on
Shaving Dead People on Whom One Has Never Called," cloth, gilt top.
I notice an error in the artist's work which will be apparent to any one
of moderate intelligence, and especially to the Englishman,--viz., that
the tin discovered by the Phoenicians is in the form of cans, etc.,
formerly having contained tinned meats, fruits, etc. This book, I fear,
will be sharply criticised in England if any inaccuracy be permitted to
creep in, even through the illustrations. It is disagreeable to fall out
thus early with one's artist, but the writer knows too well, and the
sting yet burns and rankles in his soul where pierced the poisoned dart
of an English clergyman two years ago. The writer had spoken of Julius
Caesar's invasion of Britain for the purpose of replenishing the Roman
stock of umbrellas, top-coats, and "loydies," when the clergyman said,
politely but very firmly, "that England then had no top-coats or
umbrellas." The writer would not have cared, had there not been others
THE VARIOUS ROMAN YOKES: THEIR GROWTH, DEGENERATION, AND FINAL
Agricola no doubt made the Roman yoke easier upon the necks of the
conquered people, and suggested the rotation of crops. He also invaded
Caledonia and captured quite a number of Scotchmen, whom he took home
Afterwards, in 121 A.D., the emperor Hadrian was compelled to build a
wall to keep out the still unconquered Caledonians. This is called the
"Picts' Wall," and a portion of it still exists. Later, in 208 A.D.,
Severus built a solid wall of stone along this line, and for seventy
years there was peace between the two nations.
Towards the end of the third century Carausius, who was appointed to the
thankless task of destroying the Saxon pirates, shook off his allegiance
to the emperor Diocletian, joined the pirates and turned out Diocletian,
usurping the business management of Britain for some years. But, alas!
he was soon assassinated by one of his own officers before he could
call for help, and the assassin succeeded him. In those days
assassination and inauguration seemed to go hand-in-hand.
[Illustration: ASSASSINATION OF CARAUSIUS.]
After Constantius, who died 306 A.D., came Constantine the Great, his
son by a British princess.
Under Constantine peace again reigned, but the Irish, who desired to
free Ireland even if they had to go abroad and neglect their business
for that purpose, used to invade Constantine's territory, getting him up
at all hours of the night and demanding that he should free Ireland.
These men were then called Picts, hence the expression "picked men."
They annoyed Constantine by coming over and trying to introduce Home
Rule into the home of the total stranger.
The Scots also made turbulent times by harassing Constantine and seeking
to introduce their ultra-religious belief at the muzzle of the crossgun.
Trouble now came in the latter part of the fourth century A.D., caused
by the return of the regular Roman army, which went back to Rome to
defend the Imperial City from the Goths who sought to "stable their
stock in the palace of the Caesars," as the historian so tersely puts
[Illustration: THE PICTS INCULCATING HOME RULE PRINCIPLES.]
In 418 A.D., the Roman forces came up to London for the summer, and
repelled the Scots and Picts, but soon returned to Rome, leaving the
provincial people of London with disdain. Many of the Roman officers
while in Britain had their clothes made in Rome, and some even had their
linen returned every thirty days and washed in the Tiber.
[Illustration: IRRITABILITY OF THE BARBARIAN.]
In 446 A.D., the Britons were extremely unhappy. "The barbarians throw
us into the sea and the sea returns us to the barbarians," they
ejaculated in their petition to the conquering Romans. But the latter
were too busy fighting the Huns to send troops, and in desperation the
Britons formed an alliance with Hengist and Horsa, two Saxon travelling
men who, in 449 A.D., landed on the island of Thanet, and thus ended the
Roman dominion over Britain.
[Illustration: LANDING OF HENGIST AND HORSA.]
The Saxons were at that time a coarse people. They did not allow
etiquette to interfere with their methods of taking refreshment, and,
though it pains the historian at all times to speak unkindly of his
ancestors who have now passed on to their reward, he is compelled to
admit that as a people the Saxons may be truly characterized as a great
During the palmy days when Rome superintended the collecting of customs
and regulated the formation of corporations, the mining and smelting of
iron were extensively carried on and the "walking delegate" was
invented. The accompanying illustration shows an ancient strike.
[Illustration: DISCOMFORTS OF THE EARLY LABOR AGITATOR.]
Rome no doubt did much for England, for at that time the Imperial City
had 384 streets, 56,567 palaces, 80 golden statues, 2785 bronze statues
of former emperors and officers, 41 theatres, 2291 prisons, and 2300
perfumery stores. She was in the full flood of her prosperity, and had
about 4,000,000 inhabitants.
In those days a Roman Senator could not live on less than $80,000 per
year, and Marcus Antonius, who owed $1,500,000 on his inaugural, March
15, paid it up March 17, and afterwards cleared $720,000,000. This he
did by the strictest economy, which he managed to have attended to by
Even a literary man in Rome could amass property, and Seneca died worth
$12,000,000. Those were the flush times in Rome, and England no doubt
was greatly benefited thereby; but, alas! "money matters became scarce,"
and the poor Briton was forced to associate with the delirium tremens
and massive digestion of the Saxon, who floated in a vast ocean of lard
and wassail during his waking hours and slept with the cunning little
piglets at night. His earthen floors were carpeted with straw and
frescoed with bones.
Let us not swell with pride as we refer to our ancestors, whose lives
were marked by an eternal combat between malignant alcoholism and
trichinosis. Many a Saxon would have filled a drunkard's grave, but
wabbled so in his gait that he walked past it and missed it.
[Illustration: THE SAXON IDEA OF HEAVEN.]
To drink from the skulls of their dead enemies was a part of their
religion, and there were no heretics among them.[A]
[Footnote A: The artist has very ably shown here a devoted little band
of Saxons holding services in a basement. In referring to it as
"abasement," not the slightest idea of casting contumely or obloquy on
our ancestors is intended by the humble writer of pungent but sometimes
Christianity was introduced into Britain during the second century, and
later under Diocletian the Christians were greatly persecuted.
Christianity did not come from Rome, it is said, but from Gaul. Among
the martyrs in those early days was St. Alban, who had been converted by
a fugitive priest. The story of his life and death is familiar.
The Bible had been translated, and in 314 A.D. Britain had three
Bishops, viz., of London, Lincoln, and York.
THE ADVENT OF THE ANGLES: CAUSES WHICH LED TO THE REHABILITATION OF
BRITAIN ON NEW LINES.
With the landing of Hengist and Horsa English history really begins, for
Caesar's capture of the British Isles was of slight importance viewed in
the light of fast-receding centuries. There is little to-day in the
English character to remind one of Caesar, who was a volatile and
epileptic emperor with massive and complicated features.
The rich warm blood of the Roman does not mantle in the cheek of the
Englishman of the present century to any marked degree. The Englishman,
aping the reserve and hauteur of Boston, Massachusetts, is, in fact, the
diametrical antipode of the impulsive, warm-hearted, and garlic-imbued
Roman who revels in assassination and gold ear-bobs.
The beautiful daughter of Hengist formed an alliance with Vortigern, the
royal foreman of Great Britain,--a plain man who was very popular in the
alcoholic set and generally subject to violent lucid intervals which
lasted until after breakfast; but the Saxons broke these up, it is said,
and Rowena encouraged him in his efforts to become his own worst enemy,
and after two or three patent-pails-full of wassail would get him to
give her another county or two, until soon the Briton saw that the Saxon
had a mortgage on the throne, and after it was too late, he said that
immigration should have been restricted.
[Illustration: ROWENA CAPTIVATES VORTIGERN.]
Kent became the first Saxon kingdom, and remained a powerful state for
over a century.
More Saxons now came, and brought with them yet other Saxons with yet
more children, dogs, vodka, and thirst. The breath of a Saxon in a
cucumber-patch would make a peck of pickles per moment.
The Angles now came also and registered at the leading hotels. They were
destined to introduce the hyphen on English soil, and plant the orchards
on whose ancestral branches should ultimately hang the Anglo-Saxon race,
the progenitors of the eminent aristocracy of America.
Let the haughty, purse-proud American--in whose warm life current one
may trace the unmistakable strains of bichloride of gold and
trichinae--pause for one moment to gaze at the coarse features and
bloodshot eyes of his ancestors, who sat up at nights drenching their
souls in a style of nepenthe that it is said would remove moths, tan,
freckles, and political disabilities.
[Illustration: ETHELBERT, KING OF KENT, PROCLAIMED "BRETWALDA."]
The seven states known as the Saxon Heptarchy were formed in the sixth
and seventh centuries, and the rulers of these states were called
"Bretwaldas," or Britain-wielders. Ethelbert, King of Kent, was
Bretwalda for fifty years, and liked it first-rate.
[Illustration: AUGUSTINE KINDLY RECEIVED BY ETHELBERT, KING OF KENT.]
A very good picture is given here showing the coronation of Ethelbert,
copied from an old tin-type now in the possession of an aged and
somewhat childish family in Philadelphia who descended from Ethelbert
and have made no effort to conceal it.
Here also the artist has shown us a graphic picture of Ethelbert
supported by his celebrated ingrowing moustache receiving Augustine.
They both seem pleased to form each other's acquaintance, and the
greeting is a specially appetizing one to the true lover of Art for
For over one hundred and fifty years the British made a stubborn
resistance to the encroachments of these coarse people, but it was
ineffectual. Their prowess, along with a massive appetite and other hand
baggage, soon overran the land of Albion. Everywhere the rude warriors
of northern Europe wiped the dressing from their coarse red whiskers on
the snowy table-cloth of the Briton.
[Illustration: THEY WIPED THEIR COARSE RED WHISKERS ON THE SNOWY
In West Wales, or Dumnonia, was the home of King Arthur, so justly
celebrated in song and story. Arthur was more interesting to the poet
than the historian, and probably as a champion of human rights and a
higher civilization should stand in that great galaxy occupied by Santa
Claus and Jack the Giant-Killer.
The Danes or Jutes joined the Angles also at this time, and with the
Saxons spread terror, anarchy, and common drunks all over Albion. Those
who still claim that the Angles were right Angles are certainly
ignorant of English history. They were obtuse Angles, and when bedtime
came and they tried to walk a crack, the historian, in a spirit of
mischief, exclaims that they were mostly a pack of Isosceles Try Angles,
but this doubtless is mere badinage.
They were all savages, and their religion was entirely unfit for
publication. Socially they were coarse and repulsive. Slaves did the
housework, and serfs each morning changed the straw bedding of the lord
and drove the pigs out of the boudoir. The pig was the great social
middle class between the serf and the nobility: for the serf slept with
the pig by day, and the pig slept with the nobility at night.
And yet they were courageous to a degree (the Saxons, not the pigs).
They were fearless navigators and reckless warriors. Armed with their
rude meat-axes and one or two Excalibars, they would take something in
the way of a tonic and march right up to the mouth of the great Thomas
catapult, or fall in the moat with a courage that knew not, recked not
Christianity was first preached in Great Britain in 597 A.D., at the
suggestion of Gregory, afterwards Pope, who by chance saw some Anglican
youths exposed for sale in Rome. They were fine-looking fellows, and the
good man pitied their benighted land. Thus the Roman religion was
introduced into England, and was first to turn the savage heart towards
[Illustration: EGBERT GAINS A GREAT VICTORY OVER THE FRENCH INVADERS.]
Augustine was very kindly received by Ethelbert, and invited up to the
house. Augustine met with great success, for the king experienced
religion and was baptized, after which many of his subjects repented and
accepted salvation on learning that it was free. As many as ten thousand
in one day were converted, and Augustine was made Archbishop of
Canterbury. On a small island in the Thames he built a church dedicated
to St. Peter, where now is Westminster Abbey, a prosperous sanctuary
entirely out of debt.
The history of the Heptarchy is one of murder, arson, rapine, assault
and battery, breach of the peace, petty larceny, and the embezzlement of
the enemy's wife.
In 827, Egbert, King of Wessex and Duke of Shandygaff, conquered all his
foes and became absolute ruler of England (Land of the Angles). Taking
charge of this angular kingdom, he established thus the mighty country
which now rules the world in some respects, and which is so greatly
improved socially since those days.
Two distinguished scholars flourished in the eighth century, Bede and
Alcuin. They at once attracted attention by being able to read coarse
print at sight. Bede wrote the Ecclesiastical History of the Angles. It
is out of print now. Alcuin was a native of York, and with the aid of a
lump of chalk and the side of a vacant barn could figure up things and
add like everything. Students flocked to him from all over the country,
and matriculated by the dozen. If he took a fancy to a student, he would
take him away privately and show him how to read.
The first literary man of note was a monk of Whitby named Caedmon, who
wrote poems on biblical subjects when he did not have to monk. His works
were greatly like those of Milton, and especially like "Paradise Lost,"
it is said.
Gildas was the first historian of Britain, and the scathing remarks
made about his fellow-countrymen have never been approached by the most
merciless of modern historians.
The book was highly interesting, and it is a wonder that some
enterprising American publisher has not appropriated it, as the author
is now extremely dead.
[Illustration: A DISCIPLE OF THE LIQUID RELIGION PRACTISED BY THE
THE INFLUX OF THE DANES: FACTS SHOWING CONCLUSIVELY THEIR INFLUENCE ON
THE BRITON OF TO-DAY.
And now, having led the eager student up to the year 827 A.D., let us
take him forward from the foundation of the English monarchy to the days
of William the Conqueror, 1066.
Egbert, one of the kings of Wessex, reigned practically over Roman
Britain when the country was invaded by the Northmen (Swedes,
Norwegians, and Danes), who treated the Anglo-Saxon as the Anglo-Saxon
had formerly treated the poor Briton.
These Northmen were rather coarse people, and even put the Anglo-Saxons
to the blush sometimes. They exercised vigorously, and thus their
appetites were sharp enough to cut a hair. They at first came in the
capacity of pirates,--sliding stealthily into isolated coast settlements
on Saturday evening and eating up the Sunday victuals, capturing the
girls of the Bible-class and sailing away. But later they came as
conquerors, and boarded with the peasantry permanently.
Egbert formed an alliance with his old enemies, the Welsh, and gained a
great victory over the Northmen; but when he died and left Ethelwolf,
his son, in charge of the throne, he made a great mistake. Ethelwolf was
a poor king, "being given more to religious exercises than reigning,"
says the historian. He would often exhibit his piety in order to draw
attention away from His Royal Incompetency. He was not the first or last
to smother the call to duty under the cry of Hallelujah. Like the little
steamer engine with the big whistle, when he whistled the boat stopped.
He did not have a boiler big enough to push the great ship of state and
shout Amen at the same time.
Ethelwolf defeated the enemy in one great battle, but too late to
prevent a hold-up upon the island of Thanet, and afterwards at Shippey,
near London, where the enemy settled himself.
Yet Ethelwolf made a pilgrimage to Rome with Alfred, then six years old
(A.D. 855). He was gone a year, during which time very little reigning
was done at home, and the Northmen kept making treaties and coming over
in larger droves.
Ethelwolf visited Charles the Bald of France at this time, and married
his daughter Judith incidentally. Ethelwolf's eldest son died during the
king's absence, and was succeeded as eldest son by Ethelbald
(heir-apparent, though he had no hair apparent), who did not recognize
the old gentleman or allow him to be seated on his own throne when he
came back; but Ethelwolf gave the naughty Ethelbald the western half of
the kingdom rather than have trouble. But Baldy died, and was succeeded
by Ethelbert, who died six years later, and Ethelred, in 866, took
charge till 871, when he died of a wound received in battle and closed
out the Ethel business to Alfred.
The Danes had meantime rifled the country with their cross-guns and
killed Edmund, the good king of East Anglia, who was afterwards
canonized, though gunpowder had not then been invented.
Alfred was not only a godly king, but had a good education, and was a
great admirer of Dickens and Thackeray. (This is put in as a titbit for
He preferred literature to the plaudits of the nobility and the
sedentary life on a big white-oak throne. On the night before his
coronation his pillow was wet with tears.
And in the midst of it all here came the Danes wearing heavy woollen
clothes and introducing their justly celebrated style of honest sweat.
Alfred fought as many as eight battles with them in one year. They
agreed at last to accept such portions of the country as were assigned
them, but they were never known to abide by any treaty, and they put
the red man of America to shame as prevaricators.
Thus, by 878, the wretched Saxons were at their wit's end, and have
never been able to take a joke since at less than thirty days.
Some fled to Wales and perished miserably trying to pronounce the names
of their new post-office addresses.
[Illustration: ALFRED, DISGUISED AS A GLEEMAN, IS INTRODUCED TO
Here Alfred's true greatness stood him in good stead. He secured a
number of reliable retainers and camped in the swamps of Somersetshire,
where he made his head-quarters on account of its inaccessibility, and
then he made raids on the Danes. Of course he had to live roughly, and
must deny himself his upright piano for his country's good.
In order to obtain a more thorough knowledge of the Danes and their
number, he disguised himself as a harper, or portable orchestra, and
visited the Danish camp, where he was introduced to Guthrun and was
invited to a banquet, where he told several new anecdotes, and spoke in
such a humorous way that the army was sorry to see him go away, and
still sorrier when, a few days later, armed _cap-a-pie_, he mopped up
the greensward with his enemy and secured the best of terms from him.
While _incog._, Alfred stopped at a hut, where he was asked to turn the
pancakes as they required it; but in the absence of the hostess he got
to thinking of esoteric subjects, or something profound, and allowed the
cakes to burn. The housewife returned in time to express her sentiments
and a large box to his address as shown in the picture.
[Illustration: ALFRED LETTING THE CAKES BURN.]
He now converted Guthrun and had him immersed, which took first-rate,
and other Danes got immersed. Thus the national antagonism to water was
overcome, and to-day the English who are descended from the Danes are
not appalled at the sight of water.
As a result of Guthrun's conversion, the Danes agreed to a permanent
settlement along the exposed portion of Great Britain, by which they
became unconsciously a living rampart between the Saxons and other
Now peace began to reign up to 893, and Alfred improved the time by
rebuilding the desolated cities,--London especially, which had become a
sight to behold. A new stock-law, requiring the peasantry to shut up
their unicorns during certain seasons of the year and keep them out of
the crops, also protecting them from sportsmen while shedding their
horns in spring, or moulting, it is said, was passed, but the English
historians are such great jokers that the writer has had much difficulty
in culling the facts and eliminating the persiflage from these writings.
Alfred the Great only survived his last victory over the Danes, at Kent,
a few years, when he died greatly lamented. He was a brave soldier, a
successful all-around monarch, and a progressive citizen in an age of
beastly ignorance, crime, superstition, self-indulgence, and pathetic
[Illustration: ALFRED ESTABLISHED SCHOOLS.]
He translated several books for the people, established or repaired the
University of Oxford, and originated the idea, adopted by the Japanese a
thousand years later, of borrowing the scholars of other nations, and
cheerfully adopting the improvements of other countries, instead of
following the hide-bound and stupid conservatism and ignorance
bequeathed by father to son, as a result of blind and offensive pride,
which is sometimes called patriotism.
[Illustration: KING ALFRED TRANSLATED SEVERAL BOOKS.]
THE TROUBLOUS MIDDLE AGES: DEMONSTRATING A SHORT REIGN FOR THOSE WHO
TRAVEL AT A ROYAL GAIT.
The Ethels now made an effort to regain the throne from Edward the
Elder. Ethelwold, a nephew of Edward, united the Danes under his own
banner, and relations were strained between the leaders until 905, when
Ethelwold was slain. Even then the restless Danes and frontier settlers
were a source of annoyance until about 925, when Edward died; but at his
death he was the undisputed king of all Britain, and all the various
sub-monarchs and associate rulers gave up their claims to him. He was
assisted in his affairs of state by his widowed sister, Ethelfleda.
Edward the Elder had his father's ability as a ruler, but was not so
great as a scholar or _litterateur_. He had not the unfaltering devotion
to study nor the earnest methods which made Alfred great. Alfred not
only divided up his time into eight-hour shifts,--one for rest, meals,
and recreation, one for the affairs of state, and one for study and
devotion,--but he invented the candle with a scale on it as a
time-piece, and many a subject came to the throne at regular periods to
set his candle by the royal lights.
[Illustration: CAME TO THE THRONE AT REGULAR PERIODS TO SET THEIR
CANDLES BY THE ROYAL LIGHT.]
Think of those days when the Sergeant-at-Arms of Congress could not turn
back the clock in order to assist an appropriation at the close of the
session, but when the light went out the session closed.
Athelstan succeeded his father, Edward the Presiding Elder, and
resembled him a good deal by defeating the Welsh, Scots, and Danes. In
those days agriculture, trade, and manufacturing were diversions during
the summer months; but the regular business of life was warfare with the
Danes, Scots, and Welsh.
These foes of England could live easily for years on oatmeal, sour milk,
and cod's heads, while the fighting clothes of a whole regiment would
have been a scant wardrobe for the Greek Slave, and after two centuries
of almost uninterrupted carnage their war debt was only a trifle over
Edmund, the brother of Ethelstan, at the age of eighteen, succeeded his
brother on the throne.
One evening, while a little hilarity was going on in the royal
apartments, Edmund noticed among the guests a robber named Leolf, who
had not been invited. Probably he was a pickpocket; and as a royal
robber hated anybody who dropped below grand larceny, the king ordered
his retainers to put him out.
But the retainers shrank from the undertaking, therefore Edmund sprang
from the throne like a tiger and buried his talons in the robber's
tresses. There was a mixture of feet, legs, teeth, and features for a
moment, and when peace was restored King Edmund had a watch-pocket full
of blood, and the robber chieftain was wiping his stabber on one of the
[Illustration: EDMUND THROWING LEOLF OUT.]
Edred now succeeded the deceased Edmund, his brother, and with a heavy
heart took up the eternal job of fighting the Danes. Edred set up a
sort of provincial government over Northumberland, the refractory
district, and sent a governor and garrison there to see that the Danes
paid attention to what he said. St. Dunstan had considerable influence
over Edred, and was promoted a great deal by the king, who died in the
He was succeeded by Edwy the Fair, who was opposed by another Ethel.
Between the Ethels and the Welsh and Danes, there was little time left
in England for golf or high tea, and Edwy's reign was short and full of
He had trouble with St. Dunstan, charging him with the embezzlement of
church funds, and compelled him to leave the country. This was in
retaliation for St. Dunstan's overbearing order to the king. One
evening, when a banquet was given him in honor of his coronation, the
king excused himself when the speeches got rather corky, and went into
the sitting-room to have a chat with his wife, Elgiva, of whom he was
very fond, and her mother. St. Dunstan, who had still to make a speech
on Foreign Missions with a yard or so of statistics, insisted on Edwy's
return. An open outbreak was the result. The Church fell upon the King
with a loud, annual report, and when the debris was cleared away, a
little round-shouldered grave in the churchyard held all that was
mortal of the king. His wife was cruelly and fatally assassinated, and
Edgar, his brother, began to reign. This was in the year 959, and in
what is now called the Middle Ages.
Edgar was called the Pacific. He paid off the church debt, made Dunstan
Archbishop of Canterbury, helped reform the church, and, though but
sixteen years of age when he removed all explosives from the throne and
seated himself there, he showed that he had a massive scope, and his
subjects looked forward to much anticipation.
He sailed around the island every year to show the Danes how prosperous
he was, and made speeches which displayed his education.
His coronation took place thirteen years after his accession to the
throne, owing to the fact, as given out by some of the more modern
historians, that the crown was at Mr. Isaac Inestein's all this time,
whereas the throne, which was bought on the instalment plan, had been
Pictures of the crown worn by Edgar will convince the reader that its
redemption was no slight task, while the mortgage on the throne was a
[Illustration: EDGAR SURMOUNTED BY HIS CROWN.]
[Illustration: EDGAR CAUSES HIS BARGE TO BE ROWED BY EIGHT KINGS.]
A bright idea of Edgar's was to ride in a row-boat pulled by eight kings
under the old _regime_.
Personally, Edgar was reputed to be exceedingly licentious; but the
historian wisely says these stories may have been the invention of his
enemies. Greatness is certain to make of itself a target for the mud of
its own generation, and no one who rose above the level of his
surroundings ever failed to receive the fragrant attentions of those who
had not succeeded in rising. All history is fraught also with the
bitterness and jealousy of the historian except this one. No bitterness
can creep into this history.
Edgar, it is said, assassinated the husband of Elfrida in order that he
might marry her. It is also said that he broke into a convent and
carried off a nun; but doubtless if these stories were traced to their
very foundations, politics would account for them both.
He did not favor the secular clergy, and they, of course, disliked him
accordingly. He suffered also at the hands of those who sought to
operate the reigning apparatus whilst his attention was turned towards
He was the author of the scheme whereby he utilized his enemies, the
Welsh princes, by demanding three hundred wolf heads per annum as
tribute instead of money. This wiped out the wolves and used up the
surplus animosity of the Welsh.
As the Welsh princes had no money, the scheme was a good one. Edgar died
at the age of thirty-two, and was succeeded by Edward, his son, in 975.
The death of the king at this early age has given to many historians the
idea that he was a sad dog, and that he sat up late of nights and cut up
like everything, but this may not be true. Death often takes the good,
the true, and the beautiful whilst young.
However, Edgar's reign was a brilliant one for an Anglo-Saxon, and his
coon-skin cap is said to have cost over a pound sterling.
[Illustration: EDGAR THE PACIFIC.]
THE DANISH OLIGARCHY: DISAFFECTIONS ATTENDING CHRONIC USURPATION
Edgar was succeeded by his son Edward, called "the Martyr," who ascended
the throne at the age of fifteen years. His step-mother, Elfrida,
opposed him, and favored her own son, Ethelred. Edward was assassinated
in 978, at the instigation of his step-mother, and that's what's the
martyr with him.
During his reign there was a good deal of ill feeling, and Edward would
no doubt have been deposed but for the influence of the church under
Ethelred was but ten years old when he began reigning. Sadly poor
Dunstan crowned him, his own eyes still wet with sorrow over the cruel
death of Edward. He foretold that Ethelred would have a stormy reign,
with sleet and variable winds, changing to snow.
During the remainder of the great prelate's life he, as it were, stood
between the usurper and the people, and protected them from the
But in 991, shortly after the death of Dunstan, a great army of
Norwegians came over to England for purposes of pillage. To say that it
was an allopathic pillage would not be an extravagant statement. They
were extremely rude people, like all the nations of northern Europe at
that time,--Rome being the Boston of the Old World, and Copenhagen the
Fort Dodge of that period.
The Norwegians ate everything that did not belong to the mineral
kingdom, and left the green fields of merry England looking like a
base-ball ground. So wicked and warlike were they that the sad and
defeated country was obliged to give the conquering Norske ten thousand
pounds of silver.
Dunstan died at the age of sixty-three, and years afterwards was
canonized; but firearms had not been invented at the time of his death.
He led the civilization and progress of England, and was a pioneer in
cherishing the fine arts.
Olaf, who led the Norwegians against England, afterwards became king of
Norway, and with the Danes used to ever and anon sack Great
Britain,--_i.e._, eat everybody out of house and home, and then ask for
a sack of silver as the price of peace.
Ethelred was a cowardly king, who liked to wear the implements of war on
holidays, and learn to crochet and tat in time of war. He gave these
invaders ten thousand pounds of silver at the first, sixteen thousand
at the second, and twenty-four thousand on the third trip, in order to
Olaf afterwards, however, embraced Christianity and gave up fighting as
a business, leaving the ring entirely to Sweyn, his former partner from
Denmark, who continued to do business as before.
The historian says that the invasion of England by the Norwegians and
Danes was fully equal to the assassination, arson, and rapine of the
Indians of North America. A king who would permit such cruel cuttings-up
as these wicked animals were guilty of on the fair face of old England,
should live in history only as an invertebrate, a royal failure, a
decayed mollusk, and the dropsical head of a tottering dynasty.
In order to strengthen his feeble forces, Ethelred allied himself, in
1001, to Richard II., Duke of Normandy, and married his daughter Emma,
but the Danes continued to make night hideous and elope with ladies whom
they had never met before. It was a sad time in the history of England,
and poor Emma wept many a hot and bitter tear as she yielded one jewel
after another to the pawnbroker in order to buy off the coarse and
If Ethelred were to know how he is regarded by the historian who pens
these lines, he would kick the foot-board out of his casket, and bite
himself severely in four places.
To add to his foul history, happening to have a few inoffensive Danes on
hand, on the 13th of November, the festival of St. Brice, 1002, he gave
it out that he would massacre these people, among them the sister of the
Danish king, a noble woman who had become a Christian (only it is to be
hoped a better one), and married an English earl. He had them all
[Illustration: ETHELRED WEDS EMMA.]
In 1003, Sweyn, with revenge in his heart, began a war of extermination
or subjugation, and never yielded till he was, in fact, king of England,
while the royal intellectual polyp, known as Ethelred the Unwholesome,
fled to Normandy, in the 1013th year Anno Domini.
But in less than six weeks the Danish king died, leaving the sceptre,
with the price-mark still upon it, to Canute, his son, and Ethelred was
invited back, with an understanding that he should not abuse his
privileges as king, and that, although it was a life job during good
behavior, the privilege of beheading him from time to time was and is
vested in the people; and even to-day there is not a crowned head on the
continent of Europe that does not recognize this great truth,--viz.,
that God alone, speaking through the united voices of the common people,
declares the rulings of the Supreme Court of the Universe.
On the old autograph albums of the world is still written in the dark
corners of empires, "_the king can do no wrong_." But where education is
not repressed, and where that Christianity which is built on love and
charity is taught, there can be but one King who does no wrong.
Ethelred was succeeded by Edmund, called "the Ironside." He fought
bravely, and drove the Danes, under Canute, back to their own shores.
But they got restless in Denmark, where there was very little going on,
and returned to England in large numbers.
Ethelred died in London, 1016 A.D., before Canute reached him. He was
called by Dunstan "Ethelred the Unready," and had a faculty for erring
more promptly than any previous king.
Having returned cheerily from Ethelred's rather tardy funeral, the
people took oath, some of them under Edmund and some under Canute.
Edmund, after five pitched battles, offered to stay bloodshed by
personally fighting Canute at any place where they could avoid police
interference, but Canute declined, on what grounds it is not stated,
though possibly on the Polo grounds.
[Illustration: SONS OF EDMUND SENT TO OLAF.]
A compromise was agreed to in 1016, by which Edmund reigned over the
region south of the Thames; but very shortly afterwards he was murdered
at the instigation of Edric, a traitor, who was the Judas Iscariot of
Canute, or "Knut," now became the first Danish king of England. Having
appointed three sub-kings, and taken charge himself of Wessex, Canute
sent the two sons of Edmund to Olaf, requesting him to put them to
death; but Olaf, the king of Sweden, had scruples, and instead of doing
so sent the boys to Hungary, where they were educated. Edward afterwards
married a daughter of the Emperor Henry II.
Canute as king was, after he got the hang of it, a great success, giving
to the harassed people more comfort than they had experienced since the
death of Alfred, who was thoroughly gifted as a sovereign.
He had to raise heavy taxes in order to 'squire himself with the Danish
leaders at first, but finally began to harmonize the warring elements,
and prosperity followed. He was fond of old ballads, and encouraged the
wandering minstrels, who entertained the king with topical songs till a
late hour. Symposiums and after-dinner speaking were thus inaugurated,
and another era of good feeling began about half-past eleven o'clock
[Illustration: THE SEA "GOES BACK" ON CANUTE.]
Queen Emma, the widow of Ethelred, now began to set her cap for Canute,
and thus it happened that her sons again became the heirs to the throne
at her marriage, A.D. 1017.
Canute now became a good king. He built churches and monasteries, and
even went on a pilgrimage to Rome, which in those days was almost
certain to win public endorsement.
Disgusted with the flattering of his courtiers, one day as he strolled
along the shore he caused his chair to be placed at the margin of the
approaching tide, and as the water crept up into his lap, he showed them
how weak must be a mortal king in the presence of Omnipotence. He was a
humble and righteous king, and proved by his example that after all the
greatest of earthly rulers is only the most obedient servant.
He was even then the sovereign of England, Norway, and Denmark. In 1031
he had some trouble with Malcolm, King of Scotland, but subdued him
promptly, and died in 1035, leaving Hardicanute, the son of Emma, and
Sweyn and Harold, his sons by a former wife.
Harold succeeded to the English throne, Sweyn to that of Norway, and
Hardicanute to the throne of Denmark.
In the following chapter a few well-chosen remarks will be made
regarding Harold and other kings.
OTHER DISAGREEABLE CLAIMANTS: FOREIGN FOIBLES INTRODUCED, ONLY TO BE
EXPUNGED WITH CHARACTERISTIC PUGNACITY.
Let us now look for a moment into the reigns of Harold I. and
Hardicanute, a pair of unpopular reigns, which, although brief, were yet
Queen Emma, of course, desired the coronation of Hardicanute, but,
though supported by Earl Godwin, a man of great influence and educated
to a high degree for his time, able indeed, it is said, at a moment's
notice, to add up things and reduce things to a common denominator, it
could not be.
Harold, the compromise candidate, reigned from 1037 to 1040. He gained
Godwin to his side, and together they lured the sons of Emma by
Ethelred--viz., Alfred and Edward--to town, and, as a sort of royal
practical joke, put out Alfred's eyes, causing his death.
Harold was a swift sprinter, and was called "Harefoot" by those who were
intimate enough to exchange calls and coarse anecdotes with him.
He died in 1040 A.D., and nobody ever had a more general approval for
doing so than Harold.
Hardicanute now came forth from his apartments, and was received as king
with every demonstration of joy, and for some weeks he and dyspepsia had
it all their own way on Piccadilly. (Report says that he drank! Several
times while under the influence of liquor he abdicated the throne with a
dull thud, but was reinstated by the Police.)
[Illustration: "KING HAROLD IS DEAD, SIRE."]
Enraged by the death of Alfred, the king had the remains of Harold
exhumed and thrown into a fen. This a-fensive act showed what a great
big broad nature Hardicanute had,--also the kind of timber used in
making a king in those days.
Godwin, however, seems to have been a good political acrobat, and was on
more sides of more questions than anybody else of those times. Though
connected with the White-Cap affair by which Alfred lost his eyesight
and his life, he proved an alibi, or spasmodic paresis, or something,
and, having stood a compurgation and "ordeal" trial, was released. The
historian very truly but inelegantly says, if memory serves the writer
accurately, that Godwin was such a political straddle-bug that he early
abandoned the use of pantaloons and returned to the toga, which was the
only garment able to stand the strain of his political cuttings-up.
The _Shire Mote_, or county court of those days, was composed of a dozen
thanes, or cheap nobles, who had to swear that they had not read the
papers, and had not formed or expressed an opinion, and that their minds
were in a state of complete vacancy. It was a sort of primary jury, and
each could point with pride to the vast collection he had made of things
he did not know, and had not formed or expressed an opinion about.
[Illustration: "ORDEAL" OF JUSTICE.]
If one did not like the verdict of this court, he could appeal to the
king on a _certiorari_ or some such thing as that. The accused could
clear himself by his own oath and that of others, but without these he
had to stand what was called the "ordeal," which consisted in walking on
hot ploughshares without expressing a derogatory opinion regarding the
ploughshares or showing contempt of court. Sometimes the accused had to
run his arm into boiling water. If after three days the injury had
disappeared, the defendant was discharged and costs taxed against the
[Illustration: DYING BETWEEN COURSES.]
Hardicanute only reigned two years, and in 1042 A.D. died at a nuptial
banquet, and cast a gloom over the whole thing. In those times it was a
common thing for the king or some of the nobility to die between the
roast pig and the pork pie. It was not unusual to see each noble with a
roast pig _tete-a-tete_,--each confronting the other, the living and the
At this time, it is said by the old settlers that hog cholera thinned
out the nobility a good deal, whether directly or indirectly they do not
The English had now wearied of the Danish yoke. "Why wear the Danish
yoke," they asked, "and be ruled with a rod of iron?"
Edward, half brother of Edmund Ironside, was therefore nominated and
chosen king. Godwin, who seemed to be specially gifted as a versatile
connoisseur of "crow,"[A] turned up as his political adviser.
[Footnote A: "Eating crow" is an expression common in modern American
politics to signify a reluctant acknowledgement of humiliating
Edward, afterwards called "the Confessor," at once stripped Queen Emma
of all her means, for he had no love left for her, as she had failed
repeatedly to assist him when he was an outcast, and afterwards the new
king placed her in jail (or gaol, rather) at Winchester. This should
teach mothers to be more obedient, or they will surely come to some bad
Edward was educated in Normandy, and so was quite partial to the
Normans. He appointed many of them to important positions in both church
and state. Even the See of Canterbury was given to a Norman. The See
saw how it was going, no doubt, and accepted the position. But let us
pass on rapidly to something else, for thereby variety may be given to
these pages, and as one fact seems to call for another, truth, which for
the time being may be apparently crushed to earth, may rise again.
[Illustration: EDWARD STRIPS EMMA OF HER MEANS.]
Godwin disliked the introduction of the Norman tongue and Norman customs
in England, and when Eustace, Count of Boulogne and author of the
sausage which bears his name, committed an act of violence against the
people of Dover, they arose as one man, drove out the foreigners, and
fumigated the town as well as the ferry running to Calais.
This caused trouble between Edward and Godwin, which led to the
deposition of the latter, who, with his sons, was compelled to flee. But
later he returned, and his popularity in England among the home people
compelled the king to reestablish him.
[Illustration: GODWIN AND HIS SONS FLYING FROM ENGLAND.]
Soon afterwards Godwin died, and Harold, his son, succeeded him
successfully. Godwin was an able man, and got several earldoms for his
wife and relatives at a time when that was just what they needed. An
earldom then was not a mere empty title with nothing in it but a blue
sash and a scorbutic temperament, but it gave almost absolute authority
over one or more shires, and was also a good piece of property. These
historical facts took place in or about the year 1054 A.D.
Edward having no children, together with a sort of misgiving about ever
having any to speak of, called home Edward "the Outlaw," son of Edmund
Ironside, to succeed to the throne; but scarcely had he reached the
shores of England when he died, leaving a son, Edgar.
William of Normandy, a cousin of the king, now appears on the scene. He
claimed to be entitled to the first crack at the throne, and that the
king had promised to bequeath it to him. He even lured Harold, the heir
apparently, to Normandy, and while under the influence of stimulants
compelled Harold to swear that he would sustain William's claim to the
throne. The wily William also inserted some holy relics of great potency
under the altar used for swearing purposes, but Harold recovered when he
got out again into the fresh air, and snapped his fingers at William and
[Illustration: WILLIAM COMPELLING HAROLD TO SWEAR.]
January 5, 1066, Edward died, and was buried in Westminster Abbey,
which had just been enclosed and the roof put on.
Harold, who had practised a little while as earl, and so felt that he
could reign easily by beginning moderately and only reigning forenoons,
ascended the throne.
Edward the Confessor was a good, durable monarch, but not brilliant. He
was the first to let people touch him on Tuesdays and Fridays for
scrofula, or "king's evil." He also made a set of laws that were an
improvement on some of the old ones. He was canonized about a century
after his death by the Pope, but as to whether it "took" or not the
historian seems strangely dumb.
[Illustration: WILLIAM OF NORMANDY LEARNS THAT HAROLD IS ELECTED KING.]
He was the last of the royal Saxon line; but other self-made Saxons
reigned after him in torrents.
Edgar Atheling, son of Edward the Outlaw, was the only surviving male of
the royal line, but he was not old enough to succeed to the throne, and
Harold II. accepted the portfolio. He was crowned at Westminster on the
day of King Edward's burial. This infuriated William of Normandy, who
reminded Harold of his first-degree oath, and his pledge that he would
keep it "or have his salary cut from year to year."
Oh, how irritated William was! He got down his gun, and bade the other
Normans who desired an outing to do the same.
Trouble also arose with Tostig, the king's brother, and his Norwegian
ally, Hardrada, but the king defeated the allied forces at Stamford
Bridge, near York, where both of these misguided leaders bit the dust.
Previous to the battle there was a brief parley, and the king told
Tostig the best he could do with him. "And what can you give my ally,
Hardrada?" queried the astute Tostig. "Seven feet of English ground,"
answered the king, roguishly, "or possibly more, as Hardrada is rather
taller than the average," or words to that effect. "Then let the fight
go on," answered Tostig, taking a couple of hard-boiled eggs from his
pocket and cracking them on the pommel of his saddle, for he had not
eaten anything but a broiled shote since breakfast.
That night both he and Hardrada occupied a double grave on the
right-hand side of the road leading to York.
THE NORMAN CONQUEST: COMPLEX COMMINGLING OF FACETIOUS ACCORD AND
[Illustration: WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR.]
The Norman invasion was one of the most unpleasant features of this
period. Harold had violated his oath to William, and many of his
superstitious followers feared to assist him on that account. His
brother advised him to wait a few years and permit the invader to die of
exposure. Thus, excommunicated by the Pope and not feeling very well
anyway, Harold went into the battle of Hastings, October 14, 1066. For
nine hours they fought, the English using their celebrated squirt-guns
filled with hot water and other fixed ammunition. Finally Harold, while
straightening his sword across his knee, got an arrow in the eye, and
abandoned the fight in order to investigate the surprises of a future
In this battle the contusions alone amounted to over ninety-seven, to
say nothing of fractures, concussions, and abrasions.
Among other casualties, the nobility of the South of England was killed.
Harold's body was buried by the sea-shore, but many years afterwards
disinterred, and, all signs of vitality having disappeared, he was
buried again in the church he had founded at Waltham.
The Anglo-Saxons thus yielded to the Normans the government of England.
In these days the common people were called churls, or anything else
that happened to occur to the irritable and quick-witted nobility. The
rich lived in great magnificence, with rushes on the floor, which were
changed every few weeks. Beautiful tapestry--similar to the rag-carpet
of America--adorned the walls and prevented ventilation.
Glass had been successfully made in France and introduced into England.
A pane of glass indicated the abode of wealth, and a churl cleaning the
window with alcohol by breathing heavily upon it, was a sign that Sir
Reginald de Pamp, the pampered child of fortune, dwelt there.
To twang the lyre from time to time, or knock a few mellow plunks out of
the harp, was regarded with much favor by the Anglo-Saxons, who were
much given to feasting and merriment. In those pioneer times the "small
and early" had not yet been introduced, but "the drunk and disorderly"
was regarded with much favor.
Free coinage was now discussed, and mints established. Wool was the
principal export, and fine cloths were taken in exchange from the
Continent. Women spun for their own households, and the term spinster
The monasteries carefully concealed everything in the way of education,
and even the nobility could not have stood a civil service examination.
The clergy were skilled in music, painting, and sculpture, and loved to
paint on china, or do sign-work and carriage painting for the nobility.
St. Dunstan was quite an artist, and painted portraits which even now
remind one strangely of human beings.
[Illustration: ST. DUNSTAN WAS NOTED FOR THIS KIND OF THING.]
Edgar Atheling, the legal successor of Harold, saw at a glance that
William the Conqueror had come to stay, and so he yielded to the
Norman, as shown in the accompanying steel engraving copied from a piece
of tapestry now in possession of the author, and which descended to him,
through no fault of his own, from the Normans, who for years ruled
England with great skill, and from whose loins he sprang.
[Illustration: EDGAR ATHELING AND THE NOBILITY OFFER SUBMISSION TO
WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR.]
William was crowned on Christmas Day at Westminster Abbey as the new
sovereign. It was more difficult to change a sovereign in those days
than at present, but that is neither here nor there.
The people were so glad over the coronation that they overdid it, and
their ghoulish glee alarmed the regular Norman army, the impression
getting out that the Anglo-Saxons were rebellious, when as a matter of
fact they were merely exhilarated, having tanked too often with the
William the Conqueror now disarmed the city of London, and tipping a
number of the nobles, got them to wait on him. He rewarded his Norman
followers, however, with the contraband estates of the conquered, and
thus kept up his conking for years after peace had been declared.
But the people did not forget that they were there first, and so, while
William was in Normandy, in the year 1067 A.D., hostilities broke out.
People who had been foreclosed and ejected from their lands united to
shoot the Norman usurper, and it was not uncommon for a Norman, while
busy usurping, to receive an arrow in some vital place, and have to give
up sedentary pursuits, perhaps, for weeks afterwards.
[Illustration: SAXONS INTRODUCING THE YOKE IN SCOTLAND.]
In 1068 A.D., Edgar Atheling, Sweyn of Denmark, Malcolm of Scotland, and
the sons of Harold banded together to drive out the Norman. Malcolm was
a brave man, and had, it is said, captured so many Anglo-Saxons and
brought them back to Scotland, that they had a very refining influence
on that country, introducing the study of the yoke among other things
with moderate success.
[Illustration: WILLIAM WAS FOND OF HUNTING.]
William hastily returned from Normandy, and made short work of the
rebellion. The following year another outbreak occurring in
Northumberland, William mischievously laid waste sixty miles of fertile
country, and wilfully slaughtered one hundred thousand people,--men,
women, and children. And yet we have among us those who point with pride
to their Norman lineage when they ought to be at work supporting their
In 1070 the Archbishop of Canterbury was degraded from his position, and
a Milanese monk on his Milan knees succeeded him. The Saxons became
serfs, and the Normans used the school tax to build large, repulsive
castles in which to woo the handcuffed Anglo-Saxon maiden at their
leisure. An Anglo-Saxon maiden without a rope ladder in the pocket of
her basque was a rare sight. Many very thrilling stories are written of
those days, and bring a good price.
William was passionately fond of hunting, and the penalty for killing a
deer or boar without authority was greater than for killing a human
being out of season.
In order to erect a new forest, he devastated thirty miles of farming
country, and drove the people, homeless and foodless, to the swamps. He
also introduced the curfew, which he had rung in the evening for his
subjects in order to remind them that it was time to put out the lights,
as well as the cat, and retire. This badge of servitude caused great
annoyance among the people, who often wished to sit up and visit, or
pass the tankard about and bid dull care begone.
William, however, was not entirely happy. While reigning, his children
grew up without proper training. Robert, his son, unhorsed the old
gentleman at one time, and would have killed him anonymously, each
wearing at the time a galvanized iron dinner-pail over his features, but
just at the fatal moment Robert heard his father's well-known breath
asserting itself, and withheld his hand.
William's death was one of the most attractive features of his reign. It
resulted from an injury received during an invasion of France.
Philip, the king of that country, had said something derogatory
regarding William, so the latter, having business in France, decided to
take his army with him and give his soldiers an outing. William captured
the city of Mantes, and laid it in ashes at his feet. These ashes were
still hot in places when the great conqueror rode through them, and his
horse becoming restive, threw His Royal Altitoodleum on the pommel of
his saddle, by reason of which he received a mortal hurt, and a few
weeks later he died, filled with remorse and other stimulants,
regretting his past life in such unmeasured terms that he could be heard
all over the place.
[Illustration: DEMISE OF WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR.]
The "feudal system" was now fully established in England, and lands
descended from father to son, and were divided up among the dependants
on condition of the performance of vassalage. In this way the common
people were cheerily permitted the use of what atmosphere they needed
for breathing purposes, on their solemn promise to return it, and at the
close of life, if they had succeeded in winning the royal favor, they
might contribute with their humble remains to the fertility of the royal
[Illustration: THE FEUDAL SYSTEM WAS NOW FULLY ESTABLISHED.]
THE FEUDAL SYSTEM: SUCCESSFUL INAUGURATION OF HOMOGENEAL METHODS FOR
RESTRICTING INCOMPATIBLE DEMAGOGUES.
At this time, under the reign of William, a year previous to his death,
an inventory was taken of the real estate and personal property
contained in the several counties of England; and this "Domesday-book,"
as it was called, formed the basis for subsequent taxation, etc. There
were then three hundred thousand families in England. The book had a
limited circulation, owing to the fact that it was made by hand; but in
1783 it was printed.
William II., surnamed "Rufus the Red," the auburn-haired son of the
king, took possession of everything--especially the treasure--before his
father was fully deceased, and by fair promises solidified the left wing
of the royal party, compelling the disaffected Norman barons to fly to
William II. and Robert his brother came to blows over a small rebellion
organized by the latter, but Robert yielded at last, and joined William
with a view to making it hot for Henry, who, being a younger brother,
objected to wearing the king's cast-off reigning clothes. He was at last
forced to submit, however, and the three brothers gayly attacked
Malcolm, the Scotch malecontent, who was compelled to yield, and thus
Cumberland became English ground. This was in 1091.
[Illustration: WILLIAM II. TAKES POSSESSION OF THE ROYAL TRUNK AND
SECURES THE CROWN.]
In 1096 the Crusade was creating much talk, and Robert, who had
expressed a desire to lead a totally different life, determined to go if
money could be raised. Therefore William proceeded to levy on everything
that could be realized upon, such as gold and silver communion services
and other bric-a-brac, and free coinage was then first inaugurated. The
king became so greedy that on the death of the Archbishop of Canterbury
he made himself _ex-officio_ archbishop, so that he might handle the
offerings and coin the plate. When William was ill he sent for Father
Anselm, but when he got well he took back all his sweet promises, in
every way reminding one of the justly celebrated policy pursued by His
Sulphureous Highness the Devil.
The capture of Jerusalem by the Crusaders very naturally attracted the
attention of other ambitious princes who wished also to capture it, and
William, Prince of Guienne, mortgaged his principality to England that
he might raise money to do this; but when about to embark for the
purpose of taking possession of this property, William II., the royal
note-shaver, while hunting, was shot accidentally by a companion, or
assassinated, it is not yet known which, and when found by a passing
charcoal-burner was in a dead state. He was buried in 1100, at
[Illustration: RUFUS FOUND DEAD IN THE FOREST BY A POOR
Rufus had no trouble in securing the public approval of his death. He
was the third of his race to perish in the New Forest, the scene of the
Conqueror's cruelty to his people. He was a thick-set man with a red
face, a debauchee of the deepest dye, mean in money matters, and as full
of rum and mendacity as Sitting Bull, the former Regent of the Sioux
Nation. He died at the age of forty-three years, having reigned and cut
up in a shameful manner for thirteen years.
Robert having gone to the Holy Land, Henry I. was crowned at
Westminster. He was educated to a higher degree than William, and knew
the multiplication table up to seven times seven, but he was highly
immoral, and an armed chaperon stood between him and common decency.
He also made rapid strides as a liar, and even his own grocer would not
trust him. He successfully fainted when he heard of his son's death,
His reign closed in 1135, when Stephen, a grandson of the Conqueror,
with the aid of a shoe-horn assumed the crown of England, and, placing a
large damp towel in it, proceeded to reign. He began at once to swap
patronage for kind words, and every noble was as ignoble as a
phenomenal thirst and unbridled lust could make him. Every farm had a
stone jail on it, in charge of a noble jailer. Feudal castles, full of
malaria and surrounded by insanitary moats and poor plumbing, echoed the
cry of the captive and the bacchanalian song of the noble. The country
was made desolate by duly authorized robbers, who, under the Crusaders'
standard, prevented the maturity of the spring chicken and hushed the
still, small voice of the roast pig in death.
[Illustration: HENRY FAINTED WHEN HE HEARD THE SAD NEWS.]
William the Conqueror was not only remembered bitterly in the broken
hearts of his people, but in history his name will stand out forever
because of his strange and grotesque designs on posterity.
In 1141 Stephen was made prisoner, and for five years he was not
restored to his kingdom. In the mean time, Matilda, the widow of Henry
I., encouraged by the prelates, landed in England to lay claim to the
throne, and after a great deal of ill feeling and much needed
assassination, her son Henry, who had become quite a large
property-owner in France, invaded England, and finally succeeded in
obtaining recognition as the rightful successor of Stephen. Stephen died
in 1153, and Henry became king.
[Illustration: MATILDA LANDING IN ENGLAND.]
The Feudal System, which obtained in England for four hundred years, was
a good one for military purposes, for the king on short notice might
raise an army by calling on the barons, who levied on their vassals, and
they in turn levied on their dependants.
A feudal castle was generally built in the Norman style of architecture.
It had a "donjon," or keep, which was generally occupied by the baron as
a bar-room, feed-trough, and cooler between fights. It was built of
stone, and was lighted by means of crevices through the wall by day, and
by means of a saucer of tallow and a string or rush which burned during
the night and served mainly to show how dark it was. There was a front
yard or fighting-place around this, surrounded by a high wall, and this
again by a moat. There was an inner court back of the castle, into which
the baron could go for thinking. A chapel was connected with the
institution, and this was the place to which he retired for the purpose
of putting arnica on his conscience.
Underneath the castle was a large dungeon, where people who differed
with the baron had a studio. Sometimes they did not get out at all, but
died there in their sins, while the baron had all the light of gospel
and chapel privileges up-stairs.
The historian says that at that time the most numerous class in England
were the "villains." This need not surprise us, when we remember that it
was as much as a man's life was worth to be anything else.
There were also twenty-five thousand serfs. A serf was required to be at
hand night or day when the baron needed some one to kick. He was
generally attached to the realty, like a hornet's nest, but not
necessary to it.
In the following chapter knighthood and the early hardware trade will be
[Illustration: "IN HOC SIGNO VINCES."]
THE AGE OF CHIVALRY: LIGHT DISSERTATION ON THE KNIGHTS-ERRANT, MAIDS,
FOOLS, PRELATES, AND OTHER NOTORIOUS CHARACTERS OF THAT PERIOD.
The age of chivalry, which yielded such good material to the poet and
romancer, was no doubt essential to the growth of civilization, but it
must have been an unhappy period for legitimate business. How could
trade, commerce, or even the professions, arts, or sciences, flourish
while the entire population spread itself over the bleaching-boards, day
after day, to watch the process of "jousting," while the corn was "in
the grass," and everybody's notes went to protest?
Then came the days of knight-errantry, when parties in malleable-iron
clothing and shirts of mail--which were worn without change--rode up and
down the country seeking for maids in distress. A pretty maid in those
days who lived on the main road could put on her riding-habit, go to the
window up-stairs, shed a tear, wave her kerchief in the air, and in half
an hour have the front lawn full of knights-errant tramping over the
peony beds and castor-oil plants.
[Illustration: A PRETTY MAID IN THOSE DAYS.]
In this way a new rescuer from day to day during the "errant" season
might be expected. Scarcely would the fair maid reach her destination
and get her wraps hung up, when a rattle of gravel on the window would
attract her attention, and outside she would see, with swelling heart,
another knight-errant, who crooked his Russia-iron elbow and murmured,
"Miss, may I have the pleasure of this escape with you?"
"But I do not recognize you, sir," she would straightway make reply; and
well she might, for, with his steel-shod countenance and corrugated-iron
clothes, he was generally so thoroughly _incog._ that his crest, on a
new shield freshly painted and grained and bearing a motto, was his only
introduction. Imagine a sweet girl, who for years had been under the
eagle eye of a middle-weight chaperon, suddenly espying in the moonlight
a disguised man under the window on horseback, in the act of asking her
to join him for a few weeks at his shooting-box in the swamp. Then, if
you please, imagine her asking for his card, whereupon he exposes the
side of his new tin shield, on which is painted in large Old English
letters a Latin motto meaning, "It is the early bird that catches the
worm," with bird rampant, worm couchant on a field uncultivated.
Then, seating herself behind the knight, she must escape for days, and
even weeks,--one escape seeming to call for another, as it were. Thus,
however, the expense of a wedding was saved, and the knight with the
biggest chest measurement generally got the heiress with the
[Illustration: CREST OF A POPULAR KNIGHT.]
He wore a crest on his helmet adorned with German favors given him by
lady admirers, so that the crest of a popular young knight often looked
like a slump at the _Bon Marche_.
[Illustration: THE "VIGIL OF ARMS."]
The most peculiar condition required for entry into knighthood was the
"vigil of arms," which consisted in keeping a long silent watch in some
gloomy spot--a haunted one preferred--over the arms he was about to
assume. The illustration representing this subject is without doubt one
of the best of the kind extant, and even in the present age of the
gold-cure is suggestive of a night-errant of to-day.
A tournament was a sort of refined equestrian prize-fight with
one-hundred-ounce jabbers. Each knight, clad in tin-foil and armed
cap-a-pie, riding in each other's direction just as fast as possible
with an uncontrollable desire to push one's adversary off his horse,
which meant defeat, because no man could ever climb a horse in full
armor without a feudal derrick to assist him.
[Illustration: A JUDICIAL COMBAT.]
The victor was entitled to the horse and armor of the vanquished, which
made the castle paddock of a successful knight resemble the convalescent
ward of the Old Horses' Home.
This tourney also constituted the prevailing court of those times, and
the plaintiff, calling upon God to defend the right, charged upon the
defendant with a charge which took away the breath of his adversary.
This, of course, was only applicable to certain cases, and could not be
used in trials for divorce, breach of promise, etc.
The tournament was practically the forerunner of the duel. In each case
the parties in effect turned the matter over to Omnipotence; but still
the man who had his back to the sun, and knew how to handle firearms and
cutlery, generally felt most comfortable.
Gentlemen who were not engaged in combat, but who attended to the
grocery business during the Norman period, wore a short velvet cloak
trimmed with fur over a doublet and hose. The shoes were pointed,--as
were the remarks made by the irate parent,--and generally the shoes and
remarks accompanied each other when a young tradesman sought the hand of
the daughter, whilst she had looked forward to a two-hundred-mile ride
on the crupper of a knight-errant without stopping for feed or water.
In those days also, the fool made no effort to disguise his folly by
going to Congress or fussing with the currency, but wore a uniform which
designated his calling and saved time in estimating his value.
The clergy in those days possessed the bulk of knowledge, and had
matters so continued the vacant pew would have less of a hold on people
than it has to-day; but in some way knowledge escaped from the cloister
and percolated through the other professions, so that to-day in England,
out of a good-sized family, the pulpit generally has to take what is
left after the army, navy, politics, law, and golf have had the pick. It
was a fatal error to permit the escape of knowledge in that way; and
when southern Europe, now priest-ridden and pauperized, learns to read
and write, the sleek blood-suckers will eat plainer food and the poor
will not go entirely destitute.
The Normans ate two meals a day, and introduced better cooking among the
Saxons, who had been accustomed to eat very little except while under
the influence of stimulants, and who therefore did not realize what they
ate. The Normans went in more for meat victuals, and thus the names of
meat, such as veal, beef, pork, and mutton, are of Norman origin, while
the names of the animals in a live state are calf, ox, pig, and sheep,
all Saxon names.
The Authors' Club of England at this time consisted of Geoffrey of
Monmouth and another man. They wrote their books with quill pens, and if
the authorities did not like what was said, the author could be made to
suppress the entire edition for a week's board, or for a bumper of
Rhenish wine with a touch of pepper-sauce in it he would change the
objectionable part by means of an eraser.
[Illustration: THE AUTHORS' CLUB AT THIS TIME.]
It was under these circumstances that the Plantagenets became leaders in
society, and added their valuable real estate in France to the English
dominions. In 1154, Henry Plantagenet was thus the most powerful monarch
in Europe, and by wedding his son Geoffrey to the daughter of the Duke
of Brittany, soon scooped in that valuable property also.
He broke up the custom of issuing pickpocket and felony licenses to his
nobles, seized the royal stone-piles and other nests for common sneak
thieves, and resolved to give the people a chance to pay taxes and die
natural deaths. The disorderly nobles were reduced to the ranks or sent
away to institutions for inebriates, and people began to permit their
daughters to go about the place unarmed.
Foreign mercenaries who had so long infested the country were ordered to
leave it under penalty of having their personal possessions confiscated,
and their own carcasses dissected and fed to the wild boars.
[Illustration: FOREIGN MERCENARIES LEAVE ENGLAND.]
Henry next gave his attention to the ecclesiastic power. He chose Thomas
a Becket to the vacant portfolio as Archbishop of Canterbury, hoping
thus to secure him as an ally; but a Becket, though accustomed to ride
after a four-in-hand and assume a style equal to the king himself,
suddenly became extremely devout, and austerity characterized this child
of fortune, insomuch that each day on bended knees he bathed the chapped
and soiled feet of thirteen beggars. Why thirteen beggars should come
around every morning to the archbishop's study to have their feet
manicured, or how that could possibly mollify an outraged God, the
historian does not claim to state, and, in fact, is not able to throw
any light upon it at the price agreed upon for this book.
[Illustration: A COOLNESS BETWEEN THE KING AND THE ARCHBISHOP.]
Trouble now arose between the king and the archbishop; a protracted
coolness, during which the king's pew grew gray with dust, and he had to
baptize and confirm his own children in addition to his other work.
The king now summoned the prelates; but they excused themselves from
coming on the grounds of previous engagements. Then he summoned the
nobles also, and gave the prelates one more chance, which they decided
to avail themselves of. Thus the "Constitutions of Clarendon" were
adopted in 1164, and Becket, though he at first bolted the action of the
convention, soon became reconciled and promised to fall into line,
though he hated it like sin.
Then the Roman pontiff annulled the constitutions, and scared Becket
back again into his original position. This angered the king, who
condemned his old archbishop, and he fled to France, where he had a tall
time. The Pope threatened to excommunicate Henry; but the latter told
him to go ahead, as he did not fear excommunication, having been already
twice exposed to it while young.
Finally a Becket was banished; but after six years returned, and all
seemed again smooth and joyous; but Becket kept up the war indirectly
against Henry, till one day he exclaimed in his wrath, "Is there no one
of my subjects who will rid me of this insolent priest?" Whereupon four
loyal knights, who were doubtless of Scotch extraction, and who
therefore could not take a joke, thought the king in dead earnest, and
actually butchered the misguided archbishop in a sickening manner before
the altar. This was in 1170.
Henry, who was in France when this occurred, was thoroughly horrified
and frightened, no doubt. So much so, in fact, that he agreed to make a
pilgrimage barefoot to the tomb of a Becket; but even this did not place
him upon a firm footing with the clergy, who paraded a Becket's
assassination on all occasions, and thus strengthened this opposition to
[Illustration: HENRY WALKING TO THE TOMB OF BECKET.]
CONQUEST OF IRELAND: UNCOMFORTABLE EFFECTS FOLLOWING THE CULTIVATION OF
AN ACQUISITORIAL PROPENSITY.
In 1173 occurred the conquest of Ireland, anciently called Hibernia.
These people were similar to the Britons, but of their history prior to
the year 400 A.D. little is known. Before Christ a race of men inhabited
Ireland, however, who had their own literature, and who were advanced in
the arts. This was before the introduction of the "early mass" whiskers,
and prior to the days when the Orangemen had sent forth their defiant
[Illustration: "EARLY MASS" WHISKERS.]
In the fifth century Ireland was converted by St. Patrick, and she
became known as the Island of Saints and Scholars. To say that she has
become the island of pugilists and policemen to-day would be unjust,
and to say that she has more influence in America than in Ireland would
be unkind. Surely her modern history is most pathetic.
For three centuries the island was harassed by the Danes and Northmen;
but when the Marquis of Queensberry rules were adopted, the latter threw
up the sponge. The finish fight occurred at Clontarf, near Dublin.
Henry had written permission from the Pope to conquer Ireland years and
years before he cared to do it. Sometimes it rained, and at other times
he did not feel like it, so that his permission got almost worn out by
carrying it about with him.
In 1172, however, an Irish chief, or subordinate king, had trouble with
his kingdom,--doubtless because some rival monarch stepped in it and
tracked it around over the other kingdoms,--and so he called upon the
Anglo-Normans under Strongbow (Richard de Clare), whose deClaration of
Independence was the first thing of the kind known to civilization, for
help. While assisting the Irish chief, Strongbow noticed a royal wink on
the features of Henry, and acting upon it proceeded to gather in the
other precincts of Ireland. Thus, in 1172, the island was placed under
the rule of a viceroy sent there by England.
Henry now had trouble with three of his sons, Henry, Richard, and
Geoffrey, who threatened that if the old gentleman did not divide up
his kingdom among them they would go to Paris and go into the _roue_
business. Henry himself was greatly talked about, and his name coupled
with that of fair Rosamond Clifford, a rival of Queen Eleanor. The king
refused to grant the request of his sons, and bade them go ahead with
their _roue_ enterprises so long as they did not enter into competition
[Illustration: THE BECKET DIFFICULTY STILL KEPT HENRY AWAKE AT NIGHT.]
So they went to Paris, where their cuttings-up were not noticed. The
queen took their side, as also did Louis of France and William, King of
Scotland. With the Becket difficulty still keeping him awake of nights
also, the king was in constant hot water, and for a time it seemed that
he would have to seek other employment; but his masterly hit in making a
barefooted pilgrimage to the tomb of Becket, thus securing absolution
from the Archbishop of Canterbury, turned the tide.
William of Scotland was made a prisoner in 1174, and the confederacy
against the king broken up. Thus, in 1175, the castle at Edinburgh came
into the hands of the English, and roast beef was substituted for oats.
Irish and Scotch whiskey were now introduced into the national policy,
and bits of bright English humor, with foot-notes for the use of the
Scots, were shipped to Edinburgh.
Henry had more trouble with his sons, however, and they embittered his
life as the sons of a too-frolicsome father are apt to do. Henry Jr.
died repentant; but Geoffrey perished in his sins in a tournament,
although generally the tournament was supposed to be conducive to
longevity. Richard was constitutionally a rebel, and at last compelled
the old gentleman to yield to a humiliating treaty with the French in
1189. Finding in the list of the opposing forces the name of John, his
young favorite son, the poor old battered monarch, in 1189, selected an
unoccupied grave and took possession of same.
[Illustration: THE UNHAPPY FATHER SANK INTO THE GRAVE.]
He cursed his sons and died miserably, deserted by his followers, who
took such clothing as fitted them best, and would have pawned the throne
had it not been out of style and unavailable for that purpose, beside
being secured to the castle. His official life was creditable to a high
degree, but his private life seemed to call loudly for a good, competent
[Illustration: WHEN RICHARD WAS SICK THE GENEROUS SULTAN SENT HIM FRUITS
Richard _Kyur duh le ong_, as the French have it, or Richard I. of the
lion heart, reigned in his father's stead from 1189 to 1199. His reign
opened with a disagreeable massacre. The Jews, who had brought him some
presents to wear at his inaugural ball, were insulted by the populace,
who believed that the king favored a massacre, and so many were put to
Richard and Philip of France organized a successful crusade against
people who were not deemed orthodox, and succeeded in bagging a good
many in Syria, where the woods were full of infidels.
Richard, however, was so overbearing that Philip could not get along
with him, and they dissolved partnership; but Richard captured Ascalon
after this. His army was too much reduced, however, to capture
Saladin, the opposing sultan, was a great admirer of Richard, and when
the lion-hearted king was ill, sent him fruits and even ice, so the
historian says. Where the Saracens got their ice at that time we can
Peace was established, and the pilgrims who desired to enter the holy
city were unmolested. This matter was settled in 1192.
On his return Richard was compelled to go _incog._ through Germany, as
the authorities were opposed to him. He was discovered and confined till
a large ransom was paid.
Philip and John, the king's brother, decided that Richard's extremity
was their opportunity, and so concluded to divide up his kingdom between
them. At this dramatic moment Richard, having paid his sixty thousand
pounds ransom and tipped his custodian, entered the English arena, and
the jig was up. John was obliged to ask pardon, and Richard generously
gave it, with the exclamation, "Oh, that I could forget his injuries as
soon as he will my forgiveness!"
[Illustration: RICHARD TRAVELLING INCOG. THROUGH GERMANY.]
Richard never secured a peace with Philip, but died, in 1199, from the
effects of a wound received in France, and when but forty-two years of
age. The longevity among monarchs of the present day is indeed
gratifying when one reads of the brief lives of these old reigners, for
it surely demonstrates that royalty, when not carried to excess, is
rather conducive to health than otherwise.
Richard died from the effects of an arrow wound, and all his foes in
this engagement were hanged, except the young warrior who had given him
his death wound. Doubtless this was done to encourage good marksmanship.
England got no benefit from Richard's great daring and expensive picnics
in Palestine; but of course he advertised Great Britain, and frightened
foreign powers considerably. The taxation necessary to maintain an army
in the Holy Land, where board was high, kept England poor; but every one
was proud of Richard, because he feared not the face of clay.
John, the disagreeable brother, succeeded Richard, and reigned seventeen
years, though his nephew, Arthur, the son of Geoffrey, was the rightful
heir. Philip, who kept himself in pocket-money by starting one-horse
rebellions against England, joined with Arthur long enough to effect a
treaty, in 1200, which kept him in groceries several years, when he
again brought Prince Arthur forward; but this was disastrous, for the
young prince was captured and cruelly assassinated by request of his
affectionate uncle, King John.
To be a relative of the king in those good old days was generally
fatal. Let us rejoice that times have so greatly improved, and that the
wicked monarch has learned to seat himself gingerly upon his
[Illustration: JOHN CAUSED ARTHUR TO BE CRUELLY MURDERED.]
MAGNA CHARTA INTRODUCED: SLIGHT DIFFICULTIES ENCOUNTERED IN OVERCOMING
AN UNPOPULAR AND UNREASONABLE PREJUDICE.
Philip called the miserable monarch to account for the death of Arthur,
and, as a result, John lost his French possessions. Hence the weak and
wicked son of Henry Plantagenet, since called Lackland, ceased to be a
tax-payer in France, and proved to a curious world that a court fool in