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.
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 Boleyn.
TABLE OF CONTENTS.
INVASION OF CAESAR: THE DISCOVERY OF TIN AND CONSEQUENT ENLIGHTENMENT OF BRITAIN
THE VARIOUS ROMAN YOKES: THEIR GROWTH, DEGENERATION, AND FINAL ELIMINATION
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 PROCLIVITIES
OTHER DISAGREEABLE CLAIMANTS: FOREIGN FOIBLES INTRODUCED, ONLY TO BE EXPUNGED WITH CHARACTERISTIC PUGNACITY
THE NORMAN CONQUEST: COMPLEX COMMINGLING OF FACETIOUS ACCORD AND IMPLACABLE DISCORD
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
INVASION OF CAESAR: THE DISCOVERY OF TIN AND CONSEQUENT ENLIGHTENMENT OF BRITAIN.
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.
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.
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 develops.—AUTHOR.)
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 Druid.)
The Druids were the sheriffs, priests, judges, chiefs of police, plumbers, and justices of the peace.
They practically ran the place, and no one could be a Druid who could not pass a civil service examination.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 present.
THE VARIOUS ROMAN YOKES: THEIR GROWTH, DEGENERATION, AND FINAL ELIMINATION.
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 and domesticated.
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.
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 it.
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.
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.
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 National Appetite.
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.
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 the peasantry.
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.
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 unpalatable truth.]
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.
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.
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.
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 Art's sake.
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.
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 of danger.
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 God.
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.
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 the critic.)
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.
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.
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 incursionists.
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 stupidity.
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.
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.
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 eight dollars.
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 royal tidies.
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 year 955.
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 trouble.
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 redeemed.
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 mere bagatelle.
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 other matters.
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.
THE DANISH OLIGARCHY: DISAFFECTIONS ATTENDING CHRONIC USURPATION PROCLIVITIES.
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 Dunstan.
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 threatening storm.
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 buy peace.
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 hateful Danes.
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 butchered.
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.
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 his time.
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 each evening.
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 long enough.
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.)
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.
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 king.
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 dead.
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 say.
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 defeat—HISTORIAN.]
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 end.
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.
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.
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 his relics.
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.
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 IMPLACABLE DISCORD.
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 state.
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 was introduced.
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.
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.
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 tankard.
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.
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.
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 families.
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.
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 vegetable garden.
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 France.
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.
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 Winchester.
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, 1120 A.D.
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.
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.
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 touched upon.
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.
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 copper-colored hair.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 the king.
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 peal.
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 with him.
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.
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 disinfectant.
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 death.
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 Jerusalem.
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 only surmise.
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!"
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 bomb-infested throne.
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 his household was superfluous.
John now became mixed up in a fracas with the Roman pontiff, who would have been justified in giving him a Roman punch. Why he did not, no Roman knows.
On the death of the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1205, Stephen Langton was elected to the place, with a good salary and use of the rectory. John refused to confirm the appointment, whereat Innocent III., the pontiff, closed the churches and declared a general lock-out. People were denied Christian burial in 1208, and John was excommunicated in 1209.
Philip united with the Pope, and together they raised the temperature for John so that he yielded to the Roman pontiff, and in 1213 agreed to pay him a comfortable tribute. The French king attempted to conquer England, but was defeated in a great naval battle in the harbor of Damme. Philip afterwards admitted that the English were not conquered by a Damme site; but the Pope absolved him for two dollars.
It was now decided by the royal subjects that John should be still further restrained, as he had disgraced his nation and soiled his ermine. So the barons raised an army, took London, and at Runnymede, June 15, 1215, compelled John to sign the famous Magna Charta, giving his subjects many additional rights to the use of the climate, and so forth, which they had not known before.
Among other things the right of trial by his peers was granted to the freeman; and so, out of the mental and moral chaos and general strabismus of royal justice, everlasting truth and human rights arose.
Scarcely was the ink dry on Magna Charta, and hardly had the king returned his tongue to its place after signing the instrument, when he began to organize an army of foreign soldiers, with which he laid waste with fire and sword the better part of "Merrie Englande."
But the barons called on Philip, the general salaried Peacemaker Plenipotentiary, who sent his son Louis with an army to overtake John and punish him severely. The king was overtaken by the tide and lost all his luggage, treasure, hat-box, dress-suit case, return ticket, annual address, shoot-guns, stab-knives, rolling stock, and catapults, together with a fine flock of battering-rams.
This loss brought on a fever, of which he died, in 1216 A.D., after eighteen years of reign and wind.
A good execrator could here pause a few weeks and do well.
History holds but few such characters as John, who was not successful even in crime. He may be regarded roughly as the royal poultice who brought matters to a head in England, and who, by means of his treachery, cowardice, and phenomenal villany, acted as a counter-irritant upon the malarial surface of the body politic.
After the death of John, the Earl of Pembroke, who was Marshal of England, caused Henry, the nine-year-old son of the late king, to be promptly crowned.
Pembroke was chosen protector, and so served till 1219, when he died, and was succeeded by Hubert de Burgh. Louis, with the French forces, had been defeated and driven back home, so peace followed.
Henry III. was a weak king, as is too well known, but was kind. He behaved well enough till about 1231, when he began to ill-treat de Burgh.
He became subservient to the French element and his wife's relatives from Provence (pronounced Provongs). He imported officials by the score, and Eleanor's family never released their hold upon the public teat night or day. They would cry bitterly if deprived of same even for a moment. This was about the year 1236.
Besides this, and feeling that more hot water was necessary to keep up a ruddy glow, the king was held tightly beneath the thumb of the Pope. Thus Italy claimed and secured the fat official positions in the church. The pontiff gave Henry the crown of Sicily with a C.O.D. on it, which Henry could not raise without the assistance of Parliament. Parliament did not like this, and the barons called upon him one evening with concealed brass knuckles and things, and compelled him to once more comply with the regulations of Magna Charta, which promise he rigidly adhered to until the committee had turned the first corner outside the royal lawn.
Possessing peculiar gifts as a versatile liar and boneless coward, and being entirely free from the milk of human kindness or bowels of compassion, his remains were eagerly sought after and yearned for by scientists long before he decided to abandon them.
Again, in 1258, he was required to submit to the requests of the barons; but they required too much this time, and a civil war followed.
Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, at the head of the rebellious barons, won a victory over the king in 1264, and took the monarch and his son Edward prisoners.
Leicester now ruled the kingdom, and not only called an extra session of Parliament, but in 1265 admitted representatives of the towns and boroughs, thereby instituting the House of Commons, where self-made men might sit on the small of the back with their hats on and cry "Hear! Hear!"
The House of Commons is regarded as the bulwark of civil and political liberty, and when under good police regulations is still a great boon.
Prince Edward escaped from jail and organized an army, which in 1265 defeated the rebels, and Leicester and his son were slain. The wicked soldiery wreaked their vengeance upon the body of the fallen man, for they took great pride in their prowess as wreakers; but in the hearts of the people Leicester was regarded as a martyr to their cause.
Henry III. was now securely seated once more upon his rather restless throne, and as Edward had been a good boy for some time, his father gave him permission to visit the Holy Land, in 1270, with Louis of France, who also wished to go to Jerusalem and take advantage of the low Jewish clothing market. In 1272 Henry died, during the absence of his son, after fifty-six years of vacillation and timidity. He was the kind of king who would sit up half of the night trying to decide which boot to pull off first, and then, with a deep-drawn sigh, go to bed with them on.
Edward, surnamed "Longshanks," having collected many antiques, and cut up a few also, returned and took charge of the throne. He found England prosperous and the Normans and Saxons now thoroughly united and homogeneous. Edward did not hurry home as some would have done, but sent word to have his father's funeral made as cheery as possible, and remained over a year in Italy and France. He was crowned in 1274. In a short time, however, he had trouble with the Welsh, and in 1282, in battle, the Welsh prince became somehow entangled with his own name so that he tripped and fell, and before he could recover his feet was slain.
Wales having been annexed to the crown, Edward's son was vested with its government, and the heir-apparent has ever since been called the Prince of Wales. It is a good position, but becomes irksome after fifty or sixty years, it is said.
FURTHER DISAGREEMENTS RECORDED: ILLUSTRATING THE AMIABILITY OF THE JEW AND THE PERVERSITY OF THE SCOT.
In 1278 the Jews, to the number of two hundred and eighty, were hanged for having in their possession clipped coins. Shortly afterwards all the Jews in England were imprisoned. Whenever times were hard the Jews were imprisoned, and on one job lot alone twelve thousand pounds were realized in ransom. And still the Jews are not yet considered as among the redeemed. In 1290 they were all banished from the kingdom and their property seized by the crown. This seizure of real estate turned the attention of the Jews to the use of diamonds as an investment. For four hundred years the Jews were not permitted to return to England.
Scotch wars were kept up during the rest of Edward's reign; but in 1291, with great reluctance, Scotland submitted, and Baliol, whose trouble with Bruce had been settled in favor of the former, was placed upon the throne. But the king was overbearing to Baliol, insomuch that the Scotch joined with the Normans in war with England, which resulted, in 1293, in the destruction of the Norman navy.
Philip then subpoenaed Edward, as Duke of Guienne, to show cause why he should not pay damages for the loss of the navy, which could not be replaced for less than twenty pounds, and finally wheedled Edward out of the duchy.
Philip maintained a secret understanding with Baliol, however, and Edward called a parliament, founded upon the great principle that "what concerns all should be approved by all." This was in 1295; and on this declaration, so far as successful government is concerned, hang all the law and the profits.