Richard II - Makers of History
by Jacob Abbott
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Makers of History

Richard II.






Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year one thousand eight hundred and fifty-eight, by


in the Clerk's office of the District Court of the Southern District of New York.



King Richard the Second lived in the days when the chivalry of feudal times was in all its glory. His father, the Black Prince; his uncles, the sons of Edward the Third, and his ancestors in a long line, extending back to the days of Richard the First, were among the most illustrious knights of Europe in those days, and their history abounds in the wonderful exploits, the narrow escapes, and the romantic adventures, for which the knights errant of the Middle Ages were so renowned. This volume takes up the story of English history at the death of Richard the First, and continues it to the time of the deposition and death of Richard the Second, with a view of presenting as complete a picture as is possible, within such limits, of the ideas and principles, the manners and customs, and the extraordinary military undertakings and exploits of that wonderful age.


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Three Richards.—Richard the Crusader.—King John.—Character of the kings and nobles of those days.—Origin and nature of their power.—Natural rights of man in respect to the fruits of the earth.—Beneficial results of royal rule.—The power of kings and nobles was restricted.—Disputes about the right of succession.—Case of young Arthur.—The King of France becomes his ally.—Map showing the situation of Normandy.—Arthur is defeated and made prisoner.—John attempts to induce Arthur to abdicate.—Account of the assassination of Arthur.—Various accounts of the mode of Arthur's death.—Uncertainty in respect to these stories.—League formed against him by his barons.—Portrait of King John.—Magna Charta.—Runny Mead.—The agreement afterward repudiated.—New wars.—New ratifications of Magna Charta.—Cruelties and oppressions practiced upon the Jews.—Extract from the old chronicles.—Absurd accusations.—The story of the crucified child.—John Lexinton.—Confessions extorted by torture.—Injustice and cruelty of the practice.—Anecdotes of the nobles and the king.

There have been three monarchs of the name of Richard upon the English throne.

Richard I. is known and celebrated in history as Richard the Crusader. He was the sovereign ruler not only of England, but of all the Norman part of France, and from both of his dominions he raised a vast army, and went with it to the Holy Land, where he fought many years against the Saracens with a view of rescuing Jerusalem and the other holy places there from the dominion of unbelievers. He met with a great many remarkable adventures in going to the Holy Land, and with still more remarkable ones on his return home, all of which are fully related in the volume of this series entitled King Richard I.

Richard II. did not succeed Richard I. immediately. Several reigns intervened. The monarch who immediately succeeded Richard I. was John. John was Richard's brother, and had been left in command, in England, as regent, during the king's absence in the Holy Land.

After John came Henry III. and the three Edwards; and when the third Edward died, his son Richard II. was heir to the throne. He was, however, too young at that time to reign, for he was only ten years old.

The kings in these days were wild and turbulent men, always engaged in wars with each other and with their nobles, while all the industrial classes were greatly depressed. The nobles lived in strong castles in various places about the country, and owned, or claimed to own, very large estates, which the laboring men were compelled to cultivate for them. Some of these castles still remain in a habitable state, but most of them are now in ruins—and very curious objects the ruins are to see.

The kings held their kingdoms very much as the nobles did their estates—they considered them theirs by right. And the people generally thought so too. The king had a right, as they imagined, to live in luxury and splendor, and to lord it over the country, and compel the mass of the people to pay him nearly all their earnings in rent and taxes, and to raise armies, whenever he commanded them, to go and fight for him in his quarrels with his neighbors, because his father had done these things before him. And what right had his father to do these things? Why, because his father had done them before him. Very well; but to go back to the beginning. What right had the first man to assume this power, and how did he get possession of it? This was a question that nobody could answer, for nobody knew then, and nobody knows now, who were the original founders of these noble families, or by what means they first came into power. People did not know how to read and write in the days when kings first began to reign, and so no records ere made, and no accounts kept of public transactions; and when at length the countries of Europe in the Middle Ages began to emerge somewhat into the light of civilization, these royal and noble families were found every where established. The whole territory of Europe was divided into a great number of kingdoms, principalities, dukedoms, and other such sovereignties, over each of which some ancient family was established in supreme and almost despotic power. Nobody knew how they originally came by their power.

The people generally submitted to this power very willingly. In the first place, they had a sort of blind veneration for it on account of its ancient and established character. Then they were always taught from infancy that kings had a right to reign, and nobles a right to their estates, and that to toil all their lives, and allow their kings and nobles to take, in rent and taxes, and in other such ways, every thing that they, the people, earned, except what was barely sufficient for their subsistence, was an obligation which the God of nature had imposed upon them, and that it would be a sin in them not to submit to it; whereas nothing can be more plain than that the God of nature intends the earth for man, and that consequently society ought to be so organized that in each generation every man can enjoy something at least like his fair share of the products of it, in proportion to the degree of industry or skill which he brings to bear upon the work of developing these products.

There was another consideration which made the common people more inclined to submit to these hereditary kings and nobles than we should have supposed they would have been, and that is, the government which they exercised was really, in many respects, of great benefit to the community. They preserved order as far as they could, and punished crimes. If bands of robbers were formed, the nobles or the king sent out a troop to put them down. If a thief broke into a house and stole what he found there, the government sent officers to pursue and arrest him, and then shut him up in jail. If a murder was committed, they would seize the murderer and hang him. It was their interest to do this, for if they allowed the people to be robbed and plundered, or to live all the time in fear of violence, then it is plain that the cultivation of the earth could not go on, and the rents and the taxes could not be paid. So these governments established courts, and made laws, and appointed officers to execute them, in order to protect the lives and property of their subjects from all common thieves and murderers, and the people were taught to believe that there was no other way by which their protection could be secured except by the power of the kings. We must be contented as we are, they said to themselves, and be willing to go and fight the king's battles, and to pay to him and to the nobles nearly every thing that we can earn, or else society will be thrown into confusion, and the whole land will be full of thieves and murderers.

In the present age of the world, means have been devised by which, in any country sufficiently enlightened for this purpose, the people themselves can organize a government to restrain and punish robbers and murderers, and to make and execute all other necessary laws for the promotion of the general welfare; but in those ancient times this was seldom or never done. The art of government was not then understood. It is very imperfectly understood at the present day, but in those days it was not understood at all; and, accordingly, there was nothing better for the people to do than to submit to, and not only to submit to, but to maintain with all their power the government of these hereditary kings and nobles.

It must not be supposed, however, that the power of these hereditary nobles was absolute. It was very far from being absolute. It was restricted and curtailed by the ancient customs and laws of the realm, which customs and laws the kings and nobles could not transgress without producing insurrections and rebellions. Their own right to the power which they wielded rested solely on ancient customs, and, of course, the restrictions on these rights, which had come down by custom from ancient times, were as valid as the rights themselves.

Notwithstanding this, the kings were continually overstepping the limits of their power, and insurrections and civil wars were all the time breaking out, in consequence of which the realms over which they reigned were kept in a perpetual state of turmoil. These wars arose sometimes from the contests of different claimants to the crown. If a king died, leaving only a son too young to rule, one of his brothers, perhaps—an uncle of the young prince—would attempt to seize the throne, under one pretext or another, and then the nobles and the courtiers would take sides, some in favor of the nephew and some in favor of the uncle, and a long civil war would perhaps ensue. This was the case immediately after the death of Richard I. When he died he designated as his successor a nephew of his, who was at that time only twelve years old. The name of this young prince was Arthur. He was the son of Geoffrey, a brother of Richard's, older than John, and he was accordingly the rightful heir; but John, having been once installed in power by his brother—for his brother had made him regent when he went away on his crusade to the Holy Land—determined that he would seize the crown himself, and exclude his nephew from the succession.

So he caused himself to be proclaimed king. He was in Normandy at the time; but he immediately put himself at the head of an armed force and went to England.

The barons of the kingdom immediately resolved to resist him, and to maintain the cause of the young Arthur. They said that Arthur was the rightful king, and that John was only a usurper; so they withdrew, every man to his castle, and fortified themselves there.

In cases like this, where in any kingdom there were two contested claims for the throne, the kings of the neighboring countries usually came in and took part in the quarrel. They thought that by taking sides with one of the claimants, and aiding him to get possession of the throne, they should gain an influence in the kingdom which they might afterward turn to account for themselves. The King of France at this time was named Philip. He determined to espouse the cause of young Arthur in this quarrel. His motive for doing this was to have a pretext for making war upon John, and, in the war, of conquering some portion of Normandy and annexing it to his own dominions.

So he invited Arthur to come to his court, and when he arrived there he asked him if he would not like to be King of England. Arthur said that he should like to be a king very much indeed. "Well," said Philip, "I will furnish you with an army, and you shall go and make war upon John. I will go too, with another army; then, whatever I shall take away from John in Normandy shall be mine, but all of England shall be yours."

The situation of the country of Normandy, in relation to France and to England, may be seen by the accompanying map.

Philip thought that he could easily seize a large part of Normandy and annex it to his dominions while John was engaged in defending himself against Arthur in England.

Arthur, who was at this time only about fourteen years old, was, of course, too young to exercise any judgment in respect to such questions as these, so he readily agreed to what Philip proposed, and very soon afterward Philip assembled an army, and, placing Arthur nominally at the head of it, he sent him forth into Normandy to commence the war upon John. Of course, Arthur was only nominally at the head of the army. There were old and experienced generals who really had the command, though they did every thing in Arthur's name.

A long war ensued, but in the end Arthur's army was defeated, and Arthur himself was made prisoner. John and his savage soldiery got possession of the town where Arthur was in the night, and they seized the poor boy in his bed. The soldiers took him away with a troop of horse, and shut him up in a dungeon in a famous castle called the castle of Falaise. You will see the position of Falaise on the map.

After a while John determined to visit Arthur in his prison, in order to see if he could not make some terms with him. To accomplish his purpose more effectually, he waited some time, till he thought the poor boy's spirit must be broken down by his confinement and his sufferings. His design was probably to make terms with him by offering him his liberty, and perhaps some rich estate, if he would only give up his claims to the crown and acknowledge John as king; but he found that Arthur, young as he was, and helpless as was his condition in his lonely dungeon, remained in heart entirely unsubdued. All that he would say in answer to John's proposal was, "Give me back my kingdom." At length, John, finding that he could not induce the prince to give up his claims, went away in a rage, and determined to kill him. If Arthur were dead, there would then, he thought, be no farther difficulty, for all acknowledged that after Arthur he himself was the next heir.

There was another way, too, by which John might become the rightful heir to the crown. It was a prevalent idea in those days that no person who was blind, or deaf, or dumb could inherit a crown. To blind young Arthur, then, would be as effectual a means of extinguishing his claims as to kill him, and John accordingly determined to destroy the young prince's right to the succession by putting out his eyes; so he sent two executioners to perform this cruel deed upon the captive in his dungeon.

The name of the governor of the castle was Hubert. He was a kind and humane man, and he pitied his unhappy prisoner; and so, when the executioners came, and Hubert went to the cell to tell Arthur that they had come, and what they had come for, Arthur fell on his knees before him and began to beg for mercy, crying out, Save me! oh, save me! with such piteous cries that Hubert's heart was moved with compassion, and he concluded that he would put off the execution of the dreadful deed till he could see the king again.

John was very angry when he found that his orders had not been obeyed, and he immediately determined to send Arthur to another prison, which was in the town of Rouen, the keeper of which he knew to be an unscrupulous and merciless man. This was done, and soon afterward it was given out through all the kingdom that Arthur was dead. Every body was convinced that John had caused him to be murdered. There were several different rumors in respect to the way in which the deed was done. One story was that John, being at Rouen, where Arthur was imprisoned, after having become excited with the wine which he had drunk at a carousal, went and killed Arthur himself with his own hand, and that he then ordered his body to be thrown into the Seine, with heavy stones tied to the feet to make it sink. The body, however, afterward, they said, rose to the surface and floated to the shore, where some monks found it, and buried it secretly in their abbey.

Another story was that John pretended to be reconciled to Arthur, and took him out one day to ride with him, with other horsemen. Presently John rode on with Arthur in advance of the party, until late in the evening they came to a solitary place where there was a high cliff overhanging the sea. Here John drew his sword, and, riding up to Arthur, suddenly ran him through the body. Arthur cried aloud, and begged for mercy as he fell from his horse to the ground; but John dragged him to the edge of the precipice, and threw him over into the sea while he was yet alive and breathing.

A third story was that John had determined that Arthur must die, and that he came himself one night to the castle where Arthur was confined in Rouen on the Seine. A man went up to Arthur's room, and, waking him from his sleep, directed him to rise.

"Rise," said he, "and come with me."

Arthur rose, and followed his guard with fear and trembling. They descended the staircase to the foot of the tower, where there was a portal that opened close upon the river. On going out, Arthur found that there was a boat there at the stairs, with his uncle and some other men in it. Arthur at once understood what these things meant, and was greatly terrified. He fell on his knees, and begged his uncle to spare his life; but John gave a sign, and Arthur was stabbed, and then taken out a little way and thrown into the river. Some say that John killed him and threw him into the river with his own hand.

Which of these tales is true, if either of them is so, can now probably never be known. All that is certain is that John in some way or other caused Arthur to be murdered in order to remove him out of the way. He justified his claim to the crown by pretending that King Richard, his brother, on his death-bed, bequeathed the kingdom to him, but this nobody believes.

At any rate, John obtained possession of the crown, and he reigned many years. His reign, however, was a very troubled one. His title, indeed, after Arthur's death, was no longer disputed, but he was greatly abhorred and hated for his cruelties and crimes, and at length nearly all the barons of his realm banded themselves together against him, with the view of reducing his power as king within more reasonable bounds.

The king fought these rebels, as he called them, for some time, but he was continually beaten, and finally compelled to yield to them. They wrote out their demands in a full and formal manner upon parchment, and compelled the king to sign it. This document was called the MAGNA CHARTA, which means the great charter. The signing and delivering this deed is considered one of the most important events in English history. It was the first great covenant that was made between the kings and the people of England, and the stipulations of it have been considered binding to this day, so that it is, in some sense, the original basis and foundation of the civil rights which the British people now enjoy.

The place of assembly where King John came out to sign this covenant was a broad and beautiful meadow on the banks of the Thames, not far from Windsor Castle. The name of the field is Runny Mead. The word mead is a contraction for meadow.

The act of once signing such a compact as this was, however, not sufficient, it seems, to bind the English kings. There were a great many disputes and contests about it afterward between the kings and the barons, as the kings, one after another, refused to adhere to the agreement made by John in their name, on the ground, perhaps, of the deed not being a voluntary one on his part. He was forced to sign it, they said, because the barons were stronger than he was. Of course, when the kings thought that they, in their turn, were stronger than the barons, they were very apt to violate the agreement. One of the kings on one occasion obtained a dispensation from the Pope, absolving him from all obligation to fulfill this compact.

In consequence of this want of good faith on the part of the kings, there arose continually new quarrels, and sometimes new civil wars, between the kings and the barons. In these contests the barons were usually successful in the end, and then they always insisted on the vanquished monarch's ratifying or signing the Magna Charta anew. It is said that in this way it was confirmed and re-established not less than thirty times in the course of four or five reigns, and thus it became at last the settled and unquestioned law of the land. The power of the kings of England has been restricted and controlled by its provisions ever since.

All this took place in the reigns preceding the accession of Richard II.

Besides these contests with the barons, the kings of those times were often engaged in contentions with the people; but the people, having no means of combining together or otherwise organizing their resistance, were almost always compelled to submit. They were often oppressed and maltreated in the most cruel manner. The great object of the government seems to have been to extort money from them in every possible way, and to this end taxes and imposts were levied upon them to such an extent as to leave them enough only for bare subsistence. The most cruel means were often resorted to to compel the payment of these taxes. The unhappy Jews were the special subjects of these extortions. The Jews in Europe were at this time generally excluded from almost every kind of business except buying and selling movable property, and lending money; but by these means many of them became very rich, and their property was of such a nature that it could be easily concealed. This led to a great many cases of cruelty in the treatment of them by the government. The government pretended often that they were richer than they really were, while they themselves pretended that they were poorer than they were, and the government resorted to the most lawless and atrocious measures sometimes to compel them to pay. The following extract from one of the historians of the time gives an example of this cruelty, and, at the same time, furnishes the reader with a specimen of the quaint and curious style of composition and orthography in which the chronicles of those days are written.

Furthermore, about the same time, the King taxed the Jewes, and greeuouslie tormented and emprisoned them bicause divers of them would not willinglie pay the summes that they were taxed at. Amongst other, there was one of them at Bristow who would not consent to give any fine for his deliverance; wherefore by the king's commandment he was put unto this penance, namely, that eurie daie, till he would agree to give to the king those ten thousand marks that he was siezed at, he would have one of his teeth plucked out of his head. By the space of seaun daies together he stood stedfast, losing euerie of those days a tooth. But on the eighth day, when he shuld come to have the eighth tooth, and the last (for he had but eight in all), draun out, he paid the monie to save that, who with more wisedome and less paine might have done so before, and so have saved his seven teeth which he lost with such torments; for those homelie toothdrauers used no great cunning in plucking them forth, as may be conjectured.

The poor Jews were entirely at the mercy of the king in these cases, for they were so much hated and despised by the Christian people of the land that nobody was disposed to defend them, either by word or deed, whatever injustice or cruelty they might suffer. The most absurd and injurious charges were made against them by common rumor, and were generally believed, for there was nobody to defend them. There was a story, for example, that they were accustomed every year to crucify a Christian child. One year a mother, having missed her child, searched every where for him, and at length found him dead in the bottom of a well. It was recollected that a short time before the child disappeared he had been seen playing with some Jewish children before the door of a house where a certain Jew lived, called John Lexinton. The story was immediately circulated that this child had been taken by the Jews and crucified. It was supposed, of course, that John Lexinton was intimately connected with the crime. He was immediately seized by the officers, and he was so terrified by their threats and denunciations that he promised to confess every thing if they would spare his life. This they engaged to do, and he accordingly made what he called his confession. In consequence of this confession a hundred and two Jews were apprehended, and carried to London and shut up in the Tower.

But, notwithstanding the confession that John Lexinton had made and the promise that was given him, it was determined that he should not be spared, but should die. Upon hearing this he was greatly distressed, and he offered to make more confessions; so he revealed several additional particulars in regard to the crime, and implicated numerous other persons in the commission of it. All was, however, of no avail. He was executed, and eighteen other Jews with him.

Judging from the evidence which we have in this case, it is highly probable that the alleged crime was wholly imaginary. Confessions that are extorted by pain or fear are never to be believed. They may be true, but they are far more likely to be false. It was the custom in ancient times, and it still remains the custom among many ignorant and barbarous nations, to put persons to torture in order to compel them to confess crimes of which they are suspected, or to reveal the names of their accomplices, but nothing can be more cruel or unjust than such a practice as this. Most men, in such cases, are so maddened with their agony and terror that they will say any thing whatever that they think will induce their tormentors to put an end to their sufferings.

The common people could not often resist the acts of oppression which they suffered from their rulers, for they had no power, and they could not combine together extensively enough to create a power, and so they were easily kept in subjection.

The nobles, however, were much less afraid of the monarchs, and often resisted them and bid them defiance. It was the law in those days that all estates to which no other person had a legal claim escheated, as they called it, to the king. Of course, if the king could find an estate in which there was any flaw in the title of the man who held it, he would claim it for his own. At one time a king asked a certain baron to show him the title to his estate. He was intending to examine it, to see if there was any flaw in it. The baron, instead of producing his parchment, drew his sword and held it out before the king.

"This is my title to my estate," said he. "Your majesty will remember that William of Normandy did not conquer this realm for himself alone."

At another time a king wished to send two of his earls out of the country on some military expedition where they did not wish to go. They accordingly declined the undertaking.

"By the Almighty," said the king, "you shall either go or hang."

"By the Almighty," replied one of the earls, "we will neither go nor hang."

The nobles also often formed extensive and powerful combinations among each other against the king, and in such cases they were almost always successful in bringing him to submit to their demands.



A.D. 1327

Classes of quarrels in which the kings and the people were engaged.—The Pope.—His claim of jurisdiction in England.—The Pope's legate and the students at Oxford.—Great riot made by the students.—The end of the affair.—Plan to assassinate the king.—Margaret, the servant-girl.—Execution of Marish.—Ideas of the sacredness of the person of a king.—Origin of the wars with Leolin, Prince of Wales.—Leolin's bride intercepted at sea.—The unhappy fate of Leolin.—Fate of Prince David, his brother.—Occasional acts of generosity.—Story of Lewin and the box of dispatches.—The fate of Lewin.—Origin of the modern title of Prince of Wales.—The first English Prince of Wales.—Piers Gaveston.—Edward II. and his favorite.—Their wild and reckless behavior.—The king goes away to be married.—Edward's indifference on the occasion of his marriage.—His infatuation in respect to Gaveston.—The coronation.—Bold and presumptuous demeanor of Gaveston.—His unpopularity.—He is banished.—His parting.—The Black Dog of Ardenne.—Gaveston's return.—Gaveston made prisoner.—Consultation respecting him.—His fate.—The Spencers.—The queen and Mortimer.—Edward III. proclaimed king.—Edward II. made prisoner.—Edward II. formally deposed at Kenilworth.—The delegation require the king to abdicate the crown.—Opinion of the monks.—Alarm of the nobles.—Berkeley Castle.—Plot for assassinating the king.—Dreadful death.—Great hatred of Mortimer.—Situation of the castle of Nottingham.—The caves.—Entrance of the conspirators into the castle.—Isabella's unhappy fate.—Mortimer's Hole.

In the days of the predecessors of King Richard the Second, notwithstanding the claim made by the kings of a right on their part to reign on account of the influence exercised by their government in promoting law and order throughout the community, the country was really kept in a continual state of turmoil by the quarrels which the different parties concerned in this government were engaged in with each other and with surrounding nations. These quarrels were of various kinds.

1. The kings, as we have already seen, were perpetually quarreling with the nobles.

2. The different branches of the royal family were often engaged in bitter and cruel wars with each other, arising from their conflicting claims to the crown.

3. The kings of different countries were continually making forays into each other's territories, or waging war against each other with fire and sword. These wars arose sometimes from a lawless spirit of depredation, and sometimes were waged to resent personal insults or injuries, real or imaginary.

4. The Pope of Rome, who claimed jurisdiction over the Church in England as well as elsewhere, was constantly coming into collision with the civil power.

From some one or other of these several causes, the kingdom of England, in the time of Richard's predecessors, was seldom at peace. Some great quarrel or other was continually going on. There was a great deal of difficulty during the reigns that immediately preceded that of Richard the Second between the kings and the Pope. The Pope, as has already been remarked, was considered the head of the whole Christian Church, and he claimed rights in respect to the appointment of the archbishops, and bishops, and other ecclesiastics in England, and in respect to the government and control of the monasteries, and the abbeys, and to the appropriation and expenditure of the revenues of the Church, which sometimes interfered very seriously with the views and designs of the king. Hence there arose continual disputes and quarrels. The Pope never came himself to England, but he often sent a grand embassador, called a legate, who traveled with great pomp and parade, and with many attendants, and assumed in all his doings a most lofty and superior air. In the contests in which these legates were engaged with the kings, the legates almost always came off conquerors through the immense influence which the Pope exercised over the consciences and religious fears of the mass of the people.

Sometimes the visits of the legates and their proceedings among the people led to open broils. At one time, for instance, the legate was at Oxford, where the great University, now so renowned throughout the world, already existed. He was lodged at an abbey there, and some of the scholars of the University wishing to pay their respects to him, as they said, went in a body to the gates of the abbey and demanded admission; but the porter kept them back and refused to let them in. Upon this a great noise and tumult arose, the students pressing against the gates to get in, and the porter, assisted by the legate's men, whom he called to his assistance, resisting them.

In the course of the fray one or two of the students succeeded in forcing their way in as far as to the kitchen of the abbey, and there one of them called upon a cook to help them. But the cook, instead of helping them, dipped out a ladle full of hot broth from a kettle and threw it into the student's face. Whereupon the other students cried out, as the ancient chronicler relates it, "What meane we to suffer this villanie," and, taking an arrow, he set it in his bow, having caught up these weapons in the beginning of the fray, and let it fly at the cook, and killed him on the spot.

This, of course, greatly increased the excitement. More students came in, and so great was the tumult and confusion that the legate was in terror for his life, and he fled and concealed himself in the belfry of the abbey. After lying in this place of concealment for some time, until the tumult was in some measure appeased, he crept out secretly, fled across the Thames, and then, mounting a horse, made the best of his way to London.

He made complaint to the king of the indignity which he had endured, and the king immediately sent a troop of armed men, with an earl at the head of them, to rescue the remainder of the legate's men that were still imprisoned in the abbey, and also to seize all the students that had been concerned in the riot and bring them to London. The earl proceeded to execute his commission. He apprehended thirty of the students, and, taking them to a neighboring castle, he shut them up there as prisoners.

In the end, besides punishing the individual students who had made this disturbance, the regents and masters of the University were compelled to come to London, and there to go barefooted through the principal street to a church where the legate was, and humbly to supplicate his forgiveness for the indignity which he had suffered. And so, with great difficulty, they obtained their pardon.

The students in those days, as students are apt to be in all countries and in all ages, were a very impulsive, and, in some respects, a lawless set. Whenever they deemed themselves injured, they pursued the object of their hostility in the most reckless and relentless manner. At one time a member of the University became so excited against the king on account of some injury, real or imaginary, which he had suffered, that he resolved to kill him. So he feigned himself mad, and in this guise he loitered many days about the palace of Woodstock, where the king was then residing, until at length he became well acquainted with all the localities. Then, watching his opportunity, he climbed by night through a window into a bedchamber where he thought the king was lying. He crept up to the bedside, and, throwing back the clothes, he stabbed several times into the bed with a dagger. He, however, stabbed nothing but the bed itself, and the pillow, for the king that night, as it happened, lay in another chamber.

As the student was making his escape, he was spied by one of the chambermaids named Margaret Biset. Margaret immediately made a great outcry, and the other servants, coming up, seized the student and carried him off to prison. He was afterward tried, and was convicted of treason in having made an attempt upon the king's life, and was hanged. Before his death he said that he had been employed to kill the king by another man, a certain William de Marish, who was a noted and prominent man of those days. This William de Marish was afterward taken and brought to trial, but he solemnly denied that he had ever instigated the student to commit the crime. He was, however, condemned and executed, and, according to the custom in those days in the case of persons convicted of treason, his body was subjected after his death to extreme indignities, and then was divided into four quarters, one of which was sent to each of the four principal cities of the kingdom, and publicly exhibited in them as a warning to all men of the dreadful consequences of attempting such a crime.

Great pains were taken in those days to instill into the minds of all men the idea that to kill a king was the worst crime that a human being could commit. One of the writers of the time said that in wounding and killing a prince a man was guilty of homicide, parricide, Christicide, and even of deicide, all in one; that is, that in the person of a king slain by the hand of the murderer the criminal strikes not only at a man, but at his own father, and at Christ his Savior, and God.

A great many strange and superstitious notions were entertained by the people in respect to kings. These superstitions were encouraged, even by the scholars and historians of those times, who might be supposed to know better. But it was so much for their interest to write what should be agreeable to the king and to his court, that they were by no means scrupulous in respect to the tales which they told, provided they were likely to be pleasing to those in authority, and to strengthen the powers and prestige of the reigning families.

* * * * *

The neighboring countries with which the kings of England were most frequently at war in those days were Scotland, Wales, and France. These wars arose, not from any causes connected with the substantial interests of the people of England, but from the grasping ambition of the kings, who wished to increase the extent of their territories, and thus add to their revenues and to their power. Sometimes their wars arose from private and personal quarrels, and in these cases thousands of lives were often sacrificed, and great sums of money expended to revenge slights or personal injuries of comparatively little consequence.

For instance, one of the wars with Wales broke out in this manner. Leolin, who was then the reigning Prince of Wales, sent to France, and requested the King of France that he might have in marriage a certain lady named Lady Eleanor, who was then residing in the French king's court. The motive of Leolin in making this proposal was not that he bore any love for the Lady Eleanor, for very likely he had never seen her; but she was the daughter of an English earl named Montfort, Earl of Leicester, who was an enemy of the King of England, and, having been banished from the country, had taken refuge in France. Leolin thought that by proposing and carrying into effect this marriage, he would at once gratify the King of France and spite the King of England.

The King of France at once assented to the proposed marriage, but the King of England was extremely angry, and he determined to prevent the marriage if he could. He accordingly gave the necessary orders, and the little fleet which was sent from France to convey Eleanor to Wales was intercepted off the Scilly Islands on the way, and the whole bridal party were taken prisoners and sent to London.

As soon as Leolin heard this, he, of course, was greatly enraged, and he immediately set off with an armed troop, and made a foray upon the English frontiers, killing all the people that lived near the border, plundering their property, and burning up all the towns and villages that came in his way. There followed a long war. The English were, on the whole, the victors in the war, and at the end of it a treaty was made by which Leolin's wife, it is true, was restored to him, but his kingdom was brought almost completely under the power of the English kings.

Of course, Leolin was extremely dissatisfied with this result, and he became more and more uneasy in the enthralled position to which the English king had reduced him, and finally a new war broke out. Leolin was beaten in this war too, and in the end, in a desperate battle that was fought among the mountains, he was slain. He was slain near the beginning of the battle. The man who killed him did not know at the time who it was that he had killed, though he knew from his armor that he was some distinguished personage or other. When the battle was ended this man went back to the place to see, and, finding that it was the Prince Leolin whom he had slain, he was greatly pleased. He cut off the head from the body, and sent it as a present to the king. The king sent the head to London, there to be paraded through the streets on the end of a long pole as a token of victory. After being carried in this manner through Cheapside—then the principal street of London—in order that it might be gazed upon by all the people, it was set up on a high pole near the Tower, and there remained a long time, a trophy, as the king regarded it, of the glory and renown of a victory, but really an emblem of cruel injustice and wrong perpetrated by a strong against a weaker neighbor.

Not long after this the King of England succeeded in taking Prince David, the brother of Leolin, and, under the pretense that he had been guilty of treason, he cut off his head too, and set it up on another pole at the Tower of London, by the side of his brother's.

It must be admitted, however, that, although these ancient warriors were generally extremely unjust in their dealings with each other, and often barbarously cruel, they were still sometimes actuated by high and noble sentiments of honor and generosity. On one occasion, for instance, when this same Edward the First, who was so cruel in his treatment of Leolin, was at war in Scotland, and was besieging a castle there, he wrote one day certain dispatches to send to his council in London, and, having inquired for a speedy and trusty messenger to send them by, a certain Welshman named Lewin was sent to him. The king delivered the package to Lewin inclosed in a box, and also gave him money to bear his expenses on the way, and then sent him forth.

Lewin, however, instead of setting out on his journey, went to a tavern, and there, with a party of his companions, he spent the money which he had received in drink, and passed the night carousing. In the morning he said that he must set out on his journey, but before he went he must go back to the castle and have one parting shot at the garrison. Under this pretext, he took his cross-bow and proceeded toward the castle wall; but when he got there, instead of shooting his arrows, he called out to the wardens whom he saw on guard over the gate, and asked them to let down a rope and draw him up into the castle, as he had something of great importance to communicate to the governor of it.

So the wardens let down a rope and drew Lewin up, and then took him to the governor, who was then at breakfast. Lewin held out the box to the governor, saying,

"Here, sir, look in this box, and you may read all the secrets of the King of England."

He said, moreover, that he would like to have the governor give him a place on the wall, and see whether he could handle a cross-bow or not against the English army.

Gunpowder and guns had not been introduced as means of warfare at this time; the most formidable weapon that was then employed was the cross-bow. With the cross-bow a sort of square-headed arrow was used called a quarrel.

The governor, instead of accepting these offers on the part of Lewin, immediately went out to one of the turrets on the wall, and, calling to the English soldiers whom he saw below, he directed them to tell the King of England that one of his servants had turned traitor, and had come into the castle with a box of dispatches.

"And tell him," said the governor, "that if he will send some persons here to receive him, I will let the man down to them over the wall, and also restore the box of dispatches, which I have not opened at all."

Immediately Lord Spencer, one of the king's chief officers, came to the wall, and the governor of the castle let Lewin down to him by a rope, and also passed the box of letters down. The King of England was so much pleased with this generosity on the part of the governor that he immediately ceased his operations against the castle, though he caused Lewin to be hanged on a gallows of the highest kind.

* * * * *

But to return to Wales. After the death of Leolin and his brother the kingdom of Wales was annexed to England, and has ever since remained a possession of the British crown. The King of England partly induced the people of Wales to consent to this annexation by promising that he would still give them a native of Wales for prince. They thought he meant by this that they should continue to be governed by one of their own royal family; but what he really meant was that he would make his own son Prince of Wales. This son of his was then an infant. He was born in Wales. This happened from the fact that the king, in the course of his conquests in that country, had seized upon a place called Caernarvon, and had built a castle there, in a beautiful situation on the Straits of Menai, which separate the main land from the isle of Anglesea.

When his castle was finished the king brought the queen to Caernarvon to see it, and while she was there, her child, Prince Edward, who afterward became Edward the Second, was born.

This was the origin of the title of Prince of Wales, which has been held ever since by the oldest sons of the English sovereigns.

This first English Prince of Wales led a most unhappy life, and his history illustrates in a most striking manner one of the classes of quarrels enumerated at the head of this chapter, namely, the disputes and contentions that often prevailed between the sovereign of the country and his principal nobles. While he was a young man he formed a very intimate friendship with another young man named Piers Gaveston. This Gaveston was a remarkably handsome youth, and very prepossessing and agreeable in his manners, and he soon gained a complete ascendency over the mind of young Edward. He was, however, very wild and dissolute in his habits, and the influence which he exerted upon Edward was extremely bad. As long as the common people only were injured by the lawless behavior of these young men, the king seems to have borne with them; but at last, in a riot in which they were concerned, they broke into the park of a bishop, and committed damage there which the king could not overlook. He caused his son, the young prince, to be seized and put into prison, and he banished Gaveston from the country, and forbade his son to have any thing more to do with him. This was in 1305, when the prince was twenty-one years of age.

In 1307, two years later, the king died, and the prince succeeded him, under the title of King Edward the Second. He immediately sent for Gaveston to return to England, where he received him with the greatest joy. He made him a duke, under the title of Duke of Cornwall; and as for the bishop whose park he and Gaveston had broken into, and on whose complaint Gaveston had been banished, in order to punish him for these offenses, the young king seized him and delivered him into Gaveston's hands as a prisoner, and at the same time confiscated his estates and gave them to Gaveston. Gaveston sent the bishop about from castle to castle as a prisoner, according as his caprice or fancy dictated.

These things made the barons and nobles of England extremely indignant, for Gaveston, besides being a corrupt and dissipated character, was, in fact, a foreigner by birth, being a native of Gascony, in France. His character seemed to grow worse with his exaltation, and he and Edward spent all their time in rioting and excess, and in perpetrating every species of iniquity.

Edward had been for some time engaged to be married to the Princess Isabel, the daughter of the King of France. About six months after his accession to the throne he set off for France to be married. It was his duty, according to the ancient usages of the realm, to appoint some member of the royal family, or some prominent person from the ancient nobility of the country, to govern the kingdom as regent during his absence; but instead of this he put Gaveston in this place, and clothed him with all the powers of a viceroy.

Edward was married to Isabel in Paris with great pomp and parade. Isabel was very beautiful, and was a general favorite. It is said that there were four kings and three queens present at the marriage ceremony. Edward, however, seemed to feel very little interest either in his bride or in the occasion of his marriage, but manifested a great impatience to get through with the ceremonies, so as to return to England and to Gaveston. As soon as it was possible, he set out on his return. The bridal party were met at their landing by Gaveston, accompanied by all the principal nobility, who came to receive and welcome them at the frontier. The king was overjoyed to see Gaveston again. He fell into his arms, hugged and kissed him, and called him his dear brother, while, on the other hand, he took very little notice of the nobles and high officers of state. Every body was surprised and displeased at this behavior, but as Edward was king there was nothing to be said or done.

Soon afterward the coronation took place, and on this occasion all the honors were allotted to Gaveston, to the utter neglect of the ancient and hereditary dignitaries of the realm. Gaveston carried the crown, and walked before the king and queen, and acted in all respects as if he were the principal personage in the country. The old nobles were, of course, extremely indignant at this. Hitherto they had expressed their displeasure at the king's favoritism by private murmurings and complaints, but now, they thought, it was time to take some concerted public action to remedy the evil; so they met together, and framed a petition to be sent to the king, in which, though under the form of a request, they, in fact, demanded that Gaveston should be dismissed from his offices, and required to leave the country.

The king was alarmed. He, however, could not think of giving his favorite up. So he said that he would return them an answer to the petition by-and-by, and he immediately began to pursue a more conciliatory course toward the nobles. But the effect of his attempts at conciliation was spoiled by Gaveston's behavior. He became more and more proud and ostentatious every day. He appeared in all public places, and every where he took precedence of the highest nobles of the land, and prided himself on outshining them in the pomp and parade which he displayed. He attended all the jousts and tournaments, and, as he was really a very handsome and well-formed man, and well skilled in the warlike sports in fashion in those days, he bore away most of the great prizes. He thus successfully rivaled the other nobles in gaining the admiration of the ladies of the court and the applause of the multitude, and made the nobles hate him more than ever.

Things went on in this way worse and worse, until at last the general sentiment became so strong against Gaveston that the Parliament, when it met, took a decided stand in opposition to him, and insisted that he should be expelled from the country. A struggle followed, but the king was obliged to yield. Gaveston was required to leave the country, and to take an oath never to return. It was only on these conditions that the Parliament would uphold the government, and thus the king saw that he must lose either his friend or his crown.

Gaveston went away. The king accompanied him to the sea-shore, and took leave of him there in the most affectionate manner, promising to bring him back again as soon as he could possibly do it. He immediately began to manoeuvre for the accomplishment of this purpose. In the mean time, as Gaveston had only sworn to leave England, the king sent him to Ireland, and made him governor general of that country, and there Gaveston lived in greater power and splendor than ever.

At length, in little more than a year, Gaveston came back. His oath not to return was disposed of by means of a dispensation which King Edward obtained for him from the Pope, absolving him from the obligation of it. When he was reinstated in the king's court he behaved more scandalously than ever. He revenged himself upon the nobles who had been the means of sending him away by ridiculing them and giving them nicknames. One of them he called Joseph the Jew, because his face was pale and thin, and bore, in some respects, a Jewish expression. Another, the Earl of Warwick, he called the Black Dog of Ardenne. When the earl heard of this, he said, clenching his fist, "Very well; I'll make him feel the Black Dog's teeth yet."

In a word, the nobles were excited to the greatest pitch of rage and indignation against the favorite, and, after various struggles and contentions between them and the king, they at length broke out into an open revolt. The king at this time, with Gaveston and his wife, were at Newcastle, which is in the north of England. The barons fell upon him here with the intention of seizing Gaveston. Both the king and Gaveston, however, succeeded in making their escape. Gaveston fled to a castle, and shut himself up there. The king escaped by sea, leaving his wife behind, at the mercy of the conspirators. The barons treated the queen with respect, but they pressed on at once in pursuit of Gaveston. They laid siege to the castle where he sought refuge. Finding that the castle could not hold out long, Gaveston thought it best to surrender while it yet remained in his power to make terms with his enemies; so he agreed to give himself up, they stipulating that they would do him no bodily harm, but only confine him, and that the place of his confinement should be one of his own castles.

When he came down into the court-yard of the castle, after signing this stipulation, he found there ready to receive him the Earl of Warwick, the man to whom he had given the nickname of the Black Dog of Ardenne. The earl was at the head of a large force. He immediately took Gaveston into custody, and galloped off with him at the head of his troop to his own castle. The engraving represents a view of this fortress as it appeared in those days.

When they had got Gaveston safe into this castle, the chiefs held a sort of council of war to determine what should be done with their prisoner. While they were consulting on the subject, intending apparently to spare his life as they had agreed, some one called out,

"It has cost you a great deal of trouble to catch the fox, and now, if you let him go, you will have a great deal more trouble in hunting him again."

This consideration decided them; so they took the terrified prisoner, and, in spite of his piteous cries for mercy, they hurried him away to a solitary place a mile or two from the castle, and there, on a little knoll by the side of the road, they cut off his head.

One would have supposed that by this time the king would have been cured of the folly of devoting himself to favorites, but he was not. He mourned over the death of Gaveston at first with bitter grief, and when this first paroxysm of his sorrow was passed, it was succeeded with a still more bitter spirit of revenge. He immediately took the field against his rebellious barons, and a furious civil war ensued. He soon, too, found a new favorite, or, rather, two favorites. They were brothers, and their names were Spencer. They are called in history the Spencers, or the Despensers. The quarrels and wars which took place between the king and these favorites on one hand, and the barons and nobles on the other, were continued for many years. The queen took sides with the nobles against her husband and the Spencers. She fled to France, and there formed an intimacy with a young nobleman named Mortimer, who joined himself to her, and thenceforth accompanied her and made common cause with her against her husband. With this Mortimer she raised an army, and, sailing from Flanders, she landed in England. On landing, she summoned the barons to join her, and took the field against her husband. The king was beaten in this war, and fled again on board a vessel, intending to make his escape by sea. The two Spencers, one after the other, were taken prisoners, and both were hung on gibbets fifty feet high. They were hung in their armor, and after they were dead their bodies were taken down and treated as it was customary to treat the bodies of traitors.[A]

[Footnote A: In cases of treason the condemned man was first disemboweled; then his head was taken off; then the body was cut into quarters. The head and the four quarters of the body were then sent to various parts of the kingdom, and set up in conspicuous places in large cities and towns.]

In the midst of these proceedings the barons held a sort of Parliament, and made a solemn declaration that the king, by his flight, had abdicated the throne, and they proclaimed his son, the young Prince of Wales, then about fourteen years old, king, under the title of Edward the Third. In the mean time, the king himself, who had attempted to make his escape by sea, was tossed about in a storm for some days, until at last he was driven on the coast in South Wales. He concealed himself for some days in the mountains. Here he was hunted about for a time, until he was reduced to despair by his destitution and his sufferings, when at length he came forth and delivered himself up to his enemies.

He was made prisoner and immediately sent to Kenilworth Castle, and there secured. Afterward he was brought to trial. He was accused of shameful indolence and incapacity, and also of cowardice, cruelty, and oppression, and of having brought the country, by his vices and maladministration, to the verge of ruin. He was convicted on these charges, and the queen, his wife, confirmed the verdict.

Not being quite sure, after all, that by these means the dethronement of the king was legally complete, the Parliament sent a solemn deputation to Kenilworth Castle to depose the monarch in form. The king was brought out to meet this deputation in a great hall of the castle. He came just as he was, dressed in a simple black gown. The deputation told him that he was no longer king, that all allegiance had been withdrawn from him on the part of the people, and that henceforth he must consider himself as a private man. As they said this, the steward of the household came forward and broke his white wand, the badge of his office, in token that the household was dissolved, and he declared that by that act all the king's servants were discharged and freed. This was a ceremony that was usually performed at the death of a king, and it was considered in this case as completely and finally terminating the reign of Edward.

The delegation also exacted from him something which they considered as a resignation of the crown. His son, the young prince, it was said, was unwilling to ascend the throne unless the barons could induce his father voluntarily to abdicate his own rights to it. They were the more desirous in this case of completely and forever extinguishing all of King Edward's claims, because they were afraid that there might be a secret party in his favor, and that that party might gain strength, and finally come out openly against them in civil war, in which case, if they were worsted, they knew that they would all be hung as traitors.

Indeed, soon after this time it began to appear that there were, in fact, some persons who were disposed to sympathize with the king. His queen, Isabel, who had been acting against him during the war, was now joined with Mortimer, her favorite, and they two held pretty much the whole control of the government, for the new king was yet too young to reign. Many of the monks and other ecclesiastics of the time openly declared that Isabel was guilty of great sin in thus abandoning her husband for the sake of another man. They said that she ought to leave Mortimer, and go and join her husband in his prison. And it was not long before it began to be rumored that secret plots were forming to attempt the king's deliverance from his enemies. This alarmed the nobles more than ever. The queen and some others wrote sharp letters to the keepers of the castle for dealing so gently with their prisoner, and gave them hints that they ought to kill him. In the end, the fallen monarch was transported from one fortress to another, until at length he came to Berkeley Castle. The inducement which led Mortimer and the queen to send the king to these different places was the hope that some one or other of the keepers of the castles would divine their wishes in regard to him, and put him to death. But no one did so. The keeper of Berkeley Castle, indeed, instead of putting his prisoner to death, seemed inclined to take compassion on him, and to treat him more kindly even than the others had done. Accordingly, after waiting some time, Mortimer seized an opportunity when Lord Berkeley, having gone away from home, was detained away some days by sickness, to send two fierce and abandoned men, named Gourney and Ogle, to the castle, with instructions to kill the king in some way or other, but, if possible, in such a manner as to make it appear that he died a natural death. These men tried various plans without success. They administered poisons, and resorted to various other diabolical contrivances. At last, one night, dreadful outcries and groans were heard coming from the king's apartment. They were accompanied from time to time with shrieks of terrible agony. These sounds were continued for some time, and they were heard in all parts of the castle, and in many of the houses of the town. The truth was, the executioners whom Mortimer had sent were murdering the king in a manner almost too horrible to be described.[B] The people in the castle and in the town knew very well what these dreadful outcries meant. They were filled with consternation and horror at the deed, and they spent the time in praying to God that he would receive the soul of the unhappy victim.

[Footnote B: They came to him while he was asleep, and pressed him down with heavy feather beds, which they cast upon him to stifle his cries, and then thrust a red-hot spit up into his bowels through a horn, as some said, or a part of the tube of a trumpet, according to others, so as to kill him by the internal burning without making any outward mark of the fire on his person. Notwithstanding their efforts to stifle his cries, he struggled so desperately in his agony as partly to break loose from them, and thus made his shrieks and outcries heard.]

After this, Mortimer and the queen for two or three years held pretty nearly supreme power in the realm, though, of course, they governed in the name of the young king, who was yet only fourteen or fifteen years of age. There was, however, a great secret hatred of Mortimer among all the old nobility of the realm. This ill-will ripened at last into open hostility. A conspiracy was formed to destroy Mortimer, and to depose the queen-mother from her power, and to place young Edward in possession of the kingdom. Mortimer discovered what was going on, and he went for safety, with Edward and the queen, to the castle of Nottingham, where he shut himself up, and placed a strong guard at the gates and on the walls.

This castle of Nottingham was situated upon a hill, on the side of which was a range of excavations which had been made in a chalky stone by some sort of quarrying. There was a subterranean passage from the interior of one of these caves which led to the castle. The castle itself was strongly guarded, and every night Isabel required the warden, on locking the gates, to bring the keys to her, and she kept them by her bedside. The governor of the castle, however, made an agreement with Lord Montacute, who was the leader in the conspiracy against Mortimer, to admit him to the castle at night through the subterranean passage. It seems that Mortimer and the queen did not know of the existence of this communication. They did not even know about the caves, for the mouths of them were at that time concealed by rubbish and brambles.

It was near midnight when Montacute and the party who went with him entered the passage. They crowded their way through the bushes and brambles till they found the entrance of the cave, and then went in. They were all completely armed, and they carried torches to light their way. They crept along the gloomy passage-way until at last they reached the door which led up into the interior of the castle. Here the governor was ready to let them in. As soon as they entered, they were joined by young Edward at the foot of the main tower. They left their torches here, and Edward led them up a secret staircase to a dark chamber. They crept softly into this room and listened. They could hear in an adjoining hall the voices of Mortimer and several of his adherents, who were holding a consultation. They waited a few minutes, and then, making a rush into the passage-way which led to the hall, they killed two knights who were on sentry there to guard the door, and, immediately bursting into the apartment, made Mortimer and all his friends prisoners.

The queen, who was in her bed in an adjoining room at this time, rushed frantically out when she heard the noise of the affray, and, with piteous entreaties and many tears, she begged and prayed Edward, her "sweet son," as she called him, to spare the gentle Mortimer, "her dearest friend, her well-beloved cousin." The conspirators did spare him at that time; they took him prisoner, and bore him away to a place of safety. He was soon afterward brought to trial on a charge of treason, and hanged. Isabel was deprived of all her property, and shut up in a castle as a prisoner of state. In this castle she afterward lived nearly thirty years, in lonely misery, and then died.

The adjoining engraving represents a near view of the subterranean passage by which Lord Montacute and his party gained admission to the castle of Nottingham. It is known in modern times as MORTIMER'S HOLE.



A.D. 1336-1346

Parentage of the Black Prince, Richard's father.—Reason for the name.—Situation of Crecy.—Nature of Edward's claim to the crown of France.—The Salic law.—Reason for it.—Edward's case.—Edward raises an army and sets out for France.—Map.—The army reaches Rouen.—Progress of the army.—Arrival at Amiens.—Progress of the two armies down the Somme.—Edward's anxiety about crossing the river.—Danger from the tide.—Edward posts himself at Crecy.—Plan of the battle.—The Black Prince in command.—Picture of the Genoese archer.—Philip gets out of patience.—The rain.—The battle.—More difficulty with the archers.—They send for help for the Prince of Wales.—Flight of the King of France from the field of battle.—Account of the old King of Bohemia.—Origin of the motto and device of the Prince of Wales.—Fate of Calais.—The six citizens.—Margaret of Calais.—John of Gaunt.

The father of King Richard the Second was a celebrated Prince of Wales, known in history as the Black Prince. The Black Prince, as his title Prince of Wales implies, was the oldest son of the King of England. His father was Edward the Third. The Black Prince was, of course, heir to the crown, and he would have been king had it not happened that he died before his father. Consequently, when at last his father, King Edward, died, Richard, who was the oldest son of the prince, and, of course, the grandson of the king, succeeded to the throne, although he was at that time only ten years old.

The Christian name of the Black Prince was Edward. He was called the Black Prince on account of the color of his armor. The knights and warriors of those days were often named in this way from some peculiarity in their armor.

Edward, being the oldest son of the king his father, was Prince of Wales. He was often called the Prince of Wales, and often simply Prince Edward; but, inasmuch as there were several successive Edwards, each of whom was in his youth the Prince of Wales, neither of those titles alone would be a sufficiently distinctive appellation for the purposes of history. This Edward accordingly, as he became very celebrated in his day, and inasmuch as, on account of his dying before his father, he never became any thing more than Prince of Wales, is known in history almost exclusively by the title of the Black Prince.

But, although he never attained to a higher title than that of prince, he still lived to a very mature age. He was more than forty years old when he died. He, however, began to acquire his great celebrity when he was very young: he fought at the great battle of Crecy, in France, as one of the principal commanders on the English side, when he was only about seventeen years old.

Crecy, or Cressy, as it is sometimes called, is situated on the banks of the River Somme, in the northeast part of France. The circumstances under which the battle in this place was fought are as follows. The King of England, Edward the Third, the father of the Black Prince, laid claim to the throne of France. The ground of his claim was that, through his grandmother Isabel, who was a daughter of the French king, he was the nearest blood-relation to the royal line, all the other branches of the family nearer than his own being extinct. Now the people of France were, of course, very unwilling that the King of England should become entitled to the French crown, and they accordingly made a certain Prince Philip the king, who reigned under the title of Philip the Sixth. Philip was the nearest relative after Edward, and he derived his descent through males alone, while Edward, claiming, as he did, through his grandmother Isabel, came through a female line.

Now there was an ancient law prevailing in certain portions of France, called the Salic law,[C] by which female children were excluded from inheriting the possessions of their fathers. This principle was at first applied to the inheriting of private property, but it was afterward extended to rights and titles of all sorts, and finally to the descent of the crown of France. Indeed, the right to rule over a province or a kingdom was considered in those days as a species of property, which descended from father to child by absolute right, over which the people governed had no control whatever.

[Footnote C: The Salic law is very celebrated in history, and questions growing out of it gave rise, in ancient times, to innumerable wars. It derived its name from a tribe of people called Saliens, by whom it was first introduced.]

The chief reason why the Salic law was applied to the case of the crown of France was not, as it might at first be supposed, because it was thought in those days that women were not qualified to reign, but because, by allowing the crown to descend to the daughters of the king as well as to the sons, there was danger of its passing out of the country. The princes of the royal family usually remained in their own land, and, if they married at all, they married usually foreign princesses, whom they brought home to live with them in their native land. The princesses, on the other hand, when they grew up, were very apt to marry princes of other countries, who took them away to the places where they, the princes, respectively lived. If, now, these princesses were allowed to inherit the crown, and, especially, if the inheritance were allowed to pass through them to their children, cases might occur in which the kingdom of France might descend to some foreign-born prince, the heir, or the actual ruler, perhaps, of some foreign kingdom.

This was precisely what happened in Edward's case. The Salic law had not then been fully established. Edward maintained that it was not law. He claimed that the crown descended through Isabel to him. The French, on the other hand, insisted on passing him by, and decided that Philip, who, next to him, was the most direct descendant, and whose title came through a line of males, should be king.

In this state of things Edward raised a great army, and set out for France in order to possess himself of the French crown. The war continued many years, in the course of which Edward fitted out several different expeditions into France.

It was in one of these expeditions that he took his son, the Black Prince, then only seventeen years of age, as one of his generals. The prince was a remarkably fine young man, tall and manly in form, and possessed of a degree of maturity of mind above his years. He was affable and unassuming, too, in his manners, and was a great favorite among all the ranks of the army.

The map on the following page shows the course of the expedition, and the situation of Crecy. The fleet which brought the troops over landed there on a cape a little to the westward of the region shown upon the map. From the place where they landed they marched across the country, as seen by the track upon the map, toward the Seine. They took possession of the towns on the way, and plundered and wasted the country.

They advanced in this manner until at length they reached the river opposite Rouen, which was then, as now, a very large and important town. It stands on the eastern bank of the river. On reaching Rouen, Edward found the French army ready to meet him. There was a bridge of boats there, and Edward had intended to cross the river by it, and get into the town of Rouen. He found, however, on his arrival opposite the town, that the bridge was gone. The French king had destroyed it. He then turned his course up the river, keeping, of course, on the western and southern side of the stream, and looking out for an opportunity to cross. But as fast as he ascended on one side of the river, Philip ascended on the other, and destroyed all the bridges before Edward's armies could get to them. In this way the two armies advanced, each on its own side of the river, until they reached the environs of Paris, the English burning and destroying every thing that came in their way. There was a good deal of manoeuvring between the two armies near Paris, in the course of which Edward contrived to get across the river. He crossed at Poissy by means of a bridge which Philip had only partially destroyed. While Philip was away, looking out for his capital, Paris, which Edward was threatening, Edward hastened back to get possession of the bridge, repaired it, and marched his army over before Philip could return.

Both armies then struck across the country toward the River Somme. Philip reached the river first. He crossed at Amiens, and then went down on the right or eastern bank of the river, destroying all the bridges on the way. Edward, when he reached the river, found no place to cross. He tried at Pont St. Remi, at Long, and at other places, but failed every where. In the mean time, while his own forces had gradually been diminishing, Philip's had been rapidly increasing. Philip now divided his force. He sent down one portion on the eastern side of the river to prevent the English from crossing. With the other portion he came back to the left bank, and began to follow Edward's army down toward the mouth of the river. Edward went on in this way as far as Oisemont, and here he began to find himself in great danger of being hemmed in by Philip's army in a corner between the river and the sea.

He sent scouts up and down to try to find some place where he could cross by a ford, as the bridges were all down; but no fording-place could be found. He then ordered the prisoners that he had taken to be all brought together, and he offered liberty and a large reward in money to any one of them that would show him where there was a ford by which he could get his army across the river. He thought that they, being natives of the country, would be sure to know about the fording-places, if any there were. One of the prisoners, a countryman named Gobin, told him that there was a place a little lower down the river, called White Spot, where people could wade across the river when the tide was low. The tide ebbed and flowed in the river here, on account of its being so near the sea.

This was in the evening. King Edward was awake all night with anxiety, expecting every moment that Philip would come suddenly upon him. He rose at midnight, and ordered the trumpets to sound in order to arouse the men. The officers were all on the alert, the young prince among them. All was movement and bustle in the camp. As soon as the day dawned they commenced their march, Gobin leading the way. He was well guarded. They were all ready to cut him to pieces if he should fail to lead them to the ford which he had promised. But he found the ford, though at the time that the army reached the spot the tide was high, so that they could not cross. Besides this, the king saw that on the opposite bank there was a large body of French troops posted to guard the passage. Edward was obliged to wait some hours for the tide to go down, being in a terrible state of suspense all the time for fear that Philip should come down upon him in the rear, in which case his situation would have been perilous in the extreme.

At last the tide was low enough to make the river fordable, and Edward ordered his troops to dash forward into the river. The men advanced, but they were met in the middle of the stream by the troops that had been posted on the bank to oppose them. There was a short and desperate conflict in the water, but Edward at last forced his way through, and drove the French away.

It then required some hours for all his army to cross. They had barely time to accomplish the work before the tide came up again. Just at this time, too, Philip's army appeared, but it was too late for them to cross the ford, and so Edward escaped with the main body of his army, though a portion of those in the rear, who were not able to get across in time, fell into Philip's hands, and were either killed or taken prisoners on the margin of the water.

The young prince was, of course, as much rejoiced as his father at this fortunate escape. The army were all greatly encouraged, too, by the result of the battle which they had fought on the bank of the river in landing; and, finally, Edward resolved that he would not retreat any farther. He determined to choose a good position, and draw up his army in array, and so give Philip battle if he chose to come on. The place which he selected was a hill at Crecy. Philip soon after came up, and the battle was fought; and thus it was that Crecy became the scene of the great and celebrated conflict which bears its name.

King Edward arrayed his troops in successive lines on the declivity of the hill, while he himself took his station, with a large reserve, on the summit of it. He committed the general charge of the battle to his generals and knights, and one of the chief in command was the young prince, who was placed at the head of one of the most important lines, although he was at this time, as has already been said, only seventeen years old.

The King of France, with an immense host, came on toward the place where Edward was encamped, confident that, as soon as he could come up with him, he should at once overwhelm and destroy him. His army was very large, while Edward's was comparatively small. Philip's army, however, was not under good control. The vast columns filled the roads for miles, and when the front arrived at the place where Edward's army was posted, the officers attempted to halt them all, but those behind crowded on toward those in front, and made great confusion. Then there was disagreement and uncertainty among Philip's counselors in respect to the time of making the attack. Some were in favor of advancing at once, but others were for waiting till the next day, as the soldiers were worn out and exhausted by their long march.

There was a large body of Genoese archers who fought with cross-bows, a very heavy but a very efficient weapon. The officers who commanded these archers were in favor of waiting for the attack till the next day, as their men were very weary from the fatigue of carrying their cross-bows so far. They had marched eighteen miles that day, very heavily laden. Philip was angry with them for their unwillingness to go at once into battle.

"See," he cried out, "see what we get by employing such scoundrels, who fail us at the very moment when we want them."

This made the archers very angry, but nevertheless they formed in order of battle at the command of their officers, and went forward to the van. There went with them a large troop of horsemen under the French general. The horses of this troop were splendidly equipped, and were fierce for the fight.

While these preparations were making, a very black cloud was seen rising in the sky, until the whole heavens were darkened by it. The wind blew, and immense flocks of crows flew screaming through the air, over the heads of the army. Presently it began to rain. The rain increased rapidly, until it fell in torrents, and every body was drenched. There was, however, no possibility of shelter or escape from it, and the preparations for the fight accordingly still went on.

At length, about five o'clock, it cleared up, just as the battle was about to begin. The Genoese archers were in front with the horsemen, but the English, who had all this time remained calm and quiet at their posts, poured such a volley of arrows into their ranks that they were soon broken and began to be thrown into confusion. Other English soldiers ran out from their ranks armed with knives set into the ends of long poles, and they thrust these knives into the horses of the troop. The horses, terrified and maddened with the pain, turned round and ran in among the Genoese archers, and trampled many of them under foot. This made the whole body of archers waver and begin to fall back. Then Philip, who was coming on behind at the head of other bodies of troops, fell into a great rage, and shouted out in a thundering voice,

"Kill me those scoundrels, for they only stop our way without doing any good."

Of course, this made the confusion worse than ever. In the mean time, the English soldiers, under the command of Prince Edward and the other leaders, pressed slowly and steadily forward, and poured in such an incessant and deadly fire of darts and arrows upon the confused and entangled masses of their enemies, that they could not rally or get into order again. Some of the French generals made desperate efforts in other parts of the field to turn the tide, but in vain.

At one time, when the battle was very hot in the part of the field where the young English prince was fighting, messengers went up the hill to the place where the king was stationed, near a wind-mill, whence he was watching the progress of the fight, to ask him to send some succor to the troops that were fighting with the prince.

"Is my son killed?" asked the king.

"No, sire," said the messenger.

"Is he unhorsed or wounded?" asked the king.

"No, sire," replied the messenger. "He is safe thus far, and is fighting with his troop, but he is very hard beset."

"No matter for that," said the king. "Go and tell him he can not have any help from me. I intend that the glory of this victory shall be for him alone, and for those to whom I have intrusted him."

Things went on in this way for some time, until at length the whole French army was thrown into utter confusion, and the men were flying in all directions. Night was coming on, and it was beginning to be impossible to distinguish friend from foe. A French knight rode up to the King of France, and, seizing his horse by the bridle, turned him away, saying to the king,

"Sire, it is time to withdraw. By remaining here any longer you will only sacrifice yourself to no purpose. Reserve yourself to win the victory some other day."

So the king turned and fled, a small party of his officers accompanying him. He fled to a castle in the neighborhood, called the Castle of La Broye, and sought refuge there. When the party arrived the gates were shut, for it was late and dark. They summoned the castellan, or keeper of the castle. He came out upon the battlements and demanded who was there.

The king called out,

"Open, castellan, open. It is the fortune of France."

The castellan knew the king's voice, and ordered the gate to be opened, and the drawbridge to be let down. The king and his party, which consisted of only five persons, went in. They remained at the castle only a short time to take some wine and other refreshment, and then set out again, at midnight, with guides furnished them by the castellan, and rode to Amiens, which, being a large and well-fortified town, was at least a temporary place of safety.

But, though the king himself thus made his escape, a great many of the knights and generals in his army would not fly, but remained fighting on the field until they were killed. There was one of the king's allies, the King of Bohemia, whose death, if the legends which have come down to us respecting this battle are true, occurred under very extraordinary circumstances. He was present with the army, not as a combatant, for he was old and blind, and thus completely helpless. He came, it would seem, to accompany his son, who was an active commander in Philip's army. His son was dangerously wounded, and forced to abandon the field, and the old king was so overwhelmed with chagrin at the result of the battle, and so enraged at the fate of his son, that he determined to charge upon the enemy himself. So he placed himself between two knights, who interlaced the bridle of his horse with the bridles of theirs, for the king himself could not see to guide the reins, and in this manner they rode into the thickest of the fight, where the Black Prince was contending. They were all almost immediately killed.

Prince Edward was so much struck with this spectacle, that he adopted the motto on the old king's shield for his. This motto was the German phrase Ich dien, under three plumes. The words mean I serve. This motto and device have been borne in the coat of arms of the Prince of Wales from that day to this.

At the close of the battle the soldiers kindled up great fires on account of the darkness of the night, and in the light of them King Edward came down from his post on the hill, his heart full of exultation and joy at the greatness of the victory which his army had achieved, and at the glory of his son. In front of the whole army, he took his son in his arms and kissed him, and said,

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