Clifford, enraged at this horrible foray, came in person to Douglasdale, cleansed the fire-scathed walls, built a new tower, and entrusted the defence to a captain named Thirlwall. Him Sir James deluded by sending fourteen men to drive a herd of cattle past the castle, when Thirlwall, intending to plunder the drovers, came forth, fell into the ambush laid for him by Douglas, and was slain with all his men.
It went forth among the English, that Black Sir James had made oath that, if he abode not within his father's castle, neither should any Englishman dwell there. The knights of Edward's court named it the "Perilous Castle of Douglas," and Lord Clifford found that even brave men made excuses, and were unwilling to risk the dishonor of the loss, or to run the chance of serving to furnish a second Douglas larder. At this juncture a young lady, enthusiastic in romance, bethought her of making her hand the reward of any knight who would hold out the Perilous Castle for a year and a day. The spirited Sir John de Walton took the damsel at her word, and shut himself up in Douglas Castle; but his prudence did not equal his courage, and he fell a prey to the same stratagem which had deluded Thirlwall, except that the bait, in this case, was sacks of corn instead of wandering cattle. The young knight was slain in the encounter, when his lady's letters were found in his bosom, and brought to Sir James, who was so much touched by this chivalrous incident that he spared the remainder of the garrison, and gave them provisions and money to return in safety to Clifford [Footnote: The wild adventures at the Perilous Castle derive a most affecting interest from the chord they never failed to touch in the heart of "The Last Minstrel." Seen by him when a schoolboy, the Dale of Douglas, the ruin of the castle, and the tombs at St. Bride's, aided to form his spirit of romance; the Douglas ballad lore rang in his ears through life, stirring his heart and swelling his eyes with tears; and the home of the Douglas was the last spot he sought to explore, in the land which he loved with more than a patriot's love. Castle Dangerous was the last tale he told; and though the hand was feeble, the brain over-tasked, and the strain faltering, yet still the same heart breathed in every word, and it was a fit farewell from Scott to the haunted castles, glens, and hills of his home.]
Douglasdale, Ettrick Forest, and Jeddart, were thus made too terrible to be held by the English; but Bruce himself was for a long time disabled by a severe illness which gave slight hope of recovery. At Inverary, the Earl of Buchan made an attack on him when he was still so weak as to be obliged to be supported on horseback by a man on either side of him; but he gained a complete victory, and followed it up by such a dreadful devastation, that "the harrying of Buchan" was a proverb for half a century. The oaks sunk deep in the mosses bear marks of fire on their trunks, as if in memory of this destruction.
Another victory, a "right fair point of chivalry," was gained in Galloway by Edward Bruce, who in one year, 1308, took thirteen fortresses in that district. Robert might well say that "he was more afraid of the bones of Edward I. than of the living Edward of Caernarvon, and that it was easier to win a kingdom from the son than half a foot of land from the father." Edward II. was always intending to come to Scotland in person, and wasting time in preparations, spending subsidies as fast as he collected them, and changing his governors. In less than a year six different rulers were appointed, and, of course no consistent course could be pursued by nobles following each other in such quick succession.
At a lonely house near Lyme Water, Sir James Douglas captured the King's sister's son, Thomas Randolph, and led him to Bruce.
"Nephew" said Bruce, "you have forgotten your allegiance."
"Have Done nothing of which I have been ashamed," returned Randolph. "You blame me, but you deserve blame. If you choose to defy the King of England, why not debate the matter like a true knight in a pitched field?"
"That may be hereafter," replied Bruce, calmly; "but since thou art so rude of speech, it is fitting thy proud words should be punished, till thou learn my right and thy duty."
Whatever was, strictly speaking, Bruce's right, his nephew learnt in captivity to respect it, gave in his adhesion to King Robert, was created Earl of Moray, and became one of the firmest friends of his throne. The world was beginning to afford the successful man countenance, and the cunning Philippe le Bel wrote letters which were to pass through England under the address of the Earl of Carrick, but, within, bore the direction to King Robert of Scotland.
A vain march of Edward II into Scotland was revenged by a horrible inroad of the Scots into Northumberland, up to the very gates of Durham. On his return, Robert tried to surprise Berwick, but was prevented by the barking of a dog, which awakened the garrison. He next besieged Perth. After having discovered the shallowest part of the moat, he made a feint of raising the siege, and, after an absence of eight days, made a sudden night-attack, wading through the moat with the water up to his neck, and a scaling-ladder in one hand, while with the other he felt his way with his spear.
"What," cried a French knight, "shall we say of our lords, who live at home in ease and jollity, when so brave a knight is here risking his life to win a miserable hamlet?"
So saying, the Frenchman rushed after the King and his men, and the town was taken before the garrison were well awake.
About the same time Douglas came upon Roxburgh, when the garrison were enjoying the careless mirth of Shrovetide. Hiding their armor with dark cloaks, Sir James and his men crept on all-fours through the brushwood till they came to the very foot of the battlements, and could hear a woman singing to her child that the Black Douglas should not touch it, and the sentries saying to each other that yonder oxen were out late. Planting their ladders, the Scots gained the summit of the tower, killed the sentinels, and burst upon the revelry with shouts of "Douglas! Douglas!" The governor, a gallant Burgundian knight, named Fiennes, retreated into the keep, and held out till he was badly wounded, and forced to surrender, when he was spared, and retreated to die in England, while the castle was levelled to the ground by Edward Bruce.
The destruction of these strongholds was matter of great joy to the surrounding peasantry, who had been cruelly despoiled by the English soldiers there stationed; and a farmer, named Binning, actually made an attempt upon the great fortress of Linlithgow, which was well garrisoned by the English. He had been required to furnish the troops with hay, and this gave him the opportunity of placing eight strong peasants well armed, lying hidden, in the wagon, by which he walked himself, while it was driven by a stout countryman with an axe at his belt, and another party were concealed close without the walls.
The drawbridge was lowered, and the portcullis raised to admit the forage, when, at the moment that the wagon stood midway beneath the arch, at a signal from the farmer, the driver with his axe cut asunder the yoke, the horses started forward, and Binning, with a loud cry, "Call all! call all!" drew the sword hidden under his carter's frock, and killed the porter. The eight men leaped out from among the hay, and were joined by their friends from the ambush without; the cart under the doorway prevented the gates from being closed, and the pile of hay caught the portcullis as it fell. The Englishmen, surprised and discomfited, had no time to make head against the rustics, and were slaughtered or made prisoners; the castle was given up to the King, and Binning received the grant of an estate, and became a gentleman of coat-armor, with a wagon argent on his shield, and the harnessed head of a horse for a crest.
Jedburgh, Stirling, and Edinburgh, were the last castles still in the hands of the invaders. The Castle of Edinburgh, aloft on the rock frowning above the town, had been held by the English full twenty years, and, when Randolph was sent to besiege it, was governed by a Gascon knight named Piers Luband, a kinsman of Gaveston. In hatred and suspicion of all connected with the minion, the English soldiers rose against the foreigner, threw him into a dungeon, and, electing a fresh captain, made oath to hold out to the last. The rock was believed to be inaccessible, and a blockade appeared to be the only means of reducing the garrison. This had already lasted six weeks, when a man named Frank, coming secretly to Randolph, told him that his father had formerly been governor, and that he, when a youth, had been in the habit of scrambling down the south face of the rock, at night, to visit a young damsel who lived in the Grass-market, and returning in the same manner; and he undertook to guide a party by this perilous ascent into the very heart of the castle.
Randolph caught at the proposal, desperate as it was, and, selecting thirty men, chose an excessively dark night for the adventure. Frank went the first, climbing up the face of the precipice with hands and feet; then followed Sir Andrew Grey; thirdly, Randolph himself; and then the rest of the party. The ascent was exceedingly difficult and dangerous, especially in utter darkness and to men in full armor, fearing to make the slightest noise. Coming to a projecting crag, close under the wall, they rested to collect their breath, and listen. It was the moment when the guards were going their rounds, and, to their horror, they heard a soldier exclaim, as he threw a pebble down on them, "Away! I see you well!" A few more stones, and every man of them might have been hurled from the cliff by the soldiers merely rolling down stones on them. They dared not more, and a few moments' silence proved that the alarm had been merely a trick to startle the garrison—a jest soon to turn to earnest.
When the guard had passed on, the brave Scots crept to the foot of the wall, where it was only twelve feet high, and fixed the iron hook of their rope-ladder to the top of it. Ere all had mounted, the clank of their weapons had been heard, shouts of "Treason!" arose, and the sentinels made a brave resistance; but it was too late, and, after some hard fighting, the survivors of the garrison were forced to surrender. Sir Piers Luband, on being released from his dungeon, offered his services to King Robert, whereupon the English laid all the blame of the loss of the castle upon him, declaring that he had betrayed them. Randolph's seizure of Edinburgh was considered as the most daring of all the many gallant exploits of the Scots.
Bruce forayed Cumberland, and threatened Berwick, so that the poor Countess of Buchan was removed from thence to a more secure place of captivity. He also pursued his enemies, the Macdougals of Lorn, up the passes of Cruachan Ben, and even hunted them into the Isle of Man, where he took Rushyn Castle, and conquered the whole island. In his absence, Edward Bruce took Dundee, and besieged Stirling, until the governor, Philip Mowbray, was reduced to such straits by famine, that he begged for a truce, in which to go and inform the King of England of the state of affairs, promising to surrender on the Midsummer Day of the following year, if he were not relieved before that time. Edward Bruce granted these terms, and allowed Mowbray to depart. Robert was displeased at such a treaty, giving a full year to the enemy to collect their forces: but his brother boldly answered, "Let Edward bring every man he has; we will fight them—ay, and more too!" King Robert saw more danger than did the reckless prince, but he resolved to abide by his brother's word, though so lightly given. It was, in fact, a challenge to the decisive battle, which was to determine whether Bruce or Plantagenet should reign in Scotland.
Mowbray's appeal met with attention at court. Edward II. had newly recovered from the loss of Gaveston, and hoped by some signal success to redeem his credit with his subjects. He sent his cousin, the Earl of Pembroke, who was well experienced in Scottish wars, to the North; despatched writs to ninety-three Barons to meet him with their retainers at Newcastle, three weeks after Easter, 1313; summoned all the Irish chiefs under his obedience to come with Richard de Burgh, Earl of Ulster; called in Gascon troops, placed a fleet under the charge of John of Argyle, and took every measure for the supply of his army with provisions, tents, and every other necessary. For once the activity and spirit of his father seemed to have descended upon him, and, as the summer of 1313 drew on, he set out with Queen Isabel, and their infant son the Prince of Wales, to St. Alban's Abbey, where, amid prayers and offerings for the success of his enterprise, he bade her farewell.
At Berwick he met his host, and, to his disappointment, found that four of the disaffected earls, Lancaster, Warwick, Arundel, and Warrenne, had absented themselves; but they had sent their vassals in full force. Edward's troops, at the lowest computation, could not have been less than 100,000, of whom 40,000 were mounted, and 3,000 of these were knights and squires, both men and horses sheathed in plate-armor.
To meet this force, Bruce could only muster 40,000 men, poorly armed, and few of them mounted, and those on small, rough mountain steeds, utterly incapable of withstanding the shock of the huge Flemish chargers ridden by the English knights. The fatal power of the English long-bow was like wise well known to the Scots; but Bruce himself was a tried captain, and the greater part of his followers had been long trained by succession of fierce conflicts. They had many a wrong to revenge, and they fought for home and hearth; stern, severe, savage, and resolute, they were men to whom defeat would have brought far worse than death—unlike the gay chivalry who had ridden from England as to a summer excursion.
The army met in the Torwood, near Stirling, and were reviewed with cheerfulness by King Robert. He resolved to compensate for the inferiority of his cavalry by fighting on foot, and by abiding the attack in a field called the New Park, which was so covered with trees and brushwood, and broken by swamps, that the enemy's horse would lose their advantage; and on the left, in the only open and level ground near, he dug pits and trenches, and filled them with pointed stakes and iron weapons called calthorps, so as to impede the possible charge of the knights.
The little burn, or brook, of Bannock, running through rugged ground covered with wood, protected his right, and the village of St. Ninian was in front. He divided his little army into four parts: the first under his brother Edward; the second under Douglas and young Walter, High Steward of Scotland; the third under Randolph; and the fourth body, the reserve, under his own command. The servants and baggage were placed on an eminence in the rear, still called Gillies Hill.
By this time it was the 23d of June, and early on Sunday morning the soldiers heard mass and confessed as dying men, then kept the vigil of St. John by fasting on bread and water. Douglas and Sir Robert Keith rode out to reconnoitre, and came back, reporting to the King that the enemy were advancing in full force, with banners displayed and in excellent array; but warily spreading a rumor among the Scots that they were confused and disorderly.
In effect, Edward II. had hurried on so hastily and inconsiderately, that his men and horses were spent and ill-fed when he arrived in the neighborhood of Stirling. Two miles from thence, he sent 800 horsemen with Sir Robert Clifford, with orders to outflank the Scottish army, and throw themselves into the town. Concealed by the village of St. Ninian, this body had nearly effected their object, when they were observed by the keen eye of Bruce, who had directed his nephew to be on the watch against this very manoeuvre. Riding up on his little pony to Randolph, he upbraided him, saying, "Thoughtless man, you have lightly kept your trust! A rose has fallen from your chaplet!"
Randolph at once hurried off with a small body of his best men to repair his error; but presently his little party were seen so hotly pressed by the English, that Douglas entreated to be allowed to hasten to his rescue. "You shall not move," said the King. "Let Randolph free himself as he may. I will not alter my order of battle, nor lose my vantage of ground."
"My liege," cried Lord James, as the heavily-armed knights and horses closed in on the few Scottish foot, "I cannot stand by and see Randolph perish, when I can give him help! By your leave, I must go to his succor!"
Robert sighed consent, and Douglas hastened off; but at that moment he beheld the English troop in confusion, some horses rushing away masterless, and the rest galloping off, while the Scots stood compactly among their dead enemies.
"Halt!" then said Douglas, "they have won; we will not lessen their glory by seeking to share it."
By this time the foremost English battalions, with the Earls of Gloucester and Hereford, had come into the New Park, and were near enough to see King Robert, with a gold crown on his helmet, riding on his pony along the front of his lines. A relation of Hereford's, Sir Henry Bohun, upon this sight, rode impetuously forward to make a sudden attack on the leader, expecting to bear him down at once by the weight of his war-horse.
Bruce swerved aside, so as to avoid the thrust of the lance, and at the same moment, rising in his stirrups, with his battle-axe in hand, he dealt a tremendous blow as Sir Henry was carried past; and such was the force of his arm, that the knight dropped dead from his horse, with his skull cleft nearly in two.
The Scottish chiefs, proud of their King's prowess, but terrified by the peril he had run, entreated him to be more careful of his person; but he only returned by a tranquil smile, as he looked at the blunted edge of. his weapon, saying "he had spoilt his good battle-axe."
In revenge for this attack, the Scots pursued the English vanguard for a short distance, but the King recalled them to their ranks, and made a speech, calling on them all to be in arms by break of day, forbidding any man to break his line for pursuit or plunder, and promising that the heirs of such as might fall should receive their inheritance without the accustomed feudal fine.
All night there was the usual scene; the smaller and more resolute army watched and prayed, the larger revelled and slept. Edward, among his favorites and courtiers, had hardly believed that there would "be any battle, and had no notion of generalship, keeping his whole army compressed together, so that their large numbers were encumbering instead of being available. Five hundred horse were closely attached to his person, with the Earl of Pembroke, Sir Ingeltram de Umfraville, and Sir Giles de Argentine, the last a gallant knight of St. John. When he rode forward in the morning, Edward was absolutely amazed at the sight of the well-ordered lines of Scottish infantry, and turning to Umfraville, asked if he really thought those Scots would fight. At that moment Abbot Maurice, of Inchaffray, who had just been celebrating mass, came barefooted before the array, holding up a crucifix, and raising his hand in blessing, as all the army bent to the earth, with the prayers of men willingly offering themselves.
"They kneel! they kneel!" cried Edward. "They are asking mercy."
"They are, my liege," said Umfraville, "but it is of God, not of us. These men will win the day, or die upon the field."
"Be it so," said the King, and gave the word.
The Earls of Gloucester and Hereford rushed to the charge with loud war-cries. Each Scot stood fast, blowing wild notes on the horn he wore at his neck, and the close ranks of infantry stood like rocks against the encounter of the mailed horse, their spears clattering against the armor in the shock till the hills rang again. Randolph meanwhile led his square steadily on, till it seemed swallowed up in the sea of English; and Keith, with the five hundred horsemen of the Scots army, making a sudden turn around Milton Bog, burst in flank upon the English archery, ever the main strength of the army. The long-bow had won, and was again to win, many a fair field; but at Bannockburn the manoeuvre of the Scots was ruinous to the yeomanry, who had no weapons fit for a close encounter with mounted men-at-arms, and were trodden down and utterly dispersed.
The ground was hotly contested by the two armies; banners rose and fell, and the whole field was slippery with blood, and strewn with fragments of armor, shivers of lances and arrows, and rags of scarfs and pennons. The English troops began to waver. "They fail! they fail!" was the Scottish cry, and as they pressed on with double vehemence, there rose a shout that another host was coming to their aid. It was only the servants on the Gillies Hill, crowding down in the excitement of watching the battle, but to the dispirited English they appeared a formidable reinforcement of the enemy; and Robert Bruce, profiting by the consternation thus occasioned, charged with his reserve, and decided the fate of the day. His whole line advancing, the English array finally broke, and began to disperse. Earl Gilbert of Gloucester made an attempt to rally, and, mounted on a noble steed—a present from the King—rode furiously against Edward Bruce; but his retainers hung back, and he was borne down and slain before his armorial bearings were recognized. Clifford and twenty-seven other Barons were slain among the pits, and the rout became general. The Earl of Pembroke, taking the King's horse by the bridle, turned him from the field, and his five hundred guards went with him. Sir Giles de Argentine saw them safely out of the battle, then, saying, "It is not my custom to fly!" he bade Edward farewell, and turned back, crying, "An Argentine!" and was slain by Edward Bruce's knights.
Douglas followed hotly on the King, with sixty horse, and on the way met Sir Laurence Abernethy with twenty more, coming to join the English; but finding how matters stood, the time-serving knight gladly proceeded to hunt the fugitives, and they scarcely let Edward II. draw rein till he had ridden sixty miles, even to Dunbar, whence he escaped by sea.
Bannockburn was the most total defeat which has ever befallen an English army. Twenty-seven nobles were killed, twenty-two more and sixty knights made prisoners, and the number of obscure soldiers slain, drowned in the Forth, or killed by the peasantry, exceeds calculation. The camp was taken, with an enormous booty in treasure, jewels, rich robes, fine horses, herds of cattle, machines for the siege of towns, and, in short, such an amount of baggage that the wagons for the transport were numerous enough to extend in one line for sixty miles. Even the King's signet was taken, and Edward was forced to cause another to be made to supply its place. One prisoner was a Carmelite friar named Baston, whom Edward of Caernarvon had brought with him to celebrate his victory in verse; whereupon Robert imposed the same task by way of ransom; and the poem, in long, rhyming Latin verses, is still extant.
The plunder was liberally shared among the Scottish army, and the prisoners were treated with great courtesy and generosity. The slain were reverently buried where they fell, except Lord Clifford and the Earl of Gloucester, whose corpses were carried to St. Ninian's kirk, and sent with all honor to England.
Bruce had not forgotten that the blood of the Clares ran in his own veins, and that Gloucester had warned him of his danger at King Edward's court: he not only lamented for the young Earl, but he released Ralph de Monthermer, the stepfather of Earl Gilbert, and gave him the signet-ring of Edward II. to bear home.
Gilbert was the last male of the stout old line of De Clares. Gloucester, and his estates descended to his three sisters—Margaret, the widow of Gaveston; Eleanor, the wife of Hugh le Despenser; and Elizabeth, who shortly after married John de Burgh, Earl of Ulster.
The Earl of Hereford had taken refuge in Bothwell Castle, but was unable to hold it out, and surrendered. He was exchanged for captives no less precious to Robert Bruce than his well-earned crown. The wife, daughter, and sister, who had been prisoners for eight years, were set free, together with the Bishop of Glasgow, now blind, and the young Earl of Mar. Marjory Bruce had grown from a child to a maiden in her English prison, and she was soon betrothed to the young Walter, Steward of Scotland; but it was enacted that, if she should remain without a brother, the crown should descend to her uncle Edward.
That midsummer battle of Bannockburn undid all the work of Edward I., and made Scotland an independent kingdom for three hundred years longer. Ill-government, a discontented nobility, and a feeble King, had brought England so low, that the troops could not shake off their dejection, and a hundred would flee before two or three Scottish soldiers. Bruce ravaged the northern counties every summer, leaving famine and pestilence behind him; but Edward II. had neither spirit nor resolution to make war or peace. The mediation of the Pope and King of France was ineffectual, and years of warfare passed on, impressing habits of perpetual license and robbery upon the borderers of either nation.
THE KNIGHTS OF THE TEMPLE. (1292-1316.)
Kings of England. 1272. Edward I. 1307. Edward II.
King of Scotland. 1306. Robert I.
Kings of France. 1285. Philippe IV. 1314. Louis X.
Emperors of Germany. 1292. Adolph. 1296. Albert I. 1308. Henry VII. 1314. Louis V.
Popes. 1296. Boniface VIII. 1303. Benedict XI. 1305. Clement V.
Crusades were over. The dream of Edward I. had been but a dream, and self-interest and ambition directed the swords of Christian princes against each other rather than against the common foe. The Western Church was lapsing into a state of decay and corruption, from which she was only partially to recover at the cost of disruption and disunion, and the power which the mighty Popes of the twelfth century had gathered into a head became, for that very cause, the tool of an unscrupulous monarch.
The colony of Latins left in Palestine had proved a most unsuccessful experiment; the climate enervated their constitutions; the poulains, as those were called who were born in the East, had all the bad qualities of degenerate races, and were the scorn, and derision of Arabs and Europeans alike; nor could the defence have been kept up at all, had it not been for the constant recruits from cooler climates. Adventurous young men tried their swords in the East, banished men there sought to recover their fame, the excommunicate strove to win pardon by his sword, or the forgiven to expiate his past crime; and, besides these irregular aids, the two military and monastic orders of Templars and Hospitallers were constantly fed by supplies of young nobles trained to arms and discipline in the numerous commanderies and preceptories scattered throughout the West.
Admirable as warriors, desperate in battle, offering no ransom but their scarf, these knightly monks were the bulwark of Christendom, and would have been doubly effective save for the bitter jealousies of the two orders against each other, and of both against all other Crusaders. Not a disaster happened in the Holy Land but the treachery of one order or the other was said to have occasioned it; and, on the whole, the greater degree of obloquy seems usually, whether justly or not, to have lighted on the Knights of the Temple. They were the richer and the prouder of the two orders; and as the duties of the hospital were not included in their vows, they neither had the same claims to gratitude, nor the softening influence of the exercise of charity, and were simply stern, hated, dreaded soldiers.
After a desperate siege, Acre fell, in 1292, and the last remnant of the Latin possessions in the East was lost. The Templars and Hospitallers fought with the utmost valor, forgot their feuds in the common danger, and made such a defence that the Mussulmans fancied that, when one Christian died, another came out of his mouth and renewed the conflict; but at last they were overpowered by force of numbers, and were finally buried under the ruins of the Castle of the Templars. The remains of the two orders met in the Island of Cyprus, which belonged to Henry de Lusignan, claimant of the crown of Jerusalem. There they mustered their forces, in the hope of a fresh Crusade; but as time dragged on, and their welcome wore out, they found themselves obliged to seek new quarters. The Knights of the Hospital, true to their vows, won sword in hand the Isle of Rhodes from the Infidel, and prolonged their existence for five centuries longer as a great maritime power, the guardians of the Mediterranean and the terror of the African corsairs. The Knights Templars, in an evil hour for themselves, resolved to spend their time of expectation in their numerous rich commanderies in Europe, where they had no employment but to collect their revenues and keep their swords bright; and it cannot but be supposed that they would thus be tempted into vicious and overbearing habits, while the sight of so formidable a band of warriors, owning no obedience but to their Grand Master and the Pope, must have been alarming to the sovereign of the country. Still there are no tokens of their having disturbed the peace during the twenty-two years that their exile lasted, and it was the violence of a king and the truckling of a pope that effected their ruin.
Philippe IV., the pest of France, had used his power over the French clergy to misuse and persecute the fierce old pontiff, Boniface VIII., and it was no fault of Philippe that the murder of Becket was not parodied at Anagni. Fortunately for the malevolent designs of the King, his messengers quailed, and contented themselves with terrifying the old man into a frenzied suicide, instead of themselves slaying him. The next Pope lived so few days after his election, that it was believed that poison had removed him; and the cardinals remained shut up for nine months at Perugia, trying in vain to come to a fresh choice. Finally, Philippe fixed their choice on a wretched Gascon, who took the name of Clement V., first, however, making him swear to fulfil six conditions, the last and most dreadful of which was to remain a secret until the time when the fulfilment should be required of him.
Lest his unfortunate tool should escape from his grasp, or gain the protection of any other sovereign, Philippe transplanted the whole papal court to Avignon, which, though it used to belong to the Roman empire, had, in the break-up after the fall of the Swabian house, become in effect part of the French dominions.
There the miserable Clement learned the sixth condition, and, not daring to oppose it, gave the whole order of the Templars up into his cruel hands, promising to authorize his measures, and pronounce their abolition. Philippe's first measure was to get them all into his hands, and for this purpose he proclaimed a Crusade, and actually himself took the Cross, with his son-in-law Edward II., at the wedding of Isabel.
Jacque de Molay, the Grand Master, hastened from Cyprus, and convoked all his chief knights to take counsel with the French King on this laudable undertaking. He was treated with great distinction, and even stood godfather to a son of the King. The greater number of the Templars were at their own Tower of the Temple at Paris, with others dispersed in numbers through the rest of France, living at ease and securely, respected and feared, if not beloved, and busily preparing for an onslaught upon the common foe.
Meanwhile, two of their number, vile men thrown into prison for former crimes—one French, the other Italian—had been suborned by Philippe's emissaries to make deadly accusations against their brethren, such as might horrify the imagination of an age unused to consider evidence. These tales, whispered into the ear of Edward II. by his wily father-in-law, together with promises of wealth and lands to be wrested from them, gained from him a promise that he would not withstand the measures of the French King and Pope; and, though he was too much shocked by the result not to remonstrate, his feebleness and inconsistency unfitted him either to be a foe or a champion.
On the 14th of September, 1307, Philippe sent out secret orders to his seneschals. On the 13th of October, at dawn of day, each house of the Templars was surrounded with armed men, and, ere the knights could rise from their beds, they were singly mastered, and thrown into prison.
Two days after, on Sunday, after mass, the arrest was made known, and the crimes of which the unfortunate men were accused. They were to be tried before the grand inquisitor, Guillaume Humbert, a Dominican friar; but in the meantime, to obtain witness against them, they were starved, threatened, and tortured in their dungeons, to gain from them some confession that could be turned against them. Out of six hundred knights, besides a much greater number of mere attendants, there could not fail to be some few whose minds could not withstand the misery of their condition, and between these and the two original calumnies, a mass of horrible stories was worked up in evidence.
It was said that, while outwardly wearing the white cross on their robe, bearing the vows of chivalry, exercising the holy offices of priests, and bound by the monastic rules, there was in reality an inner society, bound to be the enemies of all that was holy, into which they were admitted upon their reviling and denying their faith, and committing outrages on the cross and the images of the saints. It was further said that they worshipped the devil in the shape of a black cat, and wore his image on a cord round their waists; that they anointed a great silver head with the fat of murdered children; that they practised every kind of sorcery, performed mass improperly, never went to confession, and had betrayed Palestine to the Infidels.
For the last count of the indictment the blood that had watered Canaan for two hundred years was answer enough. As to the confessional, the accusation emanated from the Dominicans, who were jealous of the Templars confessing to priests of their own order. With respect to the mass, it appears that the habits of the Templars were similar to those of the Cistercian monks; who, till The Lateran Council, had not elevated the Host to receive adoration from the people.
The accusation of magic naturally adhered to able men conversant with the East. The head was found in the Temple at Paris. It was made of silver, resembled a beautiful woman, and was, in fact, a reliquary containing the bones of one of the 11,000 virgins of Cologne. But truth was not wanted; and under the influence of solitary imprisonment, hunger, damp and loathsome dungeons, and two years of terror and misery, enough of confessions had been extorted for Philippe's purpose by the year 1309.
Many had died under their sufferings, and some had at first confessed in their agonies, and, when no longer tortured, had retracted all their declarations with horror. These became dangerous, and were therefore declared to be relapsed heretics, and fifty-six were burnt by slow degrees in a great inclosure, surrounded by stakes, all crying out, and praying devoutly and like good Christians till the last.
Having thus horribly intimidated recusant witnesses, the King caused the Pope to convoke a synod at Paris, before which the Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, was cited. He was a brave old soldier, but no scholar, and darkness, hunger, torture, and distress had so affected him, that, when brought into the light of day, he stood before the prelates and barons, among whom he had once been foremost, so utterly bewildered and confused, that the judges were forced to remand him for two days to recover his faculties.
When brought before them again, he was formally asked whether he would defend his order, or plead for himself. He made answer that he should be contemptible in his own eyes, and those of all the world, did he not defend an order which had done so much for him, but that he was in such poverty that he had not fourpence left in the world, and that he must beg for an advocate, to whom he would mention the great kings, princes, barons, bishops, and knights whose witness would at once clear his knights from the monstrous charges brought against them.
Thereupon he was told that advocates were not allowed to men accused of heresy, and that he had better take care how he contradicted his own deposition, or he would be condemned as relapsed. His own deposition, as three cardinals avouched that he had made it before them, was then translated to him from the Latin, which he did not understand. In horror-struck amazement at hearing such words ascribed to himself, the old knight twice made the sign of the cross, and exclaimed, "If the cardinals were other sort of men, he should know how to deal with them!"
He was told that the cardinals were not there to receive a challenge to battle. "No," he said, "that was not what he meant; he only wished that might befall them which was done by the Saracens and Tartars to infamous liars—whose heads they cut off."
He was sent back to prison and brought back again, less vehement against his accusers, but still declaring himself a faithful Christian, and begging to be admitted to the rites of religion; but he was left to languish in his dungeon for two years longer, while two hundred and thirty-one witnesses were examined before the commissaries. In May, 1311, five hundred and forty-four persons belonging to the order were led before the judges from the different prisons, while eight of the most distinguished knights, and their agent at Rome, undertook their defence. Their strongest plea was, that not a Templar had criminated himself, except in France, where alone torture had been employed; but they could obtain no hearing, and a report was drawn up by the commissaries to the so-called Council of Vienne. This was held by Clement V. in the early part of 1312; and on the 6th of March it passed a decree abolishing the Order of the Temple, and transmitting its possessions to the Knights of St. John.
There were other councils held to try the Templars in the other lands where they had also been seized. In England, the confessions of the knights tortured in France were employed as evidence, together with the witness of begging friars, minstrels, women, and discreditable persons; and on the decision of the Council of Vienne, the poor knights confessed, as well they might, that their order had fallen under evil report, and were therefore pardoned and released, with the forfeiture of all their property to the hospital. Their principal house in England was the Temple in Fleet street, where they had built a curious round church in the twelfth century, when it was consecrated by the Patriarch Heraclius of Jerusalem. The shape was supposed to be like the Holy Sepulchre, to whose service they were devoted; but want of space obliged them to add a square building of three aisles beyond. This, with the rest of their property, devolved on the Order of St. John, who, in the next reign, let the Temple buildings for L10 per annum to the law-students of London, and in their possession it has ever since continued. The ancient seal of the knights, representing two men mounted upon one horse, was assumed by the benchers of one side of the Temple, though in the classical taste of later times the riders were turned into wings, and the steed into Pegasus; while their brethren bear the lamb and banner, likewise a remembrance of the Crusaders who founded the round church, eight of whom still lie in effigy upon the floor.
In Spain the bishops would hardly proceed at all against the Templars, and secured pensions for them out of the confiscated property. In Portugal they were converted into a new order for the defence of the realm. In Germany, they were allowed to die out unmolested; but in Italy Philippe's influence was more felt, and they were taken in the same net with those in France. There the King's coffers were replenished with their spoil, very little of which ever found its way to the Knights of St. John. The knights who half confessed, and then recanted, were put to death; those who never confessed at all, were left in prison; those who admitted the guilt of the order, were rewarded by a miserable existence at large. The great dignitaries—Jacques de Molay, the Grand Master, and Guy, the son of the Dauphin of Auvergne, the Commander of Normandy, and two others—languished in captivity till the early part of 1314, when they were led out before Notre Dame to hear their sentence read, condemning them to perpetual imprisonment, and rehearsing their own confession once more against them.
The Grand Master and Guy of Auvergne, both old men, wasted with imprisonment and torture, no sooner saw the face of day, the grand old cathedral, and the assembly of the people, than they loudly protested that these false and shameful confessions were none of theirs; that their dead brethren were noble knights and true Christians; and that these foul slanders had never been uttered by them, but invented by wicked men, who asked them questions in a language they did not understand, while they, noble barons, belted knights, sworn Crusaders, were stretched on the rack.
The Bishops present were shocked at the exposure of their treatment, and placed them in the hands of the Provost of Paris, saying that they would consider their case the next morning. But Philippe, dreading a reaction in their favor, declared them relapsed, and condemned them to the flames that very night, the 18th of March. A picture is extant in Germany, said to have been of the time, showing the meek face of the white-haired, white-bearded Molay, his features drawn with wasting misery, his eyes one mute appeal, his hands bound over the large cross on his breast. He died proclaiming aloud the innocence of his order, and listened to with pity and indignation by the people. His last cry, ere the flames stifled his voice, was an awful summons to Pope Clement to meet him before the tribunal of Heaven within forty days; to King Philippe to appear there in a year and a day.
Clement V. actually died on the 20th of April; and while his nephews and servants were plundering his treasures, his corpse was consumed by fire caught from the wax-lights around his bier. His tyrant, Philippe le Bel, was but forty-six years of age, still young-looking and handsome; but the decree had gone forth against him, and he fell into a bad state of health. He was thrown from his horse while pursuing a wild boar, and the accident brought on a low fever, which, on the 29th of November, 1314, brought him likewise to the grave. He left three sons, all perishing, after unhappy marriages, in the flower of their age, and one daughter, the disgrace and misery of France and England alike.
So perished the Templars; so their persecutors! It is one of the darkest tragedies of that age of tragedies; and in many a subsequent page shall we trace the visitation for their blood upon guilty France and on the line of Valois. They were not perfect men. They have left an evil name, for they were hard, proud, often, licentious men, and the "Red Monk" figures in many a tradition of horror; but there can be no doubt that the brotherhood had its due proportion of gallant, devoted warriors, who fought well for the cross they bore. Their fate has been well sung by Lord Houghton:
"The warriors of the sacred grave, Who looked to Christ for laws, And perished for the faith they gave Their comrades and the cause;
They perished, in one fate alike, The veteran and the boy, Where'er the regal arm could strike, To torture and destroy:
While darkly down the stream of time, Devised by evil fame, Float murmurs of mysterious crime, And tales of secret shame.
How oft, when avarice, hate, or pride, Assault some noble hand, The outer world, that scorns the side It does not understand,
Echoes each foul derisive word, Gilds o'er each hideous sight, And consecrates the wicked sword With names of holy right.
Yet by these lessons men awake To know they cannot bind Discordant will's in one, and make An aggregate of mind.
For ever in our best essays At close fraternal ties An evil narrowness waylays Our present sympathies;
And love, however bright it burns For what it holds roost fond, Is tainted by its unconcern For all that lies beyond.
And still the earth has many a knight By high vocation bound To conquer in enduring tight The Spirit's holy ground.
And manhood's pride and hopes of youth Still meet the Templar's doom, Crusaders of the ascended truth, Not of the empty tomb."
THE BARONS' WARS. (1310-1327.)
King of England. 1307. Edward II. 1314. Louis X. 1316. Philippe V. 1322. Charles IV.
King of Scotland. 1306. Robert I. 1314. Louis V.
Kings of France. 1285. Philippe IV
_Emperors of Germany. 1308. Henry VII.
Popes. 1305. Clement V. 1316. John XXII.
It was the misfortune of Edward of Caernarvon that he could not attach himself in moderation. Among the fierce Earls, and jealous, distrustful Barons, he gladly distinguished a man of gentle mould, who could return his affection; but he could not bestow his favor discreetly, and always ended by turning the head of his favorite and offending his subjects.
There was at his court a noble old knight, Sir Hugh le Despenser, whose ancestors had come over with William the Conqueror, and whose father had been created a Baron in 1264, as a reward for his services against Simon de Montfort. To this gentleman, and to his son Hugh, Edward became warmly attached; and apparently not undeservedly, for they were both gallant and knightly, and the son was highly accomplished, and of fine person. Edward made him his chamberlain, and gave him in marriage Eleanor de Clare, the sister of the Earl of Gloucester who was killed at Bannockburn, and one of the heiresses of the great earldom, with all its rights on the Welsh marches.
Still, the love and sympathy of the nation were with the King's cousin, Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, who probably obtained favor by liberality, or by the arts for which poor Gaveston had named him the "stage-player," since his life seems to have been dissolute under much appearance of devotion. The last great Earl of Lincoln had chosen him as his son-in-law, while the intended bride, Alice, was yet a young child. In 1310, just after Gaveston's fall, Lincoln died, and the little Countess Alice, then only twelve years old, became the wife of Lancaster; but in 1317 mutual accusations were made on the part of the Earl and Countess, and Alice claimed to be set free, on account of a previous promise of marriage; while Lancaster complained of Earl Warrenne for having allowed a humpbacked knight, named Richard St. Martin, to carry Alice off to one of his castles, called Caneford, and there to obtain from her the troth now pleaded against him. Edward II. told Lancaster that he might proceed against Warrenne in the ordinary course of law: but this he would not do, as he did not wish to prove his wife's former contract, lest he should lose her great estates with herself; and instead of going honorably to work, he added this reply to his list of discontents against the King.
His friends even set it about that Edward II. was not the true son of Edward I.; and a foolish man, named John Deydras, even came forward professing to be the real Edward of Caernarvon, who had been changed at nurse; but no one believed him, and he was hanged for treason. A like story was invented, and even a ballad was current, making Queen Eleanor of Provence confess that Edmund Crouchback, not Edward I., was the rightful heir, but that he was set aside on account of his deformity; and Lancaster, as Edmund's son, was on the watch to profit by the King's unpopularity. Discontents were on the increase, and were augmented by a severe famine, and by the constant incursions of the Scots. Such was the want of corn, that, to prevent the consumption of grain, an edict was enacted that no beer should be brewed; and meat of any kind was so scarce, that, though the King decreed that, on pain of forfeiture, an ox should be sold for sixteen shillings, a sheep for three and sixpence, and a fowl for a penny, none of these creatures were forthcoming on any terms. Loathsome animals were eaten; and it was even said that parents were forced to keep a strict watch over their children, lest they should be stolen and devoured.
While the King and Queen were banquetting at Westminster, at Whitsuntide, 1317, a masked lady rode into the hall on horseback, and delivered a letter to the King. Imagining it to be some sportive challenge or gay compliment, he ordered that it should be read aloud; but it proved to be a direful lamentation over the state of England, and an appeal to him to rouse himself from his pleasures and attend to the good of his people. The bearer was at once pursued and seized, when she confessed that she had been sent by a knight; and he, on being summoned, asked pardon, saying he had not expected that the letter would be read in public, but that he deemed it the only means of drawing the King's attention to the miseries of his people. It may be feared that the letter met with the fate of Jeremiah's roll.
A cloud was already rising in the West, which seemed small and trifling, but which was fraught with bitter hatred and envy, ere long to burst in a storm upon the heads of the King and his friends. The first seeds of strife were sown by the dishonesty of a knight on the borders of Wales, one William de Breos. He began his career by trying to cheat his stepmother of her dower of eight hundred marks; and when the law decided against him, he broke out into such unseemly language against the judge, that he was sentenced to walk bareheaded from the King's Bench to the Exchequer to ask pardon, and then committed to the Tower. In after years he returned to his lordship of Gower, and there committed an act of fraud which led to the most fatal consequences. Having two daughters, Aliva and Jane, the eldest of whom was married to John de Mowbray and the second to James de Bohun, he executed a deed, settling his whole estate upon Aliva, and, in case of her death without children, upon Jane. But concealing this arrangement, he next proceeded to sell Gower three times over—to young Le Despenser, to Roger Mortimer, and to the Earl of Hereford; and having received all their purchase-money, he absconded therewith.
Mowbray took possession of Gower in right of his wife, and was thus first in the field; but Hugh le Despenser, whose purchase had been sanctioned by the King, came down upon him with a strong hand, and drove him out of the property. Thereupon Mowbray made common cause with all the other cheated claimants, De Bohun joining the head of his house, the great Earl of Hereford, who, with Roger Mortimer and his uncle, another Mortimer of the same name, revenged their wrongs by a foray upon Lady Eleanor le Despenser's estates in Glamorganshire, killing her servants, burning her castles, and driving off her cattle, so that in a few nights they had done several thousand pounds' worth of damage. The King, much incensed, summoned the Earl of Hereford to appeal before the council; but the Earl demanded that Hugh le Despenser should be previously placed in the custody of the Earl of Lancaster until the next parliament; and, on the King's refusal, made another inroad on the lands of the Despensers, and betook himself to Yorkshire, where the Earl of Lancaster was collecting all the malcontents.
The two Earls, the Lords of the Marches or borders of Wales, and thirty-four Barons and Knights, bound themselves by a deed, agreeing to prosecute the two Despensers until they should be driven into exile, and to maintain the quarrel to the honor of Heaven and Holy Church, and the profit of the King and his family. Lancaster proceeded to march upon London, allowing his men to live upon the plunder of the estates of the two favorites. From St. Alban's he sent a message to the King, requiring the banishment of the father and son, and immunity for his own party. Edward made a spirited answer, that the father was beyond sea in his service; the son with the fleet; that he would never sentence any man unheard; and that it would be contrary to his coronation oath to promise immunity to men in arms against the public peace.
The Barons advanced to London, and, quartering their followers in Holborn and Clerkenwell, spent a fortnight in deliberation. It appears that the token of adherence to their party was the wearing of a white favor, on which account the session of 1321 was called the Parliament of the White Bands. One day, when these white ensigns mustered strongly, the Barons brought forward an accusation on eleven counts against the two Despensers, and on their own authority, in the presence of the King, banished them from the realm, and pardoned themselves for their rising in arms. Edward had no power to resist, and, accordingly, the act was entered on the rolls, and the younger Hugh was driven from Dover, to join his father on the Continent.
This success rendered the Barons' party insolent, and about two months after, when Queen Isabel was on pilgrimage to Canterbury, and had sent her purveyors to prepare a lodging for her at her own royal Castle of Leeds, the Lady Badlesmere, wife to the Castellane, who was also governor of Bristol and had received numerous favors from Edward, refused admittance, fearing damage to her party; and the Queen riding up in the midst of the parley, a volley of arrows was discharged from the castle, and six of the royal escort were killed.
Isabel of course complained loudly of such a reception at her own castle, whereupon Bartholomew Badlesmere himself wrote from Bristol Castle an impudent letter, justifying his wife's conduct. Isabel was much hurt, since she had always been friendly to the Barons' party; and when she found that even her uncle of Lancaster stood by the Badlesmeres, she persuaded the King to raise an army to revenge the affront offered to her. Summonses were therefore sent out, and the Londoners, with whom the Queen was very popular, came in great force, and laid siege to Leeds Castle. Lady Badlesmere expected to be succored by Lancaster; but he would not come forward, and in a few days her castle was taken, her steward, Walter Culpepper, hanged, and herself committed to the Tower.
Such a bold stroke on the King's part emboldened the elder Le Despenser return to England and join his master. Thereupon Lancaster summoned the other nobles to meet him at Doncaster, to consult what measures should be taken against the minions, and led an army to seize Warwick Castle, which, during the minority of Earl Thomas of Warwick, belonged to the King. In the meantime, Hugh followed his father, but, with English respect for order, put himself under custody until his sentence of banishment should be revoked. The matter was tried before the Bishops of the province of Canterbury, when it was argued, on behalf of Hugh, that Magna Charta had been set at naught by his condemnation without a hearing, and that the King's consent had been extorted by force; and the Earl of Kent, Edward's brother, with several others, making oath that they had been overawed by the White Bands, the banishment was declared illegal, and the prisoners set at liberty.
Lancaster proceeded to raise the north of England; Hereford and the two Mortimers went to the marches of Wales to collect their forces; and Edward, for once under the wise counsel of the Chancellor John de Salmon, set forth alertly in December toward the West, that he might deal with the two armies separately. He was very popular on the Welsh border, and met with rapid success, breaking up the forces of the Lords Marchers before they could come to a head, and finally making both the Mortimers prisoners, sending them to the Tower. Hereford, with 8,000 men, made his way to join Lancaster, who was at the head of a considerable force, and had already taken the miserable step of entering into correspondence with Robert Bruce, Douglas, and Randolph. Elated by the succor which they promised, Lancaster advanced and laid siege to Ticknall Castle, but was forced to retreat on the approach of the King. At Burton-upon-Trent, however, they halted for three days, with Edward opposite to them.
"Upon the mount the King his tentage fixt, And in the town the Barons lay in sight, When as the Trent was risen so betwixt, That for a while prolonged the unnatural fight."
However, a ford was found, and the royal army crossing, Lancaster set fire to Burton, and retreated into Yorkshire, writing again from Puntefract Castle under the signature of King Arthur, to ask aid from the Scots, and secure his retreat.
As Michael Drayton observes, "Bridges should seem to Barons ominous;" for at Boroughbridge, upon the Ure, Lancaster found Sir Andrew Harclay and Sir Simon Ward, Governors of York and Carlisle, with a band of northern troops, ready to cut off his retreat. The bridge was too narrow for cavalry, and Hereford therefore led a charge on foot; but in this perilous undertaking he was slain by a Welshman who was hidden under the bridge, and who thrust a lance through a crevice of the boarding into his body as he passed. His fall discomfited the rest, and Lancaster, who had been attempting a ford, was driven back by the archery. He tried to bribe Sir Andrew Harclay. and, failing, begged for a truce of one night, still hoping that the Scots might arrive. Harclay granted this, but in early morning summoned the sheriff and the county-force to arrest the Earl. Lancaster retired into a chapel and, looking on the crucifix, said, "Good Lord, I render myself to Thee, and put myself into Thy mercy." He was taken to York for one night, and afterward, to his own Castle of Pontefract, where, on the King's last disastrous retreat from Scotland, he had mocked and jeered at his sovereign from the battlements: and Harclay took care to make generally known the treasonable correspondence with Scotland, proofs of which had been found on the person of the dead Hereford.
The King presently arriving at Pontefract, brought Lancaster to trial before six Earls and a number of Barons; and as his treason was manifest, he was told that it would be to no purpose to speak in his own defence, and was sentenced to the death of a traitor. In consideration of his royal blood, Edward remitted the chief horrors of the execution, and made it merely decapitation; but as the Earl was led to a hill outside the town, on a gray pony without a bridle, the mob pelted him and jeered him by his assumed name of King Arthur. "King of Heaven," he cried, "grant me mercy! for the king of earth hath forsaken me." He knelt by the black with his face to the east, but he was bidden to turn to the north, that he might look toward his friends, the Scots; and in this manner he was beheaded. The inhabitants of the northern counties were not likely to think lightly of the offence of bringing in the Scots, and yet in a short time there was a strong change of feeling. Lancaster was mourned as "the good Earl," and miracles were said to be wrought at his tomb. The King was obliged to write orders to the Bishop of London to forbid the people from offering worship to his picture hung up in St. Paul's Church; and Drayton records a tradition that "grass would never grow where the battle of Boroughbridge had been fought." It seemed as if Lancaster had succeeded to the reputation of Montfort, as a protector of the liberties of the country: but to our eyes he appears more like a mere factious, turbulent noble, acting rather from spite and party spirit than as a redresser of wrongs; never showing the respect for law and justice manifested by the opponents of Edward I.; and, in fact, constraining the Royalists to appeal to Magna Charta against him. Still there must have been something striking and attractive about him, for, after his death, even his injured cousin Edward lamented him, and reproached his nobles for not having interceded for him. Fourteen bannerets and fourteen other knights were executed, being all who were taken in arms against the King; the others were allowed to make peace; and the Mortimers, who had been condemned to death, had their sentence changed to perpetual imprisonment. Hereford's estates passed on to the eldest of his large family, the King's own nephews. Lancaster left no children, but his brother, Henry Wryneck, Earl of Derby, did not receive his estates till they had been mulcted largely on behalf of the Despensers. The father was created Earl of Winchester, and the son received such bounty from the King, that all the old hatred against Piers Gaveston was revived, though it does not appear that Hugh provoked dislike by any such follies or extravagances.
The elder Roger Mortimer, the uncle, died in the Tower. The younger contrived, after a year's imprisonment, to make interest with one of the servants in the Tower, Gerard de Asplaye, with whose assistance he gave an entertainment to his guards, drugged their liquor, so as to throw them into a heavy sleep, broke through the wall into the royal kitchen, and thence escaped by a rope-ladder. Report afterward averred that it was the fairest hand in England that drugged the wine and held the rope, and that Queen Isabel,
"From the wall's height, as when he down did slide, Had heard him cry, 'Now, Fortune, be my guide!'"
Thus far is certain, that Isabel and Mortimer were inmates of the Tower at the same time, in the year 1321; for she was left there while the King was gone in pursuit of Lancaster, and she there gave birth to her fourth child, Joan. Whether the prisoner then sought an interview with her, is not known, but he was a remarkably handsome man, and Isabel, at twenty-six years of age, was beautiful, proud, and with bitterness in her heart against her husband for his early neglect. She had been on fairly good terms with him ever since the birth of the Prince of Wales, and her grace and beauty, her affable manners, and the idea that she was ill-used, made her a great favorite with the English nation; but she was angered by the execution of her uncle, the Earl of Lancaster, and from the time of the King's return she proceeded to manifest great discontent, and as much dislike and jealousy of the Despensers as she had previously shown toward Gaveston.
Mortimer escaped to France, and subsequent events made it seem as if she had been acting in concert with him. He had married a French lady, Jeanne de Joinville, and was taken at once into the service of King Charles IV.
Charles IV., le Bel, was the youngest of Isabel's brothers, who had succeeded each other so quickly that it seemed as though the sacrilegious murder of the Templars was to be visited by the extinction of the male line of Philippe IV. To Charles, Isabel sent great complaints, declaring that she was "married to a gripple miser, and was no better than a waiting-woman, living on a pension from the Despensers." There had, in fact, been a fierce struggle with them for power, and they had prevailed to have all her French attendants dismissed, very probably on the discovery of the transactions with Mortimer in the Tower, and a yearly income had been assigned to her in lieu of her royal estates. This was very irregularly paid, for affairs were in a most confused and disorderly state, managed in a most childish manner. It appears that, when hunting at Windsor, the Chancellor Baldock gave the great seal to the King to keep, and that the King made it over to William de Ayremyne.
There were no doubt grounds for complaint on both sides; but Charles le Bel saw only his sister's view of the question, and resolved to quarrel with his brother-in-law. Homage for the Duchy of Aquitaine had not been rendered to him, and on this pretext he began to exercise all possible modes of annoyance on the borders, and to give judgment against any Guiennois or Poitevins who sued against Edward as their liege lord, Edward remonstrated in vain, and sent his brother Edmund, Earl of Kent, a fine-looking but weak young man of twenty-two, to endeavor to make peace, but in vain: on the first pretext, a war on the borders broke out.
Thereupon Edward took into his custody all the castles belonging to his wife, declaring that he could not leave them in her hands while she was in correspondence with the enemies of the country; and yet, with his usual inconsistent folly, he listened to a proposal from her that she should go to Paris to bring about a peace with her brother.
With four knights, Isabel crossed the sea, and presently made her appearance at Paris in the character of an injured Princess, kneeling before her brother, and asking his protection against the cruelty of her husband; to which Charles replied, "Sister, be comforted; for, by my faith to Monseigneur St. Denis, I will find a remedy."
Isabel was lodged at the court of France, and treated with distinction. Mortimer and all the banished English repaired to her abode, and all the chivalry of France regarded her as an exiled heroine. She wrote to her husband that peace might be scoured by the performance of the neglected homage, and he was actually setting out for the purpose, when, in a second letter, she told him that his own presence was not needed, but that his ceremony might be gone through by his son Edward, Prince of Wales, provided the duchy were placed in his hands as an appanage.
This proposal met with approval, and young Edward, then twelve years old, under the charge of the Bishops of Exeter and Oxford, was sent to Paris, after having promised his father to hasten his return, and not to marry without his consent.
No sooner had the boy arrived, than the homage was performed, and Edward expected the return of both mother and son; but they still delayed, and on receiving urgent letters from him, the Queen made public declaration that she did not believe her life in safety from the Despensers.
Poor King Edward, amazed, and almost thinking her under a delusion, roused all the prelates in the realm to write to her in defence of his friends, and himself wrote to her brother, saying that she could have no reasonable fear of any man in his dominions, since, if Hugh or any other person wished to do her any harm, he himself would be the first to resent it. He wrote likewise pre-emptorily to the Prince to return, but all in vain; and a light was thrown on their proceedings, when Walter Stapleton, Bishop of Exeter, returned home as a fugitive, having discovered a plot on Mortimer's part against his own life, and bringing word that Isabel's affection for Mortimer was the true cause of delay. It would also seem that the Bishop had in part detected a conspiracy against his master, for there were orders instantly sent to search all letters arriving at any of the ports.
After Stapleton's return, Edward's letters to Charles, and even to the Pope, became so pressing, that for very shame Charles could not allow his sister to remain at Paris any longer, and, rather than provoke a war, he dismissed her. She was a woman of great plausibility and fascination, and she not only persuaded her young son to believe her in danger from his father, but she also won over her brother-in-law, the Earl of Kent, as well as her cousin, the Sieur Robert d'Artois; and setting out from Paris in their company, she proceeded to the independent German principalities in the guise of a dame-errant of romance, misused by her husband, maltreated by her brother, denied a refuge even in her native country, and seeking aid from foreign princes.
Every chivalrous heart, deluded by appearances, glowed with enthusiasm. At Ostrevant, John, the brother of the Count of Hainault, came and vowed himself her knight, promising to redress her wrongs. He conducted her to his brother's court at Hainault; and there the young Edward first beheld the plump, blue-eyed, fair-haired, honest Philippa, a girl of about his own age, and a youthful true-love sprang up between them—the sole gleam of light in this dark period.
Isabel's beautiful face and mournful tale deluded the young, as did Mortimer's promises the covetous. She finally set sail from Dort with 2,500 French and Brabancons, under the charge of Sir John of Hainault, and landed at Orwell, in Suffolk. The King had ordered that any one who landed on the coast should be treated as a traitor, except the Queen and the Prince, and had set a price on the head of Mortimer; but no one attended to him. Isabel had won the sympathy of the nation by her fancied wrongs; and Adam Orleton, Bishop of Hereford, a former partisan of Lancaster, was working in her cause.
Both the King's brothers, and his cousin, Henry of Lancaster, were of her party; and the universal dislike and jealousy of Despenser made the more loyal disinclined to exert themselves in the King's behalf. He summoned the Londoners to take up arms, but was answered, that though they would shut the gates against all foreigners, they would not be led more than a day's march beyond the city walls. He could only seek a refuge among his more attached subjects, the Welsh; and leaving his younger children and his niece, the wife of Hugh le Despenser, in the Tower, he set off for the marches of Wales. No sooner was he gone, than the citizens rose, seized the Tower, and murdered the loyal Bishop of Exeter at St. Paul's Cross, throwing his body into the mud of the river, and sending his head to the Queen.
The Queen, whose army increased every day, had arrived at Oxford, where Adam Orleton preached a disgraceful sermon on the text, "My head, my head acheth," wherein he averred the startling prescription that the cure for an aching head was to cut it off, and that the present head of England needed this decisive remedy.
The poor King had gone to Gloucester, whence he sent the elder Le Despenser to hold out Bristol Castle; but the townspeople proved so disaffected, that the castle was forced to surrender to the rebels on the third day. The Queen appointed a judge, who sentenced the old man, ninety years of age, to be put to death; and the murder was committed the following day, with all the circumstances of atrocity that had been spared to Lancaster. At Bristol, Isabel became aware that her husband had fled farther to the West; he had, in fact, sailed, with Hugh le Despenser and the Chancellor Baldock, for Ireland, but he was driven back by contrary winds, and forced to land in Glamorganshire. He wandered from castle to castle, and was besieged at Caerphilli, whence it is said that he escaped at night in the disguise of a peasant; and, to avoid detection, himself assisted in carrying brushwood to feed the fires of the besiegers. He next took refuge in a farmhouse, where the farmer tried to baffle the pursuers by setting him to dig; but his awkwardness in handling the spade had nearly betrayed him. For a short time he tarried at Neath Abbey, but left it lest the monks should suffer for giving him shelter. At the end of another week Despenser and Baldock were discovered, and delivered up to Henry of Lancaster; and on this Edward came forward and gave himself up, to save them, or to share their fate.
There was no hope; the King was kept in close custody, and Baldock was so ill-treated that he died shortly after. Hugh le Despenser would eat no food after he was taken; and, lest death should balk revenge, he was at once brought to a sham trial, and accused of every misfortune that had befallen England—of the loss of Bannockburn; of conspiracy against the Queen; of counselling the death of Lancaster; and of suppressing the miracles at his tomb. For all which deeds Sir Hugh le Despenser was sentenced to die as a wicked and attainted traitor; and immediately after he was drawn to execution in a black gown, with his scutcheon reversed, and a wreath of nettles around his head—but, happily, nearly insensible from exhaustion—and was hanged on a gallows fifty feet high. His son Hugh, a spirited young man of nineteen, held out Caerphilli Castle manfully, until he actually obtained a promise of safety, and lived to transmit the honors of the oldest barony now existing in England.
The Earl of Arundel was likewise executed, and Mortimer seized his property; after which the Queen set out for London, summoning the Parliament to meet at Westminster.
In this Parliament Adam Orleton began by making outrageous speeches as to the certain death it would be to the Queen and Prince if the King were released and restored to his authority, and he called upon the Lords to choose whether father or son should be King. The London mob clamored in fury without, ardent for the ruin of the King; and the Archbishop, saying, Vox populi vox Dei, added his influence. Young Edward was led forward, and a few hymns being hastily sung, received the oaths of allegiance of all the peers present, except the prelates of York, London, Rochester, and Carlisle, who boldly maintained the rights of the captive King, though with great danger to themselves.
The Bishop of Rochester was thrown down by the furious mob, and nearly murdered; and the sight so terrified the other friends of the poor King, that not a voice was raised in his defence. A bill was passed declaring Edward II. deposed, and Edward III. the sovereign; whereupon Isabel, to keep up appearances, lamented so much, that she actually deceived her son, who came forward, and with great spirit declared that he would never deprive his father of the crown.
The King was at Kenilworth, honorably treated by his cousin, Henry of Lancaster, and thither a deputation was sent to force him to resign his dignity. The Bishops of Winchester and Lincoln were first sent to him to argue, threaten, and persuade, and, when they thought him sufficiently prepared, led him in a plain black gown to make his formal renunciation. At the sight of his mortal enemy, Orleton, Edward sank to the ground, but recovered enough to listen to a violent discourse from that rebel prelate, reproaching him with all his misconduct, and requiring him to lay aside his crown. Meekly, and weeping floods of tears, Edward replied, that "he was in their hands, and they must do what seemed good to them; he only thanked them for their goodness to his son, and owned his own sins to be the sole cause of his misfortunes."
Then Sir William Trussel, in the name of all England, revoked the oath of allegiance, and the steward of the household broke his staff of office, as he would have done had it been the funeral of his master. Would that it had been his funeral, must have been the wish of the unfortunate Sir Edward of Caernarvon, as he was thenceforth termed; disowned, degraded, with wife, son, and brothers turned against him; not one voice uplifted in his favor; all his friends murdered. He wrote some melancholy Latin verses during his captivity, full of sad complaints of the inconstancy of Fortune; but he had not yet experienced the worst that was in store for him. At first, presents of clothes and kindly messages were sent to him by the Queen; and when he begged to see her or his children, she replied that it would not be permitted by Parliament. He pleaded again and again, and Henry of Lancaster began so far to appear his friend, that Isabel took alarm. The Pope refused her request that Thomas of Lancaster should be canonized as a saint and martyr, and she feared that he might even interfere on the King's behalf, and oblige her to give up Mortimer, and return to her husband.
Orleton had been sent on an embassy to the Papal court, but he was there consulted by the Queen whether the King should be allowed to live. His answer was the ambiguous line: "Edwardum occidere nolite timere bonum est." (Edward to kill be unwilling to fear it is good.)
Doubt, in such a case, is certain to end in evil. That the King should die, was determined, and the charge of the unfortunate monarch was therefore transferred to Maurice, Lord Berkeley, and to Sir John Maltravers. The latter set out with two men, named Ogle and Gurney, to escort the King from Kenilworth. At Bristol such demonstrations were made in his favor, that, taking alarm, his keepers clad him in mean and scanty garments, and made him ride toward Corfe in the chilly April night, scoffing and jeering him; and when, in the morning, they paused to arrange their dress, they set a crown of hay in derision on his head, and brought him, in an old helmet, filthy ditch-water to shave with. With a shower of tears he strove to smile, saying that, in spite of them, his cheeks were covered with pure warm water enough. They brought him to Berkeley Castle, on the Severn, and there, it is said, tried to poison him; but his strength of constitution resisted the potion, and did not fail, under confinement or insufficient diet. At last, when Berkeley was ill, and absent, came the night,
"When Severn should re-echo with affright The sounds of death through Berkeley's roofs that ring, Shrieks of an agonizing king."
At those cries many a countryman awoke, crossed himself, and prayed as for a soul departing in torment. Seven months after his deposition, Edward of Caernarvon lay dead in Berkeley Castle, and the gates were thrown open, and the chief burghers of Bristol admitted to see his corpse. No sign of violence was visible, but the features, once so beautiful, were writhed into such a look of agony, that the citizens came away awed and horrified; and hearing the villagers speak of the cries that had rung from the walls the night before, felt certain that the late King had perished by a strange and frightful murder.
But those were no days for inquiry, and the royal corpse was hastily borne to Gloucester Abbey Church, and there buried. The impression, however, could not be forgotten; multitudes flocked to pray at the shrine of the dead sovereign, whom living no one would befriend: and such offerings were made at his tomb, that the monks raised a beautiful new south aisle to the church; nay, they could have built the church over again with the means thus acquired. A monument was raised over his grave, and his effigy was carved on it—a robed and crowned figure, with hands meekly folded, and a face of such exquisite, appealing sweetness, dignity, and melancholy, that it is hardly possible to look at it without tears, or to help believing that even thus might Edward have looked when, in all the nobleness of patience, he stood forgiving his persecutors, as they crowned him in scorn with grass, and derided his misfortunes. A weak and frivolous man, cruelly sinned against, Edward of Caernarvon was laid in his untimely grave in the forty-third year of his age.
Thus ended the Barons' Wars, no patriotic resistance of an opposition who used sword and lance instead of the tongue and the pen, but the factious jealousy of men who became ferocious in their hatred of favoritism.
GOOD KING ROBERT'S TESTAMENT. (1314-1329.)
Kings of England. 1307. Edward II. 1327. Edward III. 1322. Charles IV.
King of Scotland. 1306. Robert I.
King of France. 1314. Louis X. 1316. Philippe V.
Emperor of Germany. 1314. Louis V.
Popes. 1305. Clement V. 1316. John XXII.
As England waxed feebler, Scotland waxed stronger and became aggressive. Robert's queen was dead, and he married Elizabeth, daughter of the Earl of Ulster, thus making his brother Edward doubtful whether the Scottish crown would descend to him, and anxious to secure a kingdom for himself.
Ireland had not been reconciled in two centuries to the domination of the Plantagenets. The Erse, or Irish, believed themselves brethren of the Scots, and in all their wanderings and distresses the Bruces had found shelter, sympathy, and aid in the wild province of Ulster. It seemed, therefore, to Edward Bruce a promising enterprise to offer the Irish chieftains deliverance from the English yoke; and they eagerly responded to his proposal. In 1314, he crossed the sea with a small force, before any one was ready for him, and was obliged at once to return, having thus given the alarm; so that Sir Edward Butler, the Lord Deputy, hurried to the defence, and had mustered his forces by the time Edward Bruce arrived, the next spring, with 6,000 men. He was actually crowned King, and laid siege to Carrickfergus, while the wild chieftains of Connaught broke into the English settlements, and did great mischief, till they were defeated at Athenry by the Earl of Ulster's brother and Sir Richard Bermingham. After the battle, Sir Richard Bermingham sent out his page, John Hussy, with a single attendant, to "turn up and peruse" the bodies, to see whether his mortal foe O'Kelly were among them. O'Kelly presently started out of a bush where he had been hidden, and thus addressed the youth: "Hussy, thou seest I am at all points armed, and have my esquire, a manly man, beside me. Thou art thin, and a youngling; so that, if I loved thee not for thine own sake, I might betray thee for thy master's. But come and serve me at my request, and I promise thee, by St. Patrick's staff, to make thee a lord in Connaught of more ground than thy master hath in Ireland." Hussy treated the offer with scorn, whereupon his attendant, "a stout lubber, began to reprove him for not relenting to so rich a proffer." Hussy's answer was, to cut down the knave; next, "he raught to O'Kelly's squire a great rap under the pit of the ear, which overthrew him; thirdly, he bestirred himself so nimbly, that ere any help could be hoped for, he had also slain O'Kelly, and perceiving breath in the squire, he drawed him up again, and forced him upon a truncheon to bear his lord's head into the high town."
These notable exploits were rewarded by knighthood and the lordship of Galtrim.
Robert Bruce brought a considerable army to the assistance of his brother, and wasted the country up to the walls of Dublin; but Roger Mortimer coming to the relief of the city, he was forced to retreat. It was a horrible devastation that he made, and yet this was only what was then supposed to be the necessity of war, for it was while burning many a homestead, and reducing multitudes to perish with famine, that Bruce halted his whole army to protect one sick and suffering washerwoman.
"This was a full great courtesy, That swilk a king and so mighty Gert his men dwell on this manner But for a poor lavender."
Bruce was one of the many men tender to the friend, ruthless to the foe; merciful to sufferings he beheld, merciless to those out of his sight. He returned to Scotland, and Mortimer to England, both leaving horrible hunger and distress behind them, and Mortimer in debt L1,000 to the city of Dublin, "whereof he payde not one smulkin, and many a bitter curse he carried with him beyond sea."
Edward Bruce continued to reign in Ulster until the 5th of October, 1318, when the last and nineteenth battle was fought between him and the English, contrary to the advice of his wisest captains. His numbers were very inferior, and almost the whole were slain. Edward Bruce and Sir John Malpas, an English knight, were found lying one upon the other, slain by each other's hands in the deadly conflict. Robert, who was on the way to bring reinforcements to his brother, turned back on hearing the tidings, and employed his forces against his old foe, John of Lorn, in the Western Isles, and it was on this occasion that, to avoid doubling the Mull of Cantire, he dragged his ships upon a wooden slide across the neck of land between the two locks of Tarbut—a feat often performed by the fishermen, and easy with the small galleys of his fleet, but which had a great effect on the minds of the Islemen, for there was an old saying—
"That he should gar shippes sua Betwixt those seas with sailis gae Should win the Islis sua till hand, That nane with strength should him withstand."
Accordingly they submitted, and Lorn, being taken, was shut up for life in Lochleven Castle.
It was about the time of Edward Bruce's wild reign in Ulster that Dublin University was founded by Archbishop Bigmore; and in contrast to this advance in learning, a few years later, a horrible and barbarous warfare raged, because Lord de la Poer was supposed to have insulted Maurice of Desmond by calling him a rhymer. Moreover, at Kilkenny, a lady, called Dame Alice Kettle, was cited before the Bishop of Ossory for witchcraft. It was alleged that she had a familiar spirit, to whom she was wont to sacrifice nine red cocks, and nine peacocks' eyes; that she had a staff "on which she ambled through thick and thin;" and that between compline and twilight she was wont to sweep the streets, singing,
"To the house of William, my son, Hie all the wealth of Kilkenny town."
She was acquitted on the charge of witchcraft, but her enemies next attacked her on the ground of heresy, and succeeded in accomplishing her death.
The Pope at Avignon assisted the English cause by keeping Bruce and his kingdom under an interdict; but the Scots continued to make inroads on England, and year after year the most frightful devastation was committed. In 1319, the Archbishop of York, hoping for another Battle of the Standard, collected all his clergy and their tenants, and led them against Douglas and Randolph at Mitton; but their efforts were unavailing, and such multitudes were slain, that the field was covered with the white surplices they wore over their armor, and the combat was called the Chapter of Mitton.
For many long years were the northern provinces the constant prey of the Scots, as the discords of the English laid their country open to invasion. Bruce himself was indeed losing his strength, the leprosy contracted during his life of wandering and distress was gaining ground on his constitution, and unnerving his strong limbs; but Douglas and Randolph gallantly supplied his place at the head of his armies, and his affairs were everywhere prospering. He had indeed lost his eldest daughter Marjorie, but she had left a promising son, Robert Stuart; and to himself a son had likewise been born, named David, after the royal Saint of Scotland, and so handsome and thriving a child, that it was augured that he would be a warrior of high prowess.
Rome was induced, in 1323, to acknowledge Robert as King, on his promise to go on a crusade to recover the Holy Land—a promise he was little likely to be in a condition to fulfil; and Edward II began to enter into negotiations, and make proposals, that disputes should be set aside by the betrothal of the little David and his youngest daughter, Joan. But these arrangements were broken off by the rebellion of Isabel, and the deposition of Edward of Caernarvon; and Bruce sent Douglas and Randolph to make a fresh attack upon Durham and Northumberland. The wild army were all on horseback; the knights and squires on tolerable steeds, the poorer sort on rough Galloways. They needed no forage for their animals save the grass beneath their feet, no food for themselves except the cattle which they seized, and whose flesh they boiled in their hides. Failing these, each man had a bag of oatmeal, and a plate of metal on which he could bake his griddle-cakes. This was their only baggage; true to the Lindsay motto, the stars were their only tents: and thus they flashed from one county to another, doing infinite mischief, and the dread of every one.
While young Edward III was being crowned, they had well-nigh seized the Castle of Norham. The tidings filled the boy with fire and indignation. He was none of the meek, indifferent stock that the Planta Genista sometimes bore, but all the resolution and brilliancy of the line had descended on him in full measure, and all the sweetness and courtesy, together with all the pride and ambition of his race, shone in his blue eye, and animated his noble and gracious figure. He was well-read in chivalrous tales, and it was time that he should perform deeds of arms worthy of his ladye-love, the flaxen-haired Philippa of Hainault.
Strange was the contrast of the pure, ardent spirit, with the scenes of shame and disgrace of which he was as yet unconscious. He knew not that he was a usurper—that one parent was perishing in a horrible captivity, the other holding himself and his kingdom in shameful trammels, and giving them over into the power of her traitorous lover.
But Edward was sixteen, and Isabel and Mortimer could only hope to continue their dominion by keeping him at a distance; and he was therefore placed at the head of a considerable army, with Sir John of Hainault as his adviser, and sent forth to deliver his country from the Scots.
Good Sir John of Hainault, accustomed to prick his heavy Flemish war-horse over the Belgian undulating plains, that Nature would seem to have designed for fair battle-fields, was no match for the light horsemen of the Scots, trained to wild, desultory warfare. He and his young King thought the respectable way of fighting was for one side to wait civilly for the other, interchange polite defiances on either side, take no advantage of ground, but ride fairly at each other with pennons flying and trumpets sounding, like a tournament; and they did not at all approve of enemies of whom they saw no trace but a little distant smoke in the horizon, and black embers of villages wherever they marched. There was no coming up with them. The barons set forth in the morning, fierce, and wound up for a battle, pennons displayed, and armor burnished; but by and by the steeds floundered in the peat-bogs, the steep mountain-sides were hard to climb for men and horses cased in proof armor, and when shouts or cries broke out at a distance, and with sore labor the knights struggled to the spot in hopes of an engagement, it proved to have been merely the hallooing of some other part of the army at the wild deer that bounded away from the martial array. When, at night, they reached the banks of the Tyne, and had made their way across the ford, they found themselves in evil case, for all their baggage and provisions were far behind, stuck in the bogs, or stumbling up the mountain-sides, and they had nothing to eat but a single loaf, which each man had carried strapped behind him, and which had a taste of all the various peat-bogs into which he had sunk. The horses had nothing to eat, and there was nothing to fasten them to, so that their masters were forced to spend the whole night holding them by the bridles. They hoped for better things at dawn, but with it came rain, which swelled the river so much that none of the foot or baggage could hope to cross, nor, indeed, could any messenger return to find out where they were. The gentlemen were forced to set to work with their swords to cut down green boughs to weave into huts, and to seek for grass and leaves for their horses. By and by came some peasants, who told them they were fourteen miles from Newcastle and eleven from Carlisle, and no provisions could be obtained any nearer. Messengers were instantly sent off, promising safety and large prices to any one who would bring victuals to the famishing camp, and the burghers of Newcastle and Carlisle seem to have reaped a rich harvest, by sending a moderate supply of bread and wine at exorbitant prices. For a whole week of rain did the army continue in this disconsolate position, without tents, fire, or candle, and with perpetual rain, till the saddles and girths were rotted, the horses wasted to skeletons, and the army, with rusted mail and draggled banners and plumes, a dismal contrast to the gay troops who had lately set forth.
After waiting a week, fancying the Scots must pass the ford, they gave up this hope, and resolved to re-cross higher up. Edward set forth a proclamation, that the man who should lead him where he could cope on dry ground with the Scots, should be knighted by his own hand, and receive a hundred pounds a year in land. Fifteen gentlemen, thus incited, galloped off in quest of the enemy, and one of them, an esquire named Thomas Rokeby, who made toward Weardale, not only beheld the Scots encamped on the steep hill-side sloping toward the Wear, but was seized by their outposts, and led before Douglas. Sir James was in a position where he had no objection to see King Edward, with a natural fortification of rocks on his flanks, a mountain behind, and the river foaming in a swollen torrent over the rocks in the ravine in front of him. So, when Rokeby had told his tale, Douglas gave him his ransom and liberty, on the sole condition that he should not rest till he had brought the tidings to the King—terms which he was not slow to fulfil. He found the English army on the Derwent, at the ruined Augustinian monastery of Blanchland; and, highly delighted, Edward gave the promised reward, and the army prepared for a battle by confession and hearing mass. Then all set forth in high spirits, and came to the spot, where they were so close to the enemy that they could see the arms on the shields of the nobles, and the red, hairy buskins of the ruder sort, shaped from the hides of the cattle they had killed.
Edward made his men dismount, thinking to cross the river; but, on examination, he found this impossible. He then sent an invitation to the Scottish leaders to come out and have a fair fight; but at this they laughed, saying that they had burnt and spoiled in his land, and it was his part to punish them as he could; they should stay there as long as they pleased. As it was known that there was neither bread nor wine in their camp, it was hoped that this would not be very long; but from the merriment nightly heard round the watchfires, it seemed that oatmeal and beef satisfied them just as well, and the English were far more miserable in their position.
On the third night, though the fires blazed and the horns resounded at midnight, by dawn nothing was to be seen but the bare, gray hill-side. The Scots had made off during the night, and were presently discovered perched in a similar spot on the river side, only with a wood behind them, called Stanhope Park.
Again Edward encamped on the other side of the river, and watched the foe in vain. One night, however, Douglas, with a small body of men, crept across the river at a ford higher up, and stealing to the precincts of the camp, rode past the sentry, crying out in an English tone, "Ha, St. George! no watch here!" and made his way into the midst of the tents, smiling to himself at the murmur of an English soldier, that the Black Douglas might yet play them some trick. Presently, with loud shouts of "Douglas! Douglas! English thieves, ye shall die!" his men fell on the sleeping army, and had slain three hundred in a very short time, while he made his way to the royal tent, cut the ropes, and as the boy, "a soldier then for holidays," awoke, "by his couch, a grisly chamberlain," stood the Black Lord James! His chaplain threw himself between, and fell in the struggle, while Edward crept out under the canvas, and others of the household came to his rescue. The whole army was now awakened, and Douglas fought his way out on the other side of the camp, blowing his horn to collect his men. On his return, Randolph asked him what he had done. "Only drawn a little blood," said Douglas.
"Ah!" said Randolph, "we should have gone down with the whole army."
"The risk would have been over-great," said Douglas.
"Then must we fight them, by open day, for our provisions are failing, and we shall soon be famished."
"Nay," said Sir James, "let us treat them as the fox did the fisherman, who, finding him eating a salmon before the fire in his hut, drew his sword, and stood in the doorway, meaning to slay him without escape. But the fox seized a mantle, and drew it over the fire; the fisherman flew to save his mantle, and Master Fox made off safely with the salmon by the door unguarded!"
On this model the wary Scot arranged his retreat, making a multitude of hurdles of wattled boughs to be laid across the softer places in the bog behind them, and giving secret orders that all should be ready to move at night. This could not be done so secretly that some tidings did not reach the English; but they expected another night-attack, and, though they continued under arms, made no attempt to ascertain the proceedings of the enemy till daybreak, when, crossing the river, they found nothing alive but five poor English prisoners bound naked to trees, with their legs broken. Around them lay five hundred large cattle, killed because they went too slowly to be driven along, three hundred skins filled with meat and water hung over the fires, one hundred spits with meat on them, and ten thousand of the hairy shoes of the Scots—the enemy were entirely gone; and Edward, baffled, grieved, and ashamed, fairly burst into tears at his disappointment.