The hot pursuit of the fugitive plunderers had ruined the day. Montfort had concentrated his forces, and had totally routed the two kings; Richard was already his prisoner, and Henry had no chance of holding out in the priory. The princes undauntedly strove to collect their shattered forces, and break through to his rescue, but were forced to desist by a message that, on their first attack, the head of the King of the Romans should be struck off.
To save his life, the two cousins therefore agreed to a treaty called the Mise of Lewes, May 15th, 1264, by which they gave themselves up to the Barons as hostages for their fathers, stipulating that the matter at issue should be decided by deputies from the King of France, and that the prisoners on either side should be set free.
Now began the great trial of Simon de Montfort—that of power and prosperity—and he failed under it. Whatever might have been his first intentions in taking up arms, he now proved himself unwilling to lay aside the authority placed in his hands, even though he violated his oaths in maintaining it, and incurred the sentence of excommunication which the Pope launched against him. But when the most saintly English bishops of their own time had died under it, it lost its power on the conscience.
No measures were taken for the French arbitration, nor were the prisoners set free. The King of the Romans was confined at Kenilworth, and the two young princes at Dover, the custody of which castle was committed to one of their cousins, the Montforts, who allowed them no amusement but the companionship of Thomas de Clare, the young brother of the Earl of Gloucester. King Henry was indeed nominally at liberty, but watched perpetually by Leicester's guards, and not allowed to take a step or to write a letter without his superintendence; and when the Mayor of London swore fealty to him, it was with the words, "As long as he was good to them." Edward was made, on promise of liberation, to swear to terms far harder than even the Acts of Oxford, and when the bitter oath had been taken, he was pronounced at full liberty, and then carried off, under as close a guard as ever, to Wallingford Castle.
Queen Eleanor was acting with great spirit abroad, gathering money and collecting troops in hopes of better times, and seven knights still held out Bristol for the King. They made a sudden expedition to Wallingford, in hopes of rescuing the Prince; but the garrison were on the alert, and called out to them that, if they wanted the prince, they might have him, but only tied hand and foot, and shot from a mangonel; and Edward himself, appearing on the walls, declared that, if they wished to save his life, they must retreat.
This violent threat went beyond the instructions of Leicester, who removed his nephew from the keeping of this garrison, and placed him at Kenilworth.
But Simon was made to feel that he had little control over his followers, and especially over his wild sons, who had learnt no respect to authority at all, and outran in their violence even the doings of the Lusignan family. Henry de Montfort seized all the wool in England, which was sold for his profit, while Simon and Guy fitted out a fleet and plundered the vessels in the Channel, without distinction of English or foreigners, and thus turned aside the popularity which Leicester had hitherto enjoyed in London. The Barons, too, already discontented at having only changed their masters, so as to have the mighty Montfort over them instead of the weak Plantagenet, could not bear with the additional lawlessness of sons who made themselves vile without restraint. A violent quarrel arose between these youths and Earl Gilbert de Clare, who challenged them to a joust at Dunstable; but their father, dreading fatal consequences, forbade it, and Gloucester retired to his estates in high displeasure.
Here he was joined by his brother Thomas, who came full of descriptions of the princely courtesy and sweetness of manner of the royal Edward, which contrasted so strongly with the presumption of his upstart cousins that the young Earl was brought over to concert measures with the Prince's friend, Roger Mortimer.
In order to overawe the Welsh borderers, who were much attached to Edward, Simon had carried his captive to Hereford Castle, whither Thomas de Clare now returned as his attendant, taking with him a noble steed, provided by Mortimer, with a message that his friends would be on the alert to receive him at a certain spot.
Edward mounted his horse, rode out with his guard, set them to race, and looked on as umpire, till, their steeds being duly tired, he galloped off, and the last they saw of him was far in advance meeting with a party of spears, beneath the pennon of Mortimer. And now the Earl of Leicester experienced that "success but signifies vicissitude." After his reign of one year, his fall was rapid.
The Earl of Gloucester had at once joined Edward, and in vain did Leicester use the King's name in calling on the military tenants of the Crown; only a small proportion of his old partisans came to his aid, and he remained on the banks of the Severn, waiting to be joined by his son Simon, who had been besieging Pevensey, but now marched to his aid.
On his way, young Simon summoned Winchester, but was refused admittance. However, the treacherous monks of St. Swithin's let in his forces through a window of their convent on the wall, and the city was horribly sacked, especially the Jewry. Afterward he went to the family castle of Kenilworth, where he awaited orders from his father. A woman named Margot informed the Prince that it was the habit of Simon and his knights to sleep outside the walls, for the convenience of bathing in the summer mornings; and Edward, suddenly making a night-march, fell upon them while in the very act, and took most of them prisoners, Simon just escaping into the castle with his pages in their shirts and drawers, all his baggage and treasures being taken.
Ignorant of this disaster, the Earl of Leicester proceeded, in hopes of effecting a junction with his son, and had just arrived at Evesham when banners were seen in the distance. Nicholas, his barber, who pretended to have some knowledge of heraldry, declared that they belonged to Sir Simon's troops; but the Earl, not fully satisfied, bade him mount the church-steeple and look from thence. The affrighted barber recognized the Lions of England, the red chevrons of De Clare, the azure bars of Mortimer, waving over a forest of lances.
"We are dead men, my Lord," he said, as he descended.
And truly, when the Earl beheld the marshalling of the hostile array, he could not help exclaiming, "They have learnt this style from me! Now God have mercy on our souls, for our bodies are the Prince's!"
Henry, the only son who was with him, exhorted him not to despair.
"I do not, my son," replied the Earl; "but your presumption, and the pride of your brothers, have brought me to this pass. I firmly believe I shall die for the cause of God and justice."
He prayed, and received the sacrament, as he always did before going into battle; then arrayed his troops, bringing out the poor old King, in order to make his followers imagine themselves the Royalists. He tried in vain to force the road to Kenilworth; then drew his troops into a compact circle, that last resource of gallant men in extremity, such as those of Hastings and Flodden. Their ranks were hewn down little by little, and the Prince's troops were pressing on, when a lamentable cry was heard, "Save me! save me! I am Henry of Winchester!"
Edward knew the voice, and, springing to the rescue, drew out a wounded warrior, whom he bore away to a place of safety. In his absence, Leicester's voice asked if quarter was given.
"No quarter for traitors," said some revengeful Royalist; and at the same moment Henry de Montfort fell, slain, at his father's feet.
"By the arm of St. James, it is time for me to die!" cried the Earl; and, grasping his sword in both hands, he rushed into the thickest of the foe, and, after doing wonders, was struck down and slain. Terrible slaughter was done on the "desperate ring;" one hundred and sixty knights, with all their followers, were slain, and scarcely twelve gentlemen survived. The savage followers of Mortimer cut off the head and hands of Leicester, and carried the former as a present to their lady; but this was beyond the bounds of the orders of Prince Edward, who caused the corpses of his godfather and cousin to be brought into the abbey church of Evesham, wept over the playfellow of his childhood, and honored the burial with his presence.
The battle of Evesham was fought on the 4th of August, 1265, fourteen months after the misused victory of Lewes.
So died the Earl of Leicester, termed, by the loving people of England, "Sir Simon the Righteous"—a man of high endowments and principles of rectitude unusual in his age. His devotion was sincere, his charities extensive, his conduct always merciful—no slight merit in one bred up among the savage devastators of Provence—and his household accounts prove the order and religious principle that he enforced. His friends were among the staunch supporters of the English Church, and, unlike his father, who thought to merit salvation as the instrument of the iniquities of Rome, he disregarded such injunctions and threats of hers as disagreed with the plain dictates of conscience. Thinking for himself at length led to contempt of lawful authority; but it was an age when the shepherds were fouling the springs, and making their own profit of the flock; and what marvel was it if the sheep went astray?
He was enthusiastically loved by the English, especially the commonalty, who, excommunicate as he was, believed him a saint, imputed many miracles to his remains, and murmured greatly that he was not canonized. After-times may judge him as a noble character, wrecked upon great temptations, and dying as befitted a brave and resigned man drawn into fatal error.
"If ever, in temptation strong, Thou left'st the right path for the wrong, If every devious step thus trode Still led thee further from the road, Dread thou to speak presumptuous doom On noble 'Montfort's' lowly tomb; But say, 'he died a gallant knight, With sword in hand, for England's right.'"
For, though the rebellion cannot be justified, it was by the efforts and strife of this reign that Magna Charta was fixed, not as the concession wrung for a time by force from a reluctant monarch, but as the basis of English law.
Prince Edward, in the plenitude of his victory, did not attempt to repeal it; but, at a parliament held at Marlborough, 1267, led his father to accept not this only, but such of the regulations of the Barons as were reasonable, and consistent with the rigid maintenance of the authority of the Crown.
Evesham was the overthrow of the Montfort family. Henry was there slain with his father—though, according to ballad lore, he had another fate—the blow only depriving him of sight, and he being found on the field by a "baron's faire daughter," she conveyed him to a place of safety, tended him, and finally became his wife, and made him "glad father of pretty Bessee." For years he lived and throve (as it appears) as the blind beggar of Bethnal Green, till his daughter, who had been brought up as a noble lady, was courted by various suitors. On her making known, however, that she was a beggar's daughter,
"'Nay, then,' quoth the merchant, 'thou art not for me.' 'Nor,' quoth the inn-holder, 'my wiffe shalt thou be.' 'I lothe,' said the gentle, 'a beggar's degree; And therefore adewe, my pretty Bessee.'"
However, there was a gentle knight whose love for "pretty Bessee" was proof against the discovery of her father's condition and the entreaties of his friends; and after he had satisfied her by promises not to despise her parents, the blind beggar counted out so large a portion, that he could not double it, and on the wedding-day the beggar revealed his own high birth, to the general joy.
Unfortunately, it does not appear as if Henry de Montfort might not have prospered without his disguise. His mother was generously treated by the King and Prince, and retired beyond sea with her sons Amaury and Richard; and her daughter Eleanor, and his brother Simon, a desperate and violent man, held out Kenilworth for some months, which was with difficulty reduced; afterward he joined his brother Guy, and wandered about the Continent, brooding on revenge for his father's death.
The last rebel to be overcome was the brave outlaw, Adam de Gourdon, who, haunting Alton Wood as a robber after the death of Leicester, was sought out by Prince Edward, subdued by his personal prowess, and led to the feet of the King.
The brave and dutiful Prince became the real ruler of the kingdom, and England at length reposed.
THE LAST OF THE CRUSADERS. (1267-1291.)
Kings of England. 1216. Henry III. 1272. Edward I.
Kings of Scotland. 1249. Alexander III. 1285. Margaret. (Interregnum.)
Kings of France. 1226. Louis IX. 1270. Philippe III. 1285. Philippe IV.
Emperor of Germany. 1273. Rodolph I.
Popes. 1265. Clement IV. 1271. Gregory X. 1276. Innocent V. 1277. John XXI. 1277. Nicholas III. 1281. Martin IV. 1285. Honorius IV. 1288. Nicholas IV.
A hundred and seventy years had elapsed since the hills of Auvergne had re-echoed the cry of Dieu le veult, and the Cross had been signed on the shoulders of Godfrey and Tancred. Jerusalem had been held by the Franks for a short space; but their crimes and their indolence had led to their ruin, and the Holy City itself was lost, while only a few fortresses, detached and isolated, remained to bear the name of the Kingdom of Palestine. The languishing Royal Line was even lost, becoming extinct in Conradine, the grandson of Friedrich II. and of Yolande of Jerusalem, that last member of the house of Hohenstaufen on whom the Pope and Charles of Anjou wreaked their vengeance for the crimes of his fore-fathers. Charles of Anjou, brother of St. Louis, but of utterly dissimilar character, had seized Conradine's kingdom of the two Sicilies, and likewise assumed his title to that of Jerusalem, thus acquiring a personal interest in urging on another Crusade for the recovery of Palestine.
Less and less of that kingdom existed. Bibars, or Bendocdar Elbondukdari, one of the Mameluke emirs, who had become Sultan of Egypt during the confusion that followed the death of Touran Chah, was so great a warrior that he was surnamed the Pillar of the Mussulman Religion and the Father of Victories—titles which he was resolved to merit by exterminating the Franks. Cesarea, Antioch, Joppa, fell into his hands in succession, and Tripoli and Acre alone remained in the possession of the Templars and Hospitallers, who appealed to their brethren in Europe for assistance.
The hope of a more effective crusade than his first had never been absent from the mind of Louis IX.; he had carried it with him through court and camp, dwelt on it while framing wise laws for his people, instructing his nobles, or sitting to do justice beneath the spreading oak-tree of Vincennes. Since his return from Damietta, he had always lived as one devoted, never wearing gold on his spurs nor in his robes, and spending each moment that he could take from affairs of state in prayer and reading of the Scripture; and though his health was still extremely frail and feeble, his resolution was taken.
On the 23d of March, 1267, he convoked his barons in the great hall of the Louvre, and entered the assembly, holding in his hand that sacred relic, the Crown of Thorns, which had been found by the Empress Helena with the True Cross. He then addressed them, describing the needs of their Eastern brethren, and expressing his own intention of at once taking the Cross. There was a deep and mournful silence among his hearers, who too well remembered the sufferings of their last campaign, and who looked with despair at their beloved King's worn and wasted form, so weak that he could hardly bear the motion of a horse, and yet bent on encountering the climate and the labors that had well-nigh proved fatal to him before.
The legate, the Cardinal Ottoboni, then made an exhortation, after which Louis assumed the Cross, and was imitated by his three sons, Philippe, Tristan, and Pierre, and his son-in-law, Thibault, King of Navarre, with other knights, but in no great numbers, for the barons were saying to each other, that it was one of the saddest days that France had ever seen. "If we take the Cross," they said, "we lose our King; if we take it not, we lose our God, since we will not take the Cross for Him." The Sire de Joinville absolutely refused on account of his vassals, and openly pronounced it a mortal sin to counsel the King to undertake such an expedition in his present state of health; but Louis' determination was fixed, and in the course of the next three years he collected a number of gallant young Crusaders.
He had always had a strong influence over his nephew, Edward of England, and the conclusion of the war with Montfort, as well as a personal escape of his own, had at this period strongly disposed the Prince to acts of devotion. While engaged in a game at chess with a knight at Windsor Castle, a sudden impulse seized him to rise from his seat. He had scarcely done so, when a stone, becoming detached from the groined roof over his head, fell down on the very spot where he had been sitting. His preservation was attributed by him to Our Lady of Walsingham, and the beautiful church still existing there attests the veneration paid to her in consequence, while he further believed himself marked out for some especial object, and eagerly embraced the proposal of accompanying the French King on his intended voyage.
Ottoboni preached the Crusade at Northampton on the 25th of June, 1269, after which he gave the Cross to King Henry, to the Princes Edward and Edmund, to their cousin Henry of Almayne, son to Richard of Cornwall, and to about one hundred and fifty knights. The King intended as little to go on the expedition as on any of the former ones, and he soon made over his Cross to his son. Edward, who was fully in earnest, made every arrangement for the safety of the realm in his absence, taking with him the turbulent Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, and appointing guardians for his two infant sons, John and Henry, in case the old King should die during his absence. His wife, Eleanor of Castile, insisted on accompanying him; and when the perils of the expedition were represented to her, she replied, "Nothing ought to part those whom God hath joined together. The way to heaven is as near, if not nearer, from Syria as from England or my native Spain."
The last solemnity in which Edward assisted before his departure was the translation of the remains of Edward the Confessor to their new tomb in Westminster Abbey, the shrine of gold and precious stones being borne upon the shoulders of King Henry himself, after which the princes took leave of their father, and commenced their expedition, meeting on the way their uncle, the King of the Romans, who was bringing home a young German wife, Beatrice von Falkmart. Embarking at Dover on the 20th of August, 1270, the princes made all speed to hasten across France, so as to come up with Louis, who had set sail from Aigues Mortes on the 1st of July, with his three sons, his daughter Isabelle, and her husband the King of Navarre, and Isabelle the wife of his eldest son Philippe, as well as a gallant host of Crusaders. He had appointed Cagliari as the place of meeting with Edward of England, and with his brother Charles, King of Sicily; but he found his sojourn there inconvenient; the Pisans, who held Sardinia, were unfriendly, provisions were scarce, and the water unwholesome, and he became desirous of changing his quarters.
The reasons which conduced to his fatal resolution have never been clearly ascertained: whether he was influenced by his brother, the King of Sicily, who might reasonably wish to see the Moors of Tunis, his near neighbors, overpowered; or whether he was drawn along by the impatience of his forces, who were weary of inaction, and thought the plunder of any Mahometan praiseworthy; or whether he had any hope of converting the King of Tunis, Omar, with whom he had at one time been in correspondence. When some ambassadors from Tunis were at his court, a converted Jew had been baptized in their presence, and he had said to them, "Tell your master that I am so desirous of the salvation of his soul, that I would spend the rest of my life in a Saracen prison, and never see the light of day, if I could render your King and his people Christians like that man." It does not seem improbable that Louis might have hoped that his arrival might encourage Omar to declare himself a Christian. But be this as it might, he sailed from Cagliari, and on the 17th of June appeared upon the coast of Africa, close to the ruins of ancient Carthage.
All the inhabitants fled to the mountains, and the shore was deserted, so that the French might have disembarked at once; but Louis hesitated, and waited till the next morning, when they found the coast covered with Moors. However, the landing proceeded, the Moors all taking flight—happily for the Christians, for their disorder was so great, that a hundred men might have prevented their disembarkation. A proclamation was then read, taking possession of the territory in the name of our Lord, and of Louis, King of France. His servant.
The spot where the army had landed was a sandy island, a league in length, and very narrow, separated from the mainland by a channel fordable at low water, without any green thing growing on it, and with only one spring of fresh water, which was guarded by a tower filled with Moorish soldiers. A hundred men would have been sufficient to dislodge them; but few horses had been landed, and those were injured by their voyage, and the knights could do nothing without them. The men who went in search of water were killed by the Moorish guard, and thirst, together with the burning heat of the sun reflected by the arid sand, caused the Christians to suffer terribly.
As to the King of Tunis, far from fulfilling Louis' hopes, he sent him word that he was coming to seek him at the head of 100,000 men, and that he would only seek baptism on the field of battle; and at the same time he seized and imprisoned every Christian in his dominions, threatening to cut off all their heads the instant the French should attack Tunis.
After three days' misery in the island, the Christians advanced across the canal, and entered a beautiful green valley, where Carthage once had stood, full of rich gardens, watered by springs arranged for irrigation. The Moors buzzed round them, throwing their darts, but galloping off on their advance without doing any harm. There was a garrison in the citadel, which was all that remained of the once mighty town; and the Genoese mariners, supported by the cavalry, undertook to dislodge them. This was effected, and the ruinous city was in the hands of the French. A number of the inhabitants had hidden themselves, with their riches, in the extensive vaults and catacombs, and, to the shame of the Crusaders, their employment was to search these wretches out and kill them, often by filling the vaults with smoke.
Louis had promised his brother Charles to wait for him before marching against Tunis, and messengers daily arrived with intelligence that the Sicilian troops were embarking; but, as the days passed on, the malaria of the ruined city and the heat of the climate were more fatal to the French army than would have been a lost battle. The desert winds which swept over them were hot as flame, and brought with them clouds of sand, which blinded the men and choked up the wells, while the water of the springs swarmed with insects, and all vegetable food failed. Disease could not be long wanting in such a situation, and a week after the taking of Carthage the whole camp was full of fever and dysentery, till the living had not strength to bury the dead, but heaped them up in the vaults and the trenches round the camp, where their decay added to the infection of the air. The Moors charged up to the lines, and killed the soldiers at their posts every day; and a poet within Tunis made the menacing verses: "Frank, knowest thou not that Tunis is the sister of Cairo? Thou wilt find before this town thy tomb, instead of the house of Lokman; and the two terrible angels, Munkir and Nekir, will take the place of the eunuch Sahil."
Lokman and Sahil had been Louis' guards in his Egyptian captivity, and the Moorish poet contrasts them with the two angels whom the Mahometans believed received and interrogated the dead.
As long as his strength lasted, Louis went about among the tents, encouraging and succoring the sufferers; but nearly at the same time himself and his two sons, Philippe and Tristan, were attacked by the malady. On Tristan, a boy of sixteen, born in the last Crusade, the illness made rapid progress, and the physicians judged it right to carry him from his father's tent and place him on board ship. His strength rapidly gave way, and he expired soon after the transit. Louis constantly inquired for his son, but was met by a mournful silence until the eighth day, when he was plainly told of his death, and shed many tears, though he trusted soon to rejoin his young champion of the Cross in a better world. The Cardinal of Alba, the papal legate, was the next to die; and Louis' fever increasing, so that he could no longer attend to the government of the army, he sent for his surviving children, Philippe and Isabelle, and addressed to them a few words of advice, giving them each a letter written with his own hand, in which the same instructions were more developed. They were beautiful lessons in holy living, piety, and justice, such as his descendant, the Dauphin, son of Louis XV., might well call his most precious inheritance. He bids his daughter to "have one desire that should never part from you—that is to say, how you may most please our Lord; and set your heart on this, that, though you should be sure of receiving no guerdon for any good you may do, nor any punishment for doing evil, you should still keep from doing what might displease God, and seek to do what may please Him, purely for love of Him." He desires her, in adornment, to incline "to the less rather than the more," and not to have too great increase of robes and jewels, but rather to make of them her alms, and to remember that she was an example to others. His parting blessing is, "May our Lord make you as good in all things as I desire, and even more than I know how to desire. Amen."
To her he gave two ivory boxes, containing the scourge and hair-cloth which he used in self-discipline, and which she afterward employed for the same purpose, though unknown even to her confessor, until she mentioned it at her death.
To Philippe he said much of justice and mercy, desiring him always to take part against himself, and to give the preference to the weak over the strong. He exhorted him to be careful in bestowing the benefices of the Church, and to keep a careful watch over his nobles and governors, lest they should injure the clergy or the poor. To reverence in church, and to guarded language, he also exhorted him. Indeed, Joinville records, that in all the years that he knew the King, he never heard from him one careless mention of the name of God, or of the saints, nor did he hear him ever lightly speak of the devil; and in this the Seneschal so followed his example, that a blow was given in the Castle of Joinville for every profane word, so that he hoped the ill habit was there checked.
The good King thus concludes: "Dear son, I give thee all the blessing that father can and ought to give to son. May God of His mercy guard and defend thee from doing aught against His will; may He give thee grace to do His will; so that He may be honored and served by thee; and this may our Lord grant to me and thee by His great largesse, in such manner that, after this mortal life, we may see and laud and love Him without end."
His children then took leave of him, and he remained with his confessors, after which he received the last rites of the Church, and was so fully conscious, that he made all the responses in the penitential Psalms. When the Host was brought in, he threw himself out of bed, and received it kneeling on the ground, after which he refused to be replaced in bed, but lay upon a hair-cloth strewn with ashes. This was on Sunday, at three o'clock, and from that time, while voice lasted, he never ceased praising God aloud, and praying for his people. "Lord God," he often said, "give us grace to despise earthly things, and to forget the things of this world, so that we may fear no evil;" or, "Make Thy people holy, and watch over them." On Monday he became speechless; but he often looked around him debonnairement, and fixed his eyes on the cross planted at the foot of his bed, while sometimes his attendants caught a faint whisper of "O Jerusalem! Jerusalem!"
It was the heavenly Jerusalem that was before him now; and after lying as if asleep for half an hour, he joined his hands, saying, "Good Lord, have mercy on the people that remain here, and bring them back to their own land, that they may not fall into the hands of their enemies, nor be forced to deny Thy holy name!" Soon after, "Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit," and, looking up to heaven, "I will enter into Thy house, and worship in Thy tabernacle."
It was three o'clock in the afternoon of the 25th of August, when Louis drew his last breath, and his chaplains were still standing round his bed of ashes, when, the sound of trumpets fell on their ears. The Sicilian fleet had anchored, and the troops had landed while all the French were hanging in suspense on each report of the failing strength of their King, and had not even watched for that long-delayed arrival. The dead silence that met the newcomers was their first intimation of the calamity; and when Charles of Anjou reached his brother's tent, and saw his calm features fixed in death, he threw himself on his knees, and bitterly reproached himself for his tardiness in coming to his aid.
The Sicilian troops gained some advantages over the Moors, and it was proposed to finish the enterprise St. Louis had begun; but sickness still made great ravages in the army, and the new King, Philippe III., was so ill, that a speedy departure could alone save his life: a peace was therefore concluded with the Tunisians, which was hardly signed when Edward, with his English force, arrived upon the coast. He accompanied the melancholy remains of the French army to Trapani in Sicily, whither misfortunes still followed them. The young wife of Philippe III. was thrown from her horse, and died in consequence; and his sister Isabelle, and her husband the King of Navarre, both sank under the disorders brought from Carthage. Broken in health and spirit, Philippe resolved to desist from the Crusade, and both he and his uncle would have persuaded the English to do the same, since their small force alone could effect nothing; but Edward was undaunted. "I would go," said he, "if I had no one with me but Fowen, my groom."
Philippe set out on his return to France, carrying with him five coffins—those of his father, his brother, his wife, his sister, and brother-in-law. Henry d'Almayne took the opportunity of his escort to return to England, since the failing health of Henry III., and of his brother Richard, made his presence desirable. He had arrived at Viterbo, when he entered a church to hear mass. The Host had just been elevated, when a loud voice broke on the solemnity of the service, "Henry, thou traitor, thou shalt not escape!"
Henry turned, and beheld his cousins, Simon and Guy de Montfort, the latter of whom had married the daughter of the Italian Count Aldobrandini, and was living in the neighborhood. Their daggers were raised, and Henry was unarmed. He sprang to the altar, and the two officiating priests interposed; but the sacrilegious Montforts killed one, and left the other for dead, and, piercing Henry again and again, slew him at the foot of the altar. Then going to the church-door, where their horses awaited them, one of them said, "I have satisfied my vengeance."
"What!" said an attendant, "was not your father dragged through the streets of Evesham?"
At these words the savages returned, and dragged the corpse by the hair to the door of the church, after which they rode safely off.
Henry's body was carried home, and buried in the Abbey of Hales. His father probably never was aware of his death, for his own took place a few months after.
The murderers were never traced out, and the remissness on the part of Philippe and Charles left an impression on Edward's mind that they had connived at the murder. Of this Philippe at least may be acquitted; he completed his sad journey, and buried his father at St. Denis, amid the mourning of the whole nation, and yet their exultation, for miracles were thought to be wrought at his tomb, and the Papal authority enrolled him among the Saints. Old Joinville was cheered by a dream, in which he beheld him resplendent with glory, and telling him that he would not quickly depart from him, whereupon he placed an altar in the castle chapel to his honor, and caused a mass to be said there every day.
St. Louis' wisdom should be judged of rather by his admirable conduct in daily life, and in the government of his people, than by his actions in his unfortunate Crusades, when he seemed to give up all guidance and common sense. At home he was so prudent, just, and wise, that few kings have ever equalled him, and even the enemies of the faith that prompted him cannot withhold their testimony that "virtue could be pushed no further."
In the spring, Edward, with 300 knights, sailed for Acre, and, on arriving here [Footnote: Edward at Acre, 1271], made an expedition to Nazareth, where he put all the garrison to the sword. He spent the winter in Cyprus, and returned again to Syria in the spring; but he could never collect more than 7,000 men under his standard, and an advance on Jerusalem was impossible. He therefore remained in his camp before Acre, while his knights went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and, while there, he narrowly escaped becoming a seventh royal victim, to the Crusade.
The heat of the weather had affected his health, and he was lying on his couch, only covered with a single garment, when a messenger approached with letters purporting to be from the Emir of Joppa. While he was reading them, the man suddenly drew out a poniard, and was striking at his side, when Edward, perceiving his intention, caught the blow on his arm, and threw him to the ground by a kick on the breast. The murderer arose, and took aim again, but had only grazed his; forehead, when the Prince dashed out his brains with a wooden stool. The attendants rushed in, and were beginning to make up for their negligence by blows on the corpse, when Edward stopped them, by sternly demanding what was the use of striking a dead man.
It is on the authority of a Spanish chronicle that we hear that Eleanor, apprehending that the weapon had been poisoned, at once sucked the blood from her husband's wounds. The fear was too well founded, and Edward was in great danger; so that his men, in their first rage, were about to put to death all their Saracen captives, when he roused himself to prevent them, by urging, that not only were these men innocent, but that the enemy would retaliate upon the many Christian pilgrims absent from the army.
The Grand Master of the Templars brought a surgeon, who gave hopes of saving the gallant English prince by cutting out the flesh around the wound. Edward replied by bidding him work boldly, and spare not; but Eleanor could not restrain her lamentations, till he desired his brother Edmund to lead her from the tent, when she was carried away, struggling and sobbing, while Edmund roughly told her that it was better she should scream and cry, than all England mourn and lament.
The operation was safely performed, but Edward made his will, and resigned himself to die. In fifteen days, however, he was able to mount his horse, and nearly at the same time Eleanor gave birth to her eldest daughter, Joan, called of Acre, whose wild, headstrong temper was little fitted to the child of a Crusade.
The army was weakened by sickness, and Edward decided on prolonging his stay no longer; therefore, as soon as Eleanor had recovered, he left the Holy Land, with keen regret, and many vows to return with a greater force. These vows were never fulfilled, nor was it well they should have been. Acre was a nest of corruption, filled with the scum of the European nations, and a standing proof that the Latin Christians were unworthy to hold a foot of the hallowed ground; and in 1291, eighteen years after the conclusion of the seventh Crusade, it was taken by the Sultan Keladun, after a brave defence by the Templars and Hospitallers; and since that time Palestine has remained under the Mahometan, dominion.
Louis and Edward were the last princely Crusaders, though the idea lived on in almost every high-souled man through the Middle Ages. Henry V. and Philip le Bon of Burgundy both schemed the recovery of the Holy Sepulchre; and the hope that chiefly impelled the voyage of Columbus was, that his Western discoveries might open a way to the redemption of the Holy Land. "Remember the Holy Sepulchre!" is a cry that can never pass from the ears of men.
Death had been busy in England as in the crusading host, and the tidings met Edward in Sicily that his home was desolate. His kind and generous uncle, Richard, his gentle, affectionate father, and his two young children, had all died during his absence. The grief that the stern Edward showed for his father's death was so overpowering, that Charles of Sicily, who probably had little esteem for Henry, and thought the kingdom a sufficient consolation, marvelled that he could grieve more for an aged father than for two promising sons. "The Lord, who gave me these, can give me other children," said Edward; "but a father can never be restored!"
Before his return to England, Edward obtained from Pope Gregory X. justice upon the murderers of Henry d'Almayne. Simon was dead, but Guy was declared incapable of inheriting or possessing property, or of filling any office of trust, and was excommunicated and outlawed. After Edward had left Italy, the unhappy man ventured to meet the Pope at Florence in his shirt, with a halter round his neck, and implored that his sentence might be changed to imprisonment. The Pope had pity on him, and, after a confinement of eleven years, he was liberated, and returned to his wife's estates. He afterward was taken prisoner in the wars in Sicily, but his subsequent fate does not appear.
The history of the last of the Crusaders must not be quitted without mentioning that the scene of St. Louis' death is now in the hands of the French, and that the spot has been marked by a chapel erected by his descendant, Louis Philippe; and that our own Edward sleeps in his father's church of Westminster, beneath a huge block, unornamented indeed, but of the same rock as the hills of Palestine; nay, it is believed that it is probably one of those great stones whereof it was said; that not one should remain on another.
The CYMRY. (B.C. 66 A.D. 1269.)
In ancient times the whole of Europe seems to have been inhabited by the Keltic nation, until they were dispossessed by the more resolute tribes of Teuton origin, and driven to the extreme West, where the barrier of rugged hills that guards the continent from the Atlantic waves has likewise protected this primitive race from extinction.
Cym, or Cyn, denoting in their language "first," was the root of their name of Cymry, applied to the original tribe, and of which we find traces across the whole map of Europe, beginning from the Cimmerian Bosphorus, going on to the Cimbri, conquered by Marius, while in our own country we still possess Cumberland and Cambria, the land inhabited by the Cymry.
The Gael, another pure Keltic tribe, who followed the Cymry, have bestowed more names, as living more near to the civilized world, and being better known to history. Even in Asia Minor, a settlement of them had been called Galatians, and the whole tract from the north of Italy to the Atlantic was, to the Romans, Gallia. The name still survives in the Cornouailles of Brittany and the Cornwall of England (both meaning the horn of Gallia), in Gaul, in Galles, in the Austrian and Spanish Galicias, in the Irish Galway and the Scottish Galloway, while the Gael themselves are still a people in the Highlands.
Mingling with the Teutons, though receding before them, there was a third tribe, called usually by the Teuton word "Welsh" meaning strange; and these, being the first to come in contact with the Romans, were termed by them Belgae. The relics of this appellation are found in the German "Welschland," the name given to Italy, because the northern part of that peninsula had a Keltic population, in Wallachia, in the Walloons of the Netherlands, who have lately assumed the old Latinized name of Belgians, and in the Welsh of our own Wales.
This last was the region, scarcely subdued by the Romans, where the Cymry succeeded in maintaining their independence, whilst the Angles and Saxons gained a footing in the whole of the eastern portion of Britain. The Britons were for the most part Christian, and partly civilized by the Romans; but there was a wild element in their composition, and about the time of the departure of the Roman legions there had been a reaction toward the ancient Druidical religion, as if the old national faith was to revive with the national independence. The princes were extremely savage and violent, and their contemporary historian, Gildas, gives a melancholy account of their wickedness, not even excepting the great Pendragon, Arthur, in spite of his twelve successful battles with the Saxons. Merlin, the old, wild soothsayer of romance, seems to have existed at this period under the name of Merddyn-wilt, or the Wild, and bequeathed dark sayings ever since deemed prophetic, and often curiously verified.
Out of the attempt to blend the Druid philosophy with Christianity arose the Pelagian heresy, first taught by Morgan, or Pelagius, a monk of Bangor, and which made great progress in Wales even after its refutation by St. Jerome. It was on this account that St. Germain preached in Wales, and produced great effect. The Pelagians gave up their errors, and many new converts were collected to receive the rite of baptism at Mold, in Flintshire, when a troop of marauding enemies burst, on them. The neophytes were unarmed and in their white robes, but, borne up by the sense of their new life, they had no fears for their body, and with one loud cry of "Hallelujah!" turned, with the Bishop at their head, to meet the foe. The enemy retreated in terror; and the name of Maes Garman still marks the scene of this bloodless victory.
After this the heresy died away, but the more innocent customs of the Druids continued, and the system of bards was carried on, setting apart the clergy, the men of wisdom, and the poets, by rites derived from ancient times. Be it observed, that a Christian priest was not necessarily of one of the Druidical or Bardic orders, although this was generally preferred. Almost all instructions were still oral, and, for convenience of memory, were drawn up in triads, or verses of three—a mystic number highly esteemed. Many of these convey a very deep philosophy. For instance, the three unsuitable judgments in any person whatsoever: The thinking himself wise—the thinking every other person unwise—the thinking all he likes becoming in him. Or the three requisites of poetry: An eye that can see Nature—a heart that can feel Nature—a resolution that dares to follow Nature. And the three objects of poetry: Increase of goodness—increase of understanding—increase of delight.
Such maxims were committed to the keeping of the Bards, who were admitted to their office after a severe probation and trying initiatory rites, among which the chief was, that they should paddle alone, in a little coracle, to a shoal at some distance from the coast of Caernarvonshire—a most perilous voyage, supposed to be emblematic both of the trials of Noah and of the troubles of life. Afterward the Bard wore sky-blue robes, and was universally honored, serving as the counsellor, the herald, and the minstrel of his patron. The domestic Bard and the chief of song had their office at the King's court, with many curious perquisites, among which was a chessboard from the King. The fine for insulting the Bard was 6 cows and 120 pence; for slaying him, 126 cows. With so much general respect, and great powers of extemporizing, the Bards were well able to sway the passions of the nation, and greatly contributed to keep up the fiery spirit of independence which the Cymry cherished in their mountains.
When the Saxons began to embrace Christianity, and Augustine came on his mission from Rome, the Welsh clergy, who had made no attempts at converting their enemies, looked on him with no friendly eyes. He brought claims, sanctioned by Gregory the Great, to an authority over them inconsistent with that of the Archbishop of Caerleon; and the period for observing Easter was, with them, derived from the East, and differed by some weeks from that ordained by the Roman Church. An old hermit advised the British clergy, who went to meet Augustine, to try him by the test of humility, and according as he should rise to greet them, or remain seated, to listen to his proposals favorably or otherwise. Unfortunately, Augustine retained his seat: they rejected his plans of union; and he told them that, because they would not preach to the Angles the way of life, they would surely at their hands suffer death.
Shortly after, the heathen king, Ethelfrith, attacked Brocmail, the Welsh prince of Powys, who brought to the field 1,200 monks of Bangor to pray for his success. The heathens fell at once on the priests, and, before they could be protected, slew all except fifty; and this, though the Welsh gained the victory, was regarded by the Saxon Church as a judgment, and by the Welsh, unhappily, as a consequence of Augustine's throat. The hatred became more bitter than ever, and the Welsh would not even enter the same church with the Saxons, nor eat of a meal of which they had partaken.
Cadwallader, the last of the Pendragons, was a terrible enemy to the kings of Mercia and Northumbria, and with him the Cymry consider that their glory ended. Looking on themselves for generation after generation as the lawful owners of the soil, and on the Saxons as robbers, they showed no mercy in their forays, and inflicted frightful cruelties on their neighbors on the Marches. Offa's curious dyke, still existing in Shropshire, was a bulwark raised in the hope of confining them within their own bounds:
"That Offa (when he saw his countries go to wrack), From bick'ring with his folk, to keep the Britons back, Cast up that mightly mound of eighty miles in length, Athwart from sea to sea."
The Danish invasions, by ruining the Saxons, favored the Welsh; and contemporary with Alfred lived Roderic Mawr, or the Great, who had his domains in so peaceful a state, that Alfred turned thither for aid in his revival of learning, and invited thence to his court his bosom friend Asser, the excellent monk and bard. Roderic divided his dominions—Aberfraw, or North Wales, Dinasvawr, or South Wales, and Powys, or Shropshire—between his three sons; but they became united again under his grandson, Howell Dha, the lawgiver of Wales.
Actuated perhaps by the example of Alfred, Howell collected his clergy and bards at his hunting-lodge at Tenby, a palace built of peeled rods, and there, after fasting and praying for inspiration, the collective wisdom of the kingdom compiled a body of laws, which the King afterward carried in person to Rome to receive the confirmation of the Pope; and much edified must the Romans have been if they chanced to glance over the code, since, besides many wise and good laws, it regulated the minute etiquettes and perquisites of the royal household. If any one should insult the King, the fine was to be, among other valuables, a golden dish as broad as the royal face, and as thick as the nail of a husbandman who has been a husbandman, seven years. Each officer's distance from the royal fire was regulated, and even the precedence of each officer's horse in the stable—proving plainly the old saying, that the poorer and more fiery is a nation, the more precise is their point of honor. It seems to have been in his time, as a more enlightened prince, that the Welsh conformed their time of keeping Easter to that of the rest of the Western Church. But Howell was no longer independent of the English: he had begun to pay a yearly tribute of dogs, horses, and hawks, to Ethelstane, and the disputes that followed his death brought the Welsh so much lower, that Edgar the Peaceable easily exacted his toll of wolves' heads; and Howell of North Wales was one of the eight royal oarsmen who rowed the Emperor of Britain to the Minster of St. John, on the river Dee.
The Welsh had destroyed all their wolves before the close of Dunstan's regency, and Ethelred the Unready not being likely to obtain much respect, the tribute was discontinued, until the marauding Danes again exacted it under another form and title of "Tribute of the Black Army."
Fierce quarrels of their own prevented the Welsh from often taking advantage of the disturbances of England. As in Ireland, the right of gavelkind was recognized; yet primogeniture was also so far regarded as to make both claims uncertain; and the three divisions of Wales were constantly being first partitioned, and then united, by some prince who ruled by the right of the strongest, till dethroned by another, who, to prove his right of birth, carried half his genealogy in his patronymic.
Thus Llewellyn ap Sithfylht, under whom "the earth brought forth double, the cattle increased in great number, and there was neither beggar nor poor man from the South to the North Sea," was slain in battle, in 1021, by Howell ap Edwin ap Eneon ap Owayn ap Howell Dha, who reigned over South Wales till the son of Llewellyn, or, rather, Gryflyth ap Llewellyn ap Sithfylht ap, &c., coming to age, dispossessed him, and gained all Wales. It was this Gryffyth who received and sheltered Fleance, the son of Banquo, when flying from Macbeth, and gave him in marriage his daughter Nesta, who became the mother of Walter, the ancestor of the line of kings shadowed in Macbeth's mirror.
In the early part of Gryffyth's reign, the Welsh flourished greatly. Earl Godwin, in his banishment, made friends with him, and, favored by Saxon treachery, he overran Herefordshire, and pillaged the cathedral. But, after Godwin's death, Harold, as Earl of Wessex, deemed it time to repress these inroads, and, training his men to habits of diet and methods of warfare that rendered them as light and dexterous as the wild mountaineers, he pursued them into their own country, and burnt the palace and ships at Rhuddlan, while Gryffyth was forced to take refuge in one of his vessels.
Harold set up a pillar with the inscription, "Here Harold conquered;" and the Welsh gave hostages, and promised to pay tribute, while Harold erected a hunting-seat in Monmouthshire, and made an ordinance that any Welshman seen bearing weapons beyond Offa's dyke should lose his right hand. Welshwomen might marry Englishmen, but none of the highborn Cymry might aspire to wed an Englishwoman. Hating the prince under whom they had come to so much disgrace, the Welsh themselves captured poor Gryffyth, and sent his head, his hands, and the beak of his ship, to Edward the Confessor, from whom they accepted the appointment of three of their native princes to the three provinces.
Thus the strength of Wales was so far broken, that William the Conqueror had only to bring a force with him, under pretext of a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. David, to obtain the submission of the princes; and, in fact, the Cymry found the Norman nobles far more aggressive neighbors than the Angles had been since their first arrival in Britain.
The mark, or frontier, once the kingdom of Mercia, was now called the March of Wales, where the Norman knights began to effect settlements, by the right of the strongest, setting up their impregnable castles, round which the utmost efforts of the Welsh were lost. Martin de Tours was one of the first, and his glittering host of mail-clad men so overawed the inhabitants of Whitchurch that they readily submitted, and he quietly established himself in their bounds, treating them, as it appears, with more fairness and friendliness than was then usual. He was a great chess-player, and the sport descended from father to son, even among the peasantry of Whitchurch, who long after were most skilful in the game.
Hugh Lupus, the fierce old Earl of Chester, was likewise a Lord Marcher, and had, like the Bishop of Durham, the almost royal powers of a Count Palatine, because, dwelling on the frontier, it was necessary that the executive power should be prompt and absolute. Indeed, the Lords Marchers, as these border barons were called, lived necessarily in a state of warfare, which made it needful to entrust them with greater powers than their neighbors, around whom they formed a sort of cordon, to protect them from the forays of the half-savage Welsh.
Twenty-one baronies were formed in this manner along the March of Wales, which constantly travelled toward the west. Robert Fitzaymon, by an alliance with one Welsh chief, dispossessed another of Glamorgan, which he left to his daughter Amabel, the wife of Earl Robert of Gloucester; and Gilbert de Clare, commonly called Strongbow (the father of the Irish Conqueror), obtained a grant from Henry I. of Chepstow and Pembroke, but had to fight hard for the lands which had more lawful owners. In and out among these Lords Marchers, and making common cause with them, were settlements of Flemings. Flanders, that commercial state where cloth-weaving first flourished as a manufacture, had suffered greatly from the inundations of the sea, and the near connection subsisting between the native princes and the sons of the Conqueror had led to an intercourse, which ended in the weavers, who had lost their all, being invited by Henry I. to take up their abode in Pembrokeshire, where they carried on their trade while defending themselves against the Welsh, and thus first commenced the manufactures of England. Resolute in resistance, though not rash nor aggressive, and of industrious habits, they acted as a great protection to the English counties, and down even to the time of Charles I. they had a language of their own.
Owayn ap Gwynned, King of Aberfraw, or North Wales, had many wars with Henry II.; and, uniting with the bard king, Owayn Cyvelioc, of Powysland, did fearful damage to the English, which Henry attempted to revenge by an incursion into Merionethshire; but though he gained a battle at Ceiroc, he was forced to retreat through the inhospitable country, his troops harassed by the weather, and cut off by the Welsh, who swarmed on the mountains, so that his army arrived at Chester in a miserable state. He had many unfortunate hostages in his hands, the children of the noblest families, and on these he wreaked a cowardly vengeance, cutting off the noses and ears of the maidens, and putting out the eyes of the boys.
Well might Becket, in his banishment, exclaim, on hearing such tidings, "His wise men are become fools; England reels and stagers like a drunken man."
"You will never subdue Wales, unless Heaven be against them," said an old hermit to the King.
However, Henry had been carried by a frightened horse over a ford, of which the old prophecies declared that, when it should be crossed by a freckled king, the power of the Cymry should fall, and this superstition took away greatly from satisfaction in the victory. The Welsh princes were becoming habituated to the tribute, and in 1188, under pretext of preaching a Crusade, Archbishop Baldwin came into Wales, and asserted the long-disputed supremacy of Canterbury over the Welsh bishopries. He was attended by Gerald Barry, or Giraldus Cambrensis, a half-Norman half-Welsh ecclesiastic, who was one of the chief historians of the period, and had the ungracious office of tutor to Prince John.
When Owayn ap Gwynned died, in 1169, the kingdom of Aberfraw, or North Wales, was reduced to the isle of Anglesea and the counties of Merioneth and Caernarvon, with parts of Denbigh and Cardigan. A great dispute broke out for the succession. Jorwarth, the oldest son, was set aside because he had a broken nose; and Davydd, the eldest son by a second wife, seized the inheritance, and slew all the brethren save one, named Madoc, who sailed away to the West in search of new regions. Several years after, he again made his appearance in Aberfraw, declaring that he had found a pleasant country, and was come to collect colonists, with whom, accordingly, he departed, and returned no more. Many have believed that his Western Land was no other than America, and on this supposition Drayton speaks of him, in the "Polyolbion," as having reached the great continent "Ere the Iberian powers had found her long-sought bay, or any western ear had heard the sound of Florida."
Southey has, in his poem, made Madoc combine with the Aztecs in the settlement of Mexico, but traces were said to be found of habits and countenances resembling those of the Welsh among the Indians of the Missouri; and, in our own days, the traveller Mr. Buxton was struck by finding the Indians of the Rocky Mountains weaving a fabric resembling the old Welsh blanket. If this be so, Christianity and civilization must have died out among Madoc's descendants: but the story is one of the exciting riddles of history, such as the similar one of the early Norwegian discovery of America.
THE ENGLISH JUSTINIAN. (1272-1292.)
King of England. 1272. Edward I.
Kings of Scotland. 1249. Alexander III. 1285. Margaret.
Kings of France. 1270. Philippe III. 1235. Philippe IV.
Emperor of Germany. 1273. Rodolph I.
Popes. 1271. Gregory X. 1276. Innocent V. 1277. John XXI. 1277. Nicholas III. 1281. Martin IV. 1288. Nicholas IV.
Never was coronation attended by more outward splendor or more heartfelt joy than was that of Edward I. and Eleanor of Castile, when, fresh from the glory of their Crusade, they returned to their kingdom.
Edward was the restorer of peace after a lengthened civil strife; his prowess was a just subject of national pride, and the affection of his subjects was further excited by the perils he had encountered. Not only had he narrowly escaped the dagger of the Eastern assassin, but while at Bordeaux, during his return, while the royal pair were sitting on the same couch, a flash of lightning had passed between them, leaving them uninjured, but killing two attendants who stood behind them. At Chalons-sur-Marne he had likewise been placed in great danger by treachery. The Count de Chalons had invited him to a tournament, and he had accepted, contrary to the advice of the Pope, who warned him of evil designs; but he declared that no king ever refused such a challenge, and arrived at Chalons with a gallant following. The Pope's suspicions were verified; the Count, after breaking a lance with the King, made a sudden, unchivalrous attack on him, throwing his arms round his body, and striving to hurl him from the saddle; but Edward sat firm as a rock, and, touching his horse with his spur, caused it to bound forward, dragging the Count to the ground, where he lay, encumbered with his heavy armor; and Edward, after harmlessly ringing on the steel with his sword, forced him to surrender to an archer, as one unworthy to be reckoned a knight. A fight had, in the meantime, taken place between the attendants on either side, and so many of the men of the French party were killed, that the fray was termed the Little Battle of Chalons.
Two years had elapsed since the death of King Henry, when, on the 18th of August, 1274, the city of London welcomed their gallant, crusading King. The rejoicings attested both his popularity and the prosperity which his government had restored, for each house along the streets was decked with silk and tapestry hangings, the aldermen showered handfuls of gold and silver from their windows, and the fountains flowed with white and red wine. The King rode along the streets, in the pride of manhood, accompanied by his beautiful and beloved Eleanor; by his brother Edmund and his young wife, Eveline of Lancaster; his sister Margaret and her husband, Alexander II., the excellent King of Scotland; the young Princess Eleanor, a girl of eleven, who alone survived of the children left in England, and her infant brother Alfonso, who had been born at Maine, and was looked on as heir to the throne. The Princess, Joan of Acre, was left with her grandmother, the Queen of Castile.
The two kings, the princes, and nobles, on arriving at Westminster Abbey, released their gallant steeds to run loose among the people, a free gift to whoever should he able to catch them; for Edward had learnt from his kindly father that the poor should have a plenteous share in all his festivities.
There stood the West Minster on the bank of the Thames, rising amid green fields and trees, at a considerable distance from the walled city, and only connected with it by here and there a convent or church. Still incomplete, the two fair towers showed the fresh creaminess of new stonework, their chiselings and mouldings as yet untouched by time, unsoiled by smoke, when Edward and his five hundred bold vassals sprang from their steeds before the gates.
Among the train came a captive. Gaston de Moncda, Count de Bearn, one of his Gascon vassals, had offended against him, and appealing to the suzerain, the King of France, had been by him delivered up to Edward's justice, and was forced to ride in the gorgeous procession with a halter round his neck.
As soon as Archbishop Kilwardby had anointed and crowned the King and Queen, and the barons offered their homage, the unfortunate culprit came forward on his knees to implore pardon, and Edward graced his coronation by an act of clemency, restoring Gaston fully to his lands and honors, and winning him thus to be his friend forever.
The royal banquet was held in Westminster Hall, and far beyond it. Wooden buildings had been erected with openings at the top to let out the smoke, and here, for a whole fortnight, cooking and feasting went on without intermission. Every comer, of every degree, was made welcome, and enjoyed the cheer, the pageantries, and the religious ceremonies of the coronation. Three hundred and eighty head of cattle, four hundred and thirty sheep, four hundred and fifty swine, besides eighteen wild boars, and two hundred and seventy-eight flitches of bacon, with poultry to the number of 19,660, were only a part of the provisions consumed.
However, the country still felt the effects of the lawless reign of Henry III., and Edward's first care was to set affairs on a more regular footing. He sent commissioners to inquire into the title-deeds by which all landed proprietors held their estates, and, wherever these were defective, exacted, a fee for freshly granting them. The inquisition might be expedient, considering the late condition of the nation, but the King's own impoverished exchequer caused it to be carried on ungraciously, and great offence was given. When called on to prove his claims, the Earl Warrenne drew his sword, saying, "This is the instrument by which I hold my lands, and by the same I mean to defend them. Our forefathers, who came in with William, the Bastard, acquired their lands by their good swords. He did not conquer alone; they were helpers and sharers with him." The stout Earl's title was truly found amply sufficient!'
Not so was it with the Jews, who inhabited England in great numbers, and were found through purchase, usury, or mortgage, to have become possessors of various estates, which conferred on them the power of appearing on juries, of, in some cases, presenting to church benefices, and of the wardship of vassals. This was a serious grievance; and the King interfered by decreeing that, in every instance, the lands should be restored either to the original heirs on repayment of the original loan, or disposed of to other Christians on the same terms. The King was, by long custom of the realm, considered the absolute master of the life and property of every Jew in his dominions, so that he was thought to be only taking his own when he exacted sums from them, or forced them to pay him a yearly rate for permission to live in his country and to act as money-lenders. Edward thus believed himself to be making a sacrifice for the general good when he forbade the Jews ever to lend money on usury, and in compensation granted them permission to trade without paying toll; and he further took the best means he could discover for procuring the conversion of this people. The Friars Preachers were commanded to instruct them, and the royal bailiffs to compel their attendance on this teaching; every favor was shown to proselytes, and a hospital was built for the support of the poorer among them, and maintained by the poll-tax obtained from their race by the King. Should a Jew be converted, the King at once gave up his claim to his property, only stipulating that half should go to support this foundation. One young maiden, child of a wealthy Jew of London, on being converted, became a godchild of Edward's eldest daughter, Eleanor, whose name she received; and she was shortly after married to the Count de la Marcho, the King's cousin, and one of the noble line of Lusignan—a plain proof that in the royal family there was not the loathing for the Israelite race that existed in Spain.
The Jews were obliged to wear a distinctive mark on their dress—a yellow fold of cloth cut in the form of the two tables of the Law; and, thus distinguished, often became a mark for popular odium, which fastened every accusation upon them, from the secret murder of Christian children to the defacing of the King's coin. There was, in fact, a great quantity of light money in circulation, and as halfpence and farthings were literally what their name declares—silver pennies cut into halves and quarters—it was easy for a thief to help himself to a portion of the edge. However, Edward called in these mutilated pieces, and issued a coinage of halfpence and farthings—that which raised the delusive hopes of the Welsh. The clipping became more evident than ever, and the result was an order, that all suspected of the felony should be arrested on the same day. Jews, as well as Christians were seized; the possession of the mutilated coin was taken as a proof of guilt; and in 1279, after a trial that occupied some months, and in which popular prejudice would doubtless make the case strong against the Jews, two hundred and eighty persons, male and female, were hanged on the same day; after which a pardon was proclaimed.
The English nation continued to hold the Jews in detestation, which was regarded as a religious duty, and, year after year, petitioned the King to drive them out of his dominions; but his patience was sustained by continual gifts from the persecuted race until the year 1287, when, for some unknown offence, he threw into prison the whole of them in his dominions, up to the number of 15,000; and though their release was purchased by a gift of L12,000, in 1290, their sentence of banishment was pronounced. He permitted them to carry away their property with them, and sent his officers to protect them from injury or insult in their embarkation; but in some instances the sailors, who hated their freight, threw them overboard, and seized their treasures. These murders, when proved, were punished with death; but it was hard to gain justice for a Jew against a Christian: and the edict of banishment was regarded by the nation as such a favor, that the King was rewarded by a grant of a tenth from the clergy and a fifteenth from the laity.
The merchants had earlier given him a large subsidy as a return for the treaty which he had made in their favor with Flanders, which derived its wool from England. Edward was very anxious to promote manufactures here, and had striven to do so by forbidding the importation of foreign cloth; but this not succeeding, the mutual traffic was placed on a friendly footing. There was violent jealousy of foreigners among the English, and it was only in Edward's time that merchants of other countries were allowed to settle in England, and then only under heavy restrictions.
Edward I. was the sovereign who, more than any other since Alfred, contributed to bring the internal condition of England into a state of security for life and limb. Robberies and murders had become frightfully common; so much so, that the Statute of Winton, in 1285, enacted that no ditch, bush, or tree, capable of hiding a man, should be left within two hundred feet of any highway. If anything like this had been previously in force, it was no wonder that Davydd of Wales objected to having a road made through his forest.
In all walled towns the gates were to be kept shut from sunset to sunrise, and any stranger found at large after dark was liable to be seized by the watch; nor could he find lodging at night unless his host would be his surety. Thieves seem to have gone about in bands, so that their capture was a matter of danger and difficulty, and therefore, on the alarm of a felony, every man was to issue forth with armor according to his degree, and raise the hue and cry from town to town till the criminal was seized and delivered to the sheriff. The whole hundred was answerable for his capture—a remnant of the old Saxon law, and a most wise regulation, since it rendered justice the business of every man, and also accustomed the peasantry to the use of arms, the great cause of the English victories. Judges were first appointed to go on circuit in the year 1285, when they were sent into every shire two or three times a year to hold a general jail delivery. But Edward had to form his judges as well as his constitution, for, in 1289, he discovered that the whole bench were in the habit of receiving bribes, from the Grand Justiciary downward: whereupon he threw them all into the Tower, banished the chief offenders, degraded and fined the rest, and caused future judges to be sworn to take neither gift nor fee, only to accept as much as a breakfast, provided there was no excess.
Still, the jurymen, [Footnote: On Thomas a Becket's last journey to Canterbury, Raoul de Broc's followers had cut off the tails of his pack-horses. It was a vulgar reproach to the men of Kent that the outrage had been punished by the growth of the same appendage on the whole of the inhabitants of the county; and, whereas the English populace applied the accusation to the Kentishmen, foreigners extended it to the whole nation when in a humor for insult and abuse, such as that of this unhappy prince.] who were as much witnesses as what we now call jurors, were often liable to be beaten and maltreated in revenge, and officers, called "justices of trailebaston" were sent to search out the like offences, which they did with success and good-will; and in, order that speedy justice might be done in cases of minor importance, local magistrates were appointed, the commencement of our present justices of the peace. They were at first chosen by the votes of the freeholders, but in Edward III.'s time began to be nominated by the Crown.
Robert Burnel, the Chancellor, Bishop of Bath and Wells, probably had a great share in these enactments. He was a better Chancellor than Bishop, but he left to his see the beautiful episcopal palace still in existence at Wells. He also built a splendid castle at his native place, Acton Burnel, where some of the early Parliaments were held.
These Parliaments were only summoned by Edward I. when in great want of money, for in general he raised the needful sums by gifts and talliages, and only in cases of unusual pressure did he call on his subjects for further aid. Four knights were chosen from each shire, and two burgesses [Footnote: For a lively picture of a trial of the thirteenth century, see Sir F. Palgrave's "Merchant and Friar."] from every town, of consequence; and, besides, bishops and the barons, who had their seats by their rank; but the two houses were not always divided:—except, indeed, that sometimes the Northern representatives met at York, the Southern at Northampton, and the county palatine of Durham had a little parliament to itself. Serving in Parliament was expensive and unpopular, and the sheriff of the county had not only to preside over the election of the member, but to send him safe to the place of meeting; and often the Commons broke up as soon as they had granted the required sum, leaving the Lords to deliberate on the laws, or to bring grievances before the King, such things being quite beyond their reach.
It was a time of great prosperity to the whole country, and such internal tranquillity had scarcely prevailed since the time of Henry II., when the difference between Saxon and Norman was far less smoothed down than at present, and the feudal system weighed far more heavily.
Splendid castles were built, the King setting the example, and making more arrangements for comfort in the interior than had yet been ventured upon; and sacred architecture came to the highest perfection it has ever attained.
Wherever we find a portion of our cathedrals with deep mouldings in massive walls, slender columns of darker marble standing detached from freestone piers, sharply-pointed arches, capitals of rich foliage folding over the hollow formed by their curve, and windows either narrow lancet, or with the flowing lines of flamboyant tracery, there we are certain to hear that this part was added in the thirteenth century.
Edward gave liberally to the Church, especially to the order of Dominican, or Preaching Friars; but it was found that in some instances the clergy had worked on men's consciences to obtain from them the bequest of lands to the injury of their heirs, and a statute was therefore passed to prevent such legacies from being valid unless they received the sanction of the Crown. This was called the Statute of Mortmain, or Dead Hands, because the framers of the act considered the hands of the monastic orders as dead and unprofitable.
Even the world itself could hardly award the meed of unprofitable to the studies of Roger Bacon, a native of Ilchester, born in 1214, who, after studying at Oxford and at Paris, became a member of the Franciscan, or Minorite Friars, and settled again at Oxford, where he pursued his studies under the patronage of Bishop Robert Grostete. He made himself a perfect master of Greek in order to understand Aristotle in the original, and working on by himself he proceeded far beyond any chemist of his time in discoveries in natural philosophy. Grostete and the more enlightened men of the university provided him with means to carry on his experiments, and, in twenty years he had expended no less than L2,000: but not without mighty results; for he ascertained the true length of the solar year, made many useful discoveries in chemistry and medicine, and anticipated many of the modern uses of glass, learning the powers of convex and concave lenses for the telescope, microscope, burning-glasses, and the camera obscura.
Above all, he was the inventor of gunpowder, the compound which was destined to change the whole character of warfare and the destiny of nations. But he was too much in advance of his time to be understood, and the friars of his order, becoming terrified by his experiments, decided that he was a magician, and after the death of his friend Grostete, kept him in close confinement, and only permitted one copy of his works to pass out of the monastery, and this, which was sent to the Pope, Clement IV., procured his liberation. A few years after, the General of the Franciscans, again taking fright, imprisoned him once more, and this lasted eleven or twelve years; but Pope Nicholas IV. again released him, and neither age nor imprisonment could break down his energy; he continued steadily to pursue his discoveries, and add a further polish to his various works, till his death, in 1292. Little as he was appreciated, he left a strong impression on the popular mind.
Tradition declares that he constructed a huge head of brass, which uttered the words, "Time is! Time was! Time will be!" and has connected this with Brazen-Nose College, which, not having been founded till one hundred years after, must in that case, as Fuller says, make time to be again.
He is a hero of the popular chap-books of old times, where he and his associate, Friar Bungay, are represented as playing tricks on his servant Miles, and as summoning the spirits of Julius Caesar and Hercules for the edification of the kings of France and England, from whom, however, he would accept no reward. Legends vary between his being flown away with bodily by demons, and his making a grand repentance, when he confessed that knowledge had been a heavy burden, that kept down good thoughts, burnt his books, parted with his goods, and caused himself to be walled up in a cell in the church and fed through a hole, and finally dug his grave with his own nails! Thus, probably, has ignorant tradition perverted the sense that coming death would surely bring, that earthly knowledge is but vanity.
Still worse has fared his friend, Michael Scott of Balwirie, called by the learned the Mathematician, by the unlearned, the Wizard. After the usual course of university learning at Oxford and Paris, he went to Italy, where he gained the patronage of the Emperor Friedrich II. He was learned in Greek and in Arabic, and an excellent mathematician, but he bewildered himself with alchemy and astrology; and, though he died unmolested in his own country, in 1290 his fame remained in no good odor. Dante describes him among those whose faces were turned backward, because they had refused to turn the right way:
"Michele Scotto fu, che veramente De le magiche frode seppe il gioco."
In Scotland marvellous tales were current of him, and his own clansman, Sir Walter, in his lay, has spread the mysterious tale of the Wizard and his mighty book far and wide.
It was a period of very considerable learning among the studious among the clergy in all countries, and every art of peace was making rapid progress in England, under the fostering care of the King and Queen. No sovereign was more respected in Europe than Edward; his contemporary, Dante, cites him as an instance of a gallant son of a feeble parent: and he was often called on as the arbiter of disputes, as when the kings of Arragon and France defied each other to a wager of battle, to take place in his dominions in Southern France, which combat, however, never took place. He was a most faithful and affectionate husband and indulgent father, and the household rolls afford evidences of the kindly intercourse between him and his numerous daughters, judging by the interchange of gifts between them. Eleanor, the eldest, who as princess could only give a gold ring, when Duchesse de Bar brought as a Christmas-gift a leathern dressing-case, containing a comb, a mirror silver-gilt, and a silver bodkin, so much valued by the King that he kept them with him as long as he lived.
Joan of Acre, a wilful, lively girl, was wedded when very young to her father's turbulent friend, Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester; Margaret was married, at fifteen, to the Duke of Brabant; and Mary was devoted to the cloister. She became a nun of Fontevraud at the priory Ambresbury, in accordance with the exhortations of the clergy to her parents; but there was not much vocation to the cloister in her disposition, and she was as often present at court pageants as her secular sisters. The Abbess of Fontevraud would fain have had the princess among her own nuns, but Mary resisted, and remained in the branch establishment, probably by exerting her influence over her father, who seems seldom to have refused anything to his children.
Stern in executing his duty, gentle to the distressed, most devout in religious exercises, pure in life, true to his word, a wise lawgiver, and steady in putting down vice, Edward seemed to be well deserving of the honor of being the nephew of St. Louis, and to be walking in his footsteps, but with greater force of character and good sense. The Holy Land was still the object of his thoughts, and he had serious intentions of attempting to rescue it, with forces now more complete and better trained than those which he had drawn together in his younger days. His views of this kind were strengthened by a serious illness, and he announced his determination to take the Cross.
But in the twentieth year of Edward's reign came his great temptation. Ambition was the latent fault of his character, and a decision was brought before him that placed a flattering prize within his grasp. He yielded, and seized the prey; injustice, violence, anger, and cruelty followed, promises were violated, his subjects oppressed, his honor forfeited, and his name stained. From the time that Edward I. gave way to the lust of conquest, his history is one of painful deterioration.
It was unfortunate for him that, at the very time that the lure was held out to him, he was deprived of the gentle wife whose influence had always turned him to the better course. Eleanor of Castile was on her way to join him on his first expedition to the Scottish border, when she fell sick at Grantham, in Lincolnshire; and though he travelled day and night to see her, she died before his arrival, on the 29th of November, 1292. In overwhelming grief Edward accompanied her funeral to Westminster, a journey of thirteen days. Each evening the bier rested in the market-place of the town, where the procession halted, till the clergy came to convey it with solemn chantings to the chief church, where it was placed before the high altar. At each of these resting-places Edward raised a richly-carved market cross in memory of his queen; but, of the whole thirteen, Northampton and Waltham are the only towns that have retained these beautiful monuments to the gracious Eleanor, one of the best-beloved names of our English history.
THE HAMMER OF THE SCOTS. (1292-1305.)
King of England. 1272. Edward I.
King of Scotland. 1292. John Balliol.
King of France. 1285. Philippe IV.
Emperors of Germany. 1292. Adolph. 1298. Albert I.
Popes. 1287. Nicholas IV. 1291. Boniface VIII. 1294. Celestine V. 1303. Benedict XI.
The gallant line of Scottish kings descended from "the gracious Duncan" suddenly decayed and dwindled away in the latter part of the thirteenth century. They had generally been on friendly terms with the English, to whom Malcolm Ceanmore and Edgar both owed their crown; they had usually married ladies of English birth; and holding the earldom of Huntingdon, the county of Cumberland, and the three Lothians, under the English crown, they stood in nearly the same relation to our Anglo-Norman sovereigns as did these to the kings of France. If France were esteemed a more polished country, and her language and manners were adopted by the Plantagenet kings, who were French nobles as well as independent sovereigns of the ruder Saxons, so, again, England was the model of courtesy and refinement to the earlier Scottish kings, who, in the right of inheritance from St. David's queen, Earl Waltheof's heiress, were barons of the civilized court of England, where they learnt modes of taming their own savage Highland and island domains.
Thus, with few exceptions, the terms of alliance were well understood, and many of the Cumbrian barons were liegemen to both the English and Scottish kings. Scotland was in a flourishing and fast-improving condition, and there was no mutual enmity or jealousy between the two nations.
Alexander III. was the husband of Margaret, the eldest sister of Edward I., and frequently was present at the pageants of the English court. He was a brave and beloved monarch, and his wife was much honored and loved in Scotland; but, while still a young man, a succession of misfortunes befell him. His queen died in 1275, and his only son a year or two after; his only other child, Margaret, who had been married to Eric, Prince of Norway, likewise died, leaving an infant daughter named Margaret.
Finding himself left childless, Alexander contracted a second marriage with Yolande, daughter of the Count de Dreux; and a splendid bridal took place at Jedburgh, with every kind of amusements, especially mumming and masquing. In the midst, some reckless reveller glided in arrayed in ghastly vestments, so as to personate death, and after making fearful gestures, vanished away, leaving an impression of terror among the guests that they did not quickly shake off—the jest was too earnest.
Less than a year subsequently, Alexander gave a great feast to his nobles at Edinburgh, on the 15th of March, 1286. It was a most unsuitable day for banquetting, for it was Lent; and, moreover, popular imagination, always trying to guess the times and seasons only known to the Most High, had fixed on tins as destined to be the Last Day.
But the Scottish nobles feasted and revelled, mocking at the delusion of the populace, till, when at a late hour they broke up, the night was discovered to be intensely dark and stormy. King Alexander was, however, bent on joining his queen, who was at Kinghorn—perhaps he had promised to come to calm her alarms—and all the objections urged by his servants could not deter him. He bade one of his servants remain at home, since he seemed to fear the storm. "No, my lord," said the man, "it would ill become me to refuse to die for your father's son."
At Inverkeithing the storm became more violent, and again the royal followers remonstrated; but the King laughed at them, and only desired to have two runners to show him the way, when they might all remain in shelter.
He was thought to have been "fey"—namely, in high spirits—recklessly hastening to a violent death; for as he rode along the crags close above Kinghorn, his horse suddenly stumbled, and he was thrown over its head to the bottom of a frightful precipice, where he lay dead. The spot is still called the King's Crag.
Truly it was the last day of Scotland's peace and prosperity. Thomas of Ereildoune, called the Rymour, who was believed to possess second sight, had declared that on the 16th of March the greatest wind should blow before noon that Scotland had ever known. The morning, however, rose fair and calm, and he was reproached for his prediction. "Noon is not yet gone!" he answered; and ere long came a messenger to the gate, with tidings that the King was killed. "Gone is the wind that shall blow to the great calamity and trouble of all Scotland," said Thomas the Rymour—a saying that needed no powers of prophecy, when the only remaining scion of the royal line was a girl of two years old, the child of a foreign prince, himself only eighteen years of age.
The oldest poem in the Scottish tongue that has been preserved is a lament over the last son of St. David.
"When Alysander, our king, was dead, That Scotland led in love and lee, Away was sons of ale and bread, Of wine and wax, of game and glee; Our gold was changed into lead. Christ, born in to virginity, Succour Scotland, and remede That stead is in perplexity."
The perplexity began at once, for the realm of Scotland had never yet descended to the "spindle," and the rights of the little "Maid of Norway" were contested by her cousins, Robert Bruce and John Balliol, two of the Cumbrian barons, half-Scottish and half-English, who, though their claims were only through females, thought themselves fitter to rule than the infant Margaret.
Young Eric of Norway sent to entreat counsel from Edward of England, and thus first kindled his hopes of uniting the whole island under his sway. "Now," he said, "the time is come when Scotland and her petty kings shall be reduced under my power." The Scottish nobles came at the same time to request his decision, which was readily given in favor of the little heiress, whom he further proposed to betroth to his only son, Edward of Caernarvon; and as the children were first cousins once removed, he sent to Rome for a dispensation, while Margaret sailed from Norway to be placed in his keeping. Thus would the young Prince have peaceably succeeded to the whole British dominions; but the will of Heaven was otherwise, and three hundred years of war were to elapse before the crowns were placed on the same brow.
The stormy passage from Norway was injurious to the tender frame of the little Queen: she was landed in the Orkney Isles, in the hope of saving her life, but in vain; she died, after having scarcely touched her dominions, happy in being spared so wild a kingdom and so helpless a husband as were awaiting her.
Twelve claimants for the vacant throne at once arose, all so distant that it was a nice matter to weigh their several rights, since the very nearest were descendants of Henry, son of St. David, five generations back.
The Scots agreed to refer the question to the arbitration of one hitherto so noted for wisdom and justice as Edward I. They little knew that their realm was the very temptation that was most liable to draw him aside from the strict probity he had hitherto observed.
He called on the competitors and the states of Scotland to meet him at Norham Castle on the 10th of May, 1291, and the conference was opened by his justiciary, Robert Brabazon, who, in a speech of some length, called on the assembly to begin by owning the King as Lord Paramount of Scotland.
It had never been fully understood for how much of their domains the Scottish kings did homage to the English, and the more prudent princes had avoided opening the question, so that there might honestly be two opinions on the subject. Still Edward was acting as the King of France would have done had he claimed to be Paramount of England, because Edward paid homage for Gascony, and he ought to have known that he was taking an ungenerous advantage of the kingless state of his neighbors.
They made answer that they were incapable of making such an acknowledgment; but Edward answered, "Tell them that by the holy St. Edward, whose crown I wear, I will either have my rights recognized, or die in the vindication of them."
He gave them three weeks to consider his challenge, but in the meantime issued writs for assembling his army; and thus left the more quietly-disposed to expect an invasion, without any leader to oppose it; while each of the twelve claimants could not but conceive the hope of being raised to the throne, if he would consent to make the required acknowledgment.
Accordingly, they all yielded; and when the next meeting took place at Hollywell Haugh, a green plain close to "Norham's castled height," the whole body owned Edward as their feudal superior; after which the kingdom of Scotland was delivered over to him, and the great seal placed in the joint keeping of the Scottish and English chancellors.