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    Ch. 12 - Henry the Second

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    Chapter 12
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    HENRY PLANTAGENET, when he was but twenty-one years old, quietly
    succeeded to the throne of England, according to his agreement made
    with the late King at Winchester. Six weeks after Stephen's death,
    he and his Queen, Eleanor, were crowned in that city; into which
    they rode on horseback in great state, side by side, amidst much
    shouting and rejoicing, and clashing of music, and strewing of

    The reign of King Henry the Second began well. The King had great
    possessions, and (what with his own rights, and what with those of
    his wife) was lord of one-third part of France. He was a young man
    of vigour, ability, and resolution, and immediately applied himself
    to remove some of the evils which had arisen in the last unhappy
    reign. He revoked all the grants of land that had been hastily
    made, on either side, during the late struggles; he obliged numbers
    of disorderly soldiers to depart from England; he reclaimed all the
    castles belonging to the Crown; and he forced the wicked nobles to
    pull down their own castles, to the number of eleven hundred, in
    which such dismal cruelties had been inflicted on the people. The
    King's brother, GEOFFREY, rose against him in France, while he was
    so well employed, and rendered it necessary for him to repair to
    that country; where, after he had subdued and made a friendly
    arrangement with his brother (who did not live long), his ambition
    to increase his possessions involved him in a war with the French
    King, Louis, with whom he had been on such friendly terms just
    before, that to the French King's infant daughter, then a baby in
    the cradle, he had promised one of his little sons in marriage, who
    was a child of five years old. However, the war came to nothing at
    last, and the Pope made the two Kings friends again.

    Now, the clergy, in the troubles of the last reign, had gone on
    very ill indeed. There were all kinds of criminals among them -
    murderers, thieves, and vagabonds; and the worst of the matter was,
    that the good priests would not give up the bad priests to justice,
    when they committed crimes, but persisted in sheltering and
    defending them. The King, well knowing that there could be no
    peace or rest in England while such things lasted, resolved to
    reduce the power of the clergy; and, when he had reigned seven
    years, found (as he considered) a good opportunity for doing so, in
    the death of the Archbishop of Canterbury. 'I will have for the
    new Archbishop,' thought the King, 'a friend in whom I can trust,
    who will help me to humble these rebellious priests, and to have
    them dealt with, when they do wrong, as other men who do wrong are
    dealt with.' So, he resolved to make his favourite, the new
    Archbishop; and this favourite was so extraordinary a man, and his
    story is so curious, that I must tell you all about him.

    Once upon a time, a worthy merchant of London, named GILBERT A
    BECKET, made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and was taken prisoner
    by a Saracen lord. This lord, who treated him kindly and not like
    a slave, had one fair daughter, who fell in love with the merchant;
    and who told him that she wanted to become a Christian, and was
    willing to marry him if they could fly to a Christian country. The
    merchant returned her love, until he found an opportunity to
    escape, when he did not trouble himself about the Saracen lady, but
    escaped with his servant Richard, who had been taken prisoner along
    with him, and arrived in England and forgot her. The Saracen lady,
    who was more loving than the merchant, left her father's house in
    disguise to follow him, and made her way, under many hardships, to
    the sea-shore. The merchant had taught her only two English words
    (for I suppose he must have learnt the Saracen tongue himself, and
    made love in that language), of which LONDON was one, and his own
    name, GILBERT, the other. She went among the ships, saying,
    'London! London!' over and over again, until the sailors understood
    that she wanted to find an English vessel that would carry her
    there; so they showed her such a ship, and she paid for her passage
    with some of her jewels, and sailed away. Well! The merchant was
    sitting in his counting-house in London one day, when he heard a
    great noise in the street; and presently Richard came running in
    from the warehouse, with his eyes wide open and his breath almost
    gone, saying, 'Master, master, here is the Saracen lady!' The
    merchant thought Richard was mad; but Richard said, 'No, master!
    As I live, the Saracen lady is going up and down the city, calling
    Gilbert! Gilbert!' Then, he took the merchant by the sleeve, and
    pointed out of window; and there they saw her among the gables and
    water-spouts of the dark, dirty street, in her foreign dress, so
    forlorn, surrounded by a wondering crowd, and passing slowly along,
    calling Gilbert, Gilbert! When the merchant saw her, and thought
    of the tenderness she had shown him in his captivity, and of her
    constancy, his heart was moved, and he ran down into the street;
    and she saw him coming, and with a great cry fainted in his arms.
    They were married without loss of time, and Richard (who was an
    excellent man) danced with joy the whole day of the wedding; and
    they all lived happy ever afterwards.

    This merchant and this Saracen lady had one son, THOMAS A BECKET.
    He it was who became the Favourite of King Henry the Second.

    He had become Chancellor, when the King thought of making him
    Archbishop. He was clever, gay, well educated, brave; had fought
    in several battles in France; had defeated a French knight in
    single combat, and brought his horse away as a token of the
    victory. He lived in a noble palace, he was the tutor of the young
    Prince Henry, he was served by one hundred and forty knights, his
    riches were immense. The King once sent him as his ambassador to
    France; and the French people, beholding in what state he
    travelled, cried out in the streets, 'How splendid must the King of
    England be, when this is only the Chancellor!' They had good
    reason to wonder at the magnificence of Thomas a Becket, for, when
    he entered a French town, his procession was headed by two hundred
    and fifty singing boys; then, came his hounds in couples; then,
    eight waggons, each drawn by five horses driven by five drivers:
    two of the waggons filled with strong ale to be given away to the
    people; four, with his gold and silver plate and stately clothes;
    two, with the dresses of his numerous servants. Then, came twelve
    horses, each with a monkey on his back; then, a train of people
    bearing shields and leading fine war-horses splendidly equipped;
    then, falconers with hawks upon their wrists; then, a host of
    knights, and gentlemen and priests; then, the Chancellor with his
    brilliant garments flashing in the sun, and all the people capering
    and shouting with delight.

    The King was well pleased with all this, thinking that it only made
    himself the more magnificent to have so magnificent a favourite;
    but he sometimes jested with the Chancellor upon his splendour too.
    Once, when they were riding together through the streets of London
    in hard winter weather, they saw a shivering old man in rags.
    'Look at the poor object!' said the King. 'Would it not be a
    charitable act to give that aged man a comfortable warm cloak?'
    'Undoubtedly it would,' said Thomas a Becket, 'and you do well,
    Sir, to think of such Christian duties.' 'Come!' cried the King,
    'then give him your cloak!' It was made of rich crimson trimmed
    with ermine. The King tried to pull it off, the Chancellor tried
    to keep it on, both were near rolling from their saddles in the
    mud, when the Chancellor submitted, and the King gave the cloak to
    the old beggar: much to the beggar's astonishment, and much to the
    merriment of all the courtiers in attendance. For, courtiers are
    not only eager to laugh when the King laughs, but they really do
    enjoy a laugh against a Favourite.

    'I will make,' thought King Henry the second, 'this Chancellor of
    mine, Thomas a Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. He will then be
    the head of the Church, and, being devoted to me, will help me to
    correct the Church. He has always upheld my power against the
    power of the clergy, and once publicly told some bishops (I
    remember), that men of the Church were equally bound to me, with
    men of the sword. Thomas a Becket is the man, of all other men in
    England, to help me in my great design.' So the King, regardless
    of all objection, either that he was a fighting man, or a lavish
    man, or a courtly man, or a man of pleasure, or anything but a
    likely man for the office, made him Archbishop accordingly.

    Now, Thomas a Becket was proud and loved to be famous. He was
    already famous for the pomp of his life, for his riches, his gold
    and silver plate, his waggons, horses, and attendants. He could do
    no more in that way than he had done; and being tired of that kind
    of fame (which is a very poor one), he longed to have his name
    celebrated for something else. Nothing, he knew, would render him
    so famous in the world, as the setting of his utmost power and
    ability against the utmost power and ability of the King. He
    resolved with the whole strength of his mind to do it.

    He may have had some secret grudge against the King besides. The
    King may have offended his proud humour at some time or other, for
    anything I know. I think it likely, because it is a common thing
    for Kings, Princes, and other great people, to try the tempers of
    their favourites rather severely. Even the little affair of the
    crimson cloak must have been anything but a pleasant one to a
    haughty man. Thomas a Becket knew better than any one in England
    what the King expected of him. In all his sumptuous life, he had
    never yet been in a position to disappoint the King. He could take
    up that proud stand now, as head of the Church; and he determined
    that it should be written in history, either that he subdued the
    King, or that the King subdued him.

    So, of a sudden, he completely altered the whole manner of his
    life. He turned off all his brilliant followers, ate coarse food,
    drank bitter water, wore next his skin sackcloth covered with dirt
    and vermin (for it was then thought very religious to be very
    dirty), flogged his back to punish himself, lived chiefly in a
    little cell, washed the feet of thirteen poor people every day, and
    looked as miserable as he possibly could. If he had put twelve
    hundred monkeys on horseback instead of twelve, and had gone in
    procession with eight thousand waggons instead of eight, he could
    not have half astonished the people so much as by this great
    change. It soon caused him to be more talked about as an
    Archbishop than he had been as a Chancellor.

    The King was very angry; and was made still more so, when the new
    Archbishop, claiming various estates from the nobles as being
    rightfully Church property, required the King himself, for the same
    reason, to give up Rochester Castle, and Rochester City too. Not
    satisfied with this, he declared that no power but himself should
    appoint a priest to any Church in the part of England over which he
    was Archbishop; and when a certain gentleman of Kent made such an
    appointment, as he claimed to have the right to do, Thomas a Becket
    excommunicated him.

    Excommunication was, next to the Interdict I told you of at the
    close of the last chapter, the great weapon of the clergy. It
    consisted in declaring the person who was excommunicated, an
    outcast from the Church and from all religious offices; and in
    cursing him all over, from the top of his head to the sole of his
    foot, whether he was standing up, lying down, sitting, kneeling,
    walking, running, hopping, jumping, gaping, coughing, sneezing, or
    whatever else he was doing. This unchristian nonsense would of
    course have made no sort of difference to the person cursed - who
    could say his prayers at home if he were shut out of church, and
    whom none but GOD could judge - but for the fears and superstitions
    of the people, who avoided excommunicated persons, and made their
    lives unhappy. So, the King said to the New Archbishop, 'Take off
    this Excommunication from this gentleman of Kent.' To which the
    Archbishop replied, 'I shall do no such thing.'

    The quarrel went on. A priest in Worcestershire committed a most
    dreadful murder, that aroused the horror of the whole nation. The
    King demanded to have this wretch delivered up, to be tried in the
    same court and in the same way as any other murderer. The
    Archbishop refused, and kept him in the Bishop's prison. The King,
    holding a solemn assembly in Westminster Hall, demanded that in
    future all priests found guilty before their Bishops of crimes
    against the law of the land should be considered priests no longer,
    and should be delivered over to the law of the land for punishment.
    The Archbishop again refused. The King required to know whether
    the clergy would obey the ancient customs of the country? Every
    priest there, but one, said, after Thomas a Becket, 'Saving my
    order.' This really meant that they would only obey those customs
    when they did not interfere with their own claims; and the King
    went out of the Hall in great wrath.

    Some of the clergy began to be afraid, now, that they were going
    too far. Though Thomas a Becket was otherwise as unmoved as
    Westminster Hall, they prevailed upon him, for the sake of their
    fears, to go to the King at Woodstock, and promise to observe the
    ancient customs of the country, without saying anything about his
    order. The King received this submission favourably, and summoned
    a great council of the clergy to meet at the Castle of Clarendon,
    by Salisbury. But when the council met, the Archbishop again
    insisted on the words 'saying my order;' and he still insisted,
    though lords entreated him, and priests wept before him and knelt
    to him, and an adjoining room was thrown open, filled with armed
    soldiers of the King, to threaten him. At length he gave way, for
    that time, and the ancient customs (which included what the King
    had demanded in vain) were stated in writing, and were signed and
    sealed by the chief of the clergy, and were called the
    Constitutions of Clarendon.

    The quarrel went on, for all that. The Archbishop tried to see the
    King. The King would not see him. The Archbishop tried to escape
    from England. The sailors on the coast would launch no boat to
    take him away. Then, he again resolved to do his worst in
    opposition to the King, and began openly to set the ancient customs
    at defiance.

    The King summoned him before a great council at Northampton, where
    he accused him of high treason, and made a claim against him, which
    was not a just one, for an enormous sum of money. Thomas a Becket
    was alone against the whole assembly, and the very Bishops advised
    him to resign his office and abandon his contest with the King.
    His great anxiety and agitation stretched him on a sick-bed for two
    days, but he was still undaunted. He went to the adjourned
    council, carrying a great cross in his right hand, and sat down
    holding it erect before him. The King angrily retired into an
    inner room. The whole assembly angrily retired and left him there.
    But there he sat. The Bishops came out again in a body, and
    renounced him as a traitor. He only said, 'I hear!' and sat there
    still. They retired again into the inner room, and his trial
    proceeded without him. By-and-by, the Earl of Leicester, heading
    the barons, came out to read his sentence. He refused to hear it,
    denied the power of the court, and said he would refer his cause to
    the Pope. As he walked out of the hall, with the cross in his
    hand, some of those present picked up rushes - rushes were strewn
    upon the floors in those days by way of carpet - and threw them at
    him. He proudly turned his head, and said that were he not
    Archbishop, he would chastise those cowards with the sword he had
    known how to use in bygone days. He then mounted his horse, and
    rode away, cheered and surrounded by the common people, to whom he
    threw open his house that night and gave a supper, supping with
    them himself. That same night he secretly departed from the town;
    and so, travelling by night and hiding by day, and calling himself
    'Brother Dearman,' got away, not without difficulty, to Flanders.

    The struggle still went on. The angry King took possession of the
    revenues of the archbishopric, and banished all the relations and
    servants of Thomas a Becket, to the number of four hundred. The
    Pope and the French King both protected him, and an abbey was
    assigned for his residence. Stimulated by this support, Thomas a
    Becket, on a great festival day, formally proceeded to a great
    church crowded with people, and going up into the pulpit publicly
    cursed and excommunicated all who had supported the Constitutions
    of Clarendon: mentioning many English noblemen by name, and not
    distantly hinting at the King of England himself.

    When intelligence of this new affront was carried to the King in
    his chamber, his passion was so furious that he tore his clothes,
    and rolled like a madman on his bed of straw and rushes. But he
    was soon up and doing. He ordered all the ports and coasts of
    England to be narrowly watched, that no letters of Interdict might
    be brought into the kingdom; and sent messengers and bribes to the
    Pope's palace at Rome. Meanwhile, Thomas a Becket, for his part,
    was not idle at Rome, but constantly employed his utmost arts in
    his own behalf. Thus the contest stood, until there was peace
    between France and England (which had been for some time at war),
    and until the two children of the two Kings were married in
    celebration of it. Then, the French King brought about a meeting
    between Henry and his old favourite, so long his enemy.

    Even then, though Thomas a Becket knelt before the King, he was
    obstinate and immovable as to those words about his order. King
    Louis of France was weak enough in his veneration for Thomas a
    Becket and such men, but this was a little too much for him. He
    said that a Becket 'wanted to be greater than the saints and better
    than St. Peter,' and rode away from him with the King of England.
    His poor French Majesty asked a Becket's pardon for so doing,
    however, soon afterwards, and cut a very pitiful figure.

    At last, and after a world of trouble, it came to this. There was
    another meeting on French ground between King Henry and Thomas a
    Becket, and it was agreed that Thomas a Becket should be Archbishop
    of Canterbury, according to the customs of former Archbishops, and
    that the King should put him in possession of the revenues of that
    post. And now, indeed, you might suppose the struggle at an end,
    and Thomas a Becket at rest. NO, not even yet. For Thomas a
    Becket hearing, by some means, that King Henry, when he was in
    dread of his kingdom being placed under an interdict, had had his
    eldest son Prince Henry secretly crowned, not only persuaded the
    Pope to suspend the Archbishop of York who had performed that
    ceremony, and to excommunicate the Bishops who had assisted at it,
    but sent a messenger of his own into England, in spite of all the
    King's precautions along the coast, who delivered the letters of
    excommunication into the Bishops' own hands. Thomas a Becket then
    came over to England himself, after an absence of seven years. He
    was privately warned that it was dangerous to come, and that an
    ireful knight, named RANULF DE BROC, had threatened that he should
    not live to eat a loaf of bread in England; but he came.

    The common people received him well, and marched about with him in
    a soldierly way, armed with such rustic weapons as they could get.
    He tried to see the young prince who had once been his pupil, but
    was prevented. He hoped for some little support among the nobles
    and priests, but found none. He made the most of the peasants who
    attended him, and feasted them, and went from Canterbury to Harrow-
    on-the-Hill, and from Harrow-on-the-Hill back to Canterbury, and on
    Christmas Day preached in the Cathedral there, and told the people
    in his sermon that he had come to die among them, and that it was
    likely he would be murdered. He had no fear, however - or, if he
    had any, he had much more obstinacy - for he, then and there,
    excommunicated three of his enemies, of whom Ranulf de Broc, the
    ireful knight, was one.

    As men in general had no fancy for being cursed, in their sitting
    and walking, and gaping and sneezing, and all the rest of it, it
    was very natural in the persons so freely excommunicated to
    complain to the King. It was equally natural in the King, who had
    hoped that this troublesome opponent was at last quieted, to fall
    into a mighty rage when he heard of these new affronts; and, on the
    Archbishop of York telling him that he never could hope for rest
    while Thomas a Becket lived, to cry out hastily before his court,
    'Have I no one here who will deliver me from this man?' There were
    four knights present, who, hearing the King's words, looked at one
    another, and went out.

    The names of these knights were REGINALD FITZURSE, WILLIAM TRACY,
    HUGH DE MORVILLE, and RICHARD BRITO; three of whom had been in the
    train of Thomas a Becket in the old days of his splendour. They
    rode away on horseback, in a very secret manner, and on the third
    day after Christmas Day arrived at Saltwood House, not far from
    Canterbury, which belonged to the family of Ranulf de Broc. They
    quietly collected some followers here, in case they should need
    any; and proceeding to Canterbury, suddenly appeared (the four
    knights and twelve men) before the Archbishop, in his own house, at
    two o'clock in the afternoon. They neither bowed nor spoke, but
    sat down on the floor in silence, staring at the Archbishop.

    Thomas a Becket said, at length, 'What do you want?'

    'We want,' said Reginald Fitzurse, 'the excommunication taken from
    the Bishops, and you to answer for your offences to the King.'
    Thomas a Becket defiantly replied, that the power of the clergy was
    above the power of the King. That it was not for such men as they
    were, to threaten him. That if he were threatened by all the
    swords in England, he would never yield.

    'Then we will do more than threaten!' said the knights. And they
    went out with the twelve men, and put on their armour, and drew
    their shining swords, and came back.

    His servants, in the meantime, had shut up and barred the great
    gate of the palace. At first, the knights tried to shatter it with
    their battle-axes; but, being shown a window by which they could
    enter, they let the gate alone, and climbed in that way. While
    they were battering at the door, the attendants of Thomas a Becket
    had implored him to take refuge in the Cathedral; in which, as a
    sanctuary or sacred place, they thought the knights would dare to
    do no violent deed. He told them, again and again, that he would
    not stir. Hearing the distant voices of the monks singing the
    evening service, however, he said it was now his duty to attend,
    and therefore, and for no other reason, he would go.

    There was a near way between his Palace and the Cathedral, by some
    beautiful old cloisters which you may yet see. He went into the
    Cathedral, without any hurry, and having the Cross carried before
    him as usual. When he was safely there, his servants would have
    fastened the door, but he said NO! it was the house of God and not
    a fortress.

    As he spoke, the shadow of Reginald Fitzurse appeared in the
    Cathedral doorway, darkening the little light there was outside, on
    the dark winter evening. This knight said, in a strong voice,
    'Follow me, loyal servants of the King!' The rattle of the armour
    of the other knights echoed through the Cathedral, as they came
    clashing in.

    It was so dark, in the lofty aisles and among the stately pillars
    of the church, and there were so many hiding-places in the crypt
    below and in the narrow passages above, that Thomas a Becket might
    even at that pass have saved himself if he would. But he would
    not. He told the monks resolutely that he would not. And though
    they all dispersed and left him there with no other follower than
    EDWARD GRYME, his faithful cross-bearer, he was as firm then, as
    ever he had been in his life.

    The knights came on, through the darkness, making a terrible noise
    with their armed tread upon the stone pavement of the church.
    'Where is the traitor?' they cried out. He made no answer. But
    when they cried, 'Where is the Archbishop?' he said proudly, 'I am
    here!' and came out of the shade and stood before them.

    The knights had no desire to kill him, if they could rid the King
    and themselves of him by any other means. They told him he must
    either fly or go with them. He said he would do neither; and he
    threw William Tracy off with such force when he took hold of his
    sleeve, that Tracy reeled again. By his reproaches and his
    steadiness, he so incensed them, and exasperated their fierce
    humour, that Reginald Fitzurse, whom he called by an ill name,
    said, 'Then die!' and struck at his head. But the faithful Edward
    Gryme put out his arm, and there received the main force of the
    blow, so that it only made his master bleed. Another voice from
    among the knights again called to Thomas a Becket to fly; but, with
    his blood running down his face, and his hands clasped, and his
    head bent, he commanded himself to God, and stood firm. Then they
    cruelly killed him close to the altar of St. Bennet; and his body
    fell upon the pavement, which was dirtied with his blood and

    It is an awful thing to think of the murdered mortal, who had so
    showered his curses about, lying, all disfigured, in the church,
    where a few lamps here and there were but red specks on a pall of
    darkness; and to think of the guilty knights riding away on
    horseback, looking over their shoulders at the dim Cathedral, and
    remembering what they had left inside.


    WHEN the King heard how Thomas a Becket had lost his life in
    Canterbury Cathedral, through the ferocity of the four Knights, he
    was filled with dismay. Some have supposed that when the King
    spoke those hasty words, 'Have I no one here who will deliver me
    from this man?' he wished, and meant a Becket to be slain. But few
    things are more unlikely; for, besides that the King was not
    naturally cruel (though very passionate), he was wise, and must
    have known full well what any stupid man in his dominions must have
    known, namely, that such a murder would rouse the Pope and the
    whole Church against him.

    He sent respectful messengers to the Pope, to represent his
    innocence (except in having uttered the hasty words); and he swore
    solemnly and publicly to his innocence, and contrived in time to
    make his peace. As to the four guilty Knights, who fled into
    Yorkshire, and never again dared to show themselves at Court, the
    Pope excommunicated them; and they lived miserably for some time,
    shunned by all their countrymen. At last, they went humbly to
    Jerusalem as a penance, and there died and were buried.

    It happened, fortunately for the pacifying of the Pope, that an
    opportunity arose very soon after the murder of a Becket, for the
    King to declare his power in Ireland - which was an acceptable
    undertaking to the Pope, as the Irish, who had been converted to
    Christianity by one Patricius (otherwise Saint Patrick) long ago,
    before any Pope existed, considered that the Pope had nothing at
    all to do with them, or they with the Pope, and accordingly refused
    to pay him Peter's Pence, or that tax of a penny a house which I
    have elsewhere mentioned. The King's opportunity arose in this

    The Irish were, at that time, as barbarous a people as you can well
    imagine. They were continually quarrelling and fighting, cutting
    one another's throats, slicing one another's noses, burning one
    another's houses, carrying away one another's wives, and committing
    all sorts of violence. The country was divided into five kingdoms
    by a separate King, of whom one claimed to be the chief of the
    rest. Now, one of these Kings, named DERMOND MAC MURROUGH (a wild
    kind of name, spelt in more than one wild kind of way), had carried
    off the wife of a friend of his, and concealed her on an island in
    a bog. The friend resenting this (though it was quite the custom
    of the country), complained to the chief King, and, with the chief
    King's help, drove Dermond Mac Murrough out of his dominions.
    Dermond came over to England for revenge; and offered to hold his
    realm as a vassal of King Henry, if King Henry would help him to
    regain it. The King consented to these terms; but only assisted
    him, then, with what were called Letters Patent, authorising any
    English subjects who were so disposed, to enter into his service,
    and aid his cause.

    There was, at Bristol, a certain EARL RICHARD DE CLARE, called
    STRONGBOW; of no very good character; needy and desperate, and
    ready for anything that offered him a chance of improving his
    fortunes. There were, in South Wales, two other broken knights of
    the same good-for-nothing sort, called ROBERT FITZ-STEPHEN, and
    MAURICE FITZ-GERALD. These three, each with a small band of
    followers, took up Dermond's cause; and it was agreed that if it
    proved successful, Strongbow should marry Dermond's daughter EVA,
    and be declared his heir.

    The trained English followers of these knights were so superior in
    all the discipline of battle to the Irish, that they beat them
    against immense superiority of numbers. In one fight, early in the
    war, they cut off three hundred heads, and laid them before Mac
    Murrough; who turned them every one up with his hands, rejoicing,
    and, coming to one which was the head of a man whom he had much
    disliked, grasped it by the hair and ears, and tore off the nose
    and lips with his teeth. You may judge from this, what kind of a
    gentleman an Irish King in those times was. The captives, all
    through this war, were horribly treated; the victorious party
    making nothing of breaking their limbs, and casting them into the
    sea from the tops of high rocks. It was in the midst of the
    miseries and cruelties attendant on the taking of Waterford, where
    the dead lay piled in the streets, and the filthy gutters ran with
    blood, that Strongbow married Eva. An odious marriage-company
    those mounds of corpse's must have made, I think, and one quite
    worthy of the young lady's father.

    He died, after Waterford and Dublin had been taken, and various
    successes achieved; and Strongbow became King of Leinster. Now
    came King Henry's opportunity. To restrain the growing power of
    Strongbow, he himself repaired to Dublin, as Strongbow's Royal
    Master, and deprived him of his kingdom, but confirmed him in the
    enjoyment of great possessions. The King, then, holding state in
    Dublin, received the homage of nearly all the Irish Kings and
    Chiefs, and so came home again with a great addition to his
    reputation as Lord of Ireland, and with a new claim on the favour
    of the Pope. And now, their reconciliation was completed - more
    easily and mildly by the Pope, than the King might have expected, I

    At this period of his reign, when his troubles seemed so few and
    his prospects so bright, those domestic miseries began which
    gradually made the King the most unhappy of men, reduced his great
    spirit, wore away his health, and broke his heart.

    He had four sons. HENRY, now aged eighteen - his secret crowning
    of whom had given such offence to Thomas a Becket. RICHARD, aged
    sixteen; GEOFFREY, fifteen; and JOHN, his favourite, a young boy
    whom the courtiers named LACKLAND, because he had no inheritance,
    but to whom the King meant to give the Lordship of Ireland. All
    these misguided boys, in their turn, were unnatural sons to him,
    and unnatural brothers to each other. Prince Henry, stimulated by
    the French King, and by his bad mother, Queen Eleanor, began the
    undutiful history,

    First, he demanded that his young wife, MARGARET, the French King's
    daughter, should be crowned as well as he. His father, the King,
    consented, and it was done. It was no sooner done, than he
    demanded to have a part of his father's dominions, during his
    father's life. This being refused, he made off from his father in
    the night, with his bad heart full of bitterness, and took refuge
    at the French King's Court. Within a day or two, his brothers
    Richard and Geoffrey followed. Their mother tried to join them -
    escaping in man's clothes - but she was seized by King Henry's men,
    and immured in prison, where she lay, deservedly, for sixteen
    years. Every day, however, some grasping English noblemen, to whom
    the King's protection of his people from their avarice and
    oppression had given offence, deserted him and joined the Princes.
    Every day he heard some fresh intelligence of the Princes levying
    armies against him; of Prince Henry's wearing a crown before his
    own ambassadors at the French Court, and being called the Junior
    King of England; of all the Princes swearing never to make peace
    with him, their father, without the consent and approval of the
    Barons of France. But, with his fortitude and energy unshaken,
    King Henry met the shock of these disasters with a resolved and
    cheerful face. He called upon all Royal fathers who had sons, to
    help him, for his cause was theirs; he hired, out of his riches,
    twenty thousand men to fight the false French King, who stirred his
    own blood against him; and he carried on the war with such vigour,
    that Louis soon proposed a conference to treat for peace.

    The conference was held beneath an old wide-spreading green elm-
    tree, upon a plain in France. It led to nothing. The war
    recommenced. Prince Richard began his fighting career, by leading
    an army against his father; but his father beat him and his army
    back; and thousands of his men would have rued the day in which
    they fought in such a wicked cause, had not the King received news
    of an invasion of England by the Scots, and promptly come home
    through a great storm to repress it. And whether he really began
    to fear that he suffered these troubles because a Becket had been
    murdered; or whether he wished to rise in the favour of the Pope,
    who had now declared a Becket to be a saint, or in the favour of
    his own people, of whom many believed that even a Becket's
    senseless tomb could work miracles, I don't know: but the King no
    sooner landed in England than he went straight to Canterbury; and
    when he came within sight of the distant Cathedral, he dismounted
    from his horse, took off his shoes, and walked with bare and
    bleeding feet to a Becket's grave. There, he lay down on the
    ground, lamenting, in the presence of many people; and by-and-by he
    went into the Chapter House, and, removing his clothes from his
    back and shoulders, submitted himself to be beaten with knotted
    cords (not beaten very hard, I dare say though) by eighty Priests,
    one after another. It chanced that on the very day when the King
    made this curious exhibition of himself, a complete victory was
    obtained over the Scots; which very much delighted the Priests, who
    said that it was won because of his great example of repentance.
    For the Priests in general had found out, since a Becket's death,
    that they admired him of all things - though they had hated him
    very cordially when he was alive.

    The Earl of Flanders, who was at the head of the base conspiracy of
    the King's undutiful sons and their foreign friends, took the
    opportunity of the King being thus employed at home, to lay siege
    to Rouen, the capital of Normandy. But the King, who was
    extraordinarily quick and active in all his movements, was at
    Rouen, too, before it was supposed possible that he could have left
    England; and there he so defeated the said Earl of Flanders, that
    the conspirators proposed peace, and his bad sons Henry and
    Geoffrey submitted. Richard resisted for six weeks; but, being
    beaten out of castle after castle, he at last submitted too, and
    his father forgave him.

    To forgive these unworthy princes was only to afford them
    breathing-time for new faithlessness. They were so false,
    disloyal, and dishonourable, that they were no more to be trusted
    than common thieves. In the very next year, Prince Henry rebelled
    again, and was again forgiven. In eight years more, Prince Richard
    rebelled against his elder brother; and Prince Geoffrey infamously
    said that the brothers could never agree well together, unless they
    were united against their father. In the very next year after
    their reconciliation by the King, Prince Henry again rebelled
    against his father; and again submitted, swearing to be true; and
    was again forgiven; and again rebelled with Geoffrey.

    But the end of this perfidious Prince was come. He fell sick at a
    French town; and his conscience terribly reproaching him with his
    baseness, he sent messengers to the King his father, imploring him
    to come and see him, and to forgive him for the last time on his
    bed of death. The generous King, who had a royal and forgiving
    mind towards his children always, would have gone; but this Prince
    had been so unnatural, that the noblemen about the King suspected
    treachery, and represented to him that he could not safely trust
    his life with such a traitor, though his own eldest son. Therefore
    the King sent him a ring from off his finger as a token of
    forgiveness; and when the Prince had kissed it, with much grief and
    many tears, and had confessed to those around him how bad, and
    wicked, and undutiful a son he had been; he said to the attendant
    Priests: 'O, tie a rope about my body, and draw me out of bed, and
    lay me down upon a bed of ashes, that I may die with prayers to God
    in a repentant manner!' And so he died, at twenty-seven years old.

    Three years afterwards, Prince Geoffrey, being unhorsed at a
    tournament, had his brains trampled out by a crowd of horses
    passing over him. So, there only remained Prince Richard, and
    Prince John - who had grown to be a young man now, and had solemnly
    sworn to be faithful to his father. Richard soon rebelled again,
    encouraged by his friend the French King, PHILIP THE SECOND (son of
    Louis, who was dead); and soon submitted and was again forgiven,
    swearing on the New Testament never to rebel again; and in another
    year or so, rebelled again; and, in the presence of his father,
    knelt down on his knee before the King of France; and did the
    French King homage: and declared that with his aid he would
    possess himself, by force, of all his father's French dominions.

    And yet this Richard called himself a soldier of Our Saviour! And
    yet this Richard wore the Cross, which the Kings of France and
    England had both taken, in the previous year, at a brotherly
    meeting underneath the old wide-spreading elm-tree on the plain,
    when they had sworn (like him) to devote themselves to a new
    Crusade, for the love and honour of the Truth!

    Sick at heart, wearied out by the falsehood of his sons, and almost
    ready to lie down and die, the unhappy King who had so long stood
    firm, began to fail. But the Pope, to his honour, supported him;
    and obliged the French King and Richard, though successful in
    fight, to treat for peace. Richard wanted to be Crowned King of
    England, and pretended that he wanted to be married (which he
    really did not) to the French King's sister, his promised wife,
    whom King Henry detained in England. King Henry wanted, on the
    other hand, that the French King's sister should be married to his
    favourite son, John: the only one of his sons (he said) who had
    never rebelled against him. At last King Henry, deserted by his
    nobles one by one, distressed, exhausted, broken-hearted, consented
    to establish peace.

    One final heavy sorrow was reserved for him, even yet. When they
    brought him the proposed treaty of peace, in writing, as he lay
    very ill in bed, they brought him also the list of the deserters
    from their allegiance, whom he was required to pardon. The first
    name upon this list was John, his favourite son, in whom he had
    trusted to the last.

    'O John! child of my heart!' exclaimed the King, in a great agony
    of mind. 'O John, whom I have loved the best! O John, for whom I
    have contended through these many troubles! Have you betrayed me
    too!' And then he lay down with a heavy groan, and said, 'Now let
    the world go as it will. I care for nothing more!'

    After a time, he told his attendants to take him to the French town
    of Chinon - a town he had been fond of, during many years. But he
    was fond of no place now; it was too true that he could care for
    nothing more upon this earth. He wildly cursed the hour when he
    was born, and cursed the children whom he left behind him; and

    As, one hundred years before, the servile followers of the Court
    had abandoned the Conqueror in the hour of his death, so they now
    abandoned his descendant. The very body was stripped, in the
    plunder of the Royal chamber; and it was not easy to find the means
    of carrying it for burial to the abbey church of Fontevraud.

    Richard was said in after years, by way of flattery, to have the
    heart of a Lion. It would have been far better, I think, to have
    had the heart of a Man. His heart, whatever it was, had cause to
    beat remorsefully within his breast, when he came - as he did -
    into the solemn abbey, and looked on his dead father's uncovered
    face. His heart, whatever it was, had been a black and perjured
    heart, in all its dealings with the deceased King, and more
    deficient in a single touch of tenderness than any wild beast's in
    the forest.

    There is a pretty story told of this Reign, called the story of
    FAIR ROSAMOND. It relates how the King doted on Fair Rosamond, who
    was the loveliest girl in all the world; and how he had a beautiful
    Bower built for her in a Park at Woodstock; and how it was erected
    in a labyrinth, and could only be found by a clue of silk. How the
    bad Queen Eleanor, becoming jealous of Fair Rosamond, found out the
    secret of the clue, and one day, appeared before her, with a dagger
    and a cup of poison, and left her to the choice between those
    deaths. How Fair Rosamond, after shedding many piteous tears and
    offering many useless prayers to the cruel Queen, took the poison,
    and fell dead in the midst of the beautiful bower, while the
    unconscious birds sang gaily all around her.

    Now, there WAS a fair Rosamond, and she was (I dare say) the
    loveliest girl in all the world, and the King was certainly very
    fond of her, and the bad Queen Eleanor was certainly made jealous.
    But I am afraid - I say afraid, because I like the story so much -
    that there was no bower, no labyrinth, no silken clue, no dagger,
    no poison. I am afraid fair Rosamond retired to a nunnery near
    Oxford, and died there, peaceably; her sister-nuns hanging a silken
    drapery over her tomb, and often dressing it with flowers, in
    remembrance of the youth and beauty that had enchanted the King
    when he too was young, and when his life lay fair before him.

    It was dark and ended now; faded and gone. Henry Plantagenet lay
    quiet in the abbey church of Fontevraud, in the fifty-seventh year
    of his age - never to be completed - after governing England well,
    for nearly thirty-five years.
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