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    Ch. 18 - Edward the Third

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    Chapter 18
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    ROGER MORTIMER, the Queen's lover (who escaped to France in the
    last chapter), was far from profiting by the examples he had had of
    the fate of favourites. Having, through the Queen's influence,
    come into possession of the estates of the two Despensers, he
    became extremely proud and ambitious, and sought to be the real
    ruler of England. The young King, who was crowned at fourteen
    years of age with all the usual solemnities, resolved not to bear
    this, and soon pursued Mortimer to his ruin.

    The people themselves were not fond of Mortimer - first, because he
    was a Royal favourite; secondly, because he was supposed to have
    helped to make a peace with Scotland which now took place, and in
    virtue of which the young King's sister Joan, only seven years old,
    was promised in marriage to David, the son and heir of Robert
    Bruce, who was only five years old. The nobles hated Mortimer
    because of his pride, riches, and power. They went so far as to
    take up arms against him; but were obliged to submit. The Earl of
    Kent, one of those who did so, but who afterwards went over to
    Mortimer and the Queen, was made an example of in the following
    cruel manner:

    He seems to have been anything but a wise old earl; and he was
    persuaded by the agents of the favourite and the Queen, that poor
    King Edward the Second was not really dead; and thus was betrayed
    into writing letters favouring his rightful claim to the throne.
    This was made out to be high treason, and he was tried, found
    guilty, and sentenced to be executed. They took the poor old lord
    outside the town of Winchester, and there kept him waiting some
    three or four hours until they could find somebody to cut off his
    head. At last, a convict said he would do it, if the government
    would pardon him in return; and they gave him the pardon; and at
    one blow he put the Earl of Kent out of his last suspense.

    While the Queen was in France, she had found a lovely and good
    young lady, named Philippa, who she thought would make an excellent
    wife for her son. The young King married this lady, soon after he
    came to the throne; and her first child, Edward, Prince of Wales,
    afterwards became celebrated, as we shall presently see, under the
    famous title of EDWARD THE BLACK PRINCE.

    The young King, thinking the time ripe for the downfall of
    Mortimer, took counsel with Lord Montacute how he should proceed.
    A Parliament was going to be held at Nottingham, and that lord
    recommended that the favourite should be seized by night in
    Nottingham Castle, where he was sure to be. Now, this, like many
    other things, was more easily said than done; because, to guard
    against treachery, the great gates of the Castle were locked every
    night, and the great keys were carried up-stairs to the Queen, who
    laid them under her own pillow. But the Castle had a governor, and
    the governor being Lord Montacute's friend, confided to him how he
    knew of a secret passage underground, hidden from observation by
    the weeds and brambles with which it was overgrown; and how,
    through that passage, the conspirators might enter in the dead of
    the night, and go straight to Mortimer's room. Accordingly, upon a
    certain dark night, at midnight, they made their way through this
    dismal place: startling the rats, and frightening the owls and
    bats: and came safely to the bottom of the main tower of the
    Castle, where the King met them, and took them up a profoundly-dark
    staircase in a deep silence. They soon heard the voice of Mortimer
    in council with some friends; and bursting into the room with a
    sudden noise, took him prisoner. The Queen cried out from her bed-
    chamber, 'Oh, my sweet son, my dear son, spare my gentle Mortimer!'
    They carried him off, however; and, before the next Parliament,
    accused him of having made differences between the young King and
    his mother, and of having brought about the death of the Earl of
    Kent, and even of the late King; for, as you know by this time,
    when they wanted to get rid of a man in those old days, they were
    not very particular of what they accused him. Mortimer was found
    guilty of all this, and was sentenced to be hanged at Tyburn. The
    King shut his mother up in genteel confinement, where she passed
    the rest of her life; and now he became King in earnest.

    The first effort he made was to conquer Scotland. The English
    lords who had lands in Scotland, finding that their rights were not
    respected under the late peace, made war on their own account:
    choosing for their general, Edward, the son of John Baliol, who
    made such a vigorous fight, that in less than two months he won the
    whole Scottish Kingdom. He was joined, when thus triumphant, by
    the King and Parliament; and he and the King in person besieged the
    Scottish forces in Berwick. The whole Scottish army coming to the
    assistance of their countrymen, such a furious battle ensued, that
    thirty thousand men are said to have been killed in it. Baliol was
    then crowned King of Scotland, doing homage to the King of England;
    but little came of his successes after all, for the Scottish men
    rose against him, within no very long time, and David Bruce came
    back within ten years and took his kingdom.

    France was a far richer country than Scotland, and the King had a
    much greater mind to conquer it. So, he let Scotland alone, and
    pretended that he had a claim to the French throne in right of his
    mother. He had, in reality, no claim at all; but that mattered
    little in those times. He brought over to his cause many little
    princes and sovereigns, and even courted the alliance of the people
    of Flanders - a busy, working community, who had very small respect
    for kings, and whose head man was a brewer. With such forces as he
    raised by these means, Edward invaded France; but he did little by
    that, except run into debt in carrying on the war to the extent of
    three hundred thousand pounds. The next year he did better;
    gaining a great sea-fight in the harbour of Sluys. This success,
    however, was very shortlived, for the Flemings took fright at the
    siege of Saint Omer and ran away, leaving their weapons and baggage
    behind them. Philip, the French King, coming up with his army, and
    Edward being very anxious to decide the war, proposed to settle the
    difference by single combat with him, or by a fight of one hundred
    knights on each side. The French King said, he thanked him; but
    being very well as he was, he would rather not. So, after some
    skirmishing and talking, a short peace was made.

    It was soon broken by King Edward's favouring the cause of John,
    Earl of Montford; a French nobleman, who asserted a claim of his
    own against the French King, and offered to do homage to England
    for the Crown of France, if he could obtain it through England's
    help. This French lord, himself, was soon defeated by the French
    King's son, and shut up in a tower in Paris; but his wife, a
    courageous and beautiful woman, who is said to have had the courage
    of a man, and the heart of a lion, assembled the people of
    Brittany, where she then was; and, showing them her infant son,
    made many pathetic entreaties to them not to desert her and their
    young Lord. They took fire at this appeal, and rallied round her
    in the strong castle of Hennebon. Here she was not only besieged
    without by the French under Charles de Blois, but was endangered
    within by a dreary old bishop, who was always representing to the
    people what horrors they must undergo if they were faithful - first
    from famine, and afterwards from fire and sword. But this noble
    lady, whose heart never failed her, encouraged her soldiers by her
    own example; went from post to post like a great general; even
    mounted on horseback fully armed, and, issuing from the castle by a
    by-path, fell upon the French camp, set fire to the tents, and
    threw the whole force into disorder. This done, she got safely
    back to Hennebon again, and was received with loud shouts of joy by
    the defenders of the castle, who had given her up for lost. As
    they were now very short of provisions, however, and as they could
    not dine off enthusiasm, and as the old bishop was always saying,
    'I told you what it would come to!' they began to lose heart, and
    to talk of yielding the castle up. The brave Countess retiring to
    an upper room and looking with great grief out to sea, where she
    expected relief from England, saw, at this very time, the English
    ships in the distance, and was relieved and rescued! Sir Walter
    Manning, the English commander, so admired her courage, that, being
    come into the castle with the English knights, and having made a
    feast there, he assaulted the French by way of dessert, and beat
    them off triumphantly. Then he and the knights came back to the
    castle with great joy; and the Countess who had watched them from a
    high tower, thanked them with all her heart, and kissed them every

    This noble lady distinguished herself afterwards in a sea-fight
    with the French off Guernsey, when she was on her way to England to
    ask for more troops. Her great spirit roused another lady, the
    wife of another French lord (whom the French King very barbarously
    murdered), to distinguish herself scarcely less. The time was fast
    coming, however, when Edward, Prince of Wales, was to be the great
    star of this French and English war.

    It was in the month of July, in the year one thousand three hundred
    and forty-six, when the King embarked at Southampton for France,
    with an army of about thirty thousand men in all, attended by the
    Prince of Wales and by several of the chief nobles. He landed at
    La Hogue in Normandy; and, burning and destroying as he went,
    according to custom, advanced up the left bank of the River Seine,
    and fired the small towns even close to Paris; but, being watched
    from the right bank of the river by the French King and all his
    army, it came to this at last, that Edward found himself, on
    Saturday the twenty-sixth of August, one thousand three hundred and
    forty-six, on a rising ground behind the little French village of
    Crecy, face to face with the French King's force. And, although
    the French King had an enormous army - in number more than eight
    times his - he there resolved to beat him or be beaten.

    The young Prince, assisted by the Earl of Oxford and the Earl of
    Warwick, led the first division of the English army; two other
    great Earls led the second; and the King, the third. When the
    morning dawned, the King received the sacrament, and heard prayers,
    and then, mounted on horseback with a white wand in his hand, rode
    from company to company, and rank to rank, cheering and encouraging
    both officers and men. Then the whole army breakfasted, each man
    sitting on the ground where he had stood; and then they remained
    quietly on the ground with their weapons ready.

    Up came the French King with all his great force. It was dark and
    angry weather; there was an eclipse of the sun; there was a
    thunder-storm, accompanied with tremendous rain; the frightened
    birds flew screaming above the soldiers' heads. A certain captain
    in the French army advised the French King, who was by no means
    cheerful, not to begin the battle until the morrow. The King,
    taking this advice, gave the word to halt. But, those behind not
    understanding it, or desiring to be foremost with the rest, came
    pressing on. The roads for a great distance were covered with this
    immense army, and with the common people from the villages, who
    were flourishing their rude weapons, and making a great noise.
    Owing to these circumstances, the French army advanced in the
    greatest confusion; every French lord doing what he liked with his
    own men, and putting out the men of every other French lord.

    Now, their King relied strongly upon a great body of cross-bowmen
    from Genoa; and these he ordered to the front to begin the battle,
    on finding that he could not stop it. They shouted once, they
    shouted twice, they shouted three times, to alarm the English
    archers; but, the English would have heard them shout three
    thousand times and would have never moved. At last the cross-
    bowmen went forward a little, and began to discharge their bolts;
    upon which, the English let fly such a hail of arrows, that the
    Genoese speedily made off - for their cross-bows, besides being
    heavy to carry, required to be wound up with a handle, and
    consequently took time to re-load; the English, on the other hand,
    could discharge their arrows almost as fast as the arrows could

    When the French King saw the Genoese turning, he cried out to his
    men to kill those scoundrels, who were doing harm instead of
    service. This increased the confusion. Meanwhile the English
    archers, continuing to shoot as fast as ever, shot down great
    numbers of the French soldiers and knights; whom certain sly
    Cornish-men and Welshmen, from the English army, creeping along the
    ground, despatched with great knives.

    The Prince and his division were at this time so hard-pressed, that
    the Earl of Warwick sent a message to the King, who was overlooking
    the battle from a windmill, beseeching him to send more aid.

    'Is my son killed?' said the King.

    'No, sire, please God,' returned the messenger.

    'Is he wounded?' said the King.

    'No, sire.'

    'Is he thrown to the ground?' said the King.

    'No, sire, not so; but, he is very hard-pressed.'

    'Then,' said the King, 'go back to those who sent you, and tell
    them I shall send no aid; because I set my heart upon my son
    proving himself this day a brave knight, and because I am resolved,
    please God, that the honour of a great victory shall be his!'

    These bold words, being reported to the Prince and his division, so
    raised their spirits, that they fought better than ever. The King
    of France charged gallantly with his men many times; but it was of
    no use. Night closing in, his horse was killed under him by an
    English arrow, and the knights and nobles who had clustered thick
    about him early in the day, were now completely scattered. At
    last, some of his few remaining followers led him off the field by
    force since he would not retire of himself, and they journeyed away
    to Amiens. The victorious English, lighting their watch-fires,
    made merry on the field, and the King, riding to meet his gallant
    son, took him in his arms, kissed him, and told him that he had
    acted nobly, and proved himself worthy of the day and of the crown.
    While it was yet night, King Edward was hardly aware of the great
    victory he had gained; but, next day, it was discovered that eleven
    princes, twelve hundred knights, and thirty thousand common men lay
    dead upon the French side. Among these was the King of Bohemia, an
    old blind man; who, having been told that his son was wounded in
    the battle, and that no force could stand against the Black Prince,
    called to him two knights, put himself on horse-back between them,
    fastened the three bridles together, and dashed in among the
    English, where he was presently slain. He bore as his crest three
    white ostrich feathers, with the motto ICH DIEN, signifying in
    English 'I serve.' This crest and motto were taken by the Prince
    of Wales in remembrance of that famous day, and have been borne by
    the Prince of Wales ever since.

    Five days after this great battle, the King laid siege to Calais.
    This siege - ever afterwards memorable - lasted nearly a year. In
    order to starve the inhabitants out, King Edward built so many
    wooden houses for the lodgings of his troops, that it is said their
    quarters looked like a second Calais suddenly sprung around the
    first. Early in the siege, the governor of the town drove out what
    he called the useless mouths, to the number of seventeen hundred
    persons, men and women, young and old. King Edward allowed them to
    pass through his lines, and even fed them, and dismissed them with
    money; but, later in the siege, he was not so merciful - five
    hundred more, who were afterwards driven out, dying of starvation
    and misery. The garrison were so hard-pressed at last, that they
    sent a letter to King Philip, telling him that they had eaten all
    the horses, all the dogs, and all the rats and mice that could be
    found in the place; and, that if he did not relieve them, they must
    either surrender to the English, or eat one another. Philip made
    one effort to give them relief; but they were so hemmed in by the
    English power, that he could not succeed, and was fain to leave the
    place. Upon this they hoisted the English flag, and surrendered to
    King Edward. 'Tell your general,' said he to the humble messengers
    who came out of the town, 'that I require to have sent here, six of
    the most distinguished citizens, bare-legged, and in their shirts,
    with ropes about their necks; and let those six men bring with them
    the keys of the castle and the town.'

    When the Governor of Calais related this to the people in the
    Market-place, there was great weeping and distress; in the midst of
    which, one worthy citizen, named Eustace de Saint Pierre, rose up
    and said, that if the six men required were not sacrificed, the
    whole population would be; therefore, he offered himself as the
    first. Encouraged by this bright example, five other worthy
    citizens rose up one after another, and offered themselves to save
    the rest. The Governor, who was too badly wounded to be able to
    walk, mounted a poor old horse that had not been eaten, and
    conducted these good men to the gate, while all the people cried
    and mourned.

    Edward received them wrathfully, and ordered the heads of the whole
    six to be struck off. However, the good Queen fell upon her knees,
    and besought the King to give them up to her. The King replied, 'I
    wish you had been somewhere else; but I cannot refuse you.' So she
    had them properly dressed, made a feast for them, and sent them
    back with a handsome present, to the great rejoicing of the whole
    camp. I hope the people of Calais loved the daughter to whom she
    gave birth soon afterwards, for her gentle mother's sake.

    Now came that terrible disease, the Plague, into Europe, hurrying
    from the heart of China; and killed the wretched people -
    especially the poor - in such enormous numbers, that one-half of
    the inhabitants of England are related to have died of it. It
    killed the cattle, in great numbers, too; and so few working men
    remained alive, that there were not enough left to till the ground.

    After eight years of differing and quarrelling, the Prince of Wales
    again invaded France with an army of sixty thousand men. He went
    through the south of the country, burning and plundering
    wheresoever he went; while his father, who had still the Scottish
    war upon his hands, did the like in Scotland, but was harassed and
    worried in his retreat from that country by the Scottish men, who
    repaid his cruelties with interest.

    The French King, Philip, was now dead, and was succeeded by his son
    John. The Black Prince, called by that name from the colour of the
    armour he wore to set off his fair complexion, continuing to burn
    and destroy in France, roused John into determined opposition; and
    so cruel had the Black Prince been in his campaign, and so severely
    had the French peasants suffered, that he could not find one who,
    for love, or money, or the fear of death, would tell him what the
    French King was doing, or where he was. Thus it happened that he
    came upon the French King's forces, all of a sudden, near the town
    of Poitiers, and found that the whole neighbouring country was
    occupied by a vast French army. 'God help us!' said the Black
    Prince, 'we must make the best of it.'

    So, on a Sunday morning, the eighteenth of September, the Prince
    whose army was now reduced to ten thousand men in all - prepared to
    give battle to the French King, who had sixty thousand horse alone.
    While he was so engaged, there came riding from the French camp, a
    Cardinal, who had persuaded John to let him offer terms, and try to
    save the shedding of Christian blood. 'Save my honour,' said the
    Prince to this good priest, 'and save the honour of my army, and I
    will make any reasonable terms.' He offered to give up all the
    towns, castles, and prisoners, he had taken, and to swear to make
    no war in France for seven years; but, as John would hear of
    nothing but his surrender, with a hundred of his chief knights, the
    treaty was broken off, and the Prince said quietly - 'God defend
    the right; we shall fight to-morrow.'

    Therefore, on the Monday morning, at break of day, the two armies
    prepared for battle. The English were posted in a strong place,
    which could only be approached by one narrow lane, skirted by
    hedges on both sides. The French attacked them by this lane; but
    were so galled and slain by English arrows from behind the hedges,
    that they were forced to retreat. Then went six hundred English
    bowmen round about, and, coming upon the rear of the French army,
    rained arrows on them thick and fast. The French knights, thrown
    into confusion, quitted their banners and dispersed in all
    directions. Said Sir John Chandos to the Prince, 'Ride forward,
    noble Prince, and the day is yours. The King of France is so
    valiant a gentleman, that I know he will never fly, and may be
    taken prisoner.' Said the Prince to this, 'Advance, English
    banners, in the name of God and St. George!' and on they pressed
    until they came up with the French King, fighting fiercely with his
    battle-axe, and, when all his nobles had forsaken him, attended
    faithfully to the last by his youngest son Philip, only sixteen
    years of age. Father and son fought well, and the King had already
    two wounds in his face, and had been beaten down, when he at last
    delivered himself to a banished French knight, and gave him his
    right-hand glove in token that he had done so.

    The Black Prince was generous as well as brave, and he invited his
    royal prisoner to supper in his tent, and waited upon him at table,
    and, when they afterwards rode into London in a gorgeous
    procession, mounted the French King on a fine cream-coloured horse,
    and rode at his side on a little pony. This was all very kind, but
    I think it was, perhaps, a little theatrical too, and has been made
    more meritorious than it deserved to be; especially as I am
    inclined to think that the greatest kindness to the King of France
    would have been not to have shown him to the people at all.
    However, it must be said, for these acts of politeness, that, in
    course of time, they did much to soften the horrors of war and the
    passions of conquerors. It was a long, long time before the common
    soldiers began to have the benefit of such courtly deeds; but they
    did at last; and thus it is possible that a poor soldier who asked
    for quarter at the battle of Waterloo, or any other such great
    fight, may have owed his life indirectly to Edward the Black

    At this time there stood in the Strand, in London, a palace called
    the Savoy, which was given up to the captive King of France and his
    son for their residence. As the King of Scotland had now been King
    Edward's captive for eleven years too, his success was, at this
    time, tolerably complete. The Scottish business was settled by the
    prisoner being released under the title of Sir David, King of
    Scotland, and by his engaging to pay a large ransom. The state of
    France encouraged England to propose harder terms to that country,
    where the people rose against the unspeakable cruelty and barbarity
    of its nobles; where the nobles rose in turn against the people;
    where the most frightful outrages were committed on all sides; and
    where the insurrection of the peasants, called the insurrection of
    the Jacquerie, from Jacques, a common Christian name among the
    country people of France, awakened terrors and hatreds that have
    scarcely yet passed away. A treaty called the Great Peace, was at
    last signed, under which King Edward agreed to give up the greater
    part of his conquests, and King John to pay, within six years, a
    ransom of three million crowns of gold. He was so beset by his own
    nobles and courtiers for having yielded to these conditions -
    though they could help him to no better - that he came back of his
    own will to his old palace-prison of the Savoy, and there died.

    There was a Sovereign of Castile at that time, called PEDRO THE
    CRUEL, who deserved the name remarkably well: having committed,
    among other cruelties, a variety of murders. This amiable monarch
    being driven from his throne for his crimes, went to the province
    of Bordeaux, where the Black Prince - now married to his cousin
    JOAN, a pretty widow - was residing, and besought his help. The
    Prince, who took to him much more kindly than a prince of such fame
    ought to have taken to such a ruffian, readily listened to his fair
    promises, and agreeing to help him, sent secret orders to some
    troublesome disbanded soldiers of his and his father's, who called
    themselves the Free Companions, and who had been a pest to the
    French people, for some time, to aid this Pedro. The Prince,
    himself, going into Spain to head the army of relief, soon set
    Pedro on his throne again - where he no sooner found himself, than,
    of course, he behaved like the villain he was, broke his word
    without the least shame, and abandoned all the promises he had made
    to the Black Prince.

    Now, it had cost the Prince a good deal of money to pay soldiers to
    support this murderous King; and finding himself, when he came back
    disgusted to Bordeaux, not only in bad health, but deeply in debt,
    he began to tax his French subjects to pay his creditors. They
    appealed to the French King, CHARLES; war again broke out; and the
    French town of Limoges, which the Prince had greatly benefited,
    went over to the French King. Upon this he ravaged the province of
    which it was the capital; burnt, and plundered, and killed in the
    old sickening way; and refused mercy to the prisoners, men, women,
    and children taken in the offending town, though he was so ill and
    so much in need of pity himself from Heaven, that he was carried in
    a litter. He lived to come home and make himself popular with the
    people and Parliament, and he died on Trinity Sunday, the eighth of
    June, one thousand three hundred and seventy-six, at forty-six
    years old.

    The whole nation mourned for him as one of the most renowned and
    beloved princes it had ever had; and he was buried with great
    lamentations in Canterbury Cathedral. Near to the tomb of Edward
    the Confessor, his monument, with his figure, carved in stone, and
    represented in the old black armour, lying on its back, may be seen
    at this day, with an ancient coat of mail, a helmet, and a pair of
    gauntlets hanging from a beam above it, which most people like to
    believe were once worn by the Black Prince.

    King Edward did not outlive his renowned son, long. He was old,
    and one Alice Perrers, a beautiful lady, had contrived to make him
    so fond of her in his old age, that he could refuse her nothing,
    and made himself ridiculous. She little deserved his love, or -
    what I dare say she valued a great deal more - the jewels of the
    late Queen, which he gave her among other rich presents. She took
    the very ring from his finger on the morning of the day when he
    died, and left him to be pillaged by his faithless servants. Only
    one good priest was true to him, and attended him to the last.

    Besides being famous for the great victories I have related, the
    reign of King Edward the Third was rendered memorable in better
    ways, by the growth of architecture and the erection of Windsor
    Castle. In better ways still, by the rising up of WICKLIFFE,
    originally a poor parish priest: who devoted himself to exposing,
    with wonderful power and success, the ambition and corruption of
    the Pope, and of the whole church of which he was the head.

    Some of those Flemings were induced to come to England in this
    reign too, and to settle in Norfolk, where they made better woollen
    cloths than the English had ever had before. The Order of the
    Garter (a very fine thing in its way, but hardly so important as
    good clothes for the nation) also dates from this period. The King
    is said to have picked 'up a lady's garter at a ball, and to have
    said, HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE - in English, 'Evil be to him who
    evil thinks of it.' The courtiers were usually glad to imitate
    what the King said or did, and hence from a slight incident the
    Order of the Garter was instituted, and became a great dignity. So
    the story goes.
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