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Edward III

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posted by Ken Horn alias K. Horn on Friday 10th of March 2017 05:37:36 PM

King Edward III Of ENGLAND [my 21st-great-grandfather]. The Cabinet Portrait Gallery of British Worthies, Volume I. Anonymous. London: Charles Knight & Co., Ludgate Street, and London: William Clowes And Sons, Stamford Street, 1845. [Public domain], pp. 58ff.: EDWARD III [Pg 58] HENRY II. was succeeded on the English throne by his eldest surviving son, Richard I.; he by his younger brother John; he by his son Henry III.; he by his son the first and greatest of the Edwards. The reigns of these four kings fill the whole of the thirteenth century, with a few years of the end of the twelfth, and a few of the beginning of the fourteenth: Richard I. having reigned from 1189 to 1199; John from 1199 to 1216; Henry III. from 1216 to 1272; Edward I. from 1272 to 1307. Old Froissart observes that it was an opinion commonly entertained by Englishmen, and the truth of which had been often exemplified from the days of King Arthur, that between every two valiant kings of England there was most commonly one of less sufficiency both of wit and of prowess. How far this rule may have obtained in more antient times we shall not stop to inquire, but[Pg 59] from the Norman Conquest it may be said to have held good, with but slight exception, for nearly four centuries and through a succession of more than a dozen sovereigns. From the Conqueror to Henry IV. inclusive, the only interruption to such a regular alternation of the good and the bad, or at least of the strong and the weak, had been the coming together of Henry II. and his son Richard I., followed by that of John and his son Henry III. Even here there was the balance of the two valiant kings against the two of less prowess and wisdom. At any rate there can be no question about the old notion having proved true in the case of the first and second Edwards; for, as Froissart says, "the good King Edward the First was right valiant, sage, wise, and hardy, adventurous and fortunate in all feats of war, and had much ado against the Scots, and conquered them three or four times; for the Scots could never have victory nor endure against him: and after his decease his son of his first wife was crowned king and called Edward the Second, who resembled nothing to his father in wit nor in prowess, but governed and kept his realm right wildly, and ruled himself by sinister counsel of certain persons, whereby at length he had no profit nor laud; for, anon after he was crowned, Robert Bruce, King of Scotland, who had often before given much ado to the said good King Edward the First, conquered again all Scotland, and brent and wasted a great part of the realm of England, a four or five days' journey within the realm, at two times, and discomfited the king and all the barons of England at a place in Scotland called Stirling, by battle arranged the day of St. John Baptist, in the year of our Lord 1314." And many other were the disasters and disgraces of Edward of Carnarvon's unhappy twenty years' reign, besides the loss of Scotland and the defeat and rout of Bannockburn. On the 24th of January, 1308, about six months after his accession, Edward II. was married at Boulogne to Isabella, daughter of the French king, Philip IV. (surnamed le Bel, or the Fair); five kings in all, and four queens, including the bride and bridegroom, being[Pg 60] present at the ceremony. Edward was in his twenty-fourth year; the French princess was only in her thirteenth, but was already famous as the greatest beauty in Europe. "One of the fairest ladies of the world," Froissart calls her. In tradition and history, however, she lives as little less than a beautiful demon. Never has beauty, never has a marriage been more fatal than hers was to herself, to her husband, to both their native lands. The radiant girl who now gave Edward her hand was in the end to deprive him of his crown and of his life; a long imprisonment of eight and twenty years was to be the dower of her own widowhood; and from their union was to spring a quarrel between their two countries, which it was to take nearly a century of bloodshed and desolation to fight out:— "Mark the year, and mark the night, When Severn shall re-echo with affright The shrieks of death through Berkeley's roofs that ring; Shrieks of an agonizing king! She-wolf of France, with unrelenting fangs, That tear'st the bowels of thy mangled mate, From thee be born who o'er thy country hangs The scourge of heaven! He who was thus to prove "the scourge of heaven," to his mother's land and race was her eldest son Edward, born at Windsor Castle on Monday the 13th of December, 1312. Young Edward appears to have been known till near the end of his father's reign as Earl of Chester; he was summoned to parliament by that title in 1320, and in each of the four following years. In May, 1325, Isabella proceeded to France on the pretence of negotiating a treaty of peace between her husband and her brother Charles IV., the new king of that country; and in September following she was joined there by her son Edward, who with his father's consent set sail, splendidly attended, to be invested by the French king with the dutchy of Guienne and the earldom of Ponthieu, which his father had consented to resign to him. He did homage for the two fiefs, and received investiture; but, although he had promised his father to hasten his return,[Pg 61] he remained abroad till the 24th of September of the next year, when he landed at Orwell in Suffolk with his mother, come, with her paramour Mortimer, to make open war upon her husband. The last instrument issued in the name of Edward II. was on the 20th of January, 1327; on the next day he is understood to have formally resigned his crown in the castle of Kenilworth to commissioners sent to him by the parliament; his son was proclaimed as Edward the Third on Saturday the 24th. His reign, however, for some reason which is not known, was reckoned as having commenced on the 25th. His father is supposed to have been murdered in his dungeon in Berkeley Castle on the 21st of September. The new king, a boy of fourteen when he was thus raised to the throne, was of course at first king only in name, and all power and authority were in the hands of his mother and Mortimer. He was marvellously alert, however, in assuming manhood in various ways. If he was not allowed any share in the government of the country, he was thought already old enough both to rule an army and to rule a wife. Within a few months after his accession, he put himself at the head of a great force, and went forth to fight the Scots; and in the beginning of the next year he was married at York to Philippa, the second daughter of William Count of Hainault, to whom he had been contracted by his mother shortly before their return from the continent. Edward's first campaign, however, must detain us for a little; for the incidents were both remarkable in themselves, and they have been recorded in much detail by the writer to whom we must be principally indebted throughout our sketch. Froissart, indeed, is not so much a great historian as a great historical painter—the greatest that ever painted in words. He is extremely inaccurate in dates and names, and other such prosaic matters, and even in his own proper line he may be suspected of having sometimes intermixed a little fancy with his facts; yet he may be always trusted, better than almost any other writer, for what is after all the most important truth, the characteristic spirit or inner life of what he[Pg 62] describes; and even in this part of his chronicle, which relates to events that happened before he was born, and in which therefore he writes to a greater extent than in the latter portions of it from report, he has thrown in much of what he had actually seen along with what he had only heard, and, if the sketching be in so far a copy, the colouring at least is his own. The account of the demonstration (for it was hardly more) which Edward made on the northern border is a great deal too long to be extracted in full; but we will select some of the more striking incidents, or those in which the young English king figures the most conspicuously. As we abridge the narrative, we will retain as much as possible of our author's style and manner, adhering for the most part to the excellent old English translation by Lord Berners. When Robert de Bruce, King of Scotland, we are told, heard how that the old king, Edward the Second, was taken and deposed down from his regality and his crown, and certain of his counsellors beheaded and put to destruction, then, although he was himself become very old and ancient, and sick (as it was said) of the great evil and malady, he bethought him that he would defy the young king, Edward the Third, because he was young, and that the barons of the realm were not all of one accord, as it was said. So about Easter, 1327, he sent his defiance to the young Edward and to all the realm, sending them word how that he would enter into the realm of England, and bren before him, as he had done before time. When the King of England and his council perceived that they were defied, they caused it to be known all over the realm; and commanded that all the nobles, and all other, should be ready apparelled, every man after his estate; and that they should be, by Ascension-day next after, at the town of York, standing northward. An embassy was sent to Sir John of Hainault, lord of Beamond, by which his assistance was obtained with a body of foreigners for the sum of fourteen thousand pounds. This was a brother of the Earl of Hainault, who had the preceding year accompanied Queen Isabella[Pg 63] on her expedition to England, and had only recently returned to his own country. He and his men of war now landed at Dover, whence they rode straight to the town of York, where the king, and the queen his mother, and all his lords, with a great host, were tarrying their coming. They arrived at York within three days of Pentecost. The English were lodged two or three leagues off, all about in the country; the foreigners in the suburbs of the city, an abbey of monks being assigned to Sir John for himself and his household. Then the narrative proceeds:—"The gentle King of England, the better to feast these strange lords and all their company, held a great court on Trinity Sunday in the Friars, where he and the queen his mother were lodged, keeping their house each of them apart. All this feast the king had well five hundred knights, and fifteen were new made. And the queen had well in her court sixty ladies and damozelles, who were there ready to make feast and cheer to Sir John of Hainault and to his company. There might have been seen great nobles, plenty of all manner of strange victual. There were ladies and damoselles, freshly apparelled, ready to have danced if they might have leave. But incontinent after dinner there began a great fray between some of the grooms and pages of the strangers and of the archers of England, who were lodged among them in the same suburbs; and anon all the archers assembled them together with their bows, and drove the strangers home to their lodging; and the most part of the knights and masters of them were as yet in the king's court, but, as soon as they heard tidings of the fray, each of them drew to their own lodging, in great haste such as might enter, and such as might not get in were in great peril. For the archers, who were to the number of three thousand, shot fast their arrows, not sparing masters nor varlets.... And the Englishmen that were hosts to these strangers shut fast their doors and windows, and would not suffer them to enter in to their lodgings: howbeit some got in on the back side, and quickly armed them, but they durst not issue out into the street for fear of the arrows. Then[Pg 64] the strangers broke out on the back side, and brake down pales and hedges of gardens, and drew them into a certain plain place, and abode their company, till at last they were a hundred and above of men of arms, and as many unharnessed, such as could not get to their lodgings. And, when they were assembled together, they hasted them to go and succour their companions, who defended their lodgings in the great street." At the lodging of the Lord D'Enghien, where there were great gates both before and behind, opening into the great street, the English archers were shooting fiercely at the house, and many of the foreigners were hurt; but three good knights, whose names are given, although they could not get into their lodgings to arm them, yet did as valiantly as though they had been armed. "They had great levers in their hands, the which they found in a carpenter's yard, with the which they gave such strokes that men durst not approach to them. They three beat down that day, with such few company as they had, mo than sixty. For they were great and mighty knights." In the end the English archers were discomfited and put to the rout, after about three hundred men had been slain on both sides. "I trow," concludes the hearty old chronicler, "God did never give more grace and fortune to any people than he did as then to this gentle knight, Sir John of Hainault, and to his company. For these English archers intended to none other thing but to murder and to rob them, for all that they were come to serve the king in his business. These strangers were never in so great peril all the season that they lay, nor they were never after in surety till they were again at Wissant in their own country. For they were fallen in so great hate with all the archers of the host, that some of the barons and knights of England showed unto the lords of Hainault, giving them warning that the archers and other of the common people were allied together to the number of six thousand, to the intent to bren or to kill them in their lodgings, either by night or by day. And so they lived at a hard adventure; but each of them promised to help and aid other, and to[Pg 65] sell dearly their lives or they were slain. So they made many fair ordinances among themself by good and great advice; whereby they were fain oftentimes to lie in their harness by night, and in the day to keep their lodgings, and to have all their harness ready and their horses saddled. Thus continually they were fain to make watch by their constables in the fields and highways about the court, and to send out scout-watches a mile off, to see ever if any such people were coming to themward as they were informed of, to the intent that, if their scout-watch heard any noise, or moving of people drawing to the cityward, then, incontinent, they should give them knowledge, whereby they might the sooner gather together, each of them under their own banner, in a certain place, the which they had advised for the same intent. And in this tribulation they abode in the said suburbs by the space of four weeks, and in all that season they durst not go far fro their harness, nor fro their lodgings, saving a certain of the chief lords among them, who went to the court to see the king and his council, who made them right good cheer. For, if the said evil adventure had not been, they had sojourned there in great case, for the city and the country about them was right plentiful. For, all the time of six weeks that the king and the lords of England, and mo than sixty thousand men of war, lay there, the victuals were never the dearer; for ever they had a penny worth for a penny, as well as other had before they came there; and there was good wine of Gascoign, and of Anjou, and of the Rhine, and plenty thereof; with right good cheap, as well of pollen[8] as of other victuals; and there was daily brought before their lodgings hay, oats, and litter, whereof they were well served for their horses, and at a meetly[9] price." How admirably in this way does the garrulous, graphic, picturesque old chronicler bring before us England and the English five hundred years ago! Immediately after we have an equally curious picture of the Scots, and how they went to war, no doubt drawn or at least filled up[Pg 66] from Froissart's own observation when he visited the northern part of the island some years later. About four weeks after the fray at York, the army set out and marched forward to the city of Durham, "a day's journey within the country called Northumberland, the which at that time was a savage and a wild country, full of deserts and mountains, and a right poor country of everything saving of beasts; through the which there runneth a river, full of flint and great stones, called the water of Tyne." It was now found that the Scots had effected the passage of the Tyne without being noticed. They had passed at Haydon, about fifteen miles above Newcastle. "These Scottish men," says Froissart, "are right hardy, and sore travelling in harness and in wars. For, when they will enter into England, within a day and a night they will drive their whole host twenty-four mile, for they are all on horseback, without it be the traundals and laggers of the host, who follow after a-foot. The knights and squires are well horsed, and the common people and other on little hackneys and geldings; and they carry with them no carts nor chariots, for the diversities of the mountains that they must pass through in the country of Northumberland. They take with them no purveyance of bread nor wine, for their usage and soberness is such in time of war that they will pass in the journey a great long time with flesh half sodden, without bread, and drink of the river water without wine; and they neither care for pots nor pans, for they seethe beasts in their own skins. They are ever sure to find plenty of beasts in the country that they will pass through. Therefore they carry with them none other purveyance, but on their horse, between the saddle and the panel, they truss a broad plate of metal, and behind the saddle they will have a little sack full of oatmeal, to the intent that, when they have eaten of the sodden flesh, then they lay this plate on the fire, and temper a little of the oatmeal; and, when the plate is hot, they cast of the thin paste thereon, and so make a little cake, in manner of a cracknel or biscuit, and that they eat to comfort withal their stomachs. Wherefore it is no great marvel[Pg 67] though they make greater journeys than other people do. And in this manner were the Scots entered into the said country, and wasted and brent all about as they went, and took great number of beasts. They were to the number of four thousand men of arms, knights, and squires, mounted on good horses; and other ten thousand men of war were armed after their guise, right hardy and fierce, mounted on little hackneys, the which were never tied nor kept at hard meat, but let go to pasture in the fields and bushes." The account that follows of the movements and counter-movements of the two hosts is one of the most curious and characteristic passages in Froissart, and a pretty full abstract of it will introduce the reader better than can be done in any other way both to Edward and his historian, and to at least one leading department of life in England in the fourteenth century. The English, infuriated by what they saw and heard of the devastations of the invaders, followed them for two whole days by the guidance of the smoke that marked their destructive course; but, although they were wasting, burning, and pillaging only five miles ahead, they could not be overtaken. It was then determined to make for the Tyne, and, crossing that river, to wait on its northern bank for the return of the Scots. The march or ride is described as in the highest degree toilsome and dangerous, many men and horses being lost among the mountains, rocks, and marshes, and through the continual alarms that were occasioned by the shouting of those that were foremost at the harts, hinds, and other savage beasts, they were continually starting, when those in the rear thought they had got engaged with the enemy, upon which they hastened to their assistance over all impediments, "with helm and shield ready appareled to fight, with spear and sword ready in hand, without tarrying for father, brother, or companion." "Thus," continues the chronicler, "rode forth all that day the young King of England, by mountains and depths, without finding any highway, town, or village. And, when it was against night, they came to the river of Tyne, to the[Pg 68] same place whereas the Scots had passed over into England, weening to them that they must needs repass again the same way. Then the King of England and his host passed over the same river, with such guides as he had, with much pain and travail, for the passage was full of great stones. And, when they were over, they lodged them that night by the river side. And by that time the sun was gone to rest, and there was but few among them that had either axe or hook, or any instrument to cut down any wood to make their lodgings withal; and there were many that had lost their own company, and wist not where they were. Some of the foot-men were far behind, and wist not well what way to take; but such as knew best the country said plainly they had ridden the same day twenty-four English miles; for they rode as fast as they might, without any rest, but at such passages as they could not choose. All this night they lay by this river side, still in their harness, holding their horses by their reins in their hands, for they wist not whereunto to tie them: thus their horses did eat no meat of all that night nor day before; they had neither oats nor forage for them: nor the people of the host had no sustenance of all that day nor night, but every man his loaf that he had carried behind him, the which was sore wet with the sweat of the horses; nor they drank none other drink but the water of the river, without it were some of the lords that had carried bottles with them; nor they had no fire nor light, for they had nothing to make light withal, without it were some of the lords that had torches brought with them. In this great trouble and danger they passed all that night; their armour still on their backs, their horses ready saddled." All the next day it rained so that neither sustenance nor forage could be procured, so that they themselves were forced to fast; and their horses had nothing but leaves of trees and herbs. About noon they learned from some country people that they were fourteen miles from Newcastle and eleven from Carlisle, and that these were the nearest towns. Upon this it was determined to send to Newcastle: and there was a cry, we are told, in the king's[Pg 69] name made in that town, that whosoever would bring bread, or wine, or any other victual, should be paid for it forthwith at a good price; it being at the same time proclaimed that the king and his host would not depart from the place where they were till they had heard some tidings of the enemy's whereabout. By the next day at noon the purveyors returned with what they had been able to procure in this way: it was not over much. But "with them," it is added, "came other folks of the country, with little nags, charged with bread, evil baken, in paniers, and small pear wine in barrels, and other victual, to sell in the host, whereby great part of the host were well refreshed and eased." In this state they remained for eight days, including the three in which they had been in a manner without bread, wine, candle or other light, fodder, forage, or any manner of purveyance; the scarcity even after this being still so great that a penny loaf of bread was sold for sixpence, and a gallon of wine, that was worth but sixpence, for six groats. "And yet, for all that, there was such rage of famine, that each took victuals out of other's hands, whereby there rose divers battles and strifes between sundry companions; and yet beside all these mischiefs it never ceased to rain all the whole week, whereby their saddles, panels, and countersingles were all rotten and broken, and most part of their horses hurt on their backs; nor they had naught wherewith to shoe them that were unshod, nor they had nothing to cover themself withal from the rain and cold, but green bushes and their armour; nor they had nothing to make fire withal, but green boughs, the which would not burn because of the rain." All this while they had heard nothing of the enemy; discontent began to spread in the camp; it was determined to repass the river, and proclamation was made that whosoever should first bring to the king certain information of where the Scots were should be made a knight and have land to the value of a hundred pounds a year settled upon him and his heirs for ever. On the fourth day, about three in the afternoon, a squire, one of fifteen or sixteen who had set forth in the hope of winning this reward,[Pg 70] came riding at a quick pace up to the king, and, beginning, "An it like your grace, I have brought you perfect tidings of the Scots your enemies," stated that he had actually been taken prisoner by them, and brought before the lords of their host, who, when he told them his object, had dismissed him without ransom, that he might inform Edward that they were only three miles off, stationed on a great mountain, and as desirous to find and fight with the English as the English could be to meet with them. The name of the lucky squire was Thomas de Rokesby. "As soon," continues our author, "as the king had heard this tidings, he assembled all his host in a fair meadow to pasture their horses; and besides there was a little abbey, the which was all brent, called in the days of King Arthur, Le Blanch Land. There the king confessed him, and every man made him ready. The king caused many masses to be sung, to houzel all such as had devotion thereto; and incontinent he assigned a hundred pounds sterling of rent to the squire that had brought him tidings of the Scots, according to his promise, and made him knight with his own hands before all the host. And, when they had well rested them,[10] and taken repast, then the trumpet sounded to horse, and every man mounted, and the banners and standers[11] followed this new-made knight, every battle by itself in good order, through mountains and dales, ranged as well as they might, ever ready appareled to fight; and they rode and made such haste that about noon they were so near the Scots that each of them might clearly see other." The Scots were posted in three battles, or divisions, on the lower part of the hill, with a rocky river at their feet, and precipitous rocks on each flank. This new river was the higher part of the Wear, and the Scots were on its right or south bank, not far from Stanhope. The English commanders immediately drew up their forces on their own or the north side. "And when their battles were set in good order, then some of the lords of England brought their young king a horseback before all the battles of the[Pg 71] host, to the intent to give thereby the more courage to all his people; the which king in full goodly manner prayed and required them right graciously that every man would pain them to do their best, to save his honour and common weal of his realm. And it was commanded upon pain of death, that none should go before the marshals' banners, nor break their array, without they were commanded. And then the king commanded that they should advance toward their enemies fair and easily." The Scots, however, though formally invited by a deputation of heralds-at-arms to come down from their vantage ground, and have the battle fought fairly in the plain, either that or the following day, as they might themselves choose, wisely refused to stir. "Sirs," they answered, "your king and his lords see well how we be here in this realm, and have brent and wasted the country as we have passed through; and, if they be displeased therewith, let them amend it when they will, for here we will abide so long as it shall please us." On this it was resolved by the English to remain where they were all that night. It was the night of St. Peter's day, in the beginning of August. They lay in their arms on the hard and stony ground. "They had no stakes nor rods," continues Froissart, "to tie withal their horses, nor forage, nor bush withal to make any fire. And when they were thus lodged, then the Scots caused some of their people to keep still the field whereas they had ordained their battles, and the remnant went to their lodgings, and they made such fires that it was marvel to behold. And between the day and the night they made a marvellous great bruit with blowing of horns all at once, that it seemed properly that all the devils of hell had been there." This mere show and bravado was repeated on both sides for three days, all the fighting being a little skirmishing between small parties that occasionally came forth from either army, and crossed the stream, some on horseback, some on foot; and the English, who learned from their prisoners that the Scots, though they had plenty of beef, were run short of meal, had made up their minds to remain till[Pg 72] famine should force their cautious and unassailable enemy either to fight or surrender. But behold! on the morning of the fourth day, when they looked at the mountain, no Scots were to be seen; they had quietly made off in the middle of the night. About noon, however, they were discovered not far off, upon another mountain, in a still stronger position, by the same river side, having now a great wood on one of their flanks, enabling them to go and come secretly whenever they chose. The English immediately took their station on an eminence over against them,—in Stanhope Park, according to the common account; the enemy were again repeatedly invited to come over and fight fairly in the intermediate plain; but they were deaf to all such proposals; and thus the two hosts remained looking at one another for the long space of eighteen more days. The first night, however, the Lord William Douglas, taking with him about two hundred men of arms, crossed the river at a distant point, and suddenly breaking into the English host about midnight, with the cry of "A Douglas! A Douglas! ye shall all die, thieves of England!" slew or carried off no fewer than three hundred men: the gallant leader spurring on, and still alarming the night with his family battle-cry, had even advanced to the king's tent, two or three of the cords of which he struck asunder before he was driven off. This surprise made the English afterwards keep strict watch and ward. At last the Scots again made their escape during the night; and it was determined to pursue them no farther. The young king is said to have wept bitterly in yielding to this necessity. Before they commenced their retreat, or their return to the south, "diverse of the English host," we are told, mounted on their horses and passed over the river, and came to the mountain whereas the Scots had been, and there they found mo than five hundred great beasts ready slain, because the Scots could not drive them before their host, and because that the English men should have but small profit of them; also there they found three hundred cauldrons made of beasts' skins, with the hair still on them, strained on stakes over[Pg 73] the fire, full of water and full of flesh to be sodden, and more than a thousand spits[12] full of flesh to be roasted; and more than ten thousand old shoes made of raw leather, with the hair still on them, the which the Scots had left behind them; also there they found five poor Englishmen prisoners bound fast to certain trees, and some of their legs broken." On the second day about noon the English army, well nigh worn out with fatigue, reached a great abbey two miles from Durham; on the morrow the king went forward to that city, and visited the venerable old cathedral and made his offering; and here every man found his carriage which he had left thirty-two days before in a wood at midnight, when they first started in pursuit of the Scots. "The burgesses and people of Durham had found and brought them into their town at their own costs and charges. And all these carriages were set in void granges and barns in safeguard, and on every man's carriage his own cognizance or arms, whereby every man might know his own. And the lords and gentlemen were glad when they had thus found their carriages. Thus they abode two days in the city of Durham, and the host roundabout, for they could not all lodge within the city; and there their horses were new shod. And then they took their way to the city of York; and so within three days they came thither, and there the king found the queen his mother, who received him with great joy, and so did all other ladies, damozelles, burgesses, and commons of the city." Before the end of the year a peace was made with Scotland; and in a parliament assembled at York in March following, Edward renounced for himself and his successors all claims of superiority over the crown of that country; and shortly after, his sister the Princess Jane or Joanna (called De la Tour, from having been born in the Tower of London) was carried to Berwick by her mother, and there affianced to David, the Prince of Scotland, as yet only in his fifth year. The great Bruce died within a year after (on the 7th of July, 1329),[Pg 74] and was succeeded by his infant son as David the Second; about two years after whose accession Edward Baliol made a sudden inroad into the country, and got himself crowned at Scone, but was driven out again in a few weeks. In a second invasion, however, in the following year, 1333, in which he was assisted by the English king, the Scots were defeated by Edward, on the 19th of July, in the great battle of Halidon Hill, near Berwick; upon which that town was forced to surrender, nearly every other stronghold in the kingdom immediately followed its example, and the young King David took refuge in France. Baliol, however, whom these events had again seated on the throne, was again driven out within a year; the war was carried on for some years, in the course of which Edward once, in the summer of 1336, proceeded as far north as to Inverness, carrying fire and sword wherever he appeared; but no permanent occupation or subjugation could be effected; as soon as the English army disappeared the Scots were again in arms; in May 1341 David and his queen returned from France; and at last, in the beginning of 1343, a truce was concluded which left the two countries at peace for nearly four years. But long before this time a great domestic revolution had changed every thing at the court of England. The arrogance of Isabella and Mortimer, who had early in the new reign been created Earl of March, and the general conviction of their criminal intimacy, had very soon begun to disgust the nation; and the alarm of a powerful party had been excited by the condemnation and execution, in the beginning of 1330, of Edmund earl of Kent, one of the king's uncles, on pretence of high treason, his real crime being, as was universally believed, that he was hated and dreaded by the favourite. Even Edward himself, now eighteen, was staggered by after-reflection upon this act, though he had been induced, in the persuasion of the earl's guilt, to give his consent to it at the time. Already married, too, and a father, for his son Edward, afterwards so famous as the Black Prince, had been born at Woodstock on the 15th of June,[Pg 75] 1330, he no doubt felt the state of tutelage, or at least of exclusion from all share in the government, in which he was kept by his mother and Mortimer, every day more galling. It is said that the king confided his feelings to the Lord Montacute; and by his advice it was resolved to make an attempt to seize Mortimer at a parliament which was to be held at Nottingham in October. At this parliament the favourite appeared "in such glory and honour," says Stow, "that it was without all comparison. No man durst name him any other than Earl of March; a greater rout of men followed at his heels than on the king's person; he would suffer the king to rise to him, and would walk with the king equally, step by step and cheek by cheek, never preferring the king, but would go foremost himself with his officers." While he took up his own lodgings with the queen and her son in Nottingham Castle, he directed that the highest of the other nobility, including the king's cousin, the Earl of Lancaster, should be lodged in the most distant parts of the town or without it. The conspirators, however, opened their design to Sir William Eland, who had long been keeper of the castle; and he engaged to admit them during the night by a subterraneous passage, leading from a point at a considerable distance on the west side of the rock, of the existence of which Mortimer was not aware. On the night of the 19th of October, accordingly, having concerted their plans with the king, Montacute and his associates entered by this passage. They were joined by Edward on the principal staircase. Advancing in silence, and with their naked swords in their hands, they soon came to a room, where the voice of Mortimer was heard conversing. Leaving the king without, they rushed in, and slaying two knights, who endeavoured to oppose them, laid hold of the earl. The queen, who was in bed in the adjoining chamber, the door of which was open, cried out "Bel filz, Bel filz, Ayez pitié de gentil Mortimer" (Fair son, fair son, have pity upon gentle Mortimer); she then rose, and, rushing into the room, passionately exclaimed that he was a worthy knight, her well-beloved cousin,[Pg 76] her dearest friend; but he was quickly secured and hurried off. At a parliament held at Westminster about a month after, he was condemned, with little form of trial, to die the death of a traitor; and he and one of his confederates were hanged together at the Elms at Tyburn, on the 29th of November. "He hung," Stow tells us, "two days and two nights by the king's commandment, and then was buried in the Grey Friars' Church," now Christ's Hospital, in Newgate Street. Yet Mortimer's attainder was reversed in 1352, and his honours restored to his grandson; his great-granddaughter married Lionel Duke of Clarence, the third son of Edward III.; his great-great-granddaughter and ultimately sole heir, Ann Mortimer, by her marriage with Richard Plantagenet Earl of Cambridge, conveyed her right to the crown thence derived to the House of York; her grandson mounted the throne as Edward IV.; and it has been occupied ever since the death of Henry VII. by her descendants. As for Queen Isabella, she was, upon her fall from power, reduced to an income of 3000l. a year (which was afterwards increased to 4000l.), and ordered to confine herself in what some authorities call her manor of Risings near London, others Rising Castle, on the coast of Norfolk, where once a year her son paid her a visit of ceremony, and where she survived almost forgotten by the world for nearly eight and twenty years. She died on the 22nd of August, 1358, and was then buried in the choir of the same church of the Grey Friars where the body of Mortimer had been laid. In 1328, an event occurred which suddenly gave a new direction to the exertions and ambition of the English king, and changed altogether the policy of the remainder of his reign. Hitherto, the object that may be said to have mainly occupied him had been that inherited from his father and his grandfather, the subjugation of Scotland; his efforts were now to be withdrawn to a much more extraordinary, daring, and magnificent scheme, that of the conquest of France. Upon this attempt he adventured on the strength of a right which he professed to derive through his mother. Isabella, it will be recollected,[Pg 77] was the daughter of the French king Philip IV. Philip died in 1314, and was succeeded by his eldest son Louis X. (styled Le Hutin, or the Quarrelsome). Louis died in 1316, and was in the first instance succeeded by a posthumous son, named John, who, however, as he lived only a few days, is not usually reckoned among the kings of France. It was then determined, for the first time, that the French crown, by what was called the Salic law, did not descend to females; and, to the exclusion of the daughter of Louis, Joanna, Countess of Evreux, afterwards Queen of Navarre, his brother became king as Philip V. (surnamed the Long). In like manner, when Philip died in 1322, although he left four daughters, he was succeeded by his next brother, Charles IV. (styled Le Bel, or the Fair). The event which happened in 1328, and which we have described as having been attended with important consequences both to France and to England, was the death of Charles IV. He also left two daughters, but no son. In these circumstances, according to the two last precedents, it seemed that the heir to the crown was to be sought for in the nearest male who could claim through an unbroken male descent; the principle apparently being, as in other cases in which male descent only was recognised, that females should be regarded as nullities, or should not be introduced into the genealogical tree at all. The individual thus circumstanced was indisputably Philip of Valois, whose father, Charles of Valois, was the second son of Philip III. (the Hardy), and the younger brother of Philip IV. (the Fair). Against his right, however, Edward III. set up a principle or rule of succession which was at least new. He admitted that females were excluded from actually reigning in France, otherwise the Queen of Navarre would have succeeded her father Louis X., and would have excluded not only both himself and his present competitor, but also the two last kings, Philip V. and Charles IV. But he contended that, although females could not be called to the throne themselves, they nevertheless conveyed a right of succession to their male descendants; and that he therefore,[Pg 78] as the grandson, through his mother, of Philip IV., had a preferable claim to Philip of Valois, who was only the grandson of Philip III. If this had been the whole case, Edward's pretensions might have had some plausibility; it might have been conceived and understood how, in conformity with the general principles of feudalism, a female, though excluded in her own person from a certain office or possession, might still serve as a link for transmitting a right to it to her male descendant. She might be held only as it were to step aside and allow him to take her place in a function which her sex was deemed to disqualify her from discharging. But the real weakness and inadmissibility of Edward's claim lay in the necessity he was under of qualifying this principle upon which he founded it by a limitation entirely opposed to the genius and spirit of the feudal system, and which would have made the law of descent a self-contradictory mass of confusion and absurdity. For, if a female universally might transmit a right which she could not herself exercise or enjoy to her male descendant, then in the present case, before Edward, who was the grandson, through a female, of Philip IV., would come all the existing and possible male descendants of the three subsequent kings, Louis X., Philip V., and Charles IV., all of whom left daughters, though no sons. To this conclusion the principle upon which Edward took his stand, stated broadly and without limitation, would incontrovertibly have led. He therefore drew an ingenious distinction, and maintained his own right as the son of the daughter of Philip IV. to be preferable to that of the son of any daughter of any of the kings that had since reigned, on the ground that he alone had been born in the lifetime of his grandfather. The novelty and gratuitous nature of this assumption would alone have formed its sufficient answer and refutation. But it was fraught with the most absurd and inconvenient consequences. If there be one principle which more than another may be said to belong to the essence of the feudal system of descent, it is that the position and rights of a line in relation to other lines are not to[Pg 79] be affected by the date of the birth of any individual forming a link of it. Thus, no priority of birth can enable a nephew to come in before a son. So absolutely does this principle operate, that, even if there be no son in existence at the time of the death of a married man, his next relation does not inherit, or only inherits conditionally, till the time has passed within which it is possible that his widow should bring him a son. We had an instance in the case of the descent of the English crown on the death of the late king, William IV., when the present queen assumed the government at first only as it were provisionally, or with reservation of the rights of any possible unborn cousin. But the claim set up to the crown of France by Edward III., on the death of Charles IV., would have contravened this essential principle in the most flagrant and wholesale manner. It would have excluded in his favour more than half a dozen lines, all otherwise entitled to come in before that to which he belonged—those, namely, of the descendants, actual or possible, of the two daughters of Charles IV., of the four daughters of Philip V., and of the daughter of Louis X., all of which kings had reigned since his ancestor Philip IV. And this transposition it would have made permanently; these seven lines would all have been extruded out of their proper places by his for ever, or at any rate until some one of them, possibly the last of all, should be again suddenly lifted over the heads of all the rest, and made the first, by the operation of the same strange principle which Edward contended had now produced that effect in his favour. Strange as were the principles or grounds upon which Edward advanced his claim to the French crown, his means of enforcing it seemed at least proportionally inadequate, and his chances of success still more slight and visionary. It was not a case of the heads of two great national parties, dividing between them the adherence and support of the community. Edward had no party in France; the kingdom the succession to which was disputed was wholly with his opponent. The English crown had even been stripped in the course of the last[Pg 80] century and a half of the greater part of the territories which it anciently possessed in France. Bretagne, Normandy, Anjou, Maine, and Touraine had all been wrested from it in the disastrous reign of John; and the loss of Poitou had followed in that of his equally unfortunate son Henry III. Of all the vast continental possessions of that great king the second Henry, there remained only the Duchy of Aquitaine or Guienne; and even that had fallen more than once into the hands of the French monarchs, and the prevalent popular feeling was probably already more French than English. Edward's bold project, therefore, was nothing less than to effect the conquest of France by the sole force of England; and that, too, while he had already upon his hands the war with Scotland, the object of which was also the subjugation of that kingdom, and the annexation of its crown to his own. The latter scheme, indeed, he found himself obliged to abandon soon after he had involved himself in his contest with France. But Scotland continued, nevertheless, for a time to divide his attention, if not his ambition; and at least, it may be said, to occupy his left arm. Strangest of all was the measure of success he attained. In September, 1339, he entered France from Flanders, with a small army of fifteen thousand men, and immediately proceeded to lay waste the country. In January following, by the advice of his ally Jacob von Artaveldt, the famous brewer of Ghent, and leader of the democratic interest in Flanders, he publicly assumed the title of King of France, and quartered the French lilies with the English lions. On the 24th of June, 1340, he obtained a great naval victory over the fleet of Philip off Blakenberg. Hostilities were then for some time suspended: but arms were resumed in the summer of 1345 with much more formidable preparations on both sides. On the 26th of August, 1346, was won the ever memorable victory of Creci by seven or eight thousand English from a hundred or a hundred and twenty thousand French, in which eighty of the enemy's banners were captured, while in the carnage of that and the following[Pg 81] day above thirty thousand of them were slain, including twelve hundred knights and eleven persons of princely rank, among the rest the aged John, King of Bohemia, from whom the Princes of Wales are said, though doubts have been lately cast upon the old story, to have borrowed their plume of three ostrich feathers, with the motto Ich dien (I serve). The young Prince of Wales, called the Black Prince from the colour of his armour, shared, at any rate, among the foremost, boy as he was (he had just entered his fifteenth year), in the peril and glory of the day. Assisted by the Earls of Warwick and Oxford, he commanded the first division of the little army which bore the brunt of the battle. The king himself remained with the reserve. Pressed by the multitude of the enemy, "they with the prince," says Froissart, "sent a messenger to the king, who was on a little windmill hill. Then the knight said to the king, Sir, the Earl of Warwick and the Earl of Oxford, Sir Reynold Cobham, and other such as be about the prince your son, are fiercely fought withal and are sore handled; wherefore they desire you that you and your battle will come and aid them; for if the Frenchmen increase, as they doubt they will, your son and they shall have much ado. Then the king said, Is my son dead or hurt, or on the earth felled? No, Sir, quoth the knight; but he is hardly matched; wherefore he hath need of your aid. Well, said the king, return to him, and to them that sent you hither, and say to them that they send no more to me for any adventure that falleth, as long as my son is alive; and also say to them that they suffer him this day to win his spurs; for, if God be pleased, I will this journey[13] be his, and the honour thereof, and to them that be about him." The king's answer, when it was brought to them, only gave new life and courage to the heroic combatants. "This Saturday," the old chronicler further writes, "the Englishmen never departed fro their battles for chasing of any man, but kept still their field, and ever defended themself against all such as came to assail them. This battle ended about evensong[Pg 82] time. On this Saturday, when the night was come, and that the Englishmen heard no more noise of the Frenchmen, then they reputed themself to have the victory, and the Frenchmen to be discomfited, slain, and fled away. Then they made great fires, and lighted up torches and candles, because it was very dark. Then the king availed[14] down from the little hill whereas he stood, and of all that day then his helm came never off on his head. Then he went with all his battle to his son the prince, and embraced him in his arms and kissed him, and said, Fair son, God give you good perseverance: ye are my good son: thus ye have acquitted you nobly: ye are worthy to keep a realm. The prince inclined himself to the earth, honouring the king his father. This night they thanked God for their good adventure, and made no boast thereof; for the king would that no man should be proud, or make boast, but every man humbly to thank God." As for Philip of Valois, he had only been able to escape with his life from this disastrous field. "In the evening," says Froissart, "the French king, who had left about him no mo than a threescore persons, one and other, whereof Sir John of Hainault was one, who had remounted once the king, for his horse was slain with an arrow, then he said to the king, Sir, depart hence, for it is time; lese[15] not yourself wilfully; if ye have loss at this time, ye shall recover it again another season. And so he took the king's horse by the bridle, and led him away in a manner per force. Then the king rode till he came to the castle of La Broyes; the gate was closed, because it was by this time dark. Then the king called the captain, who came to the walls, and said, Who is it that calleth there this time of night? Then the king said, Open your gate quickly, for this is the fortune of France. The captain knew that it was the king, and opened the gate, and let down the bridge. Then the king entered, and he had with him but five barons, Sir John of Hainault, Sir Charles of Montmorency, the Lord of Beauvieu, the Lord Daubigny, and the Lord[Pg 83] of Montford. The king would not tarry there, but drank and departed thence about midnight; and so rode by such guides as knew the country, till he came in the morning to Amiens, and there he rested." Within two months after the defeat and rout of the French at Creci, another great victory broke the power of the Scots. As soon as King David found Edward fairly engaged in his continental war, he made preparations for crossing the borders. Setting out from Perth at the head of an army of three thousand men-at-arms, and thirty thousand others mounted on hackneys, he advanced by Edinburgh and Roxburgh, entered Cumberland, took the pile, or castle, of Liddel, and then, burning and wasting as he passed, directed his course into the bishopric. The energetic English king allowed no one of his family to be idle, any more than himself, and seems to have made it a principle to accustom his sons at the earliest possible age to at least the consciousness of the duties of their high position, and the sense if not the actual exercise of authority and power; he had left the nominal guardianship of the kingdom in the hands of his second son Lionel, a boy only eight years old; the actual charge and direction of affairs he had intrusted to his queen, the admirable Philippa. In those days, when the chivalrous spirit was at its height, heroism was the virtue of both sexes, as well as of all classes; a few years before this, the principal military personage that had figured in a war for the possession of the duchy of Bretagne was the famous Jane, Countess de Montfort; while her husband, one of the rival claimants, lay fast bound in a French prison, she took what would have been his place in the command of fortresses, at the head of armies, and in the thick of battles;[16] and now Queen[Pg 84] Philippa was to do the same thing in the absence of Edward. The English force that had been hurriedly assembled to meet the Scots amounted to a body of fifteen or sixteen thousand men, and a considerable part of it was composed of the clergy of the northern counties—the class of persons that could be most easily spared or got at, and quite as ready and as apt for the work to be done as any others. "The queen of England," says Froissart, "who desired to defend her country, came to Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and there tarried for her men, who came daily fro all parts. When the Scots knew that the Englishmen assembled at Newcastle, they drew thitherward, and their couriers came running before the town; and at their returning they brent certain small hamlets thereabout, so that the smoke thereof came into the town of Newcastle; some of the Englishmen would a issued out to have fought with them that made the fires, but the captains would not suffer them to issue out." The two armies, however, at last encountered, on the 17th of October, at Nevil's Cross, in the neighbourhood of the city of Durham. On the English side, after the divisions were all drawn up in array—the first under the command of the Bishop of Durham, the second under that of the Archbishop of York, the third under that of the Bishop of London, the fourth under that of the Archbishop[Pg 85] of Canterbury, each warlike prelate, however, having a lay lord as his coadjutor—"the queen," Froissart informs us, "went fro battle to battle, desiring them to do their devoir,[17] to defend the honour of her lord the King of England, and, in the name of God, every man to be of good heart and courage, promising them that, to her power, she would remember them as well, or better, as though her lord the king were there personally. Then the queen departed fro them, recommending them to God and to Saint George. Then, anon after, the battles of the Scots began to set forward, and in like wise so did the Englishmen; then the archers began to shoot on both parties; the shots of the Scots endured but a short space, but the archers of England shot fiercely, so that when the battles approached there was a hard battle; they began at nine and endured till noon. The Scots had great axes, sharp and hard, and gave with them many great strokes; howbeit, finally the Englishmen obtained the place and victory." The slaughter was considerable on both sides, but far the greatest on that of the Scots, fifteen thousand of whom, including many of their chief nobility, were left dead on the field. The greatest loss of all, however, was the capture of their young and gallant king. Refusing to fly, he had, after receiving two dangerous wounds from arrows, one of which pierced his head, been dragged or fallen from his horse; but still he fought on; till at last, overpowered by numbers, he was disarmed and carried off by John Copland, a gentleman of Northumberland, who did not, however, secure his prize without a violent struggle, in which the king, deprived of his sword, wounded him with his gauntlet. David Bruce remained in captivity in England for more than ten years. Meanwhile Edward was engaged abroad in the memorable siege of Calais, the garrison of which, after a blockade of nearly a year, was forced to surrender by famine, on the 4th of August, 1347. All our readers are no doubt familiar with the scene of the appearance in the English camp of Eustace de St. Pierre and his five fellow-townsmen,[Pg 86] come to offer themselves, barefoot and bare-headed, and with halters about their necks, as sacrifices to appease the anger of their long-baffled conqueror, in which Queen Philippa again shines forth so nobly. The story rests upon the authority of Froissart, but has no air of improbability or even of much fanciful embellishment. When Sir Walter Manny, we are told, "presented these burgesses to the king, they kneeled down, and held up their hands and said, 'Gentle king, behold here, we six, who were burgesses of Calais, and great merchants, we have brought to you the keys of the town and of the castle, and we submit ourself clearly into your will and pleasure, to save the residue of the people of Calais, who have suffered great pain: Sir, we beseech your grace to have mercy and pity on us through your high nobless.' Then all the earls and barons, and other that were there, wept for pity. The king looked felly on them, for greatly he hated the people of Calais for the great damages and displeasures they had done him on the sea before. Then he commanded their heads to be stricken off. Then every man required the king for mercy, but he would hear no man in that behalf. Then Sir Walter of Manny said, 'Ah, noble king, for God's sake, refrain your courage; ye have the name of sovereign nobless, therefore now do not a thing that should blemish your renown, nor to give cause to some to speak of you villainy; every man will say it is a great cruelty to put to death such honest[18] persons, who by their own wills put themself into your grace to save their country.' Then the king wried away from him, and commanded to send for the hangman, and said, 'They of Calais had caused many of my men to be slain; wherefore these shall die in like wise.' The queen, being great with child, kneeled, down, and sore weeping said, 'Ah! gentle sir, sith I passed the sea in great peril, I have desired nothing of you: therefore now I humbly require[19] you, in the honour of the son of the Virgin Mary, and for the love of me, that ye will take mercy of these six burgesses.' The king beheld the queen, and stood still in a study a[Pg 87] space, and then said, 'Ah, dame, I would ye had been as now in some other place; ye make such request to me that I cannot deny you; wherefore I give them to you to do your pleasure with them.' Then the queen caused them to be brought into her chamber, and made the halters to be taken fro their necks, and caused them to be new clothed, and gave them their dinner at their leisure; and then she gave each of them six nobles, and made them to be brought out of the host in safeguard, and set at their liberty." Calais, thus won, remained an English town for more than two centuries—till it was lost in the reign of Mary, in the year 1558. The remaining course of the war with France may be very summarily sketched. After the fall of Calais a succession of armistices or truces suspended hostilities for about six years. Meanwhile King Philip had died in 1350, and been succeeded by his eldest son John. By this time Edward had come to perceive how little impression his brilliant but insulated successes had made upon the real strength of his adversary—how little a way—or, rather, no way at all—he had advanced towards the conquest of France by the mere winning of a great battle or two, and the capture and retention of a single town. In the end of the year 1353, therefore, he renewed more formally an offer which he had already made to Philip, of renouncing his claim to the French crown on condition of being acknowledged as sovereign of Guienne, Poitou, and the other territories in France which the English kings had hitherto held as vassals. The negotiations consumed some time, but ended in nothing: several months were then spent in preparations for the renewal of the war; at last, in October, 1355, the Black Prince, who had been for some years intrusted with the government of Guienne, took the field at the head of an army of sixty thousand men, with which, advancing from his capital of Bordeaux, he made a circuit through Armagnac and Languedoc, spreading devastation wherever he went, and laying, it is affirmed, more than five hundred towns and villages in ashes in the space of seven weeks. In the summer of the next year he proceeded[Pg 88] to repeat the same experiment in a different direction: this time the force with which he set out amounted to only about twelve thousand men, and with these he boldly crossed the Garonne, and penetrated into the heart of France. For some weeks he pursued his destructive course without opposition; but, at last, when making for Poictiers, and within a short distance of that city, he suddenly found himself enveloped by a French army, commanded by King John, more than four times as numerous as his own. Then, on the 19th of September, was fought the battle of Poictiers, making that other name worthy to be associated for ever in story and in song with Creci, of which both the extremity of peril and the glorious deliverance were now more than renewed. The French host was beaten back at all points, and in the end utterly routed, scattered, and annihilated by Prince Edward and his handful of English. Most of the chief nobility of France were either slain or captured: King John himself fell into the hands of the victors. The illustrious captive was treated with noble courtesy both by the Black Prince and by the king his father; but, although the extraordinary fortune of Edward had now placed in his power the persons of the kings of both the countries which he had so long been endeavouring to subdue, it soon appeared that he was still as far from the conquest of either as ever. King David was liberated by a treaty concluded in 1357; and in 1360 peace was made with France by the treaty of Bretigny, in which Edward renounced his claim both to the French crown and to the possession of Normandy, Anjou, Touraine, and Maine, on condition of being acknowledged the full sovereign of Guienne, Poitou, and Ponthieu. This treaty set King John at liberty; but three years after, on finding himself unable to pay the instalments due upon the sum that had been agreed upon for his ransom—three million gold crowns—he honourably returned to his imprisonment; and he died in England, in the palace of the Savoy, London, in the beginning of April, 1364. His eldest son immediately mounted the throne of France as Charles V. Charles, from the commencement[Pg 89] of his reign, had betrayed a disposition to extricate himself as soon as an opportunity should occur from the obligations of the treaty of Bretigny, the renunciations stipulated by which had never, in fact, been actually made on either side. Meanwhile the course of circumstances favoured his views. The King of England was no longer the man he had been either in ardour or in energy; his heroic son had also fallen into ill health, the effect of exposure in an expedition....

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