A Child's History of England
Charles Dickens

Part 2 out of 8

have conquered one true heart, than England!

By-and-by, the priests came creeping in with prayers and candles;
and a good knight, named HERLUIN, undertook (which no one else
would do) to convey the body to Caen, in Normandy, in order that it
might be buried in St. Stephen's church there, which the Conqueror
had founded. But fire, of which he had made such bad use in his
life, seemed to follow him of itself in death. A great
conflagration broke out in the town when the body was placed in the
church; and those present running out to extinguish the flames, it
was once again left alone.

It was not even buried in peace. It was about to be let down, in
its Royal robes, into a tomb near the high altar, in presence of a
great concourse of people, when a loud voice in the crowd cried
out, 'This ground is mine! Upon it, stood my father's house. This
King despoiled me of both ground and house to build this church.
In the great name of GOD, I here forbid his body to be covered with
the earth that is my right!' The priests and bishops present,
knowing the speaker's right, and knowing that the King had often
denied him justice, paid him down sixty shillings for the grave.
Even then, the corpse was not at rest. The tomb was too small, and
they tried to force it in. It broke, a dreadful smell arose, the
people hurried out into the air, and, for the third time, it was
left alone.

Where were the Conqueror's three sons, that they were not at their
father's burial? Robert was lounging among minstrels, dancers, and
gamesters, in France or Germany. Henry was carrying his five
thousand pounds safely away in a convenient chest he had got made.
William the Red was hurrying to England, to lay hands upon the
Royal treasure and the crown.


WILLIAM THE RED, in breathless haste, secured the three great forts
of Dover, Pevensey, and Hastings, and made with hot speed for
Winchester, where the Royal treasure was kept. The treasurer
delivering him the keys, he found that it amounted to sixty
thousand pounds in silver, besides gold and jewels. Possessed of
this wealth, he soon persuaded the Archbishop of Canterbury to
crown him, and became William the Second, King of England.

Rufus was no sooner on the throne, than he ordered into prison
again the unhappy state captives whom his father had set free, and
directed a goldsmith to ornament his father's tomb profusely with
gold and silver. It would have been more dutiful in him to have
attended the sick Conqueror when he was dying; but England itself,
like this Red King, who once governed it, has sometimes made
expensive tombs for dead men whom it treated shabbily when they
were alive.

The King's brother, Robert of Normandy, seeming quite content to be
only Duke of that country; and the King's other brother, Fine-
Scholar, being quiet enough with his five thousand pounds in a
chest; the King flattered himself, we may suppose, with the hope of
an easy reign. But easy reigns were difficult to have in those
days. The turbulent Bishop ODO (who had blessed the Norman army at
the Battle of Hastings, and who, I dare say, took all the credit of
the victory to himself) soon began, in concert with some powerful
Norman nobles, to trouble the Red King.

The truth seems to be that this bishop and his friends, who had
lands in England and lands in Normandy, wished to hold both under
one Sovereign; and greatly preferred a thoughtless good-natured
person, such as Robert was, to Rufus; who, though far from being an
amiable man in any respect, was keen, and not to be imposed upon.
They declared in Robert's favour, and retired to their castles
(those castles were very troublesome to kings) in a sullen humour.
The Red King, seeing the Normans thus falling from him, revenged
himself upon them by appealing to the English; to whom he made a
variety of promises, which he never meant to perform - in
particular, promises to soften the cruelty of the Forest Laws; and
who, in return, so aided him with their valour, that ODO was
besieged in the Castle of Rochester, and forced to abandon it, and
to depart from England for ever: whereupon the other rebellious
Norman nobles were soon reduced and scattered.

Then, the Red King went over to Normandy, where the people suffered
greatly under the loose rule of Duke Robert. The King's object was
to seize upon the Duke's dominions. This, the Duke, of course,
prepared to resist; and miserable war between the two brothers
seemed inevitable, when the powerful nobles on both sides, who had
seen so much of war, interfered to prevent it. A treaty was made.
Each of the two brothers agreed to give up something of his claims,
and that the longer-liver of the two should inherit all the
dominions of the other. When they had come to this loving
understanding, they embraced and joined their forces against Fine-
Scholar; who had bought some territory of Robert with a part of his
five thousand pounds, and was considered a dangerous individual in

St. Michael's Mount, in Normandy (there is another St. Michael's
Mount, in Cornwall, wonderfully like it), was then, as it is now, a
strong place perched upon the top of a high rock, around which,
when the tide is in, the sea flows, leaving no road to the
mainland. In this place, Fine-Scholar shut himself up with his
soldiers, and here he was closely besieged by his two brothers. At
one time, when he was reduced to great distress for want of water,
the generous Robert not only permitted his men to get water, but
sent Fine-Scholar wine from his own table; and, on being
remonstrated with by the Red King, said 'What! shall we let our own
brother die of thirst? Where shall we get another, when he is
gone?' At another time, the Red King riding alone on the shore of
the bay, looking up at the Castle, was taken by two of Fine-
Scholar's men, one of whom was about to kill him, when he cried
out, 'Hold, knave! I am the King of England!' The story says that
the soldier raised him from the ground respectfully and humbly, and
that the King took him into his service. The story may or may not
be true; but at any rate it is true that Fine-Scholar could not
hold out against his united brothers, and that he abandoned Mount
St. Michael, and wandered about - as poor and forlorn as other
scholars have been sometimes known to be.

The Scotch became unquiet in the Red King's time, and were twice
defeated - the second time, with the loss of their King, Malcolm,
and his son. The Welsh became unquiet too. Against them, Rufus
was less successful; for they fought among their native mountains,
and did great execution on the King's troops. Robert of Normandy
became unquiet too; and, complaining that his brother the King did
not faithfully perform his part of their agreement, took up arms,
and obtained assistance from the King of France, whom Rufus, in the
end, bought off with vast sums of money. England became unquiet
too. Lord Mowbray, the powerful Earl of Northumberland, headed a
great conspiracy to depose the King, and to place upon the throne,
STEPHEN, the Conqueror's near relative. The plot was discovered;
all the chief conspirators were seized; some were fined, some were
put in prison, some were put to death. The Earl of Northumberland
himself was shut up in a dungeon beneath Windsor Castle, where he
died, an old man, thirty long years afterwards. The Priests in
England were more unquiet than any other class or power; for the
Red King treated them with such small ceremony that he refused to
appoint new bishops or archbishops when the old ones died, but kept
all the wealth belonging to those offices in his own hands. In
return for this, the Priests wrote his life when he was dead, and
abused him well. I am inclined to think, myself, that there was
little to choose between the Priests and the Red King; that both
sides were greedy and designing; and that they were fairly matched.

The Red King was false of heart, selfish, covetous, and mean. He
had a worthy minister in his favourite, Ralph, nicknamed - for
almost every famous person had a nickname in those rough days -
Flambard, or the Firebrand. Once, the King being ill, became
penitent, and made ANSELM, a foreign priest and a good man,
Archbishop of Canterbury. But he no sooner got well again than he
repented of his repentance, and persisted in wrongfully keeping to
himself some of the wealth belonging to the archbishopric. This
led to violent disputes, which were aggravated by there being in
Rome at that time two rival Popes; each of whom declared he was the
only real original infallible Pope, who couldn't make a mistake.
At last, Anselm, knowing the Red King's character, and not feeling
himself safe in England, asked leave to return abroad. The Red
King gladly gave it; for he knew that as soon as Anselm was gone,
he could begin to store up all the Canterbury money again, for his
own use.

By such means, and by taxing and oppressing the English people in
every possible way, the Red King became very rich. When he wanted
money for any purpose, he raised it by some means or other, and
cared nothing for the injustice he did, or the misery he caused.
Having the opportunity of buying from Robert the whole duchy of
Normandy for five years, he taxed the English people more than
ever, and made the very convents sell their plate and valuables to
supply him with the means to make the purchase. But he was as
quick and eager in putting down revolt as he was in raising money;
for, a part of the Norman people objecting - very naturally, I
think - to being sold in this way, he headed an army against them
with all the speed and energy of his father. He was so impatient,
that he embarked for Normandy in a great gale of wind. And when
the sailors told him it was dangerous to go to sea in such angry
weather, he replied, 'Hoist sail and away! Did you ever hear of a
king who was drowned?'

You will wonder how it was that even the careless Robert came to
sell his dominions. It happened thus. It had long been the custom
for many English people to make journeys to Jerusalem, which were
called pilgrimages, in order that they might pray beside the tomb
of Our Saviour there. Jerusalem belonging to the Turks, and the
Turks hating Christianity, these Christian travellers were often
insulted and ill used. The Pilgrims bore it patiently for some
time, but at length a remarkable man, of great earnestness and
eloquence, called PETER THE HERMIT, began to preach in various
places against the Turks, and to declare that it was the duty of
good Christians to drive away those unbelievers from the tomb of
Our Saviour, and to take possession of it, and protect it. An
excitement such as the world had never known before was created.
Thousands and thousands of men of all ranks and conditions departed
for Jerusalem to make war against the Turks. The war is called in
history the first Crusade, and every Crusader wore a cross marked
on his right shoulder.

All the Crusaders were not zealous Christians. Among them were
vast numbers of the restless, idle, profligate, and adventurous
spirit of the time. Some became Crusaders for the love of change;
some, in the hope of plunder; some, because they had nothing to do
at home; some, because they did what the priests told them; some,
because they liked to see foreign countries; some, because they
were fond of knocking men about, and would as soon knock a Turk
about as a Christian. Robert of Normandy may have been influenced
by all these motives; and by a kind desire, besides, to save the
Christian Pilgrims from bad treatment in future. He wanted to
raise a number of armed men, and to go to the Crusade. He could
not do so without money. He had no money; and he sold his
dominions to his brother, the Red King, for five years. With the
large sum he thus obtained, he fitted out his Crusaders gallantly,
and went away to Jerusalem in martial state. The Red King, who
made money out of everything, stayed at home, busily squeezing more
money out of Normans and English.

After three years of great hardship and suffering - from shipwreck
at sea; from travel in strange lands; from hunger, thirst, and
fever, upon the burning sands of the desert; and from the fury of
the Turks - the valiant Crusaders got possession of Our Saviour's
tomb. The Turks were still resisting and fighting bravely, but
this success increased the general desire in Europe to join the
Crusade. Another great French Duke was proposing to sell his
dominions for a term to the rich Red King, when the Red King's
reign came to a sudden and violent end.

You have not forgotten the New Forest which the Conqueror made, and
which the miserable people whose homes he had laid waste, so hated.
The cruelty of the Forest Laws, and the torture and death they
brought upon the peasantry, increased this hatred. The poor
persecuted country people believed that the New Forest was
enchanted. They said that in thunder-storms, and on dark nights,
demons appeared, moving beneath the branches of the gloomy trees.
They said that a terrible spectre had foretold to Norman hunters
that the Red King should be punished there. And now, in the
pleasant season of May, when the Red King had reigned almost
thirteen years; and a second Prince of the Conqueror's blood -
another Richard, the son of Duke Robert - was killed by an arrow in
this dreaded Forest; the people said that the second time was not
the last, and that there was another death to come.

It was a lonely forest, accursed in the people's hearts for the
wicked deeds that had been done to make it; and no man save the
King and his Courtiers and Huntsmen, liked to stray there. But, in
reality, it was like any other forest. In the spring, the green
leaves broke out of the buds; in the summer, flourished heartily,
and made deep shades; in the winter, shrivelled and blew down, and
lay in brown heaps on the moss. Some trees were stately, and grew
high and strong; some had fallen of themselves; some were felled by
the forester's axe; some were hollow, and the rabbits burrowed at
their roots; some few were struck by lightning, and stood white and
bare. There were hill-sides covered with rich fern, on which the
morning dew so beautifully sparkled; there were brooks, where the
deer went down to drink, or over which the whole herd bounded,
flying from the arrows of the huntsmen; there were sunny glades,
and solemn places where but little light came through the rustling
leaves. The songs of the birds in the New Forest were pleasanter
to hear than the shouts of fighting men outside; and even when the
Red King and his Court came hunting through its solitudes, cursing
loud and riding hard, with a jingling of stirrups and bridles and
knives and daggers, they did much less harm there than among the
English or Normans, and the stags died (as they lived) far easier
than the people.

Upon a day in August, the Red King, now reconciled to his brother,
Fine-Scholar, came with a great train to hunt in the New Forest.
Fine-Scholar was of the party. They were a merry party, and had
lain all night at Malwood-Keep, a hunting-lodge in the forest,
where they had made good cheer, both at supper and breakfast, and
had drunk a deal of wine. The party dispersed in various
directions, as the custom of hunters then was. The King took with
him only SIR WALTER TYRREL, who was a famous sportsman, and to whom
he had given, before they mounted horse that morning, two fine

The last time the King was ever seen alive, he was riding with Sir
Walter Tyrrel, and their dogs were hunting together.

It was almost night, when a poor charcoal-burner, passing through
the forest with his cart, came upon the solitary body of a dead
man, shot with an arrow in the breast, and still bleeding. He got
it into his cart. It was the body of the King. Shaken and
tumbled, with its red beard all whitened with lime and clotted with
blood, it was driven in the cart by the charcoal-burner next day to
Winchester Cathedral, where it was received and buried.

Sir Walter Tyrrel, who escaped to Normandy, and claimed the
protection of the King of France, swore in France that the Red King
was suddenly shot dead by an arrow from an unseen hand, while they
were hunting together; that he was fearful of being suspected as
the King's murderer; and that he instantly set spurs to his horse,
and fled to the sea-shore. Others declared that the King and Sir
Walter Tyrrel were hunting in company, a little before sunset,
standing in bushes opposite one another, when a stag came between
them. That the King drew his bow and took aim, but the string
broke. That the King then cried, 'Shoot, Walter, in the Devil's
name!' That Sir Walter shot. That the arrow glanced against a
tree, was turned aside from the stag, and struck the King from his
horse, dead.

By whose hand the Red King really fell, and whether that hand
despatched the arrow to his breast by accident or by design, is
only known to GOD. Some think his brother may have caused him to
be killed; but the Red King had made so many enemies, both among
priests and people, that suspicion may reasonably rest upon a less
unnatural murderer. Men know no more than that he was found dead
in the New Forest, which the suffering people had regarded as a
doomed ground for his race.


FINE-SCHOLAR, on hearing of the Red King's death, hurried to
Winchester with as much speed as Rufus himself had made, to seize
the Royal treasure. But the keeper of the treasure who had been
one of the hunting-party in the Forest, made haste to Winchester
too, and, arriving there at about the same time, refused to yield
it up. Upon this, Fine-Scholar drew his sword, and threatened to
kill the treasurer; who might have paid for his fidelity with his
life, but that he knew longer resistance to be useless when he
found the Prince supported by a company of powerful barons, who
declared they were determined to make him King. The treasurer,
therefore, gave up the money and jewels of the Crown: and on the
third day after the death of the Red King, being a Sunday, Fine-
Scholar stood before the high altar in Westminster Abbey, and made
a solemn declaration that he would resign the Church property which
his brother had seized; that he would do no wrong to the nobles;
and that he would restore to the people the laws of Edward the
Confessor, with all the improvements of William the Conqueror. So
began the reign of KING HENRY THE FIRST.

The people were attached to their new King, both because he had
known distresses, and because he was an Englishman by birth and not
a Norman. To strengthen this last hold upon them, the King wished
to marry an English lady; and could think of no other wife than
MAUD THE GOOD, the daughter of the King of Scotland. Although this
good Princess did not love the King, she was so affected by the
representations the nobles made to her of the great charity it
would be in her to unite the Norman and Saxon races, and prevent
hatred and bloodshed between them for the future, that she
consented to become his wife. After some disputing among the
priests, who said that as she had been in a convent in her youth,
and had worn the veil of a nun, she could not lawfully be married -
against which the Princess stated that her aunt, with whom she had
lived in her youth, had indeed sometimes thrown a piece of black
stuff over her, but for no other reason than because the nun's veil
was the only dress the conquering Normans respected in girl or
woman, and not because she had taken the vows of a nun, which she
never had - she was declared free to marry, and was made King
Henry's Queen. A good Queen she was; beautiful, kind-hearted, and
worthy of a better husband than the King.

For he was a cunning and unscrupulous man, though firm and clever.
He cared very little for his word, and took any means to gain his
ends. All this is shown in his treatment of his brother Robert -
Robert, who had suffered him to be refreshed with water, and who
had sent him the wine from his own table, when he was shut up, with
the crows flying below him, parched with thirst, in the castle on
the top of St. Michael's Mount, where his Red brother would have
let him die.

Before the King began to deal with Robert, he removed and disgraced
all the favourites of the late King; who were for the most part
base characters, much detested by the people. Flambard, or
Firebrand, whom the late King had made Bishop of Durham, of all
things in the world, Henry imprisoned in the Tower; but Firebrand
was a great joker and a jolly companion, and made himself so
popular with his guards that they pretended to know nothing about a
long rope that was sent into his prison at the bottom of a deep
flagon of wine. The guards took the wine, and Firebrand took the
rope; with which, when they were fast asleep, he let himself down
from a window in the night, and so got cleverly aboard ship and
away to Normandy.

Now Robert, when his brother Fine-Scholar came to the throne, was
still absent in the Holy Land. Henry pretended that Robert had
been made Sovereign of that country; and he had been away so long,
that the ignorant people believed it. But, behold, when Henry had
been some time King of England, Robert came home to Normandy;
having leisurely returned from Jerusalem through Italy, in which
beautiful country he had enjoyed himself very much, and had married
a lady as beautiful as itself! In Normandy, he found Firebrand
waiting to urge him to assert his claim to the English crown, and
declare war against King Henry. This, after great loss of time in
feasting and dancing with his beautiful Italian wife among his
Norman friends, he at last did.

The English in general were on King Henry's side, though many of
the Normans were on Robert's. But the English sailors deserted the
King, and took a great part of the English fleet over to Normandy;
so that Robert came to invade this country in no foreign vessels,
but in English ships. The virtuous Anselm, however, whom Henry had
invited back from abroad, and made Archbishop of Canterbury, was
steadfast in the King's cause; and it was so well supported that
the two armies, instead of fighting, made a peace. Poor Robert,
who trusted anybody and everybody, readily trusted his brother, the
King; and agreed to go home and receive a pension from England, on
condition that all his followers were fully pardoned. This the
King very faithfully promised, but Robert was no sooner gone than
he began to punish them.

Among them was the Earl of Shrewsbury, who, on being summoned by
the King to answer to five-and-forty accusations, rode away to one
of his strong castles, shut himself up therein, called around him
his tenants and vassals, and fought for his liberty, but was
defeated and banished. Robert, with all his faults, was so true to
his word, that when he first heard of this nobleman having risen
against his brother, he laid waste the Earl of Shrewsbury's estates
in Normandy, to show the King that he would favour no breach of
their treaty. Finding, on better information, afterwards, that the
Earl's only crime was having been his friend, he came over to
England, in his old thoughtless, warm-hearted way, to intercede
with the King, and remind him of the solemn promise to pardon all
his followers.

This confidence might have put the false King to the blush, but it
did not. Pretending to be very friendly, he so surrounded his
brother with spies and traps, that Robert, who was quite in his
power, had nothing for it but to renounce his pension and escape
while he could. Getting home to Normandy, and understanding the
King better now, he naturally allied himself with his old friend
the Earl of Shrewsbury, who had still thirty castles in that
country. This was exactly what Henry wanted. He immediately
declared that Robert had broken the treaty, and next year invaded

He pretended that he came to deliver the Normans, at their own
request, from his brother's misrule. There is reason to fear that
his misrule was bad enough; for his beautiful wife had died,
leaving him with an infant son, and his court was again so
careless, dissipated, and ill-regulated, that it was said he
sometimes lay in bed of a day for want of clothes to put on - his
attendants having stolen all his dresses. But he headed his army
like a brave prince and a gallant soldier, though he had the
misfortune to be taken prisoner by King Henry, with four hundred of
his Knights. Among them was poor harmless Edgar Atheling, who
loved Robert well. Edgar was not important enough to be severe
with. The King afterwards gave him a small pension, which he lived
upon and died upon, in peace, among the quiet woods and fields of

And Robert - poor, kind, generous, wasteful, heedless Robert, with
so many faults, and yet with virtues that might have made a better
and a happier man - what was the end of him? If the King had had
the magnanimity to say with a kind air, 'Brother, tell me, before
these noblemen, that from this time you will be my faithful
follower and friend, and never raise your hand against me or my
forces more!' he might have trusted Robert to the death. But the
King was not a magnanimous man. He sentenced his brother to be
confined for life in one of the Royal Castles. In the beginning of
his imprisonment, he was allowed to ride out, guarded; but he one
day broke away from his guard and galloped of. He had the evil
fortune to ride into a swamp, where his horse stuck fast and he was
taken. When the King heard of it he ordered him to be blinded,
which was done by putting a red-hot metal basin on his eyes.

And so, in darkness and in prison, many years, he thought of all
his past life, of the time he had wasted, of the treasure he had
squandered, of the opportunities he had lost, of the youth he had
thrown away, of the talents he had neglected. Sometimes, on fine
autumn mornings, he would sit and think of the old hunting parties
in the free Forest, where he had been the foremost and the gayest.
Sometimes, in the still nights, he would wake, and mourn for the
many nights that had stolen past him at the gaming-table;
sometimes, would seem to hear, upon the melancholy wind, the old
songs of the minstrels; sometimes, would dream, in his blindness,
of the light and glitter of the Norman Court. Many and many a
time, he groped back, in his fancy, to Jerusalem, where he had
fought so well; or, at the head of his brave companions, bowed his
feathered helmet to the shouts of welcome greeting him in Italy,
and seemed again to walk among the sunny vineyards, or on the shore
of the blue sea, with his lovely wife. And then, thinking of her
grave, and of his fatherless boy, he would stretch out his solitary
arms and weep.

At length, one day, there lay in prison, dead, with cruel and
disfiguring scars upon his eyelids, bandaged from his jailer's
sight, but on which the eternal Heavens looked down, a worn old man
of eighty. He had once been Robert of Normandy. Pity him!

At the time when Robert of Normandy was taken prisoner by his
brother, Robert's little son was only five years old. This child
was taken, too, and carried before the King, sobbing and crying;
for, young as he was, he knew he had good reason to be afraid of
his Royal uncle. The King was not much accustomed to pity those
who were in his power, but his cold heart seemed for the moment to
soften towards the boy. He was observed to make a great effort, as
if to prevent himself from being cruel, and ordered the child to be
taken away; whereupon a certain Baron, who had married a daughter
of Duke Robert's (by name, Helie of Saint Saen), took charge of
him, tenderly. The King's gentleness did not last long. Before
two years were over, he sent messengers to this lord's Castle to
seize the child and bring him away. The Baron was not there at the
time, but his servants were faithful, and carried the boy off in
his sleep and hid him. When the Baron came home, and was told what
the King had done, he took the child abroad, and, leading him by
the hand, went from King to King and from Court to Court, relating
how the child had a claim to the throne of England, and how his
uncle the King, knowing that he had that claim, would have murdered
him, perhaps, but for his escape.

The youth and innocence of the pretty little WILLIAM FITZ-ROBERT
(for that was his name) made him many friends at that time. When
he became a young man, the King of France, uniting with the French
Counts of Anjou and Flanders, supported his cause against the King
of England, and took many of the King's towns and castles in
Normandy. But, King Henry, artful and cunning always, bribed some
of William's friends with money, some with promises, some with
power. He bought off the Count of Anjou, by promising to marry his
eldest son, also named WILLIAM, to the Count's daughter; and indeed
the whole trust of this King's life was in such bargains, and he
believed (as many another King has done since, and as one King did
in France a very little time ago) that every man's truth and honour
can be bought at some price. For all this, he was so afraid of
William Fitz-Robert and his friends, that, for a long time, he
believed his life to be in danger; and never lay down to sleep,
even in his palace surrounded by his guards, without having a sword
and buckler at his bedside.

To strengthen his power, the King with great ceremony betrothed his
eldest daughter MATILDA, then a child only eight years old, to be
the wife of Henry the Fifth, the Emperor of Germany. To raise her
marriage-portion, he taxed the English people in a most oppressive
manner; then treated them to a great procession, to restore their
good humour; and sent Matilda away, in fine state, with the German
ambassadors, to be educated in the country of her future husband.

And now his Queen, Maud the Good, unhappily died. It was a sad
thought for that gentle lady, that the only hope with which she had
married a man whom she had never loved - the hope of reconciling
the Norman and English races - had failed. At the very time of her
death, Normandy and all France was in arms against England; for, so
soon as his last danger was over, King Henry had been false to all
the French powers he had promised, bribed, and bought, and they had
naturally united against him. After some fighting, however, in
which few suffered but the unhappy common people (who always
suffered, whatsoever was the matter), he began to promise, bribe,
and buy again; and by those means, and by the help of the Pope, who
exerted himself to save more bloodshed, and by solemnly declaring,
over and over again, that he really was in earnest this time, and
would keep his word, the King made peace.

One of the first consequences of this peace was, that the King went
over to Normandy with his son Prince William and a great retinue,
to have the Prince acknowledged as his successor by the Norman
Nobles, and to contract the promised marriage (this was one of the
many promises the King had broken) between him and the daughter of
the Count of Anjou. Both these things were triumphantly done, with
great show and rejoicing; and on the twenty-fifth of November, in
the year one thousand one hundred and twenty, the whole retinue
prepared to embark at the Port of Barfleur, for the voyage home.

On that day, and at that place, there came to the King, Fitz-
Stephen, a sea-captain, and said:

'My liege, my father served your father all his life, upon the sea.
He steered the ship with the golden boy upon the prow, in which
your father sailed to conquer England. I beseech you to grant me
the same office. I have a fair vessel in the harbour here, called
The White Ship, manned by fifty sailors of renown. I pray you,
Sire, to let your servant have the honour of steering you in The
White Ship to England!'

'I am sorry, friend,' replied the King, 'that my vessel is already
chosen, and that I cannot (therefore) sail with the son of the man
who served my father. But the Prince and all his company shall go
along with you, in the fair White Ship, manned by the fifty sailors
of renown.'

An hour or two afterwards, the King set sail in the vessel he had
chosen, accompanied by other vessels, and, sailing all night with a
fair and gentle wind, arrived upon the coast of England in the
morning. While it was yet night, the people in some of those ships
heard a faint wild cry come over the sea, and wondered what it was.

Now, the Prince was a dissolute, debauched young man of eighteen,
who bore no love to the English, and had declared that when he came
to the throne he would yoke them to the plough like oxen. He went
aboard The White Ship, with one hundred and forty youthful Nobles
like himself, among whom were eighteen noble ladies of the highest
rank. All this gay company, with their servants and the fifty
sailors, made three hundred souls aboard the fair White Ship.

'Give three casks of wine, Fitz-Stephen,' said the Prince, 'to the
fifty sailors of renown! My father the King has sailed out of the
harbour. What time is there to make merry here, and yet reach
England with the rest?'

'Prince!' said Fitz-Stephen, 'before morning, my fifty and The
White Ship shall overtake the swiftest vessel in attendance on your
father the King, if we sail at midnight!'

Then the Prince commanded to make merry; and the sailors drank out
the three casks of wine; and the Prince and all the noble company
danced in the moonlight on the deck of The White Ship.

When, at last, she shot out of the harbour of Barfleur, there was
not a sober seaman on board. But the sails were all set, and the
oars all going merrily. Fitz-Stephen had the helm. The gay young
nobles and the beautiful ladies, wrapped in mantles of various
bright colours to protect them from the cold, talked, laughed, and
sang. The Prince encouraged the fifty sailors to row harder yet,
for the honour of The White Ship.

Crash! A terrific cry broke from three hundred hearts. It was the
cry the people in the distant vessels of the King heard faintly on
the water. The White Ship had struck upon a rock - was filling -
going down!

Fitz-Stephen hurried the Prince into a boat, with some few Nobles.
'Push off,' he whispered; 'and row to land. It is not far, and the
sea is smooth. The rest of us must die.'

But, as they rowed away, fast, from the sinking ship, the Prince
heard the voice of his sister MARIE, the Countess of Perche,
calling for help. He never in his life had been so good as he was
then. He cried in an agony, 'Row back at any risk! I cannot bear
to leave her!'

They rowed back. As the Prince held out his arms to catch his
sister, such numbers leaped in, that the boat was overset. And in
the same instant The White Ship went down.

Only two men floated. They both clung to the main yard of the
ship, which had broken from the mast, and now supported them. One
asked the other who he was? He said, 'I am a nobleman, GODFREY by
name, the son of GILBERT DE L'AIGLE. And you?' said he. 'I am
BEROLD, a poor butcher of Rouen,' was the answer. Then, they said
together, 'Lord be merciful to us both!' and tried to encourage one
another, as they drifted in the cold benumbing sea on that
unfortunate November night.

By-and-by, another man came swimming towards them, whom they knew,
when he pushed aside his long wet hair, to be Fitz-Stephen. 'Where
is the Prince?' said he. 'Gone! Gone!' the two cried together.
'Neither he, nor his brother, nor his sister, nor the King's niece,
nor her brother, nor any one of all the brave three hundred, noble
or commoner, except we three, has risen above the water!' Fitz-
Stephen, with a ghastly face, cried, 'Woe! woe, to me!' and sunk to
the bottom.

The other two clung to the yard for some hours. At length the
young noble said faintly, 'I am exhausted, and chilled with the
cold, and can hold no longer. Farewell, good friend! God preserve
you!' So, he dropped and sunk; and of all the brilliant crowd, the
poor Butcher of Rouen alone was saved. In the morning, some
fishermen saw him floating in his sheep-skin coat, and got him into
their boat - the sole relater of the dismal tale.

For three days, no one dared to carry the intelligence to the King.
At length, they sent into his presence a little boy, who, weeping
bitterly, and kneeling at his feet, told him that The White Ship
was lost with all on board. The King fell to the ground like a
dead man, and never, never afterwards, was seen to smile.

But he plotted again, and promised again, and bribed and bought
again, in his old deceitful way. Having no son to succeed him,
after all his pains ('The Prince will never yoke us to the plough,
now!' said the English people), he took a second wife - ADELAIS or
ALICE, a duke's daughter, and the Pope's niece. Having no more
children, however, he proposed to the Barons to swear that they
would recognise as his successor, his daughter Matilda, whom, as
she was now a widow, he married to the eldest son of the Count of
Anjou, GEOFFREY, surnamed PLANTAGENET, from a custom he had of
wearing a sprig of flowering broom (called Genąt in French) in his
cap for a feather. As one false man usually makes many, and as a
false King, in particular, is pretty certain to make a false Court,
the Barons took the oath about the succession of Matilda (and her
children after her), twice over, without in the least intending to
keep it. The King was now relieved from any remaining fears of
William Fitz-Robert, by his death in the Monastery of St. Omer, in
France, at twenty-six years old, of a pike-wound in the hand. And
as Matilda gave birth to three sons, he thought the succession to
the throne secure.

He spent most of the latter part of his life, which was troubled by
family quarrels, in Normandy, to be near Matilda. When he had
reigned upward of thirty-five years, and was sixty-seven years old,
he died of an indigestion and fever, brought on by eating, when he
was far from well, of a fish called Lamprey, against which he had
often been cautioned by his physicians. His remains were brought
over to Reading Abbey to be buried.

You may perhaps hear the cunning and promise-breaking of King Henry
the First, called 'policy' by some people, and 'diplomacy' by
others. Neither of these fine words will in the least mean that it
was true; and nothing that is not true can possibly be good.

His greatest merit, that I know of, was his love of learning - I
should have given him greater credit even for that, if it had been
strong enough to induce him to spare the eyes of a certain poet he
once took prisoner, who was a knight besides. But he ordered the
poet's eyes to be torn from his head, because he had laughed at him
in his verses; and the poet, in the pain of that torture, dashed
out his own brains against his prison wall. King Henry the First
was avaricious, revengeful, and so false, that I suppose a man
never lived whose word was less to be relied upon.


THE King was no sooner dead than all the plans and schemes he had
laboured at so long, and lied so much for, crumbled away like a
hollow heap of sand. STEPHEN, whom he had never mistrusted or
suspected, started up to claim the throne.

Stephen was the son of ADELA, the Conqueror's daughter, married to
the Count of Blois. To Stephen, and to his brother HENRY, the late
King had been liberal; making Henry Bishop of Winchester, and
finding a good marriage for Stephen, and much enriching him. This
did not prevent Stephen from hastily producing a false witness, a
servant of the late King, to swear that the King had named him for
his heir upon his death-bed. On this evidence the Archbishop of
Canterbury crowned him. The new King, so suddenly made, lost not a
moment in seizing the Royal treasure, and hiring foreign soldiers
with some of it to protect his throne.

If the dead King had even done as the false witness said, he would
have had small right to will away the English people, like so many
sheep or oxen, without their consent. But he had, in fact,
bequeathed all his territory to Matilda; who, supported by ROBERT,
Earl of Gloucester, soon began to dispute the crown. Some of the
powerful barons and priests took her side; some took Stephen's; all
fortified their castles; and again the miserable English people
were involved in war, from which they could never derive advantage
whosoever was victorious, and in which all parties plundered,
tortured, starved, and ruined them.

Five years had passed since the death of Henry the First - and
during those five years there had been two terrible invasions by
the people of Scotland under their King, David, who was at last
defeated with all his army - when Matilda, attended by her brother
Robert and a large force, appeared in England to maintain her
claim. A battle was fought between her troops and King Stephen's
at Lincoln; in which the King himself was taken prisoner, after
bravely fighting until his battle-axe and sword were broken, and
was carried into strict confinement at Gloucester. Matilda then
submitted herself to the Priests, and the Priests crowned her Queen
of England.

She did not long enjoy this dignity. The people of London had a
great affection for Stephen; many of the Barons considered it
degrading to be ruled by a woman; and the Queen's temper was so
haughty that she made innumerable enemies. The people of London
revolted; and, in alliance with the troops of Stephen, besieged her
at Winchester, where they took her brother Robert prisoner, whom,
as her best soldier and chief general, she was glad to exchange for
Stephen himself, who thus regained his liberty. Then, the long war
went on afresh. Once, she was pressed so hard in the Castle of
Oxford, in the winter weather when the snow lay thick upon the
ground, that her only chance of escape was to dress herself all in
white, and, accompanied by no more than three faithful Knights,
dressed in like manner that their figures might not be seen from
Stephen's camp as they passed over the snow, to steal away on foot,
cross the frozen Thames, walk a long distance, and at last gallop
away on horseback. All this she did, but to no great purpose then;
for her brother dying while the struggle was yet going on, she at
last withdrew to Normandy.

In two or three years after her withdrawal her cause appeared in
England, afresh, in the person of her son Henry, young Plantagenet,
who, at only eighteen years of age, was very powerful: not only on
account of his mother having resigned all Normandy to him, but also
from his having married ELEANOR, the divorced wife of the French
King, a bad woman, who had great possessions in France. Louis, the
French King, not relishing this arrangement, helped EUSTACE, King
Stephen's son, to invade Normandy: but Henry drove their united
forces out of that country, and then returned here, to assist his
partisans, whom the King was then besieging at Wallingford upon the
Thames. Here, for two days, divided only by the river, the two
armies lay encamped opposite to one another - on the eve, as it
seemed to all men, of another desperate fight, when the EARL OF
ARUNDEL took heart and said 'that it was not reasonable to prolong
the unspeakable miseries of two kingdoms to minister to the
ambition of two princes.'

Many other noblemen repeating and supporting this when it was once
uttered, Stephen and young Plantagenet went down, each to his own
bank of the river, and held a conversation across it, in which they
arranged a truce; very much to the dissatisfaction of Eustace, who
swaggered away with some followers, and laid violent hands on the
Abbey of St. Edmund's-Bury, where he presently died mad. The truce
led to a solemn council at Winchester, in which it was agreed that
Stephen should retain the crown, on condition of his declaring
Henry his successor; that WILLIAM, another son of the King's,
should inherit his father's rightful possessions; and that all the
Crown lands which Stephen had given away should be recalled, and
all the Castles he had permitted to be built demolished. Thus
terminated the bitter war, which had now lasted fifteen years, and
had again laid England waste. In the next year STEPHEN died, after
a troubled reign of nineteen years.

Although King Stephen was, for the time in which he lived, a humane
and moderate man, with many excellent qualities; and although
nothing worse is known of him than his usurpation of the Crown,
which he probably excused to himself by the consideration that King
Henry the First was a usurper too - which was no excuse at all; the
people of England suffered more in these dread nineteen years, than
at any former period even of their suffering history. In the
division of the nobility between the two rival claimants of the
Crown, and in the growth of what is called the Feudal System (which
made the peasants the born vassals and mere slaves of the Barons),
every Noble had his strong Castle, where he reigned the cruel king
of all the neighbouring people. Accordingly, he perpetrated
whatever cruelties he chose. And never were worse cruelties
committed upon earth than in wretched England in those nineteen

The writers who were living then describe them fearfully. They say
that the castles were filled with devils rather than with men; that
the peasants, men and women, were put into dungeons for their gold
and silver, were tortured with fire and smoke, were hung up by the
thumbs, were hung up by the heels with great weights to their
heads, were torn with jagged irons, killed with hunger, broken to
death in narrow chests filled with sharp-pointed stones, murdered
in countless fiendish ways. In England there was no corn, no meat,
no cheese, no butter, there were no tilled lands, no harvests.
Ashes of burnt towns, and dreary wastes, were all that the
traveller, fearful of the robbers who prowled abroad at all hours,
would see in a long day's journey; and from sunrise until night, he
would not come upon a home.

The clergy sometimes suffered, and heavily too, from pillage, but
many of them had castles of their own, and fought in helmet and
armour like the barons, and drew lots with other fighting men for
their share of booty. The Pope (or Bishop of Rome), on King
Stephen's resisting his ambition, laid England under an Interdict
at one period of this reign; which means that he allowed no service
to be performed in the churches, no couples to be married, no bells
to be rung, no dead bodies to be buried. Any man having the power
to refuse these things, no matter whether he were called a Pope or
a Poulterer, would, of course, have the power of afflicting numbers
of innocent people. That nothing might be wanting to the miseries
of King Stephen's time, the Pope threw in this contribution to the
public store - not very like the widow's contribution, as I think,
when Our Saviour sat in Jerusalem over-against the Treasury, 'and
she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.'


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


IN the year of our Lord one thousand one hundred and eighty-nine,
Richard of the Lion Heart succeeded to the throne of King Henry the
Second, whose paternal heart he had done so much to break. He had
been, as we have seen, a rebel from his boyhood; but, the moment he
became a king against whom others might rebel, he found out that
rebellion was a great wickedness. In the heat of this pious
discovery, he punished all the leading people who had befriended
him against his father. He could scarcely have done anything that
would have been a better instance of his real nature, or a better
warning to fawners and parasites not to trust in lion-hearted

He likewise put his late father's treasurer in chains, and locked
him up in a dungeon from which he was not set free until he had
relinquished, not only all the Crown treasure, but all his own
money too. So, Richard certainly got the Lion's share of the
wealth of this wretched treasurer, whether he had a Lion's heart or

He was crowned King of England, with great pomp, at Westminster:
walking to the Cathedral under a silken canopy stretched on the
tops of four lances, each carried by a great lord. On the day of
his coronation, a dreadful murdering of the Jews took place, which
seems to have given great delight to numbers of savage persons
calling themselves Christians. The King had issued a proclamation
forbidding the Jews (who were generally hated, though they were the
most useful merchants in England) to appear at the ceremony; but as
they had assembled in London from all parts, bringing presents to
show their respect for the new Sovereign, some of them ventured
down to Westminster Hall with their gifts; which were very readily
accepted. It is supposed, now, that some noisy fellow in the
crowd, pretending to be a very delicate Christian, set up a howl at
this, and struck a Jew who was trying to get in at the Hall door
with his present. A riot arose. The Jews who had got into the
Hall, were driven forth; and some of the rabble cried out that the
new King had commanded the unbelieving race to be put to death.
Thereupon the crowd rushed through the narrow streets of the city,
slaughtering all the Jews they met; and when they could find no
more out of doors (on account of their having fled to their houses,
and fastened themselves in), they ran madly about, breaking open
all the houses where the Jews lived, rushing in and stabbing or
spearing them, sometimes even flinging old people and children out
of window into blazing fires they had lighted up below. This great
cruelty lasted four-and-twenty hours, and only three men were
punished for it. Even they forfeited their lives not for murdering
and robbing the Jews, but for burning the houses of some

King Richard, who was a strong, restless, burly man, with one idea
always in his head, and that the very troublesome idea of breaking
the heads of other men, was mightily impatient to go on a Crusade
to the Holy Land, with a great army. As great armies could not be
raised to go, even to the Holy Land, without a great deal of money,
he sold the Crown domains, and even the high offices of State;
recklessly appointing noblemen to rule over his English subjects,
not because they were fit to govern, but because they could pay
high for the privilege. In this way, and by selling pardons at a
dear rate and by varieties of avarice and oppression, he scraped
together a large treasure. He then appointed two Bishops to take
care of his kingdom in his absence, and gave great powers and
possessions to his brother John, to secure his friendship. John
would rather have been made Regent of England; but he was a sly
man, and friendly to the expedition; saying to himself, no doubt,
'The more fighting, the more chance of my brother being killed; and
when he IS killed, then I become King John!'

Before the newly levied army departed from England, the recruits
and the general populace distinguished themselves by astonishing
cruelties on the unfortunate Jews: whom, in many large towns, they
murdered by hundreds in the most horrible manner.

At York, a large body of Jews took refuge in the Castle, in the
absence of its Governor, after the wives and children of many of
them had been slain before their eyes. Presently came the
Governor, and demanded admission. 'How can we give it thee, O
Governor!' said the Jews upon the walls, 'when, if we open the gate
by so much as the width of a foot, the roaring crowd behind thee
will press in and kill us?'

Upon this, the unjust Governor became angry, and told the people
that he approved of their killing those Jews; and a mischievous
maniac of a friar, dressed all in white, put himself at the head of
the assault, and they assaulted the Castle for three days.

Then said JOCEN, the head-Jew (who was a Rabbi or Priest), to the
rest, 'Brethren, there is no hope for us with the Christians who
are hammering at the gates and walls, and who must soon break in.
As we and our wives and children must die, either by Christian
hands, or by our own, let it be by our own. Let us destroy by fire
what jewels and other treasure we have here, then fire the castle,
and then perish!'

A few could not resolve to do this, but the greater part complied.
They made a blazing heap of all their valuables, and, when those
were consumed, set the castle in flames. While the flames roared
and crackled around them, and shooting up into the sky, turned it
blood-red, Jocen cut the throat of his beloved wife, and stabbed
himself. All the others who had wives or children, did the like
dreadful deed. When the populace broke in, they found (except the
trembling few, cowering in corners, whom they soon killed) only
heaps of greasy cinders, with here and there something like part of
the blackened trunk of a burnt tree, but which had lately been a
human creature, formed by the beneficent hand of the Creator as
they were.

After this bad beginning, Richard and his troops went on, in no
very good manner, with the Holy Crusade. It was undertaken jointly
by the King of England and his old friend Philip of France. They
commenced the business by reviewing their forces, to the number of
one hundred thousand men. Afterwards, they severally embarked
their troops for Messina, in Sicily, which was appointed as the
next place of meeting.

King Richard's sister had married the King of this place, but he
was dead: and his uncle TANCRED had usurped the crown, cast the
Royal Widow into prison, and possessed himself of her estates.
Richard fiercely demanded his sister's release, the restoration of
her lands, and (according to the Royal custom of the Island) that
she should have a golden chair, a golden table, four-and-twenty
silver cups, and four-and-twenty silver dishes. As he was too
powerful to be successfully resisted, Tancred yielded to his
demands; and then the French King grew jealous, and complained that
the English King wanted to be absolute in the Island of Messina and
everywhere else. Richard, however, cared little or nothing for
this complaint; and in consideration of a present of twenty
thousand pieces of gold, promised his pretty little nephew ARTHUR,
then a child of two years old, in marriage to Tancred's daughter.
We shall hear again of pretty little Arthur by-and-by.

This Sicilian affair arranged without anybody's brains being
knocked out (which must have rather disappointed him), King Richard
took his sister away, and also a fair lady named BERENGARIA, with
whom he had fallen in love in France, and whom his mother, Queen
Eleanor (so long in prison, you remember, but released by Richard
on his coming to the Throne), had brought out there to be his wife;
and sailed with them for Cyprus.

He soon had the pleasure of fighting the King of the Island of
Cyprus, for allowing his subjects to pillage some of the English
troops who were shipwrecked on the shore; and easily conquering
this poor monarch, he seized his only daughter, to be a companion
to the lady Berengaria, and put the King himself into silver
fetters. He then sailed away again with his mother, sister, wife,
and the captive princess; and soon arrived before the town of Acre,
which the French King with his fleet was besieging from the sea.
But the French King was in no triumphant condition, for his army
had been thinned by the swords of the Saracens, and wasted by the
plague; and SALADIN, the brave Sultan of the Turks, at the head of
a numerous army, was at that time gallantly defending the place
from the hills that rise above it.

Wherever the united army of Crusaders went, they agreed in few
points except in gaming, drinking, and quarrelling, in a most
unholy manner; in debauching the people among whom they tarried,
whether they were friends or foes; and in carrying disturbance and
ruin into quiet places. The French King was jealous of the English
King, and the English King was jealous of the French King, and the
disorderly and violent soldiers of the two nations were jealous of
one another; consequently, the two Kings could not at first agree,
even upon a joint assault on Acre; but when they did make up their
quarrel for that purpose, the Saracens promised to yield the town,
to give up to the Christians the wood of the Holy Cross, to set at
liberty all their Christian captives, and to pay two hundred
thousand pieces of gold. All this was to be done within forty
days; but, not being done, King Richard ordered some three thousand
Saracen prisoners to be brought out in the front of his camp, and
there, in full view of their own countrymen, to be butchered.

The French King had no part in this crime; for he was by that time
travelling homeward with the greater part of his men; being
offended by the overbearing conduct of the English King; being
anxious to look after his own dominions; and being ill, besides,
from the unwholesome air of that hot and sandy country. King
Richard carried on the war without him; and remained in the East,
meeting with a variety of adventures, nearly a year and a half.
Every night when his army was on the march, and came to a halt, the
heralds cried out three times, to remind all the soldiers of the
cause in which they were engaged, 'Save the Holy Sepulchre!' and
then all the soldiers knelt and said 'Amen!' Marching or
encamping, the army had continually to strive with the hot air of
the glaring desert, or with the Saracen soldiers animated and
directed by the brave Saladin, or with both together. Sickness and
death, battle and wounds, were always among them; but through every
difficulty King Richard fought like a giant, and worked like a
common labourer. Long and long after he was quiet in his grave,
his terrible battle-axe, with twenty English pounds of English
steel in its mighty head, was a legend among the Saracens; and when
all the Saracen and Christian hosts had been dust for many a year,
if a Saracen horse started at any object by the wayside, his rider
would exclaim, 'What dost thou fear, Fool? Dost thou think King
Richard is behind it?'

No one admired this King's renown for bravery more than Saladin
himself, who was a generous and gallant enemy. When Richard lay
ill of a fever, Saladin sent him fresh fruits from Damascus, and
snow from the mountain-tops. Courtly messages and compliments were
frequently exchanged between them - and then King Richard would
mount his horse and kill as many Saracens as he could; and Saladin
would mount his, and kill as many Christians as he could. In this
way King Richard fought to his heart's content at Arsoof and at
Jaffa; and finding himself with nothing exciting to do at Ascalon,
except to rebuild, for his own defence, some fortifications there
which the Saracens had destroyed, he kicked his ally the Duke of
Austria, for being too proud to work at them.

The army at last came within sight of the Holy City of Jerusalem;
but, being then a mere nest of jealousy, and quarrelling and
fighting, soon retired, and agreed with the Saracens upon a truce
for three years, three months, three days, and three hours. Then,
the English Christians, protected by the noble Saladin from Saracen
revenge, visited Our Saviour's tomb; and then King Richard embarked
with a small force at Acre to return home.

But he was shipwrecked in the Adriatic Sea, and was fain to pass
through Germany, under an assumed name. Now, there were many
people in Germany who had served in the Holy Land under that proud
Duke of Austria who had been kicked; and some of them, easily
recognising a man so remarkable as King Richard, carried their
intelligence to the kicked Duke, who straightway took him prisoner
at a little inn near Vienna.

The Duke's master the Emperor of Germany, and the King of France,
were equally delighted to have so troublesome a monarch in safe
keeping. Friendships which are founded on a partnership in doing
wrong, are never true; and the King of France was now quite as
heartily King Richard's foe, as he had ever been his friend in his
unnatural conduct to his father. He monstrously pretended that
King Richard had designed to poison him in the East; he charged him
with having murdered, there, a man whom he had in truth befriended;
he bribed the Emperor of Germany to keep him close prisoner; and,
finally, through the plotting of these two princes, Richard was
brought before the German legislature, charged with the foregoing
crimes, and many others. But he defended himself so well, that
many of the assembly were moved to tears by his eloquence and
earnestness. It was decided that he should be treated, during the
rest of his captivity, in a manner more becoming his dignity than
he had been, and that he should be set free on the payment of a
heavy ransom. This ransom the English people willingly raised.
When Queen Eleanor took it over to Germany, it was at first evaded
and refused. But she appealed to the honour of all the princes of
the German Empire in behalf of her son, and appealed so well that
it was accepted, and the King released. Thereupon, the King of
France wrote to Prince John - 'Take care of thyself. The devil is

Prince John had reason to fear his brother, for he had been a
traitor to him in his captivity. He had secretly joined the French
King; had vowed to the English nobles and people that his brother
was dead; and had vainly tried to seize the crown. He was now in
France, at a place called Evreux. Being the meanest and basest of
men, he contrived a mean and base expedient for making himself
acceptable to his brother. He invited the French officers of the
garrison in that town to dinner, murdered them all, and then took
the fortress. With this recommendation to the good will of a lion-
hearted monarch, he hastened to King Richard, fell on his knees
before him, and obtained the intercession of Queen Eleanor. 'I
forgive him,' said the King, 'and I hope I may forget the injury he
has done me, as easily as I know he will forget my pardon.'

While King Richard was in Sicily, there had been trouble in his
dominions at home: one of the bishops whom he had left in charge
thereof, arresting the other; and making, in his pride and
ambition, as great a show as if he were King himself. But the King
hearing of it at Messina, and appointing a new Regency, this
LONGCHAMP (for that was his name) had fled to France in a woman's
dress, and had there been encouraged and supported by the French
King. With all these causes of offence against Philip in his mind,
King Richard had no sooner been welcomed home by his enthusiastic
subjects with great display and splendour, and had no sooner been
crowned afresh at Winchester, than he resolved to show the French
King that the Devil was unchained indeed, and made war against him
with great fury.

There was fresh trouble at home about this time, arising out of the
discontents of the poor people, who complained that they were far
more heavily taxed than the rich, and who found a spirited champion
in WILLIAM FITZ-OSBERT, called LONGBEARD. He became the leader of
a secret society, comprising fifty thousand men; he was seized by
surprise; he stabbed the citizen who first laid hands upon him; and
retreated, bravely fighting, to a church, which he maintained four
days, until he was dislodged by fire, and run through the body as
he came out. He was not killed, though; for he was dragged, half
dead, at the tail of a horse to Smithfield, and there hanged.
Death was long a favourite remedy for silencing the people's
advocates; but as we go on with this history, I fancy we shall find
them difficult to make an end of, for all that.

The French war, delayed occasionally by a truce, was still in
progress when a certain Lord named VIDOMAR, Viscount of Limoges,
chanced to find in his ground a treasure of ancient coins. As the
King's vassal, he sent the King half of it; but the King claimed
the whole. The lord refused to yield the whole. The King besieged
the lord in his castle, swore that he would take the castle by
storm, and hang every man of its defenders on the battlements.

There was a strange old song in that part of the country, to the
effect that in Limoges an arrow would be made by which King Richard
would die. It may be that BERTRAND DE GOURDON, a young man who was
one of the defenders of the castle, had often sung it or heard it
sung of a winter night, and remembered it when he saw, from his
post upon the ramparts, the King attended only by his chief officer
riding below the walls surveying the place. He drew an arrow to
the head, took steady aim, said between his teeth, 'Now I pray God
speed thee well, arrow!' discharged it, and struck the King in the
left shoulder.

Although the wound was not at first considered dangerous, it was
severe enough to cause the King to retire to his tent, and direct
the assault to be made without him. The castle was taken; and
every man of its defenders was hanged, as the King had sworn all
should be, except Bertrand de Gourdon, who was reserved until the
royal pleasure respecting him should be known.

By that time unskilful treatment had made the wound mortal and the
King knew that he was dying. He directed Bertrand to be brought
into his tent. The young man was brought there, heavily chained,
King Richard looked at him steadily. He looked, as steadily, at
the King.

'Knave!' said King Richard. 'What have I done to thee that thou
shouldest take my life?'

'What hast thou done to me?' replied the young man. 'With thine
own hands thou hast killed my father and my two brothers. Myself
thou wouldest have hanged. Let me die now, by any torture that
thou wilt. My comfort is, that no torture can save Thee. Thou too
must die; and, through me, the world is quit of thee!'

Again the King looked at the young man steadily. Again the young
man looked steadily at him. Perhaps some remembrance of his
generous enemy Saladin, who was not a Christian, came into the mind
of the dying King.

'Youth!' he said, 'I forgive thee. Go unhurt!' Then, turning to
the chief officer who had been riding in his company when he
received the wound, King Richard said:

'Take off his chains, give him a hundred shillings, and let him

He sunk down on his couch, and a dark mist seemed in his weakened
eyes to fill the tent wherein he had so often rested, and he died.
His age was forty-two; he had reigned ten years. His last command
was not obeyed; for the chief officer flayed Bertrand de Gourdon
alive, and hanged him.

There is an old tune yet known - a sorrowful air will sometimes
outlive many generations of strong men, and even last longer than
battle-axes with twenty pounds of steel in the head - by which this
King is said to have been discovered in his captivity. BLONDEL, a
favourite Minstrel of King Richard, as the story relates,
faithfully seeking his Royal master, went singing it outside the
gloomy walls of many foreign fortresses and prisons; until at last
he heard it echoed from within a dungeon, and knew the voice, and
cried out in ecstasy, 'O Richard, O my King!' You may believe it,
if you like; it would be easy to believe worse things. Richard was
himself a Minstrel and a Poet. If he had not been a Prince too, he
might have been a better man perhaps, and might have gone out of
the world with less bloodshed and waste of life to answer for.


AT two-and-thirty years of age, JOHN became King of England. His
pretty little nephew ARTHUR had the best claim to the throne; but
John seized the treasure, and made fine promises to the nobility,
and got himself crowned at Westminster within a few weeks after his
brother Richard's death. I doubt whether the crown could possibly
have been put upon the head of a meaner coward, or a more
detestable villain, if England had been searched from end to end to
find him out.

The French King, Philip, refused to acknowledge the right of John
to his new dignity, and declared in favour of Arthur. You must not
suppose that he had any generosity of feeling for the fatherless
boy; it merely suited his ambitious schemes to oppose the King of
England. So John and the French King went to war about Arthur.

He was a handsome boy, at that time only twelve years old. He was
not born when his father, Geoffrey, had his brains trampled out at
the tournament; and, besides the misfortune of never having known a
father's guidance and protection, he had the additional misfortune
to have a foolish mother (CONSTANCE by name), lately married to her
third husband. She took Arthur, upon John's accession, to the
French King, who pretended to be very much his friend, and who made
him a Knight, and promised him his daughter in marriage; but, who
cared so little about him in reality, that finding it his interest
to make peace with King John for a time, he did so without the
least consideration for the poor little Prince, and heartlessly
sacrificed all his interests.

Young Arthur, for two years afterwards, lived quietly; and in the
course of that time his mother died. But, the French King then
finding it his interest to quarrel with King John again, again made
Arthur his pretence, and invited the orphan boy to court. 'You


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