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´╗┐Title: Stories from English History
Author: Skae, Hilda T.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Stories from English History" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.




With Pictures by Frank Dadd

[Illustration: Cover art]

[Frontispiece: Caradoc betrayed to the Romans]

London: T. C. & E. C. Jack
New York: E. P. Dutton & Co.







My dear Charlie,--

Yon are very fond of stories; and so, I think, are all the other little
boys and girls that I have ever known, and most of the grown-up people
too.  When you grow older, if you still like them--and I think you
will--you will find that there are stories everywhere if only you are
able to see them.

In this little book they are not quite the same kind as those that your
Auntie used to tell you.  I think they are nicer, for they are about
things that have really happened; and the boys and girls and grown-up
people that you read about in them were real people.

Some of those stories were so interesting, and some of them so
beautiful, that they were written down for other people to read; and
that is how history-books came to be made.

I hope that you will like to read about the people who lived long ago,
and that these little tales may show you that history is made up of
stories about people just like ourselves.




   I. A Hero of Ancient Britain
  II. The Boy Captives
 III. English and Norman
  IV. The Boy who would be a King
   V. The Black Prince
  VI. Singeing the King of Spain's Beard


Caradoc betrayed to the Romans . . . . . . _Frontispiece_

The children carried off by the Bernician Raiders

Harold taking the Oath

The Death of Harold

Arthur in prison visited by King John

Warwick's messenger asking for aid to be sent to the Black Prince

The French King brought prisoner to the Black Prince after Poitiers

Drake making his request of the Queen



There was a time, many years ago, when this England of ours was a
savage country.

The oldest stories that we read about our island happened so long ago,
that the English had not yet come to the land where we live.  In those
days, the country was not called England but Britain; and the people
were the ancient Britons.

In the time of the Britons, the greater part of the country was covered
with moors and swamps, and with great forests, where dangerous wild
animals lived: wolves and bears and wild cats; where herds of deer
wandered, and droves of wild cattle.

The ancient Britons lived in huts built of branches of trees plastered
with mud, very low in the roof, and dark, having no windows; and there
were no chimneys to let out the smoke.  Their villages were only
collections of huts surrounded by a fence or stockade, and a ditch to
keep out the wild animals, as well as other Britons who were enemies of
the tribe, for these wild people were always fighting among themselves.

The Britons had blue eyes, and yellow or reddish hair, which both men
and women wore long, and hanging over their shoulders.  In summer they
went about with their chests and shoulders almost bare, and in winter
they clothed themselves in the skins of animals killed in the chase.

They were a wild people, but so brave that we like to hear stories
about them.

About two thousand years ago, when the Britons were living their savage
life, there lived in the country which is now Italy another people
called the Romans.  These Romans were one of the greatest and wisest
nations that have ever lived.

It seems strange that they should have left their own beautiful country
to come to Britain, with its cold climate and savage inhabitants, but
they were a very ambitious people, who would not be content until they
had subdued every other nation of the earth.

The Romans had already conquered all the nations round about their own
country when the Emperor Claudius became their chief; but Claudius
wished to win glory by making fresh conquests, and he determined to
subdue the wild northern island of Britain.

Knowing that the Britons were a very fierce and brave people, he sent
against them an army of forty thousand men under the command of two
skilful generals.

When the inhabitants of southern Britain saw the sea about their coasts
covered with Roman vessels, while more vessels were always appearing
above the horizon, their anger and dismay knew no bounds.  They knew
that the Romans were the bravest and most skilful soldiers in the
world, and that they had come to conquer them if they could, and to
take their country away from them.

As the soldiers, wearing their glittering breast-plates and helmets of
polished steel, and with the sun flashing upon the gold and silver
eagles which they carried for standards, landed from their vessels and
marched on their way to the place where they were going to make their
camp, the Britons watched them from their hiding-places with both rage
and terror.

Still they did not despair.   Old men among them were able to tell them
how their ancestors had withstood the Romans who had come to their
shores a hundred years before, and how the great Julius Caesar had been
glad to make peace with the Britons and sail away to his own country.

Messengers were sent far and near to summon the chiefs and their
followers, and they resolved to fight to the last.

The Britons proved to be some of the most determined foes that the
Romans had ever met.  Battle after battle was fought, and the country
still remained unsubdued.  Sometimes the Romans won, and sometimes the
Britons were masters of the day.  The Romans were trained soldiers,
while their opponents were wild and undisciplined savages, but the
Britons were fighting for their homes and freedom, and that made them
very brave.

Among the British leaders the noblest was a chieftain of the name of
Caradoc, or as the Romans called him, Caractacus.  When some of the
other chiefs, having been defeated many times, were forced to make
peace with the invaders, Caradoc refused to yield.  Fighting
stubbornly, he contested every inch of southern Britain, but was slowly
driven backwards to the mountains of Wales.

Here he gathered around him a band of Britons as brave and determined
as himself, and for nearly nine years he held the Romans in check.  The
invaders, who did not know the country, were unable to penetrate far
among these valleys, where thick forests hemmed in the view, and where
every hillside might harbour a band of their savage foes.

It was impossible to reach Caradoc in this wild retreat.  Accompanied
by his followers, he would leave the mountains and sweep suddenly down
upon a Roman camp in some distant part of the country.  At a time when
the Romans were least expecting it, a band of these wild, red-headed
warriors would appear, yelling their war-cries as they let fly a shower
of darts and arrows; then, after killing and wounding a number of the
enemy, they would vanish among their mountains before the Romans had
time to follow them up.

As years went on, a large number of Britons found their way to Caradoc
in his Welsh retreat.  The mountains became full of desperate men who
had been driven from their homes, but were still determined to fight
for freedom, and the example of their leader gave his followers fresh

After many years of fighting, the Romans saw that the country would
never be subdued so long as Caradoc should remain at liberty.

A great army was marched towards the stronghold of the daring chief.
Caradoc mustered his retainers, and found himself at the head of a body
of men almost as numerous as the Roman army.  For nine years these
Britons had remained unconquered; and the brave band hoped that the day
had now come when they might gain a victory which would end in the
invaders being driven out of the country.

Romans and Britons met on the borders of Wales.

The Britons, looking down from their mountains, saw the Romans on the
plain far below.  Between the armies there flowed a river, which was
joined by a torrent rushing down by the side of a steep hill.  Caradoc
ordered his men to take up their station upon this hill, and all night
long the Britons worked to strengthen their defences by building up
barricades of loose stones.

When morning dawned the Britons could see the Roman legions forming in
position.  The sunbeams were glancing upon the crests of the soldiers'
helmets and upon the points of their spears, and the Britons almost
seemed to hear the voice of the general who was riding his prancing
war-horse round the ranks of his army.

The Britons were eager to attack, but before a man left his post
Caradoc came forward and spoke to his followers.

'Men of Britain,' he said; 'this day decides the fate of your country.
Your liberty, or your eternal slavery, dates from this hour.  Remember
your brave ancestors, who drove the great Julius himself across the

The Britons were so stirred by these words that they replied by a great
shout; then rushing down the hill, they let fly a hail of darts and
arrows upon the Roman army.

For a long time the battle raged, and neither side appeared to gain the

In order to meet the Britons hand to hand, the Romans had to cross the
river under a storm of darts.  Many fell and were swept away by the
current.  Others struggled onward, to be received by savage cries from
the Britons, who tore stones from the barricade to hurl at their
advancing foes.

In spite of the fury of the defenders, the Romans swept steadily up the
slope.  Soon the foremost had reached the barriers.  They stumbled and
fell among the loose stones, but recovered themselves and pressed
onwards, holding up their shields to ward off the blows rained down
upon them.  The hillside became a seething mass of combatants; the
wild, active Britons flying hither and thither to repel the advance of
the steel-clad host.  From the thick of the fight, Caradoc himself
shouted encouragement to his soldiers, who replied by shrill cries and
by redoubled exertions.

The stone barriers were passed; Romans and Britons were mingled in a
life-and-death struggle.

Soon it became apparent that the day belonged to the better-armed
combatants; the soft copper swords of the Britons had been blunted upon
the steel breast-plates of the Romans, while their own wooden shields
were hacked to pieces by the Roman swords.

In a short time the Britons were flying in all directions, unable any
longer to resist the Romans.  Caradoc's two brothers were taken
prisoners, and his wife and daughter fell into the hands of the

The British leader himself, weary, wounded and disheartened, found his
way to the hut of his mother-in-law, and asked her for shelter.  She
gave him a wolf-skin to lie upon by the fire and soon he was fast
asleep, worn out by fatigue and loss of blood.

For a time the old woman sat and watched him.

It had needed no words from the wounded, half-fainting chieftain to
tell her that the day was lost.

She thought of the proud Romans who were now masters of the country; of
the villages which would be burned, and of their inhabitants who would
be carried away into slavery.

Being a selfish old woman, she soon began to think less of other
people's troubles than of her own.

What would happen to her, she wondered, were the Romans to come this
way and find out that she was giving shelter to the vanquished

She trembled as she thought that soon this poor hut might shelter her
no longer; that her few belongings might be taken away from her, and
she herself be driven out to perish upon the cold hill-side.

As she looked at her guest, lying asleep in a corner, and frowning a
little with the pain of his wound, she felt as though she hated him.

An ugly look came into her face as she realised her helplessness.

Presently she heard cries echoing in the valley, and peeping from the
door of the hut she saw some flying Britons, closely pursued by two
Roman soldiers.

The Britons disappeared in a thicket and were lost, and as the woman
watched the soldiers beating the bushes and brambles with their swords
in a vain search for the fugitives, a very evil thought came into her

She left the hut, and crept along in the shelter of the rocks and
trees, so that the soldiers might not see where she had come from.

The soldiers were very much surprised when a little wild-looking,
wrinkled old woman stood before them, trying to tell them something in
the language that the Britons spoke.

They soon understood that she was offering to show them the
hiding-place of a captive far more important than the poor British
warriors whom they had been pursuing.

'Come along then, old woman,' said one of the soldiers; 'show us the

A sly look came into the woman's small twinkling eyes.  'Wait a
little,' she said; 'what are you going to give me for delivering this
great captive into your hands?'

The soldiers looked at each other; and then one of them offered her a
gold coin.

The old woman shook her head.

'No,' she said; 'this is a very, very great man, and the Romans would
like very much to catch him.  You must give me far more than that if I
show you the way to his hiding-place.'

The soldiers consulted together for a moment.  From the old woman's
manner, she evidently had a noted chief or leader in her power.

'Here, old dame,' they said, 'if your prisoner is of such importance,
you must come with us to the general.'

The old woman was delighted.  The Roman general was of course a very
rich man, and no doubt he would give her a great deal of money for the

'Let us be quick,' she said; 'my prisoner may wake up and go away
before we come back.'

The soldiers were astonished at the nimble way in which the old
creature skipped over the stones and heather, her little short steps
covering the ground as quickly as their long, steady strides.  They
were almost inclined to think that she must be one of the witches about
whom the Britons told such strange stories.

The general was not far away; and soon the old woman's little greedy
eyes were looking up into his grave stern face.

'Well, my good woman,' he said, 'who is this prisoner?'

The old woman grinned, showing a few tusklike teeth.  'He is a very
great man,' she said, 'and I can only give him up for a large sum of

'Tell me first who he is,' said the general; 'we can talk about the
reward afterwards.'

There was no one that the Romans despised so much as a traitor, and the
general thought this old woman was the most mean and base person he had
ever met.

'The prisoner,' said the woman, with a still wider grin, 'is Caradoc
himself.  He came to my hut after the battle; and you should have seen
how pale and weary he was!  He thought I would shelter him, because he
is my son-in-law, but after he had fallen asleep I said to myself, "The
Romans are good folk, and they will be grateful to an old woman who
hands over a wicked rebel----"'

'That will do, my good woman,' said the general, cutting her short.
'Here is a bag of gold; it is your fee for delivering the British
leader into our hands.  Come and show us where he is to be found; or if
you are playing us false it will be the worse for you.'

The old woman's fingers closed round the gold, and her delight at
getting so much money prevented her from feeling the contempt in the
general's voice and eyes.

Presently the tiny hut was surrounded by Roman soldiers.  Bending his
tall form at the doorway, the general entered, followed by two soldiers
leading between them the old woman, whose skinny fingers were tightly
clutching the bag of gold.

Caradoc stirred in his sleep, then he sat up and looked at the Romans.

His eyes fell upon his mother-in-law; and he understood.

He had to stand up and submit to having his hands bound behind his back
by the Roman soldiers.

The old woman left the hut and disappeared with her ill-gotten gains.

For once in her life she felt ashamed of herself.

She had betrayed her country, and although she was now one of the
richest women in Britain she was never really happy again.

When the wounded chieftain joined the other prisoners in the Roman
camp, his wife and daughter fell into his arms, weeping.

Caradoc tried his best to comfort them, and he begged all the prisoners
to have courage, and to bear their misfortunes like brave men and women.

After this victory the Roman general returned to his own country.
Caradoc and the other prisoners were carried on board the vessels of
the conquerors; and after a voyage of many days they landed upon the
strange, unknown shores of Italy.

The Roman people were delighted to hear that the wild, savage island of
Britain had at last been subdued, and when the victorious general
reached the city they resolved to give him a public triumph.

The emperor and empress sat on thrones in front of their palace while
the general was drawn through the streets in a chariot decked with
flowers and garlands.  All the citizens came out to see him, and the
balconies and even the roofs of the houses were crowded with people who
shouted and hurrahed and threw up their caps as the conqueror passed by.

Behind the chariot came the troops who had taken part in the victory.
The soldiers marched past in fighting array; their helmets and spears
garlanded with flowers and with wreaths of laurel, and they looked
round them proudly in response to the shouts of their countrymen.

But these were not the only people who took part in the procession.

Immediately behind the general followed the captives whom he had taken
in the war; Caradoc with his wife and daughter and the other prisoners
who had helped him in his nine years' struggle with the Romans.

As these poor captives passed, loaded with chains, the people in the
streets jeered at them and shouted out unkind speeches.  Most of the
prisoners walked with downcast eyes and sad faces, but Caradoc marched
along with so proud a bearing that the spectators wondered at the
courage shown by this savage chief.  He did not seem to feel the dust
and glare, or to be abashed by the hard, unfeeling gaze of the
thousands of people who had come out to stare at him.

As he passed he looked at the fine buildings, at the triumphal arches,
and the marble palaces, and at the gaily dressed people who thronged
the streets.  Sometimes he looked up into the sunny Italian sky; and he
was evidently thinking deeply.  Some one asked him what he was thinking

'I was wondering,' said Caradoc, 'how these people could envy me my mud
cottage and my few fields so far away in our poor, cold, northern

The spectators, who had flocked from all parts of Italy to see the
famous chief, began to think it was a pity that so brave a man should
be put to death.

After the triumph, the emperor wished to meet this gallant savage face
to face.

Caradoc and his wife were brought before Claudius, who, in royal
garments of purple and gold, was seated upon an ivory throne.

Caradoc looked at the emperor with his calm, brave eyes, and did not
appear to be in the least dismayed.

Claudius said to himself that this British chief was a truly great man.
He asked his prisoner what he thought of Rome.

'I think it is a very great and wonderful city,' replied Caradoc, 'and
that its people are a very great people.'

'Do you know what this great people do to those who have been bold
enough to resist their will?' asked the emperor.

'Yes,' replied Caradoc simply; 'I am told that you put their leaders to
death when you have captured them; and I wonder that a wise and great
people like the Romans should have such a custom.  After having
defeated a man, what greater glory is to be won by putting him to
death?  It seems to me that it would be more worthy of the Roman people
to spare him in order to show that they are generous as well as brave.'

Claudius was so pleased with his captive's wise and fearless reply that
he had him restored to liberty, with his wife and family.

The Roman who has told us the story of Caradoc in one of his books does
not say whether the brave chief was allowed to return to Britain, or
whether he had to spend the rest of his life in the land of his

I hope his captors sent him back to Britain, for I am sure that he
loved his native land the best, and that he would have liked to end his
days among the brave countrymen who had helped him to withstand the
great and powerful nation of Rome.



Five hundred years had passed.

Long ago the Romans had left Britain; and another people had come from
across the sea to conquer the country and drive its inhabitants to take
refuge in Wales and Cornwall.

Britain had now become England.  The English in these days were very
fierce heathens, who loved fighting, and were never at peace.  The
country was divided into a number of little kingdoms, which were always
at war with one another, for each king wanted to be more powerful than
any other in the land.

While England was in this state of continual warfare, the kingdom of
Deira in the north was invaded by a band of raiders from a neighbouring
kingdom called Bernicia.  Not finding any one at hand to resist them,
the Bernicians began to lay waste the country as they passed.  All the
men of that neighbourhood seemed to be absent that day; and there was
no one to give the alarm as the invaders destroyed the young crops and
killed or drove away the cattle which were grazing upon the waste land.

Presently the party came upon a little village, lying peacefully
nestled on the hillside.  It was evening, and the smoke was rising
tranquilly into the air, while the men and boys were driving the cows
home for the evening milking.

Little did the raiders care about the quiet beauty of the scene.  With
a shout they bore down upon the village.  The inhabitants did their
best to defend themselves; but being unprepared and armed for the most
part only with clubs and ploughshares, they were quickly overpowered.
Some escaped to the woods, while those who were not active enough to
run away were either slain or made prisoners.

[Illustration: The children carried off by the Bernician Raiders.]

Soon flames were bursting from the walls and roofs of the cottages,
which their destroyers had set on fire after removing everything that
was worth carrying away.

When the captives were brought in, they were found to be mostly old
people, together with some trembling children, whose parents were lost
or slain.

'Those,' said the leader, pointing to the white-haired men and woman,
'are no good.  What do we want with old folk?--But these,' he added,
pointing to the children, 'you may keep.  They will grow into fine
strong men by and by.'

The children were bound hand and foot to prevent them from running
away; and after posting sentries to keep a look-out, the raiders sat
down to feast upon some of the slaughtered cattle, which they had
roasted before the flames of the burning houses.

Suddenly one of the outposts called out to say there was something in
the distance which looked like a band of armed men.

'Ay, ay,' said the leader; 'time we made the best of our way homeward.
Our big bonfire is bright enough to bring the whole countryside upon

Hastily collecting their spoil, the raiders looked about for their
horses.  Each prisoner was made to mount beside one of his captors, and
soon the whole band was trotting away in the gathering darkness.

It was in vain that the boys strained their eyes to look behind.
Either they had not yet been missed, or else their rescuers had not
found out the direction which the spoilers had taken.

The few people whom they passed, wood-cutters or cow-herds on their way
home from the day's work, only looked on helplessly as the troop swept
by, and were unable to do anything.  Once, seeing a man whom he knew,
one of the boys cried out for help, but his captor roughly bade him be

In a little while they were in the land of the Bernicians, and the
children were handed over to the families of their captors, to work in
the house and in the fields.

They were not unkindly treated, and after a while they began to feel
less unhappy.  Often when they met together in the evening, after the
day's work was done, they would make plans for running away as soon as
they should be grown up, and returning to their own old home in Deira.

But they were never to see their native village again.

One day a rich merchant came to Bernicia, a man who traded with the
far-away countries of Gaul and Italy, and the children were brought for
him to see.

The merchant looked at the rosy faces and strong limbs of the boys.

'They'll do,' he said; 'I'll take the lot.  One of my ships is just
starting for Italy, and they can go on board.  The Roman ladies like
fine boys like these to wait upon them.  It is waste to keep such lads
to work in our rough homesteads when we can get gold for them from the

A large sum of money was handed over to the owners of the children; and
then the boys had to follow their new master to the seashore, where a
vessel was in waiting.

No kind parents or friends were near, to bid good-bye to these poor
children as they embarked.  They were led on board and given into the
charge of the captain and seamen of the vessel.  Presently the sails
were unfurled, and the vessel left the shore, the men singing as they
worked.  No one paid any attention to the poor children as they stood
on deck and sorrowfully watched the shores of England grow farther and
farther away, until they became lost in the distance.

The little captives felt very sad indeed.  Had they known that they
were about to become the means of bringing happiness and peace to their
native land, perhaps they might not have felt so desolate as they did.

After what seemed to them a very long voyage, they were taken to the
great slave-market in Rome.

The children clung together in confusion and fear as they looked around
at the bewildering scene.

Groups of buyers and sellers were there, talking in an unknown
language.  There were many other slaves for sale; men, women, and
children; white, black, and brown; brought together from many parts of
the world.  People in strange bright dresses were always passing; some
coming to buy slaves, some to meet their friends, and others out of
mere curiosity.  In all the careless, chattering crowd there was not
one face that seemed friendly towards the poor strangers from across
the sea.

Presently the boys remarked among the gay throng an old man who seemed
quite different from the rest.  He wore a plain dark gown, with sandals
on his feet.  A long silvery beard flowed nearly to his girdle; and the
boys liked his face, with its kind, benevolent expression.

This was the monk Gregory, who was loved by all the people of Rome for
his simple goodness of heart.

As the old man passed through the hall he looked pityingly at the poor
people who were waiting to be sold.  When he came to the English boys
he paused, struck by their beautiful rosy faces, fair hair, and rounded

'Who are these children?' he asked the trader who was standing beside

'They are Angles,' replied the trader.

'Surely not Angles, but angels,' said Gregory; 'for they have the faces
of angels.'

He looked at them again very thoughtfully, and asked the trader whether
these children were Christians.

'No, sir,' replied the merchant; 'the Angles are heathens, and have a
very cruel religion.'

'What a pity, what a pity!' said the good monk.  'What is the name of
their country?'

'They come from a place called Deira,' said the trader.

'Ira' is the Latin word for wrath; and Gregory seemed to find a meaning
in all the names connected with these angel-faced children.

'De ira,' he said; 'ay, from the wrath of God they shall be called to
Christ's mercy.--And what is the name of their King?' he inquired.

'Ella,' replied the merchant.

'Ella!' cried the monk; 'Alleluia shall be sung in Ella's land'; and he
passed on his way with a silent vow that one day he would find a means
of teaching the English people to become Christians.

Here the history of these children ends, so far as we know it.  The old
writer who tells us of the meeting of the monk Gregory with the captive
children does not say what became of them after this.  Surely they
found good masters and happy homes; for it was through them that the
Good News was brought to their native land, and that the people learned
to live peaceably in a united country.

After he left the slave-market the thought of these fair-faced boys
followed Gregory wherever he went.  He thought of many plans, and at
last he resolved, old as he was, to undertake the long journey to the
savage country of England and to teach the true religion to its
inhabitants.  But when the Roman people found that he was going to
leave them, they begged Gregory so hard to stay that he made up his
mind that he could not go away into a heathen country while he was so
badly needed by his own people at home.

Still he had no rest when he thought that the English were living and
dying as heathens.  About four years after the meeting with the boys,
he was made Pope, and then he saw that his opportunity was come.

A band of forty monks, with an Abbot of the name of Augustine at their
head, was chosen by Pope Gregory for the conversion of England.

In those days the journey from Rome to England was a long and perilous
one.  Slowly the monks made their way through Italy and Switzerland,
staying sometimes at the monasteries on their way.  At last they were
in Gaul, and were able to gain some information about the fierce and
warlike people whom they had been sent to convert.

In an abbey near Paris they were kindly received by the monks, who were
glad to meet the brave missionaries who had been sent to bring
Christianity to the heathen inhabitants of England.

'Perhaps your task will be easier than you expect,' said a monk who had
been listening very attentively while the travellers told their tale.

All turned to look at the speaker.

'Do you not remember,' he said, 'that Ethelbert, King of Kent, married
Bertha, the daughter of our good King?  Bertha is a Christian, and
surely her husband will not harden his heart towards those who are of
the religion of his good wife.'

The monks were greatly cheered at this news.  Messengers were sent to
Ethelbert to prepare him for the coming of Augustine, and a few days
later the leader and his party landed on the island of Thanet in Kent.

When Ethelbert heard that the missionaries had actually set foot in his
dominions, he felt uneasy.

'The Christians are very good folk,' he said; 'my wife is one, and I've
given her a little church of her own to do as she likes in; still, I'm
not very sure about them; I think some of them are too fond of meddling
with magic.'

Still, after consulting with his wise men, he consented to meet the
Romans and to hear what they had to say, provided that the meeting
should take place out of doors, for he believed that the magic spells
would have less power in the open air.

Thrones were placed for him and Bertha on the hillside, and the band of
monks approached, bearing a silver cross, and chanting a hymn, with
Augustine at their head.

Ethelbert listened attentively as Augustine told him about the
Christian religion, and invited him to forsake the cruel bloodthirsty
gods of the English.

'Your words,' he said, when the abbot had finished, 'are fair; but what
you tell me is new and strange.  I cannot leave all at once what I and
my English folk have believed for so long.  But let me think over what
you say; and if any of my folk will believe what you believe, I will
not hinder them.'

The monks were overjoyed at the King's answer.  Bearing their silver
cross in front of them, they entered the town of Canterbury.

'Turn from this city, O Lord,' they sang, 'Thy wrath and anger.'

Then in joy and thankfulness they sang 'Alleluia' in the streets, while
the people looked on and wondered.

Ethelbert gave the missionaries a church to preach in, and he and his
people often came to listen to them.  So well did the good monks speak
that after a little while the king consented to become a Christian, and
was baptized, and many of his men with him; and Kent thus became the
first Christian kingdom of England.

Many years afterwards, Ethelbert's daughter was given in marriage to
Edwin, King of Northumbria.  Edwin was a good and wise man; but he was
a heathen.  Among the people who accompanied the young queen to her
northern home was her chaplain Paulinus, and it was the great wish both
of Paulinus and of the queen that through their means Edwin might
become converted to Christianity.

All that winter Edwin listened to the words of his queen and of
Paulinus, and pondered them very deeply.

In the spring he called his wise men together, and asked them to advise

Paulinus, the Roman chaplain, tall, thin and stooping, with black hair
falling round his dark, eager face, spoke to the stout, ruddy English,
and told them about his religion.

The wise men listened very thoughtfully; and they asked Paulinus many

After a while an old man rose up.

'So seems the life of man, O king,' he said, 'as a sparrow's flight
through the hall when one is sitting at meat in the winter-tide.  The
warm fire is lighted on the hearth; the torches are blazing; and the
hall is bright and warm.

'But without the snow is falling, and the winds are howling.

'Then comes a sparrow and flies into the hall, and passes out by the
other door.  She comes in at one door and goes out by the other; and
passes from winter to winter.  For a moment she has rest; for a moment
she is in the light and warmth, she feels not the storm nor the
cheerless winter weather.

'But the moment is brief.

'The short time of rest and warmth is soon over, and she is out in the
storm again and has passed from our sight.

'So it is with the life of man; it, too, is but for a moment, what has
gone before, and what will come after it, we do not know, and no man
has yet told us.

'If, then, these strangers can tell us aught of what is beyond the
grave--if they can tell us whence man comes and whither he goes, let us
give ear to them and think over what they say.'

A murmur went round the hall as the old man showed them by this story
that the new religion told them of a life beyond this world, while
their own did not.

Then up started Coifi, the chief priest of the heathen gods whom the
king and his people had worshipped.

'O king,' cried the priest, 'there is no man in this hall has served
the gods more faithfully than I, but they have never done anything for

When the wise men had made an end of speaking, the king rose up and
said, 'Let us worship the God of Paulinus, and follow his ways.'

Then he called aloud and said, 'Who will be the first to throw down the
altar of these false gods and destroy their temple.'

'I will be the first, O king,' shouted Coifi the priest.  'Give me a
horse and weapons, and I will overthrow the temple of the false gods.
Follow me, O thanes, and let us see if the gods can defend their own

Then, snatching a sword, the high priest rushed from the hall and
sprang upon the king's war-horse.

The king and his wise men followed; and on their way they were joined
by a number of people who left their work or the cattle they were
tending, and followed, shouting as they ran, 'Coifi the high priest is

Soon they arrived at the temple.  Here the people hung back, afraid to
enter, but the priest burst open the door with a blow of his spear, and
rode into the wooden building.

The king and his wise men followed, but the others remained outside,
wondering what dreadful thing would happen to the mad priest.

Before them was the dark interior of the temple with the altar at the
farther end, and the great wooden figure of the god rising above it; a
monstrous thing painted in gaudy colours, with a fierce, cruel grin on
its ugly face; and the madman was riding his war-horse in the building.

Surely the god was about to take some terrible vengeance!

A great crash resounded through the temple as the priest hurled his
sword at the wooden figure.

Some of the people ran away; others remained huddled at the door, too
terrified to move.

But nothing happened.

There was the figure of the god still grinning down upon the people as
before, without a change in its face.  No thunder came down from heaven
to destroy the rash priest and his followers who had insulted the

'The gods are not able to defend themselves,' shouted the wise men.
'The gods of the English are false gods'; then rushing into the temple,
they pulled the idol from its place and dragged it out of doors, while
the people threw themselves upon the temple and pulled it to pieces.
After that they tore up the hedge that surrounded the temple; and with
the hedge and the ruins of the temple they made a bonfire whose flames
rose high in the air and were seen far and wide, while in the middle of
the fire the idol was burned to ashes.

Then the people went home, and were baptized by Paulinus.



In England there was an old King called Edward; a gentle pious man who
disliked the trouble of governing, and who left his brother-in-law to
rule the country while he himself spent his time in praying and in
reading good books and going to church.

Harold, Earl of Wessex, the king's brother-in-law, was one of the most
able men then living; a true Englishman, wise and honourable.  The
people of England loved and trusted Harold; and as Edward had no
children to succeed to the throne, they hoped that after his death
Harold would become their king.

On the other side of the strip of sea which divides England from
France, there lived at this time a very proud and ambitious man,
William, Duke of Normandy.

William was descended from a great pirate who had come from the North,
many years before, and had compelled the King of France to give him
part of his dominions for himself and his followers to settle in.  Ever
since then, this part of France has been called Normandy; and the
descendants of these Northmen are living there to this day.

The pirate was made a duke; but his great grandson William of Normandy
wanted to become a king.

William's father had been a friend of King Edward of England, and when
he was a young man William came from Normandy to spend some weeks at
the Court of England.  In after years William declared that during this
visit Edward had promised that he, and not Harold, should be the next
King of England.

If Edward really made this promise he must have known that he was
undertaking what he had no power to fulfil, for the English people had
the right of choosing their own king, and they did not wish to have a
proud Norman rule over them.

But William had made up his mind to be a king; and he was a man who
never let anything stand in the way of what he wanted.

One day Earl Harold went sailing in the English Channel, when a storm
arose and drove his vessel out of her course.

Night came down, thick and foggy, and the captain did not know where
they were.  All remained on deck, keeping an anxious look-out; and in
the darkness the vessel suddenly struck.

Before them they could see some masses of rock; and the men had just
time to scramble out before the little ship filled with water and sank.

The unlucky pleasure-seekers found themselves clinging to a little
rocky islet which would scarcely afford them foothold; and all night
they remained there drenched with rain and spray.

At daybreak they were able to make out the coast of France, not very
far away from them.  By the side of the reef lay their little vessel,
half in, half out of the water, with a large hole in her side.  There
was nothing that they could do but wait until some one should see them
from the shore, and come off with a boat to rescue them.

In a little while Harold and his men saw a stir upon the coast.  Men
were coming and going; looking towards the rock and then running to
fetch other men.  After a while a party came down to the beach,
launched a boat and rowed towards the wreck.

How thankful were the hungry, shivering castaways to get into the boat
and be rowed ashore by these sturdy Norman-French fishermen!

They entered one of the cottages; and as they were warming themselves
before a blazing fire the door was suddenly burst open, and a man in a
shining coat of mail stood in the doorway.  Behind him were grouped a
dozen or so of stout men-at-arms.

'Aha,' said the mail-clad knight, looking around him with restless,
glittering black eyes; 'if I am not mistaken it is a great man whom the
wind and waves have done me the honour to waft to my shores.--I am Guy,
Count of Ponthieu; and you, if I am not mistaken,' he said to Harold,
'are Earl Harold, brother-in-law to the King of England.'

'I thought so,' muttered Harold as he gravely inclined his head in
answer to the count; 'our troubles are only beginning.'

'This is not a fitting spot in which to receive the kinsman of King
Edward of England,' said Guy in mock courtesy.  'I must trouble you,
Sir, to come to my poor dwelling, where I hope a short stay may be
rendered as pleasant as possible to yourself and your followers.'

Harold groaned in spirit as he realised that the count was going to
keep him in prison in the hope of getting a ransom for him from King
Edward.  With these sturdy men-at-arms in the doorway it was no use for
the unarmed Englishmen to try to resist.

'My poor countrymen,' said Harold to himself; 'I wonder how much money
he will force them to hand over before he consents to give me up?  It
grieves me to think of the good English gold which will go to the
enriching of this greedy hawk.--And how is the kingdom going to be
governed in my absence?--Alack the day!'

The count's dark mocking face was all aglow with triumph as he led his
prisoner where some horses were ready waiting for them.

After a short ride they were in the courtyard of the grim frowning
castle of Ponthieu, with the drawbridge raised behind them.

'You will allow some of my men to go to England and tell King Edward
that I am here?' said Harold to the count.

Once more Guy smiled his mocking smile.

'I was going to ask the whole party to accept my hospitality for a few
weeks,' he said.  'His majesty of England will be the more pleased to
welcome his brother-in-law after he has lacked tidings of him for a

Harold fumed with anger and indignation.  He saw that Guy meant to keep
the king and his own family in ignorance of his fate in order that they
might be more eager to ransom him once they heard that he was still

But one day Guy, Count of Ponthieu, was in a very bad humour.  He
strode up and down the courtyard with an angry scowl upon his handsome,
haughty face; muttering to himself and reading a letter which had been
brought to the castle by a mounted messenger.  His mailed boots made a
noisy clattering upon the pavement, and the men-at-arms felt that it
would be safe to keep at a respectful distance that morning.

'Ha!' shouted Guy; 'I am grossly insulted!--What traitor has dared to
carry to the duke news of my prisoner?  Had I that man, he should hang
by the heels for his presumption!--Here is a letter from William of
Normandy to say that if I do not instantly release Earl Harold, he will
send an army against me and raze my castle to the ground.  What right
has the duke to interfere, I should like to know?  The Earl was wrecked
upon my land, not upon his; and if a man may not do as he likes with a
prisoner whom the wind and waves have brought to his very door, things
have come to a pretty pass!'

The count thought of the large sum of money which he had made so sure
of getting; and rage and defiance swelled in his heart.  Then he
recollected the great power of William, and reflected that there was
nothing for it but to make the best of things.

'Hey, Giles!' he called to his seneschal, who with a somewhat faltering
step was venturing to cross the courtyard; 'ask Earl Harold to have the
goodness to speak with me.'

'Raze my castle to the ground!' stormed the count as he paced the
flagstones; 'ay, and he would do it too; the tanner's grandson!'

Duke William's mother had been the daughter of a tanner; and his
enemies were never tired of reproaching him with this circumstance when
they thought they could do so without fear of punishment.

Presently the Englishman stood before the angry count; and with a very
bad grace, Guy told him that he was a free man, and that he owed his
release to the Duke of Normandy.

Harold was very glad to find himself at liberty; and he felt that it
would not be courteous for him to return to his own country until he
had thanked the Duke for his generous help.  Some of his men were sent
to England to tell King Edward of his safety; and with only a few
followers he set out for the court of Duke William.

Soon the earl and the duke met; Harold short and strong, with his good
honest English face and steadfast blue eyes; William almost a giant in
height, stern and proud, with steely eyes, and a face that had never
yet shown pity to any that opposed him.

The two men had been friends of old; and they liked and admired each

William gave Harold a warm welcome to his dominions.  At the court of
the duke Harold found his youngest brother Wulfnoth, who had been sent
to Normandy as a hostage many years before.  Each day was made a
festival; the duke held tournaments in honour of his guest, and went
hunting and hawking with him; and the Englishman showed such skill in
all manly exercises that William learned to respect him more and more.

One day something happened which made him feel more than ever what a
pity it was that this man must one day become his enemy.

Harold was walking on the sea-shore with his brother and the duke and a
train of nobles, when several of the knights became caught in a
quicksand and would have been lost had not Harold rushed forward, and
with his unaided strength dragged each one of them into safety upon
firm ground.

The duke said to himself that the short, sturdy Englishman was the
bravest knight he had ever seen, and the one best fitted to become a
king.  Yet all the time that he was outwardly showing the greatest
friendship for his guest he was secretly making plans by which he might
compel Harold to help him to become King of England.

One day he asked Harold whether he knew that King Edward had promised
that he should succeed him on the throne.

'No,' replied Harold quietly; 'I did not know that.'

The duke put his band upon the Englishman's shoulder.

'It is an old promise,' he said, 'and for many years I have looked upon
myself as the future King of England.'

'Listen to me,' he added hastily, as he saw that Harold was about to
speak: 'I like you, and you are the man of all the English whom I most
wish to have on my side.  If you will give me your word of honour that
you will help me to the crown, I promise that you shall be the greatest
man in the kingdom next to myself; and not only that, but you shall be
my son-in-law; I will give you my daughter Adela for your wife.--Now is
it a bargain, son-in-law Harold?'

'No,' said Harold quietly and firmly; 'it cannot be.  I cannot marry
your daughter, because I already love a lady in England, Edith, a ward
of the king; and you will never with my consent become King of England,
because the English people have the right of choosing their own king;
and we will never willingly have a Norman to rule over us.  If King
Edward made you any such promise he did very wrongly, for the crown of
England is not his to give away.'

Duke William was silent, and his eyes blazed with anger, as they always
did when his will was crossed.

'So be it,' he said, when he had regained sufficient mastery over
himself to be able to speak; 'I do not require help that is not freely

Harold knew that the duke was very angry; and he began to see what an
imprudent action he had committed when he had put himself in the power
of this ambitious man.

One of the Norman knights, whom he had rescued, came to Harold that

'Do not anger the duke,' he begged.  'You little know his determined
will.  You are alone, it is useless to resist; and he will find a means
of putting you to silence if you oppose him.'

Harold's young brother, Wulfnoth, came to him next

'Do not refuse to give the duke the promise he asks of you,' implored
the boy with a pale face.  'I have seen their dungeons and the
oubliettes--those dreadful underground cells where a man can scarcely
stand upright, where he may spend years without ever seeing the light
of day.--O Harold, the duke has sworn to imprison both you and me if
you refuse to help him!  Promise, Harold, promise; and when you are
safe in England no one can make you hold to a promise which has been
forced from you.'

Harold passed the night in great perplexity.

Should he refuse to make a promise which he knew that he could not keep?

Then he and his young brother would be cast into these dreadful
hiding-places; and they would never be heard of again.  In years to
come Englishmen might walk over the very turf under which they lay, and
not know that beneath their feet the lost earls were still living,
buried deep from the blessed sunshine, and the song of the birds, and
the faces of their fellow-men.

Would it be right of him to bring such a fate upon his brother?

Then his native land; what would become of England while Harold lay in
his dungeon?

He knew that without his help the weak, gentle king was unable to

Then when Duke William came to demand the crown, and the English
resisted him, as they were sure to do, there was no one save Harold to
lead them to battle.

He knew that he was the one man whom England needed at that time.
Already he had been absent too long.

Yet it was a terrible thing to make a promise which he did not intend
to keep.

Morning found Harold with his mind not made up.

That day, William asked his guest to meet him in the great hall of the

An unexpected sight met the Englishman as he entered.  The hall was
filled with knights and barons, all waiting in silence.  Beneath the
great stained-glass window was the duke in his state robes, seated upon
a throne, with a bishop on either side of him.  In front of the throne
stood a chest covered with cloth of gold, and upon the cover lay an
open Bible.

William was wearing his most grave and stony-hearted expression.

'Yesterday I told you that King Edward of England had left his crown to
me,' he said.  'I ask you now, in presence of the barons and knights of
my dukedom, to swear to support my just claim.'

Harold looked at the Duke with a dark and angry face.  William was
taking a dishonourable advantage of him.

'Swear,' said the Norman knight, his friend, in his ear.  'If you do
not, you will never see England again.'

'Swear, Harold,' whispered Wulfnoth; 'the oubliettes!'

Harold was completely in the power of the Normans.

With downcast eyes he laid his hand upon the Bible and repeated the
words of the oath after the duke.

[Illustration: Harold taking the Oath]

Then the bishops came forward and raised the cloth of gold, showing
that the chest was full of the bones of Norman saints.

Harold started back in horror; for an oath sworn upon the bones of
saints was held to be the most sacred and binding oath that a man could

Instead of friendship, his heart now became filled with a fierce hatred
towards the duke, whose ambition had led him to take an unfair
advantage of his guest.

If he kept his oath, he would be a traitor to his country; while, if he
broke it, he feared that a curse would rest upon himself.

When Harold had to make the choice, he remained true to his native land
and braved the consequences; but he was never again the happy, fearless
man that he had been before he had been compelled by the duke to swear
a false oath.

Two years later, King Edward felt his end approaching, and he sent for

The earl found the old, white-haired king lying upon a couch, his kind
blue eyes dim with age and sickness.  His wife, Harold's sister, was
sitting on a low seat by her husband's side, and the two archbishops of
the realm were with the king.

Edward told Harold that he must soon die, and that he wished him,
Harold, Earl of Wessex, to become king after him.  He said that long
ago he had repented of the promise made to William of Normandy, as he
knew that his subjects would never consent to have any but an
Englishman for their king.

In presence of the archbishops Harold promised to govern faithfully if
the people of England should choose him for their king, and to fight
against William of Normandy if need be.

Then King Edward told him that he had something to ask of him.

'If England is to be strong enough to resist the Normans,' he said,
'she must be a united country.  The two earls in the north, Edwin and
Morcar, are enemies of your house.  Make them your friends by marrying
their sister, Aldwyth.'

Harold was silent.

'Ah, my son,' said the old king, 'I know that you have long hoped to
marry my ward, the Lady Edith; but you must sacrifice yourself for
England.  We have both weakened our dear country, you and I; I by
unduly favouring the Norman, and you by allowing a false oath to be
extorted from you.  We can only make her strong again by your marriage.'

Harold struggled hard, but was unable to make up his mind to the

Then in came Edith, Harold's betrothed bride, fair and graceful as a
lily: Edith of the Swan's Neck, as people called her.  Her face was
pale and sorrowful, but she had resolved to do her duty.

'Harold,' she implored him, 'for the sake of England; that our country
may be free!  I will never, never marry any one else; but you are a
king!  Marry Aldwyth!

With a sore heart Harold yielded to her entreaty, and promised the old
king that he would do as he asked.

Then Harold and Edith parted, Harold to marry the daughter of his enemy
and Edith to enter a convent, where she might pray for England and for

A few days later the old king passed away, muttering sorrowful things
about war and trouble which he feared would come upon England.  He had
been a good, kind old man, and his people grieved for him very much;
but through his want of firmness he had prepared the way for some of
the worst troubles that England was ever to know.

Immediately after King Edward was dead, the wise men chose Harold for
their king, and on the following day the old king was buried and the
new one crowned in the church which is now a part of Westminster Abbey.

The news was not slow in reaching Normandy.  Duke William was just
leaving his castle with a hunting-party when a messenger came to tell
him that Harold had been crowned King of England.

Immediately the duke dismounted from his horse, went into his own room,
closed the door, and remained there until nightfall.  No one dared to
enter that room or speak to the duke.  When he left it, it was with the
resolve to take a terrible vengeance upon the man who, he said, had
broken his oath.

He sent for armourers, and sword-smiths, and carpenters, and
ship-builders.  Then he sent all over Normandy, and all over France,
for soldiers to help him to fight against Harold.

For six months the people of Normandy worked with a will.  The soldiers
having been brought together, weapons had to be provided for them,
horses found, and ships built to carry them over to England.  William
wrote to the Pope and told him the story of the broken oath, and the
Pope sent his blessing and a sacred banner, and cursed Harold for
having sworn falsely by the saints.

At last everything was ready; and in the ports and harbours of Normandy
William's ships were only waiting for a fair wind to carry his forces
to what they believed to be a holy war.

In the meanwhile Harold had been finding plenty of troubles at home.
His own brother, Tostig, whom he had made Earl of Northumbria, had so
offended his subjects by his cruelty and injustice that they had
rebelled against him and driven him from the country.  Tostig sent to
ask Harold to restore him to his earldom, but Harold refused either to
aid him or to allow him to return to a country where his misrule had
caused him to be hated by every one.

Then Tostig went to one king after another asking for help; but they
all refused to aid him.  At last he found his way to King Harold
Hardrada of Norway; and this warlike king gave him a fleet and an army
and came himself to strike a blow against England.

The Norwegians landed on the shores of Northumbria, and began to ravage
the country and burn the dwellings of the people.

Messengers were sent on swift horses to Harold.  It was September, and
all the fighting-men were away in the fields, gathering in the harvest,
but at their country's need they left their work and flocked around
their king.

In a short time Harold had collected an army; and he led his men
northward by a road which had been made by the Romans hundreds of years

There was little time for rest on the long march from London to
Northumbria.  As they trudged steadily onwards the men talked of the
enemy whom they were soon to meet; the world-renowned Harold King of
Norway, who had led his sea-kings to battle in many lands.

'Ay,' said one, 'I've heard that he fought black heathen folk in an
outlandish place called Egypt.  Be there such a place?'

'Egypt?' said another; 'that's the land parson preaches of in the
church; there were Pharaohs there, and plagues.'

'Ay,' said the first; 'when King Hardrada was in that land he met
something worse far than Pharaohs.'

'What was that?' asked the others.

'A fearsome beast that wore armour like a man.  They call it a
crocodile; and the country there is swarming with its like.  Ten rows
of teeth it had; and it came out of the river on its hind legs, and
clawed at the king with iron gloves.  They fought till sundown, they
say, man and beast; and hard work had the king to slay the awesome
creature.--He's a great fighter, is King Harold Hardrada.'

The others marched in silence for a time, thinking about this fearful
adventure of the Norwegian king.  It was night, and the harvest moon
was lighting up the long lines of men, with the king and his nobles on
their tired horses at the head; the sleeping cottages, and the yellow
shocks of corn standing ready cut in the fields on either side of the

'They do say,' began another man after a time, 'that the next enemy we
shall have to fight will be the Duke of Normandy.'

Weary as they were, all the hearers drew themselves up and squared
their shoulders.

'Let him come,' they said.  'We will have no Norman for our king!'

'Ay,' another voice was saying, 'they do tell that the Pope has sent
him a sacred banner, and calls it a holy war because our good king has
broken an oath which he swore long ago, to help Duke William to be King
of England.'

'We will have no foreigner to be our king,' repeated the men.  'Neither
Pope nor earl can give away the crown of England.'

They marched resolutely onward; and for a time nothing was heard save
the steady tramp of feet and the breathing of the tired horses.

Presently a halt was called, and the weary army lay down to snatch a
few hours' sleep beneath the moon.

They were on foot again by daybreak; and at length they came face to
face with their foes.

Near Stamford Bridge on the river Derwent, the Norwegian army was drawn
up in a great circle, with the sunbeams glinting upon helmets and
spear-points.  High overhead floated the royal standard, a raven with
outstretched wings, called by the Norwegians the land-waster.

Riding at a short distance from the army was a knight in a bright blue
mantle and a shining helmet.

'Who is that man?' asked Harold of one of his captains.

'It is the King of Norway,' replied the captain.

Harold looked at the rider again.

'He is a tall and stately king,' he said; 'but his end is near.'

Then he looked again at the Norwegians, all drawn up in battle array;
and he thought of his brother, somewhere among their ranks; and he
wondered whether it was too late to try to make peace.

He rode out from his army until he was half-way between the two forces;
and then he shouted, 'Is Tostig the son of Godwin here?'

Tostig rode forward and said, 'Behold, Tostig is here!'

Then Harold cried, 'Harold of England offers Tostig peace and one-third
of the kingdom of England that he may rule over it; for he would not
that brother should fight against brother.'

'Last winter,' answered Tostig, 'my brother had nought for me but words
of scorn and high disdain; but now I am glad that he speaks both kindly
and fairly.  But what will my brother King Harold of England give to
King Harold of Norway for his trouble in coming here?'

'Seven feet of English ground,' replied Harold; 'or perhaps a foot
over, seeing he is taller than most other men.'

'Go thy way!' shouted the Earl; 'Tostig will not desert his friends and
go over to his foes.  He and his friends will die on this spot like
men, or will win England with their arms.'

Riding back to his army, Tostig was met by King Harold Hardrada.

'Who is that man who spake with thee?' asked the King of Norway.

Tostig replied, 'That is my brother Harold, the son of Godwin, and King
of the English.'

'He is but a little man,' said Hardrada; 'but he sits well in his

Then the battle began.

Both sides fought well, but the English pressed the Northmen hard, and
drove them backward until they came to the river Derwent.  Then they
pressed them harder than ever; and the Northmen might have been forced
into the river and drowned but for the bravery of one of their number,
who kept the bridge with uplifted sword while the other soldiers passed
over.  At last an Englishman got under the bridge, and thrust upward
with his spear through the planks; and wounded the brave Northman so
that he died.

After this the Northmen fell into confusion.  Hardrada and Tostig were
both slain; and the remnant of their army fled in a panic to their

The English marched towards York, where the king gave a great feast in
honour of the victory.

The guests were seated round the board, drinking healths and singing,
and Harold was thinking sorrowfully of the brother who had fallen, a
traitor to his country, when of a sudden there was a loud knocking at
the door.

'What is that?' inquired the startled guests.

The door was thrown open, and a weary, white-faced man appeared, all
splashed and caked with mud.

'What ill news have you come to bring me?' asked Harold, while the
others all left the board and crowded round to hear.

'My lord the king,' said the messenger, 'I am from Pevensey--the
Normans have landed--Duke William--sixty thousand men--laying waste the
country--ships, horses, men-at-arms----'

'Ha!' said Harold; 'he has chosen a time when the men who guard the
coast are at their harvest; scattered over the country; and there is no
one save myself to gather them together.  How long is it since you

'I hardly know,' replied the messenger; 'I took no count of time.  I
have galloped all the way--ridden day and night, changing horses where
I could.'

'Thanks, brave messenger,' said the king; 'by your speed you may have
saved your country.  We must set off without delay,' he said, turning
to his guests; 'there is no more time for rest--who is ready to start
for Sussex?'

'I--and I--and I,' said the nobles, hurrying to fetch their followers;
and soon the hall was deserted.

In an hour's time the army was once more upon the march.  The two
earls, Edwin and Morcar, whose sister Harold had married, remained in
the north, promising to collect their forces and to follow the king
with all speed.

As Harold approached the south of England, he was joined by hundreds of
men who had fled from the invaders, and were eager to avenge the
destruction of their homesteads.

'The English,' reported Duke William's outposts to their master, 'rush
onward through their pillaged country with the fury of madmen.'

'Let them come, and come soon!' was the duke's reply.

At Senlac, near the town of Hastings in Sussex, the English came in
sight of their foes.  The Normans lay encamped upon the plain, while
Harold posted his army on a hill, with a little wood behind, and an old
mossy apple-tree a little to one side.

Night came on, clear and cold; and the two armies lay in sight of one
another's camp-fires, where they could hear the clinking of the
armourer's hammers, and the rough voices of the men on the other side.

When all was ready, the Normans lay down quietly to sleep, and awoke in
the morning refreshed and eager for the fray.

The English sat around their watch-fires, passing the horns of ale and
mead from hand to hand, and singing glees and war-songs.  Over all
brooded the thought of the broken oath, and of the curse which had been
pronounced against England; but they knew that the curse was unjust,
and were resolved to fight to the last against the invader.

Harold rode round the camp to speak a last word of encouragement to his
men before they slept.  He still hoped that the northern earls, Edwin
and Morcar, would come up before the battle; but Edwin and Morcar were
traitors.  They had said to themselves, 'If Harold falls, we shall
divide England with Duke William, and be kings of our share of the
country instead of earls.'  So they remained in the north; and the
sacrifice that Harold had made in marrying their sister proved to be in

Morning dawned, and the two armies drew themselves up in order of
battle.  The English numbered only twenty thousand men, while William
had brought against them sixty thousand; but the English had the
advantage of a stronger position.

Harold drew up his bodyguard on the crest of the hill, where he had
planted his standard, the Golden Dragon of Wessex.  Close by were the
men of London, who had the right of fighting by the side of their king.
These men were all clad in coats of mail, and carried battle-axes, and
javelins for throwing.  On the sides of the hill were posted the other
soldiers and the country people, many of whom were armed only with
darts, knives, and pitchforks, for they had come in very hastily from
the fields.  Round the hill the men had dug a trench, and fortified it
with a stockade; and behind the stockade Harold posted a line of
soldiers, standing close together, shield touching shield.

Then Harold and his two brothers rode through the army, saying, 'Keep
your ranks, men!  Stand shoulder to shoulder, and we shall win the day.
But if you leave your line, or allow the Normans to break it, we are
lost.  Stand firm!'

After having passed from rank to rank, and spoken to all the men,
Harold and his brothers rode back to the royal standard and dismounted,
for they were resolved to fight on foot and take what came like the
meanest of their soldiers.

Meanwhile Duke William had drawn up his men in three divisions, with a
long line of archers in front.  In the centre were posted the Norman
knights with William at their head; and the sacred banner, the three
lions of Normandy, floating above them.

Suddenly there burst from the Norman lines their battle-cry of 'God aid
us!' and the vast army began to move across the plain.  At the head
rode a minstrel-knight, singing an old battle-song, and whirling up his
sword in the air and catching it again as it fell.

Now the battle began in real earnest.

A flight of arrows was let loose upon the English host, then the
Normans charged up to the palisade.

As well might they have flung themselves against a stone wall.
Standing shoulder to shoulder, the English swung their huge
battle-axes, which clove their way through armour and shirts of mail.
Again and again the Normans charged against the barricade, the duke
himself at their head, his eyes shining like balls of living fire and
his voice like a trumpet; but they were driven back like waves breaking
around the base of a cliff.

On all sides the battle raged.  Lances clashed, sword rang upon sword,
arrows whizzed through the air, and battle-axes crashed through steel
armour; while the cries of the wounded mingled with the blasts of the
war-horn and English cries of 'Out, out!' answered the Norman shouts of
'God aid us!'

Stoutest of the English was Harold, whose heavy battle-axe would cut
down horse and rider at a blow.  Among the Normans there arose a cry
that the duke was slain.

'Here am I,' shouted William, tearing off his helmet, 'and by God's aid
will yet win the day!'

Maddened with war fury, he spurred up the hill, broke single-handed
through the barrier, and rode straight to Harold.  The brother of the
king stepped before him, and was hewn down by a blow from William
before the duke himself was unhorsed and fell to the ground.  Mounting
again quickly, William cut his way through his foes and was back again
in the Norman lines before any one could harm him.

A body of Normans having given way, the Kentish men in their eagerness
overleaped the barricade and gave chase to their flying foes.
Instantly William saw his advantage.  The Normans turned, galloped up
the hill, and poured by thousands into the gap thus left undefended.

This proved the turning point of the day.

'Slowly and surely,' says an old writer, 'the Norman horse pressed
along the crest of the hill, strewing the height with corpses as the
hay is strewn in swaths before the mower.'

Still the ring round the standard remained unbroken, and in the centre
Harold and his bodyguard held their ground, dealing blows around them
with their great battle-axes.  Beyond the ring the dead lay piled up in
heaps, English and Norman together.

'Shoot upward,' cried the duke to his archers, 'that your arrows may
fall like bolts from heaven.'

A shower of arrows fell upon the heads and shoulders of the English,
killing and wounding many a brave fighter.

The battle had lasted since early morning; and just as the sun went
down an arrow pierced Harold's right eye.

The king dropped his battle-axe, and fell forward with a short, sharp
cry of pain.

[Illustration: The Death of Harold.]

Twenty Norman knights rushed forward, seized the standard, and dealt
Harold a mortal blow as he lay beside the dead bodies of his two

The English, having lost their leader, left the field fighting to the
last, and then scattered over the country to carry far and wide the
ill-tidings that King Harold was slain and the Norman master of England.

All was quiet when the moon rose over the hill where the Golden Dragon
had been hauled down and the sacred banner of the Normans raised in its
stead.  The ground having been hastily cleared, William's tent was
pitched upon the spot where Harold and his brothers had made their last
stand, and the duke slept there all night.

The next day was a Sunday, and as the bells tinkled mournfully in the
churches, Englishwomen came flocking to the field of battle, with pale
faces and eyes red with weeping, to beg leave to look for their
husbands and brothers and sons among the slain.  Among them was the
mother of Harold, offering William its weight in gold for the body of
her son.

The conqueror gave her leave to search, and for a long time the noble
English lady wandered over the battle-field, seeking vainly among the

Then came Aldwyth, Harold's wife; but she too, was unable to find the
body of her husband.

Last of all came Edith of the Swan's Neck, whom Harold had loved; and
she sought long for the body.

At last she came to a corpse that was lying upon a heap of dead,
disfigured with so many wounds that only she could have known it.

'That is Harold,' she said.

William gave orders that the last of the English kings should be buried
upon the cliffs that guard the shores of England, and a heap of stones
raised upon it.

'Let him lie there,' he said; 'he kept the shore manfully while he
lived; let him stay and guard it ever, now he is dead.'



The Norman King of England, a descendant of William the Conqueror,
having died without leaving any children, his brother John made himself

John was a very bad man; and he was both mean and cowardly.  Although
he was King of England and Duke of Normandy he was never happy or at
rest, for he knew that his nephew Arthur, the son of his elder brother,
had a better right than himself to the crown.  As time went on he
became more and more uneasy, for he found that his subjects did not
like him, and he was afraid that they might learn to like the fine,
handsome lad whom many of them believed to be their rightful sovereign.

At the time when John made himself king, young Arthur was only twelve
years old, and he was living safely in his own dukedom of Brittany.
His father having died when Arthur was only a baby, the young prince
had been Duke of Brittany all his life; and he had grown up among his
people, who loved their young duke very much.

King Philip of France was an enemy of John; and when he heard that the
man whom he despised had taken the crown which should have been
Arthur's, he invited the young duke to his court, made him a knight,
boy although he was, and promised him his daughter in marriage when he
should be a man.

Alas!  Poor Arthur never lived to marry the Princess of France.

One day the French king said to the young prince, 'Arthur, you know
your rights, and that your uncle John is not the true King of England.
Would you not like to be a king?'

The boy looked at King Philip with his large, bright blue eyes.

'Truly,' he said, 'I should greatly like to be a king.'

'Then win back your inheritance,' said the King of France.  'I will
give you two hundred of my knights, and you shall come with me and make
war upon your uncle in Normandy, which is yours by right.  Once we have
taken Normandy from the usurper, it will be easy to drive him from

Prince Arthur flushed with joy and pride; and his eyes sparkled more
brightly than ever.  The King of France gave him a beautiful horse, and
Arthur had a fine suit of armour made for himself; and then he was
unable to rest or sleep for joy at the thought that he would soon be a
king, and marry the beautiful princess who had been promised to him as
his wife.

When the people of Brittany heard that their gallant young duke was
going to fight for his inheritance, they gathered together five hundred
knights and five thousand foot soldiers and sent them to Arthur in

Arthur was very proud of his little army, and he felt sure that with
the help of his followers he would soon win back England and Normandy.
Seeing him upon his fine horse, and wearing his rich suit of armour,
the knights and soldiers were delighted with the fine, spirited lad,
and set off gaily under his leadership to besiege a town which was in
the possession of King John.

Upon hearing the news, the King of England came himself to fight
against his nephew.  He did not bring a large army; he knew that King
Philip of France was in another part of the country, and he did not
think it would be very difficult to overcome Prince Arthur.

One night the prince's troops were surprised by treachery.  A number of
King John's soldiers stole into the camp, made prisoners of some of
Arthur's knights, and stabbed others in the dark.

Prince Arthur was sleeping in his tent when he was rudely awakened by
some armed men, who seized him by the wrists, and bade him come with
them and not make any noise.

His captors hurried the lad through the streets of the little town,
which were full of King John's soldiers, running to and fro with
lighted torches, and some of them leading Prince Arthur's brave French
and Breton soldiers as prisoners.

Presently they reached a lighted hall, and when his eyes became
accustomed to the glare Arthur saw before him his uncle John, a look of
triumph upon his mean face and in his shifty eyes.  In a corner was a
group of Arthur's knights, with fetters on their wrists and ankles.

'Do you know me, boy?' said King John, trying to look his nephew in the

The prince stood up boldly and looked at his uncle with his honest,
fearless eyes.

'Yes,' he said, 'I know you; you are my uncle, the usurping King of

John's mean face became white with anger, and he was unable to speak.

'I command you,' continued the boy, 'to restore to me my rightful
inheritance, of which you have unjustly deprived me, and to set my
knights instantly at liberty.'

Some of the bystanders were looking at the lad with pity, mingled with
admiration for his courage; but the boy's fearlessness only filled the
king with a desire to lower his pride.

By the time he had found his voice, John's eyes were glittering with a
cruel determination.

'To Falaise with him!' he said.  'Take him away; and in the dungeon
there he will learn to rebel against his uncle and lawful king.'

Arthur was not frightened yet.  He remembered that King Philip had
promised to make him King of England; and he saw nothing to be afraid
of in the mean, cowardly face of the man before him.

'No king of mine,' he said; 'you may put me in a dungeon, but you
cannot keep me there.  The King of France is on my side and against
you, base usurper; and he will send an army and deliver me from the
strongest fortress of those that you have stolen from me.'

King John made a sign; and the boy was hurried away, still defying his
uncle.  A horse was waiting for him, and he was made to ride, strongly
guarded, all the long distance to the castle of Falaise, which was
reached early one fine sunny morning.

Standing beneath the grim walls of the castle, the chief of Arthur's
guards blew a horn.

Some men-at-arms stirred upon the battlements; then the drawbridge was
lowered, the iron grating raised which guarded the entrance; and the
party clattered under the entrance tower and into the courtyard.

Arthur descended from his horse; and weary as he was, he was led along
a passage and down a stone staircase to a great iron door which one of
his guides opened with a large key.

Arthur's spirits sank when he saw before him a dreary stone dungeon
lighted only by a window high up in the wall, and furnished with a
narrow bed, a stool, and a heap of straw.

Still, he said to himself, it was only for a few days.  To-morrow, or
the next day, or the day after that at farthest, the King of France was
sure to come, and then Arthur would mount his gallant horse again, put
himself at the head of his devoted little army, and set forth once more
to make himself King of England.

To-morrow came, and the next day, and the day after that; and Arthur
was still in his dungeon.  Weeks passed; and the King of France had not
arrived to rescue the prince who was to be his son-in-law.

Spring came, and sometimes the sun shone brightly through the small
window, and made a brilliant patch of light on the opposite wall of
Prince Arthur's dungeon.--When the breezes blew, branches with young
unfolding leaves would appear for a minute at the opening and then
vanish.  Balmy air stole in at the unglazed window and breathed softly
upon the face of the prisoner; and Arthur would hear the song-birds and
the voices of other boys at their games beneath the castle walls, and
all the pleasant sounds of a world where every one save himself
appeared to be at liberty.  Sometimes Arthur would sit for hours,
gazing upwards at the tiny square of light, his heart swelling with
impatience as he thought of the spring pastimes that he was losing; and
he wondered when the King of France would come and set him free.

One day the bolts were withdrawn at an unusual hour.

Here, then, was King Philip at last!

Arthur turned quickly; and in the archway of the door, he saw the white
face of his uncle.

[Illustration: Arthur in prison visited by King John.]

'Arthur,' said King John, trying to meet his nephew's eyes, 'will you
not trust to your loving uncle?'

'I will trust my loving uncle,' replied the boy, 'when he does me
right.  Restore to me my kingdom of England, and then come and ask me
that question.'

The king looked at his nephew, whose high-spirited young face had
become so much paler by confinement; then he turned away without a word
and left the prison.

After this King John took counsel with his advisers.

'What shall I do with this boy,' he said, 'who defies me and thinks
that he is to become King of England?'

'Behead him,' said one.  'Have him poisoned,' said another.

'Put his eyes out,' suggested a hard-faced nobleman who had not spoken
before; 'the people will not care to have a blind man for their king.'

'Put out his eyes,' mused the king; 'put out his eyes; those eyes which
look with unseemly boldness at his uncle and true sovereign.'

The longer he dwelt upon the idea the more attractive did it become to

The boy who could not be made to fear him; who persisted in believing
that he would one day force his uncle to yield up the crown--it would
be gratifying to know that he had been deprived of his frank, fearless

John sent to the prison a man called Hubert de Burgh, whom he believed
to be devoted to himself; and gave him charge of Prince Arthur.

Hubert had a stern face but a kind heart, and he soon grew so much
attached to the bright boy who was his prisoner, that he felt towards
him almost as a father.  He took the prince out of the dungeon, and
gave him bright sunny rooms in another part of the castle; and often he
spent hours with his young charge, enjoying his cheerful boyish

What was Hubert's dismay when one day he received a letter from the
king, commanding that his prisoner's eyes should be burned out with hot
irons.  Not only that, but he had sent two executioners to see that it
was done.

Hubert was hardly able to bear the pain which such an order gave him;
but he was unable to see any way of escape for the prince.

He entered Arthur's room that morning with so sad a face that the
prince asked what ailed him.

'May one not be sad at times, prince?' said Hubert, whose sorrow made
him gruff.

'Indeed there may be many things that make people sad,' replied Prince
Arthur, 'although I was nearly forgetting that any one could be unhappy
who is out of prison.--Indeed, Hubert, I am beginning to think that if
only I were free and kept sheep I could be as merry as the day is long.
Perhaps I should not trouble any longer about being a king if only I
had the blue sky above my head once more, and no prison bars.--I wish I
were your son, Hubert; and then I should not have to spend my time in

Poor Hubert, it was necessary that he should tell the prince what was
going to happen; and yet the longer he waited the more impossible it
seemed for him to begin.  He moved uneasily about the room, and looked
so gloomy, that Arthur felt sure that something was the matter.

'Here, prince, read this letter,' said Hubert abruptly at last, feeling
it impossible that he could utter the dreadful news.

Arthur took the letter; and then he became deadly pale.

'Hubert, is this true?' he said.

'Prince, these are your uncle's orders!' said Hubert with a shaking

'Have you the heart to do it?' said Arthur piteously.  'Will you indeed
burn out my eyes?'

'I must,' said Hubert; 'your uncle has sent two men to see that it is

'O Hubert!' was all that Arthur could say.

'Better get it over quickly,' muttered Hubert to himself, and he called
the executioners, who had been waiting outside the door.

'Send these men away, Hubert!' cried the boy.  'I will stay quite
still, Hubert, I will not move if you will do it yourself; but I cannot
bear the sight of these men.'

'You may go,' said Hubert to the executioners; 'I will call when I am
ready for you.'

'Indeed,' said one of the men, who had pitied the boy, 'I am best
pleased to be away from such a deed.'

But it was impossible for Hubert to burn out the eyes of his dear young
prisoner; and it was impossible for Arthur not to beg for mercy.

'I cannot do it,' said Hubert more to himself than to the prince, 'and
I will not; I shall have to take the consequences.'  He opened the
door, and called in the two men.

They came in unwilling, each hoping that he would not have to do the

'I have not burned out the prince's eyes,' said Hubert abruptly.  'What
is more, I am not going to allow you to do so.  You can tell the king
if you like.'

'Indeed, sir,' said one of the men, 'we won't tell his majesty anything
at all.  And by your leave, sir, we would both rather be excused from
doing our duty if it's to be a young gentleman like this, who can't
have done anything to deserve it.  And so we will wish you good-day,

The men shuffled out of the room, but Arthur's troubles were not over
yet.  King John began to think that Arthur, even without his eyes, was
too dangerous a prisoner to keep on his hands; and he suggested to a
knight named William de Bray that he should stab the prince in prison.

'I am a gentleman and not an executioner,' replied William de Bray; and
he turned from the king in disdain.

Then John hired an assassin for a large sum of money, and sent him to
the castle to kill the prince.

'Upon what errand dost thou come?' asked Hubert de Burgh, as the fellow
presented himself at the castle gates.

'To despatch Prince Arthur,' said the man.

'Go back to him that sent thee,' said Hubert, 'and say that I will do

King John, knowing very well that Hubert was trying to save his
prisoner, separated Arthur from his kind gaoler, and had him imprisoned
in the strong castle of Rouen, which is washed on one side by the river

Then he came himself in a boat by night and waited outside the castle

Arthur was awakened by his gaoler and made to follow him to a small
door by the river-side.  When the door was unfastened, the gaoler threw
down his torch and trod upon it to put it out, and Arthur was only able
to distinguish two dark forms in the boat.  From the voice he could
tell that one of them was his uncle.

Arthur was dragged on board the boat, imploring the king to have mercy
upon him; and what happened after that has never been told.  Some say
that John stunned his nephew with a large stone, and flung his body
into the Seine; at all events, neither the prince, nor his dead body,
was ever seen again.

If John thought that his nephew's murder would make him undisputed King
of England he was much mistaken.  The cruel deed aroused the greatest
indignation throughout England and France.  Through it the dukedom of
Normandy was lost to the English crown, and some years later John died
a ruined man, with his subjects in open rebellion against him.



Edward III., King of England, was a very warlike prince.  When the King
of France died he was succeeded by his nephew Philip, but Edward
declared that he, being a grandson of the late king, had a better right
than a nephew; and he set off with a gallant army and many knights and
nobles to enforce his claim.

The war proved a much longer one than Edward had expected.  Six years
after the English king's first march into France the two nations were
still fighting.  By this time King Edward's eldest son was fifteen
years of age, and he implored his father to let him accompany him to
the French war.

This young prince was a fine spirited youth, and skilful at all manly
exercises.  In appearance he was very fair, with light hair and
laughing blue eyes.  Perhaps he was a little vain of his appearance,
because in order to show off the fairness of his complexion he always
wore dark-coloured armour, a habit which led to his being known in
after life as Edward the Black Prince.

Seeing his boy's courage and warlike spirit, the king consented to his
accompanying him upon his next expedition into France.

In the month of July, 1346, the king and the prince set sail with an
army of thirty thousand men, ten thousand of whom were archers.

For seven weeks the English marched through the fair and smiling
country of France, meeting with very little opposition, and plundering
and burning wherever they went.

At last, by the little village of Crecy on the banks of the river
Somme, the English came in view of the French army.

It was not difficult to tell that the army of the King of France
numbered at least eight times as many men as were on the side of the
English; but King Edward decided that it would never do to betray fear.

'We will go in,' he said calmly to his men, 'and beat, or be beaten.'

It was too late to fight that day; and the English lay down within
sight of the enemy.

Early in the morning the English king set his army in order of battle.

King Edward himself was to command one division; two of his earls
another; and the eager young prince, assisted by the Earls of Warwick
and Oxford, was given the charge of a third.

When the troops were all drawn up in fighting array, the king mounted
his horse and rode from rank to rank, cheering and encouraging the men
and their leaders.

'He spoke so sweetly,' says an old writer, 'and with so good a
countenance and merry cheer, that all such as were discomfited took
courage in seeing and hearing him.'

By the time King Edward had gone round the whole army it was about nine
o'clock, and the sun was shining warm and bright upon what was soon to
be the field of battle.  The king sent orders that his men were to 'eat
at their ease and drink a cup'; and the whole army sat down upon the
grass and breakfasted.  Then they returned to their ranks again and lay
down, each man in his place, with his bow and helmet beside him,
waiting until the enemy should be ready to begin the fight.

In the meanwhile the French army was approaching.  By the time the king
had brought his men within reach of the English lines, the bright
morning had clouded over.  The day had become dark and threatening, and
soon the thunder began to growl, and the lightning to flash overhead.
The frightened birds flew screaming for shelter, and the clouds broke
and fell in a heavy shower upon the French king's army.

One of his captains advised King Philip not to fight until the morrow.
The king gave the order to halt; but the men in the rear, not
understanding the message, pressed forward and forced the others to
advance, thus throwing the army into confusion.

Finding that it was too late to put off the battle, King Philip ordered
to the front a great body of Genoese cross-bowmen, whom he had hired to
fight against the English.

By this time the rain was over and the sun had come out; but it shone
full in the faces of the cross-bowmen, and prevented them from seeing
the enemy.  Their bows, too, had become wetted with the rain, and the
strings were slackened.

When they heard the king's order the Genoese moved forward; 'then,'
says the historian, 'they made a great cry to abash the English; but
they stood still and stirred not for all that.  A second and a third
time the Genoese uttered a fell cry--very loud and clear, and a little
stept forward; but the English removed not one foot.'

At last the Genoese sent a shower of arrows into the ranks of the calm,
silent English.

The English received the shower quietly; then their reply was prompt.
A quick movement went along the line of archers; the ten thousand men
advanced one pace, and 'their arrows flew so wholly together and so
thick that it seemed as if it snowed.'

The Genoese required time to wind up their cross-bows before they could
re-load; and in the meantime the English longbowmen shot so
continuously that the ranks of the Genoese broke in terror and fled.

Still the archers sent their deadly hail upon the French army, while a
number of Welsh and Cornish soldiers, armed with long knives, crept in
under the horses and stabbed them, so that both horse and rider fell
heavily to the ground.  The confusion was rendered still more dreadful
by means of a weapon which King Edward used for the first time in
battle; small 'bombards,' or cannon, as they were afterwards called,
'which with fire threw little iron balls to frighten the horses.'

While the battle raged with great fury on both sides, King Edward was
sending out his orders from a windmill from which he could overlook the
progress of the fight.

Presently a messenger came from the Earl of Warwick, beseeching the
king to send aid to his son, the Black Prince.

[Illustration: Warwick's messenger asking for aid to be sent to the
Black Prince.]

'Is my son killed?' asked the king.

'No, Sire, please God,' replied the messenger.

'Is he wounded?'

'No, Sire.'

'Is he thrown to the ground?'

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

'Then,' said the king, 'go back to those that sent you, and tell them
that he shall have no help from me.  Let the boy win his spurs; for I
wish, if God so order it, that the day may be his.'

The messenger carried back these words to the prince, who fought harder
than ever, and drove off his assailants.

For hours the battle raged, both sides fighting with great fury and
determination.  On the French side was the old blind King of Bohemia,
who remained somewhat apart, mounted upon his warhorse, listening to
the din and noise of the battle in which his son was engaged.

After some time he heard a French knight approaching, and asked him how
the fight was going.

'The Genoese have been routed,' was the reply; 'and your son is

Then the king called to him two of his vassals and said to them,
'Lords, you are my vassals, my friends, and my companions; I pray you
of your goodness to lead me so far into the fight that I may at least
strike one blow with my sword.'

Then the two knights drew up, one on each side of their aged king; and
all three fastened their bridle-reins together and rode into the fray.

'The king,' says the old story-teller, 'struck one blow with his sword;
yea, and more than four; and fought right valiantly'; until he and his
knights disappeared under the heaving, struggling mass of men, never to
rise again.

In the meantime the King of France was fighting as hard as any man on
the field.  Twice he was wounded, and once he had his horse shot under
him; but after having had his wounds bound up, he mounted again and
rode back into the fight.  Many times he led his men in furious charges
against the English; but nothing could overcome the coolness and
determination of the English forces.

At last the French were vanquished, and had to retire from the field.
Their sacred banner, the Oriflamme, or Flame of Gold, was nearly
captured, but a brave French knight broke his way through the crowd
which was struggling around it, cut the banner from its staff with his
sword, and winding it round his body, rode away with it in safety.

The French king, refusing to leave the field, was dragged away, almost
by force, by some of his followers.

After riding for some miles, they came to a castle and knocked at the

'Who is there?' shouted the gate-keeper.

'It is the Fortune of France,' was the reply.

Then the lord of the castle came down himself and opened the gates, and
let in his weary, broken-hearted king.

Night was closing in, and the English were lighting their watch-fires
upon the battlefield, when King Edward rode forward to meet the son who
had fought so bravely.  Taking the lad in his arms, he kissed him, and
he told him that he had acted nobly, and worthy of the day and of his
high birth.

Next morning the king and the prince went to look at the slain, and
found among them the old King of Bohemia, lying dead between his two
knights.  Beside the king lay his shield and helmet, bearing his
device, three ostrich feathers, with the motto 'ich dien.'

King Edward gave orders that the old hero should be borne from the
field and buried with royal honours; and then he and the prince moved
away in a very thoughtful mood.

'Truly,' said Prince Edward, 'I think that was well said; "ich dien,"
meaning that a king's duty is to serve his country.'

'As thou hast served it well this day, my son,' replied his father,
'wilt thou take this device for thine own?'

So the prince took for his crest the three ostrich feathers with the
motto, in remembrance of his gallant enemy, and the device is borne by
the Princes of Wales to this day.

Ten years later, the Black Prince had become a man, and the war was not
yet at an end.  King Philip was dead, and had been succeeded by his son
John, a brave and chivalrous king.

Edward being engaged in fighting with the Scots, the Black Prince took
command of the army in France.  Near the town of Poitiers he believed
that the French king lay somewhere in readiness to give battle; but the
English could not find out where he was.

The prince gave orders that the French peasants were to be made to tell
him where their king lay encamped; but these poor people were so loyal
that neither money nor threats could make them give any information.

Prince Edward was in great perplexity, for his army was now reduced to
about ten thousand men; and if the King of France had a larger force,
the prince felt that it might be more prudent for him to retire.

One day, quite unexpectedly, the English came in view of the French
army, encamped near the town of Poitiers.  The whole country, far and
near, seemed to be occupied by the force which was to oppose the
Prince's little body of ten thousand men.

'There was all the flower of France,' says the historian, 'for there
was none durst abide at home without he were shamed for ever.'

'God help us,' said the Black Prince; 'we must make the best of it.'

He posted his army very strongly upon a hill, while the French king
marshalled his forces upon the plain below.

That night the two armies lay, strongly guarded, within sight of each

In the morning the battle was about to begin when a cardinal came
riding in haste to the French king, and implored him to give him leave
to try to save the small body of English from rushing upon certain

'Sire,' he said, 'you have here all the flower of your realm against a
handful of people, for so the English are as compared to your company.
I pray you that you will allow me to ride to the prince and show him
what danger you have him in.'

The king gave permission, and the cardinal came riding over to the
Black Prince, who received him courteously.

'Save my honour,' he said, when the cardinal offered to try to arrange
terms for him, 'and the honour of my army, and I will make any
reasonable terms.'

He offered to give up all the towns and castles he had taken, and to
make a truce with the French king for seven years; and the cardinal
rode back to his own side with this message.

After an interval of suspense he came riding to the English camp again.

'The King of France consents to make peace,' said the cardinal, 'on
condition that you will yield yourself up a prisoner, with a hundred of
your knights.'

The prince's face darkened.

Here would be shameful news to send to his father and the people of

As the King of France refused to make peace upon any other conditions,
Prince Edward broke off the treaty and turned to his army, saying
quietly, 'God defend the right; we shall fight to-morrow.'

All that day the English worked hard to make their position more
secure.  The sides of the hill were covered with woods and vineyards,
and the principal approach was by means of a lane with hedges on either
side, behind which a number of archers posted themselves.  All the
weaker places were strengthened by means of palisades.

On the following morning, when all was in order of battle, the prince
addressed his men.

'Sirs,' he said, 'although we be but a small company compared with our
enemies, we must not lose courage.  If it is to be our good fortune to
win the day, we shall be the most honoured people in all the world; and
if we die in our right quarrel, I have the king my father and my
brothers, and you have good friends and kinsmen, and they will avenge
our deaths.  I beg that each of you will do your duty to-day, and if
God be pleased and St. George, this day you will see me a true knight.'

After this the battle began.

The French cavalry charged up the lane, hoping to break the lines of
archers, but the men who were posted behind the hedges received them
with such a volley of arrows that the horses refused to advance, and
some of them fell, blocking up the way.

Then a body of English knights, galloping down the hill, threw the
foremost of the French lines into confusion.

Lord James Audley, who during the first part of the battle had been by
the side of the prince, now said to him, 'Sir, I have always truly
served my lord your father and yourself also, and I shall do so as long
as I live.  I once made a vow that in the first battle that your father
or any of his children should be in, I should be the first setter-on
and the best combatant, or else die; therefore I beg of you that you
will allow me to leave you in order that I may accomplish my vow.'

The prince took him by the hand and said, 'Sir James, God give you this
day the grace to be the first knight of all'; and Lord James rode away
into the battle and fought until he had to be carried, sorely wounded,
from the field.

In the meantime the battle raged with great fury upon all sides, and
many French and English knights were engaged in deadly combat.

An English knight, Sir John Chandos, who had never left the prince,
said to his master, 'Ride forward, noble prince, and the day is yours;
let us get to the French king, for truly he is so valiant a gentleman
that I think he will not fly, but may be taken prisoner; and, sir, I
heard you say that this day I should see you a good knight.'

'John,' said the prince, 'let us go forth; you shall not see me turn
back this day, but I will ever be with the foremost'; then the prince
and his friend rode into the thickest of the fight.

Where the battle raged most fiercely the French king, with his young
son Philip by his side, was laying about him with his battle-axe.  When
the nobles around him were slain or had fled, the brave lad refused to
leave his father, who made his last stand with the blood streaming down
from a wound in the face.

At last the king was forced to yield, and he gave his glove to a
banished French knight, Sir Denis de Marbeke, in token of surrender.

When the French were fleeing from the field, the Black Prince had
become so exhausted with fighting that Sir John Chandos persuaded him
to retire to his tent and take some rest.

Presently the news came to the royal tent that the king had been taken
prisoner, and was on his way to the English camp.  The prince
immediately sent two of his lords to meet him, and had him brought to
his own tent, where he received his brave enemy with the greatest

[Illustration: The French King brought prisoner to the Black Prince
after Poitiers.]

After the king had rested and refreshed himself, the prince invited him
and the other captive nobles to a supper in his tent, and Prince Edward
himself waited upon King John, saying that he was not worthy to sit at
table with so great a prince and so valiant a man.

Soon after this the English returned to their own country, bringing
with them the French king and many other prisoners.

The victorious army was received with the greatest joy; and on the day
when the Black Prince entered London, the people crowded by thousands
into the streets to see him pass as he rode on a little pony by the
side of his prisoner, King John of France, whom he had mounted upon his
own magnificent cream-coloured charger.

King John was kept, an honourable prisoner, until a peace was made with
France.  Then he was allowed to return to his own country upon
condition that the French should pay, within six years, a sum of money
for his ransom.

Until the ransom should be paid, the French king's three sons agreed to
remain as hostages in the town of Calais, which belonged to the
English.  They were allowed to ride into French territory as often as
they pleased, provided that they gave their word of honour not to
remain away longer than four days at a time.  King Edward and his son,
knowing how honourable their father was, trusted in the honour of these
young princes.

One day, however, one of the princes yielded to temptation, rode away,
and never came back to Calais at all.  Upon hearing the news the French
king was so shocked that he returned to England and yielded himself up
a prisoner once more.

'If honour is to be found nowhere else,' he said, 'it should find a
refuge in the breast of kings.'

King Edward gave him a palace to live in, and he and his people did all
they could to show the imprisoned king how much they loved and admired
him for his noble conduct.

But King John never returned to his own country.  Three months after
his arrival in England he died, his end hastened by sorrow at the base
and thoughtless conduct of his son.



Queen Elizabeth was seated in her private apartment, her white forehead
puckered in anxious lines.

The trouble between herself and her great rival the King of Spain had
reached its height.

Throughout her reign English and Spaniards had been contending for the
mastery of the new countries which had been discovered on the other
side of the ocean, and for supremacy upon the seas.  In South America
the Spanish king possessed rich mines of silver and precious stones:
and Queen Elizabeth's adventurers, half explorers, half pirates,
gloried in making descents upon the coast towns, waiting there until
the convoys came down from the mountains, and then seizing the
treasure, burning the town, and departing.

Another frolicsome adventure of the English sailors was to hang about
the rear of the Spanish 'silver fleet' on its way from America to
Spain, and when any vessel became separated from her fellows, to fall
upon her, remove the precious cargo to their own vessel, and then set
fire to the Spanish ship and send her adrift upon the high seas.

No wonder that after several years of these proceedings the Spanish
king had made up his mind that the pride of the audacious islanders
must be lowered, and a clean sweep made of the English pirates.

And it was no wonder that Queen Elizabeth was uneasy, for she had
received tidings that even then the Spaniards had a great fleet in the
harbour of Cadiz, ready for the invasion of England.  At that time the
Spanish navy was the greatest in the world, while the English only had
a few hundred small vessels.

While the Queen was occupied with these gloomy thoughts, there was a
knock at the door, and a short, pleasant-looking man stood on the

The man bowed low, and the queen looked at him with an expression that
was half angry and half pleased.

'Ha, Sir Francis Drake,' she said, 'what will you?

[Illustration: Drake making his request of the Queen.]

The great sailor smiled; and in spite of herself the sternness began to
melt from the queen's face.

Few people could have remained looking into that sunburnt countenance
and still have felt annoyed.  There was such a breezy determination
about the man; and his large, clear bright eyes met the eyes of every
one else with a look which made them trust him.  He had the appearance
of one to whom danger and adventure are sport, and who is strong enough
to carry out the wildest adventures with success.  Through his daring
exploits he had been the cause of more trouble with the Spaniards than
any other man in Queen Elizabeth's dominions, and she knew it; but then
the queen dearly loved a brave man.

'How now, Sir Francis,' said the Queen, smiling a little in spite of
herself, 'are you already weary of dry land?'

The adventurer gravely bent his head,

'Please your Majesty,' he said, 'I should be glad to have a commission.'

'What do you want a commission for?' asked the queen.

The explorer's eyes twinkled.

'So please your Majesty, to singe the King of Spain's beard; it has
grown somewhat too long.'

The queen understood what he meant, but she felt that she must try to
look forbidding.

'Ha, Sir Francis,' she said, 'have you not already made me enough
trouble with the King of Spain?  Know you not that for your plunderings
in the new lands yonder he has called you "the master thief of the
unknown world"?'

'Your Majesty,' said Sir Francis, 'I am well aware of the King of
Spain's opinion, and I think it the more reason that I should show him
some good fighting nearer home.'

Then, throwing off his jesting manner, he showed the queen his plans
for destroying the mighty preparations which were being made against

By the time the audience was over, the clouds had lifted from the
queen's brow, and the explorer had obtained leave to carry out his
daring project.

A few weeks later, the harbour of Cadiz showed the same scene of
animation which it had presented for many months past.  The huge
battle-ships, with their high prows and castellated turrets, rose
majestically out of the water, while among them little boats and sloops
flitted in and out, carrying arms and provisions for the great
galleons.  The clanking of armourers and hammering of ship-wrights was
going on busily, and the swarthy sailors were singing at their toil as
they coiled the ropes, polished brasses, and put the finishing touches
to the preparations which were being made for the conquest of England.

Of a sudden, into the busy harbour there sailed some half dozen small,
shabby vessels.  Every head was turned to look at them, and the cry
arose among the Spaniards that these ships belonged to the English

Instantly the guns of all the forts were turned upon them, but despite
a perfect hail of shot the plucky little fleet made its way unharmed up
to the very water-lines of the great war-vessels and set each one of
them on fire; then in face of the helpless, astonished Spaniards the
English ships turned and sailed away again, to repeat the adventure in
every harbour into which they could obtain an entrance.

So well had the singeing of the King of Spain's beard been done that it
was a year before the expedition was able to set sail for England; and
when at last it came, the English people were ready for it.

By the time the 'most fortunate and invincible Armada' was on its way,
nearly every fighting man in England had volunteered for service.  The
small navy had been increased by the gifts of the nobility and gentry,
who had built or hired vessels for the defence of their native land,
fitted them out and manned them at their own expense; while the cities
had collected money and sent it to the Treasury, to be used as the
queen and her ministers should find it best.  Lord Howard of Effingham
had been made High Admiral of the Fleet; and with him were Sir Francis
Drake and other bold seafarers.

The army was mustered at Tilbury Fort on the river Thames, and the
queen herself went down to review the men.

'My loving people,' she said, 'I am come among you at this time, not
for sport or pleasure, but--in the midst and heat of battle--to live
and die amongst you all; to lay down for my God, for my Kingdom, and my
people, my honour and my blood, if need be, even in the dust I know I
have the body but of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and
courage of a king, and of a King of England too.  And I think foul
scorn that Spain, or any Prince of Europe, should dare to invade the
borders of my realm.'

No wonder that these brave words were cheered to the echo, and that
every man felt himself inspired to do his best.

The winds being light the Armada advanced only slowly.  The English
fleet was lying at Plymouth, and the Admirals, Lord Howard of
Effingham, Sir Francis Drake and the others, were having a game of
bowls upon Plymouth Hoe when the news was brought that the topmasts of
the Spanish vessels had been sighted off Land's End, in Cornwall.  Some
of the players were about to break up the game, but Sir Francis Drake
made them keep their places.

'There's plenty of time,' he said, 'to end the game and thrash the
Spaniards too.'

Then quietly, without any flurry, the English vessels were made ready.

Some hours later, the foremost ships of the great Armada came in view,
and were soon followed by the rest of the fleet sailing majestically
along in the form of a crescent, seven miles long from tip to tip.

The English watched her go by without interfering, then the little
fleet was put to sea and followed the Armada, harassing her in the rear
and cutting off a vessel here and there.

For fully a week this running fight was kept up; then the two fleets
came face to face with each other off the town of Calais.  The first
day's encounter was indecisive; the Spanish fired over the heads of the
English, while the little vessels, low down in the water, poured their
broadsides full into the huge bulk of the Spanish galleons; yet when
night came it was discovered that the English were running short of
powder, while comparatively little harm had been done to the enemy.

During the night an unpleasant surprise was prepared for the Spaniards.

Half a dozen of the oldest vessels in the English fleet filled with
pitch, resin, tarry ropes, and anything else that would burn well, were
taken by two gallant Devonshire sailors, Young and Prowse, into the
very heart of the Armada and set on fire.  Then the men who had steered
the 'fire ships' took to their boats and rowed quickly back to safety,
while the burning vessels were left to drift about among the Spanish

In a panic the Spaniards cut their cables, hoisted sail, and made for
the open sea, each vessel getting in the way of her neighbours; and by
morning the entire fleet was in confusion.

Now was the opportunity of the English; the gallant little vessels
darted in among the great galleons, and attacked them like little
game-cocks fighting huge unwieldy cochinchinas.

From morning until sundown the battle raged; and it was the small
vessels which had the advantage.

Many of the Spanish ships sank or ran aground--'the feathers of the
Armada were plucked one by one'; then the remainder of the fleet made
wildly for the northern seas, the little English ships in pursuit.

When the English had followed the Spaniards sufficiently far, Drake
wrote from the deck of his vessel, 'We have driven the Spanish admirals
so far apart, that we hope they shall not shake hands these many days;
and whensoever they shall meet, I believe neither of them will rejoice
greatly at this day's service.'

A great storm completed the destruction which the English had begun,
and of the hundred and thirty-two ships that had set out for the
invasion of England, only fifty-three returned to Spain.  The others
lay beneath the waters of the English Channel or had been wrecked upon
the islands of Scotland and the coasts of Ireland and Devonshire.

When the Spanish king heard the news, he said that he had sent his
fleet against men, and not against the wind and waves, and that he
could easily send another armament to the shores of England.

But the King of Spain's beard had been too badly singed.

Never again did England have to fear a foreign invasion.  By the
destruction of the Armada she had proved herself worthy of the title
which she bears to this day: that of Queen and Mistress of the Seas.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Stories from English History" ***

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