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Title: The Comic History Of England
Author: A'Beckett, Gilbert Abbott
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 "The Comic History Of England" ***

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THE COMIC HISTORY OF ENGLAND

By Gilbert Abbott A'Beckett

With Reproductions of the 200 Engravings by JOHN LEECH

And Twenty Page Illustrations

London

George Routledge And Sons, Limited

Broadway, Ludgate Hill Manchester and New York


[Illustration: 011]


[Illustration: frontispiece]


[Illustration: 014]



PREFACE.

In commencing this work, the object of the Author was, as he stated in
the Prospectus, to blend amusement with instruction, by serving up,
in as palatable a shape as he could, the facts of English History. He
pledged himself not to sacrifice the substance to the seasoning; and
though he has certainly been a little free in the use of his sauce, he
hopes that he has not produced a mere hash on the present occasion. His
object has been to furnish something which may be allowed to take its
place as a standing dish at the library table, and which, though light,
may not be found devoid of nutriment. That food is certainly not the
most wholesome which is the heaviest and the least digestible.

Though the original design of this History was only to place facts in
an amusing light, without a sacrifice of fidelity, it is humbly presumed
that truth has rather gained than lost by the mode of treatment that
has been adopted. Persons and tilings, events and characters, have
been deprived of their false colouring, by the plain and matter-of-fact
spirit in which they have been approached by the writer of the "Comic
History of England." He has never scrupled to take the liberty of
tearing off the masks and fancy dresses of all who have hitherto been
presented in disguise to the notice of posterity. Motives are treated in
these pages as unceremoniously as men; and as the human disposition was
much the same in former times as it is in the present day, it has been
judged by the rules of common sense, which are alike at every period.

Some, who have been accustomed to look at History as a pageant, may
think it a desecration to present it in a homely shape, divested of its
gorgeous accessories. Such persons as these will doubtless feel offended
at finding the romance of history irreverently demolished, for the sake
of mere reality. They will-perhaps honestly though erroneously-accuse
the author of a contempt for what is great and good; but the truth is,
he has so much real respect for the great and good, that he is desirous
of preventing the little and bad from continuing to claim admiration
upon false pretences.



THE COMIC HISTORY OF ENGLAND.



BOOK I.



CHAPTER THE FIRST. THE BRITONS--THE ROMANS--INVASION BY JULIUS CÆSAR.


IT has always been the good fortune of the antiquarian who has busied
himself upon the subject of our ancestors, that the total darkness
by which they are overshadowed, renders it impossible to detect the
blunderings of the antiquarian himself, who has thus been allowed to
grope about the dim twilight of the past, and entangle himself among its
cobwebs, without any light being thrown upon his errors.

[Illustration: 028]

But while the antiquarians have experienced no obstruction from others,
they have managed to come into collision among themselves, and have
knocked their heads together with considerable violence in the process
of what they call exploring the dark ages of our early history. We are
not unwilling to take a walk amid the monuments of antiquity, which we
should be sorry to run against or tumble over for want of proper light;
and we shall therefore only venture so far as we can have the assistance
of the bull's-eye of truth, rejecting altogether the allurements of
the Will o' the Wisp of mere probability. It is not because former
historians have gone head oyer heels into the gulf of conjecture, that
we are to turn a desperate somersault after them. *

     * Some historians tell us that the most conclusive evidence
     of things that have happened is to be found in the reports
     of the _Times_. This source of information is, however,
     closed against us, for the _Times_, unfortunately, had no
     reporters when these isles were first inhabited.

The best materials for getting at the early history of a country are its
coins, its architecture, and its manners. The Britons, however, had not
yet converted the Britannia metal--for which their valour always made
them conspicuous--into coins, while their architecture, to judge from
the Druidical remains, was of the wicket style, consisting of two or
three stones stuck upright in the earth, with another stone laid at
the top of them; after the fashion with which all lovers of the game
of cricket are of course familiar. As this is the only architectural
assistance we are likely to obtain, we decline entering upon the subject
through such a gate; or, to use an expression analogous to the pastime
to which we have referred, we refuse to take our innings at such a
wicket. We need hardly add, that in looking to the manners of our
ancestors for enlightenment, we look utterly in vain, for there is no
Druidical Chesterfield to afford us any information upon the etiquette
of that distant period. There is every reason to believe that our
forefathers lived in an exceedingly rude state; and it is therefore
perhaps as well that their manners--or rather their want of
manners--should be buried in oblivion.

[Illustration: 029]

It was formerly very generally believed that the first population of
this country descended from Æneas, the performer of the most filial act
of pick-a-back that ever was known; and that the earliest Britons
were sprung from his grandson--one Brutus, who, preserving the family
peculiarity, came into this island on the shoulders of the people. *
Hollinshed, that greatest of antiquarian _gobemouches_, has not only
taken in the story we have just told, but has added a few of his own
ingenious embellishments. He tells us that Brutus fell in with the
posterity of the giant Albion, who was put to death by Hercules, whose
buildings at Lambeth are the only existing proofs of his having ever
resided in this country.

     * The story of Brutus and the Trojans has been told in such
     a variety of ways, that it is difficult to make either head
     or tail of it. Geoffrey of Monmouth says that Brutus found
     Britain deserted, except by a few giants--from which it is
     to be presumed that Brutus landed at Greenwich about the
     time of the fair. Perhaps the introduction of troy-weight
     into our arithmetic may be traced to the immigration of the
     Trojans, who were very likely to adopt the measures--and why
     not the weights--with which they had been familiar.

Considering it unprofitable to dwell any longer on those points, about
which all writers are at loggerheads, we come at once to that upon which
they are all agreed, which is, that the first inhabitants were a tribe
of Celtæ from the Continent: that, in fact, the earliest Englishmen were
all Frenchmen; and that, however bitter and galling the fact may be,
it is to Gaul that we owe our origin. We ought perhaps to mention
that Cæsar thinks our sea-ports were peopled by Belgic invaders, from
Brussels, thus causing a sprinkling of Brussels sprouts among the native
productions of England.

The name of our country--Britannia--has also been the subject of
ingenious speculation among the antiquarians. To sum up all their
conjectures into one of our own, we think they have succeeded in
dissolving the word Britannia into Brit, or Brick, and tan, which would
seem to imply that the natives always behaved like bricks in tanning
their enemies. The suggestion that the syllable tan, means tin, and that
Britannia is synonymous with tin land, appears to be rather a modern
notion, for it is only in later ages that Britannia has become
emphatically the land of tin, or the country for making money.

The first inhabitants of the island lived by pasture, and not by trade.
They as yet knew nothing of the till, but supported themselves by
tillage. Their dress was picturesque rather than elegant. A book of
truly British fashions would be a great curiosity in the present day,
and we regret that we have no _Petit Courier des Druides_, or Celtic
_Belle Assemblée_, to furnish _figurines_ of the costume of the period.
Skins, however, were much worn, for morning as well as for evening
dress; and it is probable that even at that early age ingenuity may
have been exercised to suggest new patterns for cow cloaks and other
varieties of the then prevailing articles of the wardrobe.

The Druids, who were the priests, exercised great ascendancy over
the people, and often claimed the spoils of war, together with other
property, under the plea of offering up the proceeds as a sacrifice to
the divinities. These treasures, however, were never accounted for; and
it is now too late for the historians to file, as it were, a bill in
equity to inquire what has become of them.

Cæsar, who might have been so called from his readiness to seize upon
everything, now turned his eyes and directed his arms upon Britain.
According to some he was tempted by the expectation of finding pearls,
which he hoped to get out of the oysters, and he therefore broke in upon
the natives with considerable energy.

[Illustration: 031]

Whatever Caesar looking for the Pearls for which Britain was formerly
celebrated, may have been Caesar's motives the fact is pretty well
ascertained, that at about ten o'clock one fine morning in August--some
say a quarter past--he reached the British coast with 12,000 infantry,
packed in eighty vessels. He had left behind him the whole of his
cavalry--the Roman horse-marines--who were detained by contrary winds
on the other side of the sea, and though anxious to be in communication
with their leader, they never could get into the right channel. At about
three in the afternoon, Cæsar having taken an early dinner, began to
disembark his forces at a spot called to this day the Sandwich Flats,
from the people having been such flats as to allow the enemy to effect a
landing. While the Roman soldiers were standing shilly-shallying at the
side of their vessels, a standard-bearer of the tenth legion, or, as we
should call him, an ensign in the tenth, jumped into the water, which
was nearly up to his knees, and addressing a claptrap to his comrades
as he stood in the sea, completely turned the tide in Caesar's favour.
After a severe shindy on the shingles, the Britons withdrew, leaving
the Romans masters of the beach, where Cæsar erected a marquee for the
accommodation of his cohorts. The natives sought and obtained peace,
which had no sooner been concluded, than the Roman horse-marines were
seen riding across the Channel. A tempest, however, arising, the horses
were terrified, and the waves beginning to mount, added so much to the
confusion, that the Roman cavalry were compelled to back to the point
they started from. The same storm gave a severe blow to the camp of
Cæsar, on the beach, dashing his galleys and transports against the
rocks which they were sure to split upon. Daunted by these disasters,
the invaders, after a few breezes with the Britons, took advantage of
a favourable gale to return to Gaul, and thus for a time the dispute
appeared to have blown over.

Cæsar's thoughts, however, still continued to run in one, namely, the
British, Channel. In the spring of the ensuing year, he rigged out 800
ships, into which he contrived to cram 32,000 men, and with this
force he was permitted to land a second time by those horrid flats at
Sandwich. The Britons for some time made an obstinate resistance in
their chariots, but they ultimately took a fly across the country, and
retreated with great rapidity. Cæsar had scarcely sat down to breakfast
the next morning when he heard that a tempest had wrecked all his
vessels. At this intelligence he burst into tears, and scampered off to
the sea coast, with all his legions in full cry, hurrying after him.

[Illustration: 032]

The news of the disaster turned out to be no exaggeration, for there
were no penny-a-liners in those days; and, having carried his ships a
good way inland, where they remained like fish out of water, he set out
once more in pursuit of the enemy. The Britons had, however, made
the most of their time, and had found a leader in the person of
Gassivelaunus, _alias_ Caswallon, a quarrelsome old Gelt, who had so
frequently thrashed his neighbours, that he was thought the most likely
person to succeed in thrashing the Romans. This gallant individual was
successful in a few rough off handed engagements; but when it came
to the fancy work, where tactics were required, the disciplined Roman
troops were more than a match for him. His soldiers having been driven
back to their woods, he drove himself back in his chariot to the
neighbourhood of Chertsey, where he had a few acres of ground, which he
called a Kingdom. He then stuck some wooden posts in the middle of the
Thames, as an impediment to Cæsar, who, in the plenitude of his vaulting
ambition, laid his hands on the posts and vaulted over them.

The army of Cassivelaunus being now disbanded, his establishment was
reduced to 4000 chariots, which he kept up for the purpose of harassing
the Romans. As each chariot required at least a pair of horses, his 4000
vehicles, and the enormous stud they entailed, must have been rather
more harassing to Cassivelaunus himself than to the enemy.

This extremely extravagant Celt, who had long been the object of the
jealousy of his neighbours, was now threatened by their treachery. The
chief of the Trinobantes, who lived in Middlesex, and were perhaps the
earliest Middlesex magistrates, sent ambassadors to Cæsar, promising
submission. They also showed him the way to the contemptible cluster of
houses which Cassivelaunus dignified with the name of his capital. It
was surrounded with a ditch, and a rampart made chiefly of mud, the
article in which military engineering seemed to have stuck at that early
period. Cassivelaunus was driven by Cæsar from his abode, constructed of
clay and felled trees, and so precipitate was the flight of the Briton,
that he had only time to pack up a few necessary articles, leaving
everything else to fall into the hands of the enemy.

The Roman General, being tired of his British campaign, was glad to
listen to the overtures of Cassivelaunus; but these overtures consisted
of promissory notes, which were never realised. The Celt undertook to
transmit an annual tribute to Cæsar, who never got a penny of the money;
and the hostages he had carried with him to Gaul became a positive
burden to him, for they were never taken out of pawn by their
countrymen. It is believed that they were ultimately got rid of at a
sale of unredeemed pledges, where they were put up in lots of half a
dozen, and knocked down as slaves to the highest bidder.

[Illustration: 033]

Before quitting the subject of Caesar's invasion, it may be interesting
to the reader to know something of the weapons with which the early
Britons attempted to defend themselves. Their swords were made of
copper, and generally bent with the first blow, which must have greatly
straitened their aggressive resources, for the swords thus followed
their own bent, instead of carrying out the intentions of the persons
using them. This provoking pliancy of the material must often have made
the soldier as ill-tempered as his own weapon. The Britons carried also
a dirk, and a spear, the latter of which they threw at the foe, as
an effectual means of pitching into him. A sort of reaping-hook was
attached to their chariot wheels, and was often very useful in reaping
the laurels of victory.

For nearly one hundred years after Cæsar's invasion, Britain was
undisturbed by the Romans, though Caligula, that neck-or-nothing tyrant,
as his celebrated wish entitles him to be called, once or twice had
his eye upon it. The island, however, if it attracted the Imperial eye,
escaped the lash, during the period specified.



CHAPTER THE SECOND. INVASION BY THE ROMANS UNDER
CLAUDIUS--CARACTACUS--BOADICEA--AGRICOLA---GALGACUS--SEVERUS--VORTIGERN
CALLS IN THE SAXONS.

It was not until ninety-seven years after Cæsar had seized upon the
island that it was unceremoniously clawed by the Emperor Claudius. Kent
and Middlesex fell an easy prey to the Roman power; nor did the brawny
sons of Canterbury--since so famous for its brawn--succeed in repelling
the enemy. Aulus Plautius, the Roman general, pursued the Britons under
that illustrious character, Caractus. He retreated towards Lambeth
Marsh, and the swampy nature of the ground gave the invaders reason to
feel that it was somewhat too

     "Far into the bowels of the land
     They had march'd on without impediment."

Vespasian, the second in command, made a tour in the Isle of Wight, then
called Vectis, where he boldly took the Bull by the horns, and seized
upon Cowes with considerable energy. Still, little was done till
Ostorius Scapula--whose name implies that he was a sharp blade--put his
shoulder to the wheel, and erected a line of defences--a line in
which he was so successful that it may have been called his peculiar
_forte_--to protect the territory that had been acquired.

After a series of successes, Ostorius having suffocated every breath
of liberty in Suffolk, and hauled the inhabitants of Newcastle over the
coals, drove the people of Wales before him like so many Welsh rabbits;
and even the brave Caractacus was obliged to fly as well as he could,
with the remains of one of the wings of the British army. He was taken
to Rome with his wife and children, in fetters, but his dignified
conduct procured his chains to be struck off, and from this moment we
lose the chain of his history.

Ostorius, who remained in Britain, was so harassed by the natives that
he was literally worried to death; but in the reign of Nero (a.d. 59),
Suetonius fell upon Mona, now the Isle of Anglesey, where the howlings,
cries, and execrations of the people were so awful, that the name of
Mona was singularly appropriate. Notwithstanding, however, the terrific
oaths of the natives, they could not succeed in swearing away the lives
of their aggressors. Suetonius, having made them pay the penalty of so
much bad language, was called up to London, then a Roman colony; but he
no sooner arrived in town, than he was obliged to include himself among
the departures, in consequence of the fury of Boadicea, that greatest
of viragoes and first of British heroines. She reduced London to ashes,
which Suetonius did not stay to sift; but he waited the attack of
Boadicea a little way out of town, and pitched his tent within a modern
omnibus ride of the great metropolis. His fair antagonist drove after
him in her chariot, with her two daughters, the Misses Boadicea, at her
side, and addressed to her army some of those appeals on behalf of "a
British female in distress," which have since been adopted by British
dramatists. The valorous old vixen was, however, defeated; and rather
than swallow the bitter pill which would have poisoned the remainder of
her days, she took a single dose and terminated her own existence.

Suetonius soon returned with his suite to the Continent, without having
finished the war; for it was always a characteristic of the Britons,
that they never would acknowledge they had had enough at the hands of an
enemy. Some little time afterwards, we find Cerealis engaged in one of
those attacks upon Britain which might be called serials, from their
frequent repetition; and subsequently, about the year 75 or 78, Julius
Frontinus succeeded to the business from which so many before him had
retired with very little profit.

The general, however, who cemented the power of Rome--or, to speak
figuratively, introduced the Roman cement among the Bricks or
Britons--was Julius Agricola, the father-in-law of Tacitus, the
historian, who has lost no opportunity of puffing most outrageously his
undoubtedly meritorious relative.

[Illustration: 035]

Agricola certainly did considerable havoc in Britain. He sent the Scotch
reeling oyer the Grampian Hills, and led the Caledonians a pretty dance.

Portrait of Julius Agricola. He ran UP a kind of rampart between the
Friths of Clyde and Forth, from which he could come forth at his
leisure and complete the conquest of Caledonia. In the sixth year of his
campaign, a.d. 83, he crossed the Frith of Forth, and came opposite to
Fife, which was played upon by the whole of his band with considerable
energy. Having wintered in Fife, upon which he levied contributions to
a pretty tune, he moved forward in the summer of the next year, a.d.
84, from Glen Devon to the foot of the Grampians. He here encountered
Galgacus and his host, who made a gallant resistance; but the Scottish
chief was soon left to reckon without his host, for all his followers
fled like lightning, and it has been said that their bolting came upon
him like a thunderbolt.

Agricola having thoroughly beaten the Britons--on the principle,
perhaps, that there is nothing so impressible as wax--began to think of
instructing them. He had given them a few lessons in war which they
were not likely to forget, and he now thought of introducing among
their chiefs a tincture of polite letters, commencing of course with the
alphabet. The Britons finding it as easy as A, B, C, began to cultivate
the rudiments of learning, for there is a spell in letters of which few
can resist the influence. They assumed the toga, which, on account of
the comfortable warmth of the material, they very quickly cottoned;
they plunged into baths, and threw themselves into the capacious lap of
luxury.

For upwards of thirty years Britain remained tranquil, but in the reign
of Hadrian, a.d. 120, the Caledonians, whose spirit had been "scotched,
not killed," became exceedingly turbulent. Hadrian, who felt his
weakness, went to the wall of Agricola, * which was rebuilt in order to
protect the territory the Romans had acquired. Some years afterwards the
power of the empire went into a decline, which caused a consumption
at home of many of the troops that had been previously kept for the
protection of foreign possessions. Britain took this opportunity of
revolting, and in the year 207, the Emperor Severus, though far advanced
in years and a martyr to the gout, determined to march in person against
the barbarians. He had no sooner set his foot on English ground than
his gout caused him to feel the greatest difficulties at every step,
and having been no less than four years getting to York, he knocked
up there, a.d. 211, and died in a dreadful hobble. Caracalla, son and
successor to the late Emperor Severus, executed a surrender of land
to the Caledonians for the sake of peace, and being desirous of
administering to the effects of his lamented governor in Rome, left the
island for ever.

     * The remains of this wall are still in existence, to
     furnish food for the Archeologians who occasionally feast on
     the bricks, which have become venerable with the crust of
     ages. A morning roll among the mounds in the neighbourhood
     where this famous wall once existed, is considered a most
     delicate repast to the antiquarian.

[Illustration: 036]

The history of Britain for the next seventy years may be easily written,
for a blank page would tell all that is known respecting it. In the
partnership reign of Dioclesian and Maximian, a.d. 288, "the land we
live in" turns up again, under somewhat unfavourable circumstances, for
we find its coasts being ravaged about this time by Scandinavian and
Saxon pirates. Carausius, a sea captain, and either a Belgian or Briton
by birth, was employed against the pirates, to whom, in the Baltic
sound, he gave a sound thrashing. Instead, however, of sending the
plunder home to his employers, he pocketed the proceeds of his own
victories, and the Emperors, growing jealous of his power, sent
instructions to have him slain at the earliest convenience. The wily
sailor, however, fled to Britain, where he planted his standard, and
where the tar, claiming the natives as his "messmates," induced them
to join him in the mess he had got into. The Roman eagles were put to
flight, and both wings of the imperial army exhibited the white feather.
Peace with Carausius was purchased by conceding to him the government of
Britain and Boulogne, with the proud title of Emperor.

The assumption of the rank of Emperor of Boulogne seems to us about as
absurd as usurping the throne of Broadstairs, or putting on the imperial
purple at Herne Bay; but Carausius having been originally a mere pirate,
was justly proud of his new dignity. Having swept the seas, he commenced
scouring the country, and his victories were celebrated by a day's
chairing, at which he assisted as the principal figure in a procession
of unexampled pomp and pageantry. The throne, however, is not an easy
_fauteuil_, and Carausius had scarcely had time to throw himself back
in an attitude of repose, when he was murdered at Eboracum (York)
(a.d. 297), by one Alectus, his confidential friend and minister. In
accordance with the custom of the period, that the murderer should
succeed his victim, Alectus ruled in Britain until he, in his turn, was
slain at the instigation of Constantius Chlorus, who became master
of the island. That individual died at York (a.d. 306), where his son
Constantine, afterwards called the Great, commenced his reign, which was
a short and not a particularly merry one, for after experiencing several
reverses in the North, he quitted the island, which, until his death in
337, once more enjoyed tranquillity.

Rome, which had so long been mighty, was like a cheese in the same
condition, rapidly going to decay, and she found it necessary to
practise what has been termed "the noble art of self-defence," which
is admitted on all hands to be the first law of Nature. Britain they
regarded as a province, which it was not their province to look after.
It was consequently left as pickings for the Picts, * nor did it come
off scot free from the Scots, who were a tribe of Celtæ from Ireland,
and who consequently must be regarded as a mixed race of Gallo-Hibernian
Caledonians. They had, in fact, been Irishmen before they had been
Scotchmen, and Frenchmen previous to either. Such were the translations
that occurred even at that early period in the greatest drama of
all--the drama of history.

     * "The Picts," says Dr. Henry, "were so called from Pictich,
     a plunderer, and not from _picti_, painted." History, in
     assigning the latter origin to their name, has failed to
     exhibit them in their true colours.

Britain continued for years suspended like a white hart--a simile
justified by its constant trepidation and alarm--with which the Romans
and others might enjoy an occasional game at bob-cherry. Maximus (a.d.
382) made a successful bite at it, but turning aside in search of the
fruits of ambition elsewhere, the Scots and Picts again began nibbling
at the Bigaroon that had been the subject of so much snappishness.

The Britons being shortly afterwards left once more to themselves,
elected Marcus as their sovereign (a.d. 407); but monarchs in those days
were set up like the king of skittles, only to be knocked down again.
Marcus was accordingly bowled out of existence by those who had raised
him; and one, Gratian, having succeeded to the post of royal ninepin,
was in four months as dead as the article to which we have chosen to
compare him. After a few more similar ups and downs, the Romans, about
the year 420, nearly five centuries after Cæsar's first invasion,
finally cried quits with the Britons by abandoning the island.

In pursuing his labours over the few ensuing years, the author would
be obliged to grope in the dark; but history is not a game at
blind-man's-buff, and we will never condescend to make it so. It is
true, that with the handkerchief of obscurity bandaging our eyes, we
might turn round in a state of rigmarole, and catch what we can; but
as it would be mere guesswork by which we could describe the object of
which we should happen to lay hold, we will not attempt the experiment.

It is unquestionable that Britain was a prey to dissensions at home
and ravages from abroad, while every kind of faction--except
satisfaction--was rife within the island.

Such was the misery of the inhabitants, that they published a pamphlet
called "The Groans of the Britons" (a.d. 441), in which they invited
Ætius, the Roman consul, to come over and turn out the barbarians,
between whom and the sea, the islanders were tossed like a shuttlecock
knocked about by a pair of battledores. Ætius, in consequence of
previous engagements with Attila and others, was compelled to decline
the invitation, and the Britons therefore had a series of routs, which
were unattended by the Roman cohorts.

The southern part of the island was now torn between a Roman faction
under Aurelius Ambrosius, and a British or "country party," at the head
of which was Vortigern. The latter is said to have called in the Saxons;
and it is certain that (a.d. 449) he hailed the two brothers Hengist
and Horsa, * who were cruising as Saxon pirates in the British Channel.
These individuals being ready for any desperate job, accepted the
invitation of Vortigern, to pass some time with him in the Isle of
Thanet. They were received as guests by the people of Sandwich, who
would as soon have thought of quarrelling with their bread and butter as
with the friends of the gallant Vortigern. From this date commences the
Saxon period of the history of Britain.

     * Horen, means a horse; and the white horse, even now,
     appears as the ensign of Kent, as it once did on the shield
     of the Saxons. It is probable that when Horsa came to
     London, he may have put up somewhere near the present site
     of the White Horse Cellar. Vide "Palgrave's Rise and
     Progress of the English Commonwealth."



CHAPTER THE THIRD. THE SAXONS--THE HEPTARCHY.

In obedience to custom, the etymologists have been busy with the word
Saxon, which they have derived from _seax_, a sword, and we are left to
draw the inference that the Saxons were very sharp blades; a presumption
that is fully sustained by their fierce and warlike character. Their
chief weapons were a battleaxe and a hammer, in the use of which they
were so adroit that they could always hit the right nail upon the head,
when occasion required. Their shipping had been formerly exceedingly
crazy, and indeed the crews must have been crazy to have trusted
themselves in such fragile vessels. The bottoms of the boats were of
very light timber, and the sides consisted of wicker, so that the fleet
must have combined the strength of the washing-tub with the elegant
lightness of the clothes' basket. Like their neighbours the wise men of
Gotham, or Gotha, who went to sea in a bowl, the Saxons had not scrupled
to commit themselves to the mercy of the waves, in these unsubstantial
cockle-shells. The boatbuilders, however, soon took rapid strides, and
improved their craft by mechanical cunning.

Another fog now comes over the historian, but the gas of sagacity is
very useful in dispelling the clouds of obscurity. It is said that
Hengist gave an evening party to Vortigern, who fell in love with
Bowena, the daughter of his host--a sad flirt, who, throwing herself
on her knee, presented the wine-cup to the king, wishing him, in a neat
speech, all health and happiness. Vortigern's head was completely turned
by the beauty of Miss Bowena Hengist, and the strength of the beverage
she had so bewitchingly offered him.

[Illustration: 040]

A story is also told of a Saxon _soirée_ having been given by Hengist
to the Britons, to which the host and his countrymen came, with short
swords or knives concealed in their hose, and at a given signal drew
their weapons upon their unsuspecting guests. Many historians have
doubted this dreadful tale, and it certainly is scarcely credible that
the Saxons should have been able to conceal in their stockings the short
swords or carving-knives, which must have been very inconvenient to
their calves. Stonehenge is the place at which this cruel act of the
hard-hearted and stony Hengist is reported to have occurred; and as
antiquarians are always more particular about dates when they are most
likely to be wrong, the 1st of May has been fixed upon as the very day
on which this horrible _réunion_ was given. It has been alleged, that
Vortigern, in order to marry Bowena, settled Kent upon Hengist; but it
is much more probable that Hengist settled himself upon Kent without the
intervention of any formality.

It is certain that he became King of the County, to which he affixed
Middlesex, Essex, and a part of Surrey; so that, as sovereigns went in
those early days, he could scarcely be called a petty potentate. The
success of Hengist induced several of his countrymen, after his death,
to attempt to walk in his shoes; but it has been well and wisely said,
that in following the footsteps of a great man an equally capacious
understanding is requisite.

The Saxons who tried this experiment were divided into Saxons proper,
Angles, and Jutes, who all passed under the common appellation of Angles
and Saxons. The word Angles was peculiarly appropriate to a people so
naturally sharp, and the whole science of mathematics can give us no
angles so acute as those who figured in the early pages of our history.

In the year 447, Ella the Saxon landed in Sussex with his three sons,
and drove the Britons into a forest one hundred and twenty miles long
and thirty broad, according to the old writers, but in our opinion just
about as broad as it was long, for otherwise there could have been no
room for it in the place where the old writers have planted it. Ella,
however, succeeded in clutching a very respectable slice, which was
called the kingdom of South Saxony, which included Surrey, Sussex, and
the New Forest; while another invading firm, under the title of Cerdic
and Son, started a small vanquishing business in the West, and by
conquering Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, founded the kingdom of
Wessex. Cerdic was considerably harassed by King Arthur of fabulous
fame, whose valour is reported to have been such, that he fought twelve
battles with the Saxons, and was three times married. His first and
third wives were carried away from him, but on the principle that no
news is good news, the historians tell us that as there are no records
of his second consort, his alliance with her may perhaps have been a
happy one. The third and last of his spouses ran off with his nephew
Mordred, and the enraged monarch having met his ungrateful kinsman in
battle, they engaged each other with such fury, that, like the Kilkenny
cats, they slew one another.

About the year 527, Greenwine landed on the Essex flats, which he had no
trouble in reducing, for he found them already on a very low level.
In 547, Ida, with a host of Angles, began fishing for dominion off
Flamborough head, where he effected a landing. He however settled on a
small wild space between the Tyne and the Tees, a tiny possession, in
which he was much teased by the beasts of the forest, for the place
having been abandoned, Nature had established a Zoological Society of
her own in this locality. The kingdom thus formed was called Bernicia,
and as the place was full of wild animals, it is not improbable that the
British Lion may have originally come from the place alluded to.

Ella, another Saxon prince, defeated Lancashire and York, taking the
name of King of the Deiri, and causing the inhabitants to lick the dust,
which was the only way they could find of repaying the licking they had
received from their conqueror. Ethelred, the grandson of Ida, having
married the daughter of Ella, began to cement the union in the
old-established way, by robbing his wife's relations of all their
property. He seized on the kingdom of his brother-in-law, and added it
to his own, uniting the petty monarchies of Deiri and Bemicia into the
single sovereignty of Northumberland.

[Illustration: 042]

Such were the several kingdoms which formed the Heptarchy.
Arithmeticians will probably tell us that seven into one will never go;
but into one the seven did eventually go by a process that will be shown
in the ensuing chapter.



CHAPTER THE FOURTH. THE UNION OF THE HEPTARCHY UNDER EGBERT.

If it be a sound philosophical truth, that two of a trade can never
agree, we may take it for granted that, _à fortiori_, seven in the same
business will be perpetually quarrelling. Such was speedily the case
with the Saxon princes; and it is not improbable that the disturbed
condition, familiarly known as a state of sixes and sevens, may have
derived its title from the turmoils of the seven Saxon sovereigns,
during the existence of the Heptarchy. Nothing can exceed the
entanglement into which the thread of history was thrown by the battles
and skirmishes of these princes. The endeavour to lay hold of the thread
would be as troublesome as the process of looking for a needle, * not
merely in a bottle of hay, but in the very bosom of a haystack. Let us,
however, apply the magnet of industry, and test the alleged fidelity
of the needle to the pole by attempting to implant in the head of the
reader a few of the points that seem best adapted for striking him.

     * "A needle in a bottle of hay," is an old English phrase,
     of which we cannot trace the origin. Bottled hay must have
     been sad dry stuff, but it is possible the wisdom of our
     ancestors may have induced them to bottle their grass as we
     in the present day bottle our gooseberries.

We will take a run through the whole country as it was then divided,
and will borrow from the storehouse of tradition the celebrated pair
of seven-leagued boots, for the purpose of a scamper through the seven
kingdoms of the Heptarchy.

We will first drop in upon Kent, whose founder, Hengist, had no worthy
successor till the time of Ethelbert. This individual acted on the
principle of give and take, for he was always taking what he could, and
giving battle. He seated himself by force on the throne of Mercia, into
which he carried his arms, as if the throne of Kent had not afforded him
sufficient elbow-room. This, however, he resigned to Webba, the rightful
heir: but poor Webba (_query_ Webber) was kept like a fly in a spider's
web, as a tributary prince to the artful Ethelbert. This monarch's reign
derived, however, its real glory from the introduction of Christianity
and the destruction of many Saxon superstitions. He kept up a friendly
correspondence with Gregory, the punster pope, and author of the
celebrated _jeu de mot_ on the word Angli, in the Roman market-place.*

     * The pun in question is almost too venerable for
     repetition, but we insert it in a note, as no History of
     England seems to be complete without it. The pope, on seeing
     the British children exposed for sale in the market-place at
     Rome, said they would not be Angles but Angels if they had
     been Christians. _Non Angli sed Angeli forent si fuissent
     Christiani._


[Illustration: 044]

Ethelbert died in 616, having been not only king of Kent, but
having filled the office of Bretwalda, a name given to the most
influential--or, as we should call him, the president or chairman--of
the sovereigns of the Heptarchy. His son, Eadbald, who succeeded, failed
in supporting the fame of his father. It would be useless to pursue the
catalogue of Saxons who continued mounting and dismounting the throne
of Kent--one being no sooner down than another came on--in rapid
succession. It was Egbert, king of Wessex, who, in the year 723, had
the art to seat himself on all the seven thrones at once; an achievement
which, considering the ordinary fate of one who attempts to preserve his
balance upon two stools, has fairly earned the admiration of posterity.

Let us now take a skip into Northumberland--formed by Ethelred in the
manner we have already alluded to, out of the two kingdoms of Deiri and
Bemicia--which, though not enough for two, constituted for one a very
respectable sovereignty. The crown of Northumberland seems to have been
at the disposal of any one who thought it worth his while to go and take
it; provided he was prepared to meet any little objections of the owner
by making away with him. In this manner, Osred received his _quietus_
from Kenred, a kinsman, who was killed in his turn by another of the
family: and, after a long series of assassinations, the people quietly
submitted to the yoke of Egbert.

The kingdom of East Anglia presents the same rapid panorama of murders
which settled the succession to all the Saxon thrones; and Mercia,
comprising the midland counties, furnishes all the materials for a
melodrama. Offa, one of its most celebrated kings, had a daughter,
Elfrida, to whom Ethelbert, the sovereign of the East Angles, had made
honourable proposals, and had been invited to celebrate his nuptials at
Hereford. In the midst of the festivities Offa asked Ethelbert into a
back room, in which the latter had scarcely taken a chair when his head
was unceremoniously removed from his shoulders by the father of his
intended.

Offa having extinguished the royal family of East Anglia, by snuffing
out the chief, took possession of the kingdom. In order to expiate his
crime he made friends with the pope, and exacted a penny from every
house possessed of thirty pence, or half-a-crown a year, which he sent
as a proof of penitence to the Roman pontiff. Though at first intended
by Offa as an offering, it was afterwards claimed as a tribute, under
the name of Peter's Pence, which were exacted from the people; and the
custom may perhaps have originated the dishonourable practice of robbing
Paul for the purpose of paying Peter.

After the usual amount of slaughter, one Wiglaff mounted the throne,
which was in a fearfully rickety condition. So unstable was this
undesirable piece of Saxon upholstery that Wiglaff had no sooner sat
down upon it than it gave way with a tremendous crash, and fell into the
hands of Egbert, who was always ready to seize the remaining stock of
royalty that happened to be left to an unfortunate sovereign on the eve
of an alarming sacrifice.

The kingdom of Essex can boast of little worthy of narration, and in
looking through the Venerable Bede, we find a string of names that are
wholly devoid of interest.

The history of Sussex is still more obscure, and we hasten to Wessex,
where we find Brihtric, or Beortric, sitting in the regal armchair that
Egbert had a better right to occupy. The latter fled to the court of
Offa, king of Mercia, to whom the former sent a message, requesting
that Egbert's head might be brought back by return, with one of Offa's
daughters, whom Beortric proposed to marry. The young lady was sent
as per invoice, for she was rather a burden on the Mercian court; but
Egbert's head, being still in use, was not duly forwarded.

Feeling that his life was a toss up, and that he might lose by heads
coming down, Egbert wisely repaired to the court of the Emperor
Charlemagne. There he acquired many accomplishments, took lessons in
fencing, and received that celebrated French polish of which it may be
fairly said in the language of criticism, that "it ought to be found on
every gentleman's table."

Mrs. Beortric managed to poison her husband by a draft not intended for
his acceptance, and presented by mistake, which caused a vacancy in the
throne of Wessex. Egbert having embraced the opportunity, was embraced
by the people, who received him with open arms, on his arrival from
France, and hailed him as rightful heir to the Wessexian crown, which he
had never been able to get out of his head, or on to his head, until the
present favourable juncture. In a few years he got into hostilities
with the Mercians, who being, as we are told by the chroniclers, "fat,
corpulent, and short-winded," soon got the worst of it. The lean and
active droops of Egbert prevailed over the opposing cohorts, who were at
once podgy and powerless. As they advanced to the charge, they were met
by the blows of the enemy, and as "it is an ill wind that blows nobody
good," so the very ill wind of the Mercians made good for the soldiers
of Egbert, who were completely victorious.

[Illustration: 046]

Mercia was now subjugated; Kent and Essex were soon subdued; the East
Angles claimed protection; Northumberland submitted; Sussex had for some
time been swamped; and Wessex belonged to Egbert by right of succession.
Thus, about four hundred years after the arrival of the Saxons, the
Heptarchy was dissolved, in the year 827, after having been in hot water
for centuries. It was only when the spirit of Egbert was thrown in, that
the hot water became a strong and wholesome compound.



CHAPTER THE FIFTH. THE DANES--ALFRED.


[Illustration: 047]

SCARCELY had unanimity begun to prevail in England, when the country was
invaded by the Danes, whose desperate valour there was no disdaining.
Some of them, in the year 832, landed on the coast, committed a series
of ravages, and escaped to their ships without being taken into custody.
Egbert encountered them on one occasion at Char-mouth, in Dorsetshire,
but having lost two bishops--who, by the bye, had no business in a
fight--he was glad to make the best of his way home again.

The Danes, or Northmen, having visited Cornwall, entered into an
alliance with some of the Briks, or Britons, of the neigh-bourhood,
and marched into Devonshire; but Egbert, collecting the cream of
the Devonshire youth, poured it down upon the heads of his enemies.
According to some historians, Egbert met with considerable resistance,
and it has even been said that the Devonshire cream experienced a severe
clouting. It is certainly sufficient to make the milk of human kindness
curdle in the veins when we read the various recitals of Danish
ferocity. Egbert, however, was successful at the battle of Hengsdown
Hill, where many were put to the sword, by the sword being put to them,
in the most unscrupulous manner. This was the last grand military drama
in which Egbert represented the hero. He died in 836, after a long
reign, which had been one continued shower of prosperity.

Ethelwolf, the eldest son of Egbert, now came to the throne, but
misunderstanding the maxim, _Divide et impera_, he began to divide his
kingdom, as the best means of ruling it, and gave a slice consisting of
Kent and its dependencies to his son Athelstane.

The Scandinavian pirates having no longer an opponent like Egbert,
ravaged Wessex; sailed up the Thames, which, if they could, they would
have set on fire; gave Canterbury, Rochester, and London a severe dose,
in the shape of pillage; and got into the heart of Surrey, which lost
all heart on the approach of the enemy. Ethelwolf, however, taking
with him his second son Ethelbald, met them at Okely--probably in the
neighbourhood of Oakley Street--and at a place still retaining the name
of the New Cut, made a fearful incision into the ranks of the enemy.
The Danes retired to settle in the isle of Thanet, to repose after
the settling they had received in Surrey, at the hands of the Saxons.
Notwithstanding the state of his kingdom, Ethelwolf found time for an
Italian tour, and taking with him his fourth son, Alfred the Great--then
Alfred the Little, for he was a child of six--started to Rome, on that
very vague pretext, a pilgrimage. He spent a large sum of money abroad,
gave the Pope an annuity for himself, and another to trim the lamps of
St. Peter and St. Paul, which has given rise to the celebrated _jeu
de mot_ that, "instead of roaming about and getting rid of his cash
in trimming foreign lamps, he ought to have remained at home for the
purpose of trimming his enemies."

On his return through France, he fell in love with Judith, the daughter
of Charles the Bald, the king of the Franks, who probably gave a good
fortune to the bride, for Charles being known as the bald, must of
course have been without any heir apparent. When Ethelwolf arrived at
home with his new wife, he found his three sons, or as he had been in
the habit of calling them, "the boys,"--indignant at the marriage of
their governor. According to some historians and chroniclers, Osburgha,
his first wife, was not dead, but had been simply "put away" to make
room for Judith. It certainly was a practice of the kings in the middle
age, and particularly if they happened to be middle-aged kings, to "put
away" an old wife; but the real difficulty must have been where on earth
to put her. If Osburgha consented quietly to be laid upon the shelf, she
must have differed from her sex in general.

Athelstane being dead, Ethelbald was now the king's eldest son, and had
made every arrangement for a fight with his own father for the throne,
when the old gentleman thought it better to divide his crown than run
the risk of getting it cracked in battle. "Let us not split each other's
heads, my son," he affectingly exclaimed, "but rather let us split the
difference." Ethelbald immediately cried halves when he found his
father disposed to cry quarter, and after a short debate they came to a
division. The undutiful son got for himself the richest portion of the
kingdom of Wessex, leaving his unfortunate sire to sigh over the eastern
part, which was the poorest moiety of the royal property. The ousted
Ethelwolf did not survive more than two years the change which had made
him little better than half-a-sove-reign, for he died in 867, and was
succeeded by his son Ethelbald. This person was, to use an old simile,
as full of mischief "as an egg is full of meat," and indeed somewhat
fuller, for we never yet found a piece of beef, mutton, or veal, in the
whole course of our oval experience. Ethelbald, however, reigned only
two years, having first married and subsequently divorced his father's
widow Judith, whose venerable parent Charles the Bald, was happily
indebted to his baldness for being spared the misery of having his grey
hairs brought down in sorrow to the grave by the misfortunes of his
daughter. This young lady, for she was still young in spite of her two
marriages, her widowhood, and divorce, had retired to a convent near
Paris, when a gentleman of the name of Baldwin, belonging to an
old standard family, ran away with her. He was threatened with
excommunication by the young lady's father, but treating the menaces of
Charles the Bald as so much balderdash, Mr. Baldwin sent a herald to the
Pope, who allowed the marriage to be legally solemnised.

We have given a few lines to Judith because, by her last marriage,
she gave a most illustrious line to us; for her son having married the
youngest daughter of Alfred the Great, was the ancestor of Maud, the
wife of William the Conqueror.

Ethelbald was succeeded by Ethelbert, whose reign, though it lasted
only five years, may be compared to a rain of cats and dogs, for he
was constantly engaged in quarrelling. The Danes completely sacked and
ransacked Winchester, causing Ethelbert to exclaim, with a melancholy
smile, to one of his courtiers, "This is indeed the bitterest cup of
sack I ever tasted." He died in 866 or 867, and was succeeded by his
brother Ethelred, who found matters arrived at such a pitch, that he
fought nine pitched battles with the Danes in less than a twelvemonth.
He died in the year 871, of severe wounds, and the crown fell from his
head on to that of his younger brother Alfred. The regal diadem was
sadly tarnished when it came to the young king, who resolved that it
should not long continue to lack lacker; and by his glorious deeds
he soon restored the polish that had been rubbed off by repeated
leathering. He had scarcely time to sit down upon the throne when he was
called into the field to fulfil a very particular engagement with the
Danes at Wilton. They were compelled to stipulate for a safe retreat,
and went up to London for the winter, where they so harassed Burrhed the
king of Mercia, in whose dominions London was situated, that the poor
fellow ran down the steps of his throne, left his sceptre in the regal
hall, and, repairing to Rome, finished his days in a cloister.

The Danes still continued the awful business of dyeing and scouring,
for they scoured the country round, and dyed it with the blood of the
inhabitants. Alfred, finding himself in the most terrible straits,
conceived the idea of getting out of the straits by means of ships, of
which he collected a few, and for a time he went on swimmingly.

He taught Britannia her first lesson in ruling the waves, by destroying
the fleet of Guthrum the Dane, who had promised to make his _exit_ from
the kingdom on a previous defeat, but by a disgraceful quibble he had,
instead of making his _exit_, retired to Exeter. From this place he
now retreated, and took up his quarters at Gloucester, while Alfred, it
being now about Christmas time, had repaired to spend the holidays at
Chippenham. It was on Twelfth-night, which the Saxons were celebrating
no doubt with cake and wine, when a loud knocking was heard at the gate,
and on some one going to answer the door, Guthrum and his Danes rushed
in with overwhelming celerity. Alfred, who had been probably favouring
the company with a song--for he was fond of minstrelsy--made an
involuntary shake on hearing the news, and ran off, followed by a small
band, in an allegro movement, which almost amounted to a galop.

[Illustration: 050]

The Saxon monarch finding himself deserted by his coward subjects, and
without an army, broke up his establishment, dismissed every one of his
servants, and, exchanging his regal trappings for a bag of old clothes,
went about the country in various disguises. He had taken refuge as a
peasant in the hut of a swineherd or pig-driver, whose wife had put some
cakes on the fire to toast, and had requested Alfred to turn them while
she was otherwise employed in trying to turn a penny.

His Majesty being bent upon his bow, never thought of the cakes, which
were burnt up to a cinder, and the old woman, looking as black as the
cakes themselves, taunted the king with the smallness of the care he
took, and the largeness of his appetite. "You can eat them fast enough,"
she exclaimed, "and I think you might have given the cakes a turn." *
"I acknowledge my fault," replied Alfred, "for you and your husband
have done me a good turn, and one good turn, I am well aware, deserves
another."

     * Though all the historians have given this anecdote, they
     vary in the words attributed to the old woman, and make no
     allusion to the reply of Alfred. So accomplished a monarch
     would hardly have found nothing at all to say for himself;
     and though he did not turn the cakes, he most probably
     turned the conversation in the manner we have described.

The monarch retired to a swamp, which he called AEthelingay--now
Athelney--or the Isle of Nobles, and some of his retainers, who stuck to
their sovereign through thick and thin, joined him in the morasses
and marshes he had selected for his residence. Alfred did not despair,
though in the middle of a swamp he had no good ground for hope, until
he heard that Hubba, the Dane, after making a hubbub in Wales, had
been killed by a sudden sally in an alley near the mouth of the Tau, in
Devonshire. Alfred, on this intelligence, left his retreat, and having
recourse to his old clothes bag, disguised himself as the "Wandering
Minstrel," in which character he made a very successful appearance at
the camp of Guthrum. The jokes of Alfred, though they would sound very
old Joe Millerisms in the present day, were quite new at that remote
period, and the Danes were constantly in fits; so that the Saxon king
was preparing, by splitting their sides, to eventually break up the
ranks of his enemy. He could also sing a capital song, which with his
comic recitations, conundrums, and charades, rendered him a general
favourite; and his vocal powers may be said to have been instrumental to
the accomplishment of his object.

Having returned to his friends, he led them forth against Guthrum, who
retreated to a fortified position with a handful of men, and Alfred, by
a close blockade, took care not to let the handful of men slip through
his fingers.

Guthrum, tired of the raps on the knuckles he had received, threw
himself on the kind indulgence of a British public, and appeared before
the Saxon king in the character of an apologist. Alfred's motto was,
"Forget and Forgive;" but he wisely insisted on the Danes embracing
Christianity, knowing that if their conversion should be sincere, they
would never be guilty of any further atrocities. He stood godfather
himself to Guthrum, who adopted the old family name of Athelstane,
and all animosities were forgotten in the festivities of a general
christening. A partition of the kingdom took place, and Alfred gave
a good share, including all the east side of the island, to his new
godson. The Danes settled tranquilly in their new possessions, though in
the very next year (879), a small party sailed up the Thames and landed
on the shores of Fulham; but finding the hardy sons of that suburban
coast in a posture of defence, the Northmen took to their heels, or
rather to their keels, by returning to their vessels. The would-be
invaders repaired to Ghent to try their luck in the Low Countries, for
which their ungentle-manly conduct in violating their treaties most
peculiarly fitted them.

Alfred employed the period of peace in building and in law, both of
which are generally ruinous, but which were exceedingly profitable
in his judicious hands. He restored London, over which he placed his
son-in-law, Ethelred, as Earl Eolderman or Alderman, and he established
a regular militia all over the country, who, if they resembled the
militia of modern times, must have kept away the invaders by placing
them in the position familiarly known as "more frightened than hurt."

In the year 893, however, the Danes under Hasting, having ravaged
all France, and eaten up every morsel of food they could find in that
country, were compelled to come over to England in search of a meal.
A portion of the invaders in two hundred and fifty ships, landed near
Romney Marsh, at a river called Limine, and there being no one to oppose
them in Limine, they proceeded to Appledore. Hasting, with eighty sail,
took Milton; but he was soon routed out, and cutting across the Thames,
he removed to Banfleet, which was only "over the way;" where he was
broken in upon by Alderman Ethelred at the head of some London citizens.
The cockney cohorts seized the wife and two sons of Hasting, who would
have been killed but for the magnanimity of Alfred, though it has been
hinted that in sending them back to his foe, the Saxon king calculated
that as women and children are only in the way when business is going
forward, their presence might add to the embarrassments of the Danish
chieftain. That such was really the case, may be gleaned from the fact
that on a subsequent occasion Hasting and his followers were compelled
to leave their wives and families behind them in the river Lea, into
which the Danish fleet had sailed when Alfred ingeniously drew all
the water off, and left the enemy literally aground. This manouvre was
accomplished partially by digging three channels from the Lea to the
Thames, and partially by the removal of the water in buckets, though
the bucket got very frequently kicked by those engaged in this perilous
enterprise.

The river Lea would have been sufficiently deep for the purposes of
Hasting had not Alfred been deeper still, and the fleet, which had been
the floating capital of the Danes, became a deposit in the banks for the
benefit of the Saxons. In the spring of 897 Hasting quitted England;
but several pirates remained; and two ships being taken at the Isle
of Wight, Alfred, on being asked what should be done with the crews,
exclaimed, "Oh! they may go and be hanged at Winchester!" The king's
orders having been taken literally, the marauders were carried to
Winchester, and hanged accordingly.

Alfred, having tranquillised the country, died in the year 901, after
a glorious reign of nearly thirty years, and is known to this day as
Alfred the Great, an epithet which has never yet been earned by one of
his successors.

The character of this prince seems to have been as near perfection as
possible. His reputation as a sage has not been injured by time, nor has
the mist of ages obscured the brightness of his military glory. He was
a lover of literature, and a constant reader of every magazine of
knowledge that he could lay his hands upon. An anecdote is told of his
mother, Osburgha, having bought a book of Saxon poetry, illustrated
according to the taste of our own times, with numerous drawings. Alfred
and his brothers were all exclaiming, "Oh give it me!" with infantine
eagerness, when his parent hit on the expedient of promising that he who
could read it first should receive it as a present. Alfred, proceeding
on the modern principle of acquiring "Spanish without a Master," and
"French comparatively in no time," succeeded in picking up Anglo-Saxon
in six self-taught lessons. He accordingly won the book, which was, no
doubt, of a nature well calculated to "repay perusal."

Nor were war and literature the only pursuits in which Alfred indulged;
but he added the mechanical arts to his other accomplishments. The
sun-dial was probably known to Alfred; but that acute prince soon saw,
or, rather, found from not seeing, that a sun-dial in the dark was worse
than useless. Not content with being always alive to the time of day, he
became desirous of knowing the time of night, and used to burn candles
of a certain length with notches in them to mark the hours. * These
were indeed melting moments, but the wind often blew the candles out,
or caused them to burn irregularly. Sometimes they would get very long
wicks, and, if every one had gone to bed, no one being up to snuff,
might render the long wicks rather dangerous. In this dilemma he asked
himself what could be done, and his friend Asser, the monk, having
said half sportively, "Ah! you are on the horns of a dilemma," Alfred
enthusiastically replied, "I have it; yes; I will turn the horns to my
own advantage, and make a horn lanthorn." Thus, to make use of a figure
of a recent writer, Alfred never found himself in a difficulty without,
somehow or other, making light of it.

     * The practice of telling the time by burning candles was
     ingenious, but could not have been always convenient. It
     must have been very awkward when a thief got into one of the
     candles, thus exposing time to another thief besides
     procrastination. After Alfred's invention of the lanthorn,
     it might have been worn as a watch, in the same manner as
     the modern policeman wears the bull's-eye.

He founded the navy, and, besides being the architect of his own
fortunes, he studied architecture for the benefit of his subjects,
for he caused so many houses to be erected, that during his reign the
country seemed to be let out on one long building lease. He revised the
laws, and his system of police was so good, that it has been said any
one might have hung out jewels on the highway without any fear of their
being stolen. Much, however, depends on the kind of jewellery then in
use, for some future historian may say of the present generation, that
such was its honesty, precious stones,--that is to say, precious large
stones,--might be left in the streets without any one offering to take
them up and walk away with them.

Alfred gave encouragement not only to native, but to foreign talent, and
sent out Swithelm, bishop of Sherbum, to India, by what is now called
the overland journey, and the good bishop was therefore the original
Indian male--or Saxon Waghom. He brought from India several gems, and
a quantity of pepper--the gems being generously given by Alfred to his
friends, and the pepper freely bestowed on his enemies.

He died on the 26th of October, 901, in the fifty-third year of his age,
and thirtieth of his reign, having fought in person fifty-six times; so
that his life must have been one continued round of sparring with one or
other of his enemies. All the chroniclers and historians have agreed
in pronouncing unqualified praise upon Alfred; and unless puffing had
reached a perfection, and acquired an effrontery which it has scarcely
shown in the present day, he must be considered a paragon of perfection
who never yet had a parallel. It is certain we have had but one Alfred,
from the Saxon period to the present; but we have now a prospect of
another, who, let us hope, may evince, at some future time, something
more than a merely nominal resemblance to him who has been the subject
of this somewhat lengthy chapter.



CHAPTER THE SIXTH. FROM KING EDWARD THE ELDER TO THE NORMAN CONQUEST.


[Illustration: 054]

ON the death of Alfred, his second son, Edward, took possession of the
throne, when he was served with a notice of ejectment by his cousin
Ethelwald. Preparations were made for commencing and defending an action
at Wimbum, when Ethelwald, intimidated by the strength of his opponent,
declined to go on with the proceedings, and judgment, as in case of
a nonsuit, was claimed on Edward's behalf. Subsequently, however,
Ethelwald moved, apparently with a view to a new trial, towards Bury,
where some of the Kentish men had ventured; and an action having come
off, he incurred very heavy damage, which ended in his paying the
costs of the day with his own existence. Edward derived much aid from
Ethelfleda, a sister, who acted as a sister, by assisting him in his
wars against his enemies. This energetic specimen of the British female
inherited all the spirit of her father, as well as his mantle, which we
find in looking into our own Mackintosh. * She is called "The Lady of
Mercia" by the old chroniclers; but as she was always foremost in a
fight, there seems something slyly satirical in giving the name of lady
to a person of the most fearfully unladylike propensities. She beat
the Welsh unmercifully, filling their country with wailings as well as
covering their backs with wails, and she took prisoner the king's wife,
with whom it may be presumed she came furiously to the scratch before
the capture was accomplished. Ethelfleda died in the year 920, and
her brother in 925, the latter being succeeded by his natural son,
Athelstane, who had no sooner got the crown on his head, than he found
several persons preparing to have a snatch at it. He, however, defeated
all his enemies, and devoted his time to polishing his throne, adding
lustre to his crown, and giving brightness to his sceptre. It was in
this reign that England first became an asylum for foreign refugees, to
whom Athelstane always extended his hospitality. Louis d'Outremer, the
French king, and several Celtic princes of Armorica or Brittany, played
at hide-and-seek in London lodgings, while keeping out of the way of
their rebellious subjects.

     * Sir James Mackintosh's "History of England," Vol. I. chap,
     ii., p. 49,

It is probable that the part of the metropolis called Little Britain,
may have derived its name from the princes having established a little
Brittany of their own in that locality. Athelstane appears also to
have taken a limited number of pupils into his own palace to board and
educate, for Harold, the king of Norway, consigned his son Haco to the
care and tuition of the Saxon monarch.

Athelstane died in the year 940, in his forty-seventh year, and was
succeeded by Edmund the Atheling, a youth of eighteen, whose taste for
elegance and splendour obtained for him the name of the Magnificent. He
gave very large dinner parties to his nobles, and at one of these his
eye fell upon one Leof, a notorious robber, returned from banishment,
one of the Saxon swell mob who had been transported, but had escaped;
and who, from some remissness on the part of the police, had obtained
admission to the palace. Edmund commanded the proper officer to turn him
out, but Leof--tempted no doubt by the sideboard of plate--insisted on
remaining at the banquet. Edmund, who, as the chroniclers tell us, was
heated by wine, jumped up from his seat, and forgetting the king in the
constable, seized Leof by his collar and his hair, intending to turn
him out neck and crop. Leof still refusing to "move on," the impetuous
Edmund commenced wrestling with the intruder, who, irritated at a sudden
and severe kick on his shins, drew a dagger from under his cloak, and
stabbed the sovereign in a vital part. The nobles, who had formed a
circle round the combatants, and had been encouraging their king with
shouts of "Bravo, Edmund!"

"Give it him, your majesty!" were so infuriated at the foul play of the
thief, and his un-English recourse to the knife, that they fell upon him
at once, and cut him literally to pieces.

[Illustration: 056]

Edred, the brother and successor of Edmund, though not twenty-three
years of age, was in a wretched state of health when he came to the
throne. He had lost his teeth, and of course had none to show when
threatened by his enemies; and he was so weak in the feet, that he
literally seemed to be without a leg to stand upon. Nevertheless he
succeeded in vanquishing the Danes, who could not hurt a hair of his
head; but, as the chroniclers tell us that every bit of his hair had
fallen off, his security in this respect is easily accounted for. The
vigour that marked his reign has, however, been attributed to Dunstan,
the abbot, who now began to figure as a political character.

Edred soon died, and left the kingdom to his little brother Edwy, a lad
of fifteen, who soon married Elgiva, a young lady of good family,
and took his wife's mother home to live with them. On the day of his
coronation he had given a party, and the gentlemen, including Odo,
Archbishop of Canterbury, and Dunstan, the monk, were still sitting over
their wine, when Edwy slipped out to join the ladies. Odo and Dunstan,
who were both six-bottle men, became angry at the absence of their royal
host, and the latter, at the suggestion of the former, went staggering
after the king to lug him back to the banquet-room. Edwy was quietly
seated with his wife and her mother in the boudoir--for it being a
gentlemen's party, no ladies seem to have been among the guests--and
the monk, hiccuping out some gross abuse of the queen and her mamma,
collared the young king, who was dragged back to the wine-table.

Though this outrage may have been half festive, interlarded with
exclamations of "Come along, old boy," "Don't leave us, old chap," and
other similar phrases of social familiarity, Edwy never forgave the
monk, whom he called upon to account for money received in his late
capacity of treasurer to the royal household. Dunstan being what is
usually termed a "jolly dog," and a "social companion," was of course
most irregular in money matters; and finding it quite impossible to make
out his books, he ran away to avoid the inconvenience of a regular
settlement.

Dunstan, nevertheless, resolved to pay his royal master off on the
first opportunity; and a rising having been instigated by his friend and
pot-companion, Archbishop Odo, Edgar, the brother of Edwy, was declared
independent sovereign of the whole of the island north of the Thames.
Dunstan returned from his brief exile; but, in the mean time, Edwy
had been deprived of his wife, Elgiva, by forcible abduction, at the
instigation of the odious Odo. The lovely unfortunate had her face
branded with a hot iron, and the most cruel means were taken to deprive
her of the beauty which was supposed to be the cause of her ascendancy
over the heart of her royal husband. Some historians have attributed
this outrage to the designs of Dunstan, and among the many irons that
monk was known to have had in the fire, may have been the very irons
with which this horrible barbarity was perpetrated. Her scars were,
however, obliterated by some Kalydor known at the time, and probably the
invention of some knightly Sir Rowland of that early era. She was on the
point of rejoining Edwy at Gloucester, when she was savagely murdered
by the enemies of her husband, who did not long survive her, for in the
following year, 958, he perished either by assassination or a broken
heart.

Edgar, a mere lad, of whom Dunstan had made a ladder for his own
ambition, now succeeded to his brother's dignities, if a series of
nothing but indignities can deserve to be so called. The wily monk had
now become Archbishop of Canterbury, and encouraged the new king to make
royal progresses among his subjects, in the course of which he is said
to have gone up on the river Dee, in an eight-oared cutter, rowed by
eight crowned sovereigns. In this illustrious water party Kenneth,
king of Scotland, pulled the stroke oar, their majesties of Cumbria,
Anglesey, Galloway, Westmere, and the three Welsh sovereigns, making up
the remainder of the royal crew, over which Edgar himself presided as
coxswain.

Though the young king gave great satisfaction in his public capacity,
his private character was exceedingly reprehensible. His inconstancy
towards the fair got him into sad disgrace, and his friend Dunstan on
one occasion administered to him a severe reprimand. The monk, however,
finished by fining him a crown, prohibiting him from putting on, during
a period of seven years, that very uncomfortable article of the regalia.
As the head is proverbially uneasy which wears a crown, the sentence
passed upon the king must have been a boon rather than a punishment.

Among the events connected with the reign of Edgar, his marriage with
Elfrida must always stand conspicuous. He had heard much of a provincial
beauty, the daughter of Olgar, or Ordgar, Earl of Devonshire, and the
king sent his favourite, the Earl of Athelwold, to see this rustic
_belle_, with a view of ascertaining whether the flower would be worth
transplanting to the palace of the sovereign. Athelwold, on seeing the
young lady, fell in love with her himself, from her extreme beauty; but
wrote up to Edgar, declaring that she might well be called "the mistress
of the village plain," for her plainness was absolutely painful; and
indeed he added in a P.S., "She is so disfigured by a squint, as to give
me the idea of the very squintes-sence of ugliness." Athelwold attributed
her reputation for beauty to her fortune, and declared that her money
turned her red hair into golden locks, causing her to be well "worthy
the attention of Persons about to Marry."

Edgar soon gave his consent to Athelwold's espousing the lady, on the
ground of her being a good match for him; but she proved more than a
match for him a short time afterwards. Edgar, at the expiration of the
honeymoon, proposed to visit his friend, who made excuses as long as
he could, inasmuch that he was seldom at home, and that he could not
exactly say when his majesty would be sure of catching him. The king,
however, good-naturedly promising to be satisfied with pot-luck, fixed a
day for his visit; ana Athelwold, confessing all to his wife, begged her
to disguise her charms, by putting on her shabbiest gown, and to behave
herself in such a manner as to make the king believe he had lost nothing
in not having married her.

"I should like to see myself appearing as a dowdy before my sovereign,"
was the lady's feminine reply, and she paid more than usual attention to
her _toilette_ in order to attract the favourable notice of Edgar. The
monarch finding himself deceived by Athelwold, asked him to come and
hunt in a wood, when, without any preliminary beating about the bush,
and exclaiming, "You made game of me, thus do I make game of you," he
stabbed the unfortunate earl, and returned home to marry his widow.
Edgar did not live many years after this ungentlemanly conduct, but died
at the early age of two-and-thirty. Though he had been favourable to
priestcraft, and patronised the cunning foxes of the Church, he was an
enemy to wolves, and offered so much per head for all that were killed,
until the race was exterminated, and the cry of "Wolf" became synonymous
with a false alarm of danger.

Edgar was succeeded (a.d. 975) by Edward, his son by his first wife, who
was not more than fourteen or fifteen years old; and thus, at that age
before which an individual in the present day is not legally qualified
to drive a cab, this royal hobbledehoy assumed the reins of government.
His mother-in-law, Elfrida, endeavoured to grasp them for her own son
Ethelred, an infant of six, but Dunstan having at that moment the whip
hand, prevented her from reaching the point she was driving at.

Edward, who acquired the name of the Martyr, was accordingly crowned
at Kingston, where coronations formerly came off; but he did not long
survive, for hunting one day near Corfe Castle, he made a morning call
on his mother-in-law, Elfrida, and requested that a drop of something
to drink might be brought to him. As Elfrida was offering him the ale
in front, her porter dropped upon him in the back, and inflicted a stab
which caused him to set spurs to his horse; but falling off from loss
of blood, he was drawn--a lifeless bier--for a considerable distance.
Elfrida has been acquitted by some of having been the instigator of this
cruel act, but as it is said she whipped her little son Ethelred for
crying at the news of the death of his half-brother Edward, we can
scarcely admit that there is any doubt of which we can give her the
benefit. Both mother and son became so exceedingly unpopular that an
attempt was made to set up a rival on the throne, to the exclusion of
Ethelred, and the crown was offered to the late king's natural daughter,
whose name was Edgitha.

Edgitha, however, having observed that the regal diadem was looked upon
as a target, at which any one might take the liberty to aim,
preferred the comfortable hood of the nun--for she was the inmate of
a monastery--to the jewelled cap of royalty. The crown was accordingly
placed by Dunstan, at Easter, a.d. 979, on the weak head of Ethelred;
and it is said that the monk was in such a fit of ill-temper at the
coronation, that he muttered some frightful maledictions against the
boy-king, while in the very act of crowning him, The youthful sovereign
was also indebted to Dunstan for the nickname of the Unready, which was
probably equivalent to the term "slow coach," that is sometimes used to
denote a person of sluggish disposition and not very brilliant mental
faculties.

[Illustration: 059]

Ethelred was wholly incompetent to wear the crown, which was so much
too heavy for his weak head, that he appeared to be completely bonneted
under the burden. It sat upon him more like a porter's knot than a regal
diadem; while the sceptre, instead of being gracefully wielded by a firm
hand, was to him no better than a huge poker in the fragile fingers of a
baby.

During the early part of his reign, his mother Elfrida exercised
considerable influence, but she at length retired from government, and
took to the building business, erecting and endowing monasteries in
order to expiate her sins. She became a sort of infatuated female
Gubitt, and at every fresh qualm of conscience ran up another floor,
which was, familiarly speaking, the "old story" with persons in her
unfortunate predicament. The money expended in the erection of religious
houses was thought to be an eligible investment in those days for
sinners, who having no solid foundation for their hopes, were glad to
take any ground to build upon.

The Danes had for some time been tranquil, but their natural
fearlessness, made them ready for anything, and seeing Ethelred in a
state of utter unreadiness on the throne, they indulged the hope of
driving oft the "slow coach" in an early stage of his sovereignty.

It happened that young Sweyn, a scapegrace son of the king of Denmark,
had been turned out of doors by his father, and having become by the
injudicious step of his parent a gentleman at large, amused himself by
occasional attacks upon the kingdom of Ethelred. This sovereign, who,
instead of being born with a silver spoon in his mouth, appears to have
been born one entire spoon of the real fiddleheaded pattern, * commenced
the dangerous practice of paying the foe to leave him alone, which was
of course holding out the prospect of a premium to all who took the
trouble to bully him. He paid down £10,000 in silver to the sea-kings,
on condition of their retiring from his country, which they did until
they had spent all the money, when they returned, threatening to pay him
off, or be paid off themselves, an arrangement that Ethelred three times
mustered the means of carrying into operation.

     * Others think this royal spoon was not fiddle headed, but
     that he was the earliest specimen of the king's pattern, of
     his enemy. Emma, who was called the "Flower of Normandy,"
     consented to transplant herself to England, and became the
     acknowledged daisy of the British Court.

Young Sweyn had now become king of Denmark, and had made friends with
Olave, king of Norway, the son of old Olave, a deceased pirate, who had
made his fortune by sweeping the very profitable crossing from his own
country to England. These two scamps ravaged the southern coast in 994,
and Ethelred, the unready king, was obliged to buy them off with ready
money. In the year 1001, they made another demand of £24,000, which left
the sovereign not a single dump, except those into which he naturally
fell at the draining of his treasury.

Ethelred, who, if he was unready for everything else, appears to have
been always ready for a quarrel, had contrived to fall out with Richard
the Second, Duke of Normandy, and he was on the point of taking up arms,
when he laid his hand at the feet of Emma.

We would willingly take an enormous dip of ink, and letting it fall on
our paper, blot out for ever from our annals the Danish massacre,
which occurred at about the period to which our history has arrived.
Unfortunately, however, were we to overturn an entire inkstand, we
should only add to the blackness of the page, which tells us that
the Danes were savagely murdered at a time when they were living as
fellow-subjects among the people.

It was on the feast of St. Brice, soon after his marriage with Emma,
that the order to commit this sanguinary act was given by Ethelred. It
is true that the Danish mercenaries had given great provocation by their
insolence. They had, according to the old chroniclers, * sunk into such
effeminacy that they washed themselves once a week and combed their
heads still more frequently. We cannot perhaps accuse the chroniclers of
being over nice in their objections to the Danish habits of cleanliness,
but we really are at a loss to see the effeminacy of taking a bath every
seven days, and preventing the hair from becoming in appearance little
better than a quantity of hay in a state of unraked roughness. It was
on the 15th of November, 1002, which happened to be one of their weekly
washing days, that the Danes were surprised and treated in the barbarous
manner we have alluded to. The Lady Gunhilda, the sister of Sweyn, and
the wife of an English earl of Danish extraction, was one of the victims
of the massacre, and died fighting to the last with that truly feminine
weapon, the tongue, predicting that her death would be followed by
the downfall of the English nation. This act of ferocity naturally
exasperated Sweyn, who resolved on invading England, and he prepared a
considerable fleet, the vessels belonging to which appear to have been
got up much in the same style as the civic barges on the Thames, for
they were gaily gilded, and had all sorts of emblematical devices
painted over them. Sweyn himself arrived in the _Great Dragon_, a boat
made in the inconvenient form of that disagreeable animal. Had the
patron saint of England been at hand to do his duty at that early
period, the great dragon would have been speedily overcome, but it is
a familiar observation, that people of this-sort are never to be found
when they are really wanted.

     * Wallingford, p. 547.

The invaders landed at Exeter, which was governed by a Norman baron,
a favourite of the queen; but, as frequently happens in the course of
events as well as on the race-course, the favourite proved deceptive
when the enemy took the field, and resigned the place to pillage. The
Danish foe marched into Wiltshire, and in every town they passed through
they ordered the best of everything for dinner, when, after eating to
excess of all the delicacies of the season, they had the indelicacy to
settle their hosts when the bill was brought to them for settlement.
To prevent even the possibility of old scores being kept against them,
which they might one day be called upon to pay off, they burned down
the houses, thus making a bonfire of all the property, including account
books, papers, and wooden tallies that the establishment might contain.
The entertainers or land-lords had no sooner presented a bill; than it
was met by a savage endorsement on their own backs; and, though
drawing and accepting may be regarded as a very customary, commercial
transaction, still, when the drawer draws a huge sword the acceptor is
likely to get by far the worst of it.

[Illustration: 62]

An Anglo-Saxon army was, however, organised at last, to oppose the
Danes; but Alfric the Mercian--an old traitor, who had on a former
occasion played the knave against the king--was put at the head of it.
Ethelred had punished the first treachery of the father by putting out
the eyes of the son; but this castigation of the "wrong boy," the young
one instead of the old one, had not proved effectual. His majesty must
have been as blind as he had rendered the innocent youth, to have again
entrusted Alfric with command; and the consequences were soon felt, for
the old impostor pretended to be taken suddenly ill, just as his men
were going into battle. He called them off at the most important moment;
and instead of stopping at home by himself, putting his feet in warm
water, and laying up while the battle was being fought under directions
which he could just as easily have given from his own room, he shouted
for help from the whole army; and by sending some for salts, others
for senna, a cohort here for a pill, and a legion there for a leech, he
managed to keep the whole of the forces occupied in running about for
him.

Sweyn in the meantime got clear off with all his booty, and by the time
that Alfric announced himself to be a little better, and able to go out,
the enemy had vanished altogether from the neighbourhood.

An appetite for conquest was not however the only appetite which the
Danes indulged, for their voracity in eating was such that they created
a panic wherever they showed themselves. They ravaged Norfolk, and
having reduced it to its last dumpling, they fell upon Yarmouth, whose
bloaters they speedily exhausted, when they tried Cambridge,
having probably been attracted thither by the fame of its sausages.
Subsequently they advanced upon Huntingdonshire and Lincolnshire,
where they continued as long as they could find a bone to pick with
the inhabitants. They then crossed the Baltic (a.d. 1004), having been
obliged to quit England on account of there being literally nothing
to eat; so that a joint occupation with the natives had become utterly
impossible. Those only, who from its being the land of their birth, felt
that they must always have a stake in the country, could possibly have
mustered the resolution to remain in it. The vengeance of Sweyn being
unsatisfied, he returned in the year 1006, when he carried fire and
sword into every part, and it has been said with much felicity of
expression, that amidst so much sacking the inhabitants had scarcely a
bed to lie down upon.

[Illustration: 063]

Unable to offer him any effectual check, the Great Council tried what
could be done with ready money, and £36,000 was the price demanded
to pay out this formidable "man in possession" from the harassed and
exhausted country. The sum was collected by an income-tax of about
twenty shillings in the pound, or even more, if it could be got out of
the people by either threats or violence. Such as had paid the Danes
directly to save their homes from destruction were obliged to pay over
again, like a railway traveller who loses his ticket; and the natives
seem to have got into a special train of evils, in which every engine of
persecution was used against them.

[Illustration: 064]

In 1008 new burdens were thrown upon the people, who for every
nine nides of land were bound to find a man armed with a helmet and
breastplate. This would seem no very difficult matter, considering that
two or three such men are found annually at the Lord Mayor's show; but
in former times they had something more difficult to do than walk in
a procession. Though two shillings and his beer will, it is believed,
secure the services of an ancient knight, armed _cap-d-pie_ at an hour's
notice in our own day, such a person was not to be had so cheap in the
time of Ethelred. In addition to this infliction, every three hundred
and ten hides of land were bound to build and equip a ship for the
defence of the country; but it seems, after all, nothing but fair, that
the hides should club together to save themselves from tanning. The
fleet thus raised was, however, soon rendered valueless, in consequence
of the various commanders having refused to row in the same boat, or
rather insisting on pulling different ways, to the utter annihilation of
their master's interest.

Ethelred had selected for his favourite a low fellow of the name of
Edric, who was exceedingly eloquent, and had not only talked one of
the king's daughters into accepting his hand, but had even talked
the monarch himself into sanctioning the unequal marriage. Edric had
obtained for his brother Brightric a high post in the navy, as commander
of eight vessels; but the latter got into a quarrel with his nephew,
Wulfnoth, who was known by the odd appellation of the "Child of the
South Saxons," or the Sussex lad, as we should take the liberty
of calling him. The "child" determined on flight; but with a truly
infantine objection to run alone, he got twenty of the king's ships to
run along with him. Brightric cruised after him with eighty sail, but
the tempest rising, and the rudders at the stem refusing to act, he
was driven on shore by stem necessity. Wulfnoth, who had done a little
ravaging on his own private account along the southern coast, returned
to make firewood of the timbers of Brightric, which fortune had so
cruelly shivered.

Ethelred was completely panic-stricken at the news of this reverse,
and hurried home as fast as he could to summon a council, but every
resolution that was passed no one had the resolution to execute. To add
to the king's embarrassments, "Thurkill's host" came over, com-prising
the flower of the Scandinavian youth, which planted itself in Kent, and
caused a sad blow to the country. Various short peaces were purchased by
the Saxons at so much a piece; but, as Pope Gregory would have had it,
every arrangement was not a sale, but a sell on the part of Thurkill,
who continued sending in a fresh account for every fresh transaction.
Ethelred was now in the very midst of traitors, and it was impossible
that he should ever be brought round in such a circle. He had not a
single officer to whom a commission could be safely entrusted. Edric,
his favourite, having taken offence, joined the enemy in an attack upon
Canterbury, which had lasted for twenty days, when some one left the
gate of the city ajar, either by design or accident.

Alphege, the good archbishop, who had defended the place, was instantly
loaded with chains; and though he felt himself dreadfully fettered,
he declined to purchase his ransom, for the very best of all reasons,
namely, that he had not the money to pay for it. The old man, wisely
making a virtue of necessity, proclaimed his determination not to part
with a shilling, "and indeed," said he, "I couldn't if I would; for to
tell you the truth, I haven't got it."

The venerable prelate turning his pockets inside out, proved that he
was penniless, when they offered to release him if he would persuade
Ethelred to subscribe handsomely to the Danish rent, as we are fully
justified in calling it. The archbishop, however, grew exceedingly
saucy, when they pelted him with the remains of the feast, throwing
bones, bottles, and bread, in rapid succession at the primate, who
meekly bowed his head--or perhaps bobbed it up and down--to the
treatment he experienced. The good old man remained for some time
unshaken, till a shower of marrow-bones threw him on his knees, and one
of the ruffians with a coarse pun exclaiming--"Let us make no more bones
about it, but despatch him at once," brutally realised his own ferocious
suggestion.

[Illustration: 065]

Thurkill now sent in another account of £48,000 as the price of his
promised allegiance, which was certainly not worth a week's purchase,
but Ethelred somehow or other found and paid the money. Sweyn, on
hearing of this proceeding, pretended to be very angry with Thurkill,
and fitted out a formidable fleet, with the avowed intention of killing
with one stone two birds--namely, the Danish crow, and the Saxon pigeon.
The ships of Sweyn were elaborately carved for show, and consequently
not very well cut out for service. Nevertheless they were quite strong
enough to vanquish the dispirited Saxons, who would have been overawed
at the sight of a Danish oar, and might have been knocked down with a
feather.

Sweyn landed at York, and leaving his fleet in the care of his son
Canute, carried fire and sword into the north; but as the inhabitants
were all favourable to his cause, he had no more occasion to take fire
into the north, than to carry coals to Newcastle. The king had sought
refuge in London, which refused to give in until Ethelred sneaked out,
when the citizens having been threatened, according to Sir Francis
Palgrave, * with damage to their "eyes and limbs," threw open their
gates to the conqueror. The unready monarch made for the Isle of Wight,
but finding apartments dear and living expensive, he packed off his wife
and children to his brother-in-law, Richard of Normandy, who lived in a
court at Rouen. The duke made them as çomfortable as he could, and the
lady Emma having fished for an invitation for her husband, at length
succeeded in getting him asked, to the infinite delight of old
"Slowcoach," who for once got ready at a very short notice to avail
himself of the asylum that was offered him. Sweyn was now king of
England, a.d. 1013, but after a reign of six weeks, entitling him
to only half a quarter's salary, he died at Gainsborough, very much
lamented by all who did not know him. The Saxon nobles who had so
recently sent Ethelred away, now wanted him back again. They despatched
a message, however, to the effect that, if he would promise to be a good
king, and never be naughty any more, they would be glad to accept him
once more as their sovereign. Ethelred turning his son Edmund into a
postman, forwarded a letter by hand, promising reform, but stipulating
that there should be no "fraud or treachery," or in other words, no
humbug on either side. This arrangement, though growing out of mutual
distrust, and being little better than a provision which each party
thought necessary in consequence of the dishonesty of both, must be
regarded as highly important in a constitutional point of view, for it
is evidently the germ of those great compacts, which have since been
occasionally concluded between the sovereign and the people.

     * Chap. xiii., p. 310,


[Illustration: 067]

Ethelred, on his arrival at home, found that Canute, the son of Sweyn,
having been declared king by the Danes, had coolly set himself up as
landlord of the Crown and Sceptro at Greenwich. Ethelred and Canute
continued for three years like "the Lion and the Unicorn, fighting for
the Crown," with about equal success, when death overtook "Slowcoach,"
after a long and inglorious reign. He died on St. George's Day, 1016,
having been for five-and-thirty years man and boy, on and off the throne
of England.



CHAPTER THE SEVENTH. EDMUND IRONSIDES--CANUTE--HAROLD
HAREFOOT--HARDICANUTE--EDWARD THE CONFESSOR--HAROLD--THE BATTLE OF
HASTINGS.

On the decease of Ethelred the citizens of London offered the throne
to his son Edmund, who had got the strange nickname of Ironsides. He
obtained this appellation from his extreme toughness; for it has been
said by a contemporary that if you gave him a poke in the ribs they
rattled like the bars of a gridiron, or the railings round an area.
There can be no doubt that Edmund had strength on his side, as far as he
was personally concerned, but Canute, or as some called him, C'nute and
'Cute, often overreached young Ironsides in cunning.

In one of their battles--the fifth of a series--the Danes were on the
point of defeat, when Edric, whom Edmund, however hard in the ribs, was
soft enough in the head to trust after former treachery, raised the cry
that the young leader had fallen. By some ingenious contrivance, Edrio
had cut off somebody's head which resembled Edmund in features, and,
perhaps, improving the likeness with burnt cork or other preparations,
raised it on a spear in the field, exclaiming "Flee, English! flee,
English! dead is Edmund." * The whole army became paralysed at the
sight, and even Ironsides himself was completely put out of countenance,
for he was unable to tell at the moment whether his head was really upon
his own shoulders. How Edric could have had the face to practise such
an imposition may puzzle the reader of the present day; but it was
exceedingly likely that the trick would be aided by Edmund undergoing,
as he no doubt would at the moment, a sudden change of countenance.

     * These are the very words, exactly as they have been
     preserved,--Vide Sir F. Palgrave, chapter xliii. page 308.


[Illustration: 068]

Ironsides, though for the moment put to flight, having been as it were
frightened at his own shadow, found on reflection, in the first piece of
water he came to, that his head was in its right place, though his heart
had slightly failed him, and he consequently paused in his retreat,
and met Canute face to face, on the road to Gloucestershire. Ironsides,
stepping forward in front of his army, made the cool proposition to
Canute that instead of risking the lives of so many brave men, they
should settle the quarrel by single combat. Considering that Edmund had
not only the advantage of patent-safety sides, which rendered him nearly
battle-axe proof, but was also about twice the height of his antagonist,
it is not surprising that Canute declined coming in immediate contact
with the metallic plates, which would have acted as a powerful battery
upon the diminutive Dane. Had he accepted the crafty challenge, every
blow inflicted on Ironsides would have been a severe rap on the knuckles
to Canute, who might as well have run his head against a brick wall as
engage in a single combat with a person of such undoubted metal. It
was, however, agreed that they should divide the realm, and though as
a general rule it is not advisable to do anything by halves, this
arrangement was decidedly beneficial to all parties. The armies were
both delighted at the proposal, and their joy affords proof that their
discretion formed a great deal more than the better part of their
valour.

Canute took the north, and Edmund the south, with a nominal superiority
over the former, so that the crown is said by the chroniclers to have
belonged to Ironsides. It was certainly better that the ascendency
should have been given to one of the two, for if their territory
had been equal the crown must have been divided, and he that had the
thickest head might have claimed the larger share of the regal diadem.
Edmund lived only two months after the agreement had been signed, and
as Canute took the benefit of survivorship, it has been good-naturedly
suggested that he must have been either the actual or virtual murderer
of Ironsides. There are only one or two facts which spoil this ingenious
and amiable theory; the first of which is, that there is no proof of his
having been killed at all,--an uncertainty that is quite sufficient
to allow the benefit of the doubt to those who have been named as his
murderers. Hume has, without hesitation, appointed Oxford as the
scene of the assassination, and has been kind enough to select two
chamberlains as the perpetrators of the deed, but we have been unable
to collect sufficient evidence to go to a jury against the anonymous
chamberlains, whom we beg leave to dismiss with the comfortable
assurance that they quit these pages without any stain on their
characters.

Canute, as the succeeding partner in the late firm of Edmund and Canute,
found himself, in 1017, all alone in his glory on the British throne.
His first care was to call a public meeting of "bishops," "duces," and
"optimates," at which he voted himself into the chair; and he caused it
to be proposed and seconded that he should be king to the exclusion of
all the descendants of Ethelred. There can be no doubt that the meeting
was packed, for every proposition of Canute was received with loud cries
of "hear," and repeated cheers. Strong resolutions were passed against
Edwy, the grown-up brother of Edmund Ironsides. Proceedings were
instantly commenced; he was declared an outlaw, and was soon taken in
execution in the then usual form.

Edmund and Edwy, the two infant sons of Ironsides, were protected by the
plea of infancy; but Canute sent them out to dry-nurse to the king of
the Swedes, with an intimation that if their mouths could be stopped by
Swedish turnips, or anything else, the arrangement would be satisfactory
to the English monarch. His Swedish majesty, whether moved by pity or
actuated by the feeling of "None of my child," sent the babies on to
Hungary, where they were taken in, but not done for, as Canute had
desired. The little Edmund died early, but his brother Edward settled
respectably in life, married a relation of the Emperor of Germany,
became a family man, and one of his daughters was subsequently a Mrs.
Malcolm, the lady of Malcolm, king of Scotland.

Edmund and Alfred, the other sons of Ethelred by Emma of Normandy, who
were still living with their uncle Robert, had a sort of lawyer's letter
written in their name to Canute, threatening an action of trover for the
sceptre, unless it were immediately restored.

After offering a moiety--being equal to a composition of ten shillings
in the pound--he proposed to settle the matter by marrying their mamma,
who consented to this arrangement; and the claims of the infants were
never heard of again. Neglected by their mother, they forgot their
mother tongue--they grew up Normans instead of Saxons, say the old
chroniclers, which seems to be going a little too far, for a Saxon
cannot become a Norman by living in Normandy, any more than a man
becomes a horse by residence in a stable.

After triumphing over his enemies, Canute somewhat altered for the
better, and became a quiet, gentlemanly, but rather jovial man. He was
fond of music, patronised vocalists, and occasionally wrote ballads, one
of which is still preserved. As it was said of a certain performer,
that he would have been a good actor if he had been possessed of figure,
voice, action, expression, and intelligence; so we may say of Canute,
that if he had known anything of sense or syntax, if he had been happy
at description, or possessed the slightest share of imagination, he
would have been a very fair poet.

A portion of one of Canute's once popular ballads has been preserved,
and if the other verses resembled the one that has come down to us,
there is no reason to regret that the rest is out of print and that
nobody has kept the manuscript.

The following is the queer quatrain which remains as the sole specimen
of his majesty's poetical abilities:--

     "Merrily sing the monks within Ely,
     When C'nute King rowed there by;
     Row, my knights, row near the land,
     And hear we these monks sing."

This dismal distich is said to have been suggested by his hearing the
solemn monastic music of the choir as he rowed near the Minster of Ely;
but we suspect the song must have been rather of a secular kind, or the
term merrily would have been exceedingly inappropriate. *

     * Some writers have endeavoured to justify the royal author
     or vindicate the characters of the monks of Ely, by saying,
     that in those days "merry" meant "sad." These gentlemen
     might just as well argue that black meant white--a
     proposition some people would not hesitate to put forth as a
     plea for the errors of royalty.


[Illustration: 071]

About the year 1017, Edric, the royal favourite, evinced some
disposition to strike for an advance of salary, when Canute resisting
the demand, the king and the courtier came to high words. Eric
of Northumbria, who happened to be sitting in the room with his
battle-axe,--which was in those days as common a companion as an
umbrella or a walking-stick in the present age,--got up, on a hint from
the king, and axed the miserable Edric to death.

Canute, who was also king of the Danes, the Swedes,--whose sovereign was
his vassal--and of the Northmen, had many turbulent subjects abroad as
well as at home, but he was in the habit of employing one against the
other, so that it was utterly immaterial to him which of them were
slain, so that he got rid of some of them. He kept a strong hand over
his Danish earls, and even his nephew, "the doughty Haco,"--though why
he should have been called "doughty," is a matter of much doubt--was
exiled for disregard of the royal authority.

The Swedes, who were always boiling over, got at last completely mashed
by Earl Godwin; and the kings of Fife, who, although mere _piccoli_,
were monarchs of some note, having exerted themselves in a melancholy
strain for independence, at length fell, for the sake of harmony, into
the general submission to Canute. Six nations were now reduced into one
general subordi----nation to the English king, who of course became the
object of the grossest flattery, and upon one memorable occasion was
nearly sacrificed to the puffing system of his injudicious friends.
One day, when in the plenitude of his power, he caused the throne to
be removed from the throne-room and erected, during low tide, on the
sea-shore. Having taken his seat, surrounded by his courtiers, he issued
a proclamation to the ocean, forbidding it to rise, and commanding it
not, on any account, to leave its bed until his permission for it to
get up was graciously awarded. The courtiers backed the royal edict,
and encouraged with the grossest adulation this first great practical
attempt to prove that Britannia rules the waves. Such a rule, however,
was soon proved to be nothing better than a rule _nisi_, which it is
impossible to make absolute when opposed by Neptune's irresistible
motion of course. Every wave of Canute's sceptre was answered by a wave
from the sea, and the courtiers, who were already up to their ankles
in salt water, began to fear that they should soon be pickled in the
foaming brine.

At length the monarch himself found his footstool disposed to go on
swimmingly of its own accord, and there was every prospect that the
whole party would undergo the ceremony of an immediate investiture of
the bath. The sovereign, who was very lightly shod, soon found that his
pumps were not capable of getting rid of the water, which was now rising
very rapidly. Having sat with his feet in the sea for a few minutes,
and not relishing the slight specimen of hydropathic treatment he had
endured, he jumped suddenly up, and began to abuse his courtiers for the
mess into which he had been betrayed by their outrageous flattery.

[Illustration: 072]

One of the attendants who had remained at the back of the others during
this ridiculous scene, observed drily, that the whole party would have
been inevitably washed and done for, if Canute had not made a timely
retreat. The sovereign was so humbled by this incident, that he took off
his crown upon the spot, made a parcel of it at once, forwarded it to
Winchester Cathedral, and never wore it again.

Water, as we all know, can subdue the strongest spirit, and though the
spirit of Canute could bear a great deal of mixing, it is evident that
the sea had shown him his own weakness. In the year 1030 he went on a
pilgrimage to Rome, with no other staff than a wooden one in his hand;
and instead of a valet to follow him, he had a simple wallet at his
back. From a letter he wrote to his bishops while abroad, it would seem
that he received presents of "vases of gold and vessels of silver, and
stuffs, and garments of great price;" so that by the time he got home
again, his wallet must have been a tolerable burden for the royal back.
He died at Shaftesbury, in 1035, about three years after his return from
Rome, and was buried at Winchester; so that he finally laid his head
where his crown had been already deposited.

On the death of Canute there was the usual difficulty as to what was to
be done with the British crown; for there were two or three who thought
the cap fitted themselves, and who consequently claimed the right to
wear it. There is no doubt that Hardicanute, the only legitimate son of
the late king, would have tried it on had it not been left by will to
Harold, while his brother Sweyn was the legatee of Norway. A compromise
was, however, effected, by which Harold took everything north of the
Thames, including, of course, the Baker Street and Finsbury districts,
while Hardicanute, to whom Denmark had been bequeathed, took the
territories on the south shore, commencing in the Belvidere Road,
Lambeth, and terminating at the southern extremity of the kingdom. He
however, left his English dominions to the management of his mother and
Earl Godwin, while he himself lingered in Denmark; on account of the
convivial habits of the Scandinavian chiefs; for Hardicanute drank, as
the phrase goes, "like a fish," though the liquid he imbibed was very
different from that which the finny tribe are addicted to.

Edward and Alfred, the two sons of Ethelred, had come over to be in the
way in case of anything turning up on the death of Canute, but Edward
finding himself rather too much in the way, and fearing an unpleasant
removal, took a return ticket for himself and party for Normandy.
Alfred, after vainly attempting to land at Sandwich, happily thought of
Heme Bay, and though it was in the height of the season, he of course
found no one there to resist his progress. Having ventured up to
Guildford on the invitation of Godwin, Alfred and his soldiers found a
sumptuous repast and comfortable lodgings prepared for them. But Godwin
had been more downy even than the beds, and the soldiers having been
seized and imprisoned found wet blankets thrown on their hopes of
hospitable treatment. Edward himself was cruelly murdered, and Harold,
who was called Harefoot, from the speed with which he could ran, was now
able to walk over the course, for there was no opposition to him in the
race for the stakes of Royalty. He was fond of nothing but hunting, and
as he could catch a hare by his own velocity he generally had the game
in his own hands. He died a.d. 1040, after a short reign of four years;
and though, if he had lived to old age, he might have proved a good
sovereign in the long-run, he was certainly not happy in the walk of
life where fortune had placed him.

Hardicanute, a name signifying Canute the Hardy, or the tough, came over
on the death of Harold; but with all his toughness he evinced or assumed
some tenderness at the cruel fate of his brother Alfred. He showed his
sympathy for one by brutality towards another, and subjected Harold's
memory to the most barbarous indignities.

Godwin, fearing that he might share the obloquy of his former master,
propitiated Hardicanute by giving him a magnificent toy, consisting of
a gilt ship, with a crew of eighty men, each having a bracelet of
pure gold weighing sixteen ounces, and dressed in the most valuable
habiliments. The new king no doubt melted the gold very speedily
in drink, to which he was so much addicted, that he actually died
intoxicated at a party given at Clapham, by one Clapa, from whose name,
or home, that suburb was called. His majesty was, according to the
chroniclers, "on his legs," and the waiters had of course left the room,
when Hardicanute unable to get further than "Gentlemen," staggered into
his seat, and was carried out--mortally inebriated. *

     * Other historians say in so many words, that "he died
     drunk." We prefer using the milder expression of "mortally
     inebriated,"


[Illustration: 075]

The throne being now vacant, Edward, the half-brother of the late king,
who happened to be on the spot, was induced to step up and take a seat,
though he was the senior of the late sovereign. In those days, however,
the rules of hereditary descent were not very rigidly followed, for
it was success that chiefly regulated succession. Edward's cause had,
however, derived much support from Earl Godwin, the most extraordinary
teetotum of former times. He had practised the political _chassez
croisser_ to an extent that even in our own days has seldom been
surpassed. He had turned his coat so frequently that he had lost all
consciousness of which was the right side and which the wrong; but he
always treated that side as the right which happened to be uppermost.

Godwin had, it is said, commenced life as a cowboy, but he soon raised
himself above the low herd, and eventually succeeded in making his
daughter Editha the queen of Edward. The king, who had lived much in
Normandy, and had derived some assistance from Duke William, afterwards
the Conqueror, had formed many Norman predilections, which created
jealousy among his Saxon subjects. In 1061, he had received as a visitor
his brother-in-law, one Eustace, Count of Boulogne, who, on returning
home with his followers through Dover, insolently demanded gratuitous
lodgings of one of the inhabitants. The Dover people, who are still
remarkable for their high charges, and who seldom think of providing
a cup of tea under two shillings, or a bed for less than half-a-crown,
resisted the demands of Eustace and his friends, when a fight ensued,
and the Normans were compelled to make the best of their way out of the
neighbourhood.

Eustace, still smarting under the blows he had received, ran howling
to Edward, like a boy who, upon receiving a thrashing, flies to his big
brother for redress. The king desired Godwin, who was governor of Dover,
to chastise the place; but the earl positively refused, and insisted
that the Count of Boulogne could not complain if, when he required to be
served gratuitously, he had got regularly served out. Edward, irritated
at this message, prepared for war, and Godwin, who was joined by his
sons, Sweyn and Harold, had collected a powerful army; but when it came
to the point, the soldiers on both sides gave evident symptoms of
a desire to see the matter amicably arranged. As the king's forces
consisted chiefly of the fryd or militia, there can be little doubt
where the panic commenced; and Godwin's men, recognising among the foe
some of their fellow-countrymen trembling from head to foot, immediately
commenced shaking hands, so that there was an end to all firmness on
both sides. A truce was consequently concluded, and the disputes of
the parties referred to the arbitration of the Witenagemote; who doomed
Sweyn to outlawry, and Godwin and Harold to banishment. Thus the "king's
darlings," as they had been called, were disposed of, and the pets
became the object of petty vengeance. Editha, the daughter of Godwin,
shared in the general disgrace of her family; for the king, her husband,
"reduced her," say the chroniclers, "to her last groat;" and with this
miserable fourpence she was consigned to a monastery, where she was
waited on by one servant of all-work, and controlled by the abbess, who
was the sister of her royal tyrant.

Edward being now released from the presence of Godwin, began to think
of seeing his friends, and invited William of Normandy to spend a
few months at the English court. He came with a numerous retinue, and
finding most of the high offices in the possession of Normans, he was
able to feel himself perfectly at home. On the conclusion of his stay he
departed, with a gift of horses, hounds, and hawks; in fact, a miniature
menagerie, which had been presented to him by his host, without
considering the inconvenience occasioned by adding "a happy family" to
the luggage of the Norman visitor.

Edward was not allowed much leisure, for his guest had no sooner
departed, than he found himself threatened by Earls Godwin and Harold,
who sailed up to London, and landed a large army in the Strand. This
important thoroughfare, which has been in modern times so frequently
blockaded, was stopped up at that early period by men who were paving
their way to power; so that paviours of some kind have for ages been a
nuisance to the neighbourhood.

Edward agreed to a truce, by which Godwin and his sons were restored to
their rank; but the earl, while dining soon afterwards with Edward at
Windsor, was, according to some, choked in the voracious endeavour to
swallow a tremendous mouthful. Thus perished, from an appetite larger
than his windpipe, one of the most illustrious characters of his age.
Harold, his son, succeeded him in his titles and estates; but as the
latter are said to have consisted chiefly of the Goodwin Sands,
the legatee could not hope to keep his head above water on such an
inheritance.

Harold commenced his career by worrying Algar, a rival earl, who got
worried to death (a.d. 1059), and he then turned his attention to the
father-in-law of his victim, one Griffith, a Welsh sovereign, whose
army not liking the bother of war, cut off his head and sent it as a
peace-offering to the opposite leader. This unceremonious manner of
breaking the neck of a difficulty by decapitating their king, says more
for the decision than the loyalty of the Welsh people.

[Illustration: 077]

It was not long after this circumstance, that Harold, going out in a
fishing-boat on the coast of Sussex with one or two bungling mariners,
got carried out to sea, and was ultimately washed ashore like an old
blacking-bottle in the territory of Guy, Count of Ponthieu. Having been
picked up by the count, poor Harold was treated as a waif, and impounded
until a heavy sum was paid for his ransom. William of Normandy, upon
hearing that an earl and retinue were pawned in the distinguished name
of Harold, good-naturedly redeemed them, at a great expense, but made
the English earl solemnly pledge himself to assist his deliverer in
obtaining the English crown at the death of Edward. The king expired
on the 5th of January, 1066, leaving the crown to William, according to
some, and to Harold, according to others; but as no will was ever found,
it is probable enough that he agreed to leave the kingdom first to one
and then to the other, according to which happened to have at the moment
the ear of the sovereign. *

     * This Edward was generally called the Confessor, but how he
     got the name we are unable to say with certainty. It has
     been ingeniously suggested that it was on the _lucus a non
     lucendo_ principle, and that he was called the Confessor,
     from his never confessing anything.

Harold, forgetting the circumstance of his awkward predicament in the
fishing-boat, and ungrateful of William's services, immediately assumed
the title of king, and got his coronation over the very same evening. It
is even believed by some that the ceremony was so hastily performed as
to have been a mere _tête-à-tête_ affair between Stigand, the Archbishop
of Canterbury, and the new sovereign.

When William received the news of Harold's accession he was having
a game with a bow and arrows in his hunting-ground near Rouen. His
trembling knees suddenly took the form of his bow, and his lip began to
quiver. He threw himself hastily into a skiff, and crossing the Seine,
never stopped till he reached his palace, where he walked up and down
the hall several times, occasionally sitting down for a moment in the
porter's chair, then starting up and resuming his promenade up and
down the passage. On recovering from his reverie he sent ambassadors
to demand of Harold the fulfilment of his promise; but that dishonest
person replied, that he being under duress when he gave his word, it
could not be considered binding.

[Illustration: 078]

William accordingly called a public meeting of Normans, at which it
was resolved unanimously, that England should be invaded as speedily
as possible. A subscription was immediately entered into to defray the
cost, and volunteers were admitted to join the expedition without the
formality of a reference. Tag from Maine ana Anjou, Rag from Poitou and
Bretagne, with Bob-tail from Flanders, came rapidly pouring in; while
the riff of the Rhine, and the raff of the Alps, formed altogether a mob
of the most miscellaneous character. Those families who are in the
habit of boasting that their ancestors came in with the Conqueror,
would scarcely feel so proud of the fact if they were aware that the
companions of William comprised nearly all the roguery and vagabondism
of Europe.

A large fleet having been for some time in readiness at St. Valery, near
Dieppe, crossed in the autumn of 1066, and on the 28th of September the
Normans landed without opposition at Pevensey, near Hastings. William,
who was the last to step on shore, fell flat upon his hands and face,
which was at first considered by the soldiers as an evil omen; but
opening his palm, which was covered with mud, he gaily exclaimed, "Thus
do I lay my hands upon this ground--and be assured that it is a pie you
shall all have a finger in." This speech, or words to the same effect,
restored the confidence of the soldiers, and they marched to Hastings,
where they waited the coming of the enemy.

[Illustration: 081]

Harold, who had come to London, left town by night for the Sussex coast,
and halted at Battle, where the English forces kept it up for two or
three days and nights with Bongs and revelry. At length, on Saturday,
the 14th of October, William gave the word to advance, when a gigantic
Norman, called Taillefer, who was a minstrel and a juggler, went forward
to execute a variety of tricks, such as throwing up his sword with one
hand and catching it with the other; balancing his battle-axe on the
tip of his chin; standing on his head upon the point of his spear, and
performing other feats of pantomimic dexterity. He next proceeded to
sing a popular ballad, and having asked permission to strike the first
blow, he succeeded in making a tremendous hit; but some one happening to
return the compliment, he was very soon quieted. The men of London, who
formed the bodyguard of Harold, made a snug and impenetrable barrier
with their shields, under which they nestled very cosily. *

     * Some of them, who were buried under their bucklers, may
     have been inhabitants of Bucklersbury, which may have
     derived its name from the practice we have described.

From nine in the morning till nine in the afternoon the Normans
continued watching for the English to emerge from under their shields,
as a cat waits for a mouse to quit its hiding-place. As the mouse
refuses to come to the scratch, so the Londoners declined to quit their
snuggery, until William had the happy idea of ordering his bowmen
to shoot into the air; and they were thus down upon the foe, with
considerable effect, by the falling of the arrows. Still the English
stood firm until William, by a pretended retreat, induced the soldiers
of Harold to quit their position of safety. Three times were the Saxon
snails tempted to come out of their shells by this crafty manouvre, but
their courage was still unshaken, until an arrow, shot at random, hit
Harold in the left eye, when his dispirited followers fled like winking.

The English king was carried to the foot of the standard, where a few of
his soldiers formed round him a little party of Protectionists. William
fought with desperate valour, and was advancing towards the banner, when
an English billman drew a bill which he made payable at sight on
the head of the Duke of Normandy. Fortunately the precious metal of
William's helmet was sufficient to meet the bill, which must otherwise
have crushed the Norman leader. Harold, whose spirit never deserted
him, observed with reference to the wound in his eye, that it was a bad
look-out, but he must make the best of it. At length he fell exhausted,
when the English having lost their banner, found their energies
beginning to flag, and William became the Conqueror.



BOOK II. THE PERIOD FROM THE NORMAN CONQUEST TO THE DEATH OF KING JOHN.



CHAPTER THE FIRST. WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR.


Before entering on our account of the reign of William the Conqueror, a
bird's-eye view of the early biography of that illustrious person may
be acceptable. He was born in 1024, of miscellaneous parents, and was a
descendant of the illustrious Rollo, who wrested Normandy from Charles
the Simple, whose simplicity consisted no doubt in his submitting to be
done out of his possessions. William had been in his early days one of
those intolerable nuisances, an infant prodigy, and at eight years old
exhibited that ripeness of judgment and energy of action for which the
birch is in our opinion the best remedy. He had quelled a disturbance
in his own court, when very young; but a beadle in our own day can do as
much as this, for a disturbance in a court is often quelled by that
very humble officer. His marriage with Matilda, daughter of the Earl of
Flanders, gave him the benefit of respectable connection, so useful to
a young man starting in life; and after trying with all his might to
acquire Maine, his success in obtaining it added to his influence.

Such was the man whom we left in our last chapter on the field of
Battle, and on our return to him we find him building Battle Abbey in
memory of his victory. He caused a list or roll to be made of all the
nobles and gentlemen who came over with him from Normandy, and many
of them were men of mark, if we are to judge by their signatures. This
earliest specimen in England of a genuine French roll was preserved for
some time under the name of the roll of Battle Abbey, but the monks were
in the habit of making it a medium for advertisement, by allowing
the insertion of fresh names, to gratify that numerous class who are
desirous of being thought to have come in with the Conqueror. The
roll of Battle Abbey was no longer confined to the thorough-bred,
but degenerated into a paltry puff, made up in the usual way, with
paste--and scissors.

William, instead of going at once to London, put up for a few days at
Hastings, expecting the people to come and ask for peace; but though
he remained at home the greater part of the day, the callers were by no
means numerous. He accordingly took his departure for Romney, which he
savagely rummaged. He then went on to Dover, which Holinshed describes
as the lock and key of all England, but the inhabitants, finding the
lock and key in hostile hands, sagaciously made a bolt of it.

William's soldiers had no sooner taken possession of Dover than they
were all seized with severe illness, but whether they availed themselves
of the celebrated Dover Powders is exceedingly dubious. The Conqueror
at length went towards London, where the Witan had proclaimed as king
a poor little boy of the name of Edgar Atheling, the son of Edmund
Ironsides. William, however, nearly frightened the Witan out of its
wits by burning Southwark, and a deputation started from town to
Berkhampstead, to make submission to the Conqueror. Young Edgar made a
formal renunciation of the throne, which was not his to renounce, and
indeed, when he sat upon it the child fell so very far short, that for
him to feel the ground under his feet was utterly impossible.

After these concessions, the day was fixed for William's coronation in
Westminster Abbey, on the 26th of December, 1066, when the ceremony was
performed amid enthusiastic cheering which lasted for several minutes.

The Normans outside not being accustomed to Saxon habits, mistook the
applause for disapprobation, and thinking that their duke was being
hooted, or perhaps pelted, with "apples, oranges, nuts, and pears," they
began to avenge the fancied insult by taking it out in violence towards
the populace. Houses were burnt down in every direction, when the noise
made without became audible to those within, who rushed forth to join in
the row, and William, it is said, was left almost alone in the abbey, to
finish his own coronation. He, however, went through the whole ceremony,
and even added a few extemporaneous paragraphs to the usual coronation
affidavit, by the introduction of an oath or two of his own, after the
interruption of the ceremony.

The Conqueror having taken some extensive premises at Barking, went
to reside there for a short time, and was visited by several English
families, among whom that of the warrior Coxo--since abbreviated
into Cox--was one of the most illustrious. William found considerable
difficulty in satisfying the rapacity of his followers, who thought
nothing of asking for a castle, a church, an abbey, or a trifle of
that kind by way of remuneration for their services. He scattered those
articles right and left, according to the chroniclers; but it would
be difficult to say where he got them from, were it not that the
chroniclers are so skilled in castle-building that they have always a
stock on hand to devote to the purposes of history.

After six months' residence in England, William, having got his
half-year's salary as king, was in funds to enable him to take a trip
to Normandy. He took with him a complete sideboard of English--not
British--plate, and with the treasures of this country dazzled the eyes
of his continental friends and subjects. A party of Young England gents
who accompanied him attracted also, by their long flowing hair, the
admiration of foreigners.

Odo, William's half-brother, who had been left at home to rule in the
absence of the king, soon--as the reader may anticipate from the obvious
pun that must ensue--rendered himself utterly odious. His treatment
of the conquered people was cruel in the extreme; he filled the cup of
misery not only to the brim, but degradation was kept continually on
draft, every new blow being a fresh tap for the victims of tyranny. The
very smallest beer will, however, ferment at last if kept continually
bottled up; and though the Entire of England had been for a time
rendered flat, there was a good deal of genuine British stout at bottom.
A general effervescence broke out on the departure of William, who had
acted hitherto as a cork; but Odo evinced a disposition to play the
screw, by drawing out whatever he could in the absence of his superior.

A general conspiracy seemed to be on the point of breaking out, when
William, who had allowed letter after letter to remain unanswered which
had been sent to entreat him to come home, started late one night for
Dieppe, on his return to England. His first care was to assuage the
discontent, and he had already learned the acknowledged trick, that the
shortest way of stopping a British mouth, is by liberally feeding it. He
accordingly gave a series of Christmas dinners, and he invited several
Saxon earls, to meet a succession of bovine barons. If the banquets
were intended as a bait, there is no doubt that the English very readily
swallowed them. By way of further propitiating the people, he published
a law in the Saxon tongue, decreeing "that every son should inherit from
his father," or in other words, should take after him. If, however, he
was liberal in his invitations to dinner, he took care that the people
should pay the bill, for he had scarcely finished entertaining them,
when he began taxing them most oppressively.

William did not acquire the title of Conqueror quite so speedily as has
been generally imagined, for he was occupied at least seven years in
running about the country from one place to the other, wiping out,
by many severe wipes, the remaining traces of insubordination to his
government. In the year 1068 he besieged Exeter, where Githa, the aged
mother of Harold, was leading a quiet life, surrounded by a bevy of
venerable gossips. The Conqueror routed them out, and they repaired to
Bath, where their taste for tittle-tattle might have been indulged, but
meeting with rudeness from the celebrated Bath chaps, they hastened to
Flanders. William now sent for his wife Matilda, whom he had not brought
over until he could form some idea how long he was likely to remain in
his new quarters. A cheap coronation was got up for her at Winchester,
the contract having been taken by Aldred, Archbishop of York, who it is
believed found all the materials for the ceremony, without extra charge;
and as the queen was rather short, we may presume that everything was
cut down to a low figure. A little after this event, Harold's two sons,
Godwin and Edmund, with a little brother, facetiously called Magnus,
came over from Ireland, and hovered about the coast of Cornwall, where
young Magnus, being a minor, perhaps hoped for sympathy. They planted
their standard, expecting that the inhabitants would fly to it, but
they only flew at it, to tear it in pieces. Poor Magnus, with infantine
tenderness, cried like a baby over the insulted bunting. Tired with
their ill success, the three brothers eventually went over as suppliants
to Denmark, where the unhappy beggars were received by Sweyn with
amiable hospitality.

In the ensuing year, William turned Somerset so completely upside down
that it could not have known whether it stood on its head or its heels;
and in every shire he took, he built a castle, by way of insuring
the lives of himself and his followers in the county. According to
Hollinshed, the greatest indignities were passed upon the conquered
people. They were compelled even to regulate their beards in a
particular fashion, from which the youngest shaver was not exempt. They
were obliged to "round their hair," which probably means that they were
obliged to keep it curled, and thus even in their _coiffure_ they were
ruled by a rod of iron. In addition to this, they were forced to
"frame themselves in the Norman fashion," which must have made them the
pictures of misery.

[Illustration: 086]

William had, in one of his amiable moods, probably over a bottle of
wine, promised Edwin, the brother-in-law of Harold, his daughter in
marriage. When, however, the earl came to claim his fair prize, the
Conqueror not only withdrew his consent, but insulted the suitor, and
a scene ensued very similar to the common incident in a farce, when
a testy old father or guardian flies into a passion with the walking
gentleman, exclaiming "Hoity-toity!" and calling him a young jackanapes.
Edwin, irritated at this treatment, collected an army in the north, and
waited near the river Ouse; but the courage of his soldiers soon oozed
out when the Conqueror made his appearance. William was victorious; but
he had much to contend against during the first few years of his reign,
and an invasion of the Danes, under Osborne, was a very troublesome
business.

The Normans, having shut themselves up in York, set fire to some of
the houses outside the city, to check the approach of the foe; but
the flames catching the minster, a "night wi' Burns" seemed to be
inevitable. Not wishing to remain to be roasted, they risked the minor
inconvenience of being basted, and made a very lively sally out of the
city. They were nearly all killed, and the Danes took possession of
York; but the place being reduced to ashes, was little better than an
extensive dust-hole. Osborne and his followers not wishing to winter
among the cinders, retired to their ships, and William thus had time to
make further arrangements.

The Conqueror was hunting in the Forest of Dean when he heard of the
catastrophe, and having his lance in his hand, he swore he would never
put it down until he had exterminated the enemy. This must have been a
somewhat inconsiderate vow, for though it may have been chivalrous to
declare he would never put down his lance until a certain remote event,
the weapon must have been at times a very inconvenient companion, as he
did not commence his campaign until the spring; but as his vow came into
operation immediately, the lance must have been a dead weight in his
hand during the whole of the winter season. At length he mounted his
horse, and rode rough-shod over the people of York, after which he took
Durham, and ultimately repaired to Hexham, to which he administered a
regular Hexham tanning.

Bobbery, under the less obnoxious name of confiscation, now became very
general, and William commenced the wholesale subtraction of lands,
with a view to their division among his Norman followers. The conquered
English had nearly all their property seized, and those who had but
little shared the lot of the wealthiest in the spoliation to which all
were subjected. William de Percy profited largely in purse; and if in
those days manners made the man, he must have been a made man indeed,
for he got no less than eighty manors. Several other names will be found
in Domesday Book, drawn up about fifteen years after the conquest, from
whicn some of our oldest ancestors may learn full particulars of their
early ancestors.

The title of Richmond had its origin from a Breton ruffian of the name
of Allan, who having got a mount near York as his share of the plunder,
gave it the name of Riche-Mont, or Rich-Mount; and the first Earl of
Cumberland was a low fellow named Reuouf Meschines, the latter title
being no doubt derived from _mesquin_, to express something mean and
pitiful in this individual's character. The boast of having come in with
the Normans is equivalent to a confession of belonging to a family whose
founder was a thief, or at least a receiver of stolen articles.

The resistance to the Conqueror was, in many parts of England,
exceedingly obstinate, and Hereward of Lincoln, commonly called
"England's Darling," or the Lincoln pet, was one of the most resolute of
William's enemies. Such was the impetuosity of the pet, that the Normans
imagined he must be a necromancer: and William, in order to turn
the superstitions of the people to his own account, engaged a rival
conjuror, or sorceress, who was placed with much solemnity on the top of
a wooden tower, among the works that were proceeding for the defence of
the invader's army. Hereward, however, seizing his opportunity, set
fire to the wizard's temple, and the unfortunate conjuror being puzzled,
terminated his career amidst a grand pyrotechnic display, which proved
for Hereward and his party a blaze of triumph.

The English had established a camp of refuge at Ely, but the hungry
monks, whose profession it was to fast, were the first, when provisions
ran short, to grumble at the scarcity. Their vows were evidently
as empty as themselves, and though they had pledged themselves to
abstinence, they began eating their own words with horrible voracity.
They betrayed the isle to the Conqueror; but Hereward refusing to
submit, plunged, like a true son of the soil, into the swamps and
marshes, where the Normans would not venture to follow him. Protected
to a certain extent in the bosom of his mother earth, he carried on a
vexatious warfare, until William offered terms which took the hero out
of the mud, and settled him in the estates of his ancestors.

It has been customary with historians to cut the conquest exceedingly
short, as if _Veni, vidi, vici_, had been the motto of William; and
that, in fact, the Anglo-Saxons had surrendered at his nod,--overcome by
the waving of his plume--if he ever wore one; or in other words, knocked
down with a feather. Such, however, was not the case; for it took seven
years' apprenticeship to accustom the hardy natives of our isle to the
subjection of a conqueror.

While William was in Normandy, whither he had been called to protect
his possessions in Maine--for, as we are told by that mad wag, Matthew
Paris, he never lost sight of the Main chance,--Philip of France offered
some assistance to Edgar Atheling. This individual accordingly set sail,
but the unlucky dog had scarcely got his bark upon the sea, when
the winds set up a dismal howl, and he was driven ashore near
Northumberland. Edgar and a few friends escaped to Scotland, and at the
advice of his brother-in-law, Malcolm sought a reconciliation with the
Conqueror, who allowed the Atheling his lodging in the palace of Rouen,
with a pound's worth of silver a day for his maintenance.

The king was soon recalled to England by an insurrection, got up by
Roger Fitz Osborn, who, together with a large number of persons who were
all subject to Fitz, determined on resisting the insolent oppression of
the Conqueror. Young Roger, whose father, William Fitz Osborn, had been
of great service to the Norman invader, was engaged to Emma de Gael, a
daughter of the Duke of Norfolk, when the banns were most unreasonably
forbidden by the sovereign. The young couple, however, determined not to
be foiled, had made a match of it; and at the wedding feast, which was
given at Norwich, some violent speeches were made, in the course of
which William was denounced as a tyrant and a humbug, amid repeated
shouts of "hear, hear," from the whole of the company.

The grand object of the Norman rebels was to bring round Earl Waltheof,
and having taken care to heat him with wine, they did succeed in
bringing him round in a most wonderful manner. He assented to every
proposition, and his health was drunk with enthusiasm, followed, no
doubt, by the usual complimentary chorus, attributing to him the festive
virtues of jollity and good fellowship. The next morning, however,
after "a consultation with his pillow," according to the Saxon
chroniclers--from which we are to infer that he and his pillow laid
their heads together, on the principle of goose to goose--he began to
think he had acted very foolishly at the party of the previous night,
and, jumping out of bed, packed off a communication to those with whom
he had promised to co-operate. After presenting his compliments, he
"begged to say, that the evening's amusement not having stood the test
of the morning's reflection, he was under the painful necessity of
withdrawing any consent he might have given to any enterprise that might
have been proposed at the meeting of the day preceding."

The conspiracy, which had commenced in drinking, ended, very
appropriately, in smoke; nearly all who took a part in the Norwich
wedding were killed, and it has been well said by a modern writer that
a share in the Norwich Union was not in those days a very profitable
matter. It was about the year 1077 that William began to be wounded
by that very sharp incisor--the tooth of filial disobedience. When
preparing for the conquest of England he had promised, in the event of
success, to resign Normandy to his son Robert, and had even taken an
oath--clenched, probably, with the exclamation, "So help me, Bob!"--that
if Robert assisted in his father's absence the boy should have the
Duchy.

Having conquered England, the Governor returned, and wanted Normandy
back again, observing, with coarse quaintness, that he was "not going
to throw off his clothes till he went to bed," or, in other words,
insisting that Robert, who had got into his father's shoes, should
instantly evacuate the paternal high-lows. Robert was brave, but by
no means foppish in his dress, ana had acquired the nickname of Robert
Curt-hose or Short-stockings. He probably derived this appellation from
a habit of wearing socks, and it is not unlikely that he was familiarly
known as Bob Socks among his friends and acquaintances. Young Socks,
who had always been irritable, was on one occasion roused to a pitch of
passion by having the contents of a pitcher pitched upon his head by his
two brothers, from the balcony of his own lodging. He became mad with
rage, and, irritated by the water on the brain, he ran upstairs with a
drawn sword in his hand, when the king, hearing the row among the three
boys, rushed to the spot, and succeeded in quelling it in a manner not
very favourable to young Socks, who ran away from home towards Rouen.
Through the intercession of his mother, he was persuaded to return
home, and it is probable that "B. S."--the initials of Bob Socks--was
"entreated to return home to his disconsolate mother, when all would be
arranged to his satisfaction." Nevertheless, his pocket-money continued
to be as short as his hose, and his companions declared it to be a shame
that he never had a shilling to spend in anything. He accordingly went
to his father, and demanded Normandy, but the monarch refused him,
reprimanded him for his irregular habits, and recommended him to adopt
"the society of serious old men,"--the "heavy fathers" of that early
period. Robert declared irreverently that the old pumps were exceedingly
dry companions, and reiterated his demand for Normandy. The king
wrathfully refused, when young Socks announced his determination to take
his valour to the foreign market, and place it at the service of any one
who chose to pay him his price for it.

He visited various localities abroad, where he recounted his grievances,
and borrowed money, making himself a sort of begging-letter impostor,
and going about as if with a board round his neck, inscribed "Turned out
of doors," or "Totally destitute." Though he collected a good round sum,
he spent the whole of it in minstrels, jugglers, and parasites, so that
he divided his time between the enjoyment of popular songs, conjuring
tricks, and paid paragraphs, embodying the most outrageous puffs of his
own character. After leading a vagabond life for some time, he was set
up by Philip of France, in a castle on the confines of Normandy; but as
he was only allowed lodging, he had to find his board as he could, by
plundering his neighbours. One day he had sallied forth in search of
a victim, when he found himself engaged in single combat with a tall
gentlemanly man in a mail coat and a vizor, forming a sort of iron veil,
which covered his countenance. The combatants had been for some time
banging at each other with savage vehemence, when Robert delivered "one,
two, three," with such rapid succession on the head of his antagonist,
that the latter, unable to resist so many plumpers coming at once to the
pole, retired from the contest.

The stalwart knight being regularly knocked up, was glad to knock under,
and fell to the earth with a piteous howl, in which Robert recognised
the _falsetto_ of his own father. Young Socks, who had a good heart,
burst into tears, and instead of falling on his antagonist to finish him
as he had designed, he fell upon his own knee to ask forgiveness of his
parent. William, who would have been settled in one more crack, took
advantage of his son's assistance, but went away muttering maledictions
against Young Socks, who subsequently finding the vindictiveness of his
father's character, declined any further communication with the "old
gentleman," and never saw him again.

In the reign of William the Church was always disposed to be militant,
and among the most pugnacious priests was Walcher de Lorraine, the
Bishop of Durham, who, it is said, often turned his crozier into a
lance, by having, we presume, a long movable hook at the end of it. He
divided his time between preaching and plunder, correcting the morals
of the people one day, and on the next picking their pockets. He was,
in fact, alternately teaching and thrashing them, as if the only way to
impress them with religious truth, was to beat it regularly into them.

At length, however, the right reverend robber having become very
unpopular in his neighbourhood, agreed to attend a public meeting of the
inhabitants at Gateshead, to offer explanations on the subject of the
murder of one Liulf, a noble Englishman, and on other miscellaneous
business. The attendance was far more numerous than select, and the old
bishop becoming exceedingly nervous, ran away into the church with all
his retinue. The people declared that if he did not come out they would
smoke him out, by setting fire to the building; and they had proceeded
to carry their threats into execution, when, half suffocated with the
heat, the bishop came to the door with his face muffled up in the skirts
of his coat, and addressed a few words to the mob in so low a tone, that
our reporters being at a considerable distance--almost eight centuries
off--have not succeeded in catching them. The bishop, however, caught it
at once, for he was slain after a short and rather irregular discussion.
The words "Slay ye the bishop," were distinctly heard to issue from a
voice in the crowd, and the speaker,--whoever he was,--having put the
question, the ayes and the bishop had it.

[Illustration: 091]

William selected one bishop to avenge another, and chose the furious
Odo, who in spite of cries for mercy, and piteous exclamations of
"O! don't, Odo!" killed every one that came across his path, without
judicial forms, or, familiarly speaking, without judge or jury. This
ambitious butcher looked with a pope's eye at the triple crown of Rome,
and set out for Italy, with plenty of gold, to carry his election to
the papal chair by corruption and bribery. The virtues of the cardinals
might not have proved so strong as the cardinal virtues; but Odo, the
bishop of Bayeux, had no chance of trying the experiment, for he
was stopped in his expedition to Rome, at the Isle of Wight, by his
brother-in-law, the Conqueror. William ordered his arrest; but no one
volunteering to act as bailiff, the king seized the prelate by the
robe, and took him into custody. "I am a clerk--a priest," cried Odo,
endeavouring to get away. "I don't care what you are," exclaimed
William, retaining his hold upon his prisoner. "The pope alone has
the right to try me," shrieked the bishop, getting away, and leaving a
fragment of his robe in the king's hand. "But I've got you, and don't
mean to part with you again in a hurry," muttered William, after
darting forward and effecting the recapture of Odo, who was immediately
committed to a dungeon in Normandy.

The king soon after this incident lost his wife Matilda, and he became,
after her decease, more cruel, avaricious, and jealous of his old
companions-in-arms, than ever. One of the worst acts of his reign was
the making of the New Forest in Hampshire, which he effected by driving
away the inhabitants without the smallest compensation, from a space of
nearly ninety miles in circumference. He appointed a bow-bearer, whose
office still exists as a sinecure, with a salary of forty shillings a
year, for which the gentleman who holds the appointment swears "to be of
good behaviour towards the sovereign's wild beasts," and of course,
in compliance with his oath, would Feel bound to touch his hat to the
British Lion.

After founding the New Forest, the king enacted the most oppressive
laws; placing on the killing of a hare such penalties as are enough
to cause "each particular hair to stand on end," by their extreme
barbarity.

[Illustration: 093]

Towards the end of the year 1086 William, who had grown exceedingly fat,
started for France, to negotiate with Philip about some possessions,
when the latter indulged in some small puns at the expense of the
corpulency of the Conqueror. By comparing him to a fillet of veal on
castors, and suggesting his being exhibited at a prize monarch show,
Philip so irritated William that the latter swore, with fearful oaths,
to make his weight felt in France; and he kept his word, for falling
upon Mantes, he succeeded in completely crushing it. Having, however,
gone out on horseback to see the ruins, the gigantic animal he was
riding stepped on some hot ashes, which set the brute dancing so
vigorously that the pummel of the saddle gave the Conqueror a fearful
pummelling. He was so much shaken by this incident that he resolved
never to ride the high horse, or indeed any other horse again; and he
was soon after removed, at his own request, to the monastery of St.
Gervas, just outside the walls of Rouen. Becoming rapidly worse, his
heart softened to his enemies, most of whom he pardoned, and he then
proceeded to make his will, by which he left Normandy to his son Robert,
and bequeathed the crown of England to be fought for by William and
Henry, with a significant wish, however, that the former might get it.
Henry exclaimed emphatically, "What are you going to give me?" and on
receiving for his answer, "Five thousand pounds weight of silver out of
my treasury," ungraciously demanded what he should do with such a paltry
pittance. "Be patient," replied the king; "suffer thy elder brothers
to precede thee--thy time will comc after theirs;" but Henry, muttering
"It's all very well to say 'be patient,'" hurried out of the room, drew
the cash, weighed it carefully, and brought a strong box to put it in. *

     * For further particulars of Henry's conduct, _vide_
     Orderic, every prospect of the Conqueror being left in the
     city of Rouen to be buried by the parish, when a few of the
     clergy began to think of the funeral. The Archbishop ordered
     that it should take place at St. Stephen's, in Caen, and
     none of the family being present, the undertaker actually
     came down upon a poor good-natured old knight, who had put
     himself rather prominently forward as a sort of provisional
     committee-man. How the affair was settled we are unable to
     state, but we have it on the authority of Oderic, that when
     the Bishop of Evreux had pronounced the panegyric, a man in
     the crowd jumped up, declaring the Conqueror was an old
     thief, and that he--the man in the crowd--claimed the ground
     on which they were then standing. Many of the persons round
     cheered him in his address, and the bishops, for the sake of
     decency, paid out the execution from the Conqueror's grave
     for sixty shillings.

To think of an iron chest at such a moment proved the possession of a
heart of steel; and William, the elder son, was nearly as bad, for
he hastened to England to look after the crown before his father had
expired.

It was on the 9th of September, 1087, that the Conqueror died, and his
last faint sigh was the signal for a rush to the door, in which priests,
doctors, and knights joined with furious eagerness. In vain did a
diminutive bishop ask a stalwart warrior "where he was shoving to?" and
the expostulations of a prim doctor to the crowd, entreating them to
keep back, as there was "plenty of time," were utterly disregarded. The
scene resembled that which may be witnessed occasionally at the pit door
of the Opera, for the whole of William's attendants were eager to get
home for the purpose of being early in securing either some place or
plunder. The inferior servants of the royal robber--like master, like
man--commenced rifling the king's trunks and drawers of all the cash,
jewels, and linen. There seemed scarcely more than it deserves, for
there is no doubt that he was cruel, selfish, and unprincipled. It is,
however, a curious fact, that what receives blacking from one age gets
polished by the next: and this may account for the brilliance that has
been shed in this country over the name of one who introduced the feudal
system, the Game Laws, and other evils, the escape from which has been
the work of many centuries. Though a natural son, he was an unnatural
father, and the result was, that being an indifferent parent, his
children became also indifferent. He had a violent temper, and was such
a brutal glutton that he aimed a blow at Fitz-Osborne, his steward, for
sending to table an under-done crane, when Odo interfered to check
his master's violence. Of his personal appearance we have an authentic
record in a statue placed against one of the pillars of the church of
St. Stephen, at Caen; but as the figure is without a head, we have tried
in vain to form from it some idea of the Conqueror's countenance. From
the absence of the face in the statue we can only infer that William
wore an expression of vacancy.



CHAPTER THE SECOND. WILLIAM RUFUS.


[Illustration: 095]

WILLIAM, the son of the Conqueror, had obtained the nick-name of Rufus,
from his red hair, and these jokes on personal peculiarities afford
a lamentable proof of the rudeness of our ancestors. Having left his
father at the point of death, he hastened to England, where he pretended
to be acting for the king; resorting to what, in puffing phraseology,
is termed the untradesmanlike artifice of "It's the same concern," and
doing business for himself in the name of the late sovereign. One of
his first steps was, of course, towards the treasury, from which he
drew sixty thousand pounds in gold and silver. Having received from his
father a letter of introduction to Archbishop Lanfranc, he rushed,
with the avidity of a man who has got a reference to a new tailor, and
presenting it to the primate, requested that measures might be taken
for putting the crown on his head as soon as possible. Lanfranc, having
secured the place of Prime Minister for himself, issued cards to a few
prelates and barons, inviting them to a coronation on Sunday, the 26th
of September, 1087, when the event came off rather quietly.

When Curt-hose--whom the reader will recognise as our old friend
Socks--first heard of his father's death, he was living on that limited
but rather elastic income, his wits, at Abbeville, or in some part
of Germany. He, however, repaired to Rouen, where he was very well
received; while Henry, the youngest brother, stood like a donkey between
two bundles of hay, not knowing whether he should have a bite at Britain
or a nibble at Normandy.

Rufus had, at the commencement of his reign, to contend with a
conspiracy got up by his uncle Odo, to place Robert on the throne of
England as well as on that of Normandy; for the great experiment of
sitting on two stools at once had not then been sufficiently carried out
to prove the folly of attempting it.

Odo took rapid strides, but as Robert, if he took any stride at all,
must have attempted one from Rouen to Rochester, he remained in his
Duchy, leaving his followers to follow their own inclination at
their own convenience. They had fortified Rochester Castle, but being
besieged, and a famine threatening, they were glad to find a loop-hole
for escape, which they effected by capitulating on certain conditions,
one of which, proposed by Odo, was a stipulation that the band should
not play as the vanquished party left the Castle. Rufus, feeling that a
procession without music would go off flatly, refused his assent to this
proposal, and the band accordingly struck up an appropriate air at each
incident.

[Illustration: 096]

As Odo left the Castle the "Rogue's March" resounded from tower to tower
and battlement to battlement, while the people sang snatches of popular
airs, among which "Go, Naughty Man," and "Down among the Dead Men," were
perhaps the greatest favourites. Odo was eventually banished, and the
insurrection was at an end, for Curt-hose had neither the money nor the
inclination to carry on the war; and, like a defunct railway scheme, the
plan took its place amongst the list of abandoned projects.

In the year 1088 Lanfranc, the king's adviser, died, and was succeeded
by a Norman clergyman, named Ralph, who was called also Le Flambard,
or the Torch, from his being a political incendiary, who had been ever
ready to light up the flame of discontent at a moment's notice. His
nominal offices were treasurer and chaplain, but his real duty was to
raise money for the king, extort for his majesty a large income, and
help him to live up to it. As a taxgatherer and a _bon vivant_ he was
unexceptionable; but we regret that we cannot say so much for him as a
bishop and a gentleman.

This person, however, succeeded only to the political, not to the
ecclesiastical dignities of Odo; for the king, finding the revenues of
Canterbury very acceptable, determined on acting as his own archbishop.
He professed a desire to improve the see by using his own eyes, but his
real view was to get all he could for the indulgence of his pleasures.
Ralph le Flambard seems to have possessed the talent of extortion to
a wonderful degree, and he even set at nought the proverb as to the
impossibility of making "a silk purse out of a sow's ear;" for he
certainty extracted immense sums by getting hold of the ear of the
swinish multitude.

[Illustration: 099]

William Rufus, having been successful against the friends of Robert
in England, determined (a.d. 1089) on attacking the unfortunate and
improvident Curt-hose on his own ground in Normandy. Socks had no money
to carry on the war, for he had not only cleared out his coffers to the
last farthing, but was up to his neck in promises which he never could
hope to realise. His bills were flying like waste-paper about every
Exchange in Europe, and the boldest discounters shook their heads when a
document with the familiar words "Accepted, R. Curt-hose," was shown
to them. He applied, therefore, for aid to the king of the French, his
feudal superior, who sent an army to the confines of Normandy, but sent
a messenger at the same time to the English king, stating the terms on
which the army might be bought off and induced to march back again.

Rufus willingly paid the money, and Socks, in a fit of desperation,
applied to his brother Henry, who had already lent him three thousand
pounds, taking care, however, to get a third of the duchy by way of
security for his money. He accordingly came to Rouen, where he put
down a large sum of money: and what was better still, he put down a
conspiracy to deliver up the city to the enemy. One Conan, a burgess,
who was to have handed over the keys, was condemned to imprisonment for
life; but Henry taking him up to the top of a tower under the pretence
of showing him the scenery, brutally threw him over. The unhappy captive
was beginning to expatiate on the softness of the landscape below, when
Henry, seizing him by the waist, savagely recommended him to test the
reality of so much apparent softness, by throwing himself on the kind
indulgence which the verdant landscape appeared to offer him. The
burgess had no time to reply, before he found himself half-way on his
down journey.

It is difficult in these days to fancy the brother of the sovereign
visiting a condemned culprit in his prison, and taking a walk with him
up to the top of the building, to point out to him the beauties of
the surrounding prospect. That the royal visitor should suddenly turn
executioner in the most barbarous manner, is still more unaccountable.
Henry must surely have received a large quantity of the burgess's sauce
before he could have been provoked to an act which redounds so much to
his discredit in the pages of history.

In the year 1091, William and Robert settled their differences, after
which they began to take advantage of their little brother Henry, whom
they robbed of everything he possessed, until his suite was reduced to
one knight, three esquires, and one chaplain. His flight was a series
of rapid movements, to which this miserable quintette formed a kind
of running accompaniment; but Henry, in spite of every _contretemps_,
behaved himself with dignity as the leader and conductor of his little
band.

Rufus, on his return to England, found it overrun by Malcolm, the Scotch
king, who, however, made a regular Scotch mull of his enterprise. After
a peace as hollow as the "hollow beech tree" which the woodpecker keeps
continually on tap, poor Malcolm was invited to Gloucester, where he
fell into an ambush--a bush in which he was tom to pieces by the sharp
thorns of treachery.

Duke Robert having made repeated applications to his brother, William
Rufus, for the settlement of his claims upon England, at length put the
matter into the hands of his solicitor, Philip of France; who, after
soliciting justice for Curt-hose, marched an army into Normandy. Rufus,
knowing costs to be the only motive of Philip, who, on being handsomely
paid, would certainly throw his client overboard, determined on raising
a large sum; which he accomplished by levying twenty thousand men as
soldiers, and allowing them to buy their discharge at ten shillings
a head, an arrangement which nearly all of them gladly fell into. The
proceeds of this transaction being handed over to Philip, that monarch
shifted his forces from Normandy, leaving Robert to shift for himself;
so that poor Socks was again driven to the most wretched extremities.

Rufus was now troubled by the Welsh, who had overrun Cheshire, probably
on account of its cheeses, for the Welsh were attached to their rabbits
even so early as the eleventh century. The Red King pursued them over
hill and dale, but they daily obtained advantages over him, and on
reaching Snowdon he saw that it would be the height of folly to proceed
further. After a few ups and downs over the mountains, he retreated
with shame, and found occupation at home, a.d. 1094--5, in quelling a
conspiracy headed by Robert de Mowbray, Earl of Northumberland, aided by
Richard de Tunbridge, with a variety of Johns, Williams, and Thomases
de What-d'ye-call-'em and So-and-So. Some of the conspirators were
imprisoned, and some hanged; but a few, in anticipation of the fatal
bolt, ran away for the purpose of avoiding it.

Immediately after these events, Robert, roused by the preaching of
Peter the Hermit, familiarly known as _Pietro L'Eremita_, determined
on giving up business as Duke of Normandy and starting as a crusader
for Palestine. In order to raise money for his travelling expenses, and
after having vainly entreated discount for his bills, he proposed to
sell his dukedom to his brother for ten thousand pounds, including the
good-will of the house of Normandy, the crown, which was not a fixture,
the throne with its appropriate hangings, the sceptre the sign of
royalty, and all the palace furniture. The unscrupulous Rufus agreed to
purchase, but being without a penny of his own, he made a demand on the
empty pockets of his subjects.

Several bishops and abbots having already sold all the treasures of
their churches, told the king in plain terms they had nothing more to
give him, when the sovereign replied, "Have you not, I beseech you,
coffins of gold and silver full of dead men's bones?" thus insinuating,
according to Holinshed, "that he would have the money out of their bones
if they did not pay him otherwise." The bishops and abbots were induced
to take the hint of the king; and the term "boning" may have had its
origin from this species of robbery.

Having paid the ten thousand pounds, Rufus went to take possession of
his new purchase, and met with no resistance except from one Helie, Lord
of La Flèche, who professed to have a previous mortgage on part of the
property. Rufus treated him as a mortgagee so far as to pay him off in
the current coin of the age, though a year or two after (a.d. 1100)
as the Bed King was hunting in the New Forest, he heard that Helie had
surprised the town of Mans, and of course astonished the men of Mans
very unpleasantly.

William turned his horse's head towards the nearest seaport, which
happened to be Dartmouth, plunged into the first vessel he found
there, and ordered the sailors to start at once for Normandy. The crew
suggested that it was a very odd start to think of setting off in a gale
of wind; but his majesty began to storm with as much violence as the
elements. He asked--if they ever knew of a king being drowned?--and if
the adage applies to those who deserve hanging as well as to those who
are born for that ceremony, Rufus might have relied on exemption from
a watery terminus. He arrived safely at Harfleur, after one of the
most boisterous passages in his life, which was one of considerable
turbulence. The bare news of his arrival sufficed to frighten Helie,
who first ordered his troops to fall in, and immediately ordered them to
fall out, for he had no further use for them. Helie took to his heels,
and William became sole master of Normandy.

We now come to one of the most remarkable incidents in English history,
and in our desire for accuracy we have grubbed about the records of the
past with untiring energy. We have blown away the dust of ages with the
bellows of research, and have, we think, succeeded in investing this
portion of our annals with a plainness of which the very pike-staff
itself might be fairly envious.

It was on the 1st of August, in the year 1100, that William was passing
the night at Malwood Keep, a hunting-lodge in the New Forest. Had there
been a Court Circular in existence in those days, it would have
recorded the names of Henry, the king's brother, and a host of
sporting fashionables who were present, to share the pleasures of their
sovereign. His majesty was heard at midnight to be talking loudly in his
sleep, and his light having gone out, he was crying lustily for candles.
His attendants rushed to his room, and found him kicking and plunging
under a nightmare, from which he was soon released, when he requested
them to sit and talk to him. When their jokes were on the point of
sending him to sleep, their songs kept him awake: and in the morning an
artisan sent him six arrows as a specimen, with an intimation that there
would be a large reduction on his taking a whole quiver. The king took
the half-dozen on trial, keeping four for himself, and giving two to Sir
Walter Tyrrel, with a complimentary remark that "good weapons are due to
the sportsman that knows how to make a good use of them."

[Illustration: 100]

During a boisterous _déjeûner d la fourchette_, at which the Red King
greatly increased his rubicundity by the quantity of wine he consumed,
a postman arrived with a dream, from the Abbot of St. Peter's, at
Gloucester, done up in an envelope. "Read it out," exclaimed Rufus,
after having glanced at its contents; and on its being found to forbode
a violent death to the king, he ordered a hundred pence to be given to
the dreamer, which, supposing him to have been taking "forty winks,"
would have been at the liberal rate of twopence-halfpenny a wink for
his rather disagreeable doze over the destiny of his sovereign. Rufus
laughed at the prediction, and repaired to the chase, accompanied by
Sir Walter Tyrrel, when a hart, in all its heart's simplicity, came and
stood between the illustrious sportsmen. The extraordinary hilarity of
the bounding hart attracted the attention of Rufus, who drew his bow,
but the string broke, and Rufus not having two strings to his bow,
called out to Tyrrel to shoot at the bald-faced brute for his bare-faced
impudence. Sir Walter instantly obeyed; but the animal, bobbing down his
head, allowed the arrow to go through his own branches towards those of
a huge tree, when the dart, taking a somewhat circuitous route, avoided
the body of the hart and went home to the heart of the sovereign. Tyrrel
ran towards his master, and attempted to revive him; but though there
was plenty of harts-horn in the forest, none could be made available.
The unfortunate regicide, merely muttering to himself some incoherent
expressions as to his having "done it now," galloped to the sea coast,
and tied to France--taking French leave of his country, according to the
usual custom of malefactors.

[Illustration 101]

The royal remains were picked up soon after by one Mr. Purkess, a
respectable charcoal-burner, whose descendants still reside upon the
spot, and who carted Henry off on his own responsibility to Winchester,
where the king was honoured by a decent funeral. Though there were
plenty of lookers-on, there were very few mourners; and in a portrait
of the tomb * which has been preserved, we recognise economy as the most
prominent feature. Henry, the king's brother, made the usual rush to the
treasury, where he filled his pockets with all the available assets; and
the members of the hunting party, finding that the game was up, started
off as fast as they could in pursuit of their own interests.

     * The tomb still stands in the middle of the choir of
     Winchester Cathedral.

The character of Rufus is not one which the loyal historian will love
to dwell upon. The philologist may endeavour to prove the brutal
licentiousness of the king by deriving from Rufus the word ruffian; but
the philologist will, however, be as much in error as the antiquarian
who declared that Rufus, or Roofus, was so called from his being the
builder of Westminster Hall, of which the roof was the most conspicuous
ornament. The Red King died a bachelor, at the age of forty-three, after
a very extravagant life, in the course of which he exhibited strong
symptoms of the royal complaint--which shows itself in a mania for
constructing and altering palaces. He would erect new staircases,
and indulge in the most extravagant flights; but if this had been
accompanied by a few steps taken in the right direction, Posterity would
not have judged very harshly what are, after all, the mere whims of
royalty.



CHAPTER THE THIRD. HENRY THE FIRST, SURNAMED BEAUCLERC.


[Illustration: 103]

ON returning to Henry, we find him at the porter's lodge, imperiously
demanding the keys of the treasury. While he had just succeeded, by
alternate bribery and bluster, in obtaining the desired bunch from the
hesitating janitor, William de Breteuil, the treasurer, came running
out of breath, and protested, as energetically as the state of his wind
would allow, against the money being carried away, when Robert, the
elder brother, had a prior right to it. Henry, having tried a little
argument, of which he got decidedly the worst, suddenly drew his sword,
and threatened to perforate the treasurer, or any one else who should
oppose his progress. A mob of barons having collected round the
disputants, took part with the new king, in expectation, no doubt,
of getting a share of the plunder. William de Breteuil was compelled
therefore to look on at the pocketing of the cash and jewels by Henry
and his supporters, the treasurer occasionally entering a protest by
mildly observing "Mind, _I've_ nothing to do with it." Having made
use of the cash in buying the adherence of some of those mercenary
weathercocks--from whom it is considered an honour, in these days, to be
descended--Henry got himself crowned on the 5th of August, in the year
1100, at Westminster.

Finding his throne rather rickety, he tried a little of the "soft
sawder" which has always been found serviceable as a cement between the
sovereign and the people. He mixed up a tolerably useful compound in the
shape of a charter of liberties, and by laying it on rather thick to the
Church, he obtained the support of that influential body. He restored
ancient rights, and promised that when he had to draw money from his
people he would always draw it as mild as possible.

Henry's next "dodge" was to try the effect of an English marriage,
and he therefore sent in a sealed tender for the hand of Miss Matilda
Malcolm, or Maud, the daughter of the king of Scots, as she is commonly
called in history. She had already refused as many offers as would have
filled a moderate-sized bonnet-boxy and sent word back that she was
"o'er young to marry yet," in answer to the application of the English
sovereign. She was, however, advised that it would be a capital thing
for the two countries, if she would consent to the match; and as it is
one of the penalties of royalty to wed for patriotism instead of from
choice, she was soon persuaded to agree to the union.

Such instances of devotion are, however, only found among royal
families; for we doubt whether a fair Jemima Jenkins, or a bewitching
Beatina Brown, would consent to become the wife of young Johnson in an
adjacent street, for the sake of healing a parochial feud, or curing the
heartburn of an entire neighbourhood.

The marriage between Maud and Henry was very nearly being prevented by
a report that the young lady had formerly been a nun; but it was proved
that her aunt had been in the habit of throwing over her head something
in the shape of a veil or a pinafore, to prevent the Normans from
staring at her when she went out walking. Miss Matilda had the candour
to acknowledge that she always took off the unbecoming covering directly
she got a little way from home, and it is evident she was not unwilling
to have a sly peep at the Normans, when her aunt was not watching her.
Her marriage was celebrated on the 11th of November; but Anselm, the
Archbishop of Canterbury, who officiated, came out of the Abbey before
the ceremony, and in order to answer all false reports, stuck an
enormous poster on the door, intimating that Maud was "No Nun," in
tremendous capitals.

Henry also obtained some popularity by expelling all the improper
characters that his brother had patronised; but it does not seem that
they were replaced by persons of a much more reputable order. Henry,
however, affecting the estimable qualities of a new broom, began by
sweeping clean, and scavenged the court of all his brother's minions.
Ralph le Flambard, the late king's tax-gatherer, was sent to the Tower,
where he became one of the lions of the place, and by his wit captivated
the keepers who were charged with his captivity. Henry on being urged to
get rid of him, happened to say accidentally, "No, no, give the fellow
sufficient rope and he will hang himself," upon which one of the
courtiers taking his majesty at his word, sent an enormous quantity of
stout cord to the prisoner. Flambard having reduced the guards to the
state in which tipplers wish to be who love their bottles, took the
rope, and hanging himself by the waist, lowered himself into the moat
beneath, from which he escaped to Normandy.

Robert Curt-hose, who had turned crusader a year or two before, came
back (a.d. 1101) with a perfect shrubbery of laurels from Palestine. The
Normans, delighted at seeing their chief smothered in the evergreens of
glory, were easily persuaded to join him in an attack upon England. The
followers of Curt-hose, however, soon began to waver, and after having
received several terrific stripes, their leader agreed to take 3000
marks, by way of annuity, as a compromise for all his claims upon
England. Robert was true to his part of the engagement, but Henry,
under various pretexts, soon discontinued his payments to Socks, who
nevertheless lived in a style of great extravagance. He filled his
court with bad characters, who not only emptied his pockets, but sold or
pawned his clothes; and he is represented as often lying in bed for
want of the necessary articles of attire to enable him to get up to
breakfast. With the crown on his toilet table, and the regal robe
hanging across the back of a chair--for these insignia of royalty were
always left to him--he was still without the minor but indispensable
articles of dress; and he often observed to his minister, "I can't
very well go about with nothing on but that scanty robe and that hollow
bauble." We can imagine him being reduced to the necessity of offering
to pledge his crown, and being met by the depreciatory observation,
"that the article was second-hand, had been a good deal worn, and seemed
very much tarnished."

[Illustration: 105]

At length, in the year 1105, Henry, taking advantage of Robert's reduced
circumstances, made an attack upon Normandy. The troops of Curt-hose
were ill-paid, ill-clad, ill-conditioned, and ill-tempered. In vain
did Curt-hose attempt to rally them; for they only rallied him on
his poverty, and many of them deserted, leaving him to fight his own
battles. His personal valour served him for a short time; he struck out
right and left with enormous vigour, but his almost solitary efforts
became at length absolutely absurd, and he was ultimately "removed in
custody." He was subsequently committed to Cardiff Castle, where he died,
in the year 1134, at the advanced age of nearly eighty; and it was said
by a wag of the day, that Curt-hose had such a facility of running into
debt that he ran up four scores with Time before the debt of Nature was
satisfied.

Henry was now master of Normandy, whither he on one occasion took his
son and heir, William, a lad of eighteen, to receive the homage of the
barons. This was an idle ceremony, for the barons seldom kept their
words; and homage, or hummage, was frequently a mere hum on the part
of those who promised it. The English king was about returning from the
port of Barfleur, when Thomas Fitz-Stephen, a sailor, originated the
disgraceful touting system, by thrusting his card into Henry's hands,
and offering to take the royal party over cheap, in a well-appointed
vessel. His majesty replied, "I have already taken my own passage in
another ship, but the prince and his suite have to be conveyed, and
I shall be happy to hear what you will undertake it for, per head,
provisions, of course, included." The terms were soon arranged, and the
dangerous practice of overcrowding having, even at that time, prevailed
among mercenary speculators, three hundred people were packed into a
craft which might have comfortably accommodated about twenty. The prince
and his gay companions insisted on having a party on board the night
previous to starting, and the crew, as well as the captain, were more
than half-seas-over before they started from the shore of Normandy.
Fitz-Stephen was in such a state at the wheel, that it seemed to him
continually turning round, and the men employed in looking-out thought
the _Bas de Catte_--a well-known rock--had been doubled, when in fact
the vessel was driving rapidly on to it. This recklessness soon led to a
wreck, and the sole survivor was one Berold, a butcher of Rouen, who
has reported the catastrophe with so much accurate minuteness as to
have deserved, though he never got it until now, the proud title of the
father of the penny-a-liners. When Henry heard the news he fainted away,
and never "smiled as he was wont to smile" from that day to the present.
Being deprived of his only legitimate son, he became anxious to secure
the throne to his daughter, the widow Maud, or Matilda, relict of the
Emperor Henry the Fifth; and on Christmas-day, 1126, the bishops, abbots
and barons were assembled at Windsor Castle to swear to maintain her
succession. These parties--the respectable families that "came in with
the Conqueror"--were all guilty of the grossest perjury; which, a few
years ago, would have rendered them all liable to the pillory, and would
in the present day expose them to serious punishment. A quarrel arose
between Stephen, Earl of Boulogne, the king's legitimate nephew, and
Robert, Earl of Gloucester, his illegitimate son, as to which was
entitled to swear first; the real object being to decide which, upon
breaking their oaths as they both fully intended to do--would take
precedence as the successor of Henry. After a good deal of desultory
discussion, a division settled the point in the nephew's favour. Anxious
to see his daughter settled in life, Henry got her married, rather
against her will, to Geoffrey, Earl of Anjou; who, from an odd custom
he had of wearing a piece of broom in his cap, instead of a feather,
acquired the nickname of Plantagenet. The marriage was celebrated at
Rouen, and Henry issued a proclamation ordering everybody to be merry.
Long faces were thus entirely prohibited, there was a penalty on black
looks, and persons unable to laugh on the right side of their mouths
were made to laugh upon the other.

Some anxiety was, however, occasioned to Henry by the existence of his
nephew, William Fitz-Robert, the son of Curt-hose, who had pretensions
to the throne through Matilda, his grandmother, which of course gave him
a claim on the friendship of the house of Baldwin, between whom and the
grandmother there was a close relationship. The apprehensions of Henry
were aroused by William Fitz-Henry being made Earl of Flanders, but the
young man was unfortunately killed by receiving a poke from a pike; and
though the wound was only in the finger, it grew worse from being placed
in the hands of ignorant practitioners. Finding it did not get better,
he observed that it was "really very mortifying," and so it was, for
mortification ensued almost immediately. He died at St. Omer, on the
27th of July, 1128, in the twenty-sixth year of his age; and if his
epitaph had been written, it would have run thus:

     "Here lies a young prince, whose life was cut short
     By medical quacks overturning the sand of it;
     His finger was wounded, but who could have thought
     The doctors would make such a very bad hand of it?"

Henry's latter days were employed in listening to the quarrels of his
his daughter, Matilda, and her husband, who were never out of pickles,
by reason of their family jars, which were very numerous. The king
had resided four years abroad, and had been hunting, on the 25th of
November, for the purpose of chasing sorrow as well as the game, when,
on his return home, he insisted on eating a lamprey, against the orders
of his physicians. The king did not agree with the doctors, and the
lamprey did not agree with the king, who died on the 1st of December,
1135, at the age of sixty-seven.

Henry's chief merit was his love of learning, which had got him the name
of Beau-clerc, or the pretty scholar. He loved the society of men of
letters, and of wild beasts; but the literary lions were, perhaps, his
greatest favourites. He nevertheless desired that these lions should
only roar in his praise; for he punished Luke de Barré, a poet, very
severely for having written some satirical verses, in which the king was
made a laughing-stock. The poet, according to Orderic, burst from the
executioners and dashed out his brains, which had been the cause of
giving offence to his sovereign.



CHAPTER THE FOURTH. STEPHEN.

If the oaths of the bishops and barons had been worth even the ink
expended in alluding to them, there might have been some chance
of Matilda coming quietly to the throne on the death of Henry. The
Anglo-Normans, however, had as little respect for truth as for property,
and were even destitute of the humbler virtue of gallantry towards the
fair, for they began to clamour loudly against the notion of a woman
reigning over them.

Stephen, the late king's nephew, and Robert, Earl of Gloucester, the
illegitimate son of Henry, were the two favourites in the race for the
throne; but the betting was at least ten to one upon the former,
in consequence of his having married Maud, the daughter and heir of
Eustace, Count of Boulogne.

On the arrival of Stephen in England, he made at once for the treasury,
which he cleared completely out, and he devoted the proceeds to
purchasing the fidelity, or rather the mercenary adherence, of the
barons, prelates, and people. Having bribed a sufficiently numerous
party, he procured a decent attendance at his coronation, which took
place on St. Stephen's day, December 22, 1135, at Westminster. He sent
a good round sum to the pope, Innocent the Second, whose innocence seems
to have been chiefly nominal, for he was guilty of accepting a bribe to
give a testimonial in favour of Stephen's title. As long as the
money lasted the barons were tolerably faithful; but "no plunder no
allegiance" was the ordinary motto of the founders of those families
whose present representatives trace themselves up, or rather bring
themselves down, to the days of the Conquest.

The Norman nobles complained that their perjury had not had its
price, and began seizing various castles belonging to Stephen, who,
by purchasing the services of other mercenaries, got his property back
again. At length, however, a coalition was effected between Robert, Earl
of Gloucester, and Matilda, his half-sister, who landed in England on
the 1st of September, 1139, with a retinue of one hundred and forty
knights, an empty purse, and very little credit. Several Normans ran to
meet Matilda on her arrival; but these high-minded founders of our very
first families, hearing that there was no cash, returned to the side of
Stephen.

Matilda went on a visit to the Queen Dowager, Adelais, or Alice, at
Arundel Castle, which was besieged by the king, who, however, respected
the property on account of its owner, and sent Matilda in safety to join
her half-brother Robert, at Bristol, whither he had gone with twelve
followers in search of Bristol board--and lodging. Stephen, having
exhausted the materials for making the golden links which had hitherto
bound the Normans to his side, found them rapidly adhering to Matilda,
whose expectations were not bad, though her present means were limited.

On the 2nd of February, 1141, the king was besieging Lincoln when the
whole of his cavalry wheeled round to the side of the enemy. Relying on
his infantry, he put himself at their head, but treachery was on foot as
well as on horseback. He nevertheless fought desperately, breaking
his sword and battle-axe over the backs of his foes, till he was left
fighting with the hilt of one weapon and the handle of the other.
Having lost the use of his arms, he was surrounded by the enemy, but he
continued alive and kicking till the last, when he was taken prisoner.
He was cruelly thrown into a dungeon at Bristol, and in order that his
muscular activity might be checked, he was loaded with irons. He still
retained his cheerfulness, and may probably have been the original
composer of the celebrated "hornpipe in fetters," which is occasionally
danced by dramatic prisoners.

[Illustration: 109]

Matilda now scraped together all the money she could, to purchase that
very marketable commodity, the allegiance of the Norman nobles and
prelates. Among the latter was Stephen's own brother, the Bishop of
Winchester, who renounced his unfortunate relative, swore fidelity to
Matilda, cursed all her enemies, and, as the price of all this swearing
and cursing, received a large amount of church patronage. Not only did
he crown his new mistress at Winchester, but he crowned his own baseness
by a slashing speech against his own brother, winding up with a fulsome
puff for the new queen, whom he hailed as "the sovereign lady of England
and Normandy." Matilda was by no means successful in handling the
sceptre, which required a stronger arm and more dexterity than she was
mistress of. The Londoners, in particular, showed symptoms of revolt,
and the Bishop of Winchester having got all he could from the queen,
turned round once more in favour of his brother. This episcopal
roundabout was the first to set the example, so frequently followed
in the present day, of blocking up the city; and it is an odd fact that
paving was his pretext, for he stopped up the London thoroughfares in
order to pave the way for the return of his brother to power.

[Illustration: 110]

Matilda, who was in town--probably for the season--contrived to make her
escape by the western suburb, with a small retinue. Some of her knights
quitted her at the bridge which still retains their name; an earl or two
followed her as far as Earl's Court; some turned off at Turaham Green;
but by the time she had reached the little Wick of Chis, her party had
dwindled down into absolute insignificance. Her brother Robert was taken
prisoner, and Stephen being also in captivity, the two parties were
brought to a deadlock for want of leaders. By negotiating a sort of
Bill of Exchange, Robert was released, and Stephen was paid over, in the
shape of "value received," to his own party.

The Bishop of Winchester, who appears to have been an exceedingly
plausible mob orator, now made another speech, in which he showed a
wonderful amount of face by regularly turning his back upon himself, and
unsaying all that he had said in favour of Maud, and against his brother
on a former occasion. He swore and cursed as before, merely altering
the name of the objects of his oaths and execrations, for he now swore
allegiance to his brother instead of to Maud, and cursed the former's,
instead of the latter's enemies.

Stephen was accordingly raised, by the crane of circumstances, from the
depth of his dungeon, and lifted on to his throne; but he found a new
rival in the person of Matilda's son, Prince Henry, so that he had now
a woman and a boy, instead of a mere woman to fight against. Henry, in
a spirit of calculation far beyond his years, married Eleanor, the
divorced wife of Louis the Seventh; but it was only for the sake of her
money, which he expended in getting together an army for an attack upon
England. The opposing forces met, but having already received their pay,
they evinced a disposition to shirk their duty, and--like gentlemen of
the bar, who having got their fees, propose that the matter should be
referred to arbitration--the soldiers of Stephen and Henry recommended a
quiet compromise.

Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Stephen, Bishop of Winchester,
were appointed referees, and it was agreed that Stephen should wear
the crown with remainder over to Henry. A good deal of homage was
interchanged, for Henry swore fealty to Stephen, and the son of the
latter swore ditto to Henry. The king in fact cut off his own tail for
the benefit of his former enemy, and Henry took a kind of _post obit_
as a consideration for his not pressing his claims to abbots, also
exchanged affidavits, and swore in direct opposition to what they had
sworn before, making altogether a mass of perjury that would have kept
the Central Criminal Court occupied for half-a-dozen entire sessions.
Stephen, however, died at Dover, on the 25th of October, 1154, so that
he did not live long under the new arrangement.

The historian often finds himself awkwardly situated when called upon
to give a character to a king, and there being a natural objection to
written characters, the difficulty is greater on that account. It maybe
said for Stephen, that he was sober and industrious, tolerably
honest, not addicted to gluttony, or given to drink like many of his
predecessors, and of course, therefore not so much accustomed to wait
at table. He had a pleasing manner, and a good address, except while
confined in prison, when his address was none of the pleasantest. On the
whole, when we look at him as the paid servant of the public, we think
him ill adapted for a steward, since England was always in confusion
while under his care; and as a coachman he was even worse, for he was
quite unfitted to hold the reins of power.



CHAPTER THE FIFTH. HENRY THE SECOND, SURNAMED PLANTAGENET.


[Illustration: 111]

HENRY, who was amusing himself with besieging a castle in Normandy
when he heard of Stephen's death, soon repaired to England with his
middle-aged wife, Eleanor. They were crowned on the 19th of December,
1154; but he had no sooner got the crown on his head, than he went
to business, and commenced a series of sweeping reforms. Finding the
coinage reduced to a state of almost unutterable baseness, he issued a
good supply of new money, and thus gave a fearful smash to the smashers.
He drove out a quantity of foreign scamps, who had been made earls and
barons in the reign of Stephen. After having enjoyed the fee-simple
of castles and estates, they were sent back to take possession of the
plough in tail, and to till as serfs the earth's surface. Finding the
royal income very much reduced, Henry restored it by taking back what
his predecessors had given away; an operation he performed with so much
impartiality, that he deprived his friends and his foes indiscriminately
of all their possessions.

[Illustration: 113]

The policy of Henry the Second, on coming to the throne, seems to have
differed from that of most of his predecessors; for while they had
usually bought the allegiance of all the knaves and rogues about the
court, he preferred the less costly process of rendering them perfectly
powerless. He demolished many of the castles which had been erected by
the barons, as fences rather than defences, for they were little better
than receptacles for stolen property. Nor was he less vigorous in his
measures against the clergy, for, like a skilful chess-player, he felt
that it is better for the king that the bishops and the castles should
be got out of the way when they are likely to prove troublesome. So far,
therefore, from encouraging the exactions of the priesthood, he seems to
have kept a supply of industrious fleas, for the purpose of putting
one now and then into the ear of such of the clergy as came to make
unreasonable requests to him. It is said that, on one occasion, the
prior and monks of St. Swithin's threw themselves prostrate before the
king imploring his protection against the Bishop of Winchester, who had
cut off three meals a day from the ravenous fraternity. Henry perceiving
that the monks were in tolerable condition, inquired how many meals were
still left to them. "Only ten!" roared the prior, in recitative, while
the rest of the party took up the words in dismal chorus.

How they could have contrived to demolish thirteen meals a day is an
enigma to us; but the fact is a wondrous proof of monkish ingenuity. In
the days of ignorance all classes were prepared, no doubt, to swallow a
great deal, but thirteen meals must have required a power of digestion
and a force of appetite that throw into the shade even the aldermanic
attainments of a more civilised period. Henry, who took nothing but his
breakfast, dinner, and tea, was shocked and startled by the awful avowal
of gluttony on the part of the monks of St. Swithin, whom he placed at
once on a diet similar to his own, by reducing them to three meals _per
diem_. It is probable that the monks crammed into three repasts the
quantity they had consumed in thirteen, and thus eluded the force of the
royal order.

By a rigorous determination to "stand no nonsense," either with the
clergy or the nobles, and by ordering the Flemish mercenaries of the
army to the "right about," Henry seemed to commence his reign under very
encouraging auspices.

Not content with his successes at home, he sought to increase his
influence abroad by taking Nantes, and he sent Thomas à Becket to Paris
to bamboozle the French court, lest his encroachments should excite
jealousy in that quarter, Thomas à Becket was the son of Mr. Gilbert
à Becket, a respectable tradesman of the city of London; and as his
appears to be the first mercantile name on record, we are justified
in calling him the Father of British Commerce. The chronicles of the
Times--and we are justified in relying on the united evidence of the
_Times_ and _Chronicle_--relate that Gilbert à Becket, in the way of
business, followed the army to Palestine. What his business could have
been we are unable to guess, but as it took him to the camp, he may
perhaps have been a dealer in camp stools, or tent bedsteads. Mr.
Gilbert à Becket unfortunately became a prisoner, and being sold to
a rich Mussulman, fell in love with a young Mussul girl, his master's
daughter. The affection was mutual, and the child of the Mussulman
strained every muscle, or, at all events, every nerve to effect the
escape of Gilbert à Becket, who, in the hurry of his departure, forgot
to take the lady away with him. It is not unlikely that he had got
half-way to London before he missed the faithful girl, and it would
then have been the height of imprudence to return for the purpose of
repairing the oversight. His _inamorata_ made the best of her way
after him, and arriving in London, ran about the streets, exclaiming,
"Gilbert! Gilbert!" thus acting as her own crier, instead of putting the
matter into the hands of the regular bellman.

The fact of a young woman continually traversing the great metropolis
with Gilbert in her mouth, soon reached the ears of Mr. à Becket, who
found the female in distress and his own Saracen maid to be the same
individual. One of those frantic recognitions occurred, in which a rapid
dialogue of "No!" "Yes!" "It can't be!" "It is!" "My long-lost Sara--!"
"My Gil--!" is spasmodically were through, and the couple having rushed
into each other's arms, gone soon bound together by that firmest of
locks familiarly known as wedlock. The fruit of their union was the
celebrated Thomas, of whose career we are enabled from peculiar sources
to furnish some interesting particulars.

Gilbert was determined to give his boy Tom a good education, and sent
him to school at Merton Abbey, where a limited number of young
gentlemen from three to eight were lodged, boarded, and birched--when
necessary--at a moderate stipend. Young Tom was removed from Merton to a
classical and commercial academy in London, which he quitted for Oxford,
and he was ultimately sent to Paris to undergo the process of French
polishing. While yet a young man, he got a situation in the office
of the sheriff, and became, of course, a sheriff's officer; in which
capacity he arrested, among other things, the attention of Theobald,
Archbishop of Canterbury. His patron took young à Becket from the _ad
captandum_ pursuits in which he had been engaged, put him into the
Church, gave him rapid preferment, and introduced him to the parties at
the palace, which had, in those days, sufficient accommodation for the
family and friends of royalty. Mr. à Becket became chancellor of the
kingdom, though he never held a brief, or had even been called to the
bar; and he was appointed tutor to the Royal Family, in which office he
no doubt had the assistance of the Usher of the Black Rod. Of course,
with his multiplicity of offices and occupations, it may be presumed
that Mr. à Becket made a very excellent thing of it. His house was a
palace, he drank nothing but the best wine, employed none but the best
tailors, and when he went to Paris he took four-and-twenty changes of
apparel--which may, perhaps, have been after all nothing more than two
dozen shirts--so that he had a different costume for every hour of the
day. In his progress through France he was preceded by two hundred and
fifty boys, or charity children, singing national songs. These were
followed by his dogs, in couples, who no doubt gave tongue, and made a
sort of barking accompaniment to the music that went before.

Eight waggons came next, carrying his clothes and his crockery, his
cooking apparatus, his bed and bedding, and his suite; when after a
few led horses, some knights with their esquires, and some monkeys _à
cheval_ with a groom behind, on his knees, came à Becket himself and
his familiar friends. * His entry into a town was more like that of an
equestrian troop about to establish a circus than that of the Chancellor
of England travelling in his master's behalf. He lived on terms of the
closest intimacy with the king, who made him Archbishop of Canterbury,
but not until thirteen months after the death of Theobald the First, for
Henry always kept a good appointment open as long as he could, that he
might put the revenues into his own pocket.

     * _Vide_ Fitz-Stephen, Secretary and Biographer of Thomas à
     Becket.

From the time of his promotion to the see of Canterbury, à Becket became
an altered man. He cut his gay companions, discharged his _chef de
cuisine_, discontinued his dealings with his West-End tailor, and took
to a kind of cheap blouse made of the coarsest sackcloth. He abandoned
his sumptuous mode of living and drank water made unsavoury by herbs,
victimising himself probably with cups of camomile tea, and copious
doses of senna. But the most serious change in à Becket's conduct, was
his altered behaviour to the king, whom he had previously backed in all
his attacks on the Church revenues. The new archbishop stood up for
all the privileges of the clergy, and a difference of opinion between
à Becket and the king, as to the right to try a delinquent clergyman
in the civil courts, led to the summoning of a council of nobles and
prelates (a.d. 1164) at Clarendon. Some rules were drawn up, called the
"Constitutions of Clarendon," which à Becket reluctantly agreed to sign;
but Pope Alexander having rejected them, the archbishop withdrew his
name from the list of subscribers.

[Illustration: 115]

Finding the vengeance of the king likely to prove too much for him, à
Becket quitted the kingdom, and was very hospitably entertained during
his stay on the Continent.

After an absence of about seven years, he returned in consequence of the
king of France and others having persuaded Henry to make it up, though
the reconciliation was never very cordial. Though à Becket was received
with shouts of approbation by the mob, he was greeted, on his arrival,
with menacing signs and abusive language from the aristocracy.

There was a strong party against him at court, and one evening, at about
tea-time, Henry and a few nobles were sitting round the palace fire,
gossiping over the subject of à Becket's awful insolence. The king burst
into a furious diatribe, stigmatising the archbishop as a beggar, and
winding up with the suggestive observation that, "Not one of the cowards
I nourish at my table--not one will deliver me from this turbulent
priest." Four knights who were present took the royal hint, and gave
the archbishop a call at his house in Canterbury, where having seated
themselves unceremoniously on the floor, they got to high words very
speedily. The archbishop refused to yield to low abuse, and went in
the evening to vespers as usual. The feelings of the historian will not
allow him to dwell much upon the _dénouement_ of the drama in which à
Becket had played the principal character. Suffice it to say, he
was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral by four assassins, of whom
Fitzurse--the son of a bear--was one, and Mireville, a name suggestive
of mire and villainy was another. The two remaining butchers were
Britto, of Saxon descent, a low fellow, familiarly termed the Brick, and
Tracey, who is not worth the trouble of tracing.

When Henry heard of this dreadful deed, he went without his dinner for
three days, during which period he shut himself up in his own room, and
refused to be "at home" to anyone.

By way of diverting his melancholy, he determined on joining in an
Irish row, and finding the chiefs of the five principalities into which
Ireland was divided at cross purposes, he espoused the cause of Dermot
Mc Murrough, who seems to have been what the Milesians would term the
"biggest blackguard" amongst them. Henry gave him a letter authorising
him to employ any of the subjects of England that happened to be
disengaged; and three ruined barons, with damaged reputations, chancing
to be out of work in the neighbourhood of Bristol, were offered terms
by Dermot. This precious trio consisted of two brothers, named Robert
Fitz-Stephen and Maurice Fitz-Gerald, and Richard de Clare, Earl of
Pembroke, surnamed Strongbow, though, as he was greatly addicted to
falsehood, Longbow would have been a more appropriate name for him.

After talking the matter over for some time without any arrangement
being come to, Strongbow cut the matter short by exclaiming, "I'll tell
you what it is. If I'm to fight for your kingdom, I must have it myself
when you have done with it. You must make me your heir, and, as a
security that you will perform your part of the agreement, I must marry
your daughter." Dermot, though rather taken aback by this proposal,
invited Strongbow to a quiet chop, over which the latter's terms were
acceded to; and the ruined baron, feeling that it was "neck or nothing"
with him, succeeded in making it "neck" by the ardour with which he
entered into the contest. Though he set to work in the spring of the
year, his vengeance was truly summary, and in a few months he had
restored everything to Dermot, who happened conveniently to die, and
Strongbow came in for all that he had been fighting for.

Henry having become jealous, Strongbow thought it good policy not to
overshoot the mark, and came to England to offer allegiance. The king at
first refused to see him, and on calling at Newnham, in Gloucestershire,
where Henry was staying, he was kept for some time eating humble-pie
in the passage with the hall-porter. Strongbow having been sufficiently
bent by this treatment, was at length asked to step up, and it was
arranged that he should accompany the king to Ireland, surrender his
possessions, and consent to hold them as the vassal of the English
sovereign.

On his return to England, Henry, who had four sons, began to find "the
boys" exceedingly troublesome. Their mother, once the middleaged, but
now the ancient Eleanor, had grown cross as well as venerable; and being
exceedingly jealous of her husband, encouraged his own sons to worry
him. Her jealousy had become a perfect nuisance; and jealousy is
unfortunately one of those nuisances which never get abated.

A story is told of a certain Fair Rosamond; and, though there is no
doubt of its being a story from beginning to end, it is impossible to
pass it over in an English History. Henry, it is alleged, was enamoured
of a certain Miss Clifford--if she can be called a certain Miss
Clifford, who was really a very doubtful character. She had been the
daughter of a baron on the banks of the Wye, when, without a why or
a wherefore, the king took her away, and transplanted the Flower of
Hereford, as she well deserved to be called, to the Bower of Woodstock.
In this Bower he constructed a labyrinth, something like the maze at
Rosherville; and as there was no man stationed on an elevation in the
centre to direct the sovereign with a pole which way to go, nor exclaim,

"Right, if you please!"

"Straight on!"

"You're right now, sir!"

"Left!"

"Right again!" etc. etc., his majesty had adopted the plan of dragging
one of Rosamond's reels of silk along with him when he left the spot, so
that it formed a guide to him on his way back again.

This tale of the silk is indeed a most precious piece of entanglement;
but it was perhaps necessary for the winding up of the story. While we
cannot receive it as part of the thread of history, we accept it as
a means of accounting for Eleanor having got a clue to the retreat of
Rosamond.

The queen, hearing of the silk, resolved naturally enough to unravel
it. She accordingly started for Woodstock one afternoon, and, suspecting
something wrong, took a large bowl of poison in one hand, and a stout
dagger in the other. Having found Fair Rosamond, she held the poignard
to the heart, and the bowl to the lips of that unfortunate young person,
who, it is said, preferred the black draught to the steel medicine.

[Illustration; 117]

That such a person as Fair Rosamond existed is perfectly true, for she
was buried at Godstow, near Oxford. The sensitive heart, which is ever
anxious to inundate the page of sorrow with a regular Niagara of tears,
is however earnestly requested to turn off the rising supply from the
main of pity, for it is agreed on all hands that the death of Rosamond
was perfectly natural. It has been convenient for the ro-mancists to cut
short her existence by drowning it in the bowl; but truth compels us to
add, that there is no ground for such a conclusion.

Henry devoted the remainder of his life to quarrelling, first with one
of his children, then the other, and every now and then with all of
them. He fully intended to divide his possessions among them; but they
most unreasonably required to be let into possession before the death
of the governor. The eldest ran away to France, and Eleanor had actually
put on male attire, with the intention of abandoning Henry, when,
unfortunately for him, he was silly enough to have her imprisoned
for the purpose of stopping her. "Why didn't you let her go?" was
the frequent exclamation of his intimate friends to the king, and a
melancholy "Ha! I wish I had," was the only reply he was able to make
them.

Finding himself threatened on all sides, and when he had exhausted every
other expedient, he resolved on trying what penitence could do for
him. His conscience no doubt often reminded him of the murder of poor
à Becket, to whose shrine the king determined on making a pilgrimage.
Purchasing some split peas, he put about a pint in each of his
stockings, and started for Canterbury, where he threw himself madly upon
à Becket's tomb, sobbing, yelling and shrieking in the most pitiable
manner. Nor was this enough, for he threw off his robe, and insisted
on receiving the lash from about eighty ecclesiastics. Though they
administered the punishment so lightly that the cat caused only a few
scratches, the peculiar circumstances attending it cause it to stand out
in history as _par excellence_ "the great flogging case."

The ecclesiastical authorities at Canterbury taking advantage of Henry's
softened heart, which seems to have been accompanied by a sad softness
of head, succeeded in extracting from him a promissory note to pay forty
pounds a year for keeping lights constantly burning on the tomb of à
Becket. There can be no doubt that the contract for lighting was taken
cheaply enough by some tradesman of the town, and that the surplus went
into the clerical coffers. Posterity regards with disgust the effrontery
of the monks in making--for the sake of a few dips--such an enormous dip
into the purse of the sovereign.

From this time affairs began to mend; and it would seem that the
whipping his majesty had suffered had whipped his misfortunes completely
out of him. If the king had been an old carpet the beating he received
could not have proved more beneficial than it did, for it seemed to
revive the brighter colours of his existence. He employed the peace he
now enjoyed in carrying out some political reforms, divided England into
six circuits, so that Justice might be brought home to every man's door;
though, like everything else that is brought home to one's door, it must
be paid for--sometimes after a little credit, but sometimes on delivery.
He abolished the criminal tariff, by which it had been allowable for the
rich to commute their offences, according to a certain scale of charges.
Family quarrels unfortunately called him away from these wholesome
pursuits, and his eldest son died of a fever brought on in consequence
of a disagreement with his younger brother, Richard. Prince Henry
expired on the 11th of June, 1183, in the twenty-seventh year of his
age. Such was his remorse, that, according to Roger Hoveden, he insisted
on his attendants tying a rope to his foot and taking him in tow, until
they dragged him out of his bed, in order to deposit him on a bed of
ashes. This particular desire to die in a dusthole was accompanied by a
request for a reconciliation with his father, who sent a ring as a token
of forgiveness, with a message that he hoped the invalid might come,
like the ring, completely round.

On the death of their elder brother, Richard and Geoffrey still
continued to show fight against their father; who at length got so much
the worst of it, that he was obliged to make the best of it by coming
to a compromise. By one of the conditions he was to pardon all the
insurgent barons, and having called for a list of them, found at the
bottom of it the name of his favourite son John. This was too much for
the persecuted parent, who flew into a furious passion, which he vented
in the customary manner of royalty at that period, by pouring out a
volley of execrations with frightful fluency. He jumped on to his bed,
and, falling back upon it, turned round to the wall, exclaiming "Now
then, let everything go---- as it will." Several ministers, priests,
bishops, prelates, and barons were in attendance, under pretence of
receiving his last sigh, but really with the intention of robbing him
of his last shilling, for they rifled his pockets directly life was
extinct.

The reign of Henry, though not very comfortable to himself, was
undoubtedly beneficial to his country. He introduced many improvements
into the law, and was the first to levy a tax on the goods of nobles as
well as commoners, for the service of the state. He died at the Castle
of Chinon, near Saumur, on the 6th of July, 1189, in the fifty-sixth
year of his age. He left behind him a good name, which those who stole
his purse were fortunately not able to filch from him. His wife caused
all the quarrels in his family, showing that a firebrand may grow out of
a very bad match. Eleanor was indeed a female Lucifer, lighting up
the flame of discord between parent and children, until death gave her
husband the benefit of a divorce.



CHAPTER THE SIXTH. RICHARD THE FIRST, SURNAMED COUR DE LION.


[Illustration: 120]

RICHARD having secured the crown began to look after the cash, and
pounced upon an unhappy old man named Stephen, of Tours, who had acted
as treasurer to Henry the Second. The new king, not satisfied with
cashiering the cashier, arrested him and threw him into prison, until
he had given up not only all the late king's money, but had parted with
every penny of his own, which was extracted in the shape of costs from
the unfortunate victim.

Richard, on arriving in England, made for Winchester, where the
sovereigns were in the habit of keeping their plate and jewels, all of
which were turned at once into ready money in order to enable him to
carry on the war, which he was very anxious to do, as a crusader in
Palestine. It would seem that the treasury was regularly emptied at
the commencement of every new reign, and filled again as speedily as
possible by exactions on the people.

The coronation of Richard, which took place on the 3rd of September,
1189, was disgraced by an attack upon the Jews, who came to offer
presents, which were eagerly received; but the donors were kicked out of
Westminster Hall with the most ruthless violence. Nearly all the Jews in
London were savagely murdered, all their houses were burnt and all their
property stolen; when Richard issued a proclamation, in which he stated
that he took them under his gracious protection: an act which would
have been more gracious if it had come before instead of after the
extermination of the ill-used Israelites.

How to go to Palestine was, however, the king's sole care; and to raise
the funds for this trip he sold everything he possessed, as well as a
great deal that rightfully belonged to others. He put up towns, castles,
and fortresses to public auction, knocking down not only the property
itself but those also who offered any remonstrance, or put in any claim
to the goods he was disposing of. Such was his determination to clear
off everything without reserve, that he swore he would put up London
itself if he could find a bidder--an assertion that was very likely to
put up the citizens.

Some of the castles he sold two or three times over, leaving the
purchasers to settle among themselves which should be the possessor
of the property that had been paid for by every one of them. It is
not unlikely that he caused glowing advertisements to be prepared, of
"Little Paradises," standing "in their own fortifications;" and that he
would have described a dead wall with a moat before it as "Elysium on a
small scale," entrenched behind its own battlements. There can be little
doubt that he would also have dilated in glowing terms upon the wealth
of the neighbourhood offering unlimited pillage to an enterprising
purchaser.

Richard's presence-chamber was, according to Sir Francis Palgrave, a
regular market-overt, in which prerogatives and bounties were to be
purchased by any one coming with the money to pay for them. We can fancy
a table laid out with a number of patents of nobility, labelled with a
large ticket, announcing, "All these titles at an enormous sacrifice."
We can imagine a row of velvet robes and coronets hanging up under a
placard inscribed "Dukedoms at a considerable reduction;" while we can
contemplate a quantity of knights' helmets lying in the window, marked
at a very low figure, after the manner of the five thousand straw
bonnets offered to the public by some dashing haberdasher at the
commencement of the spring season.

Richard even went so far as to announce the stock of vacant bishoprics
as "selling off;" and it is not improbable that he may have caused
tasteful arrangements of mitres and lawn sleeves to be arranged in
different parts of the presence-chamber, to tempt the ambition of
ecclesiastical purchasers. He likewise sold his own good-will for
three thousand marks to his half-brother Geoffrey, who had been elected
Archbishop of York; and wherever there was a penny to be turned, Richard
had the knack of turning it.

Having left the regency in the hands of one Hugh Pudsey, the king
repaired to France to meet Philip, who was to be his companion to
Palestine. Their united forces amounted to a hundred thousand men;
but Richard and Philip did not travel together farther than Lyons, and
indeed it was as well they did not, for they were almost continually
quarrelling. Numerous adventures befel Richard on his way; but the most
awkward was his being dunned by the cardinal bishop of Ostia--where he
had put in to repair--for a debt due to the see of Rome, on account of
bulls and other papal articles.

Cour de Lion, instead of discharging the bill, abused and ill-treated
the applicant, and made the best of his way to Naples, before there
was time for ulterior proceedings. He went thence to Sicily, where his
quarrel with Philip was renewed, and the latter demanded an explanation
of Richard's refusal to marry the princess Aliz, the French king's
sister. Cour de Lion, who had really formed another attachment, excused
himself by blackening the character of the lady to whom he had been
engaged, and her chivalrous brother agreed to take two thousand marks
a year, as a compromise for the breach of promise of marriage which
Richard had committed. "Such," exclaims Hume--and well he may--"were the
heroes of this pious enterprise."

The Princess Aliz or Alice, having been regularly thrown overboard by
the bargain between her own brother ana her late lover, the latter was
at liberty to follow his inclination by marrying Berengaria, daughter
of the king of Navarre, with whom he had had a flirtation as early as
during his residence at Guienne. Taking with him his latest affianced,
he set sail for Palestine; but his ship being cast ashore at Cyprus, and
plundered by the natives, he waited to chastise the people, and imprison
an elderly person named Isaac, who called himself the emperor. He then
ran off with the old man's only daughter, in addition to the princess of
Navarre, whom he had the coolness to marry on the very spot from which
he had seized this new addition to the female part of his establishment.
The only reparation offered to the father was a set of silver fetters to
wear instead of the common iron he had at first been thrown into.

Richard at length arrived in Palestine, and was not long in getting to
work against the forces of Saladin, who, leading forth his battalions,
mounted on their real Jerusalem ponies, proved exceedingly harassing.

[Illustration: 122]

Among the events of the crusade undertaken for the promotion of
Christianity, on the side of the Lion Heart, his beheading of five
thousand Turkish prisoners stands conspicuous. This act of barbarity
arose out of some misunderstanding on the subject of a truce, and
Saladin, by way of making matters square, slaughtered about an equal
number of captive Christians. Such were the heroic defenders of the
Cross on one side and the Crescent on the other. It is generally a libel
to compare a human being to a brute, but in giving the title of Lion
Heart to Richard, the noble beast is the party scandalised.

It is surprising that the British lion has never cited this as one of
his numerous grievances, for he would certainly have a capital action
for defamation if he were to sue by his next friend or _in forma
pauperis_ for this malicious imputation on his noble character.

On the 7th of September, 1191, the two chiefs came to a general
engagement, near Azotus, about nine miles from Ascalon. Richard's
prowess was tremendous; but, after himself, the most striking object was
his battle-axe. This wondrous weapon had been forged in England by the
very best Smiths, and there were twenty pounds of steel in the head,
formed into a tremendous nob, which fell with fearful force on the nobs
of his enemies. His battle-axe divided with him the attention of all
beholders, and he divided the turbans of the foe with his battle-axe.
The weapons of the Crusaders were certainly better adapted for havoc
than those of the Saracens, who seem to have fought with an instrument
less calculated for milling men than for milling chocolate. The armour
of the knights was also more effective than that of their adversaries;
for while the former had their heads comfortably secured in articles
made on the principle of rushlight shades, with holes for seeing and
breathing through, the partisans of the Crescent wore little more upon
their heads than might have been supplied by the folding of a sheet or
tablecloth into the form of a turban. The result was that Baladin was
compelled to fly, with a loss of seven thousand men and thirty-two
emirs, which so diminished his stock of officers that he was almost
reduced, according to an old chronicler, to his very last emir-gency.

Richard went on to Jaffa, where he was delayed by an artful proposition
to negotiate until the rainy weather set in; and he had to start off
during November, in the midst of incessant showers. The Crusaders got
regularly soaked; and being caught in the middle of the plain of Sharon
with no place, not even a doorway, they could stand up under, they tried
to pitch a tent, which was instantly pitched down by the fury of the
elements. Their arms became perfectly rusty, and their horses, not
liking the wet, got rusty also. Their provisions were all turned into
water _souchet_, and indeed the spirit of the Crusaders became weakened
by excessive dilution in the pelting showers.

The energies of Richard and his companions were of course considerably
damped; but a positive inundation would scarcely have quenched the fire
of chivalry. Cour de Lion retreated to Ascalon, the fortifications of
which he found had been dismantled; but he worked to restore them like
a common mason, mixing mortar on his shield for want of a hod, and using
his axe as a substitute for a trowel. All the men of rank followed his
example, except the Duke of Austria, who declared that he had not been
brought up to it; upon which Cour de Lion kicked him literally through
the breach in the fortification he had refused to repair, and turned him
out of the town with all his vassals.

After a most uncomfortable sojourn in Palestine, Richard opened a
negotiation with Saladin; and the ardour of both having been rather
cooled, a truce was concluded. It was to last three years, three months,
three weeks, and three days, the discussion on the subject occupying
about three hours, the writing out the agreement three minutes, and the
signing three seconds.

Taking advantage of the truce, Richard quitted Palestine for England;
but sending the ladies home in a ship, he started to walk in the
disguise of a pilgrim by way of Germany. Though his costume was humble
his expenditure was lavish; and having sent a boy into the market-place
of Vienna to buy some provisions, the splendid livery of the page, and
his abundance of cash, excited suspicion as to the rank of his master.
The secret of the Lion Heart was kept for some time by the faithful
tiger, but he was at length forced into a confession, and Richard was
arrested on the 20th of December, 1193, by the very Duke of Austria whom
he had some time before kicked unceremoniously out of Ascalon.

The Emperor Henry the Sixth claimed the royal captive as a prize, and
Richard was locked up in a German dungeon with German shutters, and fed
alternately on German rolls and German sausages, while his enemies were
doing their worst at home and abroad to deprive him of his sovereignty.

[Illustration: 126]

There is a legend attached to the incident of Richard's captivity:
which has the slight disadvantage of being altogether fabulous, and
We therefore insert it--under protest--in the pages of our faithful
history. The story runs that the Lion Heart, who was fond of music, and
had a tolerable voice, used to amuse himself and his gaolers by singing
some of the most popular ballads of the period. It happened that
Blondel, one of his favourite minstrels, of whom he had probably taken
lessons in happier hours, was on an ambulatory tour, for professional
purposes, when he chanced to tune his clarionet and clear his throat,
with the intention of "striking up" under the walls of Richard's prison.
At that moment the Lion Heart had just been called upon for a song,
and his voice issued in a large octavo volume from the window of his
dungeon. The tones seemed familiar to the minstrel, but when there came
a tremendous trill on the low G, followed by a succession of roulades
on A flat, with an abrupt modulation from the minor to the major key,
Professor Blondel instantly recognised the voice of his royal pupil. The
wandering minstrel, without waiting for the song to terminate, broke out
into a magnificent _sol fa_, and the king at once remembering the style
of his old master, responded by going through some exercises for the
voice which he had been in the habit of practising. Blondel having
ascertained the place of his sovereign's confinement, had the prudence
to "copy the address," and went away, determining to do his utmost for
the release of Richard. "I wish," thought the professor, as he retired
from the spot, "that those iron bars were bars of music, for then I
could show him how they are to be got through; or would that any of the
keys of which I am master would unlock the door of his prison!" With
these two melancholy puns, induced by the sadness of his reflections,
Blondel hastened from the spot, and repaired to England with tidings of
the missing monarch.

Such is the romantic little story that is told by those greatest of
story-tellers, the writers of history.

Richard was at length brought up for examination before the Diet of
Worms; and though several charges were alleged against him, he pleaded
his own cause with so much address, that he was discharged on payment
of a fine of one hundred and fifty thousand marks, being about three
hundred thousand pounds of our money. He at once put down thirteen
and fourpence in the pound, giving good bills and hostages for the
remainder; but the amount was soon raised by taxes and voluntary
contributions from the English people. Churches melted down their plate,
people born with silver spoons in their mouths came forward with zeal,
whether the article happened to be a gravy, a table, a dessert, or a
tea; and the requisite sum was raised to release him from captivity. He
arrived in England on the 20th of March, 1194, and was enthusiastically
welcomed home, where he got up another coronation of himself, by way of
furnishing an outlet for the overflowing loyalty of the people. As if
desirous of taming it down a little, he made some heavy demands upon
their pockets; but nothing seemed capable of damping the ardour of the
nation, which appeared ready to give all it possessed in change for this
single sovereign.

About the middle of May, 1194, Richard revisited Barfleur, with the
intention of chastising his brother John--who had shown symptoms of
usurpation in his absence--and the French king, Philip. John, like a
coward, flew to his mamma--the venerable Eleanor--requesting her to
intercede for him. The old lady wrote a curt epistle, consisting of
the words, "Dear Dick--Forgive Jack. Yours ever, Nell;" and John having
fallen at the feet of Richard, was contemptuously kicked aside with
a free pardon. Against the French king, however, several battles were
fought, with fluctuating success, though Richard's fortunes now and then
received a fillip which caused Philip to get the worst of it. A truce
was concluded on the 23rd of July, 1194, but London beginning to rebel,
cut out fresh work for Lion Heart. The discontented cockneys had for
their leader one William Fitz-Osbert, commonly called Longbeard, who
complained of the citizens having been so closely shaved by taxation;
and Longbeard even dared to beard the sovereign himself, by going to
the Continent to remonstrate with Richard. The patriot made one of those
clap-trap speeches (or which mob-orators have in all ages been famous),
and demanded for the poor that general consideration which really
amounts to nothing particular. Richard promised that the matter should
be looked into, but nothing was done--except the people and their
advocate. In the year 1196 Longbeard originated the practice of forming
political associations, and got together no less than fifty-two thousand
members, who swore to stand by him as the advocate and saviour of the
poor; an oath which ended in heir literally standing by him and seeing
him savagely butchered by his enemies. He was taking a quiet walk with
only nine adherents, when he was dodged by a couple of citizens, who had
been watching him for several days, and who pretended to be enjoying a
stroll, until they got near enough to enable them to seize the throat
of Longbeard. This movement instantly raised his choler, and drawing his
knife, he succeeded in cutting completely away. He sought refuge in the
church of St. Mary of Arches, which he barricaded for four days, but he
was at last taken, stabbed, dragged at a horse's tail to the Tower, and
forwarded by the same conveyance to Smithfield, where he was hanged on
a gibbet, with the nine unfortunates who had been the companions of
his promenade. The mob, who had stood by him while he was thus cruelly
treated, pretended to look upon him as a martyr directly he was dead.
This, however, seems to have been the result of interested motives, for
they stole the gibbet, and cut it up into relics, which were sold at
most exorbitant prices; so that, by making a saint of him, they gave a
value to the gallows which they purloined. It is possible that they were
not particular as to the genuineness of the article, so long as there
was any demand for little bits of Longbeard's gibbet.

Richard was now engaged in almost continual quarrels with Philip, which
were only suspended by occasional want of money to pay the respective
barons, who always struck, or rather, refused to strike at all, when
they could not get their wages. In the year 1198, hostilities were
renewed with great vigour, and a battle was fought near Gisors, where
Philip was nearly drowned by the breaking of a bridge, in consequence
of the enormous weight of the fugitives. In his bulletin, Richard
insultingly alluded to the quantity of the river the French king had
been compelled to drink, and hinted, that as he was full of water it was
quite fair to make a butt of him.

This was Cour de Lion's "positively last appearance" in any combat.
A truce was concluded, and Richard quitted Normandy for the Limousin,
where it was said in one of the popular ballads of the day, that the
point of the arrow was being forged for the death of the tyrant. Many
dispute the point, and believe the story to be forged; but certain it
is, that Henry, the father of Richard, had frequently been shot at by
an arrow, and had had, according to a lame pun of the period, many
a-n-arrow escape from the hands of his secret enemies. According to the
usual version of Cour de Lion's death, it seems that he went with an
armed force to demand of Vidomar, Viscount of Limoges, a treasure, said
to have been found in the domains of the latter. The viscount claimed
halves, which Richard refused, and with a loud cry of "All or none,"
threatened to hang every man of the garrison. The king was surveying
the walls to ascertain an eligible place for the assault, and had just
raised his eyes, exclaiming--"Here's a weak point," when the point of an
arrow came whizzing along and stuck in his left shoulder. Richard making
some passing allusion to this novel mode of shouldering arms, took
little notice of the wound, but went on with the assault, and soon
seized the Castle.

The business of the the day being concluded, he sent for a surgeon, who
took out the point of the arrow somewhat clumsily, causing Richard to
remark, in allusion to the bungling manner in which the operation had
been performed, that it could not be called a very elegant "extract."
The wound, though slight, became worse from ill-treatment; and the king,
feeling that there were no hopes of his recovery, would only reply to
the encouraging remarks of his attendants by pointing mournfully yet
significantly over his left shoulder.

[Illustration: 129]

It is said that he sent for Bertrand de Gourdon, the youth that
inflicted the wound, and let him off for letting off the bow; but it
is impossible to say what truth there is in this anecdote. The MS.
chronicle of Winchester says that Richard's sister Joan expressed a
truly female wish to have the prisoner given to her, that she might
"tear his eyes out," and that she literally put in force this threat
which so many women are heard to make, but which not one of the sex was
ever known to execute.

Richard died on Tuesday, the 6th of April, 1199, after a reign of ten
years, not one of which had been passed in England, for he had led the
life of a royal vagabond. He died at forty-two, and it is a remarkable
fact, says one of the chroniclers--whom for the sake of his reputation
we will not name--that, though Richard lived to be forty-two, forti-tude
was the only virtue he had ever exhibited. He loved the name of Lion
Heart, and he certainly deserved a title that indicated his possession
of brutish qualities. The British lion might, in justice to his own
character, repudiate all connection with this contemptible Cour de Lion,
who had at least as much cruelty as courage, and who had murdered many
more in cold blood when prisoners than he had ever killed on the field
of battle. His slaughter of the three thousand Saracen captives must be
regarded as a proof, that, whatever of the lion he might have, had in
his disposition, he had not much of the heart. This, however, such as it
was, he never gave to England in his lifetime, and he left it to Rouen
at his death, being certainly the very smallest and most valueless
legacy he could possibly have bequeathed.

[Illustration: 130]



CHAPTER THE SEVENTH. JOHN, SURNAMED SANSTERRE, OR LACKLAND.


[Illustration: 131]

JOHN, who was in Normandy when Richard died, made every effort to secure
that gang of humbugs, the mercenaries, by sending over to offer them
an increase of salary, with the view of preventing them from taking
engagements in the cause of his nephew, Arthur, the child of his elder
brother, Geoffrey. Hubert Walter, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was
despatched to England, to obtain the services of the barons by the usual
means; and John himself repaired to Chinon, to ransack the castle where
Richard had kept his treasures. Having chastised a few citizens for
supporting Arthur, he repaired to Rouen, where on Sunday, the 25th of
April, 1199, he was bedizened with the sword and coronal of the duchy.
The English were not much disposed to favour the claims of John, but
Archbishop Hubert purchased a few oaths of allegiance from the barons
and prelates, who for the usual consideration were always ready to swear
fealty to anyone.

John landed at Shoreham on the 25th of May, and on the 27th he knocked
at the church door of St. Peter's, Westminster, to claim the crown. He
seems to have encountered a tolerably numerous congregation, whom he
endeavoured to convince by pulling out of his pocket an alleged will
made in his favour by his brother Richard, and some other documents,
which, backed by a speech from Archbishop Hubert, set everybody shouting
"Long live the king!"

Poor little Arthur was completely overlooked in this arrangement, for
he had scarcely anyone to take his part but a noisy scolding mother,
who bore the name of Constance, probably on account of her shameful
inconstancy. She had married a third husband while her second was still
living; and it is even said that she contemplated adding trigamy to
bigamy, for which purpose she sent her son to be out of the way at
Paris, with Philip, the French king. The poor child had his interests
fearfully sacrificed on all sides, for a treaty was agreed upon between
John and Philip, according to which there would be nothing at all left
for the unfortunate boy when the two sovereigns had helped themselves to
their respective shares of the booty.

In the summer of the year 1200, John made a royal progress into France
where he evinced a familiar and festive humour, which made him a
favourite with a few of the "jolly dogs," but did not win the respect of
the more sober classes of the community. He did not at all improve upon
acquaintance; and he completed his unpopularity by running away with
Isabella, the wife of the Count of La Marche, whom he married and
brought to England, in spite of his having already a wife at home,
and the lady's having also a husband abroad. A second coronation was
performed in honour of his second marriage; but he seems to have soon
got tired of his new match, for he marched into Aquitaine without his
wife, under the pretence that he had business to attend to, but he
really did no business at all. Little did he anticipate when he started
_en garçon_ on his tour, that the historian nearly seven centuries
afterwards would be recording the manner in which he passed his time,
and proving the hollowness of the excuse for leaving his wife behind him
when he took his trip to Aquitaine.

[Illustration: 133]

Young Arthur, who was but fifteen years of age, was advised by Philip
(a.d. 1202) to try his hand in a military expedition. "You know your
rights," said Philip to the youth, "and would you not be a king?"

"Oh! wouldn't I, just?" was the boy-like reply, and the French king
counting off two hundred knights, as if they were so many bundles of
wood, handed them over to the prince, telling him to go and make an
attack upon some of the provinces. Arthur was recommended to march
against Mirabeau, the residence of his grandmother, Eleanor, a violent
old lady who had always been unfavourable to his claims. Arthur took the
town, but not his grandmother, who, on hearing of the lad's intentions,
exclaimed, "Hoity toity! would the urchin teach his grandmother to suck
eggs, I wonder?"

"No, but I would teach my grandmother to sue cumb," was the dignified
reply of the prince, when the message of his venerable relative was
brought to him. The sturdy old female, who was rather corpulent, made,
literally, a stout resistance, having thrown herself into a strong
tower, which set rather tight upon her, like a corsage, and in this
position she for some time defied the assaults of the enemy. Encased in
this substantial breastwork, she awaited the threatened lacing at
the hands of her grandson, when John came to her rescue. In the night
between the 31st of July and the 1st of August, he took the town,
dragged Arthur out of his bed, as well as some two hundred nobles who
were "hanging out" at the different lodgings in the city. After cruelly
beating them, he literally loaded them with irons, giving them cuffs
first, and hand-cuffs immediately afterwards. Twenty-two noblemen were
thrown into the damp dungeons of Corfe Castle, where they caught severe
colds, of which they soon died, and they were buried under the walls
of Corfe without coffins. * Young Arthur's tragical end has been the
subject of various conjectures. Several historians have tried their
hands at an interesting version of the young prince's death, but
Shakspeare has given the most effective, and not the least probable,
account of the fate of Arthur. The monks of Margan believe that John,
in a fit of intoxication, slew his nephew; but we have no proof that
Lackland was often in that disgraceful state, which in these days would
have rendered him liable to the loss of a crown--in the shape of the
five-shilling fine for drunkenness.

     * Matthew Paris. It is to be regretted that the statement of
     a fact sometimes involves the necessity for a pun, as in the
     present instance. The faithful historian has, however, on
     such an occasion, no alternative. Fidelity must not be
     sacrificed even to a desire for solemnity.

Ralph, the abbot of Coggeshall, who agrees with Shakspeare in many
particulars, says that Arthur had been removed to Rouen, where his uncle
called for him on the night of the 3rd of April, 1203, in a boat, to
take a row on the river. It being time for all good little children to
be in bed and asleep, Arthur was both at the moment of the avuncular
visit. Boy-like, he made no objection to the absurd and ill-timed
excursion, for it is a curious fact, that infants are always ready
to get up at the most unseasonable hours, if anything in the shape of
pleasure is proposed to them. Arthur was soon in the boat for a row up
the Seine with his uncle John and Peter de Maulac, Esquire, one of the
unprincipled "men about town" at that disreputable period.

They had not proceeded far when either John or Mr. de Maulao seized the
boy, as if he were so much superfluous ballast, and cruelly pitched
him overboard. Some say that the squire was the sole executioner, while
others hint that he turned squeamish at the last moment, and left the
disgraceful business to John; but they doubtless shared the guilt, as
they were both rowing in the same boat, and were in point of private
character "much of a muchness." Shak-speare, as everybody knows, makes
the young prince meet his death more than half-way by leaping on to the
stones below his prison window, with a hope that they might prove softer
than the heart of his uncle. It is not improbable that a child so young
may have been foolish enough to jump to such a conclusion.

The rumour of the murder naturally occasioned the greatest excitement;
and if we are to believe the immortal bard, five moons came mooning out
upon the occasion, which may account for the moonstruck condition of the
populace.

The Britons, amongst whom Arthur had been educated, were furious at the
murder of their youthful prince, whose eldest sister, Eleanor, was in
the hands of her uncle John. This lady was called by some, the Pearl of
Brittany; but if she was really a gem, she must have been an antique,
for she spent forty years of her life in captivity. The Britons,
therefore, rallied round a younger heroine, her half-sister, Alice, and
appointed her father, Guy de Thouars, the regent and general of their
confederacy. De Thouars was a Guy only in name, for he was extremely
handsome, and had attracted the attention of the lady Constance,
whose third and last husband he had become. Guy went as the head of a
deputation to the French king, who summoned John to a trial; but that
individual instead of attending the summons, allowed judgment to go by
default, and was sentenced to a forfeiture of his dominions.

John for some time treated the steps taken against him with contempt,
and remained at Rouen, until he thought it advisable to go over to
England, to prepare for his defence by collecting money, for it was
always by sucking dry the public purse, that tyrants in those days were
accustomed to look for succour.

It was by his efforts to extract cash from his people that he excited
among his nobles the discontent which has rendered the discontented
barons of his reign, _par excellence, the_ discontented barons of
English history. He continued to mulct them every day, and his reign was
a long game of forfeits, in which the barons were always the sufferers.
Still they refused to quit the country for the defence of their tyrant's
foreign possessions.

By dint of threats and bribery he at last contrived (a.d. 1206) to land
an army at Rochelle, and a contest was about to commence, when John
proposed a parley. Without waiting for the answer, he ran away, leaving
a notice on the door of his tent, stating that he had gone to England,
and would return immediately, which, in accordance with the modern
"chamber-practice," was equivalent to an announcement that he had no
intention of coming back again.

John, who could agree with nobody, now began to quarrel with the pope by
starting a candidate for the see of Canterbury, in opposition to Stephen
Langton, the nominee of old Innocent. His holiness desired three English
bishops to go and remonstrate with the king, who flew into a violent
passion, and used the coarsest language, winding up with a threat to
"cut off their noses," which caused the venerable deputation to "cut
off" themselves with prompt King John threatens to cut off the Noses of
the Bishops.

The bishops, however, soon recovered from the effects of their
ill-treatment, and determined by the aid of the people to punish with
papal bulls the royal bully.

[Illustration: 135]

On Monday, the 23rd of March, 1208, they pronounced an interdict
against all John's dominions; but, like children setting fire to a
train of gunpowder and running away, the bishops quitted the kingdom, as
if afraid of the result of their own boldness. This was soon followed by
a bull of excommunication against John, but the wary tyrant, by watching
the ports, prevented the entrance of this bull, which would have made it
a mere toss up whether he could keep possession of his throne.

John employed the year 1210 in raising money, by stealing it wherever he
could lay his hands upon it; for, says the chronicler, "as long as there
was a sum he could bone, he thought it the _summum bonum_ to get hold
of it." With the cash he had collected he repaired to Ireland, and
at Dublin was joined by twenty robust chieftains, who might have been
called the Dublin stout of the thirteenth century. Returning to England
in three months with an empty pocket, he became alarmed at hearing of a
conspiracy among his barons. He shut himself up for fifteen days in the
castle of Nottingham, seeing no one but the servants, and not permitting
the door to be opened even to take in the milk, lest the cream of the
British nobility should flow in with it.

At length, in the year 1213, Innocent hurled his last thunderbolt at
John's head, with the intention of knocking off his crown. The pope
pronounced the deposition of the English king, and declared the throne
open to competition, with a hint to Philip of France that he might find
it an eligible investment. He prepared a fleet of seventeen hundred
vessels at Boulogne, but some of the vessels must have been little
bigger than butter-boats if seventeen hundred of them were crammed into
this insignificant harbour. John, by a desperate effort, got together
sixty thousand men, but they were by no means staunch, and he was
as much afraid of his own troops as of those belonging to the enemy.
Pandulph, the pope's legate, knowing his character, came to Dover, and
frightened him by fearful pictures of the enemy's strength, while Peter
the Hermit, * who was rather more plague than prophet, bored the tyrant
with predictions of his death. John, who was exceedingly superstitious,
was so worked upon by his fears that he agreed to Pandulph's terms, and
on the 15th of May, 1213, he signed a sort of cognovit, acknowledging
himself the vassal of the pope, and agreeing to pay a thousand marks a
year, in token of which he set his own mark at the end of the document.

     * Some writers have called Peter the Hermit a hare-brained
     recluse As his head was closely shaved the epithet "hair-
     brained" seems to have been sadly misapplied.

He next offered Pandulph something for his trouble, but the legate
raising his leg, trampled the money under his foot. The next day was
that on which Peter the Hermit had prophesied that John would die, and
the tyrant remained from morning till night watching the clock with
intense anxiety. Finding himself alive at bedtime, he grew furious
against Peter for having caused him so much needless alarm, and the
Hermit was hanged for the want of foresight he had exhibited. He died,
exclaiming that the king should have been grateful that the prediction
had not been fulfilled; "but," added he, as he placed his head through
the fatal noose, "some folks are never satisfied." The French king was
exceedingly disgusted at the shabby treatment he had received; but
Philip expended his rage in a few philippics against Pandulph, who
merely expressed his regret, and added peremptorily, that England being
now under the dominion of the pope, must henceforth be let alone. Philip
alluded to the money he was out of pocket, but the nuncio politely
observing that he was not happy at questions of account, withdrew while
repeating his prohibition.

John, who had so lately eaten humble pie, soon began to regard his
promises as the pie-crust, which he commenced breaking very rapidly.
Wishing, however, to carry the war into France, he required the services
of his barons, who were very reluctant to aid him, and he had got as far
as Jersey, when happening to look behind him, he perceived that he had
scarcely any followers. He had started with a tolerable number, but they
turned back sulkily by degrees, without his being aware of it until
he arrived at Jersey, when he was preparing to turn himself round, and
perceived that his _suite_ had dwindled down to a few mercenaries, who
hung on to his skirts merely for the sake of what he had got in his
pockets. Becoming exceedingly angry, he wheeled suddenly back, and
vented his spite in burning and ravaging everything that crossed his
path. He was in a flaming passion, for he set fire to all the buildings
on the road till he reached Northampton, where Langton overtook him,
and taxed him with the violation of his oath. "Mind your own business,"
roared the king, "and leave me to manage mine;" but Langton would not
take an answer of that kind, and stuck to him all the way to Nottingham,
where the prelate, according to his own quaint phraseology, "went at
him again" with more success than formerly. John issued summonses to the
barons, and Langton hastened to see them in London, where he drew up a
strong affidavit by which they all swore to be true to each other, and
to their liberties.

John was still apprehensive of the hostility of the pope, which might
have been fatal at this juncture, had not Cardinal Nicholas arrived in
the nick of time, namely, on the 12th of September, 1213, to take
off the interdict. The court of Rome thus executed a sort of
_chassez-croisez_, by going over to the side of John, but Langton did
not desert his old partner, liberty. In the following year the English
king was defeated at the battle of Bouvines, one of the most tremendous
affrays recorded in history. Salisbury, surnamed Longsword, was captured
by that early specimen of the church militant, the Bishop of Beauvais,
who, because it was contrary to the canons of the Church for him to shed
blood, fought with a ponderous club, by which he knocked the enemy on
the head, and acquired the name of the stunning bishop. He banged about
him in such style, that he might have been eligible for the see of
Bangor, had his ambition pointed in that direction. John obtained a
truce; but the discontented barons had already placed a rod in pickle
for him, and on the 20th day of November, they held a crowded meeting at
St. Edmund's Bury, which was adjourned until Christmas. At that festive
season, John found himself eating his roast beef entirely alone, for
nobody called to wish him joy, or partake his pudding.

[Illustration: 138]

After dining by himself, at Worcester, he started for London, making
sure of a little-gaiety at boxing-time, in the great metropolis.

Nobody, however, took the slightest notice of him until one day the
whole of the barons came to him in a body, to pay him a morning visit.
Surprised at the largeness of the party, he was somewhat cool, but on
hearing that they had come for liberty, he declared that he would not
allow any liberty to be taken while he continued king of England. The
party remained firm with one or two exceptions, when John began to
shiver as if attacked with ague, and he went on blowing hot and cold
as long as he could, until pressed by the barons for an answer to their
petition. He then replied evasively, "Why--yes--no; let me see--ha!
exactly--stop! Well, I don't know, perhaps so--'pon honour;" and
ultimately obtained time until Easter, to consider the proposals that
were made to him. The confederated barons had no sooner got outside the
street-door than John began to think over the means of circumventing
them. As they separated on the threshold, to go to their respective
homes, it was evident from the gestures and countenances of the group
that there had been a difference of opinion as to the policy of granting
John the time he had requested. A bishop and two barons, who had turned
recreants at the interview, and receded from their claims, were of
course severely bullied by the rest of the confederates, on quitting
the royal presence. At length the day arrived, in Easter week, when the
barons were to go for an answer to the little Bill--of Rights--which
they had left with John at the preceding Christmas. They met at
Stamford, where they got up a grand military spectacle, including two
thousand knights and an enormous troop of auxiliaries. The king, who
was at Oxford, sent off Cardinal Langton, with the Earls of Pembroke and
Warrenne, as a deputation, who soon returned with a schedule of terrific
length, containing a catalogue of grievances, which the barons declared
they would have remedied.

[Illustration: 139]

John flew into one of his usual passions, tearing his long hair, and
rapidly pacing his chamber with the skirt of his robe thrown over his
left arm, while, with his right hand, he shook his fist at vacancy. The
deputation could merely observe calmly, "We have done our part of the
business: that is what the barons want;" and a roll of parchment was
instantly allowed to run out to its full length at the foot of the
enraged sovereign. John took up the document and pretended to inspect
it with much minuteness, muttering to himself, "No, I don't see it
down," upon which Langton asked the sovereign what he was looking for.
"I was searching," sarcastically roared the tyrant, "for the crown,
which I fully expected to find scheduled as one of the items I am called
upon to surrender." This led to some desultory conversation, in the
course of which the king made some evasive offers, which the barons
would not accept, and the latter, appointing Robert Fitz-Walter as their
general, at once commenced hostilities.

They first marched upon the castle of Northampton, but when they got
under the walls they discovered that they had got no battering-rams, and
after sitting looking at the castle for fifteen days, they marched off
again. At Bedford, where they went next, the same farce might have been
enacted, had not the inhabitants opened the gates for them. Here they
received an invitation from London, and stopping to rest for the night
at Ware--on account, perhaps, of the accommodation afforded by the Great
Bed--they arrived on Sunday, the 24th of May, 1215, in the City. Here
they were joined by the whole nobility of England, while John was
abandoned by all but seven knights, who remained near his person, the
seven knights forming a weak protection, to the sovereign. His heart
at first failed him, but he was a capital actor, and soon assumed a sort
of easy cheerfulness. He presented his compliments to the barons, and
assured them he should be most happy to meet them, if they would appoint
a time and place for an interview. The barons instantly fixed the 19th
of June at Runny-Mead, when John intimated that he should have much
pleasure in accepting the polite invitation.

At length the eventful morning arrived, when John cantered quietly down
from Windsor Castle, attended by eight bishops and a party of about
twenty gentlemen. These, however, were not his friends, but had been
lent by the other side, "for the look of the thing," lest the king
should seem to be wholly without attendants. The barons, who had been
stopping at Staines, were of course punctual, and had got the pen and
ink all laid out upon the table, with a Windsor chair brought expressly
from the town of Windsor for John to sit down upon. It had been expected
that he would have raised some futile objections to sign; but the crafty
sovereign, knowing it was a _sine qua non_, made but one plunge into the
inkstand, and affixed his autograph. It is said that he dropped a dip of
ink accidentally on the parchment, and that he mentally ejaculated "Ha!
this affair will be a blot upon my name for ever." The facility with
which the king attached his signature to Magna Charta--the great charter
of England's liberties--naturally excited suspicion; for it is a remark
founded on a long acquaintance with human nature, that the man who never
means to take up a bill is always foremost in accepting one. Had John
contemplated adhering to the provisions of the document he would have
probably discussed the various clauses, but a swindler seldom disputes
the items of an account, when he has not the remotest intention of
paying it.

Though Magna Charta has been practically superseded by subsequent
statutes, it must always be venerated as one of the great foundations
of our liberties. It established the "beautiful principle" that taxation
shall only take place by the consent of those taxed--a principle the
beauty of which has been its chief advantage, for it has proved less an
article for use than for ornament. The agreeable figure that everyone
who pays a tax does so with his own full concurrence, and simply because
he likes it, is a pleasing delusion, which all have not the happiness to
labour under. It was also provided that "the king should sell, delay,
or deny justice to none," a condition that can scarcely be considered
fulfilled when we look at some of the bills of costs that generally
follow a long suit in that game of chance which has obtained the
singularly appropriate title of Chancery. It may be perhaps argued, that
the article delayed and sold is law, whereas Magna Charta alludes
only to Justice. This, we must admit, establishes a distinction--_not_
without a difference.

Though John had kept his temper tolerably well at the meeting with the
barons, he had no sooner got back to Windsor Castle, than he called
a few foreign adventurers around him, and indulged in a good hearty
swearing fit against the charter. He grew so frantic, according to the
chroniclers, that he "gnashed his teeth, rolled his eyes, and gnawed
sticks and straws," though he could scarcely have done all this without
sending for the umbrella-stand, and having a good bite at its contents,
or ordering in a few wisps from the stable.

That John was exceedingly mad with the barons for what they had made him
do, is perfectly true, but we do not go the length of those who look
upon a truss of straw as essential to a person labouring under mental
aberration.

John now went to reside in the Isle of Wight, and tried to captivate the
fishermen by adopting their manners. There is nothing very captivating
in the manners of the fishermen of the Isle of Wight at the present day,
whatever may have been the case formerly; but it is probable that the
king became popular by a sort of hail-fellow-well-met-ishness, to which
his dreadful habit of swearing no doubt greatly contributed. Having
imported a lot of mercenaries from the Continent, he posted off to
Dover to land the disgraceful cargo, and with them he marched against
Rochester Castle, which had been seized by William D'Albiney. The
larder was wretchedly low when D'Albiney first took possession, and
the garrison was soon reduced to its last mouthful of provisions. This
consisted of a piece of rind of cheese, which everybody had refused
in daintier days, when provisions were plentiful. D'Albiney bolted
the morsel and unbolted the gate nearly at the same moment, when John,
rushing in, butchered all the supernumeraries and sent the principal
characters to Corfe Castle.

John, who always grew bold when there was no opposition, committed all
sorts of atrocities upon places without defence, and the barons shut up
in Lincoln, held numerous meetings, which terminated in a resolution
to offer the crown to Louis, the son of Philip of France, provided the
young gentleman and his papa would come over and fight for it. Louis
left Calais with six hundred and eighty vessels, but he had a terribly
bad passage across to Sandwich, where the "flats," as usual, permitted
the landing of an enemy. John, who had run round to Dover with a
numerous army, fled before the French landed, and committed arson on
an extensive scale all over the country. Every night was a "night wi'
Burns," and the royal incendiary seems to have put himself under the
especial protection of Blaise, as the only saint with whom the tyrant
felt the smallest sympathy. John ultimately put up at Bristol, and the
neighbourhood of Bath seems to have quenched for a time his flaming
impetuosity.

Louis having besieged Rochester Castle, which seems in those days to
have been very like a copy of the _Times_ newspaper, which some one
was always anxious to take directly it was out of hand, marched on to
London. He arrived there on the 2nd of June, 1216, where he was received
with that enthusiasm which the hospitable cockneys have ever been ready
to bestow on foreigners of distinction. Nearly all the few followers
that had hitherto adhered to John now abandoned him, and he was left
almost alone with Gualo, the pope's legate, who did all he could to
revive the drooping spirits of the tyrant. Vainly however did Gualo slap
the sovereign on the back, inviting him to "cheer up," and ply him with
cider, his favourite beverage. "Come! drown it in the bowl," was the
constant cry of Gualo. "Talk not of bowls," was the reply of John; "what
is life but a game at bowls, in which the king is too frequently knocked
over?"

Louis, in the meantime, growing arrogant with success, commenced
insulting, the English and granting their property to his foreign
followers. The barons began to think they had made a false step with
reference to their own country by allowing the French prince to put
his foot in it. This for a moment brightened the prospects of John, who
started off and went blazing away as far as Lynn, where he had got a
_dépôt_ of provisions, and of course a change of linen. Hence he made
for Wisbeach, and put up at a place called the "Cross Keys," intending
to cross the Wash, which is a very passable place at low water.

John was nearly across when he heard the tide beginning to roar with
fearful fury. Knowing that tide and time wait for no man, he felt he
was tied to time, and hurried to the opposite shore with tremendous
rapidity. He succeeded in reaching land; but his horses, with his plate,
linen, and money were not so fortunate, for he had the mortification of
seeing all his clothes lost in the Wash, and the utter sinking of the
whole of his capital.

Venting his sorrow in cursory remarks and discursive curses, he went
on to Swineshead Abbey, where he passed the night in eating peaches
and pears, and drinking new cider. * The cider of course added to the
fermentation that was going on in his fevered frame; and even without
the peaches and pears, the efforts of his physicians might have proved
fruitless. He went to bed, but could not sleep, for his conscience
continued to impeach him in a series of frightful dreams, to which the
peaches no doubt contributed. He nevertheless made an effort to get up
the next morning, and mounted his horse on the 15th of October; but he
was too ill to keep his seat, and his attendants, putting him into a
horse-box, got him as far as Sleaford. Here he passed another shocking
night, but the next day they again moved him into the horse-box, and
dragged him to Newark, where he requested that a confessor might be
sent for. The abbot of Crocton, who was a doctor as well as a divine,
immediately attended, and this leech was employed in drawing a
confession from the lips of the tyrant. He named his eldest son, Henry,
his successor, and dictated a begging-letter to the new pope, imploring
protection for his small and helpless children. He died on the 18th of
October, 1216, in the forty-ninth year of his age, and the seventeenth
of one of the most uncomfortable reigns recorded in English history.
From first to last he seems to have been cut by his subjects, for we
find him eating his Christmas dinner alone in the very middle of his
sovereignty, and dragged about the country in a horse-box within a day
of his death, when such active treatment could not have been beneficial
to the royal patient in an advanced stage of fever.

     * Matthew Parin, point of accommodation than the humblest
     gentleman. His case reminds us of an individual, who,
     finding himself in a sedan with neither top nor bottom to
     it, came to the conclusion that he might as well have walked
     but for "the look of the thing." So it may be said of John,
     that deprived of all the substantial advantages of a throne,
     he might but "for the name of the thing" have just as well
     been a private individual.

The character of John has been so fully developed in the account of
his reign that it is quite unnecessary to sum him up on the present
occasion. If he harassed the barons, they certainly succeeded in
returning the compliment; for he seems to have had a most unpleasant
time of it. He had the title of king, but was often worse off.

[Illustration: 145]



BOOK III. THE PERIOD FROM THE ACCESSION OF HENRY THE THIRD, TO THE END
OF THE REIGN OF RICHARD THE SECOND. A.D. 1216--1399.



CHAPTER THE FIRST. HENRY THE THIRD, SURNAMED OF WINCHESTER.


[Illustration: 146]

HENRY, the eldest son of John, was a child under ten years of age at
the time of his father's death, but his brother-in-law, the Earl of
Pembroke, brought him to Gloucester and got him crowned by Gualo, who
had always acted as a friend of the family. The coronation, which took
place on the 28th of October, 1216, was very indifferently got up, for
the crown had not come from the Wash, where it had been lying in soak
ever since John's unfortunate expedition across the water from Wisbeach.
Gualo therefore took a ring from his finger, and put it on the young
king's head, as a substitute for the missing diadem. The coronation
party consisted of three earls, three bishops, and four barons, with
a sprinkling of abbots and priors, comprising altogether a retinue of
about thirty individuals.

The clergy of Westminster and Canterbury complained bitterly of the
ceremony having been "scamped," by which their rights had been
invaded, or, in other words, by which they had been done out of their
perquisites. The first coronation was therefore treated as a mere
rehearsal, and a more regular performance afterwards took place, with
new machinery, dresses, decorations, and all the usual properties.

On the 11th of the following November, Pembroke was appointed _rector
Regis et Regni_--ruler of the king and kingdom--so that Henry the
Third was sovereign _de jure_ with a _de facto_ viceroy over him. This
arrangement was made at a great council held at Bristol, where Magna
Charta was revised with a view to the publication of a new and improved
edition.

Louis, on hearing of John's death, puffed himself up with a certainty of
success, but he only realised the old fable of the French frog and the
British bull; for, becoming inflated with pride, he was not long in
bursting like an empty bubble.

As Christmas, 1216, was close at hand, a truce was arranged, to enable
each party to enjoy the holidays. Louis took advantage of the vacation
to go to Paris to consult his father Philip, who, like a modern French
king of the same name, was remarkable for his tact in doing the best
for his own family. On his return to England, Louis encountered some
hostility from the hardy mariners of the Cinque Ports--the Deal and
Dover boatmen of that day--but reaching Sandwich, he got over the flats
with the usual facility. He however spitefully burned the town to the
ground, merely because it was one of the Cinque Ports, which had turned
crusty at his approach, though it was hardly fair of him to mull the
only port that did not prove too strong for him. Hostilities were
continued on both sides with varying success, until the Count de la
Perche, a French general, flushed with a recent triumph at Mount Sorel,
in Leicester, determined to attack the Castle of Lincoln. He would
probably have succeeded, but for the resistance of a woman, the widow
of the late keeper of the castle, who, with the obstinacy of her sex,
refused to surrender. The Count de la Perche, ashamed of being beaten by
one of the gentler sex, continued the attack, and refusing to quit the
town, found himself involved in a series of street rows of the most
alarming character.

Pembroke having collected a large force, sent part of it into the castle
by the back garden gate, and the other part into the town, so that poor
de la Perche found it impossible to move either one way or the other.
The English literally gave it him right and left till he died; and after
falling upon the almost defenceless French, they gave the name of "the
fair of Lincoln" to a battle about as unfair as any recorded in the
pages of history.

This event, which came off on the 20th of May, 1217, was followed in
June by a conference which, like Panton Square, led to nothing. Louis
made one more attempt upon Dover, but he had no means to carry on the
war, and he was obliged to raise the siege, as he could not raise the
money. He hastened to London, which he had no sooner entered than
the English shut the gates and locked him in; while the pope sent a
tremendous bull down upon him, to add to his annoyances. Louis began to
feel that he had had quite enough of it, and being anxious for a little
peace, he proposed one to Pembroke. The terms were soon agreed upon, but
Louis was detained in town some little time for want of the money to
pay his debts and his journey home again. The citizens of London forming
themselves into a loan society, advanced a few pounds to the French
prince, who deserves some credit for not having taken French leave of
his creditors. By the terms of the treaty he surrendered all his claims
upon the English crown, which seems to have been rather a superfluous
sacrifice, as he had been trying it on for some time, and found that the
cap never fitted.

As Louis went out of London at the East End, to embark for France,
Henry, who had been at Kingston, came in at Hyde Park Corner. Pembroke,
the regent, made him exceedingly popular by advising him to confirm
Magna Charta, and to add a clause or two for the purpose of freshening
it up, so that the new edition might repay perusal. Unfortunately for
the prospects of the kingdom, Pembroke died, in May, 1219, and was
buried in the Temple Church, where his tomb is still to be seen by
anyone who can obtain a bencher's order. The regent's authority was
now divided between Hubert de Burgh and Peter--or, as Rapin christens
him--William des Roches, the Bishop of Winchester. These two
individuals, though jealous of each other, agreed in the propriety of
another coronation, probably on account of the patronage it gave to
those who happened to be in power; and as the couple in question had
just taken office, they were anxious to realise some of the profits at
the earliest opportunity. In the quarrels between these two worthies,
Des Roches was getting rather the upper hand, when Hubert de Burgh, in
1223, got the pope to declare that the king, who was only sixteen years
of age, had attained his majority. Thus, like the dog in the manger,
Hubert determined that no one else should enjoy a position which he
himself was unable to profit by. This was an "artful dodge" of the
cunning Hubert, to get the game into his own hands, for Henry on being
pronounced "of age," having received a surrender of various castles
and fortified places from the barons, gave back those which he had
no occasion for to the wily minister. The barons, finding themselves
bamboozled, became exceedingly angry with the king and Hubert, but the
latter went on, alternately hanging and excommunicating, until he had
settled the obstreperous and quelled the turbulent.

The year 1225 must ever be remarkable for the refusal of Parliament--a
name that was then coming into use--to grant supplies without asking any
questions. This had formerly been the usual practice, but when Hubert
coolly proposed a grant of a fifteenth of all the movable property in
the kingdom for the use of the king, the Parliament said it was all very
well, but if the money was given there ought to be something to show for
it. Henry accordingly gave another ratification of Magna Charta, which
was a good deal like the old superfluous process of putting butter upon
bacon, for he had already twice ratified that important document. In
those days, however, there was no objection to giving the lily an extra
coat of paint, or treating the refined gold to an additional layer of
gilding.

In the year 1228, Henry had collected an army at Portsmouth to sail for
France, but Hubert de Burgh, who seems to have held the place of First
Lord of the Admiralty as well as his other offices, had not provided a
sufficient number of vessels. When the troops were about to embark it
was found impossible to stow them away even with the closest packing.
Henry flew into a violent passion with Hubert, accusing him of pocketing
the money he ought to have laid Goode out in ships, and the king had
drawn his sword, intending to run the minister through, when the Earl of
Chester ran between them, exclaiming "Hold!" with intense significance.

[Illustration: 149]

This fine dramatic situation told exceedingly well; for Hubert de Burgh
got off, though the king did not, and the expedition was postponed until
the year following. He passed over into Normandy, a.d. 1229, but he
preferred feasting to fighting, and the only advance he made was by
continually running away, which kept him constantly ahead of the
enemy. He, however, threw all the blame of the failure on Hubert, whose
shoulders must have been tolerably broad to have borne all that his
master chose to cast on to them.

The king returned to England very much out of pocket and completely out
of spirits. He applied to his old paymaster, the Parliament, but his
conduct had excited so much disgust, that instead of money, or as it was
then called, blunt, he got a blunt refusal. His majesty, whose tone
had hitherto been that of command, now assumed the humble air of the
mendicant, and he adopted the degraded clap-trap of his being "a
real case of distress," in order to obtain a subsidy. He declared his
inability to pay his way, but as his way was never to pay at all, this
argument availed him very little. He was, however, getting rapidly
shorter and shorter every day, when fearing that he would perhaps
compromise the dignity of the crown by pawning it, or sell the regalia
for the purpose of regaling himself, the Parliament agreed to let him
have a trifle for current expenses. This consisted of three marks for
every fief held immediately of the crown, * which was little enough to
give him an excuse for not paying his debts, and yet sufficient to allow
him to rush into fresh extravagances. In the year 1232, Henry, having of
course spent every shilling of his small supply, renewed his application
to Parliament, alleging that he was desirous of discharging the
liabilities incurred in his expedition to France, but the barons firmly,
and not very respectfully, refused any further pecuniary assistance.
They urged in effect, that they had already been doubly robbed of their
services and their cash, for they had never been paid for the one, and
had been almost drained of the other. The nobles, who had derived
nearly all they possessed from plunder, could not see the justice of the
principle, that as they had done to others they deserved to be done, and
they peremptorily refused to comply with the attempted exactions of the
sovereign.

     * Rapin's _Histoire d'Angleterre_, tome ii., p. 386 of the
     second edition where he turned in to the priory. The king at
     first determined to have him out, dead or alive, and a mob
     of upwards of twenty thousand people, says Rapin, were
     about to start with the Mayor of London to take the ex-
     minister into custody. How such a crowd was got together in
     those days out of the mere superfluous idlers of the city,
     is not known, ana we are equally in the dark how it happened
     that this mob continued doing nothing, while the king
     listened to remonstrances from various quarters against the
     violence of his measures.

Having failed in his attack on the pockets of his Parliament, Henry
looked with an envious eye on the comfortably lined coffers of his
minister. Hubert de Burgh, though he enjoyed the reputation of a trusty
servant, had taken care to feather his nest, nor did the feathers lie
very heavily on his conscience, for in those days the greatest weight
that could be placed upon the mind was always portable. The tonnage of
Hubert's conscience appears to have been considerable, for though he
carried a good cargo of peculation, he seems never to have evinced any
disposition to sink under his burden. Henry became jealous of the good
fortune of his minister, and resolved, for the purpose of getting his
savings, to effect his ruin. Presuming Hubert to have been a dishonest
man, and granting that there is policy in the recommendation to "set
a thief to catch a thief," the king could not have done better than to
send for Des Boches, the Bishop of Winchester, to assist in cleaning
out the favourite. Poor De Burgh was in the first instance charged
with magic and enchantment; which may be considered equivalent to an
impeachment of the minister of the present day for phantasmagoria and
thimble-rig.

In these enlightened times we cannot conceive the Premier being sent to
the Tower on a suspicion of jack-a-lantern and blind hookey, though it
was for offences of this class that Hubert was at first arraigned on the
prosecution of his sovereign. These frivolous charges having fallen to
the ground, the king called upon him for an account of all the money
that had passed through his hands; when the minister having kept no
books and being wholly without vouchers, cut a very pretty figure. As
he had been in the habit of cutting figures all through his career, this
result was not to be wondered at. He, however, rummaged among his papers
and found an old patent, given him by John, absolving him from the
necessity of rendering any account, but his enemies replied, that this
was only a receipt in full up to the time of Henry's accession. Hubert
finding he could not get out of the scrape, determined, if possible,
to get out of the country; but he proceeded no further on the road
than Merton, London mobs must have been rather more tractable in the
thirteenth than in the nineteenth century, for the twenty thousand
people dispersed when it was understood, after considerable negotiation,
that their services would not be required. Indeed, according to a more
recent historian, they had actually started when a king's messenger was
despatched to call them back again.

Hubert, who had found the priory at Merton exceedingly slow, started off
to St. Edmund's Bury to see his wife, who resided there. He had got
as far as Brentwood, and had gone to bed, when he was roused by a loud
knocking at the door, which caused him to put his head out of the window
and inquire who or what was wanted. "Is there a person of the name of
Hubert de Burgh stopping here?" exclaimed the captain of the troop;
but the wily minister, for the sake of gaining time, pretended to
misunderstand the question. "Hubert de What?" he exclaimed, as he
slipped on a portion of his dress; but the soldier repeated the name
with a tremendous emphasis on the syllable Burgh, which caused a shudder
in the frame of Hubert. He, however, had the presence of mind to direct
them to the second door round the corner. Having got them away from
the front of the cottage by this manouvre, he ran downstairs into
the street, and made his way to the chapel. Here he was seized by his
pursuers, who placed him on a horse, and tied his feet together under
the animal's stomach. Hubert must have had legs of a most extraordinary
length, or the horse must have been a very genteel figure to have
permitted this arrangement, which we find recorded in all the histories.

It is possible that the brute upon which De Burgh was secured may have
been a donkey, in which case the legs of the ex-favourite might have
been long enough to admit of their being tied in a double knot--and
perhaps even in a bow--under the animal's stomach. In this uncomfortable
position he was trotted off to the Tower; but the clergy being incensed
at the violation of sanctuary, Hubert was remounted in the same style,
and trotted back again. He was placed in the church as before, but all
communication with it was cut off, a trench dug round it, and Hubert
was left without any food but that which is always so plentiful under
similar circumstances--namely, food for reflection.

After "chewing the bitter cud" until there was nothing left to
masticate, he intimated from the steeple his desire to surrender. He had
remained forty days shut up without food, fire, or any other clothing
but the wrapper in which he had made his escape from his lodgings at
Brentwood. The once burly De Burgh had, of course, become dreadfully
thin, and the thread of existence seemed to be inclosed in a mere
thread-paper. In this state he was taken to the Tower; but he was soon
released to take his trial before his peers, who would have condemned
him to death, but the king, looking on the minister as a golden goose,
merely seized the accumulated eggs, and sent him to prison at the Castle
of Devizes, until some other means were devised of getting hold of the
remainder of his property.

Hubert had scarcely been in prison a year, when he took advantage of a
dark night to drop himself over one of the battlements. He however found
that one good drop deserved another, for he had fallen into a ditch
containing a good drop of water, in which he remained absorbed for
several seconds. Having crawled out, he commenced wringing his hands and
his clothes, but feeling there was no time to be lost, he made his
way to a country church, whither he was traced by the drippings of his
garments, which had left a mark something like that of a water-cart,
along the path he had taken. Though captured by one party, he was set
at liberty by another, with whom the king had become very unpopular, and
Hubert was carried off to Wales, where a sect of discontents, who, had
they lived in these days, would have been called the Welsh Whigs, had
long been gathering. Hubert in about a year and a half, obtained a
return of part of his estates, and was even restored to his honours;
but the king still kept him as a sort of nest-egg to plunder as occasion
required. Hubert finally compromised the claims of the sovereign by
surrendering four castles, in which Hollinshed is disposed to believe
that Jack Straw's and the Elephant could not have been included.

The Bishop of Winchester, or as he is termed in history, the Poictevin
bishop, succeeded to power on the downfall of Hubert, and Des Boches
soon filled the court with foreign adventurers. Two of a trade never
agree; and the nobility, who had originally been foreign adventurers
themselves, objected to the importation of any more scamps from abroad,
on the principle, perhaps, that England had got plenty of that sort
already. The Poictevin bishop was particularly hostile to the son of
the late regent, the young Earl of Pembroke, who inherited some of his
father's virtues, and what was far more interesting to old Des Boches,
the whole of his father's property. Young P. was in Ireland, where he
had large estates, which the Poictevin bishop desired the governors of
that country to confiscate. He promised them a slice, and the governors
being--as Rapin has it--_avides d'un si bon morceau_--(ravenous for such
a tit-bit) determined on getting hold of it. Treachery was accordingly
resorted to, and Pembroke was basely stabbed in the back whilst sitting
unsuspectingly at his own Pembroke table. This was more than the barons
could bear; and they told Henry very plainly, through Edmund, the new
Archbishop of Canterbury, that if Des Roches was not dismissed, the
sovereign himself would be sent forthwith about his business. The
Poictevin was ordered off to Winchester, with directions to limit his
views to his own see; and the patriotic Canterbury, who had of course
only been anxious for the good of his country, obtained the power from
which his predecessor had been cleverly ousted.

The Bishop of Winchester was soon afterwards called to Rome by the pope,
who pretended to require his advice, but really had an eye to his money.
Des Boches imagined that he was invited for protection, but he was in
fact wanted for pillage. The Poictevin was glad to escape from English
_surveillance_, and was quite content to eat his mutton under the pope's
eye, though he was hardly prepared for the process of picking to which
he was subjected. The predecessor of Urban * was, however, all urbanity,
and thus made some amends to Des Boches, who, like the majority of
mankind, found victimisation a comparatively painless operation when
performed by the gentle or light-fingered hands of an accomplished
swindler.

     * According to some authorities Celestine was pope at this
     period, and Urban did not reach the papal dignity till some
     time afterwards.

In the year 1236, Henry married Eleanor of Provence, with immense pomp
and another coronation--a ceremony the frequent repetition of which
in former times was a proof of the uncertainty of regal power, for the
crown could not be very firm that so often required re-soldering. The
king's marriage formed, perhaps, a reasonable excuse for placing an
extra hod of cement between the monarch's poll and the hollow diadem.
The marriage festivities were followed by the summoning of a Parliament
at Merton, where Henry passed a series of statutes that became famous
under the name of the Statutes of Merton; and where he also pocketed, in
the shape of-subsidies, a considerable sum of money.

[Illustration: 154]

Eleanor, the new queen, brought with her to England a quantity of needy
and seedy foreigners, most of whom were immediately promoted. One of her
uncles, "named Boniface," says Matthew Paris, "from his extraordinary
quantity of cheek," was raised to the see of Canterbury. She invited
over from Provence a quantity of _demoiselles a marier_, whom she got
off by palming them upon rich young nobles, of whom her husband held the
wardship. The court was turned into a kind of matrimonial bazaar, where
the wealthy scions of English aristocracy were hooked by the portionless
but sometimes pretty spinsters of Provence. Nor was this all, for
Isabella, the queen mother, sent over her four boys, Guy, William,
Geoffrey, and Aymer, her sons, by the Count de la Marche, to be provided
for. England was in fact regarded as an enormous common, upon which any
foreign goose or jackass might be turned out to grass, provided he was
patronised by a member of the reigning family. Henry, who was the victim
of his poor relations, soon found himself short of cash, and he was
obliged to get money in driblets from the Parliament, who never allowed
him much at a time, and always exacted conditions which were invariably
broken as soon as the cash was granted.

Henry had been married about a year, when he had the coolness to ask the
nation for the expenses of his wedding. The barons declared that they
had never been consulted about the match, and that the king up to the
last hour of his remaining a single man had acted with great duplicity.
Finding it useless to command, he resorted to the old plan of humbug,
and fell back upon his old friend Magna Charta, which he confirmed once
more, for about the fifth or sixth time, and of course got the money
he required. This great Bill of Rights was to him a sort of stereotyped
bill of exchange, upon which he could always raise a sum of money by
going through the formality of a fresh acceptance.

The history of this reign for the next few years would furnish fitter
materials for the accountant than the historian, and Henry's career
would be better told in a balance-sheet than in the form of narrative.
Had his schedule been regularly filed it would have disclosed a series
of insolvencies, from which he was only relieved by taking the benefit
of some act of generosity and credulity on the part of his Parliament.
At one moment he was so fearfully hard up that he was advised to
sell all his plate and jewels. * "Who will buy them?" he
exclaimed;--"though," he added, glancing at his four awkward
half-brothers, "if anyone would give mo anything for that set of spoons,
I should be glad to take the offer." He was told that the citizens
of London would purchase plate to any amount, at which he burst into
violent invectives against "the clowns," as he termed them, probably
on account of the presumed capacity of their breeches pockets. He made
every effort to annoy the citizens, and showed his appreciation of their
superfluous cash by helping himself to ten thousand pounds of it by open
violence.

     * Matthew Paris, Mat. West. Chron. Duncl.

In the year 1253, Henry was once more in a fix, and again the Parliament
had the folly to promise him a supply if he would go through another
confirmation of Magna Charta. On the 3rd of May he attended a general
meeting of the nobility at Westminster Hall where he found the
ecclesiastical dignitaries holding each a burning taper in his hand,
intending probably that the melting wax should make a deep impression on
the sovereign. Some are of opinion that this process was illustrative of
the necessity sometimes said to exist for holding a candle to a certain
individual. Henry took the usual quantity of oaths, and the priests
dashed to the ground their tapers, which went out in smoke, and were so
far typical of the king's promises. On receiving the money he went to
Guienne, from which he soon came back--as a popular vocalist used to
say by way of cue to his song--"without sixpence in his pocket, just
like--Love among the roses."

The pope now brought in a heavy bill of £100,000 for money lent, of
which Henry declared he had never enjoyed the benefit. The pope merely
observed, that he was clearing his books and must have the matter
settled. The king turned upon the clergy, upon whom he drew bills, one
of which was addressed to the Bishop of Worcester, who declared they
might take his mitre in execution for the amount, and the Bishop of
Gloucester said they might serve his the same; but if they did he
would wear a helmet. Richard, the king's brother, who was very wealthy,
hearing that the German empire was in the market for sale, made a bold
bid for it. There was another competitor for the lot in the person
of Alphonso, king of Castile, but Richard put down £700,000 and was
declared the purchaser. This liberality was of course at the expense of
poor England, which was so completely drained of cash that when Henry
met his Parliament on the 2nd of May, 1258, he found the barons in
full armour, rattling their swords, as much as to say, that these must
furnish a substitute for the precious metals.

Henry was alarmed at the menacing aspect of the assembly, but one of
his foreign half-brothers began vapouring, in a mixed _patois_ of bad
French, to the bent down, but not yet broken, English. The king himself
resorted to his old trick of promising, and pledged his word once more
with his usual success, though it was already pawned over and over again
for a hundred times its value. The barons, however, were still ready
to take it in; though they had got by them already an enormous stock of
similar articles, all unredeemed, and daily losing their interest. The
leader of the country party was at this time Simon de Montfort, Earl of
Leicester, a Frenchman, who had married Eleanor, the king's sister.
He had quarrelled and made it up with Henry once or twice, and the
following conversation is recorded to have taken place, in 1252, between
the earl and his sovereign:--

"You are a traitor," said the king.

"You are a liar!" replied the courtier.

After this brief and decisive dialogue Leicester went to France, but his
royal brother-in-law soon invited him back again.

On the 11th of June, 1258, there met, at Oxford, an assembly to which
the Royalists gave the name of the Mad Parliament. There was a good deal
of method in the madness of the members, for they appointed twenty-four
barons and bishops as a committee of government. There was some insanity
in the proposition to hold three sessions in a year, but it is doubtful
whether Dr. Winslow, or any other eminent physician would have found, in
the statutes passed at the time sufficient to form the foundation of
a statute of lunacy. Henry seems to have been most in want of Dr.
Winslow's care, for his majesty was exceedingly mad at the decisive
measures of the barons, and would have been glad of an asylum where he
would have been safe from their influence.

The Oxford Parliament, which was certainly an odd compound of good and
bad, or light and dark--the regular Oxford mixture--passed some measures
of a very miscellaneous character. The annual election of a new sheriff,
and the sending to Parliament of four knights, chosen by the freeholders
in each county, were judicious steps; but in some other respects the
barons abused their power, and got a good deal of abuse themselves in
consequence. The queen's relations and the king's half-brothers were
literally scared out of the kingdom; but only to make way for the
advancement of the friends and relatives of the Mad Parliament.

Soon after it met, Richard, who had emptied his pockets in Germany,
wanted to come to England to replenish them. He was met at St. Omer by a
messenger, stating that there would be no admittance unless he complied
with the new regulations made by the barons. To this he reluctantly
consented, and he joined his brother the king, with the full intention
of organising an opposition, which he found already commenced by the
Earl of Gloucester, who had grown jealous of Leicester's influence. Even
at that early period the struggles between the "Ins and the Outs," which
form the chief business of political life, had already commenced, and
there was the same sort of shuffling from side to side, and principle to
principle, which the observer of statesmanship at the present day cannot
fail to recognise.

There was among all parties a vast protestation of regard for Magna
Charta, which served the same purpose then as has since been answered
by the British Constitution and the British lion. Henry, seeing with
delight the divisions of the barons, got a bull from the pope to serve
as a piece of india-rubber for his conscience, by rubbing out all the
oaths he had taken at Oxford.

On the 2nd of February, 1261, he announced his intention of governing
without the aid of the committee, and immediately went to the Tower,
of which he took possession. He then dropped in at the Mint, where
he emptied every till, and even waited, according to some, while a
shilling, which was in the course of manufacture, got cool in the
crucible. The Mint authorities were of course exceedingly obsequious,
and may probably have offered to send him home a batch of new pennies
that were not quite done, if his majesty desired it. "No, thank you,"
would have been Henry's reply, "I'll take what you've got;" and so he
did, for off he marched with the whole of it.

The arbitrary conduct of the barons had somewhat disgusted the people,
many of whom had discovered that one tyrant was not quite so bad as
four-and-twenty. London declared for Henry, and Leicester ran away; but
the vacillating cockneys soon declared for Leicester, which brought him
back again. The king, who had been at such pains to secure the Tower,
had the mortification to find it secured him, for he was safely locked
up in it. Prince Edward, his son, flew to Windsor Castle, and the queen,
his mother, was going down to the stairs at London Bridge to take a boat
to follow him. She had shouted "Hi!" to the jack-in-the-water, and was
stepping into a wherry, when she was recognised by the mob, who called
after her as a witch, and pelted her with mud and missiles. The Lord
Mayor, who happened to be passing, gallantly offered her his arm, walked
with her to St. Paul's, and left her in the care of the doorkeeper. This
anecdote is circumstantially given by all the chroniclers, among whom we
need only mention Wykes, West, and Trivet--the correctness of the last
being so remarkable that "right as a Trivet" is to this day a proverb.
After a prodigious quantity of quarrelling between Henry and Son on one
part, and Leicester and Co. on the other, the matters in dispute were
referred to the arbitration of the French king, Louis the Ninth, who
made an award in favour of Henry, which the barons of course refused to
abide by. A civil war broke out with great fury, in which the Jews
were victimised by both parties, though opposed to neither. They were
slaughtered by the barons for being attached to the king, and were also
slaughtered by the king's party for being attached to the barons.
If they were attached to either it certainly was one of the most
unfortunate attachments we ever heard of, and the strength of the
attachment must have been great which could have survived such horrible
treatment.

On the 14th of May, 1264, the king's party and that of Leicester met in
battle. His majesty was at Lewes, in a hollow, where he thought himself
deep enough to have got into a position of safety. The earl was upon
the Downs, which Wykes calls a "downy move," for the spot was raised and
commanded a view of the movements of the sovereign.

Leicester commenced the attack, which soon became general. Prince Edward
charged the London militia, who could have charged pretty well in return
if they been behind their counters; but they had no idea of selling
their lives at any price. They accordingly fled in all directions and
the prince paid them off all he owed them for the manner in which they
had served his mother. Leicester concentrated his force upon the king to
whom he gave personally a sound thrashing.

Having cudgelle the king to his heart's content, he took him into
custody. Prince Edward was seized, but the latter escaped on the
Thursday in Whitsun week, 1265, and raised a powerful force, with which
he marched to Evesham against his father's enemies.

Leicester had formed a camp near Kenilworth, and having got the king
still in his possession, he encased the poor old man in armour, put him
on a horse, and turned him into the field on the morning of the battle.
The veteran was soon dismounted, and was on the point of being killed,
when he roared out "Hollo! stop! I am Henry of Winchester!" His son
recognising his voice, seized him and literally bundled him into a place
of safety. "What do you do here?" muttered Edward, somewhat annoyed, but
the aged Henry could not explain a circumstance which might have played
old Harry with the cause of the Royalists. Leicester's horse fell
under him, but the earl bounding to his feet, continued to fight, until
finding the matter getting serious, he paused to inquire whether the
Royalists gave quarter. "There is no quarter for traitors," was the only
reply he received, followed by a poke in the shape of a home-thrust from
the sword of one of the enemy. Deprived of their leader, Leicester's
followers had nothing to follow, and the Royalists obtained a victory.
The king was now restored to power, but there were still a few rebels
in the forest of Hampshire, one of whom, named Adam Gourdon, came to a
personal contest with Prince Edward, who got him down, placed his
foot on his chest, and generously restored him to liberty. Gourdon was
introduced to the queen the same night as a sort of prize rebel, and
became a faithful adherent to the royal family.

Henry was now left at home all by himself, his son Edward having gone to
Palestine. The old man often wrote to request the prince to return, for
his majesty found himself unequal to the bother of ruling a people still
disposed to be occasionally turbulent. A sedition had broken out at
Norwich, which Henry had gone to quell, and he was on his way back to
London, when he was laid up at St. Edmund's Bury by indisposition. Being
considered a slight illness, it was at first slighted, but the royal
patient became worse, and he died on the 16th of November, 1272, at the
respectable age of sixty-eight, according to one historian, * sixty-four
according to a second, ** and sixty-six according to a third. *** The
last seems to be the nearest to the truth, for Henry had been a king
about fifty-six years, and he was about ten when he came to the throne.
He was buried at Westminster Abbey, where for nothing on Sundays and for
twopence on week days, posterity may see his tomb.

     * Macfarlane.

     ** Hume.

     ***Rapin.

The character of Henry the Third was an odd compound, a species of
physiological grog, a mixture of generous spirit and weak water, the
latter predominating over the former in a very considerable degree.
He was exceedingly fond of money, of which he extracted such enormous
quantities from his subjects, that if the heart and the pocket were
synonymous, as they have sometimes been called, Henry would have had
the fullest possession of the hearts of his people. His manner must have
been rather persuasive; for if the Parliament refused a subsidy at first
they were always talked over by his majesty, and made to relax their
purse-strings before the sitting closed. Some gratitude may perhaps be
due to him on account of his patronage of literature, for he started
the practice of keeping a poet, in an age when poets found considerable
difficulty in keeping themselves. The bard alluded to was one Master
Henry, who received on one occasion a hundred shillings, * and was
subsequently "ordered ten pounds;" but, considering the unpunctuality
of the king in money matters, it was doubtful whether the order for ten
pounds was ever honoured. The persecution of the Jews was among the
most remarkable features of the career of the king, who used to demand
enormous sums of them, and threatened to hang them if they refused
compliance. In this he only followed the example of his father, John,
who, it is said, demanded ten thousand marks of an unfortunate Jew, one
of whose teeth was pulled out every day, until he paid the money. It is
said by Matthew Paris ** that seven were extracted before the cash was
forthcoming. This was undoubtedly the fact, but it is not generally
known, that, with the cunning of his race, the Jew contrived to get some
advantage out of the treatment to which he was subjected. It is said
that he exclaimed, after the last operation had been performed, "They
don't know it, but them teeth was all decayed. There's not a shound
von among the lot, so I've done 'em nicely;" and with this piece of
consolation, he paid the money.

     * Madox, p. 208.

     ** Page 160.

To his reign has also been attributed the origin of the custom of
sending deputies to Parliament to represent the commons, a practice that
we find from looking over the list of the lower house, is liable to be
in some cases greatly abused. "Take him for all in all," as the poet
says, "we shall never"--that is to say, we hope we shall never--"look up
on his like again."



CHAPTER THE SECOND. EDWARD THE FIRST, SURNAMED LONGSHANKS.


[Illustration: 160]

EDWARD was the first king who came to the throne like a gentle-man,
without any of that indecent clutching of the crown and sacking of
the treasury which had been practised by almost every one of his
predecessors. Perhaps his absence from England was the chief cause of
this forbearance; but it is at all events refreshing to meet with a
sovereign whose accession was not marked by a burglary upon the premises
where the public treasure happened to be deposited.

On the 20th of November, 1272, four days after his father's death,
Edward was proclaimed king by the barons at the New Temple. It was
probably under the shade of the old fig-tree in Fig-Tree Court, that
they read his titles of King of England, Lord of Ireland, and Duke of
Aquitaine. Edward had been engaged in the crusades, as one of those
fighting missionaries who conveyed "sermons in stones" through the
medium of slings, and knocked unbelief literally upon the head with the
Christian battle-axe. One day he nearly lost his life, by the hands
of an assassin, disguised as a postman from the Emir of Jaffa, who,
feigning a wish to be converted, had opened a correspondence with
Edward.

The English prince was lying in his _robe-de-chambre_ on a couch, when
the usual salaam--the emir's postman's knock--was made at the door of
his apartment. The messenger had brought a letter, of which Edward had
scarcely broken the wax, when his doom was nearly sealed by a blow from
a dagger, hidden in the postman's sleeve. The prince parried the attack
with his arms, which were his only weapons, until, wresting the dirk
from his assailant's hands, he used it to put a period to the existence
of the would-be murderer, by a process of punctuation which no
grammarian has attempted to describe.

Edward's wound was not deep, but his enemies had been deep enough to
introduce some venom into it. When he heard the fact he gave himself
up to despair, for he considered that his existence was irretrievably
poisoned. A romantic story is told of Queen Eleanor having sucked the
poison from her husband's arm, but it is quite certain that such succour
was never afforded him, and the anecdote is therefore not worth the
straw that the operation would have required.

[Illustration: 162]

The prince owed his recovery to the prompt attendance of an English
surgeon, who happened to be settled at Acre, and to some drugs supplied
by the Grand Master of the Templars, who opened his heart and his
chest--of medicine--for the relief of the suffering Edward. There is
no doubt that Eleanor had sufficient affection for her husband, to have
prompted her to draw the poison into her mouth had it ever entered her
head; but the fact appears to be that the remedy was never thought of
until a century after the infliction of the wound, which was a little
too late to be of service to the patient, though nothing is ever too
late to be made use of by the chroniclers. The notion was too good to
be rejected by these very credulous gentlemen, who are easily induced to
convert might have been, into has been, when the latter course is better
adapted for exciting an agreeable interest.

Feeling tolerably secure of the throne, he was in no hurry to take
possession, but enjoyed an agreeable tour before returning to England.
He paid a visit to the new pope, his old friend Theobald, though there
was some difficulty in getting into Theobald's road, for his holiness
had left Rome for Civita Vecchia. Edward spent some time in Italy, for
among the many irons he had in the fire were two or three Italian irons,
which he desired to look after before arriving in his own country.
He next visited Paris, and instead of coming straight home with the
diligence that might have been expected, he turned back to Guienne,
where he was invited by the Count of Chalons to a tournament.

"'Twas in the merry month of May," in the year 1274, "When bees from
flower to flower did hum," exactly as they do in the present day, that
the parties met lance to lance, each attended by a host of champions.
Edward brought one thousand with him, but the Count of Chalons came
with two thousand, an incident which at once raised a suspicion that
the chivalrous knight intended foul play towards his royal antagonist.
A tournament in sport soon became a battle in earnest, and the count
rushed upon Edward, grasping him by the neck to embrace the opportunity
of unhorsing him. Nothing, however, could make him resign his seat, and
the Count of Chalons was soon licking the dust, or rather, the saw-dust
spread over the arena in which the tournament was given. Edward was so
angry at the trick which had been played, that he hit his antagonist
several times while down, and kept hammering at the armour of the count
like a smith at an anvil. The Count of Chalons roared out lustily for
mercy, but Edward refusing to grant it, continued to "give it him"
in another sense for several minutes. At length the count offered to
surrender his sword, which was igno-miniously rejected by the English
king, who called up a common foot soldier to take away the dishonoured
weapon.

[Illustration: 164]

It was not till the year 1274 that Edward thought of returning to
England, and he sent over to order his coronation dinner on a scale that
would have done honour to a mayoral banquet. The bill of fare included
so many heads of cattle, that the shortest way to get through the
cooking would have been to light a fire under Leadenhall Market, and
roast the whole of the contents by a single operation. If such a feast
had really taken place, it was enough to put the times out of joint for
a twelvemonth afterwards. On the 2nd of August, 1274, Edward arrived at
Dover, and on the 19th of the same month he was crowned at Westminster
Abbey, with his wife, Eleanor. This was the wonderful woman who was
erroneously alleged to have sucked the poison from her husband's arm,
a feat that has had no parallel in modern times, if we except the
individual who undertook to swallow liquid lead and arsenic before a
generous British public, and who, by surviving the operation, gave great
offence to a portion of the enlightened audience. Edward, on coming to
England, found plenty of loyalty, but very little cash; and though
he had no objection to reign in the hearts of his people, he felt
the necessity of making himself also master of their pockets. A crown
without money would have been a mere tin kettle, tied to the head,
instead of the tail, of the unlucky dog who might be compelled to wear
it.

The king turned his attention to the unfortunate Jews, who seemed to be
tolerated in England as human bees, employed in collecting the sweets
of wealth only for the purpose of having it taken away from them. Edward
literally emptied them out of the kingdom, for the purpose of plundering
their hives more effectually. He allowed some of them their travelling
expenses out of England, but even this was more than they required in
many cases, for the inhabitants of the ports saved the Jews the cost of
their journey by most inhumanly drowning them.

Edward, however unjust himself, disliked injustice in others; and
indeed, with the common jealousy of dealers on a very large scale, he
seemed to desire a monopoly of all the robbery and oppression practised
within his own dominions. In the year 1289, the judicial bench was
disgraced by a set of extortioners whose existence we can scarcely
comprehend in the present age, when a corrupt judge would be as
difficult to find as the philosopher's stone, or as that desirable but
impossible boon to the briefless barrister, perpetual motion. The Chief
Justice of the King's Bench had actually encouraged his own servants
to commit murder, for the sake of the fees that would accrue upon the
trial, and, of course, the acquittal of the culprits. The Chief Baron
of-the Exchequer had kept all the money paid into court upon every
action that had been tried, and was even discovered going disgraceful
snacks with the usher in illegal charges upon suitors. As to the
puisnes, they had been detected in selling their judgments _in banco_ at
so much a folio, and even hiring pickpockets to rob the leading
counsel as they went out of court with their fees in their pockets. The
Chancellor had spent the money of nearly all his wards, and would never
fix a day for a decree until he was positively forced, when he would
pronounce a decision unintelligible to all parties. These disgraceful
proceedings were made a pretext by the king for taking eighty thousand
marks from the judges, his majesty observing, that if he took from them
all the marks they possessed, he could not remove the stains from their
characters. This shallow sophism, though it might have satisfied the
king himself, was not consolatory to the judges, nor was it calculated
to reimburse the people for the losses sustained by judicial
delinquency. It is said that the first clock placed opposite the gate of
Westminster Hall was purchased with a fine of eight hundred marks upon
the Chief Justice of the King's Bench, and the popular saying "that's
your time of day" is supposed to have arisen from a sarcasm that used to
be addressed by the crowd outside to the judicial delinquent.

As a measure of further extortion, Edward became suddenly very
particular as to the titles by which the nobles held their estates, and
sent round commissioners to demand the production of the deeds by which
the barons acquired their property. Earl de Warenne was called upon
among the rest, and desired that the commissioners might be politely
shown in to him. "So, gentlemen," he mildly observed, "you wish to see
the title by which I hold my property."

"Exactly so," was the reply, which was followed by a commonplace
expression of sorrow at being obliged to trouble him, "It is no trouble
in the least," rejoined Earl de Warenne, drawing a tremendous sword,
which he brandished before the eyes of the commissioners, and begged
their close inspection of the title by which his ancestors had acquired
his possessions.

[Illustration: 166]

"You see, gentlemen," he continued, "there is no flaw to be detected,
and if after looking at my title you want a specimen of my deeds, I can
very speedily give you the satisfaction you require." The historian need
scarcely add that the commissioners backed out, with an observation,
"that a mere abstract of the title--a drawing of the sword out of its
scabbard--was all that could possibly be required." Edward having other
fish to fry, had hitherto neglected Wales, but that land of mountains
was a scene of frequent risings, which he now determined to "put down"
with promptitude and vigour. Llewellyn, the Prince of North Wales, was
summoned to London to do homage as a tributary to the English crown, but
his ambition having been fired by some prophecies of the famous Merlin,
the fiery Welshman sent word that he would not come so far to see
Edward, which was equivalent to a declaration that he would see him
further. The English king having resolved to punish so much insolence,
about Easter, 1277, crossed the Dee--not the sea, as some historians
have alleged--with a large army and blocked poor Llewellyn up in his own
principality. His brother David having been made an English baron, and
married to the daughter of an English earl, was at first devoted to
the English, but his native breezes fanned the still dormant flame of
patriotism, and he joined his brother in resisting the foreign enemy.
Edward occupied Anglesey, but in crossing over to the mainland he found
himself in the most dreadful straits at the Menai. He lost several
hundred men, and was obliged to fly for protection to one of his
castles, but a king in those days could make every Englishman's house
his castle, by unceremoniously walking into it. Llewellyn was somewhat
emboldened by partial success, and foolishly advanced to the valley of
the Wye, without anyone knowing wherefore. Roger, the savage Earl of
Mortimer, was immediately down upon him, and sacrificed him before he
had time even to put on his armour, in which he was only half encased
when he was cruelly set upon by the enemy. He had buckled on his
greaves, and was in the act of putting on his breast-plate over his head
when he was decapitated with the usual disregard which was at that
time continually shown to the heads of families. His brother David kept
cutting about the country with his sword in his hand for at least six
months, until he was basely betrayed into the hands of the English. He
was condemned to die the death of traitors, which included a series
of barbarities too revolting to mention. This sentence, which formed a
precedent in the punishment of high treason for many ages, is one of
the most disgraceful facts of our history. It casts a stigma upon every
Parliament and every generation of the people in whose time this fearful
penalty either was or might have been inflicted.

The leek of Wales was now entwined with the rose of England, and Edward
endeavoured to propitiate his newly acquired subjects by becoming a
resident in the conquered country. His wife Eleanor gave birth to a son
in the castle of Caernarvon, and he availed himself of the circumstance
to introduce the infant as a native production, giving him the title of
Prince of Wales, which has ever since been held by the eldest son of the
English sovereign.

[Illustration: 168]

After remaining about a year in Wales, Edward was enabled by the
tranquillity of the kingdom to take a Continental tour, in the course of
which he was often appealed to as a mutual friend by sovereigns between
whom there was any difference. He acted as arbitrator in the celebrated
cause of Anjou against Aragon; but while settling the affairs of others,
his own were getting rather embarrassed, and he was compelled in the
year 1289 to return to England.

Upon reaching home he found that Scotland was in that state of weakness
which offered an eligible opportunity to a royal plunderer. The king,
Alexander the Third, had died, leaving a little grandchild of the name
of Margaret, as his successor. This young lady was the daughter of Eric,
king of Norway, who wrote over to Edward, requesting he would do what
he could for her in case of her title being disputed. The English
sovereign, with a cunning worthy of a certain French old gentleman whom
we need not name, recommended a marriage with his son as the best mode
of protecting the royal damsel. The preliminaries were all arranged, and
Eric had agreed to forward the little Margaret, who was only eight years
of age, by the first boat from Norway to Britain. The child had been
shipped and regularly invoiced, when she fell ill, and being put ashore
at one of the Orkney Islands, she unfortunately died.

On the death of the queen being made known, claimants to the Scottish
crown started up in all directions, and it was necessary to find the
heir by hunting among the descendants of David of Huntingdon. John
Baliol was the grandson of David's eldest daughter, and John's
grandmother therefore gave Baliol a right to the crown, which was
disputed by Bruce and Hastings, the sons of the youngest daughters
of Huntingdon senior, whose only son, Huntingdon junior, died without
issue. An opening was thus left to the female tranches, and the
introduction of those charming elements of discord--the ladies--into
the question of succession, created, of course, all the confusion that
arose.

Edward, having advanced to Norham, a small town on the English side of
the Tweed, which, as everyone knows, forms a kind of Tweedish wrapper
for Scotland, appointed a conference, which took place on the 10th of
May, 1291, at which he distinctly stated that he intended regulating the
succession to the Scotch throne. At this meeting Edward himself proposed
the first resolution, which pledged the assembly to a recognition of the
right of the English king not only to do what he liked with his own, but
to do what he liked with Scotland also, which did not belong to him. One
gentleman, in the body of the assembly, who remains anonymous to this
day, ventured to suggest by way of amendment, that no answer could be
made while the throne was vacant, and an adjournment until the next
morning was agreed upon. No business was, however, done on the morrow,
but a further postponement till the 2nd of June was eventually
carried. When that day arrived the attendance was numerous and highly
respectable, for on the platform we might have observed no less
than eight competitors for the crown. Robert Bruce, who was there in
excellent health and spirits, publicly declared his readiness to refer
his claims to Edward's arbitration, and all the other claimants did
the same. On the next day, Baliol made his appearance and followed
the example of the others, and it was agreed that one hundred and
four commissioners should be appointed to inquire and report to Edward
previous to his giving his final award. There is little doubt that
this enormous number of commissioners could only have been intended to
mystify the case, and to leave Edward at liberty to settle it his own
way; a suspicion that is still further justified by his having reserved
the right to add, without any limit or restriction, to the number
of commissioners, and thus make "confusion worse confounded" should
occasion require.

The wily Edward, pretending that it was necessary to the performance of
his duty as arbitrator, got the kingdom, the castles, and other property
surrendered into his hands on the 11th of June; though the Earl of Angus
refused to give up Dundee and Forfar without an indemnity, which he
stoutly stuck up for, and eventually obtained. None of the clergy joined
in this disgraceful concession but the Bishop of Sodor, who ought to
have been the very first to effervesce. The king himself went to the
principal towns in Scotland with the rolls of homage, which were
allowed to lie for signature, and he sent attorneys, empowered to take
affidavits, into the various villages.

At length, on the 3rd of August, the commissioners met for the despatch
of business, and, of course, came to no decision. In the year following
they tackled the subject again, but it was found that the more they
talked about it, the more they differed. Edward, by way of complicating
the affair still further, summoned a Parliament to meet at Berwick on
the 15th of October, 1292, at which Bruce and Baliol were fully heard,
when the assembly laid down a general proposition that the lineal
descendant of the eldest sister, however remote in degree, was
preferable to the nearer in degree, if descended from a younger sister.
This decision left everything undecided, and accordingly Edward gave
judgment that Baliol should be king of Scotland, with the simple proviso
that Edward should be king of Baliol. The whole affair having been "a
sell" got up between the English sovereign and the Scottish claimant,
there was no demur on the part of the latter, who swore fealty, as he
would have sworn that black was white, had such been the purport of the
oath that his master required.

Edward took every opportunity of bullying Baliol, and even ordered him
to come all the way to Westminster to defend an action brought against
him for money due from Alexander the Third, his greatgrandfather. He was
also served with process in the paltry suit of self _ats_ Macduff;
and other writs, to which he was forced to appear in person, were
continually served upon him. For the smallest pecuniary claim the Scotch
king was compelled to come to England to plead, until his patience at
last gave way, and he turned refractory.

Edward was now at war with Philip of France, whom Baliol agreed to serve
by harassing their mutual enemy. The Scotch king, who was at heart a
humbug and a coward to the core, became exceedingly insolent, from the
belief that Edward was somewhat down, and the proper time had arrived
for hitting him. The English sovereign, who had been harassed at
first by the Scotch cur, soon brought him howling for mercy, which was
accorded on condition of his resigning the kingly office, a proposition
which Baliol basely submitted to. Edward made a triumphal progress
through Scotland, and taking a fancy to an old stone, upon which the
kings had sat to be crowned at Scone, caused the very uncomfortable
coronation chair to be removed to Westminster. * The people of Scotland
had always considered this block to be the corner-stone of their
liberties, and its removal seemed to take away the only foundation that
their hopes of regaining their independence were built upon. As long as
it was in their country, they believed it would bring them good fortune;
but they dreaded the reverse if the stone should be removed even so far
as a stone's throw from the borders of Scotland. Edward having appointed
the Earl de Warenne governor of the vanquished kingdom, and given away
all the appointments that were vacant to creatures of his own, returned
in triumph to England.

     * Hemingford.

In the year 1297 William Wallace, commonly known as the hero of
Scotland, made his first appearance on the stage of history as a
supernumerary, carrying a banner, for we find him engaged in unfurling
the standard of liberty. He was at first merely the captain of a small
band of outlaws--a sort of first robber--in the great drama in which he
was soon to sustain a principal character. He was the second son of
Sir William Wallace, of Ellerslie, and had all the qualities of a
melodramatic hero, so far at least as we are enabled to judge by a
description of him written a hundred years after his death with that
minuteness which the old chroniclers were so fond of adopting when they
knew that no one had the power of contradicting them. The celebrated
Bower, who continued the Scotichronicon of Fordun, tells us that Wallace
was "broad-shouldered, big-boned, and proportionately corpulent," so
that his shoulders were broad enough to bear the burden he undertook;
and his being corpulent gave him this advantage over his enemies, that
if they had fifty thousand lives, he had undoubtedly "stomach for them
all."

[Illustration: 171]

Mr. Tytler, who will perhaps excuse us for venturing on Tytler's ground,
informs us in his History of Scotland that "Wallace had an iron frame,"
so that we have the picture of the man at once before us. For a quarrel
with an English officer he had been banished from his home, and by
living in fastnesses he acquired some of those loosenesses which are
inseparable from a roving character. His followers comprised a few men
of desperate fortunes and bad reputation, who had turned patriots, as
gentlemen in difficulties generally do; for it is a remarkable fact,
that the men who endeavour to discharge a debt to their country are
those who never think of discharging the debts which they owe to their
creditors. Success, however, covers a multitude of sins, and Wallace
with his little band of outlaws, having achieved one or two small
triumphs, soon found out the fact that the world which sneers at the
very noblest cause in its early struggles, will always be ready to
join it in the moment of victory. Wallace having been fortunate in his
efforts, soon had the co-operation of Sir William Douglas and all his
vassals; just as Mr. Cobden and the Anti-Corn-Law League, after
having been denounced as turbulent demagogues, and threatened with
prosecution, were assisted on the eve of the fulfilment of their object
by the leaders of the Opposition and the principal members of the
Government.

Edward, who had been in Flanders during the commencement of the Scotch
rebellion, now returned to England, and by way of propitiating his
subjects, he summoned a Parliament, at which Magna Charta was again
voluntarily confirmed. It is true he made a cunning effort to insert at
the end of it the words "saving always the rights of our crown," * which
would have been almost equivalent to striking out all the other clauses
of the document. The Parliament hotly opposed the crafty suggestion,
which was accordingly withdrawn, and supplies for carrying on the war
against the Scotch insurgents were readily granted. In the summer of
1298, Edward came in person to Scotland at the head of a large army.
Wallace, instead of waiting for a battle, retired slowly before the
forces of the English king, clearing off all the provisions on the
way, and thus aiming a blow at the stomach of the enemy. The invaders
advanced, but there was nothing to eat; or as Mr. Tyler well expresses
it, "they found an inhospitable desert" where--he might have added--they
had occasion for a hospitable dinner. Wallace was now at Falkirk, from
which he meditated an attack upon the king, but Edward, having been
apprised of his intention, reflected that it was a game at which two
could play, and he thought it as well to secure the first innings.
The English king accordingly, finding the ball at his foot, took it up
immediately, and at once bowled out the Scottish hero. The battle of
Falkirk, was fought on the 22nd of July, 1298, and the Scotch loss is
variously stated at ten, fifteen, and sixty thousand men. In ordinary
matters it is sometimes safe to believe half that we hear, but it would
be more judicious to limit one's trust to ten per cent, in the records
of history.

     * Rapin, vol. iii., p. 72, second edition, quarto, 1727.

The Scotch war had of course been a very expensive business, and Edward
had been sponging upon his subjects to an alarming extent during its
continuance. In 1294 he had taken from the clergy half their incomes and
nearly all their eatables. His purveyors first emptied their granaries,
then robbed their farm-yards and ultimately pillaged their pantries;
so that the king having already ransacked their pockets, the "reverend
fathers," as he insultingly termed them, were in a very pretty
predicament. Their larders were laid waste, their safes were no longer
safe, they could not preserve their jam, their corn was instantly
sacked, and even their joints of meat, from the leg to the loin, were
walked off or pur-loined by the order of the sovereign. The pope, who
had been applied to for protection when they were being deprived of
their cattle, sent over a bull, which proved of very little use, for
he soon despatched a second, by which the first was recalled in all its
most important provisions.

The trading classes were not so easily robbed, for when the king began
to deal with them in his own peculiar fashion, he found them rather
awkward customers. Some wool had been prepared for shipping by the
London merchants, when the king's agents came woolgathering to
the wharfs, and carried it off with a high hand for the use of the
sovereign. It is true they promised to pay, and ordered the owners to
put it down to the bill; but the traders determined that they could not
do business in that manner. They were joined by some of the nobles, and
among others by Hereford, the constable, and Norfolk, the marshal of
England, who had a joint audience of his majesty, who threatened to hang
them if they did not do his bidding. "I will neither do so, nor hang,
sir king," was Norfolk's reply, in which Hereford acquiesced; so that it
was evident Edward could neither trample on the marshal, nor any longer
overrun the constable. Thirty bannerets and fifteen hundred gentlemen
whom the king had dubbed knights joined the two nobles in their refusal
to dub up, * and Edward was left almost alone. In this dilemma he
appealed to the people by the old trick of an effective speech,
interlarded with those clap-traps which he knew so well how to employ.
He caused a platform to be erected at the door of Westminster Hall,
and appeared upon it, supported by his son Edward, the Archbishop of
Canterbury, and the Earl of Warwick. Like the schoolmaster who never
administered a flogging without saying it hurt him a great deal more
than the boy, the king told the people that it was more grievous to him
to exact taxes from his dear people than it could be to them to bear the
burden. "I am going," he exclaimed, "to expose myself to all the dangers
of war for your sakes," and here he pulled out his pocket-handkerchief,
behind which he winked at the Archbishop of Canterbury, who thrust his
tongue into his cheek to show the prelate's relish for his master's
hypocrisy.

     * Heming.

"If I return alive," continued the royal humbug, "I will make you amends
for the past; but if I fall, here is my dear son (step this way, Ned),
place him on the throne (hold your head up, stupid), and his gratitude
(bow, you blockhead) will be the reward of your fidelity." Here he
fairly swamped his face in tears, while the archbishop turned on a
couple of fountains, which came gushing through his eyes, and the
meeting was literally dissolved by the practice of this piece of crying
injustice towards the people. Not only had he melted the hearts of
the traders by this manouvre, but he drew streams of coin for the
liquidation of his debts from their pockets. With the cash thus
collected he started to join Guy, Earl of Flanders, against Philip le
Bel, a very pretty sort of fellow, between whom and Edward there was
a contest for the possession of the daughter of the Guy, the fair
Philippa. The English king had, as early as 1294, contracted a marriage
for the Prince of Wales with this young lady, who was only nine when
the match was agreed upon. The happiness of the Flemish infant of course
went for nothing in the game of craft and ambition which was being
played by the intriguing French king, who had no other object but the
extension of his personal influence. Though he may have been the first,
he was certainly not the last Philip on the throne of France to force
the inclinations of royal children on the subject of marriage for his
own purposes.

Edward the Fourth had expended a large amount of English money in
purchasing the support of foreign mercenaries, who had no sooner spent
their wages than they discontinued their services. The English king,
finding he was likely to get the worst of it, concluded a truce in the
spring of 1298, and left the unfortunate Guy to fight his own battles.

[Illustration: 174]

Before Edward's return home, the London citizens refused to pay the
taxes, on the ground of their not having been imposed by the consent of
Parliament. Many a tax-gatherer lost his time and his temper in going
from door to door, and was told, tauntingly, to collect himself, when
he sought to collect money for the royal treasury. The king, who was
at Ghent, tried the never-failing experiment of another confirmation of
Magna Charta, with the addition of what he called--in a private letter
to his son--"a little one in," namely, a confirmation of the Statute _de
Tallagio non concedendo_, which was an act declaring that no talliage or
aid should be levied without the consent of the Parliament. This was the
first occasion upon which the nation was formally invested with the sole
right of raising the supplies, but the investment, after all, was not
particularly eligible, as the sole right of raising the supplies
carries with it the sole duty of finding the money. Not content with his
confirmation of the charter, Edward, in May, 1298, was called upon
to ratify, at York, the confirmation itself, and thus spread with
additional butter the constitutional bacon. This he for some time
evaded by a series of paltry excuses, in which "head-ache," "previous
engagement," and "out of town," were pleaded from time to time, until
the barons, by following him up, got him into a _cul de sac_ from which
there was no escaping. He consented at last to ratify, but, in the most
dishonourable manner, he contrived while signing to smuggle in a clause
at the end, which, by saving the right of the Crown, rendered the whole
document a wretched nullity. This was a trick he was much addicted
to, for he had tried the paltry subterfuge on a previous occasion. The
barons, when they saw the addition, merely shook their heads, murmured
something about "a do," and returned to their homes; but Edward thought
he should find no difficulty in coming over the citizens. He accordingly
called a meeting in St. Paul's Churchyard, when the confirmation was
read over, amid cheers, and cries of "Hear" at the end of every clause,
until the last, when the shouts of "Shame!" "No, no!" "It's a dead
swindle!" and "Don't you wish you may get it?" became truly terrible.
Edward retained his usual self-possession during the meeting, but
expressed, in side speeches to his attendants, his fears that the
citizens were not such fools as he had taken them for. Making a virtue
of necessity--though, by the way, virtues made out of that material very
seldom appear to fit, but sit very awkwardly on the wearer--he withdrew
the offensive clause at a Parliament that was held soon after Easter.

Edward and Philip, finding it convenient to make up their differences,
threw overboard their respective allies, the French king giving up the
Scots, and the English sovereign completely sacrificing the poor old
Guy of Flanders. This earl has got the name of the Unfortunate, but he
better deserves the title of the soft Guy, the silly Guy, or the Guy
that, if there happened to be a difficulty within his reach, was sure to
blunder into it. He had twice been fool enough to accept an invitation
from Philip, and had twice been detained as a prisoner. We therefore
have little sympathy with him when we hear of his being deserted by
Edward; for "the man who" will continually run his head into a noose,
must expect to find the stringency of the string at some time or
another.

Peace was made between the French and English kings by means of two
marriages; but it seems rash to calculate upon matrimony as a source of
quietude. Edward, who was a widower, married Philip's sister, Margaret,
and the Prince of Wales was affianced to little Isabella, aged only
six years, the daughter of the French sovereign. A treaty was concluded
between the two countries on the 20th of May, 1303, by which Edward
took Guienne, and gave up Flanders. The unhappy Guy was sent thither to
negotiate a peace with his own subjects, but, like everything else he
undertook, the poor old man made a sad mess of it. Returning to Philip
with the news of his failure, he was committed to prison, which really,
considering all things, seems to have been the best place for him. He
was, at all events, out of harm's way, and prevented from doing mischief
to himself and others by his provoking stupidity. He remained in custody
till he died, but it was said of him by a contemporary that he was never
known to "look alive" during the whole of his existence.

Edward, having settled his dispute with France, had time to turn his
attention to Scotland, which had always been his "great difficulty," as
Ireland became the "great difficulty" to England at a later period. The
English king advanced against the Scotch in a sort of hop-scotch style,
first making for the North, then returning to the South, or going to
the East, in a zig-zag direction. The Scots soon surrendered, and were
allowed to go scot-free, with a very few exceptions. Stirling Castle
proved itself possessed of sterling qualities. It held out against the
besiegers with determined obstinacy, and Edward himself came to assist
by throwing stones, which caused the remark to be made that the king had
been brought to a very pretty pitch through the audacity of the Scotch
rebels. When the provisions were exhausted, the garrison made an
unprovisional surrender, and the governor gave out that he gave in, with
all his companions. Wallace, having been betrayed into Edward's power,
was cruelly murdered; but within six months of his death, Liberty, like
a new-born infant, was in arms once more in Scotland. Robert Bruce,
the grandson of old Bruce, was the new champion of his native land, and
intrusted his scheme to Comyn. The latter proved treacherous, and Bruce,
seeing what was Comyn, or rather, what Comyn was, killed him right off
out of the way, in a convent at Dumfries. Young Bruce having mustered
a party of about a dozen friends, took an excursion with them to Scone,
where, in the course of a kind of picnic party, he was crowned on the
27th of March, 1306, with some solemnity. Edward was at Winchester when
he heard the news, and, though very far from well, he determined on
being carried to Scotland. Like John, who had been dragged about the
country in a horse-box till within a few hours of his death, Edward was
packed on a litter and conveyed with care to Carlisle, whence he wished
to be forwarded to Scotland. Making a desperate effort, he mounted his
horse, and went six miles in four days, a pace which could only have
been performed by an equestrian prodigy; for the slowest animal, unless
he were a determined jibber, could scarcely have accomplished a task so
difficult. * This anything but "rapid act of horsemanship" was the last
act of Edward's reign, for having got to Burgh upon the Sands, he found
the sand of his existence had run out, on the 7th of July, 1307. He had
lived sixty-eight years, and had reigned during half that time; so that
for him the stream of life had been a sort of half and half--an equal
mixture--crowned by a frothy, foamy diadem. His remains were, some short
time afterwards, sent to Westminster, _via_ Waltham, and were buried on
the 8th of October, with those of his father Henry.

     * It is possible that the horse hired by the king on this
     occasion may have been accustomed to draw a fly, the owner
     of which may have been in the habit of charging by the hour.

The character of Edward has been generally praised, but we are compelled
to tender a bill of exceptions to the report of previous historians.
He certainly added to his dominions, but if this is a merit, it may
be claimed for any man who, by fraud or violence, increases his own
property at the expense of his neighbours. The improvements effected in
his reign were rather in spite of him than owing to his sense of justice
or his liberality. He had the talent of talking people out of
their money, but this quality he has only shared with many equally
accomplished, but less exalted, swindlers. His attempt to smuggle a
clause into Magna Charta, before the face of the citizens, was an act
calculated to ruin him in the City, where putting one's hand to paper
is a proceeding that must not be trifled with. His treatment of Wallace
proves him to have been a cruel and vindictive enemy; his abandonment of
the poor Earl of Flanders shows that he was an insincere and treacherous
friend: he was constant to his hatreds, and fickle in his likings:
his animosity had the strength of fire, but in him the milk of human
kindness was greatly diluted with water. He made some good laws, such as
the statute of mortmain, which was first passed in his reign, but so far
from there being any truth in the proverb, _necessitas non habet legem_,
it is certain that necessity produced nearly every good law that Edward
gave to his people.

In person, he was a head taller than the ordinary size, with black hair
that curled naturally, and eyes that matched the hair in colour. *
His legs were too long in proportion to his body, which gained him the
nickname of Longshanks, though it would have been more respectful to
have called him Daddy Long-legs, in allusion to his being the father of
his people.

He observed the outward decencies of life, but in this he evinced the
strength of his hypocrisy rather than the extent of his morality. It may
be worthy of remark, that the title of baron, which had hitherto been
common to all gentlemen who held lands of the crown, was in this reign
restricted to those whom the king called to Parliament. ** During the
monarchy of Edward, Roger Bacon lived and died; but as we have already
expressed our antipathy to putting butter upon Bacon, we refrain from
any eulogy upon that illustrious character.

     * Rapin, vol. iii., p. 88.

     ** The last of the Non-Parliamentary barons is the well-
     known Baron Nathan of Kennington. He still claims a seat
     among the Piers of Gravesend and Rosherrille.



CHAPTER THE THIRD. EDWARD THE SECOND, SURNAMED OF CAERNARVON.


[Illustration: 177]

EDWARD the Second was, in common phraseology, a very nice young man when
he came to the throne, being twenty-three years of age, and tolerably
good-looking, though he turned out eventually, according to one of the
chroniclers of the times, "a very ugly customer." His first step on
coming to the throne was to send for a scamp named Piers Gaveston, a
Gascon youth who was full of gasconade, and had been sent out of England
by the late king as an improper character. Young Edward, who had been
much attached to this early specimen of the gent., recalled Piers
Gaveston, and made him a nobleman by creating him Duke of Cornwall,
but never succeeded in making him a gentleman. This step was in direct
violation of a solemn promise to Edward the First, who had warned his
son against Gaveston, as a bad young man and by no means a desirable
acquaintance for an English sovereign. Directly Piers arrived, he
and his young master began to play all sorts of tricks and, by way
of change, dismissed the Chancellor, the Treasurer, the Barons of the
Exchequer, and all the Judges. The whole of the judicial staff of the
kingdom being thrown out of employ, a panic was created in all the
courts, and some of their lordships, being unable to meet the demands
upon them, were compelled to go to prison. Many were stripped of all
their property by the king, at the instigation of Gaveston, and the
Chancellor not only lost the seals, but nis watch, and a number of other
articles of value. Edward and his friend were determined to pay off
those who had been instrumental to the latter's disgrace, ana among
others, Langton, the Bishop of Lichfield, was put into solitary
confinement, no one being allowed to speak to him, so that the
unfortunate Lichfield found him-self literally sent to Coventry.
Gaveston, who was a dashing young spark, nearly sent England in a blaze
by his return, for he was very far from popular. He could dance and
sing, was passionately fond of bagatelle, and as to wine, when he took
it into his head he could always drink his bottle.

Edward went over to Boulogne, in January, 1308, to get married to
Isabella, the daughter of the king of France, and left Gaveston regent
of the kingdom. His majesty soon got tired of a French watering-place,
and returned to England for his coronation, which took place on the
24th of February, at Westminster. All the honours were showered upon
Gaveston, and instead of giving the perquisites to the proper officers,
the king handed them over, one by one, to the favourite. "Put that in
your pocket, Piers, my boy," exclaimed Edward, as he transferred to his
disreputable friend each article that some officer of state was entitled
to. The English nobility, as they saw everything passing into the hands
of the Gascon, could only murmur to each other, "What a shame!"

"That's mine, by rights!" and "Well, I never! Did you ever?" But the
Bishop of Winchester gave his majesty a dose, by mixing up a pretty
strong oath and making him swallow every word of it. He undertook of
course to confirm the Charter, which really becomes quite a bore to the
historian, who cannot help feeling something of the satiety induced by
_toujours perdrix_, and he draws the humiliating conclusion that his
countrymen, having got hold of a good thing, never knew when they had
had enough of it. Gaveston's conduct became so overbearing, that a
regular British cry of "Turn him out!" resounded from one end of the
kingdom to the other. Englishmen seldom do things by halves, and having
once raised a shout, they did not desist from it, but to the howl of
"Turn him out," they added a demand for the sovereign to "Throw him
over!" With this requisition Edward reluctantly complied, and Gaveston
was expelled from England; but only to be made Governor of Ireland,
until the king could get the permission of the barons to allow the
favourite to come back again. This, with their usual imbecility, they
speedily agreed to, and Piers soon returned to the court, which he
filled with buffoons and parasites. Any mountebank who could make a
fool of himself was sure of an engagement at the palace. The king's
horse-collars were worn out with being grinned through, and the family
circle of royalty was never without a clown to the ring, under the
management of Piers Gaveston. The favourite himself became so arrogant
that he would dress himself up in the royal jewels, * wearing the crown
instead of his own hat, and turning the sceptre into a walking-stick.

     * _Il joignoit à cela une vanité ridicule, en effectant de
     porter sur sa personne les joyaux du Roi et delà couronne me
     me_.--Rapin, vol. iii., p. 94.


[Illustration: 179]

Edward, being in want of supplies, called a Parliament in 1309, but the
Parliament would not come, which caused him to call again; and the more
he kept on calling the more they kept on not coming, until the month of
March, 1310, when they came in arms, for they were determined no longer
to submit to Gaveston's insolence. He had offended their order by giving
them all sorts of nicknames, which are less remarkable for their wit
than their coarseness. He called the Earl of Lancaster an old hog, or,
perhaps, a dreadful bore; to Warwick he gave the name of the Black Dog,
in reply, perhaps, to an insinuation that he, Gaveston, was a puppy; and
the Earl of Pembroke was alliteratively alluded to as "Joe the Jew," *
by the abusive but not very facetious favourite.

In August, 1311, Edward met the barons at Westminster. Their lordships
would seem to have all got out of bed on the wrong side on the morning
of the assembly, for their surliness and ill-temper were utterly
unparalleled. They prepared forty-one articles, to which they insisted
on having the consent of his majesty. Of course, in the catalogue of
claims our old friend Magna Charta was not forgotten. This glorious
instrument of our early liberties, was once more touched up, and a new
clause introduced, which imparted freshness to the document. It provided
"that the king should hold a Parliament once a year, or twice if need
be," as if the barons had been impressed with the idea that "the more
the merrier" was a sound maxim of politics. The banishment of Gaveston
was, however, the grand desideratum, and this was at length consented
to by Edward, who on the 1st of November, 1311, took leave of
the favourite. His majesty retired to York, but soon began to ask
himself--"What's this dull town to me?" in the absence of Piers, who,
in less than two months, was again sharing the dissipations of his
sovereign. The royal party had gone for a change to Newcastle, when
the cry of "somebody coming" disturbed the revels of the king and
his courtiers. This unwelcome "somebody" was no less a personage than
Edward's cousin, the Earl of Lancaster, who had arrived with a few
barons for the purpose of, as they said, "giving it" to Gaveston. The
king and the favourite escaped from Newcastle in a ship--probably a
collier--but the sovereign was heartless enough to leave his wife behind
him with the utmost indifference. It was _sauve qui peut_ with the whole
court, and the queen was lost in the general scamper. The favourite,
after running as hard as he could, threw himself, quite out of breath,
into Scarborough Castle, which was strong in everything but eatables,
for the supply of provisions was perfectly contemptible. Piers Gaveston,
who had never been accustomed to short commons, went to the window of
the castle, and calling out to the Earl of Pembroke, who was waiting
outside, proposed to capitulate. "Can we come to any terms?" cried
Piers; but the earl would at first hear of nothing short of an
unconditional surrender.

[Illustration: 181]

After some parleying, Pembroke exclaimed, "I'll tell you what I'll do
for you. If you choose to place yourself in my hands, I'll promise to
take you to your own castle at Wallingford."

"You're not joking?" cried Gaveston, as he looked through the rusty bars
of the fortress. "Honour bright," was the substance of the earl's
reply, and Piers put himself at once into the hands of Pembroke. It was
arranged that the king should meet the favourite at Wallingford; but one
morning, on the road, he was ordered out of bed at an unusually early
hour, when whom should he see, upon going downstairs, but the grim Earl
of Warwick! Gaveston began to feel that it was all up with him. Putting
him on a mule, they conveyed him to Warwick Castle, where a hurried
council was got up--the Duke of Lancaster in the chair--for his trial.
He was, of course, condemned, when he threw himself for pardon at the
feet of Lancaster, who kicked him aside, and all the rest gave him a
lesson on the Lancastrian system by a similar indignity. A proposition
was made in the body of the hall to spare his life, but somebody
exclaimed that "Gaveston had been the cause of all their difficulties,
and that, when a difficulty came in the way, the best plan was to
break the neck of it." The stem justice of this remark was instantly
acknowledged, and amid savage cries of "Bring him along!" they dragged
the favourite off to Blacklow Hill, where, by removing his head from his
shoulders, they made what may be called short work of him. Upon hearing
the news, the king cried for grief and then cried for vengeance. After
reconciling himself to his loss, he reconciled himself to the barons,
and the double reconciliation was greatly assisted by the barons
having given up to him (a.d. 1313) the plate and jewels of the deceased
favourite.

Edward, on looking round him, found that the "Scots whom Bruce had often
led" were making considerable progress. The English king at once ordered
an army to meet him at Berwick, and by a given day one hundred thousand
men had assembled. Bruce had got scarcely forty thousand, so that the
chances were more than two to one against him. He took them into a field
near Bannockburn, and spread them out so as to make the very most of
them. On Sunday, the 23rd of June, 1314, Edward and his army came
in sight. After some desultory fighting, the monotony of the day's
proceedings was relieved by a somewhat curious incident. Bruce, who
seems to have been rather eccentric in his turn-out, was riding on a
little bit of a pony, quite under the duty imposed upon it, in front of
his troops. He wore upon his head a skullcap, over that a steel helmet,
and over that a crown of gold, while in his hand he carried an enormous
battle-axe. He and his Shetland were frisking about, when an English
knight, one Henry de Bohun, or Boone, came galloping down, armed at all
points, upon a magnificent British dray-horse. Bruce, instead of getting
out of the way, entered into the unequal combat amid cries of "Go it,
Bob!" from his own followers. He instantly fell upon and felled to
the earth the English knight, amid the acclamations of the surrounding
soldiers. The battle was very vigorously fought on both sides, and
victory seemed doubtful, when suddenly there appeared on a hill, at the
back of the Scotch, an immense crowd that looked like a new army.
The group, in reality, consisted of nothing but a mob of suttlers
and camp-followers, who had been kept back by Bruce to look like a
tremendous reserve, and who might be called the heavy scarecrows of the
Scotch army. The plan succeeded admirably, for although the English did
not receive a single blow, they were completely panic-struck, which had
the same effect as the severest beating. They fled in all directions,
with the Scotch in hot pursuit; and it is said that Edward himself had
to run for it as far as Dunbar, a distance of sixty miles, with the
enemy after him.

According to the Scotch historians, the results of this victory were
truly marvellous, for the number of prisoners alleged to have been taken
is actually greater than the number of the combatants. The chariots and
waggons, it is also said, would have extended for many leagues, if drawn
up into a line; but this is merely one of those lengths which are too
frequently gone to by the old chroniclers. Though it is impossible that
the Scotch could have killed fifty thousand, and made double the number
of prisoners out of one hundred thousand men (unless they manufactured
fifty thousand additional foes as readily as Vauxhall can put forth its
fifty thousand additional lamps), it is, nevertheless, certain that on
this occasion England experienced the severest defeat it had encountered
since the establishment of the monarchy. Such was the effect created by
the battle of Bannockburn, that for some time after three Scotchmen were
considered equivalent to a hundred Englishmen. There is every reason
to believe that the Scotch were exceedingly vigorous in coming to the
scratch at that early period.

Encouraged by the success of his brother Robert in Scotland, Edward
Bruce thought that the crown of Ireland was a little matter that would
just suit him, and he accordingly passed over to the Green Isle, in the
hope of finding it green enough to accept him as its sovereign. He
was, for a time, successful in his project, and was actually crowned
at Carrickfergus on the 2nd of May, 1316. But after knocking about the
country, and being knocked about in the country, for a year and a half,
he got a decisive blow from the English on the 5th of October, 1318,
at Fagher, near Dundalk. Though he had landed in Ireland with only five
hundred Scotchmen, he was left dead in the field with two thousand of
his fellow-countrymen. He had been joined, no doubt, by several after
his first arrival, but if he had not, it would have been all the same
to the chroniclers, who would not have scrupled to kill the same
individuals four times over to make a total sufficiently imposing for
historical purposes. The historians would have been invaluable to a
minister of finance, for they could always create an enormous surplus
out of a vast deficiency.

The Scotch continued their successes until a truce was agreed upon for
two years, and thus Edward had leisure to look after domestic affairs,
which had been fearfully neglected. Since the death of Gaveston, the
royal favourite, there had been just room for one in the not very
capacious heart of the English sovereign. A certain Hugh Spencer had
been introduced to the court by the barons, as a sort of page, to act
as a spy upon the king, and it is a curious fact, that the spencer, or
jacket, has been the characteristic of the page from that time to the
present. Hugh Spencer had a shrewd father, who advised his son to care
no more for the barons, who had got him his place, but to work it to his
own advantage, and make the most of the perquisites.

Young Hugh, taking the parental hint, determined on booking himself for
the inside place in Edward's heart, which has been already alluded to as
vacant. Not only did he succeed in his design, but contrived to take
up his old father, and carry him along as a sort of outside passenger.
Riches and promotion were showered on the Spencers, who adopted a coat
of arms, and made themselves Despencers, by prefixing the syllable
_de_, which can impart a particle of aristocracy to the most plebeian
of patronymics. The Despencers had obtained such influence over the king
that he allowed them to do as they pleased; and as they took all the
good things to themselves, the nobles--who were getting nothing--began
to evince considerable anxiety for the public interest.

The Earl of Lancaster, a prince of the blood, felt his order insulted
by the promotion of the two plebeians, and he one day energetically
exclaimed, "that Spencers could not have anything in tail, though the
king might try to fasten it on to them." Lancaster marched upon London,
and pitched his tent in Holborn, among the hills that abound in that
locality. He gave out jocularly, that "he had come to baste a couple of
Spencers, by trimming their jackets," but he was saved the trouble by
a Parliament, which met armed at Westminster, and passed on the two
Despencers a sentence of banishment.

They were accordingly exiled in August, but came back in October,
presenting an instance of a quick return without the smallest profit.
Lancaster retired to the north, and was met at Boroughbridge by Sir
Simon Ward and Sir Andrew Barclay, a couple of stout English knights,
who stopped up the passage. Lancaster endeavoured to swim across the
river, but the tide had turned against him, and he was taken prisoner.
The unfortunate earl having been tried, was condemned to an ignominious
death, and the mob were allowed to pelt him with mud on his way to
execution,--a privilege of which a generous public took the fullest
advantage.

Edward had now to encounter opposition from a new quarter, or rather
from two quarters, for his better half, Isabella, the sister of Charles
le Bel, was now plotting against him. She left him under the pretence
of going to settle some business for him in France, and then refused to
return to him. Some ambassadors volunteered to bring her back, but the
ambassadors never came back themselves, for they had been in league with
the queen, and only wanted an opportunity of joining her.

Their conduct brings to mind the anecdote of a scene that once passed
in the shop of a shoemaker. A stranger had tried on a pair of shoes, and
another stranger had been trying on a pair of boots at the same moment.
Suddenly the shoes decamped without payment, when the boots standing
upon their professed swiftness, offered to go in pursuit of the
unprincipled shoes; and as neither shoes nor boots were ever seen again
by the tradesman, it is probable that the "false fleeting perjured
Clarences" are still being pursued by the immortal Wellingtons. Thus the
Earl of Kent, the king's own brother, the Earl of Richmond, his cousin,
and others, who had undertaken to go after the queen to bring her back,
remained with her, until she returned as an enemy to her own husband.
Edward was now compelled to run away in his turn from his angry wife;
and rather than encounter the fury of a domestic storm, he got into
a ship with young Despencer, to brave the elements. Old Despencer was
taken and hanged, without the ceremony of a trial.

The Prince of Wales was appointed guardian of the kingdom on account of
the absence of his father, who had been regularly advertised, but
had declined to come forward lest he should hear of something to his
disadvantage. Having been tossed about upon the waves for several days,
he came ashore on the coast of Wales, and hid himself for some weeks,
with young Despencer and another, in the mountains of Glamorganshire.
His two companions were one day startled by a cry of "We've got you!"
and were instantly seized, upon which, Edward exclaiming, "It's no use:
you've got the two birds in the hand, and may as well have the one in
the bush," rolled out of a hedge and gave himself up to his pursuers.

Young Despencer was taken to Hereford, and hanged at once, upon a
gallows fifty feet high; but why severity was carried to such a height
is a question we have no means of answering. It has been brutally said
by an annotator that the culprit had been accustomed to the high ropes
during his life, and it was therefore determined that they should
accompany him even to the gibbet.

The king was sent in custody to Kenilworth Castle, and Parliament met on
the 7th of January, 1327, to consider what should be done with him. His
deposition was a preliminary step; for it was the custom in those days
to punish first and try the culprit afterwards. It was determined to
place his son upon the throne in his stead, and on the 20th of January,
1327, a deputation went to Kenilworth to receive his abdication, if he
liked to give it, or take it by force if he should prove refractory.
The king, seeing Sir William Trussel, the Speaker, at the head of his
enemies, observed calmly, but sadly, "Alas! the Trussel I depended upon
for support has joined in dropping me." He renounced the regal dignity,
and on the 24th of January, Edward the Third was proclaimed king, and
crowned on the 29th at Westminster.

[Illustration: 186]

This proceeding is on many accounts remarkable, and of the utmost value,
as settling a point of constitutional practice, which had never before
been recognised. It established a precedent for dissolving under
extraordinary circumstances the compact between the king and the people.
It negatived the alleged "right divine of kings to govern wrong,"
and proved that it was not always necessary to take violent means for
ridding a country of a tyrant. It showed that the crown might be removed
from the head without taking off the head and all, which had been
hitherto the recognised mode of effecting a transfer of the royal
diadem.

The unhappy Edward was kept for a time at Kenilworth; but ultimately by
command of Lord Mortimer, who had entire influence over the queen, the
deposed king was removed to Berkeley Castle. Here it is believed he was
most cruelly murdered, though it was given out by his keepers that his
death was perfectly natural. He died on the 21st of September, 1327,
in the forty-third year of his age, and the nineteenth of his reign. No
inquiry took place, and although no coroner's inquest was held, "Wilful
Murder against some person or persons unknown" is the almost unanimous
verdict of posterity.

The character of this king has been said to have been chiefly disfigured
by feebleness of judgment, which prevented him from knowing what was
good for him. He managed, nevertheless, to find out what was bad for his
subjects, and he was never at a loss to secure the means of enjoyment
for himself and his favourites, at the expense of his people.

In the reign of Edward the Second the order of Knights Templars was
abolished, a circumstance which arose from the king of France being
short of cash, and casting a longing eye upon the rich possessions of
the order. In France they were put to the torture to force them into
confessions of crimes they had never committed; but in England the same
effect was produced by imprisonment; for instruments of cruelty were
never recognised by English laws, or encouraged as articles of British
manufacture. The Archbishop of York finding nothing of the kind in the
country, wished to send abroad for a pattern, * but it must be spoken
to the credit of our ancestors, that though, in a pecuniary sense, they
were famous for applying the screw, the thumb-screw was never popular.

     * _Vide_ Rapin, vol. iii., p. 95, and also a Note in Lingard

Rapin mentions among the great events of this reign, a tremendous
earthquake, but it can have been no great shakes, for we do not find any
details of its destructive effects in the old chronicles. It occurred
on the 14th of November, 1320, to the unspeakable terror of all classes;
but it did not swallow up half as much as is swallowed up annually on
the 9th of November at the Mansion House in London.



CHAPTER THE FOURTH. EDWARD THE THIRD.

The young king did not upon his father's death come to the throne, for
he had taken his seat upon the imperial cushion eight months before the
decease of his by no means lamented parent. Mortimer had caused a medal
to be struck in celebration of the accession of Edward the Third, in
which he was represented receiving the crown, with the motto, "_Non
rapit sed recipit_," which we need scarcely translate into "He did not
snatch it, but got it honestly." * A council of regency was appointed,
to which Mortimer, with affected modesty, declined to belong, but he
and the queen did as they pleased with the affairs of government.
Her majesty got an enormous grant to pay her debts, but knowing the
extravagant and dishonest character of the woman, we have reason to
believe that she pocketed the money and never satisfied the demands of
her creditors. She obtained, also, an allowance of twenty thousand a
year, which was better than two-thirds of the revenues of the crown; so
that a paltry six-and-eightpence in the pound was the utmost that young
Edward could have to live upon. The Earl of Lancaster was appointed
guardian, and began doing the best for himself, after the approved
fashion of the period. The attainders against the great Earl of
Lancaster were of course reversed, and the confiscation of the estates
of the Despencer, afforded some very pretty pickings to the party that
was now dominant.

     * It  is a curious fact that Mortimer should bare been in
     the medal line, a business in which his namesake of the
     house of Store and Mortimer has since become so illustrious.

Though the king was too young to govern, his admirers persuaded him that
he was quite old enough to fight, and he was recommended to try his
hand against Bruce, who was getting old; so that, in the language of
the ring, the British pet was not very ill matched against the Scottish
veteran. The Caledonian Slasher, as Bruce might justly have been called,
had broken the truce agreed upon with Edward the Second, and had sent an
army into Yorkshire, which plundered as it went every town and village.
The stealing of sheep and oxen was carried on to such an extent by the
Scotch troops that their camp resembled Smithfield market, or a prize
cattle show. Sixty thousand men gathered round the standard of Edward,
but the foreign and native troops quarrelled with such fury among
themselves that they had little energy left to be expended on the enemy.
Fortunately for the English king the vastness of his army made up for
its want of discipline. Bruce, directly he saw the foe, waited only to
take their number, and retired with the utmost rapidity, amusing himself
with the Scotch favourite Burns, by setting fire to all the villages.

The English, instead of following the enemy, waited a night upon the
road for some provisions expected by the Parcels Delivery, which had
been delayed by some accident. The Scotch were thus allowed to get
ahead, and Edward sent a crier through his camp, offering a hundred a
year with the honour of knighthood, to anyone who would apprise him of
the place where he should find the opposing army. Thomas of Rokeby, so
called from his habit of rokeing about, was successful in the search,
and came galloping into the English camp with a loud cry of Eureka,
and a demand of "money down," with knighthood on the spot, before
he divulged his secret. "You're very particular, sir," said Edward,
flinging him a purse, containing his annuity for the first year, and
dubbing him a knight by a blow on the head from the flat of the sword,
administered with unusual vehemence.

[Illustration: 188]

Thomas of Rokeby having pocketed the money, and secured the dignity,
pointed to a hill three leagues off, observing, "There they are!" an
observation which caused a general exclamation of "Well, it's very
funny! To think that they should have been so near us all the while
and we not aware of it!" The English having made for the spot, sent a
challenge, inviting the Scotch to meet them in a fair open field, but
the proposition was declined, with thanks and compliments. The English,
on the return of the herald, went to sleep, for the presence of the
herald always had a soporiferous influence. Edward was exceedingly
severe upon the occasion, and commented upon the herald's news, which
the king declared was always most unsatisfactory. For three days and
three nights, the English lay by the side of the river, having been
thrown by the herald into a state of dreamy inactivity. At length, on
the fourth day, they woke from their transient trance, when they found
that the Scotch had once more changed their position. Edward moved
higher up, keeping opposite to the foe, and the two armies lay facing
each other for eighteen days and nights, like two great cowardly boys,
both afraid of "coming on," but each assuming a menacing attitude. There
is every reason to believe that the herald had mesmerised the whole of
the English troops, for they allowed the Scotch to go away in the dead
of the night for want of proper vigilance. The probability, however, is
that both armies were illustrating the proverb, that "none are so blind
an those who won't see," and that their aversion to "come on," was
mutual.

A truce was concluded, and Edward, according to Froissart, returned
"right pensive" to London; but his "right pensiveness" may have been
accounted for by the fact that he was on the eve of marriage. His mother
had, during her visit to the Continent, arranged to wed him to Philippa
of Hainault, a lady who, to judge from her portrait on her tomb in
Westminster Abbey, was one of those monsters commonly called a
"fine woman." This fineness in the female form consists of excessive
coarseness, which is better adapted to the laundry than the domestic
circle. She, however, made Edward an excellent better half--or perhaps
a better two-thirds is a more suitable term to indicate the relative
proportions of the royal couple. She was brought to London by her uncle
John, surnamed of Hainault, and, it being Christmas-time, she was
taken out to enjoy all the amusements of the festive season. Jousts and
tournaments, balls and dinnerparties, were given in her honour during
her stay in town; and on the 24th of January, 1328, the nuptial ceremony
was performed with great solemnity.

Edward being now married, was desirous of avoiding that roving life
which the constant pursuit of Bruce had rendered necessary. The English
king thought it better to settle down into the domestic habits of a
family man, which was impossible as long as he was compelled to be out
all night, watching the foe and bivouacking with his soldiers. Bruce,
who had grown old and gouty, was also eager for peace, which was
concluded on the condition of his little boy, David, aged five, being
married to Edward's little sister Joanna, aged seven. The English king
gave up all claim to the sovereignty of Scotland, causing even the
insignia of Scotch royalty to be carefully packed and forwarded to
Bruce, who, on opening the parcel, was delighted to find himself in
possession of the crown and sceptre of his predecessors. He did not,
however, get quite the best of the bargain, for he undertook to pay
thirty thousand marks into Edward's court as compensation, in the form
of liquidated damages, for the mischief that the Scotch invaders had
committed. Bruce had obtained a sort of letter of licence, allowing
him to take three years for the payment of the sum agreed upon. A more
formidable creditor, however, took him in execution, for he was called
upon to pay the debt of nature within the ensuing twelvemonth. Mortimer,
who had advised the peace with Scotland, which was by no means popular,
got himself created Earl of March, for it is the policy of crafty
politicians to obtain rewards for their most objectionable measures.

It will be remembered that the Earl of Lancaster had been appointed
guardian of the young king, but no scapegrace in a comedy ever made such
an undutiful ward as the youthful Edward. He remained with his mother
and Mortimer, the latter of whom was particularly distasteful to
Lancaster, who endeavoured to get up a party to oppose the favourite.
This association was joined by the Earls of Kent and Norfolk, two of the
king's uncles, as well as by some other gentlemen, who set forth in
an advertisement the reason of their having combined. The statement of
grievances was drawn up with the usual tact of red-hot patriots, who
always put down a few impossibilities in the list of things to be
achieved, for the impracticability of their objects prevents their trade
from being suddenly brought to a dead stand-still. There were eight
articles in the Lancastrian manifesto, which chiefly aimed at Mortimer
and the queen, who soon persuaded Edward that the real object of the
advertisers was to deprive him of his crown. "I thought you were the
parties pointed at," said the young king to his mother and her paramour;
but the latter merely observing, "My dear fellow, they mean you, as sure
as my name's Mortimer," soon taught Edward to believe that he was the
object of the hostility of the rebellious nobles. Preparations were
being made to chastise them, when Kent and Norfolk abandoned Lancaster,
who justly complained of having been trifled with. The humiliated
and humbugged Lancaster was glad to accept a pardon, and pay down
a considerable sum towards the expenses which had been incurred in
preparing for his own discomfiture. Mortimer did not forgive the parties
who had contemplated his overthrow, but formed a determination to get
hold of them when a good opportunity offered.

He received a number of anonymous letters, informing him that his
brother, the late king, was alive in Corfe Castle. "Pooh, pooh," said
Kent to himself, as he perused the first three or four epistles; "I'm not
quite such a fool as to be taken in upon that point. I'm not going to
believe my brother is alive, when I happen to have been present as chief
mourner at his funeral." Every post, however, brought such a pile of
correspondence upon the subject that he first began to believe that half
of what he was told might possibly be true; and when credulity admits
one half of a story, the other half soon forces an entrance. Kent's
anonymous correspondents, not content with declaring the late king to be
alive, gave the circumstantiality to their statement which is generally
resorted to in the absence of truth, and indicated Corfe Castle as the
place where the second Edward was "hanging out" at that very moment. The
credulous Kent, being in doubt as to the fate of his brother, wrote at
once to ask him whether he was really dead or alive, saying to himself,
as he put the epistle into the post, "There! I've written to him now,
and so we shall soon settle that question one way or the other."

The party being deceased, the letter came back to the dead-letter
office, and fell into the clutches of Mortimer. Everything was done to
humour the delusion of poor Kent, who, having been told that his brother
was confined in Corfe Castle, sent a confidential messenger to make
inquiries in the neighbourhood. It is even said that a sort of optical
illusion, a jack-o'-lantern, or phantasmagoria, or dissolving-view, had
been resorted to, for the purpose of showing a representation of Edward
the Second sitting in Corfe Castle at his luncheon, * with a waiter or
two in attendance, as a mark of respect to the unhappy sovereign.

    * Rapin, tom. iii., p. 152.

The messenger returned with the news to Edmund, who determined to use
his own eyes, by going to Corfe Castle and judging for himself. When he
arrived and saw the governor, that wily official pretended to be much
surprised at the secret having been divulged. He did not deny that
Edward was at the castle, but merely remarked that the captive could
not be seen. "At all events, you can give him this letter," said Edmund,
putting into the governor's hands a _douceur_ and a communication
directed to the deceased monarch, offering to aid him in his escape from
captivity.

The governor took the _billet_ to the queen, and Edmund was arrested on
a charge of endeavouring to raise a deceased individual to the throne.
Poor Kent was put upon his trial, and his own letter having been
produced, with witnesses to prove his handwriting, the case against him
was complete. The whole proceeding was disposed of with the rapidity of
an undefended cause; speedy execution was asked for and granted, but the
headsman was nowhere to be found, though persons were sent to look for
him all over Winchester. A delay of four hours was occasioned, and
the generous British public began to expect that they should lose the
spectacle they had assembled to witness, when a convicted felon came
forward in the handsomest manner, at a moment's notice, to prevent
disappointment, by undertaking the part of headsman. Thus, at the early
age of twenty-eight, perished Prince Edmund, on the charge of having
sought to put a sceptre in the hands of a spectre, and raise a phantom
to the throne. He left two sons and two daughters, one of whom was a
beauty whom we will not attempt to paint, for our inkstand is not a
rouge-pot, and if it were we should be sorry to apply its contents to so
fair a countenance. She married eventually the eldest son of Edward the
Third, who became so celebrated as the Black Prince, and who was born
at about the period (1330) to which our history has arrived. The king
finding himself a father, determined to be no longer a child in the
hands of a tyrannical mother, and he longed for some assistance from
his subjects, to enable him to throw off the maternal yoke as soon as
possible.

Edward at last opened his mind--a very small recess--to Lord Montacute.
A Parliament was being held at Nottingham, where Mortimer and the queen
had lodgings in the castle, while the bishops and barons took apartments
in the town and suburbs. How to get hold of Mortimer was the great
difficulty, for Queen Isabella had the keys of the castle brought up
to her every evening, and placed at her bedside. * Her majesty had gone
round as usual to see everything safe, and all the candles out; but of
course, like other sagacious people, who examine minutely the fastenings
of the doors, she never gave a thought to the cellars. Through one of
these the governor (who, like all the great officers of that period--the
founders of our illustrious families--was a sneaking knave, ready to do
anything for money) admitted Montacute and his followers. They crawled
along a dark passage, at the end of which they were met by Edward,
who conducted them up a staircase into a room adjoining his mother's
chamber. The queen had gone to bed, but Mortimer, the Bishop of Lincoln,
and one or two others, were sitting--probably over their grog--in an
apartment close at hand. Their language had all the earnestness that
might be expected from the time of night, and the manner in which they
were occupied. They were, in fact, all talking at once, when Montacute
and party rushed in, knocking down two knights * who sat near the door,
and seized Mortimer, in spite of the entreaties of Isabella, who ran
screaming out of bed on hearing the noise and confusion.

     * Homing, Knyght, Holinshed.

The favourite was dragged off to the nearest station-house, and Edward
issued a proclamation the next morning, announcing his intention to try
his own hand at government forthwith. A Parliament met at Westminster on
the 26th of November, 1330, by which Mortimer was tried and condemned,
though a short time before he enjoyed the command of a large majority.
The favourite had, however, fallen into disgrace, and the old proverb,
"Give a dog a bad name and hang him," was literally realised.

After the death of Mortimer, Queen Isabella was shut up in a place
called the Castle of Risings, on a pension of three thousand a year,
according to one historian, four thousand according to others, while
Rapin unceremoniously cuts her down to the paltry pittance of five
hundred per annum. It is probable that the last named sum is the nearest
the mark, for all agree in saying that "she lived a miserable monument
of blighted ambition," and it is obvious that a miserable monument would
not require an outlay of three or four thousand a year to keep it in
condition during an existence of rather better than a quarter of a
century.

Though Edward had agreed to a truce with the Scotch, he did not scruple
to take a favourable opportunity of breaking it. Though his sister was
married to little Master David Bruce, the nominal king, Edward did not
hesitate to turn that young gentleman off the throne, to make way for
his creature, Edward Baliol. Young David was sent to France, while
Baliol kept up a kind of semblance of royalty, but his rebellious
subjects took every opportunity, when the backs of the English were
turned, to fall upon and baste the bewildered Baliol. Edward was soon
compelled to leave his vassal to get on as he could, for the entire
throne of France appeared to be open to the ambition of the English
sovereign. The French crown seemed to be "open to all parties and
influenced by none," when Edward of England and Philip of Valois became
candidates for the vacancy. The former claimed as grandson of Philip
the Fourth, the latter as grandson of Philip the Third, and each party
endeavoured to complicate the matter as much as he could by producing
a number of perplexing and unintelligible pedigrees. Philip claimed
through his grandfather, who was thought to be a sure card for the
French king to depend upon; but Edward tried to play something stronger,
in the shape of what he affectionately called that "fine old trump his
mother." She, however, was objected to as a female, and the question
was, to save further trouble, referred to the arbitration of the peers
and judges of France, and was decided in favour of Edward's opponent.
The English king declared the French judges were no judges at all, and
refused to be bound by the award; for it was the royal practice of those
days to abide by an agreement only so long as might be convenient.

Edward having appointed the Earl of Brabant his agent, coolly demanded,
through that individual, the French crown. The English seconded their
sovereign in his preposterous request, and he took advantage of their
acquiescence to squeeze out of them all he could in the shape of
subsidies, tallages, and forced loans. He raised money by the most
disgraceful means, and even pawned the crown with the Archbishop of
Treves, who after trying the purity of the gold with the usual test,
unpicking the velvet cap, to examine the setting of the jewels, and
submitting it to as many indignities as a hat in the hands of an old
clothesman, consented to lend about one tenth of its value on the
degraded diadem.

[Illustration:193]

The conversation between the parties, though it has not been
authentically handed down by the chroniclers, may be very easily
imagined. It is probable that Edward, forgetting the dignity of the
king in the meanness of the borrower, may have familiarly asked the
Archbishop to "make it a trifle more" than the sum at first offered. It
may be presumed that the greedy ecclesiastic would have objected that
the crown had been very ill-used; that it got badly treated in the time
of John, and that even Edward himself had had a good deal of hard wear
out of it, which had rubbed off very much of its pristine brilliancy.
But it was not to the comparatively honest expedient of pawning his
own property that the king had recourse, for replenishing his exhausted
treasury. When he had got all he could by pledging his own honours, and
deposited the sceptre and single ball at the sign of the three, he began
the old royal trick of plundering his people.

From the inhabitants of Cornwall Edward took nearly all their tin, and
every part of England allowed itself to be fleeced for the purpose of
affording one man the means of attempting to gratify his ambition at the
expense of an entire people. The money thus obtained was devoted to the
payment of foreign mercenaries, so that he robbed his own subjects
for the double purpose of corruption and usurpation. To enable him
to oppress the French, he bribed the Germans with money obtained by
plundering the English.

He sailed on the 15th of July, 1338, with an army rather more select
than numerous, and landed at Antwerp, where he had secured himself
a friendly reception by sending emissaries before him to marshal the
peasantry into enthusiastic groups, and "get up" the spectacle without
regard to outlay. The burghers were called to numerous rehearsals before
the appointed day, and on the arrival of the English king they were
tolerably perfect in the parts assigned to them.

Edward engaged a few foreign potentates--principally small Germans--to
aid him in his audacious enterprise. Louis of Bavaria, Emperor of
Germany, came to terms; the Dukes of Brabant and Gueldres did not refuse
his money; the Archbishop of Cologne consented to add a few pounds to
his salary; while the Marquis of Juliers, and the Counts of Hainault and
Namur, jumped at a moderate stipend for their services. Every adventurer
who was to be had cheap, found instant employment, and James von
Artaveldt, a brewer of Ghent, the Barclay or Perkins of his time, made
an arrangement for farming out a few of his stoutest draymen. Philip
availed himself of a couple of kings in reduced circumstances--those of
Navarre and Bohemia--besides securing a few dukes who were in want of
a little cash for current expenses. A rope of sand could scarcely
have been more fragile than Edward's band of hired followers. Like a
Christmas-pudding made of plums and other rich ingredients without any
flour to bind it, his supporters, though comprising a compound of dukes,
marquises and counts, with even an archbishop and an emperor, was not
likely to hold together as long as it was deficient in the flower of an
army, a zealous soldiery. The Flemings and Brabanters having spent his
money sneaked off with a promise to meet him _next_ year, and 1338 was
consequently lost in doing nothing. By the middle of September, 1339,
there was another muster of the mercenaries, with whom Edward started
for Cambray, but happening to look back when he got to the frontiers of
France, he saw the Counts of Namur and Hainault disgracefully backing
out of the expedition. Having in vain hallooed to them, and finding that
the more he kept on calling the more they persisted in not coming, he
pushed on as far as St. Quentin, when the rest of his allies struck,
and declared they would not go another step without an advance of wages.
Edward, who had spent all his own money and a good deal of somebody
else's--for he was fearfully in debt--could only say "Very well,
gentlemen, I'm in your hands," and turn into the town of Ghent, where
he took lodgings for a limited period. While here he amused himself by
taking the title of King of France, and he had the French lily quartered
on his arms; which, as Philip said when he heard of it, was "like the
fellow's impudence."

Edward had previously endeavoured to draw his adversary into a battle,
but the latter shirked the contest under various pretexts. Some say that
he was ready for a terrific combat and was "just going to begin" when he
received a letter predicting ill luck, from the king of Naples, who
was looked upon as a sort of Wizard of the South, or royal conjuror.
No fight took place, and Edward ran across to England in the middle
of February, 1340, to make a call upon the pockets of his people. The
Parliament foolishly throwing good money after bad, granted immense
supplies, for which the king thanked them in the fulness of his heart,
for the fulness of his pocket. Returning to Flanders, he met the enemy
at the harbour of Sluys, on the 24th of June, 1340, when a battle
ensued, in which Edward astonished his own followers by his most
successful _début_ in a naval character. He gave orders to the sailors
as freely as if he had been playing in nautical dramas and dancing naval
hornpipes from the days of his infancy. So complete was the victory of
the English that nobody dared inform the French king of the extent of
his calamity, until the court jester was fool enough to put the news in
the shape of a conundrum to Philip. The latter was enjoying his glass of
wine and his nut, when the buffoon in waiting declared that he had a nut
to crack which would prove somewhat too hard for his royal master. "Were
it a pistaccio or a Brazil," cried the king, "I would come at the
kernel of it." When, however, the riddle was put * and the sovereign
had guessed it, the unhappy fool found it no joke, for he was sorely
punished for his ill-judged pleasantry.

     * Rapin, vol. iii., p. 178. We have used every possible
     exertion to obtain a copy of this celebrated riddle, but
     without having succeeded. The nearest Approach we have made
     to it is an old conundrum in the fly leaf of the Statutes at
     Large, which is nearly as follows:--"What was the greatest
     fillip to the success of Edward!" There is no answer added,
     but there can be little doubt that some allusion to Philip's
     loss giving a fillip to Edward is intended.

Edward's success brought round him troops of friends, and finding
himself strong, he wrote a letter addressed to Philip of Valois,
offering to tackle him singly in a regular stand-up fight man to man, to
pit a hundred soldiers against a hundred on the other side, or to pitch
into each other's armies by a pitched buttle, embracing the entire
strength of their respective companies. The French king, who was not
disposed to give battle, which he thought might end in his taking
a thrashing, evaded the matter, by saying that he had seen a letter
addressed to Philip of Valois, but as it could not be meant for him,
he should certainly decline sending an answer. This shabby subterfuge
succeeded in baffling the English king, who consented to a truce and
returned to his own country.

[Illustration: 196]

Edward arrived in London late one night in November, without a penny in
his pocket. He went at once to the Tower, where everybody had gone to
bed, for he was not expected, and where there were signs of culpable
negligence. There was no fire in his room, and nothing to eat; which put
him into such an ill-humour, that he had three of the judges called up
to be thrown into prison, he turned out the Chancellor, the Treasurer,
and the Master of the Bolls, besides committing to gaol a number of
subordinate officers. Those who had been employed in collecting the
revenue, were the especial objects of his rage, for he expected to
have received a large sum, and was irritated beyond measure at the
contemptible amount of available assets. Stratford, the Archbishop of
Canterbury, on hearing of the king's arrival at the Tower--in what has
perhaps been since called a "towering passion," from the historical
fact--observed to his informant, "Oh! indeed. Well, I shall be off out
of his way," and fled to his official residence. The king sent him a
summons, which he refused to attend, and threatened with excommunication
any rascally officer who might attempt to execute the process. Want of
money soon softened Edward's heart, and Parliament refused a grant until
there had been another confirmation of Magna Charta, which served the
double purpose of a blister to draw the people's cash and a plaster to
heal their wounded liberties.

In the year 1341, little David of Scotland came over with a little
money and a few troops lent to him by the king of France, and with
this assistance the Bruce made a tolerably decent appearance in his own
country. Edward having projects of wholesale robbery abroad, gave up
Scotland as a piece of retail plunder, that was wholly beneath his
attention, and concluded a truce with David, who compromised with
Baliol, by appointing him to keep watch and ward against the Scottish
borderers. A situation in the police seems to have been a sorry
compensation for one who had aspired to a throne, but it is probable
that the pride of Baliol was in some degree consulted by nominating him
A 1 in his Dew capacity.

[Illustration: 197]

One would have thought that Edward had had enough of Continental
warfare, and that "look at home" would have been his motto for the
remainder of his reign, but he was soon induced to join in a squabble
that had arisen about the crown of Brittany. John the Third, the late
duke, had lately died, leaving one brother and a niece named Jane,
who having the misfortune to be lame, had got brutally nicknamed _La
Boiteuse_, in accordance with the coarse and unfeeling practice of that
chivalrous period. The contest for the duchy was between this young
lady, who had married Charles de Blois, the French king's nephew, and
her uncle John de Montfort, who professed to have a superior claim, and
who savagely pooh-poohed her pretensions by allusions to her infirmity.
"Hers is indeed a lame case," he would fiendishly exclaim. "Why, by my
troth, she hasn't got a leg to stand upon." This argument was the old
rule of grammar, that the masculine is worthier than the feminine; but
this arrangement _La Boiteuse_ determined to kick against. Charles de
Blois, her husband, did homage to his uncle Phil for the duchy--Brittany
being a fief of France--while John de Montfort propitiated Edward by
doing homage to him as the lawful sovereign. Philip and Edward thus
became bottleholders to the two competitors; but through the tardiness
of the English king in supporting his man, De Montfort was taken
prisoner. This gentleman had the advantage--or the disadvantage as the
case may be--of being married to a high-spirited woman. It is fortunate
for a man wedded to a vixen wife, when the affectionate virago, instead
of making a victim of him, vents her fury upon his enemies.

Mrs. de Montfort had, according to Froissart, "the courage of a man and
the heart of a lion." In addition to these fascinating qualities she had
the tongue of a true woman. She went about with her child in her arms,
holding forth in a double sense, for she held forth her infant, and was
continually holding forth on the subject of her husband's wrongs to the
populace. A pretty woman, who takes to public speaking, is always sure
of an approving audience; but when she began to give recitations in
character, by putting a steel casque on her head and a sword in her
hand, the effect was truly marvellous. She took a provincial tour, with
the never-failing motto of "Female in Distress" as her watchword; and a
host of young men engaged themselves as assistants under her banner. She
threw herself into a place called Hennebon, where she was besieged by
the French, but she ran up and down the ramparts with all the agility of
a young tigress. She stood firmly among a shower of arrows, and though
danger darted across her every now and then--so much that her casque got
a rapid succession of taps--she merely observed that she had never
been afraid of a living beau and would certainly not shrink from a bow
without vitality. Aid was expected from the English, but as it did not
arrive the Bishop of Leon began to croak most horribly, and proposed to
capitulate. The bishop had been to the larder, and finding provisions
running exceedingly low, declared there was nothing left for them but to
eat humble pie as speedily as possible. He had succeeded in raising an
_émeute d'estomac_ in the garrison, when the countess, who had begged
the troops to hold out a little longer, Saw the English fleet from
the window of her dressing-room. "Here they are!" cried she as she ran
downstairs; and the whole of the inhabitants were soon watching the
arrival of the boats with intense interest. Sir Walter Manny commanded
the squadron, and after a good night's rest and a capital dinner
the next day, which concluded amid a slight shower from the French
battering-ram, he declared that he would not run the risk of having any
more batter pudding from the same quarter. "That ram," he exclaimed,
"must not again disturb me over my mutton;" and he had no sooner dined
than he went forth, followed by a few select soldiers, and broke the
instrument to pieces.

The French, having raised the siege of Hennebon, left Lady de Montfort
leisure to go over to England for the purpose of getting a present of
troops that Edward had promised her. She was returning to France with
her reinforcements when she fell in with a French fleet, and they fell
out as a natural consequence. De Montfort's wife rushed on deck in a
coat of mail over her petticoat of female, and fought with tremendous
vigour.

[Illustration: 199]

One of the foe tauntingly told her the needle was a fitter instrument
for her than the sword, when she rushed upon him, exclaiming, "I want
no needle, fellow, to trim your jacket." She cut the thread of
several existences, and there is no doubt that had the gun cotton been
discovered in those days, she would have used it for the purpose of
whipping, basting, hemming in, felling to the earth, and, in a word,
sewing up her unfortunate antagonists. Darkness having set in upon this
fearful set out, the battle was cut short, for night dropped her curtain
in the middle of the act, and brought it to an abrupt conclusion.

Edward now came over to superintend the war in person, and he began by
looking the danger in the face, which he accomplished by lying several
weeks opposite the foe--an example that was followed by the other side;
and thus the two armies continued to take sights at each other during
the entire winter. At length a truce for three years and eight months
was agreed upon; but its conditions were not attended to. John de
Montfort was to have been released from prison, according to the
agreement; but Philip, by pitiful quibbles, found excuses for keeping
him in closer custody. At length, the old gentleman escaped in the
disguise of a pedlar; but he was cruelly hounded by his enemies, and
with a pack at his back was for some time hunted about, until, by dint
of the most dogged perseverance, he arrived safely in England. Coming
to the door of his own house, he set up a faint cry of "Stay-lace,
boot-lace, shoe-tie," in a disguised voice, which brought the mistress
of the establishment to the window; but she merely shook her head, to
indicate that nothing was wanted. Upon this the supposed pedlar threw
off his hat and wig, and being instantly recognised, was dragged into
the hall, to the surprise of the various servants, until the words,
"It's your master come back," furnished a clue to the mystery. His
wife's joy at meeting her "old man," as she affectionately called him,
was extreme; but the excitement was too much for the veteran, who went
bang off, like an exhausted squib, while Lady de Montfort fell in an
explosion of grief by the side of her husband.

The fortune of war had been oscillating with the regularity of a
pendulum between England and France, when the Earl of Derby threw
himself into the scale with tremendous weight, and turned it completely
in England's favour. In the emphatic language of the day, he was "down
upon the French like a thunderbolt." Edward went off to Flanders to
treat with the free cities for their allegiance, and, in fact, ascertain
the price of those friends of Liberty. Louis the Count, though deprived
of nearly all his revenue, kept up his independence, and refused to pay
allegiance or anything else to Edward. The English king tried to effect
a transfer of the loyalty of the Flemings from Louis, the Count of
Flanders, to his own son, Edward the Black Prince; and with this view he
obtained the support of his old friend James von Artaveldt, the brewer,
whose stout gave him a great ascendency over the actions of the people.
He addressed to them a good deal of frothy declamation, and endeavoured
to brew the storm of revolution; but it ended in very small beer,
amid which Artaveldt himself was eventually washed away through the
impetuosity of the stream he had himself set in motion. A popular
insurrection broke out, and the brewer behaved with great gallantry. He
wore a casque on his head which pointed him out as a butt for the malice
of his enemies. He was cruelly murdered, and Edward vowed vengeance when
he heard that the lifeless bier was all that remained of his friend the
brewer.

[Illustration: 201]

In 1346 the English king landed on the coast of Normandy, with an army
containing not only the flower of his own troops, but a regular bouquet,
in which the English rose was blended with the Welsh leek and a sprig
of the Irish shillalah. He marched towards Paris, and his van had even
entered the suburbs of that city; but, without attacking the capital,
he contented himself with a little arson in the small towns in the
neighbourhood. His antagonist was not inactive, and succeeded in getting
the English into a corner, from which escape seemed almost impossible.
It was necessary to cross the Somme; but Philip and the river were
rather too deep for Edward and his soldiers. Having waited till the
tide went down, they took a desperate plunge, and the foe having also
resolved on making a splash, the two armies met in the middle of the
stream, where they fought with an ardour that was not damped by the
surrounding element. Edward and his troops found as much difficulty in
reaching the Bank as if they had made the attempt in an omnibus during
one of the blockades of Fleet Street. At length they succeeded, and
after travelling for some distance, they put up in the neighbourhood
of the village of Cressy. On the 26th of August, 1346, the English
sovereign took an early supper, and went to bed, having given
instructions for his boots to be brought to his door by dawn the
following morning. The whole army slept well, considering it was the
first night in a strange place; and, having been called by that valuable
valet, the lark, everyone was up and down by the hour of daybreak.

[Illustration: 202]

Breakfast was scarcely concluded when Edward ordered the army to arms,
and sent for the herald in the hopes of getting the news; but from this
quarter he learned nothing. At length he took up his post, and chose
three leaders, a column being assigned to each of them. The first was
under the command of his young Bon, Edward the Black Prince, a youth of
fifteen, who held very high rank in the army, having been included
in every brevet, notwithstanding the brevity of his service. Two
experienced captains--the Earls of Warwick and Oxford--were employed
under him to do the work, so that the boy prince had nothing to do
but to reap the glory of his position. Heaping laurels under such
circumstances was a common practice in those days; and the vulgar
expression "with a hook" may have originated in allusion to the reaping
of the harvest created by another's merit. It must, however, be stated
in justice to the Black Prince, that he proved himself quite equal
to the position in which fortune had placed him. If we examine his
character, we shall find in it many good points, and it may fairly
be said that the Black Prince was by no means so black as history has
painted him. The three divisions took up their position on the hill, and
the archers stood in front, forming a semicircle or bow, from which they
could more effectually discharge their arrows. The Battle of Cressy is
perhaps one of the most interesting in English history; and though part
of it was fought in a tremendous shower of rain, which has caused some
frivolous writer of the period to give it the name of Water Cressy, we
are not induced by this idle and impotent play upon words to lose our
respect for one of the greatest exploits of our countrymen.

Philip slept at Abbeville on the 25th of August, and rising in a
terrible ill-humour, set out early in the morning to give battle. He
started off in such a fit of sulkiness that he did not even give the
word to "march," and breaking suddenly into a run, his impatience
carried him far in advance of his army. By the time he came in sight of
the foe, he was ever so much ahead of his own troops, and was obliged
to sit down quietly until they had come nearly up to him. By some
mismanagement, the troops at the back started off quicker than those in
front, who began to hesitate still more as they approached the enemy;
and thus, one part of the army beginning to back while those behind
pressed forward, a state of confusion which can only be described as
a dreadful squeege was the immediate consequence. "Now then, stupid,"
resounded from rank to rank, and comrade addressed comrade with the
words "Where are you shoving to?" The king got hurried head foremost
almost into the English camp, in spite of the vehement cries of "Keep
back!" which, however, were no sooner acted upon than the rear ranks
were seized with a panic, and the soldiery began tumbling over each
other like those battalions in tin which in youthful days have fallen
prostrate beneath the power of the peashooter.

Philip, who had never intended to take the honour of a foremost rank,
was pushed willy-nilly into the front place, like a gentleman who
happened to be walking down the Haymarket on an opera night, and found
himself suddenly engulfed in a stream which washed him off his legs,
and left him high and dry in a stall to which he had been driven by the
impetuosity of the torrent. Finding himself in the heat of an engagement
in which he had not intended to be so closely engaged, his French
majesty called to the Genoese crossbow-men to advance, but they pleaded
sudden indisposition and fatigue, when Philip's brother deeply offended
them by exclaiming--"See what we get by employing such scoundrels, who
fail us in our need!" The Genoese were rather nettled--that is to say,
somewhat stung--by this remark, and made a rush which was worth no more
than a rush, for they were really worn out with their morning's walk,
and felt fitter to be in bed than in battle. Though their arms and legs
were tired, they still had the full use of their lungs, and began to
shout out with tremendous vehemence, in the hope of frightening the
English. This horrible hooting had no effect, and a Scotch veteran,
by happily exclaiming "Hoot awa!" turned the laugh in favour of the
English. Upon this, the Genoese gave another fearful yell, when one of
Edward's soldiers inquired whether the crossbow-men wanted to frighten
away the birds, and gave them the nickname of the heavy scarecrows. They
advanced a step, when the English archers sent forth a volley of arrows,
which fell like a snowstorm upon the Genoese, who, converting their
shields into umbrellas, tried to take shelter under them. Philip was so
disgusted with this pusillanimous conduct, that he cried out in a fury,
"Kill me these scoundrels, for they stop our way without doing any
good!" And the poor Genoese caught it severely from both sides.

[Illustration: 204]

During the battle, Edward sat on the tip top of a windmill, situated
on the summit of a lofty hill, where, completely out of harm's way, he
could watch the progress of the action. While in this elevated position,
he was asked by a messenger to send a reinforcement to the Prince of
Wales, who was performing prodigies of valour. "I'm glad to hear it,"
said the affectionate father; "but," he added, "return to those who sent
you, and tell them they shall have no help from me. Let the boy win his
spurs," continued the old humbug, who was too selfish to put himself out
of the way to assist his son, and would rather have let him perish than
make any sacrifice to aid him in his arduous struggles.

When these unaided exertions came to a triumphant issue, the father
endeavoured to gain a reflected glory from the brilliance of his son's
achievements. It is, however, due to the reputation of the latter to
assert that the glory was all his own; for his selfish father had taken
care of himself, while the son fought the battle alone, and won it
without any assistance that it was in the power of his parent to have
afforded him.

Poor Philip fought desperately as long as he could, till John of
Hainault, who had several times advised him to "go home and go to bed,
for it was of no use," went up to the horse of the French king, seized
the bridle, and quietly led him off in the direction of the nearest
green-yard. Seeing it was a bad job, Philip requested to be taken to the
castle of La Broye, but the gates were shut, and the chatelain, looking
out of window, inquired who was knocking him up at such an unreasonable
hour. "Me," cried Philip, in the grammar of the period; but "Who's me?"
was the only response of the governor. "Why, don't you know me? I'm
Philip, the fortune of France."

"Pretty fortune, indeed!" muttered the chatelain, as he came downstairs,
keys and candle in hand, to admit his unfortunate sovereign. The king's
suite had dwindled down to five barons, * who turned in anywhere for the
night, on sofas and chairs, while Philip took the spare bed usually kept
for visitors.

Thus ended the memorable Battle of Cressy, from our account of which we
must not omit the incident of the king of Bohemia, who, old and blind,
was perverse enough to tie the bridle of his horse to those of two
knights, and with them he plunged into the midst of the battle.
Considering that he could not have seen his way, there is something very
rash, though perhaps very valiant, in this behaviour. Nor should we
in our admiration of the bravery of the king of Bohemia, forget to
sympathise with the two knights, upon whom he must have been a precious
drag, by tying his horse's bridle to theirs, and making them no doubt
the victims of a most unfortunate attachment. The king of Bohemia of
course fell, for the union he had formed was anything but strength,
and the Prince of Wales picking up his crest--a plume of ostrich
feathers--adopted it for his own, with the celebrated motto of _Ich
Dien_. ** The literal meaning of this motto is simply "I serve," but it
has been very naturally suggested that "I am served out" would have been
a more appropriate translation of the phrase, as long as it appertained
to the unfortunate king of Bohemia. Rapin, the French historian, who
is naturally anxious to make the best case he can for his countrymen,
attributes their defeat at Cressy to the use of gunpowder by the
English, who introduced, for the first time in war, a small magazine of
this startling novelty. Such a _magasin des nouveautés_ of course would
have taken the French by surprise, and would easily have accounted for
any little deficiency of valour they might have exhibited. When the
battle was over, Edward sneaked out of his windmill, where he professed
to have been "overlooking the reserve," and joined his successful son,
whom he warmly congratulated on his position.

     * Froissart.

     ** Doubts have been lately cast on this old story. See the
     _Cabinet Portrait Gallery of British Worthies_, vol. i., p.
     81,

The night after the battle was of course a gala night with the English,
who lighted fires, torches, and candles, including probably "fifty
thousand additional lamps," in celebration of the victory. So excellent,
however, were the regulations on the occasion, that we have not heard of
a single instance of disturbance or accident. The day after the battle
was disgraced by a series of attacks on some French unfortunates, who
not knowing of the defeat of their king, were coming to his assistance.
It happened that, as if to make the English quite at home, a regular
English fog set in, and some French militia, not being able to see their
way very clearly, mistook a reconnoitring party of the enemy for their
own countrymen. The French hastened to join their supposed comrades, but
soon found out their mistake from the cruel treatment they experienced.
Other stragglers who had missed their way in the mist, were also
savagely attacked, and when Edward heard the facts, he sent out Lords
Cobham and Stafford, with three heralds, to recognise the arms, and two
secretaries to write down the names of those that had fallen. The
party returned in the evening, with a list of eleven princes, eighty
bannerets, twelve hundred knights, and thirty thousand commoners. We can
only say that the herald of those days could not have been such a very
slow affair as the _Herald_ of these, and the secretaries must have
written not merely a running but a galloping hand to have in so few
hours deciphered the arms, and made a list of the names of such an
enormous number of individuals.

Having remained over Sunday at Cressy, Edward set out on Monday morning
for Calais, with the intention of besieging it. While he was occupied
abroad, his enemy, little David Bruce, at the instigation of Philip,
attempted to disturb England. After a brief campaign, in which the
Scotch king was joined by the Earls of Monteith and Fife, David Bruce
was placed in custody. Monteith lost his head for showing his teeth, and
Fife would have had a stop put to him, but for his relationship to the
Royal Family, his mother having been niece to the first Edward.

Calais was kept in a state of blockade, for the English king had
resolved upon hemming in and starving out the inhabitants. John de
Vienne, who was the governor, finding provisions getting low, turned
what he called the "useless mouths" out of the place, and among these
"useless mouths" were a number of women, who must have been rare
specimens of their sex to have kept their mouths in a state of
uselessness. The brutal policy of John de Vienne was to continue weeding
the population as long as he could by turning out the old and helpless,
the women and the children. Seventeen hundred victims were thrust from
the town and driven towards the English lines by the Governor of Calais,
who was reckless of the lives of the citizens so long as the sacrifice
enabled him to hold out and gain a character for bravery.

It is easy for a military commander to win a reputation for extreme
heroism if he is utterly regardless of the expense, and chooses to pay
for it in the blood of those under his control; but it is the duty of
the historian to audit the accounts and justly strike the balance.
In looking into the case of John de Vienne we adjudge him guilty of
fraudulent bankruptcy in his reputation, for he sought to establish
himself in the good books of public opinion by trading on the lives
of the citizens of Calais, which were his only capital. If he were now
before us, we should assume the part of a commissioner, and should say
to him, "Go, sir. We cannot grant you your protection from the heavy
responsibilities you incurred when you wasted human life which you were
bound to preserve as far as you were able. You have violated a sacred
trust; and we must therefore adjourn your further examination _sine
die_, for it is quite impossible to grant you your certificate."

As long as John de Vienne could find anything to eat, and could have
his table tolerably well provided, he held out; but when starvation
threatened himself as well as the citizens, he asked permission to
capitulate. Edward, annoyed by the obstinacy of the resistance, refused
to come to any terms short of an unconditional surrender, but he at
length consented to spare the town on condition of six burgesses coming
forth naked in their shirts, with halters round their necks, and without
anything on their legs, as a proof of their humiliation being utterly
inexpressible. When John de Vienne was apprised of this resolution,
he called a meeting in the market-place, and stated the hard condition
which Edward had imposed, but the governor had not the heroism to
propose to make one of the party required for the sacrifice. He was
exceedingly eloquent in urging others to come forward, and was loud in
his protestations that such an "eligible opportunity," such an "opening
for spirited young men" would never occur again; but the citizens turned
a deaf ear to all his arguments. No one seemed inclined to set a noble
example, but all the inhabitants gave way to a piteous fit of howling,
until Eustace de St. Pierre, a rich burgess, drying his eyes and mopping
up his emotion with the cuff of his coat, offered himself as the first
victim. Five others followed his example, and the six heroes, taking
off their trousers, prepared to throw themselves into the breach, and
slipping off their slippers, went barefooted into the presence of the
conqueror. He eyed the miserable objects with malicious pleasure, and
according to Froissart, insulted the unhappy burgesses by a series
of grimaces, like those with which the clown accompanies the ironical
inquiry of "How are you?" which he always addresses to his intended
victim in a pantomime. The wretched state of the burgesses shivering
in their shirts--but not shaking in their shoes, for they were
barefooted--had a softening influence on all but Edward, who with a
clownish yell of "I've got you!" desired that the headsman might be sent
for immediately.

[Illustration: 208]

The queen threw herself on her knees, and representing that she had
never asked a favour of Edward in her life, entreated him to spare
the trembling citizens. "Look at them!" exclaimed her majesty, as
she dragged one forward and turned him round and round to show what a
miserable object he was. "Look at them! and observe how piteously they
implore mercy; for though their tongues do not speak, their teeth are
constantly chattering." Edward looked at his wife, and then at the
citizens. "I wish," said he to the former, "that you had been----
somewhere else; but take the miserable beggars and do what you can with
them." Philippa instantly took the coil of rope from the necks that were
so nearly on the point of "shuffling off the mortal coil," and told
them to go and get rigged out in a suit of clothes each, which made
the oldest of them observe that "the rigger of the queen was much less
formidable than the rigour of the king, with which they had been so
lately threatened."

The imbecility to which fear had brought their minds is fearfully
shadowed forth in this miserable piece of attempted pleasantry, and it
was perhaps fortunate that Edward did not overhear a pun, the atrocity
of which he might have been justified in never pardoning. The six
citizens having received their dressing, in a more agreeable shape then
they had expected, and having sat down to an excellent dinner, provided
at the queen's expense, were dismissed with a present of six nobles
each, that they might not be without money in their pockets. As they
partook of the meal prepared for them, the wag of the party, whose vapid
jokes had already endangered the lives of himself and his companions,
ventured to observe that he should look upon the ordinary as one of
the most extraordinary events in his life; but as none of the king's
servants were at hand to overhear the miserable _jeu de mot_, it was
not followed by the fatal consequences we might otherwise have been
compelled to chronicle.

On the 3rd of August, 1347, Edward and his queen made their triumphant
entry into Calais, which was transformed into an English colony; and as
the residents of that early period were debtors to the generosity of the
sovereign, the place has become a favourite resort for debtors even to
the present moment.

Edward having returned to England began to try the squeezability of
his Parliament, and got up various pretexts for demanding money. He
pretended to ask advice about carrying on the war with France, but the
Parliament suspecting his intention declined giving any answer to his
message. He next had recourse to intimidation, by spreading a report
that the French contemplated invasion; and though it was little better
than a cry of "Old Bogey," it had the desired effect. There is no doubt
that Edward was guilty of obtaining money under false pretences, for he
and Philip had agreed between themselves for a truce, and yet each taxed
his subjects under the pretence that war might be imminent.

[Illustration: 211]

About the year 1344, according to some, but in the year 1350, on the
authority of Stowe, the celebrated Order of the Garter was founded.
If we may put faith in an old fable, it originated in the Countess of
Salisbury having danced her stockings down at a court ball; when the
king seeing her garter dangling at her heels, took hold of it and gave
it to her, exclaiming, _Honi soit qui mal y pense_, which was a cut
at some females who pretended to be shocked at the incident. Their
smothered exclamations of "Well, I'm sure!"

"Upon my word!" and "Well, really I never! Did you ever?" were thus
playfully rebuked by Edward the Third, who afterwards made the words we
have quoted the motto of the Order. We need scarcely tell our readers in
this enlightened age that _Honi soit qui mal y pense_ is equivalent
to saying that those who see harm in an innocent act, derive from
themselves all the evil that presents itself.

Edward's old enemy, Philip of France, was now dead, but his son and
successor, John, continued the truce, or renewed the accommodation bill,
which was entered into for the purpose of stopping proceedings on
either side. In state affairs, as in pecuniary matters, these temporary
arrangements are seldom beneficial, for they cause a frightful
accumulation of interest, which must some time or other be paid off or
wiped out at a fearful sacrifice.

The Continental successes of the English king were marred by the trouble
that Scotland gave to him, and he was often heard to say that "though he
could make the French poodle--by whom he meant the king of France--do
as he pleased, he hated the constant barking at his heels of the Scotch
terrier." He therefore determined on attempting to buy the country out
and out. So, going over to Roxburgh, he asked Baliol point-blank what
he would take for the whole concern, exactly as it stood, including the
throne, the title-deeds of the kingdom, and the crown and sceptre. "Let
me see. What has it cost me?" said Baliol, evidently contemplating a
bargain; but Edward interrupting him with "A precious deal more than
it is worth," somewhat modified the figure that was on the tip of the
tongue of the Scotch sovereign. "Will fifty thousand marks be too much?"
observed the vendor, with an anxious look. But Edward's rapid "Oh, good
morning!" instantly told the wary Scot the shrewdness of his customer.
"Stop, stop," said Baliol; "I like to do business when I can. What will
you give? for I'm really tired of the thing, and would be glad to accept
any reasonable offer." Edward resumed his seat, made a few calculations
on a scrap of vellum with a pocket-stile, and then, jumping up,
exclaimed, "I'll tell you what I'll do with you. I'll give you five
thousand marks down, and an annuity of £2000 per annum."

The bargain was struck. With the title-deeds laden, Edward joyfully flew
to his own country, and he had scarcely turned his back when "Adieu!"
said Baliol; "you are not the first humbug who, coming to cheat,
have got cheated yourself." The fact was, that the Scotchman, with
characteristic cunning, got the best of the bargain, for the crown had
been fearfully ill-used, the sceptre had got all the glitter worn off by
the hard rubs it had endured, and the throne would cost more to keep in
substantial repair than twice its value.

Edward having bought up the country, began to exercise the right of
ownership by setting fire to little bits of it. He marched through the
Lothians, where he met with loathing on every side, and set
Haddington as well as Edinburgh in flames, which caused Scotland to be
prophetically called the Land of Burns by a sage of the period.

While the king was thus engaged at home, his son Edward, the Black
Prince, so called from the colour of his armour, which he had
blackleaded to save the trouble of keeping it always bright, was
occupied in France, where he fought and won the famous battle of
Poictiers. The truce had, with the customary faithlessness of royalty in
those days, been broken. Young Edward, having a small force, made a most
earnest appeal to his army, and said something very insinuating about
"his sinewy English bowmen."

Before the commencement of the battle, a diplomatist of the name of
Talleyrand, who seems to have been worthy of his celebrated modern
successor, rode from camp to camp trying to arrange the affair, and
making himself very influential with both parties. John was, however,
so confident in the superiority of his numbers that he declined a
compromise, except on the most humiliating terms, to the Black Prince,
who looked blacker than ever when the degrading proposition was made to
him.

On the 19th of September, 1356, the battle began with a duet played by
two trumpets--one on each side--but this did not last long, for neither
party desired to listen to overtures. The French commenced the attack,
but they came to the point a little too soon, for they actually ran
upon the arrows of the English bowmen. The Constable of France tried
to inspire courage into the troops on his side by roaring out
"Mountjoy! St. Denis!" but a stalwart Briton, telling him to hold his
noise, felled him to the ground. A strong body of reserve, who carried
their reserve to downright timidity, fled without striking a blow. They
had scarcely drawn their swords, and received the word of command to
"cut away," when they did literally cut away, and having cut refused
to come again. John of France flourished his battle-axe with ferocious
courage; but at last he received two tremendous blows in the face which
brought him to the ground. His son Philip, a lad of sixteen, fought by
his side, encouraging him with cries of "Give it 'em, father!" which
aroused the almost exhausted John, and caused him to recover his legs.
Every kind of verbal insults was offered to him by the enemy, and
particularly by the Gascons, who indulged in a great deal of their usual
gasconade. "Stand and surrender!" cried a voice; to which John replied,
"If I could stand, I would not surrender, but I suppose I must fall into
your hands." With this he tottered into a circle of English knights,
by whom he was nearly torn to pieces in the scramble that arose for the
royal captive. Some among the crowd of his victors endeavoured to induce
his majesty to place himself under their charge, and one or two began
to talk to him in bad French, when Sir Denis, a real Frenchman, who had
been dismissed from the service of his own country and entered that of
England, addressed the monarch politely in his native tongue. John was
in the act of offering up his glove to this gentleman as a token of
surrender, when the royal gauntlet was torn to pieces by the surrounding
knights, who all wanted to have a finger in it. Everyone was eager
to claim the French monarch, who seemed on the point of being torn to
pieces like a hare by a pack of ill-bred hounds. "I took him," exclaimed
fifty voices at once, when the Earl of Warwick, rushing into the front,
thundered forth in a stentorian voice, "Can't' you leave the man alone?"
and drawing John's arm within his own, led off the conquered king to the
camp of Edward. Warwick took little Philip by the hand, and presented
father and son to the Black Prince, who received them with much
courtesy. *

[Illustration: 214]

He invited them both to supper, waited on the French king at table,
and soothed his grief with probably such kind expressions as "Poor old
chap!"

"Never mind, old fellow!" and other words of respectful sympathy. The
Black Prince made them his companions to London, which they entered in
the character of his prisoners, on the 24th of April, 1357. The pageant
was very magnificent, the citizens hanging out their plate to do honour
to the occasion; and the windows were filled with spoons, just as they
are when a modern Lord Mayor's show is to be seen within the city.
Edward had now a couple of kings in custody; but in November, 1357, one
of them, David Bruce, was released, upon drawing a bill for one hundred
thousand marks on his Scotch subjects. There can be no doubt that the
latter were regularly sold by their weak-minded monarch, who had become
the mere creature of the English sovereign. John remained in captivity
in London, while Edward carried the war into France; but having got
nearly as far as Paris, he was caught in a shower, which completely
wet him down, and diluted all the spirit he had, up to that point,
exhibited. * The wind was terrific; but it was not one of those ill
winds that blow nobody good, for the blow it inflicted on the courage of
Edward made good for those he came to fight against. The French justly
hailed the rain as a welcome visitor, for it completely softened Edward
by regularly soaking him. On the 8th of May, 1360, peace was concluded,
and John was set at large on condition of the payment of three million
crowns of gold, which was rather a heavy sum forgetting one crown
restored to him. Some hostages were given for the fulfilment of the
bargain; but poor John found he had undertaken more than he could
perform, and though he did not exactly stop payment, it was because he
had never commenced that operation. He was exceedingly particular in
money matters, and it annoyed him not to be able to fulfil his pecuniary
arrangements. Some of his bail having bolted, he could bear the
degradation no longer, and he voluntarily went over to London, where he
put himself in prison, as a defaulter, though others say it was a love
affair in England, rather than his honesty as a debtor, which brought
him up to town. The royal insolvent did not long survive, for he died
in the month of April, 1364, at the Palace of the Savoy; and it was
tauntingly said of him by a contemporary buffoon, that the debt of
nature was the only debt he had ever paid.

     * Froissart, Knyght, Rynier, and Company.

The Black Prince, who had been created Duke of Aquitaine, governed for
his father in the South of France, but was induced to espouse the cause
of one Pedro, surnamed the Cruel, who, for his ferocious conduct, had
been driven from the throne of Castile. Bertrand du Gueselin, a famous
knight in his day, and Don Enrique, the illegitimate brother of the
tyrant, had expelled him from his dominions, when the Black Prince,
tempted by offers of an enormous salary, undertook to restore Pedro to
his position. Edward fought and conquered, but could not get paid for
his services; and, as he had undertaken the job by contract, employing
an army of mercenaries at his own risk, he was harassed to death by
demands for which he had made himself liable. Captains were continually
calling to know when he intended to settle that little matter, until he
got tired of answering that it was not quite convenient just now; and
he that had never turned his back upon an enemy, ran away as hard as
he could from the importunity of his creditors. Pedro, abandoned by his
chief supporter, agreed to a conference with his half brother Enrique;
but cruelty seems to have been a family failing, for the couple had
scarcely met when they fell upon each other with the fury of wild
beasts, and Pedro the Cruel was stabbed by Enrique the Crueller, who
threw himself at once upon the throne. *

     * Froissart.--Mariana.

Charles of France now thought that the harassed mind and declining
health of the Black Prince afforded an eligible opportunity of attacking
him. His Royal Highness resisted as well as he could; but he was so
exceedingly indisposed that he was carried about on a litter from post
to post, as if he had been compelled to rest at the corner of every
street through sheer exhaustion. He marched, or rather was jostled,
towards Limoges, the capital of the Limousin, which he stormed in two
places at once; and at the sight of the pair of breaches he had made,
the women fled in inexpressible terror and confusion. His conduct to
these poor defenceless creatures was merciless in the extreme; and this
one incident in the life of the Black Prince is sufficient to give to
his name all the blackness that is attached to it. Some allowance may,
however, be perhaps made for the state of his health, which now took him
to England to recruit--not in a military but in a physical sense--but it
was too late, for he died at Canterbury, on the 8th of January, 1376, to
the great regret of his father, who only kept the respect of the people
through his son's popularity.

Edward the Third had been for some time leading a very disreputable
life, and had been captivated by one Alice Perrers, to whom he had given
the jewels of the late queen, and who had the effrontery to wear them
when abroad in the public thoroughfares. Among other freaks of his
dotage was a tournament which he gave in Smithfield--the origin, no
doubt, of the once famous Bartholomew Fair--where Alice Perrers figured
in a triumphal chariot, as the Lady of the Sun, the king himself
appearing in the character of the Sun, though it was the general remark
that, as the couple sat side by side, the Sun looked old enough to be
the father.

It was towards the close of this reign that Wycliffe, the celebrated
precursor of Huss, Luther, and Calvin, as well as the curser of popery,
began preaching against the abuses of the Catholic clergy. His cause was
espoused by the Duke of Lancaster, who had been in power since the death
of the Black Prince, and who is said to have taken Wycliffe's part so
ardently, as to have threatened to drag the Bishop of London by the hair
of his head out of St. Paul's Cathedral. Considering that the priest was
all shaven and shorn, it would have been difficult for Lancaster to
have carried out his threat by tugging out the bishop in the manner
specified. It is a curious fact that this alleged attack on one of
the heads of the church was soon followed by a general burden on the
national poll, in the shape of a poll-tax, which was imposed to provide
for the renewal of the war, as the truce in existence was on the point
of expiring.

Edward had now become old and miserable; for having done nothing to gain
the affection of others, he was abandoned at the close of his life, by
even the members of his own family. One or two sycophants clung to him,
in the hope of getting something; but his children had all separate
interests of their own, for the cold and selfish conduct of their parent
had driven them quite away from him. He endeavoured to give decency to
the close of his existence, by a general amnesty for all minor offences;
but it was now too late to gain him friends, and the wretched old man
was left alone with Alice Perrers. He died in her arms at his villa at
Sheen, near Richmond, on the 21st of June, 1377, and she took advantage
of being by his side at his death, to rob him of a valuable ring, which
she took from his finger in his last moments, when he was too weak to
resist the robbery. Were the shade of Edward the Third to present itself
before us for a testimonial, we should advise the spectre, for its
respectability's sake, not to ask us for a character.

Much good was done in the reign we have been describing; but this is
only another illustration of the well-known truth that the prosperity
of a country does not always depend on the virtues of the sovereign.
Perhaps the most valuable measure passed by Edward was an act limiting
to three principal heads the cases of high treason, of which a hundred
heads, all filled with teeth, might until then have been considered
symbolical. This wholesome statute had at least the effect of changing
a Hydra into a Cerberus. The leash of crimes that this Cerberus was
empowered to hunt down were, conspiring the death of the king, levying
war against him, or adhering to his enemies. A curious question arose
some time afterwards under the last of these three divisions, when a
loyal subject was nearly being condemned for adhering to the king's
enemies, though it appeared he had adhered only in the sense of sticking
to them, with a view to punish them.

The conduct of Edward the Third to David Bruce, his brother-in-law, was
unjust in the extreme; and though the Black Prince made his way by his
own talents, he does not appear to have owed his advancement to any
assistance that his father ever afforded him. Some useful alterations
were made in the law, and the power of the Commons advanced; but the
taxes were fearfully increased, as if the liberality of the people was
expected as an equivalent for the liberality of the Government. The
money collected was not altogether wasted in war, for some of it went
in the building of Windsor Castle, of which William of Wickham was the
architect. The first turnpike ever known in England, was started also
under Edward the Third, between St. Giles's and Temple Bar, where to
this day the successor of the ancient pikeman rushes forth to levy a
toll on carts that enter the city. On the same principle, that out of
evil good often comes, Edward the Third may be regarded as a benefactor
to his subjects.



CHAPTER THE FIFTH. RICHARD THE SECOND, SURNAMED OF BORDEAUX.


[Illustration: 217]

IF little and good were always identical. Richard the Second would have
been a very good king, for he was a little boy of eleven years of age
when the crane of circumstances hoisted him on to the throne of his
grandfather. Young Richard was the only surviving son of Edward the
Black Prince, and out of compliment to the juvenile monarch, his
coronation in Westminster Abbey was made as gaudy as possible. No
expense was spared in dresses and decorations; but the ceremony not
being over till it was high time all children should be in bed and
asleep, the boy king was completely exhausted before the spectacle was
half over. Stimulants were administered to keep the child up; but
when the heavy crown was placed on his brow, the diadem completely
overbalanced a head already oscillating from side to side with excessive
drowsiness. His attendants tumbled him into a litter, and hurried him
into a private room, where, by dint of the most scarifying restoratives
held to his nose, he so far recovered as to be enabled to create four
earls and nine knights, partake of a tremendous supper, dance at a ball,
and listen to a little minstrelsy. * It was at the coronation of Richard
the Second that we first find mention in history of a champion rushing
into Westminster Hall, throwing his gauntlet on the ground, and offering
to fight any number--one down and another come on--who may dispute
the title of the sovereign. The gallantry of the challenge is not very
considerable, for it is a well-understood thing beforehand that the
police will keep all suspicious characters out of the Hall, and the only
difficulty required is in backing out of the Hall on horseback; as, if
a claimant to the throne should actually appear, the champion would no
doubt back cleverly out of his challenge. Even this trifling merit must,
however, be assigned to the horse, who is generally a highly-trained
palfrey from the neighbouring amphitheatre, and is let out, trappings
and all included, to the Champion of England for the performance in
which his services are required.

     * We get these facts from Walsingham, who gives an elaborate
     account of the coronation. Walsingham says, they waltzed
     till all was blue, which means, until the coerulean dawn
     began to make its appearance.

[Illustration: 218]

Though Richard was not too young for the position of king, it was not
to be supposed that a boy of his age could be of any use whatever, and
twelve permanent councillors were therefore appointed, to do the work of
government. It was expected that the Duke of Lancaster, _alias_ John
of Gaunt, would have been appointed regent, but not one of the king's
uncles was named, and John, looking gaunter * than ever, withdrew in
stately dudgeon to his Castle of Kenilworth.

     * John of Gaunt was not so called from his gaunt stature, as
     some suppose, but from Ghent, or Gand (then called Gaunt)
     where the gent, was born,

The truce with France having expired, without renewal, some attacks were
made on the English coast, and advantage was taken of the circumstance
to ask the Parliament for a liberal supply. Every appeal to the
patriotism of the people was in those days nothing more than an attack
upon their pockets; and it is not improbable that, by an understanding
among the various kings of Europe, one of them should be threatened
with attack if he required a pretext for obtaining a subsidy from his
subjects.

Notwithstanding the money taken from the public purse for the national
defence, the work was so utterly neglected by the Government, that John
Philpot, a shipowner and merchant of London, equipped a small fleet
of his own, with which he captured several of the enemy's vessels. The
authorities feeling the act to be a reflection on their own shameful
dereliction of duty, censured Philpot for his interference; but the
worthy alderman, by replying--"Why did you leave it to me to do,
when you ought to have done it yourselves?" effectually silenced all
remonstrance.

Young Richard, or those who acted for him, continued to make ducks and
drakes of the money of the English, which was being constantly wasted in
wanton warfare. The setting up of a duke here, or the taking down of a
king there, though the English felt no interest whatever in either the
duke or the king, became a pretext for levying a tax on the people. In
order that none should escape, so much per head was imposed on every
one from the highest to the lowest. The tax varied with the rank of the
person; and while a duke or archbishop was assessed at six 'thirteen
four (£6 13s. 4d.) a lawyer was mockingly mulcted of six and eightpence.
Such was the unpopularity of the poll-tax, that a regular pollish
revolution speedily broke out, which was fomented by the exactions of
some mercenary speculators to whom the tax had been farmed out by the
Government. Commissioners were sent into the disturbed districts to
enforce payment, and one Thomas de Bampton, who sat at Brentwood in
Essex, with two serjeants-at-arms, was glad to take to his legs, to
escape the violence of the populace, who sent him flying all the way to
London, where he rushed with his two attendants into the Common Pleas,
and asked for justice. Sir Robert Belknape, the chief, was sitting at
Nisi Prius, when Bampton begged permission to move the court as far as
Essex. The judge followed by clerks, jurors, and ushers, consenting to
the motion, went off to Brentwood, where they had no sooner arrived,
than poor Belknape was seized by the nape of the neck and forced to
flee, while the clerks and jurors were much more cruelly dealt with.

Leaders were all that the people wanted, when a notorious priest who
got the name of Jack Straw--from his being a man of that material--put
himself at the head of the discontents. The throwing up a straw will
often tell which way the wind blows, and the elevation of Jack certainly
indicated an approaching hurricane. During the excitement, one of the
tax-gatherers called upon one Walter the Tyler, of of Dartford, in Kent,
to demand fourpence, due as Miss Walter's Poll-tax. Mrs. Walter, with
the vanity of her sex, wishing to make herself out younger than she
really was, declared that the girl was not of the age liable by law
to the imposition. The collector made a very rude remark on that very
tender point, the age of the elder lady, when she screamed out to
her husband, who was tiling a house in the neighbourhood, to come and
"punish the impertinent puppy." Walter, who had still his trowel in
his hand, replied by crying out "Wait till I get at you;" and the
tax-gatherer insolently calling out "What's that what you say, Wat?" so
irritated Walter, that he at once emptied a hod of mortar on to the head
of the collector. The functionary was, of course, dreadfully mortar-fied
at this incident, but the trowelling he got with the trowel completely
finished him. Everybody applauded what Wat had done, and he was soon
appointed captain of the rebels. They released from prison a Methodist
parson named John Ball, or Bawl, whom they called their chaplain. A
nucleus having been formed, the mob increased with the rapidity of
a snowball, picking up the scum of the earth at every turn, until it
arrived at an alarming magnitude. The Tyler first visited Canterbury,
where he played some practical jokes upon the monks, and then came to
Blackheath, where, finding the young king's mother--the widow of the
Black Prince--he gave the old lady a kiss, and in this operation nearly
every rebel followed his leader. Such were the liberties taken by the
mob in their zeal on behalf of liberty, which they often affect
to pursue by means of the vilest tyranny, cruelty, cowardice, and
oppression. The insurgents made for London, when Walworth, the mayor,
endeavoured to oppose their entrance; but his efforts were vain, and
several parts of the city were burnt and plundered. The Temple was
destroyed by fire, and the lawyers running about in their black gowns
amid the flames suggested a very obvious comparison. Newgate and the
Fleet prisons were broken into, when all the scamps from both places
at once assumed the character of patriots, and joined the cause of the
people.

It is astonishing how easily a scamp who is unfit for any honest
occupation can at once become a friend of the masses. The prisons might
at any time contribute a fresh supply, when the stock of lovers of
liberty on hand may seem to be diminishing. Rapine and murder were
pursued with impunity for some time, the Government leaving matters to
take their chance; until a formal demand having been made by the mob for
the heads of the Chancellor and Treasurer, it was thought high time to
effect a compromise. A proclamation was issued announcing the king's
intention to be at Mile End by a certain hour, and the people were
politely requested to meet him there. On his reaching the spot where he
intended to talk things over with his subjects, he found sixty thousand
of them assembled; and as they all began talking at once, a little
confusion arose until the appointment of a regular spokesman. At length
the demands of sixty thousand tongues were reduced to four heads, and
to these the king agreed very graciously. The dispute might have ended
mildly at Mile End, but for the violent proceedings of those who kept
away from the meeting. These got into the Tower directly Richard's
back was turned, and the least of their offences was the rudeness they
manifested towards the widow of the Black Prince, who had either dropt
in to tea with the Archbishop and Chancellor or was permanently residing
there. This lady had got the name of the Fair Maid of Kent, a title that
had many local variations, according to the part of the county in
which she was spoken of. Sometimes they called her the Dartford Daisy,
sometimes the Canterbury Belle, sometimes the Greenwich Geranium,
sometimes the Woolwich Wallflower, and occasionally, even the Heme Bay
Hollyoak.

The rioters finding her in the Tower, treated the Fair Maid of Kent with
excessive rudeness, comparing her lips to Kentish cherries, and making
them the subject of the well-known game which is played by what
is termed bobbing at the fruit specified. She was, in fact, nearly
smothered in the Tower with the kisses of the malcontents. Her ladies
were, of course, dreadfully shocked, and their screams of "Mi!" at the
treatment of their mistress were truly terrible. When remonstrated with
on the liberty they were taking, they declared liberty to be the sacred
object they were bent on furthering. The Fair Maid of Kent was at length
dragged away by her attendants, who concealed her in a house called the
royal wardrobe, or perhaps put her into a clothes-cupboard, to keep her
out of the way of the rioters.

The Mile End charter had been very nicely written out by order of the
king, but Wat Tyler and his followers refused to have anything to do
with it. Richard tried another charter with more concessions, but
this had no effect; and at length he drew up a third, which went still
further than the two first, for the king, or those who advised him,
cared not how much was promised to answer a temporary purpose, as
there was never any difficulty in breaking a pledge that might be found
inconvenient. Whether or no Wat suspected the worthlessness of charters,
which might be sworn to one day and treated as waste paper the next,
he refused to be satisfied with either of the documents offered to his
approval. Finding written communications utterly useless, Richard rode
into town, with the intention of seeing what could be done by means of a
personal interview.

On reaching Smithfield he met Wat Tyler, and drew up opposite the gate
of St. Bartholomew's Hospital, which was in those days an abbey. The
incident which then happened has been variously described by different
pens, but unless we had at our command some of the Smithfield pens that
happened to be present at the time, we could not vouch for the accuracy
of any particular statement. Some say that Tyler came up in a bullying
attitude, and flourished a dagger; others allege that he seized the
king's bridle, as if he would take out of the royal hands the reins of
power; a few hint that Wat was intoxicated, either with brief authority
or something equally short; but all agree that he received his quietus
at the hands of one of his majesty's attendants.

The merit or responsibility of the death of Wat Tyler has usually been
assigned to Walworth, Lord Mayor of London, who is said to have
killed the rebel with his mace; * but it is doubtful whether the civic
potentate would be carrying his mace about with him during a morning's
ride.

     * Others say that the mace in the hands of Walworth was not
     the official mace, but a mace belonging to a billiard marker
     in the mob. It is pretty certain that, wherever the mace may
     have come from, the insolence of Tyler furnished the cue.

The fall of the Tyler had a most depressing influence on his followers,
and Richard, riding up to them, offered his services as their leader.
"Tyler was a traitor," cried the king: "I will be your captain and your
guide," when several of the mob consented to transfer themselves, like
so many tools, from the hands of Wat to those of Richard. Some of the
rioters sneaked quietly away, while those that remained were paralysed;
for it was always the characteristic of an English mob, to go on very
valiantly as long as they had it all their own way, but to turn tail and
flee on the very first symptom of earnest resistance.

Richard, finding himself once more powerful, instead of tempering
justice with mercy, threw in a strong seasoning of the most highly
-spiced cruelty, and commenced a series of executions, in which there
were nearly fifteen hundred victims to royal vindictiveness. As might
have been expected from the state of royal honour at the time, he at
once revoked all the charters to which he had agreed--an act which
proved that Tyler took a very fair view of the worth of the concessions
he had rejected. Jack Straw, one of the rioters, after being tauntingly
told by the authorities that he, Straw, deserved to be thrashed, was
among the sufferers by the law; and an act was passed by which "riots
and rumours and other such things" were turned into high treason.
Considering that rumour has an incalculable number of tongues, which are
not unfrequently all going at once, there must have been plenty to do
under the act by which all rumours were converted into high treason.

In the year 1382, Richard was married to Anne of Bohemia, a most
accomplished Bohemian girl, and the daughter of Charles the Fourth,
the highly respectable emperor. The king had in the commencement of his
reign been surrounded by a low set, placed about him by his mother, the
Princess of Wales, for the purpose of excluding his uncles, who could
not be expected to mix with ministers and officers whose vulgarity was
shocking, and whose meanness was quite detestable. One of these fellows,
John Latimer, a Carmelite friar, and an Irishman, gave Richard a
parchment containing the particulars of a conspiracy to place the crown
on the head of his uncle, the Duke of Lancaster. The duke swore that the
whole story was false; his accuser swore the contrary, and the dispute
was at length settled by the strangulation of Latimer. Sir John Holland,
the king's half-brother, was the alleged perpetrator of the savage act;
and indeed this gentleman subsequently disgraced himself by a homicide
in the royal camp, for he pounced upon and killed one of the favourites.

"You're no favourite of mine," roared Holland, as he perpetrated the
ruffianly act; which proves the holland of that day to have been a very
coarse material.

The Duke of Lancaster having gone abroad to urge a stale, and rather
hopeless, claim to the throne of Castile, Richard was left in the power
of his more turbulent uncle, the Duke of Gloucester. This unpleasant
person at once proposed a permanent Council of Regency, to which the
king objected, when, with dramatic effect, one of the commons produced
from under his cloak the statute by which Edward the Second had been
deposed, and holding it to Richard's head, implied that his consent or
his life were his only alternatives. Upon this he gave his consent, but
about two years afterwards, at a council held in May, 1389, he suddenly
took what is commonly called a new start, and rising up, addressed
Gloucester with the words, "I say, Uncle, do you know how old I am?"

"Of course I do," replied Gloucester, a little puzzled at the oddness
of the question; "you are in your twenty-second year; and a fine boy
you are of your age," continued the crafty duke; "but why so particular
about dates at the present moment?"

"Because," replied the king, "I've been thinking if I'm not old enough
to manage my own affairs now, I never shall be."

[Illustration: 223]

An expression of "hoity toity!" came into the countenance of the duke;
but Richard continued, with much earnestness, that all the young men of
his age were released from the control of their guardians, and he did
not see why he should any longer be kept morally in pinafores. With
this he thanked the council for their past services, which, however, he
declared he should no longer require. Before there was time to prevent
him, he had snatched the seals from the archbishop, and seized the
bunch of keys from the Bishop of Hereford. Everybody was completely
dumbfounded by this exhibition on the part of a lad who had never before
been known to do more than stammer out a bashful "Bo!" to some goose he
may have met with in his youthful wanderings. Gloucester was driven
from the council, and the whole thing was done before anyone present
had time--or if he had time he certainly omitted the opportunity--to
say "Jack Robinson." An affecting reconciliation afterwards took place
between Gloucester and the king; but we believe the reconciliation
itself to have been more affected than the parties who were concerned in
it.

Richard had soon afterwards the misfortune to lose his wife; and in 1394
he went over to Ireland with a considerable army, but, as it would seem,
less for the purpose of making war than making holiday. The English king
never struck a blow, and the Irish did not resist, so that the whole
affair was a good deal like that portion of the performance of Punch, in
which one party is continually bobbing down his head, while the other
is furiously implanting blows on vacancy. Richard entertained the Irish
with great magnificence, and at one of the banquets said the evening was
so pleasant he wished he could make several knights of it. Some of the
guests taking up the idea, persuaded him to make several knights by
knighting them, which he did with the utmost affability.

Richard did not remain very long a widower, for in October, 1396, he
married Isabella, the daughter of Charles the Sixth, an infant prodigy,
for she was scarcely more than seven, though a prodigy, according to
Froissart, of wit and beauty. Our private opinion--which we do not
hesitate to make public--is that there must have been some mistake about
the infant's age, and that the parents and nurses of that period were
not so particular in proving registers and records of birth as they
might, could, or should have been. The wit of a child of seven must have
been fearfully forced to have been so early developed: and in spite of
the tendency there has always been to exaggerate the merits of royalty,
we respectfully submit that the _facetiae_ of a child of seven must
have been of the very smallest description. The king, who had never been
cordially reconciled to Gloucester, was annoyed by the opposition of
the latter to the royal marriage, and resolved on striking a blow at his
uncle as well as at one or two of his chief partisans. Richard's plan
was to ask people to dinner, and in the middle of one of the courses,
give a signal to a sheriff's officer, who was concealed under the
tablecloth, from which he sprang out and arrested the visitor. He served
the Earls of Warwick and Arundel one after the other in this way, having
invited them each in turn to a chop, which it was designed that they
should eventually get through the agency of a hatchet. *

     * This must not be confounded with an old legend, that he
     asked his friends occasionally to a chop at Hatchett's--the
     well-known hotel in Piccadilly.

His uncle Gloucester was not to be caught in this way, and declined
several invitations to a _tête-à-tête_, when Richard, determined to
accomplish his object, went to Bleshy Castle in Essex, where his uncle
was residing. "As you won't come to see me, I've come to see you," were
the king's artful words, when he was naturally invited to partake
of that _fortune du pot_ which is the ever-ready tribute of English
hospitality. While Richard was doing the amiable with the Duchess,
Gloucester, the Duke, was seized by one of the bailiffs in the
_suite_--disguised, of course, as a gentleman of the household--and
hurried to the Essex shore, where he was shoved off in a boat, and
conveyed, almost before he could fetch his breath, to Calais.

It was the practice of Richard to do things by fits and starts; so
that he accomplished an object very often by getting people to aid him
without knowing exactly what they were about, in consequence of the
suddenness with which he claimed their services. A few days after poor
Gloucester had been "entered outwards" for Calais, the king went to
Nottingham Castle, where, taking his uncles Lancaster and York by
surprise, he pulled out a document, requesting them to favour him with
their autographs. They could not very well refuse a request so strangely
made, and it eventually turned out that they had put their names to a
bill of indictment against Gloucester, Warwick and Arundel. A Parliament
was called to try the traitors, who were condemned, as a matter of
course; for Richard, walking into the house with six hundred men-at-arms
and a body-guard of archers, was pretty sure of a large majority.
Arundel was beheaded, and a writ was issued against Gloucester,
commanding him to return from Calais, to undergo the same disagreeable
process.

Fortunately, or unfortunately for the duke, he was dead before the writ
could be served; but the Parliament, though they could not kill him
twice over, indulged the satisfaction of declaring him a traitor after
his decease, by which all his property became forfeited. This proceeding
was a good deal like robbing the dead; but it was by no means contrary
to the spirit of the period. Warwick pleaded guilty, and was sentenced
to perpetual imprisonment in the Isle of Man--a sort of _lucus a non
lucendo_, which was called the Isle of Man from there being scarcely a
man to be seen in the place from one week's end to the other.

The peculiar richness of this reign consists in the historical doubts,
of which it is so full that the chroniclers are thrown into a state of
pleasing bewilderment. Nobody knows what became of Gloucester while in
captivity at Calais; and therefore every writer is at liberty to dispose
of the duke in any manner that may tempt an imagination inclining to
riot and rampancy. The treatment of his Royal Highness becomes truly
dreadful in the hands of the various antiquarians and others who have
undertaken to deal with him. By one set of authorities he is strangled,
in accordance with the alleged orders of the king: others kill him
of apoplexy; a few poison him; ten or a dozen drown him; six or seven
smother him; but all agree in the fact that he was, surreptitiously
settled. We are the only faithful recorders of the real fact, when we
state upon our honour that nobody knows the manner of the duke's death,
which is involved in the dense fogs of dim obscurity. Into these we will
not venture, lest we lose our own way and mislead the reader who may pay
us the compliment of committing himself to our guidance.

Richard having got rid of Gloucester, was anxious for the removal of
Norfolk and Hereford, whom he involved in a quarrel with each other,
intending that they should realise the legend of the Cats of Kilkenny.
When, however, they had entered the lists to decide their dispute by
wager of battle, Richard thought it better to run no risk of either
of them escaping, and he therefore sentenced both to banishment. Poor
Norfolk, a pudding-headed fellow, who might have gone by the name of the
Norfolk Dumpling, was soft enough to die of grief at Venice, on his road
to Jerusalem, whither he contemplated a pilgrimage. Hereford remained in
France, having been promised a pardon, but as it did not arrive he took
French leave to return to England, in 1399, after scarcely more than a
year's absence. His retinue was so small as to be utterly ridiculous,
for it consisted of one exiled archbishop, fifteen knights, and a
small lot of servants, who may be put down as sundries in the little
catalogue. One fool, however, makes many, and one rebellious earl was
soon joined by a number of other seditious nobles.

The plan of Hereford was that of the political quack who pretends to
have a specific for every disease by which the constitution is affected.
He published a puffing manifesto declaring that he had no other object
but the redress of grievances, and that the crown was the very last
thing to which his thoughts were directed. One of his confederates
to whom Hereford was reading the rough draft of his proposed address,
suggested that the disclaimer of the crown which it contained, might
prove inconvenient, when the royal diadem was really obtainable.
"Don't you see," replied the crafty Hereford with a smile, "I have not
compromised myself in any way. I have only said it is the last thing to
which my thoughts are directed, and so indeed it is, for I think of it
the last thing at night as well as the first thing in the morning." Thus
with the salve of speciousness, did the wily earl soothe for a time the
irritations of his not very tender conscience.

The manifesto had its effect, for it is a remarkable fact that they who
promise more than it is possible to perform, find the greatest favour
with the populace; for an undertaking to do what cannot be done
always affords something to look forward to. Expectation is generally
disappointed by fulfilment, and the most successful impostors are
consequently those who promise the most impracticable things without
ever doing anything. The imposition cannot be detected until the
impossibility of the thing promised is demonstrated; and this does not
often happen, for the difficulty of proving a negative is on all hands
admitted. It was therefore a happy idea of Hereford, as a political
adventurer, to promise a redress of every grievance; and if he could
have added to his pledge of interference _de omnibus rebus_ an assurance
of his ultimately applying his panacea to _quodam alia_, there is
little doubt that he would have been even more successful than he was in
augmenting the number of his followers.

By the time he reached London he had got sixty thousand men of all sorts
and sizes about him, for the people in those days were fond of changing
their leaders, and Hereford was popular as the latest novelty. The
Duke of York--the king's uncle--moved to the West End, as Henry and his
forces entered at the East; but Henry of Bolingbroke--alias Hereford,
who was also the nephew of York--invited the latter to a conference.
After talking the matter over, the worthy couple agreed to a coalition;
the conduct of York being very like that of an individual left to guard
a house, and joining with the thief who came to rob the premises.

[Illustration: 227]

Richard, who was in Ireland, knew nothing of what was passing at home,
for in consequence of contrary winds, the non-arrival of "our usual
express" was for three weeks a standing announcement with all the organs
of intelligence. When he received the news from his "own reporter,"
he started for Milford Haven, where he was almost overwhelmed with
disagreeable information from gentlemen who evinced the genius of true
penny-a-liners in making the very most and the very worst of every
calamitous incident. Richard's soldiers seeing that their king more
than ever required their fidelity and aid, immediately, according to the
usual practice, ran away from him. "They deserted," says the chronicler,
"almost to a man," and it is to be regretted that we have not the name
of the "man" who formed the nearly solitary exception to the general
apostacy. Whoever he may have been, he must have exercised a great deal
of self-command, for he was, of course, his own officer; he must have
reviewed himself, as well as gone through the ceremony of putting
himself on duty and taking himself off at the proper periods. We
must not, however, take too literally the calculations of the old
chroniclers, who reduce the number of Richard's adherents to an almost
solitary soldier, for the truth appears to be that the king mustered
almost six thousand men out of the twenty thousand he had brought with
him from Ireland. Flight was therefore his only refuge, and selecting
from his stock of fancy dresses the disguise of a priest, Richard,
accompanied by his two half-brothers, Sir Stephen Scroop, the
Chancellor, and the Bishop of Carlisle, with nine other followers, set
off for the Castle of Conway. There he met the Earl of Salisbury and
a hundred men, who had eaten every morsel of food to be found in the
place, and Richard was occupied in running backwards and forwards from
Conway to Beaumaris, then on to Carnarvon, then back to Conway again, in
a wretched race for a dinner.

It is pitiable to find a king of England reduced to the condition
described in the old nursery ditty. He went to Conway for provisions;
but

     "When he got there
     The cupboard was bare;"

and the same result followed his visit to Beaumaris and Carnarvon.
Notwithstanding the number of bones that his subjects had to pick with
him, there was not one in the larders of the three castles he visited.
"And so," in the emphatic words of the nursery rhyme, "the poor dog had
none." So complete was the desertion of Richard, that the Master of the
Household, Percy, Earl of Worcester, called all the servants together,
and broke his wand of office, accompanying the act by exclaiming, "Now
I'm off to Chester, to join the Duke of Lancaster." This ceremony was
equivalent to a discharge of all the domestics under him, and the king,
had he returned to his abode, would have been compelled to "do for
himself" in consequence of the disbanding of all his menials. The
members of the establishment, fancying they had an opportunity of
bettering themselves, did not hesitate to follow the example of their
chief, and there is no doubt that a long list, headed _Want Places_, was
at once forwarded to the Duke of Lancaster.

Having ransacked every corner of Conway Castle without finding any
provisions, Richard had nothing left but an unprovisional surrender. He
got as far as Flint Castle, which was only three miles from Chester, but
he found the inhabitants had flinty hearts, and he met with no sympathy.
Henry of Bolingbroke came to meet him, when Richard, touching his hat,
bid welcome to his "fair cousin of Lancaster."

"My lord," replied Henry, somewhat sarcastically, "I'm a little before
my time, but, really, your people complain so bitterly of your not
having the knack to rule them, that I've come to help you." Richard gave
a mental "Umph!" but added, "Well, well, be it as you will," for his
hunger had taken away all his appetite for power. After a repast, unto
which the king did much more ample justice than he had ever done to
his subjects, a hackney was sent for, and Richard rode a prisoner to
Chester.

[Illustration: 229]

No one pitied him as he passed, though the spectacle was a truly
wretched one. The horse was a miserable hack, while Richard himself was
hoarse with a hack-ing cough, caught in the various exposures to wind
and weather he had undergone in his vicissitudes. The dismal _cortège_
having put up at Litchfield for the king and his horse to have a feed,
of which both were greatly in want, Richard made a desperate attempt,
while the waiter was not in the room, to escape out of a window. He had
run a little way from his guards, but a cry of "Stop thief!" caused him
to be instantly pursued, and, when taken, he was well shaken for the
trouble he had occasioned. He was treated with increased severity, and
on arriving in London was conveyed, amid the hootings of the mob, to the
Tower.

Parliament had been appointed to meet on the 29th of September, 1399,
and on that day Richard received in his prison a deputation, to whom he
handed over the crown and the other insignia of royalty. Not satisfied
with the delivery of the sceptre as a proof of the king's abdication,
a wish was expressed to have it in writing, and he signed, as well as
resigned, without a murmur. His enemies had, in fact, determined on
his downfall, and they seemed anxious to be prepared at all points for
dragging the throne from under him. In order to make assurance doubly
or trebly sure, an act of accusation against him was brought before
Parliament on the following day, when Richard's conduct was complained
of in thirty-three, or as some authorities have it, thirty-five *
separate articles.

     * The Pictorial History of England, which is generally very
     accurate, mentions thirty-three articles. Rapin sets out
     substance of thirty-one of the articles, and adds that there
     were four others.

There is no doubt that Richard had behaved badly enough, but the
articles, taking the definite and indefinite together, attributed to
him a great deal more than he had really been guilty of. His punishment
having taken place before his trial, it was of course necessary, for the
sake of making matters square, that the offence should be made to meet
the penalty. Had he been tried first and judged afterwards, a different
course might have been taken, but as he had already been deposed, it was
desirable--if only for the look of the thing--that he should be charged
with something which would have warranted the Parliament in passing upon
him a sentence of deposition. Upwards of thirty articles were therefore
drawn up, for the great fact that in laying it on thick some is almost
sure to stick, was evidently well known to our ancestors: He was charged
with spending the revenues of the crown improperly, and choosing bad
ministers, though he might have replied that bad had been the best, and
that he and Hobson were, with reference to choice, in about the same
predicament. He was accused, also, of making war upon the Duke of
Gloucester, as well as on the Earls of Lancaster and Chester, to which
he might have responded that they began it, and that it was only in his
own defence he had treated them as enemies. It was alleged against
him, also, that he had borrowed money and never paid it back again; but
surely this has always been a somewhat common offence, and one which
the aristocracy should be the last persons in the world to treat with
severity. In one article he was charged with not having changed the
sheriffs often enough, and, as if to allow him no chance of escape,
another article imputed to him that he had changed the sheriffs too
frequently. Some of the counts in the indictment were utterly frivolous,
and the twenty-third stated that he had taken the crown jewels to
Ireland, as if he could not legally have done what he pleased with his
own trinket-box.

It must be presumed that Richard allowed judgment to go by default, for
all the accusations were declared to be proved against him. If he had
been assisted by a special pleader, he might have beaten his accusers
hollow on demurrer, for many of the counts in the declaration were, in
legal phraseology, utterly incapable of holding water. * Notwithstanding
the weakness of the articles, they were not attacked by any one in
Parliament except the Bishop of Carlisle, who, in a miserable minority
of one, formed the entire party of his sovereign. The venerable prelate,
in a powerful speech, talked of Richard's tyranny, including his
murder of Gloucester, as mere youthful indiscretion; and described his
excessive use of the most arbitrary power, as the exuberance of gaiety.
The bishop's freedom of speech was fatal to his freedom of person; for
he was instantly ordered into custody by the Duke of Lancaster. No one
followed on the same side as the prelate, whose removal to prison had
the effect of checking any tendency to debate, and the articles were,
of course, agreed to without a division. Sentence of deposition was
accordingly passed on the king, who had been already deposed, and the
people of England revoked all the oaths and homage they had sworn to
their sovereign. Such, indeed, was the determination of his subjects to
overturn their king, that his deposition was not unlike the practical
joke of drawing the throne literally from under him. They knew he had
not a leg to stand upon, and they seemed determined that he should not
have a seat to sit down upon; for even established forms were overturned
in order to precipitate his downfall.

     * Mackintosh, who keeps the facts always very dry, seems
     inclined to our opinion that the indictment would not have
     held water.

What became of Richard after his having been deposed is a point upon
which historians have differed; but the favourite belief is that he was
cut off with an axe by one of his gaolers at Pomfret Castle, where he
was kept in custody. Some are of opinion that he was starved, and died
rather from want of a chop than by one having been administered. Mr.
Tytler believes that the unfortunate exmonarch escaped to Scotland,
where he resided for twenty years; but the story is doubtful, for even
in Scotland it is impossible to live upon nothing, which would have been
the income of Richard after his exclusion from the royal dignity.

When we come to weigh this sovereign in the scale, we can scarcely
allow him to pass without noticing his deficiency. He seems to have had
originally a due amount of sterling metal, but the warmth of adulation
melted away much of the precious ore, as a sovereign is frequently
diminished in value by sweating. To this deteriorating influence may
be added that of the clipping process, to which he was subjected by his
enemies, who were bent on curtailing his power. He had by nature a
noble and generous disposition, which might have made him an excellent
monarch. But our business is with what he really was, and not with
what he might have been. He was alternately cowardly and tyrannical,
in conformity with the general rule--applicable even to boys at
school--that it is the most contemptible sneak towards the stronger who
is towards the weaker the fiercest bully. Wholesome resistance tames him
down into the sneak again, and in pursuance of this ordinary routine,
Richard, from an overbearing tyrant, became a crouching poltroon, when
his enemies got the upper hand of him.

[Illustration: 232]

It was during this reign that the authority of the pope was vigorously
disputed in England, chiefly at the instigation of John Wickliffe,
who denied many of the doctrines of the Church of Rome, and protested
against its supremacy. Its influence was, moreover, weakened by its
being in some sort "a house divided." Avignon had been for some time the
papal residence, but the Italian cardinals having persuaded the pontiff
to return to Rome, the French cardinals set up a sort of opposition
pope, who continued to live at Avignon. Urban did the honours with
great urbanity in the Eternal City, while Clement carried on the papal
business at the old establishment in France, and Europe became divided
between the Clementines and Urbanists.

These two sects of Christians continued to denounce each other to
eternal perdition for some years, and their trial of strength seemed to
consist chiefly in a competition as to which could execrate the other
with the greatest bitterness. This dissension was no doubt favourable
to the views of Wickliffe, who, like other great reformers, renounced
in his old age the liberal doctrines by which he had obtained his early
popularity.

We have alluded in the course of this chapter to a combat which was
about to take place between the Earls of Hereford and Norfolk, in
pursuance of the practice of Wager of Battle, which was in those days
prevalent. It may seem unjust and ridiculous to the present generation,
that the strongest arm or stoutest spear should have settled a legal
difference, but even in our own times it is frequently the longest purse
which determines the issue of a law-suit. The only difference is that
litigants formerly knocked about each other's persons, instead of making
their assaults upon each other's pockets, and the legal phrase, that
"so-and-so is not worth powder and shot," preserves the allegory of
a combat, to which an action-at-law may be compared with the utmost
propriety. There has always been something chivalric in entering upon
the perilous enterprise of litigation, and we are not surprised that the
forensic champions of England should have been originally an order of
Knights Templars. The only military title which is still left to the
legal corps is that of Sergeant, and the black patch in the centre of
their heads is perhaps worn in memory of some wound received by an
early member of their order in the days of Wager of Battle. The sword of
justice may also be regarded as emblematical of the hard fight that is
frequently required on the part of those who seek to have justice done
to them by the laws of their country.

Contemporaneously with the Wager of Battle, there was introduced during
the reign of Henry the Second a sort of option, by which suitors who
were averse to single combat might support their rights by the oaths
of twelve men of the vicinage. Thus it was possible for those who were
afraid of hard hitting to have recourse to hard swearing, if they could
get twelve neighbours to take the oath that might have been required.
These persons were called the Grand Assize, and formed the jurors--a
word, as everybody knows, derived from the Latin _juro_, to swear--but
the duty has since been transferred from the jury to the witnesses, who
not unfrequently swear quite as hard as the most unscrupulous of our
ancestors.

We have seen that there were very few improvements in the reign of
Richard the Second; but we think we may justly say of the sovereign,
that though he did no good to his country, yet, in the well-known words
of a contemporary writer, "He would if he could, but he couldn't."



CHAPTER THE SIXTH. ON THE MANNERS, CUSTOMS, AND CONDITION OF THE PEOPLE.


[Illustration: 234]

BEFORE entering on the fourth book of our history, we may perhaps be
allowed to pause, for the purpose of taking a retrospective glance at
the condition, customs, candlesticks, sports, pastimes, pitchers, mugs,
jugs and manners of the people. It is curious to trace the progress
of art, from the coarse pipkin of the early Briton to the highly
respectable tankard * found in the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, which
proves the teeth of the monks to have been decidedly liquorish. We must
not, however, plunge prematurely into the pot of a more polished
era: but we must go regularly back to the earthenware of our earliest
ancestors.

The furniture of the Britons was substantial rather than elegant. A
round block of wood formed their easiest chair, which, we need hardly
say, was easier to make than to sit upon. The earth served the purpose
of a bed, not only for the parsley but for the people; and in winter
they made fires on the floor, till the Romans, who brought slavery in
one hand, gave the brasier with the other. Thus did even subjugation
tend to civilisation, and the very chains of the conqueror contained
links for the enlightenment of the conquered.

The diet of the Britons was as poor as their apartments, and consisted
chiefly of wild berries, wild boars, and bisons. We have no record of
their cookery, and it is doubtful whether they cooked at all, though
some antiquarians have endeavoured to find evidence of a stew, a roast
or a curry, and have ended after all in making a mere hash of it.
In clothes the Britons were by no means straight-laced, though their
intercourse with the Gauls was of inexpressible advantage to them, for
it introduced the use of Braccæ, or trousers made of fine wool woven in
stripes or chequers. **

     * The tankard has no name distinctly bitten into it.

     ** It is probable that we get out our own word braces from
     the Braccæ of our forefathers.

Of the domestic habits of the early tenants of our isle very little is
known, and we regret to say there can be little doubt they might most
of them have been indicted for polygamy had they lived under our present
system of laws, for a plurality of wives was in those days nothing
singular.

Their mode of bringing up children is wrapt in obscurity, but the
treatment, if we are to believe a story told by Salinus, * was rather
less tender than vigorous; for the first morsel of food was put into the
infant's mouth on the point of his father's sword, with the hope that
the child would turn out as sharp a blade as his parent. The Saxons
brought very material improvements to the mode of living in our island,
though we cannot compliment them on the comfort of all their upholstery.
Their chairs were a good deal like our camp-stools, without the material
which forms the seat; for the Anglo-Saxons were satisfied to sit in the
angle formed by the junction of the legs of the article alluded to.

     * Pictorial History of England, vol i., book i., chap. vi.,
     p. 129.

The drinking-cups in use at this period began to be very elaborate, and
were made of gold or silver, while glass was a luxury unknown, though
the Venerable Bede, who had a good deal of glass in his family, mentions
lamps and vessels of that material. The Anglo-Saxons had beds and
bolsters; but from illustrations we have seen in the Cotton MS., we
think that if, as they made their beds, so they were obliged to lie,
our ancestors could not have slept very pleasantly. Some of the Saxon
bedsteads were sexagonal boxes, into which it was impossible to get,
without folding one's self up into the form of an S; and another
specimen is in the shape of an inverted cocked hat, somewhat smaller
than the person by whom it is occupied. Nothing but a sort of human
half-moon could have found accommodation in this semilunar cradle, in
which to have been "cribbed, cabined, and confined," could not have been
very agreeable.

Costume could scarcely be considered to have commenced before the
Anglo-Saxon period, for the Britons persevered in a style of un-dress
which was barely respectable. It is therefore most refreshing to find
our countrymen at last with stockings to their feet and shirts to their
backs, in which improved case they are to be met with in the Anglo-Saxon
period. The shoe also stands boldly forward at about the same time,
and shows an indication of that polish which was eventually to take a
permanent footing. Amid the many irons that civilisation had in the fire
at this date, are the curling-irons for ladies' hair, which began to
take a favourable turn during the Anglo-Saxon period. The armour worn
by the military part of the population was very substantial, consisting
chiefly of scales, which gave weight to the soldiery, and often turned
the balance in their favour. This species of defence was, however,
too expensive for the common men, who generally wore a linen thorax or
"dickey," with which they offered a bold front to the enemy.

It would be exceedingly difficult to give an accurate account of
Anglo-Saxon life, for there are no materials in existence out of which
a statement could be framed; and though some historians do not object
to have "their own materials made up," we should be ashamed to have
recourse to this species of literary tailoring. We think it better to
cut our coat according to our cloth; and we had rather figure in the
sparest Spencer of fact, than assume the broadest and amplest cloak, if
it were made of a yarn spun from the dark web of ambiguity. What we say,
we know, and what we are ignorant of, we know much better than to talk
about.

[Illustration: 236]

The Anglo-Saxon husbandman was little better than a serf who was paid
for his labour by the landowner; but the former furnished the base,
without which there would have been no _locus standi_ for the latter's
capital. It was customary in those days to encourage the peasantry by
prizes, which did not consist of a coat for a faithful servitude of
nearly a life, but a grant of a piece of the land to which the labourer
had given increased value by his industry.

The proprietors of the soil had not yet learned the wisdom of trying how
much a brute could be made to eat, and how little a human being could
exist upon.

With reference to the domestic habits of the period, it has been clearly
ascertained that people of substance took four meals a day, and as
they took meat at every one, their substance can be no matter of
astonishment. The Britons had not been in the habit of dressing their
food, which is not surprising, for they scarcely dressed themselves;
but the Anglo-Saxons were not so fond of the raw material. With them the
pleasures of the table were carried to excess, and drinking went to such
an extent, that every monk was prohibited from taking any more when his
eyes were disturbed, and his tongue began to stammer. The misfortune,
however, was, that as all who were present at a banquet, generally began
to experience simultaneously a disturbance of the eye and a stammering
of the tongue, no one noticed it in his neighbour, and the orgies were
often continued until the stammering ended in silence, and the optical
derangement finished by the closing of the organs of vision.

The chase was a popular amusement with the Anglo-Saxons, but it does
not seem to have been pursued with much spirit, if we are to believe an
illustration from the Cotton MS. * of the practice of boar-hunting. Two
men and one dog are seen hunting four boars, who are walking leisurely
two and two, while the hound and the hunters are hanging back, as if
afraid to follow their prey too closely. In another picture, from the
Harleian MS., seven men are seen huddled together on horseback, as
if they had all fainted at the sight of a hawk, who flaps his wings
insolently in their faces. Nothing indeed can be more pusillanimous
than the sports of the Anglo-Saxons as shown in the illustrations of
the period. The only wonder is, that the animals hunted did not turn
suddenly round and make sport of the sportsmen.

     *  Julius, A. 7.

The condition of the great body of the people was that of agricultural
labourers, who, it is said, were nearly as valuable to their employers
or owners as the cattle, and were taken care of accordingly. In this
respect they had an advantage over the cultivators of the soil in our
own time, who remain half unfed, while pigs, sheep, and oxen, are made
too much of by constant cramming.

The Normans added little to the stock of English furniture, for we
have looked through our statistical tables and find nothing that would
furnish an extra leaf to our history. It is, however, about this time
that we find the first instance of a cradle made to rock, an arrangement
founded on the deepest philosophy; for by the rocking movement the
infant is prepared for the ups and downs of life he will soon have to
bear up against.

The reign of John introduces us to the first saltcellar on record,
though, by the way, the first vinegar cruet is of even earlier date, for
it is contemporary with the sour-tempered Eleanor, who is reported to
have played a fearful game at bowls with the unfortunate Rosamond.

When Fashion first came to prevail in dress, Taste had not yet arrived,
and the effect was truly ridiculous. It does not follow, however, that
if Fashion and Taste had existed together, they would have managed to
agree; for although there is often a happy union between the two, they
very frequently remain at variance for considerable periods. Fashion
being the stronger, usually obtains the ascendency in the first
instance; but Taste ultimately prevails over her wayward rival.
In nothing so much as in shoes, have the freaks of Fashion been
exemplified. She has often taken the feet in hand, and in a double sense
subjugated the understanding of her votaries. In the days of Henry the
First shoes were worn in a long peak, or curling like a ram's horn,
and stuffed with tow, as if the natural too was not sufficient for
all reasonable purposes. The rage for long hair was so excessive that
councils * were held on the subject, and the state of the crops was
considered with much anxiety. The clergy produced scissors at the end of
the service to cut the hair of the congregation; and it is said of Serlo
d'Abon, the Bishop of Seez, that he, on Easter Day, 1105, cut every one
of the locks off Henry the First's knowledge-box.

     * At Limoges, in 1031, by Pope Gregory the Seventh in 1073,
     and at Rouen in 1095,

We have hinted at the out-of-door amusements of the people, but those
pursued within doors may deserve some passing notice. The juggler,
the buffoon, and the tumbler were greatly in request, and we see in
these persons the germ of the wizards, the Ramo Samees, the clowns,
with their "Here we ares," and the various families of India-rubber
incredibles, Mackintosh marvels, or Kensington untrustables, that have
since become in turns the idols of an enlightened British public. That
there is nothing new under the sun, nor in the stars--at least those
belonging to the drama--is obvious enough to anyone who will examine
the records of the past, which contain all that are declared to be
the novelties of the present. Learned monkeys, highly-trained horses,
and--to go a little further back--terrific combats, or sword dances, in
which deadly foes go through mortal conflicts in a _pas de deux_, are
all as old as the hills, the dales, the vales, the mountains, and
the fountains. Even the reading-easel--for those who wish to read
easily--which was advertised but yesterday, and patented the other
day, was a luxury in use as early as the fourteenth century. Even Polka
jackets, imported from Cracow in Poland, were "very much worn," and, for
what we know, the Polka itself may have been danced in all its pristine
purity. In head-dresses we have seen nothing very elegant, for, during
Richard the Second's reign, a yard or two of cloth, cut into no regular
pattern, formed a bonnet or hood for a lady, while an arrangement in fur
very like a muff, constituted the hat of a gentleman.

Out-of-door sports were much in favour during the fourteenth century,
and the priesthood were so much addicted to the pleasures of the chase,
that a clergyman was prohibited from keeping a dog for hunting unless he
had a benefice of at least ten pounds per annum.

[Illustration: 238]

The foxhunting parson is therefore a character as old as the days of
Richard the Second, in whose reign the Bishop of Ely was remarkable for
activity in the field, where the right reverend prelate could take a
difficult fence with the youngest and best of them. He was particularly
active in hunting the wolf, and he often said jestingly, that the
interests of his flock prompted him to pursue its most formidable enemy.

We have seen what our ancestors were in their habits, pleasures, and
pursuits, none of which differed very materially from those that the
people of the present generation are or have been in the habit of
following. As the child is father of the man, the infancy of a country
is the parent of its maturity. Reproduction is, after all, the nearest
approach we can make to novelty, and though in the drama of life "each
man in his time plays many parts," there is scarcely one of which he can
be called the original representative.



BOOK IV. THE PERIOD FROM THE ACCESSION OF HENRY THE FOURTH TO THE END OF
THE REIGN OF RICHARD THE THIRD, A.D. 1399--1485.



CHAPTER THE FIRST. HENRY THE FOURTH, SURNAMED BOLINGBROKE.


[Illustration: 240]

THE wily Henry had now got the whip hand of his enemies, and had
grasped the reins of government. He ascended the throne on the 30th of
September, 1399, and began to avail himself at once of the patronage at
his disposal by filling up, as fast as he could, all vacant offices. His
pretext for this speed was to prevent justice from being delayed, to the
grievance of his people; and by pretending there was no time to elect a
new Parliament, he continued the old one, which was in a state of utter
subservience to his own purposes. At the meeting of the Legislative
Assembly, which took place on the 6th of October, Thomas Arundel, the
Archbishop of Canterbury, made "the speech of the day," which was a
powerful panegyric on the new sovereign. There is no doubt that the
whole oration was a paid-for puff, of which the primacy was the price,
for the prelate had been restored by Henry to the archiepiscopacy, out
of which Richard had hurried him.

The new candidate for the crown gave three reasons for claiming it; but
when a person gives three reasons for anything, it is probable they
are all bad, for if one were good the other two would be, of course,
superfluous. He declared his triple right to be founded, first on
conquest, which was the right of the ruffian who, having knocked a man
on the head, steals his purse and runs off with it; secondly, from being
the heir, which he was not; and thirdly, from the crown having been
resigned to him, which it certainly had been, when the resigning party
was under duress, and when his acts were not legally binding. Upon these
claims he asked the opinion of Parliament, which, having been cleverly
packed by Arundel and his whippers-in, of course pronounced unanimously
in Henry's favour. Upon this he vaulted nimbly on to the steps of the
throne, and, pausing before he took his seat, he cried out in a loud
voice, "Do you mean what you say?" when the _claqueurs_ raised such a
round of applause, that, whispering to one of his supporters "It's
all right," he flung himself on to the regal ottoman. Another round of
applause from the privileged orders secured the success of the farce,
and the usual puffing announcements appeared in due course, intimating
the unanimous approbation of a house crowded to suffocation. This had
been certainly the case, for the packing was so complete as to stifle
every breath of free discussion.

A week's adjournment took place, to prepare for the coronation, which
came off on the 13th of October in a style of splendour which Froissart
has painted gorgeously with his six-pound brush, and which we will
attempt to pick out with our own slender camel's-hair. On the Saturday
before the coronation, forty-six squires, who were to be made knights,
took each a bath, and had, in fact, a regular good Saturday night's
wash, so that they might be nice and clean to receive the honour
designed for them. On Sunday morning, after church, they were knighted
by the king, who gave them all new coats, a proof that their wardrobes
could not have been in a very flourishing condition. After dinner, his
majesty returned to Westminster, bareheaded, with nothing on, according
to Froissart, * but a pair of gaiters and a German jacket. The streets
of London were decorated with tapestry as he passed, and there were nine
fountains in Cheapside running with white and red wine, though we think
our informant has been drawing rather copiously upon his own imagination
for the generous liquor. The cavalcade comprised, according to the
same authority, six thousand horse; but again we are of opinion that
Froissart must have found some mare's nest from which to supply a stud
of such wondrous magnitude. The king took a bath on the same night, in
order, perhaps, to wash out the port wine stains that might have fallen
upon him while passing the fountains. "Call me early, if you're
waking," were the king's last words to his valet, and in the morning the
coronation procession started for the Abbey of Westminster. Henry walked
under a blue silk canopy supported on silver staves, with golden bells
at each corner, and carried by four burgesses of Dover, who claimed it
as their right, for the loyalty of the Dover people was in those days
inspired only by the hope of a perquisite. The king might have got wet
through to the skin before they would have held a canopy over him, had
it not been for the value of the silver staves and golden bells, which
became their property for the trouble of porterage. On each side were
the sword of Mercy and the sword of Justice, though these articles must
have been more for ornament than for use in those days of regal cruelty
and oppression.

     * Vol. ii, p. 699, edition 1842

Coronation of Henry the Fourth (from the best Authorities):

At nine o'clock the king entered the Abbey, in the middle of which a
platform, covered with scarlet cloth, had been erected; so that the
proceedings might be visible from all corners of the Abbey. He seated
himself on the throne, and was looking remarkably well, being in full
regal costume, with the exception of the crown, which the Archbishop
of Canterbury proposed to invest him with. The people, on being asked
whether the ceremony should be performed, of course shouted "Aye,"
for they had come to see a coronation and were not likely to
deprive themselves of the spectacle by becoming, at the last moment,
hypercritical of the new king's merits. We cannot say we positively know
there was no "No," but the "Ayes" unquestionably had it; and Henry was
at once taken off the throne to be stripped to his shirt, which, in
the middle of the month of October, could not have been very agreeable
treatment. After saturating him in oil, they put upon his head a bonnet,
and then proceeded to dress him up as a priest, adding a pair of spurs
and the sword of justice. While his majesty was in this motley costume,
the Archbishop of Canterbury, clutching off the bonnet from the royal
head, placed upon it the crown of Saint Edward.

[Illustration: 242]

Henry was not sorry when these harassing ceremonies were at an end, and
having left the Abbey to dress, returned to the Hall to dinner. Wine
continued to play, like ginger-beer, from the fountain; but the jets
were of the same paltry description as that which throws up about a
pint a day in the Temple. We confess that we are extremely sceptical in
reference to all allegations of wine having been laid on in the public
streets, particularly in those days, when there were neither turncocks
to turn it on, nor pipes through which to carry it. Even with our
present admirable system of waterworks, we should be astonished at an
arrangement that would allow us to draw our wine from the wood in the
pavement of Cheapside, or take it fresh from the pipe as it rolled with
all its might through the main of the New River. Whether the liquid
could be really laid on may be doubtful, but that it would not be
worth drinking cannot admit of a question. Under the most favourable
circumstances, our metropolitan fountains could only be made to run
with that negative stuff to which the name of negus has been most
appropriately given. Let us, however, resume our account of the
ceremonial, from which, with our heads full of the wine sprinkled
gratuitously over the people, we have been led to deviate.

[Illustration: 245]

Dinner was served for the coronation party in excellent style, but
before it was half over it was varied by an _entrée_ of the most
extraordinary and novel character. It was after the second course that a
courser came prancing in, with a knight of the name of Dymock mounted on
the top of the animal. The expression of Henry's astonished countenance
gave an extra _plat_, in the shape of calf's head surprised, at the top
of the royal table. The wonder of Henry was somewhat abated when the
knight put into the royal hand a written offer to fight any knight
or gentleman who would maintain that the new king was not a lawful
sovereign. The challenge was read six times over, but nobody came
forward to accept it; and indeed it was nearly impossible, for care had
been taken to exclude all persons likely to prove troublesome, as it
was very desirable on the occasion of a coronation to keep the thing
respectable. The champion was then presented with "something to drink,"
in a golden goblet, and pocketed the _poculum_ as a perquisite.

Thus passed off the coronation of Henry the Fourth, which is still
further remarkable for a story told about the oil used in anointing
the head of the new monarch. This precious precursor of all the
multitudinous mixtures to which ingenuity and gullibility have since
given their heads, was contained in a flask said to have been presented
by a good hermit to Henry Duke of Lancaster, the grandson of Henry the
Third, who gave it to somebody else, until it came, unspilt, into the
possession of Henry of Bolingbroke. We confess we reject the oil, with
which our critical acidity refuses to coalesce, and we would almost as
soon believe the assertion that it was a flask of salad oil sent from
the Holy Land by the famous Saladin.

The day after the ceremony, or as soon after as the disarrangement
caused by the preparations for the coronation could be set to rights,
the Parliament resumed its sittings. The terrible turncoatery of the
last few years gave rise to fearful recriminations in the House of
Lords, and the terms "liar" and "traitor" flew from every corner of the
building. At one time, forty gauntlets were thrown on the floor at
the same moment, as pledges of battle, but there was as little of the
_fortiter in re_ as of the _suaviter in modo_, and the gloves not
being picked up became, of course, the perquisites of the Parliamentary
charwoman. Some wholesome acts were passed during the session, but the
chief object of the new king was to plant himself firmly on the throne
of England. A slip from the parent trunk was grafted on to the Dukedom
of Cornwall, and the Principality of Wales, to both of which Henry's
eldest son was nominated. No act of settlement of the crown was
introduced, for his majesty wisely thought, that it would only have
proclaimed the weakness of his title had he made any attempt to bolster
it. Had the question of legitimacy been tried, the young Earl of March
would have turned out to be many steps nearer the throne than Henry,
who, however, laughed at his claims, and the old saying of "as mad as
a March hare," was quoted by a parasite, to prove the insanity of
regarding March as a fit heir to the throne of England. Besides,
the little fellow was a mere child, and was, of course, a minor
consideration in a country which had a natural dread of a long regal
minority. "A boy of eight or nine," said one of the philosophers of the
day, "cannot sit upon the throne, without bringing the kingdom into a
state of sixes and sevens." It was, however, to strengthen the presumed
legitimacy of his family that Henry got his son created Prince of Wales,
and though the circumstance is said to have weighed but as a feather in
the scales, the Prince of Wales's feathers must always go for something
in the balance.

Richard, who was still in custody, was kept continually moving about
from castle to castle, like a spring van in town or country, until a few
of the lords devised the plan of murdering Henry and restoring the late
king, just by way of novelty. A tournament was got up, to which the
king was politely asked, and the words, "Tilting at two. An answer will
oblige," might be found in the corner of the invitation card. Henry "had
much pleasure in accepting" the proposal to join the jousting party, but
having received an intimation from the Earl of Rutland, his cousin and
one of the conspirators, his majesty did not attend the _soirée_. The
intention was to have hustled him and killed him on the spot, but he did
not come, and the jousting was, of necessity, carried on for some time
by the traitors at the expense of each other. At length, as the day wore
on, they began to think it exceedingly odd that Henry had not arrived,
when suspecting they had been betrayed, they determined to make for
Windsor, where they knew the king had been passing his Christmas
holidays. He had, however, received timely warning, and had left for
London, so that the conspirators were utterly baffled.

On their arrival at Windsor, they hastened to surprise the Castle; but
the greatest surprise was for themselves, when they heard of the escape
of their intended victim. Henry had rushed up to town to issue writs
against every one of the traitors, who ran away in all directions before
he had time to return to Windsor. Some of them attempted to proclaim
King Richard in every town they passed through; but they might as well
have proclaimed Old King Cole, or any other merry old soul, for they
only got laughed at and slaughtered by the inhabitants. Poor Richard was
also a sufferer by his injudicious friends, for it was agreed that he
would become an intolerable nuisance if he should serve as a point for
the rebels to rally round. It was therefore thought advisable to have
him abated, and according to the chroniclers of the day, who confess
they know nothing about it, he was either starved or murdered. The
condition of Richard's young wife, Isabella, a girl of eleven, the
daughter of King Charles of France, was exceedingly deplorable. She had
brought a large fortune to her husband, and upon his death, her father
wished her to be restored to the bosom, and her money to the pockets,
of her family. The young lady was promised by an early boat; but Charles
insisted that she should be allowed to bring her dowry back with her.
Henry, who had spent at least half of it, declined this proposal, and
her papa, who had an eye to the cash, would not receive her without,
so that she really seemed on the point of becoming a shuttlecock tossed
between two immense battledores in the shape of Dover and Calais. Every
kind of paltry excuse was set up to avoid payment of the demand, and the
English pretended to find upon their books an old claim for the ransom
of the French King, John, who had been taken by Edward the Third, and
had never been duly settled for. This plea of set-off was overruled
on demurrer by the French, who kept reiterating their applications for
Richard's widow and her dowry, with a threat of ulterior proceedings
if the demand was not speedily complied with. At length Henry agreed to
restore her like a toad, "with all her precious jewels in her head."
Her old father received her with the exclamation of "Oh, you duck of
diamonds," in allusion, no doubt, to the valuable brilliants she carried
about her; and there is every reason to believe that had her teeth been
literally pearls, the king would have made copious extracts from the
choice collection.

Henry now began to consider the best means for making himself popular,
and after thinking it well over he came to the conclusion that a war
would be a nice little excitement, of which he might reap the benefit.
Upon looking about him for an eligible object of attack, Scotland
seemed to be the most inviting; for Robert, the actual king, was old and
helpless, while his eldest son David, Earl of Bothsay, was a drunken,
dissipated, reckless, but rather clever personage. He had quarrelled
with his uncle the Duke of Albey, who had acted as regent during the
illness of the king, and who was himself a remorseless ruffian; so that
the Scotch royal family consisted of a dotard, a drunkard, and a bully.
Henry, though he wanted a war, wished to get it without paying for it,
to prevent the odium he might incur by taxing the people. He therefore
tried the old plan of feudal service, by calling upon all persons
enjoying fees or pensions to join him in arms at York, under pain of
forfeiture. The lay lords were ordered to come at their own charge with
their retainers, but the result afforded a strong proof of the fact that
a thing is never worth having if it is not worth paying for. Those who
came in arms were fearfully out at elbows; and amid the owners of fees
with their retainers, was perhaps some unhappy Templar, with his one fee
and one retainer, urged by an ordinary motion of course, to appear in
the great cause of the king _versus_ Bruce, Rothsay and others.

Henry began boldly with a writ of summons directed to Robert, greeting,
and ordering him to come to Edinburgh to make submission. The Earl
of Rothsay entered an appearance for his father; a declaration of war
ensued on Henry's part, when Rothsay, without putting in a plea, took
issue at once, and threw himself upon the country. Henry, not expecting
the action to come off so speedily, was but ill prepared, and after
making a vain attempt at a fight--in the course of which he tried all
his earls and failed on every count--he retired from the contest.
He endeavoured, nevertheless, to make the best of it, and observed
pleasantly to his followers, "Well, gentlemen, I told you we were sure
to beat, and so we will yet. Come, let us beat a retreat; that is
better than not beating anything." Thus ended, in a pitiable and
most humiliating pun, a campaign commenced in pride, confidence, and
insolence.

While Henry was fooling away his time and resources in the North,
a little matter in the West was growing into a very formidable
insurrection. Owen Glendower, esquire, a Welsh gentleman "learned in
the law," who had held a place in the household of Richard the Second,
perhaps as standing counsel, became involved in a dispute about some
property with Lord Grey de Ruthyn. Mr. Glendower petitioned the
Lords, who rejected his suit, which so irritated him that he instantly
exchanged the pen for the sword, the forensic gown for the coat of mail,
and dashing his wig violently on the floor, ordered a helmet to fit the
head and the box hitherto devoted to peaceful horse-hair.

In the course of his legal studies he had learned something of the art
of making out a title, and he immediately set to work to prove himself
the lineal descendant of the native Welsh princes. By drawing upon fact
for some portions, and his imagination for the remainder, he contrived
to get up an excellent draft abstract, which he endorsed with the words
"Principality op Wales. Grey Ruthyn _ats_ self;" and adding the usual
formula of "Mr. O. Glendower, to settle and advise, 2 _Guas_.; Clerk,
2s. 6d.;" he placed it among his papers. The Welsh peasants set him
down as a magician at the least, and the barrister had no difficulty in
placing himself in a little brief authority over them.

Assisted by his clerk the trusty Thomson, Mr. Owen Glendower armed
himself for the contest upon which he had determined to enter; and the
learned gentleman, who had never used any weapon more formidable than a
file, upon which he had occasionally impaled a declaration, now girded
on the sword, and prepared to listen to the war-trumpet as the only
summons to which he would henceforth pay attention. Taking the somewhat
professional motto of "deeds not words," he sallied forth, as he boldly
declared, for the purpose of subjecting all his opponents to special
damage.

[Illustration: 249]

He collected a small band, and made an attack on the property of Grey
de Buthyn, for which the king had Mr. Glendower's name published in
the next batch of outlaws. Irritated by this indignity, the learned
gentleman declared himself sovereign of Wales, observing with much
quaintness, "One may as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb, and
why not for a Welsh rabbit?" Henry at once marched in pursuit, but the
barrister was cautious enough to avoid an action, and led his antagonist
all over the Welsh circuit, by which he continually put off the day of
trial. Henry, who had a variety of other little matters to attend to,
was compelled to allow the cause of himself _versus_ Glendower to stand
over to an indefinite period.

Among the businesses getting into arrear at home, was an absurd
declaration of war by Walleran of Luxemburgh, the Count of Ligny and St.
Pol, who had married a sister of the deposed Richard, and was suddenly
seized with a fit of fraterno-legal or brotherly-in-lawly affection,
and began to talk of avenging his unfortunate relative. In spite of the
recommendations of his best friends, who all urged him "not to make a
fool of himself," he insisted on going to sea, where a fate a good deal
like that of the three wise men of Gotham appeared to threaten him.

Conspiracies now sprung up on every side, and a rumour was spread, that
Richard was alive in Scotland, and was coming presently to England at
the head of a large army, to play old Harry with Henry's adherents.
Never was a cry of "Bogey" more utterly futile than this assertion, for
Richard was really dead, though it suited a certain party of malcontents
to resuscitate him for their own purposes. Henry was exceedingly angry
at the rumour, and every now and then cut off some half-dozen heads,
as a punishment for running about with a false tale, but there was no
checking the evil.

At length an army came from Scotland, but Richard was not with it,
and the Scotch no longer kept up the delusion, but, like the detected
impostor who confessed "It is a swindle, and now do your worst," they
acknowledged the hoax they had been previously practising. The Scotch
proved mischievous, but impotent; and Henry was not far from the truth
when in one of his remonstrances he remarked, "You are doing yourselves
no good, nor me either." They were defeated at Nisbet Moor by the
English, under the command of a disaffected Scot, the old Earl of March,
who was piqued at his daughter Elizabeth having been jilted by the Earl
of Bothsay, to whom she had been affianced. The Earl of Bothsay had
made another, and let us hope, a better match, so that the action
fought at Nisbet Moor was, as far as the Earl of March was concerned, in
reality an action for a breach of promise of marriage. Young Bothsay had
united himself to Miss Mariell Douglas, the daughter of old Douglas who
had his child the husband--that was for his child the husband--that was
to have been--of Earl March's daughter that was, but had also
obtained for himself a grant of the estates of the father of Rothsay's
ex-intended. Douglas, with ten thousand men at his heels, hurried to
take possession, and they soon carried sword and fire--but we believe
it was fire without coals--to Newcastle. Having completely sacked this
important city--but mark I there were in those days no coals to sack--he
returned laden with plunder, towards the Tweed, for which way he went,
was--like Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee--a matter of pure indifference.
The Duke of Northumberland, aided by his son, the persevering Percy,
surnamed Hotspur, with the indignant March, had got an army in the rear,
when Douglas, seeing a good position between the two forces, called
Homildon Hill, was the first to take possession of it. Harry Percy was
about to charge up the hill, when the Earl of March, seizing his bridle,
backed him cleverly into the ranks, and advised him to begin the battle
with his archers. The advice was taken; they shot up the hill, and
success was the upshot. Every arrow told with terrific effect upon the
Scotch, who presented a phalanx of targets, and the stalwart troopers
became at length so perforated with darts, that they looked like so many
fillets of veal, skewered through and through by the enemy. Douglas was
wounded in so many places, that he resembled a porcupine rather than a
Scottish chief, and he was taken into custody, regularly trussed like a
chicken prepared for roasting. Among his fellow-prisoners were the Earls
of Moray and Angus, who had tried daughter that was, but had also in
vain to escape; but neither did Moray nor Angus reach their own quarters
in time to escape the grasp of the enemy.

The battle of Homildon Hill, which we have thus faintly described, was
fought on the 14th of September, 1402, while Henry himself was much
less profitably occupied in hunting up his learned friend, or rather
his knowing opponent, Owen Glendower. The lawyer-like cunning of this
gentleman carried him triumphantly through all his engagements;
and though good cause might have been shown against it, yet, by his
cleverness and tact in Wales, he was nearly successful in getting his
rule made absolute.

Henry's next annoyance was an impertinent letter from a former friend
and "sworn brother," the Duke of Orleans, uncle of Isabella, the widow
of the late king, and the acknowledged "female in distress," whom it
was fashionable for the "recognised heroes" of that day to talk about
avenging. The letter of the Duke of Orleans was a mixture of ferocity
and facetiousness; it deplored the inactivity prevailing in the military
market, and offered to do a little business with Henry, either in
"lances, battle-axes, swords, or daggers." He sneeringly repudiated
"bodkins, hooks, points, bearded darts, razors, and needles," as if
Henry had been in the habit of arming himself with the fittings of
a work-box or a dressing-case. An answer was returned in the same
sarcastic strain, and an angry correspondence ensued, in which the
parties gave each other the lie, offered to meet in single combat, and
indeed entered into a short but sharp wordy war, which was followed by
no more serious consequences.

Northumbarland, who had struck for the defence of his country, now
struck for his wages, which were unsatisfactory, and several other
patriotic noblemen insisted on more liberal terms for their allegiance.
Henry having resisted the extortion, gave, of course, great offence to
his faithful adherents, who veered, at once, clean round to the scale of
the king's enemies. In those days the principles of great men seemed
to go upon a pivot, and Northumberland's swivel was evidently in fine
working order on the occasion to which we have alluded. Scroop, the
Archbishop of York, who might well have been called the Unscrupulous,
advised that Henry should be treated as a wrongful heir, and that the
young Earl of March should be rallied round, as the rightful heir, by
the dissatisfied nobles. They sent a retaining fee to Owen Glendower,
and marked upon his brief "With you the Earl of Northumberland and Henry
Percy," and appointed a consultation at an early period. Earl Douglas
was released from custody without payment of costs, on condition of his
leaving the rebels, and O. Glendower, Esquire, married the daughter of
his prisoner, Mortimer, the young Earl of March's uncle.

The conspirators having consulted, determined to proceed, and though
Northumberland himself was kept at home by indisposition, Hotspur
marched to meet Glendower. That learned gentleman, who had probably not
received his "refresher," did not come, but young Percy, nevertheless,
sent to Henry a written notice of trial. The king proposed referring
it to arbitration, but the offer was treated with contempt; and he then
rejoined that he had no time to waste in writing, but he would, "by dint
of sword and fierce battle." prove their quarrel was false and feigned,
"whereupon," as the lawyers have it, "issue was joined." Each army
consisted of about fourteen thousand men, and on the morning of the 21st
of July, 1403, both being full of confidence, began sounding their horns
or blowing their own trumpets. Hotspur and Douglas led the first charge
with irresistible vigour, and one or two gentlemen who had carried their
loyalty so far as to wear the royal arms as a dodge, while the king
fought in plain clothes, paid with their lives the penalty of their
fidelity. Henry of Monmouth, the young Prince of Wales, got several
slaps in the face, and once or twice exclaimed, in the Norman-French
of the period, "Oh, _Mon mouth!_" but he nevertheless continued to the
last, showing his teeth to the enemy. Douglas and Hotspur were not ably
supported, and the latter was struck by an arrow shot at random, while
Douglas, losing command over his head, took to his heels, and becoming
positively flighty in his flight, fell over a precipice. This was his
downfall, but not his death, for he was picked up and made prisoner. Old
Percy, who had been absent from ill-health, but had now got much
better from his illness, was marching to join the insurgents with a
considerable force, and had paused on the road to take his medicine,
when he was met by a messenger, who, glancing at the physic, exclaimed,
"Ah! my lord, I've got a blacker dose than that for you!" With this, he
administered two pills in the shape of two separate announcements of the
deaths of Hotspur and Worcester, the son and brother of the earl, who,
bidding "Good morning" to his retainers, all of whom he dismissed, shut
himself up in the castle of Warkworth. The king soon routed him out,
when Northumberland, like an old sycophant as he was, pretended that
Hotspur had acted against his advice, for the venerable humbug, though
eager enough to share in his son's success, was meanly anxious
to repudiate him in his misfortunes. By this paltry proceeding,
Northumberland was allowed to get off cheap, and even to win
commiseration as the victim of the imprudence of his heir, though the
fact was that the latter had been completely sacrificed to his parent's
selfishness. In the year 1404, the old cry of "Dick's alive" was
renewed, and some people even went so far as to say that they had
recently walked and talked with the deposed King Richard. The rumour ran
that he was living in Scotland, and one Serle, an old servant, went over
to recognise his majesty, but found in his place the court jester, who
bore some resemblance to the unfortunate sovereign. Serle, however,
determined on playing his cards to the best advantage, and thought it
a good speculation to play the fool off in place of the king, a trick
which was for a time successful. The buffoon humoured the joke, which
was a sorry one for its author, who was executed as a traitor, and
it might be as well if the same justice were dealt out to similar
delinquents in the present day, for indifferent jokes are the madness of
few for the gain of nobody.

Henry was now frightfully embarrassed by the quantity of bills pouring
in upon him for carrying on the war in Wales, and every day brought him
a fresh account which he had never expected. Even the musicians made
a claim, and the king, running his eye down a long list of items,
including a drum, a ditto, a ditto, a flute half a day, a pandean pipe,
_et caetera, et caetera_, exclaimed mournfully to his treasurer, "Alas!
I fear I cannot manage to pay the piper." In fact, the claims on account
of the war left him no peace, and he proposed taking a quantity of the
property of the church to settle with his creditors.

This proposition raised a perfect flame amongst the whole body of the
clergy. The Archbishop of Canterbury instantly took fire, while the
inferior members of the church were fearfully put out, and cold water
being thrown on the attempt, it was soon extinguished. Fighting was
still the business that Henry had on hand, for as fast as one of his
foes was down, another was ready to come on with fresh vigour. Old
Northumberland could not keep quiet, but Owen Glendower was perhaps the
most troublesome of all the king's enemies. The rapidity of the learned
gentleman's motions kept the other side constantly employed, for he
never hesitated to change the venue, or resort to a set-off, when he
wished to baffle his antagonists. At length, lack of funds, and its
customary concomitant, the loss of friends, compelled him not only
to stay proceedings, but to keep out of the way to avoid his heavy
responsibilities. He is supposed to have been engaged for years in a
protracted game at hide and seek, living at the homes of his daughters
and friends, but disguised always in a shepherd's plaid, to prevent
the servants from knowing him. What became of him was never known, and,
unfortunately for the historian, there were in those days no registrars
of either births, deaths, or marriages. Some say that Owen Glendower
ended his days at Mornington, but they might as well say Mornington
Crescent; and the place of his interment is no less doubtful, for where
he was buried is now buried in obscurity.

There is a tradition that his tomb is in the Cathedral of Bangor, but
this story is of little value to anyone except to the Bangor beadle, who
makes an occasional sixpence by calling the attention of visitors to a
spot which he, and Common Rumour, between them, have dignified with the
title of the tomb of Owen Glendower. We all know the character which
Common Rumour bears for an habitual violation of truth; and we are
afraid that if she is no better than she should be, the Bangor beadle is
not so good as he ought to be.

Henry was fortunate in overcoming his enemies, but his treatment of them
was frequently cruel in the extreme. Poor old Robert, the nominal king
of Scotland, was driven about from abbey to abbey, but had no sooner got
comfortably settled in one, than a cry of "Here he is! we've got him!"
drove him to take refuge in another. At last he hid himself in the
Isle of Bute, where he is supposed to have remained to the close of his
existence, and it is certain that he never addressed to the Isle of Bute
the celebrated apostrophe, "Isle of Beauty, Fare thee well!" His eldest
son Rothsay was imprisoned in the castle of Falkland (March, 1402), into
which it is supposed he was pitched with a pitcher, containing about a
pint of water, and furnished by a crusty gaoler, with a piece of
crust. Even this miserable diet is said to have been very irregularly
administered, and was of course insufficient for an able-bodied young
man like Rothsay. He was treated like a pauper under the new Poor-law,
and is believed to have died of inanition; for though the chronicles of
that day attributed his death to starvation, the chronicle of our day
prefers a genteeler term. The king of Scotland's second son, James, had
been shipped by his father for France, to be out of the way, when the
vessel was seized by the crews of some English cruisers.

Robert died of grief at the loss of young James, whom he called his
precious jewel of a gem, and the little fellow, though a prisoner, was
lodged and boarded in comfort, allowed masters, and instructed in all
the usual branches of a sound education.

Constitutional liberty had in previous reigns taken very irregular hops,
skips, and jumps; but, during the reign of Henry, it began taking rapid
strides. During the latter part of his life the tranquillity of his own
country gave him the power to lend out his soldiers to fight the battles
of others; but it never paid him, for though there was a good deal owing
to him, he was unable to get the money. His second son, the Duke of
Clarence, had landed in Normandy with a large army, but finding that
he could not get a penny to pay his troops, he began to insist on a
settlement. He was insultingly told that he was not wanted and might
take his army back again, but he soon brought the people to their senses
by a little prompt pillage. The matter was arranged, and the Duke
of Orleans brought all the ready money he could raise as the first
instalment to the headquarters of the English. It is doubtful whether
the payments were regularly kept up, but every possible precaution was
taken that bail or bills could afford.

Henry's reign was now drawing to a close, and he became exceedingly
sentimental in the latter years of his existence. He had discovered the
hollowness of the human heart, together with its propensity for wearing
a mask, and the keen perception of this perpetual fancy-dress ball of
the finest feelings, rendered him gloomy, solitary, and suspicious. He
was also in a wretched state of health, for nothing agreed with him, and
he agreed with nobody. He became jealous of the popularity of his son,
whom he declared to be everything that was bad, though the after life of
the young man gave the perfect lie to the paternal libel. Many anecdotes
are related of the low freaks of Henry and his companions, who seem to
have been the terror of the police and the people. If we are to believe
all that is said concerning them, we should look upon the Prince
of Wales and his associates as the foes to that great engine of
civilisation the street-door knocker, and the determined enemies to
enlightenment by the agency of public lamps.

Anecdotes are told of their being brought before the Chief Justice
Gascoigne, the Denman, Pollock, or Wilde of his day, who took cognizance
of a case, which would induce either of these learned and upright
individuals to exclaim to a complainant: "You must not come here, sir;
we don't sit here to decide upon the merits of street rows," Gascoigne,
who was a chief justice and a police magistrate all in one--like
an article of furniture intended for both a bedstead and a chest of
drawers, but offering the accommodation of neither--Gascoigne committed
to prison some of the prince's associates. The learned judge, setting
a precedent that might be followed with advantage in the present day,
inflicted imprisonment, instead of a fine, on those to whom the latter
would have been no punishment. The Prince of Wales, on hearing of the
incarceration of his companions, rushed into court, demanding a _habeas
corpus_, and drew his sword upon the judge when asked for a case
in point. Judge Gascoigne ordered the usher to take the prince into
custody, and the officer of the court having hesitated, young Henry,
politely exclaiming, "I'm your prisoner, sir," surrendered without
a murmur. When the king heard the anecdote, he became mawkishly
sentimental, exclaiming, "Happy the monarch to have such a good judge
for a justice, and happy the father to have a son so ready to yield to
legal authority." If the latter is really a subject for congratulation,
what happiness the police reports of each day ought to afford to
those parents who have had sons confined in the station-house for
intoxication, by whom the penalty of five shillings has been paid with
alacrity. We can fancy the respectable sire of some youth who has
formed the subject of a case at Bow Street, and who has submitted to
the decision of the Bench; we can imagine the parent exclaiming, with
enthusiasm, "Happy the Englishman to have such a magistrate to enforce
the law, and such a son to yield obedience to its orders." Another
anecdote is told of the amiable feeling existing between the sovereign
and his heir, which we insert without vouching for its truth, though it
is not by any means improbable. The king was ill in bed, and the Prince
of Wales was sitting up with him in the temporary capacity of nurse. The
son, however, seemed to be rather waiting for his father's death, than
hoping for the prolongation of his life, and the king, having gone off
into a fit, the prince, instead of calling for assistance, or giving any
aid himself, heartlessly took the opportunity to see how he should look
in the crown, which always hung on a peg in the royal bed-chamber. Young
Henry was figuring away before a cheval glass, with the regal bauble on
his head, and was exclaiming "Just the thing, upon my honour," when
the elder Henry, happening to recover, sat up in his bed, and saw the
conduct of his offspring. "Hallo," cried the king, "who gave you leave
to put that on? I think you might have left it alone till I've done with
it!"

[Illustration: 256]

The prince muttered some excuse, which was not long needed, for on the
23rd of March, 1413, Henry the Fourth died, in the forty-seventh year
of his age, and the fourteenth of his reign. The character of Henry
the Fourth may be told in a few words, and the fewer the better for
his reputation, inasmuch as it is impossible to furnish him with that
passport to posterity with which it would give us pleasure to present
the whole of our English sovereigns. Other historians have puffed him,
but the only puffing we can promise him is a regular blowing up. He was
cautious how he gave offence to his subjects, but this was less out
of regard to their interests than care for his own. He knew that the
hostility existing towards him among the nobles, on account of his
usurpation, could only be counteracted by obtaining the support of the
people. He therefore refrained from irritating the latter by taxing them
heavily for his wars, but he never scrupled to help himself to the goods
of the former whenever his exigencies required. The only difference
between him and some of his predecessors in the practice of extortion
and robbery, is in the fact that while others plundered principally the
people, Henry the Fourth thought it better worth his while to plunder
the nobles. Some of our predecessors have praised his prudence, which
was unquestionably great; for never was a king more cunning in his
attempts to preserve the crown he had unjustly acquired. He was not
wantonly barbarous in the treatment of his enemies when he got them
into his power, and, in this respect, his conduct presents an honourable
contrast to that of the sanguinary monsters who committed the greatest
crimes to surmount the smallest obstacles. He did not seek to stop the
merest breath of disaffection by the most monstrous murders, nor to
rid himself of the annoyance of suspicion by incurring the guilt of
slaughtering the suspected. His treatment of his predecessor, Richard,
and one or two others, who are yet unaccounted for, and returned
"missing" in the balance-sheet of history, must always leave a blot, or,
rather, a shower of blots, throwing a piebald aspect upon the character
of Henry. Among the distinguished individuals who shed lustre on a reign
which derived no brilliance from the sovereign himself, are the poets
Chaucer and Gower, as well as William Wickham, and Richard Whittington,
the Lord Mayor of London. We have been at some pains to trace the story
of the latter, in the hope of being able to find accommodation for his
cat in the pages of history. We regret to say that our task has ended in
the melancholy conviction that the cat of Whittington must make one in
that imaginary family which comprises the puss in boots of the Marquis
of Carabas, the rats and lizards of Cinderella, and the chickens of
Mother Carey.

Among the distinctions to which this reign is entitled, we must not
omit to mention that it was the first in which the practice prevailed of
burning what were called heretics. Had this circumstance occurred to
us before we commenced the character of Henry, we think we might have
spared ourselves the trouble of writing it. The burning of heretics
ought, of itself, to brand his name with infamy.



CHAPTER THE SECOND. HENRY THE FIFTH, SURNAMED OF MONMOUTH.

Henry the Fifth, on coming to the throne, pursued the policy of
conciliation; but it so happened that his first act of magnanimity was
bestowed in a quarter where it could do no good and excite no gratitude.
The act in question, for which he has been greatly praised, was the
removal of the body of Richard the Second from an obscure tomb in the
Friars' Church, at Langley, to a place beside his first wife, the good
Queen Anne, in the Abbey of Westminster. Had Richard the Second been
aware of the honour reserved for him after his death, he might probably
have requested the advance of a small instalment during his lifetime,
when it would have been of some use to him. The greatest magnificence
that can be lavished on a tomb will scarcely compensate for an hour's
confinement within the dreariness of a prison. Had Richard been living,
there would have been some magnanimity in restoring him to his proper
position, but giving to his remains the honours due to sovereignty
was only a confession on the part of Henry that he and his father
had usurped the crown of one who, being dead, could no longer claim
retribution for his injuries. It was a mockery to pretend to uphold
the deposed king by the agency of an upholsterer, and the funeral was
nothing more than another black job added to the many that had already
arisen out of the treatment of poor Richard.

The release of the Earl of March from captivity, and the restoration
of the son of Hotspur to the honours of the Percies, were acts of more
decided liberality; but, if we are to believe the gossip of the period,
these two young gentlemen were a pair of spoons, wholly incapable of
making a stir of any kind. The Earl of March was, it is true, a spoon
of the king's pattern, for he was a scion of a royal stock, but he
nevertheless had enough of the fiddle-head about him to make it certain
that he could be played upon, or let down a peg when occasion required.

From the wildness of Henry's life during his Welsh princedom, it was
expected that his career as king would have been a series of practical
jokes upon his officers of state and his subjects in general. He had,
when a young man, "scrupled not," according to Hume, "to accompany
his riotous associates in attacking the passengers in the streets and
highways, and despoiling them of their goods; and he found an amusement
in the incidents which the tears and regret of these defenceless people
produced on such occasions." It was feared, therefore, that he would
have continued to riot in runaway knocks, not only at the doors,
but upon the heads of the public. Happily, he disappointed these
expectations, for from the moment of his ascending the throne, he became
exceedingly well conducted and highly respectable. He did not exactly
cut his old friends, but told them plainly that they must reform if they
desired to retain the acquaintance of their sovereign. He stated plainly
that it would not do for the king of England to be figuring at fancy
balls, and kicking his heels about at casinos, as in former times, for
he was now no longer a man about town, but the sovereign of a powerful
country. Poor Gascoigne, the Chief Justice, had approached the royal
presence with fear and trembling, fully expecting to be paid off without
any pension for having committed Henry, when Prince of Wales, but, to
the surprise of everyone, the king commended the judge for his firmness,
and advised him, in the words of the song--

     "To do the same thing, were he in the same place,"

should he, the king, be placed to-morrow in another similar position.

In the first year of the new reign a commotion sprung up, which first
developed itself in a violent fit of seditious bill-sticking. In the
course of a night, some party succeeded in getting out an "effective
poster," announcing the readiness of "a hundred thousand men to assert
their right by force of arms, if needful." What those rights were the
placards did not state, and probably this would have been the very last
subject that the hundred thousand men would have proceeded to think
about. They were supposed to have been instigated by the Lollards, one
of whom, Sir John Oldcastle, their leader, was sent for by the king to
have a little talk, in the course of which the wrongs of the Lollards
might perchance be hit upon. Sir John Oldcastle, who was one of the old
school, found plenty to say, but he never could find anyone to listen
patiently to his rigmaroles. Henry the Fifth was obliged to cut the old
gentleman short by hinting that the statute _de heretico comburendo_ was
in force, and Sir John, who had been about to fire up, cooled down very
decidedly on hearing the allusion. Henry, finding nothing could be done
with Oldcastle, who was as sturdy and obstinate as his name would seem
to imply, turned him over to Archbishop Arundel. The prelate undertook
to bring Sir John to his senses, but the junction could not be effected,
for the objects were really too remote to be easily brought together.
A writ was issued, but Oldcastle kept the proper officer at bay, and
assailed him not only with obstructive missiles, but with derisive
ridicule. At length, a military force was sent out to take the Oldcastle
by storm, when Sir John unwillingly surrendered. Though taken, he
refused to be shaken in his obstinate resolves, and he pleaded two whole
days before his judges, in the hope of wearing them out and inducing
them to stay the proceedings, rather than subject themselves to
the fearful blow of his excessive long-windedness. He was, however,
condemned, but the king granted a respite of fifty days, during which
the old fellow either contrived or was allowed to escape from the Tower;
and the probability is, that the gaolers had instructions to wink, in
the event of his being seen to pass the portals of his prison.

Oldcastle, or Lord Cobham, as he was also called, had no sooner got out
of prison than he rushed into the flames of sedition, and illustrated by
his conduct the process of a leap from the frying-pan into the fire.
He appointed a meeting of his followers at Eltham for the purpose
of surprising Henry, but the king observing the moves of the knight
determined if possible to avoid being check-mated. His majesty repaired
to Westminster, when Cobham, changing his tactics, fixed upon St.
Giles's Fields as the place of rendezvous. The king thought to himself
"Now we've got them there we'll keep them there," and shut the gates of
the city. This was on the feast of the Epiphany, or Twelfth Pay,
1414, and in the evening the Lord Mayor of London arrested several
disreputable Twelfth-night characters. On the next day, a little after
midnight, Henry went forth expecting to find twenty-five thousand men
assembled in St. Giles's Fields, but he met only eighty Lollards lolling
about, expecting Sir John Oldcastle. Several of them were hanged on
the charge of having intended to destroy king, lords, commons, church,
state, and all the other sundries of which the constitution is composed,
and to turn England into a federal republic, with Sir John Oldcastle as
president.

[Illustration: 260]

The idea of eighty enthusiasts meeting in a field near London to slice
their country into republics, and make a bonfire of the crown, the
sceptre, the throne, and the other appointments of royalty, is really
too ridiculous to be entertained, though it is almost funny enough to
be entertaining. Such, nevertheless, was the alarm the Lollards had
inspired, that everyone suspected of Lollardism was condemned to forfeit
his head first and his goods afterwards, though after taking a man in
execution it was rather superfluous cruelty to take his property by the
same process. Life, however, was held of so little account in those
days that there was considered to be no such capital fun as capital
punishment.

Henry had scarcely worn the English crown for a year, when, in the
spirit of an old clothesman, who delights in a plurality of hats, he
thought the crown of France might furnish a graceful supplement to his
own head-dress. He therefore sent in his claim to the French diadem,
making out a title in right of Edward the Third's wife, who had no right
at all, or if she had, it is clear that Henry the Fifth had no right to
the lady, whose heir was Edward Mortimer. France was in a wretched state
when Henry put in his claim; for Paris was in one of its revolutionary
fits, and intrigue was rampant in the royal family. The dauphin, Louis,
was continually fighting with his mother, and insulting his father,
while the Duke of Orleans and his cousin the Duke of Burgundy were
perpetually quarrelling. Each had his partisans, and those belonging
to the latter were in the habit of declaring that an Orleans
plum--alluding, of course, to the duke's vast fortune--was preferable
to an entire dozen of Burgundy. In the meantime Paris was infested by a
band of assassins, professing to be the friends of liberty, and wearing
white hoods, which they forced on to everybody's head; and this act was
no doubt the origin of the expression with reference to the hoodwinking
of the people.

Before proceeding to arm, Henry proposed a compromise. He demanded two
millions in cash, and King Charles's daughter, Catharine, in marriage.
The latter offered the lady in full, but only a moiety of the money.
This arrangement was scornfully rejected, and Henry held a council on
the 17th of April, 1415, at which he announced his determination to go
"over the water to Charley." Having resolved upon what to do, the next
question was how to do it; and the first difficulty that occurred was
the refusal of his soldiers to stir a step without an advance of three
months' wages. He first tried the Parliament, and got a good supply,
which was further increased by borrowing from or robbing his subjects.
Even this would not do, and recourse was had to the common but
disgraceful practice of unpicking the crown, for the purpose of sending
the jewels to the pawnbroker's. A trusty officer was despatched to
deposit with one of the king's relatives a brilliant, in the name of
Bolinbroke. The news of the preparations being made in England, spread
terror in France, for the distant roaring of the British Lion came
across the main, with portentous fury. The French King, Charles, was
utterly useless in the emergency--for he was a wretched imbecile--and
several artful attempts were made to get rid of his authority. Every now
and then he was made the subject of a commission of lunacy, as a pretext
for placing power in the dauphin's hands; and that undutiful son, having
turned his mother out of doors, seized the contents of the treasury,
which made him at once master of the capital. At one time, while the
pusillanimous Charles was lying at Arras, an attempt was made to burn
him out, by setting fire to his lodgings; but, having all the essential
qualities of a perfect pump, he does not appear to have been of a
combustible nature. He certainly was not of a very fiery disposition,
and his enemies declared that he owed his escape from the flames to his
being utterly incapable of enlightenment. Such was the king of France,
and such the feeling entertained towards him by the majority of
his subjects, when the English sovereign resolved on his aggressive
enterprise.

Henry left London on the 18th of June, 1415, and proceeded to
Winchester, where he was met by another offer of a compromise. This
he refused, and rudely pushing the deputation aside, he pressed on
to Southampton. Here his fleet awaited him, but receiving news of a
conspiracy to take his life he, instead of putting off to sea, put
off his departure. Sir Thomas Grey, the Lord Scroop, and the Earl of
Cambridge were all in the plot; and the two latter having claimed the
privilege of being tried by their peers, took very little by their
motion, for they were condemned by a vote of wondrous unanimity. Having
heard the heads of the treason, Henry cut off the heads of the traitors,
and embarked, on the 10th of August, on board his ship the "Trinity."
The scene on the Southampton pier was animated and brilliant when the
sovereign placed his foot upon the plank leading to the vessel that was
to conduct him to the shores of his enemies.

[Illustration: 262]

Gentle breezes were in attendance to waft him on his way, and Neptune,
who is sometimes ruffled on these occasions, presented an even calmness
that it was quite delightful to contemplate. An enthusiastic crowd on
the shore burst forth into occasional cheers, which were succeeded now
and then by the faint sob of some sentimental trooper, taking leave of
the fond maid whose heart--and last quarter's wages--he was carrying
away with him. The civic authorities were, of course, active in
their demonstrations of loyalty on this occasion; and the Mayor of
Southampton, in backing to make one of his sycophantic bows, sent one of
the attendants fairly over the bows of the vessel. With this exception,
no accident or mischance marked the embarkation of Henry, which seemed
to proceed under the most favourable auspices.

His fleet consisted of more than a thousand vessels, and some swans
having come to look at it, he declared this little mark of cygnal
attention to be a capital omen. We must request the reader to bear
in mind, that though all the authorities justify us in announcing one
thousand as the number of the ships constituting Henry's fleet, we
should not advise anyone to believe the statement, who has not had an
opportunity of counting the vessels. Either the ships in those days were
very small, or Southampton harbour has been fearfully contracted by
the contractors who have since undertaken to widen it. We have been
accustomed to place implicit faith in the rule of arithmetic, that
"a thousand into one won't go!" nor do we feel disposed to alter our
impression in favour of a thousand of Henry's ships being able to go
into Southampton harbour. We suspect that a hundred would have been
nearer the mark, for posterity is greatly in the habit of putting on an
O, and really believing there is nothing in it.

Whatever the numerical strength of Henry's fleet may have been, it is
certain that he entered the mouth of the Seine, which made no attempt
to show its teeth, and he landed on the 13th of August, three miles from
Harfleur, without any resistance. He severely deprecated all excesses
against the peaceful inhabitants, but he nevertheless besieged the
fortress of Harfleur with tremendous energy; so that his conduct towards
the natives was a good deal like that of the individual who knocked
another downstairs with numerous apologies for being under the painful
necessity of doing so.

The siege was under the conduct of "Master Giles," the Wellington of the
period. Master Giles must have been somewhat of a bungler, for he
was not successful until he had lost nearly all his men, and been
six-and-thirty days routing out the garrison. Even then the foe
surrendered through being too ill to fight, rather than from having
got much the worst of it. Henry's army was also reduced to a pack of
invalids, and his ships were turned into infirmaries for his soldiers.
Though the troops were wretchedly indisposed, Henry himself was only
sick of doing nothing, and he accordingly sent a challenge by a friend
to the dauphin of France, inviting him to a single combat.

The feelings of Louis were not in correspondence with those of the
English king, whose invitation to a hostile _tête-d-téte_ was never
answered. The friend sent by Henry was not by any means the sort of
person to tempt the representative of Young France to a hostile meeting.

[Illustration: 265]

The bearer of the challenge was, in fact, a walking pattern of what the
dauphin might expect to become in the event of his engaging in a duel.
A countenance which looked more like a mug that had been cracked and
riveted in twenty places, was the letter of recommendation presented by
Henry's second. As the friend was evidently not a man to take a denial,
Henry? (Louis) contented himself with scratching off a few hieroglyphics
on a sheet of paper--to make believe that he was writing a note--and
hastily seizing an envelope, he sealed and delivered the delusive
missive. Henry's friend went away satisfied, with the full conviction
that he was taking back an acceptance of his master's challenge, but
when the communication came to be opened, the English king was indignant
at the hoax that had been played upon him.

Finding himself foiled in an attempt to settle his dispute by single
combat, Henry called over the muster-roll of his troops, which presented
a frightful number of vacancies since the making up of his last
army list. He had lost several hands from his first foot, and he was
compelled to say to his adjutant, "Really, if we go on at this rate
we shall be compelled to notify that _Nobody_ is promoted _vice_
_Everybody_, killed, or retired."

His entire force having dwindled down to the mere shadow of its former
self, he was advised to get home as speedily as possible. "No," he
replied, "I have no notion of coming all this way for nothing, and I
shall see a little more of this good land of France before I go back
again." The army, which was nearly all under the doctor's hands, seemed,
upon being drawn up in marching order, far fitter to go to bed than
to go to battle. Every regiment required medical regimen, and when
the soldiers should have been sitting with their feet in hot water
and comforters round their throats, they were required, with a callous
indifference to their state of health, to march towards Calais.

The journey began on the 6th of October, when the French king and the
dauphin had a large force at Rouen, while the Constable of France was
in front of the English, with an army consisting of the very pick of
Picardy. In passing through Normandy Henry met with no opposition, but
his movements were watched by a large force, which kept continually
cutting off stragglers, or in military language, clipping the wings of
his army. Those who lingered in the rear, or, as it were hung out behind
like a piece of a pocket-handkerchief protruding from the skirts of the
main body, were cut off with merciless alacrity. The English continued
to be dreadfully ill, and were proper subjects for the _Hotel des
Invalides_, but they nevertheless pursued their march with indomitable
courage. In crossing the river Bresle, beyond Dieppe, they made a
decided splash; but the garrison of Eu interrupted them in their cold
bath, though with very little effect, for the French leader was killed
and his followers were driven back to the ramparts. On reaching the
Somme the English army found both banks so strongly fortified, that had
they resorted to the most desperate hazard, or played any other reckless
game, breaking the banks would have been impossible.

Henry consulted with his friends as to the best means of getting across,
but nothing was suggested, except to tunnel under the banks and dive
along the bottom of the stream; but this was objected to for divers
reasons. Henry kept marching up the left bank of the river, in the hope
of finding a favourable opportunity to dash across; but every attempt
terminated in making ducks and drakes of his brave soldiers. Wherever a
chance appeared to present itself he tried it, but without success, for
the river had been filled with stakes, though the extent of the stakes
did not prevent him from carrying on the game as long as possible. At
length, on reaching Nesle he hit the right nail on the head, for running
across a temporary bridge near the spot, he found the accommodation
passable.

The Constable of France, on hearing what had occurred, retired to St.
Pol, like a poltroon, and sent heralds to Henry, advising him to avoid a
battle, for the French fully intended to give it him. The constable then
fell back upon Agincourt, in which direction the English army prepared
to follow him. On the 24th of October, Henry and his soldiers came in
sight of the enemy's outposts, and their columns served as advertising
columns to indicate their position. During the night it is said that
the English played on their trumpets, so that the whole neighbourhood
resounded with the noise; but as they were all very tired, and had gone
to sleep, it is probable that the only music heard by the inhabitants
emanated from the nasal organs of the slumbering soldiers. By the French
the night was passed in noise and revelry; but the English were
chiefly absorbed in repose, or occupied in making their last wills
and testaments. These were far more suitable employments than the
performance of those concerted pieces which would only have disconcerted
the plans of their leaders.

The moon, which on that occasion was up all night, enabled the English
officers to ascertain the quality of the ground that the French
occupied. The constable stuck the royal banner into the middle of the
Calais road, an achievement which the muddy nature of the soil, rendered
softer by the drizzly rain, prevented from being at all difficult. The
French took the usual means of counteracting the effect of external wet
by internal soaking. "Every man," says the chronicler, "dydde drynke
lyke a fyshe," though the simile does not hold, for we never yet found
one of the finny tribe who was given to the sort of liquor that the
French were imbibing before Agincourt. They passed round the cup so
rapidly that, what with the clayey nature of the soil and the whirl
of excitement into which their heads were thrown, they found it almost
impossible to preserve their respective equilibria. They floundered
about in the most disgraceful manner, and there was "many a slip 'twixt
the cup and the lip" on that memorable occasion. In addition to the
excesses of the table, they availed themselves of the resources of the
multiplication table, by calculating the amount of ransoms they should
receive for the English king and the great barons, whom they made sure
of capturing. Thus, in the agreeable but delusive occupation of turning
their imaginations into poultry-yards, and stocking them with ideal
chickens that were never destined to be hatched, did the French pass the
night before the battle. Still, there was a melancholy mixed with the
mirth in the minds of many, who, in the midst of the general counting
of the phantom pullets, found sad thoughts to brood over. It so happened
that there were scarcely any musical instruments among the French, and
their horses, it was remarked, never once neighed during the night,
which was thought to be ominous of bad, for if a dismal foreboding
intruded, there was not even an animal to say "neigh" to it. Some of
the older and more experienced officers were seized with gloomy
anticipations, but they were either coughed, laughed, or clamoured down;
and when the veteran Duke of Berri ventured to allude to Poictiers, on
which occasion the French had been equally sanguine, he was tauntingly
nicknamed the Blackberry for his sombre sentiments. To add to the
discomfort of the troops, there was a deficiency of hay and straw for
the use of the cavalry. The piece of ground where the horses had been
taken in to bait was a perfect pool, in which the poor creatures could
be watered, it is true, but could not enjoy any other refreshment. The
earth had proved itself indeed a toper, according to the song, and had
moistened its clay to such a degree that everyone who came in contact
with it found himself placed on a most uncomfortable footing. However
resolved the French might have been to make a stand on the day of
battle, it was impossible for them to make any stand at all on the night
preceding it.

At early dawn Henry got up in excellent spirits, and declared himself
ready to answer the communication of the French constable, which he had
received some time before, advising him to treat or retreat, and which
had hitherto remained unresponded to. A movement of astonishment was
evinced by his followers at the announcement of the English king's
intention to reply to the message he had received, but when he said, "I
shall trouble him with three lines, which may extend to three columns,"
and proceeded to divide his army into that form, the gallant soldiers
understood and cheered his meaning. The archers were placed in front,
and every one of them had at least four strings to his bow, in the shape
of a billhook, a hatchet, a hammer, and a long thick stake, in addition
to his stock of arrows.

Having made these preparations, Henry mounted a little grey pony and
reviewed his army. He wore his best Sunday helmet of polished steel,
which had received, expressly for the occasion, an extra leathering, and
on the top of that he wore a crown of gold richly set with jewels. In
this headgear he presented such a dazzling spectacle to the enemy, that
it would have been almost as difficult to take an aim at the sun itself
as at the blazing and brilliant English leader. As he rode from rank
to rank, he had an encouraging word for every soldier; and his familiar
"Ha, Briggs," to one; his cheerful "What, Jones, is that you, my boy?"
to another; and his invigorating "Up, Smith, and at 'em!" to a third,
contributed greatly to increase the confidence of his men and strengthen
their attachment to their general. "As for me," he said, "you'll have
to pay no ransom for me, as I've fully made up my mind to die or to
conquer."

[Illustration: 268]

On passing one of the divisions, he heard Walter Hungerford--the
original proprietor of Hungerford Stairs--regretting there were not more
of them. "What do we want with more?" êxclaimed Henry. "I would not have
an _extra_ man if you would give him me. If we are to fall, the fewer
the better, and if we are to conquer, I would not have one pair of
additional hands to pick a single leaf of our laurels." The French were
at least six to one of the English, but the former were horridly out of
condition on the night before the battle. They wore long coats of steel
down to their knees, which gave them the look of animated meat screens,
and the armour they carried on their legs served to complete the
resemblance. "They wore a quantity of harness on the upper part of their
bodies," says M. Nicolas, but he does not tell us whether the harness
consisted of horse collars, which by being grinned through would have
enabled them to advance towards the foe with a smiling aspect. The
ground was remarkably soft, and the French troops being exceedingly
heavy, they kept sticking in the mud at every step, while the ensigns,
who had the additional weight of their flags, got planted in the ground
like a row of standards. The horses were up to their knees in no time,
and when they attempted to pull up they found the operation quite
impossible. Henry had declared he would roll the enemy in the dust, but
the wet had laid all the dust, and he must have rolled them in the
mud if he had rolled them in anything. The French are said by a recent
historian * to have been suffering under a "moral vertigo," but as
the vertigo had been brought on by drinking on the previous night, the
morality of the "vertigo" will bear questioning. They had got themselves
into a field between two woods, where they had no room to "deploy," and
they were tumbling over each other like a pack of cards, or a regiment
of tin soldiers. Though they had imbibed a large quantity of wine and
spirits, the rain, which fell in torrents, only added water to what they
had drunk, and threw them into what is technically termed a "groggy"
condition. Henry compared them to so many tumblers of rum-and-water,
so comical was their appearance as they fell about in a state of soaked
stupidity. To increase their confusion, the Constable of France was
unable to keep order, for several young sprigs of French nobility were
all tendering their advice, and thus there were not only cooks enough to
spoil the broth, but to make a regular hash of it.

     * Macfarlane. Cabinet History, vol. v., p. 21.

At length, about the hour of noon, Henry gave the word to begin by
exclaiming "Banners, advance!" and at the same moment Sir Thomas
Erpingham, a grey old knight, who appears to have been a kind of
military pantaloon, threw his truncheon into the air with true
pantomimic activity. "Now, strike!" exclaimed the veteran, as he
performed this piece of buffoonery, and followed it up with the words
"Go it!" "At 'em again!" "Serve 'em right!" and "Give it 'em!" The
French fought bravely, and Messire Clignet, of Brabant, charged with
twelve hundred horse, exclaiming "Mountjoye, St. Denis!" when down
he fell, on the soft and slippery ground, like a horse on the wooden
pavement. Everywhere the French cavalry cut the most eccentric capers;
and even when there was an opportunity of advancing, the advantage
seemed to slip from under them, for the ground was as bad as ground
glass to stand upon. The English archers rushed among the steel-clad
knights, who were as stiff as so many pokers--though not one of them
could stir--and they were thus caught in their own steel traps, or
trappings. The Constable of France was killed, and the flower of the
French chivalry was nipped in the bud, or, rather, experienced a blow of
a fatal character.

"This is a very hard case, indeed," roared one of the victims, as he
pointed to his suit of steel, which rendered him incapable of fighting
or running away, though he was quite ready for either. But the hardest
part of all was the softness of the ground, into which the French kept
sinking so rapidly that they might as well have fought on the Goodwin
Sands as on the field of Agincourt. The weight of their armour caused
them to disappear every now and then, like the Light of All Nations, on
the spot we have just named, and an old French warrior--one of the heavy
fathers of that day--was seen to subside so completely in the mud, that
in a few minutes he had left only his hair apparent. The English, who
were lightly clad, kept up wonderfully under the fatigues of the day,
and some of them performed prodigies of valour. Henry himself seems to
have acquitted himself in a Style quite worthy of Shaw, or Pshaw, the
Life Guardsman. His majesty was charged by a band of eighteen knights,
whom it is said he overcame, but it is much more likely that finding
themselves ready to sink into the earth, they were compelled to knock
under.

Their cause was desperate, it was neck or nothing with many; but as they
became immersed in the soil by degrees, it was neck first, and nothing
shortly afterwards. The Duke of Alençon made a momentary effort to be
vigorous, in spite of his steel petticoats, and gave Henry a blow on the
head that broke off a bit of the crown which he had been wearing over
his helmet. This _embarras des chapeaux_, or inconvenient superfluity of
hats, was a weakness Henry was subject to, and there was no harm in his
being made to pay for it. The Duke of Alençon had no sooner broken the
king's crown than he received a fracture in his own, which proved fatal.
The battle was now over, and the English began to secure prisoners,
taking from each captive his cap, or hat, but it is to be presumed
giving a ticket to each, by which all would get back their own helmets.
Henry having taken it into his head that the battle was going to
be renewed, ordered the prisoners to be killed; but he afterwards
apologised for his mistake, though posterity has never been satisfied
with the excuse he offered. As far as we have been able to learn the
particulars of this atrocious blunder, it arose in the following manner.
The priests of the English army--with a sort of instinctive tendency
to taking care of themselves--were sitting amongst the baggage. Henry,
hearing a noise among the reverend gentlemen, looked round, and found
them apparently threatened with an attack from what he thought was
a hostile force, but which turned out to be a few peasants, who were
scrambling with the priests for a share of the luggage. This
attempted appropriation of church property was resisted by a vigorous
ecclesiastical clamour, which led Henry to believe there had been a
rally among the foe, and that the priests were giving the signal. Had
he been aware that they were crying out before they were hurt, there is
every reason to believe that he would not have issued the mandate which
has so much compromised his otherwise fair average character. The French
loss at the battle of Agincourt was quite incredible, but not a bit the
less historical on that account, for if history were to reject all that
cannot be believed its dimensions would be fearfully crippled.

[Illustration: 271]

The English, sinking under the weight of their booty, as well as the mud
on their boots, marched towards Calais. Henry's army was reduced almost
to a skeleton, but he used to say jocosely, that with that skeleton key
he would find an opening anywhere. Though rich in conquest, he was
short of cash, and as England was always the place for getting money,
he determined on hastening thither. The people received him with
enthusiasm, and at Dover they rushed into the sea to carry him on shore,
so that he literally came in on the shoulders of the people. Proud of
this popular pickaback, he made a speech amid the general waving of
hats, which was responded to by the gentle waving of the ocean. The
tide, however, began to rise, when Henry cut short the proceedings of
the meeting between himself and his subjects by exclaiming, "But on, my
friends, to the shore, for this is not the place for dry discussion."

On his way up to town each city vied with the other in loyalty.
Rochester contended with Canterbury, Chatham struggled with Gravesend,
and Blackheath entered into a single combat with Green-wich; Deptford
ran itself into debt, which it retains nominally to this day; and
the Bricklayers presented their arms to Henry as he passed into the
metropolis. In London he was met by the Lords and Commons, the mayor,
aldermen, and citizens; but the sweetest music was that made by the wine
as it poured down the streets, and caught a guttural sound as it turned
in£o the gutters. Many a bottle of fine old crusted port was mulled by
being thrown into the thoroughfare, and though it might have been
good enough to have spoken for itself, it ran itself down through the
highways with much energy. Nor was this enthusiasm confined to hollow
words, for all the supplies which the king requested were freely voted
him. It was only for Henry to ask and have, at this auspicious moment;
and if, like some children, he had cried for the moon, it is not
unlikely that his subjects, in the excess of their loyalty, would have
promised to give it him.

In the spring of the year 1416, London was enlivened by a visit from the
Emperor Sigismund. He imparted considerable gaiety to the season, and
his entry into the city gave occasion for a general holiday. His object
was to endeavour to effect a coalition between the two rival popes, and
to get the kings of France and England to make it up if possible. He
was followed by some French ambassadors who marred the harmony of the
procession by looking daggers at the English nobles. Occasionally they
proceeded from glances to gibes, which naturally led to pushes, that
were only prevented from coming to blows by the sudden turning round of
the emperor whenever he heard a disturbance going on amongst those who
followed him.

During Sigismund's stay in town, the French besieged Harfleur, which was
guarded by the Earl of Dorset and a most unhealthy garrison. Toothache,
elephantiasis, and sciatica, had so reduced the spirit of the English
force that the Duke of Bedford, the king's brother, was sent to aid
the Earl of Dorset, and the poor old pump was grateful for this timely
succour. Bedford having put matters quite straight, returned to England,
and Henry proposed a run over to Calais with his imperial visitor,
Sigismund. Here a sort of Congress was held at which Henry made
himself so popular, that his rights to the French throne were partially
recognised. France was at this juncture in a very unpromising condition,
for the royal family did nothing but quarrel and murder one another's
favourites. Isabella, the queen, lived in hostility with the king, who
arrested several of his wife's servants, and had one of them, whose name
was Bois-Bourdon, sewn up in a leather-bag and thrown into the Seine,
from which the notion of giving a servant the sack, on the occasion of
his getting his discharge, no doubt takes its origin.

The Dauphin John having died, he was succeeded by his brother Charles,
a boy of sixteen, who was continually fighting with his own mother, and
getting a good deal the worst of it. This state of things tempted Henry
to bring an army into France in August, 1417, when, after the surrender
of a few smaller places, he took Caen by assault, or rather by a good
Caen pepper. In the ensuing year he undertook several sieges at once,
and played with his artillery upon Cherbourg, Damfront, Lonviers, and
Pont de l'Arohe as easily as the musician who plays simultaneously on
six different instruments. His next important undertaking was the siege
of Rouen, before which he sat down, and having looked at it through his
glass, he made up his mind that starving it out was the only method of
taking it. The inhabitants held out for some time on their provisions,
but these being exhausted, they began to devour all sorts of trash,
that was never intended for culinary purposes. _Soupe au shoe_ became
a common dish, and though for a brief period they had mutton chop _en
papillotes_ they were at last reduced to the _papillotes_ without the
meat, but with their tremendous twists they of course could not be
expected to make a satisfactory meal off curl-papers. They accordingly
surrendered, and Henry, on the 16th of January, 1419, entered Rouen,
where ambassadors from the various factions in France were sent to him.
He was, however, quite open to all, but decidedly influenced by none,
and had a polite word for each, but a wink for those in his confidence,
as he administered the blarney to the various legates. At length it
was agreed that he should have an interview with the king and queen of
France and the Duke of Burgundy.

The French sovereign was not presentable when the day came, for
excessive indulgence in wine had reduced him to a state from which all
the soda-water in the world could not, at that moment, have recovered
him. Henry, therefore, met the queen, who was attended by her lovely
daughter, the Princess Catherine, and her cousin of Burgundy, while the
English king was supported by his brothers, Clarence and Gloucester. The
meeting was exceedingly ceremonious, and was conducted a good deal
in the style of a medley dance, comprising the minuet, the figure
_Pastorale_ in the first set of quadrilles, and Sir Roger de Coverley.
At a signal announced by the striking up of some music, Henry advanced
first, performing as it were the _cavalier seul_, when the Princess
Catherine and the queen, with the Duke of Burgundy between them, also
advanced, until all met in the centre. Henry bowed to the queen, and
took her hand, and then did the same with the Princess Catherine, a
movement resembling the celebrated _chaine des dames_--and Burgundy
fell in gracefully with what was going on by an occasional _balancez_ to
complete the action of the second couple.

This was the first occasion upon which Henry had seen his intended
bride, and whether in earnest or in sham he appeared to be at once
struck by her surpassing beauty. He enacted the lover at first sight
with a vigour that would have secured him a livelihood as a walking
gentleman, had he lived in our own time, and been dependent for support
on his theatrical abilities.

[Illustration: 274]

The whole day was spent in formalities, and Henry sat opposite to the
princess till the close of the interview, looking unutterable, things,
for she was so far off that it would have been vain to have uttered
anything. In two days afterwards Henry and the queen paid each other a
second formal visit; but the English king looked in vain for the young
lady, who like a true _coquette_, seems to have kept away for the
purpose of increasing the impatience of her lover. Her mother, with the
tact of an old matchmaker, tried to get the best possible terms
from Henry; but with all his affection, he would not stir from his
resolution, to insist on having the possession of Normandy and a few
other perquisites as the young lady's dowry.

The French queen pretended to take time to consider his proposal, and
seven formal interviews were held; but all of them were of so dull,
stately, and slow a character, that no progress was made at any one
of them. The fact is, that Henry was being humbugged, and if he had
suspected as much during the seven first meetings, he was convinced of
it at that, which should have been the eighth, for on going to keep his
appointment he found neither the queen, the duke, the princess, nor any
of the attendants of either of them. All ceremony was at an end, the
diplomatic _quadrille_ parties were broken up, and Henry, disgusted at
having been made to dance attendance for nothing at all, became so angry
that his brain began to reel on its own account, and he set off to his
own quarters in a _galop_. He ascertained the truth to be, that the
queen and Burgundy had made it up with the dauphin, whom they had gone
to join, and the precious trio having sworn eternal friendship to each
other, added a clause to the affidavit for the purpose of swearing
eternal hatred to all Englishmen.

Tired of kicking his heels about to no purpose, Henry determined on
practising some entirely new steps; the first of which was to advance
upon Pontoise and _chassez_ the inhabitants. He then pushed on towards
Paris, when Burgundy, fearful of a _rencontre_, retired from St. Denis,
where he had taken up his position. Henry again offered to treat, but in
sending in the particulars of his demand he added Pontoise to the list
of places he should require to be transferred to his possession.

The alliance between the dauphin and the Duke of Burgundy was as hollow
as the hollow beech tree rendered famous by a series of single knocks
at the hands, or, rather, at the beak, of the woodpecker. After a little
negotiation, and a great deal of treachery, Burgundy, in spite of the
warnings of several of his servants, was induced to visit the dauphin at
Montereau. The duke went unarmed, on the assurance that he should return
unharmed, and instead of his helmet he wore a velvet cap, which one
of his attendants declared was a wonderful proof of soft-headedness.
Burgundy, on coming into the presence of the heir to the throne
of France, bent his knee; when the President of Provence whispered
something in the dauphin's ear, and both began winking fearfully at a
man with a battle-axe. The man with the battle-axe gave a significant
nod, and dropped his weapon, as if by mistake, upon Burgundy; when the
Sire de Navailles, a friend of the duke, pointing to the fearful dent
the axe had made, exclaimed, "This is not a mere accident." This was
immediately obvious; for several others rushed upon poor Burgundy,
who devoted his last breath to exclaiming to the dauphin, "You are an
ass--ass--" for he died before he could get the word ass--ass--in.

Young Philip, the heir of Jean Sans-peur---or Jack Dreadnought, as we
should have translated this nickname of the Duke of Burgundy--succeeded
to his father's estates, as well as becoming residuary legatee of
the affections of most of his subjects. The dauphin's foul deed was
execrated on all sides; for though the state of morals was low at the
period of which we write, there was always a certain love of fair play
inherent in the human character. The younger Burgundy was in a state of
effervescence, and though he kept bottled up for a short time, his rage
soon spirted out with fearful vehemence. He entered into a coalition
with Henry, who stipulated for the hand of the Princess Catherine in
possession, with the crown of France in reversion, and a few other
trifling contingencies. In the year 1420, one day in the month of
April--probably the first--the imbecile Charles, guided by Queen
Isabella and the Duke of Burgundy, put his hand to the treaty. The
unhappy monarch was in his usual state, when a pen having been thrust
into his grasp, and while somebody held the document, somebody else
directed the motion of the royal fingers. The treaty thus became
disfigured by a series of scratches and blots which were declared to be
the king's signature. An appendix to this document contained a fulsome
panegyric on the English king, which wound up with a declaration of his
fitness to succeed to the French crown, because "he had a noble person
and a pleasing countenance." This shallow argument was intended to lead
to the conclusion that he would treat his subjects handsomely; or that,
at all events, should he ever reign over France, his rule would not be
without some very agreeable features.

In May of the same year--1420--Henry started for Troyes, where the
young Duke of Burgundy and the French royal family were sojourning.
The English king was all impatience to see his bride, and he found her
sitting with her papa and mamma in the church of St. Peter. They had
intended a little surprise for their illustrious visitor, and everything
being ready beforehand, he was affianced on the spot to the lovely
Catherine. They were regularly married. On the 2nd of June, and some
of the gay young nobles hoped there would be a series of balls, dinner
parties, and tournaments, in celebration of the wedding: Henry, however,
declared he would have "no fuss," but that those who wanted to show
their skill in jousting and tourneying might accompany him to Sens,
which he purposed besieging on the second day after his marriage. He
declined participating in the child's play of a tournament when there
was so much real work to be done, "and as to feasting," he exclaimed,
"let us give the people of Sens their whack, or, at all events, if we
are to have a good blow-out, it must be by blowing the enemy out of the
citadel." He proceeded at once with his beautiful bride from Troyes,
and soon reaching Sens, he in two days frightened the inhabitants out of
their Senses. They surrendered, and he then advanced to Montereau, which
he took by assault--or rather, as one of the merry old chroniclers
hath it, "which he took, not so much by assault as by a pepper." After
besieging a few other places in France, Henry, in conjunction with
Charles, the French king, made a triumphal entry into Paris. The
inhabitants of that city gave him an enthusiastic reception, for, like
the populace in every period, they were delighted at anything in the
shape of change, and paid the utmost respect to those from whom they had
experienced the greatest injury.

In January, 1421, Henry being very short of cash, determined on going
home to England, which was even in those days the most liberal paymaster
to popular favourites. Having with him a good-looking queen, his
reception in his own country was most gratifying, for the old clap-trap
about "lovely woman" was inherent from the earliest periods in the
English character. This fascinating female was crowned at Westminster
Abbey with tremendous pomp, and the happy couple went "starring it"
about the country in a royal progress immediately afterwards. Their
success in the provinces was immense; but their pleasant engagements in
their own country were soon brought to an end by the announcement that
France was still in a state of turbulence, requiring the immediate
presence of Henry in Paris.

Having warmed his subjects' hearts, he struck while the iron was hot,
and took an aim at their pockets. Parliament was in a capital humour,
and came out splendidly with pecuniary votes for a new expedition. He
left the queen at Windsor Castle, where she shortly after gave birth to
a son; and having landed a large but very miscellaneous army at Calais,
Henry marched to Paris, to reinforce the Duke of Exeter, who had been
left there as governor. The English were successful at all points, and
Queen Catherine having joined her husband, they held their court at the
Louvre, where they sat in their coronation robes, with their crowns on
their heads, as naturally as if they had formed a part of "the Royal
Family at Home" in Madame Tussaud's far-famed collection of wax-work.

In the midst of his victorious career in France, Henry had started off
to the relief of a town invested by the dauphin--an investment that was
profitable to nobody. The English king had reached Corbeil, when he
was taking suddenly ill, and throwing himself on a litter, he declared
himself to be literally tired out with his exertions. Having been taken
home to the neighbourhood of Vincennes, and put to bed, he summoned
his brother, the Duke of Bedford, and some other nobles, to whom he
recommended amity; but, above all, he advised them to continue the
alliance with Burgundy, whose habit of sticking to his friends has given
the name of Burgundy to the well-known pitch plaster. Having appointed
his brothers Gloucester and Bedford regents, the one for England and the
other for France, during the minority of his son, he seemed perfectly
resigned; but his attendants literally roared like a parcel of children,
so that he was compelled to tell them that crying would do no good to
anybody. He died on the 31st of August, 1422, aged thirty-four, having
reigned ten years with some credit to himself, and in full, as far as
conquest may be desirable, with advantage to his country.

On the death of a king, it had been usual for the attendants to rush
helter-skelter out of the room, and ransack the house of the deceased
monarch, while his successor generally made the best of his way down to
the treasury. Henry the Fifth was an exception to the rule, for he had
earned so much respect in his lifetime, that at his death there was
no indecorum, but a desire was manifested to give him the benefit of a
decent, and indeed a magnificent, funeral. When a king of England had
died abroad on previous occasions, his remains were seldom thought
worthy of the expense of carriage to his own country; but in this
instance no outlay was considered too extravagant to bestow on the
funeral procession of the sovereign. Hundreds of mutes followed, with
that mute solemnity which is the origin of their name: and on this
occasion there were hundreds of knights, all in the deepest mourning.
Several esquires had their armour black-leaded, and their plumes dyed in
ink, while the king of Scotland acted as chief mourner, and the widow of
the deceased sovereign came in at the end of the gloomy retinue. On its
arrival in England, when it drew near London, fifteen bishops popped on
their pontifical attire, and ran to meet it; while the abbots, taking
down their mitres from the hat-pegs in the halls of their houses,
sallied forth to join the sad procession. The remains of the king were
carried to Westminster Abbey, and consigned to the tomb with every token
of esteem, and the reverence it had been customary to show to the rising
sun alone, was on this occasion extended to the luminary that had just
set in unusual glory. The queen, desirous of evincing her affection for
such a prince, caused a silver-gilt statue as large as life to be placed
on the top of his monument. This piece of extravagance was, however,
before the invention of British Plate, or that "perfect substitute
for silver," which is a perfect substitute in everything but value,
strength, purity, appearance, and durability.

In painting the character of Henry the Fifth, the English historians
have used the most brilliant colours, while the French writers have
thrown in some shades of the most Indian-inky blackness. The former
have been lavish in the use of _couleur de rose_, while the latter
have selected the very darkest hues, and, indeed, produced a picture
resembling those dingy profiles which give a hard outline of the
features, but render it impossible for us to judge of the aspect or
complexion of the original. It is for us to look at both sides, like the
apparently inconsistent pendulum, which, by constantly oscillating from
right to left, becomes the instrument of furnishing a faithful record of
the time.

Henry the Fifth was devoted to the happiness of his people; but he had
sometimes an odd way of showing his attachment, by ill-using the few for
the satisfaction of the many. Thus, he persecuted the Lollards in the
most cruel manner, out of the purest condescension towards the clergy,
who had got up a clamour against the sect alluded to. This obliging
disposition may be carried too far, when it urges the commission of an
injustice to one party, in order to favour another, and the persecution
of the Lollards at the call of the clergy was a good deal like an
acquiescence in a cry of "throw him over" got up in the gallery of a
theatre, against some unfortunate who may have incurred the momentary
displeasure of a "generous British audience."

The military exploits of Henry the Fifth have been praised by English
historians, but the French writers have contrived to show that even
the battle of Agincourt was nothing more than a mistake, s like the one
which happened at Waterloo about four centuries afterwards.

"He ought to have been conquered at Agincourt," say the annalists of
France, but we are quite content that his conduct was not precisely what
it ought to have been--according to them--on this great occasion.

Some praise, has been given him for his tact in negotiating with the
Duke of Burgundy and the dauphin at the same time, but we must confess
that our notions of honour do not permit us to approve the act of
temporising with two parties for the purpose of joining that which might
prove to be the strongest. He was brave, beyond a doubt, but he was
cruel in the treatment of some of the prisoners who fell into his hands,
and we cannot give him the benefit of the presumption suggested by a
French historian, that if he hanged a quantity of unfortunate captives,
he had probably very good reasons of his own for doing so. *

     * Pour les autres qui furent exécutés dans le même temps
     j'en ignore les raisons, mais il est à présumer, &c., &c.--
     Rapin, tom, iii, p. 504.

Among the other defects attributed to the character of Henry the Fifth
is a degree of shabbiness towards the people in his employ, whom he is
said to have paid very inadequately for their services. Considering,
however, that the liberality of kings is often practised at the expense
of the people, and that Henry was so crippled in his own means that the
crown jewels were, on one occasion, pawned, we have no right to blame
him for refusing to reward his soldiers with what could only have been
the proceeds of plunder.

In person Henry the Fifth was tall and majestic, but his neck was a
little too long, which may have given him that supercilious air for
which some of his biographers have censured him. In his social habits
he resembled the celebrated Mynheer Von Dunk, of antiintoxication
notoriety, for Henry "never got drunk," even with success, which is of
all things the most fatal to temperance.



CHAPTER THE THIRD. HENRY THE SIXTH, SURNAMED OF WINDSOR.


[Illustration: 280]

THE SIXTH was not out of his long frocks when he came to the throne,
for he had not yet completed the ninth month of his little existence.
Though he succeeded peacefully to the crown, he was in arms from the
first hour of his reign; and though he was not born literally with a
silver spoon in his mouth, he had one there on his accession to the
throne, for he was being fed at the very moment that the news of
his father's death was announced in the royal nursery. It is easy
to conceive the interesting proceedings that took place on its being
proclaimed that the child, then in the act of having its food, had
become the king of England. A clean bib was instantly brought, and he
was apostrophised as a little "Kingsey Pingsey," a "Monarchy Ponarchy,"
and was addressed by many other of those titles of affectionate loyalty
which are to be found nowhere but in the nursery dialect. A Parliament
was summoned to meet in November, 1422, and, the regency being a good
thing, there commenced a desperate struggle as to who should be allowed
to have and to hold the baby. The Duke of Gloucester claimed the post
of nurse, in the absence of his elder brother, the Duke of Bedford. The
lords named the latter President of the Council, but while he was away
the former was permitted to act as his deputy, and, what was more to
Gloucester's purpose, he was allowed to receive the salary of £5333
per annum. Having got the money and the power, Gloucester was not
particularly anxious to have the charge of the royal baby, who was
accordingly handed over to the Earl of Warwick, jointly with Henry
Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester, a half-brother of Henry the Fourth, who
had also a high seat--convenient, by-the-way, for the infant king--in
the council.

This Beaufort was the second son of John of Gaunt, and founder of the
illustrious family of the Beauforts, who derive their original
nobility from an ancestor who was _beau_ and _fort_--strong as well as
good-looking. If aristocracy in these days were derivable from the same
source, the handsome and brawny drayman might take his seat in the House
of Lords, while ticket-porters, coalheavers, railway navigators, and
other representatives of the physical force party would constitute an
extensive peerage, of what dramatic authors, when they write for the
gallery, are in the habit of apostrophising as "Nature's noblemen." The
Beauforts, besides the good looks and strength of their founder, had
collateral claims to muscular eminence. The uncle of the first Beaufort
was called John of Gaunt, from his gaunt or gigantic stature; and one of
the family had been, in 1397, created Duke of Somerset, most likely on
account of the somersets he was able to turn by sheer force of sinew.

We beg pardon for this slight digression, but as there are many who take
a deep and reverential interest in everything appertaining to rank, it
may be gratifying to them to know the precise origin of some of our most
ancient and most aristocratic families.

Let us then resume the thread of our history. Bedford was still in
France, and, in the month of October, King Charles the Sixth expired
at Paris. The dauphin was at Auvergne, with a set of six or seven
seedy followers, who could not muster the means of proclaiming him in
a respectable manner. They hurried off altogether to a little roadside
chapel, and having one banner among the whole lot, with the French arms
upon it, they raised it amid feeble shouts of "Long live the king,"
aided by a few "hurrahs" from some urchins on the exterior of the
building. This farce having been performed, and the title given to it
of "The proclamation of Charles the Seventh," the party repaired to
luncheon at the king's lodgings. Having come into a little money by the
death of his father, he went with a few friends to Poictiers, where
a coronation, upon a limited scale, was performed, at an expense
exceedingly moderate.

While this contemptible affair was going on in a French province, the
Duke of Bedford was busy, in Paris, getting up a demonstration in
favour of the infant Henry. Fealty was sworn towards the British baby
in various great towns of France; and Bedford, anxious to cement the
alliance with Burgundy, married the duke's sister, Anne; though it seems
strange that he should have calculated upon a marriage as a source
of harmony. He must have had a strong faith in wedded life, to have
anticipated a good understanding as the effect of that which so
frequently opens the door to perpetual discord.

While Bedford was making strenuous exertions to promote the ascendency
of the English in France, the nominal king of that country, Charles the
Seventh, had given himself up to selfish indulgences. His energies were
diluted in drink; but a few vigorous men, who were about him, forced
him occasionally into the field, from which he always sneaked out on the
first opportunity. He was compelled to engage in two or three actions,
and was defeated in all, though he had the benefit of about seven
thousand Scotch, under the command of the Earl of Buchan; and threatened
to cure his enemies of their hostility by administering a few doses of
Buchan's domestic medicine. After two or three reverses, Charles thought
his army strong enough to attempt to relieve the town of Ivry, which, in
the summer of 1424, was besieged by the Duke of Bedford.

Charles's force consisted of a strange mixture of Scotchmen, Italians,
and Frenchmen, who were all continually giving way to their national
prejudices, and quarrelling in broken French, broken Italian, or broken
Scotch,--which is a dialect something between a sneeze, a snore, and a
howl, spiced with a dash of gutturalism, and mixed together in a
whine of surpassing mournfulness. The French declared the Scotch were
mercenaries, who had an "itching palm;" but the Scotch savagely replied,
that "they came to the scratch with a true itch for glory."

While the three parties were engaged in a vigorous self-assertion, and
were loud in praise of their own valour, they caught a glimpse of the
English force--and, halting in dismay, retreated without drawing a
sword. The garrison of Ivry, which had been waiting the approach of its
friends, who were to do such wonders, and had been watching the scene
with intense anxiety from the battlements, could only murmur out the
words "pitiful humbugs," and surrender at discretion.

By some lucky chance--or, as other historians have it, by the revolt of
the inhabitants--Charles and his mongrel army had got possession of the
town of Vemeuil, which was a very strong position. They had scarcely got
snugly in, when the Duke of Bedford presented himself before the walls,
and a council was instantly held, to consider how they should get
out again. Everybody talked at once, and a mixed jargon of Scotch and
French, flavoured occasionally with a little Italian sauce, was the only
result of the deliberation of the gallant army. At length, by common
consent, they ran away, preferring to fight in an open field, if they
must fight at all--for there would then be more margin for escape, or
latitude for bolting, in the event of their getting the worst of it.

So rapid was their desertion of the town, that they left behind them all
their luggage, which was perhaps a wise precaution, for they were thus
enabled to run the faster, in case of having to execute a retreat,
which was one of the military manouvres in which they had had the most
experience.

The two armies were now in presence of each other, and on both sides the
feeling was like that of the young lady who "wondered when them figures
was a-going to move," at an exhibition of wax-work. The Earl of Douglas,
with Scotch caution, wanted to wait, but the Count of Narbonne, with
French impetuosity, was for making a beginning, and rushed forward,
shouting "Mountjoye St. Denis!"--which was synonymous, in those days,
with "Go it!" in ours. The whole line followed, helter-skelter and
pell-mell, so that when they got up to the stakes the English had run
into the ground--to show, perhaps, they had a stake in the country--the
French were out of breath, out of sorts, and out of order. They were
miserably panting, but not panting for glory, and the punches in the
ribs they got from the English, made them roar out like so many paviours
in full work--as they always are--down Fleet Street. Their temporary
want of wind was soon changed into permanent breathlessness, and thus,
in spite of all their boasting, there was a miserable end to their
puffing.

The battle was very severe, for they had been "at it" for three hours.
Douglas, it being before the time when "the blood of Douglas could
protect itself," was slain. Buchan, who had been taunted by his allies
with being nothing better than a buccaneer, also fell, and the French
lost a countless number of counts, as well as a host of miscellaneous
soldiers. The Italians, who had boastingly called themselves the Italian
cream of the army, turned out to be the merest milksops, and kept as
much out of harm's way as possible. The Duke of Bedford ordered the
heads of several prisoners to be cut off, and the Bedford executions
were so numerous, that the heads-man's axe got the name of "the Bedford
level."

The battle of Vemeuil had been fought on the 17th of August, 1424, and
Charles the Seventh seemed on the eve of bankruptcy; both in cash and
credit. His money was all gone, and his friends had--of course--gone
after it. Fortune, however, favoured him, at the expense of his enemies,
for they began to disagree with each other. To say that there was a
quarrel is equivalent to saying that there was a woman in the case,
and the woman was--upon this occasion--the celebrated Jacqueline of
Hainault. This prize specimen of a virago was the daughter of the
Count of Hainault, and the niece of John the Merciless, from whom she
inherited all that coarse unwomanly bluster, which, in one of the fair
sex, is called by courtesy "a proper spirit." She had been married to
a little bit of a boy of fifteen, her cousin-german and her godson,--an
urchin commonly known as John Duke of Brabant. Jacqueline, who was
beautiful and bold, was no match--or, rather, was more than a match--for
a stripling not half way through his teens at the time of his marriage.
The puny lad had got into bad company, and was surrounded by a set of
low favourites. The masculine Jacqueline was not exactly the woman
to submit tamely to any injury, and taking offence at one of her
boy-husband's friends, she had him murdered.

This stamped her as that most objectionable of characters, an
acknowledged heroine, and she became "a woman of strong mind" in all
the chronicles of the period. Her liliputian husband was persuaded to
retaliate by dismissing all his wife's ladies-in-waiting, upon which
Jacqueline became a greater vixen than ever.

After a powerful scene of domestic pantomime, in which she alternately
tore her hair and that of her husband, she declared her determination
to leave him. "A thplendid riddanthe," lisped the aggravating boy; upon
which Jacqueline, making another rush at his hair, and taking a large
lock of it in her hands--not, however, to be preserved as a pledge of
affection--she hurried off to Valenciennes, and thence to Calais.
The runaway next made for England, where she remained on a visit
with Henry's queen, Catherine, at Windsor Castle. Here she soon began
flirting with the king's brother, the Duke of Gloucester, and though the
poor man was not deeply in love with her, he was persuaded to agree to a
marriage.

Jacqueline being already the wife of another, was compelled to seek a
dispensation from Pope Martin V., but he looked at the matter with an
unfavourable eye, when Jacqueline, making a coarse allusion to her own
eye and a female branch of the Martin family, despatched a messenger to
the opposition pope, the thirteenth Benedict. Being a Benedict he could
not consistently oppose a marriage, and he granted the dispensation
immediately.

Gloucester, who had determined on making his new wife profitable, if
she could not be pleasant, claimed without delay her possessions in
Hainault, Holland, and elsewhere, which she had inherited. It was a few
weeks after the battle of Vemeuil, which we have recently described,
that Gloucester and his considerably better-half--in quantity if not in
quality--started off with a large army to take possession of Hainault.
They soon frightened the inhabitants of the capital, of which they made
themselves master and mistress, without any previous warning. Philip,
Duke of Burgundy, the uncle of the boy-Duke of Brabant, was very angry
at the lad's wife coming to cheat the boy, as it were, out of his
property. After a good deal of hard struggling to keep his position at
Hainault, Gloucester came to the determination that his wife was not
worth the bother she occasioned him, and he accordingly went home,
leaving her to defend herself as well as she could, when she was
instantly besieged, given up to the Duke of Burgundy, by the inhabitants
of Mons, and sent to Ghent in close imprisonment.

Neither bolts nor bars could restrain the impetuosity of this tremendous
woman, who burst from her prison, ana putting on male attire, which
became her much better than her own, she escaped into Holland. It was
not to be expected that a fighting woman would remain very long without
followers, and the "Hainault Slasher"--as Jacqueline might justly be
called--soon mustered a strong party in her favour. The novelty of
going to battle with a woman for a leader told well at first, but as
the attraction wore off her soldiers dwindled away by degrees, until
her forces became utterly insignificant. Even her chosen Gloucester
took advantage of her absence to treat his marriage as a nullity, and
to unite himself with Miss Eleanor, the daughter of Lord Cobham. The
desertion of the husband she preferred was in some degree compensated
by the death of the husband she hated, for the boy-Duke of Brabant lived
only until April, 1427, and thus, by the abandonment of one, and the
decease of the other, she became doubly dowagered. Still she continued
to struggle with the Duke of Burgundy, but she was now advancing in
years, and her efforts became perfectly old-womanish.

The summer of 1428 was the means of bringing her to her senses, for she
was severely drubbed by the duke, and finally quelled in a career as
unbecoming to her age and sex as it was inimical to her interest. She
agreed to recognise Burgundy as direct heir, at her death, to all she
possessed, and he made her hand over everything at once, which was a
capital plan for making sure of his inheritance.

We have, however, devoted to the Hainault vixen more time and space than
she is perhaps worth, but we have thought it better to dispose of her
off-hand, to prevent so disagreeable a person from again intruding
herself on the pages of our history.

From the time the English took possession of Paris, Orleans, like a ripe
and tempting Orleans plum, had been the object of their desires. The
French knew the importance of the place, and had concentrated within it
ammunition, eatables, and stores of every description. Barrels of beef,
and barrels of gunpowder--hams and jams--wine for the garrison and
grape for the foe--preserves for themselves and destructives for their
enemies, were laid up in abundance in the city of Orleans. In addition
to all these articles, enormous supplies of corn had been poured into
the place, which contained something superior even to the corn, for it
held all the flower of the French nobility. Regardless of these
facts, the Earl of Salisbury began to attack the city, and the English
commenced an attempt to scale the walls, but having some missiles thrown
at them from above, those engaged in the scale soon lost their balance.
Salisbury, nevertheless, persevered by attacking some other point; but
the garrison determined to pay him off, and having recourse to their
shells, they shelled out with such effect as to kill the English leader.
Salisbury was succeeded by the Earl of Suffolk, who employed the winter
of 1428 in cutting trenches round the city, and throwing up redoubts,
which rendered him very redoubtable.

Orleans was thus cut off from the chance of further supplies, and the
awful words, "When that's all gone you'll have no more," began to be
whispered into the ears of the inhabitants. Charles himself was for
surrendering, and several mealy-mouthed courtiers, who feared they
should soon be without a meal for their mouths, seconded the king in his
pusillanimous project. Others were for holding out instead of giving
in, and Charles's fortune seemed to be at the lowest ebb, when a letter
arrived from one of the posts to announce the prospect of an early
delivery. This early delivery was not, however, to be looked for by the
mail, but by that illustrious female, Joan of Arc, familiarly known as
the Maid of Orleans.

Charles, who had little faith in the power of a female to get one out of
a scrape, and who believed the tendency of the interference of the sex
to be a good deal the other way, burst out into a fit of immoderate
laughter at hearing the news that had been brought to him. "Never
laughed so much in my life," occasionally ejaculated the French king,
as the tears rolled down his cheeks, in double-distilled drops of the
extract of merriment. He, nevertheless, granted her permission to
give him a look-in when she was coming that way; but it was more from
curiosity, or to have another hearty laugh at the Maid's expense, that
he consented to an interview. Joan arrived, with her squires and four
servants; but even this retinue, small as it was, must have been larger
than her narrow circumstances could have fairly warranted. The two
squires could have got in the service of two knights a certain sum per
day, and the four servants, at a time when war was being waged, might
have obtained better wages than a poor and friendless girl would
possibly have paid to them. These, or similar reflections, occurred to
some of the people about the court of Charles, who, considering that
Joan must be an impostor, advised his majesty to have nothing to do
with her. At all events, it was deemed as well that her previous history
should be known; and as the reader may wish for the character of the
Maid, before permitting her to engage even his attention, we will, at
once, say what we know concerning her.

Joan was the child of a brace of peasants, in a wild and hilly district
of Lorraine, on the borders of Champagne, a country of which she
seems in a great degree to have imbibed the qualities. Living in the
neighbourhood of the sparkling and effervescing Champagne, her head
became turned, or, at least, began to be filled with those bold
aspirations which the _genius loci_ might have had some share in
engendering. It is undeniable that when a mere child, she delighted
to roam about for the purpose of drinking at the great fountain of
inspiration, which Champagne so abundantly supplies, and she would often
go on until she heard voices--or a sort of singing in her ears--which
told her she was destined for great achievements. Her birth-place was
a short distance from the town of Vaucouleurs, at a little hamlet called
Domremy, into which faction and dissatisfaction had so far forced their
way, that the children used to pelt the children of the next village
with mud and stones, on account of their political differences. Joan's
attachment to her native soil caused her to be among the foremost of
those who took up earth by handfulls, and threw each other's birthplace
in each other's faces. Being in the habit of holding horses at
a watering-house on the Lorraine road, she frequently heard the
conversation of the waggoners, and, amid their "Gee-wos!" the woes of
France were sometimes spoken of. Invisible voices now began to tell
her that she was destined to set everything to rights, and to be her
country's deliverer.

Though her father called it "all stuff and nonsense," she had talked
over an old uncle, a cartwright at Vaucouleurs, whom she persuaded
of her fitness to repair the common weal, and the honest cartwright
promised to assist her in putting a spoke into it. The brace of peasants
were annoyed at the very high-flown notions of their offspring, and when
she talked of going to King Charles, they asked her where the money was
to come from for the purposes of her journey. Joan immediately had a
convenient dream, appointing the governor of Vaucouleurs, one Sire de
Baudricourt, her banker on this occasion.

Under the guidance of her uncle, she visited the Sire, and told him the
high honour her visions had awarded him, in naming him treasurer to her
contemplated expedition. The Sire, not at all eager to become a banker
on such unprofitable terms, refused at first to hear her story, or
indeed to allow her to open an account, so that the first check she
received was somewhat discouraging. He suggested that she should be sent
home to her father with a strong recommendation to him to take a rod and
whip all the rhodomontade completely out of her. Joan, however, cared
little for what might be in pickle for herself while she was bent on
preserving her country. She went constantly to the house of the Sire
de Baudricourt, but he never allowed her to be let in, for he verily
believed it would only have been opening the door to imposition.

At length, more out of pity to his hall-porter than from any other
motive, the Governor agreed to see that troublesome young woman who
had given no peace to his bell since the first day of her arrival at
Vaucouleurs. After the interview, Baudricourt came to the conclusion
that Joan was crazed; but she declared she would walk herself literally
off her legs, until they were worn down to the stump, if the Sire
refused to stump up for the expenses of the journey. Some of the people
beginning to believe the maid's story, she was enabled to get credit in
Vaucouleurs for a few trappings as well as for a horse, and at the
same time six donkeys, in the shape of two squires and four servants,
consented to follow her.

On the 15th of February, 1429, the Maid began her journey, in the course
of which her companions frequently came to the conclusion that she was
a humbug, and on arriving at a precipice they often threatened to throw
her over. At length, all difficulties being surmounted, she arrived at
Chinon, near Orleans, where Charles was residing. "I won't see her,"
cried the king, upon hearing she had come; "I am not going to be bored to
death by a female fanatic. A man who believes himself to be inspired
is bad enough, but there is not a greater plague on earth than a
woman-prophet." At length, after being pestered for three days, he
consented to grant an interview to Joan, who stood unabashed by the
sneers of the courtiers. Every word that flowed from her lips had the
effect of curling fluid on the lips of those who listened. Some would
have coughed her down, others began to crow over her, and the scene was
a good deal like the House of Commons during the speech of an unpopular
member, when Charles, who was a good deal struck by the assurance of the
Maid, took her aside to have a little quiet talk with her.

"Well, my good woman," he observed, "what is all this? Let me know your
views as briefly as possible." Joan explained that her views
consisted of magnificent visions, but Charles declared them to be
mere jack-o'-lanterns of the brain, which were not worth attending to.
Nevertheless, the earnestness of her manner had its effect, and the king
sent her to Poictiers, where there was a learned university, and, though
Joan was rather averse to the fellows, she allowed them to question her.
Some of them began to assail her with their ponderous learning, but she
cut them short by acknowledging that she did not know a great A or a
little a from a bouncing B. She declared herself, however, ready to
fight, and the learned men, who were not anxious for a contest with
the Maid in her own style, pronounced a favourable opinion on her
pretensions. To raise the siege of Orleans, and take the dauphin to be
crowned at Rheims, were the feats she undertook to perform. As one
trial would prove the fact, Charles consented to grant it. The soldiers,
however, refused to follow her until they had seen how she would manage
a horse, and they consequently all stood round her while she went
through a few scenes in the circle. One of them, who acted as a kind
of clown in the ring, put a lance into her hand, which she wielded with
great dexterity, while she was still in the performance of her rapid act
of horsemanship.

Joan having passed her examination with success, was invested with the
rank of a general officer. In spite of her masculine undertaking, there
was still enough of the woman in her disposition to induce her to be
very particular in ordering her own armour and accoutrements. She had
herself measured for an entirely new suit of polished metal, her banner
was white, picked out with gold, and her horse was as white as milk
when properly chalked for metropolitan consumption. The Maid looked
exceedingly well when made up, and people flocked round her with intense
curiosity; for if even the man in brass at the Lord Mayor's Show will
attract a mob, a woman regularly blocked in by block tin was a novelty
that everyone would be sure to run after. Full of enthusiasm, she
started off to the relief of Orleans, and the garrison, encouraged
by her approach, sallied out upon the besiegers with unusual vigour,
exclaiming "The Maid is come!" and the result realised the old saying
that "where there's a will, there's a way," or in the Latin proverb,
_possunt_ (they can) _qui_ (who) _videntur_ (seem) _posse_ (to be able).

With the aid of the _posse comitatus_ the object was achieved, and it
may, perhaps, have happened that the superstitious fears of the English
had much to do with the result of the battle. They declared that she
was a witch, and some of them pretended to have seen her looking at them
with great saucer eyes, which was, in those days, a test of sorcery.
The sentinels at night got so nervous, that they used to be startled by
their own shadows in the moon, and would run away, declaring that they
were pursued by black figures stretched on the ground, from which there
was no escaping. Others declared the stars were all out of order, and
that they heard the band of Orion playing, out of tune, at midnight.
Some declared they had seen a horse galloping along the Milky Way, and
they inferred that Joan of Arc sent her steed along it at full speed to
keep up his milky whiteness.

The English army had been completely panic-struck by the successes of
Joan, which were owing nearly equally to the zeal she inspired in her
friends and to the superstition of her enemies. She caused a letter to
be written to the latter, in her name, strongly advising them to "give
it up," and now she determined to give them a bit of a speech from the
ramparts of Orleans. Taking her place on the top of a ladder resting
against a high wall, she advised them to "be off;" "that it was no
use;" they were "only wasting their time there;" and recommended that,
if they had business elsewhere, they had better go and attend to it. Sir
William Gladesdale, an English leader, rose to reply amid cries of
"Down, down!" "Off, off!" "Hear him!" "Oh, oh!" and the usual
ejaculations which a difference of opinion in a crowd has always
elicited. As soon as Sir William could obtain a hearing, he was
understood to advise the Maid to "go home and take care of her cows;"
upon which Joan cleverly replied, that if "a calf were an object of care
as well as a cow, he (Sir William Gladesdale) ought to be placed at once
in safe keeping." The knight, finding the laugh against him, sat down
without another word, and Joan became more popular than ever after this
little incident.

It was part of the plan of the Maid to work upon the imagination of the
foe, and an amanuensis was employed to write another threatening letter,
in her name, to the English soldiers. The communication was thrown
into the midst of them, and Joan, being anxious to know what effect
it produced, stood on the ramparts to overhear what they said to it.
"Listeners never hear any good of themselves," and the Maid had the
mortification of listening to some fearful abuse of herself, which,
perhaps, served her right, for her behaviour was, to say the least
of it, exceedingly unladylike. Vanity became one of her most powerful
incentives, and she took upon herself to disagree with the Governor of
Orleans, the great captains, and all the military authorities, on points
of military tactics. Joan was, in fact, a very impracticable person, but
it was necessary to let her have her way to a considerable extent, on
account of her immense popularity with the soldiers. She insisted on
making an attack which was considered very premature, and, while leading
it in person, she got knocked over into a ditch by a dart, which set her
off crying very bitterly. A valiant knight picked her up and placed her
in the rear, consoling her by saying, "There, there I you're not a great
deal hurt. Come, come--dry your eyes. Don't cry, there's a good girl,"
and other words of encouragement. Joan, feeling that it would not do for
a heroine to be found roaring and whimpering at the first scratch she
received, soon recovered her self-possession, and was soon at the ditch
again, but on this occasion it was less for the purpose of fighting
herself than of urging on others to battle.

The English, though they did not know whether Joan was a witch or a
what, were nevertheless ready to fight her on a fair field, if she would
give them the opportunity. Her voices had not, however, given her the
word of command, and she found it advisable to put a poultice on her
neck, which rendered it necessary that she should keep for some days
as quiet as possible. Her voices were often exceedingly considerate in
refraining from advising her to go to battle when she might have got the
worst of it. In this instance they were accommodating enough to give her
the opportunity of nursing her neck for at least a limited period. The
English waited a little time for the Maid, expecting that she would
prove herself a "maid-of-all-work" by venturing to go single-handed
into a very difficult place, but, as she did not make the attempt, they
retired with flying colours. These colours, had they been warranted not
to run, might never have left Orleans, but on the 8th of May, 1429, the
siege was raised, and the reputation of the English army considerably
lowered.

On the strength of this event, Joan went to meet King Charles, who
received her very affably, and the courtiers proposed inviting her to
a public dinner. This honour she politely declined, for--like the
celebrated Drummond--she was "averse to humbug of any description" but
that which she had made for her own use, and after-dinner speeches were
matters she held in utter abhorrence. She objected strongly to that
festive foolery which induces people who never met before to express
hopes that they may often meet again, and which is the source of
at least twenty proudest moments of about as many existences. Joan,
therefore, urged her previous engagements as an excuse for going
out nowhere, for she felt assured that if she encouraged a spirit of
jolly-doeism among the troops, they would soon become neglectful of all
their duties.

Charles, urged by the example of Joan, determined to do a little
soldiering himself, and had his armour taken out of his box, the rust
rubbed off, the shoulder-straps lengthened, the leggings let down, the
breastplate let out, and other alterations made, to adapt it to the
change in his figure since he had last worn his martial trappings.
Though he took the field, it was in the capacity of an amateur, for his
modesty--or some other feeling--kept him constantly in the background,
and after the battle of Patay, which was fought and won by the French,
the cries of "Where is Charles? What's become of the king?" were loud
and general. The Maid found him reposing on his laurels, or, rather,
under them, for he had concealed himself in a thick hedge of evergreens,
from which he declined to emerge until his question of "Is it all
right?" had received from Joan's lips a satisfactory answer. The
object of her visit was to persuade him to accompany her to Rheims, to
celebrate his coronation in the cathedral of that city. "It's not a bad
idea," said Charles, "but premature, I'm afraid, and so at present we
will not think of it." Joan would, however, take no refusal. On the 15th
of July, 1429, the French king made his solemn entrance into that city.
He was crowned two days after, and, though not one of the peers of
France were present at the ceremony, it went off with quite as much
spirit as anyone might venture to anticipate.

Philip, the Duke of Burgundy, declined an invitation from the Maid, who
pointed out to him the folly of fighting against his own king, when,
if he wanted war, the Turks were always ready to fight or be fought,
to have their heads cut off, or oblige anyone else by making the thing
reciprocal. The Duke of Burgundy still kept aloof, but Joan continued
to be successful without his assistance, and took several towns, chiefly
from the readiness with which they were given up to her. Many of the
people looked upon her as something preternatural, and they even fancied
her white banner was always surrounded by butterflies, though truth
compels us to state that these fancied butterflies were probably
harvest-bugs, which, at about the period of the year when the phenomenon
was supposed to have been seen, were most likely to be fluttering
blindly and blunderingly about the Maid's standard. Many of the French
officers, jealous of her success, attempted to malign her character.
No tiger could have stood up for his respectability more furiously than
Joan defended her reputation; and, indeed, she made so much fuss,
to vindicate her fair fame, that we might have suspected her of
impropriety, had not all the historians agreed in coming to an opposite
conclusion. It was evident that Joan, having made one or two lucky hits,
was anxious to back out before she damaged her reputation by failure.
When asked what she would do if allowed to retire, she declared she
would return and tend her sheep; nor did the cruel sarcasm of "Oh, yes,
with a hook!"--which some courtier would throw in--divert her at all
from her humble purpose. Having the rank of a general, she might perhaps
have claimed the right to sell out or retire on half-pay, but she was
anxious to return to her lowing herds, which caused Charles to say that
for her to go and herd with anything so low, would be indeed ridiculous.
Her voices, however, began to confuse her, and perhaps to talk more than
one at a time, as well as to say different things; for on one day she
would speak of resuming her humble occupations, and on another day would
make preparations for smashing the English.

Fortune seemed to have deserted the English in France, and Bedford, the
regent--like others of his countrymen, when they found their numbers
inferior to those of the foe--had the coolness to propose settling the
dispute by single combat. This ingenious device is like that of the
gamester who has but a single pound, which he proposes to stake against
the pound of him who has a hundred more, with the understanding that if
the party who makes the proposition shall win, he shall walk off with
all that belongs to his antagonist. Charles was rude enough, to make no
reply to this offer, but about the middle of August, 1429, the English
and French armies found themselves very unexpectedly in sight of each
other, near Senlis. How they came to such close quarters no one seemed
to know; but it is agreed on all hands, that both sides would have been
very glad to get back again. Neither would venture to begin, and Charles
requested to know what Joan of Arc's voices had to say upon such an
important occasion. The Maid had unfortunately lost whatever voice she
might have had, and could find nothing at all to say for herself. The
king was eager to know whether his army might commence the attack, but
Joan's voices said not a word, and as their silence was not of the sort
which Charles considered capable of giving consent, he did not permit
any assault to be begun by his soldiers. After looking at each other
during three entire days, each army marched off the field by its
own road, and nothing had taken place beyond the interchange of an
occasional "Now then, stupid--what are you staring at?" between the
advanced guards of either army.

Though our business, as an historian, has taken us a good deal abroad,
we must now return home, lest, in our absence, the thread of our
narrative should have got into such a state of entanglement, as to
cause ourselves and our readers difficulty in the necessary process
of unravelling it. The 6th of November, 1429, was set apart for the
coronation of the baby king, at Westminster; and, in a spirit worthy of
the rising generation of the present day, his infant majesty insisted on
the abolition of the protectorship. The notion that he could take care
of himself had got possession of the royal mind; but the sequel of his
reign afforded bitter proof of the extent of the fallacy. In 1430, he
embarked for France, but the privy purse was again in such a disgraceful
state, that the king had not the means of paying for his journey. The
usual humiliating step was taken of sending the crown to the pawnbroker.
We may here take occasion to remark, that though we frequently hear of
the crown being put in pledge, we have no record of its being ever taken
regularly and honestly out again. There can be little doubt that the
people were unscrupulously taxed to rescue the regal diadem, which was
no sooner redeemed than royal extravagance, or necessity, placed it
again in its humiliating position. Had the same crown been transmitted
regularly from hand to hand--or, rather, from head to head--it would
have been perforated through and through by the multiplicity of tickets
that from time to time have been pinned on to it.

On this occasion, the jewels went to the pawnbroker's, as well as the
crown, so that the regalia were huddled together as if they had been
no better than a set of fire-irons. It is surprising, under all the
circumstances, that the sceptre never figured in the catalogue of a sale
of unredeemed pledges, and we cannot wonder that some of our sovereigns
have chosen to rule with a rod of iron, as a cheap and durable, but a
most disagreeable substitute. In addition to the means already alluded
to, for filling his purse, the young king hit upon another mode of
making money. Every one who was worth forty pounds a year, was forced
to take up the honour of knighthood, and made to pay exorbitant fees
for the undesired privilege. In this manner, many persons were dubbed
knights, for the express purpose of making them dub up; and there is
every reason to believe that the word "dub" has taken its meaning in
relation to pecuniary affairs, from the arbitrary practice we have
mentioned. Those illustrious families who trace their genealogy up to
some knight who flourished in the time of Henry the Sixth, will not,
perhaps, after this disclosure, be so very proud of their origin.
We have had in our own day one or two who have been dignified with
knighthood by mistake, instead of somebody else, but those who had
greatness thrust upon them only for the sake of the fees, were scarcely
less contemptible.



CHAPTER THE FOURTH. HENRY THE SIXTH, SURNAMED OF WINDSOR (CONTINUED).


[Illustration: 292]

BEDFORD had for some time been struggling in France under the extreme
disadvantage of shortness of cash, for the council being engaged in
continual quarrelling at home, had become very irregular in sending
remittances. He had gone week after week without his own salary, but he
never grumbled at that until he found his army, from getting short
of cash, beginning to fail in allegiance. Often, while reviewing the
troops, if he complained of awkwardness in the evolutions, he would
hear murmurs of "Why don't you pay us?" and on one occasion an insolent
fellow, who had been bungling over the easy manouvre of standing at
ease, cried out, "It's all very well to say 'Stand at ease,' but how
is a man to stand at when he never receives his salary?" Upon another
occasion, Bedford had given the word to "Charge!" when a suppressed
titter ran through the ranks, and, on his demanding an explanation,
he was told respectfully by one of his aides-de-camp that the troops
thought it an irresistible joke to call upon them to "charge," when, if
they charged ever so much, there was no prospect of their demand being
satisfied. Bedford used to rush regularly every morning to the outpost,
in the hope of finding a letter containing the means of liquidating some
of the arrears of pay into which he had fallen with his soldiers. He
was, however, always doomed to disappointment, for there was either no
communication for him at all, or an intimation that "next week"--which
never comes--would bring him the cash he was so eagerly waiting for. His
repeated visits to the outpost usually ended in a shake of the head from
the officer on duty, whose "No, sir; there's nothing for you," had in it
a mixture of compassion and contempt, which are not always incompatible.

Bedford, the regent, having left Paris, Charles thought that, the
cat being away, the mice might be at play, and that the city would be
unprepared if an attack should be made upon it. Beauvais and St. Denis
opened their gates, but the Parisians were not so complaisant, and
Charles, unwilling to resort to force, tried the effect of flummery. He
issued proclamations, full of the most brilliant promises to his
"good and loyal city," but the inhabitants replied by hanging out an
allegorical banner, representing an individual in the act of offering
some chaff to an old bird, who was refusing to be caught by it. Stung by
this sarcasm, Charles determined to make an attack, and on the 12th of
September he commenced an assault on the Faubourg St. Honoré.

Joan threw herself against the wall, but could make no impression upon
it, and she could only lament that among the French artillery there was
no mortar to be brought to bear upon the bricks of the city. She then
resorted to other steps--or, rather, to a ladder--and had reached every
successive round amid successive rounds of applause from her followers,
when she was stopped by a wound, which fairly knocked her over. A
friendly ditch received the disabled Joan, who went into it with a
splash, which caused all her companions to basely run away, lest they
should participate in the consequences of her downfall. Drenched and
disheartened, sobbing, and in a perfect sop, the Maid crawled out of the
ditch and lay down for a little while; but suddenly rising, and giving
herself a shake, she made another rush at the battlements. A few better
spirits, ashamed of seeing the weakest thus a second time going to the
wall, joined her in her advance, but, meeting with resistance, they
rolled back like a wave of the sea, almost swamping the Maid, and
carrying her violently away with them.

[Illustration: 294]

Joan's influence had now begun to decline, for, though a heroine is
popular as long as she succeeds, a woman who fails in her performance
of the part is always ridiculous. She had also lost the favour of the
soldiers by attacking them behind their backs, for she had flogged
them with the flat of her sword till she broke the blade over their
shoulders. They openly called her an impostor, a humbug, and a do; so
that, hurt in her feelings as well as in her neck, wounded alike in
mind and body, she resolved to quit the army. She even went to the Abbey
church, and, fixing up a clothes-line, hung her white armour before the
shrine of St. Denis. Charles supposed the articles had been put there to
dry after the soaking the Maid had experienced in the ditch, but when he
heard that Joan, as well as her coat of mail, was on the high ropes,
he determined to take her down a peg as gently as possible. She was
persuaded to prolong her stay, or, rather, to renew her engagement; and
though, even after her military _début_ at the siege of Orleans, she
had wished it to be her "positively last appearance on any ramparts,"
Charles had the satisfaction of announcing that she had in the
handsomest manner consented to remain in his company. A constant renewal
of an engagement will dim the attraction of the brightest star, and Joan
was evidently on the wane as a popular favourite.

In the beginning of 1430 there was a blight cessation of hostilities,
and Charles remained at Bourges, where he was suffering under a severe
exhaustion of his means and a general sinking in all his pockets. At
this juncture, Joan met with a rival in the shape of an opposition
prophetess, for it is always the fate of merit and success to become the
subject of base and paltry imitation. Catherine of La Rochelle was
the name of the female counterfeit who adapted her inspiration to the
exigencies of the time, and, knowing the king to be short of cash,
she pretended to have fits of financial foresight. She was, in fact, a
visionary Chancellor of the Exchequer, running about with an imaginary
budget, and transforming Charles's real deficiency into an ideal
surplus. She affected to hear voices and to see visions; but the former
were rude shouts of I.O.U., and the latter represented to her certain
hidden treasure, which was hidden so well that it has never been found
from that time to the present. She had the art of extracting money for
the king's use from those who had any money to give, and a single speech
from her mouth was sufficient to fill with coin any soup-plate or saucer
that might be handed round to the audience. She boasted that she could
talk every penny out of the purses of her hearers, and whenever she
appeared, there was a general cry of "Take care of your pockets!"

Joan called her an impostor, and was called "another" in return; but
it was said by a quaint writer of the period that, whatever the Maid of
Orleans might have done with the sword, the tongue of Catherine would
give an antagonist a more complete licking than the most formidable
weapon. Charles was attracted by the financial fanatic, but, still
wishing to propitiate Joan, he ennobled her family, and declared that
her native village of Domremy should for ever be exempt from taxes. It
thus became one of the greatest rights of this place to forget the whole
of its duties.

At the opening of the spring, the French king advanced again towards
Paris with two prophetesses in his suite, but, as two of a trade never
agree--particularly if they happen to be of the gentler sex--the two
young ladies were constantly quarrelling. It is probable that the
presence of Catherine was the cause of putting Joan upon her mettle, for
she marched to the relief of Compiegne with all her accustomed spirit.
She had made up her mind to a repetition of the hit she had made at
Orleans, but Victory did not answer her call or show any disposition to
wait upon her. Joan fought with valour, but her soldiers had no sooner
met the foe than they agreed that the chances were against them, and
that the only way to bring themselves round was to turn immediately
back, a manouvre which was performed by one simultaneous movement. Joan
tried to rally them, but they were too far gone, and while she kept her
face to the enemy, her old disaster befell her, for she backed into one
of those ditches in which all her military exploits seemed doomed to
ter-minate. There being no humane member of society, or member of the
Humane Society, to give her the benefit of a drag from the water in
which she was immersed, she was soon surrounded by her enemies. Her own
companions had fled into the city and shut the gates upon her, against
which she had not the strength to knock, when, mournfully murmuring
out, "Alas! I am not worth a rap," she surrendered to her opponents. The
sensation created by the capture of Joan of Arc was actually prodigious.
The captains ran out of their positions, and the men left their ranks to
have a peep at her. Duke Philip paid her a visit at her lodgings, in the
presence of old Monstrelet, who was either so deaf, or so stupid, or so
thunderstruck, that he could not relate what passed at the interview.
The ungrateful French made no effort to release the Maid, and, indeed,
there seemed to be a feeling of satisfaction at having got rid of her.
Her captors showed a strong disposition to make much of her by turning
the celebrated prophetess to a profit, and the person to whom she had
surrendered--the Bastard of Vendôme--sold her out and out to John of
Luxembourgh. Friar Martin pretended to have a lien upon her; but John,
refusing to have the lot put up again, and resold--in accordance with
the usual practice in cases of dispute--cleared her off to a strong
castle of his own in Picardy. Another pretended mortgagee of the Maid
then started up in the person of the Bishop of Beauvais, who claimed her
on behalf of the University of Paris. John of Luxembourgh disposed
of her to his holiness for ten thousand francs, rather than have any
further trouble.

Poor Joan was committed to prison on the charge of witchcraft, and as
a kind of preliminary to the proceedings in her own case, a woman who
believed in the Maid was burned, _pour encourager les autres_ who might
put faith in her inspiration. The fate of Joan was for some time very
uncertain; but the learned doctors of the University of Paris, and other
high authorities, recommended her being burned at once, which would save
the trouble and expense of a previous trial. The Bishop of Beauvais,
who had become the proprietor, by purchase, of the illustrious captive,
recommended the adoption of regular legal proceedings. Priests and
lawyers and lettered men were summoned from far and near; many of the
legal gentlemen being specially retained, and all being practised in
the art of cross-examination, to which Joan was subjected by those who
conducted the case for the prosecution. Her trial was, throughout,
a disgraceful exhibition of forensic chicanery, for her opponents
attempted to puzzle her with hard words, which, in spite of her being
charged with magic spells, she had not the power of spelling. The
pleadings were shamefully complicated; but she defended herself with
spirit, and occasionally confounded the doctors, who were confounded
knaves, for they tried to take every advantage of her unfortunate
position. Sixteen days were consumed in taking the evidence, and Joan
sometimes made a point in her own favour, when the Bishop of Beauvais,
sinking the dignity of the judge in the temporary office of usher, began
to call lustily for silence; and, according to the modern practice of
the officer of the court, making more noise than everyone else by the
loudness of his vociferations.

The bishop shouted and resorted to other ungentlemanly expedients,
during the entire day, to damage the cause of Joan, who, nevertheless,
proceeded as if in the midst of that silence which the usher in
Westminster Hall is continually disturbing by loudly calling for. It was
contended, on the part of the prosecution, that there was magic in her
banner; but Joan, who had served the other side with notice to produce
the banner, declared there was nothing particular in any part of it.
The pole belonging to it was as plain as any other pike-staff, and the
banner itself was formed of a cheap material, which Joan declared was
all stuff; so that the banner was, of necessity, waived by her enemies.
Her judges, nevertheless, declared there was sufficient evidence to
support a charge of heresy, and began to deliberate on the manner of her
punishment. While some recommended fire, others threw cold water upon
it, and French, as well as English writers, have laboured to prove, that
their countrymen, at least, were averse to a proceeding from which
the term "burning shame" no doubt took the signification it bears at
present. Having already found her guilty, her persecutors tried their
utmost to urge her to acknowledge her guilt, for in the absence of
proof, it was thought advisable to get at least a confession.

At length, on the 24th of May, 1431, the Maid was brought up to hear
her sentence, and the Bishop of Beauvais, taking out a pile of papers,
endorsed _re_ Joan of Arc, declared himself ready to deliver his
judgment. An opportunity was, however, allowed her to stay execution, on
giving a _cognovit_, or acknowledgment of every charge brought against
her; and such a document being drawn up, she reluctantly permitted Joan
of Arc, X, her mark--for she could not write--to be affixed to it. Her
punishment was commuted to perpetual imprisonment, with "the bread of
sorrow and the water of affliction," which consisted of a stale loaf and
a pull at the pump once a day, as her only nourishment.

She found very few crumbs of comfort in her daily crust, and when the
water was brought to her, she declared it to be very hard, which
was certainly better than soft for drinking. It was a portion of her
punishment to resume her female attire, which caused her considerable
annoyance, and a soldier's dress having been left in her prison, she was
one morning discovered wearing it. Her jailer, on entering, charged her
with "trying it on," but added that it was anything but fitting, and
told her that she would certainly be overhauled when he reported that he
had seen her in a pair of military overalls.

[Illustration: 297]

The circumstance was instantly turned against her, and the putting on of
male attire, which she had worn before, was declared to be a revival
of the old suit, to which she had been liable. Her re-appearance in the
soldier's dress was looked upon as a proof of uniform opposition to
the authorities; and her offence was described as "relapsed heresy," or
double guilt, like the "one cold caught on the top of t'other" by the
boy who had been suffering under several layers of those disagreeable
visitors. Judgment was now finally entered up against the ill-used Maid,
who, on the 30th of May, 1431, was brought in a cart to the market-place
and burned at Rouen.

We would gladly draw a veil over the fate of poor Joan; but we are
unwilling to spare those who were accessory to it, from the odium which
increases whenever the facts are repeated. Cardinal Beaufort and some of
the bishops who had been instrumental to the murder of the Maid, began
to whimper when the ceremony commenced, and to find it more than their
susceptible natures could bear to witness. They had ordered the atrocity
that was about to take place; but conscience had made them such arrant
cowards, that they had not the courage to witness the carrying out of
their own savage suggestions. If persons so hard-hearted as themselves
could feel so much affected by the sacrifice they had ordered, we may
imagine what opinion ought to be entertained of them for commanding an
act of atrocity which they dared not remain to contemplate.

The conduct of Charles in not interfering on Joan's behalf, is even more
cruel and despicable than that of her avowed enemies. The French
king finding the Maid of no further use, came practically to a free
translation of _Non eget arcu_ (there is no want of a Joan of Arc), and
left her to the fate that awaited her. It would have been nothing but
policy to have insured her life, which he might easily have done,
even when she was threatened with burning, and her case became doubly
hazardous.

The English were very anxious to get up a sensation in France by way
of diverting the public mind from the fate of the Maid of Orleans. A
coronation, which is always one of the best cards to play, being good
for a king or queen at the least, was thought of and resolved upon. The
affair was intended to eclipse the ceremony of which Charles had been
the hero and Joan of Arc the heroine. Young Henry, who had been crowned
already at Westminster, and had therefore rehearsed the part he would
be called upon to play, was brought over to Paris with all the scenery,
machinery, dresses and decorations, properties and appointments, that
had been used before, so that the coronation being in the _répertoire_
of costly spectacles, the expense of its revival was moderate. The
performance took place in November, 1431; but though the getting-up was
very complete, the applause was scanty, and the attendance was by no
means numerous. Cardinal Beaufort occupied a stall, and there was a
fair sprinkling of people in the galleries; but' the principal character
being a spiritless and most unpromising boy of nine, the spectacle
excited very little interest.

Things remaining in France in a very unsatisfactory state, Charles and
Philip of Burgundy came to the resolution that it was folly to go
on cutting one another's throats, and they consequently effected a
compromise. Philip got the best of the bargain, which was solemnised
by a great deal of swearing and unswearing; for as the parties had
previously exchanged oaths of hostility toward each other, it was
necessary to take the sponge and wipe out former affidavits, as well as
to supply the blank with new oaths of an opposite character. There was
a mutual interchange of perjury; and posterity, on looking at the
respective culpabilities of the two parties, can only come to the
conclusion, that they were _beaucoup d'un beaucoup_, or much of a
muchness.

The Duke of Bedford did not live long after this treaty, but died of
indigestion, and considering that he had eaten an enormous quantity of
his own words, the result is by no means marvellous. He finished up his
existence at Rouen, on the 14th of September, 1435, having swallowed a
parcel of his own oaths, some of which are supposed to have stuck in his
throat, and caused his dissolution. The English in France soon felt the
fatal consequences of being without a chief, for the columns of an army,
like the columns of a journal, are incomplete without a leader. Deprived
of Bedford, the English soldiers could no longer hold Paris--or, rather,
Paris could no longer hold them--and they were consequently forced to
surrender. The Duke of York succeeded to the command in France--if
he can be said to have succeeded who failed in almost everything. A
succession of reverses was the only thing approaching to success which
he experienced; and a supersedeas was soon issued to overturn his
commission.

Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, did something towards restoring the English
ascendency in France; but Philip of Burgundy thought he would try his
hand at a siege, and fixed upon Calais as being the most convenient. The
Duke of Gloucester, hearing he had a tremendous army assembled in front
of the town, sent over to Philip an offer to fight him. "Only stop there
till I get at you," were Gloucester's words; to which Burgundy replied,
that he should be happy to wait the English duke's convenience. Four
days, however, before the latter landed, the former was seized with
a panic--and, taking suddenly to his heels, his thirty thousand men
scampered wildly after him. Philip, who had set the example, and
must have been flighty to have commenced such an insane flight, was
completely run off his legs by the ruck of fugitives in his rear; and
he was swept into the very heart of Flanders, before he could ascertain
what his soldiers were driving at. Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, did
something towards retrieving the failing fortunes of the English; but,
as both parties were getting into a nervous state--running away through
sheer panics, crying out before they were hurt, and flying before they
were pursued--a truce was agreed upon. It was for two years, to expire
on the 1st of April, 1446,--and there could not have been a more
appropriate day than that devoted to All Fools, to renew hostilities
which were injurious to all parties.

Henry, of Windsor, was now twenty-four; but, though a man in years,
he was still an infant in intellect. He was physically full-grown, but
mentally a dwarf; and what had been in childhood the gentleness of
the lamb, became in manhood downright sheepishness. His conversational
powers would not have allowed him to say "bo to a goose," had it
been necessary for him to address to that foolish bird that unmeaning
monosyllable. Even his mother had turned her back upon him, as a noodle
she could make nothing of, and had married Owen Tudor, Esquire, an
obscure gentleman of Wales, who boasted, nevertheless, a royal descent,
or at least maintained that the Tudors were so called from being not
above Two-doors off from such illustrious lineage. The Queen-mother had
died, but had left a lot of little Tudors, under the care of O. T., her
_bourgeois gentilhomme_ of a husband.

Henry being a mere nonentity, it was resolved to try and make something
of him by finding him a wife of spirit; as if small beer could be turned
into stout by mixing a quantity of gin with it. Margaret of Anjou was
selected for the formation of this deleterious compound. She was one
of those intolerable nuisances--a fine woman, with a great deal of
decision, which means that she was decidedly disagreeable. Her
father was a nominal king of Sicily and Jerusalem; but he had no real
dominions, and only rented, as it were, a brass plate, or had his name
up over the door of the countries specified. He was as poor as a cup of
tea after the fifth water, and ruled over about as much land as he could
cram into a few flower-pots which adorned the window of his lodging. He
kept a minister who answered the bell and the purpose at the same
time, and was accustomed to wait at table. His majesty's apartment was
furnished with a sort of dresser covered with green baize, which formed
a board of green cloth; and he had several sticks-in-waiting in his
umbrella stand. His _robe de matin_ was his robe of state; he had a
green silk privy purse, and an ormolu cabinet. He had a keeper of the
great seal which hung to his watch; and his bureau comprised a secretary
for the home department, in which he kept all his washing-bills. He
dispensed with a master of the horse by keeping no horse of his own, and
he always had plenty of gentlemen-in-waiting, in the shape of creditors.
He saved the expense of a paymaster by paying nobody; and though he
issued Exchequer Bills, they were not only at very long dates, but
wholly unworthy of anyone's acceptance. He was his own Chancellor of his
own Exchequer, for he used to declare, with much apparent integrity that
his government should never be degraded by useless sinecures. "Whenever
there is nothing to do," he would philosophically exclaim, "I consider
it my duty to do it." He usually resided in Sicily when he was at home,
but he kept in his court--at the back of his lodging--a few Jerusalem
artichokes, to represent the interests of his other kingdom of
Jerusalem. He used to make a financial statement every now and then, for
the sake of clearing himself of his debts, which were the subject of
an annual act of which he alone got the benefit. He used upon these
occasions to profess a considerable anxiety to rub off as he went on,
but his goings on and rubbings off were equally to his own advantage,
and the cost of those who had trusted him. Never was political economy
carried to such perfection as by the father of Margaret, the king of
Sicily and Jerusalem.

[Illustration: 303]

It was hopeless to ask for a dower with the daughter of a man who had
what is vulgarly termed "a sight of money," which means that he could
have put the whole of his income into his eye without any detriment to
his vision. Instead of asking anything from a sovereign more fitted to
be upon the parish than upon the throne, a trifling settlement was made
upon him, that the king of England might not be said to have married the
daughter of an absolute monarch and an absolute beggar. Anjou and Maine,
which had been taken from him by main force, were restored to him, and
a little money was advanced to him on account of his first quarter's
revenue, to enable him to cut a respectable figure at his daughter's
wedding.

Suffolk brought home the bride to England, where she was, of course,
severely criticised. For many she was too tall, and her height was an
objection that could not be overlooked very easily. The friends of the
Duke of Gloucester--known as the good Duke Humphrey--declared he would
have found a better queen; and Duke Humphrey paid her no attention, for
he never even asked her to a family dinner, an omission which gave rise
to a saying * that is still current.

     * Dining with Duke Humphrey is a process that needs no
     explanation.

The good Duke Humphrey, though he gave no one a dinner, was anxious
to let everyone have his desert, which made his royal highness very
unpopular. His enemies began by charging his wife with necromancy,
because she was in the habit of consulting the dregs of her teacup when
turned out in her saucer--an act that was stigmatised as sorcery. She
was also proved to have in her possession a large wax doll, resembling
the king, which she was in the habit of placing before the fire for the
purpose, it was said, of sweating her sovereign. This was interpreted
into a desire to see him waste away, and she was accordingly sentenced
to perpetual imprisonment. Had she been able to melt the king himself as
she melted his effigy, she might have been pardoned; but though the wax
image was soft enough, he only waxed wroth when an appeal in her
behalf was made to him. Her husband now became personally an object of
persecution, and was arrested on a charge of treason, on the 11th
of February, 1447, when he went to take his seat at the opening of
Parliament. On the 28th of the same month, he was found dead in his bed,
and of course the conclusion was that he had been murdered, though there
were no signs of violence. There were various rumours as to the cause
of Duke Humphrey's death, and despair, dyspepsia, apoplexy, and
unhappy perplexity, or a broken heart, were equally spoken of as having
occasioned his dissolution. It is strange that inanition was never
thought of as a probable mode of accounting for the decease of Duke
Humphrey, whose stinted diet has given to his dinners an unenviable
notoriety.

The old rival and uncle of the good Duke Humphrey did not long survive
his nephew, for the grasping prelate died on the 11th of April, 1447,
at Winchester, where he had retired to his see, from which he was to the
last straining his eyes towards the popedom.

Under the ministry of Suffolk the glory of England rapidly declined, and
its possessions in France were daily diminishing. Parliament began to
take the matter seriously up, and not a day passed without some awkward
motion being made to embarrass the Government. At length, in January,
1450, Suffolk became so exasperated that he challenged his enemies to
the proof of their accusations, which was equivalent to asking for a
vote of confidence. The Commons replied by requesting the Lords to send
him to the Tower, which they declared themselves most happy to do, if
the Lower House would only send up a specific charge on which he might
be committed. The Commons acceded with the utmost pleasure to the
demand, and cooked up an accusation very promptly, for in those days
such things were kept almost ready made, to be used at the shortest
notice, for the purpose of knocking the head from off the shoulders of
a minister. It was laid in the indictment against Suffolk, that he
had been furnishing a castle with military stores; or, in other words,
ordering a quantity of gunpowder to be sent in for the purpose of
assisting France against England. Though the accusation was wretchedly
vague, it was sufficient foundation for a warrant, upon which Suffolk
was seized by the scruff of the neck, and hurried to the Tower.
Fearing that one bill of impeachment might be insufficient, his enemies
published a series of supplements.

In his defence he noticed only the first set of charges, which accused
him of a desire to put the crown on the head of his son; a freak that
Suffolk never had the smallest idea of practising. On the 13th of March,
1460, he was brought to the bar of the House of Lords, and went down
upon his knees like a horse--or rather like an ass--on the wooden
pavement. He denied, ridiculed, and repudiated some of the articles
in the impeachment, and accused the lords themselves of being his
accomplices in some others. A proceeding which we can only characterise
as a general row immediately took place, and the House of Lords became a
perfect piece of ursine horticulture, or regular bear-garden.

Suffolk, though warmly defended by the court, was furiously attacked by
the Commons, who declared they would not vote a penny of the supplies
while the minister remained unpunished. The king, as long as it did not
affect his pockets, was tolerably staunch towards his friend, but when
no money came in, and the royal outgoings continued to be large, it was
found expedient to throw the favourite over. Every fresh bill that was
placed on the unpaid file at the palace shook the royal resolution; and
when the eye of the king glanced over his huge accumulation of unsettled
accounts, he began to think seriously whether it was not too great a
sacrifice to lose his supplies for the sake of saving Suffolk.

The favourite was gradually getting out of favour, and was sent for by
the king to a private interview, in the course of which it was intimated
to the duke that he must be dropped, but that he should be "let down" as
easily as possible. This private intimation kept Suffolk in a state of
suspense considerably worse than certainty; for it is a well-established
fact, given on the authority of those who have tried both, that a bold
leap into the fire is preferable to a constant grill on the gridiron, or
a perpetual ferment in the frying-pan.

On the 17th of March Suffolk was again brought up in presence of the
king, at a sort of judicial "at home," given by hiss majesty. It
took place, according to some authorities, in the sovereign's private
apartments; but the chroniclers are mute as to which room--whether
the two-pair back, the one-pair front, the _salle à manger_, or the
_salon_--was the scene of the important interview. Suffolk threw himself
once more at the feet of the king, who, it is to be hoped, had no corns;
but Henry must have felt hurt at receiving a minister on such a footing.
Suffolk, still at his master's feet, endeavoured to hit upon Henry's
tender points, but the sovereign was on this occasion influenced by
the impression made upon his understanding. He ordered Suffolk into
banishment for five years, and gave him till the 1st of May to pack up
for his departure.

[Illustration: 306]

The people were determined not to let the traitor off so easily, and
no less than two thousand assembled to take his life, which he wisely
abstained from placing at their disposal. He gave a farewell banquet
at one of his country seats to his relatives and friends, and, upon his
health being duly proposed as the toast of the evening, he swore, of
course, that he was perfectly innocent. Finding it necessary to dodge
the popular indignation, he started off to Ipswich, when he embarked
for the Continent.

On the 2nd of May, as he was sailing between Dover and Calais, his
convoy--consisting of a smack and punt for self and retinue--was hailed
by a great hulking man-of-war from the hulks, which bore the name of
_Nicholas_ of the Tower. This was a sad blow to the little smack, which
would have gladly gone off had it not been most vigorously brought-to
by the larger vessel. The duke was ordered on board the _Nicholas_, and
after the ship had stood off and on for three days, it turned out
that the vessel was only waiting to take in an axe, a block, and an
executioner. This dismal addition to the freight having at last
arrived, it was immediately put in requisition, and, as Suffolk was very
unpopular, nobody took the trouble to inquire what had become of him.
The only account that could ever be given of him was that he had been
taken away by the crew of the _Nicholas_, which was a very old ship, and
the announcement that Suffolk had gone to Old Nick was all that was ever
said concerning him.

We are soon about to enter upon those Wars of the Roses which planted
so many thorns in the bosom of fair England. It is strange that out
of _couleur de rose_ should have emanated some of the most sombre and
melancholy hues that ever darkened the pages of our history. "Coming
events cast their shadows before," and the shade in this instance was
one Cade, familiarly called Jack Cade by various authorities. This
celebrated individual was a native of Ireland, who had served in
France in the English army, so that he may be called a kind of
Anglo-Irish-Frenchman, a combination that reminds us of the celebrated
poly-politician, who, being desirous of being thought "open to all
parties," with the vow of being ultimately influenced by one,
gave himself out as a conservative-whig-radical. Jack Cade was a
jack-of-all-trades, or, at all events, a jack of two, for he had been
a doctor first and a soldier afterwards. Some have ironically contended
that the change from a medical to a military life was only an extension
of the same business, and that, in resigning the bolus for the bullet,
the powders for the gunpowder, and the lancet for the sword, he was only
enlarging the sphere of his practice. With that remarkable deference
for the aristocracy they pretend to despise, which is only too common
amongst demagogues, Cade tried to claim relationship even with royalty,
and, giving himself out as a relation of the Duke of York, he assumed
the name of Mortimer.

That Cade was a decayed scion of an illustrious stock may be doubted,
and some, who have not been ashamed of an anachronism for the sake of a
sneer, have gone so far as to say that the Cades were the earliest cads
of which there are any records.

It has been well remarked somewhere, by somebody, that the men of Kent,
though living near the water, were always very inflammable, and the
Kentish fire is to this day proverbial for its intensity. Cade threw
himself among these men, who made him their captain, and inarched with
him to Blackheath, from which he commenced a long correspondence with
the Londoners. The Government, alarmed at an assembly of fifteen or
twenty thousand men at a place where large assemblies were unusual, sent
to enquire the reason of the good men of Kent having quitted their
homes in such large numbers. Cade, who among his other restless habits,
appears to have been troubled with a _cacoethes scribendi,_ took
upon himself to answer for the whole, and embodied their reasons in a
document called the "Complaint of the Commons of Kent," which was of a
somewhat discursive character. It commenced by alluding to a report that
Kent was to be turned into a hunting forest, and remonstrated against
the people being made game of in such a fearful manner; it then
proceeded to abuse the Government in general terms, which have since
been the stereotyped phraseology of nearly all the friends of the
people; it complained of others fattening on the royal revenue, which
forced the king to supply the deficiency by robbing his subjects, and
to take their provisions wholesale as well as retail, without paying
a penny for them. Allusion was then made to the lowness of the company
admitted to court, though this seems to have been rather over-nice on
the part of Jack and his followers. The document then came to the point,
by intimating that the men of Kent had been subjected to extortion
and treated with contempt, so that they had been, at the same time,
overtaxed and under-rated.

When the court received this elaborate catalogue of ills, it was
intimated to Cade and his companions, that it would take some time to
prepare the answer; but the authorities thinking that powder and shot
would answer better than pen and ink, set to work to collect troops and
ammunition in London. Cade could not resist his propensity to scribble,
and sent in a second paper, headed "The Requests, by the captain of the
great assembly in Kent." In his new manifesto Jack required an entire
re-arrangement of the royal household even down to the minutest domestic
arrangements; and it was even said, that not a pie came to the king's
table without Jack wishing to have a finger in it.

The court was now prepared with an answer in the shape of a large army,
which advanced upon Blackheath, and caused Cade to be taken so regularly
aback, that he jibbed as far as Sevenoaks. Here he halted, and waited
the attack of the royal army, a detachment of which came up and went
down like a pack of cards, though as they had lost all heart there is
something defective in the comparison. When the main army at Blackheath
heard the fate of the detachment at Sevenoaks, the soldiers suddenly
began to object to fighting against their own countrymen. The Court then
found it time to make concession, and commenced by sending a few of its
own party to the Tower, in order to propitiate the malcontents. Lord
Say, an obnoxious minister, who was not merely a say, but a tremendous
do, was at once locked up with some others who had rendered themselves
unpopular.

Cade now made himself master of the right bank of the Thames from
Greenwich to Lambeth, both inclusive, and made the celebrated incision
into the latter, which retained the name of the New Cut to a very
distant period. Cade took up his own quarters in Southwark, but went
into London every morning, where he and his followers behaved very
quietly for a few days, returning home regularly every evening to their
lodgings in the Borough. Their first act of violence was to insist
on the trial of Say, who was not allowed to have his say in his
own defence, but was hurried off to Cheapside and beheaded. As too
frequently happens with the promoters of the public good, Cade's
followers could not keep their hands off private property, and a little
pillage was perpetrated. Even Jack himself, who sometimes set a good
example to his followers, was tempted to plunder the house at which
he usually dined; and the citizens, feeling that as the spoons were
beginning to go, their turn would probably be next, became indignant
at the outrage. They consequently refused admission to Cade the next
morning when he came to transact his city business as usual.

It was next determined by the court to delude the rebels by an offer
of a pardon; and Cade caught at the bait with a simplicity less
characteristic of a Jack than of a gudgeon. In two days, however, he
altered his mind, and refused to lay down his arms or walk off his legs,
until Government gave a guarantee for the fulfilment of its promises.
With the customary hatred of each other, which too often prevails among
the lovers of their country, the patriots commenced quarrelling. Cade
began to fear that some disinterested friend of freedom would sell him
for the thousand marks that were offered for his head; and Jack, from
the idea of being apprehended, was thrown into a constant state of
apprehension. Sneaking quietly downstairs in the night, he found his way
to the stable, where he mounted a clever hack, and using what spurs he
could to the animal's exertion, put him along at a slapping pace towards
the coast of Sussex. He had not proceeded very far, when turning to look
back on what he had gone through, he saw at his heels Alexander Iden,
Esq. Jack had scarcely got out the words, "Is that you, Alick?" when
a lick from Iden's sword revealed the purpose of his mission. "No, you
don't!" cried Cade, parrying an attempt to plant a second blow, and
putting in a slight poke with his battle-axe very efficiently. Were we
to borrow the graphic style of the sporting chroniclers, in describing
a fight, we should say that Iden came up smiling, and evidently meaning
business, which he transacted by enumerating one, two, three, in rapid
succession on Jack's chest, followed up by four, five, six, on the
face, and seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, in the stomach. Cade
endeavoured to rally, but every effort failed; and Alexander Iden, Esq.,
claimed the thousand marks that had been advertised. The amount was
large for a head with very little in it; but the tail, consisting of the
riff-raff led on by Cade, formed the real value of the article.

A dispute now commenced between persons of higher degree; or, rather, it
is to be suspected that Cade and his men had been used as the tools of
some more exalted malcontent. It very frequently happens that
political agitators in an humble rank of life are either cunningly or
unconsciously playing the game of a political schemer of more exalted
station; and while they are supposed to be working for the overthrow of
one tyrant, they are preparing the way for the establishment of another.

The Duke of York was the individual who, endeavouring to profit by the
recent revolt, left Ireland, of which he had been Lieutenant, and forced
himself into the king's presence. "Now then, what is it?" cried Henry,
annoyed at the sudden intrusion; when York replied he had come to
extract something from the mouth of the sovereign. "A tooth, perchance?"
ironically remarked the king; but his majesty was informed that a
promise to summon a Parliament was the utmost that York required. This
was acceded to, and, when Parliament met, one of the members proposed
declaring the Duke of York heir apparent to the throne, but the proposer
was indignantly coughed down, unceremoniously pulled out, and promptly
committed to the Tower. The duke, discouraged at having a minority of
one, which imprisonment had reduced to none, in his favour, repaired to
his castle at Ludlow, where he collected a large army; but, by way of
proving that he had no evil intentions towards the king, he took, every
now and then, the oath of allegiance. This periodical perjury had very
little effect, for York was better known than trusted, and an army was
sent against him. As the forces went one way to meet him, he came up to
London by another road, but the gates of the City were slammed in his
face just as he came up to them. "Well, I'm sure!" was the indignant
murmur of York, to which, according to an Irish chronicler who came from
Ireland in the duke's suite, "You can't come in," was the only echo.
Foiled in this attempt, he went to Kent, expecting Jack Cade's followers
would rally round him, but beyond some half-dozen seedy scamps,
belonging to the class excluded from kitchens under the general order of
"No followers allowed," there were no adherents to York's banner. When
Henry came up with him at Dartford, both of them, like two little boys
who have met to fight and don't know how to begin, were anxious to
negotiate. This was agreed to, and the duke having disbanded his army,
by which, as the papers say when a theatre closes prematurely, "an
immense number of persons were thrown out of employ," he went to Henry's
tent for a personal interview.

[Illustration: 311]

The meeting was very unpleasant, for Somerset happening to be seated
there, had the bad taste to assail York with a volley of vulgar abuse,
which the latter repaid with interest. "You're a felon and a traitor,
sir!" cried Somerset, as York came in, which elicited, by way of reply,
"You're an old humbug," and other taunts, among which "Who embezzled
the taxes?" was rather conspicuous. As the duke was about to depart, a
tipstaff tripped up to him, and, begging his pardon, intimated that he
was in custody. Somerset would have applied for speedy execution, but
York compromised the affair by a little more perjury, for he swore
a good batch--sufficient to last him a whole year--of truth and
allegiance. He then retired to his castle, where he may have amused
himself with playing at "Beggar my Neighbour" with his porter, as far
as we can tell, for his employment while in seclusion at Wigmore is not
recorded in history.

Henry's utter incapacity to hold the reins, which were literally
dropping out of his hands, began to give great uneasiness to the
Parliament. York was wanted back, and Somerset was sent to the Tower,
for the two rivals were like the two figures in the toy for indicating
the weather. What brought one out sent the other in, and a storm was the
signal for the entrance of York, while political sunshine was favourable
to

Somerset. On the 14th of February, 1454, York opened Parliament as
commissioner for the king, who was personally visited at Windsor by a
deputation of peers, desirous of ascertaining his exact condition. They
found Henry perfectly imbecile, and incapable of understanding a word
or uttering a syllable. The deputation conceiving it possible that his
majesty might be merely muddled, retired to give him time to come to,
but on their return they found him in the same state as before, and
_ditto_ repeated on a third visit. The deputation, resolving unanimously
that "this sort of thing would never do," reported the facts to
Parliament, and Richard, Duke of York, was elected "Protector and
Defender of the realm of England." In about nine months Henry was
declared to have recovered his senses, such as they were, and the court
claimed for him the return of the reins, which had been taken out of
his hands by reason of his incapacity. York was instantly put down, and
Somerset again taken up to occupy the box-seat as heretofore.

The ex-protector retired to Ludlow as before, but got together some
troops, and poor Henry was put, or carried, or propped up, at the head
of an opposing army. The duke having no fear of a force under such a
tumble-down leader, met him near the capital, and sent a message, full
of loyalty, to the king, but insisting on Somerset being sent back by
return, to be dealt with in the most rigorous manner. An answer was
returned in the king's name, declaring his determination to perish
rather than betray his friend; but it was the friend himself who
assigned to his majesty this very disinterested preference. The
sovereign was indeed so imbecile that he knew not what he said, and
understood nothing of what was said for him, so that when he asked if
he would not rather die in battle than hand Somerset over to the foe, an
unmeaning grin was the only reply of the royal idiot. A fight of course
ensued, and York got the best of it. Somerset was among the slain, and
the poor king, who was as innocent of the use of a sword as a child in
arms, got a wound in the neck, which sent him howling and reeling away
till he took refuge in a tan-yard. York found him hiding among the
hides, and pulling him out with gentleness, conducted him to the Abbey
of St. Alban's. Every care was taken of the wounded monarch, whose neck
was duly poulticed, and whose feet were put in hot water, though indeed
they were seldom out of it.

When Parliament met after this affair, theoretical allegiance was sworn
to the king and prince, but practical contempt of their position was
exercised. York was declared protector until Edward, the heir to the
throne, attained his majority; but Henry was superannuated at once, for
he was liable, like a hare in the month of March, to fits of insanity.
He was sometimes sensible enough, but no one could elucidate the date of
his lucid intervals; and as the sceptre is little better than a red-hot
poker in a madman's hands, he was very properly deprived of that
powerful instrument.

Things had been thus arranged, when, on the meeting of Parliament, in
1456, after the Christmas recess, Henry, to the surprise of everyone,
rushed in, exclaiming--"I'll trouble you for that crown!" and "Oblige me
with a catch of that ball!"--alluding to the orb which forms part of the
regalia. No one disputed his restoration to sanity, and York resigned
the protectorate, looking unutterable things, as if he had just been
engaged in a speculation by which he had made a profit of eightpence and
incurred the loss of a shilling.

The king now endeavoured to effect a reconciliation between the rival
parties, who affected to make it up, but started at once to their
respective castles, for the purpose of looking up materials and men for
the renewal of hostilities. York sent his sword to the grinder's, his
armour to the tin-plate-worker's, to be let out, pieced, and otherwise
repaired--while the Lancastrian chiefs were, on their side, resorting
to similar arrangements. At length they came to a battle, in September,
1459, and the Yorkists were in the better position, when Sir Andrew
Trollop--either from blockheadism, or bribery, or both--deserted, with
all his veterans, to the standard of Henry. York, taking a series of
hops, skips and jumps over the Welsh mountains, fled into Ireland. He
ran so fast, that the muscles of his leg were contracted; and it was
said at the time, that the York hams had as much as they could do to
keep ahead of the Bath chaps, many of whom were engaged in the battle,
from having lived not far from the neighbourhood. Warwick escaped to
Calais, where he was exceedingly popular, and he soon collected forces
enough to admit of his landing in Kent, where he stuck up his banner
with the view of collecting a crowd, and then touting for followers. The
project was successful, and by the time he reached Blackheath he had got
thirty thousand men at his heels, according to the old chroniclers, who,
it is only fair to say, have a peculiar multiplication table of their
own, and who, whatever may be their aptitude at facts, certainly present
to us some of the very oddest figures.

Warwick's reception was very enthusiastic. The archbishop ran out of
Canterbury to meet him and shake him by the hand, Lord Cobham clapped
him amicably on the shoulders, and five bishops, taking off their
mitres, waved them as he passed in token of welcome. Warwick made at
once for the midland counties, carrying with him the young heir of York,
and meeting the Lancastrians at Northampton, a battle was fought which
ended in the defeat of the latter. Henry was taken prisoner; but his
wife Margaret of Anjou escaped with her son Edward, and encountered one
of those adventures which season with a spice of romance the sometimes
insipid dish of history. The story we are about to relate is offered
with a caution to our readers, but it is too good to be omitted, and
we are, moreover, afraid that were we to leave it out for the sake of
correctness, we should be blamed for the omission. Use is second
nature in literature as well as in anything else; and the public, being
accustomed to falsehood, would regard the absence of even the most
flagrant hoax as a curtailment of the fair proportions of history.
It is, however, only under protest that we can lend ourselves to the
gratification of this very morbid appetite, and we therefore advise
the following story on the authority of _De Moleville_, to be taken
not merely _cum grano salis_, but with an entire cellar of that very
wholesome condiment.

The anecdote runs as follows: Margaret fled with her son into the
recesses of a forest, like one of those which we see on the stage,
where cut woods, canvas banks, and trees growing downwards from the
sky-boarders, furnish an umbrageous recess of the most sombre character.
We fancy we see her advancing to slow music, laying her child on a
canvas bank, and listening to the rattle of peas accompanied by the
shaking of sheet iron, which form the rain and thunder of theatrical
life, when suddenly a whistle is heard, and two figures enter whose
long black worsted hair, wash-leather gauntlets, drawn broadswords, and
yellow ochre countenances, bespeak that they are robbers of the worst
complexion. The queen has, of course, all her jewels blazing about her,
which the two men proceed to appropriate, and while they are quarrelling
about the division of her booty, she contrives to escape.

This brings us to another part of the same forest, where the scenery is
not quite so elaborate, but where Margaret, leading on her infant son,
stumbles upon a sentimental robber with a drawn sword in his hand, a
tear of sensibility in his eye, and in his mouth a claptrap. She appeals
to his generosity in favour of a "female in distress;" he replies with
some cutting allusions to the "man who--" compares himself to a melon,
or a cocoa-nut, or anything else with a rough exterior, but with some
sweetness or milk of human kindness within, and by way of climax, she
exclaims, "Here, my friend, I commit to your care the safety of the
king's son."

[Illustration: 314]

The honest fellow--by whom we mean, of course, the professional thief
and casual cut-throat--goes down upon one knee in a fit of loyalty,
and according to the scholastic versions of this little incident he is
"recalled to virtue by the flattering confidence reposed in him." * He
went also a step further, and at once devoted himself to the service
of the queen, magnanimously offering to share her fortunes, which
considering the desperate nature of his own, was a proposition equally
indicative of self-love and loyalty. Her majesty accepted the offer, and
embarked for Flanders, of course paying all the expenses of her friend
the sentimental robber, who became the companion of her flight, and a
pensioner on her pocket.

     * Sec Pinnock'a edition of Goldsmith's History of England,
     p. 143 of the thirty-second edition.

Fighting between the adherents of York on one side, and of Lancaster
on the other, continued with unabated fury, until York having gained a
victory at Northampton, called a Parliament, and walked straight up to
the throne. He took hold of the hammer-cloth, as if to mount, and
looked round as much as to say, "Shall I?" but no "hears," "cheers,"
or "bravoes," encouraged him to proceed. Another battle was fought soon
after at Wakefield Bridge, when Richard, Duke of York, was killed, and
his son Edward succeeded to the title, which was very shortly afterwards
exchanged for that of king, at a packed meeting of citizens. The
question was put whether Henry was fit to reign, and the "Noes" had it
as a matter of course, when a motion that Edward of York should ascend
the throne, was carried by a large majority.

Thus he who was not yet of age, and who had been recently nothing more
than Earl March, was in early March, 1461, voted to the sovereignty
by the acclamation of the people. Rushing into the House of Lords, he
vaulted in a true spirit of vaulting ambition on to the throne, from
which he delivered a discourse on hereditary right, making out every
other right to be wrong, and maintaining his own right to be the only
genuine article.

Poor Margaret made a futile attempt to rouse the loyalty of the citizens
of London in a letter which she addressed to them, * but the style is so
exceedingly vague, that we do not wonder at the document having proved
ineffectual. As far as it is possible to collect the meaning of the
epistle to which we have referred, it trounces the Duke of York in a
style of truly female earnestness. It calls him an "untrue, unsad, and
unadvised person," who is "of pure malice, disposed to continue in
his cruelness, to the utterest undoing, if he might," of the fair
letter-writer and her offspring. Poor Margaret's state of mind may
have accounted for the tremendous topsy-turviness--to use a familiar
expression--of her sentences. The bursting heart cannot trammel itself
by those fetters which grammarians and rhetoricians have forged to
restrain language within its proper limits. That Margaret of Anjou was
a woman of business is evident from a copy of one of her wardrobe books
now, in a state of perfect preservation, in the office of the Duchy of
Lancaster. This private ledger of the royal lady would be a model for
the accounts of modern housekeepers.

     * This letter, which is to be found in the Harleian MSS.,
     No. 543, Fol. 147, is also given in Mary Anne Wood's
     interesting collection of _Letters of Royal and Illustrious
     Ladies of Great Britain_. The letter of Margaret of Anjou
     forms the thirty-eighth in the first volume of the work
     alluded to.

It comprises a journal of payments even down to the accuracy of pence;
and her gardener's wages, put down at a hundred shillings a year, may be
considered a fair criterion of the average scale of her expenditure. She
laid out little in clothes, though she kept twenty-seven valets as
well as a number of ladies-in-waiting, and "ten little damsels," whose
salaries and persons were no doubt equally diminutive. That her economy
must have been wonderful, is evident from the fact that she did it all
for seven pounds a day, which she regularly paid to the treasurer of the
king's household.

It has not often been our lot to begin with a new sovereign until we
have finished with the old; but in the present instance we must drop
Henry the Sixth before his death, according to the example set us by his
ungrateful people. We have, perhaps, lingered too long over the downfall
of Henry, and we are warned by a sort of mental shout of "Edward the
Fourth stops the way," that we must drive on with our history.



CHAPTER THE FIFTH. EDWARD THE FOURTH.


[Illustration: 316]

EDWARD, like the individual who having got such a thing as a crown about
him, fully intended keeping it, lost no time in going into the provinces
to enforce his claims. After killing twenty-eight thousand Lancastrians,
and threatening a lesson on the Lancastrian system to anyone who might
continue to oppress him, he returned to town, and was crowned on the
29th of June, 1461, in the usual style of magnificence.

Poor Henry, the deposed sovereign, was carried about at the head of his
adherents, to give them something to rally round; but they might just as
well have had a maypole, or any other inanimate object, for the ex-king
was utterly imbecile. He could only be compared to a guy in the hands of
the boys on the 5th of November; and sometimes, when his adherents were
forced to run for it, they set him down to escape as he could, by which
he was occasionally on the point of being taken prisoner.

Edward assembled a Parliament, which cut short all objections to the
line of York by declaring that the three last kings of the line of
Lancaster were intruders, and the grants they had made were of course
reversed, in order to raise a fund for laying in a large supply of new
loyalty.

Poor Henry, to whom peace and quietness were necessary, would have been
very well satisfied to retire into private life, had not his impetuous
wife, the tremendous Margaret, dragged him about with her at the head
of a few proscribed and desperate nobles. Shortness of cash cramped
the efforts of this impetuous female, who ran over to France, with the
intention of begging and borrowing from all her relatives. The Duke of
Brittany gave her a trifle, but Louis the Eleventh pleaded poverty, and
even produced his books to show that he had not a penny beyond what
he required for his own necessities. When, however, she talked of
surrendering Calais, he produced twenty thousand crowns, which he had
probably put by in an old stocking, and lent her the sum, with a couple
of thousand men, under Peter de Brezé.

With this assistance Margaret burst into the northern counties, and,
pushing poor Henry before her wherever she went, thrust him through
the gates of a small series of castles which she had taken by surprise.
These were soon taken back again, and Margaret, being obliged to fly,
lost all her borrowed money in a storm at sea, which washed all her
property in one direction and herself in another. After a few minor
transactions, the 15th of May, 1464, was rendered famous by the battle
of Hexham, at which the hiding or tanning of the Lancastrians was so
complete, that Hexham tan is to this day a leading article of commerce.
Margaret escaped to her father's court, but poor Henry, after wandering
about the moors of Lancashire, had found his way to Yorkshire, where he
had gone out to dine at Waddington Hall, when a treacherous servant, or
a traitor waiter, delivered him up to his enemies. The unhappy Henry was
turned into the Tower, which, under all the circumstances, was the best
place for him.

Edward, now adopting the sentiment of the vocalist, who, wishing to
introduce a tender song in the character of a hero, modulates into a
softer feeling by exclaiming, "Farewell, glory; welcome, love," resolved
on paying those devotions to the fair which a necessity for encountering
the brave had hitherto rendered impossible. He had intended to marry
some foreign princess, and Warwick had engaged him to a young lady named
Bona, daughter of the Duke of Savoy and sister to the Queen of France;
but the king denied that he had ever given instructions to sue, and
declined being bound by the act of his solicitor, who had solicited for
him the hand of the fair princess. The truth was, that his majesty had
formed other views, or, rather, other views had been formed for him
by an old match-making mother, who exhibited all those manoeuvring
qualities which constitute, in the present day, the art of getting a
daughter off to the best advantage.

[Illustration; 318]

The king, while hunting at Stony Stratford, pursuing a stag, came
suddenly upon a pretty dear, who literally staggered him. The young
lady was the widow of Sir Thomas Gray, and the daughter of Jacquetta of
Luxemburg by her second husband, Sir Richard Woodville, afterwards Earl
of Rivers. There is not the smallest doubt that Lady Gray and her mamma
had arranged together this accidental interview. The young lady,
who seems to have been a finished pupil in the school of flirtation,
entreated the king to reverse the attainder passed on her late husband,
to which Edward replied, that "he must be as stonyhearted as Stony
Stratford itself if he could refuse her anything." This rubbish ripened
into a real offer of marriage, which was, of course, accepted, and Lady
Gray was crowned Queen of England in the year following.

Warwick was rather nettled at being, as he said, "made a fool of" by
his royal master, and grew particularly jealous of the influence of the
king's wife, who got off her five unmarried sisters upon the heirs of as
many dukes or earls. He intrigued with the king's brother, the Duke of
Clarence, and both of them, being denounced as traitors, were obliged to
go abroad upon an order to travel. They visited France, where King Louis
not only supplied them with board and lodging, but put Warwick in the
way of a negotiation with Queen Margaret, which, it was thought, would
be advantageous to all parties. It was arranged that another push
should be made to push Henry on to the throne, but, as Warwick never
did business for nothing, he stipulated for the marriage of his daughter
with the queen's son, Edward.

Having reduced everything to writing, Warwick took his standard out
of his portmanteau for the purpose of planting it, and on the 13th of
September, 1479, he landed at Plymouth with a select but sturdy party of
malcontents. The people, whose motto was, "Anything for a change," were
soon persuaded to join in a cry of "Long live King Henry," and he was
taken out of the Tower for the purpose of being dragged about as a
puppet to give a sort of legitimacy to Warwick's projects. This nobleman
had got the name of the king-maker from a knack he had of manufacturing
the royal article with a rapidity truly astonishing. He could coin a
sovereign to order with a dispatch that the mint itself might fairly
be jealous of. He could provide a new king at the shortest notice, like
those victuallers who profess to have "dinners always ready;" and
Edward having got into "very low cut," Henry was "just up" as the latest
novelty from the _cuisine_ of the ingenious Warwick.

When Edward saw what was going on he thought it high time for himself to
be going off, and, with a few adherents who had not a change of linen in
their trunks nor a penny in their purses, he got into a ship bound for
Holland. The king himself had no money to pay his passage, and
offered the captain, says Comines, "a gown lined with martens," as
a remuneration for his services. Edward fled to Burgundy, where he
persuaded the duke to advance a trifle in the way of ships, money, and
men, with which the ousted monarch landed at Ravenspur. On his first
arrival the people held back, saying, "Oh, here's the old business over
again. We've had enough of this," and employing other expressions of
discouragement. He, however, declared he had no intention of unsettling
anything or anybody--except his bills, which remained unsettled as a
matter of course--and was allowed to enter the capital, where he was
once more proclaimed sovereign. It is an old commercial principle in
this country, that debt is a sign of prosperity, and Edward's success
has been attributed to the fact of his owing vast sums to the London
merchants. They were, of course, interested in the well-being of their
debtor, and the hypothesis was thus proved to be true, that he who is
worse off is in a better position than he who is well-to-do, and the man
whose circumstances are tolerably straight, is not so eligibly situated
as the individual whose affairs are materially straightened. Edward,
though not in clover, was obliged to be in the field, for Warwick fell
upon his rear with alarming vehemence. They fought at Barnet on the 14th
of April, 1471, in the midst of a mist, when poor Warwick was not
only lost in the fog, but many of his friends were killed, and Edward
obtained a decisive victory. The particulars of this battle have never
been very accurately given, for the fog and the old chroniclers were
almost equally dense; and between them the affair is involved in much
obscurity.

[Illustration: 320]

It is easier to quell sixty thousand men than to subdue one troublesome
woman, and Queen Margaret still gave "a deal of trouble" to the
conqueror. She, however, ultimately fell into his hands, together with
her son--one of the "rising generation" of that time--who, on being
asked by Edward what he meant by entering the realm in arms,
replied pertly, "I came to preserve my father's crown and my own
inheritance."--"Did you, indeed, you young jackanapes?" cried Edward,
"then take that," and he flicked the boy's nose with the thumb of a
large gauntlet. The child set up a piercing yell, but this was not the
worst of it, for some attendants, excited by the brutal example of their
master, gave the lad a blow or two, which finished him.

Edward returned to town, and sent Henry, with his queen, to the Tower,
from which the latter was ransomed by her relatives; but the former
having no friends to buy him off or bail him out, remained in custody.
He died a few weeks after his committal, and his death is attributed to
the Duke of Gloucester, who from the peculiar conformation of his back,
had shoulders broad enough to bear all the stray crimes for which no
other owner may have been forthcoming. Accordingly, every piece of
iniquity that can be traced to no one in particular, is usually added to
Gloucester's huge catalogue of delinquencies.

The Lancastrians were now regularly down, and every opportunity was
taken for hitting them. Some were driven into exile, others were got rid
of by more decided means, and a few, whose talents were worth saving,
got purchased at a valuation, more or less fair, by the now Government.
Sir John Fortescue, the Chief Justice to Henry the Sixth and the
greatest lawyer of his time, was sold in this disreputable manner; for
the judges of those days, unlike the pure occupants of the bench in our
own, were as saleable as railway shares, and had their regular market
price for anyone by whom such an investment was desired.

The prosperity of the House of York was now only marred by a quarrel
between the Dukes of Gloucester and Clarence. The latter had married
Warwick's eldest daughter, and claimed the whole property of his
father-in-law, of which Gloucester naturally wanted a slice, and he
struck up to Anne, a younger daughter, in order to derive some claim to
a share of the family fortune. Clarence, anxious to baffle his
brother, sent the young lady out to service as a cook, in London, when
Gloucester--disguised probably as a policeman--found her out, and ran
away with her.

[Illustration: 321]

He won her by alleging his heart to be incessantly on the beat, and by
promising her the advantages of a superior station. He lodged her in the
then rural lane of St. Martin's, and the king ultimately arranged the
difference between his brothers by assigning a handsome portion to Lady
Anne, and leaving Clarence to take the rest; while the widowed Countess
of Warwick, who had brought all the money into the family, was obliged
to leave it there, without touching it, for she got nothing.

In 1475 Edward began to form ambitious projects with regard to France,
and sent off to Louis the Eleventh one of those claims for the crown
which some of the preceding kings of England had been in the habit of
forwarding. The letter was written in terms of marvellous politeness,
and Louis having read it, desired the herald who brought it to step
into the next room, where he was treated with great affability. Louis
complimented the letter-carrier in the most fulsome manner, recommending
him to advise his master to withdraw his claim as futile and ridiculous.
"Bless you, he don't mind me," was the modest reply of the herald;
but Louis remarked that the words of such a sensible fellow must have
considerable weight, and slipped three hundred crowns into his pouch,
with a wink of intense significance. The herald was regularly taken
aback, and his bewilderment increased when his majesty, observing, "Dear
me, what a shabby cloak you've got on," ordered three hundred yards of
crimson velvet to be cut off from the best piece in the royal wardrobe.
Garter--for such was the herald's rank--promised to do the very best he
could; for the velvet had softened him down, or smoothed him over, to
the side of Louis.

Edward nevertheless made extensive preparations to smash the French
king, and strained every nerve to get the sinews of war, which he did
by insinuating himself into the favour of his people. He emptied
their pockets with considerable grace, and was the first to give the
attractive name of Benevolences to those grants which were mercilessly
extracted from the Parliament. Edward and Louis, though hating each
other with the utmost cordiality, thought it prudent to negotiate--the
former from mercenary motives, and the latter for the sake of peace and
quiet. An interview was at last agreed upon, to take place at the bridge
of Picquigny, near Amiens, across which a partition of railings had
been thrown, to prevent treachery on either side. Louis came first, and
looked through the bars, when Edward tripped gracefully up to the
other side, bowing to within a foot of the ground, and paying a few
commonplace compliments. Louis invited Edward to Paris, they shook hands
through the bars, and the English king received a sordid bribe through
the grating, "which," says the incorrigible Comines, "was exceedingly
grating to the feelings of some of his nobles."

Several cruelties disgraced the latter part of Edward's reign; and one
of the worst of his enormities was his treatment of Stacey and Burdett,
two officers of the household of the Duke of Clarence. Stacey was
accused of having dealings with the devil; but if he had, it was
only the printer's devil; for Stacey was a priest of the order of
Whitefriars, and learned in the typographic art, which had recently been
discovered. No proof unfavourable to Stacey could be produced, but he
was put to the torture by being made to set up night and day, which made
him curse the author of his misery. Thomas Burdett, another gentleman
of Clarence's household, was tried as an accomplice to Stacey, and these
unfortunate men, having had their heads cut off, "died," according to
the Chroniclers, "protesting their innocence." Clarence himself was the
next victim, and on the 16th of January, 1478, he was brought to the bar
of the House of Lords on a charge of having dealings with conjurors. It
seems hard, in these days, when tricks of magic are exceedingly
popular, that a person suspected of conjuring should be pursued with
the vengeance of the law; and the hardship of the affair is particularly
great in the case of Clarence, who was never known to make a
plum-pudding in his hat, or perform any other of the ingenious tricks
which have gained money and fame for the wizards of the present era. The
unfortunate duke met all the charges against him with a flat denial, but
he was found guilty, and sentence of death was passed upon him, on the
7th of February, 1478. His execution was never publicly carried out, and
rumour has accordingly been left to run riot among the thousand ways in
which Clarence might have undergone his capital punishment. The usual
mode of accounting for his death is by the suggestion, that his brothers
left the matter to his own choice, and that he preferred drowning in a
butt of Malmsey wine to any other fatal penalty. The only objection
to this arrangement appears to be that which occurred to an excellent
English king of modern times, when he wondered how the apple got into
the dumpling. However capacious the butt may have been in which Clarence
desired to be drowned, it is obvious that he never could have entered
the cask through its only aperture, the bunghole. When we witness the
marvel of an individual getting into a quart-bottle, we shall begin
to have faith in the story that Clarence met his death in the manner
alluded to. If the wine was already in the cask before Clarence was
immersed, there could have been no admission, even on business, except
through the bunghole, and it is not likely that the vessel could have
been empty before the duke took his place for the purpose of undergoing
a vinous shower-bath.

Edward led for some time a life of luxury, which was now and then
disturbed by wars with Scotland, though he never thought it worth his
while to take the field in person, but always got his big brother,
Richard Duke of Gloucester, to fight for him. Matters nevertheless took
a fresh turn when the Duke of Albany, brother of James the Third, came
over and declared he was entitled to the Scotch throne in preference to
his elder relative. "I mean to swear he is illegitimate," said Albany,
and he offered to give up Berwick to Edward, on condition of an army
being lent to depose the reigning sovereign. A marriage with one of the
English king's daughters was also proposed by Albany, who "thought it
right to mention that he had two wives already;" but he did not seem
to anticipate any objection on that account. Albany and Gloucester were
successful in most of their joint undertakings, but they did not fight
very frequently, for a treaty was soon concluded. Until this arrangement
was carried out, Albany made every warlike demonstration, and produced
a wholesome terror by the exhibition of a tremendous piece of artillery,
familiarly known to us in these days as a cannon of the period. Its
chief peculiarity was its aptitude--according to the engravings we have
seen of it--for carrying cannon-balls considerably larger than the
mouth of the piece itself, for we have often feasted our eyes upon very
interesting pictures of a cannon-ball issuing from a cannon not half the
circumference of the projected missile.

[Illustration: 324]

Whether it is that in those days expanding ammunition was provided,
which increased in bulk twofold after leaving the cannon's mouth, we
are unable to say at this period; but the illuminations of the time
undoubtedly present this striking phenomenon. The dust of ages lies
unfortunately on many of our facts, and though we might, it is true,
take up a duster and wipe the dust of ages off, there is a pleasure in
the imaginative which the actual could never realise.

Edward having been duped by his allies in France, on some matters almost
of a private character, took the deception so much to heart, that he put
himself into a violent passion, and died of it with wondrous rapidity.
Instead of a raging fever, he caught the fever of rage, and died on the
6th of April, 1483, in the forty-first year of his age, and twenty-first
of his reign. The assassination of sovereigns was then so common, that
Edward the Fourth lay in state for some days, to show that he had not
come to his death by any but fair means, for he was a king that merited
severe treatment, at least as much as some of his predecessors; and it
was, therefore, presumed that he might have come in for his share of
that fatal violence which it was usual to bestow on kings in the early
and middle periods of our history. In concluding our account of this
reign, we may, perhaps, be expected to give a character of Edward the
Fourth; but, _ex nihilo nihil fit_, and upon this principle we are
unable to furnish a character for one who had lost in the lapse, or
rather in the lap of time, whatever he may once have possessed of that
important article.



CHAPTER THE SIXTH. EDWARD THE FIFTH.


[Illustration; 325]

HAD the crown been always adapted to the head on which it devolves, the
diadem would have been in very reduced circumstances when it descended
on the baby brow of the fifth Edward. Almost bonneted by a bauble
considerably too large for his head, and falling over his eyes, it was
impossible that the boy-king could enjoy otherwise than a very poor
look-out on his accession to the sovereignty. He had been on a visit to
his maternal uncle, the Earl of Rivers, at Ludlow Castle, but he was
now placed under the protection of his paternal uncle, Richard, Duke of
Gloucester, as a sort of apprentice to learn the business of government.
Richard, who was at the head of an army in Scotland at his brother's
death, marched with six hundred men to a _maison de deuil_, where he
insisted on having ready-made mourning for his followers. The astonished
tradesman, exclaiming, in the language of one of our modern poets,

     "Five minutes' time is all we ask
     To execute the mournful task,"

prepared at once the melancholy outfit. Richard led his adherents to
York, where a funeral service was performed, and the troops, looking
like so many mutes, completely dumbfounded the populace. Their conduct
and their clothes combined--for their designs seemed to be as dark and
mysterious as their habits--obtained for these soldiers the unenviable
name of the black-guards of the Duke of Gloucester.

Richard's next care was to swear loyalty and fealty to his young
nephew--which went far towards proving the absence of both; for those
who wish a little of anything to go a great way, generally make the
utmost possible display of it. Notwithstanding the continued show of
attachment evinced by the uncle for the nephew, it soon began to be
noticed that Richard was a good deal like a snowball, for he picked up
adherents wherever he moved; and as he went rolling about the country,
he soon swelled into a formidable size with the band that encircled him.
He, however, calmed suspicion by declaring that he was only collecting
supernumeraries for his nephew's coronation. The fact is, that Richard
was all the time plotting with that discontented fellow Buckingham, the
well-known malcontent, of whom it has been justly said that he liked
nothing nor nobody.

Gloucester arrived at Northampton on the 22nd of April, 1483, about the
same time that Rivers and Gray had "tooled" the baby-king by easy stages
as far as Stony Stratford. The two lords came to Northampton to salute
Richard, who asked them to supper at his hotel, when Buckingham dropped
in and joined the party. The four noblemen passed the evening together
very pleasantly, for the song, the sentiment, the joke and the jug,
the pitcher and the pun, were passed about until long after midnight.
Stretchers for two were in readiness, to take home Gray, who looked
dreadfully blue, and Rivers, who was half-seas over, while the two
dukes, who had kept tolerably sober, remained in secret debate, for they
did

     "Not go home till morning,
     Till daylight did appear."

On the morrow, the whole party started off, apparently very good
friends, towards Stony Stratford, to meet the young king, who was
immediately grasped by his uncle Gloucester.

The royal infant naturally gave a sort of squeak at the too affectionate
clutch of his uncle, who, pretending to think that Gray and Rivers
had alienated the boy's affection from himself, ordered them both into
arrest, when Gloucester and Buckingham fell obsequiously on their knees
before the child, whom they saluted as their sovereign. Their first care
was to ascertain who were his favourites, for the purpose of getting rid
of them. Two of the royal servants, Sir Thomas Vaughan and Sir Richard
Hawse, were dismissed not only without a month's warning, but, as
they were sent off to prison at once, "suiting themselves with other
situations" was utterly impossible. Young Edward was kept as a kind of
prisoner, and Elizabeth, his mother, when she heard the news, set off
to Westminster, with her second son and the five young ladies--her
daughters--after her. The queen-mother had no party in London, and her
arrival with her quintette of girls created no sensation.

In a few days young Edward entered the city, but more as a captive than
as a king, and lodgings were immediately taken for him in the Tower,
where he was to be boarded, and, alas! done for by his loving uncle.
Gloucester was named protector to the youthful sovereign, and moved
to No. 1, Crosby Place, Bishopsgate (the number on the door), where,
instead of behaving himself like a gentleman "living private," he held
councils, while Hastings, who began to doubt the duke's loyalty, gave a
series of opposition parties in the Tower. At one of these, Richard, who
had never received a card of invitation, walked in, and voted himself
into the chair with the most consummate impudence. In vain did Hastings
intimate that it was a private room, or that Gloucester must have
mistaken the house for there he sat, exclaiming, "Oh no, not at all,"
begging the company to make themselves at home, as he fully meant to
do. He was particularly facetious to the Bishop of Ely, asking after his
garden in Holborn, and proposing to the prelate to send for a plate of
strawberries.

[Illustration: 327]

These were soon brought, and Richard indulged in "potations pottle deep"
of strawberries and cream, declaring all the while that the fruit was
capital, and that of all wind instruments there was none he liked to
have a blow out upon so much as the hautboy. The Protector having
gone away for a short time, returned in a very ill humour, with his
countenance looking exceedingly sour, as if the strawberries he had
eaten had disagreed with him and the cream had curdled. He gave his
lips several severe bites, and altogether appeared exceedingly snappish.
Presently he asked what those persons deserved who had compassed or
imagined his destruction. Hastings observed, "Why, that is so completely
out of my compass that I can scarcely guess, but I don't mind saying
off-hand that death is the least punishment they merit." The Protector
declared his brother's wife--meaning the queen--and Mrs. Shore had
between them twisted his body, which would, indeed, have been doing him
a very bad turn; and, pulling up his sleeve, he exhibited his left arm,
declaring there was something not at all right about it. The council
agreed that the limb was a good deal damaged, and Hastings added that
"_if_ Mrs. Shore and the queen had really had a hand in Richard's arm,
they certainly deserved grievous punishment."

"What!" roared the Protector, "do you answer me with 'ifs'? I tell you
they have, and no mistake." Whereupon he banged his fist down upon the
table with tremendous violence, giving himself as well as Hastings a
frightful rap on the knuckles. Thereupon a door opened, and "men in
harness came rushing in," according to More, and, being in harness,
they proceeded to fix the saddle on the right horse immediately. The
Protector exclaimed "I arrest thee, traitor," and pointed to Hastings,
who cried out "Eh! What! Oh! Pooh! Stuff! You're joking! Arrest me? What
have I done? Fiddlestick!" To pursue the elegant description given by
More, we must add that "another let fly at Stanley," who bobbed down his
head and crawled under the table.

[Illustration: 328]

The officers, after some trouble, pulled him out by the leg--having
first drawn off his boot in a futile attempt to secure him--and carried
him away in custody. Richard then had another turn at Hastings, who was
in a sort of hysterical humour, at one moment treating the matter as a
joke, and at another not knowing exactly what to make of it. "You may
laugh," at length roared Richard, "but I'll tell you what it is, my Lord
Hastings, I've ordered my dinner to be ready by the time I get home,
but by St. Paul I'll not touch a mouthful--and I own I'm deuced
hungry--until I've seen your head."

Hastings replied that such a condition was easily fulfilled, and
thrusting his head into Richard's face exclaimed "There, my lord, you've
seen my head, so now go home as soon as you like, and get your dinner."
The Protector pushing him aside, expressed contempt for the paltry
quibble, and amended the affidavit by inserting the word "off" after the
word "head," and exclaiming "I'll see Hastings' head off before I
touch a bit of dinner." Hastings was seized, and the purveyors for the
Protector soon brought him the _avant goût_ which he had required as a
provocative to his appetite. Richard's violence had thus come suddenly
to a head, and Earl Rivers, with Sir Thomas Vaughan and Sir Richard
Hawse, were executed on the same day at Pontefract.

A few days after these executions, Richard went to the sanctuary at
Westminster, arm-in-arm with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and called
for the little Duke of York, who, they said, would be wanted for the
coronation. Consent was somewhat unwillingly given, and Richard having
got the child away, made him a prisoner in the Tower. An affecting
anecdote is told of the ruse that was resorted to by Gloucester and
his friend, the archbishop, to entrap their juvenile victim into going
quietly with them towards the gloomy scene of his destined captivity.
They lured him on from place to place by pretending that they were
going to treat him to some wonderful show, and they took all sorts
of roundabout ways to prevent him from suspecting the point they were
really driving at. When the poor child was becoming tired of his walk,
and surrounding objects had lost the attraction of novelty, he began
crying after his mamma, with that filial force which is peculiar to the
earliest period of infancy. Gloucester began to fear they should get
a mob after them, if, as he savagely expressed himself, "the brat
continued to howl," and the little fellow was promised, for the purpose
of "stopping his mouth," that he should see his mother immediately.
After walking him nearly off his little legs through back streets and
alleys, they brought him out upon Tower Hill, and Richard, no longer
disguising the fact that he was acting the part of the cruel uncle,
snatched up in his arms the trembling child, who presently found himself
in one of the gloomy apartments of the Tower.

Richard's next artifice was to practise the "moral dodge," which seldom
fails to tell upon an indiscriminating multitude. Jane Shore, who had
been seduced by the late king, was fixed upon as a mark for plunder and
persecution by Richard, who first robbed the poor woman of all she had
and then sent her to prison. He professed to be so shocked at some of
the incidents of her past life, that, as a moral agent or acting member
of society for the suppression of vice, he could not allow her to
escape without some heavy punishment. She was proceeded against in the
Ecclesiastical Courts, and ordered to walk about London with a lighted
rushlight in her hand and wearing nothing but a pair of sheets or a
counterpane. The Hammersmith Ghost and Spring-heeled Jack are the only
legitimate successors of Jane Shore in this remarkable proceeding,
and might have cited her case as a precedent for their own unlawful
practices.

Richard also entered into an arrangement with Doctor Shaw, a
popular preacher, who was to preach down, or, as it was then called,
depreachiate the two young princes. The Reverend Doctor then threw a
doubt on their legitimacy, and declared their late father Edward was
not a bit like his reputed father, the Duke of York, and pulling out two
enormous caricatures from under his gown he asked the crowd whether
any likeness could be traced between them. "Instead of the eyes," he
exclaimed, "being as like as two peas, these eyes are not even as like
as two gooseberries!" He then asked his hearers to compare notes by
comparing the noses of the two portraits he held in his hand; ana,
pointing to the picture of Richard, Duke of York, he reminded them
that the bridge of the nose was exactly like that of Richard, Duke of
Gloucester. "There, my friends," he roared, "there is a bridge that I
think there is no possibility of getting over!" The allusion created a
laugh, but no conviction; and the failure was rendered more annoying by
the Protector not arriving in time, as had been previously arranged,
to enable Dr. Shaw to point out the striking likeness. By some mistake
Richard missed the cue for his entrance, and did not come in until the
comparison had passed, when upon Shaw endeavouring to recur to it,
the trick was so obvious that the people only stared at each other, or
passed their right thumbs significantly over their left shoulders. The
Protector vented his disappointment and anger on the preacher, whom he
denounced as an old meddler who did not know what he was talking about,
and Doctor Shaw sneaked off, amid derision, shouts of "Pshaw! Pshaw!"
and the jeers of the populace.

On the following Tuesday Richard got his friend Buckingham to go down to
Guildhall to give him a regular good puff, at a meeting of the citizens.
Buckingham's speech was listened to with a deal of apathy, and there
were numerous cries of "Cut it short," responded to with a faint shout
of "Hear him out," and an occasional ejaculation of "Now then, stupid!"
Buckingham persevered, and at the close of his address somebody threw
up a bonnet, exclaiming "Long live King Richard!" The bonnet belonged
evidently to a person of straw, and excited little more than ridicule.

The speech of Buckingham to the citizens assembled in Guildhall, was
a rare specimen of the eloquence of humbug; and it evidently formed a
model for the discourses sent forth by auctioneers from the rostrum at
a later period, The whole system, indeed, pursued by the Duke of
Buckingham on the memorable occasion of his putting up the claim of
Richard to the suffrages of the bystanders, was evidently in accordance
with that by which bad lots are frequently got off at the highest
prices.

When there was a faint snout of "Long live King Richard," from a
solitary individual, Buckingham adroitly multiplied the exclamation by
declaring that he heard it "in two places," though he knew perfectly
well that a solitary puffer, in his own employ, had been the only one
who raised a shout for Gloucester. "What shall I say for Richard?" he
lustily vociferated. "Look at him, gentlemen, before you bid. There's
nothing spurious about _him_. Come, gentlemen, give me a bidding." At
this juncture, one of the duke's touters cried out, from the bottom of
the hall, "I'll bid a crown," and a slight titter arising, Buckingham
took advantage of the circumstance to assert, that "a crown was bid for
Richard in several places at once;" whereupon the tyrant was said to
have been accepted at that price, and the business of the day concluded.

[Illustration: 331]

On the next day a deputation was got up to wait on Richard at his
lodgings, when he at first declined seeing them. His servant returned
to say the gentleman particularly wished an interview, and Gloucester
desired they might be shown up, when Buckingham and a few of the
deputation were admitted to his presence. They handed him a paper,
inviting and pressing him to accept the crown; but he observed, with
assumed modesty, "that if he had it, he really should not know what to
do with it."

"Clap it on your head, of course," said Buckingham; and, suiting the
action to the word, he thrust the bauble on the brow of his friend,
observing, "Upon my honour, he looks well in it, don't he, Shaw?" and he
turned to the Lord Mayor for approval. Richard, however, shook his head,
and remarked that "he could not think of it;" when Buckingham, by
a happy turn, suggested that "they had thought of it for him, and
therefore, he might as well do it first and think of it afterwards."

"But the little princes," remarked Richard, "whom I love bo much." This
caused Buckingham to say, in the name of all present, that "they had
determined not to have the little princes at any price." Upon this,
Gloucester replied, "that he must meet the wishes of the people, and if
they must have him, they must, but he, really, had a good deal rather
not;" when, amid a quantity of significant winking on all sides, an end
was put to the conference.

This scene was enacted on the 24th of June, 1483, which was the last day
of the nominal reign of the fifth Edward. It is impossible to give any
character of this unfortunate king, whose sovereignty was almost limited
to the walls of his own nursery. He might sometimes have played at
sitting on a throne and holding a sceptre in his hand, but he never
exercised the smallest power. He may, upon one or two occasions, have
been allowed to dissolve Parliament; but it was only in the form of the
cake so called, which he might, perhaps, be permitted to dissolve by the
force of suction.



CHAPTER THE SEVENTH. RICHARD THE THIRD.


[Illustration: 332]

RICHARD, on coming to the throne, rushed into Westminster Hall, and took
his seat on a sort of marble slab or mantel-piece, between the great
Lord Howard and the Duke of Suffolk. The precious trio looked like a set
of chimney ornaments, of which Richard formed the centre. He declared
that he commenced his reign in that place, because it had been once a
judgment-seat, and he was anxious to administer justice to his people.
Ten days after, on the 6th of July, he was crowned in Westminster Abbey,
and to prevent any murmurs at his usurpation, he was lavish of gifts,
promotion and bribery. The Duke of Norfolk, the celebrated jockey
mentioned by Shakspeare, who had put Richard in training for the throne,
became Earl Marshal, and his son was created Earl of Surrey, in honour,
perhaps, of the surreptitious manner in which the crown had been
obtained for his master Richard. The Archbishop of York and the Bishop
of Ely were set at liberty, "which caused them to dance with joy,"
according to one of the chroniclers, though we cannot imagine a pair
of prelates indulging in Terpsichorean diversions on their release from
prison.

In the course of the summer, Richard made a royal progress, and was
enthusiastically received, though it is believed that much of
the enthusiasm was got up by frequent rehearsals with a set of
supernumeraries, who were sent on before from town to town, to give
a reception to the new sovereign. If Richard was expected to arrive
anywhere at two, the populace would be called at one, to run through--in
rehearsal--the cheers and gestures of satisfaction that were required to
give brilliance to the usurper's entry. When he arrived at York, a wish
was expressed by the inhabitants to see a coronation; and though the
ceremony had already been performed in London, it was announced that the
spectacle would be repeated, "by particular desire of several families
of distinction."

While Richard's starring expedition was most successful in the
provinces, things in London were by no means looking up, for
conspiracies were being formed to release the two young princes from the
Tower. The usurper, not relishing these proceedings, sent a certain John
Green--whose unsuspecting innocence has made viridity synonymous with
stupidity ever since--as the bearer of a message, the purport of
which he was wholly unconscious of. It was addressed to Sir Thomas
Brackenbury, the governor of the Tower, requesting him to put to death
the two royal children, by smothering them--in onions, or anything else
that might be found convenient. Brackenbury refused the commission,
not so much out of regard to the little princes as from fear on his
own account, and he sent back the monosyllable "No" as an answer to the
sovereign. Green, who knew not the purport of the message, returned with
the curt reply, and upon his reiterating "No" as all he was desired to
say, Richard angrily desired him "not to show his nose again at court
for a considerable period." The tyrant was not, however, to be daunted,
and he called his Master of the Horse, Sir James Tyrrel, whom he desired
to go and lock every door in the Tower, and put the keys in his pocket.
One night in August, Tyrrel took with him a fellow named Miles Forrest,
a professional assassin, and John Dighton, an amateur, a big, broad,
square, and strong knave, who, notwithstanding his squareness, was
living on the cross for a long period. The precious trio went together
to the Tower, and Tyrrel waiting at the door, Miles Forrest entered with
John Dighton, who jointly smothered the children in the bedclothes.

Dighton and Forrest entered with savage earnestness into this horrible
transaction, and conducted themselves after the cruel fashion of a clown
and pantaloon in a pantomime when an infant falls into their formidable
clutches. Dighton danced on the bed, while Forrest flung himself across
it with fearful vehemence. Tyrrel, who was standing outside, acted the
part of an undertaker in this truly black job, and buried the princes at
the foot of the staircase.

Various accounts have been given of this atrocious deed, and
antiquarians have quarrelled about the form of the bed the princes used
to sleep upon. Some declare it was a turn-up, in which the children were
suddenly inclosed; whilst others affirm that the princes had the thread
of their existence cut on that useful form of bedstead familiarly
known as the scissors. Thus, to use the language of the philosopher, a
feather-bed and pillows were made to bolster up the title of Richard,
who from his artifice was exceedingly likely to have recourse to such
a downy expedient. We may be excused for adding from the same high
authority we have taken the liberty to quote, that this assassination on
a palliasse was an act that nothing could palliate.

[Illustration: 334]

Richard, by whom the outward decencies of life were very scrupulously
observed, in order to make up for the inward deficiencies of his mind,
determined to go into mourning for the young princes and repaired to
the same _maison de deuil_ which he had honoured with his patronage on
a former occasion, when requiring the "trapping of woe" for himself and
his retainers on the death of his dear brother.

Another competitor now appeared for the crown, in the person of Henry
Tudor, Esquire, commonly called the Earl of Richmond, who came with a
drawn sword in his hand and a pedigree already drawn up in his pocket.
He was considered to represent the line of Lancaster by right of his
mother, who was a great-granddaughter of John of Gaunt, whose extreme
tallness proved him to be a worthy scion of the house to which the
title of Lanky-shire--as it then might have been spelled--was obviously
appropriate. In order to strengthen Richmond's party and give him a
spice of Yorkism, a marriage was proposed with Elizabeth, of York, on
the same principle that beef is sometimes cut with a hammy knife to give
it a flavour. Richmond was joined by several nobles hitherto favourable
to Richard, and even Buckingham, who had been indebted to him for wealth
and office, suddenly turned against him. When Richard heard the news
he put a price on the heads of all the leaders of the insurrection;
and Buckingham's head, though a very empty one, was ticketed at a
considerable figure.

Henry, Earl of Richmond, appeared with a fleet off Devonshire, but
finding no one on the coast to meet him, he sailed back to St. Malo.
Buckingham, who ought to have been on the look-out, was blundering
about the right bank of the Severn, which he was unable to cross in
consequence of the rains, when his army, finding themselves short
of rations, declined continuing such a very irrational enterprise.
Buckingham was left without a man, except his own servant--a fellow
of the name of Banister--upon whose fidelity he threw himself. He soon
found that he had been leaning upon a fragile prop, for this Banister
broke down and betrayed his miserable master. Buckingham was accordingly
captured, and sneakingly solicited an interview with Richard the Third,
who, on hearing of his being taken, coolly drew on his glove and roared
with a stentorian voice, "Off with his head!--so much for Buckingham!"

Richard now came to town, and summoned a Parliament, which was
exceedingly complaisant; declaring him the lawful sovereign, by birth,
by election, by coronation, by consecration, and by inheritance. Thus
the usual attempt was made to make up by quantity for the deficiency as
to quality in the title of the usurper, and the Princedom of Wales was
settled on his boy Edward. Attainders were dealt out pretty freely among
Richard's opponents, who were pronounced traitors in the usual form,
which was kept to be filled up with the name of the unsuccessful party;
while oaths of loyalty were always to be had--in blank--for the use of
that numerous class which followed the crown with the fidelity of
the needle to the pole,--the pole being the head that happened to be
wearing--_pro tem_.--the precious bauble.

Richard, being afraid that Richmond would gain strength by the project
of marriage with Elizabeth of York, determined on marrying the young
lady himself; an idea which both herself and her intriguing old
mother most indelicately jumped at. The king being already married,
difficulties arose, but it was proposed to poison Lady Anne, which,
as quack medicines had not been yet invented, was a somewhat difficult
process. There was no specific then in existence for curing every
disease, or the matter might have been arranged at once; nor had the
fatal art of punning become known, or Richard might have placed the
author of the triple _jeu de mot_ in attendance upon the Lady Anne, to
be, in time, the death of her. The quarrelsome and cat-like disposition
of this unhappy female may account for the tenacity of life which
she exhibited; and the young Elizabeth kept continually writing up to
inquire why the queen took so much time in dying. It was now the middle
of February, 1484, and Lady Anne was still alive; but her obstinacy was
soon cured by her husband, and in the course of March she was got rid
of. Richard immediately opened to his friends and admirers his scheme
for marrying Elizabeth; but they strongly opposed it, and he then
pretended that he had never meant anything of the sort, but that the
minx--for as such he stigmatised the young lady--had for some time
persisted in setting her cap at him.

[Illustration: 336]

Henry was now preparing to make a descent upon England, when Richard
did all he could to damage him by proclamations, in which Richmond
was alluded to as "one Tudor," and his adherents were stigmatised as
cut-throats and extortioners. Had this been the fact, it was certainly
a case of pot pitching into kettle; and the usurping saucepan poured
out its sauce with wondrous prodigality. Numerous were the expedients
resorted to for the purpose of damaging the cause of Henry Tudor.
Descriptions of his person were issued, and the people were warned
against admitting to their confidence the individual of whom a
caricature representation, or rather mis-representation, was sent
abroad, to give an unfavourable idea of Richmond's exterior. Among
other schemes to obtain popularity, Richard affected the character of a
practical man, and personally attended to the administration of justice
in a few cases, where, having no interest of his own to serve, he gave
somewhat fair decisions.

His efforts were now directed to putting the country in a state of
defence, and he sent his friends to the coast to bear the brunt of the
first attack, while he smuggled himself up pretty comfortably in the
middle of a large army in the centre of the kingdom. Several of his
friends betrayed him, while others sent excuses on the score of ill
health, and Stanley apologised in a coarse note, declaring he was
confined to his bed by "a sweating sickness." Richard merely muttered,
"Oh! indeed, and I suppose he sends me a wet blanket to prove the fact;"
but he, nevertheless, ordered Stanley to be closely looked after. Henry
landed at Milford Haven on the 7th of August, 1484, with about five
thousand men, and on the 21st of the month the two armies met in a
field near Bosworth. There a battle was fought, of which Shakespeare
has furnished a series of pictures, which, on the stage, attempts are
frequently made to realise. The contest, according to this authority,
appears to have been carried on amid a mysterious flourish of drums and
trumpets, to which soldiers, on both sides, kept running to and fro,
without doing any serious mischief. Richmond's people, to the extent
of about ten, then encountered about an equal number of Richard's
adherents, and striking together, harmlessly, the tips of some long
pikes, the two parties became huddled together, and retired in the same
direction, apparently to talk the matter over and effect a compromise.

The field then seems to have become perfectly clear, when Richard ran
across it, fearfully out of breath, fencing with a foil at nothing, and
calling loudly for a horse in exchange for his kingdom, though there
was not such a thing as a quadruped to be had for love or money. He then
seems to have shouted lustily for Richmond, and to have asserted that
he had already killed him five different times, from which it is to be
inferred that the crafty Henry had no less than half a dozen suits of
armour all made alike to mislead his antagonist. Richard then rushed
away, with a hop, skip and jump, after some imaginary foe; and Richmond
occupied the field; when Richard, happening to come back, they
stood looking at each other for several seconds. We may account
for Gloucester's temporary absence by referring to the historical
authorities, for he had probably chosen the interval in question to make
Sir John Cheney bite the dust, a most unpleasant process for Sir John,
who must have ground his teeth horribly with a mouthful of gravel.

The two competitors for the throne then stood upon their guard, and a
beautiful fencing-match ensued, to which there were no witnesses. A few
complimentary speeches were exchanged between some of the home thrusts,
and the combatants occasionally paused to take an artistical view of
each other's gallant bearing. Business is, however, business in the long
run, which, in this instance, ended in Richard being run through by the
victorious Richmond. The soldiers of the latter, who appear to have been
waiting behind a hedge to watch in whose favour fortune might turn,
ran forward at the triumph of their master being complete, and formed
a picture round him, while Stanley, taking the battered crown which
Richard had worn in battle, placed it--in its smashed state looking
like a gilt-edged opera hat--on the head of Richmond. The manner in
which Stanley became possessed of the ill-used bauble is quite in
accordance with the dramatic colouring that tinges and tinfoils this
beautiful period of our history. It is said that an old soldier kicked
against something in an adjacent field, and began actually playing at
football with the regal diadem. Placing his foot inside the rim, he sent
it flying into the air, when a ray of sunshine, lighting on one of the
jewels, revealed to him that it was no ordinary plaything he had got
hold of. Running with it as fast as he could to Stanley, the honest
fellow placed it in his lordship's hands, with a cry of "See what I have
found!" after the manner of the pantaloon under similar circumstances
in a pantomime. Stanley was about to put it in his pocket, when another
noble roared out, "Oh, I'll tell!" and a cry of "Somebody coming!" being
raised, the diadem was ingeniously dropped on to the head of Richmond.
The crown was fearfully scrunched by the numerous heavy blows its wearer
had received, and Henry the Seventh, taking it off for a moment to
push it a little into shape, exclaimed--half mournfully, half
jocularly--"Well, well, to the punishment of the usurper this indenture
witnesseth." The Duke of Norfolk--our old friend the jockey--shared his
master's fate, or rather had a similar fate all to himself, though as he
received the fatal crack, he expressed a wish that he might be allowed
to split the difference.

The fierce and interesting battle we are now speaking of was one of
those short but sharp transactions, which leave their marks no less upon
posterity than upon the heads and helmets of the warriors engaged in the
fearful contest. The great importance of the event deserves something
more than the prosaic narrative in which we have recorded it; and having
sent our boy to the Pierian spring with a pitcher, for the purpose of
getting it filled with the source of inspiration, we proceed to attempt
a poetical account of the Battle of Bos-worth. The celebrated Mr. Thomas
Babington Macaulay has, we acknowledge, kindled our poetic fire, by his
"Lays of Ancient Rome;" and our imagination having been once set in a
blaze it must needs continue to burn, unless, by blowing out our brains,
we put a suicidal extinguisher on the flame. Philosophy, however,
teaches us that "_L'ame est un feu qu'il faut nourrir_" (Voltaire) and
_alere flammam_ is a suggestion so familiar to our youth, that we do not
scruple to throw an entire scuttle of the coals of encouragement upon
the incipient flame of our poetic genius. We know that poetry is often
an idle pursuit, and that he is generally lazy who addicts himself to
the composition of lays, but the Battle of Bosworth Field is an event
which fully deserves to have poetical justice done to it. Following
the example of the illustrious model, whose style we consider it no
humility, but rather an audacity, to imitate, we will suppose the
recital to be made some time after the event has occurred, and we
will imagine some veteran stage manager giving directions for, or
superintending the rehearsal of, a grand dramatic representation of one
of the grandest and--if we may be allowed the privilege of a literary
smasher in coming a word--the dramaticest battles in English history.



          "Ho! trumpets, sound a note or two!
          Ho! prompter, clear the stage!
          A chord, there, in the orchestra:
          The battle we must wage.

          Your gallant supers marshal out--
          Yes, I must see them all;
          The rather lean, the very stout,
          The under-sized, the tall:
          The Yorkites in the centre,
          Lancastrians in the rear,
          Not yet the staff must enter--
          The stage, I charge ye, clear
          Those warriors in the green-room
          Must have an extra drill;
          Where's Richard's gilt-tipp'd baton?
          They charged it in the bill.

          Those ensigns with the banners
          Must stand the other way,
          Or else how is it possible
          The white rose to display?"

          Thus spoke the old stage manager,
          The day before the night Richard and
          Richmond on the field Of Bosworth had to fight.
          And thus the light-heel'd call-boy
          Upon that day began
          To read of properties a list--
          'Twas thus the items ran

          "Four dozen shields of cardboard,
          With paper newly gilt,
          Six dozen goodly swords, and one
          With practicable hilt;
          The practicable hilt, of course,
          Must be adroitly plann'd,
          That when 'tis struck with mod'rate force,
          'Twill break in Richard's hand.
          Eight banners--four with roses white,
          And four with roses red--
          Six halberds, and a canopy
          To hang o'er Richard's head;
          A sofa for the tyrant's tent,
          An ironing-board at back,
          Whereon the ghosts may safely stand,
          Who come his dreams to rack;
          A lamp suspended in the air
          By an invis'ble wire,
          And--for the ghosts to vanish in--
          Two ounces of blue fire."


          Thus spoke the gallant call-boy,
          The boy of many fights;
          Who'd seen a battle often fought
          Fifty successive nights.

          The moment now approaches,
          The interval is short,
          Before the fearful battle
          Of Bosworth must be fought;
          Now Richmond's gallant soldiers
          Are waiting at the wing,
          Expecting soon that destiny
          Its prompter's bell will ring;
          Now at the entrance opposite
          The troops of Richard stand,
          Two dozen stalwart veterans--
          A small but gallant band.

          Hark I at the sound of trumpets,
          They raise a hearty cheer,
          Their voices have obtained their force
          From recent draughts of beer.
          Their leader, the false Richard,
          Is lying in his tent,
          But ghosts to fret and worry him
          Are to his bedside sent.

          Convulsively he kicks and starts,
          He cannot have repose,
          A guilty conscience breaks his rest,
          By tugging at his toes.

          A gentleman in mourning,
          With visage very black,
          When the tent curtain draws aside,
          Is standing at the back;
          And then a woman--stately,
          But pale as are the dead--
          Stood, in the darkness of the night,
          To scold him in his bed.

          There came they, and there preached they,
          In most lugubrious way
          Delivering curtain lectures
          Until the east was grey;
          Or rather, till the prompter,
          Who has the proper cue,
          Had quite consumed his quantity
          Of fire, so bright and blue.

          The conscience-stricken Richard
          Now kicks with greater force,
          Bears up, and plunges from his couch,
          Insisting on a horse;
          When, hearing from the village cock
          A blithe and early scream,
          He straightway recollects himself,
          And finds it all a dream.

          Now, on each side, the leaders
          Long for the battle's heat,
          But, by some luckless accident,
          The armies never meet;
          We hear them both alternately
          Talking extremely large,
          But never find them, hand to hand,
          Mixed in the deadly charge.

          "March on, my friends!" cries Richmond,
          "True tigers let us be;
          Advance your standards, draw your swords--
          On, friends, and follow me!"

          'Tis true, they follow him indeed,
          But then, the way they go
          Is just the way they're not at all
          Likely to meet the foe.
          So Richard, with his "soul in arms,"
          Is "eager for the fray,"
          But, with a hop, a skip, and jump,
          Runs off--the other way.

          He's to the stable gone, perchance,
          Forgetting, in his flurry,

          He has kept waiting all this time
          His clever cob, White Surrey.
          The brute is "saddled for the field,"
          But never gains the spot,
          For on his way Death knocks him down
          In one--the common--lot.


          [Illustration: 342]


          Richard, a momentary pang
          At the bereavement feels;
          But, being thrown upon his hands,
          Starts briskly to his heels.

          And now the angry tyrant
          Perambulates the field,
          Calling on each ideal foe
          To fight him or to yield.

          "What, ho!" he cries, "Young Richmond!
          But, 'mid the noise of drums,
          Young Richmond doesn't hear him--
          At least he never comes.

          Now louder, and still louder,
          Rise from the darken'd field
          The braying of the trumpets.
          The clang of sword and shields
          But shame upon both armies!

          For, if the truth be known,
          'Tis not each other's shields they smite--
          The clang is all their own;
          For six of Richmond's people
          Are standing in a row
          (Behind the scenes), and with their swords
          They give their shields a blow.

          Wild shouts of "Follow, follow!"
          Are raised in murmuring strain,
          To represent the slayer's rage,
          The anguish of the slain.

          But now, in stem reality,
          The battle seems to rage;
          For Catesby comes to tell the world
          How fiercely they engage.

          He gives a grand description,
          And says the feud runs high:
          We won't suppose that such a man
          Would stoop to tell a lie.

          He says the valiant king "enacts
          More wonders than a man; "
          In fact, is doing what he can't,
          Instead of what he can.

          That all on foot the tyrant fights,
          Seeks Bichmond, and will follow him
          Into the very "throat of Death"--
          No wonder Death should swallow him!

          Now meeting on a sudden,
          Each going the opposite way,
          Richard and Richmond both advance,
          Their valour to display.

          Says Richard, "Now for one of us,
          Or both, the time is come."
          Says Bichmond, "Till I've settled this,
          By Jove, I won't go home."

          One, two, strikes Richard with his foil,
          When Richmond, getting fierce,
          Repeats three, four, and on they go,
          With parry, quatre, and tierce.

          Till suddenly the tyrant
          Is brought unto a stand;
          His weapon snaps itself in twain,
          The hilt is in his hand.

          The gen'rous Richmond turns aside,
          Till someone at the wing
          Another weapon to the foe
          Good-naturedly doth fling.

          Richard advances with a rush;
          Richmond in turn retires;
          Their weapons, every time they meet,
          Flash with electric fires.

          Posterity, that occupies
          Box, gallery, and pit,
          Applauds the pair alternately,
          As each one makes a hit.

          Now "Bravo, Richmond!" is the cry,
          Till Richard plants a blow
          With good effect, when to his side
          Round the spectators go.

          As fickle still as when at first,
          The nation, undecided,
          Was 'twixt the Roses White and Red
          Alternately divided,

          So does the modern audience
          Incline, with favour strongest,
          To him who in the contest seems
          Likely to last the longest.

          Then harsher sounds the trumpet,
          And deeper rolls the drum,
          Till both have had enough of it,
          When Richard must succumb.

          Flatly he falls upon the ground,
          Declaring, when he's down,
          He envies Bichmond nothing else,
          Except the vast renown
          Which he has certainly acquired
          By being made to yield
          Himself, that had been hitherto
          The master of the field.

          And then the soldiers, who have stood
          Some distance from the fray,
          Bush in to take their portion of
          The glory of the day.

          And men with banners in their hands,
          At eighteen-pence a night,
          Some with red roses on the flags,
          And some with roses white,
          By shaking them together,
          The colours gently blend,
          And the Battle of the Roses
          Is for ever at an end.


[Illustration: 347]

The Battle of Bosworth Field terminated the War of the Roses, or rather
brought the roses into full blow, and cut off some of the flower of the
English nobility. Richmond was proclaimed king on the field, as Henry
the Seventh; and as the soldiers formed themselves into a _tableau_ the
curtain descended on the tragedy of the War between the Houses of York
and Lancaster.

Richard had reigned a couple of years and a couple of months when he
received his _quietus_ on the field of Bosworth. If ever there was a
king of England whose name was bad enough to hang him, this unfortunate
dog has a reputation which would suspend him on every lamp-post in
Christendom. The odium attaching to his policy has been visited on
his person, and it has been asserted that the latter was not straight
because the former was crooked. His right shoulder is said by Rouse,
who hated him, to have been higher than his left; but this apparent
deformity may have arisen from the party having taken a one-sided view
of him. His stature was small; but in the case of one who never stood
very high in the opinion of the public, it was physically impossible
for the fact to be otherwise. Walpole, in his very ingenious "Historic
Doubts," has tried to get rid of Richard's high hump, but the operation
has not been successful, in the opinion of any impartial umpire.
Imagination, that tyrant which has such a strange method of treating its
subjects, has had perhaps more to do than Nature in placing an enormous
burden on Richard's shoulders. His features were decidedly good-looking;
but on the converse of the principle that "handsome is as handsome
does," the tyrant Gloucester has been regarded as one of those who "ugly
was that handsome didn't."

It is a remarkable fact that Richard the Third during his short reign
received no subsidy from Parliament, though we must not suppose that
he ruled the kingdom gratuitously; for, on the contrary, his income was
ample and munificent. He got it in the shape of tonnage and poundage
upon all sorts of goods, and when money was not to be had he took
property to the full value of the claim he had upon it. The result was
that his treasury became a good deal like an old curiosity shop, a
coal shed, or a dealer's in marine stores, for anything that came in
Richard's way was perfectly acceptable. The principle of poundage was
applied to everything, even in quantities less than a pound, and he
would, even on a few ounces of sugar, sack his share of the saccharine.
If he required it for his own use he never scrupled to intercept the
housewife on her way from the butcher's and cut off the chump from the
end of the chop; nor did he hesitate, when he felt disposed, to lop the
very lollipop in the hands of the schoolboy. This principle of allowing
poundage to the king was in the highest degree inconvenient. It rendered
the meat-safe a misnomer, inasmuch as it was never safe from royal
rapacity.

It has been said of Richard, that he would have been well qualified to
reign, had he been legally entitled to the throne; or, in other words,
that he would have been a good ruler if he had not been a bad sovereign.
To us this seems to savour of the old anomaly--a distinction without a
difference. He certainly carried humbug to the highest possible point,
for he exhibited it upon the throne, which serves as a platform to make
either vice or virtue--as the case may be--conspicuous.

The trick by which he obtained possession of his nephew, the young King
Edward, whose liberty was likely to prove a stumbling-block in Richard's
own path to the throne, is remarkable for its cunning, and for the
intimate knowledge it displayed of the juvenile character. Proceeding to
the residence of the baby monarch's mamma, he began asking after "little
Ned" with apparently the most affectionate interest. He had previously
provided himself with a lot of sweetstuff as he came along, for it was
his deep design to intoxicate with brandy-balls the head of the infant
sovereign. "Where is the little fellow?" inquired Richard, who would
take no excuse for his nephew not being produced, but declared that
being in no hurry, he could wait the convenience of the nursery
authorities. Finding further opposition useless, Elizabeth reluctantly
ordered the boy to be brought down, when Richard asked him "Whether
he would like to go with Uncle Dick?" and got favourable answers by
surreptitiously cramming the child's mouth with lollipops.

[Illustration: 349]

Whenever the little fellow was about to say "He would rather stay with
his mamma," the Protector called his attention (aside) to a squib or
brandy-ball, and York consented at last to go with his uncle. "Oh!
I thought you would," cried the wily duke, as he clutched his little
nephew up and jogged with him to the Tower. Such was the artful scheme
by which the tyrant originally got possession of the subsequent victim
of avuncular cruelty. It has been urged in extenuation of his cruel
murder of the little princes, that their deaths were a necessary
sequel to those of Hastings and others; but it would have been a poor
consolation to the victims had they known that they were only killed by
way of supplement. We cannot think that any portion of the catalogue
of Richard's crimes should be printed in colours less black because
it formed a continuation or an appendix to his atrocities; nor can we
excuse Part II. of a horribly bad work because Part I. has rendered it
unavoidable.

It is urged by those writers who have defended him, that the crimes he
committed were only those necessary to secure the crown; but this is no
better plea than that of the highwayman who knocks a traveller on the
head because the blow is necessary to the convenient picking of the
victim's pockets. Richard's crimes might have been palliated in some
trifling degree, had they been essential to the recovery of his own
rights, but the case is different when his sanguinary career was only
pursued that he might get hold of that which did not belong to him. It
is true he was ambitious; but if a thief is ambitious of possessing our
set of six silver tea-spoons, we are not to excuse him because he knocks
us down and stuns us, as a necessary preliminary to the transfer of the
property from our own to our assailant's possession. The palliators of
Richard's atrocities declare that he could do justice in matters where
his own interest was not concerned; but this fact, by proving that he
knew better, is in fact an aggravation of the faults he was habitually
guilty of. It has been insinuated that when he had got all he wanted,
he might have improved, but that by killing him after he had come to the
throne, his contemporaries gave him no chance of becoming respectable.
It must be clear to every reasonable mind that the result, even had it
been satisfactory, would never have been worth the cost of obtaining it,
and that in tolerating Richard's pranks, on the chance of his becoming
eventually a good king, his subjects might well have exclaimed _le jeu
n'en vaut pas la chandelle_. In the _vexata questio_ of the cause of the
death of the princes, the guilt has usually been attributed to Richard,
because he reaped the largest benefit from their decease; but this
horrible doctrine would imply that a tenant for life is usually murdered
by the remainder-man, and that the enjoyer of the interest of Bank
Stock is frequently cut off by the reversioner who is entitled to the
principal. We admit there is a strong case against Richard upon other
more reasonable evidence: and thus from the magisterial bench of History
do we commit him to take his trial, and be impartially judged by the
whole of his countrymen.



CHAPTER THE EIGHTH. NATIONAL INDUSTRY.

Let us now turn from the turmoil of war, and apply our eye-glass to the
pursuits of peace; for, having been surfeited for the present with royal
rapacity, it will be refreshing to take a glance at national industry.

London was at a very early period famous for the abundance of its wool,
and it has been ingeniously suggested that the great quantity of wool
may account for a sort of natural shyness or sheepishness among our
fellow-countrymen.

The Bill of Exchange was a luxury introduced in the beginning of the
thirteenth century, for the accommodation of our forefathers, who had
learned the value of a good name, and perhaps occasionally experienced
the inconveniences of a bad one.

There is nothing very interesting in the history of Commerce until the
time of Whittington, whose cat, we have already said, was a fabulous
animal, though it has taken its place by the side of the British Lion
in our English annals. We are inclined to believe that there is some
analogy between these two brutes, and that both are meant to be the
types respectively of our political and commercial prosperity. We have
sometimes thought that the British Lion, from its plurality of lives,
ought rather to be called the British Cat, especially from its readiness
to come to the scratch when the altar or the throne may seem to be in
jeopardy. Whatever may be the exact nature of the beast, it is certainly
a very highly-trained and somewhat harmless animal, for any statesman
may place his head in the British Lion's mouth, and remove it again
without suffering the slightest injury. The creature will roar loudly
enough and show an ample expanse of jaw, but it is frequently _vox
et praterea nihil_ with the noisy brute, whose grumbling is often
indicative of his extreme emptiness.

Whittington was certainly three times Lord Mayor of London, and we
find him "doing a bill" for Henry the Fourth to the tune of a thousand
pounds, and taking the subsidy on wool--out of which the sovereign
generally fleeced the people--as collateral security.

In the reign of Henry the Fifth considerable advance was made in the art
of ship-building, though from the pictures of the period it would seem
that the craft exhibited very little of the workman's cunning. One of
the ships of war of the fifteenth century, described in the Harleian
MS., has all the appearance of a raft constructed of a few planks, with
a sort of sentry-box at one end for the accommodation of the steersman.
In the larger vessels the entire crew will be found always crowding the
deck in a dense mass; for the rules against taking more than the number
were not enforced, and an ancient ship, like a modern carpet bag, was
never so full but something additional could be always crammed into it.

In this age commerce was so highly respectable that even kings carried
it on; and the highest ecclesiastics were in business for themselves as
tradesmen of the humblest character. Matthew Paris tells us of an abbot
of St. Alban's who did a good deal in the fish line, under the name of
William of Trumpington.

[Illustration: 352]

His chief transactions were in Yarmouth herrings, and the worthy abbot
undertook to put upon every breakfast table as good a bloater as money
could procure, at a very moderate figure. The benevolent dignitary had
come to the conclusion that the cure of herrings would pay him better
than the cure of souls, and he accordingly added the former lucrative
branch to the latter employment, with a pompous declaration that the two
might be considered analogous. This habit among the churchmen, of making
all fish that came to their net, was by no means popular and it was said
in a lampoon of the day, that the (chap. viii.) next thing to be done
would be the conversion of a prebendal stall into an oyster stall.

Among the other disreputable sources of revenue to which the
ecclesiastics devoted themselves we must not omit to mention smuggling,
which they carried on to an alarming extent in wool; for after going
wool-gathering in all directions, they padded themselves with it and
stuffed it under their gowns for the purpose of eluding the Customs'
regulations, to which the article was subjected.

Edward the Fourth was a true tradesman at heart, and, had he been a
general dealer instead of a king, he would have been quite in his proper
station. Nature had fitted him for the counter, though Fortune had
placed him on the throne; but even in his commercial transactions he
was guilty of acts that were quite unworthy of the high character of the
British tradesman. The butt of Malmsey in which he caused his brother to
be drowned was, it is believed, actually sold as a full fruity wine with
"plenty of body in it," after poor Clarence had been in soak till
death relieved him from his drenching. Edward the Fourth had also the
disagreeable habit of enriching himself by money which he borrowed from
the merchants, and never thought proper to return to them himself;
but if he paid them at all, he, by laying on taxes, took it out of the
people. It was also a fraudulent propensity of some of our early kings,
to depreciate the coin of the realm, and Edward the Third managed to
squeeze two hundred and seventy pennies, instead of two hundred and
forty, out of a pound, which enabled him to put the odd half-crown into
his own pocket. Henry the Fourth carried the sweating process still
further, by diluting a pound into thirty shillings, a trick he excused
by alleging the scarcity of money; though the expedient was as bad as
that of the housewife who, when the strength of the tea was gone, filled
up the pot with water for the purpose of making more of it. Edward the
Fourth, considering that his predecessors had not subjected the pound to
all the compound division of which it was capable, smashed it into four
hundred pennies, which was certainly proving that he could make a pound
go as far as anyone.

In speaking of the industry of the people, we may fairly allude to
what was regarded at the time as a great drag upon it in the shape of a
fearful increase of attorneys, who in 1455 had grown to such an extent
in Norfolk and Suffolk, that those places were literally swarming with
the black fraternity. In the city of Norwich the attorneys were so
plentiful that the evil began to correct itself, for they commenced
preying on each other, like the water-lion "Ya-ah! Macker--!"
water-tiger in the drop of stagnant fluid viewed through the solar
microscope. They were in the habit of attending markets and fairs where
they worked people up into bringing and defending actions against each
other, without the smallest legal ground for proceedings on either side.
A salutary statute cut down the exuberance of the attorneys by limiting
their numbers, and six were appointed as a necessary evil for Suffolk;
six as a standing nuisance in Norfolk; while two were apportioned under
the head of things that, as they "can't be cured must be endured," to
the city of Norwich. Such was the state of national industry up to the
period at which we have arrived in our history.



CHAPTER THE NINTH. OF THE MANNERS, CUSTOMS, AND CONDITION OF THE PEOPLE.


[Illustration: 353]

NOTWITHSTANDING that in a previous book we brought down the fashions and
furniture of our forefathers to the fourteenth century, in the present
chapter we shall have the pleasure of laying before our readers some
considerably later intelligence. We left our ancestors lying upon very
uncomfortable beds, but the year 1415 introduces us to some luxuries
in the way of curtains and counterpanes. The Duke of York set forth his
bedding in his will, which bears the date we have named, ana he seems to
have died worth some thousands of pounds--of superior goose feathers. At
a somewhat later period the sheet burst upon the page of history, and a
blank is supplied by the sudden appearance of the blanket.

It was about the same period that clocks with strings and weights began
to have a striking influence on the time, and Edward the Fourth used to
carry one about with him wherever he went, but we do not believe that
he wore it in a watchpocket, from which, instead of key and seals, there
hung a couple of weights and a pendulum.

Costume seems to have been curtailed of very little of its exuberant
absurdity in the reigns of Henry the Fourth and Fifth, though reform was
carried to extremes, for it cut off the surplus hair from the head, and
took away at least half a yard from the foot by relieving the shoes
of their long points, a fashion which had always been remarkable for
extreme pointlessness.

In the reign of Edward the Fourth there appears to have been a practice
prevalent of making a shift to go without a shirt, when those who had
such a thing to their backs were seized with a spirit of self-assertion,
and began to slash open their sleeves for the purpose of showing
their possession of that very useful article. The desire to prove the
plenteousness and perhaps also the _propreté_ of the under linen, led
to a further ripping up of other parts of the dress, and the fops of the
day began to outslash each other by opening the seams of their clothes
in the most unseemly fashion.

Richard the Third and his "cousin of Buckingham" were notorious for
their love of finery, and the term "buck," which is used at the present
day, is evidently an abbreviation of Buckingham, Richard, probably,
invented the Dicky or false front, which gave him the appearance of
having always a clean breast, though the fact is that he was reduced to
the expedient of wearing a false front, because the stains of guilt upon
his bosom were utterly indelible.

The appetite of the fifteenth century seems to have been uncommonly
good, for we find our ancestors eating four meals a day, beginning with
breakfast at seven, dinner at ten, supper at four, and a collation taken
in bed--oh, the cormorants!--between eight and nine in the evening.
The meal taken in bed may have consisted of a _blanquette de veau_,
or perhaps now and then a bolster pudding, while the ladies may have
indulged themselves with a _côtelette en papillotes_. Earl Percy and
his countess used to absorb between them a gallon of beer and a quart of
wine, and before being tucked up for the night would tuck in a loaf of
household bread, with other trifles to follow. A dinner in the days to
which we are reverting generally lasted three hours, but tumblers and
dancers were employed to amuse the feasters, so that a kind of caper
sauce was served out with every dish that came to table.

Nothing in the whole annals of ancient and modern gluttony can exceed
the dinner said to have been given by George Neville, the brother of
the King-maker, on his induction to the Archbishopric of York, in
the fifteenth century. It opened with a hundred and four oxen (_au
naturel_), six wild bulls (_a la ménagère_), three hundred and four
calves (_en surprise_), with innumerable _entrées_ of pigs, bucks,
stags, and roes, to an extent that is not only almost but quite
incredible.

The pictures of the period represent a very inconvenient mode of laying
the table, for we find a fish served up in a slop-basin, or rather laid
across the top of that article of china-ware, which was much too small
to admit the body of the animal. As far as we can discern the intention
of the artist, we fancy we recognise in one of his pictures of a feast a
duck lying on its back in a sort of sugar-basin or salt-cellar. This and
a kind of mustard-pot, with an empty plate and half of a dinner-roll,
may be said to constitute the entire provision made for a party of
seven, who are standing up huddled together on one side of the table, in
an existing representation of a dinner of the period.

The sports of the people were very numerous in the fifteenth century;
but if we may judge by the pictures we have seen of the games, there was
more labour than fun in the frolics of our forefathers. The contortions
into which they seem to have thrown themselves while playing at
bowls are quite painful to contemplate; and the well-known game of
quarter-staff consisted of a mutual battering of shins and skulls, with
a pole about six feet in length and some inches in circumference. Tennis
was introduced at this early date, and it is therefore erroneous to
assign its invention to Archbishop Tennison,--a report which has been
spread by some unprincipled person, whose career of crime commencing in
a pun has ended in a falsehood.

The professional fool was a highly respectable character in the middle
ages; and the court jester was a most influential personage, who was
allowed to criticise all the measures of the ministry. He was a sort of
supplementary premier; but, in later administrations--the present
always excepted--the office of fool has merged among the members of the
Government. It is a curious fact, that, judging from the portraits
which have been preserved, the fools seem to have been the most
sensible-looking persons of their own time; and the proverb, that "it
takes a wise man to make a fool," was, no doubt, continually
realised. The practical jokes of the jester were sometimes exceedingly
disagreeable, for they consisted chiefly of blows and buffets,
administered by a short wand, called a bauble, which he was in the habit
of carrying. It was all very well when the fool's sallies happened to be
taken in good part, but a witticism coming _mal-a-propos_, would often
prove no joke to the joker, who would get soundly thrashed' for his
impertinence. An ancient writer * describes the functions of a fool
to have consisted chiefly of "making mouths, dancing about the house,
leaping over the tables, outskipping men's heads, tripping up his
companions' heels," and indulging in other similar _facetio_, which,
though falling under the head of fun for the fool himself, might have
been death to the victims of his exuberant gaiety. His life must
have been one unbroken pantomime; though its last scene was seldom so
brilliant as those bowers of bliss and realms of delight in the island
of felicity, which owe their existence to the combined ingenuity of the
painter and the machinist.

     * Lodge, author of the _Wit's Miserie_, 4to, 1599.

The spirit of chivalry had already begun to decline, or rather chivalry
had lost its spirit altogether, for when it once became diluted it took
very little time to evaporate. The few real combats that were fought
referred chiefly to judicial proceedings, in which points of law were
decided by the points of lances. The combatants probably thought they
might as well bleed each other as allow themselves to be bled by the
hands of the lawyers. The tournaments had dwindled down into the most
contemptible exhibitions, for the spears used were entirely headless,
and an encounter generally ended in the clashing together of a couple
of blunted swords or the flourishing in the air of a brace of huge
choppers, so that as the antagonists kept turning about, they might be
said to revolve round each others' axes.

Before concluding our chapter on the manners and customs of the
people at the date to which our history has arrived we may notice some
regulations for apparel, by which it was ordered, not only that every
man should cut his coat according to his cloth, but should select his
cloth according to the means he had of buying it. Apparel was not the
only thing with which the law interfered, but some Acts were
passed, fixing the rate of meals to be allowed to servants, and thus
ameliorating their condition. Articles of dress were subjected to the
most stringent legislation, and tailors were of necessity guided by
Parliamentary measures; carters and ploughmen were limited by law to a
blanket, so that the lightness of the restrictions permitted a looseness
of attire, which was highly convenient. Persons not of noble rank were
prohibited from wearing garments of undue brevity; and it was only those
of the highest standing to whom the shortest dresses were permitted.

It was in the period to which the present chapter refers, that English
pauperism first became the subject of legislation; and it was an
acknowledged principle, that the land must provide the poor with food
and shelter, for civilization had not yet required the suppression of
destitution by starvation and imprisonment.

We have now brought down our account of the condition of the people,
from the highest to the lowest, from the king on his throne to the
pauper on his parish, from the royal robber in the palace to the sturdy
beggar in the public thoroughfare. We have seen how England was torn
to pieces by the thorns belonging to the Roses, and how, after fighting
about the difference between white and red, the union of both taught
those who had been particular to a shade, the folly of observing so
much nicety. Future chapters must develop the influence which this union
produced, and will show the effect of that junction between the damask
and the cabbage roses, which had only been brought about by dyeing them
in the blood of so many Englishmen.



BOOK V. FROM THE ACCESSION OF HENRY THE SEVENTH TO THE END OF THE REIGN
OF ELIZABETH.



CHAPTER THE FIRST. HENRY THE SEVENTH.

[Illustration: 347]

THOUGH Henry had got the crown upon his head, he did not feel quite
sure of being able to keep it there, for he knew there was nothing so
difficult to balance on the top of a human pole as a regal diadem.
He felt that what had been won by the sword must be sustained by that
dangerous weapon, though he was not insensible to the fact that edged
tools are frequently hurtful to the hand that uses them. He became
jealous of Edward Plan-tagenet, a boy of fifteen, the heir of the Duke
of York, and grandson of Warwick, the king-maker. This un-happy lad was
sent to the Tower, lest his superior right might prove mightier than the
might which Henry had displayed on the field of Bosworth.

The Princess Elizabeth, daughter of the Queen Dowager, who was known by
the humbler name of Mrs. E. Woodville, was let out of prison, to which
she had been consigned by Richard the Third, who kept her closely under
lock and key from the moment when he found it impossible to unite her to
him in wedlock.

Henry came up to London five days after the battle of Bosworth, and was
met at Hornsey by the Lord Mayor and Aldermen, all dressed in violet,
which caused the new king to exclaim, "Ha! gentlemen, you wish me to
take a hint. Your privileges shall be, like yourselves, in-violate!" He
then proceeded in a close chariot to St. Paul's, where he deposited his
three standards; and it has been suggested, that the celebrated Standard
at Cornhill was one of those alluded to. The festivities in London
were so numerous at the accession, that the city became crowded to
suffocation, and the "sweating sickness," which will be remembered as
Stanley's old complaint, broke out among the inhabitants.

[Illustration: 358]

When it had abated Henry began to think about his coronation, and
he took an early dinner at Lambeth with the Archbishop of
Canterbury--Thomas Bourchier--to talk the matter over. The king and the
prelate soon came to terms over their chop for the performance of the
ceremony, which took place on the 30th of October, 1485, in the usual
style of elegance. The good archbishop was an old and experienced hand:
for he had crowned Richard the Third only two years before, and indeed
the system of the prelate was, to ask no questions that he might hear no
falsehoods; but he was always ready to perform a coronation for anyone
who could find his own crown, and pay the fees that were usual.

A Parliament was now summoned, but when the Commons came together,
it turned out that several of them had been attainted and outlawed in
previous reigns without the attainders having been since reversed, and
Henry himself was in the same doubtful predicament. The opinion of the
judges was required in this disagreeable dilemma, but the intention in
consulting them was only to get these accommodating interpreters of the
law to twist it into a shape that would meet existing contingencies.
With the usual pliability of the judges of those days, the parties whose
opinion was asked gave it in favour of the strongest side, and Henry's
having got the crown was declared to have cured all deficiencies of
title. The Commons were obliged to have bills passed to reverse their
attainders, but the king, like one of those patent fire-places which
are advertised to consume their own smoke, was alleged to have cured the
defects of his own title by the bare fact of his having got possession
of the royal dignity.

Having settled all matters concerning his claim to the throne, he began
to think about his intended wife, Elizabeth. "I beg your pardon for
keeping you waiting," said he to Miss Woodville; "but, really I have
been detained by other engagements." The young lady, who had sometimes
feared that her case was one of breach of promise, was glad to disguise
her real annoyance, and saying that "It did not at all signify," she
prepared for the much retarded nuptials. They were solemnised on
the 18th of January, 1486, and they were no sooner over than Henry
exclaimed, "Now, Madam, recollect I have married you, but have not
married your family." This uncourteous speech had reference to old Mrs.
Woodville, who had already written to know what her new son-in-law
would do for her. "I will not have her in the house," roared Henry, with
savage earnestness; but he settled a small annuity upon her, which he
enabled himself to pay by pocketing the whole of her dower.

The queen became anxious for her coronation, as any woman might
reasonably be; but Henry put her off day after day, by exclaiming,
"Don't be in a hurry; there's time enough for that nonsense." In
this heartless manner he succeeded in adjourning the pageant for an
indefinite period.

Henry's new project was to get up his popularity by a tour in the
provinces. Happening to put up at Lincoln, he heard that Lord Lovel,
with Humphrey and Thomas Stafford "had gone with dangerous intentions no
man knew whither." They had much better have remained where they were;
for Lord Lovel, after collecting a large body of insurgents, found
himself quite unable to pay their wages, and at once disbanded them. He
flew into Flanders; but the two Staffords were taken in the very act of
concocting an insurrection, for which Humphrey, the elder, was hanged,
while Thomas, on account of his youth, was pardoned.

Henry arrived on the 26th of April, 1486, at York, where Richard the
Third, though killed on Bosworth Field, was still living in some of
the people's memories. The marking-ink, in which the tyrant's name was
written on their hearts, being by no means indelible, Henry determined
to sponge it out as quickly as possible. He tried soft soap upon some
and golden ointment upon others; both of which specifics had so much
effect that in less than a month the city rang with cries of "Long live
King Henry!"

On the 20th of September, the Court newsman of the day announced the
interesting fact that the happiness of the king's domestic circle had
been increased by the birth of a son; or, rather, the royal circle had
been turned into a triangle by the arrival of an infant heir, who was
named Arthur.

We must now request the reader to throw the luggage of his imagination
on board the boat, and accompany us to Ireland, where, on landing, we
will introduce him, ideally, to a priest and a boy who have just arrived
in Dublin. The priest describes his young charge as Edward Plantagenet,
Earl of Warwick, which will astonish us not a little, inasmuch as our
friend, the reader, will remember that we left the little fellow not
long ago a close prisoner in the Tower. How he got out is the question
which we first ask ourselves, which we answer by intimating, that he did
not get out at all, but he was only "a boy dressed up" to represent the
young earl, and he played his part so well that many believed his story
to be genuine. He had studied the character he represented, and had got
by heart all the adventures of the young prince, together with a fund
of anecdote that appeared quite inexhaustible. The juvenile impostor
scarcely spoke a sentence that did not begin with "When I was a prisoner
in the Tower," which made everyone believe that he had really been an
inmate of that gloomy jail; and the trick succeeded to a miracle.

The urchin was proclaimed as Edward the Sixth, King of England and
France and Lord of Ireland; for such was the credulity of the Hibernians
that they believed every word of the tale that had been told to them.

[Illustration: 360]

Henry, desirous of exposing the fraud, had the real Plantagenet taken
out of the Tower, for exhibition in the London streets; but the Irish
declared that the real thing was a mere imposition, and the mock duke
the genuine article. They, in fact, illustrated that instructive fable,
in which an actor, having been applauded for his imitation of a pig, was
succeeded by a rival who went the whole hog and concealed in the folds
of his dress a rear brute, whoso squeak was pronounced very far
less natural than that of the original representative of the porcine
character.

Henry becoming a little alarmed at these proceedings, began rushing into
the extremes of levity and severity; now pardoning a host of political
offenders, and the next day, packing off the Queen Dowager--marked
"Carriage paid, with care,"--to the monks at Bermondsey. Lambert Simnel,
for so the impostor was called, held out as long as he could, and even
got up, by subscription, one coronation during the season; but
upon Henry's taking measures to chastise him he soon shrunk into
insignificance. After a battle at Stoke, the pretender and his friend,
the priest, were taken into custody, when the latter was handed over
to the church for trial, and the former received a contemptuous pardon,
including the place of scullion, to wash up the dishes and run for the
beer in the royal household. He was at once placed in the kitchen, where
his perquisites, probably in the way of kitchen stuff, enabled him to
save a little money, and, in order to better himself, he subsequently
sought and obtained the office of superintendent of the poultry yard,
under the imposing title of the king's falconer. The priest, his tutor,
seems to have dropped down one of those gratings of the past which lead
to the common sewer of obscurity, in which it is quite impossible to
follow him. We hear of him last looking through the bars of a prison,
where he was left till called for, and, as nobody ever called, he never
seems to have emerged from his captivity.

The friends of the house of York now became clamorous at the treatment
of the Queen Elizabeth, who had been kept in obscurity, and had urged
"that little matter of the coronation" over and over again upon the
attention of her selfish husband. "How you bother!" he would sometimes
exclaim to his unhappy consort, whom he would endeavour to quiet by
the philosophical inquiry of "What are the odds, so long as you're
happy?"--a question which, as Elizabeth was not happy, she found some
difficulty in answering. At length, one morning at breakfast, he said
sulkily, "Well, I suppose I shall never have any peace till that affair
comes off;" and the necessary orders for the coronation of the queen
were immediately given. Henry himself behaved in a very ungentlemanly
manner during the entire ceremony, for he viewed it from behind a
screen, * which was afterwards brought into the hall, to enable him to
sit at his ease out of sight, and take occasional peeps at the dinner.
He had refused to honour the proceedings with his presence, having
declared the ceremony to be "slow," and alleged the impossibility of his
sitting it out after having once suffered the infliction.

It was at about this period of the reign of Henry the Seventh that the
court of Star Chamber was established; and though it, ultimately, **
"became odious by the tyrannical exercise of its powers," its intentions
were originally as honourable as the most scrupulous of its suitors
could have desired. It was founded in consequence of the inefficiency
of the ordinary tribunals to do complete justice in criminal matters and
other offences of an extraordinary and dangerous character, *** and to
supply a sort of criminal equity--if we may be allowed the term--which
should reach the offences of great men, whom the inferior judges and
juries of the ordinary tribunals might have been afraid to visit with
their merited punishment.

     * The old chroniclers affirm that he looked on "from behind
     a lattice." A modern authority has it that the king looked
     on at the dinner from behind a lettuce--spelt lattice--and
     had a magnificent salad before him during the proceedings.

     ** _Vide_ the valuable work on the Equitable Jurisdiction of
     the Court of Chancery» comprising its Rise, Progress, and
     Final Establishment. By George Spence, Esq., Q.C. Vol. i.,
     p. 350.

     *** Ditto, p. 351.

It has been suggested with some plausibility that the court of Star
Chamber derived its name from the decorations of the room in which
it was held, though it is, perhaps, a more ingenious supposition of
a modern authority that the word "Star" was applied to the court
in question because within its walls justice was administered in a
twinkling. It might, with as much reason, be suggested that the name had
reference to the constellation of legal talent of which the tribunal was
composed; for those stars of the first magnitude--the Lord Chancellor,
the Lord Treasurer, the Lord Privy Seal, and the President of the
Council, were all of them judges of the court.

We must not, however, detain the reader any longer in a dull court
of law, for we find ourselves served, in imagination, with a writ
of _Habeas Corpus_, commanding us to bring him up for the purpose of
inquiring by what right we hold him in the disagreeable duress of dry
legal detail.

In returning to Henry, we find him offering to act as mediator between
Charles of France and the Duke of Bretagne, when, like every meddler
in the disputes of others, he is unable to emerge from the position in
which he has placed himself without that nasal tweak which is the due
reward of impertinence. The taxes he was obliged to impose for the
purpose of interference, undertaken, as he alleged, to curb the ambition
of the French court, were very exorbitant, and particularly so on
account of Henry's avarice, which induced him to put about ten per
cent, of every levy into his own pocket. The people were, of course,
dissatisfied, and the harshness used in collecting the subsidy irritated
them so much in the north, that they took their change out of the
unfortunate Duke of Northumberland, whom they killed, because he had the
ill-luck to be employed in the invidious office of tax-gatherer.

In 1490 Parliament liberally granted some more money to carry on the war
with France, but Henry pocketed the cash, and sent some priests to try
and compromise the matter with the enemy. It was not until four years
afterwards, in the course of 1494, that he really went to work against
the French, but he contrived to make it pay him exceedingly well, for he
not only grabbed the subsidies voted for the purpose, but he converted
them into so much clear profit, by getting his knights and nobles to
bear their own expenses out of their own pockets. He kindly gave them
permission to sell their estates without the ordinary fines, and many a
gallant fellow sold himself completely up, in the hope of indemnifying
himself by what he should be able to take from the French in battle.

Henry had, however, completely humbugged his gallant knights and nobles,
for he never intended them to have the chance of gaining anything in
France by conquest, and had, in fact, settled the whole matter at a very
early period. He had made up his mind not to spend more than he could
help, and had been putting away the subsidies in a couple of huge
portmanteaus, which served him for coffers. Under the pretence of doing
something, he passed over with his army to France, and "sat down" before
Boulogne; but his sitting down proved that he had no intention of making
any stand, and a truce was very soon agreed upon. Two treaties were
drawn up, one of which was to be made public, for the purpose of
misleading the people, and the other was a private transaction between
the two sovereigns. The first only stipulated for peace, but the second
secured the sum of £149,000 to be paid by instalments to Henry, who must
have been under the necessity of ordering another coffer to receive the
additional wealth that was thus poured in upon him.

New troubles were, however, commencing to disturb the mind of the
king, who received one morning, at breakfast, a despatch announcing
the arrival, at the Cove of Cork, of another pretender to the Crown
of England. "There seems to be no end to these vagabonds," he mentally
exclaimed, as he read the document announcing that a handsome young
man had been giving himself out as Richard, Duke of York, second son of
Edward the Fourth, and legitimate heir to the monarchy. "Pooh, pooh!"
ejaculated Henry; "the fellow was disposed of in the Tower long ago."
But on perusing further, he found that the young man had met this
objection by alleging that he had escaped, and had been for seven years
a wanderer. It was exceedingly improbable that the royal youth had been
so long upon the tramp, but his story was not very rigidly criticised
by Henry's enemies. The wanderer introduced himself to the Duchess of
Burgundy, who, after some enquiry, pronounced him to be genuine, and
embraced him as the undoubted son of her dear brother Edward. She gave
him the poetical name of the White Rose of England, but Henry, knowing
that "the rose by any other name" would _not_ "smell as sweet" in the
nostrils of the English, gave out that the "White Rose" was a Jew boy of
the name of Peterkin or Perkin Warbeck. It was further alleged that the
lad had been recently a footman in the family of Lady Brompton, with
whom he had been travelling. Peterkin was materially damaged in public
opinion by getting the character of a mere "flunkey," and he was afraid
to do more than hover about the coast without venturing to effect a
landing. Though Henry had held the pretender up to ridicule, Perkin
Warbeck's opposition was in reality no joke, and the king bribed a few
of the party to betray their colleagues. Several were at once informed
against, among whom were the two Ratcliffes, who denied their guilt in
the usual Ratcliffe highway; but their repudiation had no effect, for
one of them was at once beheaded. Sir William Stanley, a very old
friend of the Richmond family, whose brother, Lord Stanley, had put
the battered crown on Henry's brow in the field of Bosworth, became an
object of suspicion; and thinking he should get off by a confession,
he acknowledged everything he had been guilty of, with a supplement
containing a catalogue of offences he had never committed. Thus, by
denying too much for confession and owning enough for condemnation, he
fell between two stools, one of which was the stool of repentance, and
lost his head at the moment he fancied he was upon a safe footing.

The party of Perkin Warbeck being discouraged by these events, and the
people of Flanders having grown tired of the pretender's long visit, he
felt that "now or never" was the time for his descent on England.
The White Rose having torn himself away by the force of sheer pluck,
attempted to transplant himself to the coast of Deal, but he found
a Kentish knight ready to repel the Rose, and by a cry of "Go it, my
tulips!" encouraging his followers to resist all oppression.

The White Bose and his companions mournfully took their leaves, and as
many as could escape returned with press of sail to Flanders. Henry sent
a vote of thanks to the men of Kent, with a promise of gold, but the
remittance never came to hand from that day to the present.

Mr. P. Warbeck was now becoming such a nuisance in Flanders, that he was
told he must really suit himself with another situation immediately. He
tried Ireland, but the dry announcement of "no such person known" was
almost the only answer to his overtures. As a last resource, and a proof
of the desperate nature of his fortune, he actually threw himself upon
the generosity of the Scotch, which was almost as hopeless as running
his head against a stone wall; but as it was just possible that Perkin
Warbeck might be turned to profitable account against England, the
Scotch opened their hearts--where there is never any admission except
on business--to the adventurous wanderer. James the Third, king of
Scotland, chiefly out of spite to Henry, not only received Perkin as
the genuine Duke of York, but married him to Lady Catherine Gordon, the
lovely and accomplished daughter of the Earl of Huntley, a relative of
the royal house of Stuart. An agreement was drawn up between James of
Scotland, of the one part, and Perkin Warbeck, of the other, by virtue
of which Perkin was to be pitchforked on to the English throne, and
was to make over the town of Berwick-on-Tweed--when he got it--as an
acknowledgment to King James for his valuable services. After some
little delay, the Scotch crossed the border to enforce Perkin's demand;
but when that individual arrived in England, he found himself so
thoroughly snubbed that he sneaked back again.

Notwithstanding the utter failure of this enterprise, which had cost
Henry not a penny to resist, he sent in a bill as long as his arm for
the equipment of his army. The people who had not been called upon to
strike a single blow, and always liked to have, what they called "their
whack for their money," were enraged at being asked to pay for a battle
that had never happened. The men of Cornwall were particularly angry at
having to give any of their tin, and came up to Blackheath, under Lord
Audley, whose inexperience was so great that he might have furnished
the original for the sign of the "Green Man," which so long remained the
distinguishing feature of the neighbourhood. The battle of Blackheath
was fought on the 22nd of June, 1497, with a good deal of superfluous
strength on one side, and consummate bad management on the other. On
the side of the insurgents, one Flammock or Flummock, an attorney, was
a principal leader, but he would gladly have taken out a summons to stay
proceedings, had such practice been allowable. It is probable that this
"gentleman one, &c." had been persuaded by some noble client who had
an interest in the fight to appear as his attorney in this memorable
action.

Henry having gained every advantage in his recent transactions was
desirous of completing his arrangements, by purchasing Warbeck, if
anyone could be found base enough to sell that unfortunate individual.
James of Scotland was too honourable for such a shameful bargain, though
he was greatly embarrassed in assisting Warbeck, for whom he had melted
down his plate--an act worthy of the most fiddle-headed spoon--besides
raising money on a gold chain he used to wear, and to which he was so
attached, that he compared it to

     "Linked sweetness long drawn out,"

as he drew it forth from his pocket to put it into the hands of the
pawnbroker.

It was now intimated to Perkin Warbeck that he "had better go," for his
presence had become exceedingly costly and embarrassing. "I've nothing
more for you, my good man," were the considerate words of James as he
despatched his guest to seek his fortune elsewhere, attended by a
few trusty retainers, who stuck to him "through thick and thin," an
attachment which, as he could hardly pay his own way, must have been
very embarrassing. His wife's fidelity to him in his ill-fortune was a
beautiful as well as a gratifying fact, for she had, really, seen
much better days, and the sacrifices she made in sharing the fate of a
Pretender "out of luck" was quite undeniable.

Perkin Warbeck made first for Cork in the hope of raising the Irish, but
as he could not raise the Spanish, the former would have nothing to
do with him. He next tried Cornwall, and marching inland he soon found
himself at the head of a party of discontented ragamuffins, who happened
to be ready for a row, without any ulterior views of a very definite
character. He called himself Richard the Fourth, and penetrated into
England as far as Taunton Dean, where Henry's forces had already
collected.

[Illustration: 365]

Warbeck was admirable in all his preliminary arrangements, and it was
"quite a picture" to see him reviewing his troops; but picture as he
was, the idea of fighting put him into such a fright, that he always
lost his colour. He was first-rate on parade, but quite unequal to the
business of a battle, and, indeed, to use an illustration founded on
a fact of our own times, he would have been invaluable in the Astley's
version of Waterloo, though utterly contemptible in the original
performance of that tremendous action.

No sooner had Perkin Warbeck ascertained the propinquity of the enemy
than he recommended that his forces should all go to bed in good time to
be fresh for action early in the morning. Having first ascertained that
all were asleep, he stole off to the stable, saddled his horse, and
having mounted the poor brute, stuck spurs into its side until
he reached the sanctuary of Beaulieu in the New Forest. When this
disgraceful desertion of their leader was discovered the rebels set up
a piteous howl and threw themselves on the mercy of Henry, who ordered
some to hang, and sent others to starve, by dismissing them without food
or clothing. Lady Catherine Gordon, alias Mrs. P. Warbeck, who had been
sojourning for safety at St. Michael's Mount in Cornwall, was brought
before the king, who, touched by her beauty and her tears, experienced
in his heart that truly English sentiment which declares, that "the man
who would basely injure a lovely woman in distress, is unworthy of the
name of a--a--British officer." He therefore sent her on a visit to the
queen, who paid every attention to the fallen heroine.

[Illustration: 366]

The next thing to be done was to rout Perkin Warbeck out of the hole
into which cowardice had driven him. Henry was unwilling to disturb the
sanctuary, but he sent his agents to parley with Perkin, who, finding
himself regularly hemmed in, thought it better to come out on the best
terms he could, and he accordingly emerged on the promise of a pardon.
Henry was anxious to get a peep at the individual who had caused so much
trouble, but thought it _infra dig._ to admit the rebel into the royal
presence. The king, therefore, reverted to his old practice of getting
behind a screen, an article he must have carried about with him wherever
he went, that he might, unseen, indulge his curiosity. This paltry
practice should have obtained for him the name of Peeping Harry, for
we find him, at more than one period of his reign, skulking behind
a screen, in the most ignoble manner. Perkin was made to ride up to
London, behind Henry, at a little distance, and on getting to town he
was sent on horseback through Cheapside and Cornhill, as a show for the
citizens. There were the usual demonstrations of popular criticism on
this occasion, and there is no doubt that amid the gibes and scoffs
addressed to the captive the significant interrogatory of "Who ran away
from Taunton Dean?" was not forgotten.

After taking a turn to the Tower and back for the accommodation of the
inhabitants at the East End, who desired to be gratified with a sight of
the Pretender, Perkin was lodged in the palace at Westminster, where a
good deal of liberty seems to have been allowed him. He however chose to
run away, and being caught again, he was made to stand in the stocks a
whole day before the door of Westminster Hall, where he was made to read
a written confession, which was interrupted by an occasional egg in
his eye, or cabbage leaf over his mouth, for such are the voluntary
contributions which a British public has always been ready to offer to
helpless impotence.

[Illustration: 368]

The next day the same ceremony with the same accessories was repeated at
Cheapside, in order to give the East End an opportunity of enjoying the
sport which the West End had already revelled in. Perkin Warbeck was
then committed to the Tower, where he and the unfortunate Earl of
Warwick became what may be termed fast friends, for they were bound
tightly together in the same prison. Warbeck, who was in every sense
of the word an accomplished swindler, succeeded in winning the good
opinion, not only of his fellow captive but of the keepers of the jail,
three of whom, it is said, had actually undertaken to murder Sir John
Digby, the governor, for the sake of getting hold of the keys, and
releasing the two captives. It was now evident that Warbeck would never
be quiet, and Henry, feeling him to be a troublesome fellow, determined
to get rid of him. On the 16th of November, 1499, Warbeck was arraigned
at Westminster Hall, and being found guilty as a matter of course, was
executed on the 23rd of the same month at Tyburn, where, cowardly to the
last, he asked the forgiveness of the king, even on the scaffold.

Walpole, in his "Historic Doubts"--a work that throws everything into
uncertainty and settles nothing--gives it as his opinion that Perkin
Warbeck was really the Duke of York; but had Walpole been able to tell
"a sheep's head from a carrot," he would never have been guilty of
such a piece of confounding and confounded blundering. We who give no
encouragement whatever to Historic Doubts are tolerably sure that Perkin
Warbeck was merely a fashionable swindler, for he had none of that
personal courage or true dignity which would have redeemed his imposture
from the character of mere quackery. He contrived to ruin poor Warwick,
or at all events to hasten his destruction by implicating him in a
conspiracy, which of his own accord he never would have dreamed of.

When put upon his trial, the hapless earl--who, though only twenty-nine
years of age, was from long seclusion in a state of second childhood,
if indeed he had ever got out of his first--confessed with piteous
simplicity all that had been alleged against him. He was beheaded on
Tower Hill the 24th * of November, 1499; and it was said that his death
was the most merciful that could be conceived, for in losing his head
he was deprived of that which he never knew how to use, and of the
possession of which he did not at any time seem sensible. Warbeck's
widow continued to go by the name of the White Rose, when Sir Mathew
Cradoc, thinking it a pity that she should be "left blooming alone,"
offered to graft her on his family tree, and the White Rose consented to
this arrangement.

     * Hume says the 21st. Another authority says the 28th. It is
     not with a mere wish to "split the difference" that we adopt
     the medium date of the 24th, but we have good reasons for
     stating that to be the exact day, and Mr. Charles
     Macfarlane, in his admirable "Cabinet History of England"
     has likewise named the 24th of November as the precise time
     of Warwick's execution.

Henry had long been anxious to marry his daughter Margaret to James of
Scotland, and he sent a cunning bishop, most appropriately named Fox,
to act the part of a match-maker. The sly old dog brought the matter so
cleverly about that the marriage was agreed upon, and this union led to
the peaceful union of the two countries about a century afterwards.
The young lady got but a small portion from her stingy father, and her
husband made a settlement upon her of £2000 a year, but he got her to
accept a paltry compromise. The meanness of the arrangements may be
judged of by the ridiculous fact that King James and his young bride
rode into Edinburgh on the same palfrey.

Henry's eldest son, Arthur Prince of Wales, had been already married
to Catherine, fourth daughter of Ferdinand of Spain, who promised
two hundred thousand crowns, half of which he paid down, as a wedding
portion. The young husband died soon after, and Ferdinand naturally
asked for his money and his child back again. The English king had
pocketed the greater part of the cash, which he was not only quite
unwilling to refund, but he had serious thoughts of proceeding for
the balance of his daughter-in-law's dowry. He therefore consented
to affiance her to his second son, Henry, in compliance with the only
condition upon which Ferdinand agreed to waive his claim to the cash
already in hand, and he even promised to pay the rest of the portion at
his "earliest convenience."

Henry himself, or as we may call him for the sake of distinction, the
"old gentleman," had lately lost his wife, and he went at once into the
matrimonial market to see whether there was anything upon which it might
be safe to speculate. He however wanted to conduct his operations with
such extraordinary profit to himself that nothing seemed to tempt his
avarice. His ruling passion was for "cash down," and to obtain this
he fleeced his subjects most unmercifully, though he employed the
disreputable firm of Empson and Dudley to collect the amount of the
various extortions he was continually practising. These two men were
little better than swindlers, though as lawyers they adhered to the
rules of law, and indeed they kept a rabble always in the house to sit
as jurymen. They had trials in their own office, and would often ring
the bell to order up a jury from downstairs, just as anyone in the
present day would order up his dinner. Dudley got the name of the Leech,
from his power of drawing, and indeed he would have got the blood out of
a blood-stone if the opportunity had been afforded him. *

     * Empson has been described by Hume as a man of "mean birth
     and brutal temper," who of course, did all the bullying of
     this disreputable firm, while Dudley, who was "better born,
     better educated, and better bred," acted in the capacity of
     what may be termed the decoy duck of the concern; or, in
     other words, the latter snared the game which the former
     savagely butchered.

Henry had now but one formidable enemy left, in the person of young
Edmund de la Pole, the nephew of Edward the Fourth, and son and heir to
the Duke of Suffolk. This turbulent individual renewed the cry in favour
of the "White Rose," which was said by a wag of the day to be raised on
a pole, after the fashion of the frozen-out gardeners.

Suffolk soon had the mortification of finding that he had not the
suffrages of the people, for the rush to the Pole was anything but
encouraging. "Ye Pole theyreforre," says Comines, "dydde cutte his sty
eke," and became a penniless fugitive in Flanders. He was ultimately
surrendered by Philip, the archduke, who had received Suffolk as a
visitor, but gave him up with a lot of sundries he was transferring to
Henry, who promised to spare the prisoner's life, and did so, though he
left word in his will that his successor had better kill the earl, as he
would otherwise prove troublesome.

In the course of the year 1509, Henry's health became very indifferent,
and he had repeated attacks of the gout, every one of which put him in
ill-humour with himself in particular, and the world in general. Every
fresh twinge was paid with interest upon one or more of his unfortunate
subjects; and when he got very bad he would be most indiscriminate in
his cruelty. He fixed upon a poor old alderman named Harris, who died of
sheer vexation at his ill-treatment before his indictment came on; and
at this remote period we hope we shall not be accused of injuring the
feelings of any of the posterity of poor Harris by saying, that he was
literally harassed to death through the unkindness of his sovereign.
During his illness Henry would do justice occasionally between man and
man, but a favourable turn in his malady, a quiet night, or a refreshing
nap, would bury all his good resolutions in oblivion. At length on the
night of the 21st of April, 1509, he died at Richmond, leaving behind
him a will in which he bequeathed to his son and heir the delightful
task of repairing all his father's errors.

However easy it may be for an executor to pay the pecuniary debts of a
testator with plenty of assets in hand, the moral responsibilities which
have been left unsatisfied, are not so soon provided for. It is true
that a good son frequently makes atonement to society for the mischief
done by a bad parent; but this, though it strikes a sort of balance with
the world, does not prevent the father from being still held accountable
for his deficiencies.

Henry died in the fifty-third year of his age, and had he lived a day
longer, he would have reigned twenty-three years and eight months, or as
Cocker has it, in the simplicity of his heart, "had he been alive in
the year 1700, he would have reigned upwards of two centuries." Our
business, however, is not with what he might have done, but what he
actually did, and we therefore record the fact, that he died on the 21st
of April, 1509, and was buried in the magnificent chapel of Westminster
Abbey, which he built, and which is called after him to this very day
and hour that we now write upon. *

     * A quarter to one, A.M., April 13th, 1847.

It is often the most painful part of our labours to give characters of
some of the sovereigns who pass under our review in the course of
this history. To those who have only known Henry the Seventh as the
chivalrous and high-minded prince that fought so gallantly with Richard
the Third on the field of Bosworth, it will be distressing to hear that
the Richmond of their dramatic recollections is nothing like a true
portrait of the actual character. At all events, if he had virtues
in his youth they were not made to wear, they became sufficiently
threadbare to be seen be seen through.

Even his ambition seems to have been little more than a medium he had
adopted for gratifying his avarice, and it is now pretty clear that he
rather wanted the crown for what it was worth in a pecuniary point of
view, than for the honourable gratification which power when rightly
used is capable of conferring on its possessor. Hume tells us that
"Henry loved peace without fearing war," which is true enough; for
war afforded him a pretext for raising money, while peace, which he
generally managed to arrange, gave him an opportunity of pocketing the
cash he had collected. War, therefore, was never formidable to him, for
he usually manoeuvred to keep out of it; but he made the rumour of it
serve as an excuse for taxing his people. He was decidedly clever as
a practical man, though exceedingly unprincipled, but several salutary
laws were passed in his reign; one of the best of which was an act
allowing the poor to sue _in forma pauperis_. Considering how often the
law reduces its suitors to poverty, it is only fair that those who are
brought to such a condition should still be allowed to go on, for it
is like ruining a man and then turning him out of doors to say that the
courts shall be closed against such as are penniless.

Another important and useful measure of Henry's reign was that by which
the nobility and gentry could alienate their estates, or cut mouth
an occupant of the throne of England off the tail, which limited
everything to the head of a family. This apparently liberal act was
passed for the benefit of the king himself, who wished his nobles to be
able to sell everything they had got for the sake of paying the expenses
of the wars, which otherwise must have been prosecuted partly out of
Henry's own pocket. He owed more to fortune than to his own merit, and
even the conspiracies that were got up against him from time to time
helped to sustain him in his high position, as the shuttlecock is kept
in a state of elevation by constant blows from the battledore.



CHAPTER THE SECOND. HENRY THE EIGHTH.


[Illustration: 372]

HENRY the EIGHTH, only surviving son and successor of Henry the Seventh,
took to his father's crown and sceptre on the 22nd of April, 1509,
amid general rejoicing, for he was an exceedingly gentlemanly youth of
eighteen when he came to the throne, of which his parent had recently
been but a bearish occupant. If young Harry had never lived to play old
Harry, his popularity might have survived him, for the people had become
disgusted with the conduct of his father, and there never was a finer
chance for a young man than that which offered itself to the new
sovereign.

Nothing could exceed the grossness of the adulation which was poured out
upon him at his accession, and the perfection of the art of puffing in
England may, perhaps, be ascribed to this period of our history. His
countenance was likened to that of Apollo--a falsehood for which, in his
features, no apology can be found; his chest was declared to be that
of Mars, though it was evidently his pa's, for in early youth his
resemblance to his father was remarkable. Clemency was declared to be
seated on his ample forehead, equity was pronounced to be balancing
itself on the bridge of his nose, intelligence was recognised lurking
in ambush among his bushy hair; and even Erasmus attributes to him the
acuteness of the needle, with other intellectual qualities of an exalted
character. *

     * We are indebted to Mr. Tytler, who is generally correct to
     a tittle, for these interesting particulars.--See his "Life
     of Henry the Eighth," p. 16 of the 2nd edition.

It is sad to reflect that the philosopher, when he takes the paintbrush
in hand to dash off the portrait of a king, is apt to become a mere
parasite, and will not abstain from staining his own character by
daubing with false colours the canvas of history. Thus, even Erasmus
used hues his friends would be glad to erase, and has covered over the
black spots in Henry's character with that pink of perfection which
makes _couleur de rose_ of everything. It is not to be wondered at, that
in setting out upon the voyage of government, Henry received "one turn
a-head"--if we may be allowed a nautical expression--while the engines
of flattery were at work on all sides of him. It is to be regretted, for
the sake of himself as well as for the good of his subjects, that truth
was not at hand to give him that friendly "shove astern" which has saved
many from precipitating themselves on the rocks that always lie in the
course of greatness and power.

As if determined to begin as he intended to go on, Henry looked out at
once for a wife, and, considering how often he was destined to undergo
the marriage ceremony in the course of his reign, it was as well that he
should lose no time in commencing the career that lay before him. In
his first matrimonial adventure he appears to have let others choose for
him, instead of making a selection for himself, and Catherine of Aragon,
the widow of his elder brother Arthur, was pointed out to him as an
eligible _parti_ for nuptial purposes.

This marriage was strongly recommended by the political faculty as a
saving of expense, for the lady would have been entitled to a large
pension as widow of Prince Arthur, and her friends in Spain, had she
been returned upon their hands, would have wanted to know something
about the 150,000 crowns she had received as a marriage portion. Of
course, the whole of it was gone, and it was thought that Henry would
be killing a whole covey of birds with one stone if he would consent to
take her as his wife, inasmuch as he would thus extinguish her claims to
a pension, and prevent any awkward questions being asked in Spain as to
the portion she had brought with her to England. Henry, feeling a sort
of intuitive consciousness that he should have plenty of opportunities
to select a wife for himself, agreed to take, as a beginning, the one
that had been chosen for him by others, and accordingly, on the 3rd of
June, 1509, the lady, who was eight years older than himself, became his
wife, at Greenwich. The royal couple were not destined to roll down the
hill together in after life, whatever they may have done on the day of
their union, which was doubtless marked by all those sports of which the
locality was susceptible. Catherine, though a little _passée_,
looked exceedingly well, for, in order to render her appearance more
attractive, she was dressed in white, and "all Greenwich," says Lord
Herbert, "did not, on that day, contain a daintier dish of whitebait
than the Lady of Aragon." The royal pair were crowned on the 24th
of June, 1509, being exactly three weeks after marriage, up to which
period, at least, there was no indication of that Bluebeardism which
subsequently broke out with so much fury in the royal character.

Henry had on his accession thrown himself into the arms of his
grandmother, the old Countess of Richmond, upon whose advice he acted in
the selection of his ministers. The old lady died in the same month in
which her grandson was married and crowned, at the respectable age of
sixty-eight; and it is a curious fact that she had been married three
times, so that in his multiplicity of wives, Henry the Eighth may
be said to have simply improved upon the example set him by his
grandmother. *

     * Her friend and counsellor, Jack Fisher, Bishop of
     Rochester, says of her, that "a reddy witte she had to
     conceive all thyngs, albeit they were ryghte derke."


[Illustration: 374]

The first political act of Henry the Eighth's reign, was to lay
the heads of Empson and Dudley upon the scaffold. These rapacious
extortioners had been the tools of his father's avarice, but had
contrived to feather their own nests tolerably well; and Henry kept them
in prison for the purpose of getting out of them the wealth they had
acquired by their rapacity. He detained them in the Tower a whole year
before he beheaded them, and continued to squeeze out of them everything
they possessed, for he was one of those who never threw an orange away
without thoroughly sucking it. Having drained it at length completely
dry by about the 17th of August, 1510, he, on that day--to pursue the
allegory of the orange--declined allowing them any quarter, but sent
them to Tower Hill, where execution was done upon both of them.

Henry finding everything going smoothly in England, fell into the common
error of those who having every comfort at home must needs look abroad
for the elements of discord. He entered into a league against Louis
the Twelfth of France, in favour of Pope Julius the Second and his
father-in-law, Ferdinand of Aragon; but the latter kept helping himself
to large slices of territory, and made use of his allies for the purpose
of furthering his own interests. Henry's troops were therefore compelled
to play an ignoble part, being cooped up in a French town, while the
other soldiers overran Navarre, and appropriated everything they could
lay their hands upon. Amazed at their moderate success upon land they
attempted to retrieve themselves by a sea-fight, but the ruler was not
then found by which Britannia subsequently learned to rule the waves,
and the French fleet escaping into Brest, found shelter in their
country's bosom.

In 1513, Henry being anxious to obtain ascendency over the seas,
appointed Sir Edward Howard, one of the sons of the Earl of Surrey,
to accomplish the grand object. Howard was so exceedingly confident of
success that he sent a private note requesting the king to come and
see how beautifully he (Howard) would "spifflicate"--for such was the
word--the presumptuous enemy. Henry by no means relished the invitation,
and replied to it by desiring Howard to "mind his own business" as
admiral. This nettled the naval commander, who, during the engagement,
jumped into one of the enemy's ships, and could not jump back again;
while Sir John Wallop, upon whom he had relied, exhibited little of
that usefulness which his name seems to indicate. Poor Howard was,
accordingly, killed; and Henry, flattered by his parasites, came to the
resolution that no good would be done till he himself set out for France
at the head of an army.

In a few days he arrived off Boulogne, where he instructed the artillery
to make as much noise as they could with their guns, in order that he
might intimidate the foe, and encourage himself by the roaring of his
own cannon. His object was undoubtedly to insinuate to the enemy, "We
are coming in tremendous force, and so you had better keep out of the
way for fear of accidents."

Henry, who had various other great guns on board besides his artillery,
was accompanied by Thomas Wolsey, his almoner, lately risen into favour,
together with the celebrated Bishop Fox, and a number of courtiers. He
passed his time very pleasantly at Calais for about three months, when
he heard that the celebrated Bayard--the _chevalier sans peur et sans
reproche_--was moving forward. The English king bounded on to his horse
with the elasticity of indiarubber, and advanced at the head of fifteen
thousand men--Bishop Fox, with characteristic cunning, keeping in the
rear, and Wolsey following the Fox at a prudent distance.

Twelve hundred French approached under the cover of a regular English
fog, which with a most anti-national spirit favoured the enemies of the
country to which it owed its origin. Bayard would have commenced
an attack, but he was overruled by some of his companions; and Henry,
thinking the foe afraid to "come on," sat himself down in a pavilion
made of silk damask, foolishly believing that the art of the upholsterer
could uphold the dignity of a sovereign.

[Illustration: 376]

Thus he sat, like the proprietor of a gingerbread stall at a fair, until
a terrific shower came on, and the silk streamers were streaming with
wet, and the satin chairs could no longer be sat-in with comfort or
convenience. The tent was turned literally inside out by the wind, like
an umbrella in a storm, and Henry was glad to exchange his gaudy booth
for a substantial wooden caravan, that was speedily knocked together
for his reception. Though the two armies did not fight they commenced
operations by mining and countermining, but instead of making
receptacles for gunpowder, they were only making gutters for the
rain, which took advantage of every opening. The Count of Angoulême
(afterwards Francis the First) now arrived at headquarters, and scoured
the country, which he was the better able to do from the quantity of
water which had fallen on many parts of it.

Henry now received a visit from the Emperor Maximilian, and the English
king made the most magnificent preparations for the interview;
he equipped himself and some of his nobles in gold and silver
tissue--though it was said the latter wore a tissue of falsehoods, for
their finery was all sham--and he borrowed every bit of jewellery in his
camp for his own personal bedizenment. He had a garniture of garnets
in his hat, and even his watch, a tremendous turnip, had a diamond,
weighing several carats, on its face, while a magnificent ruby matched
with the rubicundity of his forehead, over which the gem was gracefully
disposed. The nobles were sprinkled all over with paste, and looked
effective enough at the price which Henry had given for their
embellishment. Maximilian, who was in mourning, presented a dismal
contrast to all this finery, for he wore nothing but a suit of serge,
which, however, turned out for more serviceable than the fancy costume
of Henry and his courtiers. The rain came on so furiously that unless
the silks were washing silks they must have been fearfully damaged
by the wet, while the running of the hues one into the other, caused
Henry's party to come off with--in one sense--flying colours. It was
at length determined to make an attack upon the French, and the Emperor
Maximilian having got his old serge doublet trimmed up with a red cross,
and pinned an artificial flower in his hat, directed the operations
of the English. The French cavalry began pretty well; but whether
Maximilian looked so great a guy as to terrify the horses, or through
any other cause, it is certain that a panic ran through the ranks,
and they commenced a retreat at full gallop, using their spurs with
tremendous vehemence.

One of the fugitives, a venerable marshal, broke his baton in beating
a retreat over the back of his charger; and Bayard, who had refused to
run, seeing the baton of his comrade broken, exclaimed, "Ha! he has cut
his stick!" which afterwards became a by-word to describe the act of a
fugitive. The illustrious _chevalier sans peur et sans reproche_ became
a prisoner, but thoroughly enjoyed the joke of his countrymen having run
away, and laughingly called it the battle of the spurs, from the energy
with which they had plunged their rowels into the flanks of their
chargers.

A meeting between Bayard, Maximilian, and Henry, has been described very
graphically in the _Histoire de Bon Chevalier_; * and it appears
from this authority that the two latter bantered their prisoner in a
somewhat uncourteous manner. Bayard contended that he had become captive
by a voluntary surrender; upon which the emperor and the king burst
out into a fit of rude laughter, as if they would have said, "That's a
capital joke;" but Bayard protested that he might have got away had he
chosen to run for it. They only replied to him by saying "Well, well,
my fine fellow, we've got you, and it matters little whether you
took yourself into custody or now else you came here; but here you
unquestionably are, and there's an end of the discussion."

     * Vol. ii., p. 80.

After taking Tournay, where he held a number of tournaments, and which
was actually sacrificed by the inhabitants for the sake of a bad pun
*--worse even than the accidental one in the text--Henry returned to
England, and arrived on the 24th of October, 1513, at Richmond.

Thus ended the expedition to France; but important events had been
happening at home, for the Earl of Surrey had been chevying the Scotch
over the Cheviot Hills, and at last fought them at Flodden, where James
the Fourth unfortunately fell; and the English queen, making a parcel of
his coat, hat, and gloves, sent them to Henry as a proof of the dressing
the Scotch had experienced.

It had been intended to resume the war with France, but Louis the
Twelfth suggested a compromise, by which he married Mary, the sister
of the English king, and Mary thus had the honour of mollifying the
asperity of the feelings that the two monarchs had hitherto indulged.

We have already mentioned the name of Wolsey, who accompanied Henry
abroad in the capacity of almoner; and it is now time that we give some
particulars of a person who played one of the most important parts in
the drama of history.

Thomas Wolsey was born at Ipswich, in March, 1471, of humble parents;
but the popular story of his father having been a butcher is probably
a fable, to which the fact of his having had a stake in the country has
perhaps given some likelihood. It is doubtful whether he was brought up
to the block, though he might have been obliged to give his head to
it at a later period of his life, when he incurred his master's
displeasure. It has been said that Wolsey senior could not have been
a butcher, because he left money to his son by will; but business must
have been bad indeed if he could not bequeath a couple of legacies of
thirteen-and-fourpence each, with one of six-and-sevenpence, and
another of eleven shillings, in addition to a sura of ten marks, which
constitute altogether the entire amount of cash that was actually
disposed of by the old gentleman to his wife, his son, and his
executors, ** If the elder Wolsey was really a butcher, it is certain
that he had not a sharper blade in his establishment than his son Tom,
who was sent early to school, and having proceeded to the University of
Oxford, got on so well as to acquire the name of the Boy Bachelor. He
soon became a fellow, and was one of the cleverest young fellows in the
college, where he was intrusted to educate the three sons of the Duke
of Dorset. In this capacity, by the application of a great deal of
flattery--or, as some would have termed it, Dorset Butter--while at
home with the young gentlemen for the Christmas holidays, he got the
patronage of their noble father, who presented him with the rectory of
Lymington. Here he is said to have disgraced himself by getting into
a row at a fair, but we can scarcely believe that the clergyman of the
parish would have forgotten himself so far as to give his love of gaiety
full swing, and allow him to carry absurdity to the height which such a
proceeding seems to indicate. He could not have very far compromised his
character, or he would not have been employed by Henry the Seventh, on
delicate and important missions which a parson fresh from "the fun
of the fair" would never have been allowed to execute. Some of his
detractors have broadly asserted that Wolsey was inebriated, and fled
in shame from his cure, but we really believe that he was never at
any period of his life intoxicated with anything but ambition, which
undoubtedly is quicker in turning the head than the strongest juice that
ever dropped from the ripest juniper. Fox, the Bishop of Winchester,
strongly recommended Wolsey to Henry the Eighth, who, already knowing
something of the young man, made him King's Almoner; and on taking
Tournay, in France, hesitated whether he should burn it down, or make
Wolsey its bishop. The latter of the two evils fell upon the town, which
was placed under the ambitious churchman's ecclesiastical cognizance.
He rose rapidly to the sees of Lincoln and York, became Lord High
Chancellor of England, and, on the 7th of September, 1515, received his
crowning honour, in the hat of a cardinal.

     * The pun alluded to was couched in these words, which were
     used by the Citizens:--"_Que Tournay n'avoit jamais tourné
     ni encore ne tournerait_."

     **  His will was published by Dr. Fiddes, from the Registry,
     at Norwich.

We must now put Wolsey by for a little bit, though we shall have to
bring him out again and again, for we must not keep others waiting by
lingering too long in the accomplished churchman's company. We left the
Princess Mary just married to Louis the Twelfth, though her heart had
long been given to Charles Brandon, Viscount Lisle, who retained the
principal of her affections, though the French king got for a time the
interest. He however enjoyed it for only two months when he died, and
Brandon, the remainder-man, became the tenant in possession, by marrying
Mary after three months' widowhood. Henry was at first very angry with
the match, but the young couple rushing into his presence like two
repentant lovers in a farce, and Wolsey interceding with all the air of
the "smart servant," the king was persuaded to give that cheapest of all
donations--his blessing.

[Illustration; 380]

Brandon's good sense and modesty went some way in reconciling Henry,
for Viscount Lisle never presumed upon his connection with the family of
royalty. He did not talk continually of "My brother-in-law the king," as
he might have done; but he took the following motto, in which there is
a strong indication of his "knowing his place," and being determined on
keeping it.

    Cloth of gold do not despise,
    Though thou be match'd with cloth of frize;
    Cloth of frize be not too bold,
    Though thou be match'd with cloth of gold. *

          * "Granger's Biog. Hist.," vol. iv. p. 82.

Francis the First had succeeded to the French throne and the Archduke
Charles of Austria had come in for the whole of the Spanish monarchy
by the death of his maternal grandfather, Ferdinand of Aragon. He was
a maternal grandfather in a double sense, for he had grown very old
womanish, and the adjective maternal was by no means inappropriate.
Francis and Charles became competitors for the empire just vacant by the
death of Maximilian, and the countenance of Henry was eagerly sought by
both of the disputants. Henry had formerly hoped to have been himself a
successful candidate, but finding he had no chance, he wrote to Charles,
saying he "wished he might get it," which were the genuine sentiments
no doubt of the English sovereign. The election fell upon Charles,
and Francis affected to take the consequence as if it had been of no
consequence at all, though it was clearly otherwise.

The election for the rank and dignity of Emperor was one of the most
disgracefully corrupt proceedings that was ever witnessed, even in the
palmiest days of the boroughmongering system in England, some centuries
afterwards. The candidates were Francis the First of France, Charles
the Fifth, king of Castile, Henry the Eighth of England, and the Elector
Frederic of Saxony. The bribery was on a scale of vastness never
before heard of, and it is said that Charles scattered his--or
his people's--money among the independent electors with frightful
prodigality. The electors of Cologne, which was not then in such good
odour as might have been expected from the pleasant purity of its _Eau_,
pocketed no less than 200,000 crowns; but the mother of Francis the
First declared, that "the electors, among them all, had not received
from the king, her son, more than 100,000 crowns," * so that the loss
of his election is very easily accounted for. Francis, nevertheless,
imagined he had secured five electors out of the seven; but those
worthies, who were dishonestly receiving bribes from both parties at
once, eventually gave to Charles, who paid them best, the benefit of
their suffrages. Poor Saxony, expecting in a contest with such powerful
opponents that he might get "double milled," resigned in favour of
Charles; and Henry, whose committee had been sitting to conduct his
election, until it was clear there would be nothing to conduct, threw
his influence into the same scale.

     * Ellis's Letters, vol. i. p. 155.

On the 28th of June, 1519, the polling commenced, and each elector as
he came up to give his vote was, no doubt, received with the shouts and
salutations that are usual on all similar occasions. When the Elector
of Cologne appeared to plump for Charles, after having quite as
plumply promised his support to Francis, the jeers of the populace were
tremendous, and an egg was even thrown for the purpose of egging on
the crowd to acts of violence. The unprincipled elector looked
contemptuously on the oval missile, as if he would have said that he
did not care about submitting to the yolk, after the extensive "shelling
out" that had already taken place for his benefit.

The countenance of Henry was still the object of both their wishes, and
Francis asked the English king for an interview, which was arranged to
take place in France in the ensuing summer. Upon the appointment having
been made, Charles ran over to England, to be the first to get Henry's
ear, and seeing Wolsey's influence, did his utmost to win over that wary
individual. The latter secretly aspired to the papal chair, and it
may perhaps be said that his origin is proved to have been that of a
butcher's son, because he began to look at everything with a pope's eye,
and hoped to eat his mutton in the Vatican. Such frivolous reasoning
is so unworthy the dignity of history, that we reject it at once, and
confine ourselves to the simple fact, that the triple crown of Rome was
always running in or about the head of the ambitious churchman.

[Illustration: frontispiece]

The time now drew near for Henry to meet Francis the First, who,
thinking to flatter Wolsey, requested that the management of the
gorgeous scene might be left entirely to the taste of the cardinal.
Wolsey's reputation as a getter-up of spectacles was exceedingly
well deserved, for even when at home, he lived in a style of gorgeous
magnificence. Every apartment in his house at Hampton was a set scene of
itself, with decorations and properties of the most costly character.
He kept eight hundred supernumeraries always about him as servants, "of
whom nine or ten were noblemen, fifteen knights, and forty esquires." *
Not contented with an ordinary chair, he always sat with a canopy over
his head, and he allowed no one to approach him except in a kneeling
attitude. His dress matched his furniture, for he wore a crimson
satin surtout, with hat and gloves of scarlet, and even his shoes
were silver-gilt--like a pair of electrotyped high-lows. His liveries
surpassed even those of the sheriffs of London; and his cook positively
wore satin or velvet, so that this functionary was dressed more daintily
and delicately than the most _recherché_ of his own dinners. Wolsey,
when he appeared in public, carried an orange, stuffed with scents,
in his hand; for he used to say affectedly that there was always an
exhalation from a vulgar crowd, which gave him the vapours.

     * Fiddes' "Life of Wolsey," pp, 106,107.

The preparations for the interview between Francis and Henry having been
entrusted to such a master of all ceremonies as Cardinal Wolsey, could
not fail to be made on a scale of unprecedented grandeur; and the place
where the two monarchs met acquired the name of the "Field of the Cloth
of Gold," from the extreme gorgeousness of the scene in which they
acted. The arrangements were nearly complete, and Henry had removed to
Canterbury, for the convenience of the journey to France, when Charles
of Spain, being jealous of the anticipated meeting, ran over to the
Kentish coast, to say a few words to the English king before he left for
the Continent.

Charles was received in a most amicable manner, but happening to see the
late Queen Dowager of France, then Duchess of Suffolk, who might,
could, would, or should have been his own wife, he turned so spoony and
sentimental, that he could take no pleasure in the festivities prepared
for him. "No, thank you, none for me!" was his almost uniform answer
to every inquiry whether he would have a little of this, that, or the
other, that was placed before him. He lost first his spirits, then
his appetite, and ultimately his time, for he was fit neither for
négociation nor anything else during his stay in England. Having
remained four days, he went home with a "worm in the bud" of his
affections, and as he looked at the sea before him, he was overheard
muttering that he "should never get over it." His courtiers thought he
was alluding to the ocean but he was in reality soliloquising on the
loss of his heart, which he left behind him; but happily this is a sort
of parcel that can without much difficulty be recovered. On the day he
re-embarked for Flanders, Henry set sail for France, having only put off
his putting off out of compliment to his illustrious visitor.

A plot of ground between Guisnes and Ardres was fixed upon as the place
of meeting, and a temporary palace--of wood, covered with sailcloth--was
erected there, for the person and the _suite_ of the English sovereign.
Cunning workmen had painted the sacking at the top to look like square
stones; but it was sacking, nevertheless, as the inmates found out in
rainy weather. The walls glittered with jewels, like the gingerbread
stalls at a fair, and the tables groaned, or rather creaked, under
massive plate, which proves that the wood must have been rather green
which had been used in making the furniture. Francis, making up his
mind not to be outdone, got an enormous mast, and throwing an immense
rickcloth over the top, stuck it up umbrella-ways in the part of
the field he intended to occupy. A whirlwind having come on, the old
rickcloth got inflated with the height of its position, and was soon
carried away by the puffing it experienced. The whole apparatus took,
for a moment, the form of a balloon; and the workmen, seeing it was all
up, ran away just in time to avoid the consequences of a collapse, which
almost instantly happened. Francis was glad to find more substantial
lodgings in an old castle near the town of Ardres, where Wolsey speedily
paid him a morning visit. The cardinal, who had only intended to make a
short call; remained two days, in which he arranged an additional treaty
with the French king, who agreed to pay a large sum for the neutrality
of England in Continental matters, and "as to Scotland," said Francis,
"you and my mother shall settle that between you!"

"I?" exclaimed Louisa of Savoy, with surprise, "I don't know anything
about diplomatic affairs!" but the cardinal flattered the old lady that
she did; and by blandly remarking "he was positive that they should not
fall out," he persuaded her to join him in the arbitration, for he felt
pretty sure he should get the best of the bargain.

Business being concluded, Henry took out of his portmanteau a new dress
of silver damask, ribbed with cloth of gold, and in this splendid suit
of stripes he went forth to meet his brother Francis. The 7th of June,
1520, and the valley of Andren, were the time and place of their first
coming together, when, according to previous arrangement, they saluted
and embraced on horseback. Had one waited for the other to dismount
and advance, they might have been standing there to this day, but by a
clever act of equestrianism, they contrived to go through the form of
introduction on the backs of two highly-trained steeds, to the great
admiration of the circle in the midst of which they exhibited. Francis
spoke first, but confined himself to a commonplace observation on the
length of the distance he had come, and an allusion to the extent of his
possessions and power. Henry replied somewhat cleverly, that "the power
and possessions of Francis were matters quite secondary in importance to
Francis himself, whom he, Henry, had come a long way to see," and thus
contempt was adroitly blended with compliment. The royal couple then
dismounted, and took a turn arm-in-arm, as if in friendly conversation,
after which they went together into a tent and partook of a very
sumptuous banquet. Spice and wine were served out in great profusion,
in a spirit of liberality equivalent to that which dispenses "hot elder,
with a rusk included, a penny a glass," from many modern refectories.
There was plenty of a sort of stuff called "_ipocras_," given to the
people outside; but as we never tasted any "ipocras" and strongly
suspect that it is a decoction from ipecacuanha, we cannot answer for
the quality of the article in which the people "outside" were allowed to
luxuriate.



CHAPTER THE THIRD. HENRY THE EIGHTH (CONTINUED).


[Illustration: 386]

AFTER the banquet, the kings came out of the tent, and Hall, the English
annalist, got a near view of the French sovereign. Whether Hall had been
immersed too thoroughly in "ipocras" to allow of his taking a clear view
of matters in general, or from any other cause, it is certain that the
picture he gives of Francis the First is very unlike the portrait
which Titian has left to us. Hall makes the French king "highnosed and
big-lipped," with "great eyes and long feet," as if Hall saw everything
double while under the influence of "ipocras;" but Titian, by toning
down the nose, so as to make its bridge in conformity with the arches
of the eyebrows, has turned out a not unpleasing portrait of the great
original.

It had been previously announced that jousts would form part of the
festivities, and accordingly, on the 11th of June, these entertainments
began in a very spirited manner. The "braying" of trumpets made an
appropriate introduction to the sports, ana the overture was echoed
by braying of a more animated character. Each king fought five battles
every day, and, of course, came off victoriously in every one; for the
nobles and gentlemen of those times were most complacent in submitting
their heads as dummies to aid the amusements of royalty. The season of
the Field of the Cloth of Gold terminated with a fancy dress ball, in
which Henry made himself very conspicuous by the character and richness
of his disguises. The vastness of his wardrobe enabled him to astonish
everyone by the effectiveness of his "making-up" and two or three of his
masks were models of quaint ugliness.

At the end of a fortnight of foolery and feasting the two monarchs
separated, and the memorable meeting of the Field of the Cloth of Gold
passed from the hands of the costumier, the carpenter, and the cook,
into those of the historian. Its chief result was to beggar many of the
French and English nobles who had taken part in it, and gone to expense
they could not support to outdo each other in magnificence. Thus did
the Field of the Cloth of Gold prepare the way for a sort of threadbare
seediness, into which many belonging to both nations were plunged by
their having done themselves up in an insane attempt to outdo each
other.

Our account of the great meeting on the Field of the Cloth of Gold would
not be complete without the following anecdote. Francis rose very early
one morning, and made his way to the quarters of Henry, who was in bed
and fast asleep on the arrival of his illustrious visitor. The French
king shook the English monarch cordially by the whipcord tassel on the
top of his nightcap, when the latter, springing out of bed, responded to
the playful summons. "You see," said Francis, "I am up with the lark,"
to which Henry added, "And I am ready for the bird you have specified."
The English king then expressed himself much obliged for such a mark of
attention, and cast over the neck of Francis "a splendid collar,"
being, no doubt, the "false one" taken off on the night previous. It is
believed by some that Henry, not knowing the object of the intrusion,
collared the intruder at once; but the version of the story which we
have already given appears to be the more probable. Francis, in his
turn, clasped a bracelet on Henry's arm, or rather, according to
an ill-natured reading of the affair, one cuffed the other for the
collaring he had experienced. Henry rang his bell for his valet, but
Francis would not permit the attendance of any servant, but laid out
Henry's clean things with his own hand, taking in his shaving water,
putting out his highlows to be cleaned, and taking them in again. *

     * The minuteness with which these particulars are detailed,
     may cause a doubt of their veracity, but we refer the reader
     to Mr. Fraser Tytler's "Life of Henry the Eighth," in p. 123
     of which the anecdote we have given is fully recorded.


[Illustration; 387]

Henry, on his return from the Field of the Cloth of Gold, took
Gravelines in his way, and gave a look in upon Charles of Castile, who
saw him home as far as Calais. This far-seeing prince saw that Wolsey
had it all his own way with the English king, and the emperor took every
possible opportunity of trying to "come over" the proud prelate. Charles
promised his "vote and interest" to Wolsey, in the event of any vacancy
occurring in the papal chair, and gratified his avarice by making him
bishop of Placentia and Badajos.

Henry, after making a short stay at Calais, returned to Dover, and
reached London, without a penny in his pocket, for both he and his
courtiers were completely cleaned out by their recent extravagance.
On the king's arrival, Buckingham got himself into trouble by his
impertinent remarks on the expedition to France, and the dreadful waste
of money that it had occasioned. He particularly pointed his sarcasms
against Wolsey as the originator of all the expensive fooleries that
had been committed, and he took every opportunity of gain saying all
the fooleries that had been committed, and he took every opportunity
of occasion, Buckingham had been holding a basin for Henry to wash his
hands, when Wolsey, anxious to have a finger in everything belonging to
the king, plunged his paws into the same water. The duke, desirous of
administering a damper to the cardinal, spilt a quantity of the liquid
over his shoes, when Wolsey becoming angry, threatened to "set upon his
skirts," which meant in other words, that the cardinal would be down
upon him.

There is no doubt that Wolsey took every opportunity of damaging
Buckingham; but the duke himself was obnoxious to the king, and gave
particular offence by hiring a servant who had been a member of the
royal household. Buckingham had been leading the life of a country
gentleman, at what be modestly called his "little place" in
Gloucestershire, when he received an invitation to Court; and, foolishly
flattering himself that this little attention was shown to him on
account of his merits, he unsuspectingly obeyed the summons. When he
had proceeded some way on his journey, he found he was dodged by three
disagreeable looking fellows in block tin, who turned out to be members
of the king's body guard, and who were sure to be at his heels whenever
he looked round over his own shoulder.

Having put up at Windsor for the night, he had no sooner been shown to
his bedroom than he saw the same three fellows loitering in the yard of
the inn he was stopping at. Once or twice, after occasion, Buckingham
retiring to rest, he looked out of his window and fancied he saw one
of the three knights crouching in a corner beneath his lattice, and
he called out to the figure to be off; but the approach of daylight
revealed to him the outline of an innocent water-butt, which he had
during the hours of darkness imperatively desired to quit the premises.
"I know you well," he cried several times to the tub, "and you had
better go at once;" but his expostulations were of course disregarded in
the quarter to which he was idly addressing them.

[Illustration; 389]

Declining to stop at Windsor, he determined to breakfast the next
morning at Egham; but he had no sooner entered the coffee-room than
he was insulted by one Thomas Ward, a creature of the Court, which
completely took away the appetite of the duke, of whom it was cruelly
said that he could eat neither egg nor ham in the hostel at Eg-ham. He
then rode on to Westminster, where he got into his barge and 'pulled
down with the tide as far as Greenwich, but stopped at Wolsey's house on
the way, and sent in his card to the cardinal, who sent out word that he
was indisposed, and declined seeing his visitor. "Umph," said the duke,
"I'm sorry to hear that, but I'll step in, and take a glass of wine,
if you've no objection!" After a good deal of whispering among Wolsey's
servants, Buckingham was shown into the cellar, where he took a draught
of wine from the wood; but finding no preparations made for him, he
changed colour--that is to say, he looked rather blue--and proceeded
on his journey. As he continued pulling along the river, a four-oared,
manned by yeomen of the guard, whose captain acted as coxswain, hailed
Buckingham in his barge, which was instantly boarded by the crew of the
cutter.

The duke having been towed ashore, was at once arrested, and marched in
custody down Thames Street, with a mob at his heels, all the way to the
Tower. There were a few cries of "Shame!" and other demonstrations of
disapproval, but the sympathy of the bystanders having evaporated in a
few yells and a mud shower of cabbage leaves, Buckingham was left in the
hands of his captors. On the 13th of May, 1521, Buckingham was brought
to trial on the charge of tempting Friar Hopkins to make traitorous
prophecies. This Hopkins was an old fortune-telling impostor, who had
predicted all sorts of good luck to poor Buckingham, none of which ever
fell to his lot; so that he had the double mortification of having been
cheated out of his cash, for promises that never came true, and being
punished for them just as much as if they had all been literally
verified. Buckingham defended himself with great courage; and on being
convicted as a traitor, he solemnly declared that he was "never none:"
an indignant mode of exculpation, in which grammar was sacrificed to
emphasis. He died, very courageously, on the 17th of May, 1521, and the
barbarous ceremony of his execution created the greatest disgust among
the populace.

Almost at the very moment that Henry was being guilty of the enormity
we have described, he was putting himself forward as the champion of
Religion. He professed the greatest horror of the errors and heresies
of Luther, whom, in a letter to Louis of Bavaria, he proposed to burn,
books and all, in an early bonfire. Finding that the great Reformer was
not to be thus made light of, Henry turned author, and by taking up the
pen, he, instead of consigning his antagonist to the flames, regularly
burnt his own fingers. There is no doubt that the royal scribbler had
been thoroughly well crammed for the task he undertook; and Leo the
Tenth having read the book, was good-natured enough to say, in the
language of our old friend the _Evening Paper_, that "it ought to be
on every gentleman's table." He published a sort of review of it in
a special bull, and made the remark, that the author might fairly be
called "The Defender of the Faith," a title which was not only adopted
by Henry himself, but has been held, to this very day, by all subsequent
English sovereigns.

Francis and Charles, the respective monarchs of France and Spain, had
all this time continued their bickering, and they at length agreed to
ask the arbitration of Henry. He declined interfering personally, but
sent Wolsey in his stead, and the cardinal arrived at Calais on the 30th
of July, 1521, with a magnificent retinue. His establishment consisted
of lords, bishops, doctors, knights, squires, and gentlemen in
crimson-velvet coats, with gold chains round their necks, which gave
to the whole party an aspect of exceeding flashiness. Wolsey,
notwithstanding the number and splendour of his followers, was at a very
trifling expense, for he billeted the whole party at Bruges upon the
unfortunate emperor, or rather upon his more unfortunate subjects, who
were ordered by their sovereign to find everything that was wanted
and put it all down to him in that doubtful document, the bill, which
between a potentate and his people seldom meets with settlement. Rations
of candles, wine, sugar *, were served out every evening to the whole of
Wolsey's suite, so that all who wanted it had the ingredients of grog,
while the candles enabled such as were so disposed to make a night of it.

[Illustration: 392]

After spending ten days in the enjoyment of every luxury, at the cost of
the contending parties, thus showing that he understood how to make the
very most of his position as an arbitrator, Wolsey suddenly declared
that he saw no chance of Charles and Francis being reconciled. The wily
cardinal, having been regularly got hold of by Charles, drew up a treaty
extremely favourable to the emperor, and even arranged that he should
marry Henry's daughter Mary, though the young lady had been previously
betrothed to the son of Francis.

This alteration in the domestic arrangements of the parties concerned
was simply declared to be "for the good of Christendom," ** and Henry
agreed to the plan with a nonchalant assurance that he really thought
it the best thing that could be done, for he did not see "how his said
affairs might have been better handled." *** Pope Leo the Tenth, who
was in league with Wolsey, the emperor, and Henry, in their joint
arrangements for smashing France, agreed to give the dispensation for
the proposed marriage; but Leo died before the nuptial treaty had been
ratified.

     * Cavendish.

     ** Galt's "Life of Wolsey," book ii., p. 43.

     ***State Papers.

On the death of Leo the Tenth, Wolsey lost no time in offering himself
as a candidate for the vacant popedom. Secretary Pace was sent off at a
slapping pace to Rome, to see the members of the conclave, and solicit
their votes and interests for the English cardinal. Pace, however, seems
to have been too slow to be of any use, and Adrian, Cardinal of Tortosa,
who was put up almost in joke, and certainly to create a diversion
against Giulio de Medici, one of the other candidates, was returned by
a large majority. Wolsey's name does not appear to have been even
mentioned on the occasion, and Pace took no step to further his
employer's interests.

Francis having been thoroughly disgusted at the treatment he had
experienced, tried, in the first place, to win Henry back to his cause
by entreaties, and next by intimidation, in pursuance of which he
shabbily stopped the pension of the English sovereign. When two kings
fall out, their subjects are usually the sufferers; and accordingly, the
English in France and the French in England became the objects of royal
spitefulness. Francis stopped all the British vessels in his ports, and
arrested the merchants, while Henry took his revenge by imprisoning
the French ambassador and making a wholesale seizure of all property
belonging to Frenchmen. At length, the English monarch became so angry,
that he sent a challenge by the Clarencieux Herald, offering to fight
Francis in single combat, that each might have the satisfaction of a
gentleman; but whether one refused to go out, or the other drew in, we
are not aware, for we only know that the dispute did not end in a duel.

Doubts have been thrown upon the sincerity of Henry in thus inviting
Francis to a personal encounter, but there is every reason to believe
that, in the words of the _Bell's Life_ of the period, "the British Pet
meant business, though the Gallic Cock, having already won his spurs in
other quarters, was not disposed to place them in jeopardy." Henry, with
the customary determination of the English character had, no doubt, put
himself regularly into training for the event to come off, and it is not
unlikely that he may have frequently amused himself by a little practice
on the effigy of his intended antagonist. The skill he thus acquired in
planting his blows and putting in the necessary punishment at the proper
points would have been highly serviceable had he ever been allowed to
meet his man, and it is even said that a bottle of claret was placed in
the middle of the head of the figure, so that Henry might fully realise
the result of his sparring exercise. We know not how far we may put
faith in these ancient records, but we are justified in giving them to
the reader, who will separate, no doubt, the wholesome corn of fact from
the chaff of mere tradition.

[Illustration: 393]

In the meantime, Charles came over on a visit to his intended
father-in-law, and was introduced to his infant bride, who was a
child in arms, at his first interview. Henry and Charles indulged in
a succession of gaieties, for which neither possessed the means, and
Charles even borrowed money of Henry, while the latter made up the
deficiency by running into debt to a frightful extent with his own
people.

The king now began to find that he "must have cash," and he at once
applied to Wolsey to assist him in raising more money. On these
occasions Henry spoke in the most flattering manner to the cardinal,
calling him endearingly his "Linsey Wolsey," in a word, "his comforter."
The prelate readily entered into his master's views, but candidly
pointed out the difficulties of extracting anything more from the
London merchants. They had lately advanced £20,000 in a forced loan, and
it was determined to vary the demand upon them, by substituting direct
taxation for the empty form of borrowing. Wolsey ordered the mayor, the
aldermen, and the most substantial citizens of London to attend at his
chambers, * when he announced to them the fact that the sovereign was
hard up, and required pecuniary assistance. "What, again!" cried a voice
which the cardinal pretended not to hear, but proceeded to say that he
should require a return of the amount of their annual moneys from all
of them. This proposition was the origin of that income-tax with which
England has since been burdened; and the lovers of antiquity will feel
some consolation in the knowledge that they suffer under a grievance
which is hallowed by its ancient origin. There is to many a great
comfort in being victimised under venerable institutions, and there are
individuals who would rather be plundered in conformity with what are
termed time-honoured principles, than be fairly dealt with upon any new
system.

While, however, we are talking of the simpletons of the present day,
the dupes and victims of the period of Henry the Eighth are being kept
waiting in the presence of Wolsey. "Gentlemen," said the cardinal, "the
country is in danger, ana the king wants your hearts;" an announcement
which was received with cheers of assent, until it was followed up by a
declaration that he must also try the strength of their pockets. Murmurs
of dissent followed this intimation; but Wolsey went on boldly to say
that the king would only require one-tenth of what they had, and if they
could not live on the other nine-tenths, he did not know how they would
ever be satisfied. "How will his majesty take the contribution?" at
length exclaimed one of the aldermen. "In money, plate, or jewels,"
cried the cardinal; "but at any rate the thing must be done, and
therefore go about it." ** A promise was made that the money should
be repaid out of the first subsidy, which would have been a sort of
improvement upon the old practice of borrowing from Peter to pay
Paul, for it would have been picking Peter's two pockets at once, and
ransacking one under the pretext of replenishing the other.

     * Supposed to have been over the gateway of Inner Temple
     Lane, where Henry and Wolsey shared the rooms now occupied
     by their successors, Honey and Skelton the hairdressers.

     ** Hall, by the salient wit of More, who had a new joke for
     every new star, and appropriate puns for all the planets. He
     was the original author of that brilliant but ancient series
     of pleasantries on the "milky whey," which have since become
     so universally popular; and to him may perhaps be attributed
     the venerable but not sufficiently appreciated remark, that
     the music of the spheres must proceed from the band of
     Orion.

Henry certainly had the knack of making his people's money go a great
way, for it went so far when it passed into his hands, that it never
came back again. The enormous sums he had extorted from the citizens
soon melted away in dinner parties, pageants, and other expenses, so
that he was at last, after a lapse of eight years, obliged to summon a
Parliament. It was opened in person by the king, and the Commons elected
Sir Thomas More as their speaker.

Sir Thomas More presented one of those rare unions of wisdom and waggery
which may occasionally be found, and he was often sent for to the palace
to make jokes for his sovereign. The king would often take him out on
the leads at night, where after scrambling through the cock-loft, and
getting out upon the tiles, Sir Thomas and his royal pupil would stand
for an hour at a time, conversing on the subject of astronomy.

The king and Wolsey congratulated each other on having got Tom More as
Speaker, for they thought he would act like one of themselves, and
that he would soon laugh the people out of all the money they might be
required to furnish. Henry and the cardinal foolishly imagined that the
man who sometimes made a joke could never be serious; but they found out
their mistake, for he proved himself an excellent man of business when
occasion required. Wolsey thought to produce an effect by attending the
House in person, and making a speech on that most unpromising topic the
"crisis," though it was not such a threadbare subject in those days
as in our own, when a "crisis" may almost be looked for as a quarterly
occurrence. Happily, if we are remarkable for our rapidity in getting
a "crisis" up, we have also a wonderful knack of putting it down again
with equal promptitude.

The speech of Wolsey was listened to without reply; for, every member
of the House considering the cardinal's intrusion a breach of privilege,
remained mute and motionless. Irritated by their silence, the crafty
churchman called up one of the members by name, and asked him for a
speech; but the call might just as well have been for a song, since the
individual indicated said nothing more than rise up and sit down again.
Finding it impossible to get a good word, or indeed any word at all from
the Commons, the cardinal lost his temper, and declared that, having
come from the king, he should certainly wait for an answer; but Tom
Moore, the Speaker--who, by-the-by, deserved the title, for he was the
only one that spoke--began to show his wit by saying that the fact was,
the Commons were too modest to open their mouths in the presence of so
great a personage. Wolsey withdrew in dudgeon, and after a few days'
debate, it was at length agreed to give the money that had been asked,
but to take five years to pay it in. Though Henry would no doubt have
been perfectly willing to make a sacrifice for ready money, and allow
a considerable discount on a cash transaction, his minister tried to
accelerate the mode of payment without offering any equivalent for a
restriction of the term of credit.

The autumn of the year 1525 was rendered remarkable by the confusion
into which the Londoners were thrown, in consequence of the
almanack-makers and astronomers having tried to give an impetus to their
trade by throwing into the market a parcel of very alarming prophecies.
It was predicted that the rains would be so tremendous as to convert the
whole wealth of the metropolis into floating capital; and the merchants,
fearing they might not be able to keep their heads above water, ran in
crowds to the suburbs. Several parted with everything they possessed,
and their foolish conduct in making their arrangements for being swamped
formed a precedent, no doubt, for a case of recent occurrence, in which
an individual of average income, having been led away by a prophecy
that the world had only two more years to run, invested the whole of his
property in the largest possible annuity he could procure for two years,
being under the firm impression that beyond that time neither he nor his
heirs, executors, or assigns would have the opportunity of enjoying a
farthing of any surplus. As the world did not keep the appointment that
had been made for it by the calculator of its final arrangements, he was
left without a penny when the time he had assigned for its duration
was up; and thus many had got rid of everything in 1525, under the
expectation that all their sorrows and possessions would be drowned in
the inundation that did--not happen.

During the time the panic prevailed, a few of the tradesmen and
artificers did their best to put it to a profitable account, and a
turner of the time, who was so clever at his business that he could turn
a penny out of anything, constructed several thousand pairs of stilts,
and, placing them in his window labelled "Stilts for the inundation," he
obtained numerous customers.

Wolsey's attention was suddenly called off from matters at home by a
fresh vacancy in the popedom, occasioned by the death of Adrian.

The English cardinal immediately despatched a letter to his royal
master, saying how unfit he was for the pontificate, when Henry,
instantly taking the hint, and saying to himself, "Oh! ah! exactly!
I see what Wolsey wants," wrote off strongly to Rome in favour of his
election. Powerful efforts were made to secure his return and push
him to the top of the poll, but though he got several votes, he was
completely beaten by Giulio de Medici, who was elected to the papal
chair by a very large majority. Wolsey bore his disappointment, to all
appearances, exceedingly well, but the probability is that he saw the
policy of keeping on good terms with the new pope, who made the cardinal
his legate for life, and granted him a bull empowering him to suppress
a number of monasteries, for the purpose of taking the money they
possessed to endow his own colleges.

[Illustration: 396]

Henry and Wolsey declared that the cash should be devoted to "putting
down" that "Monster Luther," as they sometimes called him, or that
"fellow Luther," as they spoke of him now and then, by way of change,
though his fellow did not exist at the period when the term was applied
to him. Among the many irons that Henry now had in the fire was an
Italian iron, with which he stood a pretty fair chance of burning his
fingers, for he had interfered in the disputes between Francis the First
of France and the Emperor Charles, who was at war in Italy. Francis had
laid himself down on the pavement before Pavia, resolved to leave
no stone unturned to place a curb on the foe and pave his own way to
victory. As he lay under the walls, the cream of the Imperial army was
poured down upon him with a savage violence that causes the blood to
curdle at the bare recital. Thoroughly soured in his hopes, Francis
plunged into the very thick of the Imperial cream, and beating around
him with his sword in all directions, reduced seven men, with his
own hand, to the inanimate condition of whipped syllabubs. His valour
availed him little, for he was removed--to adopt the spelling of the
period--in custardy. He was kept in captivity in Spain, at the
strong fortress of Pizzichitone, from which he wrote home to his
mother--probably for the means of replenishing his _sac de nuit_--and
concluded his note with the memorable words,"_Tout est perdu hors
l'honneur_," which, for the benefit of that portion of the public who
may have learnt their "French without a master," and have, consequently,
never mastered it at all, we translate into "All is lost, excepting
honour."

Francis being now completely down, Henry and Wolsey proposed to Charles
that they should combine in making the very most of the helpless
position of their prostrate enemy. Fortunately for the French king,
his two opponents were not only deficient in funds, but had begun to
quarrel; on the old principle, perhaps, that when Poverty stalks in at
the door, Love hops out at the window. The pay of Charles's forces had
fallen fearfully into arrear, and they declared they would no longer go
on fighting on half salaries. It was therefore determined to bring the
military season to a close; and the grand ballet of action, having
for its plot the invasion of France--of which Henry had drawn out the
scheme, and which was to have put forward the strength of a double
company, comprising a powerful combination of the English and Imperial
_troupe_--was postponed for an indefinite period.

Henry, who was ready to sell himself to either party, finding Charles
too poor to purchase him, offered himself without reserve to Francis.
Terms were soon arranged, by which Henry was to receive by instalments
two millions of crowns, with a permanent annuity when the chief sum was
paid off; and Wolsey was also handsomely provided for--at least in the
shape of promises. While the agreement was most solemnly ratified by
Francis himself and the chief of the French nobility, the Attorney and
Solicitor-General of France privately popped a protest on to the file,
in order that the king, who was particular about his honour, might not
have his scruples shocked should he subsequently feel disposed to
break his word and fly off from his agreement. He found considerable
difficulty in effecting his release without swearing to at least a dozen
things he never intended to perform, and when the document was brought
to him, full of concessions to Charles, he affixed his signature with
the indifference of a man putting his name to a bill, regardless of the
amount, which he does not mean to liquidate. He had no sooner got out
of custody, and found himself comfortably seated before his palace fire,
than Sir Thomas Cheney and Dr. Taylor walked in with a message from
Henry the Eighth, to congratulate Francis on his delivery. "If you'll
take my advice," said one of the visitors, at the same time handing his
card, with

          Dr. Taylor,

          _Jurist._

upon it, to give weight to his words, "you will pay no attention to the
liabilities you have entered into with regard to the Emperor."

"Indeed, Doctor, I don't mean to trouble myself upon the subject," was
the king's reply; "and in fact I have kept up a running accompaniment
of private protests to every obligation I have undertaken." Dr. Taylor
explained to him that he was on the safe side, for the bonds he had
given were bad in law, having been executed while the king was under
duress, and therefore not legally responsible. Thus did the chivalrous
Francis, who had written so nobly about having lost everything except
his honour, present an early instance, of which later times have
furnished so many, of the largest talkers being the smallest doers, or
perhaps rather the greatest dos in the universe.

We have now to relate a curious personal anecdote of Henry the Eighth,
which might have caused a considerable abridgment of his reign, much in
the same way that the want of strength in the bowl in which the three
wise men of Gotha went to sea, put a premature period to their little
history. * Henry, in his early manhood, was one day running after a
hawk, perhaps to put a little salt on its tail in the idle hope of
catching it. The bird was actively retreating before its royal pursuer,
and had just quitted a hedge by hopping the twig, when it traversed a
ditch on the other side, which Henry endeavoured to clear by the aid of
his leaping-pole. The attempt somehow failed, and the monarch pitching
on to his head in the soft mud, sunk into it as far as his neck, and
became planted with his legs in the air for several seconds. Happily
a footman named Edmund Moody--"You all know Tom Moody" though you may
never have heard of Edmund--came up at the instant and pulled the king
up from the ground by the roots--at least by the roots of his hair--with
wondrous promptitude. Had this accident proved fatal, Henry would have
been the first instance of a monarch losing his crown by being planted
instead of supplanted, which had been the fate of some that had preceded
him.

     * "Three wise men of Gotha
     Went to sea in a bowl;
     Had the bowl been stronger
     My story would have been longer."
        --Old Nursery Ballad.

     Though the fact is not stated, the inference clearly is,
     that the "wise men" bowled themselves out of existence by
     that rash proceeding.

It is now time for us to speak of the commencement of that spirit of
Bluebeardism which ultimately gave the most glaring colouring to Henry's
character. He had always been a little flighty and indiscriminate in his
attentions to the fair sex, but he had hitherto treated Catherine with
respect, until he met with Anne Boleyn, or Bullen, the daughter of Sir
Thomas Boleyn, who was descended from a former Lord Mayor of London, but
by a series of clever match-making--a talent for which was inherited by
Miss Anne--the family had succeeded in allying itself, by marriage, to
some of the proudest aristocracy in the land.

One of their earliest "dodges" had been to repair the plebeian word
Bullen, by omitting the U and substituting an O, which got it to
Bollen. In the course of time, having been allowed an inch in the way
of licence, they took an L, or at least one liquid absorbed another, and
the word now stood Bolen. Subsequently a Y, without a why or wherefore,
was dropped in, and the Bullens, who had probably acquired their name,
originally, from having been landlords, or perhaps potboys, at the
"Bull," had now assumed the comparatively elegant title of Boleyn, which
has since become so famous in history. Sir Thomas Boleyn, the father
of Nancy, had long lived about the Court, and had been employed as a
deliverer of messages, or ticket-porter, for Henry the Eighth, on some
important occasions. Anne, who was born in the year 1507, had in very
early life gone out to service as maid--of honour--to the king's sister,
Mary, who, when going over to be married to Louis the Twelfth, took
the girl abroad, where she picked up a few accomplishments. On Mary's
returning home, a widow, Anne Boleyn found another situation with
Claude, the wife of Francis the First, but after remaining in another
family or two for a short time in France, she returned to England, where
we find her, in 1527, engaged as maid of honour to Catherine of Aragon.

Henry having become deeply enamoured of Miss Boleyn, who had shown a
strong determination to stand no nonsense, was suddenly seized with
religious scruples as to his marriage with the queen; for he found
out, seventeen years after the event, that he had done wrong in allying
himself with his brother's widow. The fact of her being now an oldish
lady of forty-three added no doubt considerably to the pious horror of
the king at the step which he had taken. He accordingly began to think
seriously of a divorce; and when Wolsey was sounded on the subject, the
cardinal, for reasons of his own, yielded a prompt concurrence. He was
anxious to pay off Catherine on account of a quarrel he had had with
her nephew, the emperor; and thus, in the words of the poet of Dumbarton
Castle,

     "He sought to consummate his fiendish part
     By breaking a defenceless female's heart."

He was sent as an ambassador to Francis, ostensibly to arrange about the
marriage of Henry's only daughter Mary, but really, as it is believed,
to induce the French king to consent that Wolsey should be a sort of
acting pope during the investment of the castle of St. Angelo, where the
Spaniards and Germans had made the real pontiff a prisoner.

Poor Clement bore his ill fortune with patience, though, as long as the
investment of the castle lasted, he used to say it was one of the most
unprofitable investments in which he had ever been involved, and that
nothing but the excessive tightness prevented him from selling out, for
he was quite tired of the security.



CHAPTER THE FOURTH. HENRY THE EIGHTH (CONTINUED.)

The reign of Henry the Eighth would become tedious were it not for the
privilege we have assumed in dividing it into chapters; though we shall
not follow the example of the melodramatists who suppose fifteen years
to have elapsed between each of their acts, and thus carry on their
plots by means of the imagination of their audience. It is true that
many of the events of Henry's reign are dark enough to cause a wish
that we might be allowed to omit them; but we must not give up to
squeamishness what we owe to posterity.

We have not yet come to the catalogue of his various female victims,
and we have yet to describe those matrimonial freaks upon which we
would gladly have put a ban by forbidding the banns, had we lived three
centuries in advance of our present existence. We must, however, speak
the truth; and though we might imitate the author of the play called
_The Wife of Seven Husbands_, who requested the public to consider
that a husband had elapsed between each act, we will not call upon our
readers to imagine that a wife of Henry the Eighth has elapsed between
each chapter.

We will now resume our narrative, and in the first place look after
Wolsey, whom we left under orders to proceed to the French dominions;
and as the cardinal must by this time have commenced the passage across,
we will take him at once out of his unpleasant position, and land him at
Boulogne.

Wolsey's reception in France was like that of a royal personage, and had
all the inconveniences of such a compliment; for the firing of the guns
at Boulogne frightened his mule, who had not been trained to stand fire,
and who indulged in a kick-up of the most, extraordinary character.

[Illustration: 401]

This interview with Francis resulted in three treaties, which were
concluded on the 18th of August, 1527, * by the first of which it
was agreed that the Princess Mary should marry young Francis, Duke of
Orleans, instead of old Francis, his father, a point that had hitherto
been an open question; the second treaty concluded a peace, and the
third stipulated that nothing done by the pope during his captivity
should take effect, but that as long as Clement was in durance, which it
required all his fortitude to endure, Wolsey should have the management
of ecclesiastical affairs in England. The pope himself good-naturedly
sent over a bull to confirm the cardinal in his new powers; and "here
certainly," says Lord Herbert, "began the taste our king took of
governing, in chief, the clergy." His lordship might have added with
truth that Wolsey had performed the wonderful physical feat of biting
off his own nose to be revenged upon the rest of his face, for it is
certain that the taste Henry had been encouraged to take of power over
the church soon led him to be discontented with a mere snack, for his
appetite grew fearfully by what it fed upon. Like the modest dropper-in
at dinner-time, who sits down to take "just a mouthful," and is led on
to the consumption of a hearty meal, Henry, who at first simply intended
to pick a bit from the power of the pope, soon became a cormorant of
church influence. Henry's thoughts were seriously occupied with the
design of getting a divorce, and he therefore pretended to be in great
alarm as to the succession to the throne, in consequence of a "public
doubt" as to his marriage being lawful and the Princess Mary being
legitimate.

     * Lord Herbert's "Life of Henry the Eighth," p. 160 of the
     quarto edition, 1741.

There is no question that the wish was in this instance father to
the thought, and that, so far from Henry's desiring to silence all
discussion on the point, he was the first to encourage the criticism of
his wife's and his daughter's position. Notwithstanding his notorious
flirtation with Anne Boleyn, which the forward minx decidedly
encouraged, he pretended to be looking out for an eligible _parti_ in
the event of his marriage with Catherine of Aragon being officially
nullified. He had a picture sent over to him of the Duchess of Alanson,
sister to Francis, and used to pretend that he should probably set his
cap at that lady; but the picture was a mere blind, or probably in a
very short time it experienced a worse fate than that of a blind by
being turned into a fire-board or consigned to a lumber-room.

The love-making of Henry the Eighth and Anne Boleyn was a mixture of
mawkishness, childishness, hypocrisy, and scholastic pedantry, tinctured
with an affectation of religion that was not the least disgusting
feature of this disgraceful courtship. Henry used to write love-letters
full of extracts from Thomas Aquinas, complaints of headache, reference
to pious books, and sickly sentimentalism about "mine own sweet heart,"
while the good-for-nothing Nancy B. would reply by sending him pretty
little toys and pretty little words of encouragement. She had made good
use of her time in Wolsey's absence, for, when the cardinal came back,
the king, in answer to his own question, "Guess who's the gal of my
'art?" which his friend gave up, enthusiastically responded, "Anne
Boleyn."

The already corpulent monarch was stupidly and spoonily love-sick about
this "artful puss," as Catherine might have called her, and he used to
leave scraps of paper about the palace scribbled over with charades,
conundrums, ana anagrams to the object of his admiration. * Wolsey was
a good deal annoyed by this avowal, but, finding his opposition would
do no good, he changed his tack and fell in with the sovereign's fancy.
Henry ordered him to consult Sir Thomas More, who, not at all liking the
job, referred him politely to St. Jerome and St. Augustine, saying it
was more in their way than his own, and he felt any interference on
his part would be irregular and unprofessional. Wolsey next tried the
bishops, who shook their heads and said, "You had better ask the pope,"
to whom the king at last determined upon a reference.

     *  One of these has been preserved; it is to the following
     effect:--"My first is the article indefinite (An); my second
     is a very useful animal (Bull); my third is the abode of
     hospitality (Inn); and my whole is the 'gal of my art '--
     An(n) Buli-Inn (Anne Boleyn)."

The pope, whom we left locked up in the castle of St. Angelo, had been
obliged to "come out of that" for want of provisions, and had escaped in
the disguise of a gardener, in which a shovel hat may have been of some
use to him. He played his cards so well as the one of spades, that,
with the assistance of one or two true hearts who turned out trumps, he
reached in safety the town of Orvieto, where he expected reinforcement
from a French army. Long before the promised aid arrived, he received
a card inscribed "Dr. Knight," and he had scarcely time to say, "Doctor
Knight? Who is Doctor Knight? I don't know any Doctor Knight," when
the king of England's secretary, who bore that name, rushed into the
presence of the pontiff. The doctor, having briefly explained his object
in coming, which was to get the pope's consent to Henry's divorce,
succeeded in extracting the requisite authority from his holiness, who
was very unwilling, but he could not keep back his bull without finding
himself on the horns of a worse dilemma. He at all events wished the
matter to be kept secret for a short time; but a friend of Wolsey
stepped forward to stipulate that an Italian cardinal should be sent to
England with Dr. Knight, to prove that the document he took with him
was genuine. Poor Clement, being afraid to refuse compliance, pointed to
half-a-dozen cardinals standing in one corner, and hurriedly observed,
"There, there, Dr. Knight, take any one of those, for the whole six are
quite at your service." In conformity with this permission, Cardinal
Campeggio was selected to visit England, and he carried with him in his
pocket a decree, rendering final any judgment that he and Wolsey might
agree upon.

On the arrival of Campeggio a public entry into London was proposed:
but he excused himself on the score of gout, which had laid him by the
heels, or rather seized him by the great toe, and prevented him from
coming into the metropolis on the footing that he might have desired.
After spending a few days with his leg in a sling, he was introduced to
the king, whom he greatly irritated by advising that the business of the
divorce should not be proceeded with. Henry began declaring that he had
been deceived, and that the pope was an old humbug, which caused the
gouty leg of the legate to tremble in its shoe; and, taking the bull
from his pocket, he showed that the pontiff meant business, and had
given full authority for transacting it.

Henry's desire for a divorce got soon rumoured about the city, and
caused so much dissatisfaction that he called a meeting of the judges,
lord mayor, common council, and others, at which it was announced
that his majesty would attend to give explanations, and enter into a
justification of his conduct. He made an elaborate speech of the most
artful and hypocritical kind, in which he asserted that his religious
scruples alone made him agitate the question of a divorce, and that if
his marriage was valid, nothing would give him greater pleasure than
to finish his life in the society of the old lady who had been for many
years the partner of his existence. It is notorious that he had made
up his mind to desert Catherine for Anne Boleyn; and his speech is
therefore a disgusting specimen of low cunning, rendered doubly odious by
the religious cant with which it was accompanied.

The unhappy queen, when visited by Wolsey and Campeggio, exclaimed at
once, "I know what you have come about." She said she thought it hard
to have her marriage doubted after nearly twenty years; and spoke
pathetically of those early days when she was in the habit of going out
a-Maying with her royal husband.

[Illustration: 404]

"Ah, madam!" replied Wolsey, "if we could have May all the year round,
it would be pleasant enough; but the spring of the year, as well as the
spring-time of existence, is not perpetual." Catherine acknowledged she
was not so young as she had been, and the English cardinal ventured
to hint, that, even in those Maying days, she had the advantage of
Henry--at least, if there can be any advantage to a lady who is her
husband's senior. Finding pathos of no use, she proceeded to argument,
and endeavoured to show that Henry had almost lost his claim to a
divorce by mere _laches_, in having so long neglected to apply for one.
The two cardinals only shook their heads, as if they would say, "I can't
see much in that;" and she then ventured to take another ground for
opposing her husband's project. She complained that her husband had
paid for the licence and dispensation from the pope, but that the
dispensation might be dispensed with as valueless, if one could
supersede another at the instigation of the great and powerful against
the comparatively friendless and impotent. At length, losing all temper
and patience, she turned to Wolsey, taxing him with having "done it
all;" when the wily cardinal did nothing but bow and smile in general
terms, placing his hand upon his heart, muttering out, "Pon honour!"

"Nothing of the sort!" and giving other similar assurances that he had
in no way instigated the conduct pursued by Henry.

The preliminary meeting to which we have referred was held in the Hall
of the Black Friars, on the 31st of May, 1529; and an adjournment till
the 21st of June having taken place, Wolsey and Campeggio were at
their posts at the appointed hour. Henry and Catherine were both in
attendance; and the former, when his name was called, gave a terrific
shout of "Here!" which had a startling effect upon the whole assembly.
Catherine, though she might be considered upon her trial, was
accommodated with a seat on the left of the bench, and was attended by
four friendly bishops, who had come in the amiable capacity of moral
bottle-holders to this injured woman. When her name was called she
refused to answer, or to say a word; but the dignity of the queen soon
gave way to the volubility of the woman, and her tongue started off into
a gallop of the most touching eloquence. She commenced in the old style
of appeal, by throwing herself at the king's feet, presuming perhaps,
that if he had a tender point it might be upon his toes, and she should
thus make sure of touching it. She then implored his compassion, as a
woman and a stranger, concluding with a happy alliterative effect by
declaring herself "a friendless female foreigner."

At the conclusion of a very powerful speech she rose slowly, and when it
was expected she would return to her seat, she marched deliberately out
of the hall, to the great amazement of the quartette of bishops by
whom she had been accompanied. Henry was a little staggered by what had
occurred; but he nevertheless made a reply, which was partly inaudible
from the flurry of the king himself, and the consternation into which
the Court had been thrown by the queen's very telling speech, and highly
dramatic exit. He was understood to say, that he had a very high respect
for the distinguished lady who had just addressed them; that she was a
very good wife; that he had in fact no fault to find; but that really
his scruples as to the lawfulness of his marriage had made him very
uncomfortable. He remarked that his conscience was so exceedingly
delicate that it could not bear the slightest shock; and here indeed he
seems to have spoken the truth, for his conscience appears to have died
altogether within a very short time of the occurrence we have mentioned.

Catherine's departure from the Court turned out to be final, for nothing
could induce her to enter it again; and, being pronounced contumacious,
the proceedings were carried on in her absence. The two cardinals, out
of regard to her majesty's interests, requested Dr. Taylor--an aged
junior in the back rows--to hold a brief for the defendant, and examine
the witnesses: a proposition at which the learned gentleman jumped, for
he had previously been occupying his own mind and the official ink in
sketching the scene before him on the desk, or handing down his name
to posterity by cutting it out on the bench with a pocket penknife. Dr.
Taylor, if he had practised little before, had quite enough to do on the
occasion that brought him into notice, for Lord Herbert, in his "Life
and Reign of Henry the Eighth," gives a list of thirty-seven witnesses
for the plaintiff, all of whom our venerable junior had the task of
cross-examining. Some idea may be formed of the magnitude of this
achievement, when it is stated that several of the witnesses were
ladies, and that the evidence of the first of them--namely, Mary,
Countess of Essex--is summed up in the report as having amounted to
"little," though conveyed in "general terms."

There is something truly overwhelming in the idea which this slight
summary conveys; for it is impossible that the imagination can set
any limits to the "little" a lady can contrive to say when she avails
herself of "general terms" to give it utterance. Cardinal Campeggio
evinced a decided reluctance to bring the matter to a decision, though
Henry's case was undoubtedly well supported by evidence; and old Taylor
being, professionally speaking, a young hand, was able to do little for
his absent client. The king at length grew angry at Campeggio's delay,
and instructed counsel to move for judgment, which was accordingly
done on the 23rd of July in a somewhat peremptory manner. The Italian
cardinal refused the motion, and intimated that he would not be bullied
by any man, "be he king or any other potentate." He then went on to say,
that "he was an old man, sick, decayed, and daily looking for death:"
which certainly gave no reason for delay; and a whisper to that effect
went no doubt round the bar, and was caught up by Henry's counsel, who
"humbly submitted" that "if the Court expected to be soon defunct, there
must be the stronger reason for fixing an early day for its decision."
Cardinal Campeggio got up somewhat angrily, and intimated that the cause
must be made a "_remanet_;" that in fact it must stand over until next
term, as he was not disposed to continue his sittings. "Is your lordship
aware," asked Sampson, K.C., "that you will throw us over the long
vacation? for we are now only in July, and the next term begins in
October." The cardinal, who was half-way towards the robing-room, turned
sharply round to observe that "the Court was virtually up," and that
"he really wished gentlemen of the bar would observe more regularity in
their proceedings." Sampson, K.C., had nevertheless got as far as "Will
your lordship allow us?" in another attempt to be heard, when Campeggio,
growling out furiously, "I can hear nothing now, Mr. Sampson," retired
angrily to his private apartment.

     * The King's leading counsel was Richard Sampson, with whom
     was John Bell,--Lord Herbert's "Life of Henry the Eighth,"
     p. 205,


[Illustration: 408]

The Court never met again, and Campeggio left England a few days
afterwards, having first taken leave of the king, who kept his temper
and behaved very decently. He even gave a few presents to the refractory
cardinal, but, as the latter lay at Dover previous to embarkation, his
bedroom door was burst open, his trunks were rummaged, and probably all
his presents were taken away again.

Wolsey, who had been associated in the hearing of the great cause,
Henry versus Catherine, or the Queen at the suit of the King, fell into
instant disgrace for the part he had taken, or, rather, for the part he
had omitted to take, upon this momentous occasion. Miss Anne Boleyn, who
had calculated on his keeping Campeggio up to the mark in pronouncing
for the divorce, was especially angry with Wolsey for his apathy. Even
the courtiers got up a joke upon the supineness of the English cardinal
by calling him the supine in(h)um, while Campeggio was compared to the
gerund in _do_, by reason of his active duplicity, through which he
was declared to have regularly done the English sovereign. Many of the
nobility attempted to excite the avarice of Henry by hinting to him that
Wolsey's overthrow would be a good speculation, if only for the sake of
obtaining the wealth he had managed to accumulate; and from this moment
the cardinal stood in the precarious position of a turkey that is only
crammed to await the favourable opportunity for sacrifice.

Soon after the trial of his cause, in which he thought proper to assume
that he was entitled to a verdict, Henry set off on a tour, accompanied
by Miss Anne Boleyn, who, in spite of Hume's panegyric on her "virtue
and modesty," appears to have been what is commonly called a very pretty
character. Wolsey was not invited to be of the party, but he rode after
the Court, for he was one of those hangers-on that are not to be
shaken off very easily. He came up with the king at Grafton, in
Northamptonshire, and was very kindly received, but the next morning he
was told distinctly that he was not wanted in the royal suite, and that
he might go back to London, after which he never saw his master's face
again. * Henry, being anxious to ruin his late favourite _selon les
règles_, took the very decisive method of going to law with him. Two
bills were filed against the cardinal in the King's Bench, but Wolsey,
nevertheless, proceeded to the Court of Chancery to take his seat, just
as if nothing had happened. None of the servants of the Court paid him
any respect, and it is probable that even the mace-bearer, the ushers,
and other officers omitted the customary ceremonies of preceding him
with the mace, and crying out, "Pray, silence!" upon his entrance. On
his expressing his readiness to take motions, he was responded to by one
general motion towards the door, in which the whole bar joined. Being
thus left quite alone, he amused himself by giving judgment in some old
suit which had lasted so long that the parties were all dead, and he
consoled himself by saying that this accounted for the fact of nobody
appearing on either side.

     * Cavendish.

The king, hearing of the cardinal's proceedings, gave orders that he
should be forbidden the Court altogether, and when he went to take his
seat, as usual, he found the doors closed against him. When he got home
to York Place, where he resided, he was told that two gentlemen were
waiting to see him, and, on going upstairs, the Dukes of Suffolk and
Norfolk requested to have a few words with him. They told him that the
king intended to come and live at York Place, so that Wolsey must
"turn out," to which he made no objection; but when they insolently and
tauntingly demanded the Great Seal, he declared he would not trust it
in their possession without a written authority. "How do I know what you
are going to do with it?" cried the cardinal, holding it firmly in his
grasp, and returning it to the sealskin case in which he was in the
habit of keeping it. The two dukes, having exhausted their vocabulary
of abuse, retired for that day, but came back the next morning with an
order, signed by the king, for the delivery of the Great Seal, which
Wolsey gave up to them, together with an inventory of the furniture and
fixtures of the magnificent abode he was about to vacate in favour of
his sovereign.

[Illustration: 410]

The catalogue exhibited a long list of luxurious appointments, and
commencing with "a splendid set of curtains of cloth of gold," * went on
with--a ditto--a ditto--and a ditto, down to the end of the three first
pages. The neatness and variety of his table-covers cannot be conceived,
and his magnificent sideboard of gold and silver plate was in those days
unparalleled. He had got also a thousand pieces of fine Holland; but as
the chief use of Holland is, we believe, to make blinds, as must regard
the purchase of this material in so large a quantity, as one of those
blind bargains which are sometimes the result of excessive opulence.
Having made over all those articles to the king, Wolsey left his
sumptuous palace, and jumping into a barge, desired the bargeman to drop
him down with the tide towards Putney. The river was crowded with boats
to see him shove off, and he was assailed with the most savage yells
from the populace. As the bargeman gave Wolsey his hand and pulled him
on board, the poor cardinal stumbled over a block of Wallsend, when an
inhuman shout of "That's right, haul him over the coals," arose from one
unfeeling brute, and was echoed by countless multitudes.

     * Herbert's "Life of Henry the Eighth," and Hume's "History
     of England."

On reaching Putney, Wolsey gave the word to "pull her in shore," when he
disembarked, with his fool and one or two others who had agreed to share
his exile. They had not gone very far when they heard a cry of "Ho! hoi
hilly hilly hoi" and looking back, they perceived Sir John Norris coming
full pelt after them. The cardinal was mounted on a mule--hired probably
at Putney, or picked off the common--and though he endeavoured to put
the animal along by giving her first her own head, and then the head of
a thick stick, the rise of a hill brought Wolsey to a dead stand-still.
Here he was easily overtaken by Sir John Norris, who came, as it
turned out, with a present of a ring from the king's own finger, and
a "comfortable message." The abject cardinal went into the most
humiliating ecstasies, and actually grovelled in the very mud, to show
his humble sense of the kindness and condescension of his sovereign.
Thinking that Sir John Norris possibly expected something for his
trouble in bringing the grateful tidings, Wolsey shook his head
mournfully, saying, "I have nothing left except the clothes on my
back--but here, take this"--and he tore from his neck an old piece of
jewellery. "As for my sovereign," he cried, "I have nothing worthy of
his acceptance;" when suddenly his eyes lighted upon his faithful fool,
who had been such a thorough fool as to follow a fallen master. "Ha!"
exclaimed Wolsey, "I will send to his majesty my jester, who is worth a
thousand pounds to anybody who has never heard his jokes before; but
as I am familiar with the entire collection, I have no further use for
him." The faithful fool was exceedingly reluctant to go, and it took six
stout yeomen * to drag him away--a fact which, as he was full of wit,
proves the humour of the period to have been dreadfully ponderous. Some
of the jests of our own time are heavy enough, but we doubt whether
it would require half-a-dozen porters to carry a professed wag of the
present day--including the Durden of his entire stock-in-trade--into the
presence of royalty. It is not impossible that the obstinate resistance
of the fool to a transfer from the service of a disgraced subject to
that of a powerful king, may have been intended as a sample of his style
of joking; but we can only say that if this was a specimen of his wit,
the value set upon him by his old master was rather exorbitant.

     * Lord Herbert, 293.

Wolsey now lodged at Esher, where his spirits soon fell--if we may be
allowed an engineering phrase--to a very dumpy level. Continual sighing
had fearfully reduced his size, and he fretted so much that a sort of
fret-work of tears seemed to be always hanging to his eye-lashes.
His face became wrinkled and pale, as if constant crying had not only
intersected his countenance with little channels, but had likewise
washed out all its colour. It is not unlikely that he sometimes
regretted having parted with his fool, whose dry humour might have
mitigated the moisture or subdued the soaking which naturally resulted
from the emptying of so many cups of sorrow over the dismal drooping and
dripping cardinal. Nothing seemed to rouse him from his despondency, and
the people about him could never succeed in stirring him up to a fit
of even temporary gaiety. After dinner they would sometimes ask him to
partake of a bowl of sack; but at the mere mention of the word sack
he would burst into tears, and sob out, that the sack he had already
received had been the cause of all his wretchedness. Upon this he would
leave the dinner table, and wander forth to enjoy his solitary whine in
the wood, among the thickly planted solitudes in the neighbourhood of
Esher. Sometimes he would sit pining for hours under a favourite
pine, or would go and indulge in a weeping match with one of the most
lachrymose he could find of weeping willows. All this crying brought on
a crisis at last, and Wolsey had so damped all his vital energies by the
incessant showers of tears he let fall, that he fell into a slow fever.

The king now seemed to take some compassion upon his former friend, and
sent down a medical man to see the prostrate cardinal; though we are
inclined to attribute this anxiety for his health to a desire to keep
him alive until the process was complete for depriving him of all his
property. At all events a Parliament was suddenly summoned, and a Bill
of impeachment promptly prepared against the fallen and feeble Wolsey.

There were no less than four-and-forty articles in this document, which
contained, among a variety of other ridiculous accusations, a charge of
having, when ill with fever, "come whispering daily in the king's
ear, and blowing upon his most noble grace with breath infective and
perilous." This would, indeed, have been convicting him out of his own
mouth; but though the Lords passed the bill, it was thrown out in the
Commons, through a speech of Thomas Cromwell, who had been secretary to
the unfortunate cardinal.

Wolsey had always felt that when he did fall, he should fall not only
as Shakespeare said, "like Lucifer," but like an entire box of lucifers,
"never to rise again." Directly the cardinal learned that the bill had
been defeated, his appetite returned, his cheeks resumed their colour,
the furrows began to fill out, for grief had been at sad work with its
plough all over his countenance. He had still a good deal of property
left, but the king began tearing it away by handfuls at a time, until
Wolsey had nothing left but the bishoprics of York and Winchester.
Even these were a good deal impoverished by Henry, who made a series
of snatches at the revenues, and divided the amount among Viscount
Rochford, the father of Anne Boleyn--who used to say, "I am sure papa
would like that," whenever there was a good thing to be had--the Duke of
Norfolk, and a few other lay cormorants. Wolsey was at length completely
beggared, by treatment that was of such an impoverishing nature as
really to beggar description. He had nothing left him but a free pardon,
a little plate--including two table-spoons, which his enemies said were
more than his desert,--a small van of furniture, comprising, among other
articles, an arm-chair, in which he was tauntingly told he might
set himself down comfortably for life, and a little cash for current
expenses. He was allowed also to move nearer town, and giving up his
lodgings at Esher he took an apartment at Richmond, where he was not
permitted to remain very long, for Anne and her party--including several
knights of the Star and Garter--persuaded Henry to order the cardinal
off to his own archbishopric.

The fallen prelate thought this forced journey so very hard that he
tried to soften it by easy stages, and he travelled at the slowest
possible pace, in the hope of being sent for back again. At every inn he
entered for refreshment on the road he always left a request in the bar,
that if anyone should ask for a gentleman of the name of Wolsey, the
enquirer should be shown straight up, without the delay of an instant.
Not a knock came to the door of his bedroom but he expected it was a
messenger from the king; and when he found, in many cases, it was "only
the boots," his disappointment would vent itself in terms of great
bitterness. Adopting the customary mode of showing grief in those
superstitious days, he took to wearing shirts made of horse-hair next
his shin, but donkey's-hair would certainly have been more appropriate.
He had, however, become so accustomed to hard rubs, that a little extra
scarification was scarcely perceptible. On his arrival at York, he
endeavoured to make himself neighbourly with the people about him, and
became a sort of gentleman farmer, expressing the utmost interest in
rural affairs. He made himself an universal favourite, and was the lion
of every evening party within twelve miles of his residence. He was,
however, scarcely a figure for these _réunions_, in his horse-hair
shirt; but he probably concealed the penitential part of his costume by
wearing a camel's-hair waistcoat immediately over it.

The clergy were always getting up little _fêtes_, of which he was the
hero; and he was invited to the the ceremony of installation in his
cathedral, which he promised to go through, on condition of the thing
being done as quietly as possible. It was understood that there should
be "no fuss," but several of the nobility and gentry sent contributions
of cold meat and wine, forming themselves in fact into a provisional
committee, so that the affair partook rather of the character of a
picnic than of a pageant. Three days before it was to take place Wolsey
was sitting at dinner, when there came a knock at the door, and it was
announced that the Earl of Northumberland--his friend and pupil--was
waiting in the courtyard. "Let him come up and do as we are doing,"
exclaimed the cardinal. "Dear me, I wish he had been a little earlier;
but he is just in pudding-time, at any rate." As Northumberland entered
the room Wolsey seized him by the hand, entreating him to sit down
and enjoy a social snack--or, in other words, go snacks in the humble
dinner. Northumberland seemed affected, when Wolsey, continuing his
meal, observed, "Well, you will not make yourself at home, and I
can't make you out, so I may as well finish my dinner." At length
Northumberland, with a tottering foot, a trembling hand, a quivering
lip, a faltering tongue, and a tearful eye, approached his friend
Wolsey, and threw himself with a heavy heart--adding at least a pound
to his weight--upon the old man's bosom. Wolsey had scarcely time to
exclaim, "Hold up!" when the earl, mournfully tapping the cardinal on
the shoulder, murmured, in a voice completely macadamised with sobs, "My
Lord--(oh, oh, oh!)--I arrest you" (here his voice became guttural from
a perfect gutter of tears) "for high treason." Poor Wolsey remained
rooted to the spot, but it was soon necessary to transplant him, and he
was speedily removed in custody. His old weakness again came over him,
for he began to leak again at both eyes, as if he carried the veritable
New River Head under the hat of a cardinal. He of course made himself
ill, and indeed he was frequently warned that if he continued much
longer in this liquid state, he would liquidate the debt of nature
altogether. The warning was verified very speedily, for on reaching
Leicester Abbey, when the monks came to the door with a candle to light
him to bed, he observed to the abbot, "Father, I am come to lay my bones
among you." He died on the 29th of November, 1530, in the sixtieth year
of his age, and was buried in Leicester Abbey.

News of his death was at once dispatched to Henry, who was having
a little archery practice at Hampton Court on the arrival of the
messenger. The king continued his sport for some time, until the straw
man, upon whom he was trying his skill, had become thoroughly trussed
with arrows, when his majesty turned round with an abrupt "Now then,
what is it?" to the bearer of the sad intelligence. At the tale
of Wolsey's death Henry pretended to be much affected, but he soon
recovered his spirits sufficiently to inquire whether a sum of £1500 had
not been left by the cardinal. The king expressed a desire to administer
to his lamented friend's effects, but when the discovery was made, that
instead of having £1500 to leave, Wolsey had just borrowed and spent
that amount, his royal master thought it as well to have nothing to do
with the business. Poor Wolsey had been the unfortunate goose who might
have continued laying golden eggs for a considerable time had not Henry
out him prematurely up for the sake of immediate profit.

We cannot part with Wolsey until we have dropped a few inky tears to
his memory. We have already seen that his talents were considerable, but
according to one of his biographers * he had a most elastic mind, or in
other words he could "pull out" amazingly when occasion required.

     * Galt, p. 199, Rogue's European Library.

Some time before Wolsey's death a new ministry had been appointed, in
which the family and friends of Anne Boleyn got very snug berths; but
though in those days "any fool" could have a seat in the cabinet, it
was necessary to have a chancellor of good abilities. The woolsack was
literally in the market for a few days, until Henry thrust it on to the
shoulders of Sir Thomas More, who would have declined the profitable
burden, and who was somewhat averse to the Back of wool, because he
felt that much of the material was obtained by fleecing the suitors. He,
however, was persuaded to accept the dignity, or rather to undertake
the burden, and he was even heard to say--by a gentleman who wishes
to remain _incog._--that he wished there were porters' knots for moral
responsibilities as well as for actual weights, since it was exceedingly
difficult to preserve one's uprightness beneath a load of dignity.

Among the persons recently introduced to Court was Thomas Cranmer, who
happened to have met Dr. Gardiner, the king's secretary, and Dr. Fox at
a private dinner table. As the party sat over their wine, the divorce
of Henry was brought upon the _tapis_, and Cranmer made the sagacious
observation, that the proper way would be to have it looked into.
Gardiner and Fox exchanged glances, as much as to say "Shrewd fellow,
that;" and they both agreed that he was a wonderful man for his
age--which it will be remembered was the sixteenth century. They
endeavoured to bring him out, and upon a free circulation of the bottle,
Cranmer gave it as his opinion that there was "only one course to
pursue," that "the thing lay in a nutshell," that "it was as clear as
A, B, C;" a series of sentiments which, though more knowing than
conclusive, made a deep impression on Fox and Gardiner. "There's a great
deal in that fellow," said Fox after Cranmer had gone home, and indeed
there was a good deal in him, no doubt, for scarcely anything had been
got out of him. The two doctors hastened to the king to inform him of
the enormous catch they had got in Cranmer, whose winks, innuendos, and
occasional ejaculations of "I see it all;" "Plain as a pike-staff,"
etc., etc., had made such a deep impression upon the two doctors. Henry
was as much taken with their description of Cranmer as they had been
with the original, and the king exclaimed in a perfect rhapsody, "That
man has got the right sow by the ear;" * an expression which we are
sufficiently pig-headed not to appreciate. It was arranged that Cranmer
should be asked to dine at the palace; and after a good deal of
desultory conversation, in which "Exactly," "I see it," "No question
about it," were Cranmer's running fire of _ad captandum_ remarks, Henry
got so puzzled that he requested the gentleman to put his opinions in
writing at his earliest convenience.

     * Todd's "Life of Cranmer," Tytller's "Life of Henry the
     Eighth," etc., etc.

The individual who had thus received instructions to act as pamphleteer
in ordinary to the king, was sprung from an ancient family in
Nottinghamshire, but he was destined for higher things than dragging
out the thread of his existence in Notts, as we shall soon see when we
proceed to unravel his history. His early education had been somewhat
neglected, for his father was a sportsman, who took more delight in
going out to shoot than in teaching the young idea how to follow his
example. Young Cranmer's master was a severe priest, who ruled his
pupils with a rod of iron, and thrashed them with a rod of a different
material. He snapped many a whip over the young whipper-snappers, as he
was in the habit of calling his youthful charges, who, at all events,
became hardened by the salutary treatment they experienced.

Cranmer applied himself with diligence to his studies, and in turn took
pupils of his own at Cambridge, where he happened to meet one day at
dinner with Fox and Gardiner, who, as we have already seen, introduced
him to the sovereign. The pamphleteer elect to Henry the Eighth was
lodged in the house of the Earl of Wiltshire, the father of Anne Boleyn,
who used to lock the author up in a garret, with a pen and ink and
something to drink, upon which he received instructions to "fire away"
in support of the views of his master. Cranmer soon rattled off a
treatise in which he smashed the pope, demolished every objection to
Henry's divorce, and proved to the satisfaction of the king that he
could do as he liked as to contracting a second marriage. "Would you say
as much to the pope himself?" asked Henry of his literary man. "Ay, that
I would, as soon as look at him," was the reply; upon which Cranmer was
taken at his word, and sent off to Rome with old Boleyn, now the Earl of
Wiltshire. As they entered the papal presence, Clement held out his toe
to receive the usual homage, but the old earl positively declined to
perform the humiliating ceremony, and after the pontiff had stood upon
one leg for a considerable time, he found that he and his visitor
must meet upon an equal footing. Cranmer, though not allowed a public
disputation with the pope, took every opportunity of earwigging the
people about him, and got many of them to admit that the king's marriage
was illegal, though they would not acknowledge that his holiness had
no power to give it validity. Though Cranmer's pamphlet had proved
everything, it had done nothing, and Henry beginning to speak of his
exertions as "all talk," another tool was required to carry out the
royal project. This tool came originally from a blacksmith's shop in
Putney, in the shape of one Thomas Cromwell, of whom it has since been
said that he was a sharp file, who would cut right through a difficulty,
while Cranmer was active enough in hammering away at a point, but his
hitting the right nail upon the head was generally very dubious.

The father of Cromwell did smiths' work in general, but nothing at all
in particular, for he had amassed a decent fortune. His son was sent as
a clerk to a factory at Antwerp, where he kept the books; but he soon
abandoned accounts, in the hope of cutting a figure. He entered the
army, and was present when Rome was made a bed of ruins, by getting a
complete sacking. He next entered the counting-house of a merchant of
Venice, who dealt in Venetian blinds and Venetian carpeting, but young
Cromwell soon threw up the one and indignantly laid down the other. On
arriving in London, he commenced the study of the law, and took chambers
in Inner Temple Lane, which was, even at that early period, the grand
mart of legal ability. Wolsey, who had lodgings over the gate hard by,*
was in the habit of meeting Cromwell, who eventually became what is
professionally termed "the devil" of that ingenious advocate.

     * These lodgings still exist as Honey and Skelton's, the
     hair-dressers, who have preserved a series of interesting
     historical documents, among which may be seen Wolsey's first
     brief, and other curious relics.

On the fall of his senior, Cromwell contrived to keep just far
enough off to prevent himself from being crushed by the weight of
the unfortunate cardinal, and offering his services to the king, was
immediately retained in the great cause of Henry the Eighth versus
Catherine of Aragon, ex parte Anne Boleyn. By the advice of Cromwell the
authority of the pope was set at defiance, and in 1532 a law was passed
prohibiting the payment to him of first-fruits; "which do not mean,"
says Strype, "the earliest gooseberries, to enable his holiness to play
at gooseberry fool, but the first profits of a benefice."

Henry at last determined to cut the Gordian knot, by forming another
tie, and in January, 1533, he solved the question of the divorce
by marrying Anne Boleyn. The ceremony was performed in a garret at
Whitehall, in the presence of Norris and Heneage, who were a couple of
grooms, and of Mrs. Savage, the train-bearer of the bride, whose wedding
came off much in the style of those clandestine affairs, in which the
clerk gives the lady away, and the old pew-opener acts in the capacity
of bridesmaid. Cranmer, who had lately arrived in town for the season,
found a vacancy in the see of Canterbury, which he consented to fill
up, without scrupling to take the usual oaths to the pope, though openly
avowing himself a Protestant. Clement himself not only ratified the
election of the man he knew was committing perjury, but even consented
to make a reduction in the fees that were usual on similar occasions.

Thus did these two precious humbugs humbug each other and their
contemporaries; but the historian will not allow them any longer to
humbug posterity. Cromwell swore obedience against his conscience, and
intending to break his oath, but intent on obtaining the dignity which
he could purchase by perjury, and Clement took a reduced fee, on the
principle of half a loaf being better than no bread, from a man who, on
the slightest opposition being offered to him, might have snapped his
fingers at the papal chair as he did in his heart--if one can snap
one's fingers in one's heart--at the papal authority. Thus did the great
champions of Protestantism on one side, and Catholicism on the other,
agree in a disgraceful arrangement, by which one sold his sacred
authority for a pecuniary bribe, and the other bartered his conscience
for a temporary dignity.

It has been said by Cromwell's apologists, that he took his false oaths
with a mental reservation; but if this excuse were allowed to prevail,
the conscience would possess a salve as efficacious as that of the quack
which was warranted to cure every disease from apoplexy to chilblains,
and prevent the necessity of patients with delicate lungs from
exporting themselves abroad to avoid the danger of being left for home
consumption.

The contemplation of so much hypocrisy, in such high quarters, having
put us so thoroughly out of patience that we are unable to proceed, we
break off here with the remark, that tergiversation and treachery have
ever been common among even the highest in rank, and so we fear they
will continue to be until--ha! ha!--the end of the chapter.



CHAPTER THE FIFTH. HENRY THE EIGHTH (CONCLUDED).


[Illustration: 418]

THOUGH Henry the Eighth had already married Anne Boleyn, the little
affair of the divorce from Catherine had not been quite settled, and,
as it was just possible that his two wives might clash, he resolved
to hurry on his legal separation from her, whom we may call, by way of
distinction, the "old original." Cranmer, who was a very spaniel in
his sneaking subservience to his royal master, was instantly set on
to worry, as a cur worries a cat, the unhappy Catherine. A Court was
immediately constituted, under the presidentship of Cranmer, to decide
on the legality of her marriage, and the lady was cited to appear; but
she did not attend, and, though summoned by her judges fifteen times,
the more they kept on calling the more she kept on not coming. Difficult
as it is in general to anticipate what a judicial decision will be,
the judgment in the case of the King _ex parte_ Anne Boleyn _versus_
Catherine of Aragon might be foreseen very easily. The marriage was, of
course, pronounced illegal, and Cranmer wrote to Henry on the 12th of
May, 1533, to say that he had just had the pleasure of pronouncing the
"old lady" _vere et manifesté contumax_. The Court declared she had
never been married to Henry, but was the widow of the Prince of Wales,
to whose title she must in future restrict herself. When the news was
brought to her, she exclaimed indignantly, "Not married to the king?
Marry come up, indeed!" and the wretchedness of the pun speaks volumes
for the misery to which she had been reduced by her enemies.

Henry, wishing to make the work complete, and aware that _finis coronat
opus_, determined that a coronation should be the finishing touch of his
recent matrimonial manoeuvring. The ceremony was performed with great
pomp on the 1st of June, 1533, when, though the regular crown was used,
the weak head of Anne was too feeble to bear it, and it was replaced
by a smaller diadem, which had been purposely prepared as a substitute.
When Clement heard of what had been passing in England, he sent forth a
bull, expecting that Henry would be immediately cowed by it. The pontiff
ordered the monarch to take back his original wife, but the latter
refused to listen to any motion for returns, observing that those who
are at Rome may do as Rome does, but that he should entirely repudiate
the papal jurisdiction. A Parliament which was held soon after seconded
the sovereign's views, and, by way of paying off the pope, he was
deprived of all fees, rights, and privileges which he had hitherto
enjoyed as head of the Church of England. The ecclesiastical party in
England had been subservient to the whim of Henry, and had assisted in
nullifying its own supremacy over the State by cutting off its own head;
so that the experiment of amputating one's own nose to be revenged upon
one's face was somewhat more than realised.

[Illustration: 419]

On the 7th of September, 1533, Anne Boleyn became the mother of a little
girl, who was named Elizabeth, and the courtiers of the day already
offered to lay heavy bets on the future greatness of Betsy. The king,
who had buoyed himself up with the hopes of a boy, was a little angry at
the unfavourable issue, and he vented his ill-humour in further insults
towards the unfortunate Catherine. Everyone who continued, either by
design or accident, to call her queen was thrown into prison, and even
a slip of the tongue, occasioned by absence of mind, was followed by
absence of body, for the luckless offender was dragged off to gaol, from
the bosom or his family.

Henry having lopped off Catherine as a branch of the royal tree, and
grafted Anne Boleyn on the trunk, began to think about the successional
crops, in the treatment of which he was assisted by a servile
Parliament. Little Mary, Catherine's daughter, was rooted out like a
worthless marigold, and Elizabeth was declared to be the rising flower
of the royal family. Among the atrocities committed by Parliament on
account of its miserable subserviency to the will of the king, was
the bill of attainder of high treason, passed against a female fanatic
called the Maid of Kent, and some of her accomplices. This person, whose
name was Elizabeth Barton, and who resided at Aldington in Kent, was
subject to hysterical fits, as well as to talking like a fool, which in
those days--as in these--was often mistaken for a symptom of superior
sagacity. Extremes are said to meet, and the mental imbecility of Miss
E. Barton was thought by many to border on an amount of wisdom which
only inspiration could impart, and the semi-natural got credit for
the possession of supernatural attributes. Some of her idiotic and
incoherent talk having been heard by her ignorant companions, was
declared by them to be inspired, because it was something they did not
understand; and as knavery is always ready to turn to profit the idea
that folly sets on foot, persons were soon found willing to take the
Maid of Kent under their patronage for political purposes.

Richard Maister or Masters, the vicar of the place, whom Hume calls "a
designing fellow" behind his back, whatever the historian might have
said to the reverend gentleman's face, was the first to take an interest
in Elizabeth Barton, and introduced her to public notice as a sort of
mesmeric prodigy; in which capacity she brought out a bundle of Sybiline
leaves, with the intention, probably, of making a regular business
of telling fortunes. Anxious for the recommendation of being able to
announce herself as "Prophetess in Ordinary to the King," Miss Barton
began predicting all sorts of things with reference to Henry; but
unfortunately she had not the tact to make his majesty the subject of
happy auguries. She hoped, perhaps, that if she went to work boldly,
he would buy her off; for it has sometimes proved a good speculation to
establish a nuisance in a respectable neighbourhood, which will often
pay the annoyance to remove itself to some other locality. Miss Burton
did not, however, manage so well, for instead of getting literally
bought up, she was destined to be put down very speedily. Making a bold
bid for royal patronage, she prophesied that if Henry put away Catherine
he would die a violent death within seven months; and Elizabeth Barton
thus made sure that if the king declined treating with her for the
stoppage of her mouth, the ex-queen would at least make her some
compliment in return for her complimentary prophecy. Henry, who had no
objection to her dealing out death either wholesale, retail, or even for
exportation, to some of his popish enemies abroad, could not allow
such a liberty to be taken with his own name; and accordingly the
fortuneteller, who professed to hold consultation with the stars, was
brought up before the Star Chamber. She soon found in the president
a Great Bear more terrible than the Ursa Major to whom she had been
accustomed; and perceiving by the rough manner of the assembled stars of
the Star Chamber that theirs was anything but a Milky Way, she was glad
to own herself an impostor, for she saw that it would have been useless
to plead not guilty before judges who, according to her own conviction,
were resolved on convicting her. She was committed to prison on her own
confession; and as the seven months within which Henry would have become
due, according to her prediction of his death, had expired, it was to
be hoped that he, at least, would have been satisfied without subjecting
Miss Barton to further punishment. He however seemed to have become
positively irritated at the falsehood of her prophecy; and because
he had not died in the proper course, he subjected the maid and six
accomplices to a bill of attainder of treason, in pursuance of which
they were all executed on the 21st of April, 1534, at Tyburn.

We will not dwell on the disgusting subject of Henry's cruelties towards
such excellent men as Fisher, bishop of Rochester, and Sir Thomas More,
both of whom fell victims to the ferocity of their royal master. Their
conscientious refusal to recognise Henry as the head of the Church had
excited his rage, which increased to the height of savageness when the
pope offered to send to poor Fisher the hat of a cardinal. The king at
first attempted to put a prohibition on the importation of all hats; but
anticipating that the _chapeau_ intended for Fisher might be smuggled
into England, Henry contented himself with the barbarous joke, that
the hat would be useless without a head to wear it on. The monarch soon
carried out his threat, and then turned his fury upon the unfortunate
Sir Thomas More, who had retired into private life in the hope of
escaping Henry's tyranny. This, however, was impossible; for though
conscience must often have whispered "Can't you leave the man alone?"
some evil genius kept ever and anon murmuring the words, "At him again,"
into the ears of the despot.

Among the petty persecutions to which More was exposed, was the taking
away of all writing implements from the good old man, who, deprived of
pens and ink, took a coal as a substitute. He at length learned to write
with a piece of Wallsend as rapidly as he could use a pen, and, with a
coalscuttle for an inkstand, he never wanted the material to keep alive
the fire of his genius. Considering how famous he was for the use
of "words that burn," we do not see how he could have found a better
instrument than a piece of coal for transcribing his sentiments. A
pretext was soon found for taking the life of this excellent man,
whose facetious bearing at his own execution shall not mislead us into
unseemly levity in alluding to it. He made jokes upon the scaffold; but
we must admit that they are of so sad and melancholy a description, as
to be scarcely considered inappropriate to his very serious position.
So much has been said of the wit of More, that we may perhaps be excused
for hazarding a word or two concerning it. Judging by some of the _bon
mots_ that have been preserved, they seem to us hardly worth the expense
of their keep; for as horses are said to have eaten off their own heads,
so the witticisms of More appear in many instances to have consumed all
their own point, or, at all events, the rust of ages has a good deal
dimmed their brilliancy. His wife had but little respect for his
waggery, and would sometimes ask him "how he could play the fool in a
close, filthy prison?" and she evidently thought it was carrying a joke
a little too far, when she found her husband would not "drop it" even in
the Tower. His allusion to his being obliged to write with coals instead
of pens, which caused him to say that "he was but a wreck of his former
self, and had better be scuttled at once," seems to us equally deficient
in point and dignity. He was executed on the 6th of July, 1535, after a
quantity of badinage with the headsman, which makes us regret, for the
sake of More, that any reporters were allowed to be present.

Henry had now come to open war with the Church of Rome, and, under the
advice of Cromwell, he determined to make a profit as well as a pleasure
of the recent rupture.

[Illustration: 422]

While the pope let loose his bulls upon the king, the latter turned out
his bull-dogs, in the shape of emissaries, empowered to pillage the
rich monasteries in England. Cromwell acted as whipper-in to this cruel
sport, and hounded on the servile dogs at his command, in pursuit of
those monastic herds, which had been luxuriating in the rich pastures
the church had hitherto afforded.

It is true that many impositions on the public were discovered by the
emissaries of Henry; but one fault does not justify another, and the
frauds of the monks afforded no excuse for the robbery committed by
the monarch. We may feel indignant at the showman who exhibits on his
delusive canvas "more, much more," than his caravan can hold, but we
have no right to appropriate to ourselves the whole of his stock because
he has been guilty of trickery. Henry did not pocket the whole of the
proceeds thus unscrupulously obtained, but gave a few slices to the
church, by creating half-a-dozen new bishoprics and establishing a
professorship of two in the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and he
threw them a few crumbs of the good things he had seized, more with the
hope of stopping the mouths than satisfying the appetites of the hungry
claimants.

Poor Catherine of Aragon died at Kimbolton on the 8th of January, 1536,
after writing a letter to the king, which it is said extracted one tear
from the sovereign's heart--a circumstance which must have raised hopes
at the time, that the process of extracting blood from a stone might not
be found impossible.

The year 1536 was marked by a voyage of discovery under the patronage
of the king, for the purpose of sending some emigrants on a wild-goose
chase to the north-west coast of America. Thirty of the adventurers
were gentlemen from the Temple and Chancery Lane, who, thinking anything
better than nothing, had probably dashed their wigs to the ground, and
thrown themselves on the mercy of that motion of course which the sea
was certain to supply them with. It is said, though we know not with how
much truth, that the learned wanderers being short of provisions, made
each other their prey--a result to be expected when clients were not
accessible. It is added that none of the party returned but a learned
gentleman of the name of Ruts, who was so changed that his father and
mother did not know him until he pointed to a wart which had not been
washed away by the water.

Henry continued his hostility to the pope, absurdly declaring that
he would not be bullied, and in defiance of the papal see caused Anne
Boleyn, who is said to have exulted over the death of Catherine, to
drain the cup of sorrow, or rather to lap it up: for she one day found
Jane Seymour, a maid of honour, sitting on the knee of Henry. It was
in vain that the monarch and his new favourite endeavoured to laugh the
matter off as a mere _lapsus_, for Anne declared that the king must have
begun to nurse a new passion.

[Illustration: 424]

As they who are convicted of a fault themselves are anxious to pick
holes in the conduct of others, Henry having been proved to see more
in Seymour than became him as a married man, commenced harbouring
suspicions against Anne Boleyn. On May-day, 1536, there had been a royal
party at Greenwich--in fact, a regular fair--when suddenly, in the midst
of the sports, Henry started up exceedingly indignant at something he
had witnessed. The queen did the same, and her husband pretended that
he had seen her either winking at one Norris, a groom, or clown to the
ring, in which the jousts were going forward, or making signals to Mark
Smeaton, a musician in the clerical orchestra. Several persons were
seized at once, and sent to the Tower, including poor Smeaton, the
member of the band who was accused of acting in concert with men of
higher note, to whom he was charged with playing second fiddle.

Poor Anne was taken to the Tower, where a number of scandalous old women
were sent about her to talk her into admissions against herself, and
to talk her out of anything that they could manage to extract from her
simplicity. She wrote what may justly be called "a very pretty letter"
to the king, dated the 6th of May, 1536; but if any answer was received
it must have come from Echo, who is the general respondent to all
communications which receive no attention from the parties to whom they
are directed. On the 12th of the same month Norris, Weston, Brereton,
and Smeaton were tried and executed, all denying their guilt but
the musician, who changed his key note a little before he died, and
modulated off from a _fortissimo_ declaration of innocence to a most
_pianissimo_ confession. There is every reason to believe that this
composition of Smeaton was a piece of thorough base, which is only to be
accounted for on the score of treachery.

On the 15th of May, a building as trumpery as the charge against her
having been knocked together in the Tower, Anne Boleyn was brought up
for trial before a court of twenty-six barons, one of whom was her own
father, while her uncle the Duke of Norfolk sat as president. It would
be imagined that a jury comprising two relatives would have given a
positive advantage to Anne; but her uncle being a rogue, and her father
a fool, the former was too venal, and the latter too timid, to be of
any use to her. She pleaded her own cause with such earnestness, that
everyone who heard how she had acquitted herself, thought that her
judges must have acquitted her. They, however, found her guilty, to the
intense bewilderment of the Lord Mayor, who had heard her defence, and
could only go about exclaiming, "Well, I never! did you ever?" for the
remainder of his existence.

It would seem that there was something in the mere prospect of the axe,
which imparted its sharpness to the intellects of those upon whose heads
the instrument was on the point of falling. We have already alluded to
the _mots_ of More when he was positively moribund, and the quips of the
queen became very numerous and sparkling as the prospect of the scaffold
opened out to her. She made a sad joke upon the little span of her own
neck--in reference, no doubt, to the small span of human existence--and
paid a compliment to foreign talent by requesting that she might have
the benefit of the services of that sharp blade that had just come from
Calais--alluding to the recent arrival of the French executioner.

Henry was on a hunting party in Epping Forest, and was breakfasting
on Epping sausages, when the execution took place, the announcement of
which he had ordered should be made to him by the firing of a gun as a
distant signal. During the _déjeûner_ Henry kept continually exclaiming
"hush," and entreating "silence," with all the energy of an usher in a
court of law, until a loud bang boomed over the breakfast-table. Henry
instantly started up, exclaiming, "Ha, ha! 'tis done!" and ordering the
dogs to be let slip while his breakfast-cup was still at his lip, he
resumed his sport with even more than his wonted gaiety. On the very
next day, he was married to Jane Seymour, there having been a very short
lapse of time since she was discovered on the lap of Henry.

A Parliament having been speedily assembled, that servile body passed
every act that Henry desired, and began by cancelling, in one batch, the
entire issue of his former marriages. The princesses Mary and Elizabeth
were declared illegitimate, while the condemnation of Anne Boleyn was
legalised by statute; a measure which was a little tardy, considering
that she had already lost her head in pursuance, or rather in
anticipation of the confirmation of her sentence.

The destruction of monasteries was now carried on with a most brutal
rapacity, and a mixture of barbarism and barbarity that disgusted a
great portion of the community. Not satisfied with robbing the inmates
of the monasteries, Henry's myrmidons destroyed the buildings themselves
with the most wanton violence, and it was remarked that they were never
contented with emptying a cellar of all its wine, but must always remain
to take shots at the bottles. This unprovoked and tasteless taste for
mere mischief roused the discontent of the people in many places, and
the Lincolnshire fens assumed the offensive with one Mackrel, an odd
fish, as the leader of the insurgents. This Mackrel soon got himself
into a sad pickle, for he was executed at a very early period of the
insurrectionary movement.

[Illustration: 426]

On the 12th of October, 1537, her majesty Queen Seymour gave birth to a
son, an event which made Henry as happy as a king, or at least as happy
as such a king, with such a conscience as Henry carried about with him,
could possibly make himself. He dandled the royal infant in his arms
with all a parent's pride, and sang snatches of nursery ballads in
the ear of the baby. The child was called Edward, which Henry fondly
translated into Teddy Peddy; and three little coronets--the size of
first caps--were instantly made for the Prince of Wales, the Duke of
Cornwall, and the Earl of Chester, for such was the _tria juncta in uno_
formed by the birth of the illustrious little stranger. The queen died
in twelve days after giving birth to an heir; but this circumstance did
not seem to affect the spirits of Henry, who perhaps felt that there was
one more wife out of the way, without the trouble and expense of getting
rid of her.

[Illustration: 428]

The arbitrary monarch now experienced a good deal of trouble from one
Pole, whom the tyrant made several attempts to bring to the scaffold.
This Pole was remarkable for standing erect, and for his firmness, after
once taking his ground, in keeping his position.

He was the son of Sir Richard Pole and Margaret Countess of Salisbury,
for the first Pole was a kind of leaping Pole, with a strong tendency
to raise not only himself, but all those that belonged to him. Reginald,
for such was the name of the Pole that had stirred up the rage of Henry,
had received from the pope a cardinal's hat, with the assurance that
such a Pole ought not to be bare, but deserved the most honourable
covering. Being himself resident abroad, he was as much out of the
English tyrant's power as if he had been the old original North Pole,
of whom we have all heard; but his brothers and relatives at home
were seized upon, and either executed or burnt like so much firewood.
Parliament aided the despotism of the king, by passing a suicidal act,
declaring that a royal proclamation should have the force of law; a
resolution equivalent to an act of self-destruction; for if the king
could do everything by himself, there was, of course, no occasion for
Lords and Commons to help him in the task of government.

Henry having become disembarrassed of no less than three wives, began to
think so little of the encumbrance of matrimony, that he contemplated
a fourth engagement. It was indeed natural enough that he should be
fearless of that which might make bolder men afraid, for he had given
evidence of a facility in making an escape, and he consequently risked
little by braving danger. He advertised, as it were, for a wife, in all
the markets of European royalty, and he continued popping a series of
questions; but his--to revive a _mot_ (we cannot call it a _bon mot_) of
the period--was of all pops the most unpopular. "Nobody will have me,
by Jingo," he would sometimes mutter to himself; and at length the wily
Cromwell proposed to act as matrimonial agent to his majesty.

The Duchess Dowager of Milan was treated with for her hand, but she
wrote back to say that if she had a couple of heads, she might listen
to Henry's proposal, for he would certainly cut off one, and it would be
awkward not having another head to fall back upon. He next sent an offer
to the Duchess of Guise, saying that wedlock, coming to him in such a
Guise, would be the height of happiness; but this lady politely excused
herself, on the ground of a "previous engagement." Somewhat hurt by
these repeated rebuffs, he requested Francis the king of France to
"trot out" his two sisters for Henry to take his choice; but Frank said
frankly that he would have nothing to do with the humiliating business.
We have it on the authority of a letter among Cromwell's correspondence,
that Henry was rather taken with Madame de Montreuil, a French lady,
who having come from France to Scotland in the suite of Magdalen, first
queen of James the Fifth of Scotland, was now on her way back again.
Henry appears to have gone to Dover for the purpose of meeting her
on the pier or the parade; but he must have found her _passé_ as he
surveyed her through his glass, for nothing came of their meeting. The
lady lingered in England to give him every chance, but Henry could
only shake his head, observing "No! by Jove it won't do;" and Madame de
Montreuil, pitying his want of taste, was compelled to return to her own
country.

At length Cromwell came running one morning to Henry, exclaiming, "I
think I've found something to suit your majesty at last," and placed
in the king's hand the card of "Anne, second daughter of John Duke of
Cleves, one of the princes of the Germanic Confederacy." Henry was not
possibly averse to the match, but was wavering, when Cromwell produced
a lovely portrait as that of the candidate for the hand of the
English sovereign. The king examined the picture with the eye of a
_connoisseur_, and being pleased with the sample, ordered the lot to be
sent over to him with as little delay as possible. The picture was by
Holbein, who had utterly concealed the plain fact, and bestowed upon the
German princess such handsome treatment, that he had imparted the lustre
of the brilliant to an object which was as inferior to the copy, as
German paste is worthless by the side of the diamond. Henry hastened,
on her arrival in England, to compare the original with the picture; and
having disguised himself, sent forward Sir Anthony Brown to say that
a gentleman was coming on to see her, with a new year's present. Poor
Brown was fearfully taken aback at seeing a lady so thoroughly _laide_
as Anne of Cleves, but gave no opinion to his royal master. * Henry went
tripping into the apartment with all the ardour of a youthful lover; but
the first glance was enough, and he shrunk back, muttering to himself,
that the princess instead of looking like the picture of Holbein,
reminded him rather of the picture of misery. He nevertheless summoned
up all his resolution to give her a kiss; but it was clear to all who
witnessed the scene, that Henry repented a bargain in which he found
himself mixed up with such a decidedly ugly customer. After a few
minutes passed in small-talk--the smallness of which limited it to
twenty words--Henry went away in deep dudgeon, but he made up his mind
to the marriage, lest he might be involved with any of the German powers
in an action for a breach of promise.

The evening before the nuptials were solemnised, Henry sat with
Cromwell, bewailing--probably over some nocturnal grog--the "alarming
sacrifice," that had become unavoidable. The statesman, who had
recommended the match, tried hard to soften down some of the most
repulsive features of Anne; but Henry coarsely described her as "a
great Flanders mare," and Holbein as a "humbug" for having so grossly
flattered such a coarse clumsy animal. "By my troth," he exclaimed--for
his indignation rose as the liquor in his glass became lower--"you got
me into this scrape and you must get me out of it. I shall expect you to
find some means of abating for me this frightful nuisance."

Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, the head of the popish party in the
church, was, of course, an opponent of Cromwell, and took advantage
of the recent matrimonial mistake, to damage him still further in the
opinion of his royal master. Gardiner flattered himself that the train
had been already laid, and that the awfully bad match which Cromwell
himself had provided, would certainly hasten the explosion that there
was good reason to anticipate. The wily Bishop of Winchester introduced
Catherine Howard, the lovely niece of his friend the Duke of Norfolk, to
the king, who was instantly struck by her beauty, and said warmly, "Ha!
the man who has discovered this charming Kate knows how to cater for his
sovereign." *

     * Strype--who certainly deserves a hundred stripes for
     recording such an atrocity.

Cromwell's doom was now sealed, and the Duke of Norfolk, on the 10th
of June, 1540, had the luxury of taking into custody his political
antagonist. A charge of having one day pulled out a dagger, and declared
he would stick to the cause of the Reformation, even against the king,
was speedily got up, and, by the 28th of July, he was disposed of, at
Tower Hill, in the customary manner. While in prison, he wrote a pitiful
letter to Henry, with the word "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy!" reiterated thrice
as a P.S.; the meanness and tautology of which evinced a poverty in the
spirit as well as in the letter.

The king had now determined to marry Catherine Howard, but the old
difficulty--another wife living--stood in the way of the desired
arrangement. Having consulted his attorney, it was proposed to search
for some previous marriage contract in which Anne of Cleves had
been concerned; and as everybody is engaged, on an average, at least
half-a-dozen times before being married once, there would have appeared
little difficulty in accomplishing Henry's wishes.

The excessive ugliness of Anne of Cleves, however, placed great
obstacles in the way, for she had clearly been a drug in the matrimonial
market, and neither by hook nor by crook could an old offer for her
be fished up until something of the kind from the young Prince of
Lorraine--entered into before he was old enough to know better--was
happily hit upon. A commission was at once issued, the matter tried, and
of course decided in Henry's favour. By way of strengthening the king's
case, it was urged by his learned counsel that he had married against
his will, and therefore ought to be released from his contract. The
Court, however, held that the establishment of such a principle would be
almost equivalent to the passing of a general divorce act for half the
couples in Christendom, and on that point at least the rule for a
new trial of Henry's luck was refused accordingly. His suit for a
nullification of his contract with Anne of Cleves succeeded on the other
point, and both parties were equally gratified by the result which
set them both at liberty. The lady felt she had much rather lose her
husband's hand than her own head, and Henry began to think he might be
wearing out the axe upon his wives before he had half done with it, and
if he could find any other means for severing the marriage tie he
much preferred doing so. He offered to make her his sister, with
three thousand a year, an arrangement with which she expressed herself
perfectly satisfied. Both parties were permitted to enter into wedlock
again, if they pleased, and the king of course availed himself of
the option with his accustomed celerity. The Bill was brought into
Parliament on the 12th of July, and the 8th of August found Catherine
Howard already publicly acknowledged as the fifth Mrs. Henry Tudor.

It had now become the boast of Henry that he held the balance with an
even hand between the Catholics and the Reformers; but his impartiality
was shown in a manner most inconvenient to both of them. He used to deal
out what he called equal justice to both, by submitting a few on each
side of the question to equal cruelty. He would forward three Catholics
at a time to Smithfield, to be hanged as traitors, and by the same
hurdle he would send three Lutherans to be burned as heretics.

As we are unwilling to turn our history into a Newgate Calendar, for the
sake of recording the atrocities of a sanguinary king, we shall, in our
account of the remainder of this odious reign, preserve the heads, and
avoid the executions. The murder of the Countess of Salisbury, an old
woman upwards of seventy, and the mother of Cardinal Pole, stands out
perhaps from some other sanguinary deeds by its peculiar atrocity. The
venerable lady, at the last moment, defied the executioner to come on,
and a combat of the fiercest character took place upon the scaffold.

Henry, who had frequently tried to inoculate his nephew, James the Fifth
of Scotland, with his own predatory propensities, became at length angry
that the latter declined turning thief in the name of religion, and
plundering the church under the pretext of simply reforming it. A
conference had been agreed upon between the English and the Scotch
kings; but the latter, at the instigation of Cardinal Beaton, whose
olfactory nerves had detected a rat, broke his appointment with his
imperious uncle. This ungentlemanly proceeding gave such offence to
the English tyrant, that he threatened, with an awful oath, to let
the weight of old Henry be felt in Scotland; and the expression that
So-and-So purposes "playing old Harry," no doubt took its rise from the
incident to whicn we have alluded.

The Duke of Norfolk was sent, as a low fellow of that period hath it,
"to take the shine out of that Jem," who was completely defeated at
Solway Moss, through his own troops turning their backs--not upon him,
as it is said by some, but upon the enemy. James was so overwhelmed
with shame and despair, that he drew his helmet over his eyes, assumed
a stoop--a sure sign that he was stupefied--and never raised his head
again, but fell a victim to that very vulgar malady, a low fever. He
left his kingdom to his daughter, then only eight days old, who came
to the throne on the ninth; but as she was not a nine days' wonder, she
evinced no miraculous aptitude for the task of government.

Henry had in the meantime been made very uncomfortable by the rumours
that his wife, familiarly known as Miss Kate Howard, had not been acting
properly. When the king heard the news, he was deeply affected, for he
was one of those persons who make up, in feeling for themselves, for
their deficiency of feeling with regard to others. He sat down and had
a good crocodilian cry, which irrigated his hands to such an extent
that he was compelled to wring them to get them dry again. Cranmer and
Norfolk were appointed to examine into the truth of the charges against
the queen, who, when her guilt was proved beyond doubt, made a virtue
of necessity--the only virtue of which she could boast--by boldly
confessing it.

This unfortunate young woman had been promised a pardon on condition of
her revealing the extent of her transgression; but when she had admitted
not only a great deal she had done, but had thrown into the bargain a
great deal she had never done at all, Henry, regardless of his pledge,
thought that the best way to get rid of an annoyance was to break the
neck of it. Catherine Howard was accordingly beheaded at the Tower, on
the 15th of February, 1542, and finding her confession had done her no
good, she retracted the greater part of it. "It was not to be supposed,"
says Mullins, "that a person who had shown himself so double as Henry,
could long remain single," and he accordingly threw himself once more
upon the matrimonial market. There he was of course no longer at a
premium, and he was pretty soon at Parr; and it is a strange fact that
he would have commanded a better price had it been certain that he could
be had without the _coupon_, which had distinguished the settling days
of two of the wives of this shocking bad sovereign. Catherine Parr was a
corpulent old lady, fortified by at least forty summers, but she readily
listened to the proposals of Henry. Henry entered her at once on his
share or _chère_ list, and in allusion to her bulk, placed opposite to
her name the words "commands a very heavy figure." She was the widow of
Neville, Lord Latimer; but, thought Henry, "What care I, if she has even
killed her man?--it will not be the first time that I shall have killed
my woman."

[Illustration: 434]

The English king courted her at once, and made much of her; but to
have made more of her than there really was, would have been rather
difficult. He married her on the 10th of July, 1543, and it is a curious
fact that she outlived him, which we can only attribute to the lady
partaking the longevity of her namesake old Parr, for there must have
been a vigorous adhesion to life in any one who could marry and survive
the wife-exterminating tyrant. For some time she humoured Henry, but
having a touch of Lutherism, she began meddling with matters of Church
and State, which embroiled her with a bishop or two, who ran and told
the king what she had been impudent enough to talk about. "Marry come
up!" roared Henry, in allusion to his having elevated Catherine Parr
by marrying her; "so you are a doctor, are you, Kate?" But having had
a hint that her mixing in politics was not agreeable, she only replied,
meekly, "No, no, your Kate is no caitiff." This speech had the effect of
diverting Henry's wrath, almost as much as it will divert posterity
by its delightful quaintness. Gardiner, who had justified his
name--allowing of course for the difference of spelling--by sowing the
seeds of dissension between the king and queen, had arranged with
the sovereign that her majesty was to be seized next morning by forty
guards, headed by Chancellor Wriothesley. This person was not a little
astonished at finding himself called "an arrant knave, a foole, and a
beastlie foole," * by the king, when he came to execute his mission. He
was, in fact, dismissed with an entire earful of fleas, of which Henry
had always an abundance on hand for unwelcome visitors.

     * Lord Herbert.

Henry had now become, literally, the greatest monarch that ever sat upon
the throne, for he had increased awfully in size, and become irritable
at the same time, so that the task of getting round him was, in every
sense, extremely difficult. Had there been a prize monarch show, open to
the whole world, he must have carried off the palm, for he was too fat
to lie down, lest no power should be able to get him up again. It was
true he had been born to greatness, but he also had greatness thrust
upon him--some say by over-feeding--to such an extent that he was
obliged to be wheeled about, on account of his very unwieldiness. It
might haye been supposed that Henry would have begun to soften under
all these circumstances; but he exhibited no tendency to melt, for he
continued his cruelties in burning those whom he chose to denounce as
heretics. It is disgraceful to the ecclesiastical character of the
age, that the church party that happened to be in power sanctioned the
cruelties practised towards the party that happened to be out, and it
was said, at the time, that the fires at Smith-field were always being
stirred by some high clerical dignitary, who might be considered the
"holy poker" of the period.

The prospect of a speedy vacancy on the throne created a rush of
candidates, who commenced literally cutting each others' throats--a
desperate game, in which the Howards and Hertfords made themselves very
conspicuous. Young Howard, Earl of Surrey, used to sneer at Hertford,
who had been recently ennobled, as a "new man," and Hertford would
retort unfeelingly upon Howard's father, the Duke of Norfolk, by saying
"it was better to be a new man than an old sinner." The Norfolk family
got the worst of it, for Norfolk and Suffolk were taken to the Tower on
the 12th of December, 1546, on the frivolous charge of having quartered
with their own arms the arms of Edward the Confessor. Had they gone so
far as to use these arms upon a seal, it ought not to have sealed their
doom, nor stamped them as traitors; but the frivolousness of the charge
marks the tyrannical character of the period. Commissioners were sent to
their country seat at Kuming Hall, to ransack the drawers, pillage the
plate chest, and send the proceeds to the king; but the people intrusted
with the job either found or pretended to find scarcely anything. They
wrote to the king, telling him that the jewels were all either sold or
in pawn; but as the tickets never came to hand, it is possible that the
searchers were practising a sort of duplicate rascality. They forwarded
to the king a box of beads and buttons; but though every bead was glass,
Henry does not appear to have seen through it. Surrey was tried at
Guildhall for having quartered the royal arms with his own, and on his
defence he observed, "By my troth, mine enemies will not allow me any
quarter whatever." He was found guilty, of course, and beheaded on the
19th of January, 1547, and his father's execution had been set down
on the peremptory paper for the 28th of the same month, when the
proceedings were suddenly stayed just before execution, by the death of
Henry.

The tyrant, who had been getting physically as well as morally worse and
worse, clung to life with that desperate tenacity that is a sure sign of
there being good reason for dreading death in those among whom, after a
certain age, such a cowardly fear is manifest. He would often impiously
threaten that "he would outlive all the younger people about him yet;"
and though his time was evidently not far off, he would not bear to be
told of his true condition. Instead of repenting of his past life, he
devoted the wretched remnant of his existence to doing all the mischief
he could, and venting his malice to the fullest extent that his now
failing strength would admit of. Nobody dared muster resolution to tell
the unhappy old brute that he must very speedily die, until Sir Anthony
Denny, a knight who shared our friend Drummond's * aversion to humbug
of any description, boldly told old Harry that he was on the point of
visiting his redoubtable namesake.

     * "Drummond is so averse to humbug of any description."--
     _Vide_ Tijou.

Finding all chance of escape cut off, he began confessing his sins;
but it was rather too late, for, had his repentance been sincere, the
catalogue of his crimes was far too voluminous to allow of his getting
through one half of it before his dissolution. He had been in the habit
of adjourning that court of conscience existing in his as well as in
every man's breast, and he always postponed it _sine die_; but when the
time to die actually came, or the die was really cast, it was rather
late to move for a new trial. Henry died on the 29th of January, 1547,
in the fifty-sixth year of his age, the thirty-eighth of his reign, and
at least the forty-first of his selfishness, baseness and brutality.

He had been married six times, having divorced two of his wives,
beheaded two more, and left one a widow. This leaves one more--Jane
Seymour--still unaccounted for; and indeed her death was the most
wonderful of all, because it was natural. He left behind him three
children: but he did not care a pin's head, or even--to name an article
of smaller importance to him--a wife's head, for any one of them. Such
a very bad man was sure to be a very bad father, and he had declared two
of his children illegitimate, for it was the delight of this monster
to depreciate his own offspring in the eyes of the world as much as
possible. His religious reforms, however wholesome in their results,
were brutal in their execution and base in their origin. His insincerity
may be gathered from the fact that he appointed masses to be said for
his own soul, though he had burnt many persons for popery; and he seemed
to think that, by taking up two creeds at once on his death-bed, he
could make up for the utter irreligion of his last existence. He is said
to have contributed to the cause of enlightenment, and so perhaps he did
with all his blackness, as the coal contributes to the gas; and never
was a bit of Wallsend half so hard, or a tenth part so black, as the
heart of this despicable sovereign. He never had a friend; but he was
surrounded by sycophants, whom, one after the other, he atrociously
sacrificed.

Cranmer being a man of superior mind, exercised an influence over him,
and was sent for to his death-bed, when he pressed the prelate's hand;
but whether the pressure arose from cramp or conscience, rheumatism or
remorse, penitence or "pins and needles," must be considered a question
to which we will not hazard an answer. We regret that we have been
unable to adhere to the excellent motto, _de mortuis nil nisi bonum_, in
this case; but Henry was such a decided _malum in se_, that mischief was
bred in the bone, and the _nil nisi bonum_ becomes impossible.

Learning certainly advanced in this reign, and Henry himself affected
authorship; but every literary man, from the highest flyer in the realms
of fancy to the humblest historian of last night's fire or yesterday's
police, will be honestly ashamed of his royal fellow-craftsman.

Several colleges and schools were founded in this reign, among the
principal of which were Christ Church at Oxford, Trinity at Cambridge,
and St. Paul's in London. Here it was that the lowly Lily, of Lily's
grammar notoriety, first raised his humble head as the head master of
the school; and, though there is something lack-a-daisy-cal in Lily's
style, his grammar was at one time the first round of the ladder by
which every lad climed the heights of classical instruction.

It may be interesting to the gastronomic reader to be informed that
salads and turnips now first came into use, with other roots, towards
which the people had shown until then a rooted antipathy. They swallowed
spinach without any gammon, and even the carrot, that had formerly stuck
in their throat as if they feared it would injure the carotid artery,
was consumed with alacrity; and those who had disdained the most
delicious of green food, by courageously exclaiming, "Come, _let us_
try it," are supposed by some--though we disclaim the monstrous idea--to
have given its name to the lettuce. The cultivation of hops came as if
with a hop, skip, and jump across from Flanders, and the trade in wool
was brought, under the fostering patronage of Wolsey, to a state of some
prosperity.

With the exception of the burning of monasteries and the murder of his
wives, there was little to render the reign of Henry remarkable, beyond,
perhaps, the invention of beef-eaters. The word beef-eater is known to
be a corruption of _buffetier_, and indeed there was corruption, to a
certain extent, in everything connected with this detestable tyrant. It
is said they were called _buffetiers_ from attending at the _buffets_,
or sideboard of plate, but it is far more likely that they got the name
from the buffeting to which every servant of the royal ruffian must
have been occasionally liable. The neck was so often in danger, that any
menial of the malignant monarch might be expected to ruff it in the best
way he could, and hence the enormous ruffs, which are conspicuous to
this day, round the chins of the beef-eaters. The looseness of their
habits may be considered characteristic of the Court to which these
functionaries were attached, though it has been said by some authorities
that the beef-eaters were puffed and padded out to an enormous extent,
in order that the monster Henry might not appear conspicuous.

The reign of Henry was also remarkable for the invention of pins, to
which somebody had given his own head with intense earnestness. The
sharpness of the English had not yet reached so fine a point as to have
led to the discovery of the needle, which was doubtless suggested by the
pin, to some one who had an eye for improvement. The thimble is a still
later introduction, the merit of which is considerable; for though at
the present day every sempstress has the thimble at her finger ends,
there was a time when no one had thought of this very simple but
necessary appendage to the ladies' work-table. If the reign of Henry had
never been devoted to anything more objectionable than the discovery of
pins and needles we should have had little reason to complain, for a few
pricks of conscience, no matter whence they emanated, would have done
him good; but the scissors for cutting the thread of existence formed
the instruments chiefly in use during this cruel and most disastrous
reign.

[Illustration: 437]



CHAPTER THE SIXTH. EDWARD THE SIXTH.


[Illustration: 438]

AN enormous weight was taken off the whole country when the late lump of
obesity was removed from the throne; but shameful to relate, the first
use the nation made of the power of breathing freely was to give a few
puffs to the departed tyrant. The chancellor Wriothesley announced the
king's death to the House of Lords in tears, and there is said to have
been much weeping; but there are tears of joy as well as of sorrow, and
the former must have been the quality of the brine in which the memory
of Henry was preserved for a few days by his people. The lamentations,
whether sincere or hypocritical, were very soon exchanged for joy at the
accession of Edward the Sixth, who was only in his tenth year when
he woke one morning and found the crown of England over his ordinary
nightcap. To rub his eyes and ask "What's this?" were the work of an
instant, when, taking off the bauble, drawing aside his curtains, and
holding the article up to the light, he at once recognised the royal
diadem.

Young Edward was what we should call a little forward chit had he been
a common lad, but being a king we must at once accept him as an infant
prodigy. He had learnt several tongues from Mr. Cheke, and had been a
pupil of Sir Anthony Cook; but many of such cooks would have spoiled the
best "broth of a boy," for Sir Anthony was a pedant, "with five learned
daughters"--being equivalent to a couple of pair of blue stockings, and
an odd one over.

Henry, in his reluctance to leave to his son what he could no longer
hold himself, had fettered the monarchy as much as he could by his will,
which was, however, soon treated with the contempt it merited. He
had appointed sixteen executors and twelve councillors, but all to
no purpose; for all power was placed in the hands of the young king's
uncle, Hertford, who was created Duke of Somerset. The vaulting ambition
of this man, who turned Somersets over every obstacle that fell in his
way, rendered his new title very appropriate. He was invested with the
office of Protector, and he very soon set to work, but, still true to
the name of Somerset, he went head over heels into a war with Scotland.
The object of this proceeding was to demand the hand of Mary, Queen of
Scots, for the child Edward; but the idea of a person coming to make
love with a fleet of sixty sail and an army of eighteen thousand men,
was a little _trop fort_ to suit the taste of the Caledonians. They
placed a ban upon the marriage, which was equivalent to forbidding
the banns, and suggested, that if the young gentleman wanted to come
courting, he had better come by himself to pay his addresses. After a
little negotiation, which ended in nothing, a battle ensued, which is
famous as the battle of Pinkey, where the combatants pinked each other
off most cruelly with the points of their swords; and it is added by the
inveterate Strype--who deserves two thousand stripes, at least, for
this offence--that "on this field, which was within half a mile of
Musselburgh, the soldiers on both sides strained every muscle." The
English archers sent their arrows from their bows with destructive
effect; and looking, as they did, like so many Cupids in a valentine, it
must be confessed that that mode of warfare was, at least, appropriate
to a war undertaken in the cause of Hymen.

[Illustration: 439]

The Scotch were sadly defeated, but they still refused to give up
their little queen to the young fellow who sought her hand through his
subjects' arms, and she was accordingly sent to finish her education in
France; where, though only six years of age, she was betrothed to the
Dauphin.

Somerset, instead of following up his successes, made the best of his
way home; for he heard that his own brother, Sir Thomas Seymour, the
Lord High Admiral, who had been created also Baron Seymour of Sedley,
was making himself a great deal too agreeable to the royal ladies in
England. Old Kitty Parr, Henry's widow, was so much taken with Tom
Seymour's attentions, that she fell at once in his arms, and became his
wife; but poor Parr soon fell to a discount in the eyes of her husband,
who had become enamoured of the young Princess Elizabeth. The unhappy
old Parr swallowed many a bitter pill at this time, until death put an
end to her annoyances. Admiral Seymour was now free to pay his addresses
to Elizabeth, but it would seem that he was not more free than welcome,
for even during the life of her mother-in-law, that young lady had
afforded him every encouragement.

In order to stop his flirtations, which were now becoming serious, he
was clapped in the Tower, but his enemies were considerate enough to
send a bishop to him to preach patience, and as Ely was selected, who
prosed exceedingly, the preaching was accompanied by a practical lesson
in patience, with which it is to be hoped that Seymour was sufficiently
edified. He was accused of treason, and at a council the boy Edward,
who had no doubt been crammed for the occasion, delivered an elaborate
judgment, which his parasites puffed as extemporaneous. He regretted
being obliged to sacrifice his uncle Seymour to the common weal--a weal
that has brought woe to many, and to which the wheel of fortune bears,
except in its orthography, a wondrous similarity. Seymour was executed
on Wednesday, the 20th of March, 1549, and the last use he made of his
head before it was struck off was to shake it, and observe that "'pon
his honour, if he had been guilty of any treason against the king it was
quite unintentional."

The country was about this time agitated by one of those fits of general
discontent which prevail every now and then among the lower orders of
society. As usual there was a good deal of reason mixed with a large
amount of unreasonableness in their complaints, and the customary
feeling of "not knowing exactly what they really wanted," became
alarmingly general. Some cried for this, another for that, and another
for t'other, while an almost universal shout for the privilege of ruling
themselves was accompanied by a clear manifestation of an utter want of
self-control on the part of the people. Their self-styled friends were
of course busy in goading them on to acts of violence, and the
Protector himself, instead of repressing tumult first, and pardoning it
afterwards, pursued the opposite course, which only had the effect of
clearing off old scores, that new might be ran up with fresh alacrity.

One of the most prominent ringleaders in the revolt was a tanner of
Norfolk, named Robert Ket, of whom it was vulgarly said that such a bob
was as good as two tanners; "and hence, perhaps," says my Lord Herbert,
or someone else, "two tanners, or sixpences, came to be called in the
vernacular equivalent to one bob, or a shilling." Ket had been cruelly
provoked in having the mob set upon one of his inclosures by a gentleman
who had suffered from the destruction of one of his own hedges; but the
tanner retaliated by administering such a leathering to his assailants
as they would have remembered to this hour had any one of them been left
alive to indulge in such reminiscences. It was found necessary to
send over to Scotland for Warwick to go and settle Ket, which was very
speedily done, for, finding himself unable to keep upon his legs, he
laid down his arms, after having run for his life, and crept into a barn
among some corn to avoid an immediate thrashing. He was taken to Norwich
and lodged in the castle, whence he wrote to a friend, saying, "I shall
be hanging out for the present at the above address;" and his words were
soon verified, for he was hanged out on the top of the building a few
days afterwards.

Poor Somerset was now about to take the most formidable somerset in the
whole of his career--namely, a fall from the extreme of power to the
depths of disgrace, chiefly by the rivalry of Warwick. The Protector
found it high time to think about protecting himself, and tried to
muster his friends, to many of whom he wrote; but verbal answers of
"Not at home," "Mr. So-and-So will send," and similar evasive replies
convinced poor Somerset that there was very little hope for him. In the
meantime, Warwick and party were meeting daily at Ely Place, Holbom,
where they were settling, in that very legal neighbourhood, the draft
of a set of charges against the Protector, who was accused among other
things of having pulled down a church in the Strand to build Somerset
House, and having spent in bricks and mortar the money intrusted him
to keep up the wooden walls of old England, by paying the sailors and
soldiers their respective salaries. A bill of pains and penalties was
issued from Ely Place, which is to this day famous for its art in making
out bills, and twenty-eight charges were brought against Somerset, who
thought it better to confess every one of them, on a promise that he
should be leniently dealt with. This leniency consisted in taking away
almost everything he possessed, which caused him to remonstrate on the
heaviness of the fine; but, on being told snappishly he might consider
himself lucky in having got off with his life, he shrunk back in an
attitude of the utmost humility. He was set at liberty and pardoned,
but we shall have him at mischief and in trouble again before the end of
this chapter.

Though a mere child was on the throne, the atrocities committed at
Smithfield, in the burning of what were called heretics, went on as
briskly as ever, the fires being stirred by Cranmer and Ridley in the
most savage manner. Mary, the king's eldest sister, gave considerable
trouble by insisting on the celebration of mass in her own household;
and, though told by the council she mustn't, the truly feminine reply
that "she should see if she shouldn't," and that "she would, though;
they'd see if she wouldn't," was all that she condescended to say in
answer to the requisition.

Somerset, since his liberation, had been still hanging about the Court,
and had apparently become reconciled to Warwick, whose eldest son,
Lord Lisle, had been married to Lady Ann, one of the daughters of
the ex-Protector. Nevertheless, on Friday, the 16th of October, 1551,
Somerset found himself once more in the "lock-up," on a charge of
treason. He was accused of an intention to run about London crying out
"Liberty! Liberty!" and, if that had not succeeded, he was to have gone
to the Isle of Wight to try on the same game in that direction. If that
had not succeeded there is no knowing what he would have done; but at
all events, orders were sent to the Tower to set a watch upon the Great
Seal, because Somerset wanted to run away with it. If he had made off
with the seal, he might, perhaps, have taken the watch also; but this
did not occur to the council. His trial took place at Westminster, on
the 1st of December, 1551, at the sittings after Michaelmas term, when
he denied everything, and was found guilty of just enough to get a
judgment--with speedy execution--against him. His politeness was quite
marvellous, for he thanked the Lords who had tried him, ana he threw
as much grace as he could into the bow he was compelled to make on
submitting his head to the axe of the executioner. "This," says Fox, on
the authority of a nobleman who was present, "came off on Friday,
the 22nd of January, 1552," and it is a curious fact, that of every
execution that occurred in his reign the boy king had preserved the
heads in his private journal.

Warwick, who had got himself promoted to the dukedom of Northumberland,
seemed desirous of making government a business for the benefit of
himself and family. He took the motto of "anything for peace and quiet,"
though he had blamed his predecessor, Somerset, for having done the same
thing, and he bought off the hostility of France and Scotland by selling
Boulogne regularly up, placing a carpet on the lighthouse, dividing the
upper and lower town into lots, declaring that he wanted money down on
the nail, and to hit the right one on the head he must resort to the
hammer. He made excellent marriages for his children, and allied his
son, Guildford Dudley, with the royal family of France by wedding him
to Lady Jane Grey, a daughter of a son of the old original Mary Tudor of
France, to whose descendants the English crown would fall in the event
of a failure of a more direct succession.

The young King Edward, who had not yet passed through the ordinary
routine of infantile complaints, now took the measles--or, rather, the
measles took him--and he had scarcely recovered from this complaint when
the small-pox placed him under indentures which seemed much too strong
to be cancelled within any reasonable period. He was serving his time to
this malady, when another latent illness that had hitherto been playing
at hide-and-seek, set up a cry of "whoop," and his youthful majesty
was in for the whooping-cough. Northumberland, taking advantage of the
king's weak state, advised him not to leave the crown to his big and
bigoted sister Mary. "True," said Edward, "but how about poor little
Bet?"

"Why, she," replied the Protector, "is very little better." With such
weak sophistry as this, he persuaded the poor invalid king to draw up a
settlement of the crown on Lady Jane Grey, and the judges, with all
the law officers, were summoned to approve the document. Sir Edward
Montague, the Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, with Sir Thomas
Bromley, one of his _puisnes_, came accompanied by the attorney and
solicitor-generals, to say that the deed was illegal, and that they,
one and all, would have nothing to do with it. Upon this, Northumberland
rushed into the room, called Montague a traitor, * banged the door,
threatened to bang the judges, and offered to fight in his shirt-sleeves
any one of them.

     * Burnet he had studied the business of the mint; but it may
     fairly be replied, that merely looking at the process of
     coining does not make a sovereign. He is said to have known
     all the harbours in Scotland, England and France, with the
     amount of water they were capable of containing--and though
     this may prove the depth of his research, it is no
     particular mark of his ability. He took notes of everything
     he heard; but as sovereigns hear a great deal of thorough
     trash, the collection must have been rather tedious and
     elaborate than instructive or entertaining.


[Illustration: 444]

He declared that if they could not see the deed in its proper light, he
would pretty soon beat it into them, and he was squaring up to the poor
_puisne_ with an evident intention for mischief, when the judges offered
to take the papers home and reconsider them.

The next day, they were again sent for, when, finding Northumberland as
pugilistic as ever, and hand in glove with the king, the chief justice
consented to the deed; and the _puisne_, on being approached by
Northumberland in an attitude of menace, was glad to stammer out, "I
am of the same opinion," as rapidly as he could give the words their
utterance. The judges were promised that the deeds should be ratified by
Parliament, and that they should be pardoned if they had done wrong;
for otherwise, from the fists of Northumberland to the hands of the
legislature, might have been analogous to getting out of the frying-pan
into the fire.

All this row in the palace of an invalid produced the effect that might
have been expected, for the poor boy died a day or two afterwards. A
pugilistic encounter between a duke and a judge, was somewhat too much
of a stimulant for a child in Edward's weak state, and his physicians
having given him up, he was turned over to the treatment of a female
quack, who finished him. She did the business on the 6th of July, 1533,
when he sunk under a complication of evils, among which his medical
attendant was undoubtedly the greatest. He had lived fifteen years,
eight months, and twenty-two days, having been upon the throne six years
and a half; affording a curious instance of a reign in which the part of
the sovereign was so insignificant that it might just as well have been
omitted.

This little fellow had been greatly eulogised for his talents, as shown
in his journal; but on looking at this juvenile production we regret to
say that we could not go the length of our old friend the evening paper,
in stating that it is "a very remarkable production." He mentioned
certain dinners and suppers with evident gusto, and alludes to the
return of the sweating sickness, but misses the obvious point, that
he hopes that it will not prove so perverse as to begin sweating
sovereigns. Some of the historians of his reign allege that if we are
to judge young Edward by the laws passed in his reign, there is no great
deal to be said for him. Beggars were declared to be the slaves of those
who apprehended them, and iron collars were permitted to be put about
the throats of the latter; but this was too much for the pride of the
stiff-necked people of England, and the law was repealed, within two or
three years of its having been enacted.

There is no doubt that he was a most amiable little fellow, as docile
as a lamb, if indeed his gentleness did not amount to absolute
sheepishness. His flatterers say that he could speak five languages, and
had a taste for music and physic, in the latter of which predilections
we are quite unable to sympathise. We should have said he was a nice
child but for the peculiarity to which we have just made allusion. As
a quiet young gentleman at a preparatory school kept by ladies, Master
Edward Tudor would have done credit no doubt to the establishment in
which he might have been placed; but we would as soon select a sovereign
from a seminary at once, and take him from the bread-and-butter to the
throne, as see the spirt of the monarchy diluted in milk-and-water, and
the sceptre dwindling down into a king's pattern spoon.



CHAPTER THE SEVENTH. MARY.

Northumberland having got the deed appointing his daughter-in-law the
Lady Jane Grey to the throne, began to get rather nervous as to the
effect of making known to the people such a preposterous arrangement. He
was afraid to advertise the king's death, and walked about the palace at
Greenwich, biting his nails, thinking what he should do, or shut himself
up in a small apartment, which, from the colour of its walls, was known
as the brown study. He subsequently sent for the Lord Mayor of London,
half a dozen aldermen, and a dozen citizens, to whom he communicated,
one at a time, but always in a whisper, the decease of the sovereign.
"Mind you don't tell," was the precautionary observation he made to
each; and a will was then produced, in which the boy-king had appointed
Lady Jane Grey his successor. The cockneys expressed their readiness to
swear allegiance to the lady, if it was "all right;" and Northumberland
pledged his honour as a peer, that he would make it so. This happened
on the 1st of July, and two days afterwards Lady Jane was forwarded
by water to the Tower of London, some of the corporation, who had been
gained over by her father-in-law, rowing in the same boat with her.
After her safe arrival, the death of King Edward was publicly announced,
and Lady Jane Grey was proclaimed amid very slight applause, accompanied
by murmurs of the name of Mary. Poor Jane was sadly _genée_ by the
position into which she was thrust, for she was a quiet, unaspiring,
lovely creature, whose only fault seems to have been that she read Plato
in the original Greek, * which appears to us the very alpha and omega of
absurdity.

     * Roger Ascham.

In the meantime, Mary, whose sanguinary disposition, and love for
cutting off heads in her father's style, fully entitled her to the name
of the "chip of the old block," was raising friends to resist the
views of Northumberland. Mary, whose Catholic predilections were known,
promised those who were favourable to the Reformation, that she would
make no change in the religion fixed by Edward; and thus, though she was
understood to have mass celebrated at home, she silenced the scruples of
the masses. The proclamation of Lady Jane Grey had been contrived at a
packed meeting of the council, on the 10th of July; but it is said
that a vintner's lad--or more probably a boy going round with the
beer--entered a protest--possibly through an open window--to the
arrangement. A policeman was instantly sent after him, and he was at
once set in the pillory, where the tops of his ears paid the penalty of
a juvenile offence, which he would not have committed had he arrived
at the years of discretion. This little incident, trifling as it was,
showed that there was a feeling abroad unfavourable to the elevation of
Jane; for the pot-boy is always an authority on the subject of public
measures. His opportunities of listening to the discussions of the
people are great; and though he may hear much frothy declamation, as
well as witness a vast tendency to half-and-half principles, in the
course of his experience, he is nevertheless capable of judging, to a
considerable extent, of the feelings of the multitude.

Northumberland, seeing that opinion was taking a powerful turn in Mary's
favour, became fearfully perplexed, and hearing that an adverse force
was being collected, came to the resolution that "somebody" must go and
oppose the enemy. Who that "somebody" should be, was a very puzzling
question, for Northumberland did not like the business himself, and was
afraid to trust anyone else with a matter of so much consequence. At
length he offered the task to Suffolk, the father of Lady Jane Grey; but
that young lady began to cry very bitterly at the idea of her poor
papa, who was "wholly unaccustomed to public fighting," being sent into
battle. Whether it was an arrangement between father and daughter it
is impossible to say; but it was well known that Suffolk was not over
valorous, and even if he did not "cry off," Lady Jane did so for him,
by keeping up a constant cry until they found her father a substitute.
Northumberland, perceiving that Suffolk had made up his mind not to go,
was looking about him for somebody else, when a general interrogatory
of, "Why don't he go himself?" seemed to suggest itself to the council.
With a reluctance that indicated the feelings in his mind of "Well, I
suppose I must," he started off with a small army, which experienced a
cold reception in its progress, and the silence of the spectators
giving them the air of mutes, invested with the dolefulness of a funeral
procession the march of the troops as far as Bury.

Northumberland had no sooner turned his back on the council than they
turned their backs on him, by proclaiming Mary as Queen of England;
and on a party being sent to besiege the Tower, Lady Jane Grey, by
the advice of her own papa, resigned all pretensions to the sovereign
dignity. Suffolk not only evinced no disposition to defend his
daughter's claims, but turning his sword into a steel-pen, hastened to
sign the decrees that were being issued in the name of Mary.

Poor Northumberland, who was waiting for succours which never came, and
who was accordingly being victimised by the expenses of his soldiers,
who acted as suckers of a different kind, heard of what had taken place
in London, and having fallen back upon Cambridge, sent for a herald, or
town crier, with whom he bargained for the proclamation of Mary, at the
market-place. It has been atrociously hinted, by an old offender, whose
family we spare by the suppression of his name, that Northumberland took
this humiliating course in the hope that Mary would be molli-fied. He
had scarcely finished the proceeding we have described, when he received
a sharp letter from the council in London, desiring him to disband his
army; but looking round, he perceived that it had disbanded itself, for
all his followers had deserted him. They had, in fact, gone over to the
other side, with a canting recantation of their opinions, and a whining
declaration that they never should have thought of taking arms against
their lawful queen "had not Northumberland made them do it." The unhappy
duke himself was hanging about the streets of Cambridge the next day,
not knowing whether to give himself up or "run for it," when the Earl of
Arundel, coming up and tapping him on the shoulder, observed, "You must
come along with me--you're my prisoner." Northumberland burst into a
loud bellow, fell upon his knees, and begged for his life; but Arundel,
contemptuously desiring an underling to "bring him along," lodged the
captive in the Tower. Poor Lady Jane, whose representations of the part
of queen had been limited to ten days, was already locked up, and,
in fact, the State prison was full to overflowing of her unfortunate
partisans. Her father, the Duke of Suffolk, obtained his pardon on the
31st of July, through Mary, who, on the 3rd of August, 1553, made
her triumphant entry into London, accompanied by her little sister,
afterwards the great Elizabeth. On the 18th of the same month,
Northumberland, his eldest son John, Earl of Warwick, and two or three
others, were brought to trial at Westminster Hall, when they pleaded
the general issue; but the chief prisoner, finding it useless to throw
himself upon the country, threw himself on the floor, asking, in the
most abject terms, for mercy. This prostration was of no avail, for
sentence of death was speedily passed upon him; the sycophant Suffolk
(Lady Jane Grey's own father) being one of the judges who presided at
the trial. The Earl of Warwick behaved with more spirit than his parent,
and upon hearing that he was to die as a traitor, which would involve
the confiscation of his property, he coolly requested that his
unfortunate creditors might not be victimised. "Don't pay me off,
without paying them off, also," were the chivalrous words of the young
nobleman. The Marquis of Northampton, when called upon for his defence,
said that he had been out with the hounds and engaged in field sports
while the conspiracy was going on, so that he had been quite upon
another scent; but this availed nothing for the sly old fox, who was
immediately found guilty. Sir John Gates, as well as Sir Henry
Gates, both of whom were fearfully unhinged, were also condemned; and
Northumberland made a long penitential speech from the scaffold when, as
if caught by the example, Sir John Gates opened out with extraordinary
eloquence. Poor Gates having been brought to a close by a hint from
the headsman, the axe and the curtain fell together upon this fearful
tragedy.

Mary soon began to show her papist predilections, and after making
Gardiner Chancellor, she proceeded to establish a most rigorous
censorship of the press, like a person who, having evil designs, is
anxious to get the watch-dog muzzled as speedily as possible. She
prohibited all persons from speaking against her, for a time; but
putting a prohibition on the press is like throwing coals on a volcano,
which gets smothered for a while, but is sure to burst out with a
stronger light on account of the attempt to extinguish it.

The fanaticism of Mary is said to have been caused by the wretchedness
of her early life, during which a brutal father was continually
threatening to chop off her head or make a nun of her. That unnatural
parent was one of those monsters to whom it seems marvellous that
children were ever given at all, for he could never appreciate the
blessings they were calculated to afford, and he was for ever engaged
in trying to mar their happiness. The stock from which she came was,
however, so abominably bad, that there is nothing surprising in her
cruelty; for when children happen to go wrong, it may be taken as a
general rule that they get from their birth one half, and from their
bringing-up the other half, of their iniquity. Mary proved herself a
worthy descendant of a most unworthy sire, and turned the State prisons
at once into warehouses for storing up the fuel of future martyrdom.
Cranmer, Latimer, and others were stored away with this view, while
the queen herself prepared for a coronation of unusual pageantry at
Westminster.

The calm and philosophical Anne of Cleves--who will be remembered as
the queen that Henry refused to have at any price--was a visitor to the
show, and came to it in the same "fly" with the Princess Elizabeth. The
latter, as sister to the queen, carried the crown in the procession, and
was complaining of its weight in a whisper--for she was always flirting
with somebody--to Noailles, the French Ambassador. "Be patient," replied
the polite Parisian; "it will be lighter when it is on your head;" and
an interchange of winks proved that the illusion was understood by the
future sovereign of England. A parliament was assembled in less than
a week, and the legislature that had lately been in favour of
protestantism to the fullest extent, now relapsed into all the forms of
popery. Both Houses opened with the celebration of mass, and Taylor, the
Bishop of Lincoln, who objected to such flagrant apostacy, was fairly
kicked downstairs, like a bill thrown out of the Upper House, where
tergiversation was the order of the day throughout the session. Another
bishop, of the name of Harley, the low comedian of the episcopal bench,
whom Burnet calls a "drie dogge," was also ejected for exhibiting the
same honourable consistency; but Harley restored the good nature of the
House by throwing a little humour into his forced exit.

A convocation of the clergy was shortly afterwards held, to get rid of
the Reformation as far as it had gone, and bring catholicism back again.
Some of the bishops conformed to the new regulations laid down for them;
but some few, who happened to be married, found that though shaking
off an opinion was easy enough, getting rid of a wife was far more
difficult. The celibacy of the clergy was, of course, insisted upon; but
Holgate, Archbishop of York, however happy he might have been never to
have linked himself with Mrs. Holgate at all, soon discovered that a
divorce from that good lady was not so easily accomplished as talked
about. Several bishops who had got entangled in the connubial noose,
were nearly finding it a halter for their necks, inasmuch as they were
all deprived of their sees, and some even of their lives, for having
committed the offence of matrimony. An attempt was made to save them, by
urging that the punishment accompanied the crime, and that it was hard
to make those suffer who must already have endured a great deal; but the
plea was not allowed to prevail, and deprivation was inflicted on all as
an equal punishment. Several of the bishops conformed; and it has been
said, in extenuation of their weakness, that their insincerity was not
in changing from Protestant to Catholic, but had consisted in
their originally veering round against their wills from Catholic to
Protestant. It matters little whether, in turning from popery to the
Reformation, they had been robbing Peter to pay Paul, or whether, in
changing once more, they were guilty of some additional cheat, in order
to restore what they had taken from Peter; but it is not to be denied,
that on one occasion or the other they had been guilty of gross
apostacy.

On the 13th of November, 1553, Cranmer, Lady Jane Grey, her husband Lord
Guildford Dudley, and his brother Ambrose Dudley, were all condemned to
die as traitors, by judges many of whom were the very people who had set
on poor Jane to play the game, in which she had never taken the smallest
interest. After sentence had been passed, execution was stayed. But
Cranmer had no sooner been let out upon the charge of treason, than it
was found on searching the office there was something else against him,
whereupon he was taken and locked up once more upon an accusation of
heresy. Lady Jane Grey had the freedom of the Tower presented to her
in the shape of a permission to walk about the gardens, while Guildford
Dudley and Ambrose were granted a few moderate indulgences--amounting,
perhaps, to a set of skittles, a bat, trap and ball, or a couple of
hockey-sticks.

This moderation was, however, accompanied by other acts of cruelty; and
poor Judge Hales, who had really done nothing but refuse to change his
religion, was, though he had stoutly defended the title of the queen,
thrown into prison. The poor fellow went out of his mind, and though he
was liberated, he had got so fearfully impressed with the idea of being
burnt, that he thought to make himself fire-proof by running into the
water; but it was so deep, and he stayed there so very long, that he
unfortunately drowned himself.

Mary, who had been disappointed of several husbands--for nobody who saw
her would think of having her--now resolved to make use of her position
as Queen of England to draw some unhappy victim into a marriage.
Comparatively old, exceedingly hard, and totally void of all the milk of
human kindness, she was naturally very inflammable, and she had already
fallen in love with young Ned Courtenay, a son of the Marquis of
Exeter; but the predilection of that young gentleman for her half-sister
Elizabeth had somewhat cooled the ardour of Mary, who found it was
useless to set her cap at the young Earl of Devon, which was the title
she had restored to the courteous Courtenay.

The project of a marriage continued to fill the head of the queen, but
as it was evident there would be "nobody coming to marry her," and,
indeed, "nobody coming to woo," unless she looked out pretty sharply
for herself, she threw aside all scruples of delicacy, and began to
advertise through the medium of her ambassadors. The Emperor Charles of
Spain had been affianced to her thirty years ago, and though she
might once have been accustomed to sing "Charlie's my darling," in
her youthful days, that prince had, long ago, grown old enough to know
better than to marry her. He nevertheless thought she might be a good
match for his son Philip, or rather that the latter might be a match for
the lady, inasmuch as the Spanish prince was crafty, cruel, and bigoted.
Mary made a last effort to get a husband of her own choice by sending a
proposal to Cardinal Pole, who would have nothing to do with her. Thus,
even her indelicate eagerness to rush to the pole did not secure her
election, and she was obliged to take Philip "for better, for worse," or
rather for worse, for want of a better.

When the Commons heard of her intention they respectfully recommended
her to wed an Englishman, but the idea that it was necessary for Mary to
"first catch the Englishman" does not seem to have occurred to them.
She announced her intention of marrying Philip partly out of old
associations, but the oldness of the association was all on her own
side, for the gentleman was young in comparison to the lady. It was
not to be expected that Philip would make what he might justly have
considered an "alarming sacrifice" without some equivalent, and it was
agreed that he should have the honour and title of King of England,
though he was not to interfere in the government. In case Mary survived
him, he was to settle upon her £60,000 a year, but as he always
flattered himself that he should, as he said, "see the old girl out," he
looked upon this arrangement as merely nominal.

The English people had in those days, as they still have in these, an
objection to Spanish marriages, and one Sir Thomas Wyatt, who had been
in Spain, gave such a fearful picture of Philip, that the people of
Kent, learning to regard him as something between "Old Bogie" and
"Spring-heeled Jack," resolved to oppose his landing. Wyatt collected a
considerable force at Rochester and marched upon London, when taking the
first to the left, then the second to the right, they found themselves
masters of Southwark. He had intended to give battle in Bermondsey, and
put a cannon at the corner of the street, but it did not go off so well
as he expected. In the meantime the queen's forces began pouring upon
him some of the juice of the grape, from the Tower, and intimating to
his followers that it might affect their heads, he withdrew as far as
Kingston. His object was to march upon London by the other road, and he
got about as far as Hammersmith when an accident happened to his largest
buss, or blunderbuss--as he called his heaviest gun--and he wasted
several hours in getting it, once more, upon its wheels again. By
daylight he had got as far as Hyde Park, when he found that the royal
forces were in the inclosure of St. James's, waiting to receive him, and
having a large reserve in the hollow that now forms the reservoir.

The battle commenced with a noisy overture, consisting of the firing of
cannons, loaded only with powder, and doing no harm to anybody. Wyatt's
followers had dwindled very materially as he came into town; several of
his soldiers having discovered, at Kew, it was not their "cue to fight,"
and others experiencing at Turaham Green, sufficient to turn 'em pale,
and turn 'em back, at the very thought of meeting the enemy. Wyatt was
nevertheless undaunted, and rushed upon the enemy, who, falling quietly
back, let him regularly in among the troops, with the full intention of
never letting him out again. Without looking behind, he charged, at full
gallop, along Charing Cross, and continuing his furious career up the
Strand, pulled up, at last, at Ludgate Hill, which he found closed
against him. Finding no sympathy among the citizens he attempted to
back out, and had got as far as the Temple, where, strange to say,
his opponents gave him no law, and the unhappy old Pump, being at last
caught in Pump Court, surrendered to Sir Maurice Berkeley.

[Illustration: 452]

Poor Wyatt was soon afterwards condemned to death, and executed, as well
as about four hundred of his followers, but several were brought with
ropes round their necks before the queen, who permitted them to find in
the halter a loop-hole for escape, by an humble prayer for pardon.

Mary, exceedingly angry at the attempt to shake her throne, vented her
animosity on her little sister Elizabeth, who was brought on a litter
to London, though she was so ill that the journey might have killed her,
had not youth, a good constitution, and some stout porters carried her
through the dangerous ordeal. She was accused of having been a party to
Wyatt's rebellion, and was taken to the Tower, though not without
giving a good deal of trouble to the proper officer, for she insisted
on sitting down every now and then upon a stone step in the yard, though
the rain was falling heavily.

Mary, whose reign may be considered as the original "reign of
terror"--though the brutality that distinguished it was confined to
a few, while in the French edition the whole nation thirsted for
blood--who exercised _en détail_ the cruelties that France subsequently
practised _en gros_, sentenced to death, in rapid rotation, all who
did not quite agree with her. The unfortunate Lady Jane Grey and her
husband, Lord Guildford Dudley, were both executed on the same day, and,
indeed, the victims were so numerous that we should be inclined to say,
"for further particulars see small bills," if we thought that any of the
true bills found against the parties were still extant.

A curious commentary on the value of trial by jury was furnished about
this time by the extraordinary case