Charlotte Mason's comments about Little Arthur's History
"We recognise that history for him is,
to live in the lives of those strong personalities which at any given
time impress themselves most upon their age and country. This is not
the sort of thing to be got out of nice little history books for
children, whether 'Little Arthur's,' or somebody's 'Outlines.'" Charlotte Mason, Parents and Children
Volume 2 pg 278
"In history, students aged twelve to fourteen should have a pretty
thorough knowledge of British history, contemporary French history, and
Greek and Roman history. They should get their Greek and Roman history
from biographies. Perhaps nothing else besides the Bible is as
educational as Plutarch's Lives.
The wasteful mistake that's made so often in teaching English history
is in having children from about nine to fourteen read through several
short abridgments beginning with Little
Arthur's History of England [by
Maria Callcott]. But their intelligence at those ages is
sufficient to steadily work through a single more substantial
book." Charlotte Mason, School
3, pg 235
Here is some text from Little
Arthur's History of England by Lady Maria Callcott to give an
the kind of book Charlotte Mason was not
recommending. [I think she felt that a meatier book, read over a few
years, was better than such a shallow treatment repeated in subsequent
grades.] I'm working on more text (my son is doing chapters 19+
for typing practice), and below, at the bottom of the
page, are some page images.
Copyright Thomas Y. Crowell & Co. 1884
Also online at google. Click here.
Chapter 9 - How Egbert became the first king over all
England; how the Danes did great mischief to the people; how Alfred
after much trouble drove them away, and how he built ships and did many
other good things.
You have not forgotten, I hope, that there were seven chief kingdoms of
the Angles and Saxons in England. Now, there were many and long wars
between these kingdoms; and also with the Britons who were left in the
land. Sometimes one king, and sometimes another, made himself more
powerful than all the rest. He was then called *Bretwalda*, which means
"Ruler over Britain"; for the English still called the whole island
*Britain.* At last, 827 years after our Saviour's birth, the king of
*Wessex* (that is, of the West Saxons) got himself the power over the
other kings. He was called Egbert. He was very wise, and very brave,
and very handsome; so the people loved him very much, and were very
sorry when he died. His son and then three of his grandsons reigned
after him, whose names you will learn another time.
While these men were kings, some very strong and cruel heathens, called
Danes, came to England, in larger and better ships than the first
Saxons came in, and they robbed the people, and burnt the towns, and
did more mischief than I can tell you.
I do not know what would have become of England, if a very wise and
good king had not begun to rule England about that time. His name was
Alfred. He was the grandson of King Egbert, and was as handsome and as
brave as Egbert.
But I must tell you a great deal about King Alfred, which I am sure you
will like to hear.
When he was a very little boy, his mother wished him to learn to read,
and she used to show him beautiful pictures in a book of Saxon poems,
and to tell him what the pictures were about. Little Alfred was always
pleased when the time came for seeing the book; and one day, when his
mother was talking to him, she said that she would give him the book
for his own, to keep, as soon as he could read it. Then he went to his
teacher, and very soon learned to read the book, and his mother gave
him the beautiful book. When he grew bigger he learned the old Saxon
songs by heart, and sang them to his mother, who loved to hear Alfred
sing, and play the harp.
But when Alfred grew up he had other things to do than reading and
singing, for a long time. I told you that the Danes had done a great
deal of mischief before Alfred was king; and indeed at the beginning of
his reign they went on doing quite as much, and he had more than fifty
battles to fight, before he could drive them away from his kingdom.
For some years after he was made king he had not one town where the
people dared to obey him, for fear of the Danes; and he was obliged to
disguise himself in poor clothes, and to live with one of his own
neatherds, whose wife did not know the king.
This neatherd lived in a part of Somersetshire, called the Isle of
Athelney. While Alfred was there, some of hisest friends used to go and
tell him how the country was going on, and take messages to him from
other friends; and they all begged him to stay where he was till they
could collect English soldiers enough to fight the Danes in that
While he was staying at the neatherd's house, I have heard that the
man's wife scolded him one day very heartily. I will tell you how it
She had just made some very nice cakes for supper, and laid them on the
hearth to toast, and seeing Alfred sitting in the house doing something
to his bow and arrows, she desired him to look after her cakes, and to
turn them when they were toasted enough on one side, that they might
not be burnt. But Alfred could think of nothing but making ready his
bow and arrows to fight against the Danes; he forgot all about the
cakes, and they became very much burnt. When the neatherd's wife came
into the house again, she soon saw the cakes on the hearth, quite black
and burnt, and began scolding Alfred very severely.
Just then her husband came in with some of Alfred's friends, who told
him that they had beaten the Danes, and driven them out of that part of
the country, and the people were asking for him, and it was time to
appear as their king. You may think how surprised the neatherd's wife
was, and how she asked the king's pardon for scolding him.
He only smiled, and said, if she forgave him for burning her cakes, he
would forgive her for the solding. Then he thanked her and the neatherd
heartily for letting him live so quietly with them, and went with his
friends to find the Danes, with whom he had a great deal of trouble
before he could drive them away. Their king Guthorn agreed to be a
Christian; and Alfred divided England with him.
At last, when Alfred had overcome the Danes, and when England was at
peace, he thought of the great pleasure he had in reading, and he
determined to encourage all the young people in England to love
learning. So he inquired for what learned men there were in England,
and sent for more to come from other countries, and paid them for
teaching the young men; and he built several schools.
That he might encourage all his subjects to read, he took the trouble
to translate several books for them out of Latin into English; and,
besides that, he wrote several himself for their instruction.
Alfred was never idle. One part of every day was spent in praying,
reading, and writing; one part in seeing that justice was done to his
subjects, in making good laws, and in teaching the English how to keep
away the Danes from their country. He allowed himself very liitle time
indeed for sleeping, eating, and walking about.
One of the very best things King Alfred did for England, was to build a
great many ships. He wisely thought that the best means of keeping away
the Danes, or any other enemy that could reach England by sea, was to
have ships as good as theirs, and go and meet them on the water, and
fight them there, instead of allowing them to land and do mischief, and
carry away the goods, and sometimes even the children of the people on
the sea-coast; so he built more than a hundred vessels, and he was the
first king of England who had good ships of his own.
Besides fighting the Danes, Alfred made other good uses of his ships.
He sent some to Italy and France, to get books, and many things that
the English did not then know how to make at home.
And other vessels he sent to distant countries, even as far as Russia,
to see what the people were like, and if they had anything in their
country that it would be useful to England to buy. I have read an
account of one of the voyages made by a friend of Alfred's, which the
king wrote himself, after his friend had told him what he had seen, and
when you are old enough to read it, I dare say it will please you as
much as it pleased me.
Alfred died when he had been king twenty-nine years. He was ill for a
long time before he died, but he was very patient and bore great pain
Just before he died he spoke to his son Edward, and gave him good
advise about taking care of the people when he came to be king.
But besides the words he spoke, Alfred wrote many good and true words.
I will tell you some of them. Pray, remember these now; when you are a
man you will love to think of them, and to recollect that they were the
very words of the best and wisest king we have ever had. They are about
the Supreme Good. "This blessedness is then God. He is the beginning
and end of every good, and He is the highest happiness."
Chapter 10 - King Edward--King Athelstane: how he beat
the Danes in battle, and took some prisoners; how he invited his
prisoners to supper, and afterwards let them go free.
As soon as King Alfred died, his son Edward was made king; and he had
soon a great deal to do, for the Danes thought they could conquer all
England, now Alfred was dead, and that there would be nobody to fight
But they were mistaken, for King Edward was a brave man and a wise
king, although he was not so clever and good as his father, and he kept
down the Danes while he was king. He had a sister who helped him in
everything. Her husband was dead, and she had no son, so she lived with
her brother, and gave him good advice, and took care of one part of the
country while he was fighting the Danes in another. You may think how
sorry the king was when she died, and how sorry the people were too,
for she was very good and kind to everybody; but they were still more
sorry when King Edward died soon after, for they were afraid the Danes
would get the upper hand again.
The next king was called Athelstane; he was Edward's eldest son: he was
very clever and very brave. He knew that it was good for England to
have a great many ships, both to keep away the Danes and to fetch cloth
and silk from other countries, for the English did not make any of
these things then. So he made a law that every man who built a ship and
went to sea three times should be a *Thane*, which means that he would
be in the same rank and be shown the same respect as one of the landed
Once I was reading a very old book, and I found something in it about
this Athelstane that I will tell you. A king of the Danes and three
other kings, who all lived in very cold poor countries, agreed that
they would come to England, which was a much better country than their
own, and take part of it for themselves; and they got a great many
soldiers to come with them in their ships; and they watched till King
Athelstane's ships were gone out of sight, and then landed, and began
to take part of the country. But Athelstane soon heard of their coming,
and called his soldiers together, and went to meet these kings at a
place called Brunanburgh, and fought with them, and conquered them, and
took some of them prisoners.
One of the prisoners was called Egill, and he told the man who wrote
the old book I mentioned to you, that King Athelstane behaved very
kindly to all the people after the battle, and would not let even the
enemies that were beaten be killed or vexed in any manner, and that he
invited him and some of the other prisoners to supper at a large house
which he had near the place where the battle was fought.
When they went to supper, they found that the house was very long and
very broad, but not high, for it had no rooms up stairs, and there was
no fire anywhere but in the kitchen and the great hall.
In the other rooms they had no carpets, but the floors were strewn over
with rushes, and there were only wooden benches and high stolls to sit
The supper was in the great hall. I do not know what they had to eat,
but after supper the king asked the company to go and round the fire,
and drink ale and mead. Now they had no fireplace like ours at the side
of the hall; but there was a great stone hearth in the very middle of
the floor, and a large fire was made on it of logs of wood bigger than
one man could lift, and there was no chimney, but the smoke went out at
a hole in the roof of the hall.
When the company came to the fire, King Athelstane made King Egill sit
on a high stool face to face with him, and King Athelstane had a very
long and broad sword, and he laid it across his knees, that if any of
the company behaved ill he might punish them. And they all drank a
great deal of ale, and while they drank there were several men, called
minstrels, singing to them about the great battles they had fought, and
the great men who were dead; and the kings sang in their turn, and so
they passed the evening very pleasantly.
The next morning, when Egill and his friends expected to be sent to
prison, King Athelstane went to them, and told them he liked such brave
and clever men as they were, and that if they would promise not to come
to England to plague the people any more, they might go home unharmed.
They promised they would not come any more, and then Athelstane let
them go home, and gave them some handsome presents.
Chapter 11 - How King Edmund was killed by a robber;
how Bishop Dunstan ill-used King Edwy; how Archbishop Odo murdered the
Queen; what Dunstan did to please the people; how King Edgar caused the
wolves to be destroyed; and how his son, King Edward, was murdered by
King Athelstane died soon after the battle of Brunanburgh.
His brother Edmund began his reign very well, and the English people
were in hopes that they should be at peace, and have time enough to
keep their fields in order, and improve their houses, and make
themselves as comfortable as they were when Alfred was king. But Edmund
was killed by a robber before he had been king quite six years; and his
brother Edred, who was made king when he died, was neither so brave nor
so wise as Edmund or Athelstane, and did not manage the people nearly
I am very sorry for the next king, whose name was Edwy. He was young
and good-natured, and so was his beautiful wife, whom he loved very
much; but they could not agree with a bishop called Dunstan, who was a
very clever and a very bold man, and wanted everybody in England, even
the king, to follow his advice in everything. Now the king and queen
did not like this, and would not do everything Dunstan wished, and
banished him from the country. But the friends whom he had left behind
him rose up against the poor king, and, in order to punish him for not
obeying Dunstan, one of them, the Archbishop Odo, was so very wicked as
to take the beautiful young queen, and beat her, and burned her face
all over with hot irons, to make her look ugly, and then sent her away
to Ireland. When she came back, she was so cruelly treated that she
died in great agony. The men who did this even took away a part of his
kingdom from Edwy, and gave it to his brother, Edgar. Soon afterwards
Edwy died, and Edgar became king of the whole of England.
When Edgar grew up, he was a good king; but he was obliged to make
friends with Dunstan, who was very clever, and used to please and amuse
the people when he wanted them to do anything for him. He could play on
the harp very well; and he used to make a great many things of iron and
brass, which the people wanted very much, and gave them to them; and as
there were no bells to the churches before this time, Dunstan had a
great many made, and hung them up in the church-steeples. And the
people began to forget how cruel he had been to King Edwy, when he did
so many things to please them.
I must tell you a little about King Edgar now. He went to every part of
the country to see if the people were taken care of. He saw that all
the ships that King Alfred and King Athelstane had built were properly
repaired, and built a great many new ones. There was so little fighting
in his time that he was called "The Peaceful"; yet he made the kings of
Scotland and the kings of Wales obey him; but instead of taking money
from them, as other kings used to do at that time, he ordered them to
send hunters into the woods, to catch and kill the wolves and other
wild beasts, which, as I told you before, used to do a great deal of
mischief in England. I have heard that he made these kings send him
three hundred wolves' heads every year; so at last all the wolves in
England were killed, and the farmers could sleep comfortably in the
country, without being afraid that wild beasts would come and kill them
or their children in the night.
This was a very good thing; and Edgar did many other useful things for
England, but I am sorry to say, he did not always do what was right, as
you will know when you are old enough to read the large History of
When Edgar died, his eldest son, Edward, became king. Now the queen,
who was Edward's step-mother, hated him, because she wanted her own
little son to be king. She therefore determined to have Edward killed;
and I will tell you how the wicked woman did it. Edward was very fond
of hunting; one day he was returning alone from the chase, and being
very hot and thirsty, he rode up to the gate of his step-mother's house
at Corfe, and asked for some wine. The queen, whose name was Elfrida,
brought him some herself; and while he was drinking it, she made a sign
to one of her servants who stabbed Edward in the back, so that he died
almost directly. This cruel murder of the young king, when he was off
his guard, drinking his wine, is said to have given rise to the custom
among noblemen and gentlemen of "pledhing" each other, while drinking
at feasts. One about to drink would call on the guest next him, or on
some friend at the table, to pledge himself to protect him while in the
act of drinking, and he in turn would pledge himself to protect his
friend when the cup came to him. I need not tell you, I am sure, that
after such a wicked action Elfrida was very unhappy all her life, and
everybody hated her. The murdered young king was called Edward the
Chapter 12 - Why King Ethelred was
called the Unready; how the Danes drove away the English princes, and
made Canute king; how Canute rebuked his courtiers and improved the
people, and how the Danes and Saxons made slaves of their prisoners and
of the poor.
The son of the wicked Elfrida was king after his brother Edward. His
name was Ethelred, and he was king a great many years, but never did
anything wise or good. The Danes came again to England, when they found
out how foolish King Ethelred was, and that he was never ready, either
with his ships or his soldiers, or with good counsel; for which reason
he was called Ethelred the Unready. I should be quite tired if I were
to tell you all the foolish and wicked things that were done, either by
this king, or by the great lords who were his friends.
He allowed the Danes to get the better of the English everywhere, so
they robbed them of their gold and silver, and sheep and cattle, and
took their houses to live in, and turned them out. They burnt some of
the English towns, and altered the names of others; they killed the
people, even the little children; till at last you would have thought
the whole country belonged to them, and that there was no king of
England at all. You may think how unhappy the people were then, the
cruel Danes robbing and murdering them when they pleased. The king was
so idle, that he did nothing to save his people. There was no
punishment for bad men, and nobody obeyed the laws.
When Ethelred died, the English hoped they would be happier; for his
son, Edmund Ironsides, was a brave and wise prince, and was made king
after his father; but I am sorry to tell you that he died in a very
short time, and then the Danes drove all the princes of England away,
and made one of their own princes king of England.
The princes of Alfred's family were forced to go into foreign
countries; some went to a part of France called Normandy, and some to a
very distant country indeed, called Hungary.
It is well for England that the Danish king was good and wise. His name
was Canute. When he saw how unhappy the people of England were, and how
ill the Danes treated them, he was very sorry, and made laws to prevent
the Danes from doing any more mischief in England, and to help the
English to make themselves comfortable again. And because some of King
Alfred's good laws had been forgotten, while the wars were going on, he
inquired of the old judges and the wise men how he could establish
those laws again, and he made the people use them. Besides this, he
restored some of the schools which had been destroyed in the wars, and
even sent young men to the English College at Rome to study. So that he
did more good to England than any king since Athelstane's time, except
Have you ever heard the pretty story about Canute and his
flatterers?--I will tell it you; but first you must remember that
flattering is praising anybody more than he deserves, or even when he
does not deserve it at all. One day, when Canute was walking with the
lords of the court by the sea side, some of them, thinking to please
him by flattery, began to praise him very much indeed, and to call him
great, and wise, and good, and then foolishly talked of his power, and
said they were sure he could do everything he chose, and that even the
waves of the sea would do what he bade them.
Canute did not answer these foolish men for some time. At last he said,
"I am tired, bring me a chair." And they brought him one; and he made
them set it close to the water: and he said to the sea, "I command you
not to let your waves wet my feet!" The flattering lords looked at one
another, and thought King Canute must be mad, to think the sea would
really obey him, although they had been so wicked as to tell him it
would, the moment before. Of course the sea rose as it does every day,
and Canute sat still, till it wetted him, and all the lords who had
flattered him so foolishly. Then he rose up, and said to them, "Learn
from what you see now, that there is no being really great and powerful
but GOD! He only, who made the sea, can tell it where and when to
stop." The flatterers were ashamed, and saw that King Canute was too
good and wise to believe their false praise.
Canute was King of Denmark and Norway as well as England; and he was
one of the richest and most powerful kings, as well as the best, that
lived at that time. He reigned in England for nineteen years; and all
that time there was peace, and the people improved very much. They
built better houses, and wore better clothes, and ate better food.
Besides they had more schools, and were much better brought up. Canute
was very kind to learned men, and encouraged the English in everything
good and useful.
I am sorry to say, however, that they still had many slaves instead of
servants to wait upon them and to help to till the ground for them.
By slaves, I mean men and women who are the property of others, who buy
and sell them, as they would horses.
Formerly there were white slaves in almost every country: afterwards,
when white slaves were not allowed by law, people went and stole black
men, from their homes and families, and carried them to places so far
from their homes, that they could never get back again, and made them
work for them. And it is very lately that a law has been made that
there shall be no more slavery.
The reason I tell you about slavery in this place is, that the Danes
had a great many English slaves, and the rich English had a great many
Britons, and even poor English, for their slaves; for, although the
Danes and English loved to be free themselves, they thought there was
no harm in making slaves of the prisoners they took in battle, or even
of the poor people of their own country, whom they forced to sell
themselves or their children for slaves, before they would give them
clothes or food to keep them from starving. By degrees, however, these
wicked customs were left off, and now we are all free.
After wise King Canute's death, there were two more Danish kings in
England, one called Harold Harefoot, and the other Hardicanute; but
they reigned a very short time, and did little worth remembering: so I
shall say nothing more about them. In the next chapter we shall have a
good deal to learn.
Chapter 13 - How King Edward the Confessor suffered his
courtiers to rule him and the kingdom, and promised that the Duke of
Normandy should be king; how some of his wise men made a book of laws;
how Harold, the son of Earl Godwin, was made king; how he was killed in
the battle of Hastings, and the Duke of Normandy became king.
I told you that when the Danes got so much the better of the English as
to make one of their own princes king, they drove away the princes of
Alfred's family; and I told you, at the same time, that some of these
princes went to Normandy, which was governed by a duke instead of a
king. The duke at that time was brave and generous, and was kind to the
princes, and protected them from their enemies, and allowed them to
live at his court. One of the English princes was called Edward; and,
after the three Danish kings were dead, this Edward was made king of
The people were all delighted to have a prince of Alfred's family once
more to reign over them, for although Canute had been good to them,
they could not forget that he was one of the cruel Danes who had so
long oppressed the English; and, as to his sons, they never did
anything good, as I told you before; and the people suspected them of
having murdered a favorite young prince, called Alfred.
King Edward was very much liked at first; but he was idle, and allowed
sometimes one great man, and sometimes another, to govern him and the
kingdom, while he was saying his prayers, or looking over the workmen
while they were building new churches.
Now it is very right in everybody to say prayers; but when God appoints
us other duties to do, we should do them carefully. A king's duty is to
govern his people well; he must not only see that good laws are made,
but he must also take care that everybody obeys them.
A bishop's duty is to pray and preach, and see that all the clergymen
who are under him do their duty, and instruct the people properly.
A soldier's duty is to fight the enemies of his country in war, and to
obey the king, and to live quietly in peace. A judge's duty is to tell
what the law is, to order punishment of bad people, and to prevent
wickedness. A physician's duty is to cure sick people; and it is
everybody's duty to take care of their own families, and teach them
what is right and set them good examples.
It has pleased God to make all these things duties, and He requires us
to do them; and He has given us all quite time enough to pray rightly,
if we really and truly love God enough to do our duties to please Him.
So King Edward, if he had loved God the right way, would have attended
to his kingdom himself, instead of letting other people rule it.
However, in King Edward's time, people thought that everybody who
prayed so much must be very holy, and therefore after his death he
received the name of Edward the Confessor, or Saint.
One of the great men who ruled England in Edward's time was Godwin Earl
of Wessex. He was very clever, and very powerful. After his death, his
son Harold became Earl of Wessex, and did all the king ought to have
done himself, and tried to keep strangers out of the country.
But King Edward, who had been kindly treated in Normandy, when the
Danes drove him out of England, had brought a great many Normans home
with him; and when they saw how pleasant England was, and what plenty
of corn, and cattle, and deer there was in it, and how healthy and
strong the people grew, they determined to try and get the kingdom for
their duke as soon as Edward was dead. And they told the duke what they
thought of, and he came from Normandy to see King Edward, and to get
him to promise that he should be king of England, as King Edward had no
Now I think this was not right, because Edward had a relation who ought
to have been king, and his name was Edgar, and he was called the
Atheling, which means the Prince.
Perhaps if Edward the Confessor had taken pains to get the great men in
England to promise to take care of Edgar Atheling, and to make him
king, they would have done so; but as they found he wanted to give
England to the Duke of Normandy, a great many of them thought it would
be better to have an English earl for a king, because the English
earlwould be glad to protect his own countrymen, but that a Duke of
Normandy would most likely take their houses and lands and give them to
the Normans. So they were willing that Harold, the son of Earl Godwin,
who already acted as if he were under-king, should be the real king
after Edward's death.
In the meantime King Edward was busy building Westminster Abbey, and
encouraging Norman bishops and soldiers to come to England, where he
gave them some of the best places to live in.
I must tell you, however, of one very useful thing that was done in the
reign of Edward. He found that some part of England was ruled by laws
made by King Alfred or other English kings, before his time, and some
parts by laws made by the Danes, and that the people could not agree
about these laws; so he ordered some wise men to collect all these laws
together, and to read them over, and to take the best English laws, and
the best Danish laws, and put them into one book, that all the people
might be governed by the same law.
King Edward died after he had reigned twenty-two years in England, and
the English gave the kingdom to Harold the under-king. But he had a
very short reign. As soon as it was known in the North of England that
Edward was dead, Harold's brother, Tostig, who had been driven out of
his earldom over that part of the country, came back with the King of
Norway to fight against Harold. But the other English people joined
Harold, and went to battle against Torstig, who was soon killed, and
Harold might have been king of all England.
But while Harold was in the North the Duke of Normandy came over to
England with a great number of ships full of soldiers, and landed in
Sussex. As soon as Harold heard of this, he went with his army to drive
the Normans away; but he was too late; they had got into the country,
and in a great battle fought near Hastings, Harold, the English king,
was killed, and the Duke of Normandy made himself king of England.
I do not think the English would have allowed Duke William to be king
so easily, if he had not told them that Edward the Confessor had
promised that he should be king, and persuaded them that the prince
Atheling, who, as I told you, ought to have been king after Edward, was
too silly ever to govern the kingdom well.
But after the English Harold was killed, and Edgar Atheling, with his
sister, had gone to Scotland, to escape from the Normans, the English
thought it better to submit to William, who had ruled his own country
so wisely, that they hoped he would be a good king in England.
Chapter 14 - William I.--1066-1087
- How William the First made cruel
and oppressive laws; how he took the land from the English and gave it
to the Norman barons, and how he caused Domesday Book to be written.
A great change was made in England after the Duke of Normandy became
All the Normans spoke French, and the English spoke their own language;
so at first they could not understand one another. By degrees the
Normans learnt English; and some of their French words got into our
language; but the old English was for the most part the same as that
which you and I speak and write now.
The Normans were used to live in finer and larger houses than the
English. So when they came to England they laughed at the long low
wooden houses they found, and built high castles of stone for
themselves, and made chimneys in their rooms, with the hearth on one
side, instead of in the middle of the floor, as I told you the English
had it in King Athelstane's time.
There was one law the Normans made, which vexed the English very much.
In the old times, anybody who found a wild animal, such as a deer, or a
hare, or a partridge, or pheasant, in his fields or garden, or even in
the woods, might kill it, and bring it home for his family to eat. But
when the Normans came, they would not allow anybody but themselves, or
some of the English noblemen, to hunt and kill wild animals; and if
they found a poor person doing so, they used either to put out his
eyes, to cut off his hand, or to make him pay a great deal of money;
and this they called "The Forest Law." I must say I think the new King
William behaved very cruelly about this.
He was so fond of hunting himself, although he would not let the poor
Saxons hunt, that he turned the people out of a great many villages in
Hampshire, and pulled down their houses, and spoilt their gardens, to
make a great forest for himself and the Norman barons to hunt in, and
that part of the country is still called "The New Forest."
There was another rule which William made, and which the English did
not like, but I am not sure whether it was wrong; and as he made the
Normans obey it, as well as the English, it was fair at least.
I must tell you what it was; he made everybody put out their fires at
eight o'clock at night, at the ringing of a church bell, which was
called the Curfew Bell. Now, though it might have been of use to some
people to keep a fire later, yet, as almost all the houses, both in the
towns and the country, were built of wood, it was much safer for
everybody to put out the fire early.
I should never have done, if I were to tell you all the changes that
were made in dear old England by the Normans. But there is one I must
try to explain to you, because it will help you to understand the rest
of our history. When William was quite settled in England, which was
not till after seven years, when the poor English were tired of trying
to drive him and his Normans away, he took the houses and lands from
the English thanes and earls, and gave them to the Norman noblemen, who
were called barons.
This was unjust. But as the Normans had conquered the English, they
were obliged to submit even to this. But William made an agreement with
the barons to whom he gave the lands of the old thanes, that when he
went to war they should go with him; that they should have those lands
for themselves and their children, instead of being paid for fighting,
as soldiers and their officers are now, and that they should bring with
them horses and arms for themselves, and common men to fight also.
Some of the barons who had very large shares of land given to them,
were bound to take a hundred men or more to the wars; some, who had
less land, took fifty, or even twenty. The greatest barons had
sometimes so much land, that it would have been troublesome to them to
manage it all themselves; so they divided it among gentlemen whom they
knew, and made them promise to go with them to the wars, and bring
their servants, in the same manner as the great barons themselves did
to the king.
Now these lands were called feuds, and the king was called the feudal
lord of the barons, because they received the *feud* or piece of land
from him, and they in return promised to serve him; and the great
barons were called the feudal lords of the small barons, or gentlemen,
for the same reason. And when these feuds were given by the king to the
great baron to another, the person to whom it was given knelt down
before his feudal lord, and kissed his hand, and promised to serve him.
This was called *homage*.
There is only one more thing that I shall tell you about William. He
sent people to all parts of England, to see what towns and villages
there were, and how many houses and people in them; and he had all the
names written in a book called "Domesday Book." Domesday means the day
of judging, and this book enabled him to judge how much land he had,
and how many men he could raise to fight for him.
At last King William died. He received a hurt from his horse being
startled at the flames of a small town in France, which his soldiers
had set on fire, and was carried to the Abbey of St. Gervase, near
Rouen, where he died. He was Duke of Normandy and afterwards King of
England, and is sometimes called William the Conqueror, because he
conquered English Harold at the Battle of Hastings. He was very cruel
and very passionate; he took money and land from every one who offended
him; and, as I have told you, vexed the English, and indeed all the
poor, very much. And this is being a tyrant, rather than a king.
He had a very good wife, whose name was Matilda, but his sons were more
like him than like their mother; however, you shall read about the two
youngest of them, who came to be kings of England.
Chapter 15 --William III - 1087-1100--How William the Second and Robert of
Normandy besieged their brother Henry in his castle; how William was
killed in the New Forest, and how London Bridge and Westminster Hall
were built in his reign.
As soon as William the Conqueror's death was known in England, his
second son, William, who was called Rufus, which means the Red,
persuaded the noblemen in England to make him king, instead of his
older brother, Robert. I dare say the noblemen were soon sorry they did
so; for although none of William the Conqueror's sons were very good,
this William Rufus was the worst of all. Robert became Duke of
Normandy, but his brother William gave him a great deal of money, to
let him govern the dukedom, while he went to fight in the Holy Land,
where a great many warriors went to rescue Jerusalem from the
Mahometans. These were called *Crusaders*, which means "soldiers of the
Cross," and their wars were called the Crusades.
King William Rufus then ruled over Normandy and England too, and
behaved as a much worse tyrant than his father.
I must tell you a story about William and his two brothers, Robert and
Henry. Robert, the eldest, as I told you, became Duke of Normandy, when
William made himself King of England, but they neither of them thought
of giving anything to Henry; so he got a good many soldiers together,
and went to live in a castle on the top of a high rock, called St.
Michael's Mount, close to the sea-shore of Normandy, and he and his
soldiers used to come out and plunder the fields of both Robert and
William, whenever they had an opportunity. This was wrong in Henry in
every way, but chiefly because he robbed and frightened people who had
never done him any harm, and had nothing to do with the unkindness of
Well, Robert and William collected an army, and went to his castle, to
drive him out, and they contrived to keep him so closely confined, that
neither he nor his people could get out to fetch water. Robert and
William heard of this, and that the people in the castle were dying of
thirst. William was very glad, because he said they would soon get the
castle; but Robert, who was much more generous, immediately gave his
brother Henry leave to send and get as much water as he wanted; and
besides that, Robert sent him some of the best of his own wine. Henry
soon after gave up the castle.
This story shows you how cruel William was to his own brother; so you
may think he did not behave better to his subjects, and that they were
not very sorry when he was killed by accident. Some tell the story of
his death in this manner:--One day when he was hunting in the New
Forest, made by his father, which you read about in the last chapter,
he had a gentleman named Walter Tyrrel with him, who was reckoned
skilful in shooting with a bow and arrow. This gentleman, seeing a fine
deer run by, wished to show the king how well he could shoot; but he
was a little too eager, and his arrow, instead of going straight to the
deer, touched a tree, which turned it aside, and it killed the king,
who was standing near the tree. But the truth is that it was never
known who shot the arrow that killed the wicked king.
Some poor men found William's body lying in the forest, and carried it
to Winchester, where it was buried.
William Rufus does not deserve to be remembered for many things, yet we
must not forget that he built a good bridge over the river Thames, just
where the old London bridge stood, till it was taken down, when the
fine new bridge was finished; besides that, he built Westminster Hall,
very near the Abbey, and when you walk to Westminster you will see part
of the very wall raised by him. But its large and beautiful roof was
built three hundred years later by Richard II.
Chapter 16 - Henry I.--1100 to 1135.
- How Henry the First married the
English Princess Maude; how his son William was drowned, and how he
desired that his daughter Maude should be Queen after his own death.
As soon as the nobles and bishops knew that William Rufus was dead,
they determined that his younger brother, Henry, should be king,
because Robert, the eldest, was too busy about the wars in the Holy
Land, which I mentioned before.
Now Henry was brave and clever, like his father, but he was not quite
He was very fond of books, and encouraged learned men, and his subjects
gave him the name of Beauclerk, which means fine scholar. He married
Matilda, whose uncle was Edgar Atheling, who ought to have been King of
England after Edward the Confessor. The English people were pleased to
have her for their queen, because they hoped she would make Henry more
kind to themthan his brother and father had been; and they called her
"the good queen Maude" (which is short for Matilda). She had two
children, William and Maud; but William was not at all like his good
and kind mother, who died when he was a boy. He loved to drink wine,
and was very quarrelsome; and he used to say that, if ever he became
king, he would treat the English worse than they had ever been treated
before: so nobody but the Normans cared for him. But he never came to
be king, as I will tell you.
He had been with his father into Normandy, and when they were to
return, instead of coming in the same ship with his father, he chose to
come in one called the White Ship, where there were a number of foolish
young people like himself. They amused themselves so long ashore,
drinking before they set off, that they were a great way behind the
king, who got safe to England. The prince and his companions had drunk
so much wine, that they did not know what they were about, so that the
White Ship ran on a rock, and, not being able to manage the vessel
properly, they were all drowned. I have read that Prince William might
have been saved, but he tried to save a lady who was his near relation,
and in trying to save her he was drowned himself; and this is the only
good thing I know about Prince William. You may think how sorry King
Henry was to hear that his only son was drowned.
Indeed, I have read that nobody ever saw him smile afterwards. He had
lost his good wife, and his only son, and now he had nobody to love but
his daughter Maude.
When Maude was very young, she was married to the German Emperor, Henry
the Fifth; but he died very soon; however, people always called her the
Empress Maude. And then her father made her marry a nobleman, named
Geoffrey, who was Count or Earl of Anjou; and she had three sons, the
eldest of whom came to be one of the greatest of our kings.
Now I told you King Henry Beauclerk was very fond of his daughter. Her
eldest son was named Henry after him; and he meant that his daughter
Maude should be Queen of England after he died, and that her little
Henry should be the next king.
But he was afraid that the Norman barons would not like to obey either
a woman or a little child, and that they would make some grown-up man
of the royal line king instead; and he did everything in his power to
make all the barons promise to make Maude queen after his death. But
they would not all promise; and I am sorry to say that some of those
who did forgot their promise as soon as he was dead, and took the part
of Stephen, as I will tell you by and by.
While Henry was busy, doing all he could to make his daughter queen, he
I must tell you the cause of his death; for I think it is a good lesson
to all of us. He had been told by the physicians that he ought not to
eat too much, but one day a favorite dish was brought to his table (I
have read that it was potted lampreys), and he ate such a quantity that
it made him ill, and so he died, after he had been king thirty-five
Chapter 17 - Stephen.--1135 to 1154.
- How Stephen was made king; and of
the civil wars in his reign.
As soon as King Henry was dead, his nephew Stephen, who was very
handsome, and brave, and good-natured, was made king. A great many
Norman barons, and English lords and bishops, went with him to
Westminster Abbey, and there the Archbishop of Canterbury put a crown
upon his head, and they all promised to obey him as their king. But the
other barons, and lords, and bishops, who, as I told you before, had
promised to obey the Empress Maude as Queen of England, and to keep the
kingdom for her young son Henry, sent to fetch them from Anjou, which
was their own country, and tried to make her queen. I am sorry to say
that the friends of Stephen and the friends of Maude began to fight,
and never ceased for fifteen years.
This fighting was very mischievous to the country; whole towns were
destroyed by it; and while the war between Stephen and Maude lasted,
the cornfields were laid waste, so that many people died for want of
bread; the flocks of sheep and herds of cattle were killed, or died for
want of care; the trees were cut down, and nobody planted young ones;
and there was nothing but misery from one end of the kingdom to the
other. This sort of war between two parties of the people of the same
country is called civil war, and it is the most dreadful of all warfare.
If strangers come to fight, and all the people of a country join to
drive them away, the mischief they may have done is soon repaired; and
the people of a country love one another the better because they have
been defending one another.
But in a civil war, when people in the same country fight, it is not
so. The very next door neighbours may take different sides, and then
the mischief they may do one another will be always remembered, and
they will dislike one another even after peace is made.
I have heard things so dreadful about civil wars, you would hardly
believe them. It is said even that two brothers have taken different
sides in a civil war, and that when there was a battle it has happened
that one brother has killed the other, and when he found out what he
had done, he was ready to kill himself with grief. Only think how
dreadful such a thing is, and how sorry the father and mother of those
brothers must have been!
These sad wars lasted more than fifteen years: at last everybody got
tired of them, and it was settled by some of the wisest of the barons
and bishops that Stephen should be king as long as he lived; that Maude
should live in Anjou; and that when Stephen died, her son Henry should
be king of England.
Stephen did not live very long after this agreement was made. He had
some very good qualities, but the wars, which troubled all England
while he reigned, prevented their being of much use. He was king of
England for nineteen years.
Chapter 18 - Henry II.--1154-1189.
- How Henry the Second did many good
things for England; how the gentry went hawking; how Strongbow
conquered a great part of Ireland; and how the kings of Scotland became
underkings to the kings of England.
We have so much to learn about King Henry the Second, that I think I
must divide the account of his reign into two chapters.
In the first, I will write all the best things I remember; and in the
second, all the bad. Some things that are middling will be at the end
of the first, and some at the end of the second chapter.
It was a glad day for England when young Henry, the son of Maude, was
made king. He was wise and learned, and brave and handsome, besides
being the richest king of his time, and having the largest estates.
The first thing he did when he was king was to send away all Norman and
French soldiers, who had been brought to England to fight either for
Stephen or for Maude. He paid them their wages, and sent them to their
own homes, along with their captains, because he thought English
soldiers were best to defend England, and that foreign soldiers were
not likely to be kind to the poor English people.
He next made the barons, whether Norman or English, pull down a great
many of their castles, because robbers used to live in them, and, after
they had robbed the farmers of their cattle or corn, they used to hide
themselves in these castles, and the judges could not get at them to
Then King Henry built up the towns that had been burnt in the wars of
Stephen, and sent judges to do justice all through the land, and the
people began to feel safe, and to build their cottages, and plough the
fields; and the country was once more fit to be called dear merry
Instead of fighting and quarreling with one another, the young men used
to make parties together, and ride out with their dogs, to hunt foxes
and deer in the forests, and sometimes the ladies went with them, to
see a kind of sport that was very pretty, but it is not used now.
Instead of dogs, to catch wild animals, they used a bird called a hawk
to catch partridges and pigeons for them. It took a great deal of
trouble to teach the hawks, and the man who taught them and took care
of them was called a Falconer, because the best kind of hawk is the
When the ladies and gentlemen went hawking the falcons used to sit upon
their left wrists while they held a little chain in their hands; and
there was a hood over the falcon's heads, that their eyes might be kept
clear. As soon as the party got into the fields they took the hood off
the birds' eyes, and as soon as they saw any game they loosed the
little chain they held in their hands, and then the falcons flew after
the game; and the ladies and gentlemen rode up after them to receive
the game when the falcon had caught it.
King Henry loved hunting very well, but he was too wise to hunt much.
He spent most of his time in going about to see what wanted mending
after the sad civil war we read of in the last chapter; and he employed
the cleverest men he could find to put everything in order, and made
the wisest men judges; and he got some learned men to seek out all the
best laws that had ever been made in England; and, as the long wars had
made the people firget the laws, he ordered the judges to go to all the
towns by turns several times a year, and do justice among all the
King Henry was very fond of learning, and gave money to learned men and
to those who made verses, or as call them poets; and by and by I dare
say you will read about one that Henry was kind to, named Wace, who
wrote a poem about the ancient Britons, and another about the ancient
Before I can tell you of a thing that was partly good and partly bad
for England in this King Henry's reign, I must put you in mind that I
have told you nothing yet about Ireland, the sister-island of Great
Britain. It was never conquered by the Romans; and the people were as
ignorant as the Britons before the Romans came, with just the same sort
of houses and clothes. They might have been in the same state for many
years if a very good man, whom the Irish called Saint Patrick, had not
gone from Britain to Ireland and taught the people to be Christians;
and he and some of his companions also taught them to read; and the
Irish people began to be a little more like those in other parts of the
Ireland was divided into several kingdons; and, in King Henry's time,
their kings quarreled sadly with one another. And one of them came to
Henry, and begged him to go to help him against his enemies. But Henry
had too much to do at home. However, he said that, if any of his barons
liked to go and help the Irish king, they might. And the Irish king,
whose name was Dermot, promised that if they could punish or kill his
enemies, he would call the King of England Lord over Ireland, and that
he and the rest of the Irish kings should be his servants.
Then the Earl of Strigul, who was called Strongbow, and some other
noblemen, gathered all their followers together, and went to Ireland to
help Dermot; and, after a great deal of fighting, they conquered that
part of Ireland opposite to England, and drove the people over to the
other side; just as the English had driven the Britons to Wales. From
that time Ireland has always been under the same king with England.
You remember, I am sure, that one part of Britain is called Scotland.
Now, at the time I am writing about, Scotland had kings of its own, and
was more like England than any other country; but it was much poorer,
and the people were ruder and wilder.
The king of Scotland, named William the Lion, having heard that King
Henry was in Normandy, thought it would be a good opportunity to take
an army into England, to rob the towns and carry away the corn and
cattle; and so he did. But several of the noblemen and bishops got
together a number of English soldiers and marched to the North, and
fought King William and took him prisoner.
William was sent to London, and King Henry would not set him free till
he had promised that, for the future, the kings of Scotland should be
only under-kings to the kings of England; and from that time the kings
of England always said Scotland was theirs; but it was long before
England and Scotland became one kingdom.
I do not think this was quite good for England, though the English
drove the Scots home again, because it made many quarrels and wars
between England and Scotland. As I have now mentioned the best part of
Henry the Second's reign, we must end our long chapter.
Chapter 19 - How the Popes wanted to be masters in
England; how that led to the murder of Becket; how Queen Eleanor made
her sons rebel against their father; why Henry the Second was called
It is a pity that we must think of the bad things belonging to Henry's
I dare say you rememper the chapter in which I told you how the Angles
and Saxons became Christians, and that a bishop of Rome sent Augustine
and some companions to teach the people. Now the bishops of Rome called
themselves popes, to distinguish themselves from other bishops; and, as
most of the good men who taught the different nations to be Christians
had been sent from Rome, the popes said they ought to be chief of all
the bishops and clergymen in every country.
This might have been right, perhaps, if they had only wanted to know
that everybody was well taught. But they said that the clergymen were
their servants, and that neither the kings nor judges of any country
should punish them, or do them good, without the pope's leave. This was
foolish and wrong. Although clergymen are in general good men, because
they are always reading and studying what is good, yet some of them are
as wicked as other men, and ought to be judged and punished for their
wickedness in the same manner. And so King Henry thought.
But the Archbishop of Canterbury, whose name was Thomas Becket, thought
This Becket wanted to be as great a man as the king, and tried to
prevent the proper judges from punishing wicked clergymen, and wanted
to be their judge himself. And there were sad quarrels between the king
and Becket on that account.
At last, one day, after a very great dispute, Henry fell into a violent
passion, and said he wished Becket was dead. Four of his servants, who
heard him, and wished to please him, went directly to Canterbury, and,
finding Archbishop Becket in church, they killed him with great cruely.
You may think how sorry King Henry was that he had been in such a
passion; for, if he had not, his servants would never have thought of
killing Becket. It gave the king a great deal of trouble before he
could make the people forgive the murder of the archbishop. And this
was one of the very bad things in Henry's life.
There was another bad thing, which perhaps caused the king more pain
that the killing of Becket. It was owing, mostly, to something wrong
which the had been persuaded to do when he was very young.
You shall hear. I told you how very rich King Henry was; the thing that
first made him so was his early marriage to one of the richest ladies
in the world, although she was very ill-tempered, and in all ways a bad
woman. It is said that she was handsome; but I am sure she must have
been wicked, for she was once married to a French king, who found her
out in such wicked actions, that he sent her away, and gave her back
all her money and estates, as he did not choose to have so bad a wife.
Now Henry, instead of choosing a good wife, when only nineteen years
old married this bad woman for her riches.
Her name was Eleanor of Aquitaine, and she had four sons, Henry,
Richard, Geoffrey, and John. She brought up these children very badly,
and, instead of teaching them to love their father, who was very kind
to them, she encouraged them to disobey him in everything. When her son
Henry was only sixteen, she told him he would make a good king, and
never rested till his good-natured father caused him to be crowned
king, and trusted a great deal more to him that was right; till at last
young Henry became so conceited that he wanted to be king altogether,
and, by the help of this wicked mother, and of the King of France, he
got an army and made war against his father.
However, he did not gain anything by his bad behaviour, and soon
afterwards he became very ill, and died without seeing his father; and,
when he was dying, he begged his servants to go and say to the king his
father that he was very sorry indeed for his wickedness, and very
unhappy to think of his undutiful behaviour. The king was even more
unhappy than the prince had been, for he loved his son dearly.
I am sorry to say the other three sons of Henry and Eleanor did not
behave much better. Richard was as violent in temper as his mother, but
he had some good qualities, which made his father hope he might become
a good king when he himself was dead. But Queen Eleanor, with the help
of the King of France, contrived to make Richard and his brother
Geoffrey fight agaist their father. As for John, though he was too
young to do much harm himself while King Henry lived, yet he became as
wicked as the rest when he grew up. Geoffrey married Costance, Princess
of Brittany, but he died soon after. He had only one son, named Arthur,
about whom I will tell you more in a short time.
Now Henry's great fault, in marrying a bad woman because she was rich,
brought the greatest punishment with it, for she taught her children to
be wicked, and to rebel against their father. And there is nothing in
the world so unhappy as a family where the children behave ill to their
I beg now, my dear little Arthur, that you will take notice, that all
the good belonging to Henry's reign concerns the country. While he was
doing his duty, being kind to his subjects, repairing the mischief done
in the civil wars, and taking care that justice was done , and that
learning and learned men were encouraged, he was happy.
His bad actions always hurt himself. If he had not given way to his
passion, Thomas a Becket would not have been killed by his servants,
and he would not have suffered so much sorrow and vexation.
And if he had not married a woman whom he knew to be wicked, his
children might have been comforts to him instead of making war upon
him; and they might have been better kings for England after his death.
Henry the Second has often been called Henry Plantagenet. His father
was the first person in his family to whom that name was given, and I
will tell you why.
When people went to battle long ago, to keep their heads from being
wounded, they covered them with iron caps, called helmets; and there
were bars like cages over their faces, so that their best friends did
not always know them with their helmets on. Therefore, they used to
stick something into their caps, by which they might be known; and
Henry's father used to wear in his helmet a branch of broom, called
planta genista, or shortly Plantagenet; and so he got his name from it.
Chapter 20 - Richard I. - 1189 to 1199.
- How Richard the First went to
fight in foreign countries, and the evil things that happened in his
absence; how the Jews were ill-treated; how King Richard was taken
prisoner; how he was discovered and set at liberty, and how he was
killed in battle.
You remember that Henry II's eldest son, Henry, died before his father;
his second son, Richard, therefore, became king of England. He was
called Rechard of the Lion's Heart, because he was very brave.
Now, in the time when King Richard lived, people thought a great deal
more of kings who fought and conquered large kingdoms, than of those
who tried to make their own people happy at home in a small kingkom.
And so it was in England. People really began to forget all the good
their late wise king, Henry Plantagenet, had done, and to like Richard
Plantagenet better, because he told them he would go to war, and do
great feats of arms at a great distance, and that he would not only
make his own name famous, but that their dear England should be heard
of all over the world; and that, when he, and the English gentlemen and
soldiers who would go with him, came back, they would bring great
riches, as well as a great deal of fame. By fame I mean that sort of
praise that is given to men for bravery, or wisdom, or learning, or
goodness, when they are a great deal braver, or wiser, or more learned,
or better than other people.
Now, of all these qualities, bravery is the least useful for kings; yet
I believe that their people as well as themselves often like it the
best--at least it was so with Richard. He had no sooner invited the
English to go to the wars with him, than the nobles who had the large
feuds, or fiefs, that I told you of in the chapter about William the
Conqueror, and the gentlemen who had the small fiefs under the nobles,
and all their servants, made ready to go.
And they went to the same wars that William the Conqueror's son,
Robert, went to; for those wars, which were called Crusades, lasted a
long time, but I cannot give you an account of them now. So I will tell
you what happened in England when Richard and the best noblemen and
soldiers were gone.
First of all, many of the wise rules of King Henry were broken, as soon
as the people found there was no king in England to watch over them.
Then, as the barons had taken away not only all their own money, but
also that of the farmers and townspeople, from whom they could borrow
any, everybody was poor, and some people were really starved. Many of
those who could not find any employment turned robbers, and plundered
the people; and the judges were not able to punish them, because the
king had taken all the good soldiers with him, and there was nobody to
catch the robbers and bring them before the judges.
There was a very famous robber in those times, called Robin Hood. He
had his hiding-place in the great forest of Sherwood, in the very
middle of England. He only robbed rich lords or bishops,and was kind to
the common peope, who lilked him, and made merry songs about him, and
his three friends, Friar Tuck, Little John, and Allan-a-Dale.
Then there was another bad thing owing to Richard's being in the wars
so far off. He was often wanting money to pay his soldiers, and the
English, who were proud of their brave king, in spite of all they
suffered from his being so far away, used to sell anything they had for
the sake of sending the king hat he wanted. This was very right, while
they only sent their own money. But there happened at that time to be a
great many Jews in England: these unfortunate people, who have no
country of their own, lived at least in peace while wise Henry was
king. They were very industrious, and taught the English many useful
things. They were the best physicions and the best merchants in the
country. But the people were jealous of them for their riches, and they
did not like their strange dress, nor their strange language. So now,
when there was no king in England to protect these poor Jews, they fell
upon them, and robbed them of their money and goods, which they
pretended they meant to send to Richard. But most of the money was kept
by Prince John and some of the worst of the barons, who had stayed at
home; and they encouraged the eople to treat the Jews very cruelly,
besides robbing them, and they killed a great many. I am sure that,
when you are old enough to read of the bad reatment of the Jews at
York, you will be ashamed to think such cruel things could have been
done in England.
There was one person less to blame for the bad things done at this time
than anybody else; I mean Queen Eleanor.
She behaved as well to her son Richard as she had behaved ill to her
husband, and while he was at the wars she tried hard to persuade her
youngest son, John, not to rebel against Richard, as he was striving to
do. All the foolish and all the wicked barons, both Norman and English,
followed Prince John; but there were enough good barons to defend
Richard, though he was so far off; and a good many bishops joined them,
and prevented John from
making himself king.
When Richard of the Lion's heart, as he was called on account of his
great courage, heard how much the people of England were suffering, he
resolved to come home; but as he was coming the shortest way, one of
his enemies contrived to take him prisoner, and to shut him up in a
castle, so that it was a long time before anybody knew what had become
of the King of England.
That enemy was Leopold, Duke of Austria, with whom Richard had
quarrelled when they were at the Crusade. Now Richard, who was really
good-natured, although he quarrelled now and then, had forgotten all
about it; but Leopold was of a revengeful temper, and as soon as he had
an opportunity he took him, as I have told you, to a castle in his
country; but he had soon to give him up to his lord, the Emperor, who
imprisoned him in a strong tower.
In old times a beautiful story was told about the way the English found
out where Richard was. It was this. Richard had a servant called
Blondel, who loved his master much. When Richard did not come home,
Blondel became very anxious, and went in search of him. He travelled
from one castle to another for some time, without finding his master.
At last one evening, when he was very tired, he sat down near the
castle of Trifels to rest, and while he was there he heard somebody
singing, and fancied the voice was like the king's. After listening a
little longer, he felt sure it was, and then he began to sing himself,
to let the king know he was there; and the song he sang was one the
king loved. Some say the king made it. Then Richard was glad, for he
found he could send to England, and let his people know where he was.
This is the old story. But it was in another way that the people in
England heard of the captivity of their king. The moment they did so,
they determined to do everything they could to get him home. They sent
to the Emperor to beg him to set Richard at liberty; but he said that
the English should not have their king until they gave him a great deal
of money; and when they heard that, they all gave what they could; the
ladies even gave their gold necklaces, and ornaments of all kinds, to
send to the Emperor that he might set Richard free.
At length the king came home; but he found that while he was away,
Philip, King of France, had been making war on his subjects in
Normandy; and, besides that, helping his brother John to disturb the
peace in England; so he went to Normandy to punish Philip very soon
afterwards, and was killed by an arrow shot from a castle called
Chaluz, when he had only been king ten years.
Many people praise and admire Richard of the Lion's heart, because he
was so brave and hardy in war. For my part, I should have liked him
better if he had thought a little more about taking care of his
country; and if he had stayed in it and done justice to his people, and
encouraged them to be good and industrious, as his wise father did.
Chapter 21 - John. - 1199 to 1216.
- Why King John was called Lackland;
how he killed his nephew Arthur, and how the barons rebelled against
him, and made him sign the Great Charter.
John, the youngest son of Henry Plantagenet, became king after the
death of his brother Richard.
His reign was a bad one for England, for John was neither so wise as
his father, nor so brave as his brother. Besides, he was very cruel.
At first he had been called John Lackland, because his father had died
before he was old enough to get possession of the lands that his father
wished to give him. And not long after he became king he lost Normandy
and all the lands that had belonged to his grandfather, Geoffrey of
Anjou. He did not know how to govern England so as to repair the ill it
had suffered while Richard was absent at the wars, so that the Pope
called upon the King of France to go the England, and drive John away
and make himself king instead; and then John was so base that he went
to a priest called a Nuncio, or Ambassador, who came from Rome, and
really gave him the crown of England, and promised that England should
belong to the Pope, if the Pope would only keep him safe.
You cannot wonder that John was disliked; but when I have told you how
he treated a nephew of his, called Prince Arthur, you will, I am sure,
dislike him as much as I do. Some people thought that this Prince
Arthur ought to have been King of England, because he was the son of
John's elder brother, Geoffrey. And John was afraid that the barons and
other great men would choose Arthur to be king, so he contrived to get
Arthur into his power.
He wished very much to kill him at once; but then he was afraid lest
Arthur's mother should persuade the king of France and the other
princes to make war upon him to avenge Arthur's death. Then he thought
that, if he put out his eyes, he would be so unfit for a king, that he
should be allowed to keep him a prisoner all his life; and he actually
gave orders to a man named Hubert de Burgh to put his eyes out, and
Hubert hired two wicked men to do it.
But when they came with their hot irons to burn his eyes out, Arthur
knelt down and begged hard that they would do anything but blind him;
he hung about Hubert's neck, and kissed and fondled him so much, and
cried so bitterly, that neither Hubert nor the men hired to do it could
think any more of putting out his eyes, and so they left him.
But his cruel uncle, John, was determined Arthur should not escape. He
took him away from Hubert, and carried him to a tower at Rouen, the
chief town of Normandy, and shut him up there.
One night, soon afterwards, it is said that Arthur heard a knocking at
the gate; and when it was opened, you may think how frightened he was
to see his cruel uncle standing there, with a servant as bad as
himself, whose name was Malue; and he was frightened with reason; for
the wicked Malue seized him by the arm, and stabbed him in the breast
with his dagger, and then threw his body into the river Seine, which
was close to the tower, while King John stood by to see it done.
It was for this wicked action that his grandfather's estated in France,
as well as the Dukedom of Normandy, were taken away from King John.
For his faults in governing England so badly, he had a different
punishment. All his subjects agreed that, as he was so cruel as to put
some people in prison, and to kill others, without any reason, instead
of letting the proper judges find out whether they deserved punishment
or not, they must try to force him to govern better. And for this
purpose the great barons and the bishops, and gentlemen, from all parts
of England, joined together, and they sent word to John, that, if he
wished to be king any longer, he must promise to do justice, and to let
the English people be free, as the English kings had made them before
At first, John would not listen to the message sent by the barons, and
would have made a civil war in the country; but he found that only
seven of the barons were his friends, and there were more than a
hundred against him. Then he said, that if the greatest barons and
bishops would meet him at a place called Runnymede, near Windsor, he
would do what they wished for the good of England. And they met the
king there; and, after some disputing, they showed him a sheet of
parchment, on which they had written down a great many good laws, to
prevent the kings of England from being cruel and unjust, and to oblige
them to let the people be free. [If little Arthur has forgotten what I
mean by the people being free, let him read the eighth chapter over
again.] King John was very much vexed when he read what they had
written; but as he could not prevail upon them to let him be their
king, if he did not agree to do what they wished, he put his seal at
the end of the writing, and so he was obliged to do as the barons
desired him to do.
This parchment is called the Great Charter, in English. Most people
call it by its Latin name, which is Magne Charta. Now you must remember
this name, and that King John put his seal upon it at
Runnymede--because it is of great consequence, even to us who live now,
that our king should keep the promises John made to the English people
A good king would have been glad to promise these things to his people,
and would have liked to keep his word. But as John was passionate and
greedy, it vexed him very much not to be allowed to put people in
prison, or bo rob them of their money or their houses, when he pleased.
If John had been honest, and had tried to keep his word, he might have
lived happily in England, although he had lost Normandy. But he
was always trying to cheat the people and the barons, and did not keep
the promises hs made in Magna Charta; and he made everybody in England
so angry, that they allowed the King of France's son to come to
England, and make war upon John. So that all the rest of his
reign was very unhappy; for although many of the barons helped him to
defend himself from the French prince, when the Pope, who now thought
that Enland belonged to him, ordered them to do so, they never could
trust him, and he died very miserable, knowing that he was disliked by
Chapter 22 - Henry III. - 1216 to 1272.
- Why taxes are paid; how Henry the
Third robbed the people; how Simon de Montfort fought against King
Henry, and made him agree not to tax the people without the consent of
The reign of John's son, who was called Henry the Third, was very long
and very miserable. He was made king when he was only nine years old,
and there were civil wars for almost fifty years while he lived.
You must think that such a little boy as Henry was, when he was made
king, could not do much for himself, or anything at all for his
subjects. But he had a wise guardian, called the Earl of
Pembroke, who did many things to repair the mischief done by KIng
John. However, that wise man died very soon, and then the king
behaved so ill that there was nothing but quarrelling and fighting for
the greater part of his life.
I think you do not know what "taxes" are; I must tell you, that you may
understand some things you must read about in History.
Taxes are the money which subjects pay to the king, or to those persons
who govern his kingdom for him.
I must now tell you why taxes are paid. Every man likes to live
safely in his own house; he likes to know that he and his wife, and his
children, may stay there without being disturbed, and that they may go
to sleep safely, and not be afraid that wild beasts, or wicked men, or
enemies like the old Danes, may come and kill them while they are
asleep. Next to his life and the lives of his wife and his children, a
man likes to know that his money and his furneture are safe in his
house, and that his horsed and cows, and his trees and his corn-fields,
are safe out of doors.
Now he could never have time to watch all these things himself, and
perhaps he might not be strong enough to fight and drive away the
wicked men who might try to rob or kill him; so he gives money, which
he calls taxed, to the king, who pays soldiers and sailors to keep
foreign enemies away, and policemen to watch the streets and houses, to
keep away thieves and robbers: besides he pays the judges to punish men
who are found doing anything wrong.
So you see that whoever wishes to live safely and comfortably ought to
pay some taxes.
Sometimes it happens that a king spends his money foolishly,
instead of putting it to the good uses I have mentioned, and then
wishes to get more, even by unjust means. And this is what King Henry and his father, King John, were always trying to do. And they
were so wicked as to rob their subjects, many of whom they put into
prison, or threatened to kill, if they did not give them all they asked
for, and that was the beginning of the miserable civil wars in the time
of Henry the Third.
The whole story of these wars would be too long for us now. So I will
only tell you that one of the bravest men that fought against the king
was Simon de Montfort, who was a very wise man; and although he was
killed in a great battle, he had forced the king and parliament, before
he died, to observe a custom which is most useful even to us who live
It is this; No king can make his subjects pay a tax without their own
consent or that of the parliament. Now, though several kings tried,
after this time, to get money by some other means than these, the
people would never allow them to do so, and their only trying to do it
always did themselves a great deal of mischief, as you will read by and
And I want you to remember that Simon de Montfort was the first man in
England that called the people in the towns to send members to
parliament. This was in the year 1265. The common people loved him so
much that, when he was dead, they called him Sir Simon the Righteous.
I am afraid this is a very dull chapter, but you see it is very short.
Chapter 23 - Edward I. - 1272 to 1307.
- How Edward the First learnt many
good things abroad, and did many more to make the people happy; how he
caused the burgesses to come to Parliament; how he made good laws; why
he was called Longshanks.
When the unhappy King Henry the Third died, his eldest son Edward was
abroad, fighting in the same country where I told you William the
Conqueror's eldest son Robert went, and where Richard of the Lion's
heart spent the greatest part of his reign. When he heard his father
was dead he came home, and brought with him his very good wife, Eleanor
of Castile, who had saved his life in Syria, by taking great care of
him when he was wounded.
Edward was crowned king as soon as he came to England; he was as wise
as Henry the Second, and as brave as King Richard of the Lion's heart.
His wisdom was shown in the manner in which he governed his people. His
bravery every body had seen before he was king, and he showed it
afterwards in fighting against the Welsh and the Scotch, which I will
tell you about by and by.
While Edward was a young man, he travelled a great deal into different
countries, and whenever he saw anything done that he thought good and
right, he remembered it, that he might have the same thing done in
England when he was king.
When he was in Spain he married his good wife Eleanor; and as her
father and brother were wise kings, he learned a great many useful
things from them.
One thing was, how to take care of cows and horses much better than the
English had done before; and another thing was, to improve the gardens
and fields with many kinds of vegetables for eating, and with new sorts
of grass for the cattle. In return for what he learned in Spain he sent
some good sheep from England to that country, because the sheep they
had before were small, and had not such fine wool as our sheep; but
since the English sheep went to feed among the Spanish hills, their
wool has been the best in the world.
When King Edward came home to England, he determined to do everything
he could to make the people happy; he knew they could not be happy if
the laws were not obeyed; so he was determined that no wicked person
should escape without punishment, and that all good people might live
quietly, and do what they liked best.
I told you before that wise Simon de Montfort, who was killed in Henry
the Third's reign, had got the king to observe the custom of not taking
money from the people without the consent of the parliament or of the
people themselves. This law King Edward impoved very much, and he
improved the parliament too.
Edward, who was very wise, thought that, as there were a great many
more towns than there used to be in the olden times, and a great many
more people in all the towns, it would be a good thing if some of the
best men belonging to the largest towns came to the parliament. The
largest towns in England were then called burghs, and the richest men
who lived in them were called burgesses, and King Edward settled that
one or two burgesses out of almost every burgh should come along with
the great noblemen, and the bishops, and the gentlemen to the
parliament. I told you in the last chapter that Simon de Montfort did
this once; but Edward first made it the rule.
These burgesses made the parliament complete. In the first place, there
was the king to answer for himself; in the second place, the great
lords and bishops to answer for themselves; and , thirdly, the
gentlemen and burgesses to answer for the country gentlemen and the
farmers and the merchants and the shopkeepers. For a time the clergy
also sent persons to act for them; but they soon gave up doing so.
So King Edward the First made good rules about the parliament, which
were not much changed for a very long time. Besides that, he improved
the laws, so as to punish the wicked more certainly, and to protect the
lives and goods of everybody. And in these things Edward was one of the
best kings that ever reigned in England.
We will end this chapter here, while we can praise King Edward the
First,--who was, as I told you, wise and brave, and very handsome; but
people used to call him Longshanks, because his legs were rather too
Chapter 24 - Edward I. - Continued.
- How King Edward went to war with
the Welsh; how Prince Llewellyn and his brother David were put to death
for defending their country; how he made war upon Scotland, and put Sir
William Wallace to death; and how ambition was the cause of his cruelty.
I am afraid I must not praise King Edward so much, now we are come to
his wars, for he was twice very cruel indeed.
You remember that the old Britons were driven by the Angles and Saxons
out of England into different countries, and that most of them went to
live among the mountains in Wales, where the conquerors could not
easily get to them.
These Britons chose princes of their own; one to reign over them in
North Wales, one in South Wales, and one in Powys, which was between
the two. Many of these princes were very good rulers of the country,
and protected it from all enemies, and improved the people very much,
by making good laws.
I am sorry to say, however, that the princes of the different parts of
Wales sometimes quarrelled with one another, and very often quarrelled
with the English who lived nearest to Wales. They did so while Edward
was King of England, and he went to war with them, as he said only to
make their prince come to him and do him the homage that the Welsh
princes had done in former times. But, finding that he could very
easily conquer the first of them with whom he fought, he determined to
get all Wales for himself, by degrees, and to join it forever with
Llewellyn was the last real Prince of Wales before it was taken by the
English Kings. He loved a young lady called Elinor de Montfort very
much, for she was good and beautiful, and he intended to marry her. She
was the daughter of the brave Simon de Montfort who fought against
Henry the Third. She had been staying a little while in France, and was
coming to Wales in a ship, and was to be married to Llewellyn as soon
as she arrived. Unhappily, King Edward heard of this, and sent a
stronger ship to sea, and took the young lady prisoner, and shut her up
in one of his castles for more than two years, and would not let the
prince see her until he should do him homage.
Llewellyn fought a great many battles to defend his native land. At
last he had no part of Wales left but Snowdon and the country round it.
Then he yielded to Edward, who gave him Elinor de Montfort to wife. But
he soon began to fight again, hoping that he might by degrees get the
better of the English, but at the last he was killed by a soldier, who
cut off his head and took it to King Edward, who was then at Shrewsbury.
Edward was so glad to find that Llewellyn was dead, that he forgot how
unbecoming it is for really a brave man to be revengeful, especially
after an enemy as brave as himself is dead; and I am sorry and ashamed
to say that, instead of sending the head of Llewellyn to his relations,
to be buried with his body, he sent it to London, and had it stuck up
over one of the gates of the city with a wreath of willow on it,
because the Welsh people used to love to crown their princes with
Soon after the death of Llewellyn, his brother David was made prisoner
by the Engish. Edward treated him with still greater cruelty than he
had treated Llewellyn, and, after his head was cut off, set it up over
the same gate with his brother's.
It has been said, that because the bards
or poets of Wales used to make verses, and sing them to their harps, to
encourage the Welshmen to defend their country and their own princes
from Edward, he was so cruel as to order them all to be put to death. I
hope it is not true.
For two hundred years Wales was in a sad state. The English kings did
not rule it wisely; for they did not treat the Welsh so well as they
did the English. The Welsh, therefore, feeling this to be very unjust,
were often trying to set up princes for themselves. But at last, a king
of Welsh descent, named Henry the Eighth, thought it right to make the
Welsh and English equal; and from that time they have lived happily
We must now speak of King Edward's wars in Scotland.
I told you that, while Henry the Second was king, William, King of
Scotland, had made war in England; and after being taken prisoner and
brought to London, Henry had set him free, on his promising that the
kings of England should be lords over the kings of Scotland.
Now, it happened that while Edward the First was King of England,
Alexander, King of Scotland, died, and left no sons. The Scotch sent to
fetch Alexander's granddaughter from Norway, where she was living with
her father, King Eric, that she might be their queen. But the poor
young princess died.
Two of her cousins, John Baliol and Bobert Bruce, now wanted to be
king; but as they could not both be so, they agreed to ask King Edward
to judge between them; and King Edward was very glad, because their
asking him showed the people that they owned he was Lord of Scotland,
and he chose John Baliol to be king of Scotland.
You will read the story of all that John Baliol did in the history of
Edward watched Scotland very narrowly, and when any Scotsman thought
that King John had treated him unjustly, he would appeal for justice to
Edward, who said that, as he was Lord of Scotland, he would take care
that Scotland was governed properly; till at last John Baliol went to
war with Edward; but he was beaten, and the richest and best part of
Scotland was taken by Edward. He was very severe, nay, cruel, to the
At last a gentleman named Sir William Wallace could not bear to have
the Scots so ill treated as they were by the English governors that
Edward sent into the country. So he went himself, or sent messengers to
all the barons and gentlemen he knew to beg them to join him, and drive
the English out of Scotland; and they did so, and might have made their
country free, if Sir William Wallace had not been taken prisoner and
carried to London, where King Edward ordered his head to be cut off;
which was as wicked and cruel as his cutting off the heads of the two
This did not end the war in Scotland; for another Robert Bruce, who had
come to be king after Baliol, determined to do what Sir William Wallace
had begun; I mean, to drive the English out of Scotland; and he made
ready for a long and troublesome war, and King Edward did the same; but
when Edward had got to the border of Scotland with his great army, to
fight King Robert, he died.
If King Edward I, had been content to rule over his own subjects, and
to mend their laws, and encourage them to trade and to study, he would
have made them happier; and we who live now should have said he
deserved better to be loved.
Indeed, he did so much that was right and wise, that I am sorry we
cannot praise him in everything.
His greatest fault was ambition,--I mean, a wish to be above everybody
else, by any means. Now, ambition is good when it only makes us
try to be wiser and better than other people, by taking pains with
ourselves, and being good to the very persons we should wish to get the
But when ambition makes us try to get things that belong to others, by
all means, bad or good, it is wrong.
Ambition caused wise King Edward to forget himself, after conquering
the Prince of Wales, and to take Wales as if it were his own country,
that there might never be greater men in Wales than the kings of
The ambition to be King of Scotland made Edward go to war with the
Scots, and made him so cruel as to cut off the head of Sir William
Wallace, because he wanted to save his country from being conquered by
So you see ambition led Edward to do the two most cruel actions he was
ever guilty of.
Chapter 25. - Edward II. - 1307
to 1327. - Why Edward the
Second was called Prince of Wales; how his idleness and evil companions
caused a civil war; how he was beaten by Robert Bruce at Bannockburn;
how the Queen fought against the King and took him prisoner, and how
her favorite, Mortimer, had King Edward murdered.
Edward the Second was made King after his father's death. He is
often called Edward of Caernarvon, because he was born at a town of
that name in Wales. He was the first English prince who was
called Prince of Wales.
Since his reign the edest son of the King of England has almost always
been called so.
Eeward of Caernarvon was the most unhappy man that ever was King of
And this was in great part his own fault.
He was very fond of all kinds of amusements, and insead of taking the
trouble, while he was young, to learn what was good and useful for his
people, so as to make them happy, he spent all his time in the company
of young men as idle and as foolish as he was. One of the first
of these was called Pierce Gaveston. Edward the First had sent
that young man away, and on his death-bed begged his son not to take
him back again, for he would be sure to lead him into evil ways. But the prince was obstinate, and chose to have him with him.
After Edward of Caernarvon became king, this same Gaveston caused him a great deal of trouble. He made the king quarrel with his nobles, who were very haughty and fierce, and did not like to see the king always in the company of foolish young men.
Moreover, the queen, Isabella of France, was very proud and hot-tempered, and did not strive to make the king better, as she might have done had she been gentle and amiable.
The nobles were greatly vexed because Edward spent all the money they had given to his father in making presents to Gaveston and his other companions, so they joined together and made war upon the king, There was civil war for many years; and so many wicked things were done in that war, that I am sure you would not wish me to tell them. It ended by Gaveston being killed by order of the barons.
This civil war was hardly over before the king made war against Robert Bruce, the King of Scotland, and went with a large army into Scotland; but he was beaten at the battle of Bannockburn in such a manner that he was glad to get back to England, and to promise that neither he nor any of the kings of England would call themselves kings of Scotland again.
You would thind that Edward would now have been wise enough neither to vex the barons and the people by foolishly spending the money trusted to him, nor to make himself disliked by choosing bad companions. But I am sorry to say he did not grow wiser as he grew older, and the queen behaved very foolishly and wickedly. The king chose a favourite of the name of Spenser; the queen's chief friend was a baron named Mortimer.
Very soon there was another civil war: the queen kept her eldest son Edward, the Prince of Wales, with her, and said she only fought against the king for his sake; and that if she did not, the king would give so much to Spenser that he would leave nothing for the prince.
At last the queen and her friends took the king prisoner. They shut him up in a castle called Berkeley Castle. They gave him bad food to eat, and dirty water to drink and to wash himself with. They never let him go into the open air to see any of his friends. This poor king was very soon murdered. The queen's favourite, Mortimer, being afraid the people would be sorry for poor Edward, when they heard how ill he had been used, and might perhaps take him out of prison and make him king again, sent some wicked men secretly to Berkeley Castle, and they killed the king in such a cruel way that his cries and shrieks were heard all over the castle.
He had been king twenty years, but not been happy one single year.
Chapter 26. - Edward III.--1327 to 1377. - How Queen Isabella was put in prison, and her favourite hanged; how Queen Philippa did much good for the people; and how Edward the Third went to war to conquer France.
When poor Edward of Caernarvon was murdered, his son Edward, who had been made king in his place, was only fourteen years old.
Queen Isabella and her wicked friend Mortimer ruled the kingdom, as they said, only for the good of young king Edward. But, in reality, they cared for nothing but their own pleasure and amusement, and behaved so ill to the people, that the young king's uncles and some other barons joined together agaist Mortimer. But he was too strong for them, and beheaded one of the king's uncles.
At last the young king had the spirit to seize Mortimer, and he was hanged for a traitor. Queen Isabella was put in prison; but as she was the king's mother, he would not have her killed, although she was so wicked, but gave her a good house to live in, instead of a prison, and paid her her a visit every year as long as she lived. Thus, the young King Edward the Third, at eighteen years old, took the kingdom into his own hands, and governed it wisely and happily.
In many things he was like his granfather, Edward the First. He was wise and just to his own subjects. He was fond of war, and sometimes he was cruel.
I must tell you a little about his wife and children, before we speak of his great wars.
His wife's name was Philippa of Hainault. She was one of the best and cleverest and most beautiful women in the world.
She was very fond of England, and did a great deal of good to the people. A great many beautiful churches were built in Edward's reign, but it was Queen Philippa who encouraged the men who built them. She paid for building a college and new schools in Oxford and other places. She invited a French clergyman, named Sir John Froissart, to England, that he might see everything, and write about it in the book he called his Chronicles, which is the most amusing book of history I ever read. Queen Philippa and her son, John of Gaunt, who was called the Duke of Lancaster, loved and encouraged Chaucer, the first great English poet. By and by, when you are a little older, you will like to read the stories he wrote. Besides all this, there were some good men who wished to translate the Bible into English, so that all the people might read and understand it. The leader of these good men was John Wiclif, the first great reformer of religion in England. In this reign the great people began to leave off talking Norman French and to talk Engish, almost like our English now. And the king ordered the lawyers to conduct their business in English instead of French.
Queen Philippa had a great many children, all of whom she brought up wisely and carefully. Her eldest son Edward was called the Black Prince, it is said because he used to wear black armour. He was the bravest and politest prince at that time in the world; and Queen Philippa's other sons and her daughters were all thought better than any family of princes at that time.
We must now speak of the king and his wars. These wars made him leave England, and go to foreign countries very often; but as he left Queen Philippa to take care of the country while he was away, everything went on as well as if he had been at home.
Soon after Edward became King of England, Charles, King of France, who was Edward's uncle, died. And as Charles had no children, Edward thought he had a right to be King of France, rather than his cousin Philip, who had made himself king on Charles's death. The two cousins disputed a good while as to who should be king. At last, as they could not agree, they went to war, and this was the beginning of the long wars which lasted for many kings' reigns between France and England.
In that time, a great many kings and princes, and barons, or, as they began to be commonly called, nobles, did many brave and generous deeds, and gained a great deal of honour for themselves, and glory for their country; but the poor people, both in England and France, suffered a great deal. The English parliament was so pleased that our kings should overcome the French, that they allowed the king to have such great taxes to pay the soldiers with, that the people could hardly keep enough to live upon. And the French people suffered more, because, besides paying taxes, the armies used to fight in their land, and the soldiers trampled down the corn in the fields, and burned their towns and villages, and often robbed the people themselves. And so it must always be in a country where there is war. If the captains and officers are ever so kind, and the soldiers ever so good, they cannot help doing mischief where they fight.
In the next chapter I will tell you of two or three of the chief things that happened while King Edward was at war with France.
Chapter 27. - Edward III.--Continued. - How the English gained a sea-fight; how King Edward and his son the Black Prince won the battle of Crecy; how Calais was taken, and how Queen Philippa saved the lives of six of the citizens; how the Black Prince won the battle of Poitiers, and took the King of France prisoner, and brought him to London.
You have heard, I am sure, that the English are famous for being the best sailors in the world, and for gaining the greatest victories when they fight at sea. At the beginning of Edward's French war he gained the first very great battle that had been fought at sea by the English, since the times when they had to drive away the Danes; it was fought very near a town called Sluys, on the coast of Flanders. Instead of guns to fire from the ships, they had great stones for the men to throw at one another when they were near enough, and bows and arrows to shoot with from a distance. This was indeed a very great battle; the English and the French never before fought by sea with so many men and so many and such big ships; and so I have told you of it.
Besides this sea-fight, there were two great victories won by King Edward on land, which are among the most glorious that ever have been gained by the English. The first was the battle of Crecy.
The French had three times as many men as the English at Crecy, so King Edward knew he must be careful how he placed his army, that it might not be beaten. And he took care that the soldiers should have a good night's rest, and a good breakfast before they began the battle; so they were fresh, and ready to fight well.
Then the king sent forward his dear son, Edward the Black Prince, who was only sixteen years old, to begin the fight. It was about three o'clock in the afternoon, on a hot summer's day, when the battle began, and they fought till dark. At one time, some of the gentlemen near the prince were afraid he would be overcome, and sent to his father to beg him to come and help him. The king asked if his son was killed or hurt. "No," said the messenger. "Then," said the king, "he will do well, and I choose him to have the honour of the day himself." Soon after this the French began to run away, and it is dreadful to think how many of them were killed.
Two kings who had come to help the King of France, one of the king's brothers, and more French barons, gentlemen, and common soldier than I can tell you, were killed. But very few English indeed were slain. When the King of England met his son at night, after the great battle of Crecy was won, he took ime in his arms and cried, "My brave son! Go on as you have begun! You are indeed my son, for you have behaved bravely to-day! You have shown that you are worthy to be a king."
And I believe that it made King Edward happier to see his son behave so bravely in the battle, and so modestly afterwards, than even the winning of that great victory.
A year after the battle of Crecy, the city of Calais, which you know is in France, on the coast just opposite to Dover, in England, was taken by Edward.
The people of Calais, who did not wish their town to belong to the King of England, had defended it almost a year, and would not have given in up to him at last, if they could have got anything to eat. But Edward's soldiers prevented the market people from carrying bread, or meat or vegetables, into the city, and many people died of hunger before the captain would give it up.
I am sorry to tell you that Edward, instead of admiring the citizens for defending their town so well, was so enraged at them, theat he wanted to have them all hanged; and when his chief officers begged him not to be cruel to those who had been so faithful to their own king, he said he would only spare them on condition that six of their best men would bring him the keys of the city gates, that they must come bare-headed and bare-footed, with nothing but their shirts on, and with ropes round their necks, as he meant to hang them at least.
When the people of Calais heard this, the men and women, and even the chidren, thought it would almost be better to die of hunger, than to give up the brave men who had been their companions in all their misery. Nobody could speak.
At last Eustace de St. Pierre, one of the chief gentlemen in Calias, offered to be one of the six; then another of the richest citizens, and then four other gentlemen came forward, and said they would willingly die to save the rest of the people in Calais. And they took the keys, and went out of the town in their shirts, bare-headed and bare-footed, to King Edward's tent, which was a little way from the city gates.
Then King Edward called for the headsman, and wanted him to cut off the heads of those gentlemen directly; but Queen Philippa, who was in the tent, hearing what the king had ordered, came out suddenly, and fell upon her knees, and would not get up till the king promised to spare the lives of the six brave men of Calais. At last Edward, who loved her very dearly, said, "Dame, I can deny you nothing"; and so he ordered his soldiers to let the good Eustace de St. Pierre and his companions go where they pleased, and entirely forgave the citizens of Calais.
The second great victory which made King Edward's name so glorious was that of Poitiers. It was gained about ten years after the battle of Crecy.
King Philip of France, with whom Edward had quarelled, was dead, and his son John, who was called the Good, had become King of France. Edward went to war again with him, to try to get the kingdom for himself, and at first he thought he might succeed.
The Black Prince was in France with a small army, and reached a place near Poitiers before he met the King of France, who had a great army, with at least five men for every one that was with Edward.
But Prince Edward followed the example his father had set him at the battle of Crecy; he placed his soldiers very skillfully, and he took care that they should have rest and food. The battle began early in the morning, and ended as the battle of Crecy did, by the greater number of the French running away, and a great many of their best gentlemen and soldiers being killed.
But the chier thing that happened was, that King John of France and his youngest son were taken prisoners, and brought to the Black Prince's tent, where he was resting himself after the fight. Prince Edward received King John as kindly as if he had come to pay him a visit of his own accord. He seated him in his own place, ordered the best supper he could get to be made ready for him, and waited on the king at table as carefully as if he had not been his prsoner. Then he said everything he could to comfort him; and all the time he was with him he behaved with the greatest kindness and respect.
When Prince Edward brought his prisoner, the King of France, to London, as there were to carriages then, they rode on horseback into the city. King John was well dressed, and mounted on a beautiful white horse which belonged to the prince; while Edward himself rode by his side upon a black pony to wait upon him and do anything he might want. And in that mannor he went with King John to the palace belonging to the King of England called the Savoy. King John was set free when peace was made; but the French never could afford money enough to pay the English what they asked for letting him go back, to his people. So the good King John came back, to keep his word of honour, and died in England.
This goodness and gentleness of the Black Prince made everybody love him. And his bravery in battle, and his wisdom in governing those parts of France which his father and he had conquered, gave the English hopes that when he became king he would be as good a king as his father, and that England would be still happier.
But the Black Prince died at the age of forty-six, just one year before his father. His good mother Philippa, had died some years before. And all the people of England grieved very much. Their good queen, their favourite prince, and their wise and brave King Edward the Third, all died while the Black Prince's son was quite a child. And though some of the prince's brothers were brave and clever men, the people knew, by what had happened in former times, that the country is never well ruled while the king is too young to govern for himself.
Chapter 28 - Richard II.--1377 to 1399. - How Richard the Second sent men round the country to gather the taxes; how Wat Tyler killed one of them and collected an army; how he met the King in Smithfield, and was killed by the Mayor; how King Richard behaved cruelly to his uncles; how he was forced to give up the crown to his cousin Henry of Hereford, and died at Pomfret.
Richard the Second was only eleven years old when his grandfather, King Edward the Third, died. He was made king immediately. The people, who loved him for the sake of his good and brave father, the Black Prince, were very peaceable and quiet in the beginning of his reign. But his uncles, who were clever men, and wanted to be powerful, did not agree very well with one another.
When Richard was about sixteen, a civil war had very nearly taken place. I will tell you how it happened.
The king was not so well brought up as he ought to have been, and he loved eating and drinking and fine clothes, and he made a great many feasts, and gave fine presents to his favourites, so that he often wanted money before it was the right time to pay the taxes. It happened, as I said, when the king was about sixteen, that he wanted money, and so did his uncles, who were in France, where the French and English still continued to fight now and then. The great lords sent the men who gathered the king's taxes round the county, and one of them, whose business was to get the poll-tax, that is, a tax on everybody's head, was so cruel, and so rude to the daughter of a poor man named Wat Tyler, that Wat, who could not bear to see his child ill-used, struck him on the head with his hammer and killed him.
Wat Tyler's neighbours, hearing the noise, all came round, and, finding how much the taxgatherer had vexed Wat, they took his part, and got their friends to do the same, and a great many thousands of them collected together at Blackheath, and sent to the king, who then lived in the Tower of London, to beg him to listen to their complaints, and not to allow the noblemen to oppress them, nor to send to gather taxes in a cruel manner. The king did not go to them, but he read the paper of complaints they sent, and promised to do his people justice. A few days afterwards, the king, with his officers, met Wat Tyler, and a great many of the people who had joined him, in Smithfield, and spoke to him about the compaints the people had made. The Mayor of London, who was near them, fancied Wat Tyler was going to stab the king, so he rode up to him and killed him.
Wat Tyler's friends now thought it best to make peace with the king; so for this time the civil war was stopped.
I have told you this story, to show you what
mischief is done by cruelty and injustice. It was unjust to collect the taxes at a wrong time, and for a bad purpose. It was cruel in the taxgatherer to behave ill to Tyler's daughter. That unjustice and cruelty brought about the death of the tax-man, and that of Wat Tyler, who seems to have been a bold, brave man, wishing so do what was right.
Soon after this disturbance, the king was married to a princess of Bohemia, who was so gentle and kind to the people, that they called her the good Queen Anne, and they hoped that she would persuade the king to send away his bad companions; but they were disappointed, for Richard II. was too ill-tempered to take her advice, and the people, who had loved him when he was a child for his father's sake, now began to hate him.
In the meantime he was at war with Scotland, and with Ireland, and with France; and instead of gaining battles, and making the name of our dear England glorious, he lost, by degrees, all credit, and was laughed at by foreigners, as well as by his own subjects.
I have told you that the king had several uncles, who took care of the kingdom while he was a child. Instead of being grateful for this, he ordered one to be put to death, and ill-used another; and when his third uncle, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, died, he took all his money and lands away from John's son, whose name was Henry of Hereford, and made use of his riches to spend in eating, drinking, and riot of all kinds.
The good Queen Anne died soon, and she had no son, and the people all began to wish they had another king insead of this Richard, who was a disgrace to his good father the Black Prince.
Now Henry of Hereford, who was the king's cousin, was very clever; and the people knew he was very brave, for he had fought in the armies of some foreign princes at one time. Besides, he behaved kindly and good-naturedly to the people, so a good many of them began to wish him to be king. Then Richard grew afraid of him, and sent him out of the country.
Soon word was sent to Henry that King Richard was gone to Ireland to quiet some disturbance there, and that, if he pleased to come to England and make himself king, he would find many persons ready to take his part.
Henry came accordingly, and, on King Richard's return from Ireland, he forced him to call the parliament to meet him in London. Now the lords and the gentlemen, or, as they began to be called, the commons of the parliament, all agreed that Richard was too cruel, and revengeful, and extravagant to be king any longer, and that his cousin, Henry of Hereford, son of the great Duke of Lancaster, should be king.
Richard was forced to give up the crown; and of all the people who had lived with him, and to whom he had shown kindness, there was only one, the Bishop of Carlisle, who took his part, or said a word in his favour; so he was put into prison at Pomfret Castle, and some time afterwards he died there. Some people say he was killed by a bad man called Exton; others say he was starved to death.
Chapter 29. - Henry IV.--1399 to 1413 - How Henry the Fourth had a dispute with Earl Percy and his son Hotspur about their Scotch prisoners; how the Percys went to war with the king, and were joined by Owen Glendower; how Hotspur was killed in the battle of Shrewsbury; why some men are made nobles, and how they are useful to their country; how king Henry punished people on account of their religion.
I think that Henry of Hereford did not act rightly in taking the kingdom from his cousin Richard, but he became a good king for England. He was the first king od the family of Lancaster, and is sometimes called Henry of Lancaster.
During the fourteen years Henry was king he was chiefly busy in making of improving laws for the people.
He had little foreign war to disturb him; but the Welsh and Scotch several times made war upon the English who lived nearest to them. There was in Henry's days a very famous Scotch earl called James of Douglas, and he came into the north of England and began to burn the villages, and rob the people, until the Earl of Northumberland, whose name was Percy, and his son, Henry Hotspur, gathered their soldiers together, and went to fight Douglas, at a place called Holmedon, and they beat him, and took a great many prisoners.
In those days it was the custom for everybody to do as they pleased with the prisoners they took. A cruel man might kill them , another might make slaves of them; one, a little kinder, might say, "If your friends will send me some money, I will let you go;" but the kindest of all would let them go home again without paying for it.
Now King Henry had a dispute with Earl Percy about those Scotch prisoners, and Percy and his son were so affronted, that they were joined by several English lords; but the person who helped them most was a Welsh gentlmeman, named Owen Glendower, who was related to the old princes of Wales.
He was very angry with King Henry the Fourth, because he thought he behaved ill to Wales, which was his own country; besides, he had been a friend of poor Richard the Second; and though he might have thought it right to keep him in prison, he could not bear to think of his having been put to death.
These reasons make him join the Percys, and they collected a very large army to fight against King Henry. The Earl Percy's son was called Harry Hotspur, because he was very impatient, as well as very brave. Indeed, he and the young Prince of Wales, who was called Henry of Monmouth, were the two bravest yong men in England. The king's armymet the army that Percy and Owen Glendower had raised against him near Shrewsbury, and then everybody thought a great deal about the two young Harrys, who were both so brave and handsome. The battle was fought, and the King gained the victory. Herny of Monmouth behaved as bravely as the Black Prince used to do, and he was not hurt in the battle. Harry Hotspur was equally brave, but he was killed. Oh! civil war is a sad thing. There was one of the finest young noblemen in England killed among Englishmen, who ought to have agreed, and helped, and loved one another, instead of fighting.
Perhaps you will wonder why I mention the young noblemen particularly, when so many other Englishmen were killed; and you will wonder if it is of any use that there should be noblemen.
I think it is, and I will tell you why. The first noblemen were those men who had been either very good in all things, or who had found out something useful for everybody, or who had been very brave in battle, or very wise in giving good advice.
These their companions called Nobles, and paid them great respect, and gave them more lands, and goods, and money, than other people. And in the Bible you read that the names of those men who do rightly shall be remembered. Now when a man has been made a noble, and his name is remebered because he is good, or manly, or clever, or brave, or wise, his sons will say to themselves, "Our dear father has been made a noble, because he was good or brave; we must be good or brave, or useful too, that people may see that he taught us well, and that we know how to love and honour him, by following his good example." Then their children will think of how good both their father and grandfather were, and that they will not do anything that they would not have liked, and so they will try to keep the good and noble name one after another, as it was given to the first of their grandfathers. If the young nobles do this properly, you know they will always be ready to do good to their country, by helping to make good laws, and to do justice in time of peace, and to fight for the safety and glory of their own land in time of war, as their fathers did. Then they will say to themselves, "I am noble and rich, and other people will look up to me; I must, therefore, try to be better than others, that I may set a good example to the young , and that those who are old enough to rememper my father and grandfather may think I have done as well as they did."
The nobles of England are useful to the country. As they are rich enough to live without working for themselves and their families, they have time to be always ready when the king wants advice; or when there is a parliament to make laws; or when the king wishes to send messages to other kings. And as their forefathers were made noble because of their goodness, wisdom, or bravery, they have in general followed their example; and they have always, next after the king, been the people we have loved best, and who have done us the most good.
The noblemen made King John do justice to the people, and give them the good laws written in the Great Charter. The noblemen prevented the foolish Kings Henry the Third and Richard the Second from doing a great deal of mischief, and they helped our good Kings Henry the Second, Edward the First, and Edward the Third to do all the good and useful thigs I have told you of. So you see that noblemen have been of great use in England.
When you are older you will understand this better, and you will find out mhany more reasons to be glad that we have noblemen in our own dear country.
Henry the Fourth died at Westminster, when he had been king only fourteen years. He was wise and just, except in one thing; and that was, that he punished persons who did not agree with the bishops about the proper way to worship God. Some good men, called Lollards, who loved to read the Bible in English, were put in prison, and otherwise ill-used, on that account.
Chapter 30. - Henry V.--1413 to 1422. - How Henry the Fifth was very gay and thoughtless when he was Prince of Wales, but a great and wise King; how he went to war with France, and gained the battle of Agincourt, and how the people lamented at his death.
I think you would have liked King Henry the Fifth who was often called Harry of Monmouth.
He was very good-natured and very gay; yet, when it was right to be grave and wise, he could be so, and we never had a braver king in England.
I must tell you a little about his behaviour while he was a young man, and only Prince of Wales, before I say anything about the time when he was king.
It is said that he was very merry and fond of playing wild pranks with gay and reckless young men of low birth; but all the stories told about his conduct at htis time can hardly be true. I will tell you some of them.
Once, when he had been doing something wrong, his father, who was ill at Windsor, sent for him, and he went directly in a very droll dress, that he had had made for some frolic; it was of light blue satin, and it had a great many odd puckers in the sleeves, and at every pucker he made the tailor leave a blue thread and a tag like a needle. When the king saw such a strange coat, he was a little vexed that he should dare to come to him, while he was so ill, in it. But Prince Harry said he was in such a hurry to see his father, and to do whatever he wished for, that he could not spare time to take off the coat, and so he came as he was; and his father forgave him because of his obedience.
Another time he was strolling about in London with some idle merry companions, when he heard that one of his servants had behaved ill, and had been carried before the chief judge, whose name was Sir William Gascoyne. He went directly to the court where the judge was, and desired him to let his servant go because he was the king's son. But the judge refused, and said he was sitting there for the king himself, to do justice to everybody alike, and he would not let the man go till he had been punished. The prince was in too great a passion to think rightly at that moment, and he struck the chief justice. That wise and good man instantly ordered the officers to take the bold young prince to prison, and it was not till he had made very humble excuses that he forgave him, and set him free. He said that such an act was worse in the king's son than in anybody else; because, as he was sitting in the court for the king, other people, if they offended, were only subjects doing wrong, but the prince, being the king's son, as well as his subject, was offending both king and father. Harry had the sense to understand this; and when his passion was over he thanked the judge, promised never to behave so ill again, and kept his word.
The king, you may be sure, was pleased with the judge, who was not afraid to do justice on his son; and he praised his son for getting the better of his passion, and submitting to the judge without complaining. I must tell you, however, that Gascoyne was removed from being chief justice soon after Henry became king, bit that was because he had grown very old and was no longer fit to do the duty of a judge.
When King Henry the Fourth died, the people may have been a little afraid lest Harry should not make
a good king, though he might be a merry one. If they were they soon saw they were mistaken.
None of our kings was ever more wise, or clever, or brave, or fonder of doing justice; and even now nobody in England ever thinks of Henry the Fifth without loving him.
In the very beginning of his reign there was a war with France. The poor King of France was mad. His queen was a very wicked woman, and his son very young. All the noblemen were quarrelling with one another, and the whole together with the King of England.
So Henry made ready his army, and sailed over to France, and, after having taken a town called Harfleur, met a very large French army at a place called Agincourt.
The English soldiers were tired with a long march; they had had very bad weather to march in, which made many of them ill, and they had not enough to eat. But they loved the king; they knew he was as badly off as they were, and he was so kind and good-humoured, and talked so cheerfully to them, that in spite of hunger, and weariness, and sickness, they went to battle in good spirits. The English bowmen shot their long arrows all at once with such force, that the French soldiers, especially those on horseback, were obliged to give way; and in a very short time King Henry won as great a victory at Agincourt, as Edward the Third and the Black Prince did at Crecy and Poitiers. One day, when you are older, you will read a most delightful play written by the poet Shakespeare about this battle, and some other parts of King Henry the Fifth's life.
Not long after the battle , Henry went to Paris, and there the princes and nobles told him that , if
he would let the poor mad King Charles be called king while he lived, Henry and his children should be always Kings of France. And so peace was made, and Henry governed France for a little while, and he married the French Princess Catherine, and they had a little son born at Windsor, who was called Henry of Windsor, Prince of Wales, and was afterwards King Henry the Sixth.
Very soon afterwards, King Henry the Fifth was taken very ill at Paris. He knew he was going to die, so he sent for his brothers and the other English lords who were in France, and gave them a great deal of good advice about ruling England and France, and begged them to take care of his little son. He then told his chaplain to chant some of the psalms to him, and died very quietly.
The English people wept and lamented bitterly, when they found that they had lost their king.
He was kind to them, and so true and honest, that even his enemies trusted entirely to him. He was very handsome, and so good-humoured, that everybody who knew him liked his company; so good and just, that wicked men were afraid of him; so wise, that his laws were the fittest for his people that could have been made at the time; so brave, that the very name of Henry, King of England, kept his enemies in fear. And above all this, he was most pious towards God.
Chapter 31 - Henry VI.--1422 to 1461. - How Henry the Sixth Became King while he was an infant; how the Duke of Bedford governed in France; how Joan of Arc persuaded the Dauphin and the French soldiers to take courage; how they nearly drove the English out of France; how Joan was taken prisoner and put to death.
Henry of Windsor, the poor little Prince of Wales, was not a year old when his father died. He was made King of England directly, and became King of France soon after.
The parliament that his wise father left gave good guardians and protectors to the little king, and to England and to France.
The war in France began again, for the mad king having died, his son, who was almost as good for France as our Henry of Monmouth had been for Engand, began to try to get back all his father's kingdom. However, the Duke of Bedford, uncle to the little King of England, managed so well for the English, that it really seemed as if France was always to be subject to the King of England.
It was fortunate, for the good of both countries, that it was not to be so.
When the people of France were so tired of war that they were not able to fight longer, and the king himself had lost all hope of getting back his kingdom, one of the strangest things happened that I ever read about.
A young woman called Joan of Arc, who was servant at a country inn at Domremy in France, had heard a great many people talk about the sad state of all the country, and the great unhappiness of the young French Prince Charles. She thought about this so much, that at last she fancied that God had sent her to help the Prince to get back his kingdom, and to drive the English out of France.
So she dressed herself like a young man, and got a sword and spear, and went to Chinon, a castle where the prince was, and there she told him, and the few French nobles who were with him, that, if they would only follow her when they were next attacked, she would teach them how to conquer the English.
I should tell you, that the eldest son of the King of France was called the Dauphin, as the elsest son of the King of England is called Prince of Wales.
Well, at first the dauphin and his friends thought that Joan was mad; but she began to talk to them so wisely, that they listened to her. She cheered the dauphin, who seemed quite without hope of saving his kingdom; she said that he ought to call himself king directly, and go to Rheims, where all the kings of France used to be crowned, and hve the crown put upon his head; that the people might know he was king.
She told the nobles that the English, if they conquered France, would take away their estates and make them beggers; that it was shameful to let the poor young dauphin be driven from the kingdom of his forefathers; and that they deserved to lose the name of nobles if they were afraid to fight for their own country and king.
Then she went among the common soldiers and the poor people. She said, God would have pity on them, if they would fight bravely against the English, who were strangers, and who only came to France to take all that was good from them, and spoil their towns, and trample down their corn, and kill their king, and make beggars of them all.
So by the time the French and English met again in battle, the French had recovered their spirits. And when the king, and the nobles, and the people saw that young woman go in front of the army, and into every dangerous place, and fight better than any of the bravest soldiers, they would have been ashamed not to follow her; so that her bravery and her good advice did really begin to save her country.
The French drove the English army away from Orleans, and Joan of Arc has been called the Maid of Orleans ever since.
The Maid of Orleans next persuaded the dauphin to go and have the crown set on his head, and so make himself king; and as soon as that was done, a great many people came to him, and he very soon had a large army, with which he drove the English out of the greater part of France.
It was a grand sight when Charles the Dauphin went to Rheims, and was crowned, while all the nobles stood by, and the Maid of Orleans close to him, holding the wite flag of France in her hand.
I am sorry to tell you the end of the brave Maid of Orleans. She was taken prisoner by the English, and kept in prison for some time. At last, they were so cruel as to burn her alive, because they could not forgive her for saving her county and her king. But they pretended she was a witch.
Soon after this cruel murder the Duke of Bedford died, and by degrees the English lost everything in France but a very little corner of the country, out of all that Henry the Fifth had conquered.
I shall end this chapter here, because we have nothing more to say about France for a long while; but we shall have to read of some sad civil wars in England, which began at this time.
Chapter 32 - Henry VI.--Continued. - How Queen Margaret and Cardinal Beaufort are said to have caused Duke Humphrey to be murdered; how the wars of the White and the Red Roses were brought about; how Edward of York was chosen king by the Londoners.
Henry the Sixth grew up to be a very good but very weak man. He was married to a beautiful lady called Margaret of Anjou, who was very fierce and cruel, and who behaved more like a man than a woman. She wanted to govern the kingdom entirely herself; and as the only person she was afraid of was the king's uncle, Humphrey, the good Duke of Gloucester, it is supposed that she agreed with Cardinal Beaufort and another person, who hated Duke Humphrey, and that they had him put to death very cruelly.
Soon after this, as the queen and her friends behaved so ill, several of the noblemen, most of the gentlemen in Parliament, and the people in London, began to think it would be better to take away the crown from the poor king, who was too silly to govern for himself, and was often so ill that he could not speak for days together.
The person they wished to make king was his cousin the Duke of York.
I have read, that some gentlemen were walking together in the Temple garden after dinner, and disputing about the king and the Duke of York; one of them took the king's part, and said, that , though he was silly, his little son Edward, who was just born, might be wise; and he was determined to defend King Henry and his family, and desired all who agreed with him to do as he did, and pluck a red rose, and wear it in their caps, as a sign that they would defend the family of Lancaster.
The gentlemen who thought it would be best to have the Duke of York for their king turned to a white-rose bush, and each took a white rose, and put it in his cap, as a sign he loved the Duke of York; and for more that thirty years afterwards the civil wars in England were called the Wars of the Roses.
At first, the party of York only wished Richard, Duke of York, to be the king's guardian, and govern for him; and as Duke Richard was wise and good, it might have been well for England if he had been allowed to do so.
But Queen Margaret raised an army to keep away the Duke of York, and the first battle between the people of the Red Rose and the people of the White Rose was fought at St. Alban's.
The Yorkists gained the victory, and there was quiet for a few years. Then another battle was fought, and the queen, with the little prince, went to Scotland, and for some time the Duke of York ruled the kingdom with the king's consent.
However, the queen found means to come back to England, and to gather another great army, with which she fought the Duke of York's army several times, and at last beat them, at a place called Wakefield Green. She cut off the Duke of York's head, and stuck a paper crown upon it, and put it over one of the gates of York. Could you have thought a woman would be so cruel?
One of her friends, called Clifford, did something still worse. He saw a handsome youth of seventeen, along with an old clergyman, who was his tutor, trying to get away to some safe place after the battle; he asked who he was, and when the child said he was Rutland, the Duke of York's son, the fierce Clifford stabbed him to the heart with his dagger, although the poor youth and his good tutor fell upon their knees and begged for mercy.
When the people knew of these two cruel things, they began to hate Queen Margaret, and a great many went to the Duke of York's eldest son, Edward, and desired he would make himself king.
Now this Edward was brave and handsome, and loved laughing and merriment, but he was very cruel and too fond of pleasure. However, he was better than Margaret, and the people in London chose him to be king; and so there were two kings in England for ten years; one, the King of White Rose, that was Edward; and one, the King of the Red Rose, that was poor Henry.
Chapter 33 - Edward IV. of York.--1461 to 1483. - How the Yorkists beat Queen Margaret at Hexham; how the Queen and Prince escaped to Flanders; why the Earl of Warwick was called the King-maker; how Prince Edward was murdered by King Edward's brothers; how King Henry and the Duke of Clarence were put to death.
In those years, while there were two kings, nobody knew which king to obey. Few people minded the laws, and the armies of the Lancastrians and the Yorkists did a great deal of mischief in every part of the country. A great many battles were fought, and many thousands of Englishmen were killed.
After one of these battles, which was fought at Towton, in Yorkshire, King Henry was obliged to hide himself for a long time in Scotland, and the parts of England close to it. He sometimes slept in the woods, and sometimes in caves, and was near dying of hunger.
At last Queen Margaret contrived to gather another army; but the Yorkists beat her at Hexham, and King Henry was taken prisoner, and sent to the Tower. Queen Margaret and the young prince escaped into a wild forest. There they were met by some robbers, who took away the queen's necklace and her rings, and then began to quarrel about who should have the most.
Queen Margaret took the opportunity of their quarreling, and, holding her little son by the hand, she began running through the forest, in hopes of meeting some of her friends; but she only met with another robber. She was afraid he would kill her and the little prince, because they had nothing to give him. Margaret then fell upon her knees, and owned she was the queen, and begged the robber to protect his king's son. The ropper was surprised, indeed, to see the queen and prince by themselves, half-starved, and weary with running in that wild place. But he was a good-natured man, and took them under his care; he got them some food, and took them to a cottage to rest; after which he contrived to take them safely to the seaside, where they got on board ship and went the Flanders.
Now that King Henry was safe in the Tower of London, and Queen Margaret was gone abroad, everybody in England hoped there would be an end to the civil wars, and King Edward of York married a beautiful lady called Elizabeth Woodville, and he had many children, and there was nothing but feasting and rejoicing.
But the king had two brothers, George Duke of Clarence, who was rather foolish, and Richard, who was young, brave, and clever, but deformed and wicked. The Duke of Clarence had married a daughter of the Earl of Warwick, who had been very useful to the Yorkists. But he was vexed with the king for marrying without asking his advice, so he determined to begin the civil war again.
This Earl of Warwick was a very brave man, but he was very changeable; at one time he fought for Edward of York, at another for Margaret and Henry of Lancaster; so, as he chose to call first one of them king, and then the other, he was nicknamed the King-maker. Once Warwick forced King Edward to flee from England, and put Henry on the throne again. But Edward came back, and Warwick was killed in the battle at Barnet, near London, and poor Henry was sent back to the Tower.
About three weeks after that battle of Barnet, there was another at Tewkesbury, where Edward of York took Queen Margaret and her son Edward prisoners; for they had come to England again, in hopes the Earl of Warwick would get the kingdom back for the Lancastrians.
When they were brought before King Edward, he asked the boy how he dared to come to England. The brave lad answered, that he came to try to get back his father's crown; upon which Edward cruelly struck him on the face, and his brothers Clarence and Gloucester, and two other lords, stabbed the poor prince till he died. This was even more cruel than anything Margaret had ever done.
That miserable queen was sent to prison in the Tower immediately afterwards, where her poor husband was a prisoner. But a very few days afterthe battle of Tewkesbury, Henry was found dead in his prison, and he was most likely murdered. The King of France paid Edward a large sum of money to set Queen Margaret free.
Now, all Edward of York's enemies being either dead or overcome, he feasted and enjoyed himself, and was very wicked and cruel. His foolish brother, the Duke of Clarance, quarrelled with the queen and; her relations, and also with the Duke of Gloucester. So Edward had Clarence sent to the Tower, where he was put to death. Many people thought that the Duke of Gloucester murdered King Henry the Sixth, and caused the Duke of Clarence to be drowned in a cask of Malmsey wine; but I am not sure of this.
About four years after this, King Edward the Fourth died, and left two little sons and five daughters. I can say very little good of him, except that he was brave and handsome, and good-humoured in company; but then he was cruel and revengeful, and, when the wars were over, he loved his own pleasure and amusement too well to do anything good or useful for the people, and he did them much wrong.
Chapter 34 - Edward V. - Only ten weeks of week of 1483. - How Richard, Duke of Gloucester, was guardian to the young King Edward the Fifth; how he put Lord Hastings to death, and made himself King; and how the little king Edward and his brother were murdered in the Tower.
When Edward the Fourth died, his son Edward, Prince of Wales, was only thirteen years old; and his younger son, Richard, Duke of York, only ten.
The Prince of Wales was with some of his relations at Ludlow, and the little duke with his mother in London.
Their guardian was their uncle, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, whose wicked and cruel deeds you read about in the last chapter.
Now the Duke of Gloucester, whom the people called Crook-back, because he was deformed, wished to be king himself; but there were several noblemen who determined to try to prevent his depriving his little nephew of the kingdom; and when the boy was brought to London, and lodged in the palace in the Tower, to keep him safe, as his uncle said, they tried to watch over him, and prevent any wrong from being done to him. But Richard of Gloucester was too cunning and too cruel for them. He contrived, in the first place, to get the little Duke of York out of his mother's hands, and to lodge him in the Tower, as well as his brother. He next pretended that he wanted to talk with the little king's friends about the proper day for setting the crown on his head, and letting the people see him as their king. So the lords who wished well to the young princes all came to the Tower, and were sitting together waiting for the Duke of Gloucester.
At last he came, and said, very angrily, that he had found out several persons who were making plans to put him to death, and had bribed some persons to poison him; and then turning to Lord Hastings, who was one of young Edward's best friends, asked him fiercely what the persons deserved who had done so? "They deserve severe punishment," said Lord Hastings, "if they have done so."--"If! dost thou answer me with ifs?" roared out Gloucester; "by St. Paul, I will not dine till thy head is off!"
The moment he had said this he struck his hand upon the table, and some soldiers came into the room. He made a sign to them to take away Lord Hastings, and they took him directly to the court before the windows. There they laid him down with his neck on a log of wood, and cut off his head, and the cruel Gloucester went to his dinner.
After this, nobody was surprised to hear that Richard had put to death several more of the king's friends; and that the next thing he did was to get the people to make him king, and to say that the young prince was not fit to be king.
After this, he ordered both the princes to be murdered in the Tower; and I will tell you how it was done.
The governor of the Tower at that time was Sir Robert Brackenbury, and Richard found that he was so honest, that while he was there he would not let anybody hurt the little princes, so that he sent away Brackenbury upon some business that was to take him two or three days, and gave the keys to a wicked servant of his own to keep till Brackenbury came back. The bad man's name was Tyrrell; and he had no sooner got the charge of the little king and his brother, than he sent for two persons more wicked even than himself, and promised them a great deal of money, of they would go into the children's room while they were asleep and murder them.
These two men's names were Dighton and Forrest. They went into the room where the princes were both on the same bed. Their little arms were round each other's necks, and their little cheeks close together. Then the wicked murderers took some cushions, and laid them over the poor children as they lay asleep, and smothered them.
Then they took them on their shoulders, and carried them to a little back-staircase, near their room in the Tower, and buried them in a great hole under the stairs, and threw a heap of stones over them; and a long time afterwards, some workmen, who were employed to repair that part of the Tower, found their bones in that place.
And this was the end of our little King Edward the Fifth, and his brother York.
You will read something about their sister Elizabeth very soon.
Chapter 35 - Richard III.--1483 to 1485. - How Richard the Third tried to make the people his friends; how the Duke of Buckingham rebelled and was put the death; how Richard was killed at Bosworth fighting against the Earl of Richmond, who was made King.
Richard, Duke of Gloucester, had got himself made king, as I told you, before he murdered his young nephews in the Tower. The people were told that the young princes had died suddenly.
He tried to make the people forget the wicked way in which he came to be king by making some good laws; but he could not succeed. The English could not love so base and cruel a man, and Richard had but a short and troublesome reign.
The first vexation he had was caused by a cousin of his, the Duke of Buckingham, almost as bad a man as himself, who had helped him in most of his bad deeds, but who did not mean to let him kill the little princes. So the Duke got an army to gether, and hoped by beginning a civil war to punish Richard; but he was taken prisoner, and Richard treated him as he had done Lord Hastings, that is, he cut off his head directly.
But there was another cousin of Richard's, and a much better man, about whom I must tell you a great deal more. His name was Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond. Now his father, Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond, was related to the old princes of Wales, who you must remember were Britons, and his mother, the Countess of Richmond, was a lady of the family of Lancaster, of the Red Rose. Richard the Third hated the Earl of Richmond, because he knew that many people thought Henry ought to be king, and he did everything he could to injure him and his family. But Richmond himself was abroad, where Richard could not hurt him.
But after a little while Richmond wrote to his friends in England, that, if they would be ready to help him when he came, he would bring with him from abroad money and men, and then England might get rid of the wicked King Richard of the White Rose, and take him instead for their king.
The best gentlemen in England immediately got ready to receive Richmond; all the relations of the persons Richard had put to death were glad to join with him to punish that bad man. The people in Wales were delighted to think of having one belonging to their ancient princes to be their king, and, not long after Richmond had landed at Milford Haven, he found several thousand men ready to follow him.
Richard, who was brave, although he was cruel, got ready an army also to fight Richmond, and he met him at a place called Bosworth, in Leicestershire, where they fought a great battle.
I have read that King Richard, when he was lying in his tent the night before the battle, could not help thinking of all the cruel things he had done. Besides those he had killed in battle, he remembered the young prince Edward of Lancaster, whom he stabbed at Tewkesbury, and poor Henry the Sixth, whom he had murdered in prison, and his own brother Clarence, whom he had caused to be killed. Then he began to think of Lord Hastings, and all his friends, six or seven, I think, whom he had beheaded, and his little nephews, who were smothered in the Tower, and his cousin Buckingham, and, last of all, his wife, Queen Anne, whom he had used so ill that she died.
And so when he got up in the morning he was tired and unhappy, and did not fight so well as he might have done.
However that might be, he was killed in the battle of Bosworth Field. His crown was found upon the field of battle, and Lord Stanley put it upon the Earl of Richmond's head, upon which the whole army shouted "Long live King Henry the Seventh!" and so from that day the British prince, Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, and heir of Lancaster, was king of England.
- I hope to have
more samples typed up in the future,
but uploading page images was a quick way to get something posted to
show what Charlotte Mason was
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