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his fleet to the coast of Wales, where so encompassing Lle-
wellyn that he could only take refuge in the bleak mountain
region of Snowdon, in which no provisions could reach him,
he was soon starved into an apology, and into a treaty of peace,
and into paying the expenses of the war. The king, how-
ever, forgave him some of the hardest conditions of the treaty,
and consented to his marriage. And he now thought he had
reduced Wales to obedience.

But the Welsh, although they were naturally a gentle, quiet,


pleasant people, who liked to receive strangers in their cottages
among the mountains, and to set before them with free hospi
tality whatever they had to eat and drink, and to play to them
on their harps, and sing their native ballads to them, were a
people of great spirit when their blood was up. Englishmen,
after this affair, began to be insolent in Wales, and to assume
the air of masters ; and the Welsh pride could not bear it.
Moreover, they believed in that unlucky old Merlin, some of
whose unlucky old prophecies somebody always seemed doomed
to remember when there was a chance of its doing harm ; and
just at this time some blind old gentleman, with a harp and a
long white beard, who was an excellent person, but had become
of an unknown age and tedious, burst out with a declaration,
that Merlin had predicted that when English money had be-
come round, a prince of Wales would be crowned in London.
Now King Edward had recently forbid the English penny to be
cut into halves and quarters for half pence and farthings, and
had actually introduced a round coin ; therefore the Welsh
■jeople said this was the time Merlin meant, and rose accord-

King Edward had bought over Prince David, Llewellyr j>
brother, by heaping favors upon him, but he was the firp. to
revolt, being perhaps troubled in his conscience. One stormy
night, he surprised the Castle of Hawarden, in possession of
which an English nobleman had been left, killed the wh-^le
garrison, and carried off the nobleman a prisoner to Siio\>' .on.
Upon this, the Welsh people rose like one man. King Ed vrrd,
with his army, marching from Worcester to the Menai Strait,
crossed it — near to where the wonderful tubular iron bridge
now, in days so different, makes a passage for railway trains —
by a bridge of boats that enabled forty men to march abreast.
He subdued the Island of Anglesea, and sent his men forward
to observe the enemy. The sudden appearance of the Welsh
created a panic among them, and they fell back to the bridge.
The tide had in the mean time risen, and separated the boats ;
:he Welsh pursuing them, they were driven into the sea, and
there they sunk, in their heavy iron armor, by thousands. After
this victory, Llewellyn, helped by the severe winter-weather of
tVales, gained another battle ; but the king ordering a portion
of his English army to advance through South Wales, and
catch him between two foes, and Llewellyn bravely turning to
meet this new enemy, he was surprised and killed, — very meanly,
for he was unarmed and defenceless. His head was struck off,
and sent to London, where it was fixed upon the Tower, en J •■-



cled with a wreath, some say of ivy, some say of willow, some
say of silver, to make it look like a ghastly coin in ridicuio of
the prediction.

David, however, still held out for six months, though eagerly
sought after by the king, and hunted by his own countrymen.
One of them finally betrayed him, with his wife and children.
He was sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered ; arid
from that time this became the established punishment of traitors
in England, — a punishment wholly without excuse, as being re-
volting, vile, and cruel, after its object is dead ; and which has
no sense in it, as its only real degradation (and that nothing
can biot out) is to the country that permits on any considera-
tion such abominable barbarity.

Wales was now subdued. The queen giving birth to a
young prince in the Castle of Carnarvon, the king showed him
iO Welsh people as their countryman, and called him Prince
of Wales, — a title that has ever since been borne by the heir-
apparent to the English throne, which that little prince soon
became by the death of his elder brother. The king did better
things for the Welsh than that by improving their laws and en-
rouraging their trade, Disturbances still took place, chiefly
occasioned by the avarice and pride of the English lords, or.
v'hom Welsh lands and castles had been bestowed ; but they
jvere subdued, and the country never rose again. There is a
legend, that, to prevent the people from being incited to rebel-
ion by the songs of their bards and harpers, Edw^ard had them
all put to death. Some of them may have fallen among other
men who held out against the king ; but this general slaughter
is, I think, a fancy of the harpers themselves, who, I dare say,
made a song about it many years afterwards, and sang it by
the Welsh firesides until it came to be believed.

The foreign war of the reign of Edward the First arose in
this way. The crews of two vessels, one a Norman ship and
the other an English ship, happened to go to the same place in
their boats to fill their casks with fresh water. Being rougli,
angry fellows, they began to quarrel, and then to fight, — the
E73glish with their fists, the Normans with their knives, — and
'xi the fight a Norman was killed. The Norman crew, instead
of revenging themselves upon those English sailors with w. 10m
they had quarrelled (who were too strong for them, I susp<ict),
:00k to their ship again in a great rage, attacked the firet En-
glish ship they met, laid hold of an unoffending merchant who
happened to be on board, and brutally hanged him in the
rigging of their own vessel with a dog at his feet. This so


enraged the English sailors that there was no restraining them;
and whenever and wherever English sailors met Norman sailors
they fell upon each other tooth and nail. The Irish and Dutch
sailors took part with the English; the French and Genoese
sailors helped the Normans; and thus the greater part of the
mariners sailing over the sea became, in their way, as violent
and raging as the sea itself when it is disturbed.

King Edward's fame had been so high abroad, that he had
been chosen to decide a difference between France and another
foreign power, and had lived upon the Continent three years.
At first neither he nor the French king Philip (the good Louis
had been dead some time) interf erred in these quarrels ; but when
a fleet of eighty English ships engaged and utterly defeated a
Norman fleet of two hundred in a pitched battle fought round
a ship at anchor, in which no quarter was given, the matter
became to serious to be passed over. King Edward, as Duke
of Guienne, was summoned to present himself before the King
of France at Paris, and answer for the damage done by his
sailor subjects. At first he sent the Bishop of London as his
representative, and then his brother Edmund, who was married
to the French queen's mother. I am afraid Edmund was an
easy man, and allowed himself to be talked over by his charm-
ing relations, the French court ladies; at all events, he was
induced to give up his brother's dukedom forty days, — as a
mere form, the French king said, to satisfy his honor, — and he
was so very much astonished when the time was out, to find
that the French king had no idea of giving it up again, that I
should not wonder if it hastened his death, which soon took

King Edward was a king to win his foreign dukedom back
again, if it could be won by energy and valor. He raised a
large army, renounced his allegiance as Duke of Guienne, and
crossed the sea to carry war into France. Before any impor-
tant battle was fought, however, a truce was agreed upon for two
years, and in the course of that time the pope effected a recon-
ciliation. King Edward, who was now a widower, having lost
his affectionate and good wife, Eleanor, married the French
king's sister, Margaret ; and the Prince of Wales was contracted
to the French king's daughter, Isabella.

Out of bad things, good things sometimes arise. Out of
this hanging of the innocent merchant, and the bloodshed and
strife it caused, there came to be established one of the greatest
powers that the English people now possess. The preparations
for the war being very expensive, and King Edward greatly



wanting money, and being very arbitrary' ia his ways of raising
it, some A the barons began firmly to oppose him. Two of
them in particular, Humphrey Bohun, Earl of Hereford, and
Roger Bigot, E 1 of Norfolk, were so stout against him that
they maintained he had no right to command them to head his
forces in Guienne, and flatly refused to go there. " By Heaven,
Sir Earl," said the king to the Earl of Hereford, in a great pas-
sion, "you shall either g or be hanged!" " By Heaven, Sir
Ring," replied the earl, " I will neither go nor yet will I be
hanged ;" and both he and the other earl sturdily left the cour*:,
attended by many lords. The king tried every means of raising
money. He taxed the clergy, in spite of all the pope said to the
contrary ; and when they refused to pay reduced them to sub-
mission by saying, Very well, then they had no claim upon the
government for protection, and any man might plunder them
who would, — which a good many men were very ready to do,
and very readily did, and which the clergy found too losing a
game to be played at long. He seized all the wool and leather
in the hands of the merchants, promising to pay for it some fine
day ; and he set a tax upon the exportation of wool, which was
so unpopular among the traders that it was called " The evil
toll." But all would not do. The barons led by those two
great earls, declared any taxes imposed without the consent of
Parliament unlawful ; and the Parliament refused to impose taxes
until the king should confirm afresh the two Great Charters,
and should solemnly declare in writing that there was no power
in the country to raise money from the people evermore but
the power of Parliament representing all ranks of the people.
The king was very unwilling to diminish his own power by
allowing this great privilege in the Parliament ; but there was
no help for it, and he at last complied. We shall come to an-
other king, by and by, who might have saved his head from
rolling off, if he had profited by this example.

The people gained other benefits in Parliament from the
good sense and wisdom of this king. Many of the laws were
much improved ; provision was made for the gi eater safety of
travellers, and the apprehension of thieves and murderers ; the
priests were prevented from holding too much land, and so be-
coming too powerful ; and justices of the peace were first ap-
pointed (though not at first under that name) in various parts
of the country.

And now we come to Scotland, which was tne great and
lasting trouble of the reign of King Edward the First.


About thirteen years after King Edward's coronation, Alex-
ander the Third, the King of Scotland, died of a fall from his
horse. He had been married to ?vlargaret. King Edward's
sister. All their children being dead, the Scottish crown be-
came the right of a young princess only eight years old, the
daughter of Eric, King of Norway, wiio had married a daughter
of the deceased sovereign. King Edward proposed that the
Maiden of Norway, as this princess was called, should be
engaged to be married to his eldest son ; but unfortunately, as
she was coming over to England, she fell sick, and, landing on
one of the Orkney Islands, died there. A great commotion
immediately began in Scotland, where as many as thirteen noisy
claimants to the vacant throne started up, and made a general

King Edward being much renowned for his sagacity and
justice, it seems to have been agreed to refer the dispute to him.
He accepted the trust, and went with an army to the Border-
land where England and Scotland joined. There, he called
upon the Scottish gentlemen to meet him at the Castle of Norham
on the English side of the River Tweed ; and to that castle they
came. But, before he would take any step in the business, he
required those Scottish gentlemen, one and all, to do homage to
him as their superior lord ; and when they hesitated, he said,
" By holy Edward, whose crown I wear, I will have my rights,
or I will die in maintaining them ! " The Scottish gentlemen,
who had not expected this, were disconcerted, and asked for
three weeks to think about it.

At the end of the three weeks, another meeting took place,
on a green plain on the Scottish side of th^river. Of all the
competitors for the Scottish throne, there were only two who
had any real claim, in right of their near kindred to the royal
family.' There were John Baliol and Robert Bruce ; and the
right was, I have no doubt, on the side of John Baliol. At this
particular meeting John Baliol was not present, but Robert
Bruce was ; and on Robert Bruce being formally asked whether
he acknowledged the King of England for his superior lord, he
answered plainly and distinctly, Yes, he did. Next day John
Baliol appeared, and said the same. This point settled, some
arrangements were made for inquiring into their titles.

The inquiry occupied a pretty long time, — more than a
year. While it was going on. King Edward took the oppor-
tunity of making a journey through Scotland, and calling
upon the Scottish people of all degrees to acknowledge them-
selves his vassals, or be imprisoned until they did. In the


meanwhile, commissioners were appointed to conduct the in-
quiry, a parliament was held at Berwick about it, the two
claimants" were heard at full length, and there was a vast
amount of talking. At last, in the great hall of the Castle of
Berwick, the king gave judgment in favor of John Baliol ; who,
consenting to receive his crown by the King of England's favor
and permission, was crowned at Scone, in an old stone chair
which had been used for ages in the abbey there, at the cor-
onation of the Scottish kings. Then King Edward caused tb.e
great seal of Scotland, used since the late king's death, to bd
broken in four pieces, and placed in the English treasury ; and
considered that he now had Scotland (according to the commok
saying) under his thumb.

Scotland had a strong will of its own yet, however. King
Edward determined that the Scottish king should not forget he
was his vassal, summoned him repeatedly to come and defend
himself and his judges before the English Parliament when ap-
peals from the decisions of Scottish courts of justice were
being heard. At length John Baliol, who had no great heart
of his own, had so much heart put into him by the brave spirit
of the Scottish people, who took this as a national insult, that
he refused to come any more. Thereupon, the king further re-
quired him to help him in his war abroad (which was then in
progress), and to give up, as security for his good behavior in
future, the three strong Scottish castles of Jedburgh, Roxburgh,
and Berwick. Nothing of this being done, — on the contrary,
the Scottish people concealing their king among their mountains
in the Highlands, and showing a determination to resist, —
Edward marched to Berwick with an army of thirty thousand
foot, and four thousand horse, took the castle, and slew its
whole garrison, and the inhabitants of the town as well, — men,
women and children. Lord Warrenne, Earl of Surrey, then
went on to the Castle of Dunbar, before which a battle was
fought, and the whole Scottish army defeated with great slaugh-
ter. The victory being complete, the Earl of Surrey was left
as guardian of Scotland ; the principal offices in that kingdom
were given to Englishmen ; the more powerful Scottish nobles
were obliged to come and live in England ; the Scottish crown
and sceptre were brought away ; and even the old stone chair
was carried off, and placed in Westminster Abbey, where you
may see it now. Baliol had the Tower of London lent him for
a residence, with permission to range about within a circle of
twenty miles. Three years afterwards he was allowed to go
to Normandy, where he had estates, and where he passed the


remaining six years of his life ; far more happily, I daresay,
than he had lived for a long while in angry Scotland.

Now there was, in the west of Scotland, a gentleman of
small fortune, named William Wallace, the second son of a
Scottish knight. He was a man of great size and great strength ;
he was very brave and daring ; when he spoke to a body of his
countrymen, he could rouse them in a wonderful manner by
the power of his burning words ; he loved Scotland dearly, and
he hated England with his utmost might. The domineering
conduct of the English, who now held the places of trust in
Scotland, made them as intolerable to the proud Scottish peo-
ple as they had been under similar circumstances to the Welsh ;
and no man in all Scotland regarded them with so much smoth-
ered rage as William Wallace. One day an Englishman in
office, little knowing what he was, affronted him. Wallace in-
stantly struck him dead ; and taking refuge among the rocks
and hills, and there joining with his countryman. Sir William
Douglas, who was also in arms against King Edward, became
the most resolute and undaunted champion of a people strug-
gling for their independence that ever lived upon the earth.

The English guardian of the kingdom fled before him ; and
thus encouraged, the Scottish people revolted everywhere, and
fell upon the English without mercy. The Earl of Surrey, by
the king's commands, raised all the power of the border coun-
ties, and two English armies poured into Scotland. Only one
chief, in the face of those armies, stood by Wallace, who, with
a force of forty thousand men, awaited the invaders at a place
on the River Forth, within two miles of Stirling. Across the
river there was only one poor wooden bridge, called the Bridge
of Kildean, — so narrow that but two men could cross it abreast.
With his eyes upon this bridge, Wallace posted the greatei oart
of his men among some rising grounds, and waited caimly.
When the English army came up on the opposite bank of the
river, messengers were sent forward to offer terms. Wallace
sent them back with a defiance, in the name of the freedom of
Scotland. Some of the officers of the Earl of Surrey, ni com-
mand of the English, with their eyes also on the bridge,
advised him to be discreet and not hasty. He, however urged
to immediate battle by some other officers, and particularly by
Cressinghani, King Edward's treasurer, and a rash man, gave
the word of command to advance. One thousand English
crossed the bridge, two abreast ; the Scottish troops were as
motionless as stone images. Two thousand English crossed ;
three thousand, four thousand, five. Not a fea,ther, all this


time, had been seen to stir among the Scottish bonnets. Now
ihey all fluttered. " Forward, one party, to the foot of the
bridge ! " cried Wallace, " and let no more English cross ! The
rest, down with me on the five thousand who have come over,
and cut them all to pieces ! " It was done, in the sight of the
whole remainder of the English army, who could give no help.
Cressingham himself was killed, and the Scotch made whips
for their horses of his skin.

King Edward was abroad at this time, and during the suc-
cesses on the Scottish side which followed, and which enabled
bold Wallace to win the whole country back again, and even to
ravage the English borders. But, after a few winter months,
the king returned and took the field with more than his usual
energy. One night, when a kick from his horse, as they both
lay on the ground together, broke two of his ribs, and a cry
arose that he was killed, he leaped into his saddle, regardless
of the pain he suffered, and rode through the camp. Day then
appearing, lie gave the word (still, of course, in that bruised and
aching state) forward ! and led his army on to near Falkirk,
where the Scottish forces were seen drawn up on some stony
ground, behind a morass. Here he defeated Wallace, and
killed fifteen thousand of his men. With the shattered remain-
der, Wallace drew back to Stirling ; but being pursued, set fire
to the town, that it might give no help to the English, and
escaped. The inhabitants of Perth afterwards set fire to their
houses for the same reason ; and-the king, unable to find pro-
visions, was forced to withdraw his army.

Another Robert Bruce, the grandson of him who had dis-
puted the Scottish crown with Baliol, was now in arms against
the king (that elder Bruce being dead), and also John Comyn,
Baliol's nephew. These two young men might agree in oppos-
ing Edward, but could agree in nothing else, as they were rivals
for the throne of Scotland. Probably it was because they knew
this, and knew what troubles must arise, even if they could
hope to get the better of the great English king, that the prin-
cipal Scottish people applied to the pope for his interference.
The pope, on the principle of losing nothing for want of trying
to get it, very coolly claimed that Scotland belonged to him ; but
this was a little too much, and the Parliament in a friendly
manner told him so.

In the spring time of the year 1303, the king sent Sir John
Segrave, whom he made Governor of Scotland, with twenty
thousand men to reduce the rebels. Sir John was not as care-
ful as he should have been, but encamped at Roselyn, near


Edinburgh, with his army divided into three parts. The Scot'
tish forces saw their advantage, fell on each part separately,
defeated each, and killed all the prisoners. Then came the
king himself once more, as soon as a great army could be
raised ; he passed tlirough the whole north of Scotland, laying
waste v.'hatsoevcr came in his way ; and he took up his winter-
quarters at Dunfermlir.e. The Scottish cause now looked so
hopeless, that Comyn and the other nobles made submission,
and received their pardons. Wallace alone stood out. He
was invited to surrender, though on no distinct pledge that his
life should be spared ; but he still defied the ireful king, and
lived among the steep crags of the Highland glens, v/here the
eagles made their nests, and where the mountain torrents
roared, and the white snow was deep, and the bitter winds blew
round his unsheltered head, as he lay through many a pitch-
dark night wrapped up in his plaid. Nothing could break his
spirit ; nothing could lower his courage ; nothing could induce
him to forget or to forgive his country's wrongs. Even when
the Castle of Stirling, which had long held out, was besieged
by the king with every kind of military engine then in use :
even when the lead upon cathedral roofs was taken down to
help to make them ; even when the king, though an old man,
commanded in the siege as if he were a youth, being so resolved
to conquer ; even when the brave garrison (then found with
amazement to be not two hundred people, including several
ladies) were starved and beaten out, and were made to submit
on their knees and with every form of disgrace that could ag-
gravate their sufferings, — even then, when there was not a ray
of hope in Scotland, William Wallace was as proud and firm
as if he had beheld the powerful and relentless Edward lying
dead at his feet.

Who betrayed William Wallace in the end is not quite cer-
tain. That he was betrayed — probably by an attendant — is
too true. He was taken to the Castle of Dumbarton, under
Sir John Menteith, and hence to London, where the great fame
of his bravery and resolution attracted immense concourses of
people to behold him. He was tried in Westminster Hall,
with a crown of laurel on his head, — it is supposed because he
was reported to have said that he ought to wear, or that he
would wear, a crown there, — and was found guilty as a robber,
a murdeier, and a traitor. What they called a robber (he said
to those who tried him), he was, because he had taken spoil
from the king's men. What they called a murderer, he was,
because he had slain an insolent Englishman. What they


called a traitor, he was not, for he had never sworn allegiance

Online LibraryCharles DickensA child's history of England → online text (page 13 of 38)