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to the king, and had ever scorned to do it. He was dragged
at the tails of horses to West Smithfield, and there hanged on
a high gallows, torn open before he was dead, beheaded, and
quartered. His head was set upon a pole on London Bridge,
his right arm was sent to Newcastle, his left arm to Berwick,
his legs to Perth and Aberdeen. But if King Edward had had
his body cut into inches, and had sent every separate inch into
a separate town, he could not have dispersed it half so far and
wide as his fame. Wallace will be remembered in songs and
stories while there are songs and stories in the English tongue ;
and Scotland will hold him dear while her lakes and moun-
tains last.

Released from this dreaded enemy, the king made a fairer
plan of government for Scotland, divided the offices of honor
among Scottish gentlemen and English gentlemen, forgave past
offences, and thought, in his old age, that his work was done.

Cut he deceived himself. Comyn and Bruce conspired,
and made an appointment to meet at Dumfries, in the church
of the Minorites. There is a story that Comyn was false to
Bruce, and had informed against him to the king ; that Bruce
was warned of his danger and the necessity of flight, by re-
ceiving one night as he sat at supper, from his friend the Earl
of Gloucester, twelve pennies and a pair of spurs ; that as he
was riding angrily to keep his appointment (through a snow-
storm, with his horse's shoes reversed that he might not be
tracked), he met an evil looking serving-man, a messenger of
Comyn, whom he killed, and concealed in whose dress he
found letters that proved Comyn's treachery. However this
may be, they were likely enough to quarrel in any case, being
hot-headed rivals ; and, whatever they quarrelled about, they
certainly did quarrel in the church where they met ; and Bruce
drew his dagger, and stabbed Comyn, who fell upon the pave-
ment. When Bruce came out, pale and disturbed, the friends
who were waiting for him asked what was the matter ? " I
think I have killed Comyn," said he. " You only think so .? "
returned one of them ; " I will make sure ! " and going into the
church and finding him alive, stabbed him again and again.
Knowing that the king would never forgive this new deed of vio-
lence, the party then declared Bruce King of Scotland ; got him
crowned at Scone, — without the chair ; and set up the rebellious
standard once again.

When the king heard of it, he kindled with fiercer anger
than he had ever shown yet. He caused the Prince of Wales


and two hundred and seventy of the young nobility to be
knighted, — the trees in the Temple Gardens were cut down to
make room for their tents, and they watched their armor all
night, according to the old usage, some in the Temple Church,
some in Westminster Abbey; — and at the public feast which
then took place, he swore, by Heaven, and by two swans
covered with gold network which his minstrels placed upon
the table, that he would avenge the death of Comyn, and would
punish the false Bruce. And before all the company, he
charged the prince, his son, in case that he should die before
accomplishing his vow, not to bury him until it was fulfilled.
Next morning, the prince and the rest of the young knights
rode away to the Border-country to join the English army, and
the kmg, now weak and sick, followed in a horse-litter.

Bruce, after losing a batde, and undergoing many dangers
and much misery, fled to Ireland, where he lay concealed
through the winter. That winter, Edward passed in hunting
down and executing Bruce's relations and adherents, sparing
neither youth nor age, showing no touch of pity or sign of
mercy In the following spring Bruce reappeared, and gained
some victories. In these frays, both sides were grievously
cruel ; for instance, Bruce's two brothers, being taken captives,
desperately wounded, were ordered by the king to instant execu-
tion. Bruce's friend, Sir John Douglas, taking his own Castle
of Douglas out of the hands of an English lord, roasted the
dead bodies of the slaughtered garrison in a great fire made of
every movable within it ; which dreadful cookery his men
called the Douglas larder. Bruce, still successful, however,
drove the Earl of Pembroke and the Earl of Gloucester into
the Castle of Ayr, and laid siege to it.

The king, who had been laid up all the winter, but had
directed the army from his sick-bed, now advanced to Carlisle,
and there, causing the litter in which he had travelled to be
placed in the cathedral as an offering to Heaven, mounted h.i^
horse once more, and for the last time. He was now sixty-nine
years old, and had reigned thirty-five years. He was so
ill, that in four days he could go no more than six miles ; still,
even at that pace, he went on, and resolutely kept his face
towards the Border. At length he lay down at the village of
Burgh-upon-Sands ; and there, telling those around him to im-
press upon the prince that he was to remember his father's vow,
and was never to rest until he had thoroughly subdued Scot-
land, he yielded up his last breath.




King Edward the Second, the first Prince of Wales, was
twenty-three years old when his father died, There was a cer-
tain favorite of his, a young man from Gascony, named Piers
Gaveston, of whom his father had so much disapproved that he
had ordered him out of England, and had made his son swear
by the side of his sick bed, never to bring him back. But the
prince no sooner found himself king than he broke his oath, as
so many other princes and kings did (they were far too ready to
take oaths), and sent for his dear friend immediately.

Now this same Gaveston was handsome enough, but was a
reckless, insolent, audacious fellow. He was detested by the
proud English lords ; not only because he had such power over
the king, and made the court such a dissipated place, but also
because he could ride better than they at tournaments, and was
used, in his impudence, to cut very bad jokes on them, — calling
pne the old hog ; another the stage-player; another the Jew;
another the black dog of Ardenne. This was as poor wit as
need be, but it made those lords very wroth ; and the surly Earl
of Warwick, who was the black dog, swore that the time should
come when Piers Gaveston should feel the black dog's teeth.

It was not come yet, however, nor did it seem to be coming.
The king made him Earl of Cornwall, and gave him vast riches ;
and when the king went over to France to marry the French
princess, Isabella, daughter of Philip le Bel, who was said to be
the most beautiful woman in the world, he made Gaveston regent
of the Kingdom. His splendid marriage ceremony in the
Church of Our Lady at Boulogne, where there were four kings
and three queens present (quite a pack of court-cards, for I
daresay the knaves were not wanting), being over, he seemed to
care little or nothing for his beautiful wife, but was wild with im-
patience to meet Gaveston again.

When he landed at home, he paid no attention to anybody
else, but ran into the favorite's arms before a great concourse of
people, and hugged him, and kissed him, and called him his
brother. At the coronation which soon followed, Gaveston was
the richest and brightest of all the glittering company there,



and had the honor of carrying the crown. This made the proud
lords fiercer than ever ; the people, too, despised the favorite,
and would never call him Earl of Cornwall, however much he
complained to the king and asked him to punish them for not
doing so, but persisted in styling him plain Piers Gaveston.

The barons were so unceremonious with the king in giving
^im to understand that they would not bear this favorite, that
the king was obliged to send him out of the country. The
favorite himself was made to take an oath (more oaths !) that
he would never come back ; and the barons supposed him to be
banished in disgrace, until they heard that he was appointed
Governor of Ireland. Even this was not enough for the be-
sotted king, who brought him home again in a year's time, and
not only disgusted the court and the people by his doting folly,
but offended his beautiful wife, too, who never liked him after-

He had now the old loyal want, — of money, — and the barons
had the nev/ power of positively refusing to let him raise any.
He summoned a parliament at York ; the barons refused to
make one while the favorite was near him. He summoned
another parliament at Westminster, and sent Gaveston away.
Then the barons came completely armed, and appointed a com-
mittee of themselves to correct abuses in the state, and in the
kino:'s household. He got some money on these conditions,
and directly set off with Gaveston to the Border-country, where
they spent it in idling away the time and feasting, while Bruce
made ready to drive the English out of Scotland. For, though
the old king had even made this poor weak son of his swear (as
some say) that he would not bury his bones, but would have
them boiled clean in a caldron, and carried before the English
army until Scotland was entirely subdued, the second Edward
was so unlike the first that Bruce gained strength and power
every day.

The committee of nobles, after some months of deliberation,
ordained that the king should henceforth call a parliament to-
gether once every year, and even twice if necessary, instead of
summoning it only when he chose. Further, that Gaveston
should once more be banished, and this time on pain of death
if he ever came back. The king's tears were of no avail ; he
was obliged to send his favorite to Flanders. As soon as he
had done so, however, he dissolved the parliament, with the
low cunning of a mere fool, and set off to the north of England,
thinking to get an army about him to oppose the nobles. And
once again he brought Gaveston home, and heaped upon him



all the riches and titles of which the barons had deprived

The lords saw now that there was nothing for it but to put
the favorite to death. They could have done so legally, accord-
ing to the terms of his banishment ; but they did so, I am sorry
to say, in a shabby manner. Led by the Earl of Lancaster, the
king's cousin, they first of all attacked the king and Gavestori
at Newcastle. They had time to escape by sea ; and the mean
king, having his precious Gaveston with him, was quite content
to leave his lovely wife behind. When they were comparatively
safe, they separated ; the king went to York to collect a force
of soldiers, and the favorite shut hunself up, in the meantime,
in Scarborough Castle overlooking the sea. This was what the
barons wanted. They knew that the castle could not hold out ;
they attacked it, and made Gaveston surrender. He delivered
^limseif up to the Earl of Pembroke, — that loid whom he had
called the Jew, — on the earl's pledging his faith and knightly
word, that no harm should happen to him and no violence be
done him.

Nov/ it was agreed with Gaveston, that he should be taken
to the Castle of Wallingford, and there kept in honorable
custody. They travelled as far as Dedington, near Banbury,
where, in the castle of that place, they stopped for a night to
rest. Whether the Earl of Pembroke left his prisoner there,
knowing what would happen, or really left him, thinking no
harm, and only going (as he pretended) to visit his wife, the
countess, who was in the neighborhood, is no great matter now ;
in any case, he was bound as an honorable gentleman to protect
his prisoner, and he did not do it. In the morning, while the fa-
vorite was yet in bed, he was required to dress himself, and come
down into the court-yard. He did so without anv mistrust, but
started and turned pale when he found it full of strange armed
men. " I think you know me t " said the leader, also armed
from head to foot. '' I am the black dog of Ardenne."

The time was come when Piers Gaveston was to feel the
black dog's teeth indeed. They set him on a mule, and carried
him in mock state and with military' music to the black dog's
kennel, Warwick Castle, where a hasty council, composed of
some great noblemen, considered what should be done with
him. Some were for sparing him ; but one loud voice — it was
the black dog's bark, I daresay — sounded through the castle
hall, uttering these words, " You have the fox in your power.
Let him go now, and 3'ou must hunt him again."

They sentenced him to death. He threw himself at the fee*



of the Earl of Lancaster, — the old hog ; but the old hog was as
savage as the dog. He was taken out upon the pleasant road
leading from Warwick to Coventry, where the beautiful river
Avon, by which, long afterwards, Wilham Shakespeare was
born and now lies buried, sparkled in the bright landscape of
the beautiful IMay-day . and there they struck off his wretched
head, and stained the dust with his blood.

When the king heard of this black deed, in his grief and
rage he denounced relentless war against his barons; and both
sides were in arms for half a year. But it then became nec-
essary for them to join their forces against Bruce, who had
used the time well while they v/ere divided, and had now a great
power in Scotland.

Intelligence was brought that Bruce was then besieging
Stirling Castle, and that the governor had been obliged to
pledge himself to surrender it, unless he should be relieved be-
fore a certain day. Hereupon the king ordered his nobles and
their fighting men to meet him at Berwick ; but the nobles
cared so little for the king, and so neglected the summons and
lost time, that only on the day before that appointed for the
surrender did the king find himself at Stirling, and even then
with a smaller force than he had expected However, he had
altogether a hundred thousand men, and Bruce had not more
than forty thousand , but Bruce's army was strongly posted in
three square columns, on the ground lying between the Burn,
or Brook, of Bannock and the walls of Stirling Castle

On the very evening when the king came up, Bruce did a
brave act that encouraged his men He was seen by a certain
Henry de Bohun, an English knight, riding about before his
army on a little horse, with a light battle-axe in his hand, and a
crown of gold on his head„ This English knight, who was
mounted on a strong war-horse, cased in steel, strongly armed,
and able (as he thought) to overthrow Bruce by crushing him
with his mere weight, set spurs to his great charger, rode on
him, and made a thrust at him with his heavy spear. Bruce
parried the thrust, and with one blow ot his battle-axe split his

The Scottish men did not forget this, next day, when the
battle raged. Randolph, Bruce's valiant nephev/, rode, with
the small body of men he commanded, into such a host of the
English, all shining in polished armor in the sunlight, that they
seemed to be swallowed up and lost, as if they had plunged
into the sea. But they fought so well, and did such dreadful
execution, that the English staggered. Then came Bruce hinv


self upon them, with all the rest of his army. While they were
thus hard-pressed and amazed, there appeared upon the hills
what they supposed to be a new Scottish army, but what were
really only the camp-followers, in number fifteen thousand,
whom Bruce had taught to show themselves at that place and
time. The Earl of Gloucester, commanding the English horse,
made a last rush to change the fortune of the day, but Bruce
(like Jack the Giant-killer in the story) had had pits dug in the
ground, and covered over with turfs and stakes. Into these, as
they gave way beneath the weight of the horses, riders and
horses rolled by hundreds. The English were completely
routed ; all their treasure, stores, and engines were taken by
the Scottish men ; so many wagons and other wheeled vehicles
were seized, that it is related that they would have reached, if
they had been drawn out in a line, one hundred and eighty
miles. The fortunes of Scotland were, for the time, completely
changed ; and never was a battle won more famous upon
Scottish ground than this great battle of Bannockburn.

Plague and famine succeeded in England ; and still the
powerless king and his disdainful lords were always in con-
tention. Some of the turbulent chiefs of Ireland made pro-
posals to Bruce to accept the rule of that country. He sent his
brother Edward to them, who was crowned King of Ireland.
He afterwards went himself to help his brother in his Irish
wars ; but his brother was defeated in the end and killed.
Robert Bruce, returning to Scotland, still increased his strength

As the king's ruin had begun in a favorite, so it seemed
likely to end in one. He w^as too poor a creature to rely at all
upon himself ; and his new favorite was one Hugh le Despenser,
the son of a gentleman of ancient family. Hugh was hand-
some and brave ; but he was the favorite of a weak king, whom
no man cared a rush for, and that was a dangerous place to
hold. The nobles leagued against him, because the king liked
him ; and they lay in wait both for his ruin and his father's.
Now the king had married him to the daughter of the late Earl
of Gloucester, and had given both him and his father great pos-
sessions in Wales. In their endeavors to extend these, they
gave violent offense to an angry Welsh gentleman, named John
de Mowbray, and to divers other angry Welsh gentlemen, who
resorted to arms, took their castles, and seized their estates.
The Earl of Lancaster had first placed the favorite (who was a
poor relation of his own) at court, and he considered his own
dignity offended by the preference he received and the honors

138 A Cm/'.yS 1/ IS TORY OF ENGLAND.

he acquired : so ne, and the barons who were his friends,
joined the Wehhmen, marched on London, and sent a message
to the king demanding to have the favorite and his father
banished. At f»rst the king unaccountably took it into his head
to be spirited; and to send them a bold reply , but when they
quartered t'icmselves around Holborn and Clerkenwell, and
went dovM armed to the Parliament at Westminster, he gave
way, ar J complied with their demands.

His turn of triumph came sooner than he expected. It
irooe out of an accidental circumstance. The beautiful queent
h'ippening to be travelling, came one night to one of the royal
'jastles, and demanded to be lodged and entertained there until
morning. The governor of this castle, who was one of the en-
raged lords, was away, and in his absence, his wife refused
admission to the queen ^ a scuffle took place among the com-
mon men on either side, and some of the royal attendants were
killed. The people, who cared nothing for the king, were very
angry that their beautiml queen should be thus rudely treated
in her own dominions ; and the king, taking advantage of this
feehng, besieged the castle, took it, and then called the two
Despensers home. Upon this the confederate lords and the
Welshmen went over to Bruce. The king encountered them at
Boroughbridge, gained the victory, and took a number of dis-
tinguished prisoners ; among them, the Earl of Lancaster, now
an old man, upon whose destruction he was resolved. This
Earl was taken to his own castle of Pontefract, and there tried
and found guilty by an unfair court appointed for the purpose ;
he was not even allowed to speak in his own defence. He was
insulted, pelted, mounted on a starved pony without saddle or
bridle, carried out, and beheaded. Eight-and-twenty knights
were hanged, drawn, and quartered. When the king had de-
spatched this bloody work, and had made a fresh and a long
truce wdth Bruce, he took the Despensers into greater favor
than ever, and made the father Earl of Winchester.

One prisoner, and an important one, who was taken at
Boroughbridge, made his escape, however, and turned the tide
against the king. This was Roger Mortimer, always resolutely
opposed to him, who was sentenced to death, and placed for
safe custody in the Tower of London. He treated his guards
to a quantity of wine into which he had put a sleeping potion *
and when they were insensible, broke out of his dungeon, got
into a kitchen, climbed up the chimney, let himself down from
the roof of the building with a rope-ladder, passed the sentries
got dov^n to the river, and made away in a boat to where


servants and horses were waiting for him. He finally escaped
to France, where Charles le Bel, the brother of the beautiful
queen, was king. Charles sought to quarrel with the King of
England, on pretence of his not having come to do him homage
at his coronation. It was proposed that the beautiful queen
should go over to arrange the dispute : she went, and wrote
home to the khig, that as he was sick and could not come to
France himself, perhaps it would be better to send over the
young prince, their son, who was only twelve years old, who
could do homage to her brother in his stead, and in whose com-
pany she would immediately return. The king sent him ; but
both he and the queen remained at the French court, and Roger
Mortimer became the queen's lover.

When the king wrote, again and again, to the queen to come
home, she did not reply that she despised him too much to live
with him any more (which was the truth), but said she was
afraid of the two Despensers. In short, her design was to over-
throw the favorites' power, and the king's power, such as it
was, and invade England. Having obtained a French force of
tvv^o thousand men, and being joined by all the English exiles
then in France, she landed, within a year, at Orewell, in Suffolk,
where she was immediately joined by the Earls of Kent and
Norfolk, the king's two brothers ; by other powerful noblemen ;
and lastly, by the first English general who was despatched to
check her, who went over to her with all his men. The people
of London, receiving these tidings, would do nothing for the
king, but broke open the Tower, let out all his prisoners, and
threw up their caps and hurrahed for the beautiful queen.

The king, with his two favorites, fled to Bristol, where he
left old Despenser in charge of the town and castle, while he
went on with the son to Wales. The Bristol men being opposed
to the king, and it being impossible to hold the town with
enemies everywhere within the walls, Despenser yielded it up
on the third day, and was instantly brought to trial for having
traitorously influenced what was called "the king's mind," — ■
though I doubt if the king ever had any. He was a venerable
old man, upwards of ninety years of age ; but his age gained no
respect or mercy. He was hanged, torn open while he was yet
alive, cut up into pieces, and thrown to the dogs. His son
was soon taken, tried at Hereford before the same judge, on a
long series of foolish charges, found guilty, and hanged upon a
gallows fifty feet high, with a chaplet of nettles round his head.
His poor old father and he were innocent enough of any wors(? '
crimes than the crime of having been friends of a king, on

1 40 A CrrlL D'S HIS TOR V OF E.VGL A ,VD.

whom, 33 a mere man, they would never have deigned to cast
a favorable look. It is a bad crime, I know, and leads to
worse ; but many lords and gentlemen — I even think some
ladies, too, if I recollect right — have committed it in England,
who have neither been given to the dogs, nor hanged up fiftjl
feet high.

The wretched king was running here and there, all this time,
and never getting anywhere in particular, until he gave himself
UD, and was taken off to Kenilworth Castle. When he was
safely lodged there, the queen went to London and met the
Parliament. And the Bishop of Hereford, who was the most
skilful of her friends, said. What was to be done now .-* Here
was an imbecile, indolent, miserable king upon the throne !
wouldn't it be better to take him off, and put his son there in-
stead ? I don't know whether the queen really pitied him at
this pass, but she began to cry ; so the bishop said, " Well, my
lords and gentlemen, what do you think, upon the whole, of
sending down to Kenilworth, and seeing if His Majesty (God
bless him, and forbid we should depose him !) won't resign 1 "

My lords and gentlemen thought it a good notion ; so a
deputation of them w^ent down to Kenilworth, and there the
king came into the great hall of the castle, commonly dressed

Online LibraryCharles DickensA child's history of England → online text (page 14 of 38)