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as Strongbow's royal master, and deprived him of his kingdom,
but confirmed him in the enjoyment of great possessions. The
king, then holding state in Dublin, received the homage of
nearly all the Irish kings and chiefs, and so came home again
with a great addition to his reputation as Lord of Ireland, and
with a new claim on the favor of the pope. And now their re-
conciliation was completed, — more easily and mildly by the
pope than the king might have expected, I think.

At this period of his reign, when his troubles seemed so
few and his prospects so bright, those domestic miseries began
which gradually made the king the most unhappy of men,
reduced his great spirit, wore away his health, and broke his

He had four sons. Henr}% now aged eighteen, — his secret
crowning of whom had given such offence to Thomas ^ Becket ;
Richard, aged sixteen; Geoffrey, fifteen ; and John his favorite,


a young boy whom the courtiers named Lackland because he
had no inheritance, but to whom tlie king meant to give the
Lordship of Ireland. All these misguided boys, in their turn,
were unnatural sons to him, and unnatural brothers to each
other. Prince Henry, stimulated by the French king, and by
his bad mother, Queen Eleanor, began the undutiful history.

First, he demanded that his young wife, Margaret, the
French king's daughter, should be crowned as well as he.
His father, the king, consented, and it was done. It was no
sooner done, than he demanded to have a part of his father';
dominions during his father's life. This being refused, he
made off from his father in the night, with his bad heart full of
bitterness, and took refuge at the French king's court, Within
a day or two, his brothers Richard and Geoffrey followed.
Their mother tried to join them, escaphig in man's clothes ;
but she 'A'as seized by King Henry's men, and immured in
prison, where she lay, deservedly, for sixteen years. Every
day, however, some grasping English nobleman, to whom the
king's protection of his people from their avarice and oppres-
sion had given offence, deserted him, and joined the princes.
Every day he heard some fresh intelligence of the princes
levying armies against him ; of Prince Henry's wearing a
crown before his own ambassadors at the French court, and
being called the Junior King of England ; of all the princes
swearing never to make peace with him, their father, without
the consent and approval of the barons of France. But, with
his fortitude and energy unshaken, King Henry met the shock
of these disasters with a resolved and cheerful face. He
called upon all royal fathers who had sons to help him, for his
cause was theirs ; he hired, out of his riches, twenty thousand
men to fight the false French king, who stirred his own blood
against him ; and he carried on the war with such vigor, that
Louis soon proposed a conference to treat for peace.

The conference was held beneath an old wide-spreading
green elm-tree, upon a plain in France. It led to nothing.
The war recommenced. Prince Richard began his fighting
career by leading an army against his father : but his father
beat him and his army back ; and thousands of his men would
have rued the day in which they fought in such a wicked cause,
had not the king received news of an invasion of England by
the Scots, and promptly come home through a great storm to
repress it. And whether he really began to fear that he suf-
fered these toubles because a Becket had been murdered ; or
whether he wished to rise in favor pf his own people, of whom


many believed that even k Becket's senseless tomb could work
miracles, I don't know, but the king no sooner landed in
England, than he went straight to Canterbury ; and when he
came within sight of the distant cathedral, he dismounted from
his horse, took off his shoes, and walked with bare and bleed
ing feet to a Becket's grave. There he lay down on the
ground, lamenting, in the presence of many people ; and by
and by he went into the Chapter House, and removing his
clothes from his neck and shoulders, submitted himself to be
beaten with knotted cords (not beaten very hard, I daresay
though) by eighty priests, one after another. It chanced, that,
on the very day when the king made this curious exhibition of
himself, a complete victory was obtained over the Scots ; which
very much delighted the priests, who said that in was won
because of his great example of repentance. For the priests
in general had found out, since a Becket's death, that they
admired him of all things, though they hated him very cordially
when he was alive.

The Earl of Flanders, who was at the head of the base
conspiracy of the king's undutiful sons and their foreign
friends, took the opportunity of the king being thus employed
at home to lay siege to Rouen, the capital of Normandy. But
the king, who was extraordinarily quick and active in all his
movements, was at Rouen too, before it was supposed possible
that he could have left England ; and there he so defeated the
said Earl of Flanders, that the conspirators proposed peace,
ana his bad sons, Henry and Geoffrey, submitted. Richard
resisted for six weeks ; but, being beaten out of castle after
cas:]e, he at last submitted too, and his father forgave him.

To forgive these unworthy princes was only to afford them
breathing-time for new faithlessness. They were so false, dis-
.oya.j and dishonorable, that they were no more to be trusted
than common thieves. In the very next year. Prince Henry
rebe^^d again, and was again forgiven. In eight years more,
Prince Richard rebelled against his elder brother ; and Prince
Geoffrey infamously said that the brothers could never agree
well together, unless they were united against their father. In
the very next year after their reconciliation by the king, Prince
Henry again rebelled against his father ; and again submitted,
swearing to be true, and was again forgiven ; and again re-
belled with Geoffrey.

But the end of this perfidious prince was come. He fell
sick at a French town ; and his conscience terribly reproaching
him with his baseness, he sent messengers to the king his


father, imploring him to come and see him, and to forgive him
for the last time on his bed of death. The generous king, who
had a royal and forgiving mind towards his children always,
would have gone ; but this prince had been so unnatural, that
the noblemen about the king susptJted treachery, and repre-
sented to him that he could not safely trust his life with such
a traitor, though his own eldest son. Therefore the king sent
him a ring from off his finger as a token of forgiveness ; and
when the prince had kissed it with much grief and many tears,
and had confessed to those around him how bad and wicked
and unduliful a son he had been, he said to the attendant
priests, " O, tie a rope about my body, and draw me out of
bed, and lay me down upon a bed of ashes, that I may die
with prayers to God in a repentant manner ! " And so he
died, at twenty-seven years old.

Three years afterwards, Prince Geoffrey, being unhorsed at
ft tournament, had his brains trampled out by a crowd of horses
passing over him. So there only remained Prince Richard,
and Prince John, — who had grown to be a young man now,
and had solemnly sworn to be faithful to his father. Richard
soon rebelled again, encouraged by his friend the French king,
Philip the Second (son of Louis, who was dead), and soon sub-
mitted, and was again forgiven, swearing on the New Testa-
ment never to rebel again ; and, in another year or so, rebelled
again, and in the presence of his father, knelt down on his
knee before the King of France, and did the French king hom-
age, and declared, that with his aid he would possess himself
oy force, of all his father's French dominions.

And yet this Richard called himself a soldier of our
Saviour ! And yet this Richard wore the cross, which the
kings of France and England had both taken, in the previous
years, at a brotherly meeting underneath the old wide-spread-
ing elm-tree on the plain, when they had sworn (like him) to
devote themselves to a new Crusade, for the love and honor
of the truth !

Sick at heart, wearied out by the falsehood of his sons, and
almost ready to lie down and die, the unhappy king, who had
so long stood firm, began to fail. But the pope, to his honor,
supported him ; and obliged the French king and Richard,
though successful in fight, to treat for peace. Richard wanted
to be crowned king of England, and pretended that he wanted
to be married (which he really did not) to the French king's
sister, his promised wife, whom King Henry detained in Eng-
land. King Henry wanted, on the other hand, that the


French king's sister should be married to his favoriie sou,
John ; the only one of his sons (he said) who I;ad nevtr re-
belled against him. At last King Henr)', deserted by his
nobles one by one, distressed, exhausted, broken-hearted, con-
sented to establish peace.

One final heavy sorrow was reserved for him, even yet.
When they brought him the proposed treaty of peace in writing,
as he lay very ill in bed, they brought him also the list of the
deserters from their allegiance, whom he was required to
pardon. The first name upon this list was John, his favorite
son, in whom he had trusted to the last.

" O John ! child of my heart ! " exclaimed the king, in a
great agony of mind ; " O John ! whom I have loved the best ;

John ! for whom I have contended through these many
troubles, — have you betrayed me too ! " And then he lay down
with a heavy groan, he said, " Now let the world go as it will ;

1 care for nothing more."

After a time, he told his attendants to take him to the
French town of Chinon, — a town he had been fond of during
many years. But he was fond of no place now, it was too true
that' he could care for nothing more upon this earth. He
wildly cursed the hour when he was born, and cursed the
children whom he left behind, and expired.

As one hundred years before, the servile followers of the
court had abandoned the Conqueror in the hour of his death,
so they now abandoned his descendant. The very body was
stripped, in the plunder of the royal chamber, and it was not
easy to find the means of carr}'ing it for the burial to the abbey-
church of Fontevraud,

Richard was said in after years, by way of flattery, to have
the heart of a lion. It would have been far better, 1 think, to
have the heart of a man. His heart, whatever it was, had
cause to beat remorsefully within his breast, when he came —
as he did — into the solemn abbey, and looked on his dead
father's uncovered face. His heart, whatever it was, had been
a black and perjured heart, in all its dealings with the deceased
king, and more deficient in a single touch of tenderness than
any wild beast's in the forest.

There is a pretty story told of this reign, called the story of
Fair Rosamond. It relates how the king doted on Fair Rosa-
mond, who was the loveliest girl in all the world ; and how he
had a beautiful bower built for her in a park at Woodstock ;
arvd how it was erected in a labyrinth, and could only be found
by a clew of silk. How the bad Queen Eleanor, becoming


jeaious of Fair Rosamond, found out the secret of the clew,
and one day appeared before her, with a dagger and a cup of
poison, and left her to the choice between those deaths. How
Fair Rosamond, after shedding many piteous tears, and offering
many useless prayers to the cruel queen, took the poison, and
fell dead in the midst of the beautiful bower, while the un-
conscious birds sang gayly all around her.

Now, there was a fair Rosamond, and she was (I dare say)
the loveliest girl in all the world, and the king was certainly very
fond of her, and the bad Queen Eleanor was certainly made
jealous. But I am afraid — I say afraid, because I like the
story so much — that there was no bower, no labyrinth, no
silken clew, no dagger, no poison. I am afraid Fair Rosamond
retired to a nunnery near Oxford, and died there peaceably ;
her sister-nuns hanging a silken drapery over her tomb, and
often dressing it with flowers, in remembrance of the youth and
beauty that had enchanted the king when he, too, was young,
and when his life lay fair before him.

It was dark and ended now ; faded and gone. Henry
Plantagenet lay quiet in the abbey-church of Fontevraud, in the
fifty-seventh year of his age, — never to be completed, — aftei
governing England well for nearly thirty-five years.



In the year of our Lord 1189, Richard of the Lion Heart
succeeded to the throne of King Henry the Second, whose
paternal heart he had done so much to break. He had been,
as we have seen, a rebel from his boyhood ; but the moment he
became a king against whom others might rebel, he found out
that rebellion was a great wickedness. In the heat of this
pious discovery, he punished all the leading people who had
befriended him against his father. He could scarcely have
done anything that would have been a better instance of his
real nature, or a better warning to fawners and parasites not to
trust in lion-hearted princes.

He likewise put his late father's treasurer in chains, and
locked him up in a dungeon from which he was not set free
until he had relinquished, not only all the crown treasure, but


all his own money too. So Richard certainly got the lion's
share of the wealth of this wretched treasurer, whether he had
a lion's heart or not.

He was crowned king of England, with great pomp, at
Westminster ; walking to the cathedral under a silken canopy
stretched on the tops of four lances, each carried by a great
lord. On the day of his coronation, a dreadful murdering of
the Jews took place, which seems to have given great delight
to numbers of savage persons calling themselves Christians.
The king had issued a proclamation forbidding the Jews (who
were generally hated, though they were the most useful mer-
chants in England) to appear at the ceremony ; but as they
had assembled in London from all parts, bringing presents to
show their respect for the new sovereign, some of them ven-
tured down to Westminister Hall with their gifts, which were
very readily accepted. It is supposed now that some noisy
fellow in the crowd, pretending to be a very delicate Christian,
set up a howl at this, and struck a Jew who was trying to get
in at the hall-door with his present. A riot arose ; the Jews
who had got into the hall were driven forth : and some of the
rabble cried out that the new king had commanded the un-
believing race to be put to death. Thereupon, the crowd
rushed through the narrow streets of the city, slaughtering all
the Jews they met ; and when they could find no more out of
doors (on account of their having fled to their houses, and
fastened themselves in), they ran madly about, breaking open
all the houses where the Jews lived, rushing in and stabbing or
spearing them, sometimes even flinging old people and children
out of window into blazing fires they had lighted, up below.
This great cruelty lasted four-and-twenty hours, and only three
men were punished for it. Even they forfeited their lives, not
for murdering and robbing the Jews, but for burning the houses
of some Christians.

King Richard, who was a strong, restless, burly man, with
one idea always in his head, and that the very troublesome
idea of breaking the heads of other men, was mightily im-
patient to go on a crusade to the Holy Land, with a great
army. As great armies could not be raised to go, even to the
Holy Land, without a great deal of money, he sold the crown-
domains, and even the high offices of state ; recklessly appoint-
ing noblemen to rule over his English subjects, not because they
were fit to govern, but because they could pay high for the pri-
vilege. In this way, and by selling pardons at a dear rate, and
by varieties of avarice and oppression, he scraped together a


large treasure. He then appointed two bishops to take care
of his kingdom in his absence, and gave great powers and pos-
sessions to his brother John, to secure his frendship. John
would rather have been made Regent of England ; but he was
a sly man, and friendly to the expedition, saying to himself, no
doubt, " The more fighting, the more chance of my brother
being killed ; and when he is killed, then I become Kin::^; John ! "

Before the newly levied army departed from England, the
recruits and the general populace distinguished themselves by
astonishing cruelties on the unfortunate Jews, whom, in many
large towns, they murdered by hundreds in the most horrible

At York, a large body of Jews took refuge in the castle, in
the absence of its governor, after the wives' and children of
many of them had been slain before their eyes. Presently came
the governor, and demanded admission. " How can we give it
thee, O Governor ! " said the Jews upon the walls, " when, if
we open the gate so much as the width of a foot, the roaring
crowd behind thee will press in and kill us."

Upon this the unjust governor became angry, and told the
people that he approved of their killing those Jews, and a mis-
chievous maniac of a friar, dressed all in white, put himself at
the head of the assault, and they assaulted the castle for three

Then said Jocen, the head Jew (who was a rabbi or priest)
to the rest. ** Brethren, there is no hope for us with the Chris-
tians who are hammering at the gates and wall, and who must
soon break in. As we and our wives and children must
die, either by Christian hands or by our own, let it be by our
own. Let us destroy by fire what jewels and other treasure
we have here, then fire the castle, and then perish."

A few could not resolve to do this, but the greater part
complied. They made a blazing heap of all their valuables,
and when those were consumed, set the castle in flames.
While the flames roared and crackled around them, and, shoot
ing up into the sky, turned it blood-red, Jocen cut the throat of
his beloved wife and stabbed himself. All the others who had
wives or children did the like dreadful deed. When the popu-
lace broke in, they found (except the trembling few, cowering
in corners, whom they soon killed) only heaps of greasy cin-
ders, with here and there something like part of the blackened
trunk of a burnt tree, but which had lately been a human
creature, formed by the beneficent hand of the Creator, as they


After this bad beginning Richard and his troops went on,
in no very good manner, with the holy crusade. It was under-
taken jointly by the King of England and his old friend Philip
of France. They commenced the business by reviewing their
forces, to the number of a hundred thousand men. Afterwards
they severally embarked their troops for Messina, in Sicil}',
which was appointed at the next place of meeting.

King Richard's sister had married the king of this plact,
but he was dead ; and his uncle Tancred had usurped ti.e
crown, cast the royal widow into prison, and possessed himself
of her estates. Richard fiercely demanded his sister's release,
the restoration of her lands, and (according to the royal custom
of the island) that she should have a golden chair, a golden
table, four-and-twenty silver cups, and four-and-twenty silver
dishes. As he was too powerful to be successfully resisted,
Tancred yielded to his demands ; and then the French king
grew jealous, and complained that the English king wanted to
be absolute in the island of Messina and everywhere else.
Richard, however, cared little or nothing for this complaint ;
and, in consideration of a present of twenty thousand pieces of
gold, promised his pretty little nephew Arthur, then a child of
two years old, in mani.ige to Tancred's daughter. We shall
hear again of pretty little Arthur by and by.

This Sicilian aif air arranged without anybody's brains being
knocked out (which must have rather disappointed him) King
Richard took his sister away, and also a fair lady named Beren-
garia, with whom he had fallen in love in France, and whom his
mother. Queen Eleanor (so long in prison, you remember, but
released by Richard on his coming to the throne), had brought
out there to be his wife, and sailed with them for Cyprus.

He soon had the pleasure of fighting the king of the Island
ci Cyprus, for allowing his subjects to pillage some of the Eng-
iish troops who were shipwrecked on the shore ; and, easily
conquering this poor monarch, he seized his only daughter to be a
companion to the Lady Berengaria, and put the king himself
:nto silver fetters. He then sailed away again with his mother,
sister, wife, and the captive princess ; and soon arrived before
the town of Acre, which the French king with his fleet was be-
sieging from the sea. But the French king was in no trium-
phant condition ; for his army had been thinned by the swords
of the Saracens, and wasted by the plague ; and Saladin, the
brave sultan of the Turks, at the head of the numerous army,
was at that time gallantly defending the place from the hills that
rise above it.


Wherever the united army of the Crusaders went, they
agreed in few points except in gaming, drinking, and quarrel-
ling in a most unholy manner ; in debauching the people among
whom they tarried, whether they were friends or foes ; and in
carrying disturbances and ruin into quiet Maces. The French
king was jealous of the English king, and -;e English king was
jealous of the French king, and the disorderly and violent sol-
diers of the two nations were jealous of one another ; conse-
quently the two kings could not at first ngree, even upon a joint
assault on Acre ; but when they did make up their quarrel for
that purpose, the Saracens promised to yield the town, to give
up the Christians the wood of the holy cross, to set at liberty
all their Christian captives, and to pay two hundred thousand
pieces of gold. All this was to be done within forty days ; but
not being done. King Richard ordered some three thousand
Saracen prisoners to be brought out in the front of his camp,
and there, in full view of their own countrymen, to be

The French king had no part in that crime ; for he was by
that time travelling homeward with the greater part ot iiis men,
being offended by the overbearing conduct of the English king,
being anxious to look after his own dominions, and being ill,
besides, from the unwholesome air of that hot and sandy
country. King Richard carried on the war without him, and
remained in the East, meeting with a variety of adventures,
nearly a year and a half. Every night when his army was on
the march and came to a halt, the heralds cried out three times,
to remind all the soldiers of the cause in which they were en-
gaged, " Save the holy sepulchre ! " and then all the soldiers
knelt and said " Amen ! " Marching or encamping, the army
had continually to strive with the hot air of the glaring desert,
or with the Saracen soldiers animated and directed by the
brave Saladin, or with both together. Sickness a d death,
battle and wounds^ were always among them ; but through
every difficulty King Richard fought like a giant, and wor] ed
like a common laborer. Long and long after he was quiet in
his grave, his terrible battle-axe, with twenty English pounds of
English steel in its mighty head, was a legend among the Sara-
cens ; and when all the Saracen and Christian hosts had been
dust for many a year, if a Saracen horse started at any object
by the wayside, his rider would exclaim, " What dost thou fear,
fool ? Dost thou think King Richard is behind it ? "

No one admired this king's renown for bravery more than
Saladin himself, who was a generous and gallant enemy. When


Richard lay ill of a fever, Saladin sent him fresh ituiCA from Da-
mascus, and snow from the mountain -tops Courtly messages
and compliments were frequently exchanged between them ;
and then King Richard would mount his horse, and kill as
many Saracens as he could, and Saladin would mount his, and
kill as many Christians as he could. In this way King Rich-
ard fought to his heart's content at Arsoof and at Jaffa ; and
finding himself with nothing exciting to do at Ascalon, except

Online LibraryCharles DickensA child's history of England → online text (page 9 of 38)