Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

the kingdoms of Europe, and being governed only by its own superior, its power became dangerous to the governments under which it existed, and was now put down by a common effort.

CHAPTER XVI.

EDWARD III. (of windsor.)

Born at Windsor.

50 years.

Buried in Westminster Abbey. Reigned
From A.D. 1327 to A.D. 1377.

Archbishops of Canterbury.

Simon Mepham, A.D. 1327-1333. | Simon Islip, A.D. 1349–1366.
John Stratford, A.D. 1333-1348.

(Vacancy one year.)

Thomas Bradwardine, A.D. 1349 -1349.

Simon Langham, A.D. 1366—1368. William Wittlesea, A.D. 1368— 1375.

Simon of Sudbury, A.D. 1375—1381.

THE deposed king was at first entrusted to the Earl of Lancaster, and treated with much gentleness; but was soon removed to Berkeley castle, and committed to the care of two ruffians named Gurney and Maltravers. Under their charge, he was lodged in damp vaults, and even hurried from place to place at night in the hope that he might be provoked by ill-usage to put an end to his own life. It is said that when he desired to be shaved, he was supplied with dirty water from a ditch. At last he was secretly despatched in his prison. Shrieks were heard from the castle at midnight; and it is believed that the unhappy prince was killed by means of a red-hot iron, which was passed into his body in such a way as to cause no outward marks of violence.

Mortimer had been made Earl of March, and surpassed Gaveston and Despencer in haughtiness. He procured the execution even of the Earl of Kent, brother to the late king, on a charge of treason; and perhaps thought his power secure at the very moment when his downfal was at hand. The young king had reached his eighteenth year, and had given proofs of spirit and ability in delivering the northern counties from an invasion of the Scots under Bruce. He resolved to submit no longer to a yoke which was disgraceful in so many ways; and was able to surprise the Earl of March in the castle of Nottingham by a secret

passage still called Mortimer's Hole. It was in vain that the queen cried out to him, “ Fair son, have pity on the gentle Mortimer." The favourite was seized, and afterwards hanged near London; while Isabel was confined to one of her manors, where she lived many years, and received little notice from Edward beyond an annual visit of form.

The king soon led an army into Scotland in support of Edward Balliol, and gained a great victory over David Bruce at Halidon-hill, near Berwick-upon-Tweed, A.D. 1333. He would probably have conquered that kingdom, had he not been eager to prosecute his claim to the crown of France. This claim was derived through his mother, and had no true ground, according to the Salic law, which prevailed in France, and, indeed, in most European states during the middle ages. Its enactments were, that there can never be a queen regnant; and that the daughters of kings cannot succeed to the throne, or transmit any right to their sons to the prejudice of the nearest heir male by a male descent. It involved him in wars which bore no lasting fruit, beyond the renown for chivalrous bravery and generosity, which throws such a brilliancy over the memory of Edward and his son, the Black Prince, so called from the colour of his armour. It must also be owned that the victories of these great leaders tended to form in the English that high national character and noble self-reliance, without which no people has ever been truly great.

A great fleet had been collected at Sluys to oppose the landing of Edward; and was completely destroyed (A.D. 1340) by the English, with small loss to themselves. To how many naval engagements between France and England has a similar result been granted!

The greatest victories, however, were gained at Cressy and Poictiers; and have made the names of those places familiar to every Englishman.

The battle of Cressy was fought with Philip of Valois, king of France, A.D. 1346. The French are said to have had an army of 120,000 men, while the number of the English was not more than 30,000: and Edward himself only watched the battle from a neighbouring hill, that (in his own words) his son might "win his spurs ;" the gilt spurs, which were the distinction of knighthood. Thirty thousand of the

French fell in this battle, while the loss of the English was very trifling. Among others the King of Bohemia was slain, and his crest of three ostrich plumes has ever since been used by the Princes of Wales with the motto, "Ich Dien," I serve. It is said that cannon were first used at Cressy, and contributed to Edward's success; but this and many other battles were mainly gained (under Divine Providence) by the skill of the English archers, the most renowned in Europe.

The queen (Philippa) had been left regent in England, and within a few months of the battle of Cressy she led an army to the field against David Bruce, who had taken advantage of Edward's absence to make an invasion into England. The Scotch were defeated at Nevil's Cross, near Durham; and David being taken prisoner, was brought to London, where he was detained many years. After this great service to her husband, Philippa joined him at the siege of Calais, which had then lasted nearly eleven months. The city was forced to surrender for want of food; and Edward required that six of the chief burgesses should attend him with halters round their necks, ready for execution. The dismay which this demand occasioned among the citizens was quieted by the noble devotion of Eustace de St. Pierre, who offered his life for his townsmen; and his example was followed by five other leading burgesses. They brought the keys to Edward, and fell on their knees, imploring his mercy. The king was long inexorable, but at Philippa's intercession he agreed to spare their lives.

The battle of Poictiers took place about ten years after the victory of Cressy. The Black Prince had about 12,000 men under his command, and was met by John, king of France, with an army of 60,000. On seeing the numbers of the French the prince exclaimed, "God help us! it only remains to fight bravely." Some attempts were made to prevent bloodshed, but John would agree to nothing short of a surrender of the prince and a hundred of his knights. Edward received this proposal by exclaiming, "God defend the right!" and the result of the battle which then took place was, that the French army was destroyed, and John himself taken prisoner. The mildness and generosity with which Edward treated the captive king were equal to his courage in the field. He ascribed his victory to the will of

God when he waited on the king at the table; and declared himself, as a subject, not entitled to the honour of sitting with him. When he brought his royal prisoner into London, he rode on a small pony by his side, while John was mounted on a noble charger. It should be mentioned, to the lasting honour of this king, that having been set free on terms which his son was unable to fulfil, from the opposition of the French nobles, John voluntarily gave himself up to Edward, observing, that if truth were banished from the rest of the earth, it should have place in the bosom of kings. He died in England, but his son, Charles the Wise, succeeded in wresting from the English most of their foreign possessions. The Black Prince was himself forced by the state of his health to return to England, where he died (A.D. 1376) about a year before his father. His health had suffered much in a war which he undertook in Spain, in support of Pedro the Cruel, who little deserved the aid of so chivalrous a prince.

The king did not long survive his son he died A.D. 1377; and is said to have been shamefully neglected in his last moments by his own servants.

The revival of literature made great progress in this reign. Chaucer, the father of English poetry, passed great part of his life at Edward's court; and his wife's sister, Katharine Swynford, became the third wife of John of Gaunt. Froissart, the French chronicler, a native of Hainault, was some time in the service of Queen Philippa, and was patronized by her. It has been already remarked, that at no period were the principles of church architecture better understood. It was by this king that St. Stephen's chapel, (since used for deliberations by the House of Commons,) and the greater part of Windsor castle, were built. The Lady-chapel of Ely cathedral, and several portions of St. Alban's abbey, rose during his reign. He did much also for the commerce of his kingdom, by inviting over Flemish artisans, whom he settled in Norfolk. It should be mentioned, too, that from this reign the Commons seem to have sat as a distinct House of Parliament.

It is, however, still more important to observe, that the nullity of King John's surrender of his crown to the pope was nobly maintained by Edward and his parliament. The king was assisted in this manly course by the theolo

[ocr errors]

gical attainments of Wickliffe, then Master of Balliol college, who opposed many of the corruptions which the Church of Rome had engrafted upon the Scriptures; and declared, almost in the words of the English Church many years afterwards, that "Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation." He opposed with great earnestness the mendicant or begging friars, who were especially devoted to the upholding the pope's authority; and from this he proceeded to attack the monks, who formed the other branch of the regular clergy.

4

We have seen that he was by no means the first to discover that things were not quite right in the Church; but he was the first to stand forth as a stern rebuker of what was wrong. His opinions were in some respects mistaken, but he had much truth on his side; and hence he is reckoned the first of the English reformers.

The order of the Garter was instituted in this reign. The king is said to have picked up a garter, which had been dropped in a ball-room by the Countess of Salisbury. As he presented it to her, he used the words which became the motto of the order instituted on this trifling occasion, "Honi soit qui mal y pense." (Shamed be he who thinketh evil of it.)

This was in the year 1349. In this same year the whole of Europe was visited by one of the most terrible plagues ever known.

At this period ecclesiastics were of two classes. 1st, Regulars, who professed to live by a self-imposed rule, regula; and to observe vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. These were, first, Monks; and secondly, Friars. 2ndly, Seculars, who professed no rule beyond the general precepts of the Gospel; and who were therefore taunted by their opponents with mixing themselves more in worldly (secular) affairs than became persons devoted to God. But what was originally a term of reproach, became their ordinary designation.

« PředchozíPokračovat »