Against stupidity the very gods themselves contend in vain. — Friedrich Schiller

Story of the English - Helene Guerber




Richard's Presence of Mind

The greater part of the mob believed Richard and went out of the city to wait for him. True to his promise, Richard rode out the next day, and after listening to their grievances he promised that the tax should be removed, and that all serfs should be freed from their masters. Then he dismissed them, asking them to leave two men from each village, so he could give them his written promise.

The mob was quite satisfied, and disbanded, while the young king set thirty clerks to writing the promised papers. But while Richard was busy thus, Wat Tyler, Jack Straw, and a few others, thinking he meant to deceive them, forced their way into the Tower to find him. Their search proved vain, and in their anger they killed the Archbishop of Canterbury and several other persons.

The next day, as Richard was riding through Smithfield with the Mayor of London and sixty attendants, he met this division of the mob. Tyler now stepped forward to speak to the king. In his excitement he used a loud and threatening tone, and, laying his hand upon his sword, half drew it from the scabbard.

The mayor, fancying that Wat Tyler was about to strike the king, felled him to the ground with one blow. When the mob saw their leader fall, they advanced with angry cries; but Richard rode boldly forward, saying, "My friends, be not concerned for the loss of your unworthy leader. I, your king, will be your leader!"

Then, turning, he rode ahead, they blindly following him. His escort, in the meantime, had dashed off into the city in search of help, and soon came to rescue him with thousands of brave men. When the mob saw these soldiers coming, they fell on their knees, begging for mercy, and they scattered thankfully when the king assured them of his forgiveness and bade them go home.

The heads of Wat Tyler and a few of the men who had taken part in the murder of the archbishop were exposed on London Bridge, and the rebellion, which is generally known as the Peasants' Revolt, was ended. But, unhappily, most of Richard's promises were set aside by Parliament, and although the poll tax was stopped, the other grievances went on as before.

You see that Richard was fearless and generous at first. In spite of these qualities, he made a very poor king. This was principally owing to the bad bringing up he received. His uncles were proud of ruling, and, hoping to retain the power, they did not let him learn anything useful, but kept him amused by surrounding him with worthless flatterers and vain shows. They found him a wife when he was little more than a boy, but she was fortunately so gentle and lovable that she was called good Queen Anne.

Richard's uncles, in the meantime, were having much trouble with Rome because the pope did not like the teachings of Wyclif, a man whom the queen and the Duke of Lancaster greatly admired. Wyclif declared that many of the priests had grown rich and lazy, and that they took no pains to teach and help the poor. He therefore translated the Bible into English, so that the unlearned could read it as well as the learned. Then he preached so eloquently to his Oxford students that many of them travelled all through England and Europe, preaching the gospel.

The wandering teachers often sang hymns, so the people called them the singers, or Lollards, a name which was soon given to all those whose teachings were different from those of the Roman Catholic Church. The pope thought Wyclif was very wrong, and therefore forced him to go away from Oxford and to withdraw to a little village called Lutterworth. But although Wyclif could no longer teach at Oxford, he had already sown the seed of the Protestant religion, so he is called "the Morning Star of the Reformation." He died at Lutterworth, in his little church; and thirty years after his death he had won many converts. The Catholics considered his teachings so wrong that they had his bones taken out of their grave and burned. His ashes were cast into a brook, which carried them into a river, and finally into the ocean. But Wyclif's ashes were not scattered any farther than his writings and teachings, for, as you know, there are now Protestants in all parts of the world.



Contents

Front Matter
Review

Early Times
The Druids
The Britons
Caesar in Britain
Queen Boadicea
The Great Walls
The Great Irish Saint
The Anglo-Saxons
Brave King Arthur
The Laws of the Saxons
The Story of St Augustine
Three Great Men
The Danish Pirates
King Alfred and the Cakes
Alfred conquers the Danes
A King's Narrow Escape
The King and the Outlaw
The Monasteries
An Unlucky Couple
St Dunstan
King Canute and the Waves
A Saxon Nobleman
Lady Godiva's Ride
The Battle of Hastings
The Conquest
Lords and Vassals
Death of William
The Brothers' Quarrels
Arms and Armour
The "White Ship"
Matilda's Narrow Escapes
Story of Fair Rosamond
Thomas a Becket
Murder of Thomas a Becket
Richard's Adventures
Richard and the Saracens
The Faithful Minstrel
Death of Richard
The Murder of Arthur
The Great Charter
The Rule of Henry III
A Race
Persecution of the Jews
The Conquest of Wales
A Quarrel with France
The Coronation Stone
The Insolent Favourite
Bruce and the Spider
Death of Edward II
The Murderers punished
The Battle of Crecy
The Siege of Calais
The Age of Chivalry
The Battle of Poitiers
The Peasants' Revolt
Richard's Presence of Mind
A Tiny Queen
Henry's Troubles
Madcap Harry
A Glorious Reign
The Maid of Orleans
The War of the Roses
The Queen and the Brigand
The Triumph of the Yorks
The Princes in the Tower
Richard's Punishment
Two Pretenders
A Grasping King
Field of the Cloth of Gold
The New Opinions
Death of Wolsey
Henry's Wives
The King and the Painter
A Boy King
Lady Jane Grey
The Death of Cranmer
A Clever Queen
Elizabeth's Lovers
Mary, Queen of Scots
Captivity of Mary Stuart
Wreck of the Spanish Armada
The Elizabethan Age
Death of Elizabeth
A Scotch King
The Gunpowder Plot
Sir Walter Raleigh
King and Parliament
Cavaliers and Roundheads
"Remember"
The Royal Oak
The Commonwealth
The Restoration
Plague and Fire
The Merry Monarch
James driven out of England
A Terrible Massacre
William's Wars
The Duke of Marlborough
The Taking of Gibraltar
The South Sea Bubble
Bonny Prince Charlie
Black Hole of Calcutta
Loss of the Colonies
The Battle of the Nile
Nelson's Last Signal
The Battle of Waterloo
First Gentleman of Europe
Childhood of Queen Victoria
The Queen's Marriage
Wars in Victoria's Reign
The Jubilee