I have never let my schooling interfere with my education. — Mark Twain

Story of the English - Helene Guerber

Arms and Armour

The news of the sudden death of William Rufus no sooner reached his brother Henry, than he rode off in haste to Winchester, to take possession of the royal treasure. The keeper at first refused to let him have it, saying it belonged to Robert; but when Henry drew his sword, the poor man was forced to yield.

Henry I., the third Norman king of England, is surnamed Beauclerc, or the Scholar, because he was more learned than most men of his day. He had spent much of his time in study, and was proud of his knowledge, for he had once heard his father say, "Illiterate kings are little better than crowned asses." But although Henry knew many things, he never thought it worth while to be really good.

To win friends he treated the Saxons very kindly, restored the laws of Edward the Confessor, married Matilda, one of the last descendants of their old royal race, recalled Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, whom William Rufus had banished, and gave offices to many priests. But, while he made friends of the Saxons, many of the Norman barons refused to acknowledge him as their feudal lord, and joined Robert when he came home from Palestine. As Robert declared war, Henry collected his troops; but when the two armies came face to face, a peace was made. It was then settled that Henry should keep England, but should pay Robert a yearly sum of money.

Henry had no intention whatever of keeping his promises, and, hearing that his brother was not on good terms with the Normans, he determined to gain possession of their province also. He therefore crossed the Channel with a large army, and met and defeated his brother at Tinchebrai, in 1166. Robert was not only defeated, but carried off to Cardiff Castle. There his eyes were put out in the most cruel manner, and he was harshly treated until he died, twenty-eight years later.

After the battle of Tinchebrai, Henry took possession of all his brother's estates. But although he was now master of both England and Normandy, he was far from happy, for his conscience troubled him. Hoping to atone for the wrong he had done, he built a beautiful abbey at Reading; but as this did not appease his remorse, he tried to forget his wrongdoing by keeping very busy. It was easy to find plenty to do, for the King of France had taken Robert's young son under his protection, and was trying to recover Normandy.

The war was therefore resumed, but even in one of the worst encounters, the battle of Brenneville, the English lost but three men. All the rest escaped death, owing to their fine armour, which no weapon could pierce. The armour of those days, of which you can see fine specimens in the principal museums, consisted of a helmet, or steel hat, with a visor, or iron grating which could be drawn down over the face. This helmet fitted so closely upon the coat of mail, which covered the body, that there was no crevice through which an arrow, or the point of a sword or dagger, could be inserted.

The coat of mail was composed either of iron plates, of tiny steel links closely woven together, or of small plates like scales screwed together, and was hence called either plate, chain, or scale armour. Steel gauntlets, leggings, and shoes, a sword, a battle-ax, a shield, and a huge lance generally completed the outfit of a warrior.

As the armour was very heavy, the knights had to be very strong; and as the horses were also covered with armour, they were trained to bear great weights. But although it was hard to find a joint in the armour through which to wound a knight, it was possible for an adversary to unhorse him by riding hard against him and tumbling him over backward out of his saddle by a blow of a lance.

Man in Armour.

A knight thus unhorsed, and lying on his back, could not rise without help, owing to the great weight of his armour, and consequently he was at the mercy of his enemy. The latter could either kill him, or take him prisoner and keep him in captivity until he had paid a sum of money, which was called ransom.


Front Matter

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
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