It is not sufficient that I succeed—all others must fail. — Ghengis Khan

Story of the English - Helene Guerber

The Murder of Arthur

Richard the Lion-hearted, having no children, said that John should succeed him, although the crown belonged by right to his little nephew Arthur, the son of Geoffrey. A monarch not old enough to reign alone seemed very undesirable, so the English were at first very much pleased that John Lackland should have the crown. They soon found out, however, that he was cruel and miserly, and, worse than all the rest, very untruthful. He had been a bad son and a bad brother, and now he was going to prove also a bad king.

Philip of France, hearing that the people in Brittany were anxious to place Prince Arthur upon the English throne, soon excited them to declare war against John Lackland. But he did not give them so much help as they expected, and the result was that John defeated them and put his nephew in prison in Rouen.

Young Arthur now languished in a gloomy dungeon, very near the river, closely guarded night and day lest he should escape. But he was so good and gentle that even the grim jailers grew fond of him, and so John, fearing that Arthur might yet get free and take the crown, determined to rid himself of the young prince. No one knows exactly how he did this, but there are awful stories told. Some writers say that little Arthur's eyes were put out with red-hot irons, in spite of his pitiful entreaties to be spared. Others aver that the jailers killed him by John's command. But it is generally believed that, cruel as they were, the jailers refused to harm the gentle child, and that John had to commit the murder himself. It is said that he came to the prison one night, led the child down to a waiting boat, pushed off into mid-stream, and there drowned the unhappy little prince.

When it became known that Arthur was dead, either by his uncle's hand or by his order, the people of Brittany clamoured to have John punished, and called upon the French king for aid. This monarch then said that as John owned provinces in France for which he was obliged to do homage as vassal to the French crown, he should appear before twelve other lords, his peers, and justify himself, or lose his lands in France.

John must have had an uneasy conscience, for he did not present himself before his peers. So the French king invaded Normandy, which became his property after belonging to Norman dukes for nearly three hundred years. John's other French provinces were also taken from him, and he soon had nothing left in France except Guienne.

Besides the troubles in France, John had worries at home; for when the Archbishop of Canterbury died, the monks and the pope selected one man, and John another, to occupy this position. The result was a religious quarrel, in which the pope showed his displeasure by putting John's kingdom under an interdict. That is to say, the churches were closed, no services were held, no bells rung, no baptisms, weddings, or funerals allowed, and all the people were under a ban. Four years later, seeing that John still refused to obey him, the pope declared that he should no longer be King of England, and bade Philip of France invade and take possession of the country.


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