Education is a weapon whose effects depend on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed. — Joseph Stalin

Story of the English - Helene Guerber




The Battle of Crecy

One year after the treaty of Northampton, the brave King of Scotland died, leaving the crown to his five-year-old son David. But as the new monarch was a mere child, Baliol, the son of the former king of that name, drove him away and took possession of the crown. To make Edward his friend, Baliol offered to do homage to him for his kingdom, but this so enraged the independent Scots that they turned Baliol out and recalled David.

The result was that war began once more, with Edward and Baliol on one side, and David and his French allies on the other. No very great battles were fought, so Edward left his army to continue the war in Scotland, and prepared to go and fight in France.

Edward had been longing to make his kingdom larger, and he now thought he had a good chance, as he had three separate reasons for fighting the French. In the first place, he said they kept helping his Scotch enemy David Bruce; secondly, French noblemen often made raids into his province of Guienne; and thirdly, he claimed that, as the last French kings died leaving no sons, the crown really belonged to him. This last claim was hardly just, for Edward was the son of a sister of the last three kings of France; so, if the French crown could have passed on to a woman, it would have belonged, not to his mother, but to one of the daughters of the late kings. Nevertheless, it was on this threefold pretext that Edward III. began the Hundred Years' War, so called because about a century passed ere the quarrel was ended.

Calling his Parliament, Edward asked them for money, which they supplied him in exchange for new privileges. It was Edward's intention to sail for Guienne and begin the conflict with the French there; but, owing to contrary winds, he had to change his plans and land in the northern part of France. Hedged in between the Somme River and the sea, Edward saw that his position was unfavourable. Besides, many of his men became sick and died from eating too much fruit, so he was afraid the French army might get the better of him.

By offering a reward of one hundred pounds to any one who would show him a ford across the Somme, Edward cleverly secured a better position near the village of Crecy. Here he had pits dug, and provided his bowmen with sharp stakes to drive into the ground before them so as to form a fence which would prevent the French from riding them down. Then he commanded his men to eat and rest until they were needed.

It seems that one part of the army was then placed under the command of the Prince of Wales, a lad of sixteen. He was distinguished from the other knights by his coal-black armour, which won for him the surname of the Black Prince. Like most youths of his age and time, the Black Prince had been trained in all knightly exercises, but this was his first great battle, and he was very anxious to do some brave deed whereby he might win his knightly spurs.

The French army was about eighty thousand strong, but it was under the command of different French noblemen, who were all eager to press on ahead and strike the first blow. This lack of discipline in the French army, a sudden shower which wet their bowstrings, and the fact that they began fighting when tired by a long march, proved fatal to their hopes of victory.

The archers were in front, but, finding their bows useless, they turned to beat a retreat. As they were hired troops, the French knights fancied they were cowards or traitors, and, falling upon them with drawn swords, began to massacre them. The English took advantage of this confusion, and the Black Prince led a gallant charge into the midst of the French army.

Edward III., who was watching the battle from the top of a windmill on a neighbouring hill, was proud of his son's bravery, and when anxious courtiers pressed forward and begged him to send help to the fighting prince, he asked: "Is my son dead, wounded, or felled to the ground?"

"Not so, thank God!" answered the messengers; "but he is sore beset."

"He shall have no aid from me," exclaimed the king, proudly. "Let him bear himself like a man; in this battle he must win his spurs."

These words, reported to the prince, nerved his arm to greater prowess, and when evening came he saw the whole French army routed. The battlefield was strewn with dead; for, owing to the steady fire of the English archers and the power of their great bows and "cloth-yard" shafts, armour proved but little protection. This battle, fought in 1346, showed the power of the men in the ranks as opposed to the mailed knights and their retainers, and with it began the fall of feudalism. It is interesting to read that cannon were used for the first time at Crecy, though they were not very effective. They merely threw "small iron balls", "to frighten the horses."

Thirty thousand Frenchmen were lying on the plain of Crecy, and on visiting the battlefield the next day, the Black Prince found there the body of the aged King of Bohemia. This monarch was so brave that, although blind and almost helpless, he asked to be led into the thickest of the fray, so that he might strike a few blows.

Two of his knights fastened his horse to their own, and, dashing forward, enabled him to gratify his last wish. Their bodies lay close together, and by them stood the three horses, still tied together, but unharmed. When the young Prince of Wales saw the dead king's banner lying near him, he picked it up, and said he would adopt as his own crest the emblem of the three feathers it bore. He also appropriated the King of Bohemia's motto, "Ich dien" (I serve); and ever since then this motto and crest gave belonged to the Prince of Wales.



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