In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of. — Confucius

Story of the English - Helene Guerber

The Faithful Minstrel

While Richard was busy fighting in Palestine, things were going on very badly at home. The offices, which he had sold to the highest bidders, were filled by men who thought only of growing rich, so law and order were very poorly maintained. Prince John, Richard's brother, who was surnamed Lackland because his father had left him no territory, was a very mean man, and he helped to make matters worse.

When Philip reached France, he became friendly with John, and proposed that they should invade Normandy together and take possession of King Richard's lands. John was quite ready to help him, but the French barons all refused to fight for Philip, because he had promised Richard not to act as he was doing.

Rumours of the troubles in England, and of the bad designs of Philip and John, came at last to the ears of Richard, who decided that it was useless to remain much longer in Palestine, and that he had better go home and take care of his people. He therefore staid only long enough to deliver the Christians whom Saladin was besieging at Joppa. Then, having again defeated his brave rival, he signed a truce with him, which was to last three years, three months, three weeks, three days, and three hours.

In spite of the bad season, Richard next embarked upon a vessel to return home. But the winds were against him, and after tossing about on the waves for many days, he was shipwrecked in the Adriatic Sea, and with much trouble managed to reach land.

Left thus without means and without followers, far away from home, Richard made up his mind to walk all the way across the Continent. As he had to pass through the lands of his enemy, the Duke of Austria, he put on a pilgrim's dress, hoping that no one would recognize him, and that he could thus cross the country in safety.

One day, in an Austrian village inn, one of Leopold's men recognized Richard by a ring he had always worn. This man told his master, who had the pilgrim seized and thrust into a prison, where he kept him for many months. Then Leopold sold his royal prisoner to the Emperor of Germany, who kept him in another dungeon.

The rumour that Richard was a prisoner spread all over Europe; but while John and Philip rejoiced, and planned how to divide his lands, some of Richard's friends grieved sorely. His favourite minstrel, a youth named Blondel, anxious to find him, set out alone and on foot, and wandered all through Germany, it is said, singing as he went to earn his daily bread. Whenever he came to a castle, Blondel inquired what prisoners were kept there. Months had gone by in vain and weary search, when the minstrel came at last to Richard's prison.

He had no idea his quest was ended, and, sitting down under the castle walls, he sadly played a tune which was known only to him and to his master, and sang the first verse of the song. You can imagine his surprise and delight when he heard Richard's familiar voice floating out through the grated window, singing the second verse.

Richard was found. The poor minstrel, who could not free his master alone, now hastened back to England. Here Eleanor, helped by some of the English, made arrangements to have the king set free, and collected the large sum of money which the Emperor of Germany demanded for a ransom.

As the whole sum could not be sent at once, some German noblemen accompanied Richard to receive it; and when they saw the city of London, and the delight of the English at recovering their king, they cried: "If our emperor had known the riches of England, your ransom, O king, would have been much greater."


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