The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws. — Tacitus

Story of the English - Helene Guerber

The Murderers Punished

Edward III. ranks as one of England's greatest kings; but as he was only fourteen years of age at the time of his coronation, the government was first carried on by a council of regency, composed of twelve lords. These noblemen, however, were ruled in their turn by Queen Isabella and her favourite Mortimer.

The wicked queen had not only taken possession of all the property of the Despensers, but after she had got rid of her weak husband, she tried to keep the authority in her own hands by surrounding her son with men who were her tools. The young king could not resist, and quietly bided his time.

Edward was a born soldier, and his greatest desire seems to have been to make conquests. Even in the beginning of his reign he joined his army and fought against the Scots, who were then still governed by Robert Bruce.

The English army was composed of heavily armed knights, while the Scots, led by Douglas, wore little armour, and rode small horses, which could scramble over the roughest ground. Instead of having immense trains of baggage, such as followed the English army, each Scotchman carried a hag of oatmeal and a flat iron plate on which he baked his cakes at the camp fire. Whenever the Scotch wanted meat, they caught and killed an ox. As soon as it was flayed, the skin was hung over the fire, filled with water, and thus served as a caldron wherein to boil the meat.

These simple arrangements gave Douglas and his men a great advantage over the English, who could never overtake them. Sudden raids here and there, and very prompt retreats, formed the Scotch method of warfare; but they never engaged in a pitched battle with Edward's troops.

One night, when the English were fast asleep in their tents, Douglas broke into their-camp with two hundred men. Edward would have fallen a victim to their blows, had he not been defended by his chaplain and chamberlain, who, by sacrificing their lives, enabled him to escape.

After carrying on this skirmish warfare for some time, the Scots discovered that the new king, although a boy, was a more formidable foe than his father, and agreed to make peace with him. In 1328, therefore, Edward III. and Robert Bruce signed the treaty of Northampton, in which it was agreed that Scotland was to be independent.

That same year, young as he was, Edward married a good and beautiful princess, Philippa of Hainault. He also arranged a marriage between his own sister Jane and the son of Robert Bruce, who was then only a baby.

As soon as Edward was eighteen, he became his own master and began to reign alone. The very first use he made of his power was to punish the murderers of his father. Now, as you know, Isabella and Mortimer were the real authors of the crime. They were evidently afraid they might be punished, for they had withdrawn to the Castle of Nottingham, which was closely guarded by their own men. Every evening the gates were securely closed and locked, the keys being brought to the queen, who kept them under her own pillow, to prevent treachery.

In spite of all this caution, Edward's followers got into the castle by a subterranean passage, of whose existence the queen was not aware. Before he could suspect his danger, Mortimer was seized and dragged away by the soldiers, while the queen, falling at the young king's feet, implored him to spare her "gentle Mortimer."

As he could not bring his own mother to trial, Edward had her taken to Castle Rising, where she spent the rest of her life a prisoner. Once a year he came to see her, but her imprisonment lasted nearly twenty-eight years.

Her accomplice Mortimer was taken to Westminster, where he was tried and sentenced to be hanged at Tyburn, the place where all common criminals were put to death.


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