Against stupidity the very gods themselves contend in vain. — Friedrich Schiller

Story of the English - Helene Guerber




A Race

As Henry III. governed so badly, twenty-four barons were chosen to rule in his name; but as Simon de Montfort was by far the most powerful among them, he exercised all the authority. Although Henry had promised to abide by the decisions of the twenty-four barons, he soon failed to do so; and, supported by some of the noblemen who were jealous of Montfort, he collected an army and made war against this powerful subject. But in the battle of Lewes (1264) Montfort defeated the royal troops and took Henry III. and his son Prince Edward prisoners. Then, hoping to win some more support, Montfort called a new Parliament, to which he admitted two knights from each county, two burghers from each city, and two men from each borough, or village of ten families. The new members of Parliament sat with the bishops and nobles, but later on they had an assembly of their own, which was called the House of Commons. Still, in 1265 the first real Parliament sat in England, and decided to meet three times a year, whether called by the king or not, to discuss the affairs of the realm.

The king's party, however, were not pleased with this new arrangement, so they began to plot against Simon de Montfort. One day when Prince Edward was out riding with some of the noblemen who kept guard over him, he made them ride races with one another until their horses were tired out. His own horse was still quite fresh, and when a single horseman appeared at the top of the hill and signalled to him, he drove his spurs into his steed and rode rapidly away, crying, "Farewell, gentlemen; I have enjoyed the pleasure of your company long enough."

The guards, of course, tried to overtake the runaway prince; but before their tired steeds had gone far, they saw him meet a troop of his friends and ride away with them. Many of the barons now went to join Prince Edward, who declared war against Montfort, although Montfort had forced Henry to issue a decree saying that any one who made war against him was a traitor.

The two armies met at Evesham in 1265, and the helpless king would have been slain in the fray had he not cried aloud: "Hold! I am Henry of Winchester, your king; don't kill me!" Prince Edward heard this cry of distress, and, rushing forward, rescued his father and brought him into a place of safety. But Simon de Montfort and his son were both slain in this battle.

Prince Edward now planned new warfare in the East. He joined the seventh and last crusade, and, like his great-uncle Richard, covered himself with glory by his brave deeds in Palestine. He was accompanied thither by his wife, Eleanor. She was as brave as he, and once, when he had been wounded by an assassin's poisoned dagger, she sucked the poison out of the wound at the risk of her life.

During the prince's absence Henry feebly tried to rule, until, finding death near, he finally sent a message to Palestine, to hasten his son's return. Henry had an inglorious reign of fifty-seven years, yet during that time there were grand changes in England: first, the beginning of the House of Commons, then the building of beautiful Gothic cathedrals by the Masons' Guild, and lastly the discovery of gunpowder and of reading-glasses, telescopes, and many other useful instruments, by a learned monk named Roger Bacon.

Because Bacon was so very much more learned than the rest of the people of his day, some of them foolishly accused him of being a magician, locked him up in prison for ten long, weary years, and deprived him of all his books and instruments. He is the author of Latin works on science, in which he set down all his wonderful discoveries.



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