The behavior of any bureaucratic organization can best be understood by assuming that it is controlled by a secret cabal of its enemies. — Robert Conquest

Story of the English - Helene Guerber




Death of William

King William was not a happy man, in spite of all his conquests. His three sons gave him much trouble, and once, when the two younger lads playfully threw some water upon their elder brother as he was passing under their window, a terrible quarrel broke out.

Robert, the elder, declared that his brothers had insulted him, and wanted to kill them both in his rage. When his father reproved him, Robert said he would not stay in England, and asked to be allowed to return to Normandy and govern this province, which his father had once promised him. William refused to grant this request, so Robert fled to Normandy, where, joining some discontented noblemen, he declared war against his father.

Forced to bear arms against his son, William crossed the Channel with an army, and after several years' warfare father and son met face to face in battle. As William's visor (the steel grating which protected a warrior's face) was down, Robert did not recognize his father until he had knocked him off his horse and was about to kill him.

Full of remorse, Robert begged William's pardon, helped him to rise, and offered him his own horse. But William was too angry just then to forgive him, and, vaulting upon the steed, he rode testily away. It was only some time after, and owing to the queen's entreaties, that father and son became friends once more. Shortly after this, good Queen Matilda, a descendant of Alfred the Great, died, and was sorely missed.

The rest of William's life was spent in warfare, and his last campaign was in France, where he went to subdue a revolt of the Normans, whom the French had induced to rebel. The Conqueror was old, stout, and in poor health; but when he heard that the King of France was making fun of him because he was fat, he vowed revenge.

He therefore attacked Mantes, a small town, where, after killing most of the inhabitants, he had the houses set afire. As he was riding through the place on the next day, his horse stepped on some hot ashes, and, rearing and plunging wildly, flung the king heavily against the pommel of his saddle.

The blow was so violent that William was mortally injured. His men carried him off to a neighbouring village, where he gave his last orders. He said that his son Robert should have Normandy; his namesake, William, England; and his youngest son, Henry, a large sum of money.

The three young princes were so anxious to take possession of their inheritance that they all rushed away without waiting until their father had breathed his last. The king's servants followed their example and fled also, carrying off everything they could lay hands upon. Even the sheets of the bed upon which William lay were snatched away from him, and the thief escaped, leaving the king's body on the ground, where it had rolled.

Some monks found the dead monarch lying on the floor, all alone, and charitably prepared to bury him. But when they had dug a grave for him in a church William had founded, a man stepped forward and said that the ground was his. The king, he declared, had never paid him for it, so his body should not be buried there.

The priests bought the soil; but the grave proved too small to hold so large a corpse, and the priests had to force it into the hole, while the few spectators fled in horror. The king, who had won a large part of France and all England by his sword, was thus buried like a criminal; and as he had shown no mercy to any one, no tears were shed over his grave.



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