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EDWARD I., 1272.-CONQUEST OF WALES, 1284.
(From 1272 to 1290.)
EDWARD and Eleanora returned to England in the summer of 1274, and were received with great rejoicing. The people gazed with admiration on the lofty stature and majestic countenance of the king, who surpassed most men in strength and activity. Unlike his father, Edward the First was always busy, either employed in the affairs of his kingdom, and in making war or peace, or recreating himself with manly exercises and amusements.
England soon found the benefit of being ruled by so wise a head and so strong a hand. The unjust judges were dismissed and punished, and better men appointed in their stead. The country was cleared of the bands of robbers who, in the last reign, had infested every highway, and committed murder at noonday in the streets of London.
Edward took care to encourage trade: English wool, lead, and tin, were sent to almost every country in Europe, and there came in return wines and fruits, silk and spices, gold, silver, and cloth: for the English did not yet know how to make cloth, though they had abundance of wool. They had only just learned how to make linen, from a colony of Flemish weavers who had settled in England in the reign of Henry the Third.
It would have been a happy thing if Edward could have been contented with making his own kingdom prosperous and powerful; but he had set his heart on
CONQUEST OF WALES.
adding to it Wales and Scotland, and as neither the Welsh nor the Scots were willing to give up their own native princes and submit to a foreign ruler, much misery was caused to both countries, and Edward was led to cominit terrible acts of injustice and cruelty.
The people of Wales were descended from those ancient Britons who fled to the mountains of the west when their country was conquered by the Saxons. They had been almost always at war, first with the Saxons, and then with the Norman kings of England, and were a very brave people, ready to fight to the last for their country; but they never could agree among themselves, and their continual quarrels rendered them so feeble that, under the Norman kings, the English had taken nearly the whole of South Wales.
When Edward the First came to the throne, the Prince of North Wales was Llewellyn, but few of the chief men obeyed him, and when Edward marched an army into Wales, Llewellyn was ill able to resist so powerful an enemy. After a few years of warfare, Llewellyn was killed. His brother David was taken prisoner, and by Edward's orders was put to a most shameful and cruel death.
Wales was divided into counties, and strong castles were built at Conway and Caernarvon, and several other places, where English troops could be placed to overawe the natives. The Welsh entreated that they might have one of their own countrymen to govern them; "one," said they, "who neither speaks French nor English, for we do not understand these languages." Edward promised that it should be so, but they were greatly disappointed
when he presented to them his baby son Edward, born a few days before at Caernarvon Castle. "Here is a prince for you," said he, "born a Welshman, and who cannot speak one word of English or French." They dared not resist the king's will, so the Welsh chiefs came forward, kissed the hand of the infant, and promised to be his faithful servants. But obedience which is won by fear only can never be depended on, and it was very long before the Welsh ceased to look upon the English as enemies, and to make war on them whenever they had an opportunity.
The conquest of Wales was followed by some years of quietness, but during that time a great calamity befell the king-the loss of his good and beautiful wife, Eleanora. It was a loss to the whole nation, for Eleanora had rendered herself very dear to her husband's subjects. One of our oldest historians truly said of her-" She was a godly, modest, and merciful princess; a loving mother to our nation, the comforter of the sorrowful, and a peace-maker between those who were at strife."
At each of the places where Eleanora's corpse rested on its way to burial, a beautiful cross was erected to her memory; two are still standing—at Northampton, and at Waltham. But the finest memorial is in Westminster Abbey, where the sculptured likeness of the good queen rests upon her tomb, perfect in serene beauty, and scarcely at all injured by time. Eleanora died at Grantham, in Lincolnshire, November 29th, 1290. Of four sons one only survived her Edward, the young Prince of Wales.
WARS WITH SCOTLAND.
WARS OF EDWARD I. WITH SCOTLAND.
(From 1290 to 1307.)
THE remainder of Edward the First's life was spent chiefly in a vain attempt to add Scotland to his dominions. At first, it seemed that the two kingdoms would be joined by a better way than war. The King of Scots had died in 1287, leaving only one little granddaughter to reign after him, and Edward had proposed that this little princess should be married, when old enough, to his son the Prince of Wales. But the little girl died when only six years old, and immediately upon her death, several noblemen laid claim to the crown, as being related to the Scottish royal family. The Scots were afraid they would all go to war together, and asked Edward to say which of the claimants had the best right to reign over them.
Edward said that he should not decide in favour of anyone, unless the Scots would all agree to say that the King of England was chief Lord of Scotland. He also said that they must put all their strongest castles into his hands. They did not like this at all, but they thought it better to do what Edward required, than to run the risk of a civil war. Edward then decided that John Baliol had the best right to be king; and he was crowned accordingly.
For a little while there was peace, but Edward ruled Baliol with a heavy hand, and treated him with no more respect than if he had been a private man,
The Scots felt that they were insulted as well as their king, and they rose in arms. But Edward was, at first, too strong for them; he laid waste their best lands, took Baliol prisoner, and carried away all the treasures of the kingdom.
He took also something which the Scots valued more than gold-the ancient stone on which their kings were seated at their coronation. There was an old superstitious saying, that the Scottish race would reign wherever that stone was found, and so they had a fear that if it was no more found in Scotland, kings of their own race would not be found there either. (It was never restored to them, but was placed in the coronation chair of our English sovereigns; and after some three hundred years, the old saying was made true, for Scottish kings came to reign on the throne of England.)
When Edward had carried away Baliol, and placed governors over Scotland, he thought the country was conquered, but it was not so. There was a brave gentleman, called William Wallace, who could not endure to see his countrymen ill-treated by Edward's officers. He gathered a little band of men, and made head against all the power of the English king, and, by degrees, Edward's forces were driven out of nearly all the towns and castles.
Unfortunately, the Scottish nobles were mean enough to be jealous of this brave man, because he was not of such high birth as themselves. One after another they made peace with Edward, and Wallace was left almost alone. Edward set a great price upon his head, and a man was found base enough to earn that price by betraying the hero into the