Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

1319. The greatest earthquake that had ever been known in England, to the unspeakable terror of all degrees of people. The kingdom still continued greatly infested with robbers, who were still further increased by the famine, which obliged the nobility to dismiss many of their retainers. They met in troops, like armies, and overran the country. Two cardinals, notwithstanding the numerous train which attended them, were robbed and despoiled of their goods and equipage when they travelled on the highway.

REIGN OF EDWARD III.

FROM 1327 To 1377--50 YEARS AND 5 MONTHS.

CAPTURE AND EXECUTION OF MORTIMER. The king being determined to free himself from the tyranny of his mother's favourite, consulted with his lords, and it was agreed to gain possession of his person, and deal with him according to his deserts. But to effect this it was necessary to proceed with the utmost caution, Edward being surrounded by Mortimer's emissaries. The castle of Nottingham was chosen for the scene of the enterprise.

The queen and Mortimer lodged in that fortress; and as the castle was strictly guarded, the gates locked, and the keys conveyed to the queen, who slept with them under her pillow, it was necessary to communicate the plot to Sir Richard Eland, the governor, who zealously took part in it. By Edward's orders his associates were admitted through a subterraneous passage; and Mortimer, notwithstanding the queen's cries and exclamations, entreating them to spare the gallant Mortimer, was apprehended and conducted under a strong guard to the Tower of London. A parliament was immediately summoned for his condemnation. He was accused of having procured the death of the late king; of having obtained exorbitant grants of the royal domains; of having dissipated the public treasure; of having seduced the queen; of having secreted 20,000 marks of the money paid by the King of Scotland; and of other crimes and misdemeanors. The parliament condemned him from the supposed notoriety of the facts, without trial, or hearing his answer, or examining a witness; and he was hanged on a gibbet at the Elms (Tyburn), in the neighbourhood of London.

It is remarkable that this sentence, twenty years after, was reversed by parliament in favour of Mortimer's son, on account of the alleged illegality of the proceeding. This shows that the principles of justice were beginning to prevail, though not sufficiently established. The descendants of Mortimer, by the female line, subsequently succeeded to the throne. The queen was deprived of her exorbitant income, which she had granted to herself, and reduced to a pension of £3,000 a year. She was also confined to her house at Risings, near London, where she lived twenty-eight years after; the king, her son, visiting her once or twice a year, more out of decency, Rapin says, than affection. At her death she was buried in the choir of the Grey Friars, now Christ Church, in London.

Hume, vol. ii., p. 378. THE COUNTESS OF SALISBURY. That same day that the Scots had decamped from before the castle of Wark, King Edward and his whole army arrived there about mid-day, and took up their position on the ground which the Scots had occupied. When he found that they were returned home, he was much enraged; for he had come there with so much speed that both his men and horses were sadly fatigued. He ordered his men to take up their quarters where they were, as he wished to go to the castle to see the noble dame within, whom he had never seen since her marriage. Every one made up his lodgings as he pleased ; and the king, as soon as he was disarmed, taking ten or twelve knights with him, went to the castle to salute the Countess of Salisbury, and to examine what damage the attacks of the Scots had done, and the manner in which those within had defended themselves. The moment the countess heard of the king's approach, she ordered all the gates to be thrown open, and went to meet him most richly dressed; insomuch that no one could look at her but with wonder and admiration at her noble deportment, great beauty, and affability of behaviour. When she came near the king, she made her reverence to the ground, and gave him her thanks for coming to her assistance, and then conducted him into the castle to entertain and honour him, as she was very capable of doing. Every one was delighted with her: the king could not take his eyes off her, as he thought he had never before seen so beautiful or sprightly a lady ; so that a spark of fine love struck upon his heart, which lasted a long time, for he did not believe that the whole world produced any other lady so worthy of being beloved. Thus they entered the castle, hand in hand; the lady led him first into the hall, then to his chamber, which was richly furnished, as belonging to so fine a lady. The king kept his eyes so continually upon her, that the gentle dame was quite abashed. After he had sufficiently examined his apartment, he retired to a window, and leaning on it, fell into a profound reverie. The countess went to entertain the other knights and squires, ordered dinner to be made ready, the tables to be set, and the hall ornamented and dressed out. When she had given all the orders to her servants she thought necessary, she returned with a cheerful countenance to the king, who continued musing, and said to him, “Dear sir, what are you musing on? So much meditating is not proper for you, saving your grace : you ought rather to be in high spirits for having driven your enemies before you, without their having had the courage to wait for you, and should leave the trouble of thinking to others." The king replied, “Oh, dear lady, you must know that since I

66

[ocr errors]

have entered this castle, an idea has struck my mind that I was not aware of; so that it behoves me to reflect upon it. I am uncertain what may be the event, for I cannot withdraw my whole attention from it.” “Dear sir,” replied the lady, "you ought to be of good cheer, and feast with your friends, to give them more pleasure, and leave off thinking and meditating; for God has been very bountiful to you in all your undertakings, and showed you so much favour, that you are the most feared and renowned prince in Christendom. If the King of Scotland have vexed you, by doing harm to your kingdom, you can, at your pleasure, make yourself amends at his expense, as you have done before: therefore come, if you please, into the hall to your knights, for dinner will soon be ready.'

“Oh, dear lady," said the king, “other things touch my heart, and lie there, than what you think of; for, in truth, the elegant carriage, the perfections and beauties which I have seen you possess, have very much surprised me, and have so deeply impressed my heart, that my happiness depends on meeting a return from you to my flame, which no denial can ever extinguish.”

“Sweet sir," replied the countess, “ do not amuse yourself in laughing at, or tempting me; for I cannot believe you mean what you have just said ; or that so noble and gallant a prince as you are, would ever think to dishonour me or my husband, who is so valiant a knight, who has served you faithfully, and who, on your account, now lies in prison. Certainly, sir, this would not add to your glory; nor would you be the better for it. Such a thought has never once entered my mind, and I trust in God it never will, for any man living: and if I were so culpable, it is you who ought to blame me, and have my body punished, through strict justice.”

The virtuous lady then quitted the king, who was quite astonished, and went to the hall to hasten the dinner. She afterwards returned to the king, attended by the knights, and said to him,

Sir, come to the hall; your knights are waiting for you, to wash their hands, for they, as well as yourself, have too long fasted. The king left room, and came to the hall; where, after he had washed his hands, he seated himself, with his knights, at the dinner, as did the lady also; but the king ate very little, and was the whole time pensive, casting his eyes, whenever he had an opportunity, towards the countess. Such behaviour surprised his friends ; for they were not accustomed to it, and had never seen the like before. They imagined, therefore, that it was by reason of the Scots having escaped from him. The king remained at the castle the whole day, without knowing what to do with himself. Sometimes he remonstrated with himself, that honour and loyalty forbade him to admit such treason and falschood into his heart, as to wish to dishonour so virtuous a lady, and so gallant a knight as her husband was, and who had ever so faithfully served him. At other times his passion was so strong that his honour and loyalty were not thought of. Thus did he pass that day, and a sleepless night, in debating this matter in his own mind. “At day-break he

arose, drew out his whole army, decamped, and followed the Scots, to chase them out of his kingdom. Upon taking leave of the countess, he said, “My dear lady, God preserve you until I return; and I entreat that you will think well of what I have said, and have the goodness to give me a different answer.”

Dear sir,” replied the countess, "God, of his infinite goodness, preserve you, and drive from your heart such villainous thoughts; for I am, and always shall be, ready to serve you, consistently with my own honour, and with yours.” The king left her, all abashed, and went with his army, after the Scots.*

Froissart, vol. i., p. 104. THE COUNTESS DE MONTFORT. Jane of Flanders, Countess de Montfort, the most extraordinary woman of the age, was roused by the captivity of her husband from those domestic cares to which she had hitherto limited her genius, and she courageously undertook to support the falling fortunes of her family. No sooner did she receive the fatal intelligence, than she assembled the inhabitants of Rennes, where she then resided, and carrying her infant son in her arms, deplored to them the calamity of their sovereign. She recommended to their care the illustrious orphan, the sole remaining male of their ancient princes, who had governed them with such indulgence and lenity, and to whom they had ever professed the most zealous attachment. She declared herself willing to run all hazards with them in so just a cause ; discovered the resources which still remained in the alliance of England, and entreated them to make one effort against an usurper who, being imposed on them by the arms of France, would in return make a sacrifice to luis protector of the ancient liberties of Brittany. The audience, moved by the affecting appearance, and inspired by the noble conduct of the princess, vowed to live and die with her in defending the rights of her family. All the other fortresses of Brittany embraced the same resolution. The countess went from place to place encouraging the garrisons, providing them with everything necessary for subsistence, and concerting the proper plans for defence; and after she had put the whole province in good posture, she shut herself up in Hennebon, where she waited with impatience the arrival of those succours which Edward had promised her.

* It speaks much for Edward's disposition, that a few days after he made the release of the Earl of Salisbury the subject of an express item in a treaty with the French king, and was shortly “at London making cheer to the Earl of Salisbury, who was now come out of prison.” But Edward had not quite resolved to forget the enchantress. He gave a splendid feast in the City of London to bring her once more within the sphere of his influence. She came sore against her will, for she thought well enough wherefore it was, “but she durst not discover the matter to her husband ; she thought she would deal so as to bring the king from his opinion

“All ladies and damsels were freshly beseen according to their degrees, except Alice, Countess ot' Salisbury, for she went as simply as she might, to the extent that the king should not set his regard on her, for she was fully determined to do no manner of thing that should turn to her dishonour, nor to her husband's." It was this same model of co, jugal fidelity of whom the well-known anecdote of the garter is told, that gave rise to that illustrious order of Knights Companions, to which monarchs are in our own time proud to belong. “Evil be to him that evil thinks,” said the king, to rebuke the smiles of his courtiers. when the fair countess accidentally dropped her garter. We can well appreciate his foelings on determining to make that trivial incident the foundation of a lasting memorial of his admiration for a creature as far above most of her sex for the grace and purity of her soul, as for the exquisite beauty of her form.

Old England, vol. i., p. 242.

Charles of Blois, anxious to make himself master of so ime portant a fortress as Hennebon, and still more to take the countess prisoner, from whose vigour and capacity all the difficulties to his succession in Brittany now proceeded, sat down before it with a great army, composed of French, Spaniards, Genoese, and some Bretons.

Hume, vol. ii., p. 418. When the countess and her knights saw the enemy approaching, she ordered the alarm-bells to be rung, and every one to arm himself for defending the town.

The countess, who had clothed herself in armour, was mounted on a war-horse, and galloped up and down the streets of the town, entreating and encouraging the inhabitants to defend themselves honourably. She ordered the ladies and other women to unpave the streets, carry the stones to the ramparts, and throw them on their enemies. She had pots of quicklime brought to her for the same purpose. That same day the countess performed a very gallant deed ; she ascended a high tower, to see how her people behaved; and, having observed that all the lords and others of the army had quitted their tents, and were come to the assault, she immediately descended, mounted her horse, armed as she was, collected 300 horsemen, sallied out at their head by another gate that was not attacked, and, galloping up to the tents of her enemies, cut them down, and set them on fire, without any loss, for there were only servants and boys, who fled upon her approach. As soon as the French saw their camp on fire, and heard the cries, they immediately hastened thither, bawling out—"Treason ! treason!” so that none remained at the assault. The countess, seeing this, got her men together, and, finding that she could not re-enter Hennebon without great risk, took another road, leading to the Castle of Brest, which is situated

The Lord Lewis of Spain, who was marshal of the army, had gone to his tents, which were on fire; and, seeing the countess and her company galloping off as fast as they could, he immediately pursued them with a large body of men-at-arms. He gained so fast upon them that he came up with them, and wounded or slew all that were not well mounted; but the countess, and part of her company, made such speed, that they arrived at the Castle of Brest, where they were received with great joy.

On the morrow the lords of France, who had lost their tents and provisions, took counsel if they should not make huts of the branches and leaves of trees near to the town, and were thunder.

near.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »