Stories of the British Isles

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Stories of the British Isles

SERIES IN THE FORGOTTEN CLASSICS FAMILY LIBRARY World History Stories Great Lives Series Freedom Series Story Hour Series Nature, Art and Music Series

Stories of the British Isles

Selected Authors


Stories of the British Isles Copyright Š 2014 by Libraries of Hope, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission of the publisher. International rights and foreign translations available only through permission of the publisher.

Compiled From: Little Stories of England, by Maude Barrows Dutton, New York, Cincinnati, Chicago: American Book Company, (1911). Scotland’s Story, by H.E. Marshall, London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, Ltd. True Stories from the History of Ireland, by John James McGregor,Dublin: William Curry, Jun. and Co., (1829). Libraries of Hope, Inc. Appomattox, Virginia 24522 Website Email Printed in the United States of America

Table of Contents Little Stories of England..............................................1 Preface ...................................................................................... 3 The White-Cliffed Island.......................................................... 5 Caradoc..................................................................................... 9 The Coming Of The English .................................................. 13 King Arthur ............................................................................ 16 How The Story Of Christ Was Told In England .................... 22 King Alfred, England’s Darling ............................................... 27 Cædmon, The First English Singer ........................................ 32 Canute, The Danish King ....................................................... 35 William The Conqueror ......................................................... 38 King Henry and the White Ship ............................................. 43 Thomas À Becket ................................................................... 48 Richard I—England’s Royal Crusader .................................... 53 Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest ............................................ 58 John and the Great Charter .................................................... 64 Henry III ................................................................................. 68 Edward I, The Hammer Of The Scots .................................... 73 The Black Prince .................................................................... 77 Chaucer and the Canterbury Pilgrims .................................... 82 Madcap Harry ......................................................................... 86 Wat Tyler and the Peasant Revolt .......................................... 91 The Last Of The Barons ......................................................... 95 William Caxton ...................................................................... 98

Table of Contents Continued Bluff King Hal ...................................................................... 102 Queen Elizabeth ................................................................... 107 The Spanish Armada ............................................................ 112 Spenser and the Faerie Queen .............................................. 116 Shakespeare .......................................................................... 120 The Cousins From Scotland ................................................. 124 Oliver Cromwell ................................................................... 129 The Pilot Of The State ......................................................... 133 Horatio Nelson ..................................................................... 137 Wellington, The Iron Duke .................................................. 142 George III ............................................................................. 147 Queen Victoria ..................................................................... 152 Alfred Lord Tennyson .......................................................... 157 Edward VII ........................................................................... 161

Scotland’s Story ...................................................... 165 Why This Book Was Written .............................................. 167 The Story Of Prince Gathelus .............................................. 169 A Fight with the Romans ..................................................... 174 The March of the Romans ................................................... 179 The Story of Saint Columba ................................................. 183 How the French and the Scots Became Friends ................... 189 The Last of the Picts ............................................................. 194 How a Ploughman Won a Battle .......................................... 199 Macbeth and the Three Weird Sisters .................................. 203 Macbeth—The Murder of Banquo ....................................... 207

Table of Contents Continued Macbeth—How the Thane 0f Fife Went to England............ 211 Macbeth—How Birnam Wood Came To Dunsinane .......... 215 Malcolm Canmore—How the King Overcame a Traitor ..... 220 Malcolm Canmore—How Saint Margaret Came to Scotland225 The Story of Pierce-Eye ........................................................ 231 The Reigns of Donald Bane, Duncan II, and Edgar ............. 235 Alexander I, The Fierce ........................................................ 238 David I, The Sore Saint The Battle of the Standard............. 242 William I, The Lion .............................................................. 251 The Story of Alexander II..................................................... 255 Alexander III—How The Little King Was Crowned And Married ................................................................................. 259 Alexander III—The Taming of the Ravens .......................... 263 Alexander III—How a Beautiful Lady Took a Brave Knight Prisoner ................................................................................ 267 Alexander III—How the King Rode Homeward Through the Dark Night............................................................................ 271 The Maid of Norway ............................................................ 275 John Baliol—The Siege of Berwick ...................................... 278 John Baliol—The Last of Toom Tabard ............................... 283 The Adventures of Sir William Wallace .............................. 285 William Wallace—The Black Parliament Of Ayr ................ 291 William Wallace—The Battle Of Stirling Bridge ................. 294 William Wallace—The Battle Of Falkirk ............................. 297 William Wallace—The Turning of a Loaf ............................ 303 Robert The Bruce—How The Bruce Received a Letter and Struck a Blow ....................................................................... 307 Robert The Bruce—How the King Was Crowned ............... 312

Table of Contents Continued Robert The Bruce—If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try Again .............................................................................................. 316 Robert The Bruce—The King Tries Again .......................... 321 Robert The Bruce—The Fight at the Ford ........................... 326 Robert The Bruce—How the King Escaped From Traitors, and How He Met A True Woman .............................................. 329 Robert The Bruce— The Taking of Perth ........................... 335 Robert The Bruce—How Two Castles Were Won .............. 340 Robert The Bruce—How the Castle of Edinburgh Was Taken .............................................................................................. 344 Robert The Bruce—How Sir Henry De Bohun Met His Death .............................................................................................. 348 Robert The Bruce—The Story of the Battle of Bannockburn .............................................................................................. 353 Robert The Bruce—How the Scots Carried the War into England ................................................................................. 357 Robert The Bruce—The Heart of the King ......................... 363

A Brief Introduction to Early Irish History ............. 367 Ancient Ireland .................................................................... 369 Introduction of Christianity ................................................. 375

Little Stories of England by Maude Barrows Dutton

Preface The common school curriculum has been broadened during the last generation, until the number of subjects in the weekly program doubles and sometimes triples that of former days. And while there is serious danger of dissipation now, no one questions the general wisdom of this change. Indeed, any pupil who confines himself even now to the prescribed course of study is leading altogether too narrow a life. The textbooks, no matter how numerous and varied, are only a text after all, and a good portion of a young person’s ideas should come from other sources than the immediate school instruction. Again, one weakness of the school touches reviews. After having once presented valuable topics, it lacks variety of ways of reviewing and thereby fixing them as permanent possessions. This book aims to meet both of these needs; and in my estimation, it meets them admirably. It introduces children to many topics of common interest that are not found in any ordinary course of study. And it reviews many others in a delightful manner. There are two reasons why such books as this may well occasionally receive a period of the regular school time. In that way only will the importance of general reading be properly impressed upon many pupils. Only in that way, too, will the teacher have opportunity to give needed ideas about the proper method of general reading. Textbooks in school are usually covered so slowly that children rebel if they have preserved enough individuality to harbor ideas of their own. And, as a consequence, any books that they are free to read in their own 3

Stories of the British Isles way they cover altogether too rapidly. They need to learn a middle way. By reading such stories as these with a class, or by talking them over one by one with a class after the latter have read them, the teacher can give many valuable facts about method that will influence all later general reading. Since general reading of books, magazines, and papers, as distinguished from strenuous study of a particular text, constitutes the main part of reading for most persons after their school is past, the magnitude of this matter is easily apparent. F. M. McMURRY. Teachers College, Columbia University.


The White-Cliffed Island The first story of England was written fifty years before Christ was born. It was written long before England bore the name of England; long before the first words of the English language had been formed; long before people had learned how to make pens and paper. Julius Cæsar, the great Roman general, wrote the story. He wrote it in his own language, Latin, cutting the words into a wax-covered tablet with a hard-pointed stylus. It was a part of his diary, that he kept faithfully, to tell the Romans of the strange lands that he had visited and the strange peoples whom he had conquered in battle. For Julius Cæsar was a wonderful soldier. He grew up in Rome in the days when the dream in the heart of every boy was to be strong enough and brave enough to march some day at the head of a Roman legion. To the north and to the south of Rome, over the mountains and down to the sea, ran the hard white roads that stretched out from the city like the spokes of a great wheel. Many a time the boy Julius watched the legions, the swift chariots, the standard bearers carrying the Roman Eagles, the long lines of soldiers, the flying banners, going forth to add new glory to the name of Rome. Many a time the man Cæsar marched forth at the head of a legion and brought his armies back laden with spoils. It was under his leadership that the western part of Europe, which was then called Gaul, was turned into a Roman province and forced to pay a yearly tribute to this greedy Italian city. Some of the people of Gaul first told Cæsar about the island of Britain not far from the mainland. They knew little about it 5

Stories of the British Isles except that now and again when the weather was fair their merchants ventured across the water to exchange their goods for corn or cattle. As Cæsar marched along the coast of Gaul, he saw for himself the white cliffs of the island shining through the sea fog. His eyes were as sharp and piercing as an eagle’s, but they could not see what lay beyond those white cliffs. He felt that his work for Rome would not be done until he had set up her standard on this island. At the end of August, in the year 55 B.C., Cæsar set sail at midnight. Two legions of soldiers sailed with him. They were sturdy, strong-hearted men. Each man wore a heavy helmet, breastplate, and shield, and carried a sword, javelin, and dagger. Morning found the Romans near the coast of Britain. The chalk cliffs looked different now. They were alive with warriors. Crowds of tall men clad in skins and with long streaming hair lined the coast. Chariots dashed back and forth, driven at a mad speed. With the roaring of the waves mingled the war chants of the white-robed Druid priests. Wild horsemen plunged into the sea and hurled their lances at the Roman galleys. As the ships attempted to land, a shower of flint-tipped arrows fell upon them. More than this, the wind and the tide were against the Romans. The only way to reach the shore was to wade through the shallow water. For a moment the Romans hesitated. Then the standard bearer of the Tenth Legion, holding the bronze eagle high above his head, sprang into the waves shouting, “Follow me, fellow soldiers, if you would not betray the Roman Eagle into the hands of the enemy!” With a shout the men obeyed him. A wild, disorderly battle ensued. The Britons were fearless, but they could not hold out 6

Little Stories of England against the trained army of Cæsar. Still Cæsar saw that his forces were not strong enough to conquer the island. Content with winning the first battle, he soon afterward returned to Gaul. The next summer he came again to Britain. This time his eight hundred ships and galleys, filled with five legions of soldiers, sailed with him. To the Britons the whole sea seemed filled with ships. They fled, leaving Cæsar to land unharmed. Cæsar followed them inland, fought more battles, won more victories, and, after forcing Britain to agree to pay tribute to Rome, withdrew. This Roman conquest meant little to Britain. Still, it is from Cæsar’s diary that we first hear about the white-cliffed island. It was a land, Cæsar tells us, of vast forests, flat, barren moors, and great marshes. The people were terrible to look upon. Their eyes were blue, and their yellow hair hung about their shoulders uncut. They wore no garments but skins of animals, and they spent their days either hunting or fighting, planting grain or minding their flocks. Their homes were mud huts hidden in the forests. The most savage tribes of all, the Picts and the Scots, lived like robbers in the far north. The Britons believed that the woods and fens were full of goblins and fairies. Every river was protected by good fairies and haunted by evil ones. The priests of the Britons were called Druids. They dressed in flowing white garments, and their chief wore a golden box hung about his neck, which held a magic serpent’s egg. The Druids went into battle with the soldiers, and cheered on the fighting by their chants. They were also the judges of all disputes. They had no books of laws, but the old priests taught the young ones all the customs of the people, and 7

Stories of the British Isles the little that they knew themselves about herbs, about the planting of grain, and about the stars. These Druids taught the people that there was one very great and powerful God who had made them all and they worshiped this God in the forest under some huge oak, or in stone temples open to the sky. But their worship was as cruel as their fighting, for they were still a wild, savage people. This was a strange story to the people in Rome. To them it seemed as if this island was at the farther end of the earth. The more they read of CÌsar’s story, the more they longed to make Britain subject to Rome.


Caradoc For over a hundred years after Cæsar’s second visit to Britain, Rome left the island alone. Then an emperor came to the throne who read again the stories in Cæsar’s diary, and was filled with the desire to make Britain truly a Roman province. Again the Britons rallied strongly to protect their land from the foreign foe, but they were no match for the trained and disciplined armies of Roman soldiers. Yet one brave man stood defiant for over nine years. Caradoc, a young Briton chief, still believed that the fearless courage of his people would in the end be triumphant. Back, back, back, ever farther and farther and farther inland, he was driven by the Romans. Yet he seemed to gain new hope from each defeat. At last he was obliged to flee into the hills. After him, with firm, steady, onward march, came the Roman legions. Caradoc took his stand on a high hill which was cut off from the Romans by a river at its foot. He threw up a defense of huge stones. He gathered the Britons from far and near. He knew that this was to be the final struggle. As he saw the army approaching he rushed through the ranks, cheering his men and crying, “To-day shall decide whether Britain shall be free or subject to Rome.” The Britons caught his spirit. A shower of stones and darts fell like biting hail on the approaching Romans. But the Romans were armed with breastplates and helmets of the finest metal, whereas the Britons wore no armor. It was a terrible battle. Caradoc escaped, but soon afterwards he was captured, and he and his whole family were sent to Rome. 9

Stories of the British Isles All Rome thronged the streets to see the triumphant procession of the Roman general who had finally conquered the far-away island. They gazed with pride at the golden treasure that was borne before him, and at the long line of captives who marched behind in chains. Whenever Caradoc passed, cheers went up, cheers for the Roman general who after nine years had conquered this brave patriot. Caradoc did not march like a captive. He held his head as high as if he were wearing a crown instead of chains. He saw in astonishment the beautiful palaces and temples of Rome. A picture came into his mind of the mud huts of his own people. “Strange, strange,” he said, half aloud, “that people who own so many and such rich possessions should envy us our poor homes.” Slowly the long procession moved through the city to the field of Mars, where the emperor Claudius and the empress sat in state, waiting to welcome the triumphant general. Weeping and begging mercy the captives fell on their knees before the emperor. Caradoc, alone, remained standing in haughty pride. Claudius turned his eyes upon him. There was a moment of silence as the emperor spoke:— “Briton, knowest thou that thou must die? All who bear arms against Rome, as thou hast done, are doomed to death.” Caradoc’s voice was as calm as the emperor’s as he replied:— “I had men and horses, arms and wealth. I might have been your friend instead of your captive. Had I surrendered to your power, neither my fall nor your triumph would have been so great as now. Put me to death, and my story will be forgotten. Spare me, and your mercy will be remembered forever. As for 10

Little Stories of England me, I have nothing to live for; I fear death no more here than on the field of battle.� The noble bearing of the man appealed to the emperor. Caradoc was set free, and, as he said, his story has not been forgotten. But meanwhile in Britain the Roman conquest went on. All the island, except the North, where the wild Picts and Scots lived, was gradually conquered. Then, as was her custom, Rome began to send her masons, her builders, her merchants, to follow after the soldiers. The great marsh lands were drained. The mud huts were shattered, and houses, temples, theaters, and baths were built in their place. The forest trails were beaten down into broad, hard roads running from town to town. A mighty wall was built in the North reaching from sea to sea; bridges spanned the rivers, and guards kept them day and night against the Picts and Scots. The people were taught to wear cloth garments instead of skins. They were shown how to till the soil and raise grain. The captives were forced to work in the lead and tin mines. For over four hundred years the work of the Roman conquest went on, changing the island from a savage to a civilized country. Yet it was not all gain for Britain. Many of her men and women worked as slaves for Rome. Many of her young men were sent to fight in the Roman army. Every year the island was forced to pay a heavy tax to Rome. Little by little the Britons lost their warlike spirit. They were no longer warriors, for if an enemy attacked them, the Roman legions were there to protect them. But the end of Rome’s greatness was drawing near. Wild tribes began attacking the city which had once been the most 11

Stories of the British Isles powerful city of the world. Her legions were needed at home. One by one they were withdrawn from Britain. The Picts and Scots were quick to learn that the Romans had gone. They came down from the North like a swarm of angry hornets. The Britons were powerless against these invaders. Terror-stricken, they sent a letter to the Roman General, calling it “The Groans of the Britons.” It was a pitiful letter begging for help. “The savages drive us into the sea,” they wrote; “the sea drives us back on the savages. Our only choice is whether we shall die by the sword or drown; for we have none to save us.” But Rome could only send back the answer, “Britain must look to her own defense.”


The Coming Of The English Years passed by, each one more troublesome for Britain. The robber tribes in the North grew bolder in their plundering. Pirates from the barbarians living along the North Sea began to ravage the eastern coast of the island. The spirit of Caradoc was dead. Rome had withdrawn all help. Where should the Britons turn for aid? Then Vortigern, a Briton king, bethought himself, “I shall do well if I can set these robbers one against another.” So he sent word to the Jutes, a warlike people living on the peninsula that we call Denmark, and said, “Let us make an alliance together.” So Hengist and Horsa, the leaders of the Jutes, gave a great feast to Vortigern, and the pledge was drunk that if the Jutes would aid the Britons in driving back the Picts and Scots the king Vortigern would give to them the island of Thanet. If we may believe the legend, another pledge was also made at this feast, for Hengist had a daughter Rowena, who was very beautiful, and who served the king at table. When Vortigern looked into her blue eyes, he loved her, and said to Hengist:— “Give me the maid to wife, and I will give you the kingdom of Kent.” Be this story as it may, band upon band of Jutes sailed for England. These tribes had never been subdued by the Romans. The love of war was born in their blood. They drove the Picts and Scots back behind the great wall, and placed guards there, as the Romans had done before them. As a reward for their great service they were given the island of Thanet. Here many 13

Stories of the British Isles of the Jutes settled, but others returned home to Denmark. At home they told strange tales. They told of rich cities. They told of fertile fields. They told of the cowardice of the Britons, who fled at the sight of the Picts and Scots. In Britain, it seemed, was wealth to be had for the taking. Other tribes besides the Jutes began to turn longing eyes upon the island. The Saxons and the Angles, from Germany, were quick to follow the lead of the Jutes. At first they went merely to plunder and return home. Then, as they saw that the stories of the Jutes were true, they came bringing with them their wives, children, and cattle. They came seeking homes in a land that was better than their own. In dismay the Britons saw that a new enemy was upon them. These Saxons and Angles were a merciless people. In war they killed all their captives or made them slaves. They tore down the beautiful palaces and theaters that the Romans had built. They turned the Christian churches into Pagan temples. The few Britons who escaped sought refuge in the West among the mountains of Wales. Slowly the Angles and Saxons made the island their own. In the fertile fields they built up villages like those they had left behind in Germany. Each freeman of the tribe had a small piece of land which he called his own. Here he built his rude hut of branches, woven together and covered with mud. There was little furniture in the hut, but on the walls of the very poorest hung the freeman’s arms. He must be ready at a moment’s notice to rally around his chief. On the edge of the village was the plowland, where the slaves were set to work, plowing, planting, and reaping grain. Round the plowland ran a high hedge to keep out the wild beasts of the forests. No man ventured far into these forests 14

Little Stories of England unarmed. But on the border of the woods beneath the beech trees the boy swineherd fed his swine. The boy was dressed in uncombed sheepskins, with sandals on his feet, bound with leather thongs. His matted hair was his only cap. Around his neck he wore a brass ring, like a dog’s collar, telling the name of his master, for the swineherd was a slave. A ram’s horn hung from his belt, to call the swine together at night. The Romans had come as conquerors. These new tribes came as settlers. In the course of time seven great separate kingdoms grew up in Britain. The Jutes settled in Kent. The Saxons formed three kingdoms: Essex, or the land of the East Saxons; Wessex, the land of the West Saxons; and Sussex, the land of the South Saxons. And the Angles named their three kingdoms Anglia, Mercia, and Northumbria. Their whole territory they called Angles’ land, and from this name came England, the name of the southern part of the island of Britain.


King Arthur In the days when the heart of every Briton was terrorstricken by the word Roman, one man had arisen from their own midst,—Caradoc. Now, when the Saxons were sweeping across the land like fire, another Briton hero met the foe fearlessly, and dared lead his army against them. The name of this hero king was Arthur, and history tells us little about him except that in his courage lay the dying hope of his people. Today when a great man dies a monument is erected to his honor, so that even those who never saw him can look into his face and feel that they, too, have known him. But in these early days, when the Britons were fleeing for their lives to the woods and mountains, they could do little to honor a hero. Still, they did not forget King Arthur. The story of his brave deeds passed from lip to lip. Mothers told of it to their children, and these children in their turn told it to their own. It came to be the favorite tale of the Britons. And the oftener it was told the more their love grew for this king. They came to believe that he had power to do any deed that was good and noble. Centuries afterwards these legends and tales were gathered together and printed in a book. Which were true we of today can no longer tell; but what is true is that boys and girls of today love the tale of King Arthur just as much as did the little Britons who listened to it in the far distant past. This is the story. It happened in the days when Uther was king in England that a son was born to him. But the king did not like the child, and, when he was still a wee baby, he commanded two knights 16

Little Stories of England and two ladies to wrap the child in a cloth of gold, and give it to the first poor man who passed the castle gate. So it befell that the baby came into the hands of Merlin, the Enchanter, who named him Arthur and gave him to Sir Ector to bring up as his son. About two years after this, King Uther fell sick and died, leaving the realm without a ruler. There were many lords who came forth eager to be king, but none could decide who should be chosen, and for a long, long time only strife and jealousy reigned in England. Then Merlin bade the lords of the land gather in the greatest church in London on Christmas morn and see if God would not send them a sign who should be their king. And when the mass was over there was found in the churchyard a great stone, four feet square, and in the midst of it was an anvil of steel in which a sword of gold was imbedded. And round about the sword ran this inscription in letters of gold: “Whoso pulleth this sword out of this stone and anvil, is rightwise born king of the Britons.” Many a knight was eager to try his hand, and each was given his turn, but the sword clung fast in the anvil as if it were in truth a part of the stone itself. Then the archbishop said, “Truly this is a miracle of God, and He will send us our king in due season. Till then let us wait in peace.” So the knights went forth to gather again on New Year’s Day at a great tournament. And among those who rode to the tournament was Sir Ector with his son Sir Kay, and the young Arthur his foster brother. But when Sir Kay was about to enter the jousts, he bethought him that he had left his sword at home, and bade young Arthur ride quickly and fetch it. On the way the boy remembered the tale he had heard of the sword in the 17

Stories of the British Isles churchyard, and determined that he would try his strength. So when he had come to the church he tied his horse to the stile and went over to the great stone. He clasped the hilt firmly with his right hand and drew the sword lightly from its bed of steel. A moment later he was back on the field, delivering the sword to Sir Kay. When Sir Kay had looked at the sword, he knew well whence it came. The tale spread fast among the knights that Arthur had drawn forth the miraculous sword. Then all together they rode back to the churchyard, and placed the sword in the anvil. Again ten knights tried one by one to draw it forth, but it yielded to none of them. Yet when Arthur’s hand fell upon it, it slipped out with no effort. Thereupon Sir Ector and Sir Kay knelt down before Arthur, and all the other knights knelt down, and Arthur was proclaimed king. So once more did his friend, Merlin the Enchanter, help him. At another time Merlin and the king were together, and Arthur was sad because he had broken his sword in battle with a knight. Then said Merlin, “Let us ride down to yonder lake.” Together they came to the lake side, and there in the midst of the water arose an arm holding aloft a beautiful sword. And over the waters was seen coming a maiden. “Speak fair to yonder maiden, for she is the Lady of the Lake,” quoth Merlin; “and she will give you the sword.” “Fair lady,” spoke Arthur, “pray tell me whose is yonder sword? I wish indeed that it were mine, for mine is broken in twain.” 18

Little Stories of England “The sword is mine,” was the maiden’s answer; “but gladly will I give it to thee. Do thou take yonder barge and row out and fetch it.” So Arthur and Merlin rowed out into the lake, and the king took the sword, while the arm again went under the water. Then Merlin told him that the name of the sword was Excalibur, and that he should do with it many a brave and noble deed. The words of Merlin came true, and Arthur’s fame grew wider and wider. Then his barons came to him and said, “So noble a king should take to himself a wife. Now is there not some lady of the land whom ye love better than another?” “Yea,” said King Arthur, “I love Guenevere of the house of Cameliard, whose father holdeth the Table Round that ye told me he had of my father, Uther. She is the gentlest and the fairest lady in the land.” So Merlin went forth and brought Guenevere to be Arthur’s wife, and her father sent with her as a gift the Round Table and a hundred knights. And the noble deeds that were done by King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table would fill a book of many pages, for the king lived to a good old age. Nobly did the king live, and nobly did he die. Wounded in battle he lay dying in his tent. Then he called to him one of his knights, Sir Bedivere, and handed him his sword. “Take thou Excalibur, my good sword,” he said, “and carry it to yonder lake, where thou shalt throw it into the water, and then return to me and tell me what thou shalt see.” At these words Sir Bedivere knew that the king’s end was near. He went out, sad of face, to do his command. But on the 19

Stories of the British Isles way he paused to look at the sword. “It is, forsooth, a pity to cast such a fine sword into the water,” he thought to himself, and straightway hid it beneath a tree. “What saw ye at the lake?” questioned the king, when Sir Bedivere returned. “Sir,” said the knight, “I saw nothing but the waves driven by the wind.” Then Arthur looked into his eyes, and said, “As thou art dear to me, go and do my command.” And Sir Bedivere went out the second time. But a second time, when he held the sword in his hand, he said to himself, “It is indeed a shame to throw away such a noble sword.” Again he hid it, and went back to the dying king. “What saw ye there at the lake?” The king repeated his question, and the knight made answer: “Sir, I saw nothing but the lapping waves.” “Ah, traitor!” cried the king, “now hast thou betrayed me twice. In the name of the love which I have ever borne to thee; depart and do my command.” A third time Sir Bedivere went out and took the sword, but this time he carried it to the lake and threw it far into the water. He stood above on the cliff and watched. He saw the waves part, and an arm and head come out of the water and seize the sword. Three times the sword was brandished in the air, and then it sank forever beneath the waves. So Sir Bedivere came again to the king, and told him what he had seen. “Alas,” said Arthur, “now help me hence, for I fear that I have tarried too long.” 20

Little Stories of England Then the knight took the king gently in his arms, and carried him down to the lake side. And there stood a barge with many fair ladies in it, all wearing hoods of black. And when they saw the king they wept and wailed. “Now put me in the barge,” quoth the king. Sir Bedivere lifted him in, and noiselessly the barge left the shore. And the king said unto his knight:— “... now farewell. I am going a long way . . . . . . . To the island-valley of Avilion; Where falls not hail, or rain, or any snow, Nor ever wind blows loudly; but it lies Deep-meadowed, happy, fair with orchard-lawns And bowery hollows crowned with summer sea. Where I will heal me of my grievous wound.” This is the last story of the Britons.


How The Story Of Christ Was Told In England Little by little all Roman influence disappeared from the white-cliffed island. Missionaries from Ireland brought to the Britons the news of the new religion of Christianity that Rome had sent to them. But this religion gave way to the German paganism when the Angles and Saxons came. The Latin words were forgotten for the rougher tongue of the newcomers. The one remaining link between England and Rome was her trade, and the selling of English men and women and boys and girls in Rome as slaves. It so happened that one day Gregory, a priest, was passing the slave market in Rome, and saw two English boys standing there. Their fair skin and hair and blue eyes, so different from the Italians, attracted his attention. “Who are these golden-haired boys?” he asked of the slave dealer. “They are Angles,” was the answer. “Not Angles, but Angels,” returned the priest. “And whence come they?” “From Deira.” “Deira!” repeated Gregory (which in Latin means, “from the wrath of God”). “Aye, verily they are plucked from the wrath of God and called to Christ’s mercy. And what is their king’s name?” 22

Little Stories of England They told him “Ælla.” “A word of good omen,” replied Gregory; “Alleluias shall be sung in Ælla’s land.” Gregory never forgot the faces of those slave boys. He longed to go himself to their land, but this was not possible, for he afterwards became Pope, and there were many other pressing matters for him to attend to. Still, after many years, he sent to England a certain monk named Augustine to tell the story of Christ there. Augustine set out with a little band of followers across Gaul. On his journey he heard so many terrifying tales of the Saxons that he wrote to Rome begging to be allowed to return. But Gregory bade him go on his way. “The more difficult the labor, the greater the reward,” was his reply. In the year 597 Augustine and his fellow missionaries landed on the island of Thanet. They had chosen Kent for a first landing spot because Ethelbert, the king, had married a Frankish princess Bertha, who was a Christian. Bertha persuaded the king to receive the strangers kindly, but Ethelbert would not allow them to come under his roof. He feared they might cast a magic spell over his house. So the first meeting was held out of doors under a great oak. The king and his court watched the procession of whiterobed priests coming up from the sea, bearing ahead a silver cross and a banner on which was painted a picture of Christ. They listened, too, to the chants that the priests sang and the long sermon that Augustine preached. Then the king said, “Your words are fair, but they are new.” He was not willing to give up his old religion so quickly. Yet he permitted them to 23

Stories of the British Isles come back with him to Canterbury and worship in an old Roman church, St. Martin’s, which was still standing there. After a year, when he had seen what good men Augustine and his followers were, and how they helped the poor and taught the ignorant, Ethelbert was himself baptized, and not long after his whole court, and Kent became a Christian kingdom with Augustine bishop of Canterbury. The next kingdom to become Christianized was Northumbria. Edwin, who was the rightful king of Northumberland, had been deposed, and had fled for protection to Redwald, the king of East Anglia. At first Redwald was kind to him, but finally he was persuaded to give him over to his enemies. Edwin had learned of the plot and had gone out in the early morning to think over what he could do. He was seated on a stone near the palace, when a stranger came up to him and said:— “Think not that I do not know why you are wakeful when others sleep. What will you give to him who will persuade Redwald not to hand you over to your enemies?” “He shall have all the gratitude of my heart,” Edwin made reply. “And what if he overcomes your enemies and makes you the most powerful king in England?” “I will give myself to him,” answered Edwin. “And if he tell you more of the meaning of life and death than any of your forefathers have known, will you listen to him?” “I will.” 24

Little Stories of England Then the stranger, laying his hand on Edwin’s head, made the sign of the cross. “When this sign shall be repeated,” he said, “remember it and this hour, and what you have promised.” With these words the stranger vanished. Many years afterwards, when Edwin’s kingdom had been returned to him, Paulinus, a priest, came and asked him if he remembered the sign and his promise. Edwin answered yes, and pledged himself to become a Christian. But first he called together a council of his nobles to discuss the matter. He told them the story, and asked them if he should give up the old religion for the new. This is the answer that one of his men made:— “The present life seems to me like the flight of a sparrow. The bird of a wintry night flies into the great hall where we sit feasting, and for a few moments it is safe and warm by our fire. But an instant later it vanishes into the dark of the night and the cold of the storm. If the new religion can tell us more about this night into which we must all some day pass, let us too become Christians.” So the king and all the nobles adopted the new faith. It was in this kingdom, in Lammermoor, that one of the greatest English missionaries was born. Cuthbert was a lame shepherd boy. A pilgrim in a white mantle, coming over the hill and pausing to heal the shepherd boy’s knee, seemed to him an angel. The stars in the sky seemed to him to be angelic hosts. He was not happy until he joined a brotherhood and became a monk. But he did not spend his days in the monastery. He went out over the moors and the meadows, telling the people who lived in little thatched huts the story of Christ. On foot and on 25

Stories of the British Isles horseback he traveled through woods and villages, preaching in simple fashion to the peasants. “Never did man die of hunger, who served God faithfully,” he would say, when nightfall came upon them supperless in the waste land. “Look at the eagle overhead! God can feed us through him, if He will.” And even as he finished these words, the frightened bird let fall a fish that she was carrying home in her beak. Another time, when the storm drove him inland, as he was trying to make his way down the coast, his companions grew disheartened. “The snow closes the way along the shore,” they cried; “and the storm bars our way over the sea.” “There is still the way of heaven that lies open to us,” Cuthbert made answer. Thus it was that the story of Christ was told in England both to the kings and to the people.


King Alfred, England’s Darling King Alfred is the best beloved of all of England’s kings. An old English writer tells us that he was the favorite son of his father and mother because he was the “lovesomest,” and one thousand years after his death all England held a great celebration in his memory, because they still loved this king. He was the youngest of four brothers, but he soon showed that he was more eager to learn than any of the others. One day the mother was showing the boys a book of Saxon lays. There were no printed books at this time, and in this book the letters had been painted, probably by some monk, and they were done in gorgeous reds and greens and gold. To Alfred, leaning against his mother’s knee, this book seemed the most beautiful thing that he had ever seen, and he longed to have it for his own. Then he listened and heard his mother saying: “Whichever of you can soonest learn this volume, to him will I give it.” Alfred looked up with wide-open eyes. “Wilt thou indeed give one of us this book—and to him who can soonest understand and repeat it before thee?” And his mother answered, “Yea, I will.” Perhaps she guessed then which of her sons it would be, for while the others soon ran away to their play, Alfred took the book very carefully and carried it to his master. He could not read himself, but his master read the Saxon poems aloud, until his little pupil learned them word for word. That was the way Alfred earned his first book. 27

Stories of the British Isles When Alfred was still a little boy, he was sent on a pilgrimage to Rome, where he was confirmed. We do not know how many months he stayed there nor what he did, but this long journey to the Eternal City must have made a deep impression upon him. All through his life he was a devout churchman. As soon as he could read, which was not until he was twelve years old, he learned the church service by heart. Next he wrote down in a little book certain of the psalms and prayers, which he bore with him constantly in his bosom, so that he might feel that God was near him always in the stress and strain of his life. For Alfred was destined to see stormy times in England, which called him away from his books out into the battlefield. The Danes, those wild seamen from the North, came down upon England in their black ships like a vast flock of thieving ravens. It was the first year of Alfred’s reign, and he was only twenty-three years old. But in his youthful heart was born the courage to gather his fighting men and lead them out against these dreaded invaders. Nine times he went to battle with the Danes during the first year of his reign. When Alfred was victorious the Danes made treaties with him to which they swore, by the sacred golden bracelets on their arms, that they would be true. But when they had regained their strength, they broke their oaths and spread once more over Alfred’s land, plundering, slaying, and burning wherever they could make their way. Oftentimes the king and his band of faithful followers were driven far into the waste lands. There is a strange tale of an adventure which befell Alfred at this time. He had been forced into Athelney, where there was no food to be had except fish 28

Little Stories of England and game. One morning when the men were out fishing, the king was left alone and was comforting himself in his loneliness by reading from his little book of psalms. Suddenly he felt that some one was near him. Looking up, he saw a pilgrim standing, who looked at him with hungry eyes, and said: “In the name of God give me to eat and drink.” The kind-hearted Alfred called his servant, and asked him what food there was in the tent. “One loaf of bread and a little wine, sir,” replied the servant. “Then quickly bring it hither,” was the king’s answer, “and give the half of each to this starving man.” The beggar thanked him, and a few moments later was gone. But the bread and wine were left untasted, and at evening the men returned with heavy baskets. That night the king could not sleep because his thoughts were full of the strange pilgrim who had come to visit him. Suddenly a great light shone about his bed, and in that light he saw an old man standing, clad in priestly robes and wearing a miter on his head. “Who art thou?” questioned the king. Whereupon the old man made answer, “I am he to whom thou gavest bread and wine today. I am called Cuthbert, the servant of the Lord, and I am come to tell you how to free England from the Danes. Tomorrow arise with trust in God in your heart. Cross over the river and blow loudly three times upon your horn. About the ninth hour of the day friends shall come to your aid. Then shall you fight and be victorious.”


Stories of the British Isles The next morning Alfred hastened to do as St. Cuthbert had commanded, and even as he had spoken it came to pass. Still there were many more hard battles fought between Alfred and the Danes, and never did the king succeed in driving them out of England. But at last they settled north of Alfred’s kingdom, and now he could find time to do many things for his people, that he had long wanted to do. He started schools, and, as there were few English books, he translated many foreign books himself for his people. Alfred was not content to be a mere reader. Whenever he found a beautiful verse or thought, he wished to share it with some one else. One book of which he was particularly fond was the writings of the great St. Augustine. This book, Alfred wrote, was like a great forest, and he loved to wander about in it, cutting down here a beam, here a joist, and here a great plank with which to build a palace for his soul. “For in every tree,” he said, “saw I something needful for my soul.” And more than that, he bade every man who could to fare to that serene wood to fetch beams for himself so that there might be many a comely house built. Alfred loved justice, too, as much as he did learning. He collected the laws of the land and made his people abide by them. There was a saying that during Alfred’s reign gold chains could hang across the streets and no one would steal them. He went to the monks, and encouraged them to keep a chronicle of all that took place in the kingdom, and so we have today the history of those far-away days. It is chiefly due to this chronicle that we know about the life of this great king, who said when he died:—


Little Stories of England “I have desired to live worthily while I lived, and after my life to leave to the men that should be after me my remembrance in good works.�


Cædmon, The First English Singer High above the little fishing village of Whitby, in the seventh century, stood an old wooden church and monastery. It was a beautiful spot to live in. Below it, on the one hand, was the blue sea with the little fishing vessels sailing upon it; and on the other stretched the wild moors and meadows, with the River Esk running through them to the sea. This monastery was founded for both monks and nuns by a beautiful woman whose name was Hilda. She was a very good woman, spending her days teaching and helping the ignorant and poor. The monks and nuns loved her so dearly that they all called her “mother.” In the monastery on long winter evenings, the monks and servants often gathered for a feast, and afterward told or sang stories and songs. There was always a harp, which was passed from one to another, and each in turn sang some lay. There was seated at one of these feasts one evening a middle-aged man who cared for the cattle of the monastery. He had been listening eagerly to the songs, but when he saw that the harp was coming soon to him, he was greatly afraid. When no one was looking, he slipped out of the room. He hurried sadly down the cliff, with the music of the sea beating below. There were songs in his heart, but he could not sing them. But that night, as he lay sleeping in the stable, suddenly one stood by him, and saluting him, said, “Cædmon, sing me something.” 32

Little Stories of England And he answered, “I know not how to sing, and for this reason left I the feast.” Then the other said, “Nevertheless, you will have to sing to me.” “What shall I sing?” Cædmon replied. “Sing,” said the other, “the beginning of things created.” Then, still in his sleep, Cædmon began to sing in verse of how the Lord created heaven and earth. When he awakened the next morning, he remembered his dream and the verses he had made. As he repeated them to himself, he added new ones. He had suddenly learned to put into words the songs that had been hidden in his heart. He was so happy that he told one of the other servants in the monastery of his new gift. Soon afterwards he was taken before Hilda and bidden to tell his dream. When Hilda had heard his verses, she said quietly, “Surely this is the gift of God.” Then she read Cædmon another story from the Bible, and bade him turn it into verse. This he did, and then Hilda bade him become a monk and live in the monastery. He now had time to learn the beautiful stories in the Bible, and one after another he turned them into sweet verses. He sang the history of the Children of Israel, their captivity and exile, and their entrance into the Promised Land. And later he sang of the birth of Jesus in the lowly manger and his life and death upon the cross. So he lived many years, a devout and humble man, until he died one night as he lay sleeping. But his songs went from one monastery to another, until they were known throughout the land. They were so beautiful that they inspired many other monks to write verses, but none 33

Stories of the British Isles could write so well as the master, Cædmon. These poems are called “The School of Cædmon.” They are different from the poems that our poets write today, but they are poetry because they too are full of beautiful thoughts and pictures. We can see this if we read these few verses which were written about the dove that Noah let fly from the ark:— “Far and wide she flew, Glad in flying free, till she found a place, Fair, where she fain would rest! With her feet she stept On a gentle tree. Gay of mood and glad was she. Then she fluttered feathers; went a-flying off again, With her booty flew, brought it to the sailor From an olive wood a twig; right into his hand, Bore the blade of green. Then the chief of seamen knew that gladness was at hand.”


Canute, The Danish King The years that followed Alfred’s peace were years of most terrible warfare. Ever and again, the mighty black ships of the Danes came coasting along England’s shores and sailing boldly up the rivers. And wherever the Danes went they left a trail no less black than their ships, a trail of villages burned to the ground. Some of the English kings met these dreaded invaders in battle; and some of them bought the Danes off with large sums of money. The Danes took the money, went home, and waited only until they could gather together fresh men and build new boats to break their promises and sweep down upon England. Finally, in desperation, Ethelred, the English king, ordered every Dane left in England to be slain. Among those who were put to death was Gunhild, the sister of Sweyn, king of Denmark. “My death will bring many wars upon your land,” she murmured with her last breath. This prophecy was soon fulfilled. The next year Sweyn himself landed in England to avenge the death of his sister and countrymen. Sweyn had a most gorgeous fleet. The beaks of his ships were of brass; the sterns were adorned with lions of gold, and on the mastheads were birds and dragons for weathercocks. Sweyn made many attacks on England, and the story of his ravages and plundering are terrible to read. At last Ethelred, who was called the Unready, had to leave his country, and Sweyn became the real king of England. But Sweyn died before he was crowned. 35

Stories of the British Isles His young son, Canute, who had accompanied his father to England on this last voyage, now took up his father’s work. Soon afterwards Ethelred the Unready died, and his son, Edmund Ironsides, claimed the English crown. These two sons fought many battles, and, when at last both forces were worn out, they met on a small island and agreed that Canute should reign over Northern, and Edmund Ironsides over Southern, England. Scarcely had these terms been agreed to when Edmund Ironsides died, and all England was left in the hands of a Danish king. It might be thought that Canute, who had been such a cruel foe, would have been a heartless king; but this was far from true. When his people swore obedience to him, he promised to rule them justly, and he kept his promise well. He sent his Danish soldiers home, and ruled according to England’s law. He built churches, and was a good friend to the monks and nuns. He even made a pilgrimage to Rome to pray for the forgiveness of his sins and for the welfare of his new subjects. Sometimes he used to row on the river at Ely and listen to the chanting of the monks in the great cathedral. When the service was over, he bade his boatmen sing a song as they plied their oars, and made up himself this little verse for them to sing:— “The Ely monks sang clear and high As King Canute was passing by. ‘Row near the land and hear them sing,’ Cried to the boatmen Canute the King.” Canute loved also to listen to the songs of minstrels. One evening he saw a stranger at the feast. “He looks like a poet,” said the king; “bid him sing us a song.” The stranger, who was Othere the Black, an Icelander, stepped forth and asked that he 36

Little Stories of England might recite a poem about the king. Canute consented, and when the poet had done, he praised it highly. He took from his head a Russian cap that he was wearing, a cap embroidered with gold, and bade his chamberlain fill it with silver for the poet. The chamberlain did as he was told, but in passing the cap over the heads of the great crowd that was assembled, some of the silver pieces fell upon the floor. He stooped to pick them up, but the king’s voice stopped him. “The poor shall have it, and thou shalt not lose thereby,” he said to Othere the Black. There is another tale that we read in the old chronicles about the Danish king. It is very quaintly written:— “In the very height of his power, he [Canute] bade them set his chair on the shore of the sea, when the tide was flowing; and to the tide, as it flowed, he said, ‘Thou art my subject; and the land on which I sit is mine; nor hath there ever been one that resisted my bidding, and suffered not. I command thee therefore, that thou come not up on my land, nor presume to wet the garments and limbs of thy lord.’ But the sea, rising after its wont, wetted without respect the legs and feet of the king. Therefore, leaping back, he said, ‘Let all dwellers on the earth know that the power of kings is a vain and foolish thing, and that no one is worthy to bear the name of king save only Him, whose bidding the heavens, and the earth, and the sea obey by everlasting laws.’ Nor ever thereafter did King Canute set his crown of gold upon his head, but put it forever on the image of our Lord, which was fastened to the cross.”


William The Conqueror In the year 1066 the king of England lay dead, leaving no heir to the throne. These were days when England needed a strong leader, for invaders were still seeking her shores; so the Witan, or council of Wise Men, hastened to assemble and select a ruler. The lot fell upon Earl Harold, and through England and through Europe rode messengers proclaiming “King Edward is dead, and Earl Harold has been chosen king.� Now across the channel from England in France lies a fair province that had been seized and settled by the men of the North, much as England had been by the Danes, and had been given the name of Normandy. The Duke of Normandy was a relative of the late King Edward, and it was claimed that Edward had promised him the English crown. There is another story that Earl Harold had taken an oath to help Duke William claim the throne. For not many months before King Edward died, Earl Harold was shipwrecked on the coast of Normandy. As was customary in those times, he was taken prisoner and held for a large ransom. Then Earl Harold sent word of his sorry plight to the duke, and besought him to free him. The duke had the English earl brought before him, and bade him swear on the Prayer Book that he would help him, Duke William, in his claim to the English throne. Earl Harold took the oath, and then William lifted up the Prayer Book and showed him that it rested upon some holy relics. Such an oath was doubly sacred. Thus did Harold gain his freedom. 38

Little Stories of England Now when the herald brought word to Normandy that Harold was seated on the English throne, Duke William was off on the hunt. Such anger flashed from his eyes that no one dared speak to him. He laid down his great bow, that no man but he could draw, and strode back to the castle. There he sat down on a bench in the great hall, and leaned his head against a stone pillar, drawing his mantle over his face. His companions followed him in silence, and sat down about him in the great hall. Only one, bolder than all the rest, dared at length to speak. “Arise and be doing,” he cried. “There is no need for mourning. Cross the sea, and snatch the kingdom from the usurpers hand.” The old Viking blood was aroused in William. He sent messengers into all the neighboring countries, offering gold and castles in England to any man who would come and serve him with bow and spear. He ordered the trees of the Norman forests to be hewn down and ships built of them. He sent word to the Pope that Harold had broken his oath, and asked his leave to punish the usurper. The Pope sent back his consent and a banner which he had blessed. On the afternoon of September 27 the Norman fleet set sail. At nine the next morning the Mora, William’s vessel, lay at anchor on the coast of Sussex. As William set foot on English soil, he stumbled and fell, and his men gave a groan at this omen of ill luck. But the duke seized a handful of sand, crying, “By the splendor of God, I have taken my kingdom; see the earth of England in my two hands.” In the meantime Harold had been fighting in the North, and was at a feast celebrating a great victory, when word came that the Normans had landed on his shore. With all speed he 39

Stories of the British Isles made his way to the South, collecting his army as he went. In the middle of October, in the year 1066, the English and Normans stood face to face, arrayed for battle. The English stood on a hill, every soldier covered by his shield and armed with his huge battle ax. In the midst of them stood the noble Harold, on foot, holding the royal banner. On the hill opposite were drawn up the Norman host. In front ranged the archers in a long line; behind them the foot soldiers, and in the rear the horsemen. “God help us!” was their battle cry; and it sprang from many hundred lips. “God’s Rood! Holy Rood!” answered the English; and they waited for the Normans to make the attack. A tall Norman knight rode forth alone on a prancing steed, tossing his heavy sword in the air and catching it as it fell, and singing songs of the bravery of his fellow countrymen. From the English forces, a knight rode out to meet him, and fell by the Norman’s hand. A second English knight advanced, and fell. The third came forth, and killed the Norman. The battle of Hastings had begun. It began at dawn; at sunset it was still raging. Once the cry went out that William had been slain. Duke William instantly snatched his helmet from his head, and shouting “I live!” rode down the front of his line. At last William feigned a retreat. The excited English, confident in their victory, rushed upon the Normans. Then the Normans turned about. “There are still thousands of the English firm as rocks about their king. Shoot!” was William’s cry. And the Norman arrows fell like hail on the English host. The Normans won the day. 40

Little Stories of England The English found their king among the slain, and knew that their cause was lost. On Christmas Day, William, Duke of Normandy, was crowned in Westminster Abbey as William I of England. The question was put first in French to the Normans, “Will you have William for your king?” They answered, “Yea, yea.” Then it was repeated to the Saxons in English, and their reply was the same, “Yea, yea.” In fact, so loudly did the Saxons shout their answer that the Norman guards outside mistook it for an outbreak. They began to set fire to the neighboring buildings, and a great tumult arose. The crowd rushed out of the church in terror, and William was left alone in the Abbey with a few priests, who hastened to place the crown upon his head. William had won his kingdom by might, and he was obliged to keep it by might. He brought over many Norman nobles, and had them build Norman castles all over England to defend him. At London he built the Tower, where hundreds of armed men stood ready to put down any rebellion. William was always the Conqueror, and his rule in England was severe. Still he bound the English together into one people, as they had never been united before. Like the Roman conquerors, the Normans, too, did much for England. The Normans taught the English how to build better buildings; they blended their Norman French with the harsh Anglo-Saxon tongue, and gradually the new English language was born. Yet England never loved the Conqueror. There was no grief in the land when he died. He met his death in France, 41

Stories of the British Isles where he was at war with the French king. True to the old Norman fashion, he had plundered the town of Nantes and then set it on fire. Riding over the ruined city, his horse set foot on some glowing embers, reared, and William was thrown forward against the pommel of his saddle, receiving his death wound. He lay for six weeks in a little monastery near Rouen, where he made his will, leaving England to his son William, Normandy to his son Robert, and a large sum of money to Henry, the youngest. The sons were so anxious to seize their new possessions that they hurried away without waiting for their father to die, and William the Conqueror was buried by the priests in an unknown grave, across the sea from the land which he had conquered.


King Henry and the White Ship Two of William’s sons ruled England after him; his namesake first, who was called William Rufus because of his red beard, and, on his death, Henry, who bore the name of Beauclerc, or the Scholar. William, as soon as he heard that his father was dying, came hurrying in breathless haste to Winchester to claim his throne. This same greed showed all through his reign. He sought to get Normandy away from his brother Robert, and thus brought many wars upon England. There was little grief felt when the news came that the Red King was dead. He went a-hunting one morning in one of the great forests that his father had stocked with game. A single companion rode out by his side into the wood. That evening a poor charcoal burner going home found the body of the king shot through by an arrow. With no less speed than William had shown on his father’s death, Henry now hastened to Winchester to seize the royal treasury. But the keeper of the treasury refused to give it up. Then Henry the Scholar drew his sword from the scabbard, and threatened to kill the treasurer. As the treasurer stood alone and Henry was surrounded by a group of barons who were determined to make him king, the treasurer stepped aside, and Henry took the jewels and the crown for his own. Three days later the coronation took place in Westminster Abbey, and Henry I “promised God and all the people to put down all the injustices that were in his brother’s time, and to maintain the best laws that stood in any king’s day before him.” 43

Stories of the British Isles One of his first deeds was to imprison in the Tower Flambard, or Firebrand, whom the Red King had made Bishop of Durham. His reason for doing this seemed to be because Firebrand had been a favorite of William Rufus. Firebrand was a very jolly man, and soon had won the friendship of all his keepers by his jokes and good nature. They pretended not to see a long rope that was sent into the Tower coiled at the bottom of a cask of wine. The guards took the wine, and the bishop the rope, and the next morning he was out at sea on his way to Normandy. In Normandy he met Robert, Henry’s older brother, who had been away on a crusade at the time of the Red King’s death. Firebrand and others persuaded Robert that he should have been king of England instead of Henry, and urged him to declare war upon his brother. Most of the English took Henry’s side, but one, the Earl of Shrewsbury, went over to Robert. There was, however, no war. Robert was a gentle, trusting nature, and when his brother promised to pay him a pension and to pardon all his followers, he returned home to Normandy. King Henry’s way of keeping his promise was to first banish the Earl of Shrewsbury from the land. The earl fled to Normandy, where Robert befriended him. Meantime Henry had but been waiting for an excuse to attack Robert. He declared now that Robert had broken the treaty, and invaded Normandy, saying he had come to free the Normans from his brother’s misrule. Indeed, affairs were going very bad in Normandy, for Robert, although good and kind, was not a ruler. He trusted all men, and his servants were quick to perceive this. It was said that sometimes he had to lie abed all day because his servants had stolen all his clothes. 44

Little Stories of England But he headed his troops now like a brave prince and gallant soldier, and went to the war. Fortune went against him, however. He was taken prisoner, and sentenced by his brother to be shut up for life in one of the royal castles. He was allowed to ride out, but only under strict guard. One morning he broke from the guard and galloped off. He might have escaped, but that his path crossed a swamp. The horse stuck fast in the marsh, and the royal prisoner was taken back to the castle. When Henry heard of this, he ordered him to be blinded. So for years and years poor Robert lived on in his dark prison, a sad-hearted, lonely man, glad enough to die when the end came. There was a great sorrow in store for King Henry I, in spite of his victories. He was very eager that Normandy should always belong to the English king. Thus he set sail, one fair day, with his only son, for Normandy. He wished to have the Norman nobles acknowledge the prince as their future sovereign. The ceremony was performed with great pomp, and in November Henry, his retinue, and the prince were ready to embark for England. On the very day on which they were to set sail, an old sea captain, Fitz Stephen, came to the king and said:— “My liege, the king, my father served your father, the great William, for many years upon the sea. His hand was at the helm of the Boat with the Golden Boy that brought the Conqueror to England. I ask of you this boon, that I may carry you in my boat, the White Ship, across the same path that my father bore your father.” “It grieves me,” replied the king, “that I cannot grant this request; but my vessel is already chosen and made ready. I will, 45

Stories of the British Isles however, intrust to your White Ship, and your hand, the prince and all his company.” An hour later, when the wind was fair, the king set sail, and came the next morning safely to the English shore. But the prince delayed his sailing. He loved Normandy, and hated England. “When I am king,” he had once said, “I will yoke the English to the plow like oxen.” He did not sail until night. One hundred nobles and eighteen ladies of high rank came on to the White Ship to sail with him. “Now let us make merry before we leave,” quoth the Prince. “Let each of the fifty sailors have his fill of wine. We have time yet to reach England with the rest.” They made merry indeed. The sailors drank their flasks of wine, and the noble lords and ladies danced on the deck in the moonlight. At last the command was given to sail, and Fitz Stephen stood at the helm. The Prince cried to the sailors to ply their oars for the honor of the White Ship. In the night there was a terrible crash, and then the White Ship stood still. She had struck upon the rocks. Fitz Stephen hurried the Prince into a small boat with some nobles:— “Row for the land with all your might,” he cried. But as they were rowing, the prince heard the voice of his sister Marie. “Row back—back at any risk,” he cried. The rowboat turned back. As it came near the sinking ship, a hundred or more nobles and seamen rushed forward and sprang into it. It was the one means of escape. The small boat upset, and the sinking ship went down. They sank together. Only two men floated on the sea, clinging to the broken mast. 46

Little Stories of England “Who are you?” asked one. “I am a nobleman, Godfrey by name; and who are you?” “I am Berold, a poor butcher of Rouen.” Then they added in one breath “God be merciful to us both.” Through the darkness they slowly distinguished another swimmer. It was Fitz Stephen. “Where is the prince?” he cried. “Drowned,” was the answer. Then Fitz Stephen cried, “Woe is me,” and sank, even as his ship had sunk. The other two clung to the mast a little longer until Godfrey’s hands were so chilled that he could hold on no longer. “Farewell, my friend, may God preserve you,” he said feebly, and let go. Only the butcher survived to tell the terrible tale. Some fishermen found him the next morning, more dead than alive, floating in his great sheepskin coat. For three days no one was found brave enough to bear the sad news to the king. At last a little boy was sent in, but he could only weep, and finally stammered, “The White Ship.” That was enough. The king understood, and though he lived to reign seven years longer over England, he was never seen to smile.


Thomas À Becket Once upon a time a London merchant, Gilbert à Becket, went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Before he reached Jerusalem, however, he and his servant Richard were both captured by a Saracen lord. The Saracen had one daughter, who was very beautiful, and who straightway fell in love with the English prisoner, and promised to help him to escape if he would carry her home with him to England. Gilbert’s heart was touched by her beauty and her love, and he promised to wed her if she would free him. At last an opportunity of escape came, and Gilbert fled from the Saracens, quite forgetting in his haste both the Saracen lady and his promises to her. But she did not forget him so soon. Gathering together her jewels and gold, she dressed herself in disguise, and went out to follow him. Two English words were all she knew: “London” and her lover’s name, “Gilbert.” When she came to the seacoast she wandered up and down among the ships, repeating over and over, “London,” “London,” “London” and showing her jewels. Finally the sailors understood that she wanted to go to London, and was offering her jewels to pay her passage. So they put her in an English ship and bade her God-speed. One day Gilbert à Becket, busy in his counting house, heard a great noise in the street. He looked out, and saw a great crowd gathered about a lady dressed in the bright-colored costume of the East. Just then Richard, his servant, came running in, shouting: “Master, master, the Saracen lady is here in London going up and down the streets crying “Gilbert.” 48

Little Stories of England Gilbert could not believe the words, but he looked again, and his eyes told him that Richard had spoken truly. Then he bade him fetch her in; and when the lady saw her lover she fainted in his arms. In a few days they were married. They had one son, Thomas, who became the favorite of King Henry II of England. Thomas was very clever, very brave, and very rich. When the king made him chancellor of England, he lived in state almost equal to the king. He was sent once as ambassador to France, and when he entered that country “his procession was headed by two hundred and fifty boys. Then came his hounds in couples; then eight wagons, each drawn by five horses driven by five drivers; two of the wagons filled with strong ale to be given away, four with his gold and silver plate and stately clothes; two with the dresses of his numerous servants. Then came twelve horses, each with a monkey on his back; then a train of people bearing shields and leading five war horses splendidly equipped; then falconers with hawks upon their wrists; then a host of knights, and gentlemen and priests; then the chancellor with his brilliant garments flashing in the sun, and all the people capering and shouting with delight.” The king was delighted to have such a favorite. He thought it made his own splendor greater to have such a chancellor. If we would know how Henry II himself looked, we must look among the old chronicles. “You ask me to send you an accurate description of the appearance and character of the King of England,” writes Peter of Blois, secretary to Henry II. “You may know then that our king is still ruddy, except as old age and whitening hair have changed his color a little. He is of medium stature so that among small men he does not seem large, nor yet among large men does he seem small. His head is spherical, 49

Stories of the British Isles as if the abode of great wisdom. . . . His eyes are full, guileless and dovelike when he is at peace, gleaming like fire when his temper is aroused, and in bursts of passion they flash like lightning. . . . His feet are arched and he has the legs of a horseman. Although his legs are bruised from hard riding, he never sits down except when on horseback or at meals. . . . He does not loiter in his palace like other kings, but hurrying through the provinces he investigates what is being done everywhere.” This was King Henry II of England. Such a king was eager to be sole leader in the land. When Henry found that the churches looked to their bishops instead of to him, he decided to make his chancellor, Thomas à Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. He thought that through him he would have control over the Church. Thomas à Becket hesitated to accept, but his longing for fame finally made him consent. Great now was Henry’s surprise when Thomas suddenly changed the whole manner of living. He turned off his brilliantly clad followers. He ate coarse food, dressed himself in sackcloth, and washed the feet of thirteen pilgrims every day. He was soon talked about as archbishop much more than he had been as chancellor. At first the king was amused, then, when Thomas strongly took the side of the Church in all disputes between the clergy and the crown, the king grew angry. A great quarrel arose. Finally Thomas à Becket, disguised as poor Brother Deaman, had to flee to Flanders. After many years, the king of France arranged a meeting between Henry and Thomas à Becket, to try to bring about peace. The quarrel had gone on for six years, and both men were utterly weary of it. They decided to forget 50

Little Stories of England the past. The archbishop came back to England, although he had been warned that he should not live to eat a loaf of bread there. The first piece of news that reached his ears on arriving home was that during his absence Henry II had had his eldest son crowned. This so enraged the Archbishop of Canterbury that he at once excommunicated the bishops who had performed the coronation. Henry II was in Normandy. When word was brought him of Becket’s deed, he cried out before all his court, “Will no one deliver me from this man?” Four knights who were present slipped quietly out of the room. A day or so later they appeared before the Archbishop of Canterbury. They neither bowed nor spoke, but sat down upon the floor. At length Thomas à Becket said, “What do you want?” “That you take off the excommunication from the bishops,” was their reply. When he refused they went out, sullen and defiant. They came back a little later, fully armed and with drawn swords. But in the meantime the archbishop had gone into the cathedral to service. His servants would have fastened the church doors, but he said, “No. This is God’s house and not a fortress.” Even as he was speaking the four knights came through the door. Their sword blades flashed through the darkness of the church, and their armed tread resounded as they came over the stone pavement. “Where is the traitor?” they shouted. Thomas à Becket turned where he stood, beside a great stone pillar, but he made no answer. “Where is the archbishop?” they thundered. 51

Stories of the British Isles “I am here,” answered Becket proudly. Then they slew him, then and there, in his own cathedral. When the king learned of the archbishop’s death, he was filled with dismay, and declared that his words were uttered in a fit of temper, and he had no desire that they should be fulfilled. The knights who had done the terrible deed fled from the court, and finally for penance went to Jerusalem where they died. With Thomas à Becket dead, Henry II could rule very much as he pleased. But there were sad days waiting for the close of his reign. His son Henry, whom he had had crowned, died, and his other two sons revolted against him, trying to seize the crown. When Henry II saw that the name of his favorite son was among the conspirators, he leaned his face to the wall. “Let things go now as they will,” he moaned; “I care no more for myself or the world.”


Richard I—England’s Royal Crusader In the year 1188, the news reached Europe that Jerusalem had again fallen into the hands of the Turks. The crusading spirit spread across the continent. Even the kings and princes pledged themselves to give their personal aid in recapturing Jerusalem. Among the foremost to give his promise was Richard of the Lion Heart, one of Henry’s rebellious sons. When, a year later, Henry died, and Richard bethought him of all his cruel deeds toward his father, he was the more eager to go to the Holy Land. The crusade would bring him full pardon, he believed, for all his misdeeds. Richard was crowned in Westminster Abbey with great ceremony. He marched into the church under a silken panoply, stretched on the top of four lances, each carried by a mighty lord. As soon as the coronation was over, he began to raise money for the Crusade. He sold the lands which belonged to the crown. He sold his castles. He said he would even sell London itself, if he could find a purchaser whose purse was long enough. At last he set out with his splendid army, leaving his kingdom in the care of two bishops and his brother John. Richard stopped first at the island of Messina in Sicily. His sister had married the king there, but he had died, and his brother, Tancred, had seized the throne and put the widow in prison. Richard made it his first duty to free his sister. His large forces soon frightened Tancred into submission. He released Richard’s sister, restored her lands, and presented her with a 53

Stories of the British Isles golden chain, four-and-twenty silver cups, and four-and-twenty silver dishes. So when peace was once more brought about in the island, Richard sailed on to Cyprus. We may well imagine that the restless, burly Richard was only too glad to pick a quarrel with the sovereign of this island. Before many days there was fighting, and the end of it was that Richard ordered the king to be bound in silver fetters, and claimed Cyprus for his own. These exploits of Richard made Philip of France, who was also on his way to the Holy Land, very jealous. Richard and he had been great friends, but when the two monarchs met now at Acre, neither would agree with the other as to the best time to make an attack on this town. The result of it was that Philip of France finally gave up the crusade and returned to his own country. Richard had now left one other royal ally, the Duke of Austria, and before very long he had quarreled with him. There came a pause in the fighting, and during this time Richard busied his men by rebuilding some fortifications. When he asked the Duke of Austria to assist in this task, the latter replied, “I am not a bricklayer.� Whereupon Richard is reported to have kicked the duke, who returned to Austria in a rage. With his enemies, Richard managed to keep on better terms. Saladin, the ruler of the Saracens, was a finely built man, as stanch and brave a fighter as the lion-hearted English king. He and Richard both admired each other, and when they were not in battle, were very friendly. There is a story that Richard visited Saladin in his tent, and was boasting of his skill as a swordsman. 54

Little Stories of England “Come now and show us what your royal highness can do!” said Saladin at last. Then Richard drew his sword, and with one mighty stroke cut in two one of the huge iron props of the tent. Saladin and all his court applauded loudly. Then the ruler of the Saracens unsheathed his sword. He took a flimsy veil from the neck of one of the dancing girls who sat at his feet, and tossed it into the air. As it floated downward, like a soft cloud, he unsheathed his sword, and with a deft blow cut it in twain. Afterwards, when Richard fell ill of the desert fever, Saladin sent him fruits and snow and ice which had been brought down from the summit of Mount Lebanon. Still this friendship was entirely forgotten when the war was on, and many brave English soldiers were left dead upon the desert before Richard turned his face southward. They reached Jerusalem at last. But rumors of troubles in England had come to Richard’s ears, and he bethought him that it was time for him to go back and look after his people. He stayed in Palestine only long enough to deliver some Christians whom the Saracens were besieging. Then he signed a truce with the Saracens to last three years, three months, three weeks, and three days. The weather was threatening, but the impatient Richard heeded neither wind nor tide. He set sail in a small vessel with a few followers, only to be shipwrecked in the Adriatic Sea. With great difficulty he succeeded in reaching land, and then determined to make his way home on foot. As he had to go through Austria, he disguised himself as a poor pilgrim, hoping thus to escape the notice of the duke. He feared that the duke’s anger had not subsided yet, and in a few days he learned that this was true. Richard was recognized by a 55

Stories of the British Isles ring which he always wore. He was taken prisoner and hidden in a German castle. When the rumor of his imprisonment spread over Europe, Philip of France and Richard’s brother John rejoiced greatly. They began to plan how they would divide up his kingdom. But one heart, so an old story goes, beat true to his king. Blondel, a young minstrel, resolved to find and free his master. He set out across Europe, earning his daily bread by singing in the streets. Every time he came to a castle, he paused and sang beneath its walls, hoping his master might hear him and reply. One night his heart was very sad, and beneath an ivied turret he sat down to rest, and sang softly the first verse of a song which only he and Richard knew. As he finished the verse, a strong voice from within the tower took up the second stanza. He hastened back to England to tell the people that Richard was found. The German emperor refused to free Richard until a large ransom was paid, but this the English people quickly raised, and King Richard returned to his throne. King Richard loved a fight. He found plenty of trouble awaiting him at home. Then, when he had settled the affairs of his realm, he made war with France. During a truce, word came to him that an English lord, the Viscount of Limoges, had dug up a great treasure on his land, twelve knights of gold seated at a golden table. Being the king’s vassal, and an honest one at that, he immediately sent one half of the treasure to his king; but the king demanded the whole. When the viscount refused to give it, he returned to England and besieged his castle. Now there was an old song that had often been sung in that part of the country, saying that an arrow should be made in Limoges by which Richard should die. This arrow lay in the 56

Little Stories of England quiver of Bertrand de Gourdon. From his post within the castle he could easily distinguish the king. Richard’s great figure towered above all his men. Bertrand de Gourdon took aim, and the arrow flew to its mark. The wound was not fatal, but Richard had to retire to his tent. The physicians who attended him did their work so badly that it soon became known that Richard was dying. The castle was taken, and all who had fought against the king were put to death. Only one life was to be saved, that of Bertrand de Gourdon. He was put in chains and brought before Richard. He met Richard’s bold gaze by one equally bold. “Knave,” said the king, “what did I ever do to thee that thou shouldst take my life?” The knight pointed to the ruined castle. “Yonder my father and my two brothers lie slain by thine hand. Myself thou wouldst have hanged. Torture me now as thou wilt. I am content, since through me England is quit of such a king.” A gentle note came into the king’s voice. “Youth,” he said, “I forgive thee. Take off his chains,” he said to his guard; “give him a hundred shillings, and let the youth go free.” He sank down on his couch and died. And the officers, who had truly loved their lord, heeded not his last command, but in their grief hanged Bertrand who had slain Richard of the Lion Heart.


Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest It was in the days of King Richard’s reign, that Robin Hood, England’s boldest outlaw, lived in Sherwood Forest, with his famous archers, all clad in Lincoln green. The lieutenant of Robin Hood’s band was named Little John because of his size. They say that he stood seven feet high or more, and measured an ell around the waist. And this is the manner in which Robin Hood first met Little John. The hunting was poor in Sherwood Forest, and Robin Hood had told his men that he would go out alone. He made his way through the wood and was crossing a stream on a narrow foot bridge when he met a stranger half way. Neither would give way to let the other pass. Then Robin Hood grew angry and drew his bow to shoot the man. But the stranger spoke up boldly:— “You are indeed a fine fellow to shoot at a man who has naught with him but a staff.” “That is just, truly,” replied the outlaw; “and so I will lay down my bow and arrow and get me a staff like thine to try if thy deeds be as good as thy words.” So saying, he went into a thicket and cut himself a young oak sapling and returned to the foot bridge. “Now I am your match,” he cried, “and whoso shall first knock the other into the water shall be awarded the victory.” So they sparred together with their staves right merrily. First Robin smote the stranger such a blow that it warmed his 58

Little Stories of England blood from top to toe, and “their sticks rattled as if they had been threshing corn.” But the stranger had the greater strength. He brought his stave down on Robin’s head with such force that the outlaw fell headlong into the stream. Then the stranger laughed loud and long. Looking down into the water, he cried:— “Where are you now, my good fellow?” And Robin answered as he waded to the shore, “I grant that thou hast won the day.” Then he raised his horn to his lips and blew a blast. And at that, fifty bowmen, clad in green, sprang out of the wood and rallied about them. “Why, master, ye are wet to the skin,” cried one of his men. “What may this mean?” “Naught,” responded Robin, “save that that fellow on yonder bridge tumbled me into the water.” Then the men would have seized the stranger and ducked him, but Robin forbade them. “No one shall harm thee, friend,” he said, “of all these my bowmen; but if you will be one of us, you shall straightway have my livery. What say you?” “With all my heart,” said the stranger. “Here is my hand upon it. My name is John Little, and I will be a good man and true to you.” Then Robin took his hand, and laughing, said, “Not John Little, but Little John,” for, as I told you, he stood seven feet and measured an ell about the waist. And then and there they 59

Stories of the British Isles christened him Little John, and he lived ever in the green wood with Robin Hood. Now the bold and merry deeds of Robin Hood and his men were told throughout the land, and came even to the ears of the king. They pleased King Richard, and made him wish to meet the outlaw. So, taking a dozen of his men, he dressed them all and himself in friars’ gowns and rode out one morning across to Sherwood Forest. They had hardly entered the wood when they came upon Robin Hood and his fifty yeomen drawn up ready to assail them. With a bold step Robin came forward, and seized the bridle of the king’s horse, and bade him halt. As Richard was the tallest, Robin thought that he was the abbot. “Now stand,” cried Robin, “for it is against ye and all like ye that we make war.” “But,” answered Richard, “we are messengers from the king, who is waiting not far off to speak to you.” “God save the king!” quoth Robin, taking off his cap, “and all who wish him well! And accursed be every man who does not acknowledge that he is king.” Then replied the king, “You curse yourself, for you are a traitor.” The angry look leaped into Robin’s bold eye, and he held the bridle fast. “Were ye not the king’s messenger, ye should rue that word,” he answered; “for I never harmed an honest man in my life, but only those who steal goods from others. And, as you are the king’s messengers, I bid you welcome in Sherwood Forest, and invite you to come and share our greenwood cheer.” 60

Little Stories of England He brought the king to his tent, and there he blew upon his horn. Five score and ten of Robin Hood’s men answered to the call, and knelt before their leader. And they laid a dinner for the king and his lords, who swore that they had never tasted a better. Then Robin took a can of ale, and cried, “To the king! Let each man drink the health of the king.” And they all drank, even the king to himself. After dinner the yeomen took their long bows, and showed the king such archery as he never had seen before even in foreign lands. Then said the king to Robin Hood:— “If I could get thee pardon from King Richard, wouldst thou serve the king well in all that thou didst?” “Yea, with all my heart,” said Robin; and so said all his men. Then Richard said, “I am your king, who is now before you.” And at these words Robin Hood and all of his men fell on their knees; but the king bade them stand, and told them they should all be pardoned if they would enter his service. So Robin Hood and all his men went up to London to serve the king. But it was in Sherwood Forest that Robin met his death. There was a battle, and Robin was sore wounded. Then spoke he to Little John, his trusted friend:— “Now truly I cannot shoot one shot more, so I will go to my cousin, the abbess in Kirkley Hall, and bid her bleed me, for I am grievously wounded.” Then he left Little John, and went alone to the abbey, and he was so weak when he reached there that he could scarce knock upon the door. 61

Stories of the British Isles “My cousin, ye see how weak I am,” he said to the abbess. “I bid ye bleed me that I may not die.” And his cousin took him to an upper room, where she laid him upon a bed and bled him. But she hated Robin Hood because of his wild pranks, and so did not tie up the vein again. Then Robin knew that his life was flowing out of him, and sought to escape from the abbey, but he could not because he was so weak. Knowing that he must die, he raised his horn to hear once more the bugle call. Afar in Sherwood Forest Little John heard the blast, and said, “Alack and alas! Robin must be near his death, for his blast is very weak.” He got up from under the tree where he was resting, and ran to Kirkley Hall as fast as his long legs could bear him. The door to the abbey was locked, but Little John broke it down and came to his master. He saw him lying upon the bed, and his face was strangely pale. “Good master, I beg one boon,” cried Little John, as he fell upon his knees. “Let me burn Kirkley Hall and the nunnery to the ground!” for he saw that treachery had been done to Robin Hood. But Robin Hood said, “Nay, I cannot grant you your boon, for never in my life have I harmed a woman, nor shall it be done for my sake after I die. But I would ask a boon of you. Give me my long bow and arrow, and open wide the casement.” Then Robin drew his bow for the last time, and let the arrow fly. “It lieth in the greenwood,” quoth Robin. “Find it, Little John, and where ye shall find it there dig my grave. Make it long 62

Little Stories of England and broad, that I may lie easily. Place my head upon a green sward and my long bow at my side.�


John and the Great Charter England has never been ruled by a worse king than John. In all history we cannot find one good deed recorded of him. He rebelled against his father, Henry II, when he was king. He was false to his brother Richard when he was in the Holy Land. He stole the English crown, which belonged by right to Richard’s little nephew; and then he filled his reign with unjust and dishonest deeds. One of John’s worst faults was that he had a terrible temper. There is an old story that once when he was on a hunting trip he lost his way in a swamp near Olmwick. So angry was he over this misfortune that he swore to himself that every free man in the town should have the same experience. Consequently when the young men of Olmwick became of age, they were obliged to dress themselves in their best clothes and go down and wade through this muddy swamp. It is not surprising to learn that a man with such a temper was continually quarreling. One of his greatest quarrels arose over the appointing of a new archbishop of Canterbury. John chose one man. The bishops chose another. When the matter was sent to the Pope to be decided, he chose a third, Stephen Langton. Now John hated Langton because he was a good and holy man. He refused to let Langton act as archbishop. Then the Pope showed his power. He placed England under an interdict. For six years no church bells sounded in the land. No services were held in the churches. It was not even allowed to read the burial service for the dead. But John did not 64

Little Stories of England care. Even when the Pope went further and deposed John, giving his kingdom to Philip of France, the king only laughed. But John was always a coward. When he saw that an army was being collected to invade England, he became frightened. He begged the Pope’s forgiveness; he promised to receive Langton; he laid his crown at the feet of the papal legate to show that he yielded his kingdom to the Pope; and he promised to pay a yearly tribute. The Pope at once removed the interdict, and forbade Philip to bring his army across the Channel. John felt now that all was well once more. But the English barons were far from pleased at John’s deeds. They did not wish to become vassals of the Pope. They wanted England to be a free land and they themselves to be freemen. They saw that John had no real love for the English people. They despised his cowardice. At last they united under the leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and demanded of John that he sign a paper, stating what were the rights of the English people, and restoring to them their tributes. When the king read the paper, he went half mad with rage. “Why do they not ask me for my kingdom?” he cried out. “I will never grant such liberties as will make me a slave.” The archbishop brought back the king’s refusal. The barons then formed into a great army, which they called “The Army of God and the Holy Church,” and marched against London. London threw open her gates, and other towns were quick to follow her example. The king was taken quite by surprise. Only seven knights had remained on his side. He agreed to meet the barons on an island in the Thames, at the meadows of Runnymede, on the fifteenth of June. 65

Stories of the British Isles On that date the barons and their army were gathered on one bank of the river. The king was encamped on the other. Delegates from both sides were sent to the island. The Great Charter was talked over, and that very day King John put his sign and seal to it. He did not dare do otherwise. Copies of the charter were sent through the land, to be posted in all the cathedrals, and one copy still remains today, brown with age, one of the greatest treasures of the British Museum. The barons knew that John, who had so often broken his word, would not keep these promises unless they forced him to. So before they parted, they appointed twenty-four barons, whose duty it should be to see that John ruled according to the charter, and to declare war upon him if he failed to do so. “They have given me four and twenty overkings,� cried John, throwing himself on the floor in another fit of rage. Surely, such a king had need of overkings. But nothing could hold John to his word. He broke his promises, and then sent secretly to Europe for an army of foreign, paid soldiers. The barons as a last resort called Louis, the son of the King of France, to come and rule over them. As soon as Louis landed, King John fled. He always ran away as soon as a battle began. There was the greatest confusion throughout the land. In the midst of it all King John died. He was crossing a dangerous quicksand called the Wash, when the tide came up and nearly drowned his army. The royal treasure was swept away, and horses and baggage carried off in the swift current. Cursing his ill luck, the king hurried on to Swinestead Monastery. The monks, knowing his fondness for good things to eat, put before him ripe peaches and pears and beer. The king devoured this repast, and the next day lay ill with a burning fever. A horse litter 66

Little Stories of England was made ready in all haste, and the king carried to the nearest castle. A few days later he died, and England was free from as bad a king as ever sat upon the English throne.


Henry III The jeweled crown had been lost in the flood with the other royal treasure, so John’s little son was crowned with a circle of plain gold. “We have been the enemy of this child’s father,” said Lord Pembroke at the coronation; “and he merited our ill will; but the child himself is innocent, and his youth demands our friendship and protection.” So the ten-year-old boy was crowned Henry III of England, and Lord Pembroke chosen as regent, to rule until Henry should become of age. Lord Pembroke’s first act was to promise to rule according to the Great Charter. That brought many of the barons, who had revolted against John, over to his side. Yet there were Prince Louis of France and his followers still in the land. But at last they were defeated in a sea fight, and Prince Louis went back to his own country, so poor, it is said, that he had to borrow money from the citizens of London to pay his traveling expenses. At the end of three years Lord Pembroke died and two protectors were chosen to look after the affairs of the kingdom, Peter de Roches, and Hubert de Burgh, who defeated the fleet of Prince Louis. These two personages did not like each other, and when the king became of age Peter de Roches retired and went abroad. After an absence of ten years he returned. The king, in the meantime, had grown tired of Hubert, and 68

Little Stories of England welcomed De Roches. He sought to find some way of getting rid of Hubert. Finally he accused him of misusing some of the funds in the royal treasury. Hubert, seeing that he had fallen out of favor, fled to an abbey instead of answering the charges. Then Henry summoned the Mayor of London, and said: “Take twenty thousand citizens, and drag Hubert de Burgh out of that abbey, and bring him to me.” Some of his father’s violent temper lived on in Henry. But a friend of Hubert’s warned Henry that the abbey was sacred, and he had no right to harm Hubert there. So Henry called the mayor back, and proclaimed that for four months Hubert should be free to go as he chose and prepare his defense. Hubert came out of the abbey, and Henry proceeded to break his word, just as his father had done before him. He ordered one Sir Godfred and his Black Band to seize Hubert. Hubert was in bed when he saw them coming. He leaped out, ran to the nearest church, and stood there breathless. He was within the sanctuary. But the Black Band cared nought for the rights of the Church. They followed through the open door, and dragged Hubert out into the daylight. With swords flashing above Hubert’s head, they commanded the blacksmith of the town then and there to rivet a set of chains upon him. The smith took one look at the prisoner’s face. “This is the brave Earl Hubert de Burgh, who destroyed the French fleet and has done his country much good service. You may kill me, if you like, but never a chain will I forge for Earl Hubert de Burgh.” The Black Band kicked him aside in disgust, and had to be content with tying Earl Hubert on horseback and carrying him off to London Tower. Thereupon the bishops became very 69

Stories of the British Isles angry because the king had violated the sanctuary of the church. They frightened Henry into releasing Hubert and sending him back to the little church where he had taken refuge. Henry did this, but he told the Black Band not to let Hubert escape. A deep trench was dug about the church, and a high fence built. The Black Band guarded it day and night. For thirty-nine days Sir Hubert held out. Then hunger drove him forth from the church, and he gave himself up. Once more the Black Band carried him off to the Tower. He was tried, and after some months of imprisonment was finally pardoned and his place restored to him. This was the unhappy story of a king’s favorite. As Henry grew older, he seemed to grow more and more like his father. He was not so cruel, but he was cowardly, and he hated the Great Charter. His greatest desire seemed to be to squeeze the pocketbooks of rich and poor throughout his realm into the royal treasury. In desperation, one day in May, the clergy and the barons met together in Westminster Hall, each one holding a burning candle in his hand. The king was present too, and the archbishop read in his most solemn voice the solemn words that any man in England who should infringe the Great Charter should be excommunicated, that is, cut off from all the privileges of the Church. When he had finished, there was a hush through the great hall. Then all together the barons and the clergy put out their candles, and uttered a curse upon any man who should deserve this punishment. Solemnly the king arose and promised to abide by the Great Charter. “I promise to do so,” he said, “as I am a man, as I am a Christian, as I am a knight, as I am a king.” 70

Little Stories of England The king made this promise without hesitation, and without hesitation he broke it. The barons soon saw that they must deal with him as they had with his father. When Parliament assembled the next time, every man appeared clad in armor from top to toe. The story of the king’s struggle with his barons is a long one. The great bell of St. Paul’s at London was tolled to summon the people to war against their king. Simon de Montfort, the Earl of Leicester, put himself at their head, and with his other forces marched to Lewes, where Henry and his son Edward lay in camp with their army. Before the battle, the Earl of Leicester stood up before his men, and said that Henry III had broken so many oaths that he had become the enemy of God, even as the Turks. Therefore he bade them wear white crosses on their breasts, and fight not as against Christians, but as against infidels. The next morning they went into battle wearing their white crosses. The king and the prince were both taken prisoners. The prince was always treated like a prince, but he was never allowed to go out without the Earl of Leicester’s attendants. One afternoon he rode out under their guard into the country. When they came to a fine, level piece of turf, the prince suggested that this would be a good place to race their horses. He himself did not race, but was the umpire. As they were riding home, chatting merrily over their horses, suddenly a strange rider on a gray steed rode up over the top of the hill, and waved his hat once in the air. “What signal is that?” asked the attendants one of another. And while they were puzzling their heads about it, the prince put spurs to his horse and galloped away to the stranger on the 71

Stories of the British Isles top of the hill. The attendants rode after them, but their horses were tired with the racing, and the prince’s horse was fresh. The last they saw of him was a cloud of dust far down the road. Prince Edward had gone to the Earl of Gloucester, who had remained faithful to the king. At Evesham Edward’s forces and Simon de Montfort’s met. The earl saw that the chances were against him, but he fought like the true knight that he was until his horse was killed under him, and then he fought on foot. The old king, seated on a great war horse, rode about, getting in everybody’s way. He was nearly killed once, but he managed to cry out, “I am Henry of Winchester,” and Edward, who happened to hear him, took his horse by the bridle and led him away out of danger. The Earl of Leicester was still fighting when he fell, sword in hand. The leader was gone, but the cause for which he had spent his blood lived on, for Prince Edward stood ready to carry on the good work which Simon de Montfort had begun.


Edward I, The Hammer Of The Scots Edward I was far away from his kingdom when word was brought him that his father was dead and he was king of England. He had gone to the Holy Land on a crusade, the eighth and the last of the crusades. Like Richard the Lionhearted, Edward was a valiant knight. When crossing the scorching sands of Asia, his ranks of soldiers grew thinner and thinner as the men died from fever and fatigue. His generals grew discouraged, and wished to go home. But Edward turned his face to the desert, and answered: “I will go on if I go with no other follower than my groom.” Such a spirit aroused great fear in the hearts of the Turks, and they resolved to kill this prince. One of the Saracen nobles, pretending that he wished to become a Christian, sent a messenger to Edward bearing a letter. As Edward was reading the letter, the dark-faced slave stole nearer, drew a dagger from his flowing sleeve, and sprang at Edward’s heart. But Edward was on the alert in a moment. His arm was strong and sure. He smote the slave to the ground, and killed him with the dagger. A moment later he noticed that his own arm had been scratched by the dagger. The wound began to swell, and Edward realized that the point of the dagger had been smeared with poison. The physician was called at once, and, thanks to his skill and the constant nursing of Eleanor, Edward’s wife, the prince’s life was saved. Soon after his recovery, word reached him of his father’s illness, and Edward turned about to go home. In Italy he heard that his father had died, and he had been proclaimed king. 73

Stories of the British Isles Edward’s march across Europe was a march of triumph. The tales of his bravery in the Holy Land went before him, and everywhere he was entertained and given royal presents of purple robes and prancing horses. When he landed in Dover, England, and went on to Westminster, the greatest rejoicing of all took place. “For the coronation feast there were provided, among other eatables, four hundred oxen, four hundred sheep, four hundred and fifty pigs, eighteen wild boars, three hundred flitches of bacon, and twenty thousand fowls. The fountains ... in the streets flowed with red and white wine instead of water; the rich citizens hung silks and clothes of the brightest colors out of their windows to increase the beauty of the show, and threw out gold and silver by whole handfuls to make scrambles for the crowd. In short, there was such eating and drinking, such music and capering, such a ringing of bells and tossing up caps, such a shouting and singing and reveling as the narrow overhanging streets of London had not witnessed in many a day.” King Edward I was a bold thinker. At the beginning of his reign he set his heart on being king of England, Scotland, and Wales. Wales is the mountainous country, lying west of England, where the Britons had taken refuge at the time of the Saxon Conquest. In Wales the people still spoke the old Briton language, and sang and harped the old Briton folk songs. There was a tradition in the land that Merlin, the old enchanter, had prophesied that when money should be round, a Welsh prince would be crowned in London. Now one of Edward’s early decrees was that the big English pennies should not be cut into halves and quarters, as had been done formerly, to make half 74

Little Stories of England and quarter pennies. So the Welsh believed that the day was near when Merlin’s prophecy should come true. At this time Llewellyn was the Prince of Wales. It was his duty to swear allegiance to Edward. This Llewellyn refused to do. Just then it happened that Eleanor de Montfort, the young lady to whom Llewellyn was betrothed, was returning from France. The English king ordered her to be detained until Llewellyn swore allegiance. That was how the quarrel began. It ended, as most quarrels did in those days, in bitter bloodshed. Llewellyn was killed, and his people subdued. His nobles came before Edward, promising to be faithful to him if he would give them as governor a prince born in their own land. Edward promised, and straightway brought into the room his little baby son, who had been born there in Wales in the Castle of Carnarvon a short time before. Later Edward’s oldest son died, and this, the first prince of Wales, became the heir apparent to the throne. Ever since then the Crown Prince of England has borne the title of Prince of Wales. Now that the Welshmen had submitted to him, Edward turned his attention to the North. The king of Scotland, who had married Edward’s sister, was dead. He had no children, so the throne fell to a little eight-year-old princess of Norway. King Edward proposed that the little Maid of Norway should become engaged to his eldest son, but as she was on her way to England she fell ill and died. Immediately thirteen different Scotsmen came forward claiming the Scottish throne. The task of deciding which one of these should be king of Scotland was left to Edward. The English king decided upon John Baliol, but on the condition that he should receive his crown by the English king’s favor. Then Edward caused the great seal of 75

Stories of the British Isles Scotland to be broken in four pieces, and carried to the English treasury. He now considered that his kingdom stretched over England, Scotland, and Wales. To instill it into Baliol’s heart that he was England’s vassal, although king of Scotland, Edward repeatedly summoned him to appear before him in London. At length the Scottish people took this to be an insult. Baliol refused to come. With thirty thousand foot soldiers and four thousand horse, Edward marched into Scotland. The English king was victorious. When he went back to London he bore with him the Scottish throne and scepter, and the old stone coronation chair. For ages the Scottish kings had been crowned upon this stone, which was now placed in Westminster Abbey in London. Perhaps it was this very act that kept alive in the Scots the burning desire to be free from England’s overrule. They found a noble and daring leader in Sir William Wallace, and the whole country was soon in arms. Edward was an old man, but he had resolved not to lose Scotland. He went to war borne on a litter. Just within sight of Scotland he died, at Burg-on-Sands. But even in dying his spirit was unquenchable. “Tell my son,” he said, “to bear my bones ahead of the army into Scotland.” His dying request was not granted. His body was carried back to Westminster Abbey where these words are engraved upon his plain gray marble monument:— “This is Edward the First, the hammer of the Scots—keep troth.”


The Black Prince For a hundred years England was at war. The war with Scotland led to a war with France, and two of the greatest battles in history were fought before England and France signed a treaty of peace. King Edward III was England’s monarch, who crossed the Channel and met the French at Crécy. With him he took his son, Edward, who was called the Black Prince because of the color of his armor. The morning of the battle the king and the prince heard mass with the army, and then the command was given for all to arm and prepare for battle. Edward, mounted on a small palfrey, with a white wand in his hand, rode down the long ranks of his soldiers, encouraging the fearful, and bidding them all to guard his honor and defend his right. Thus they waited for the French, with fresh courage in every English heart. As soon as the French forces came up, and the French king saw the English lined up on his ground, his blood began to boil. “Order the Genoese crossbowmen forward, and begin the battle in the name of God and St. Denis!” he cried to his marshals. A terrible rain was falling, and the sun was eclipsed. Thunder and lightning broke through the storm. Just before the rain a flock of huge crows hovered over the battalions, cawing and shrieking. To the Frenchmen, weary from their long march, the storm seemed a prophecy of doom. But the 77

Stories of the British Isles king had given the command, and they must advance. The storm broke, but the sun came out with dazzling brightness, shining in the Frenchmen’s eyes. With a shout, the Genoese went forward. The English remained motionless. A second shout came from the French, yet the English never stirred. With the third shout, they began to shoot. Then the English battalion advanced one step, drew their bows, and let fly their arrows. So thick and fast they fell that it seemed to the Genoese as if it snowed. They turned and retreated. But other French forces came up rapidly behind them, and the battle raged fiercely. The Black Prince was in the very midst of the fray, and his men were falling on either side of him. King Edward was watching the battle on the hill near a windmill. Suddenly he saw a knight riding toward him at top speed. “ Sir,” he cried, saluting the king, “the Earl of Warwick and others who are about your son are vigorously attacked by the French, and they entreat that you should come to their assistance with your battalion, for if their numbers should increase they fear that he will have too much to do.” The king did not move from his post. “Is my son dead, unhorsed, or so badly wounded that he cannot support himself?” he asked. “Nothing of the sort, thank God,” replied the knight; “but he is in so hot an engagement that he has great need of your help.” Still the king did not move. “Go back to those who sent you,” he said quietly, “and tell them not to return again for me this day, or expect that I shall come. Let what will happen as long as my son has his life. And say that I command them to let the boy win his spurs; for I am determined, if it please God, that 78

Little Stories of England all the glory and honor of this day shall be given to him and to those to whose care I have entrusted him.” The knight rode back to the lords with the king’s answer, which gave them such courage that they repented of having sent such a message. So the great roar and tumult of the battle went on all day, until the French king had to flee; and night brought victory to the English. Then they lighted their torches and built great fires that blazed up into the skies. And King Edward then came down from his post, and advanced with his whole battalion to meet the Prince of Wales. “Sweet son,” he said as he embraced and kissed the Black Prince, “God give you good perseverance. You are my son, for most loyally have you acquitted yourself this day. You are worthy to be a sovereign.” The prince bowed very low, and humbled himself, saying that all the honor belonged to his father. And the English feasted all night, and gave thanks to God for their great victory. The war lingered on through the years. Ten years after the battle of Crécy, the Black Prince won another great victory for his people. At Poitiers he met the king of France with his four sons, and all the flower of the French nobility. When the Prince of Wales saw the enemy drawn up before him, he addressed his own men with these words: “Now, my gallant fellows, what though we be a small body when compared to the army of our enemies? Do not let us be cast down on that account, for victory does not always follow numbers, but where Almighty God pleases to bestow it. If, through good fortune, the day shall be ours, we will gain the greatest glory in this world; if the contrary 79

Stories of the British Isles should happen, and we be slain, I have a father and beloved brethren alive who will be sure to avenge our deaths. I therefore entreat you to combat manfully; for if it shall please God and St. George, this day you shall see me a good knight.” And with a cry, “Banners advance in the name of God and St. George,” the English went forward into battle. The French leader, King John, was no less brave of heart than the Prince of Wales, but the English put the French to confusion. In the midst of his shattered ranks the French king stood his ground, fighting valiantly with his battle ax, and beside him stood his fair-haired son Philip, just sixteen years old. But finally an English knight rode up, and demanded King John to surrender. “I will surrender to the Prince of Wales,” said the French king, for he saw that he was hard pressed. “Surrender to me,” replied the knight, “and I will lead you to the Prince of Wales.” So King John and his son Philip were taken prisoners, and the battle of Poitiers came to end. That night the Prince of Wales gave a great feast to King John and all the royal prisoners. The table was spread in the prince’s tent, and the prince himself served at the table. At the end he pledged a toast to the king and said:— “Dear sir, do not make a poor meal because the Almighty God has not gratified your wishes in the event of this day; for be assured that my lord and father will show every honor and friendship in his power, and will arrange your ransom so reasonably that you will always remain friends. In my opinion, you have cause to be glad that the success of this battle did not 80

Little Stories of England turn out as you desired; for you have this day acquired such high renown for prowess that you have surpassed all the best knights on your side.� At these words murmurs of praise went up on all sides, and the French said that the prince had spoken nobly and truly, and that he would be one of the most gallant princes in Christendom if God should give him life to pursue his career of glory. But although the Black Prince was a brilliant warrior, he was a heartless man. His health broke down when he was still young, and the pain he had to bear made him cruel and revengeful instead of gentle and courteous as became a knight. Yet when he died all England mourned for him.


Chaucer and the Canterbury Pilgrims It was many years now since Cædmon had dreamed that he could sing, and had awakened to turn the beautiful old sacred stories into song. There had been other singers after him, minstrels and ballad writers, but the first great English poet was not born until the reign of Edward III. He would seem a queer-looking figure indeed, this first English poet, Geoffrey Chaucer, if we should meet him on the streets today in his clerk’s dress. A dark-colored hood was pulled lightly over his head, with a long tail to it, which indoors hung down his back, and out of doors was twisted lightly around his head to keep it from blowing off. His gray tunic, which was loose with big baggy sleeves, hung to his knees. His stockings were bright scarlet, and his boots black. He was rather shy in his manner, and, as he tells us himself, when he went along the London streets, he kept his eyes cast down upon the ground, “as if he would find a hair.” It was a very different London from the noisy crowded city that we know today, else Chaucer could not have passed along the highways with drooping eyes. He called it a “dear and sweet city,” and tells us how he loved to arise early and go out to see the daisies open and hear the morning songs of the birds. For many years Chaucer worked in the Custom House. He must have found it very dull work, bending over the great custom books all day long. But when night came, although his eyes were almost dazed and his back was aching as if it would break, still he turned to study and to books, and was “dumb as 82

Little Stories of England a stone” to all about him. He loved to read other people’s stories long before he thought of writing them himself. One of Chaucer’s best friends was John of Gaunt, a younger brother of the Black Prince. This friendship lasted throughout life, and as long as John of Gaunt was in power, Chaucer was well provided for. He was a prominent figure at the Court of Edward III, and in later years was sent abroad by the king on many important embassies. He married, too, one of the court ladies, Philippa, a maid of honor to the queen. During these years Chaucer had plenty of money, and lived a happy, prosperous life. Later, when the king died and John of Gaunt fell into disfavor, Chaucer, too, was disgraced because he still remained true to his friend. He lost his position in the Custom House, and became very poor. Still his heart did not grow bitter, although he was treated very unjustly. It was during these hard years that he wrote his most famous poems, the “Canterbury Tales,” which are full of pictures of a beautiful world, and of love and merriment. He begins these poems with a description of a lovely spring day, when April showers had pierced the heart of March and the little birds were making melody. He was resting at the Tabard Inn, ready to go on the next day on a pilgrimage to Canterbury, the shrine of Thomas à Becket. At nightfall, the inn grew more and more full of guests, until there was great company in the hall, and the stables were full of horses. And Chaucer tells us how shortly after sunset he made friends with all the people and learned that they had met by chance and were all starting on the morrow on a pilgrimage like his own. They therefore agreed to all rise early and start together. Then the host at the inn, when he had given his guests a capital supper 83

Stories of the British Isles and had received the just reckoning from each one, stood up and commanded silence. “Well, my masters,” said he, “I say that each of you shall tell the rest four stories—two on the way to Canterbury, and two on the way home. For you know that it is small fun riding alone dumb as a stone. And whichever in the party tells the best story shall have a supper at this inn at the cost of the rest when you come back. To assure you better, I will myself gladly join your party—and be at once guide and judge.” So it was agreed, and the company started off the next morning in fine spirits. So vividly has Chaucer portrayed these Canterbury pilgrims that we could scarcely see them better if he had painted a picture of each one. There was a knight, a very perfect noble knight, who loved all chivalry, honor, truth, and courtesy. With him was his son, as squire, with locks all curled and fresh as the month of May. His heart was light, and he whistled and sang all day long as he rode. He had no attendant save one yeoman clad in coat and hood of green. There was also a nun, with eyes gray as glass and a little red mouth, who carried in her arms some little dogs which she often fed with roasted meat, milk, and the finest bread. Then there was a jolly monk, whose horse’s bridle jingled like a chapel bell as he rode along, and a friar, who carried with him a number of pretty pins and knives which he gave away as presents to all the friends he made. A merchant with a forked beard was in the company, who sat high on his horse and wore a Flemish beaver hat, and also an Oxford student in threadbare coat, riding a horse as lean as a rake, because he spent all his money on books and learning. Then there was a franklin, with beard as white as daisies; a haberdasher, a carpenter, a weaver, a dyer, a cook, a sailor, a doctor, a good wife from Bath, a plowman, and a pardoner 84

Little Stories of England whose long yellow hair hung in shreds about his shoulders, and many others. It was a motley but gay company. At daybreak they all rode out together from the court of the inn into the glad spring day. They halted at the Watering of St. Thomas, and there drew lots to see who should tell the first tale. The lot fell to the knight, which delighted every one; and as the party set out again, he began his tale. Chaucer did not invent new stories for all of his Canterbury pilgrims, but he filled the old tales with so much life that they are as fresh and full of wit and humor, love and pathos, to us today, as they were to England five hundred years ago when the first great English poet first wrote them.


Madcap Harry The desire that burned in the heart of Edward III was kindled afresh in Henry V, who reigned about forty years later. He wanted his kingdom to stretch across the sea and cover France. The wars with France had gone on so long now, that every English boy seemed to be born with a hatred for the French boys across the Channel. It was only necessary for an English prince to shout, “Forward in the name of St. George!” to arouse the war spirit in their blood. The Black Prince had worn himself out in war, but now another prince was wearing the English crown, who was destined to be as great a hero in English eyes as the Black Prince. This prince was Henry of Monmouth, whom history has nicknamed “Mad-cap Harry.” There was no great artist in those days to paint portraits of famous men and women, so it was customary for writers of history to give long descriptions of the personal appearance of the kings and queens. The biographer of Henry V tells us that this king “had an oval, handsome face with a broad, open forehead and straight nose, ruddy cheeks and lips, a deeply indented chin and small well formed ears; his hair was brown and thick; and his bright hazel eyes, gentle as a dove’s when at rest, could gleam like a lion’s when aroused to wrath. He rejoiced in all kinds of sports and exercise, had no equal in jumping, and was so swift of foot that with one or two chosen companions he would start the quickest buck from the woodlands and run it down in the open.” 86

Little Stories of England And to this picture of Henry we must add that he was hotheaded, kind of heart, bold in thought and deed, loving his people and beloved by them. As a prince he had been wild and fearless, and in this same spirit he led his army across the sea to win the French crown. The great and terrible battle of this war was fought in the autumn of 1415. The two armies came together near the village of Maisoncelle at night. In Henry’s ranks his discipline was so strict that all through the night there was scarcely a whisper heard in the camp. The French even thought that the English had retreated in the rain and darkness. In the meantime in their camp there was turmoil and confusion, the shouting of orders, the din of tramping men and horses, and the shouting of the nobles who were feasting and drinking, sure of tomorrow’s victory. At daybreak Henry was up and clad in his armor. He put on his head his helmet, blazing with its coronet of rubies, sapphires, and pearls; mounted a small gray horse, and gave the orders for the day. The army was drawn up four lines deep, with the archers in front. Few of Henry’s archers wore any armor. They were clad instead in their heavy doublets, with their hose tucked up and their feet bare that they might stand the more firmly. When all was in readiness, Henry asked the hour. “It is the first watch,” they told him. “Good,” replied the king. “For at this hour all England prayeth for us; let us therefore be of good cheer.” “And,” writes Henry’s chaplain, “so long as the battle lasted, I who write these words, sat upon my horse amid the baggage in the rear, and with all the other priests humbled my soul before God, saying in my heart: Be mindful of us, O Lord! for our enemies are gathered together and boast themselves in 87

Stories of the British Isles their strength. Break down their power, and scatter them, that they may know there is none other that fighteth for us but Thou, O God.” About a mile away stood the French, three times as strong. But Henry’s courage never faltered. He rode down the lines, bidding his men be of good cheer, for they would have a fair day and a gracious victory. And the men caught his spirit, and answered, “Sire! we pray God grant you a good life and victory over our enemies!” The order to advance was given, and with a ringing cheer the English went forward. When they were within bowshot of the French, Henry commanded them to halt. The archers planted their stakes before them in the ground, and with a cry, “Hurrah! Hurrah! St. George and Merry England!” the battle began. In less than three hours the English had won the day. Then Henry called to him a French herald, and asked, “Tell me the name of yonder fortress which overlooks the field.” “Agincourt,” the herald replied. “Then,” said Henry, “this battle shall now and forever be called the Battle of Agincourt.” News was sent that very night to England, and early the next morning the church bells throughout the country proclaimed the great victory. But there were many sad hearts in England, and many more in France, because of the brave soldiers who lay among the heaps of dead the day after that terrible battle. A month later Henry set sail for home. As the fleet came into Dover, the excited townspeople rushed down even into the sea to carry their king to the shore upon their shoulders. Never 88

Little Stories of England was there a greater triumphant march through England than Henry’s march from Dover to Westminster. At Cornhill tower there was stretched a great canopy adorned with the banners of St. George, and underneath stood a number of men dressed as prophets in gold and purple robes. As the king came by, the prophets let loose a flock of little tame birds, which fluttered about the king and even perched on his shoulders. At Chepe Cross great arches spanned the streets, and through these archways came maidens dancing and striking timbrels, just as the women in the olden days had welcomed King David back to Jerusalem. On either side stood white-robed boys to represent angels, who scattered wreaths of laurel as the king rode by. Dressed in his purple gown and surrounded by only a few personal friends, King Henry rode with a sober face through the festive town. He would not let any songs be sung in his praise, nor would he allow his “bruised helmet and his bended sword” to be borne before him as the nobles wished. “The glory and honor is due alone to God,” he said, as he dismounted and went into St. Paul’s, where a Te Deum was sung for his victory. Still the troubles with France continued for five years, until a treaty of peace was signed, and it was agreed that Henry should marry the French king’s daughter, Catherine, and when the French king died, he should be king of France. There was great rejoicing when Henry brought his French queen home, for it looked now as if Henry’s ambition would be accomplished. But two years later he died, when he was only 89

Stories of the British Isles thirty-four. He was buried in Westminster Abbey, and for over a hundred years tapers were kept burning about his tomb.


Wat Tyler and the Peasant Revolt The long, long wars with France were draining England of many of her best men. Suddenly another enemy came upon the land. It was an enemy even more terrible than war. It swept across the land through city and village alike. Everywhere, where people were living in dark houses, in dirty streets, in unhealthy homes, this new enemy entered. The Black Death was the name given to this plague. The first time it visited England over half the people died of it. In some villages scarcely enough men were left living to bury the dead. On many farms there were not left enough men to reap the autumn harvest. The few remaining laborers, or villains, as they were called, saw that this was a good time to demand higher wages. This angered some of the nobles so greatly that they let their crops rot in the ground rather than pay the wages that the men asked. Finally they appealed to Parliament to help them. The result was that Parliament passed laws requiring the laborers to work at the old rate of wages and forbidding them to leave the land upon which they were born. Any villain who was found running away was to be branded with a red-hot iron on his forehead. A little later a poll tax was levied on every person in the land over fifteen years of age. This tax was to help pay for the war with France. It was only fourteen pence, but the villains’ wages were so low that it often took them many days to save money enough to pay it. 91

Stories of the British Isles The faces of the laborers grew dark and sullen. As they walked home together across the fields at night, they talked in low tones of the unjust nobles and the unjust king. They saw the rich landlords in their castles dressed in beautiful, soft silks and satins. They themselves wore coarse woolen tunics belted in at the waist with rope. They came into their homes, which were low, dirty, and filled with bad air. Silently they ate their evening meal of bacon, cabbage, and home-brewed beer. There was no light in the room save from the burning rushes on the hearth. Here the family gathered. They had no books to read. They could only sit there, thinking of their aching backs, of the taxes to be paid, and their few scant pennies saved up for the winter’s food. Finally, tired out, they threw themselves on their straw pallets to sleep heavily until daybreak. One day Wat Tyler, one of these laborers, was mending a roof, when he heard the loud outcry of his daughter at home near by. Running down the ladder, he found that the tax collector was at his house, and had insulted the girl. Scarcely realizing how strong his arm was, Wat struck the collector a blow that killed him on the spot. A crowd soon gathered about the house, and these laborers were only too ready to take Wat Tyler’s part. Still hot with anger, the roof-mender begged them to go to London with him and demand relief for the many wrongs they were suffering. Headed by Tyler, the little band started afoot for London. Long before it reached there it had grown to be one hundred thousand strong. With them, too, marched John Ball, a poor priest who knew how to put into glowing words the feelings that were burning in the laborers’ hearts. As they were nearing London he gathered the crowd about him in a church-yard. 92

Little Stories of England “Good people,” he cried, “why do the great folk hold us in slavery if we are all children of the same father and mother, Adam and Eve? They dress in velvets, but we must go in rags. They have wine and spices and fair white bread upon their tables, while we have oatcake, and straw beds, and water to drink. They have leisure and fine houses; we have pain and labor, the rain and the wind in the fields. When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?” With renewed courage the army of villains pressed on to London, and for three weeks held possession of the city. They ransacked the homes of the wealthy, and destroyed all the silver and gold that they could find. Finally the king agreed to meet them. King Richard was only sixteen, and his heart was fearless. “What will you, good people?” he asked bravely in the face of the mob. “I am your king and lord. What will you?” “We will that you free us forever,” the mob shouted like one man; “and that we be never more named or held as serfs.” “I grant it,” the king replied. The crowd broke up, and many went home. Thirty thousand remained to see that the king kept his word. The next morning, when the king was talking with Tyler, some hot words passed between them. Tyler raised his arm, and the Mayor of London, fearing that he was about to strike the king, drew his sword and slew the laborer. It was a moment of great peril, but the king did not lose his head. Wheeling his horse about, he shouted to the mob, “Follow me, I am your captain and your king.” The people trusted him, and soon after this returned to their homes. But King Richard’s promises were not kept. There 93

Stories of the British Isles was no law in England that gave him power to make such promises. Parliament continued her unjust taxes. But the barons had seen once for all the strength of the villains when once aroused. They were too afraid of another revolt to press their tenants more than necessary. Then, too, there were other forces at work in the land that were to lessen the power that the barons had held ever since the days of William the Conqueror.


The Last Of The Barons There is an old legend of a French king whose life was made miserable because of his quarrelsome nobles. These lords and barons were always fighting one another and then coming to the king for him to settle the dispute. Finally in despair the king shut all the nobles of the land up in one room, and locked the doors. An hour later, when he opened the room, he found that all the nobles were either dead or so weak with wounds that they were glad to go meekly home and hang their weapons on their castle walls. Much the same thing happened in England when the barons came home after the long wars with France. These barons came back from France with hearts grown hard, cruel, and merciless. Many of them came home rich with plunder. It is said that the Earl of Warwick was so rich that he fed thirty thousand daily at his castles. Six huge oxen were killed every day for the breakfast of his retainers. He boasted that no man ever went hungry from his door, and that soldiers could enter his kitchen at any hour and carry off as large pieces of meat as they could pick up on their daggers. The barons had not been home two years before they began to fight one another. The story reads that two of them, Warwick and Somerset, were walking together in the temple gardens, each one attended by a large court of followers. A dispute arose as to whether a prince of the House of Lancaster, or a prince of the House of York, should be the next king of England. Each house was of royal blood, and could lay claims 95

Stories of the British Isles to the throne. The words between Somerset and Warwick became hotter and hotter. Finally Warwick turned about, plucked a white rose from a bush near by, and, sticking it into his buttonhole, bade all true and loyal followers of the House of York do likewise. Thereupon Somerset seized a rose of flaming red, and shouted that this should be the emblem of the House of Lancaster. It would have been well if King Henry had been strong enough to imprison all these angry nobles in one great room and let them fight one another, as the legends said the old French king did. Then the farmers who wished to plow and sow their land, and the traders in the city who wished to work at their honest business, could have gone peacefully about their work. For these good people had no interest in this “War of the Roses” which for thirty years the barons waged in England. But King Henry VI was not a strong man, and he was not a fighter. He had been made king when only a boy of seven, and while he was still a child, had often been called to settle the quarrels between his barons. The strain proved too great for him. Shortly before the War of the Roses broke out, he became insane. There was, therefore, no strong hand to hold the barons in check. All England lay at their mercy. The story of this war is very long and very uninteresting. One year the White Rose was victorious; the next year found the Red Rose in power. It is a story of many cruel deeds, that we are glad to forget as soon as we can. Many a baron lost his life. Somerset was slain in battle at the beginning of the war; and Warwick in the battle of Barnet, near the close. He had been called the “Last of the Barons,” because he was the last baron who was strong enough to dictate to the king. 96

Little Stories of England The War of the Roses came to an end on the battlefield of Bosworth. The two leaders in this battle were Henry Tudor, the head of the Lancastrians, and Richard III, the last of the three York kings. The night before the battle Richard III was tormented by bad dreams. He believed this to be an evil omen. The next morning his commander-in-chief deserted him. Nevertheless, Richard, with no sign of fear, mounted his horse and rode bravely into battle. He died fighting. His crown, which he had worn into battle, was found by the Lancastrian soldiers under a holly bush. They brought it to their leader, and there on the field crowned him Henry VII of England. Thus the war closed with a triumph for the House of Lancaster. Soon afterwards Henry married a princess of the House of York, and thus the two parties were at last peacefully united.


William Caxton England’s first printer It is hard to believe that the fifteenth century dawned before the first book was printed in England. The bards had told over and over the old lays of Beowulf; Cædmon had sung his verses of the Creation; Chaucer had written his merry “Canterbury Tales,” but no book had yet been printed in England. In the great palaces and homes of the wealthy there were books, and very beautiful ones, but they had all been written by hand,—the painstaking task of some monk who had spent years over his work. They were written on heavy parchment, and many of them had pages decorated with colored borders of birds and flowers. But these books were so costly that few besides kings and princes could have libraries in those days. Probably no little child in England at that time owned a book. The man who printed the first book in England was William Caxton. He was born in the woody county of Kent early in the fifteenth century. In one of his books he wrote, “I was born and learned my English in Kent, where I doubt not is spoken as broad and rude English as is in any place in England.” In these days the English language was made up of many different dialects. The people in the South spoke so differently from the people in the North that they could scarcely understand each other. Later, when printed books could be bought by rich and poor, the people in the North and the South, the East and the West, began gradually to understand 98

Little Stories of England and speak the same tongue. Then the English language came to be the language that we speak today. In Kent, Caxton’s early home, as he writes, the people spoke a rude tongue. There were many Flemish settlers there, and their language became mixed with the Kentish English. Caxton himself tells about a party of merchants who were delayed on the Kentish coast, and came to a little cottage to buy some eggs. The good wife, who opened the door, shook her head, and replied that she knew no French. Then the merchant was angry, for he spoke no French either but was a stanchhearted Englishman. “Eggs,” “Eggs,” he kept repeating, but she could not understand. Then at length, one of his company said “Eyren,” which is the word for “eggs” in the old Kentish dialect, and the good wife hastened to fetch him a basket full. When Caxton was quite a young man he was sent on business to Bruges, where he lived for thirty-five years. This now sleepy old town was then a flourishing city. There were many young men there who were interested in the making of books, and we soon find Caxton at work evenings translating a French book. In his prologue to this book, Caxton writes in his quaint English, “When I remember that every man is bound by the commandment and counsel of the wise men to avoid sloth and idleness, . . . then I, having no great charge of occupation, followed the said counsel, took a French book and read therein many strange and marvellous stories wherein I had great pleasure and delight. . . . And for so much this book was new and lately made and drawn into French, and never had been seen in our English tongue, I thought in myself it would be a good business to translate it into our English to the end that it might be had as well in England as in other lands, and also for 99

Stories of the British Isles to pass away my time, and thus concluded in myself to begin this work.” Caxton, however, grew weary of his task before he had half finished the translation. He had given it up, when the Duchess of Burgundy saw his work and commanded him to finish it. When it was once completed, other nobles saw it, and wanted Caxton to make copies for them. Caxton found himself overburdened with the tedious task of copying his translation by hand. He began to look into this new art of printing which had been invented in Germany. But he tells us the story in his own words in a prologue to the first printed copy of the “History of Troy.” “And for as much as in the writing of the same my pen is worn, my hands weary and not steadfast, my eyes dim with over much looking on the white paper, and my courage not so prone and ready to labor as it hath been, and that age creepeth on me daily and feebleth all the body, and also because I have promised to diverse gentlemen and to my friends to address them as hastily as I might this said book, therefore I have practiced and learned at my great expense to ordain this said book in print after the manner and form as ye may here see and is not written with pen and ink as other books be.” This was the first book ever printed in the English language. The next year Caxton translated and printed another book, “The Game and Play of Chess.” Then he returned to England, bringing his printing press with him and settling in Westminster, London. Just where he lived and how long we do not know; but his life must have been a busy one, for we know of twenty-one translations that he made, and about seventy books that he printed. 100

Little Stories of England In order that it might be known what books were printed by him, Caxton made a device or trade mark which he stamped in all his books. It is hard to make out just what Caxton meant by his device. We can easily see the “W” and the “C” which stand for his name, and it is supposed that the two figures between these letters are a fantastic “74.” That is, his device meant, “William Caxton printed the first English book in 1474.” Many fragments of Caxton’s books can be seen to-day in the British Museum and elsewhere, where they are guarded as the greatest treasures. And in 1877, the four hundredth anniversary of the printing of the first English book in England, a great festival was held in St. Paul’s Cathedral to honor William Caxton, England’s first printer.


Bluff King Hal Henry VII, who was crowned on the battlefield of Bosworth, was the first of the Tudors, who now for over one hundred years sat on the throne of England. The most famous of the Tudor kings was Henry VIII; the most famous of the queens was Elizabeth. Henry VIII was crowned when he was eighteen years of age. His father, Henry VII, had left the royal treasury full, and Henry’s greatest delight was in spending this money to surround himself with every pomp and glory of which he could dream. It was said that he was very handsome, but he must have had a hard and cruel look in his eyes, for no man ever thought more of his own pleasure and less of that of others than did Henry VIII. At first his people did not realize this. They were proud because he could ride a horse well, proud that he could speak good French, Latin, and Spanish, and proud of his red beard, which they said shone like gold, and was far handsomer than the beard of the king of France. The English people would have discovered much sooner than they did how little real interest Henry VIII had in their welfare if it had not been for Cardinal Wolsey. Wolsey was the son of a well-to-do Ipswich butcher, but as he was very clever, he worked his way up from being tutor in a noble family to the position of Archbishop of York. Later the Pope made him cardinal, and Henry VIII appointed him chancellor of the realm. He was a gay companion for the king, fond of the show and glitter that Henry VIII loved. He was a great statesman as 102

Little Stories of England well, and Henry, knowing this, gave him almost unlimited power in ruling England. These were days when Europe was the seat of continual warfare, and Spain, France, and Germany were all seeking England’s aid. The king easily saw that no other man was so diplomatic in arranging foreign affairs as Wolsey. So he heaped favor upon favor upon him, until finally Wolsey was living in greater state than the king himself. His palaces were as splendid as Henry’s. He had a retinue of eight hundred. He held his court dressed from head to foot in flaming scarlet, with golden shoes set with precious gems. When he went out in state his followers rode on thoroughbred horses, but the cardinal, pretending to be very humble, ambled along in the midst of them on a mule with red velvet saddle and bridle and stirrups of gold. The early part of Henry the Eighth’s reign was full of trouble with France. Finally, to bring about peace, the stately cardinal arranged that the two sovereigns, Henry VIII and Francis I, should have a personal meeting in France on English ground. The place selected for the meeting was Guisney, a barren plain which had been changed into a fairyland of beauty in honor of the great event which was to take place there. Three hundred white tents were stretched across the vast field, and in their midst arose a gorgeous, gilded palace. Its walls were hung with soft-colored tapestries, its ceilings were embossed with roses, and in the courtyards great fountains spouted red with sparkling wine. So lavishly was money spent that the spot has become known in history as The Field of the Cloth of Gold. Here Francis I and Henry VIII came with their vast retinues. The whole affair was planned with great state. At exactly the same time Henry and Francis issued forth from their camps on 103

Stories of the British Isles opposite hillslopes. In front of the English retinue rode the Marquis of Dorset, bearing aloft the sword of state before the king. Then followed Henry, robed in silver damask thickly ribbed with gold. He was mounted on a splendid charger, whose trappings, no less brilliant, shone and glistened in the sun. Behind followed the cardinal, the dukes and lords and nobles, gorgeously arrayed. As a shot proclaimed that Henry VIII was about to advance, a responding shot heralded the approach of Francis from the opposite hill. The French king wore a mantle of cloth of gold covered with jewels. Diamonds, red-hearted rubies, rich green emeralds, and pearls studded the front and sleeves. On his head was a velvet bonnet adorned with floating plumes and precious stones. Far in advance of him rode the provost marshal with his archers. Then came the marshals and the princes of the blood, followed by the Swiss guard on foot in new liveries, with their drums, flutes, trumpets, and clarions. Directly in front of the king was the grand constable, carrying a naked sword, and the grand ecuyer with the sword of France. The two companies advanced slowly and in state toward the valley. Suddenly there was a moment’s pause on each side. A stir ran through both ranks. Then from out the maze of floating plumes and dazzling colors, while the trumpets blared and the drums beat, rode forth from the English and from the French company each a single horseman. They rode slowly down from the opposing hills, but the moment they reached the valley they put spurs to their chargers. The horses set out on a gallop across the field. They met beneath a richly hung pavilion, where the two horsemen embraced and dismounted. It was the King of England and the King of France. 104

Little Stories of England For three days the two monarchs lingered on the Field of the Cloth of Gold, holding tournaments and feasts and pledging everlasting friendship. But no sooner had Henry VIII returned home than he was making the same promises with the Emperor of Germany, Francis’s bitterest enemy; and both sovereigns soon learned how little they could trust him. There was another man, too, who was going to suffer from the faithlessness of the king. This was the great cardinal. The king was growing tired of his wife, Catherine, who was quiet and serious. He had fallen in love with a gay and pretty court lady, Anne Boleyn, and he wished to make her his queen. To do this it was necessary to divorce Catherine. The king held council with Wolsey, and the cardinal advised him to appeal to the Pope. The Pope refused his request. Henry VIII spent his anger now in disgracing Wolsey. He forgot in a single moment of temper the years of work that Wolsey had given for the upbuilding of England’s power. He took from him the great seal, and banished him to his home at Esher. The great statesman was heartbroken. On his way to Esher the king sent him a present of a ring, and for an instant he hoped to win back the royal favor. He looked about him for a gift suitable to return to the king. At first he saw nothing; then his eye fell upon a jester among his servants whose merry wit, Wolsey said, was worth a thousand pounds. He ordered the jester to be sent to the king, but the “poor fool took on so, and fired up in such a rage when he saw that he needs must depart from my lord,” that Wolsey had to send six sturdy yeomen to bring him to the royal palace. Besides his offices Wolsey lost all his friends. The jealous nobles were only too glad to see him banished. They persuaded 105

Stories of the British Isles Henry to disgrace him still more. Finally he was arrested for high treason, and summoned to England. The old man set out, broken in spirit and body. Only his servants and the poor country people remained loyal to him. They stood in crowds at the gate, weeping as he passed through, and crying, “God save your Grace!” Wolsey never reached London. At Leicester Abbey he was obliged to stop, and he was so weak that they had to lift him from his mule. “I am come hither to lay my bones among you,” he said, and in two days his words had become true. As he lay there dying, he turned to the monks and said, “If I had served God as diligently as I have done the king, he would not have given me over in my gray hairs.”


Queen Elizabeth On the 10th of September, 1533, the bell on the Friars’ Church proclaimed that some great event was to take place within its walls. The gray front of the church was hung with colored banners and tapestries, and green rushes were strewn from the church doors to the palace of the king. Within waited the mayor in his magnificent gown of crimson, and all the aldermen dressed in scarlet with chains of gold about their necks. Forty of the chief citizens were there too, and the entire council of the city. They were gathered about a silver font set in the midst of the church under a gorgeous red canopy hung with golden fringe. When all was ready, a side door opened, and the old Duchess of Norfolk issued forth, bearing in her arms a wee baby, who was all but hidden in a purple mantle lined with ermine, so long that a court lady had to carry the train. No less a person than the Bishop of London stood waiting at the door, and all the great men of the realm followed behind this little child. Very solemnly was the service read, and the christening performed, and then the king-of-arms stepped forward and cried; “God of his infinite goodness send prosperous life and long life to the high and mighty princess of England, Elizabeth.� For this was the christening of the little daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. Then the great trumpet blew, and the godfathers and godmothers brought forward their presents of gold and silver cups, and then the wee princess was hurried home as fast as could be, and put back to sleep again in her royal cradle. 107

Stories of the British Isles It was twenty-five years later that the princess Elizabeth became queen of England. On that day every bell in England was rung; great bonfires blazed high into the sky on every street corner; and tables were brought out on to the street where all might eat and drink and cry, “Long Live Good Queen Bess!” The queen herself was at Hatfield, but she made ready at once to start for London to be crowned. The city, too, made all haste to receive her with the greatest pomp and ceremony. On the 14th of January, 1558, Elizabeth passed from the Tower to Westminster, surrounded by all the barons and noblemen of the realm. “And to all that wished her Grace well she gave hearty thanks, and to such as bade God save her Grace she said again God save them all, and thanked them with all her heart; so that on either side there was nothing but gladness, nothing but prayer, nothing but comfort.” As the procession came to Fan Church, the queen saw that a huge scaffolding had been erected over the street, and that a little child in costly gown stood upon it. She bade her chariot stop, and all to be still while the little child bowed low before the queen and recited a long poem in her honor. It ended with this quaint verse:— “Welcome, therefore, O Queen, as much as heart can think; Welcome again, O Queen, as much as tongue can tell; Welcome to joyous tongues and hearts that will not shrink; God thee preserve we pray, and wish thee ever well.”

As the child ended, the people gave a great shout, and the queen thanked the child and the city for their gentle welcoming. 108

Little Stories of England Then the procession moved on once more, and all along the way there were crowds of people in holiday dress, and at every corner there were wonderful tableaux and pageants arranged for the queen’s pleasure, and at last the queen was presented with a purse of gold so heavy that it took both her hands to lift it. Then she stood up in her chariot, and great stillness fell upon the crowd, for they knew that the queen was going to speak. “I thank my Lord Mayor,” she said, “his brethren, and you all. And whereas your request is that I should continue your good lady and queen, be ye assured that I will be as good unto you as ever queen was to her people. No will in me can lack, neither do I trust shall there lack any power. And persuade yourselves, that for the safety and quietness of you all I will not spare, if need be, my blood. God thank you all.” The next day the queen was crowned. While she was sitting at dinner in the great hall at Westminster, a knight, in full armor, riding a beautiful charger, rode into the hall, and casting down his gauntlet at her feet, offered to fight any knight or noble who should deny that she was England’s right and lawful queen. And Elizabeth took a cup of solid gold, and, filling it with costly wine, sent it to him as his fee. Thus the feast closed, and the queen went in state to the church. Kneeling before the high altar, with a red silken mantle thrown about her, Elizabeth was anointed and crowned queen of England. A sword was hung at her side and the crown set upon her head while the trumpets sounded; a ring placed on her finger and the scepter in her hand. Then the lords came and knelt before her Grace, and kissed her, and all the bishops did the same. 109

Stories of the British Isles And the next day great tournaments were held to honor the coronation. Throughout her reign this same splendor was kept up at Elizabeth’s court. The noblemen dressed in the most gorgeous, bright-colored satins and velvets, and the queen is said to have left no less than three thousand beautiful gowns in her wardrobe when she died. The queen, too, was very fond of compliments and flattery, and always kept at her court some of the handsomest young lords of the kingdom to pay her homage. Among these favorites was the Earl of Leicester, whom the queen treated with such marked favor that many believed that she would some day marry him. She even went in great state to his beautiful castle at Kenilworth, where the earl spent a large fortune in entertaining his royal guest. But Elizabeth never married. She was known as the virgin queen, and Sir Walter Raleigh, another young favorite, named the colony which he founded in the New World Virginia in her honor. Raleigh’s bold and brave deeds, his witty tongue, and handsome blue eyes won him favor at court, and for years Elizabeth held him as her trusted knight. When, however, he fell in love with one of her court ladies and married her, Elizabeth sent him away in disgrace, and even imprisoned him six months in the Tower. But Elizabeth’s time was not all spent on her own pleasure. One reason why she never married was because she wanted to rule over her kingdom herself. England was poor when she came to the throne, and war with Europe was brewing. Elizabeth had the prosperity of the land at heart. She gave orders herself that manufactures and commerce should be encouraged. She kept repeating to the nobles, “No war, my 110

Little Stories of England lords, no war,� and she made them heed her. In the meantime while England was at peace, she built up her navy and drilled her armies so that if war had to come, England would be able to defend herself. A new era had begun in England, which has become famous as the age of Elizabeth.


The Spanish Armada Besides her own noblemen there were princes of royal blood who came seeking Elizabeth’s hand. One of the first was Philip II of Spain, a most ambitious prince. When Elizabeth refused his offer of marriage, Philip became at once her rival, and afterwards her open enemy. Whenever the English and Spanish met, were it in trading in the Netherlands, sailing on the High Seas, or founding colonies in the New World, quarreling and often bloodshed followed. Among English seamen, no one carried a deeper hatred for Spain in his heart than Sir Francis Drake, who was one of the bravest adventurers of Elizabeth’s reign. He was born on an old ship moored off Chatham Bay, and grew up with a love of the sea. He went to sea first on a small vessel that traded with Holland, and it was while he was in Holland that he saw with his own eyes how cruelly the Spanish king treated his Dutch subjects. Afterwards, he himself was treacherously dealt with by the Spaniards. He was driven by storm into the Gulf of Mexico, where the Spanish colonists invited them to land and refit their vessels. Then, suddenly, without any warning, the Spanish attacked them, and they lost half of their ships. Drake in righteous indignation swore that henceforth Spain should receive no mercy from his hand. Drake had many adventures. He was one of the first English navigators to sail round the world, and as a reward for his brave spirit was knighted by the queen. But his greatest triumph was when he “singed the King of Spain’s beard.” 112

Little Stories of England Philip II had long been gathering and equipping a great fleet, with which he hoped some day to conquer England. This was the dream of his heart. When Drake heard about it, he sailed quietly out of Plymouth harbor, with twenty-eight vessels in his wake. With a boldness that made his officers mad, he sailed his fleet around the Spanish coast, straight for the Bay of Cadiz, where Philips largest ships lay at anchor. The sun was just sinking below the horizon when the English ships entered the harbor, Drake’s vessel, the Dragon, at their head. Before the Spanish realized what had happened, some of their finest ships had been sunk, others had been plundered, and Drake was setting sail for home. Philip’s fleet would not conquer England that year. Drake had singed his beard. But twelve months later a small English vessel came running against the wind into Plymouth harbor, bringing the exciting news that the Invincible Spanish Armada, as Philip called his fleet, had been seen off the Cornish coast. Beacon fires of warning were lighted all along the English shore. The warning flew to London. Swift messengers galloped behind, bringing the latest news. The queen herself, mounted on a white horse, rode among her troops. Her ministers begged her not to expose herself to danger but her answer was made to her troops. “Let tyrants fear,” she said. “I have always so behaved myself that, under God, I have placed my chiefest strength and safeguard in the loyal hearts and good will of my subjects and therefore I am come amongst you, as you see, resolved in the midst and the heart of battle, to live or die amongst you all. I know that I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart of a king, and of a king of England too.” 113

Stories of the British Isles England had only thirty-six ships in her navy to respond to the queen’s call, but every sea rover, every merchant, and many private gentlemen owning ships, hastened to England’s defense. In the meantime the Armada was coming on. The English saw it approaching, one hundred and thirty-two vessels in all, sailing along in the form of a half moon, seven miles from horn to horn. These huge galleons arose like white castles out of the blue sea. They came on slowly, although their sails were full, “the winds being as it were weary with wafting them, and the ocean groaning under their weight.” The Spanish, knowing their strength, wished to meet the English, but the English got out of their way, and let the “Invincible Armada” pass unharmed up the Channel. At last the Spanish ships dropped anchor off Calais. For a day they rode there, undaunted in their strength. But at midnight eight huge English ships came sailing toward them through the darkness. The night was black, but the ships were blacker still. They were bound each to each, and every spar, mast, and hull was smeared with tar. At a given signal a line of fire ran across the bow of one. Before the Spanish could believe their eyes, the darkness had become as day, for eight blazing ships were drifting with wind and tide into their midst. Their flames seemed to leap into the heavens. In the uttermost confusion, the Spanish cut their cables and put out to sea, each vessel for itself. In the morning the English were ready, and fell upon the disorderly Armada. For two days Drake and Howard chased the Spanish vessels. Then their powder gave out, and their shot failed. But a tempest arose that played even greater havoc with the fleet. It drove the vessels against the rock-bound coasts, 114

Little Stories of England wrecking thirty valiant ships. When Philip heard the news, he did not change the expression of his face. “I sent the Armada,” he said, “against man, not against the billows.” England, too, realized that her strength had been in the storm, as well as in the loyal hearts of Drake, Howard, and Raleigh, who had defended her so bravely, for a great medal was struck in honor of the victory, and it bore these words: “God blew, and they were scattered.”


Spenser and the Faerie Queen For many long years England had no singer. The singing spirit that had awakened in Cædmon, and later in Chaucer, seemed to have fallen into a deep sleep. It seemed as if poets and poetry belonged only to the past. But then, suddenly, in the reign of Elizabeth, Edmund Spenser was born. He grew up unnoticed, hardly knowing himself that he was a poet. It is in one of his own poems that he tells us how the world first came to know of his songs. He was born in England, but had gone over to Ireland as a young man, and there he was living in his castle Kilcolman, when Sir Walter Raleigh, sent on a commission by the queen, found him. There, beneath the shade of “Old Father Mole,” as he called the great, gray mountain, and close by the “Shiny Mulla River,” Spenser was living, piping on his reed like a poor shepherd. Sir Walter Raleigh was somewhat of a poet himself, and the two men soon felt that they were akin. Spenser forgot his shyness, and read to his guest three books of verses, which he called “The Faerie Queen,” and Raleigh in return recited some verses that he had written about the great and noble Queen Elizabeth. So each played a merry tune upon the shepherd’s pipe. Then Sir Walter took his newfound friend by the hand, and bade him come back with him to England. He told him that no songs like his had been heard in England for many a year, and how gladly the queen, who loved books and men who could write them, would welcome him. 116

Little Stories of England So Spenser went forth from his lonely castle to the dazzling court of Elizabeth. Sir Walter Raleigh had spoken truly. The queen smiled upon him, and all England read with delight his “Faerie Queen.” In a letter to Sir Walter Raleigh, Spenser tells him what he planned to do in this great book of poetry. The hero of the poem is to be Prince Arthur, a knight perfect in every virtue. There are to be twelve books, one for each of the twelve virtues, and each virtue is pictured by its own knight. In the last book the knight perfect in all virtues is to come to the court of the Faerie Queen. Unfortunately Spenser never finished his great task, but the six books of the “Faerie Queen” are the most beautiful poetry that had been written in the English language since Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales.” Every poet since then has loved Spenser’s verses, and every child should read them, for they are full of tales of wonderful adventures in strange and marvelous lands. The first book is about the Knight of the Red Cross, who was riding across the plain, clad in mighty arms and a silver shield, and wearing a blood-red cross upon his breast. Beside him, on an ass more white than snow, rode a gentle lady, whose veil was drawn across her face, and who drooped as if her heart was heavy with some woe. By one fair hand she led a milk-white lamb, and the poet tells that the lady was as pure and innocent as this little creature. She had been born a royal princess, but a huge monster had come into her father’s kingdom and laid waste the land. And now this knight was come from afar to avenge her wrong. Together they rode through the woods, among cedars “proud and tall,” “the builder’s oak, sole king of the forests all,” the aspens that are good for staves, and the 117

Stories of the British Isles laurel that grows to crown the brows of poets and conquerors. A tempest was raging, but beneath the trees no harm from wind nor rain could come to the knight and his lady. But here in the “Wandering Wood” other dangers awaited them. Suddenly they found that they had lost their way. Paths led here and there, but none went forth from the forest. At last they chose the best worn trail, and followed it until it came to a hollow cave amid the thickest woods. The knight quickly dismounted, but his “lady sought to hold him back.” “Be well aware,” she said, “for I know this wood better than thou, and the dangers that are hid herein. This is the Wandering Wood, and yonder is the den of Errour, a monster hated by God and man.” But the knight, full of fire, would not be stayed. Forth into the darksome hole he went, his glistening armor making a little light by which he saw the huge monster Errour, lying in its den. There she lay upon the ground, her long tail coiled and knotted behind her, each knot pointed with a mortal sting. Like a young lion, blade in hand, the knight sprang upon her, and she in rage let out a frightful roar, and, gathering her strength, leaped upon his shining shield. She seemed to bind his arms and hands and feet so that he could not move. Without, his lady saw his sad plight, but urged him on to combat. “Now, now, Sir Knight, show what ye be,” she cried. “Add faith unto your force and be not faint.” At her words new strength seemed to come to him, and with one mighty effort he drew his arm forth from the monster’s clutches, and strangled her. Then rode his lady forth to meet him, and said:— 118

Little Stories of England “Fair knight, born under a happy star, well worthy be you of your armor wherein ye have great glory now this day, and proved your strength on a strong enemy. This is your first adventure. May you have many more, and in each one succeed as you have done here.” There were indeed many more adventures that befell this noble knight of the Red Cross before they arrived in the fair lady’s native land. And here the knight met the dire dragon, whose wings went round like windmills, and from whose mouth issued a cloud of smoke and sulphur. It was a terrible combat, lasting three days, but in the end the lady won back her kingdom, and the knight won the lady’s heart and hand.


Shakespeare There were many pretty English villages at the time of Queen Elizabeth, and one of them was Stratford, not many miles away from Kenilworth Castle, which the queen made famous by her royal visit. It was a sleepy village in those days, lying on the winding banks of the Avon River, with the great oak forests round about it. There were crooked little streets of low wooden houses with heavy oaken doors shaded by penthouses, and in their midst stood an old stone church, whose pretty tower was often reflected in the Avon. In the spring and summer the village was gay with color. Soft green willows hung over the river, buttercups and daisies made the banks glisten like gold, red poppies blew among the wheatfields, and gardens of primroses, pansies, and “blueveined” violets nestled at the side of every home. In one of these houses there was born, in the spring of 1564, a little boy who was to make the pretty, quiet village famous throughout the wide world. He was christened in the quaint old church, and the name that was given him was William Shakespeare. Unfortunately, we do not know much about Shakespeare’s life. We can only imagine what he did from what we know of the way that people lived in those days; and from the many, many things which he wrote in his wonderful plays. Probably Shakespeare first learned his letters at home from a single printed sheet, set in a wooden frame and covered with a thin transparent horn, from which it got its name of a “horn book.” The alphabet was printed upon it in large and small 120

Little Stories of England letters, and below them the Lord’s Prayer. When he could read, and as soon as he was seven years old, the Stratford boy was sent to the Grammar School. The schoolroom was very plain and bare. There were no pictures on the walls, and no flowers in the window. The only furniture was the rows of desks and hard wooden benches. The only lessons Shakespeare probably learned were in Arithmetic, Latin, and a little Greek. It was not until years afterwards that schoolmasters first thought of teaching their pupils how to speak and write their own tongue. It may have been just because his school lessons were so dry and uninteresting that the boy, William Shakespeare, put himself so eagerly to school in the world about him. He stood at the meeting of the two highways in the village square, where the great coaches that went from one city to another halted to water their horses. He listened to the tales of the drivers and the travelers, tales of the great sea heroes, perhaps Frobisher and Drake; tales of other lands and strange islands lying far across the sea in the New World; and tales of the queen and the great court festivals at London. He roamed about the fields and meadows, turning the slender willow leaves over to see their white undersides; learning the names of the wild moon daisies, the yellow rattle grass, and the white milkwort. With his ears always open, he listened to many a marvelous charm recited by the old women of the village, who told him what plants were used by the witches, why the topaz stone cured madness, and why the hyacinth protected one from lightning. Once or twice a year great county fairs were held, to which the boys of those days looked forward as eagerly as modern boys do to the circus. Here were booths where all kinds of 121

Stories of the British Isles charms were sold, love charms and magical fun seed, which if put in your shoes made you invisible. We can imagine that the boy Shakespeare did not stay at home bending over his dull Latin when the fair was going on. Not far from Stratford there was another town which was famous in those days for its religious plays. The plays were first given by the Order of Grayfriars, but in Shakespeare’s time they were performed by the great guilds of the town. The guilds were the clubs in those days. The weavers had their guild, the merchants had theirs, and the builders had theirs. These guilds in the country performed, on the feast days of the year, plays telling the story in simple English of the birth, the life, and the death of Christ. They were not given in theaters, but on platforms, which were wheeled out into the village square, where great crowds of people could see the play. Probably Shakespeare as a boy saw these plays. It may be that later on he heard of different and greater plays given in London, and that the desire to see them took him away from his native village. He was twenty-one when he came down to London, poor and friendless. He found his first work in standing outside of the theaters, and holding the horses of the gentlemen who came to see the play. From then until he died he was connected with the theater. He acted some himself, he made little corrections in the lines of the plays, then he wrote a play with a friend, and finally he began on his great work of writing plays alone. These plays were so remarkable that Shakespeare performed them several times before the queen, and became known as one of the greatest writers of the day. Shakespeare did not invent new plots for his plays, as writers seek so often to do nowadays. He took old stories, 122

Little Stories of England stories from Chaucer, from the Greek, and from the Latin, and turned them into wonderful dramas. He took great historical figures like Julius CĂŚsar and Mark Anthony, and made them more real in his dramas than any historian had done. He read the old English Chronicles, and in a long line of plays has given us the great scenes in English history, from the time of the weak King John through the fall of Cardinal Wolsey. Sometimes he wrote gay comedies of love in the spring-clad forests of Arden, and again he wrote the sternest of tragedies, laying the scene in some rock-bound castle in the dreary North. He could portray any kind of a man or woman, king or jester, princess or country lass, and make them live before our eyes. His plays and his theater brought him in a great deal of money. As he grew older, he went back again to his quaint Stratford, where he lived with his family until he died. He lies buried in the little church beside the river.


The Cousins From Scotland When Elizabeth was dying, her courtiers besought her to tell them who should reign after her. The old queen opened her eyes, and gave this sharp reply: “Who indeed but our cousin from Scotland!” This was a memorable day for England. Ever since the early days when Cæsar landed on the island, there had been fighting between the Britons of the South and the Picts of the North. Now the two countries were united under the name of Great Britain, with James Stuart as their king. King James left the people of Edinburgh in tears. As he crossed the borderland, the English cannon thundered him a loud and hearty welcome. All along the route the people hung flags and garlands of flowers, and great crowds shouted hurrahs as he passed by. They little dreamed then that this monarch, to whom they were now bowing so low, was come to scatter the prosperity which Elizabeth had brought to England, and sow the seeds of a terrible war. The English people are a loyal nation, and during the twenty-two years of James the First’s reign they remained faithful to him, in spite of his dishonest acts and unlawful deeds. They even let his son Charles be crowned after him; and as he was much more agreeable in his manner than his father had been, they believed that he would make a wiser and better king. But James I had filled his son’s mind with his own ideas. He had taught him that God had chosen him to be England’s king, and therefore whatever he did was right and lawful. Throughout his 124

Little Stories of England life Charles believed this to be true. He started out to rule exactly as he pleased. But the English Parliament at last awoke. “A king,” they said, “should rule not according to his own will, but according to the will of the nation.” When Charles refused to govern in this spirit, they refused to grant him money. It was customary at this time for the House of Commons to vote to a new king at the beginning of his reign a tax for life on all goods which came in or went out of the country. To Charles, the House of Commons granted this tax for one year only. When the year had passed, it was not renewed. Then the king asserted what he thought was his right, and ordered the merchants to pay him the tax. Several who refused were straightway thrown into prison. Parliament, enraged, now passed a resolution that any man who paid this tax was an enemy to the country. Then the king took the last step, and dissolved Parliament. For eleven years he ruled without one, levying taxes at his own pleasure. It was not until Charles saw that a war with Scotland would follow if a new Parliament was not summoned, that he issued the call. This meant merely a renewing of the quarrel between the king and the state. One of Parliament’s first acts was to draw up a lengthy document setting forth the bad conduct of the king ever since he came to the throne. But even now there were many members of Parliament who did not believe in the faithlessness of their king. A stormy debate arose over this document, which was called “The Great Remonstrance.” The session lasted far into the night. Finally it was passed. Feeling was so strong that swords were drawn. Oliver Cromwell, one of the leaders in carrying through the Great Remonstrance, said 125

Stories of the British Isles as he passed out of the hall at midnight, “If it had not passed, I would have sold all my land and goods tomorrow and left England forever.” The king consented to having the document read. Then he turned around, and, accusing the five leaders of the movement of high treason, ordered their arrest. The House of Commons replied that they would consider the matter. Charles was in no mood to wait. Urged on by his queen, he went down to the House of Commons with five hundred armed gentlemen, and demanded these five men to be handed over to him. But the five men whom he sought were not there. The king’s cheeks were flushed with anger. “Since I see that my birds are flown, I do expect from you,” he cried, “that you will send them to me as soon as they return hither; otherwise,” he added threateningly, “I must take my own course to find them.” Charles’s own course was war. The queen fled to Holland to sell the royal jewels to raise money for him. Nobles and the gentlemen of the realm flocked to his standard. The West and the North remained loyal, but the East and the South, with London, stood firm for Parliament. The king’s forces wore their hair long and dressed in gay colors. They were called the Cavaliers. The army, which was back of Parliament, wore their hair cut short, the plainest of clothes, and queer-shaped hats which won them the name of Roundheads. At their front rode Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell was a Puritan, and his idea of duty was stern. He filled his ranks with men of spirit. He drilled them constantly. His discipline was very strict. If a man in his army swore, he was fined a shilling. If a man got drunk, he was put in the stocks. If he called one of his mates a Roundhead, he was 126

Little Stories of England dismissed from the army. It was this leader and these men that, in the end, gave Parliament the victory. The war went on many years with shifting fortunes. The end of it was that the king was summoned before Parliament to be tried. This trial was not lawful. No subject had a right to call his king to account for his deeds. No action of the House of Commons could become a law unless it was passed upon by the House of Lords and the king. But Charles had proved himself faithless and a tyrant. He had thrown his country into a civil war. He was convinced that all that he had done was right, and no man on earth could make him confess that he was wrong or promise to rule otherwise in the future. When he was brought before Parliament, he refused to plead his case. He was tried, not as the king, but as plain Charles Stuart. The fifth day of the trial, he was condemned to death. Charles met nothing in life so nobly as he did his death. He asked only that he might first see two of his children, his little thirteen-year-old daughter Elizabeth, and his nine-year-old son. As they came into the room Charles drew his son to his knee and kissed him gently. “Sweetheart,” he said, “now they will cut off thy father’s head; mark, child, what I say: They will cut off my head and perhaps make thee a king; but mark what I say: You must not be king as long as your brothers Charles and James do live; for they will cut off your brothers’ heads when they can catch them, and cut off thy head too, at the last; and therefore I charge you not to be made king by them.” And the little boy looked earnestly into his father’s face with great tears in his eyes and cried, “I will be torn to pieces first.” 127

Stories of the British Isles Then the king turned to his little daughter Elizabeth and spoke very gently to her. “Do not grieve and mourn for me when I am gone,” he said; “for I am dying for England’s liberty. And you must forgive my enemies, even as I hope God will forgive them, my daughter.” Then he kissed her, and bade her say to her mother that his love had never strayed from her, but was the same to the very end. So the little prince and princess bade their father a sad farewell, scarce understanding the words that he had spoken to them. A few days later came the morning on which he was to die. “Bring me a warmer shirt than usual,” Charles said to his servant, as he was dressing. “For the air is sharp and cold and I would not shiver on the way, lest my people should think that I was trembling with fear.” Then he went quickly and calmly to the scaffold, and died like a true gentleman.


Oliver Cromwell The king was dead, and through England went the proclamation that it was treason to give that title again to any man. England was declared a commonwealth. There was to be no longer a House of Lords; England should be ruled henceforth by Parliament. But it did not take long to see where the real power that was to govern England lay. When Ireland revolted against the Commonwealth, it was not Parliament that subdued her. When the men of Scotland arose and declared that they had no part in the execution of Charles I and were loyal to his son Prince Charles, it was not Parliament that drove the young prince from the land and forced Scotland to yield once more to the English. The commanding power, the strong right arm of the nation at this time, was in Cromwell’s army. Believing in the righteousness of his cause, Cromwell marched against town after town in Ireland, conquering without mercy. Scarcely had he Ireland under his hand than the word reached him that Scotland was offering Prince Charles the crown. On June 24, the young prince landed in Scotland. One month later Cromwell crossed the border with his army. He marched boldly against Edinburgh, but the Scottish forces were too strong for him to dare attack them. His outlook was most discouraging. He started to retreat; but the Scotch had seized the pass through which led the road down into England. On one side stretched the great blue summer sea. On the other rose the hills, which were alive with Scottish troops. Had the Scots had patience, Cromwell could never have defeated them at 129

Stories of the British Isles Dunbar. But they grew weary of waiting, and decided to make the attack themselves. On the morning of September 3, Cromwell saw them descending the hillsides. He waited until they had reached the bottom, and then he charged with his whole army into the midst of them; driving them hopelessly back against the hillside. “Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered!” were the words which arose to the lips of the victor as he saw the ruins of the noble Scottish army at his feet. But the Scots would not call themselves beaten. A year later, with their young king in the midst of them, they met Cromwell again at Worcester. This was the last time that Cromwell drew sword for England. His victory was complete. The young king took refuge in flight. Cromwell’s soldiers were on the watch for him throughout the land, but Charles finally escaped, although those days were full of adventure for him. He hid first in a peasant’s house, where he cut off his hair and put on the coarse homespun clothes of a farmer. Hearing that there were spies about, the peasant led the king away at night into the forest, and hid with him there high in the leafy branches of a monstrous oak. Then he made his way farther disguised as a servant, and rode down to Bristol with a Miss Lane on the pillion behind him. Here he came near being discovered, but he finally bribed a fisherman to take him to France, where he waited until his people should again summon him back to be their king. The hero of the hour now in England was Oliver Cromwell. He turned from the victories of war to the victories of peace. The tasks that confronted him now were harder than waging war. The courage needed to do them was greater than the bravery of battle. But when the hour of danger struck, Cromwell never faltered. 130

Little Stories of England England was now a republic. She was to be governed henceforth by the people. Cromwell soon saw that the Long Parliament did not represent the people. He saw that it was not ready to bring about needed reforms. It did not have the public good at heart. One day, seated in the midst of Parliament, the spirit of anger blazed forth, and he cried out in a voice that shook the roof: “Come, come! We have had enough of this. I will put an end to this. It is not fit that you should sit here any longer.” And he called in his soldiers and cleared the room. That was the end of the Long Parliament. Now England was completely in the power of Cromwell and his army. But it was not a time of rejoicing for the conqueror. He felt only too keenly the burden of the task that lay before him. As he watched the members of Parliament crowding through the doors, his anger turned to sadness. “It is you, you,” he sighed, “that forced this upon me. I have sought the Lord night and day that He would rather slay me than put upon me the doing of this work.” With a heavy heart Cromwell looked over the land. The king, the lords, and now the commons had fallen because they had failed to fulfill the duties that had been made their trust. He decided to call together a body of godly men to govern England. Among those whom he selected was one man named Praise God Barebones. Afterwards, when it was found how unwisely these good men ruled, they were nicknamed Barebones’ Parliament. They finally were forced to resign because they did not know how to govern. Cromwell was chosen Lord Protector of the realm, and another Parliament was summoned. Later Parliament offered Cromwell the title of king, but he refused it; and yet he saw that his strength alone 131

Stories of the British Isles would save England in those clays. He brought the foreign wars to an end, and kept his own army well trained to put down any civil uprising. He determined that Parliament should govern by high ideals. When he saw them weakening, he dissolved the Parliament. He stood alone, one man, before them and spoke unflinchingly. “I can say in the presence of God, in comparison with whom we are but like poor creeping ants upon the earth, I would have been glad to have lived under any woodside, to have kept a flock of sheep, rather than undertaken such a government as this.” Then he bade the members of Parliament go out of the room and back to their homes. “The Lord judge between me and you,” were his farewell words to them. This was Cromwell’s last Parliament. That summer he lost his favorite daughter. His health had been broken by his long hard years of active service, and this shock was too great for him. On August 30 a great storm raged over England. The winds howled and the great trees were swept down as reeds. For three days life and death battled for Cromwell’s brave soul. On September 3, the anniversary of his great battle at Dunbar, he passed away. His dying words were a prayer for the English people for whom so many years he had fought and worked. “Lord,” he prayed, “however thou do dispose of me, continue and go on to do good to them. Give them consistency of judgment, one heart, and mutual love.” Even in death he never forgot the duty that had fallen to his hand to do.


The Pilot Of The State When Queen Elizabeth died without leaving an heir, England summoned one of the Stuarts to her throne. Now when the great Protector lay dead and England found herself once more without a ruler, she turned again to the Stuarts, calling Prince Charles to come back across the seas and wear the English crown. Two Stuarts reigned before the revolution, and the second died upon the scaffold. Two Stuarts reigned after the war, and the second, James II, was obliged after three years to flee for his life from the land which called him king. The crown was now offered to his daughter Mary, who had married a Dutch prince, William of Orange. William and Mary ruled jointly for five years, and then the queen died. William looked about him in despair. “I was the happiest man on earth, and now I am the most miserable,” he said to one of the bishops at the funeral. It seemed to him perhaps as if the only person in England who loved him had suddenly been taken away. In Ireland, in Scotland, and in England the spirit of revolt was ripe. “We do not want to be ruled by a Dutchman,” was the common cry. Across the Channel the French king was doing his utmost to depose William. But William faced his people calmly and bravely. With sure, firm hand he put down one rebellion after another. He was just winning the confidence of the nation when he was thrown from his horse and died. Anne, the sister of Mary, became queen. Like Elizabeth, Anne never married. At the close of her rule the 133

Stories of the British Isles throne again stood vacant. A third time England was obliged to call a Stuart to wear her crown. Prince George of Hanover in Germany was the great-grandson of James I, “our cousin from Scotland.” He was a dull, rather stupid man, knowing no word of English and caring little for the English crown that was now offered him. It was almost with reluctance that he left his German friends to become England’s king. Moreover, after he was crowned, he took no pains to learn to speak English or to understand the interests of his people. When he met his ministers, he was distinctly bored by the business that they brought before him. He could not preside at these meetings because he could talk only through an interpreter. Gradually it was seen that one of the ministers must step forward and govern the realm; that there must be one minister who was first, or, as the Latin word is, prime. Ever since the days of George I, England has had a prime minister, a statesman who has been the pilot of the ship of state. Walpole was the first minister to hold this important position. For twenty-one years he was the real ruler, for neither George I, nor his son George II, ever governed England. Walpole was not a great orator, but he had the welfare of the people at heart, and he made wise laws that helped to make England one of the great industrial and commercial nations. The man who succeeded Walpole was William Pitt, who won the name of the Great Commoner. His face was noble, and his voice musical and powerful. “When once I am upon my feet everything that is in my mind comes out,” he once said. And it came out with such a volley of fire and enthusiasm that every man in the hall was thrilled and stirred, to action. Pitt felt the spirit of discontent that still lay buried in the hearts of many. He 134

Little Stories of England saw war with France becoming more and more threatening. He knew that the old patriotism was dead or asleep. “England’s day has passed,” were the words written on the faces of many that he passed in the street. “We are no longer a nation,” were the words that came from the mouth of one of the great statesmen. The moment that Pitt became prime minister he started to rouse the people out of their despondency. “Be one people!” he cried. “Forget everything but the public welfare! I set you an example.” All through the land rang this cry of courage. All eyes were turned to watch this new leader. It was said that no man ever went to talk with Pitt but he came away feeling braver and more full of hope. Pitt knew that it was in the young men that the strength of the nation lay. It was he who selected Wolfe for the conquest of Canada. Pitt knew the spirit that was in this man, who has become one of the heroes of history. It was burning courage that led Wolfe and his men, dragging their heavy cannon behind them, up the steep and narrow path, leading to Quebec, under the cover of the night. The dawn broke. The battle began. As Wolfe was cheering his men, he fell, wounded. As they bore him off to the rear, he heard the shout, “They run.” “Who run?” he asked eagerly, striving to rise. “The French run,” came the answer. The young man sank back with a smile upon his face. “I die content,” were his last words. Quebec surrendered, and shortly afterwards the rest of Canada, which has ever since been one of England’s finest colonies. 135

Stories of the British Isles In another way, Pitt showed how far-seeing and wise his vision was. He saw, what the king and Parliament could not or would not see, that the American colonies had justice on their side when they refused to be taxed without representation. He knew the spirit that was in these colonists, who had left all in England to go out and live in an unknown and uncivilized land. He knew the spirit that the sons had inherited from their fathers. Again and again he raised up his voice in their behalf. “You cannot conquer America!” he cried. “If I were an American, I would never lay down my arms, never, never, never.” But England would not listen to his cry. When Pitt died, his son took his place and carried forward nobly the work which his father had begun. By his statesmanship, Ireland became for the first time a real part of England; Irish members were to sit in the English Parliament, and the same laws were to govern both countries. The English saw how wise it was to have a pilot of state, a prime minister. Some of her greatest patriots have held this position; some of her greatest patriots will hold it in the future. War among the nations is giving way to peace among the nations. The warrior is no longer the hero of the country. The statesman is the leader,—the pilot of the state.


Horatio Nelson In the heart of London lies a great square, which all day long is crowded with people, and across which the London buses are continually passing. High in its midst stands a tall column of massive granite, with four couchant lions at its base. One hundred and forty-five feet into the air this column rises, and on its top stands the statue of Horatio Nelson. The people of all England gave the money to raise this monument, because their love for Nelson was so great that they wished every man, woman, and child who came to London to think at least for a moment of this British hero. And those who will pause at the foot of the statue and walk about it will see in bronze relief four scenes in Nelson’s life that tell why the English people dedicated this great square and raised this huge column to his memory. When Horatio Nelson was only twelve years old, he wrote and asked his uncle if he might not go to sea with him. His uncle hesitated a little, for he knew that the boy was not very strong; but perhaps he had heard Horatio’s answer to his grandmother. Horatio when a very small child ran away one day with a stable boy hunting birds’ nests. His parents waited and waited; they called, but no answer came back. At length a search was made, and he was found sitting beside a brook which he could not cross. “I wonder, my child,” said his grandmother to him, when they brought him home, “that hunger and fear did not drive you home.” 137

Stories of the British Isles “Fear, grandmama!” answered the little boy; “I never saw fear, what is it?” Another time Horatio and his playmates discovered some fine pears growing in the schoolmaster’s garden. The boys considered the pears were their lawful booty, but none of them dared to climb the rather slender tree to pick them. When Horatio saw that they all hesitated, he said at once that he would get the pears. That night he was lowered from his bedroom window in some sheets until he could reach the pears, and when he had gathered them all, he was drawn slowly up again. When he had crawled in the window, he passed the pears around among the boys, keeping none for himself. “I don’t want any,” he said scornfully; “I took them only because all you other boys were afraid.” Perhaps some of the stories of boyhood pranks had reached his uncle’s ears, for he granted Horatio’s request and Nelson went to sea. He was a very lonely, small boy during those first few weeks on the ship, and the work was very hard. Sometimes the voyage took him into the far North, where the ship lay caught among great cakes of floating ice. Sometimes he went far South, out to the East Indies, where he caught the fever and lay for weeks wasting away. “In those days,” he afterwards wrote, “I was so weak and homesick that I begged my companions to toss me overboard. Then suddenly a love of England sprang up within me. England, my own England! I longed to do something great for her. ‘I will be a hero, and brave every danger,’ I cried.” The four great bronze reliefs on Nelson’s monument show how he made good his word. 138

Little Stories of England With this resolve firmly in mind, Nelson gradually worked his way up until he became rear admiral in the British navy, ready to meet any enemy of his country. These were days when England had her foes and needed brave hearts to keep her courage high. On the western side of Nelson’s statue the relief shows how he met and conquered the Spanish fleet off St. Vincent. Facing the north is a scene from the great battle of the Nile. It is a picture on the lower deck amid the wounded while the battle is still raging above. Into this scene of suffering and death suddenly another man is brought and laid gently on the deck. A surgeon, binding the wounds of a poor midshipman, glances up and sees that the pale face is that of Admiral Nelson. He drops his bandage to rush forward and attend to Nelson. But the almost unconscious man raises his hand to stop him. “No,” he whispers, “I will take my turn with my brave fellows.” Nor would he let his own wounds be touched until every man who had been wounded before him had been attended. He thought as he lay there, that this was his last battle. But he was to live to see this victory and others. This was victory over the French. Napoleon, that great French general, was conquering, conquering, conquering everywhere he led his army. A vision of all Europe lying at his feet stretched ever before his eyes. This winter of 1798 he had gone to Egypt, thinking by subduing this land he could go on to India. He had gone by land with a great force. The French fleet was following, when Nelson met them and completely destroyed their forces. He was now the great English hero of the day. When he sailed into Yarmouth harbor, every ship lying there hoisted her colors. In London he was feasted by the city, and a great golden 139

Stories of the British Isles sword, studded with sparkling diamonds, was presented to him. Odes and beautiful presents poured in upon him. If we walk around the monument now to the east, we find a relief of Nelson, seated upon a cannon, concluding a peace with the Danes. In that awful battle of Copenhagen, he taught the Scandinavians that England was supreme upon the seas. But the lesson cost England a terrible price. Hundreds of precious lives were lost in a day; her ships were badly damaged; her treasury was drained low and her debts were enormous. She needed peace with Europe. This peace was broken five years later by Napoleon. “The Channel is but a ditch,” he cried one day; “anyone can cross who has but the courage to try.” He could not longer keep his eyes off those wonderful English isles that through the centuries had defied France. He longed once and for all to bring them under the French power. Not since the days when the great Armada came sailing up the Channel in the form of a gigantic half moon, had England been threatened by so great a danger. But there was one man whom the French dreaded; one man whom the English trusted to save them. This man was Horatio Nelson. Napoleon’s plan was to lead Nelson’s squadron to the West Indies and engage him in battle there, with the hope of cutting him off from returning. Then he would be ready with his troops on the coast of France to sail over and attack England. But Nelson was not so easily outwitted. He recrossed the Atlantic in advance of the French ships, and met them at Trafalgar. The two great fleets drew up for battle. All was ready, awaiting the signal. Nelson stood at his post; all eyes were turned upon him. He paused an instant. Through the stillness 140

Little Stories of England his voice came clear and confident, “England expects every man to do his duty.” The bronze relief on the southern side of the monument in Trafalgar Square pictures for us the scene of the battle of Trafalgar. Through the awful firing of that battle came one ball that struck Nelson, and he fell on his face on the deck. It was in the heat of action. Which way victory would turn no man knew. “Cover my face,” murmured Nelson, as they bore him below, “so that my men need not know that I have fallen.” He felt that he was dying. “You can do nothing for me,” he said to the surgeon. In most intense pain, his lips parched with fever, he lay waiting, hoping, praying that he should not die until Captain Hardy came to tell him that England had won the day. Long moments passed into an hour and more before Hardy came. He took the commander’s hand, and, his voice trembling with emotion, told him that he had won a complete victory. “Kiss me, Hardy,” said the dying hero. Hardy knelt down on the deck, and kissed the bloodless cheek. “Now I am satisfied,” he groaned, turning his face away. “Thank God, I have done my duty.”


Wellington, The Iron Duke In the year 1769 there were born into the world two boys who were destined forty-five years later to meet on one of the greatest battlefields of history. One of these boys was Napoleon Bonaparte, who was to be the greatest general who ever led a French army. The other was Arthur Wellesley, who was to stand at the head of the forces who were at length to defeat Napoleon. The field where this great battle was to be fought was Waterloo. Both boys were fighters even in their school days; both went to military schools, and both spent their lives in the army. Year by year Napoleon climbed the steps of his ambition, until he stood in the great cathedral of Notre Dame, crowned Emperor of France. But even now his dreams had not all been realized. He sat hour after hour with the great map of Europe unrolled upon his desk. The country of France seemed small indeed for an empire. CĂŚsar had started from Rome, and had conquered all Gaul. Why should the river Rhine divide two countries, France and Germany? Why should the Pyrenees stand as an insurmountable wall separating France and Spain? Why should the North Sea cut off the British Isles from the coast of France? He would cross the river, he would cross the mountains, he would cross the sea; and, with his army at his back, he too would conquer an empire that was worthy of the name. Once more Europe, all Gaul, should be ruled by one man. 142

Little Stories of England This was the dream that burned in Napoleon’s heart. Men looked into his eyes and saw it there. They, too, caught fire. Because he believed that he could make this dream real, they too believed. They came by hundreds and thousands, offering their lives to help him. Never was there an army which marched forward with such enthusiasm. Never was there an army which so adored its general. Country after country lay conquered at his feet. One country alone stood apart, unconquered and defiant. One navy still rode proudly upon the seas. Those British Isles, lying almost within sight of France, hung like a ripe fruit just beyond Napoleon’s reach. He was never quite able to take his eyes from them. Even when Nelson scattered his fleet off Trafalgar, he did not give up hope. If he could not conquer England upon the water, he would conquer her upon the land. If Napoleon struck courage in the hearts of the men who marched beneath his banners, he struck fear in the hearts of those against whom his banners were unfurled. Even England quailed. But there were gallant men at England’s head: Nelson in the navy, and Arthur Wellesley, who had been made Duke of Wellington, leading the army. Like Nelson, Wellington’s fighting was done outside of England. He first met the French, not on English or French soil, but in Spain. Spain and Portugal had both fallen into Napoleon’s power, but their old spirit of independence was not conquered. At the first opportunity they revolted against their overlord, and called in England to help them. Wellington landed in Spain, and with a force of two thousand men won three great battles. Napoleon’s dream was not to come true. Slowly the European states struggled to their feet, rallied, and with a great united effort forced the French army back, back, 143

Stories of the British Isles into Paris, and demanded that Napoleon should give up his throne. Disgraced and conquered, the great general was sent to the island of Elba in the Mediterranean, and Europe, worn and shattered, gathered her strength to build up again the boundary lines that should mark out the extent of the separate countries. In the midst of the quarreling and disputing that took place among the different nations, suddenly a message was brought across the land that bound the states of Europe together as closely as if they had been yoked with iron chains. Napoleon has landed in Europe. This was the message. The congress of the nations was being held at Vienna. The Duke of Wellington was there, representing England. When he heard the message he showed no sign of astonishment or of fear. He calmly turned to his desk, and began drawing up a line of action. The other states soon saw that he was their natural leader. It was his plan to start at once for the Netherlands, where there were stationed some British troops, and to place himself at their head. The Prussian army, with BlĂźcher in command, promised to stand with him. Napoleon at once saw the danger that awaited him. He decided to move forward rapidly, and, if possible, attack BlĂźcher first and annihilate his forces before Wellington could send him aid. He would then meet the English general. On the 15th of June, word was brought to Wellington in Brussels that the Prussians had been attacked. That night a ball had been arranged at the house of the Duchess of Richmond. Wellington called his officers, told them that the French were approaching, but bade them attend the ball just the same, keeping the news absolutely to themselves. In the midst of the dancing and feasting that night, no one was gayer or calmer than Wellington. One by one he saw his officers slip away, and 144

Little Stories of England outside in the street he heard the tread of marching feet. It was late before he bade the duchess good-night. Just before he went he turned to the Duke of Richmond, and said in a low voice: Have you a good map of the country in your house? The duke nodded, and the two went up to a bedroom and unrolled it. Bonaparte has gained a day’s march on me, said Wellington in his calm, low voice. I have arranged to meet him at Quatre Bras. If I am not able to stop him there, I will meet him here, and he made a mark on the map with his thumb nail, at Waterloo. The duke passed out of the brilliantly lighted house into the dark streets of the city. He was going to meet Napoleon for the first and the last time. The battlefield was to be at Waterloo. It was a desperate struggle,—a terrible battle. Wellington never dismounted from his saddle all day. The tide of fortune ebbed and flowed. When it looked darkest for the English, suddenly the Prussian troops arrived, weary almost unto death with their long march. Their arrival decided the day. All is lost, cried Napoleon, as he fled back through the cover of night to Paris. The duke entered his tent about ten o’clock. Before him was spread his dinner, and he sat down and ate it silently. In the midst of the glow of victory, his eyes were filled with visions of the brave men who had fallen on the field, and his heart ached with the sad news that must be sent to many English homes on the morrow. This day, the 18th of June, 1815, was the crisis in the life of both these men, who had been born into the world in the same year. Napoleon gave himself up a prisoner to the English, and was taken to a solitary isle, St. Helena, far out at sea, where he 145

Stories of the British Isles spent the rest of his life in miserable solitude and idleness. Wellington returned to England, honored and esteemed by all, and ready to serve his country as nobly in peace as he had done in war.


George III George III was the first of the kings who bore his name who was an Englishman. When he met Parliament, on coming to the throne, his opening words were, “Born and educated in this country, I glory in the name of Briton; and the peculiar happiness of my life will ever consist in promoting the welfare of a people, whose loyalty and warm affection to me I consider as the greatest and most permanent security of my throne.” When the people heard these words, they felt that England once more had an English king. George III was rather shy and timid in public, but he knew how to make a speech, for he had been well trained as a boy. The famous London actor Quin used to come over to the royal palace, and teach Prince George and his brothers and sisters how to declaim, and sometimes he permitted them to give plays in the palace, before audiences of court ladies and lords. When the old actor heard how well George III delivered his speech from the throne, he cried out delightedly, “Aye, ‘twas I that taught the boy to speak.” Not only were the English proud to have a Briton on the throne, but they were proud of George as a man. He was very kind and good, and seldom has a royal family been happier. George III selected a German princess, Charlotte of Strelitz, for his bride. The royal ambassador was sent over to bring the princess to England, and a whole squadron of ships lay waiting in the Channel to accompany her to her new home. The bride landed in England on a Sunday evening. Traveling was a slow 147

Stories of the British Isles process in those days, and the princess took two days to go up to London. She spent the night at Lord Abercorn’s, where she was given a great banquet, and while she ate, the doors were left wide open, that all who could might catch a glimpse of their new queen. “Her Majesty,” so an old writer tells us, “was dressed entirely in English taste; she wore a fly cap with laced lappets, a stomacher ornamented with diamonds, and a gold brocaded suit of clothes with a white ground.” The next morning she set out for London. Three royal coaches drove in advance of her, and as she neared the city, a body of horse grenadiers and life guards closed in about her to welcome and escort her to St. James. At the entrance to the garden her Majesty alighted and fell on her knees before the king. Very graciously George III raised her up, and embracing her affectionately, led her into the great palace, while London thundered its welcome with all the guns of the city. They were married in great state that same evening in the royal chapel. The new queen’s first task was to learn English, for she knew no word of her husband’s tongue when she first came to England. Every morning she worked hard with an instructor, learning to read, write, and spell the new language. Sometimes the king came in and laughed with her over her queer pronunciation, and helped her in writing her themes. When the English lessons were over, the queen spent an hour embroidering, then after lunch she and the king went out to drive or to walk in the gardens until it was time to dress for dinner. By and by many little princes and princesses were born into this happy home, Alfred, Octavius and many others, all of whom received a royal welcome from England. They were brought up very simply and plainly, much like ordinary English 148

Little Stories of England children. In fact, George III was a very sensible and kindhearted father and king. There is a story about him that reminds one of the story told about the great Alfred. One day the king was out on a hunt near Windsor, and became separated from the rest of the party. A storm came up, and the king sought shelter in a cottage near at hand. He knocked, and asked the young girl who came to the door to put his horse under the shed. The girl, not recognizing the royal guest, replied that she would do so if he in turn would mind the goose which was roasting before the fire. The king, much amused, consented, and sat down to dry his wet clothes and turn the spit. The fire was very hot, and the king was red in the face before the girl returned. He did not complain, however, but chatted pleasantly with her while the shower continued, telling her that in wealthy families it was no longer necessary to turn a goose by hand, because a jack had been invented which turned automatically. As soon as it cleared his majesty rode off with many thanks for the hospitality shown him. That evening the peasant girl discovered five guineas wrapped in a paper on the chimney piece. She unrolled the paper, and read these words, “To buy a jack.” George III had two great faults. He was very narrowminded and very stubborn. For many years England had been involved in European wars, and it was necessary to tax the people very heavily in order to pay the national debt. Not only was England burdened with these taxes, but Parliament decided to impose them upon the American colonies which were under British rule. The American colonies were loyal to their “mother country.” They were willing to help pay the debt, but they said if they were to share these taxes they must be 149

Stories of the British Isles allowed to send some members to the English Parliament to represent their interests. Parliament and the king refused this demand, although the great statesman, Pitt, used all his eloquence to show the injustice in doing so. Suddenly George III found himself involved in a great war, the American Revolution, which, was to separate forever England and the American colonies. Out of this war was born the United States of America. John Quincy Adams was the first United States minister sent to England. He was ushered into the presence of his Majesty and the Secretary of State alone. Adams made three deep bows, as was the custom, one at the door, one about halfway, and the third directly before the king. He then lifted his head, and spoke very calmly, but with great dignity. He came, he said, as the representative of his people, to bring from the United States a pledge of friendship to his Majesty and his Majesty’s citizens, and to present the best wishes of the United States for the health and happiness of the royal family. He then added that he should esteem himself the happiest of all men if he could bring about the old spirit of “good nature and good humor” between these two peoples who, though separated by an ocean, were bound together by the same language, the same religion, and kindred blood. The king listened very attentively to Adams’s noble words, and responded with much feeling. “I wish you, sir, to believe,” he said, “and that it may be understood in America, that I have done nothing in the late contest but what I thought myself indispensably bound to do, by the duty which I owed to my people. I will be very frank with you. I was the last to conform to the separation; but the separation having been made, and 150

Little Stories of England having become inevitable, I have always said, as I say now, that I would be the first to meet the friendship of the United States as an independent power.� Adams then retired backward, as was customary, from his Majesty’s presence, and went his way.


Queen Victoria There are many kingdoms in the world that will never allow a woman to sit upon their throne. But England is very proud of the queens who have ruled over her. Two queens have had such famous reigns that the age in which they lived is named after them—the Age of Elizabeth and the Victorian Era. Victoria was not born the daughter of a king, like Elizabeth, but it was known that she was in direct line to the throne. Her mother, the Duchess of Kent, took great pains that Victoria should not know this fact. She did not want her little daughter to be proud because she might some day be queen. Victoria’s father died when she was a baby, but her mother took every care that the little girl should be brought up in such a way as to make her a beautiful and wise woman, ready to wear the English crown if it should some day come to her. The little princess’s bed stood close beside her mother’s, and before she was old enough to sit at the family table at dinner, she had her own little table near her mother. She wore very simple dresses, and was allowed to spend only her weekly allowance, which was very small indeed. One day Victoria and her governess were visiting a toyshop, where the princess found a doll that she wanted very much. She took out her purse to buy it, but found that she lacked a few shillings. Victoria looked up at her governess very pleadingly, but the governess shook her head. “You will have to wait until you get your next week’s allowance,” she said. Victoria still held the dolly very longingly in her hands. When the shopkeeper saw how much she wanted it, he promised to 152

Little Stories of England save it until the coming Saturday, when Victoria would have her allowance. All through the week Victoria thought of the pretty dolly lying in its box on the top shelf in the shop. Early Saturday morning she was up and dressed, and, mounted on her little gray donkey, she rode gayly down to the shop and brought the new treasure home in her arms. Victoria’s lessons began when she was very young, and she was made to study much harder and longer lessons than most little girls. Among other studies was Latin, which the princess didn’t enjoy at all. Finally it was thought wise to tell her that she was the direct heir to the throne. Her English history was given her, and she was shown a table of the English kings and queens back from the time of Alfred. Slowly it came to her that if her uncle died, she would be queen. Victoria turned a very sober face up to her governess. “Now I know,” she said, “why you urged me so much to learn even Latin, which my aunts Augusta and Mary never did.” Then she came a little closer and put her hand in her governess’s. “I will be good,” she said softly. From that day she studied and worked hard to fit herself to be queen. She spent hours reading the history of her own land, and her wise mother took her on long trips throughout the country, that she might know Scotland and England and the people over whom she was some day to rule. It was not thought that this day would come so quickly. Victoria had just celebrated her eighteenth birthday when the king died, about two o’clock one June morning. The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lord Chamberlain at once set out to announce the news to the young sovereign. They reached Kensington Palace about five o’clock in the early dawn. They knocked and thumped at the gate a long time before they 153

Stories of the British Isles could arouse the sleepy porter. When at last they were let in, they announced that they must see her Royal Highness at once on important business. The answer was brought back, “The princess is in such sweet slumber that we do not venture to disturb her.” Then the archbishop replied, “We are come to see the Queen on important business of state.” There was no more delay. Victoria did not wait even to dress herself, but came into the room wrapped in a shawl, her beautiful, bright hair falling down her back, and tears shining in her eyes. She listened very quietly to the message, and then said, softly, “I beg your Grace to pray for me.” Then she asked that she might be left alone for two hours. Her first act was to write a letter to her aunt, telling her of her sympathy in her sorrow. That same day at eleven Victoria held her first council. Lord Beaconsfield has written this description of the scene:— “There are assembled the prelates and captains and chief men of her realm. A hum of half-suppressed conversation fills that brilliant assemblage, a sea of plumes and glittering stars, and gorgeous dresses. Hush! The portal opens—she comes. The silence is as deep as that of a noontide forest. Attended for a moment by her royal mother and the ladies of the court, who bow and then retire, Victoria ascends her throne alone and for the first time amid an assembly of men.” She was crowned in Westminster Abbey. The great church was gorgeously decorated with gold and crimson. When the queen entered the abbey, with eight ladies all in white floating about her like a silvery cloud, she paused as if for breath and 154

Little Stories of England clasped her hands. As she knelt to have the crown placed upon her head, a ray of sunlight fell over her, lighting up her face and making the crown dazzle with brightness. But when the festivities were over, the young queen found that long days of hard work stretched out before her. Victoria was never a figure queen. She worked with her minister as faithfully as any king, ever studying the many problems that were facing her country. Two years later she married her cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg, who was given the title of prince consort. He was a man of noble character and great learning, and stood close beside the queen, aiding her in many ways. Nine children were born to them, and many grandchildren. Her first grandchild is now the German emperor. “Dear little William,” Victoria often called him. Victoria reigned for sixty-four years. No other English monarch sat for so long a time upon the throne. Many wonderful events took place during these years. The first railroads were built. The telegraph was put into use. The first cable was laid between England and America, and the queen sent a long message of greeting to President Buchanan. When Victoria ascended the throne, it took four weeks for the news to reach America. When she died, the sad words were flashed around the world in less than half an hour. The prince consort died many years before the queen. One of his greatest acts for England was the arranging of the first world’s fair. This exhibition was almost entirely the prince’s own idea. He had built the great glass building outside of London, called the Crystal Palace, and invited all the countries of Europe to send exhibits of their best and most characteristic industries and arts. This first world’s fair was so successful that 155

Stories of the British Isles many other countries since then have adopted the plan of holding such expositions. After the prince consort died the queen lived very simply and quietly. But twice the nation gave her a great jubilee; once when she had reigned for half a century, and then, ten years later, when she had been queen sixty years. On this occasion gifts poured into England from all over Europe and Asia, most beautiful and costly gifts for the honored queen. Such a long reign had, too, its sad events. There were long and cruel wars. No one regretted this shedding of blood more than Queen Victoria. No one longed more than she that the time should come when the nations of the world should be at peace, and all difficulties should be settled in courts instead of by arms.


Alfred Lord Tennyson In the quiet little village of Somersby, which lies upon a hillslope, stands a small sandstone church, and near it a low white rectory. In the days when George III was king of England, a family of twelve children lived in this rectory and played games of knights and tournaments in the gardens and woods about it. The leader in these games was Alfred, for he could always make up the most exciting adventures. He could tell the best stories, too, and he made his little brothers’ and sisters’ blood run cold by gathering them about him in the evening and telling them stories of gigantic mountains where great dragons lived who came forth at night to slay beautiful damsels. But he never told them cruel stories, for Alfred’s heart was very kind and gentle. He could not bear to see any one or anything suffer. It hurt him so to see a rabbit caught in a trap that he went around the neighborhood springing all the traps that the gamekeepers had set. “If we once catch that young gentleman, we will chuck him in the pond,” the gamekeepers muttered; but they never caught him. Alfred had one strange pet of his own. One night, as he was sitting by the window of his own little attic room, a young owl called just outside. He answered the call, and the little bird flew in to him. He sat very still and called softly. The owl hopped nearer and nearer, and at last nestled close to him and ate out of his hand. He grew very tame, and forsook the other owls for the twelve Tennyson children. Everybody in the house was very fond of him, except the monkey that belonged to Alfred’s 157

Stories of the British Isles grandmother. He used to be very jealous because the owl liked to come and perch on the old lady’s head. When Alfred was seven years old, he was asked, “Would you rather go to school or to sea?” To the boy school meant books, so he quickly chose the former. But school in those days in England was a very unhappy place for boys. The lessons were long and dry. The masters were very strict, and fond of using the rod if the boys made mistakes or did not learn their lessons. And the big boys bullied the little ones and the new ones. From the very beginning Alfred hated the little school at Louth where he and his brother Charles were sent. Still he had some happy times there. It was about this age that he began writing the verses that he was always making up in his head. Finally he and Charles took their verses to a little bookseller in the town. He read them through, and offered to buy them for one hundred dollars. Half of this sum had to be taken out in books from the store. We do not know what the two youthful writers did with the other half, except that they hired a carriage one afternoon and drove fourteen miles over the low hills and marshy flats to Mablethorpe, where they could see the ocean. Here on the seashore they “shared their triumph with the winds and waves.” Tennyson finished his schooling at the University of Cambridge. Here, too, he found much that was dull and uninteresting. But it was here that he met Arthur Hallam, another student. Arthur Hallam’s fine mind and gentle ways charmed the young poet. They walked, studied, and read together. On vacations Tennyson brought his friend home to the old rectory at Somersby. His early death was Tennyson’s first and greatest sorrow. Hallam went to Europe for his health, and died on the way home. Tennyson’s grief was so intense that 158

Little Stories of England he thought for a while that he could never take up his pen again. But his very sadness of heart turned him to writing, and in a long and beautiful poem called “In Memoriam,” he has told the world of the wonderful meaning of a true and noble friendship. This great sorrow made Tennyson’s heart very tender to others who were sad. None of his verses are more beautiful than the lines which he wrote to Queen Victoria when the Prince Consort died. He was the Poet Laureate then, the great national poet. All England was longing to speak some word of comfort to their beloved queen. This great flood of sympathy was taken up by the poet and put into most tender, beautiful words. Tennyson was just ready to publish his poems about King Arthur and his Knights of the Table Round. He put them all together, and, calling them “Idylls of the King,” dedicated them to the Prince Consort, who, as he writes:— “seems to me Scarce other than my own ideal knight, ‘who reverenced his conscience as his king.’” Then he bids the queen’s heart not to break, but live on, and closes with the words:— “May all love, His love unseen, but felt, o’ershadow thee, The love of all thy sons encompass thee, The love of all thy daughters cherish thee, Till God’s love set thee at his side again.” So these old legends of Lancelot and the fair Elaine, and Sir Galahad, the knight in white armor, of whom King Arthur said as he dubbed him knight, “God make thee good as thou art beautiful,” were brought out of the dim past of ancient Britain, 159

Stories of the British Isles and given to the world in such beautiful poetry that they will live forever. The last years of Tennyson’s life were all spent in writing more and more poetry. He had many friends, the great statesman, Gladstone, Browning, Carlyle, and a host of others, yet he loved to live a little apart from the world. When he found that his last hour was come, he asked his son to bring him his Shakespeare, and he held the treasured volume close to his heart until he died. The full moon came in through the open windows and fell across the beautiful face and hands of the dead poet. To his son, standing beside the bed, it seemed like the passing of Arthur. It was his wish that he be buried simply. So he was borne away from the beautiful home on a little wagonette which was covered with moss and bright with scarlet cardinal flowers. Around him was wrapped the pall which the working men and women of the North had woven and the cottagers of Keswick had embroidered. And over all were banked the wreaths and crosses of flowers that came from all parts of Great Britain. The old coachman, who had been for thirty years Lord Tennyson’s faithful servant, led the horse across the moor just at sunset. In the rear followed quietly the villagers and school children. The queen wished her great man to lie in Westminster Abbey in the Poets’ Corner, so he was brought thither, and placed beside Robert Browning and close to the monument erected to the first English poet, Geoffrey Chaucer.


Edward VII On the afternoon of January 23, 1901, the Mall, the great street in London, was thronged with people. It was a quiet crowd, for there was sadness in every heart, and yet here and there a smile broke over the faces of the bystanders, as a gayly clad officer hurried down the street and entered the Palace of St. James. At about five minutes to two the heavy gates of Marlborough House swung open. There was the sound of horses’ hoofs on the hard road, and the crowd pressed eagerly forward. In advance rode the King’s Guard in full dress, and following them the escort. For a moment the sun broke through the low, gray clouds, lighting up their shining helmets and flashing on their drawn swords. But the people heeded them little. Their eyes were fixed on the coach just behind, and the grave face of the man who was looking out through the windows at them with kindly eyes. A great cheer went up as the coach rolled out into the highway, a cheer of sympathy and of loyalty from the people for their new king. The coach drove at a trot down the Mall to St. James Palace, and then, as the clock struck two, the king first met his Council. He stood before them, a man of sixty, and spoke to them briefly, but with great sincerity and dignity. He told them that it was his first duty to announce to them the death of his beloved mother, the queen, in which loss he believed he had not only their sympathy, but that of the entire world. Then he told them that he should endeavor to follow in her footsteps, 161

Stories of the British Isles and, as long as there was breath in his body, to work for the good of his people. His name was Albert Edward, but he now announced that he would be known by the name which six of his ancestors had borne. The name of Albert, which he had inherited from his father, should remain sacred to his memory. He wanted England to remember only one Albert, “Albert the Good.� He then took the oath of king as Edward VII, and under this title he was crowned with great pomp and ceremony in Westminster Abbey. Edward VII had been born direct heir to the English throne, and all his life he had been trained to be a king. He had studied much from books, but he had learned more from traveling and visiting all parts of the world. His wise father sent him first, as a small boy, through England and Scotland. Then followed a trip to Ireland, and later many visits to all parts of Europe. When he was a boy his father made him send back home long descriptions of the land through which he was traveling, and give his ideas about the people and their different ways of living. After he became of age the Prince of Wales even crossed the Atlantic to visit Canada and the United States, and later he went far to the East, to the Holy Land, even as some of his noble ancestors had done. The Prince of Wales chose a beautiful and lovely princess for his bride, Alexandra the Princess Royal of Denmark. She was deeply beloved at home, and when she left her native land to become the Princess of Wales, all along her route she was showered with flowers, and crowds of people gathered all along the way to wave farewell to her. But as royal a welcome awaited her in England. Every ship and boat, even the smallest fishing 162

Little Stories of England vessel, along the English coast flew its colors when the barge bearing the princess arrived. The stations, the streets, and the houses were hung with banners and great wreaths of flowers. And cheer followed cheer as if the shouting would never cease. The English people, as they looked into her beautiful face, were charmed by her loveliness and noble air. They were afterwards to learn that she was as kind and as simple as she was beautiful. There is a little story told of her on one of her visits home in Denmark that shows how little pride ever entered her heart. Alexandra was once passing along the streets of Copenhagen with the Czar of Russia and her brother, Crown Prince of Denmark. A peasant happened to pass by driving a load of hay, and the Crown Prince called out jokingly, “Give us a ride.” The peasant, little guessing who they were, drew up his oxen and told them to climb on. It happened that the route ran by the Palace, so as they were passing, the Czar told the peasant to drive into the courtyard. But the peasant shook his head, “That’s the King’s Palace, and no one is allowed in there but royalty.” “Never mind,” thundered the Czar, “you do as I say. Don’t you see I am the Czar of Russia!” “And I am the Crown Prince of Denmark,” added the other. “And this lady is Her Royal Highness, the Princess of Wales.” The peasant looked at them a moment carefully through his little squinting eyes, then he drawled out, “And I am the Emperor of China,” and drove on by the gate. While in London the Prince and Princess of Wales lived in state at the great Marlborough House, but they liked to call 163

Stories of the British Isles Sandringham Hall, a beautiful country seat in Norfolk, their real home. There were many gardeners and gamekeepers needed on the estate, and King Edward was very generous to them He built pretty cottage homes for them; schools for their children; a clubhouse where they could meet when not at work; and a hospital to care for them when they were sick. The hospital was the special care of Queen Alexandra, and was visited by her every day when she was at Sandringham. Over the door she placed this motto:— Ask God for all you want, Thank Him for all you have, And never grumble. On one part of the grounds, hidden among the trees, is a tiny dairy. Just as the French queen Marie Antoinette, liked to slip away from the great palace at Versailles and play dairy maid, Queen Alexandra and her court ladies liked to wander through the trees to the little dairy and make themselves a cup of tea. King Edward VII did not have a long reign. Before he had celebrated his tenth anniversary he died leaving his throne to his sailor son George. The new king was crowned in June, 1911, George V of England. His wife, formerly Princess Mary of Teck is now England’s queen, and already there are six little princes and princesses about whom some day perhaps we shall have to write more Little Stories of England.


Scotland’s Story (Through Robert The Bruce)

A History of Scotland For Boys and Girls By H. E. Marshall

Why This Book Was Written ‘It is very nice,’ said Caledonia, as she closed her book with a sigh; ‘but why did you not tell us stories of Scotland?’ ‘Because there was no need. That has been done already by a great and clever man.’ ‘Oh, but children sometimes like the stories which are written by the not great and clever people best,’ said Caledonia wisely. ‘Littler children do, anyhow. They are more simpler, you know.’ ‘Oh indeed I’ said I. ‘I wish you would write Scotland’s Story for littler children like me,’ went on Caledonia, ‘and please put more battles in it than in Our Island Story. But you must not say that the Scots were defeated. I don’t like it at all when you say “The Scots and the Picts were driven back.”’ ‘But you know we were defeated sometimes, Caledonia.’ Caledonia looked grave. That was very serious. Presently her face brightened. ‘Well, if we were, you needn’t write about those times,’ she said. So, because Caledonia asked me, I have written Scotland’s Story. I am afraid it will not please her altogether, for I have had to say more, than once or twice that ‘the Scots were defeated.’ But I would remind her that ‘defeated’ and ‘conquered’ are words with quite different meanings, and that perhaps it is no disgrace for a plucky little nation to have been defeated often, and yet never conquered by her great and splendid neighbour.

Stories of the British Isles ‘Fairy tales!’ I hear some wise people murmur as they turn the pages. Yes, there are fairy tales here, and I make no apology for them, for has not a grave and learned historian said that there ought to be two histories of Scotland—one woven with the golden threads of romance and glittering with the rubies and sapphires of Fairyland? Such, surely, ought to be the children’s Scotland. So I dedicate my book to the ‘littler children,’ as Caledonia calls them, who care for their country’s story. It is sent into the world in no vain spirit of rivalry, but rather as a humble tribute to the great Master of Romance, who wrote Tales for his little grandson, and I shall be well repaid, if my tales but form stepping-stones by which little feet may pass to his Enchanted Land. H. E. MARSHALL.


Chapter I

The Story Of Prince Gathelus Once upon a time there lived in Greece a king who had a son called Gathelus. Prince Gathelus was very handsome and brave, but he was wild and wicked, and he caused his father much sorrow and trouble. Over and over again the King punished and imprisoned his son for his evil deeds. But in spite of all his father could do, Gathelus grew no better but rather worse. At last the King had no more patience with him, and banished him from the land. When Gathelus knew that he was banished, he took a ship, and gathering as many of his friends as would come with him, he sailed away to a far country called Egypt. When they arrived in Egypt, Pharaoh, the ruler of the land, received them very kindly, for he was at that time fighting great battles, and he hoped that these young knights would help him against his enemies. This, Gathelus and his friends did, and when Pharaoh had, with their aid, defeated his enemies, he rewarded them richly and gave them a city in which they could live together. Gathelus alone was not content with the rewards, for he had seen Pharaoh’s beautiful daughter Scota, and he longed to marry her. And as Pharaoh could refuse nothing to the gallant Prince who had freed him from his enemies, he gave his consent, and Scota and Gathelus were married. 169

Stories of the British Isles For many years Gathelus lived in Egypt, growing rich and great, and ruling over his people, who became more and more numerous as the years went by. And Gathelus loved his wife so much that he commanded that in honour of her name Scota, all his people should be called Scots. But when Pharaoh began to be unkind to the Children of Israel, and terrible plagues fell upon the land, Gathelus wished to live there no longer. So he gathered a great fleet of ships, and with his wife and children, and all his soldiers and servants, and a great company of people, he went on board and sailed far away across the sea in search of another country. After many storms and adventures Gathelus and his company arrived at last on the shores of Spain. They had been tossed and buffeted about by winds and waves for many days. They had eaten all the food which they had brought with them, and they were nearly starving. So they were very glad to be safe on land once more. But the people of Spain were not glad to see these strangers, and they made ready to fight them. Gathelus too made ready to fight, and a fierce battle followed in which the Spaniards were beaten. But Gathelus and his Scots wished to live at peace with the people of the land, and although neither could speak the language of the other, the Scots found means to make the Spaniards understand that they did not wish to fight against them or to hurt them in any way. So the two nations became friends, and the Spaniards gave a part of their country to the Scots, where for many years they lived in peace.


Scotland’s Story As the years went on, the Scots grew to be still richer and greater than they had been in Egypt, and Gathelus, who had been so wild and wicked when he was young, became a wise and good King. But when the Spaniards saw that the Scots had become a powerful nation, they were once more afraid of them, and they resolved to drive them out of the country. Then both the Scots and the Spaniards gathered their mighty men, and there was a great and terrible battle, with awful slaughter on both sides. But in the end the Scots won the victory. Then once more peace was made, and the two nations agreed again to live side by side as friends. But when Gathelus saw how the Scots still went on growing richer and greater day by day, he feared that the Spaniards would again become angry and want to fight. So he began to think how this might be avoided. At last, hearing of a Green Island which lay in the sea not far distant, he resolved to send some of his people there. Gathering a great number of ships, he filled them with soldiers, and making his two sons, who were called Hiberus and Himecus, captains, he sent them away to seek for the Green Island. For some days the ships sailed upon the sea seeking the Green Island in vain. But at last they came to it and landed there. The Scots soon found out that there were very few people on the Green Island, and those who were there were gentle and kindly, and had no wish to fight. Hiberus and Himecus therefore, instead of fighting, tried to make friends with the people. This they easily did, for the 171

Stories of the British Isles inhabitants of the Green Island, seeing that the Scots meant them no harm, welcomed them gladly. So the Scots settled in the Green Island and taught the people many useful things. They showed them how to sow and plough and reap, how to build houses, how to spin, and in many ways how to live more comfortably. Then presently, in honour of Hiberus, who was their Prince, they changed the name of the island to Hibernia. The island is still sometimes called by that name, although we generally call it Ireland. For many years the Scots lived in Hibernia. Gathelus died, and Hiberus died, and after them ruled many kings. At last, when many hundreds of years had passed, a prince called Rothsay sailed over to the islands which lay opposite Hibernia, and took possession of them. The island upon which he first landed he called Rothesay, and to this day there is a town on the island of Bute called by that name. The Scots, finding that these islands were fertile, and good for breeding cattle, sailed over from Hibernia in greater and greater numbers, bringing their wives and children with them. At last they filled all the little islands, and some of them landed in the north of the big island, which was then called Albion. After many, many years, the north part of Albion came to be called the land of Scots, or Scotland, just as the south part was called the land of Angles, or England. Some people think that this story of Prince Gathelus is a fairy tale. But this at least is true, that in far-off days when people spoke of Scotia, they meant Ireland, and when they spoke of Scots, they meant the people who lived in Ireland, and 172

Scotland’s Story Scotland took its name from the people who came from Ireland and settled in Scotland.


Chapter II

A Fight with the Romans When the Scots first came to Albion, they found it already peopled by the Britons, and by another race called the Picts. It is not certain from where these Picts came, but they were a very wild and fierce people. It is supposed that they were called Picts, from the Latin word pictus, which means painted, because they painted their bodies instead of wearing clothes. So there were three races living in Scotland, and these were divided into many tribes who often fought with each other. There were kings of Scots, kings of Picts, and kings of Britons, all ruling in Albion. Sometimes the kings and their peoples all fought against each other; sometimes the Picts and the Scots joined together against the Britons. Those were fierce and wild times, and they were all fierce and wild peoples. They lived in caves, or in holes dug in the ground and covered over with turf and with branches of trees. They wore few clothes except those made from the skins of animals, although the Scots knew how to weave and make cloth in bright coloured checks and stripes. A great part of the country was covered with forests. In these forests wild beasts prowled about. Bears, wolves, wild boars, bisons, and a kind of tiger, were the fiercest, but there were also several kinds of deer, beavers, and many other animals which are no longer to be found in Scotland. The people hunted these animals and killed them for food, and also for their skins, of which they made clothes. In hunting 174

Scotland’s Story they used bows and arrows. Bows and arrows were used too in war, as well as a long, blunt, heavy spear. And in hunting and fighting the men spent nearly all their time. Years went on. Many kings, good and bad, lived, and ruled, and died, and at last a great and clever people called the Romans heard of the island of Britain, and came sailing over the sea to conquer it. They landed first in the south of the island and tried to conquer the people there, and it was not until the year 80 A.D., more than a hundred years after the Romans first came to Britain, that a general called Agricola marched into Scotland against the Caledonians, as the Romans called all the tribes who lived in the north part of the island. Agricola took some of his soldiers into Scotland by land. Others sailed there in great galleys, as the Roman ships were called. The Caledonians did not fear the Roman soldiers. They had already fought against them many times, for they had often marched into the south of the island to help the Britons against the Romans. ‘They were willing,’ says an old writer, ‘to help towards the delivery of the land from the bondage of the Romans, whose nestling so near their noses they were loth to see or hear of.’ But if the Caledonians did not fear the soldiers, the great galleys of the Romans filled them with awe and dread. Never before had they seen so many nor such great ships. ‘The very ocean is given over to our enemies,’ they said. ‘How shall we save ourselves from these mighty conquerors who thus surround us on every side?’ But although the Caledonians were filled with dread, they fought bravely. As Agricola marched northward by the coast, his galleys followed him on the sea. Sometimes the galleys 175

Stories of the British Isles would come close to the shore, and the sailors would land and join the soldiers in the camp. There they would tell stories to each other of the battles and dangers, of the storms and adventures, through which they had passed, each trying to make the others believe that their adventures had been the most exciting, their dangers the greatest. The Caledonians fought fiercely, but Agricola’s soldiers were far better trained, and gradually he drove the islanders before him into the mountains beyond the rivers Forth and Clyde. There he built a line of forts. He knew that he had neither conquered nor subdued the fierce Caledonians. So he built this line of forts in order to cut them off from the south, and shut them, as it were, into another island. Having built this line of forts, Agricola marched still farther north. But the Caledonians fought so fiercely that some of the Roman leaders begged Agricola to turn back. Agricola would not go back, but as the winter was near, and the roads were so bad as to be almost impassable, he encamped and waited for the spring before fighting any more. The Caledonians spent the winter in making preparations for battle. All the various tribes forgot their quarrels and joined together under a leader called Galgacus. Sending their wives and children to a safe place, the men, young and old, from far and near, flocked to Galgacus eager to fight for their country. When spring came and the roads were once more passable, the Romans left their camp and marched northward, seeking the Caledonians. They met, it is thought, somewhere upon the slopes of the Grampian hills, but no one is sure of the exact spot.


Scotland’s Story The Caledonians were little more than savages, yet they were ready to fight to the last for their country. They were almost naked. They wore no armour and carried only small shields. For weapons they had bows and arrows, blunt iron swords and heavy spears. Those in the centre of the army were mounted upon rough little horses, and there too were gathered the war chariots with swords upon the wheels ready to dash among the enemy and cut them down. Against these savage warriors came the splendid soldiers of the Roman Empire, clad in glittering coats of mail, armed with swords and spears of sharpened steel, every man among them trained to obey, to fight, and to die. As the Caledonians stood ready for battle, Galgacus made a speech to them. ‘Fight to-day,’ he said, ‘for the liberty of Albion. We have never been slaves, and if we would not now become the slaves of these proud Romans there is nothing left to us but to fight and die. We are at the farthest limits of land and liberty. There is no land behind us to which we may flee. There is nothing but the waves and rocks and the Romans in their ships. These plunderers of the world having taken all the land, now claim the seas, so that even if we fly to the sea there is no safety from them. They kill and slay, and take what is not theirs, and call it Empire. They make a desert and call it Peace. Our children, our wives, and all who are dear to us, are torn from us, our lands and goods are destroyed. Let this day decide if such things we are to suffer forever or revenge instantly. March then to battle. Think of your children and of the freedom which was your fathers’, and win it again, or die.’ When Galgacus had finished speaking, the Caledonians answered with great shouts and songs, then with their chariots 177

Stories of the British Isles and horsemen they rushed upon the Romans. Fiercely the battle began, fiercely it raged. The Caledonians fought with splendid courage, but what could half-naked savages do against the steel-clad warriors of Rome? When night fell, ten thousand Caledonians lay dead upon the field. The Romans had won the victory. All through the night could be heard the desolate cries of sorrow and despair, as women moved over the battlefield seeking their dead, and helping the wounded. All through the night the sky was red with the light of fires. But in the morning the country far and near was empty and silent, and the villages were smoking ruins. Not a Caledonian was to be seen. They had burned their homes and fled away to hide among the mountains. Agricola, knowing that it would be useless to try to follow them through the dark forest and hills, turned and marched southward again beyond his line of forts. A few months later he was called back to Rome. Agricola had been four years in Scotland, and when he left it the people were still unconquered.


Chapter III

The March of the Romans Although the Caledonians had been defeated, they were not subdued, and they continued to fight so fiercely that the Romans gave up trying to keep the forts which Agricola had built. Later on a Roman Emperor called Hadrian came to Britain, and he built a wall from the Tyne to the Solway. This wall ran straight across the country from sea to sea over hills and valleys, and it was so strong, and so well built, that although hundreds of years have passed since then it may still be seen to this day. But even this great wall did not keep back the Caledonians. They broke through it or sailed round the ends of it in their little boats made of wickerwork covered with the skins of animals. Some years later another Roman Emperor called Antonine came to Britain. He drove the Caledonians back again beyond Agricola’s forts, and there he built a wall which is still called by his name. But the Caledonians broke through or climbed over this wall too. The first man who leaped over the wall was called Graham, and the ruins of that part of the wall are called Graham’s Dyke to this day. Dyke is a Scottish word for wall. Many years passed. The Romans called Britain a Roman province, but the wild people of the north not only remained unconquered but they became ever more and more bold. They 179

Stories of the British Isles over-leaped the wall more and more often, coming farther and farther south, fighting and plundering as they went. At last an Emperor called Severus, hearing of the deeds of the wild Caledonians, resolved to conquer them. This Emperor was old and ill. He was so ill that he could not walk, and had to be carried in a kind of bed called a litter. But he was full of courage and determination, and gathering a great army of soldiers he invaded Scotland. Scotland at this time was covered in many parts with pathless forest, and even where there were roads they were not fit for a great army, such as Severus now brought with him, to pass over. So Severus as he marched his army through Scotland cut down trees, drained marshes, made roads and built bridges. Slowly but with fierce determination, led by a sick man who was carried about in a bed, the Romans marched through Scotland. From south to north they marched, yet they never fought a battle or came face to face with an enemy. The Caledonians followed their march, dashing out upon them unawares, swooping down upon and killing those who lagged behind or who strayed too far ahead. In this way many were killed, many too died of cold, hunger, and weariness; still on and on, over hill and valley, swept the mighty host, to the very north of Scotland. There they turned and marched back again, and at last they reached the border and crossed beyond the wall, leaving fifty thousand of their number dead in the hills and valleys of the north. No wonder that brave old Severus gave up the task as hopeless, and instead of trying to fight any more, he 180

Scotland’s Story strengthened and repaired the wall which Hadrian had built so many years before. And so it went on year by year, the Caledonians always attacking, the Romans always trying to drive them hack again. At last, nearly five hundred years after they first came to Britain, the Romans went away altogether. When the Romans had gone, the Caledonians found the south of Britain more easy to attack than ever. For as the Romans took away not only their own soldiers, but the best of the British whom they had trained to fight, there was now no one to guard the walls. So the Caledonians threw down and destroyed the wall between the Forth and the Clyde. They broke and ruined great parts of Hadrian’s wall too, and overran the south of Britain as far as London. At last the Britons were in such dread and fear of the Caledonians that they sent to their old enemies the Romans for help. But the Romans would not help them. The Britons then sent to the Saxons, and the Saxons came to their aid. When the King of the Picts heard that the Saxons had come to help the Britons, he sent to the King of the Scots begging him to join in fighting them. So the Picts and the Scots joined together against the Britons and the Saxons. But when the Picts and Scots saw the great army of Britons and the strange fierce Saxon warriors, some of them were afraid and stole away to hide themselves in the woods near. The two kings when they heard of this were very angry. They sent to seek these cowards, brought them back, and hanged them every one in sight of the 181

Stories of the British Isles whole army, so that none might be tempted to follow their example. Then Dougall the Scottish King and Galanus the Pictish King spoke to their people and encouraged them with brave words. When the battle began, arrows flew thick and fast, and it seemed as if neither side would give way. But when they came near to each other, the Picts and Scots charged so fiercely that the Britons fled before them. Then a fearful storm arose. The sky grew black with clouds and the air dark with rain and hail, which dashed on friend and foe alike. In the darkness the Picts and the Scots lost their rank and order, and when the storm passed over, the Saxons and the Britons had won the battle. It was a sorrowful day for the Picts and the Scots. They fled away, leaving the Britons to rejoice over the thousands of their enemies who lay dead upon the field. But the Britons had no great cause for rejoicing, for the Saxons rid south Britain of the Picts and the Scots only to conquer it for themselves. And soon the Britons were glad to ask the Picts and Scots to help them to drive the Saxons out of their land. This they were never able to do, and the Saxons took all the south of Britain and made it their own. But Scotland they could never conquer.


Chapter IV

The Story of Saint Columba In Ireland there lived a priest called Columba. He was very tall and strong and beautiful. He was the son of a king and might himself have been a king, but he did not care to sit upon a throne nor to wear a crown and royal robes. He did not long to fight and kill, as kings in these fierce days did. He was gentle and loving, and he longed rather to make people happy. So he was called Columba, which means a dove. When a little boy, Columba had heard the story of Christ, and he had become a Christian. When he grew up, he spent his time teaching other people to be Christian too. For at that time nearly all the people in the world were heathen. The Picts were heathen. Some of the Scots may have heard the story of Christ before they left Ireland, but if they had, they very soon forgot it amid the fierce wars and rough, wild life they led. Often Columba turned his kind grey eyes across the blue waters to the islands where his fellow-countrymen had gone, and he longed to sail over the sea to tell his story there, and to teach the wild people of these islands to be kind and gentle. At last he had his wish. He found twelve friends who were willing to go with him, and together they sailed across the sea in a little boat.


Stories of the British Isles The boat, which was called the Dewy-Red, was small and frail. It was made of wickerwork covered with the skins of animals, and seemed hardly fit for so long a journey. But these thirteen men were not afraid, and taking with them bread and water and a little milk, enough to serve them for a few days, they set sail. They were dressed in long white robes, their feet were bare except for sandals, and although they were going among fierce, wild people they took no weapons. God would guard them, they said. The sun shone brightly and a soft wind blew as the DewyRed slid out upon the waters. Columba sat at the stern, steering straight for Albion. But as the shores of Ireland faded in the distance he looked back with tear-dimmed eyes. The rowers bent to the oars, and their eyes too were dim. These men loved their country dearly, but they were leaving it for love of others. At last they reached the islands of Albion, and they landed upon one of them. But looking back across the sea they still faintly saw the shores of Ireland. ‘We must go further,’ they said, ‘if day by day we see our dear country in the distance, our hearts will for ever return to it. Let us go where we cannot see it, so that we may be content to live among strangers, in a strange land.’ So once more Columba and his friends entered their boat. They sailed on till they came to an island then called Hy, but which is now called Iona. The sun was setting as the frail little boat touched the rocky shore. Once more Columba looked back. The sea shone golden in the evening light, but across the sparkling waves no glimmer of the Irish shore was to be seen. 184

Scotland’s Story Columba and his white-robed followers landed, and climbing to the highest point in the island again turned their eyes westward. Still no faintest outline of the Irish shore was to be seen. They had found what they sought, and kneeling on the rocky shore they gave God thanks who had brought them in safety over the sea. The dove and his message of peace had found a resting-place. Upon this spot a cairn or pile of stones was raised which is called Carn cul ri Erin. That means ‘The back turned upon Ireland.’ For two years Columba remained in Iona. During that time, besides teaching the people, he and his men built houses to live in, and also a church. Most of the people who lived in Iona and the islands round were Scots. Many of them became Christian; then Columba made up his mind to go to the Picts to teach them too about Christ. The King of the Picts lived then at Inverness, and from Iona to Inverness the journey was long and difficult. But Columba had no fear. Through the dark forests where wild animals roared and prowled, by pathless mountain sides, among fierce heathen people he travelled on until he reached the palace of the King. But the King and his heathen priests had heard of the coming of Columba, and the gates of the palace were barred against him and guarded by warriors. Still Columba had no fear. Right up to the gates he marched, and raising his hand he made the sign of the cross upon them. Immediately the bolts and bars flew back. Slowly and silently the great gates turned upon their hinges and 185

Stories of the British Isles opened wide of their own accord. At the sight, the guards fled in terror to tell the King, who sat among his lords and priests. When the King heard the wonderful story, he rose up from his throne, and crying out, ‘This is a holy man,’ he hurried to meet Columba. Dressed in beautiful robes, Columba came slowly through the palace followed by his white-clad monks. As soon as the King saw him he knelt before him, praying for his blessing and protection. So the King became Columba’s friend, and helped him in every way. But not so the heathen priests. They hated Columba, they hated his teaching, and they did everything they could to keep him from speaking to the people. One day when Columba’s followers were singing hymns, the heathen priests tried to stop them, lest the people should hear. But instead of being silent, Columba himself began to sing, and his voice was so wonderful that it was heard for miles and miles around. It was heard by the King in his palace and by the peasant in his hut. And yet although it was heard so far away it sounded sweet and low to those who were near. The sound struck terror to the hearts of the heathen priests, so that they too were silent, and listened to the beautiful music. For four-and-thirty years Columba lived among the people of Scotland. He travelled over all the land telling to the fierce heathen the story of Christ. Many wonderful tales are told of Columba, and although we cannot believe them all, they help us to know that in those far-off times there lived a man whose heart was large and 186

Scotland’s Story tender, who loved the helpless and the ignorant, and who gave his life to bring them happiness. Besides preaching and teaching, Columba spent much of his time in writing. In those days all books were written by hand, and Columba copied the Psalms and other parts of the Bible. One night as he worked he grew very weary. He wrote the words ‘They who seek the Lord shall want no manner of thing that is good,’ then he said to those around him, ‘Here I must rest. Some one else must finish my work.’ Then sitting upon the hard stones which served him for bed and pillow he spoke to his followers. ‘Dear children, this is what I command with my last words—Let peace and charity be among you always. If you do this, following the example of the saints, God who gives strength to the just will help you. And I who shall be near Him will pray Him to give you all that is needful to you in this life, and to greatly reward you in the life that is to come.’ These were his last words. At midnight Columba rose, and, going into the dark church, knelt before the altar. His servant followed him, but in the darkness could not find him. So in distress he called out, ‘Where art thou, my father?’ There was no answer. At last groping about the church the man came upon Columba lying upon the steps of the altar. He raised his head and rested it against his knees, calling aloud for help. Soon all the monks were roused, and lights were brought. With cries and tears they crowded round their dying master. Columba could not speak, but he smiled upon them, and 187

Stories of the British Isles raising his hand seemed to bless them. Then with a long sigh he closed his eyes and was at rest for ever.


Chapter V

How the French and the Scots Became Friends Years passed on and many kings ruled in Scotland. They were years of war and bloodshed, for the country was still divided into different kingdoms, and besides the Picts and Scots and Britons, there were Saxons, who, although they could not succeed in conquering Scotland as they had conquered England, had settled in the part south of the Forth. Sometimes the Picts and Scots fought against each other; sometimes they joined and fought against the Britons; or again they would join with the Britons and fight against the Saxons. But always and always the story is of war. At last there arose a good and wise king called Achaius. He tried to rule well and bring peace to his land. In the time of Achaius the greatest ruler in Europe was Charlemagne, King of France and Roman Emperor. He was very powerful, but even he dreaded the wild Saxons, for they invaded France as they invaded Briton, and did many wicked and cruel deeds. When Charlemagne heard how the Picts and the Scots resisted the Saxons and remained free, he resolved to make a league with them against their common enemy. He wanted too, to make his people love learning, and in all the world he could hear of no people so learned as the Scots. He resolved therefore to send to them and ask them to come to teach his people. So 189

Stories of the British Isles he called some of his greatest nobles and sent them with a message to Achaius, King of Scots. These nobles stepped into a beautiful ship with purple sails and gilded prow and sailed away to Scotland. As soon as they landed they were led to the court of King Achaius, who greeted them kindly and treated them with great honour. ‘Noble King,’ said the messengers, bowing low before Achaius, ‘our master, the most Christian Prince Charlemagne, sends you greeting. The fame of your good name and of the love you bear to the Christian faith has come to him. He has heard too of the learning and the bravery of your people, and of how they have resisted the heathen Saxons who have invaded Britain and done many evil and cruel deeds there. Our noble King desires therefore to be in fellowship with you and with your people, so that Scotsmen shall help Frenchmen and Frenchmen shall help Scotsmen. To this end let it be sworn between us that whenever the Saxons come with an army to France the Scots shall invade England. And if the Saxons come with an army to Scotland then the French shall take their ships and invade England.’ When the messengers had made this long speech they again bowed low and waited for King Achaius to answer. ‘I thank your noble King for the love he shows towards me,’ he replied, ‘and when I have taken counsel with my lords and nobles you shall have my answer to carry back to him.’ Then the messengers were led to splendid rooms in the King’s palace. Everything was done to please and amuse them. There were great banquets and hunting parties in which some 190

Scotland’s Story of the nobles took part, but the greatest and wisest gathered round the King to give advice. Long they talked, for the lords and nobles could not agree. ‘Why should we make friends with a people from over the sea?’ said one noble. ‘Would it not be far more sensible to make friends with the Saxons who live in the same island as we do?’ ‘No,’ said another, ‘we can never be sure of the Saxons, they are full of falseness and treason. What misery and trouble have fallen upon the Britons through the deceit of the Saxons. Do not mistake, they do not wish to be our friends. They have conquered Britain, they also desire to conquer our land. Therefore if we intend to avoid the hatred of our most fearful enemies; if we intend to honour the faith of Christ for whose defence the French now bear arms; if we have more respect for truth than falsehood; if we labour for the fame and honour of our nation; if we will defend our country and bring it to peace; if we will defend our liberty and our lives, which are most dear to man, let us join with France, and let this bond be a defence to our country in all times to come.’ Then all the lords and nobles shouted, ‘It is well said. Let it be done.’ King Achaius then sent to the messengers, commanding them to come to court the next day to hear his answer. That night there was great feasting and rejoicing in the palace, and next day the King in his royal robes, surrounded by his nobles, waited to receive the messengers of the French King. ‘My lords,’ said the King, ‘I desire you to take to your master, the most Christian King Charlemagne, my greeting and thanks. Say to him that my people and I desire above all things 191

Stories of the British Isles to enter into a bond with him, which shall last for all time, and be for ever a joy to both nations. To make the bond more sure, I send back with you my own brother, who is a true and trusty knight, and with him shall go a company of soldiers and four wise men. The soldiers shall fight for the Emperor whenever he goes against the enemy, and the wise men shall teach his people.’ Then the messengers rejoiced greatly, and thanking the King they departed to their own land. The Scottish soldiers who went with them formed the beginning of a French Scots guard which afterwards became famous, and the four wise men founded schools and colleges in France, and so added honour to the name of Scotsman. King Achaius had taken for his standard a red lion rampant (that is, standing upon his hind legs) upon a yellow ground. Now, in order that the nobles might never forget his bond with France, he surrounded the red lion with a double row of fleursde-lis, the emblem of France. This was meant to show that the fierce lion of Scotland was armed with the gentleness of the lilies of France, and that the two peoples were friends for ever. Wise people say that the story of Achaius and Charlemagne can only be a fairy tale, for that at the time when Charlemagne ruled, the people of Scotland were still a poor, half-savage, ignorant people, and that a great king like Charlemagne could have learned nothing from them, and that he would not have wished to make a bond with them. However that may be, you will find as this story goes on that the French and the Scots were friends through many ages, and if you look at the Scottish Standard you will see that the lion is surrounded by the lilies of France. 192

Scotland’s Story It is said that King Achaius founded the Order of the Knights of the Thistle. This is the great order of knighthood in Scotland, just as the order of the Garter is the great order of England. When King Achaius founded the Order of the Thistle, he made only thirteen knights—himself and twelve others. This was in imitation of Christ and his twelve apostles. So it was considered a very great honour to be made a Knight of the Thistle. There were never more than thirteen Knights of the Thistle until hundreds of years later, when King George IV made a law that there should be more. The ornament worn by the Knights of the Thistle is a picture of St. Andrew with his cross surrounded by thistles and rue. The thistle was the badge of the Scots. Rue was the badge of the Picts. Thistles prick and hurt you if you do not touch them carefully; rue soothes and heals, and was supposed to cure people who had been poisoned. Some people say, however, that this Order was not founded in the time of King Achaius but in the time of King James V, a King who lived many, many years later.


Chapter VI

The Last of the Picts King Achaius married the daughter of the King of the Picts, and long after his death his grandson, Kenneth Macalpine, claimed the Pictish crown, as well as that of the Scots, because his grandmother had been a Pictish Princess. The Picts, however, did not want a Scottish king, so there was war between the two nations. But the Scottish lords at this time did not desire to fight against the Picts, so for some years, although the war went on, there was no great battle, but only little fights every now and again. Kenneth Macalpine, however, did not give up his determination to win the crown of the Picts, and at last he called all his lords together to a council, and tried to persuade them to gather for a great battle. He talked to them very earnestly, but, say what he might, he could not move them. They did not want to fight, and they would not fight. Seeing he could not persuade them to do as he wished, the King brought the meeting to an end, but commanded them all to come together again next day to talk once more about the matter. Now King Kenneth Macalpine had made up his mind that, as he could not persuade the lords by talking to them, he must try some other plan. 194

Scotland’s Story That night he made a very grand supper, and invited all the lords to come to it. They came, and it was such a grand supper, with so many courses, that it lasted far into the night. At length it was over, and all the lords went to bed. They were so tired with the long day that they fell asleep at once. But while the lords feasted, the King’s servants had been busy. No sooner were the lords asleep, than there appeared at each bedside a man dressed in fish-skins, covered with shining scales. In one hand he held a torch and in the other an ox-horn. The night was very dark, and the light from the torches shone on the fish-scales, making a soft and silvery light. When each man was in his place, they all raised their horns, and speaking through them as through a trumpet they cried, ‘Awake.’ At the sound of that great shout each lord started wide awake, and seeing the strange being at his bedside, lay trembling and wondering what it might mean. Then speaking through their horns, which made their voices sound terrible and unearthly, and quite unlike the voice of any human being, the dressed-up men said, ‘We are the messengers of Almighty God to the Scottish nobles. We are sent to command you to obey your King, for his request is just. The Pictish kingdom is due to him as his rightful heritage. Therefore, you must fight for him and win it. That is the will of the Lord of All.’ Having so spoken, these pretended messengers from heaven put out their torches. The glimmer of the silver scales vanished, and in the darkness the men stole quietly away.


Stories of the British Isles In fear and trembling each lord lay in his bed, and could sleep no more that night. Was it a dream? each asked himself. Was it a vision? Had any other seen or heard it? When the grey morning light streamed in through the windows, and the darkness was no longer terrible around them, the lords arose. Quickly they gathered to the great Council Chamber. With pale faces and questioning eyes they looked at each other. ‘You too have heard? You too have seen? Then it was no dream. A message has indeed been sent from heaven; a message which we must obey.’ So they spoke to each other, and after some hurried consultation, they went quickly to the King. ‘Great King,’ they said, ‘this night we have seen strange signs and visions. The Lord of Heaven himself hath sent a message to us, and we are ready to fight as you command us.’ Then they told the King of the vision which each one had seen in the night. ‘I too have seen a vision,’ said the King, ‘but I said naught of it, fearing lest you should think I boasted. But now I tell you as you have all seen the like.’ This of course was not true, and the King knew very well that what the lords had seen was no vision, but only his own servants dressed up. So in this manner the King had his own way, and his lords gathered all their soldiers together, till there was such a great army as had never before been seen in the land of Scots. When the King of Picts heard of the great preparations which the Scots were making, he too gathered all his soldiers 196

Scotland’s Story together. But finding that his army was not large enough to withstand so great a host, he sent to England and asked the Saxons to help him. And the Saxons, because he promised them great gain and plunder, came. Very early one morning, when it was just beginning to grow light, the battle began. Without a shout or sound of a trumpet, the Scots rushed upon the Picts, and when the Saxons saw this silent host moving through the dim morning light like ghosts, they were dreadfully afraid. So afraid were they that they took to their heels, and fled away to the mountains near. The noise and clattering made by these fleeing Saxons startled the Picts, and threw them into great confusion. Their King tried in vain to encourage them, and bring order again into the ranks. It was of no use. The Scots fought so fiercely, that in a very short time the Picts were utterly defeated, and following the example of the Saxons, they too fled away. Their King himself, seeing that all was lost, turned his horse, and rode fast from the field, he and all his army pursued by the victorious Scots. After this battle the King of Picts sent messengers to Kenneth Macalpine desiring peace. ‘Tell your master,’ replied Kenneth, ‘that he shall have peace when he gives the crown of Picts to me. It is mine by just right and title.’ When the messengers went back to the King of Picts with this answer, he was very angry. ‘I will never give up the crown,’ he said, so the war continued. Battle after battle was fought, sometimes one side, sometimes the other, winning. But at last in a great and terrible battle the King of Picts and nearly all his nobles were slain.


Stories of the British Isles Then Kenneth marched through Pictland, killing men, women, and children in the most cruel manner, till those who were left fled away to England to escape from his cruelty. Thus the kingdom of Scots and the kingdom of Picts were united, and Kenneth Macalpine ruled over both. He took all the land belonging to the Pictish nobles and gave it to the Scottish nobles who had fought for him and helped him to conquer the Picts. He changed the names of all those lands and gave them Scottish names, so that the memory of the Picts might utterly perish. Some people say that the story of the great slaughter of the Picts is a fairy tale. Perhaps it is. But this is true, that about this time the Picts did vanish away out of the story of Albion, and we hear no more of them, but only of Scots. The Picts vanished away so completely that even very wise people cannot find out what kind of language they spoke. And so these wise people cannot agree as to what race the Picts belonged to. Kenneth Macalpine was a wise king and made good laws, and after the battles with the Picts were over he ruled his people in peace. He reigned for twenty-three years, seven years over the Scots alone, and sixteen years over the whole land. He died in 859 A.D., and was buried in the island of Iona, which, ever since St. Columba had built his church and monastery there, had been used as a burying-place for the Scottish kings. If you ever go there, you may still see the graves of some of these ancient rulers of Scotland.


Chapter VII

How a Ploughman Won a Battle Years passed on, king following king, and still the land was filled with fighting and strife. But out of the confusion and war of these stormy times Scotland grew. There was war with the Saxons; there was war with the fierce sea kings who came sailing over from Norway and Denmark. Wild heathen men were these, tall and strong, with long fair hair and blue eyes. Fearless, and brave, and cruel, they landed in the islands to the north of Scotland, burning, destroying, conquering, and carrying off both men and women as slaves. Fiercely the kings of Scotland struggled and fought against these wild invaders. Again and again they were driven out. Again and again they returned. They swept round the island; they wrecked the monastery of St. Columba on the island of Iona. Everywhere they carried fire and sword, leaving death and desolation behind them. In the reign of a king named Kenneth III, these Danes were defeated in a battle called the battle of Luncarty. The fight had been sharp and cruel, and the Danes fought with such desperate bravery that at last they drove the Scots backward. In confusion they fled from the field. Down a long lane fenced on either side with high walls they fled, hotly pursued by the victorious Danes. 199

Stories of the British Isles But in one of the fields near, a ploughman and his two sons were quietly at work. When the old man saw how the Scots were fleeing, he seized the yoke from the neck of his oxen, and calling to his sons to do the same he sprang into the lane. Side by side the three men stood barring the way. They were armed only with their wooden ox-yokes, and with them they beat back all those who fled. ‘Would ye flee and become the slaves of heathen kings?’ cried the old man, whose name was Hay. ‘Nay, nay, turn back, turn back, and die rather as free men.’ So stoutly did he speak, such blows did he deal, that the Scots took heart again. They turned, and led by Hay, they once more attacked the on-coming Danes. And the Danes, thinking that a fresh army had come to help the Scots, were seized with fear and fled. Then the Scots, who had been so nearly defeated, now filled with new hope and courage, chased them from the field. Many were killed in the battle, many more fell in the chase, and the victory of the Scots was great. But all the honour was given to the ploughman and his two sons, who had won the day after it seemed lost. The King then commanded that these three brave men should be dressed in splendid robes, and brought before him. But they did not care for fine clothes, so they refused the robes of silk and satin which were offered to them, and they went before the King wearing their old shabby clothes, covered with dust and mud, in which they had fought. All the people were eager to see the men who, by such bravery, had saved their King and country from the terrible Danes. So they crowded along the road to see them pass, and with cheering and shouting a great throng of people 200

Scotland’s Story accompanied them, doing them as much honour as if they had been kings and princes. Thus, followed and surrounded by a rejoicing crowd, they came to the King’s palace. All the courtiers wore their most splendid robes. The King sat upon his throne, his golden crown upon his head. Before him stood Hay and his sons in their old shabby clothes, carrying their wooden ox-yokes upon their shoulders. ‘What can I do for you? What can I give to you,’ asked the King, ‘as a reward for your great services?’ ‘Give me, sire,’ replied Hay, ‘as much land as a falcon will fly over without alighting.’ ‘That is but modest asking,’ said the King. ‘Let it be done.’ Then the King and all his courtiers went out into the fields near the palace, and watched as a falcon was let loose. As soon as the bird was free it rose high in the air, then spreading its wings it flew away and away. On and on it flew, on and on till, to those who watched, it seemed but a speck in the distance. Then it disappeared. The horsemen, who followed its flight, rode fast and they too were lost to sight. On and on the falcon flew, till at last it alighted upon a stone. It had flown six miles without stopping, and all that six miles of land was given to Hay and his sons to be theirs for ever. The King then made Hay and his sons knights. As you know, knights always had something painted upon their shields in memory of the great deeds which they had done. So King Kenneth commanded that Hay should have a shield of silver, and that upon it three red shields should be painted. That was to show that the ox-yokes of Hay and his sons had been as 201

Stories of the British Isles shields to the King and country. On either side was painted a ploughman carrying an ox-yoke, and over all was a falcon. I must tell you that some people say that this story too is a fairy tale, but there is still a great family whose name is Hay, and who bear these same arms with the motto, Serva jugum, which is Latin and means ‘Keep the yoke.’


Chapter VIII

Macbeth and the Three Weird Sisters After King Kenneth III died, several other kings reigned of whom there is not much to tell. At last a king called Duncan came to the throne. He was so kind and gentle that he was called Duncan the Gracious. He was too kind and gentle for those rough times. The beginning of Duncan’s reign was quiet and peaceful, but when the people saw how kind he was, and how little he punished evil-doers, they grew unruly and rebellious, thinking they might do as they wished, because of the weak rule of this mild King. Some of the people rose in rebellion under a leader called Macdowald, and Duncan, who did not like fighting, hardly knew what to do. But he had a cousin called Macbeth who was a great and powerful man, very fierce and stern, and a splendid soldier. Macbeth was impatient of the King’s softness. He was eager to fight, so Duncan gave the command of his army to this cousin and to another noble called Banquo. When the rebels heard that Macbeth was coming against them, they were so afraid that many of them left their leader Macdowald. Some of them stole away to hide. Others joined Macbeth. Macdowald was left with very few soldiers, but he was obliged to fight, for he could not escape from Macbeth. In the battle which followed, the rebels were utterly defeated and their leader was killed. 203

Stories of the British Isles No sooner had Macbeth put down this rebellion than the Danes once more invaded Scotland. But he defeated them too, and they fled away, promising never again to return. One day, soon after the war with the Danes, Macbeth was walking over a lonely moor with Banquo, when they were met by three old women. These three old women were very ugly and dreadful to look upon. They were called the Weird Sisters and were supposed to be witches. Nowadays no one believes in witches, but in those far-off times every one did. These three old women stopped in front of Macbeth, and pointing at him with their skinny fingers, spoke. ‘Hail, Macbeth! hail to thee! Thane of Glamis,’ said the first. ‘Hail, Macbeth! hail to thee! Thane of Cawdor,’ said the second. ‘Hail, Macbeth! hail to thee! King of Scotland,’ said the third. Both Macbeth and Banquo were very much astonished, and wondered what this might mean, for Macbeth was certainly not King of Scotland, nor was he either Thane of Glamis or Cawdor. Thane was an old Scottish title meaning very much the same as the Saxon title earl which came to be used later. ‘You say fine things to Macbeth,’ said Banquo, when the old women had ceased speaking; ‘have you nothing to say to me?’ ‘Yes,’ said the first witch, ‘we promise greater things to you than to him. He indeed shall be King of Scotland, but his end shall be unhappy. His children shall not follow him on the 204

Scotland’s Story throne. You shall never reign, but your children shall sit upon the throne of Scotland for many generations.’ Then the old women vanished, leaving Macbeth and Banquo full of astonishment. They were still wondering what it all might mean when a horseman came spurring towards them. When he came near he threw himself from his horse and kneeling at Macbeth’s feet, ‘Hail, Macbeth,’ he cried, ‘thy father Sinell is dead, and thou art Thane of Glamis.’ What the first Weird Sister had said had come true. More full of astonishment than ever, Macbeth went on his way. But he had gone very little farther when a second messenger came hurrying towards him. ‘Hail, Thane of Cawdor,’ cried this second messenger, kneeling at his feet. ‘Why do you call me that?’ asked Macbeth. ‘The Thane of Cawdor is alive. I have no right to the title.’ ‘He who was the Thane of Cawdor is alive,’ said the messenger, ‘but because he has rebelled against the King his thane-ship has been taken from him. The King has made you Thane in his place as a reward for all your great deeds.’ What the second Weird Sister had said had come true. Now that two things had come true, Macbeth began to think more and more of what the Weird Sisters had said, and he longed for the third thing to come true too. But unless Duncan should die there seemed no hope of that. Macbeth despised Duncan because of his gentleness, and he wished he would die. Sometimes the wicked thought came to him that he would kill 205

Stories of the British Isles Duncan. Yet he could not quite make up his mind to do the evil deed. Macbeth had a wife, who was a very proud and beautiful lady. She longed to be queen, and when she heard of what the Weird Sisters had said she kept urging Macbeth to murder Duncan and make himself King. But Macbeth could not so easily forget that King Duncan was his cousin, that he had always loved and trusted him, that he had made him general of his army and Thane of Cawdor and had heaped upon him many honours and rewards. So when Lady Macbeth tried to make her husband murder the King, he reminded her of all this. But Lady Macbeth cared for none of these things. She hated Duncan and all his family, because his grandfather had killed her brother. She longed to avenge his death, and she longed to be queen. She kept on telling Macbeth that he was weak and cowardly not to murder Duncan. So at last Macbeth listened to his wife, and giving way to his own evil wishes and to her persuasions, he killed the good King Duncan.


Chapter IX

Macbeth—The Murder of Banquo King Duncan had two sons, one called Malcolm Canmore, or Bighead, the other Donald Bane, or White. When these two princes heard what had happened to their father, they fled away, fearful that Macbeth would kill them too. Malcolm Canmore fled to England to the court of Edward the Confessor. Edward received him very kindly, for he remembered that he too had been driven from his own land and had been an exile in France for many years. Donald Bane fled to Ireland. The King there also received him kindly and treated him with honour. Macbeth then caused himself to be crowned. And because he was so strong and powerful the lords and people of Scotland accepted him as King. And although he had come to the throne in such an evil way, Macbeth proved to be a good king. For some years he ruled well, if sternly. He made good laws; he punished the wicked, and rewarded the good, and tried in every way to make people forget how he had won the crown. But the people did not forget, and they did not love Macbeth. Neither could Macbeth forget what he had done. Although he was a good king, he was a most unhappy man. When he thought of the three Weird Sisters and their words he felt more unhappy still. For he remembered that they had said that Banquo’s children, and not his, should rule over Scotland. 207

Stories of the British Isles Then he began to hate Banquo and to fear him. ‘Will not Banquo kill me in order to get the crown just as I killed Duncan?’ he asked himself. The more he thought of it the more sure he felt that Banquo would murder him, and at last he made up his mind to rid himself of this fear. One evening Macbeth asked Banquo and his son Fleance to supper. Suspecting no evil, they came. Macbeth provided a splendid supper for them which lasted until very late. At last when it was quite dark and every one else had gone to bed, Banquo and Fleance said good-night and started homeward. Now Macbeth intended that they should never reach home again. He dared not kill them in his own house lest people should find out that he was the murderer. So he paid a large sum of money to wicked men, who promised to lie in wait for Banquo and Fleance and kill them on their way home from the supper. In the quiet, dark night, as father and son walked home together, these wicked men suddenly set upon them and tried to kill them. They did kill Banquo, but Fleance escaped through the darkness and fled away to Wales. There he lived safely for a long time, and married a Welsh lady. Many years after, his son Walter came back to Scotland. Walter was kindly received by the King who was then on the throne, and he was made Lord High Steward of Scotland. He was called Walter the Steward. The title was given to his sons and grandsons after him, and soon Steward, or Stewart, came to be used as the surname of his family. For in those days people often received their names from their work or office. At last a High Steward married a royal princess. Their son became King, and was thus the founder of a race of Stewart kings who reigned for many years in Scotland. 208

Scotland’s Story In this way what the Weird Sisters had foretold to Banquo came to pass. After the murder of Banquo, Macbeth was no happier, nor did he feel any safer than before. Indeed he began to dread, and to look upon every man as an enemy. Macbeth’s fears turned him into a tyrant. For very little cause he would put a noble to death and take his land and money for himself. No man knew when his life was safe, and the nobles one and all began to dread the King. At length Macbeth found pleasure only in putting his nobles to death, for in this way he not only rid himself of his enemies, but he became daily richer and richer. With the money of the dead nobles he paid an army of soldiers, some of whom he kept always round himself as a bodyguard. But in spite of his army of soldiers Macbeth’s fear of being killed grew greater and greater. At last he went to the Weird Sisters to ask them for advice. ‘How shall I keep myself safe,’ he asked, ‘when everyone around me is trying to find a way to kill me?’ And the old women answered:— ‘Be lion-mettled, proud, and take no care Who chafes, who frets, or where conspirers are; Macbeth shall never vanquished be, until Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill Shall come against him.’ Macbeth went home feeling much comforted and quite safe, for how could Birnam wood come to Dunsinane?


Stories of the British Isles They were twelve miles apart, and it was impossible for trees to uproot themselves and walk all these miles through the valley to the hill beyond. Macbeth began to believe that he would never be killed at all. Feeling safe, he treated his nobles even worse than before, so that they grew to hate him more and more, and many of them turned their thoughts to the banished sons of the gracious King Duncan, and longed for one of them to come and be their King.


Chapter X

Macbeth—How the Thane 0f Fife Went to England In order to make himself quite safe from his enemies, Macbeth thought that he would build a strong castle on the top of Dunsinane hill. It cost a great deal of money to build this castle, because the wood and stones for it had to be dragged up such a steep slope. So Macbeth made all his Thanes help. Each in turn had to build part of the castle, sending men and horses to drag the stones and wood up to the top. At last it came to the Thane of Fife’s turn to help with the building. This Thane, who was called Macduff, was a very great man and he was much afraid of Macbeth. For the greater and richer a man was, the more Macbeth seemed to hate him. Besides Macduff had loved Duncan, and secretly hoped that Prince Malcolm would one day return. Macbeth knew this, and hated him the more. Macduff sent builders and workmen with everything that they might need for the work. He gave them orders to be very careful, to work diligently and well, and to do everything aright, so that the King might find no fault with them. But he himself kept away, for he knew that King Macbeth had no love for him, and he feared to be seized and put to death, as so many nobles before him had been. One day Macbeth came to see how the castle was getting on. ‘Where is the Thane of Fife?’ he asked, looking round, and seeing him nowhere among his men. 211

Stories of the British Isles On being told that the Thane of Fife was not there, but had sent his workmen only, Macbeth fell into a violent rage. ‘I knew beforehand of his disobedient mind,’ he said. ‘Now I am resolved to punish it.’ At this moment some oxen which were drawing a load up the hill stumbled and fell. He cannot even send beasts fit to work, cried Macbeth. I will make an example of him. I will lay the yoke upon his own neck instead of upon that of his oxen. One of Macduff’s friends who stood by heard the King’s angry words. This friend went quickly to Macduff to warn him to fly from the country, for it was quite certain that the King meant to do him an evil. Macduff, as soon as he heard, mounted upon a swift horse and fled away to his strong castle in Fifeshire. The King lost no time in following. Close behind Macduff he came with a great army of soldiers. It was a fast and furious race, Macduff was almost alone, and he had had to ride away in such haste that he had little money with him. When he came to the ferry across the river Tay, which he must pass in order to reach his castle, he had nothing with which to pay the ferryman except a loaf of bread. But the ferryman was content to take the loaf, and for many years the place was called the Ferry of the Loaf. On again rode Macduff, faster and faster still, until at length the turrets of his castle came in sight. Now he was quite close; now he was thundering over the drawbridge; now his breathless, sweating, panting horse carried him safe within the courtyard. 212

Scotland’s Story ‘Up with the drawbridge, men, let the portcullis fall,’ he shouted. In olden times a castle was always surrounded by a ditch filled with water, called a moat. Over the moat there was a bridge, but the bridge was made so that it could be drawn up in time of war. In this way an enemy often found it difficult to get across the moat and enter the castle. The entrance was also guarded by a portcullis. This was a heavy, barred gate, but instead of turning upon hinges as gates usually do, it was raised up and let down like a window. As soon as Macduff had seen his orders obeyed, he went to greet his wife and tell her what had happened. Together they looked out from the castle turret. In the distance they saw a dark, moving mass. Now and again as the sun caught it, they could see the glitter of steel. It was the King’s army. ‘We cannot hold the castle long against such a host,’ said Lady Macduff, as she watched the long lines moving onward. ‘You must fly. Our little vessel lies in the harbour ready to put to sea. Go quickly on board. I will hold the castle until you are safe.’ Macduff did not want to go and leave his wife and children whom he loved. But there was no help for it, so he said goodbye, and stepping on board his little vessel which lay in the harbour behind his castle, he sailed away. He sailed away to England to see Prince Malcolm and to ask him to come and be King. Meanwhile, brave Lady Macduff held the castle. Macbeth and his soldiers came close below the walls, calling to Macduff to give up the keys. But no one answered.


Stories of the British Isles With beating heart Lady Macduff watched the white sail grow smaller and smaller in the distance, and listened to Macbeth as he poured out dreadful threats of what he would do if Macduff did not yield himself at once. Then, at last, when Macduff was safely beyond the reach of pursuit, Lady Macduff came to the walls. ‘Do you see that little white sail far out to sea?’ she asked. ‘Yonder is Macduff. He has gone to England to the court of Edward. He has gone to bring Prince Malcolm back to Scotland. When he comes we will crown him King. You will be dragged from the throne and put to death, so you will never put the yoke on the Thane of Fife’s neck.’ When Macbeth heard these brave words, and knew that Macduff had escaped him, he was fiercely angry. He began to storm the castle at once. The few men who had been left to guard it fought bravely, but in vain. In a very short time Macbeth’s fierce soldiers won an entrance, and gallant Lady Macduff and all her children were put to death. Macbeth then took all Macduff’s land and money, proclaimed him a traitor and an outlaw, and forbade him ever again to return to Scotland. But Macduff did return.


Chapter XI

Macbeth—How Birnam Wood Came To Dunsinane Macduff sailed southward, little knowing the dreadful things that were happening at home, little dreaming that his brave wife was dead, and his castle a ruin. Through storms and dangers he sailed, until at last he landed safely in England and went to seek Prince Malcolm at the court of Edward the Confessor. Malcolm received Macduff very kindly, for he was glad to have news of his own land. Macduff told the Prince of all the sorrows and griefs of Scotland, and begged him to come to fight for the crown. ‘Do not mistrust me,’ he said. ‘Your father found me ever faithful. In spite of the many hardships which I have borne, to you also I have been faithful, and am, and shall be, all my life. If you come to claim the throne, nearly all the lords will support you, and the common people, I know, will joyfully shed their blood for you.’ When Malcolm heard these words he was very glad in his heart. He longed to go back to Scotland to claim his crown and throne. But still he was not sure if Macduff was to be trusted. He feared that he had been sent by Macbeth to persuade him to come to Scotland so that he might be betrayed and killed. So Malcolm was silent, wondering if he should go or not, turning 215

Stories of the British Isles it over and over in his mind, while Macduff still urged, and persuaded. ‘I am truly grieved,’ said Malcolm at last, ‘to hear of the misery which has come upon Scotland. I love my people and I would like to make them happy, but I am not fit to rule. I am a bad man. I am the most greedy creature upon earth, and if I were King I should try in so many ways to get money and lands that I should put to death the greater part of the Scottish nobles, for pretended faults, in order to take their goods and possessions for myself. So it were well for you that I should not come to be your King. I am ashamed to own it, but I am a thief and a robber.’ All this Malcolm said to try Macduff. Macduff, when he heard it, was very sad, but he answered, ‘What you tell me grieves me deeply, but when you are King, you will have great wealth; when you are King you will have no lack of gold and silver, or of precious stones, or jewels, or whatever else you may desire. Be brave then. Do your best, come to be our King, and forget your greed and wickedness.’ ‘But,’ said Malcolm, ‘that is not all. I am deceitful, I love nothing so much as to betray and deceive. No man can trust my word. I make promises, but I never keep them. I am not fit to be a King.’ Then Macduff was silent, too sad to speak. After a minute or two he cried out, ‘Oh unhappy and miserable Scotsmen, alas for us! To be subject to you, our liege lord by right—never! You confess yourself a thief, false, cunning, and faithless. What other kind of badness seems to be left but that you should call yourself a traitor. A traitor you are. You shall never be lord over me. Neither shall I be subject to Macbeth. I will rather choose banishment,’ and bursting into tears Macduff 216

Scotland’s Story sobbed aloud. Then looking northward he stretched out his hands. ‘Scotland, farewell for ever!’ he cried, and turned to go. But as Macduff, with downcast head, went slowly away, Malcolm sprang after him, and catching him by the sleeve, cried, ‘Be of good comfort, Macduff, I have none of these wickednesses. I only said these things to prove whether you were faithful or faithless. Wicked people have so often come to try to betray me into the hands of Macbeth, that I wished to make sure that you were true to me. Now I know that you hate falseness and cunning, even as I do. Forgive me, dear friend. Let us go to Scotland together. You shall not be an exile. No! you shall be first in the kingdom after the King.’ Then Macduff, who had been weeping for sorrow, wept for joy, and falling upon his knees clasped Malcolm’s feet and kissed them. ‘If what you say is true, my lord,’ he cried, ‘you bring me back from death to life. Oh hasten, hasten, my lord, I implore you to free your people who wait and long for you!’ ‘If you would keep good men and true from harm, Men who have fought without one helping arm, Men on whose necks foes, for three lustres trod, Help them, in pity for the love of God. Stay not to think, but up, and fell the foe; Lighten the burden of thy people’s woe. Gird on thy sword, thy trusty weapons take, For strong thy limbs and firm thy sturdy make A Scot the heir of a long royal race, Good hap advance thee to thy father’s place.’ Malcolm and Macduff talked long, making plans. At last it was agreed that Macduff should return to Scotland at once, and 217

Stories of the British Isles there secretly gather the people together and make known to them that their true King, Malcolm Canmore, was coming. As soon as Macduff had gone, Malcolm went to King Edward and told him that he meant to return to Scotland to fight for the crown. And Edward, who had always been kind to Malcolm, gave him leave to take with him any of the English nobles and soldiers who cared to go to help him to win the crown. So Malcolm, taking with him the Earl of Siward and ten thousand English soldiers, set out for Scotland. It was soon seen that Macduff had spoken the truth, for nearly all the Scottish nobles joined Malcolm, and the common people flocked to his standard in hundreds. But Macbeth did not believe that he could be either defeated or killed, for he remembered what the Weird Sisters had said about Birnam wood coming to Dunsinane. So he shut himself up in his strong castle on Dunsinane hill, and felt quite safe. Without fighting any great battle, Malcolm marched through Scotland until he came to Birnam wood. There he lay encamped, intending next day to attack the castle of Dunsinane where he knew Macbeth to be. In the morning the army arose rested and refreshed. Before the march to Dunsinane began, Malcolm ordered every soldier to cut down a bough of whatever tree was near to him and to carry it in his hand. ‘In this way,’ he said, ‘our army will be hidden by the green branches, and Macbeth will be unable to tell what numbers are coming against him.’ So each man cut down as large a branch as he could carry, and held it before him as he marched. 218

Scotland’s Story A few hours later Macbeth stood on his castle-wall looking out towards Birnam wood. Suddenly his face grew pale and he trembled in fear. What was this coming slowly and surely onward? Trees walking? Birnam wood had come to Dunsinane hill. Then all was lost. Macbeth was really brave, and now that he felt that his last fight had come, he meant to fight it well. So, calling all his soldiers about him, he marched out to meet the enemy. In the thickest of the fight Macduff and Macbeth met. ‘Traitor,’ cried Macbeth, lifting his two-handed sword high. ‘I am no traitor, but am true to my lawful King,’ cried Macduff, as he sprang aside to avoid the blow. A minute later Macbeth lay dead upon the ground, slain by Macduff’s sharp sword. So died Macbeth. He had reigned for seventeen years. At first he had been a good and wise King, doing much for the happiness of his people, but in the end he had proved himself a tyrant, and was hated and despised as tyrants ever are. He was killed in 1057 A.D.


Chapter XII

Malcolm Canmore—How the King Overcame a Traitor Prince Malcolm was now set upon the throne. He was crowned at Scone with great ceremony, sitting upon the Stone of Destiny, or the Stone of Hope as it was sometimes called. This stone, it was said, was the stone which Jacob had used as a pillow when he slept in the wilderness and saw the vision of angels going up and down upon a ladder set up from earth to heaven. Prince Gathelus had brought it with him from Egypt, and from that time it had always been in the possession of the Kings of Scotland, for it was said that wherever this stone was the Scots should reign. ‘Except old saws do fail, And wizards’ wits be blind, The Scots in place shall reign Where they this stone shall find.’ When Kenneth Macalpine became King over the whole land, he brought the Stone to Scone, and there it remained for hundreds of years, and the Kings of Scotland always sat upon it when they were crowned. Malcolm did not forget his promise to Macduff, and as soon as he was King he rewarded him greatly, making him second only to himself in power.


Scotland’s Story Macduff was now called the Earl of Fife, for Malcolm having lived so long in England had learned many English ways and words, and he brought this Saxon title into use in Scotland. To the Earl of Fife was given the honour of placing the crown upon the King’s head at his coronation. He was also chosen to be leader of the army, and over the people of his own country of Fife he was given power equal to that of the King. Malcolm was not allowed to take possession of his kingdom without a struggle. A few nobles still refused to acknowledge him as King, and they set Lulath, Macbeth’s cousin, upon the throne. But Malcolm, hearing of this, sent an army against him. In the battle that followed, Lulath was killed and all his soldiers scattered. For ten years after this the land had peace. Malcolm Canmore was a good King and ruled well. We are told that he was a King very humble in heart, bold in spirit, exceedingly strong in bodily strength, daring though not rash, and having many other good qualities. One day a courtier came to King Malcolm to tell him that one of his greatest nobles had agreed with his enemies to kill him. But the King bade the courtier be silent, and would not listen to him. Shortly after, the traitor came to court, followed by a great company of soldiers. The King greeted him kindly, and did not let him see that he knew what wicked thoughts were hid deep in his heart. That night there was a fine supper, and the King ordered a great hunting-party for next day. Very early in the morning every one was astir. Huntsmen and dogs were gathered, and with a great noise and clatter they set off. 221

Stories of the British Isles The King arranged in which direction each man was to go, and he himself rode off, attended only by one knight. This knight was the wicked traitor who wished to kill the King. Side by side they rode through the wood the King and the murderer. On and on they went, riding farther and farther away from the others. The noise of jingling harness, the voices of men, the baying of dogs, grew fainter and fainter in the distance. At last they were heard no more. Darker and denser grew the wood, but still the King rode on. At last, bursting through a ring of trees, they came to a clear open space. Then the King turned and looking sternly at the traitor, said, ‘Here we are, you and I, man to man. There is none to stand by me, King though I be, and none to help you; nor can any man see or hear us. So now if you can, if you dare, if your courage fails you not, do the deed which you have in your heart. Fulfil your promise to my foes. If you think to slay me, when better? When more safely? When more freely? When, in short, could you do it in a more manly way? Have you poison ready for me? Would you slay me in my sleep? Have you a dagger hidden with which to strike me unawares? All would say that were a murderer’s, not a knight’s part. Act rather like a knight, not like a traitor; act like a man. Meet me as man to man. Then your treachery may at least be free from meanness, for from disloyalty it can never be free.’ On foot at liking thou mayest fight, Or on horse if thou wilt be, As thou thinkest best. Now choose thee Horsed and armed as well As I am thou art every whit. Thy weapons are more sharp and ready 222

Scotland’s Story Than any that unto this stead have I. Target, spear, knife, and sword, Between us now deal we the weird. Here is best now to begin Thy purpose, if thou wilt honour win. Here is none that may us see, None, help may either me or thee, Therefore try now with all thy might To do thy purpose as a knight. Since thou hast failed in loyalty Do this deed yet with honesty, If now thou may or dare or will, Hesitate not to fulfil Thy promise, thy purpose, and thine oath. Do forth thy deed and be not loth. If thou thinkest to slay me, What time than now may better be, With freedom or with manhood? Forth thee! do as should a knight. Go we together. God deal the right, With our four hands and no more Thereon must all the game go. All the time that the King was speaking, the wretched traitor sat upon his horse with bowed head. He was ashamed to look up, and the King’s words fell upon his heart like the strokes of a hammer upon an anvil. He cursed himself for his evil thoughts. The weight of shame seemed more than he could bear. The King ceased speaking, and the traitor springing from his horse threw away his shield and spear. With trembling 223

Stories of the British Isles hands he unbuckled his sword and flinging that too away, he knelt at the King’s feet, unarmed. His face was pale and tears were in his eyes; ‘My Lord and King,’ he cried, ‘forgive me. Out of your kingly grace forgive me this once. Whatever evil was in my heart, whatever wicked thought was mine shall be blotted out. I swear before God that in the future I shall be more faithful to you than any man.’ ‘Fear not, my friend,’ replied the King, raising him up, ‘you shall suffer no evil from me or through me on this account.’ ‘The King then all his action Forgave this knight there quietly, And took him all to his mercy; And there he became his man More leal than he was before then. And the King that was his lord Let no man know of their discord Till the knight himself this case Told, and all that happened was.’


Chapter XIII

Malcolm Canmore—How Saint Margaret Came to Scotland When Malcolm Canmore had reigned over Scotland for about ten years, a great event happened in the neighbouring kingdom of England. I mean the conquest of England by William Duke of Normandy. William Duke of Normandy took possession of all England, and Edgar, the rightful heir to the throne, fled with his mother and sisters. They set sail in a ship, meaning to go to Hungary, where they knew they would be kindly received. But great storms arose. Their ship was battered and driven about by winds and waves they knew not whither, and at last when they had lost all hope of ever seeing land again, they were driven upon the shores of Scotland. They landed there at a place on the Firth of Forth which to this day is called Margaret’s Hope, from the name of Edgar’s sister the Princess Margaret. The place at which they afterwards crossed the river is still called Queen’s Ferry. When Edgar, who was only a boy, and his sisters and mother found themselves in Scotland they were uncertain what to do. They did not know if they would be received in a friendly manner or not. The country people gathered round and stared at these strange ladies. They were astonished, and a little afraid too at 225

Stories of the British Isles their grand clothes, and at the great size of the ship in which they had come. When King Malcolm was told of the beautiful ladies and fine tall men who had come in the strange ship, he sent some of his nobles to find out who they were, where they came from, and what they wanted. When the nobles came to the ship they were almost as much astonished as the common people had been at the splendid men, and beautiful, sad ladies. So the nobles spoke gently to them, and asked them how it was that they had landed upon these shores. Then the lady Agatha and her daughters told their sad story. ‘We are English,’ they said, ‘the relatives of King Edward. He is dead, and his throne and crown have been taken by the cruel Duke of Normandy. We have fled from the country. The winds and the waves have driven us upon your shores, and we seek the help and protection of your most gracious King.’ The ladies spoke so simply, yet they looked so beautiful and so grand, that the nobles felt more and sorrier for them. They talked kindly to the ladies for some time. Then they went back to King Malcolm and told him all that they had learned. When Malcolm heard that the ladies and their brother were English, and relatives of the King who had been so kind to him, he called for his horse and set out to visit them. Malcolm brought Edgar and his mother and sisters back with him, gave them rooms in his palace, and treated them as great and honoured guests. Soon he came to love the Princess Margaret very much, for she was both beautiful and good. She too loved the King, and after a little time they were married. 226

Scotland’s Story The wedding was very splendid. Such pomp and grandeur had never before been seen in Scotland as was seen at the marriage of Malcolm Canmore and Queen Margaret. For the sake of his wife Margaret, King Malcolm treated all English people kindly. So at this time very many of the English, who were driven out of their own country by William of Normandy, came to settle in Scotland. Malcolm gave these English exiles both land and money, and thus it came about that in after years many of the great families had lands both in Scotland and in England. These English nobles brought English manners and customs to Scotland. This greatly displeased many of the Scottish nobles. The Scots had always been a very hardy people. They were big and strong more like giants than like ordinary people. They ate and drank little and cared little for fine clothes or fine houses. It seemed to them that the English cared too much for all these things. They thought it was a bad day for Scotland when all these grand knights and nobles came to live there, and they were angry with Malcolm because he was kind to them. They were angry too with Queen Margaret, for she thought it right that the King of Scotland should be surrounded by splendour as befits a great king. So she did away with all the old simple ways to which the Scottish people were accustomed. Great knights, nobles, and fair ladies waited upon the King and Queen. Their meals were served upon dishes of gold and silver, and the clothes they wore were beautiful and gorgeous. Queen Margaret also encouraged merchants to come to Scotland to trade. They brought jewels and gold and other beautiful things, and took away woollen cloth and whatever else 227

Stories of the British Isles the Scots had to sell. It was in the days of Queen Margaret that the Scottish people first began to wear the brightly coloured checked cloths which we call tartans. But in spite of all her splendour, Queen Margaret was a very good and holy woman, and after her death she was called a saint. Every morning before she had her own breakfast she fed nine little beggar children. Often she took them in her arms and fed them with her own hands. At certain times in the year the King and Queen would give dinner to three hundred poor, and wait upon them as they sat at table in the great hall of the palace. Queen Margaret too used to wash the feet of pilgrims and beggars, which in those days was thought to be a very holy action. The Queen could not bear to see any one hungry, or cold, or in misery. She gave all her own money to the poor, and often, when she had nothing left to give, she would borrow from her lords and ladies in waiting. They were always willing to lend to her, for they knew that they would be paid again more than they gave. Sometimes too the Queen would take the King’s money to give to the poor. He knew very well that she took it, but he pretended not to miss it. But sometimes he would laugh and say that he would have her tried and imprisoned for stealing. Really he loved her so much that she might do anything she wished. Queen Margaret was learned too. In those days, when few people could read, she could read both English and Latin. The King, although he could speak Latin, English and Scotch (which were different languages in those days), had never been taught to read. But he loved to take Margaret’s books in his hand and sometimes he would kiss those which she liked the best. Sometimes too he would take away one of her favourites 228

Scotland’s Story and give it to a goldsmith, who would cover it in gold and set it with precious stones. Then Malcolm would bring the book back again and give it to Queen Margaret as a sign of his love for her. Malcolm was a good King, but he was rough and passionate, and sometimes cruel. But however angry he was, the gentle Queen Margaret could always soothe and calm him again. When William of Normandy, who had now made himself King of England, heard that Malcolm had married the Princess Margaret, he was very angry. He was afraid that now the Scottish King would help Edgar to win the crown of England again. So he sent to Malcolm demanding that Edgar should be given up to him. This Malcolm refused to do, and there was bitter war between the King of England and the King of Scotland. The northern part of England, called in those days Northumbria, had always been a ground of fighting and quarrel between England and Scotland. The boundary of Scotland was always changing. Sometimes it was as far north as the Forth; sometimes as far south as the Humber. Now Malcolm made many expeditions into Northumbria to help the Northumbrian lords, who hoped to drive William the Conqueror out of England and to place Edgar upon the throne instead. Malcolm ravaged and plundered the whole country in a fearful manner. The Scots grew rich upon the spoils of war, and they carried so many captives back to Scotland that for many years English slaves were to be found in every town, every village, and every cottage in Scotland. 229

Stories of the British Isles William, seeing that he could not conquer the Northumbrians, resolved to make their land a barren waste. He marched all over it, and what the Scots had not destroyed, he destroyed, until the whole country north of the Humber was a blackened, ruined desert; and the people who were not killed in battle died of hunger or escaped into Scotland. Then William marched to Scotland, resolved to punish Malcolm for having helped Edgar and the Northumbrians, but, as an old history says, he and his soldiers found naught there for which they were the better. So at last the two Kings made a peace, which lasted until the death of the Conqueror.


Chapter XIV

The Story of Pierce-Eye When William of the Red Face came to the throne of England, there was war again between England and Scotland. It is not quite easy always to know why they fought, for in those fierce days a very small cause was enough to make a war. Sometimes Malcolm fought to help Prince Edgar, sometimes he fought about the border lands. At last it was agreed that the Scottish King should hold the northern part of England, which was called Northumbria, in fief from the English King, and do homage to him for it just as the English King did homage to the King of France for the lands he held there. To hold a land in fief meant, that in return for the land, the man to whom it was given promised to help his ‘Over-lord’ by sending soldiers to fight for him in time of war. This way of paying for land by fighting was called the feudal system, and it first came into Scotland in the time of Malcolm Canmore. After this agreement there was peace, but it did not last long. William of the Red Face sent for Malcolm to come into England. Malcolm went, but when he arrived the English King treated him, not as one king might treat another, but as a king might treat a subject. William tried to pretend that Malcolm was his subject and ought to do homage to him for the whole of Scotland instead of only for Northumbria. This made Malcolm very angry. Leaving William in great wrath, he went straight back to Scotland and gathered his army together. Then he 231

Stories of the British Isles marched again into England, fighting and plundering as he went. William the Red hastily gathered an army, and sent it against Malcolm, and at a castle called Alnwick the Scots were defeated, and their brave King Malcolm slain. The Scots were besieging the castle. The English had almost given up hope and were thinking of yielding, when an English knight, trusting to win great renown, set forth upon a bold adventure. He prayed the Governor to give him the keys of the castle. Without armour or weapon of any kind except a spear in his hand, he mounted upon a swift horse. Placing the keys upon the point of the spear, he rode out of the gates, and made straight for the Scottish camp. As he came near to the camp he was stopped by the guards. ‘Whence come you?’ they asked, surprised to see an English warrior alone, and almost unarmed. ‘Is it in war or in peace that you come?’ ‘In peace,’ replied the knight, ‘we can hold out no longer. I bring you here the keys of the castle which I would give to your King, in token of submission.’ The guards were very glad at the news, and they led the knight through the camp to the tent of the King. With clamour and rejoicing many soldiers followed, gazing in wonder at the unarmed knight with the keys of the castle upon his spear. Hearing the noise, and wondering what it might mean, King Malcolm came out of his tent. As soon as the English knight saw the King, he lowered his spear, as if he would present the keys to him. But instead of doing so, he suddenly made a 232

Scotland’s Story swift thrust forward and pierced the King in the left eye. Then, before those around could realise what had happened, he set spurs to his horse, and fled away to the woods near. Without a groan the King sank to the ground, and when his friends raised him, it was found that he was quite dead. Then the English, taking advantage of the sorrow and confusion into which the Scots were thrown by the death of their King, fell upon them and defeated them with great slaughter. In the battle, Malcolm’s eldest son Prince Edward was wounded, so that he died, and filled with grief, the Scots turned back to their own borders. The English knight who killed King Malcolm was, because of this deed, called Pierce-eye ever after. He was thus, it is said, the founder of the great family of Pierce-eye or Percy, who became Earls of Northumberland. While these things were happening in England, far away in Scotland the good Queen Margaret lay very ill. She lay praying for her husband and her sons, when, opening her eyes, she saw her younger son, Prince Edgar, standing beside her bed. His face was so pale and sad, that the sight of it made her afraid. ‘How fares it with your father and brother?’ she asked anxiously. The Prince stood silent with drooping head and eyes full of tears. ‘I pray you,’ cried the Queen, ‘tell me. By the Holy Rood and by the obedience you owe to me, tell me the truth.’ Then the Prince spoke. ‘My father and my brother are both slain,’ he said. 233

Stories of the British Isles ‘The will of God be done,’ cried the Queen; and turning her face to the wall, she died. Malcolm Canmore was killed in 1093 A.D. He had reigned for thirty-six years, which was a very long time in those wild days. He was fierce and fond of war, but he was brave and generous, and a true knight. He loved his country, and he loved his wife dearly. For her sake he was very kind to the English Prince Edgar, often fighting for him, when otherwise he might have been at peace with the English. It was probably for Queen Margaret’s sake, too, that Malcolm built several monasteries and churches, and restored others, which the Danes had destroyed. One of the churches which he built was at Dunfermline, and there he was buried beside his Queen. He was the first King of Scotland who was buried in Dunfermline, instead of in Iona, but after him many Scottish kings were buried there, ‘A king the best who possessed Alban, He was a king of kings fortunate. He was the vigilant crusher of enemies. There was never born nor will be in the east A king whose rule will be greater over Alban, There shall not be born for ever One who had more fortune and greatness.’


Chapter XV

The Reigns of Donald Bane, Duncan II, and Edgar Malcolm died in 1093 A.D. His son Edgar was still very young, so Donald Bane, who had fled to Ireland from Macbeth, now returned and claimed the throne. Some of the Scottish nobles had been angry with Queen Margaret, because of her splendid court, and with King Malcolm, because he allowed so many Englishmen, whom they looked upon as weak and idle, to live and possess lands in Scotland. These nobles now gladly welcomed Donald Bane. They placed him upon the throne, and drove the English out of Scotland. All Malcolm’s children also fled, and took refuge in England. Donald Bane had scarcely reigned six months, however, when another prince called Duncan claimed the throne. Duncan defeated Donald Bane, and made himself King. But a year and six months later he was killed in battle, and Donald Bane again became King. This time he reigned for three years, during which there was constant war and trouble. There was war between Scotsmen and Scotsmen, for many hated Donald Bane, and would not be ruled by him; there was war with England; there was war with the wild Northmen or Danes.


Stories of the British Isles At last, tired of the unrest and trouble, some of the Scottish nobles sent messengers to Edgar, begging him to come to rule over them. Then Edgar, who had no wish to fight, sent messengers to Donald Bane, asking him to give up the crown. ‘It is not yours, but mine by right,’ he said. ‘If you will yield the crown to me, I will gladly give you great lands and possessions, over which you shall be lord.’ But Donald Bane, having once been King, had no mind to become merely a lord under his own nephew. So, instead of answering, he put Prince Edgar’s messengers in prison, and then cut off their heads. On hearing of this cruel and insolent treatment of his messengers, Edgar made up his mind to fight. Helped by his uncle Edgar, and by the King of England, he gathered an army and set out for Scotland. One night as he marched northward, he rested at Durham, where his father, Malcolm, had built a great church. There he had a dream. It seemed to him that St. Cuthbert appeared and spoke to him in the night. ‘Fear not, my son,’ said the saint, ‘for God has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Take my standard from the church and carry it before your army, in face of your enemies. Then I will up and fight for you. Then your foes shall be scattered, and those who hate you shall flee before you.’ When Edgar awoke he immediately told the dream to his friends, and they, taking the standard of St. Cuthbert from the church, carried it before the army. 236

Scotland’s Story The sight of the holy banner put such courage into the hearts of his soldiers, that they fought and conquered Donald Bane’s great army. Donald Bane himself fled away, but he was pursued and brought back. Edgar, I am sorry to say, put out his eyes and cast him into prison, where he died. Edgar was crowned at Scone with great rejoicing, and for nine years he reigned quietly and peacefully. Like his mother, Queen Margaret, he was very religious, and he built and restored several churches and monasteries.


Chapter XVI

Alexander I, The Fierce Edgar died in 1107 A.D., and as he had no children, he was succeeded by his brother Alexander. Alexander I was called The Fierce, because he punished the robbers and other wicked men, of whom there were many in the country. Edgar had been more loved for his gentleness and goodness, than feared for his justice and sternness. When Alexander came to the throne, many of the nobles had become little better than robbers. They rode through all the land, burning and destroying, killing and taking prisoner men, women, and children. These wild nobles imagined that Alexander would be gentle, as his brother had been. They thought that he too would be more interested in building churches and monasteries than in ruling his kingdom, and that they might still continue in their wicked ways. But they were mistaken. Alexander was a good man, but he was a stern and just king. He made up his mind to punish these wild nobles. So he gathered his army and went against them. And so fiercely did he hunt and pursue these robbers, that very soon the worst of them were put to death. As Alexander was returning from warring against these wild nobles, he was met by a poor lady. She was pale and weary, her dress was torn and dusty, sobbing she threw herself upon her knees beside the King. ‘A boon, my lord King,’ she cried, ‘a boon.’ 238

Scotland’s Story ‘What troubles you, lady?’ said the King, looking down at her kindly. ‘Tell me, and if your cause is just, you shall have my aid.’ ‘Sire,’ said the lady, ‘the lord of Mearns has slain my husband and my son. He has robbed me of all that I had. Now I wander about a homeless beggar with none to help me.’ As the King listened, his face grew dark with anger, and leaping from his horse he cried, ‘By the Holy Rood, I will never more bestride a horse till I see justice done upon this man.’ Then turning his army, he marched at the head of it, against the lord of Mearns. Nor did he rest, nor again mount upon a horse, till he had taken that proud lord, and hanged him for his wickedness and cruelty to the poor lady. Thus the wicked nobles began to be in fear and dread of King Alexander, and they made up their minds, as they could not kill him in battle, they must do so by treachery. They bribed the keeper of the King’s bedchamber, and promised him a great sum of money if he would let some soldiers into the palace. And the keeper of the bedchamber, who ought to have guarded the King’s life as his own, let these wicked men into the palace, and hid them in a little room near to the King’s bedroom. In the middle of the night, when all was dark, and the King was peacefully sleeping, these bad men crept softly, softly into his room. But as they came near the bed the King awoke suddenly. There was a dim light, and by it he could faintly see the figures crowding round him. In a moment Alexander sprang up, and seizing his sword, which hung at the head of his bed, he slew the wicked keeper 239

Stories of the British Isles with one blow. Then right and left he struck, defending himself manfully. His sword flashed and fell again and again, till six of the traitors lay dead upon the floor. Then, seeing how brave and fierce a king they had to deal with, the others fled. By this time, however, the noise of the fight had aroused the King’s servants and soldiers. Some poured into his room, others started in pursuit of the traitors. Many of them were killed and the rest were taken prisoner and brought before the King. But Alexander knew that these men had been paid to kill him, and not they, but their masters, were his real enemies. So he questioned them until they told the names of the nobles who had sent them to do this wicked deed. Then Alexander gathered his army once more, and marched against these rebellious nobles. When they heard of the King’s coming, they too gathered their soldiers and made ready to fight. The two armies came in sight of each other and lay encamped on either side of a river. The rebels thought that they were safe, for it seemed to them impossible for an army to cross the river, which was both deep and wide. But King Alexander, calling his standard-bearer, commanded him to cross the river with a company of the best soldiers. This the standard-bearer did, and the rebels were so astonished and afraid at the hardihood and bravery of the King’s men, that they had no heart to fight, and were utterly defeated. After this there was peace in the land, and when Alexander had rest from wars he too built monasteries and churches, as his 240

Scotland’s Story father and brother had done. He died in 1125 A.D., having reigned seventeen years.


Chapter XVII

David I, The Sore Saint The Battle of the Standard Like Edgar, Alexander I had no children, so he was succeeded by another brother, David, the youngest son of Malcolm Canmore. While Alexander was King, David had lived much in England with his sister Matilda, who had married Henry I, the King of England. There he had married a rich and beautiful English lady, who, like his sister the Queen, was called Matilda. This lady Matilda had a great deal of land and money both in Huntingdon and in Northumberland, so David was an English lord as well as King of Scotland, and was called the Earl of Huntingdon. For some years after David came to the throne, he continued to live in England, leaving the affairs of his kingdom to the Constable of Scotland. Having lived so long in England, David had many friends, both Norman and English, and although after the death of Malcolm Canmore the English had been driven out of Scotland, now both English and Norman knights came again and settled there. David gave these friends lands, so many had possessions in both countries. About this time the King of England, who was called Henry I, had a great grief. His son William, of whom he was very fond, was drowned crossing from Normandy. Henry had no other 242

Scotland’s Story son, so he made all the nobles swear that when he was dead they would accept his daughter Matilda as Queen. This is a third Matilda. There was Matilda, Queen of England; Matilda, her daughter, Princess of England; Matilda, Queen of Scotland, and there was yet a fourth Matilda, the wife of Stephen, who was afterwards King of England. All the great nobles of England promised what King Henry asked, and King David of Scotland was the first to take the oath. He took the oath, not as King of Scotland, but as Earl of Huntingdon. For although within his own land of Scotland he could do as he liked, as Earl of Huntingdon he was bound to obey the King of England, just as on his part the King of England, as Duke of Normandy, was bound to obey the King of France. But no sooner was Henry dead than the English lords forgot their promise, and instead of putting Matilda upon the throne, they chose Stephen, Henry’s nephew, to be King. But David was true to his promise, and he marched into England to fight for his niece Matilda. His wild troops ravaged and plundered in a fearful manner, the knighthood of England rose against them, and in 1138 A.D. a great battle was fought. Stephen’s army was small, but it was made up of English and Norman knights and soldiers, clad in steel, fully armed, and perfectly drilled. The Scottish army was large, but many of the soldiers were half savage men from the far north, some were wild men of Galloway, only a few were well-drilled and well-armed like the Normans. 243

Stories of the British Isles These last David wished to place in the centre, in the place of honour, where the fighting would be fiercest, for he knew that they could best resist the Norman knights. But when the men of Galloway heard what the King meant to do, they were very angry, and demanded that they should be placed in the centre of the army. ‘Why do you put such trust in iron and steel?’ cried one; ‘I wear no armour, but I dare swear I will go as far tomorrow with my bare breast as any clad in steel.’ ‘You boast,’ sneered a Norman knight, ‘of what you dare not do.’ ‘My arm shall prove my boast,’ came the fierce reply. And so the quarrel grew until King David was forced to yield, and give the place of honour to the brave, but wild and untrained, men of Galloway. But some of the Norman knights who were now on Stephen’s side, had been David’s friends and vassals. They had possessions both in England and in Scotland, and they did not wish to fight. So now, as a last hope, two Norman barons rode out from the English lines and went to beg David to make peace. These two knights were Robert de Bruce and Bernard de Baliol. These are names you must remember, for the descendants of these men had much to do with Scottish history in after times. It is interesting too, to remember that they were Norman. Robert de Bruce was an old man and he was specially anxious to avoid a battle. ‘You are to blame,’ he said to David, ‘for all the wicked things your soldiers do. You have said that you are sorry for them. Prove that you really mean what you say, and take your wild soldiers back to your own land. It will be 244

Scotland’s Story better for you, for although we are not many we are very resolute. Do not drive brave men to despair. My dearest master,’ he cried, at last bursting into tears, ‘you have been my friend and companion. I have been young with you and grown old in your service. It wrings my heart to think that you may be defeated, and that in an unjust war.’ Tears came into King David’s eyes as he listened to the words of his old friend, and he was ready to yield to his entreaties and turn back. But one of the fierce Galloway men who stood by exclaimed angrily, ‘Bruce, you are a false traitor. You have broken your oath to your King. Do not listen to him,’ he added, turning to David. More bitter words passed, and Bruce, furious at being called a traitor, left the Scottish camp, swearing that he would never again be subject to the King of Scotland. Nothing now could stop the fight. The English were drawn up in close ranks round their standard. This standard was a ship’s mast set upon a wagon. At the top of the mast was a large cross, and under the cross a silver box, containing holy relics. Round it were hung four splendid embroidered banners of four great saints. A gallant old priest, too old to fight (for in those days priests often fought), blessed the standard and encouraged the soldiers with brave words, telling them that this was a holy war, and that God would reward everlastingly those who died in it. Then the English lords grasped each other by the hand, and swore to fight for their holy standard, or die. ‘I swear that on this day I will overcome the Scots, or perish,’ cried one old knight. 245

Stories of the British Isles ‘So swear we all,’ cried the others, and the air rang with their shouts. The knights then resolved to fight on foot, and they dismounted and sent their horses away, so that none might be tempted to fly, but must conquer or die where they stood. The Scots now rushed forward, and the sound of their war cry was like the roar of thunder. ‘Scotland! Scotland! Scotland for ever!’ they shouted. So fierce was their onslaught that for a moment the steelclad English warriors seemed to waver. But it was only for a moment. Again and again the Scots threw themselves upon the enemy. But it was like the breaking of waves upon a rocky shore. The ranks of Normans and English stood firm. Then Prince Henry, King David’s young and daring son, galloped forward with his horsemen. Fiercely and swiftly they came dashing onward. Through the English ranks they charged, breaking them as if they had been cobwebs, scattering knights and soldiers, and chasing them for several miles from the field. It seemed as if the victory was won. But suddenly an English soldier held up a head upon the point of his spear, crying, ‘Behold the King of Scots.’ It was not really King David’s head. He was not killed nor even wounded. But seized with sudden fear, the Scots broke and fled. It was in vain that King David, taking off his helmet, rode up and down among them bare-headed, to show that he was yet alive. All was panic and confusion. The day was lost. 246

Scotland’s Story And so, when Prince Henry returned from chasing the English he found the Scots flying from the field. ‘We have done what men may,’ he said to his men. ‘We have conquered as much as we could. Now we must save ourselves if we can.’ Then his men, throwing away their banners that they might not be known, mixed with the English soldiers and so passed through their ranks. At last, after three days, having had many adventures and escapes, they reached the Scottish camp. Great was King David’s joy when his son returned, for he had begun to sorrow for him as lost. Although the Scots had been defeated in the Battle of the Standard, as it was called from the famous English standard, they did not leave England. It was not until some months later that peace was made, and then the terms which the Scots made were so good that they seem to have lost little by this battle. But the cause of Matilda, Queen of England, appeared to be hopeless for the time at least, and although David helped her again, he was never able to win her kingdom for her. King David was not always fighting. He did much besides, and was a good and wise King. The chief thing for which he is remembered is that he built many churches and monasteries. Indeed he spent so much money in this way, that a King who reigned long after him said that David was ‘a sore saint for the crown.’ By that, this King meant to say that David had spent so much money on churches that he made the country poor. And the kings who came after him were obliged to tax the people heavily in order to get money to pay for necessary things. But we must remember that in those far-off days the monasteries were the only schools and hospitals, and the monks and nuns the only teachers, doctors, and nurses. So in 247

Stories of the British Isles building monasteries King David also built schools and hospitals. King David was a just man, and he protected the poor and helpless. He never lost his temper. He was always kind and gentle. The poor knew that he would always listen to their sorrows and complaints, and deal justly with them. So they did not fear to go to the King whenever they were in distress. It is told of him how one day he was going to hunt. His foot was already in the stirrup, when a poor man came to him with a tale of sorrow and injustice. The King immediately sent away his horse, and returning to his palace, listened to what the poor man had to say and saw that justice was done to him. But, although David was so kind to the poor and talked to them as if he were one of themselves, he ruled his lords and knights very sternly, and made them treat him with all the reverence and respect due to a King. At length a great sorrow fell upon this wise and good King. He too, like Henry I of England, lost his only son. Prince Henry, young, handsome, and brave, became ill and died, and there was great mourning and wailing in all Scotland, for he had been much loved. King David was growing old, and he knew that he could not live much longer. So calling to him Duncan, Earl of Fife, he bade him take Prince Malcolm, Henry’s eldest son, and travel with him through the land, showing him to the people as their future King.


Scotland’s Story Prince Malcolm was little more than ten years old, but for the love they had to his father the people welcomed him, and swore to be true to him as their King. Soon after this, one day King David’s servants found him kneeling as if in prayer. His head was bent, and his hands clasped upon his breast. He was dead. King David died in 1153 A.D., having reigned twenty-nine years. He was succeeded by his grandson Malcolm, who was only eleven years old. Malcolm was allowed to take possession of the crown quietly. But in those far-off times there was nearly always rebellion when a child came to the throne. So very soon a rebellion, headed by a powerful chief called Somerled, broke out. For three years there was war, but at last the rebels were subdued. As King Malcolm was so young, some one must at first have ruled for him. But strange to say, we do not know who this was. Malcolm reigned for twelve years, but very little of importance to Scotland’s Story happened during that time. King David had possessed a great deal of land in England. The King who was now on the throne of England was very fond of power. He did not like to think that so much of his land was in the hands of the Scottish King, especially as that King was only a boy. So he sent to Scotland and asked Malcolm to come to England to visit him. Malcolm went, and somehow or other Henry II, as this King was called, persuaded, or forced him, to give up his claim to all his English lands, except the earldom of Huntingdon. In spite of this, Malcolm seems to have been fond of King Henry. 249

Stories of the British Isles He spent much of his time with him, and even went with him to fight against the French. This made the Scottish people very angry, for the Scots and the French had been friends for many years. It was perhaps for this reason that some of the people broke out in rebellion again. Malcolm died in 1165 A.D. He was only twenty-four years old when he died, and he was called ‘The Maiden,’ because he had a beautiful face, and looked more like a girl than a man.


Chapter XVIII

William I, The Lion Malcolm had no children, so he was succeeded by his brother William. William was by no means meek and gentle like his brother, The Maiden, and he was called The Lion. He was very sorry that Malcolm had given up Northumberland to the King of England, and he tried to get it back again. But Henry was not a man to let go anything of which he had once gained possession, so William tried in vain. But he could not forget that the Kings of Scotland had once ruled Northumberland, and when he had been on the throne about nine years he resolved to fight for it. He gathered a great army and marched into England. He took several towns and castles in Northumberland. Then at Alnwick he rested, waiting for the coming of the English army. One morning a thick mist covered all the country. Through the mist a company of English soldiers came marching from the south. They had lost their way and knew not where they were. Fearing lest they should be surprised by the Scots, some of them wished to turn back. But one bold knight named Bernard de Baliol cried out, ‘You may go back, but I will go on, even if I go alone, and thus preserve mine honour.’ So, heartened by his brave words, the soldiers pushed on as best they might. Suddenly the mist lightened and the English saw the walls of a castle not far off. Upon a plain, near the castle, about sixty knights were holding a tournament. 251

Stories of the British Isles A tournament was a kind of mock battle, and in those days was one of the chief amusements of lords and knights. It generally took place on a large plain, round which people stood and sat looking on. In the place of honour sat fair ladies and great lords watching the knights. The weapons used in a tournament were, as a rule, blunted, but in spite of this those who took part in it were often wounded, and sometimes killed. The knights wore in their helmets the colours of their ladies, and it was thought that a knight could not honour his lady more highly than by being victor in a tournament. So every true knight longed to be victor, and to win the prize of bay leaves or flowers, which was placed on his head by the fairest lady there. These knights who were holding the tournament in the mist were King William and his lords. They were thus playing at war while waiting for the real enemy to appear. At first, when they saw the English they thought that it was a party of their own soldiers. But soon they found out their mistake. To turn and flee to the castle of Alnwick was the only safe thing to do. But that, bold King William would not do. ‘Now we shall see who among us are true knights,’ he cried, and setting spurs to his horse he charged the enemy. But sixty men could do little against six hundred. All that brave and desperate men could do, they did. But it was in vain. Many were slain, many more were wounded. King William fought more bravely than any, but at last his horse was killed. He fell to the ground, and was taken prisoner by the English. The English were so pleased at having taken such an important prisoner that they did not wait to fight any more. 252

Scotland’s Story They turned southward at once, carrying with them the King of Scots. The English did not treat King William kindly. They set him upon a horse and tied his legs together under it, just as if he had been a common thief or murderer. In this manner he was brought before King Henry. King Henry did not treat his prisoner kindly either. He put heavy chains upon his hands and feet, and threw him into a dark dungeon. Then, thinking that he was not safe enough in England, Henry sailed over to France, where he shut William up in a castle. There, William the Lion was kept, until he should promise to acknowledge Henry as over-lord. But William, chained though he was, was still the Lion, and he would not agree. So Henry sent messengers to the Scottish Parliament, and they, in order to free their King, agreed that the King of Scotland should acknowledge the King of England as over-lord. William was then freed from prison, and allowed to go back to his own land. For fifteen years this wicked bargain lasted. And the King of Scotland did homage to the King of England. Then Henry II died, and his son Richard of the Lion Heart, set William the Lion free from his promise. Richard wanted to go to join the wars of the Cross, or Crusades as they were called. They were so called because the people who took part in them were fighting for the land where Christ died upon the Cross. This land, which is called Palestine, or the Holy Land, was in the hands of the Saracens. These Saracens did not believe in Christ, and they were cruel to the 253

Stories of the British Isles Christians who travelled to Palestine to visit the Holy Sepulchre. So Christian people of all lands banded together to fight these Saracens and drive them out of the Holy Land. Richard of the Lion Heart was eager to join one of these Crusades, but he needed money to carry himself and his soldiers over the sea to Palestine. William gave Richard money, and in return Richard gave Scotland her freedom once more. He wrote a letter, or charter, saying that Scotland was a free country, as it had ever been, and that the King of Scotland was no longer the vassal of the King of England, and need not do homage to him. This was in 1189 A.D. This action of King Richard’s did a great deal towards wiping out the bitter feeling of hate between the English and Scots, and for some years there was not only peace but even friendship between the two lands. William the Lion lived to be a very old man, and died in 1214 A.D., having reigned fifty years all but a few days.


Chapter XIX

The Story of Alexander II Alexander II was only seventeen years old when his father William the Lion died. But he was crowned at once, and young though he was, he proved to be a good and wise King. During this reign the quarrelling over the border lands between England and Scotland still went on. Alexander was very anxious to recover his power over Northumbria, and soon after he came to the throne he marched into England to help the barons who were fighting against their own King John. John was very angry when he heard that the King of Scotland was helping his rebellious barons, and he marched northward at the head of a wild and terrible army. The names of some of the leaders of this army show what fierce men they were. They were called Buch the Murderer, Godeschal the Iron-hearted, Manleon the Bloody. These cruel warriors marched through all the country, killing people, burning houses, and laying waste the land. Every morning they set fire to the town in which they had spent the night, King John himself showing the example and setting light, with his own hand, to the house in which he had slept. This terrible host came to within a few miles of Edinburgh, John vowing that he would ‘unearth the young fox,’ as he called King Alexander. But there he found the Scottish army ready to fight him. John dared not fight, for his soldiers were almost 255

Stories of the British Isles starving. All the country round was a desert. In it John could find no food for his army, so he turned and went home again. Then in revenge Alexander marched once more into England, and not until John died, and his son ruled instead, was there peace between the two countries. Alexander then married the sister of the new English King, and the peace was so secure for a time, that once, when the English King had to go to France, he asked Alexander to take care of the north of England, while he was gone. And Alexander like a true knight, accepted the trust, and kept faith with the English King. Having made peace with England, Alexander had time to look after his own country and people. This was no easy task. The people were wild and passionate, and so fiercely did they quarrel among themselves that at times they were in danger of dragging the whole country into war. Once a tournament took place near a town called Haddington. Knights came from all sides to take part in it. Among them was a great and powerful lord called Walter Bisset. Through all Scotland he was known to be a skilful fighter. He rode proudly into the lists, his armour gleaming and his helmet plumes waving in the breeze. He was sure of winning the prize. But there was there a young lord called the Earl of Athole. He hated Walter Bisset, and he had made up his mind to conquer him. So when the heralds sounded the trumpets, as a sign for the tournament to begin, the Earl, singling out Walter Bisset, lowered his lance and rushed upon him with all his might. But Walter Bisset was a strong man and knew well how 256

Scotland’s Story to use his weapons. He sat firmly upon his horse, returning blow for blow. The fight grew fierce, their lances were shivered to atoms, their swords flashed and rang. Then suddenly putting out all his strength the Earl dealt a mighty blow. In a moment Walter lay upon the ground, and his horse galloped rider-less away. Walter rose unhurt, but with anger in his heart, and swearing vengeance upon the Earl, he sullenly left the lists. A few days later the young Earl was killed, and his house was set on fire and burned to the ground. As soon as the Earl’s friends heard of what had happened, they made sure that it was Walter Bisset who had done the deed. So he was seized and brought before the King. In vain Walter tried to clear himself. No one would believe him. He was condemned, as a punishment for his wickedness, to have all his land taken from him. He was also ordered to go upon a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, there to remain for the rest of his life, praying for the soul of the murdered Earl. But instead of going to the Holy Land, Walter went to the court of the King of England. He told the King that he was innocent, and he complained that the King of Scotland had no right to punish him, even had he been guilty, without leave from his over-lord the King of England. Of course the King of England was not the King of Scotland’s over-lord, but the King of England was only too glad to make believe once more that he was. So he sent messengers to Alexander asking how he dared act in so great a matter without leave. 257

Stories of the British Isles ‘Tell your master,’ replied Alexander proudly, ‘that I never have held, nor never will hold, the smallest part of my kingdom of Scotland as vassal of the King of England; I owe no obedience to him.’ When Henry received this answer he resolved to make war on Scotland. He gathered a great army; Alexander also gathered an army, and they marched to meet each other. But there was no fighting. Even in England many people loved Alexander. The English nobles did not wish to fight against him, and at the last moment peace was arranged. This peace lasted until the death of Alexander in 1249 A.D.


Chapter XX

Alexander III—How The Little King Was Crowned And Married Although Alexander II had reigned for thirty-five years, he was not an old man when he died, and his son, who was also called Alexander, was only eight years old when he began to reign. Being so young, the little Prince had not yet been made a knight. Some of the nobles said that he could not be crowned until he had been made a knight. So the old bishop of St. Andrews knighted the little boy before the crown was placed upon his head. With trembling fingers the old man fastened a big sword, with jewelled scabbard and hilt, round his waist, and tried to make him understand what all the ceremony meant. Then he led the little knight to the Stone of Destiny. Sitting there, the crown was placed upon his head by the Thane of Fife; the sceptre was put into his hand, and the royal robes upon his shoulders. Then one by one the nobles knelt before the little King. Throwing their mantles at his feet, and placing their hands between his, they swore to be true to him and serve him faithfully. When the last lord had risen from his knees there stepped from out the crowd an old, old man. His hair and beard were long and white. His back was bent, and as he walked he leaned 259

Stories of the British Isles upon a staff. His cloak, which covered him from head to heel, was brilliant scarlet. In his hand he held a harp. He was a minstrel or singer. Kneeling before the throne the minstrel began to tell, in a kind of chant, the names of all the King’s fathers and grandfathers. ‘Hail, King of Albion,’ he said, ‘Alexander, son of Alexander, son of William, son of Henry,’ and so on and on until he had told the names of all Alexander’s forefathers right back to the prince called Gathelus, who had come out of Greece so many hundreds of years before. Then, when he had finished, the minstrel rose from his knees, and all the nobles shouted, ‘Hail, King of Albion.’ Two years after he was crowned, the boy King was married to the little Princess Margaret, daughter of the King of England. Alexander went to England to be married, and the ceremony took place at York. The bride and bridegroom were only children, but the wedding was a very splendid affair. People crowded from every part of the two kingdoms to see the sight. There were English, Norman, and Scottish nobles, all as grandly dressed as might be, besides merchants, farmers, and common people of every description. The feasting and rejoicing lasted many days. Hundreds of oxen were roasted whole, fountains ran with wine. A thousand knights rode behind the little Princess as she went to her wedding. Every day these knights appeared in new clothes, each suit more splendid than the last. The boy King, too, was attended by hundreds of knights, who were dressed as beautifully as those around the Queen.


Scotland’s Story But in the midst of all this splendour and feasting, the King of England tried once again to make himself master of Scotland. The little King did homage to Henry for the lands which he still held in England, and Henry tried to make him do homage for Scotland too. But young though he was, Alexander had already been taught to beware of the greed of the King of England, so he answered, ‘I came into England on a joyful and peaceful errand. I came to marry the English Princess, not to talk of the affairs of state. I cannot, and will not, speak of so important a matter without the advice of my lords and nobles.’ And although Henry was not very pleased, he had to be content with this answer. Then, when all the feasting was over, Alexander went back to Scotland, taking his Queen with him. As the King was so young there was a great deal of quarrelling among the nobles as to who should have the power. For of course Alexander was too young really to rule. The Scottish nobles had been jealous of each other, and now they were jealous of the English nobles and servants whom the Queen had brought with her. And among them all the little Queen had an unhappy time. For although she was a Queen, Margaret was, after all, only a little girl. She had been taken away from her father and mother and sent to live in a strange country. There, everything seemed to her to be very dull and quiet, after the bright and gay English court. So she cried and complained, and was very miserable. She cried so much that her father, the King of England, heard about it, and he sent messengers to Scotland to see if they could make things brighter for his little daughter. But the Scots were so jealous of these English people, that it is said they even poisoned one of 261

Stories of the British Isles them, who was a doctor, and whom the King had sent to take care of the little Queen. Then Henry came himself, and he appointed a Regent to rule until Alexander should be twenty-one. But although the Queen was perhaps happier after this, no English King could settle Scottish matters. So for some years there were very sad times while the great lords plotted against one another, each struggling for power, and each trying to gain possession of the King. But when Alexander was about twenty years old, he resolved to be King indeed. He took the power into his own hands, and he soon showed that he knew how to rule.


Chapter XXI

Alexander III—The Taming of the Ravens For many years the islands which lie around Scotland had been in the power of the Norsemen, these wild sea-kings who came sailing over from Norway. Now Alexander made up his mind to drive these Norsemen out of the islands and rule them himself. For he saw how dangerous it was to allow these fierce strangers to live so near his own kingdom. They were always ready to help rebels against the King of Scots, and the Kings of England were always sure of their help when they wished to fight with Scotland. So Alexander gathered an army of soldiers, and sent them in ships to these islands. There was much fierce and cruel fighting, but at last all the Norse nobles, who would not own the King of Scotland as over-lord instead of the King of Norway, were either killed or driven away. Those who were driven away, sailed back to Norway, in hot anger, to beg help from Haco their King. Haco, when he heard what Alexander had done, was very wrathful, and he gathered a great army, resolved to avenge his people. He had about one hundred and sixty ships. They were nearly all large, and they were crowded with soldiers and strong men of war. Haco’s own ship was very splendid. It was built of oak and was beautifully carved with dragons, and was painted and gilded. From the mast-head floated his standard, embroidered 263

Stories of the British Isles with a raven with out-spread wings. From this standard these fierce sea-kings were known as the Ravens. As this mighty fleet came floating onward it looked very gay and splendid. Flags fluttered in the breeze, the summer sun shone on the coats of the knights and made their weapons and armour glitter. Never before had such a fleet sailed against Scotland. On they came, right round the north of the island, and down the west coast until they sailed up the Firth of Clyde. When Alexander saw what a number of ships there were, he knew he could not hope to defeat them unless he had time to gather more soldiers. So when the ships sailed up the Firth of Clyde he sent some monks with bare feet and heads, to ask Haco upon what terms he would make peace. Haco was glad to think that Alexander wished to make peace, so he sent some of his chief men to talk to him. The King received these men kindly, but he kept them waiting for a few days before he returned an answer to King Haco. And so as time went on, Alexander caused delay after delay, for he had no intention of making peace. He only wanted to put off time. He knew that every day was precious. He knew that the longer he put off fighting, the longer he had in which to gather troops, and as the summer passed there was always greater and greater chance that storms would arise and wreck Haco’s ships. Soon the Norsemen had eaten up all the food which they had brought with them. They had no means of getting more unless they landed and attacked the Scots. So the captains urged Haco to battle. By this time, too, the fine weather had gone. The sky grew grey, and the wind blew cold, and at last one 264

Scotland’s Story night a fierce storm arose. The waves dashed high, the wind shrieked and howled, and many of Haco’s ships, driven hither and thither in the darkness, were broken to pieces upon the rocky shore. So fierce was this storm that the Norsemen thought it had been caused by the enchantments of some witch, and that made them more afraid than they would otherwise have been. The Scots were ready, and watching for some such disaster to happen, and soon bonfires were lit all along the coast, which carried far inland the news of the wreck of Haco’s fleet. So, as the ships were dashed by the waves upon the shore, armed peasants rushed down from the heights above, eager to kill and to plunder. In the morning, Haco resolved to land the rest of his men, and to fight as best he might. When he did so, he found a great army of Scots, led by their King, waiting for him. Among the Scots were some very splendid horsemen, both men and horses clad in steel, and so fiercely did they charge, that it seemed as if they would drive the Norsemen into the sea. But the Norsemen were strong and brave, and unused to yielding, and although some fled, many stood their ground. These formed themselves into a ring, and standing back to back, their long spears made an unbroken, bristling fence, upon which the Scottish horse threw themselves again and again in vain. Hour after hour the battle raged around the circle of spears. Step by step, the Norsemen were forced backward towards the sea, but still the bristling fence remained unbroken. Great deeds of valour were done on either side, and many a brave knight fell. And all the time the storm raged, the roar of 265

Stories of the British Isles the waves, the shriek of the wind, were mingled with the clash and clang of sword and armour, and the cries of the wounded and the dying. At last night fell and the fighting ceased. In the darkness the Norsemen fled to their boats. When morning broke, they looked with sorrow and despair towards the shore where their brave comrades lay dead. So many had been drowned during the storm, so many had been killed in battle, that there were not enough left to fight any more. Haco, therefore, sent a message to King Alexander, begging for peace, and for leave to bury the dead. This Alexander granted, and having gathered their dead, and buried them in great trenches, with piled stones upon them, the Norsemen sailed away in their battered, half-wrecked ships, never again to return. But Haco got no farther than the island of Orkney. There, overcome by grief and shame at his defeat, he died, and never more saw his native land. This battle was called the Battle of Largs, and was fought on the 15th of December 1263 A.D. By it the pride of the Norsemen was broken. Of all the islands of Scotland only Orkney and Shetland remained to them. The Ravens were tamed.


Chapter XXII

Alexander III—How a Beautiful Lady Took a Brave Knight Prisoner In the days of Alexander III there lived a lady called Marjorie, Countess of Carrick. This lady was very young and very beautiful. Both her father and her mother were dead. Her mother had been King Alexander’s cousin; her father, a brave soldier who had died in a far-off land fighting the battles of the Cross. So this beautiful lady became the King’s ward. That is, he looked upon her as his daughter, and took care of her as a father would have done. One day the Lady Marjorie was hunting in the woods near her castle. She was splendidly dressed, and rode upon a beautiful horse. With her were other lovely ladies and fine gentlemen, all grandly dressed. As they rode through the woods, laughing and talking, they met a knight who was riding alone. The knight was clad in shining armour, and he was tall, and strong, and handsome. When Lady Marjorie saw him her heart gave a leap and a bound. Of all the knights and nobles she had ever seen, this was the grandest and the best. As the knight rode past, Lady Marjorie looked after him. Then she called one of her gentlemen to her. ‘Ride quickly to yonder knight,’ she said, ‘tell him that the Countess of Carrick begs him to join the chase, and to dine with her in the castle, which is hard by.’ 267

Stories of the British Isles The gentleman put spurs to his horse and rode quickly after the knight. ‘Sir Knight,’ he cried, ‘my Lady of Carrick greets you, and begs the honour of your company.’ The knight, who was called Robert de Bruce, stood still, and as he listened to Lady Marjorie’s message, he looked back at the gay company of lords and ladies, who waited for him at a little distance. Robert de Bruce had seen the Lady Marjorie’s face as he rode past. To him she had seemed lovelier than any lady in all the world. But now he stood silent and thoughtful. He longed to go back, yet he dared not. The Countess of Carrick was a very great lady. She was the King’s ward and cousin. Robert de Bruce knew by that one look at her beautiful face that he loved her, but he feared that the King would not think him great enough, nor rich enough, to marry his ward. So he resolved never to see her any more. ‘I thank the lady humbly,’ he said to the gentleman who stood waiting for his answer, ‘but I may not stay. Pray the lady to pardon my rudeness, for I must hasten on. By nightfall I must be far from here.’ Then bowing low he rode away. The gentleman went back to the Countess and told her what Robert de Bruce had said. As Lady Marjorie listened, the tears sprang to her eyes, her lips trembled, and she looked as if she were going to cry. Then drawing herself up she said, ‘Who is this who dares disobey the Countess of Carrick? I say he shall come. Ride forward, gentlemen, and surround him. If he will not come in peace, then it shall be in war.’ The gentlemen scattered through the wood in all directions, and a few minutes later, as Robert de Bruce rode 268

Scotland’s Story slowly forward, he found himself surrounded on all sides, by a troop of gaily-clad knights with drawn swords. Seeing himself thus surrounded, Robert de Bruce drew his sword too, ready to defend himself to the last. Then Lady Marjorie rode through the ring of knights and laid her hand upon the bridle of his horse. ‘Put up your sword,’ she cried smiling, ‘a true knight may not fight against a lady. You are my prisoner.’ Robert de Bruce sheathed his sword, and taking off his helmet, bowed low before the beautiful lady. ‘Lady, I yield myself your prisoner,’ he said. Then laughing and merry, Lady Marjorie, holding the bridle rein of her prisoner’s horse, led the way to the castle. There Robert de Bruce remained for a fortnight as Lady Marjorie’s prisoner. But he was such a willing prisoner that he never tried to run away. Indeed, as the days went on, the thought that some time he would be obliged to go away and leave her made him very unhappy. So in spite of his fear of the King’s anger, he asked Lady Marjorie to marry him, that they might never be parted any more. This was just what Lady Marjorie wanted him to do, and as they were afraid that the King would say no, they got married first, and told him about it afterwards. When the King heard about it he was quite as angry as they had expected him to be. He was so angry that to punish Lady Marjorie he took all her lands and money from her. But she came to him and begged to be forgiven; all her friends begged for her too, and at last Alexander forgave her. And when he saw 269

Stories of the British Isles what a splendid, strong man Robert de Bruce was, he forgave him also, and became his friend. Robert and Marjorie lived very happily together. They had a little son, whom they called Robert, after his father. This little baby grew up to be a very wise man, and became King of Scotland. You will hear a great deal about him soon.


Chapter XXIII

Alexander III—How the King Rode Homeward Through the Dark Night Alexander was a good King, and after he had tamed the Ravens, he spent his time making good laws. He travelled all over his kingdom to see that justice was done even to the very poor. He reigned for thirty-seven years, and towards the end of his reign he had many sorrows. His wife died, his two sons died, and his daughter, who had married the King of Norway, also died. She left a little daughter called Margaret, and this little girl was the heir to the throne. In those days it was very unusual for a Queen to rule, so, sad as he was, Alexander gathered all his nobles together, and made them swear to receive the little Princess Margaret as their Queen when he died. Alexander felt it very necessary to do this, for the King of England, now called Edward I, had again tried to make him own him as over-lord. But Alexander had again refused. ‘To homage for my kingdom of Scotland no one has any right save God alone, nor do I hold it of any but God,’ he said. ‘I do homage to you only for the lands which I hold in England.’ So for the time the King of England had to be content, but Alexander felt very sure that when he was gone, and there was only a little girl to withstand him, the King of England would try once again to make himself master of Scotland. So he 271

Stories of the British Isles charged all the knights and barons to be true to their Queen and their country. Not long after this, Alexander had been to Edinburgh to a great banquet, and after it was over he started to ride back to his castle at Dunfermline. The night was dark, and his lords prayed him not to go, as a wise man called Thomas the Rhymer had foretold that there would be a great storm. But Alexander was determined to go, and he started off in the darkness. He reached the river Forth in safety, and there the ferryman begged him not to cross, as the night was dark and the water deep. Still Alexander insisted on going. ‘Then will I go too,’ said the man; ‘it would ill become me if I were not willing to die with thy father’s son.’ The river was safely crossed. On again through the darkness went the King and his little band of followers. The road led by the river-side. The cliffs were high and steep and the night so dark that they could not see the narrow path, and they had to trust to their horses. But on they went, the King riding first, quickly and fearlessly. Suddenly his horse stumbled. There was a cry in the darkness; the sound of a heavy fall; then silence. ‘My lord King,’ cried a frightened attendant, ‘what has happened?’ There was no answer, except the sound of the waves, and the cry of wild birds. Far below, on the rocks of the sea-shore, the King lay dead. Morning dawned clear and calm, and the people laughed at Thomas the Rhymer. ‘Where is your storm?’ they asked, 272

Scotland’s Story pointing to the blue sky and bright sunshine. But even as they spoke a messenger came with the news, ‘The King is dead.’ ‘There,’ said Thomas, ‘that is the storm of which I spoke. Never did tempest bring more ill luck to Scotland.’ There was great sorrow at the death of Alexander, for he had been a good King, and his people loved him. ‘Scotland lamented him full sore, For under him all his people were In honour, quiet, and in peace. Therefore called Peaceable King he was. He loved all men that were virtuous, He loathed and chastised all vanities, Justice he gave and equity To each man as should be. ‘To lords and knights and squires That were pleasant of manners, He was leal, liberal, and loving And all virtuous in governing. ‘When Alexander our King was dead, That Scotland led in love and le, Away was wealth of ale and bread, Of wine and wax, of game and glee.


Stories of the British Isles ‘Our gold was changed into lead— Christ born into virginity, Succour Scotland and remedy Which placed is in perplexity.’ It is more than six hundred years since King Alexander died, but the place is still called the King’s Crag, and there is a monument there to mark the spot.


Chapter XXIV

The Maid of Norway When Alexander died, his little grand-daughter Margaret, who was called the Maid of Norway, was only four years old. She was living in Norway with her father, but she was proclaimed Queen of Scotland, and six nobles were appointed to rule the land until she grew up. Now began a very unhappy time for Scotland, a stormy time, as Thomas the Rhymer had foretold. The six nobles, and many others besides, quarrelled among themselves. Instead of trying to keep Scotland peaceful, they tried to make themselves great. This went on for about four years. Then Edward, King of England, who was still eager to make Scotland and England into one country, proposed that the little Queen, who was now eight years old, should marry his son Edward, Prince of Wales. The Scottish people agreed to this, but knowing what was in Edward’s mind, they made it plain to him that Scotland should remain a free country even though the Queen married the English Prince. The rights and customs of Scotland were to remain unchanged, and Scotland was never to be made a part of England. To this Edward had to appear to agree, for he saw that on no other conditions could he have his wish. But secretly he said to one of his chief advisers, ‘Now the time when Scotland and its petty kings shall be under my rule has at last arrived.’


Stories of the British Isles The little Queen set sail from Norway in a beautiful ship filled with splendid jewels, and clothes, and other rich presents from her father. But she never reached her kingdom. On the voyage she became very ill and died in Orkney. How she died, or where she was buried, we do not know. In those days news travelled very slowly. There were no trains, or posts, or telegrams, and it was not for some time after her death that the people, who were waiting anxiously for their Queen, learned that she would never come to them at all. The death of the little Queen was a great sorrow to the people of Scotland, and it also put them into a great difficulty. The Maid of Norway had been the only direct heir to the throne, for King Alexander’s children had all died before he did, and he had no other near relatives. But he had a great many cousins and distant relatives, and now no fewer than twelve men claimed the throne. The chief of the twelve were John Baliol and Robert de Bruce, the father of that Robert who married the pretty Lady Marjorie. Each of the twelve thought that he had the best right to the throne. None would give way, so the quarrelling became very fierce. As the twelve could not agree among themselves as to who should be King, they at last resolved to ask some one else to decide for them. So Edward, King of England, was asked to come to settle the question. This seemed to many of the nobles the best and wisest thing to do. King Edward was king of a neighbouring country; he was King Alexander’s brother-in-law, and great-uncle of the Maid of Norway, and he was known to be a wise and just man. But King Edward pretended that he was asked for none of these reasons, but because he was over-lord of Scotland. 276

Scotland’s Story Edward chose John Baliol as King. Both John Baliol and Robert Bruce were descended from David of Huntingdon, who was William the Lion’s brother, but John Baliol was the grandson of his eldest daughter, Robert Bruce was the son of his second daughter. So Edward decided that the grandson of William the Lion’s eldest, had a better right to the throne than the son of his second, daughter. We must own that King Edward’s choice seems the just and right one. Unfortunately, John Baliol was a weak man and no fit King for Scotland at this time. Before Edward chose him as King he made him swear to own the King of England as over-lord. To this John Baliol consented, for Edward was so strong and he so weak that he did not dare to resist. It is said that Edward had sent for Robert de Bruce and offered him the crown on the same terms, but that Bruce had indignantly refused, and so John Baliol was chosen instead. Kneeling before King Edward, John Baliol placed his hands between his lord’s and swore to be his man. The great seal of Scotland was broken in four and given to the King of England as a sign that Scotland was his. Then he went home, believing that at last he had made himself master of Scotland.


Chapter XXV

John Baliol—The Siege of Berwick John Baliol was made king in 1292 A.D., two years after the death of the Maid of Norway. The crown of Scotland had indeed been placed upon his head, but in order to win that crown he had been obliged to own himself to be the King of England’s subject. Perhaps he thought that to do homage to Edward was only a form, and that once he was safe upon the throne he would be able to defy the King of England. But Edward very soon showed him that he was mistaken. Edward was a great king, and to his own subjects at least, a just one. But he loved power. He believed, perhaps, that he had really the right to be Scotland’s over-lord, and he meant to insist on that right, not in name only, but in deed. Whenever King Baliol tried to act as any free king would, Edward would send for him and scold him, and ask him how he dared act without leave from his over-lord. If Baliol punished a rebellious noble, the noble would go to Edward and complain. Then Edward would take the side of the noble and be angry with Baliol, not perhaps because he cared whether the noble had been justly or unjustly punished, but because he wanted to make Baliol feel that he was under the King of England, and must do what he was told. No man, however unworthy of the name of king, could long suffer such tyranny, and soon Baliol, weak though he was, rebelled. 278

Scotland’s Story Edward was at war with France, and as he wanted more soldiers he sent to Baliol, ordering him to come with some of his best men to fight for England against France. But the Scottish people were tired of the insolence and tyranny of the English King. They had never agreed to Baliol’s bargain, so now they refused to send a single man to fight against the French. Instead, they drove all the English from the Scottish court, and agreed to help the French to fight them. Edward was very angry at this, and gathering an army, he marched into Scotland. The Scots too gathered an army. Their Parliament declared, in the name of their King, that they no longer considered Edward as over-lord, and, in case Baliol should be weak enough to yield again, they shut him up in a strong castle, and went to war without him. But, unfortunately, all the Scottish people were not united. As many of the great lords owned lands in both countries, they owed obedience both to the King of Scotland and to the King of England. In times of peace that did not matter much, but in times of war it caused great difficulties, for as you know, they only held their lands on condition of fighting for their over-lord in battle. So, as their two over-lords were fighting against each other, many of them, as was natural, sided with the stronger, which was Edward. Besides this, many of the Scottish lords were angry because Baliol was kept a prisoner, so they would not join in fighting Edward. Among those who fought for Edward was Robert Bruce, the husband of Lady Marjorie. Bruce joined Edward, because he was an English as well as a Scottish lord, because he hated 279

Stories of the British Isles Baliol, and because he hoped Baliol would be driven from the throne, and that then Edward would help him to become King. Edward marched north as far as Newcastle-upon-Tyne. From there he sent a message to the King of Scotland, ordering him to come to him. But, after waiting a few days, and finding that Baliol did not come, he marched on again, and crossing the Tweed, laid siege to the town of Berwick. Berwick was at this time the most important seaport in Scotland. To lay siege to a town means to surround it on all sides, so that the people in the town cannot come out, and so that no one can go in carrying help and food. Sometimes, if a siege lasts a long time, the people within a town suffer terribly from hunger. As the English lay before Berwick, the Scots taunted King Edward, and made a song about him. ‘What turns the King Edward With his long shanks, For to win Berwick And our unthanks? Go pike it him, And when he have it won, Go dike it him.’ This was considered very scornful and very funny, and, although it is difficult now to understand why, it is said to have made King Edward very angry. Perhaps he did not like being called ‘Long Shanks.’ He got that name because he was tall, and had long, thin legs. The siege of Berwick did not last long, for although the town was protected by the sea on one side, on land there was 280

Scotland’s Story only a low mud wall to keep the enemy back. Edward attacked it both by land and sea. The Scots set the English ships on fire, and drove them back. But on land, the English army broke down the walls, and entered the town. The King himself, mounted upon his great horse Bayard, was the first to leap over the wall. After him swarmed his soldiers, eager to kill. There was terrible bloodshed and slaughter. Such was the fury of the English, that none were saved, and the streets ran red with blood. In the town was a place called the Red House. It belonged to Flemish merchants, who had come to live in Berwick, and who had helped to make the town rich and prosperous. It was a very strong place, and when the rest of the town had been taken, the merchants of the Red House still held out and fought bravely. These gallant men, although they were not Scotsmen, had made up their minds to die for the land in which they had found a home. When the English saw that they could not take the Red House, they set it on fire. Still, these brave Flemish merchants would not yield to the English King, and they died, every man of them, amid the roaring flames, and were buried beneath the ruins of their Red House. Then King Edward, lest the Scots should take their town again, dug a ditch, and built a wall round it to make it strong. King although he was, he wheeled a barrow and used a spade himself, so eager was he to encourage the men, and help on the work. The remains of these fortifications can be seen to this 281

Stories of the British Isles day. Fortification comes from a Latin word which means ‘strong,’ so, to fortify means to make strong.


Chapter XXVI

John Baliol—The Last of Toom Tabard Berwick was taken, but instead of yielding, the people made Baliol send a letter to Edward saying he would not come to do homage, as he was ordered to do. ‘Ah, the foolish traitor,’ cried Edward when he read the letter, ‘what folly is this? Since he will not come to us, we will go to him.’ And so he went, fighting battles and taking towns all the way. Town after town, castle after castle, fell before Edward and his victorious army. The great lords and barons knelt to him as their master. There seemed no help for it. They must yield, or die. At last, at Montrose, Edward and Baliol met again. And there Baliol, forgetting his proud words, came to Edward, begging for pardon. With no crown upon his head, with no royal robes about his shoulders, with neither sword nor sceptre, but clad in a plain dark dress like a penitent, and carrying a white wand in his hand, he came. Standing before his master he confessed that he had been led away by evil counsels, he gave up his right to the throne of Scotland, and put himself into the hands of Edward. Edward, strong and stern, and filled with contempt for so weak a man, sent both Baliol and his son prisoner to England. A few years later Baliol was allowed to go to France. There, on his own lands, he lived quietly till he died. In Scotland’s story 283

Stories of the British Isles we have no more to do with this weak-spirited King. His own people called him Toom Tabard, which means empty coat, because he looked rather fine in his splendid robes, but there was neither courage nor manhood in him. And for many years to come Scotland suffered for his weakness and folly. Now that Baliol was no longer king, Robert Bruce thought that the time for which he had hoped had come. He thought that he should now be king. But Edward had no mind to give up what he had won. ‘Have we nothing, think you, to do, but to conquer kingdoms and give them to you?’ he asked scornfully, and Robert Bruce went back to his own lands sad and angry. Edward placed English governors over Scotland, filled the Scottish castles with English soldiers; then, thinking that he had subdued the people, he went home. He took with him many things which were dear and sacred to the hearts of Scotsmen. Among these was the Stone of Destiny, which has remained in England ever since. It is now in Westminster, and it is used whenever a British King is crowned. It is said too that Edward caused to be taken away and destroyed many old books and records of Scotland. He did this so that the people might be made the more easily to forget their ancient freedom and become his willing subjects. But all these things he did in vain.


Chapter XXVII

The Adventures of Sir William Wallace Those were sad days for Scotland. The people seemed crushed and almost in despair, but they were still unconquered. They had no King, no leader. But in this dark hour a man arose who became their leader, and although he never wore the crown, he was the King of every true Scotsman’s heart. This man was Sir William Wallace. Wallace was not one of the great nobles. He was only the younger son of a country gentleman. But he loved Scotland with all his heart and soul, and he hated the English who had brought so much sorrow and trouble on his dear land. At the time when John Baliol was driven from the throne, Wallace was very young. He was indeed little more than a boy, but he was far taller than most men, and was very strong and handsome. He had a great deal of brown, wavy hair, and his eyes were bright and clear. Far and wide he was known as a gallant fighter, and there were few who could stand against the blows of his sword. Yet although he was so big, and strong, and fierce in battle, he was very kind and generous. He gave nearly all his money to poor people, and those who were in need never came to him in vain. When every one else was in despair, when every one else had yielded to Edward, Wallace alone would not yield, and would not quite despair. But his heart was full of hot anger 285

Stories of the British Isles against the English, and he longed to free his country from them. Wallace had hated the English all his life, and he had his first fight with them when he was quite a boy. One day he had been out fishing and had caught a good many fish. On his way home he met some Englishmen. ‘What have you in that basket?’ asked one of them. ‘Fish,’ replied Wallace. ‘Fish? Where did you get them?’ ‘I caught them.’ ‘Give them to me,’ said one of the Englishmen. ‘What need have beggarly Scotsmen of fish?’ ‘No,’ said Wallace, ‘I will give you some if you ask nicely, but I won’t give them all to you.’ ‘What insolence,’ cried the Englishman, drawing his sword. ‘Give them to me at once!’ Wallace had only his fishing rod with which to defend himself, but he was very strong, and with it he gave the Englishman such a blow on the head that he fell dead. Wallace then seized the dead man’s sword, and he used it so well that the others soon ran away. Then Wallace went home quietly with his fish. The English Governor was very angry when he heard of what Wallace had done. He sent soldiers to take him prisoner. But kind friends warned Wallace, and he escaped into the mountains. There he lived until the matter was forgotten, and it was safe to return home again. 286

Scotland’s Story Wallace had many adventures with the English, and as he always got the best of the fighting, they soon began to fear him. But he did not spend all his time in fighting. One Sunday, as he was going to church, he met a beautiful lady. She too was going to church, and was dressed in her best clothes. She looked so lovely that Wallace could not help looking at her, and when he could no longer see her he kept thinking about her. He soon found out that she was the daughter of a gentleman called Hugh Braidfute, and not long afterwards they were married. William Wallace and his beautiful young wife were very happy together. They were so happy that perhaps he began to think a little less about Scotland and the sad state of the country. But one bright spring day Wallace and his friends were walking through the town. It was the Scottish custom to dress in bright green in spring time. Wallace and his friends were all finely dressed in green, and he wore a jewelled dagger at his belt. As they walked some Englishmen began to jeer and laugh at them. ‘What business have Scotsmen with such fine clothes?’ they said. ‘You are so grand we thought you must be from the court of France.’ ‘What right have you to wear such a fine dagger?’ So they went on, jeering and tormenting until a quarrel broke out. Swords were drawn, and blows fell thick and fast. In the fight Wallace killed a man, and when at last the Englishmen had been driven back, he and his friends fled to his house. 287

Stories of the British Isles Wallace knocked at the door, which was quickly opened by his wife. As fast as possible he told her all that had happened. Then Wallace, knowing that it would not be safe long to stay there, for the Governor would certainly send to look for him, said a sad farewell. He and his friends stole out by a back way, and fled to the woods beyond, while Lady Wallace barred the doors and the windows, and made ready to fight the Governor, should he come. She had not long to wait. Soon a body of horsemen came clattering down the street, led by the Governor, who was called Hazelrigg. They battered and banged at the door, and at last broke it open. Then they poured into the house. But Wallace was not there. High and low they hunted. He was nowhere to be found. Then Lady Wallace was dragged before the Governor. ‘Where is your traitor husband?’ he asked. But brave and beautiful Lady Wallace stood silent. She would not tell. Mad with anger, Hazelrigg drew his sword and pierced her to the heart. She fell to the ground dead. Never again would Wallace see her lovely, merry face. Then Hazelrigg killed all the servants and friends of Wallace he could find, and set fire to his house. He proclaimed him a traitor and an outlaw. An outlaw means a man whom the laws no longer protect. Any one might kill him without fear of being punished. The Governor, indeed, promised a large sum of money to any one who would bring Wallace to him, alive or dead. In the darkness of the night a brave woman, who had loved Wallace and his beautiful wife, crept out from the silent and 288

Scotland’s Story deserted ruins of their house. Down the still streets and lanes she crept till she reached the wood. Through the woodland paths she hurried until she came to the secret cave, where she knew that Wallace and his friends would be hiding. There she threw herself on her knees before him, sobbing out the dreadful story. As he listened, Wallace, who feared no danger, covered his face with his hands and wept. His great friend, Sir John the Graham, was with him, and seeing his master in such sorrow, both he and his men wept too. But Wallace soon rose. Dashing the tears from his eyes, ‘Let us be men,’ he cried. ‘Tears are but useless pain. They cannot bring her back who was so blyth and bonny. But hear me, Graham,’ he added fiercely, drawing his sword, ‘this blade I will never sheathe until I have avenged her death. For her dear sake ten thousand shall die.’ Back to the town marched Wallace and his men. Straight to the Governor’s house they went. Fierce wrath gave Wallace double strength, and setting his shoulder to the door he burst it open. Up the stairs he sprang and entered the Governor’s bedroom. There he lay, quietly sleeping, having finished his cruel day’s work. As Wallace rushed in he started up, ‘Who makes so much noise there?’ he cried. ‘‘Tis I, Wallace, the man whom you have sought for all day,’ and as he spoke Wallace clove the Governor’s head, cutting through flesh and bone to the shoulder. Very soon the whole town was in a stir. The news of the Governor’s death spread fast. The English fought fiercely to avenge their master, but the people of the town rose to a man 289

Stories of the British Isles to help Wallace. When morning dawned hundreds of Englishmen lay dead in the streets, and Wallace was master of the town.


Chapter XXVIII

William Wallace—The Black Parliament Of Ayr After this many people gathered round Wallace, so that he was soon at the head of an army of men all eager to drive the English out of Scotland. These men were nearly all of the common people, for most of the great lords were too proud to follow a leader who was only a poor gentleman. Besides, many of the great lords had lands both in England and in Scotland, and it did not seem to them to matter much whether Edward of England ruled over Scotland or not. Indeed, as in any case they had to do homage to him for their lands in England, some of them would have been glad that he should have been King of Scotland also, so that they might have only one master instead of two. Wallace was clever as well as brave, and in a short time he had driven almost all the English out of the south of Scotland. The people loved him, and men, and women too, were ready to fight and die for him. At last the English, seeing that they could not conquer Wallace, tried to take him by treachery. They pretended that they wished to make peace, and they invited Wallace and all the Scottish nobles who had joined him, to meet in a council in the town of Ayr. The meeting was to be held in a large house, built of wood, just outside the town. This place was called the Barns of Ayr. 291

Stories of the British Isles Glad at the thought of peace, and suspecting no evil, the Scottish knights and nobles agreed to come to the council. So, lightly armed and gaily clad, they rode along by twos and threes to the place of meeting. All seemed peaceful and quiet. But as each man leapt from his horse and entered the barn he was seized, a rope was flung round his neck, and before he could utter a word he was hanged from the beams of the roof. Knight after knight entered that awful house. Many went in, but none came out again. The English soldiers stood ready waiting, and silently and quickly did their cruel work. Knight after knight came, but Wallace, Wallace the chief of all, the man whom they most wished to seize and kill, did not come. He never came. For a woman, unseen by the soldiers, had crept close up to the barn. Something had warned her that within all was not fair and true. So she watched and waited, and at last she found out what deadly work was being done. Not a moment did she waste. Fast as feet could carry her she sped away to warn Wallace. As she ran she met him galloping towards the Barns. He knew he was late, but he hoped yet to be in time to help to make peace for his country, so he urged his horse to greater speed. ‘Oh hold you, hold you, brave Wallace!’ cried the woman, as soon as she saw him. ‘Go not near the Barns of Ayr, for there the English have hanged all your best men like dogs.’ Wallace stopped his horse, and as he listened to the woman’s tale, he reeled in his saddle, as if he had been struck. 292

Scotland’s Story Then he turned and went back to his men, his heart brimming over with rage and pain. That night the English soldiers feasted and rejoiced over their cruel deeds. Then they lay down to sleep. Some of them slept in the very house in which they had killed so many brave and unsuspecting Scotsmen; others lay in houses near. When all was dark and quiet, the woman who had warned Wallace went through the town. On every house in which the English slept she set a white mark. Behind the woman came Wallace and his men. Wherever they saw the white mark, they piled up branches of trees and firewood against the house. When all was ready they set light to each pile. The houses were all built of wood, and soon the whole town was filled with the roar and crackle of flames, and the shrieks of the dying. The English tried in vain to escape, for Wallace and his men stood round ready to kill them or to drive them back again into the flames. They cried for mercy, but the Scots had none. It was a cruel death, but those were cruel times, and the Scots had terrible wrongs to avenge. In the morning nothing remained but smoking ruins strewn with dead. This was called the Black Parliament of Ayr. Some of the English had been quartered in the monastery near. When the Prior heard of what Wallace was doing he bade all the monks to rise and arm themselves. Then they fell upon the soldiers and put them all to death. The monks were as merciless as Wallace and his men had been, and the people called the slaughter The Friar of Ayr’s Blessing. 293

Chapter XXIX

William Wallace—The Battle Of Stirling Bridge Day by day the army of Wallace grew. From castle after castle he drove the English. And because he had not soldiers enough to guard these castles, he pulled many of them down. At last King Edward, hearing of all that Wallace was doing, sent a great army to conquer him. Wallace was then laying siege to the castle of Dunbar. Dunbar was now the only fortress in the north which still remained in the hands of the English, although it was but a year since Edward had gone home thinking that he had conquered Scotland. As soon as Wallace heard that the English were coming, he left Dunbar and marched to meet them. The two armies came in sight of each other near the Forth. That night they camped one on each side of the river, not far from the town of Stirling. Wallace had many men, but the English had three times more, and he knew that it would take both skill and bravery to win the day. So he had chosen his position well and carefully. He had encamped on high ground above the Forth, and in such a position that most of his men could not be seen by the English, and therefore they could not tell how many men he had. The river was swift and deep, and crossed only by one narrow bridge. So narrow indeed was the bridge that only two men could walk abreast. To take a whole army across this 294

Scotland’s Story narrow bridge was very dangerous. Yet it was the only way of reaching the Scots, who lay securely awaiting the enemy on the opposite side. The English leader felt it to be so dangerous, that in the morning he sent two friars to Wallace, asking him to make peace, and promising him pardon if he would lay down his arms. ‘Go back,’ replied Wallace proudly, ‘and tell your master that we care not for the pardon of the King of England. We did not come here in peace. We came ready for battle. We are determined to avenge our wrongs and to set our country free. Let the English come and attack us; we are ready to meet them beard for beard.’ The friars went back, and the English general was so angry at this bold answer, that he resolved to attack at once, cost what it might. So two by two his men marched across the narrow bridge. On and on they came, yet the Scots moved not hand or foot. But, when a good part of the English army had passed over, a company of Scots stole quickly round the hill, and taking possession of the end of the bridge, they cut off those of the English who had already crossed from those who were still on the other side. Then, as soon as Wallace saw that the English army was thus cut in two, he thundered down the hill upon them. The English had had no time to form in proper order after crossing the bridge, and now, when the Scots dashed down upon them, they were thrown into utter confusion. Fearful bloodshed followed. Hundreds fell beneath the long spears and broadswords of the Scots. Hundreds more 295

Stories of the British Isles were drowned in the river. Men and horses struggled together in wild disordered masses. Of all who crossed that narrow bridge, only three returned alive. When the soldiers on the other side saw what was happening they turned and fled, their leader with them. He who had been sent to subdue Scotland galloped madly southward, never stopping until he had reached Berwick. Then, after a few hours rest, he fled still further, far into England. Half the English army lay dead upon the field. Scotland rang with shouts of joy. The power of the English King was broken once more. But the land was wasted, barren and desolate. The fields lay untilled. The people starved, and there was not even bread for the army. So Wallace led his men into England. There they found bread enough and to spare. There for three months they lived, fighting, ravaging, and carrying off great spoil from the English. Wallace was now made Governor of Scotland. But although the people chose Wallace to be Governor, the lords and barons were not pleased. They were jealous of the great love and fame which Wallace had won by his bravery, and they were so proud that they could not bear to think of being ruled by a man who was only a simple gentleman and not a great lord. But this simple gentleman had shown that he was the one man who could break the power of England, and he was the best ruler for Scotland at the time. Much sorrow might have been spared the land, if those proud nobles had put away their foolish jealousies, and had thought, not of themselves, but only of their country. 296

Chapter XXX

William Wallace—The Battle Of Falkirk ‘My son, I tell thee soothfastly No gift is like to liberty; Then never live in slavery.’ During this time King Edward had been in a far-off land called Flanders. Now he returned, and full of anger against Wallace, gathered an army and once more marched to Scotland. ‘Had I been in England,’ he said, ‘Wallace durst not have done such cruelties to my people.’ ‘I chose but my time in England,’ replied Wallace, ‘I chose but the time when King Edward was out of it, as King Edward chose his time in Scotland when he found the same without a leader. For when the nobles took him as a friend to decide upon the rights of those who were struggling for the throne, he tried to conquer the kingdom for himself.’ It was a great and mighty army that now marched into Scotland with King Edward at its head. Horsemen and footmen, great lords and barons, and all the proudest and best warriors of England were there. Wallace, too, had a large army, but his were mostly foot soldiers. Only the great in Scotland rode in those days, and as you know, few of the great nobles had joined Wallace. Wallace knew that it was best not to try to fight a battle against the whole strength of Edward’s army. He hoped rather to weaken the English by hunger and weariness. So he laid 297

Stories of the British Isles waste the country through which they would have to pass. And when Edward came, he found only a desolate, deserted land, with no food for his men to eat, and no enemy for them to fight. But Wallace and his army were never far off. Whenever they saw a chance of attacking a small company of the English, they came out of their hiding-place and fell upon them. Having killed as many as they could, they would dash away again and wait for another chance. Thus with many little fights, or skirmishes as they are called, by the way, Edward marched far into Scotland without fighting any great battle, or even finding out where Wallace and his men really were. At last Edward grew tired of marching through a barren land, in search of an enemy who would not fight an open battle. He had given orders to his men to turn and march home again, when a sad thing for Scotland happened. Two of the jealous Scottish nobles came to Edward and told him where the Scottish army lay. They were not far off, in a forest, near a town called Falkirk. These wicked nobles not only told Edward where the Scottish army lay, but they also told what plans Wallace had made. ‘Hearing that you are turning homeward,’ they said, ‘he is going to take you by surprise at night and attack you from behind.’ ‘Thanks be to God, who hitherto hath brought us safe through every danger,’ cried Edward, when he heard the news. ‘They shall not need to follow me, since I shall forthwith go to meet them.’ Not a moment was lost. The order to advance was given. The King himself was the first to put on his armour, the first to 298

Scotland’s Story mount his horse. Without rest, the soldiers marched onward while daylight lasted. When night fell they lay down where they were, clad in their armour, their weapons beside them and their shields for pillows. Horse and horseman lay together, so that each man was ready at the least alarm to vault into his saddle. Among them, like any other soldier, lay the King beside his horse. In the middle of the night a sudden cry arose. The enemy was upon them! Their King was wounded! In a moment all was bustle and preparation. Every man seized his weapon and stood ready in his place. But there was no enemy. The King indeed was wounded, but by his own horse, which had kicked him in the side, and broken two of his ribs. As the camp was now thoroughly aroused, and as morning was not far off, the King gave the order to advance. He himself, in spite of his hurt, mounted upon his horse and led the way. Through the grey morning light the army marched, and as the first beams of the sun shone out they were flashed back from the glittering spears of the Scots army. At last the longlooked-for enemy was in sight. It was but a little army compared with the English. But Wallace was not afraid. He divided his men into four companies and placed them to the best advantage. ‘I have brought you to the ring,’ he said, ‘now let me see how you can dance,’ meaning, ‘I have brought you to the battlefield, let me see how you will fight.’ And bravely and well did these Scotsmen fight. But it was the people only, the foot soldiers, who fought. For hardly had the battle begun than the horsemen turned and rode from the 299

Stories of the British Isles field, without giving or taking a blow. Oh bitter was the heart of Wallace as he watched them go! The nobles had forsaken him. The famous English archers showered arrows on the Scottish spearmen. So true was their aim that it was said that every archer carried four-and-twenty Scottish lives beneath his belt. Which meant that he carried twenty-four arrows in his quiver, and with every arrow he killed a man. The English horsemen, splendid in glittering steel armour, charged the sturdy Scottish archers. They, although they were armed only with their bows and arrows and short daggers, would not yield. To a man they fell where they stood. So gallant and brave were they that even their enemies praised them. But no bravery could stand against such numbers and such skill. Wallace, seeing that the battle was hopelessly lost, commanded his men to retire. With his best knights round him he fought bravely to the last, keeping the enemy off until his soldiers had found shelter in the forest behind. Nearly fifteen thousand Scots were slain upon the field, among them Sir John the Graham, the dear friend of Wallace. Next day Wallace returned to bury the dead and to seek for the body of his friend. ‘When they him found and good Wallace him saw, He lighted down, took him before them a’ In arms up. Beholding his pale face He kissed him, and cried full oft Alas! My best brother in world that ever I had, My faithful friend when I was hardest stead.’ So he mourned his loss. 300

Scotland’s Story When the rough soldiers saw how sad their master was, they sorrowed with him. Then taking up the dead body of the Graham, they carried him to the church at Falkirk. Over his grave they laid a stone and carved these words upon it, ‘Here lies Sir John the Graham, both wight and wise, One of the chiefs who rescued Scotland thrice, A better knight not to the world was lent, Than was good Graham of truth and hardiment.’ Thus Wallace had lost his wife and his friend, and in spite of his brave struggles it seemed as if he would lose his country. He gave up his post of Governor of Scotland. The happiness of his country was all he longed for. He saw that it was useless to struggle against the jealousy of the barons. They would never consent to be ruled by him. He could not even hope to lead his army to victory when the nobles were ever ready to desert him, as they did at Falkirk. So Wallace once more became a simple country gentleman. It is said that in this battle of Falkirk, Robert the Bruce, who afterwards became such a good King in Scotland, fought on the side of the English. After the battle Bruce and Wallace met. They were both brave men, and Bruce was filled with admiration for the courage and skill of Wallace. ‘But,’ he said, ‘what is the use of it? You cannot overcome so great a King as Edward. And if you could, the Scots would never make you King. Why do you not yield to him as all the other nobles have done?’ ‘I do not fight for the crown,’ replied Wallace, ‘I neither desire it nor deserve it. It is yours by right. But because of your sloth and idleness the people have no leader. So they follow me. 301

Stories of the British Isles I fight only for the liberty of my country, and should surely have won it, if you and the other nobles had but done your part. But you choose base slavery with safety rather than honest liberty with danger. Follow, hug the fortune, then, of which you think so highly. As for me, I will die free in my own country. My love for it shall remain as long as my life lasts.’ At these words Bruce burst into tears, and never again did he fight for Edward. Edward now marched through Scotland, but he found only a deserted country. Burned towns and ruined castles met him everywhere, for the people had destroyed their homes, rather than that they should fall into the hands of the English King. His soldiers began to starve, and at last, angry and sullen, he was forced to march back to England, leaving the North still unconquered. Hardly had he left the country when messengers came to him, telling him that the southern Scots had again risen, and were driving out every English soldier whom he had left to guard his conquests. So again he gathered an army and marched back to Scotland, and for seven long years the struggle lasted. Five times during those years did Edward’s army ravage Scotland. Broken, crushed, but still unconquered, the people fought on. Had they only been united under some strong leader, the struggle would not have lasted so long. But since Wallace had given up in despair no great leader had arisen.


Chapter XXXI

William Wallace—The Turning of a Loaf ‘Engraven are thine immortal deeds On ev’ry heart o’ this braid land. ‘Rude time may monuments ding down, An’ towers an’ wa’s maun a’ decay; Enduring, deathless, noble chief, Thy name can never pass away. ‘Gi’e pillared fame to common men,— No need o’ cairns for ane like thee; In every cave, wood, hill, and glen, Wallace remembered aye shall be.’ Nearly every lord in all broad Scotland bowed to Edward, and owned him as his master. From every castle the flag of England floated. Every battlement was manned by English soldiers. Yet Edward was not content, for the common people would not yield, and Wallace was still free. Among the mountains and the woods he lived with his faithful band of followers. Outlawed and hunted, with a price upon his head, he still was free. For he was so brave and skilful that he could not be taken by fair means, and the people loved him and would not betray him for all King Edward’s gold. But at length, alas! a man, called Sir John de Menteith, was found who was wicked enough to consent to betray Wallace for a large sum of money. Shame it is to say this man was a 303

Stories of the British Isles Scotsman, and greater shame still, he had been one of Wallace’s trusted friends. Sir John laid his plans and waited. He had not long to wait. One night Wallace lay down to sleep, attended only by two of his men. One of them was Sir John Menteith’s nephew. Wallace and his other friend slept, while Sir John’s nephew kept watch. But he was in league with his wicked uncle. As soon as Wallace was fast asleep he stole his sword and dagger, and then crept quietly away. Menteith and his soldiers were sitting at supper, waiting for news of Wallace, when his nephew arrived. He went to the table, and turned a loaf upside down. It was the signal agreed upon. By that the soldiers and Sir John knew that all was ready, and that it was time to march out and take Wallace. Ever after it was considered very rude to turn a loaf upside down, if any one called Menteith happened to be at table, because it seemed to mean, ‘One of your family betrayed Wallace, our hero, to his death.’ This of course was taken as an insult, as it was something which every honest man would wish to forget. Wallace was sleeping soundly, when he was suddenly awakened by the sound of armed men. He started up, and felt for his sword. It was gone. Gone, too, his dagger, and even his bow and arrows. Seizing a stool, he defended himself as well as he could, and succeeded in killing two men with it, before the soldiers closed in upon him. He was so big and strong that it took many of them to seize and bind him. But at last they succeeded. The false Menteith then swore to Wallace that his life was safe, and that he would only be kept as an honourable prisoner 304

Scotland’s Story of war. And Wallace, knowing that Menteith had been his friend, believed him. But Menteith lied. By lonely ways they led Wallace southward, for they dared not take him through towns and villages, lest the people should rise and rescue him. On they went till they crossed the Border. There, Wallace turned to take a last long look at the hills of his dear land, which he was never more to see. On and on they went, right through England, and at last they reached London. The fame of Wallace was so great, and such crowds came to look upon him, that it was difficult to pass through the streets. Men and women pressed, and crushed, and almost trod on each other, in order to catch a glimpse of him. For a short time Wallace was kept prisoner. Then, crowned in mockery with a wreath of laurel, he was led to Westminster. There he was tried for treason, for having invaded England, and for many other crimes. He was no traitor, for he had never sworn to obey Edward. He was a patriot and a hero. That he loved his country was his only crime. But Edward meant that his great enemy should die. For as long as Wallace lived, and was free, he could never hope really to conquer Scotland. So Wallace, the brave, was condemned to die. Those were fierce, wild times, and Edward’s anger was cruel. His death was made as horrible as possible, and his dead body was treated with all dishonour. But the cruel triumph of the Englishmen over his dead body could matter little to Wallace. He had fought his fight, he had done his work, and after his life of struggle and hardship he rested well. ‘The manliest man, the starkest of persons 305

Stories of the British Isles Living he was. He also stood in such right We trust well God his deeds had in sight.’ The hatred between England and Scotland has long ago died out. The two countries are now united into one kingdom, under one King. And every one knows that it is best for Scotland and best for England that it should be so. Wallace in his life did his very best to prevent that union. Yet both Englishmen and Scotsmen will ever remember him as a hero, for they know that, in preventing Edward from conquering Scotland, he did a good work for the great empire to which we belong. If Scotland had been joined to England in the days of Edward, it would have been as a conquered country, and the union could never have been true and friendly. When hundreds of years later the two countries did join, it was not because one conquered the other, but because each of the two free nations, living side by side, wished it. Thus the union became firm and unbreakable, and all Britons may honour the name of Wallace for the part he had in making it so.


Chapter XXXII

Robert The Bruce—How The Bruce Received a Letter and Struck a Blow ‘The thistle since it flourished fair, And grew maist like a tree a’, They’ve stunted down its stately tap, That roses might look hie a’. But though its head lies in the dust, The root is stout and steady; The thistle is the warrior yet, The rose its tocher’d leddy. Then flourish, thistle, flourish fair, Tho’ ye’ve the crown no longer, They’ll hae the skaith that cross ye yet, Your jags grow aye the stronger.’ Wallace was dead. After a struggle of fifteen years Edward had triumphed, Scotland had reached her darkest hour, and English tyranny made the life of Scotsmen a daily burden and misery. But not for long. Scarcely six months after the death of Wallace, the Scottish people had chosen and crowned a King who was utterly to break down the power of England. John Baliol had a nephew called the Red Comyn. He now claimed the throne. Robert the Bruce also claimed the throne, for the Bruces had always thought that they had the better right, even when Edward of England had chosen in favour of Baliol. So Bruce and Comyn hated each other, and quarrelled bitterly. In those days great nobles quarrelled and fought among 307

Stories of the British Isles themselves very often, and it was these quarrels that had helped Edward many times to defeat the Scots. Bruce, as you know, was an English as well as a Scottish noble, and at one time he had fought for Edward. But now he made up his mind to fight for Scotland, and for Scotland only, and he determined to make friends with the Red Comyn. This Robert was the grandson, you must understand, of that Bruce who had been among the twelve who claimed the throne after the death of the Maid of Norway. One day as they were riding from Stirling together Bruce began to talk to Comyn. ‘We must no longer quarrel,’ he said, ‘we must work together. Help me to get the crown, and I will give you all my land in return. Or, if you wish to be King, give me your land and I will help you to win the crown.’ ‘I do not want to be King,’ replied Comyn, ‘if you will really give me your lands and possessions I will help you.’ So it was agreed between them. Then they wrote down what they had agreed to do. Each signed and sealed the paper, and each kept a copy of it. Bruce then went back to the English court, for his plans were not yet ready, and he did not wish Edward to find out what he was doing. But the Red Comyn did not mean to help Bruce. He still hoped to win the crown for himself. So, no sooner had Bruce gone back to England, than Comyn sent the paper which they had written, with a letter to Edward. When Edward had read the letter and the paper he was very angry, but he wished to make quite sure of catching Bruce and all the people who were helping him. So, although he was planning how he might seize Bruce and his friends, and put 308

Scotland’s Story them all to death, he was kind and pleasant to them as usual, pretending that he knew nothing of what they meant to do. But one of Bruce’s friends discovered the King’s plan by accident. He dared not write a letter to warn Bruce lest it should fall into King Edward’s hands. So, instead of writing, he sent a pair of sharp spurs and twelve silver pennies to Bruce. Bruce was clever enough to understand what this message meant. It meant, ‘You are in danger. Mount upon your horse and ride away as fast as you can. Here are spurs; here is money for the journey.’ That was how Bruce read this strange letter. The snow lay thick upon the ground. Few people travelled in the wintry weather, and Bruce knew it would be very easy to trace which way he had gone by his horse’s hoof marks in the snow. So he sent his horse, and those of two faithful servants, to a blacksmith, telling him to take off all the shoes and put them on the wrong way round. In this way the horses-hoof marks looked as if some one had been galloping towards, and not away from London. By midnight all was ready, and in the darkness three men rode quietly out of the town. As soon as they were beyond the houses they set spurs to their horses, and galloped swiftly northward. The night was cold and clear, but as they rode, the snow again began to fall, so that the hoof marks of the horses became more and more indistinct. In the morning a breathless messenger came to King Edward. ‘My liege,’ he cried, ‘Robert the Bruce has fled in the night.’


Stories of the British Isles Edward was furious at the escape of his enemy, and sent horsemen in all directions in search of him. But it was in vain; no trace of him was to be seen. Meanwhile Bruce spared neither spurs nor money. So fast did he ride that in five days he had reached the Border. Still on he went, and presently he met one of Red Comyn’s servants riding southward. Robert the Bruce stopped him. ‘Whither go you?’ he asked. ‘To the King of England with letters from my master,’ replied the servant. ‘Show them to me,’ said Robert sternly. And the servant, knowing Bruce to be a great lord, gave them to him. Without more ado Robert the Bruce broke the seals and read the letters. As he did so his face grew dark with anger. ‘The foul traitor,’ he cried, crushing the letters in his hand. ‘Where is your master, villain?’ he then demanded, turning to the servant. ‘He is at the convent of Dumfries, my lord,’ replied the man, trembling, for he saw how angry Bruce was. Turning his horse, Bruce rode towards Dumfries. His heart was hot with anger, for Red Comyn had written to King Edward that if Robert the Bruce were not speedily slain there would be great trouble in Scotland. Robert the Bruce had a fierce, passionate temper, but as he rode, his anger cooled, and he made up his mind to reason with Red Comyn and be calm. In a quiet church, in the little town of Dumfries, the two men met. As the fashion in those days was, they kissed each other, and together they walked up the aisle, talking earnestly. 310

Scotland’s Story But Bruce could not long control his temper, and with bitter words he accused Red Comyn of having betrayed him to the King of England. ‘You lie,’ cried Comyn. The two men were now close to the altar steps; the face of Christ looked down upon them, seeming to say, ‘A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another.’ But Bruce, blind and speechless with passion, drew his dagger, and struck at Red Comyn. He fell, and the steps of the altar were stained with his blood. Bruce had had no thought of murder. In the blind passion of a moment, he had slain a man. He had slain him too in the church, and before the holy altar. White and sick with horror, hardly seeing what he did, he turned and groped his way to the door. Outside, his friends were waiting for him. ‘How fares it with you?’ they asked, seeing him look so white and wild. ‘Ill, ill,’ replied Bruce, ‘I doubt I have slain the Red Comyn.’ ‘You doubt?’ cried one of his friends, called Kirkpatrick. ‘You leave such a weighty matter in doubt? I will mak’ siccar,’ which means, ‘I will make sure.’ And going into the church, Kirkpatrick stabbed the wounded man again and again, till he died.


Chapter XXXIII

Robert The Bruce—How the King Was Crowned The murder of Red Comyn was wrong and cruel, and Robert the Bruce suffered for his passionate deed. It made his struggle for the freedom of Scotland more difficult, for now, besides fighting King Edward, he had to fight the friends of Red Comyn too, who were many. But the deed was done. There was now no turning back. So Robert the Bruce gathered his few friends and followers around him, and boldly marched to Scone to be crowned. The precious Stone of Destiny, upon which the Kings of Scotland were used to sit, was no longer there. There were no royal robes, no crown, no sceptre. But an old bishop, who in his heart had ever been true to Scotland, although he had seemed to yield to Edward, brought out the ancient royal standard, which for ten years he had carefully kept hidden. He gave his bishop’s throne to be used instead of the Stone of Destiny, and his beautiful bishop’s dress for a coronation robe. A plain gold band was quickly made to take the place of the crown, glittering with gems. All was ready; but the man who should have placed the crown upon the head of the King was not there. Long ago, you remember, Malcolm Canmore had given to the Thane of Fife, and his sons and heirs after him, the right of placing the crown upon the head of the King. There was now indeed an Earl of Fife, but he was in the power of the King of 312

Scotland’s Story England. This was a very real misfortune, for the people would not think that their King was truly their King, if he were not crowned with all the ancient rites and ceremonies. The Earl of Fife, however, had a sister called the Countess of Buchan. Her husband, the Earl of Buchan, was a follower of King Edward; he was also the near relative of the Red Comyn. But in spite of all that, the Countess loved her country, and when she heard of the difficulty in which Bruce and his friends were, she made up her mind to take her brother’s place, and to set the crown upon the King’s head. Calling her knights and gentlemen around her, she mounted upon her horse, and rode southward as quickly as she could. And one day in March, the people of Scone heard the thunder of horses-hoofs, and the clatter and jangle of swords and armour, as the Countess rode up to the Abbey door. So the King was crowned, and as he knelt at the altar under the ancient royal banner, it was no gallant knight in shining armour who placed the crown upon his head, and led him to the throne; it was a brave and beautiful lady, whose bright eyes shone with love for her country. But not yet could Robert the Bruce be truly called King of Scots. ‘Alas!’ said his wife sadly, ‘we are but Queen and King of May, such as boys and girls crown with flowers in their summer games.’ It was true, for the King’s friends and followers were but a very small band. He had to win Scotland to himself, before he could win it from the English.


Stories of the British Isles ‘To maintain what he had begun He wist, ere all the land was won, He should find full hard bargaining With him that was of England King.’ But Bruce was wise as well as brave, and he used every means in his power to force and persuade the people to join him, and his little band soon grew. Meanwhile, King Edward, who was now an old man, was rilled with furious wrath against Bruce. He gathered an army, made many new knights, and at a great feast he swore, that living or dead, he would go to Scotland, there to avenge himself upon Bruce and his friends. He also swore, that when they were conquered, he would never again draw sword to fight Christian men, but would make a journey to the Holy Land, and there die fighting for the Cross. Then the Prince of Wales, who was also called Edward, set out for Scotland, the King himself following more slowly. Through the land the English marched, fighting, burning, and destroying. They had reached the town of Perth, and were safely within the walls, when King Robert marched upon them with his army. The King rode to the walls. ‘Come out and fight,’ he called to the English leader, ‘come out and fight like men, and do not hide behind stone walls.’ ‘The day is too far spent,’ replied he. ‘Abide till tomorrow. Then will we fight.’ To this King Robert agreed. He believed that the English leader meant what he said, and that he would not fight until the next day. So he marched his men a little way off to the shelter 314

Scotland’s Story of a wood. There they laid down their weapons, took off their armour, and began to cook their supper, and to rest, so that next day they might be strong to fight, for they had walked far that day. But suddenly there was a loud cry. The English had stolen out of the town and were upon the weary soldiers. Snatching up their arms and buckling on their armour as quickly as might be, the Scots prepared to defend themselves. The fight was fierce, and never did king fight as Robert the Bruce fought. Three times his horse was killed under him. Once he was taken prisoner. ‘I have taken the King of Scots,’ cried an English knight. But hardly had he uttered the words than a Scottish knight struck him to the ground, and Bruce was once more free. Again he was taken. But this time it was by a Scottish knight, who, although he was fighting for Edward, set his prisoner free as soon as he saw that he was the King. But no bravery could save the day. Slowly the Scots were beaten back, fighting to the last with their faces to the foe. This was called the Battle of Methven. In it many of King Robert’s best friends were taken prisoner, and afterwards cruelly put to death by the English. And the King, so lately crowned, became a hunted man, obliged to hide and to wander among the hills and valleys of his own land.


Chapter XXXIV

Robert The Bruce—If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try Again All seemed lost. The King was a hunted beggar. A great sum of money was offered to any who should betray him. Death threatened any who should help him. Yet a few friends were still faithful to him and shared his wanderings and hardships. Their clothes were torn and shabby, their shoes worn out. For food they hunted wild animals and gathered roots and berries from the woods. They found shelter from the cold, and wind, and rain, under dark pine-trees or in wild, rocky caves. It was a hard life for men, yet women shared it too. For the Queen and her ladies refused to live in comfort while the King was hunted among the hills. So one day, accompanied by Nigel Bruce, the King’s young brother, they rode out from Aberdeen to seek him. The King was very glad to see his dear wife again, and he and his brave followers did their best to make the Queen and her ladies comfortable. None worked harder than Sir James the Douglas. He shot the deer and fished for salmon and trout; he gathered heather for beds; he was always busy and always gay, and kept every one from despairing, even when things looked darkest. The King too did his best to keep up the spirits of the little company. At night when they gathered round the watch fires, he would read stories out of old books, or tell tales of bygone days and of far-off countries, and listening to these 316

Scotland’s Story stories the little company would forget for a time their own sufferings and dangers. They were driven about from place to place. Sometimes they were attacked, and had to defend themselves. Often the ladies were in great danger, and at last King Robert was so beset by his enemies, that he persuaded the Queen to leave him and to go with her ladies to the castle of Kildrummie, which was the only castle still left to him. So the Queen took a sad farewell, and went away under the care of Nigel, King Robert’s brother. She little guessed that long years were to pass before they should see each other again. Bruce was now left with only two hundred men. He had no horses, as he had given them all to the knights who had gone to take care of the Queen and the other ladies. The enemy were close upon him, and with all haste he sought a still safer hidingplace. He and his men went quickly through the land until they came to Loch Lomond. To cross the loch seemed impossible. To go round it would have been very difficult, and would have taken a long time, yet what was to be done? They were almost in despair, when they found a little boat. It was old and leaky, and so small that only three could cross in it at a time. But it was enough for those brave men, used to every kind of danger. Those who could swim tied their clothes into bundles, placed the bundles upon their heads, and so swam over. The others, by two and by two, crossed in the little leaky boat, until all were safely over. It took a long time, but while the men were waiting for the boat to return, King Robert told stories to them, so that the hours seemed to pass quickly. 317

Stories of the British Isles At last, after many difficulties and dangers, the little band arrived safely at the coast. There they found a ship in which they sailed over the sea to an island off the coast of Ireland. Here Bruce spent the cold winter months, safe, for a time, from his bitter enemies, and happy, no doubt, in the thought that his Queen too was safe in his strong castle of Kildrummie. But Edward was very angry when he knew that Bruce had again escaped him. So he sent soldiers to storm the castle in which the Queen was. The castle was taken, the brave knights who defended the ladies were killed, and the ladies themselves were all made prisoners. The Queen, her daughter the little Princess Marjorie, and the King’s sisters, were sent to prisons in England and Scotland, where they remained for many years. The brave Countess of Buchan was also with the Queen, and Edward now determined to punish her for having set the crown upon the head of Robert the Bruce. He ordered a great cage of wood and iron to be made, and in this the Countess was shut up like an imprisoned wild animal. The cage, some people say, was hung upon the walls of Berwick castle, so that all passers-by might see the poor Countess and be warned by her fate not to displease the King of England. Other people think that King Edward was not quite so cruel as that; and they say that the cage was placed inside a room. However that may be, the poor lady was kept caged up like an animal for four years. During all that long time no one was allowed to come near or to speak to her, except the servants who brought her food and drink, and care was taken that they should not be Scottish. 318

Scotland’s Story One by one the friends of Bruce were taken prisoner by the English, and by Edward’s orders put to death in the most cruel fashion. Among them was Nigel, the King’s brave and handsome young brother. It seemed truly as if the cause of Robert the Bruce was lost. When news of all these misfortunes was brought to Bruce, he did indeed almost despair. Sad, disappointed, and weary of the struggle, he lay, one day, upon his bed of straw, in the poor little cottage where he had found a refuge. What should he do, he asked himself. Everything seemed against him. Was it worth while fighting and struggling any more? ‘I will give up my right to the throne,’ he thought. ‘I will send away all my brave men and tell them to make peace with Edward, for if they stay with me nothing but death and imprisonment awaits them. Then, alone, I will go to the Holy Land and die fighting for the Cross. Perhaps then heaven will forgive me for having killed Red Comyn, for surely these evils come upon me in punishment for my sin. It is no use fighting for the crown any longer.’ Full of such sad thoughts King Robert looked up at the bare rafters of the cottage roof. They were brown with smoke, and covered with dust and cobwebs. From one of the cobwebs hung a spider. The spider seemed to be working very hard, and, idly at first, the King began to watch it. He soon saw what it was about. It was trying to swing itself from one rafter to another. It tried, and failed. Again it tried, and again it failed. The King began to be interested in the little creature. ‘It is just like me,’ he thought, ‘I have tried and failed.’ Six times the spider failed. The King became more and more interested. More and more anxiously he watched. ‘If the spider can succeed, why should 319

Stories of the British Isles not I?’ he said. Again the spider tried, and this time, hurrah! it succeeded, and landed safely on the opposite rafter. ‘Bravo,’ cried Bruce, and he rose from his bed, cheered and comforted, and quite decided to try again.


Chapter XXXV

Robert The Bruce—The King Tries Again At last the winter passed. In the spring Bruce sailed over to the island of Arran, bringing with him thirty-three boats and three hundred men. He was within sight of Scotland, yet he did not dare to land on the mainland, for he knew not how great an army of English soldiers might be there ready to fight with him. So first he sent a messenger over. It was agreed that if this messenger found that the English were not in great force, or if he found many friends willing to help Bruce, he was, upon a certain day, to light a beacon fire on a hill near Turnberry, Bruce’s own castle. King Robert would then embark at once and sail over to Scotland. The day arrived, and as the hours went by, Bruce waited upon the Arran shore, hoping and longing. Minute after minute passed, but no light appeared. At last about noon a little column of smoke shot up growing denser each minute, till at length the fire blazed forth so that Bruce had no doubt but that it was the signal for which he waited. All was in readiness in the hope that the signal would come. Now with a cheer the men sprang into the boats and pushed off. Eagerly they bent to the oars, and when night fell they were well on their way across the channel, steering still by the beacon light, for they had no other compass or guide. But on the shore of Scotland, Bruce’s messenger anxiously awaited his master’s coming. He hoped against hope that the 321

Stories of the British Isles King would not come, for the fire had not been lit by him, and the whole country was full of English soldiers. There was no chance of success. The boats drew near. They touched the shore. Full of new hope, Bruce sprang to land only to be met by his trembling servant, who begged him to fly. ‘The English leader, Lord Percy, is in possession of your castle. He has a strong garrison there. Besides that, the whole country is full of English soldiers,’ he said. ‘Traitor, why then did you light the fire?’ cried Bruce. ‘Oh, sire,’ replied the man, ‘as God sees me, the fire was never lit by me. Indeed, until the night came I knew nothing of it. As soon as I saw it, I hastened here to warn you, for I knew that you would start, thinking the signal to be mine.’ Angry and disappointed, Bruce turned to his brother Edward. ‘What shall we do?’ he asked. ‘Must we go back?’ ‘Nay, here I am, and here do I stay,’ replied bold Edward Bruce. ‘I say you verily There shall no peril, that may be, Drive me eftsoons to the sea. Mine adventure here take will I, Whether it be easeful or angry.’ ‘Brother,’ said the King, ‘let it be as you say. It is good to take what God sends to us, disease or ease, pain or play.’ Then, in the darkness of the night, the Scots attacked the English and defeated them. Lord Percy, hearing a great noise, and not knowing how strong the Scottish army might be, did 322

Scotland’s Story not dare to fight. He shut himself up in the castle until he found an opportunity to leave it and flee to England. The tide had begun to turn. But the King had yet many adventures to pass through, many misfortunes to endure. To tell all the stories of these adventures would take too long, so I can only tell a few. Perhaps, when you are older, you will read a book called The Bruce which was written by a man named Barbour, who lived soon after the time of Bruce. There you will find all the stories. Bruce was now much in need of more soldiers, so he sent two of his brothers to bring men from Ireland. There they gathered seven hundred, and set sail once more for Scotland. But, as they landed, they were attacked and utterly defeated by a Scottish chieftain who was fighting for the English. Many were slain, many were drowned in the sea, and the rest were taken prisoner. Among these were Bruce’s two brothers, whom Edward at once put to death. Thus, within the space of a few months, the King had lost three brothers, besides many dear friends. He had lost, too, the help of the Irish soldiers. Again his little army was scattered, again he was hunted from place to place, his enemies trying to take him in many ways, by force or by treachery. Among Bruce’s own men there was an ugly one-eyed villain. Bruce had been warned against this man, but still he trusted him and believed him to be faithful. But the man was greedy, and when the English offered him money if he would kill Bruce, he consented to do it. So this wicked man waited 323

Stories of the British Isles until he could find Bruce alone, that he might the more easily kill him. One morning, as Bruce walked in the woods, accompanied only by a little page, he met the one-eyed villain with his two sons. One was armed with a sword and spear, the other with a sword and battle-axe, and the man himself held a drawn sword in his hand. King Robert had not expected to meet with any enemies, so he wore no armour and carried no weapon except his sword, without which he never went anywhere. His little page had a bow and one arrow. Now, when the King saw these three men coming towards him with fierce looks and in their hands drawn swords, he knew that what he had been told was true, and that the one-eyed villain was a traitor. ‘What weapon have you there?’ he asked, turning quickly to the page. ‘A bow and one arrow, sire,’ said the boy. ‘Then give them to me,’ said the King, ‘and stand back a little and watch. If I get the better of these traitors, I will give you weapons enough in return. If I am killed, then run as fast as you can to save yourself, and tell my men what has happened to me.’ The boy did as he was told, although he would have liked to fight for his master and shoot the arrow himself. While Bruce had been speaking, the three men had been coming nearer and nearer. Now they were quite close. ‘Stop,’ cried the King, ‘move not another step if you value your lives.’


Scotland’s Story ‘Sire,’ replied the old man, ‘why do you greet me with such words? Surely you know that I love you. Who should be nearer to you than I?’ ‘Traitor,’ replied the King, ‘you have sold my life for English gold. Come one step nearer and you shall die.’ As he spoke the King fitted his arrow to the bow and took aim at the one-eyed man. Seeing the King stand there so fierce and bold, the man hesitated. Then he thought of the English gold which had been promised to him. ‘After all,’ he said to himself, ‘it is but one man to three. Surely we can conquer him.’ So he made a step forward. That moment the bow string twanged and the man fell dead, pierced through his single eye, for Bruce was a splendid archer and never missed his aim. With yells of anger, the two sons sprang upon the King. But quick as lightning, he threw away his bow, and drew his sword. One son raised his battle-axe, but as he did so his foot slipped. He missed his aim, and before he could recover himself he fell dead, pierced through the heart by the King’s mighty sword. The spear of the second son was levelled at Bruce, but with one great blow he cut the wooden shaft of it in two, and with a second struck the villain’s head from his shoulders. The fight had lasted but a few minutes. When it was over, the King put up his sword, looking sadly at the three dead men. ‘They might have been gallant and faithful soldiers,’ he said with a sigh, ‘had they not been so greedy of gold.’


Chapter XXXVI

Robert The Bruce—The Fight at the Ford King Robert’s little army grew smaller and smaller, until at last he had only sixty men. The English, knowing this, resolved to attack the band, kill them all, and take the King prisoner. They made quite sure of success, but in case Bruce should get away they took bloodhounds with them with which to trace him. A bloodhound is a kind of dog which is trained to follow a man by the smell of his footsteps. Their sense of smell is so strong, that even if they have never seen the man upon whose track they are put, they can follow every turn he has gone, simply by smelling the path along which he has passed. The only way to escape from a bloodhound is to walk through running water. Then the scent is carried away and the hound loses the trace. Bruce heard that his enemies were coming, so he encamped with his little army in a safe place, above the steep banks of a river. The river was swift and deep. There was no bridge across it, and only one ford in many miles. A ford is a place in a river shallow enough to let men and horses walk over it. This ford was very narrow, so that only one man could cross at a time. The banks of the river were very high, and the path which led from the ford to the top of them, steep and dangerous. 326

Scotland’s Story When night came, Bruce made all his men lie down to sleep, and himself, taking only two soldiers with him, went to guard the ford. For some time they sat in silence, hearing nothing but the rushing of the water and the whispering of the night wind in the trees. Then suddenly, from far away came the baying of hounds. The King listened eagerly. What was it? Was it the enemy or not? Should he awaken his men? ‘No,’ he said to himself at last, ‘I shall not awaken my men for the barking of some stray sheep dog. They are very tired. Let them sleep on until I make sure, at least, that something is really the matter.’ So he waited and listened. Soon the baying of the hounds came nearer and nearer. Other noises too came to him from far across the river. Nearer and nearer they sounded, until at last he could make out the trampling of horses, the clatter of weapons and armour, and even the voices of men. The enemy, two hundred strong, were close to the ford. ‘If we go back now to awaken my men,’ thought the King, ‘the English will be able to cross the river before we can return. That must not be. At all costs we must guard the ford.’ Then, turning to the two soldiers, he bade them run to the camp, awaken the men, and bring them to the ford as quickly as possible. The two soldiers ran off as fast as they could, and the King was left alone by the ford alone and on foot, in the face of two hundred men on horseback. He looked to his armour and his weapons, saw that all was right, then calmly waited. 327

Stories of the British Isles The enemy were now very near. The moon shone out, and Bruce could see the glint of steel armour and the glitter of many spears, as they crowded upon the opposite bank. They, as they looked across, saw that the ford was guarded by one man only, whose still dark figure showed clearly against the sky. The ford was theirs! One man alone stood between them and certain victory. Without a moment’s hesitation the foremost rider urged his horse into the river, dashing the water in a white spray all around him. He reached the further bank. Up the steep path he sprang. But as he gained the top a battleaxe flashed in the moonlight, and horse and rider fell crashing down the bank again. Another and another rider followed. Again and again the King’s mighty axe was raised. Again and again it fell, until the dead formed a ghastly barricade before him, over which no warrior could pass. Below, in the river, all was confusion. The riders in front, unable to climb the bank, were thrown back upon those behind. Crowded upon the narrow ford, and unable to turn, the horses lost their footing and with their riders were carried away by the swift current. Wild panic seized those who yet remained on the further bank, and at last, filled with a nameless terror, they turned to flee. When at last Bruce’s soldiers came up, they found their master sitting in the moonlight, alone, as they had left him. He was hot and tired, and had taken off his helmet in order to get cool. Around him lay heaps of dead, but he himself was not even wounded.


Chapter XXXVII

Robert The Bruce—How the King Escaped From Traitors, and How He Met A True Woman Soon after this, the King’s enemies got possession of a bloodhound which, at one time, had belonged to Bruce himself. The hound had been very fond of his master, and now, not knowing that he was being used by enemies to betray his master, eagerly followed his trail. But Bruce was warned in time and fled away with one faithful follower. Hungry and tired, for they had walked many weary miles, they at last reached a wood through which ran a brook. ‘Here is safety,’ said Bruce. ‘Let us wade down this stream a great way, so that my poor hound may lose the scent.’ This they did, and thus, once more, Bruce escaped from his enemies. But the danger was not over. Having rested in the wood for a short time, Bruce and his follower set off in search of something to eat, for they were very hungry. On and on they walked, hoping to find some cottage, but no cottage could they see, nor indeed any sign of a living creature. At last, in the very thickest part of the wood, they saw three men coming towards them, one of whom carried a sheep upon his shoulder. These men seemed rough, and they looked more like robbers than like honest folk. ‘Where are you going, my good men?’ asked King Robert. 329

Stories of the British Isles ‘We are looking for Robert the Bruce,’ replied they. ‘Do you know where he is, for we wish to join him?’ Now King Robert was not sure if these were friends or foes, so he answered, ‘If you come with me I will take you to the King.’ But something in his way of speaking, made one of the men guess that it was the King himself to whom he was talking. Robert, who was watching him sharply, knew by the look which came into his eyes, that he had guessed the truth. But neither the man nor the King wished to show that they knew. ‘My good friends,’ said Bruce quietly, ‘I will take you to the King. But, as we are not well acquainted with each other, do you go on first, and we will follow.’ ‘You have no reason to think evil of us,’ said one of the men sulkily. ‘Neither do I,’ said Bruce, ‘but I choose to travel in this way.’ And seeing that there was nothing for it, the men did as they were told, and went on first, the King and his man following. For some time they walked in silence, and at length they came to a ruined and deserted cottage. Here the three men stopped, and proposed to kill the sheep and roast some of it for supper. The King was near fainting with hunger and fatigue, so he gladly agreed. ‘But,’ he said, ‘we will not eat together. You must sit at one end of the cottage, while my friend and I sit at the other.’ With evil looks and much grumbling, the men did as 330

Scotland’s Story they were ordered. The sheep was killed and cut up, and some of it was roasted, and at last they all sat down to supper. They had neither bread nor salt, nothing indeed except the newly killed and hastily cooked mutton, yet to the hungry King and his man it seemed delicious. Having eaten a large supper, the King began to feel very sleepy. He tried for some time to keep awake, for he did not trust the three men. But, at last, do what he would, he could no longer keep his eyes open. So, begging his man to watch while he took a short rest, he lay down on the hard floor, and immediately fell asleep. The King’s man was very tired too; he had promised to watch, and he tried his best to keep his promise. But very soon his head fell forward on his breast, and in a few minutes, the ruffians at the other end of the room knew by his breathing that he, too, was fast asleep. Now was their time. Rising quietly, they drew their swords, and softly crept towards the sleeping King. They were quite near, when suddenly he awoke. It was growing dark within the cottage, but by the light of the fire which they had made, he saw the three men creeping towards him with their swords in their hands. Springing up, he drew his sword, at the same time giving his man a great push with his foot to awake him. But, before the man could rise to his feet, one of the villains pierced him to the heart. So the King was left alone to battle against the three. It was one weary man to three who were rested and fresh, but Robert the Bruce was such a brave and skilful fighter, that very soon all three lay dead at his feet. Then, grieving for the loss of 331

Stories of the British Isles his faithful follower, he left the cottage and went on his way alone. The next day, weary and hungry, the King knocked at the door of a farmhouse to beg for food and rest. ‘Come in,’ said the old woman who opened the door, ‘come in, all travellers are welcome here for the sake of one.’ ‘And who is he for whose sake you make all travellers welcome?’ asked the King, as he entered the house. ‘It is our lawful King, Robert the Bruce,’ replied the woman. ‘He is now chased about from place to place, and hunted with hounds like a wild animal, but I hope to live to see him yet King over all Scotland, for he alone is our rightful lord.’ ‘Since you love him so well, good wife,’ said the King, ‘let me tell you that he is now standing before you. I am Robert the Bruce.’ ‘You,’ cried the woman, as, surprised and delighted, she fell upon her knees to kiss his hand. ‘But where are all your men? Why are you thus alone?’ ‘My men are scattered far and wide,’ said Bruce sadly. ‘At this moment there is no man that I can call mine, so I must go alone.’ ‘That shall not be,’ cried the old woman, ‘for I have three tall sons, and they shall be your men.’ And hastening away she called her sons, and there and then they knelt to the King, and swore to be his men, and to fight for him to the death. The King then asked his new men to shoot, that he might see what they could do. So they fetched their bows and arrows, and shot before the King. The first son saw two ravens sitting 332

Scotland’s Story upon a rock some way off, and, taking aim, he shot them both with one arrow. The second saw another raven flying high above his head. He shot, and the bird fell dead, with the arrow through his heart. The third son, seeing his brothers shoot so cleverly, aimed at a raven still further off, but although he was a good archer, the shot was too difficult for him, and he missed. The King was well pleased with his new men, and they proved to be good and faithful soldiers, and afterwards served him in many ways. And when at last the wars were over, and King Robert sat safely upon the throne, he did not forget the old woman who had helped him when he was alone and in trouble. One day she was told that the King wished to speak to her. When she came before him, ‘Good wife,’ he said, ‘you helped me when I was in sore need and trouble. What can I do for you now in return?’ ‘Oh,’ said she, ‘just give me that wee bit hassock o’ land atween Palnure and Penkiln.’ The ‘wee bit hassock o’ land’ as she called it, stretched over many miles, but the King gave it to her willingly. The old woman divided the land between her three sons, and so founded three noble families. And the eldest son, when he became a knight, took for his device or picture, which he had painted upon his shield, two ravens shot through with one arrow, in memory of the day when he first became one of the King’s men. But meantime, while the sons were shooting and their mother preparing a meal for the King, they heard the tramp of 333

Stories of the British Isles horses. At first they feared that it might be the enemy, and the King went into the house to hide. But soon to his great joy he heard the voices of his brother Edward, and of his dear friend Lord James the Douglas. Right glad were they to meet again after so many dangers past, and when the King saw that they were followed by a hundred and fifty men, he forgot all about being tired and hungry, and felt ready to fight at once. ‘We have just passed a village where two hundred English are quartered,’ said Douglas. ‘They are keeping no watch, for they think that your army is utterly scattered. If we hurry we can take them by surprise and beat them.’ That was good news indeed. So without more ado the King mounted and rode away at the head of his little army. It was as Douglas had said. The English were keeping no watch, and when the Scots swooped down upon them, they were taken by surprise and utterly defeated. From that time, more and more men gathered to the standard of Bruce. He gained victory after victory, until the English would no longer come out to fight him, but shut themselves up in the castles and towns of which they had taken possession, hoping that King Edward would soon send them help.



Robert The Bruce— The Taking of Perth All this time King Edward had not himself come to Scotland. He had only sent his generals and soldiers, but now that things seemed to be going badly with them, he resolved, old and feeble though he was, to come himself. He was so ill that he could not walk nor ride, but had to be carried in a litter. His spirit, however, was keen and fierce as ever, and he longed to conquer Scotland before he died. But that was not to be, and at a place called Burgh-on-Sands, within sight of the Scottish Border, he died. When he felt that he was dying, when he knew that his dearest wish could never be fulfilled, that he would never conquer Scotland, never be received as Scotland’s King, he called his son Edward to him. The Prince came, and knelt beside his dying father to receive his last commands. ‘My son,’ said the great King, ‘I die, but to you I leave my unfinished task. Swear to me before my lords and barons that you will never give up this war until Scotland is conquered. Let my bones be carried with the army, and never lay them to rest until you have subdued the Scots.’ The Prince of Wales swore by the saints and by all that he held holy, to do as his father wished. But he did not keep his promise. When his father was dead, the Prince sent his body back to Westminster, where it was buried. He himself marched a little way into Scotland, then growing tired of the hardships and 335

Stories of the British Isles discomforts of camp life, he turned and went back to England, without having fought a single battle. But although Edward II and his army marched away from Scotland, there were many English left there, and all the castles and strong towns were theirs. These, King Hobbe, as Edward used scornfully to call Bruce, had to conquer one by one, before he could call his kingdom his own. For a time, however, little could be done, for Bruce became very ill, and without their great leader the soldiers had no heart to fight. ‘He forebore both meat and drink, His men no medicine could get That ever might to the King avail. His force gan him wholly to fail, That he might neither ride nor go. Then wit ye that his men were woe! For nane was in that company, That would have been half so sorry, For to have seen his brother dead, Lying before him in that stead, As they were for his sickness For all their comfort in him was.’ Edward Bruce, the King’s brave brother, did his best to comfort the soldiers, but it was a sorrowful band that he led into the mountains, carrying their King in a litter. Bruce had gone through such terrible hardships, he had suffered so much from cold, hunger, and weariness, that it was little wonder that even he, strong though he was, had broken down. No medicine seemed to do him any good, but one day, 336

Scotland’s Story hearing that his soldiers had been put to flight by the English, he rose from his bed, and in spite of all that his friends could say to him, he mounted upon his horse, determined to lead his men to avenge their defeat. He was so weak and ill that a soldier rode on either side of him to support him. But his men were filled with gladness to see him amongst them once more, and they fought with such new courage that they once more won a victory. From that day King Robert became quite well again. Fighting still went on, but many of the Scottish nobles, who had before fought for Edward, now joined Bruce. Among these was his own nephew, Thomas Randolph. During a battle, Randolph was taken prisoner by Lord James Douglas and brought before the King. ‘Nephew,’ said Bruce, ‘you have for a time forgotten your obedience to your King. Now you must return to it.’ ‘I have done nothing of which I need be ashamed,’ replied Randolph proudly. ‘You blame me. It is you who are to blame. You have chosen to defy the King of England, yet you will not meet him like a true knight in the open field.’ ‘That may come,’ replied Bruce calmly, ‘and before long perhaps. Meanwhile,’ he added sternly, ‘since you are so rude of speech, it is fitting that your proud words should meet their just punishment. You shall therefore go to prison until you learn to know better my right and your duty.’ Randolph went quietly to prison, but he was not kept long there, for he soon made up his mind to join his brave uncle and to fight for Scotland. Robert then made his nephew Earl of Moray, and he became one of his greatest friends and generals, second only to James Douglas. 337

Stories of the British Isles Perth, at this time one of the strongest places in Scotland, was in the hands of the English. It was surrounded by a moat. The walls of Perth were high and thick, and there were stone turrets upon them at short intervals. For six weeks King Robert besieged this town, but it was so strong that, do what he would, he could not take it. One night, however, the King crept unseen close up to the walls. He carefully examined the moat, and discovered that there was one place at which it would be possible to cross it. Then he went back to his camp, and next morning the English within Perth rejoiced to see the Scottish King and his army march away. A week passed. There was no sign of the enemy, and the English, feeling quite safe, kept no watch. But one dark night, the King and his army came quietly marching back again. Robert led his men to the shallow part of the moat. He was the first to jump into the water and show the way across it. He wore all his heavy armour, and in one hand he carried a ladder, in the other a spear. With this he carefully felt his way, but at one part the water was so deep that it reached his throat. At last, however, he landed safely on the other side. Quickly, one after the other, his soldiers followed him over the moat. They reached the wall, and setting their ladders against it clambered up. Then with a wild war-cry they leaped over into the town. A French knight happened to be in the Scottish army. When this knight saw the King so full of bravery and courage, when he saw that he was among the first to place the ladder against the wall, among the first to leap into the town, he was filled with admiration. ‘What shall we say to our French 338

Scotland’s Story knights,’ he cried, ‘who sit at home feasting and idle, when so gallant a prince puts his life in danger for a wretched village!’ and dashing through the moat, he too joined the fight. The English were so completely taken by surprise that the battle was soon over. Every Scotsman who was found within the walls fighting for the English, was put to death, but the English soldiers were spared. Then Bruce broke down the wall and ruined the towers, for as he had not enough soldiers to defend the towns and castles which he won from the English, he thought it was better to destroy them, lest they should again fall into the hands of the enemy.


Chapter XXXIX

Robert The Bruce—How Two Castles Were Won The castle of Linlithgow was in the hands of the English, but it was won from them by the help of a poor farmer called Binning. The castle was very strong. It was surrounded by a loch, and a moat crossed by a drawbridge. Under the archway of the entrance there was a portcullis. It seemed hopeless to attempt to take the castle, it was so strong. One day the English Governor ordered Binning to bring a cart-load of hay to the castle, as he was in need of some for his horses. Binning promised to bring it, but he made up his mind to take the castle at the same time. Quickly and quietly his plans were made. During the night some Scottish soldiers crept as near to the castle walls as they dared, and hid where they could not be seen by the English. Then very early in the morning Binning loaded his cart. But he did not load it with hay only. In the cart lay eight strong men, clad in steel, and armed with swords and battle-axes. Over these men, so as quite to cover them, Binning placed a light load of hay. He then harnessed his oxen with ropes to the heavy cart, and set out for the castle. A servant sat in front, driving, and Binning himself walked by the side of the cart, with a stick in his hand and his woodman’s axe at his belt. 340

Scotland’s Story Slowly the cart creaked along the silent street until it reached the castle gate. The drawbridge was lowered at once, for the sentinels knew that hay was expected, and asked no questions. The heavy load passed over the wooden bridge, the hoofs of the oxen sounding loud in the still morning air. With beating heart, but seemingly calm, Binning walked along. The portcullis was slowly raised and the cart passed under it. But, just as it was directly under it, Binning sprang forward, and quick as lightning, with a blow from his hatchet, cut the ropes which bound the oxen to the cart. The oxen moved on. The cart was left beneath the portcullis. ‘Call all, call all,’ shouted Binning. It was the signal agreed upon. ‘Call all, call all,’ cried the soldiers in the cart as they threw off the hay which covered them, and sprang to the ground with drawn swords. ‘Call all, call all,’ replied the men from without, rushing in to help them. The portcullis was lowered, but it was of no use. The heavy cart stood underneath it and prevented it from falling to the ground. The gates could not be shut for the same reason, so the castle was taken and all the English soldiers were put to death. Bruce rewarded Binning by giving him a great estate, and even to this day the name of Binning is remembered in Linlithgowshire. Roxburgh was another strong castle, and it was so near the Borders that the English were very anxious to keep it. But Douglas had quite made up his mind to take it, however difficult it might be. Douglas was a great soldier and a gallant knight. By his friends he was called the Good Lord James, but by his enemies, 341

Stories of the British Isles because of the fear they had of him, and because he was very dark, he was called the Black Douglas. Indeed the terror of his name was so great that mothers would frighten their naughty children by saying to them, ‘Be good now, or I shall fetch the Black Douglas to you.’ On Shrove Tuesday there was great feasting and drinking, and on that day Douglas and his friends made up their minds to take Roxburgh Castle. The only hope of doing this was to take it by surprise. But to get to the castle some fields had to be crossed. If the Scots had marched across these fields, they would have been seen by the garrison, who would then have had time to prepare for them. So, waiting until it was dark, they threw black cloaks over their bright armour, and crawling on their hands and knees, passed through the fields to the bottom of the wall. They went a few at a time, so that in the dusk they looked like straying cattle. Some were safely over, and were hiding close against the walls, when the watch went their rounds. The watchmen paused on the wall, just above the spot where were Douglas and his men, and looked across the fields. ‘There be cattle late afield,’ said one soldier, pointing to the slowly moving objects in the distance. ‘Yes,’ said the other, ‘the farmer is making merry this Shrovetide, and has forgotten to shut up his cattle. If the Black Douglas comes across them before morning he will be sorry for it.’


Scotland’s Story Then the men moved on, little dreaming that the Black Douglas was listening to what they were saying, and that the cattle were no other than the Black Douglas’s own men. At last all had safely reached the walls. The ladders were placed; the men mounted. Everything was quiet within the castle. Only a woman, the wife of one of the soldiers, sat upon the walls with her child in her arms, singing it to sleep. ‘Hush ye, hush ye, little pet ye, Hush ye, hush ye, dinna fret ye, The Black Douglas will no get ye.’ ‘Don’t be so sure of that,’ said a voice close beside her, and a steel-gloved hand was laid upon her shoulder. With a scream the woman looked round. Beside her, tall, dark, and strong, stood the very Black Douglas of whom she sang. In a moment the alarm was given. The fierce cry of ‘Douglas! Douglas!’ with which his men always rushed into battle, sounded through the night, and the fight began. Nearly all the English were killed. But Douglas took care of the woman and her child, so she lived to know that he was not so dreadful as his name.


Chapter XL

Robert The Bruce—How the Castle of Edinburgh Was Taken Edinburgh castle stands upon a high, steep rock, up which it is almost impossible to clamber. Randolph, Earl of Moray, who was now fighting valiantly for the King, was very anxious to get possession of this castle. But how to do it he did not know. At length a gentleman named William Francis came to tell him that he knew of a way. Many years before Francis had been a soldier in Edinburgh castle. He had loved a lady who lived in the town, and because he was not allowed to visit her openly, he had found a way by which he could clamber up and down the steep rock in secret. He still remembered the path, and he offered to lead Randolph and his men by it. It was a very dangerous plan, for only one could go at a time, and should the sentry see them every man would certainly be killed. Still, it was worth trying, and Randolph resolved to try. So one dark, moonless night, a little band of thirty brave men gathered at the foot of the castle hill. Francis led the way, and one by one they followed him up the rocky path. It was a fearful climb and besides being fully armed, they had to carry ladders with them, with which to scale the walls. On and on they went in silence, gripping the rock with hands and knees, clambering round boulders or up the face of cliffs, where there was scarcely the smallest foothold. Not a word was spoken. If a stone slipped or a twig crackled, their hearts seemed to stand 344

Scotland’s Story still. On and on they went, till hot and breathless, but unseen and unheard, they neared the top. When they were almost at the top they heard the watchmen going their rounds on the wall above. As they clanked along so close above, each man pressed himself against the face of the rock, keeping as still as possible, scarcely daring even to breathe. Suddenly the guards stopped and looked over the wall. One of them, thinking to have a jest with his comrades, picked up a loose stone, and throwing it over the cliff, cried out, ‘Aha, I see you well!’ For one horrible moment, Randolph believed himself to be discovered, but not a man moved. The stone crashed down and down, bounding from rock to rock, till it reached the bottom far below. Then all was still again, and with a laugh the sentry moved on. He had had his jest, he had frightened his companions for a moment. But he little knew how fast he had made thirty hearts beat. He little knew that just below him thirty men clung motionless to the rock, every moment expecting discovery and death. As soon as the sentries moved away, the men began their climb again, and a few minutes later the top was reached. The ladders were quickly fixed, and the men sprang over the wall. Except for the watchmen, the whole garrison were asleep, and before they had time to rise and arm themselves, the castle was taken. Thus in one way or another, castle after castle fell into the hands of Bruce. From town after town the English were driven 345

Stories of the British Isles out, until hardly one remained to them, except Sterling, and that was sore beset by Edward Bruce. At last the Governor of Stirling, seeing that he could not hold out much longer, made a bargain with him. He promised to yield the castle, if by midsummer the King of England did not come to his aid. To this Edward Bruce agreed. But King Robert was angry when he heard what bargain his brother had made. To fight a great battle against the whole force of the English army was just what he did not want to do, and to give Edward of England nearly a year in which to make ready seemed to Bruce, true knight though he was, to allow the enemy too great an advantage. ‘Let Edward bring every man he has,’ said Edward Bruce, ‘and we will fight them, ay even if they were more.’ ‘So be it, brother,’ said King Robert. ‘Since so we must, we will manfully abide battle, and let us gather all who love us and greatly care for the freedom of Scotland, to come and fight against Edward.’ Edward II was a weak and changeable king, not wise and brave as his father had been. How changeable he was, you may know from the fact that he appointed six different governors for Scotland in one year, not that it was much use appointing governors at all over a country which refused to acknowledge them. Edward II was weak, and he was easily led by favourites. He often quarrelled with his barons and nobles, but now they and their men gladly joined him against Scotland. Never, even in the gallant days of Edward I, had such a knightly army poured 346

Scotland’s Story over the Border. From all his dominions Edward called his followers,—from France, from Wales, from Ireland. ‘Many a worthy man and wight, And many an armour gaily dight, And many a sturdy champing steed, Arrayed well in richest weed, Many helmets and halbergeons, Shields and spears and pennons, And so many a comely knight That it seemed that in the fight They should vanquish the world all whole. Why should I make so long my tale? ‘The sun was bright and shining clear, And armours that all burnished were So shone in the sun’s beam That all the land was in a flame. Banners right fairly glowing, And pennons to the wind were flowing.’ On they marched through a deserted country, watched only by sad-eyed women, who, as they saw the mighty host roll on, prayed and trembled for their husbands and brothers and fathers who were gathered at Stirling to oppose the foe.


Chapter XLI

Robert The Bruce—How Sir Henry De Bohun Met His Death On Sunday the 23rd of June 1314 A.D., the day before the Governor of Stirling had promised to give up the castle, the two armies came in sight of each other. King Robert’s army was much smaller than that of the English. But in Bruce, the Scots had a brave and gallant leader. He knew how much depended upon this battle, and he took every care to make the best of his men, and the best of his position. Courage alone he knew could not beat the mighty host that was coming against him, so he thought and planned carefully. He chose a very strong position. It was a plain guarded in front by bogs and marshes. At one side flowed a little river called the Bannock, with steep rocky banks; on the other rose the castle rock. In front, wherever the land was firm, Bruce made his men dig holes a few feet deep. These holes were then filled with branches and twigs of gorse, over which the turf was again lightly placed. From a distance the plain seemed firm and solid; really it was filled with pits. Besides digging these holes, Bruce made his men scatter iron spikes, called calthrops, over the field. Having finished his preparations, the King sent all the servants, camp followers, and untrained men, out of the army, and made them go behind a hill. This hill was afterwards called the Gillies’ Hill, that is, the servants’ hill. 348

Scotland’s Story When Bruce heard that the English were near, he drew his soldiers up in line, and made a speech to them. He reminded them of all they had suffered, of what they had so hardly won, of what they might so easily again lose if they were not brave and determined; he prayed every man who was not ready to fight to the death, to leave the army. ‘Scots, wha hae wi’ Wallace bled, Scots, wham Bruce has aften led, Welcome to your gory bed, Or to victory. Now’s the day, and now’s the hour; See the front of battle lower; See approach proud Edward’s power— Chains and slavery. ‘Wha will be a traitor knave? Wha can fill a coward’s grave? Wha sae base as be a slave?— Let him turn and flee. Wha for Scotland’s King and law Freedom’s sword will strongly draw, Freeman stand, or freeman fa’, Let him on wi’ me. ‘By oppression’s woes and pains! By your sons in servile chains! We will drain our dearest veins, But they shall be free. Lay the proud usurpers low! Tyrants fall in every foe! 349

Stories of the British Isles Liberty’s in every blow— Let us do—or die.’ Edward Bruce led the right wing of the army, Douglas, the centre, and to Randolph was given the left, with a command that he should let no Englishman get into Stirling. The King, mounted upon a little pony, rode up and down in front of the lines, making sure that all was ready, although he did not expect to have to fight that day. He wore a golden crown on his helmet, so that all might see that he was the King. He was clad in complete armour, but carried no weapon except a battle-axe. The English host swept on, their armour and weapons glittering in the June sunshine, their gay banners fluttering in the breeze. On they came, with sound of music and trumpets, till the hills echoed and re-echoed. As Bruce rode up and down he watched everything with his keen eye, and presently he saw the glint of steel away to the left. A party of English horsemen were quietly making their way towards Stirling. ‘Ah! Randolph,’ said the King, pointing to the horsemen, ‘a rose has fallen from your crown.’ By this he meant that Randolph had been careless of the trust given to him and had lost a chance of renown. Ashamed of himself, Randolph made no reply, but calling to his men dashed off at full speed towards the English. He was upon them before they reached the town, and a fierce fight followed. But the English were twice as many as Randolph’s little band, and it seemed for a time as if the Scots were getting the worst of it. Douglas watched the fight uneasily. He and 350

Scotland’s Story Randolph were King Robert’s best generals and greatest friends, yet there was no jealousy between them. ‘I pray you, sire,’ said Douglas at last, ‘let me go to Randolph’s aid.’ ‘You shall not stir a foot,’ replied the King; ‘let Randolph free himself as best he can. I will not endanger the whole battle for a careless boy.’ ‘My liege,’ said Douglas again, ‘I cannot stand thus idly and see him perish when I may bring him help. So by your leave I must away to him.’ Unwillingly then the King gave his consent, and Douglas, with his men, hurried off to help Randolph. But when he drew near he saw that Randolph was beating the English without his aid. ‘Halt,’ he cried, ‘yonder brave men have no need of us. We will not take any of the honour of the day from them.’ Then he turned back to the King without having struck a blow. A little later Randolph followed, flushed and triumphant. He had recovered his rose. But meanwhile, the King too had been fighting. An English knight, called Sir Henry de Bohun, had seen the King of Scotland as he rode in front of the line, and saying to himself that he would win great fame and settle the battle at one stroke, he set spurs to his horse and dashed furiously upon Bruce. Fully armed, riding upon his great war-horse, the English knight came thundering on. Bruce, on his little pony, could have no chance against him. There was a dreadful moment of suspense. The two armies watched breathlessly. Bruce waited calmly, and when Bohun was almost upon him, he suddenly turned his pony aside. Bohun dashed on. As he passed, the 351

Stories of the British Isles King, rising high in his stirrups, brought his battle-axe crashing down upon the knight’s head. The steel helmet was shattered by the mighty blow, Bohun fell to the ground dead, and his frightened horse dashed rider-less away. Cheer after cheer rose from the Scottish ranks, and the generals gathered round their King. They were glad that he was safe, yet vexed that he should so have endangered his life. ‘Bethink you, sire, the fate of all Scotland rests upon you,’ they said. But the King answered them never a word. ‘I have broken my good axe,’ was all he said, ‘I have broken my good axe.’


Chapter XLII

Robert The Bruce—The Story of the Battle of Bannockburn After the death of Bohun there was no more fighting that day. All night long the two armies lay opposite each other, and very early next morning both were astir. The Scottish soldiers were formed in battle array, and then they knelt to receive the blessing of a holy friar who passed along their lines, his head and feet bare, and carrying a great crucifix in his hand. ‘Think you, will these Scots fight?’ Edward had asked one of his knights a short time before. ‘Ay, that will they,’ was the reply, ‘to the last.’ But now, seeing them kneel, Edward cried out, ‘They kneel, they kneel; they ask for mercy.’ ‘They do, my liege,’ was the answer, ‘but it is from God, and not from us. Believe me, yonder men will win the day or die upon the field.’ ‘So be it, then,’ said Edward, ‘let us to the fight.’ Then the trumpets were sounded, and the battle began in right good earnest. The English arrows fell fast and thick till one would have said it snowed. But Bruce knew these deadly arrows of old, and was prepared for them. He sent a body of horse to attack the archers, and they, having no weapons except their bows and arrows, were soon scattered in flight. 353

Stories of the British Isles As the English cavalry advanced, the horses fell into the pits prepared for them, stuck fast in the bogs, or were lamed by the sharp iron spikes with which the field was sown. Soon all was terrible confusion. The English began to waver. ‘On them, on them, they fail!’ shouted the Scots, and charged more fiercely than before. At this moment, when the English were beginning to feel themselves beaten, they saw what they thought was a fresh army come over the Gillies’ Hill. Then they lost all heart. The confusion became complete. They fled. This new army was, however, no army, but only the servants and camp followers who had grown tired of idly watching the battle. So with sticks for weapons, and with sheets tied upon tent poles for banners, they marched down the hill to join the fight. The slaughter now became terrible, and the noise terrific. Banners were trailed in the dust, maddened, rider-less horses rushed wildly through the flying ranks; broken armour and weapons strewed the ground. The groans of the wounded and the dying mingled with the clang of arms and the shouts of victory. Many were slain upon the field, many fell over the rocky banks of the Bannock burn, others were drowned trying to cross the river Forth. Thirty thousand English perished that day. The King fled with the others. First he fled to Stirling, but the Governor reminded him that there was no safety there, for he had promised to deliver the castle to the King of Scotland next day. So again Edward turned and fled away. He was 354

Scotland’s Story followed closely by Douglas, but he reached Dunbar without being overtaken, and from there he escaped to Berwick in a fishing-boat, and so at last, after many dangers, landed safely in England. The English left so much spoil behind them that it was said if the chariots, wagons, and wheeled carriages, which were laden with stores and spoil, could have been drawn up in a line, they would have reached for twenty leagues. The Scots too made many prisoners. Bruce was far more kind to these prisoners than was usually the case in those wild days. Few, if any, were put to death, and those of them who had friends were soon bought back. For it was the custom then to ransom prisoners, that is, to buy their freedom. As numbers of the prisoners were knights and nobles, their friends paid such great sums of money for them, that it was said Scotland grew rich in one day. To the noble dead, Bruce gave honourable burial instead of chopping their limbs in pieces, and placing them on the gateways and walls of castles throughout the kingdom, as was too often the fashion. Now, too, Bruce was able to buy back, or rather exchange for English prisoners, his wife, daughter, and sisters, and the other noble ladies who had been kept in English prisons for eight years. So at last the Queen was Queen indeed, and not a mere Queen of the May as she had said so long ago. By the battle of Bannockburn English power over Scotland was completely broken. Scotland was free at last. Robert the Bruce was seated firmly upon the throne. Although dark days came again, although the Kings of England again and again 355

Stories of the British Isles revived the old foolish claim of being Scotland’s ‘over-lord,’ the freedom of the country was never more in real danger. So it is right that we should remember and honour the name of Bruce, as the name of Wallace. They stand together as the preservers of Scottish freedom.


Chapter XLIII

Robert The Bruce—How the Scots Carried the War into England For some years after Bannockburn, King Robert ruled Scotland wisely and well. The war with England still went on, but it was the Scots who won the battles. At last King Robert became very ill. He could no longer sit upon a horse or lead his soldiers to battle, but he still thought, and planned, and ruled his kingdom, living quietly in his castle near the river Clyde. About this time Edward II of England was dethroned, and his son, Edward III, was crowned instead. Robert the Bruce, having sent a message to the new King, telling him that he would invade England, gathered an army and sent it across the Border. Randolph and Douglas commanded this army, which was about twenty thousand strong. The men wore little armour, and were mounted upon rough ponies, so that they moved about from place to place far more quickly than the heavy English horse. The ponies were so swift and sure footed, that they could go through valleys and among hills where the English found it impossible to follow with their heavy cavalry. Besides his weapons, each man carried a bag of oatmeal and an iron girdle. A girdle is a flat, round piece of iron, something like a frying pan without sides, upon which scones and oatcakes are baked. Except their bags of oatmeal, the Scots carried no other provisions, for they were always sure of finding cattle in 357

Stories of the British Isles the country through which they passed. They used to kill these and cook the flesh. But they carried neither pots nor pans. They boiled the flesh in the skins, which they made into pots by slinging them on crossed sticks, very much as gipsies sling their big, black, round pots at the present day. After a day’s march, the ponies were turned loose to graze. Bullocks were killed and skinned. Water and beef were put into the bag-pots, fires were lit under them; every man brought out his girdle and oatmeal, and after a supper of boiled beef and oatcakes, the men lay down to sleep round the warm camp fires. In this way, the Scots moved from place to place, burning and destroying at will, and pursued by the English, who tried in vain to come up with them. The English could often see the smoke of the Scots’ fires as they followed them over hill and dale, till, weary and hungry, they encamped for the night, hoping next morning to catch the Scots. Day by day this went on, till the English army was well-nigh exhausted. Sometimes during the march there would be a cry. Those behind, thinking that at last the enemy was in sight, would hurry forward with drawn swords in their hands, ready to fight. But, after having run for a mile or so over hill and valley, they would find that what had aroused their hope was only a herd of deer or wild cattle, which fled swiftly away before the army. Wandering about in this manner, the English leaders lost their way, and one day, just as the sun was setting, they arrived at the river Tyne. This they crossed with great difficulty, and lay down for the night on the bank. The men had only a loaf of bread each to eat, and there was nothing but water from the river to drink. They had no hatchets 358

Scotland’s Story to cut down wood, so they could make neither fire nor light. Wet and hungry, they lay down to sleep, wearing their armour, and holding their horses by the bridle, lest they should stray during the night. In the morning, some peasants passing, told them that they were eleven leagues from the nearest town. Hearing this, the King immediately sent messengers to the town with a proclamation, saying that any one who wished to earn some money, had only to bring provisions to the army. The next day the messengers returned with what they could get, which was not much. They were followed, however, by many of the townspeople, who brought badly baked bread, and poor, thin wine, for which they made the soldiers pay very dearly. Even then, there was not enough for every one, and the men would often quarrel fiercely over a piece of meat or loaf of bread, snatching it out of each others hands. To add to the discomfort, it began to rain, and kept on raining for a whole week. Hungry, cold, and wet, the soldiers began to grumble bitterly. Still there was no sign of the Scots. At last the King made a proclamation, that any one who could find the Scots should have a hundred pounds a year, and be made a knight. Upon that, about fifteen or sixteen gentlemen leaped upon their horses, and rode off in different directions, eager to win the reward. Four days later, a gentleman came galloping back to the King. ‘Sire,’ he cried, ‘I bring you news of the Scots. They are three leagues from this place, lodged in a mountain, where they have been this week, waiting for you. You may trust me, this is true. For I went so near to them, that I was made prisoner, and taken before their leaders. I told them where you were, and that 359

Stories of the British Isles you were seeking them to give battle. The lords gave me my liberty, on condition that I rested not until I found you, and told you that they were waiting, and as eager to meet you in battle as you can be to meet them.’ As soon as the King heard this news, he ordered his army to march forward. About noon next day they came in sight of the Scots. But when they saw in what a strong position the longlooked-for enemy lay, they were very much disheartened. The Scots were encamped upon a mountain, at the foot of which flowed a strong, rapid river. The river would be difficult and dangerous to cross. If the English did cross, there was no room between the mountain and the river for them to form into line. Seeing this, King Edward sent his heralds to ask the Scots to come down into the plain, and fight in the open. Douglas and Randolph replied that they would do no such thing. ‘King Edward and his barons see,’ they said, ‘that we are in his kingdom. We burn and pillage wherever we pass. If that is displeasing to the King, he may come and amend it, for we will tarry here as long as it pleases us.’ Seeing that the Scots would not come out of their stronghold, King Edward resolved to starve them out. For three days and nights, his army lay in front of the Scots. But the Scots had plenty to eat, they had comfortable huts and great fires, whereas the English lay opposite in cold and hunger, without shelter or proper food. But on the fourth morning, when the English King looked towards the Scottish camp, behold it was empty. Not a man was left. They had decamped secretly at midnight. 360

Scotland’s Story Immediately, Edward sent scouts on horseback to search for them. About four o’clock in the afternoon, they came back with news. The Scots were encamped upon another mountain, in a far stronger position than the last. So again the English marched forward, and took up a position opposite the Scots. That night the English camp was suddenly aroused by the fierce war-cry, ‘Douglas! Douglas! Ye shall die, ye thieves of England.’ It was Lord James Douglas with two hundred men, who had silently left the Scottish camp, and, finding the English keeping but careless watch, dashed suddenly upon them. Three hundred Englishmen were killed, and the King narrowly escaped. Douglas reached his tent, and cutting the ropes, tried to carry off the King in the confusion. But his servants stood bravely round their master, and the camp being now thoroughly aroused, Douglas was obliged to call his men together, and escape. After this, the English kept a strong and careful watch, but the Scots did not again attempt to surprise them. For three weeks the English lay watching the Scots, hoping to starve them out. During this time the Scots were not idle. Behind them was a marsh, and while the English watched in front, they were busy making a road through the marsh behind. One morning, behold, again the Scottish camp was empty! Two Scottish trumpeters alone remained. ‘My lords,’ they said, coming to the English camp, ‘why do you watch here? You do but lose your time, for we swear by our heads that the Scots 361

Stories of the British Isles are on their homeward march, and are now four or five leagues off. They left us here to tell you this.’ The English were very angry with this message, and on going to the Scottish camp they found that what the trumpeters told them was only too true. Not a Scot was to be seen. They had vanished in the night, but they had left behind them many signs that they had been by no means starving. In the deserted camp there lay the dead bodies of many cattle, which the Scots had killed because they could not take them away, as they moved too slowly. There were hundreds of fires laid, ready to light, under skin pots filled with meat and water. There were thousands of pairs of worn-out shoes. These shoes the Scots used to make out of the raw, rough hide of the bullocks which they killed for food. They wore them with the hairy side out, and from that were often called ‘the rough footed Scotts,’ or ‘red shanks.’ Besides these things, the English found a few prisoners whom the Scots had taken, and whom they had now left behind tied to trees. They also left a message saying that if the King of England were displeased with what they had done, he might follow them to Scotland and fight them there. But Edward had no wish to follow so wily a foe, and he turned southward and disbanded his army. Shortly afterwards a peace was made between the two countries, and a treaty was signed at Northampton. By this treaty the English King gave up all claim to Scotland, and acknowledged Robert the Bruce to be the rightful King. It was also arranged that Edward’s young sister should marry Bruce’s son. And so at last the land had rest. 362

Chapter XLIV

Robert The Bruce—The Heart of the King King Robert did not live long to enjoy the peace which at last had come to the land. He was not an old man, but he had lived such a hard life that he seemed older than he was. Now he became so ill that he knew he could not live long. When he felt that he was dying, he called all his nobles and wise men to him. As they stood round him, Bruce told them that he must soon die, and bade them honour his little son David as their King. With tears of sorrow the nobles promised to do as the King asked. Bruce then turned to the good Lord James. ‘My dearest and best friend,’ he said, ‘you know how hard I have had to fight for my kingdom. At the time when I was sorest pressed, I made a vow that when God should grant me peace, I should go to the Holy Land to fight for the Sepulchre of Christ. But now that I have peace, my body is feeble, and I cannot fulfil my heart’s desire. Yet I would fain send my heart whither my body cannot go. There is no knight so gallant as you, my dear and special friend. Therefore I pray you, when I am dead take my heart from my body, carry it to the Holy Land, and there bury it.’ At first Douglas could not speak for tears. After a few minutes he said, ‘Gallant and noble King, I thank you a thousand times for the honour you do me. Your command shall be obeyed.’ 363

Stories of the British Isles ‘Dear friend, I thank you. You give me your promise?’ said the Bruce. ‘Most willingly. Upon my knighthood I swear it.’ ‘Thanks be to God. Now I die in peace, since I know that the bravest knight in all my kingdom will do for me what I cannot do for myself,’ said the King, as he lay back content. Not many days after this the great King died. From all the land there arose a cry of mourning and sorrow. With tears and sobs, with the sound of sad music and wailing, the people followed their King to his last resting-place in Dunfermline Abbey. ‘All our defence, they said, alas! And he that all our comfort was, Our wit, and all our governing, Alas is brought unto ending. Alas, what shall we do or say? For in life while he lasted, aye By all our neighbours dread were we, And in many a far country Of our worship spread the renown, And that was all for his person.’ Wrapped in a robe of cloth of gold the great King was laid to rest, and a beautiful tomb of white marble was raised over his grave. Long ago the tomb has disappeared, but the place where Robert the Bruce lies is still pointed out in the Abbey of Dunfermline. True to his promise, the Douglas ordered the heart of Bruce to be taken from his body after he was dead. The heart was then embalmed. That is, it was prepared with sweet364

Scotland’s Story smelling spices and other things to keep it from decay. Douglas enclosed the heart in a beautiful box of silver and enamel, which he hung round his neck by a chain of silk and gold. Then, with a noble company of knights and squires, he set sail for Palestine. On his way he passed through Spain. There he heard that the King of Spain was fighting against the Saracens. The Saracens were the people who had possession of Palestine. They were unkind to the Christians, and insulted their religion. Douglas therefore thought that he would be doing right to help the King of Spain, before passing on to the Holy Land. The armies met, and there was a great battle. The Scots charged so furiously that the Saracens fled before them. But thinking that the Spaniards were following to help them, the Scots chased the fleeing foe too far. Too late, Douglas found that he and his little band were cut off from their friends, and entirely surrounded by the fierce, dark faces of the enemy. There was no escape. All that was left to do was to die fighting. Taking the silver box containing King Robert’s heart from his neck, Douglas threw it into the thickest of the fight, crying, ‘On, gallant heart, as thou wert ever wont, the Douglas will follow thee or die.’ Then springing after it, he fiercely fought until he fell, pierced with many wounds. Round him fell most of the brave company of nobles who had set sail with him. When the battle was over, the few who remained sought for their leader. They found him lying dead above the heart of Bruce. They had now no wish to go on to the Holy Land, so they turned home, taking the body of Douglas and the heart of Bruce with them. Douglas was buried in his own church at Castle Douglas, the heart of Bruce in the Abbey of Melrose. 365

Stories of the British Isles ‘The trumpets blew, the cross bolts flew, the arrows flashed like flame, As spur in side, and spear in rest, against the foe we came. ‘And many a bearded Saracen went down, both horse and man, For through their ranks we rode like corn, so furiously we ran. ‘But in behind our path they closed, though fain to let us through, For they were forty thousand men, and we were wondrous few. ‘We might not see a lance’s length, so dense was their array, But the long fell sweep of the Scottish blade still held them hard at bay ‘But thicker, thicker, grew the swarm, and sharper shot the rain, And the horses reared amid the press, but they would not charge again, ‘Then in his stirrups Douglas stood, so lion-like and bold, And held the precious heart aloft all in its case of gold. ‘He flung it from him, far ahead, and never spake he more But—“Pass thee first, thou dauntless heart, as thou wert wont of yore.” ‘There lies beside his master’s heart, the Douglas, stark and grim; And woe is me I should be here, not side by side with him. ‘And, Scotland, thou may’st veil thy head in sorrow and in pain; The sorest stroke upon thy brow hath fallen this day in Spain. ‘We bore the Good Lord James away, the priceless heart he bore, And heavily we steered our ship towards the Scottish shore, ‘No welcome greeted our return, no clang of martial tread, But all were dumb and hushed as death before the mighty dead. ‘We laid our chief in Douglas Kirk, the heart in fair Melrose: And woeful men were we that day—God grant their souls repose.’


A Brief Introduction to Early Irish History Taken from

True Stories from the History of Ireland By John James McGregor

Ancient Ireland Inhabitants — Government — Military/ Force — Laws — Manners — Religion The ancient history of Ireland is so full of fable, that I can give you but a hasty glance at it. Many different races of men are said to have inhabited the country before the Danonians, who, we are told, came from Norway and Sweden about thirteen hundred years previous to the birth of our Savior. We know so little about this people, that I should not have mentioned them, but to tell you an old tradition of the Laigh Fail, or Stone of Destiny. The Danonians are said to have brought this famous stone into Ireland, on which our ancient monarchs were crowned, till Fergus the Great, having conquered Scotland, removed it into that country, relying on an old prediction, which has been thus translated. Or Fate’s belied, or where this stone is found, A prince of Scottish race shall there be crowned. This stone was preserved in the Abbey of Scone with the regalia of Scotland, till the year 1296, when Edward I conveyed it to Westminster Abbey; and the Kings of Great Britain, who are lineally descended from our old Irish Kings, have been crowned on it ever since. We are told that King Fergus, in his expedition to Scotland, displayed a banner, on which was portrayed a red lion rampant in a field of gold, with thunder and stars; and it has been fancied, that from this circumstance originated the lion in the royal arms of England. The Milesians, a Spanish colony, are said to have arrived in this country about eleven hundred years before the birth of our 369

Stories of the British Isles Savior. — Some celebrated writers have doubts respecting this Milesian colony, but as their existence is the most generally received opinion, we shall not here dispute it. They were under the guidance of two brothers, Heber and Heremon, who were the progenitors of a long line of kings that ruled for many centuries in different parts of the island. The country, however, appears to have been during that time in such a continual state of distraction, that more than a hundred Irish monarchs are recorded to have perished in battle or by assassination; nor will you wonder at this when you are made acquainted with the nature of the government that then existed. Ireland, for many hundred years before the English invaded the island, was divided into a pentarchy, or five different kingdoms, viz. Munster, (which being the largest, was again divided into two. North and South,) Leinster, Ulster, Connaught, and Meath. One of the kings always held the dignity of Supreme Monarch, and each had under him various orders of petty chieftains, every one of whom exercised royal power in his own territory. Now you may reasonably suppose, that having so small a country divided into so many little states, must have created endless disorder and confusion among the people, as it was very difficult to prevent them from encroaching on the rights of each other; and what greatly increased the distractions that then prevailed was, that when a king or chief died, he was not succeeded, as in our times, by his eldest son, but the new ruler was elected by the subordinate chieftains from among the relatives of the deceased prince. These elections often occasioned bitter feuds, which caused great destruction of life and property. 370

A Brief Introduction to Early Irish History The Supreme Monarch, who was also generally King of Meath, resided at Tarah, in that county, where historians inform us the greatest hospitality and magnificence were displayed. The palace of Eamania, of which some traces still remain near Armagh, was the royal seat of the Kings of Ulster. The chief residence of the Munster Kings, in early ages, was the city of Cashel; but in later times they removed to Limerick, and some remains of Kinkora, the palace of the famous Brian Boiromhe, are still to be seen near Killaloe, in the county of Clare.—- The Sovereigns of Connaught had their royal residence at Cruachain, not far from Boyle, in the county of Roscommon, and the Kings of Lieinster, at Ferns, in the county of Wexford. Not only the principal sovereigns, but the petty chiefs, derived their revenue from the contributions of their vassals, which were usually delivered in corn or cattle. Justice was administered in the open air by a certain description of lawyers, called Brehons; and one of these judgment-seats, called the Brehon’s Chair, is still shown on the hill of Kyle, in the Queen’s county. Few crimes were at that time punished with death, but by fines proportioned to the offence, which were given to the injured party. The general affairs of the nation were regulated by an assembly, which was held every third year at Tarah. The military force of the country consisted of a militia composed of horse and foot. The former were armed with arrows and javelins, and the latter with darts, long swords, pole-axes, and a kind of knives called skeyns. They had but too many occasions to exhibit their bravery, and who has not heard of the exploits of the Irish militia under Fionn Mac Cumhail, as recorded by the Poet Ossian, and our ancient historians? 371

Stories of the British Isles These writers also inform as, that this band of heroes which might be called the Irish standing army, consisted of nine thousand men during peace, and twenty-one thousand in time of war, and that the following qualifications were required to be possessed by every candidate for admission into it:—he should have a poetical genius —be able to leap over a tree as high as his forehead, and stoop easily under another as low as his knees—should be charitable to the poor, never do violence to a woman, or turn his back upon nine men of any other nation! They had subsistence allowed them only in the winter halfyear. In the summer months they were encamped in the fields, and lived by hunting and fishing; and the husbandman is said still frequently to discover marks of their fires. The other troops consisted of the vassals of the crown and of the petty chieftains, who were bound to follow their leader to the field; and they always rushed to the fight to the sound of martial music, and the martial cry of Farrah! Farrah! that is. Fall on! Fail on! In later times the war-cry of the different septs or clans, terminated with the word abo! or Huzza! with the name of their leader or his crest prefixed—thus the O’Neill’s cry was Lamhdeargh-abo! Huzza for Red Hand! and that of the Butlers’, Butler-aho! Huzza for Butler! You may now be curious to know how the people generally lived in those days. As the cultivation of corn was then little attended to, the food of the peasantry mostly consisted of milk, wild vegetables, and the flesh of animals taken in hunting, whose skins also furnished them with clothing, before they learned the art of manufacturing woollen and linen cloth. The higher orders enjoyed the luxury of bread usually baked under the embers, and their entertainments exhibited a degree of 372

A Brief Introduction to Early Irish History hospitality which would not shame their descendants of the present day, though not attended with the same accompaniments of magnificent apartments, or splendid furniture. Three-legged tables were covered with mllk-meats, bread, and a variety of flesh and fish, dressed in different ways, round which the guests sat on rushes or beds of grass, instead of chairs or benches; while the attendants served them, in cups of wood, horn, or brass, with mead, a strong drink called curmi, extracted from barley or milk, and sometimes with Poitou wine, which the Irish received from France in exchange for the skins of animals. At these entertainments, bards or minstrels always attended, and sang the praises of their heroes to the music of the harp. The religion that existed in Ireland before the establishment of Christianity was similar to that which then prevailed in England and many other countries. It was called the Druidical religion, and its priests appear to have acquired great authority in directing the affairs of the state. They had no temples, but celebrated their mysteries in groves of oak, where they worshipped the sun, moon, and other celestial luminaries. We are left very much in the dark as to the opinions and practices of the Druids; for while some writers assert that they had neither idols or sacrifices; others, and particularly Julius Caesar, state, that they sometimes made images of osier of a monstrous size, which they filled with living men, and then setting them on fire, burned the enclosed victims to death. We have also very imperfect accounts of the Irish kings while Paganism prevailed in the country. A few, however, have been celebrated for their wisdom and bravery. Amongst these was Ollamh Fodhla, the celebrated law-giver of Ireland, who 373

Stories of the British Isles flourished about eight hundred years before the Christian era. Hugony, Crimthan, and other kings, distinguished themselves in after times by assisting the Scots and Picts against the Romans, and they frequently returned with rich trophies of their prowess. Nial (surnamed of the Nine Hostages) carried his arms both into England and France, but he perished by assassination A. D. 370, on the banks of the Loire. There is little doubt that the Irish of that period were as distinguished for their valor as they have been in later times.


Introduction of Christianity St. Patrick. By whom Christianity was first introduced into this country is as uncertain as many other particulars of our early history. It is, however, undoubted that some Christian churches were established, particularly in the South, before the arrival of St. Patrick. This great and good man, who is called the Apostle of Ireland, was born in Scotland, in the year 373. When only sixteen years old, he was taken prisoner by Irish pirates, or, as some say, by the troops of Niall of the Nine Hostages, and was kept six years in slavery by an Ulster prince. At the end of that period he escaped, and spent many years under the tuition of his uncle, who was bishop of Tours in France. He afterwards entered the church, and continued in France and Italy till he had attained his sixtieth year, when, accompanied by more than thirty assistants, men of great piety and learning, he undertook the mission for the conversion of the Irish, a people by whom he had been so cruelly treated in his youth. He first landed at Wicklow, and converted a prince named Sinell to Christianity; but being greatly opposed by other Pagan chieftains, he was compelled to return to his ship, and directed his course to that part of the North of Ireland where he had formerly been a captive. I am sure you must feel greatly interested in the future success of our patron saint, as he is called, whose memory is annually celebrated on the 17th of March; not indeed in the manner which the good man, were he now alive, would approve 375

Stories of the British Isles of, as drunkenness and debauchery are very much opposed to the religion which he taught. St. Patrick’s first convert in the North was a prince of Down, named Dichu, who immediately erected a church to the true God, near the bay of Dundram, which was afterwards called the Abbey of Saul; so that this was the first Christian church in the North of Ireland. After this, he and his companions preached the Gospel with great success in other parts of the North, and in the following year, that is A. D. 433, St. Patrick repaired to Tarah in the county of Meath, where Leogair, then the Supreme Monarch, resided, and at a time when the Grand Convention or Parliament was assembled; and he preached before them with such powerful effect, that the king, the queen, and a great number of the nobility, embraced Christianity; and their example was soon followed by multitudes of the common people. He was equally successful in Dublin, where he baptized King Alphin, with a vast number of his subjects, in a fountain, (from this called St. Patrick’s Well,) which the learned Archbishop Usher tells us, stood near the present cathedral church of St. Patrick, and that he saw it in the year 1639, but that soon after it was shut up and enclosed within a private house. Connaught was next blessed by his labors, and St. Patrick spent sixteen years in planting and establishing churches in the three provinces. During this time he founded the city and cathedral of Armagh, and made it the primatial or head see of Ireland. You may be somewhat surprised that our faithful and zealous Apostle had not, in all this time, visited the great kingdom of Munster; but he knew that some good missionaries had arrived in that quarter, as I told you before, who had for many years been preaching the doctrines of Christianity. They 376

A Brief Introduction to Early Irish History had obtained considerable success among the poor and the middle ranks of the people, but very few of the princes or great men paid any attention to them. St Patrick, therefore, found it necessary at length to go himself to Munster, hoping that through the blessing of God, he might effect their conversion. And he succeeded according to his wish; for soon after he began his ministry in Cashel, the royal seat of Aengus, king of Munster, that sovereign and all the nobles of his court became obedient to the faith. St. Patrick then made the four missionaries who had arrived in Munster before him, whose names were Ailbe, Declan, Kiaran, and Ibar, bishops, and placed the church in that kingdom on a regular footing. After spending seven years in travelling about that part of the country, he resigned the government of the see of Armagh, and passed the remaining thirty years of his life in retirement at the abbey of Saul, where he died A. D. 402, aged one hundred and twenty, and was buried in Downpatrick. All the kings of Ireland with their subjects now openly professed the Christian religion, yet it appears to have produced little effect on their general character and conduct, though no doubt some good men were occasionally to be found amongst them. The perpetual quarrels between the numerous independent chieftains, and their thirst for military glory, rendered our island during the sixth and seventh centuries a frightful picture of intestine war. The great men, however, evinced much ardor in the building of churches and colleges; and it is very probable that from this circumstance rather than from any superiority in the practice of piety, Ireland got the name of the Island of Saints. You are not, however, to suppose, that it was at that time in a worse state with regard to 377

Stories of the British Isles religion than the neighboring nations; for it is too evident from history, that in all countries during what are called the dark ages, the form was too often substituted for the substance of religion; and that while men were building churches and endowing monasteries in honor of their Maker, they indulged the most brutal passions, and practiced every vice in opposition to his most sacred prohibitions. There can, however, be little doubt, that learning at that time flourished more in Ireland than in any other country in Europe. This is proved by the magnificent colleges that existed at Armagh, Lismore, (where the great king Alfred is said to have studied,) Clonard, and other places, to which students resorted from many foreign kingdoms, and from the fact that some of the highest offices of the Church in France, Italy, and Germany, were filled by Irishmen. Yet notwithstanding the apparently flourishing state of religion and learning at (his time, the Irish historians tell as, that out of twenty-three monarchs who reigned in the sixth and seventh centuries, not less than twenty perished by violent deaths, and many thousands of their subjects experienced a similar fate.