LONDON, Printed for T. DAVIES, in Russel-street; BECKET and DE HONDT; and T. CADELL, in the Strand. MDCCLXXI.


FROM the favourable reception given to my Abridgement of Roman History, published some time since, several friends, and others, whose business leads them to consult the wants of the public, have been induced to suppose, that an English history writ­ten on the same plan would be accept­able. It was their opinion that we still wanted a work of this kind, where the narrative, though very concise, is not totally without interest, and the facts, though crowded, are yet distinctly seen.

The business of abridging the works of others has hitherto fallen to the lot of very dull men; and the art of blot­ting, which an eminent critic calls the most difficult of all others, has been [Page ii] usually practised by those who found themselves unable to write. Hence, our abridgements are generally more tedious than the works from which they pre­tend to relieve us, and they have effec­tually embarrassed that road which they laboured to shorten.

As the present compiler starts with such humble competitors, it will scarcely be thought vanity in him if he boasts himself their superior. Of the many abridgements of our own history hither­to published, none seems possessed of any share of merit or reputation; some have been written in dialogue, or merely in the stiffness of an index, and some to an­swer the purposes of a party. A very small share of taste, therefore, was suf­ficient to keep the compiler from the defects of the one, and a very small share of philosophy from the misrepre­sentations of the other.

[Page iii]It is not easy, however, to satisfy the different expectations of mankind in a work of this kind, calculated for every apprehension, and on which all are con­sequently capable of forming some judg­ment. Some may say that it is too long to pass under the denomination of an abridgement, and others that it is too dry to be admitted as an history; it may be objected that reflection is almost en­tirely banished to make room for facts, and yet that many facts are wholly omit­ted, which might be necessary to be known.

It must be confessed that all these ob­jections are partly true; for it is impos­sible in the same work, at once, to at­tain contrary advantages. The compi­ler who is stinted in room, must often sacrifice interest to brevity; and on the other hand, while he endeavours to a­muse, must frequently transgress the li­mits to which his plan should confine him. Thus all such as desire only a­musement [Page iv] may be disgusted with his bre­vity, and such as seek for information may object to his displacing facts for empty description.

To attain the greatest number of ad­vantages with the fewest inconvenien­cies, is all that can be attained in an abridgement, the very name of which implies imperfection. It will be suffi­cient, therefore, to satisfy the writer's wishes, if the present work be found a plain unaffected narrative of facts, with just ornament enough to keep attention awake, and with reflection barely suf­ficient to set the reader upon thinking. Very moderate abilities were equal to such an undertaking; and it is hoped the performance will satisfy such as take up books to be informed or amused, without much considering who the wri­ter is, or envying him any success he may have had in a former compilation.

[Page v]As the present publication is designed for the benefit of those who intend to lay a foundation for future study, or de­sire to refresh their memories upon the old, or who think a moderate share of history sufficient for the purposes of life, recourse has been had only to those au­thors which are best known, and those facts only have been selected, which are allowed on all hands to be true. Were an epitome of history the field for dis­playing erudition, the author could shew that he has read many books which others have neglected, and that he also could advance many anecdotes which are at present very little known. But it must be remembered that all these mi­nute recoveries could be inserted only to the exclusion of more material facts, which it would be unpardonable to omit. He foregoes, therefore, the petty ambition of being thought a reader of forgotten [Page vi] books; his aim being not to add to our present stock of history, but to contract it.

The books which have been used in this abridgement are chiefly Rapin, Carte, Smollett, and Hume. They have each their peculiar admirers, in proportion as the reader is studious of historical antiquities, fond of minute anecdote, a warm parti­zan, or a deliberate reasoner. Of these I have particularly taken Hume for my guide, as far as he goes; and it is but justice to say, that wherever I was ob­liged to abridge his work I did it with reluctance, as I scarce cut out a line that did not contain a beauty.

But though I must warmly subscribe to the learning, elegance, and depth of Mr. Hume's history, yet I cannot entirely acquiesce in his principles. With regard to religion, he seems desirous of playing a double part, of appearing to some readers [Page vii] as if he reverenced, and to others as if he ridiculed it. He seems sensible of the political necessity of religion in every state; but at the same time he would every where insinuate, that it owes its authority to no higher an origin. Thus he weakens its influence, while he con­tends for its utility, and vainly hopes that while free-thinkers shall applaud his scepticism, real believers will re­verence him for his zeal.

In his opinions respecting government, perhaps, also, he may be sometimes re­prehensible; but in a country like ours, where mutual contention contributes to the security of the constitution, it will be impossible for an historian, who attempts to have any opinion, to satisfy all parties. It is not yet decided in po­litics, whether the diminution of kingly power in England tends to encrease the happiness, or the freedom of the people. For my own part, from seeing the bad [Page viii] effects of the tyranny of the great in those republican states that pretend to be free, I cannot help wishing that our monarchs may still be allowed to enjoy the power of controlling the encroach­ments of the great at home. A king may easily be restrained from doing wrong, as he is but one man; but if a number of the great are permitted to divide all au­thority, who can punish them if they abuse it? Upon this principle, there­fore, and not from any empty notion of divine or hereditary right, some may think I have leaned towards monarchy. But as in the things I have hitherto written, I have neither allured the vanity of the great by flattery, nor sa­tisfied the malignity of the vulgar by scandal, as I have endeavoured to get an honest reputation by liberal pursuits, it is hoped the reader will admit my im­partiality.


CHAP. I. Of the BRITONS before the Arrival of the ROMANS.

IT is fortunate for mankind, that those pe­riods of history which are the least serviceable, are the least known. It has been the study of many learned men to rescue from obscurity, and throw light upon those early ages when the Britons were wholly barbarous, and their country uncultivated. But these researches have generally terminated in conjecture; so that from whence Britain was at first peopled, or took its name; is still uncertain. The va­riety [Page 2] of opinions upon this head serve to prove the futility of all.

It will therefore be sufficient to observe, that this beautiful island, by some thought the largest in the world, was called Britannia by the Romans long before the time of Caesar. It is supposed, that this name was ori­ginally given it by the merchants who resorted hither from the Continent. These called the inhabitants by one common name of Briths, from the custom among the natives of painting their naked bodies, and small shields, with an azure blue, which in the language of the country was called Brith, and which served to distin­guish them from those strangers who came a­mong them for the purposes of trade or al­liance.

The Britons were but very little known to the rest of the world before the time of the Romans. The coasts opposite Gaul indeed were frequented by merchants who traded thither for such commodities as the natives were able to produce. These, it is thought, after a time, possessed themselves of all the maritime places where they had at first been permitted to reside. There, finding the country fertile, and commodiously situated for trade, they settled upon the sea-side, and in­troduced [Page 3] the practice of agriculture. But it was very different with the inland inhabi­tants of the country, who considered them­selves as the lawful possessors of the soil. These avoided all correspondence with the new comers, whom they considered as intruders up­on their property.

The inland inhabitants are represented as ex­tremely numerous, living in cottages thatched with straw, and feeding large herds of cattle. Their houses were scattered all over the country, without observance of order or distance, being placed at smaller or greater intervals as they were invited by the fertility of the soil, or the convenience of wood and water. They lived mostly upon milk, or flesh procured by the chace. What cloaths they wore to cover any part of their bodies, were usually the skins of beasts; but much of their bodies, as the arms, legs, and thighs, was left naked, and those parts were usually painted blue. Their hair, which was long, flowed down upon their backs and shoulders, while their beards were kept close shaven, except upon the upper lip, where it was suffered to grow. The dress of savage nations is every where pretty much the same, being calculated rather to inspire terror than to excite love or respect.

[Page 4]The commodities exported from Britain were chiefly hides and tin. This metal was then thought peculiar to the island, and was in much request abroad, both in nearer and re­moter regions. Some silver mines were also known, but not in common use, as the inha­bitants had but little knowledge how to dig, refine, or improve them. Pearls also were frequently found on their shores, but neither clear nor coloured like the oriental; and there­fore, in no great esteem among strangers. They had but little iron; and what they had, was used either for arms, or for rings, which was a sort of money current among them. They had brass money also, but this was all brought from abroad.

Their language, customs, religion, and go­vernment, were generally the same with those of the Gauls, their neighbours of the Conti­nent. As to their government, it consisted of several small principalities, each under its re­spective leader; and this seems to be the ear­liest mode of dominion with which mankind is acquainted, and deduced from the natural pri­vileges of paternal authority. Whether these small principalities descended by succession, or were elected in consequence of the advantages of age, wisdom, or valour in the families of the [Page 5] princes, is not recorded. Upon great, or uncom­mon dangers, a commander in chief was chosen by common consent, in a general assembly; and to him was committed the conduct of the gene­ral interest, the power of making peace, or leading to war. In the choice of a person of such power, it is easy to suppose, that unani­mity could not alway be found; whence it often happened, that the separate tribes were defeat­ed one after the other before they could unite under a single leader for their mutual safety.

Their forces consisted chiefly of foot, and yet they could bring a considerable number of horse into the field upon great occasions. They like­wise used chariots in battle, which, with short scythes fastened to the ends of the axletrees, inflicted terrible wounds, spreading terror and devastation wheresoever they drove. Nor while the chariots were thus destroying, were the warriors who conducted them unemployed. These darted their javelins against the enemy, ran along the beam, leapt on the ground, re­sumed their seat, stopt, or turned their horses at full speed, and sometimes cunningly retreat­ed, to draw the enemy into confusion. No­thing can be more terrible than the idea of a charioteer thus driving furiously in the midst of dangers; but these machines seem to have [Page 6] been more dreadful than dangerous, for they were quickly laid aside, when this warlike people was instructed in the more regular arts of war.

The religion of the Britons was one of the most considerable parts of their government; and the Druids, who were the guardians of it, possessed great authority among them. These endeavoured to impress the minds of the peo­ple with an opinion of their skill in the arts of divination; they offered sacrifices in public and private, and pretended to explain the imme­diate will of Heaven. No species of supersti­tion was ever more terrible than theirs; be­sides the severe penalties which they were per­mitted to inflict in this world, they inculcated the eternal transmigration of souls, and thus extended their authority as far as the fears of their votaries. They sacrificed human victims, which they burned in large wicker idols, made so capacious as to contain a multitude of per­sons at once, who were thus consumed to­gether. The female Druids plunged their knives into the breasts of the prisoners taken in war, and prophesied from the manner in which the blood happened to stream from the wound. Their altars consisted of four broad stones, three set edge-ways, and the fourth at top, [Page 7] many of which remain to this day. To these rites, tending to impress ignorance with awe, they added the austerity of their manners, and the simplicity of their lives. They lived in woods, caves, and hollow trees; their food was acorns and berries, and their drink water; by these arts, they were not only respected, but al­most adored by the people. They were admir­ed not only for knowing more than other men, but for despising what all others valued and pursued. Hence they were patiently permit­ted to punish and correct crimes from which they themselves were supposed to be wholly free; and their authority was so great, that not only the property, but also the lives of the people were entirely at their disposal. No laws were instituted by the princes, or common assemblies, without their advice and approbation; no person was punished by bonds, or death, without their passing sentence; no plunder taken in war was used by the captor until the Druids determined what part they should seclude for themselves.

It may be easily supposed, that the manners of the people took a tincture from the disci­pline of their teachers. Their lives were sim­ple, but they were marked with cruelty and fierceness; their courage was great, but neither [Page 8] dignified by mercy nor perseverance. In short, to have a just idea of what the Britons then were, we have only to turn to the savage na­tions which still subsist in primeval rudeness. Temperate rather from necessity than choice; patient of fatigue, yet inconstant in attach­ment; bold, improvident, and rapacious; such is the picture of savage life at pre­sent, and such it appears to have been from the beginning. Little entertainment, therefore, can be expected from the accounts of a nation thus circumstanced, nor can its transactions come properly under the notice of the historian, since they are too minutely divided to be exhibited at one view; the actors are too barbarous to interest the reader; and no skill can be shewn in developing the motives and councils of a peo­ple chiefly actuated by sudden and tumultuary gusts of passion.

CHAP II. From the Descent of JULIUS CAESAR to the Relin­quishing of the Island by the ROMANS.

THE Britons, in the rude and barbarous state in which we have just described them, seemed to stand in need of more polished in­structors; and indeed whatever evils may attend the conquest of heroes, their success has generally produced one good effect, in disseminating the arts of refinement and humanity. It ever hap­pens, when a barbarous nation is conquered by another more advanced in the arts of peace, that it gains in elegance a recompence for what it loses in liberty. The Britons had long re­mained in this rude but independent state, when Caesar having over-run Gaul with his victories, and willing still farther to extend his fame, determined upon the conquest of a country that seemed to promise an easy triumph. He was allured neither by the riches nor the renown of the inhabitants; but being am­bitious rather of splendid than of useful [Page 10] conquests, he was willing to carry the Roman arms into a country, the remote situation of which would add seeming difficulty to the enterprize, and consequently produce an in­crease of reputation. His pretence was, to punish these islanders for having sent succours to the Gauls while he waged war against that nation, as well as for granting an asylum to such of the enemy as had sought protection from his resentment. The natives, informed of his intention, were sensible of the unequal contest, and endeavoured to appease him by submission. He received their ambassadors with great complacency, and having exhorted them to continue stedfast in the same senti­ments, in the mean time made preparations for the execution of his design. When the troops destined for the expedition were em­barked, he set sail for Britain about midnight, and the next morning arrived on the coast near Dover, where he saw the rocks and cliffs co­vered with armed men to oppose his landing.

Ant. Ch. 55 Finding it impracticable to gain the shore where he first intended, from the agitation of the sea and the impending mountains, he resolved to chuse a landing-place of greater security. The place he chose was about eight miles far­ther on, some suppose at Deal, where an in­clining [Page 11] shore and a level country invited his attempts. The poor, naked, ill-armed Bri­tons, we may well suppose, were but an unequal match for the disciplined Romans, who had be­fore conquered Gaul, and afterwards became the conquerors of the world. However, they made a brave opposition against the veteran army; the conflicts between them were fierce, the losses mutual, and the success va­rious. The Britons had chosen Cassibelaunus for their commander in chief, but the petty princes under his command either desiring his station or suspecting his fidelity, threw off their allegiance. Some of them fled with their forces into the internal parts of the kingdom, others submitted to Caesar, till at length Cas­sibelaunus himself, weakened by so many de­sertions, resolved upon making what terms he was able while he yet had power to keep the field. The conditions offered by Caesar and accepted by him were, that he should send to the Continent double the number of hostages at first demanded, and that he should acknow­ledge subjection to the Romans.

The Romans were pleased with the name of this new and remote conquest, and the senate decreed a supplication of twenty days, in con­sequence of their general's success. Having [Page 12] therefore in this manner rather discovered than subdued the southern parts of the island, Cae­sar returned into Gaul with his forces, and left the Britons to enjoy their customs, religion, and laws. But the inhabitants, thus relieved from the terror of his arms, ne­glected the performance of their stipulations, and only two of their states sent over hostages, according to the treaty. Caesar it is likely was not much displeased at the omission, as it furnished him with a pretext of visiting the island once more, and completing a conquest which he had only begun.

Accordingly, the ensuing spring, he set sail for Britain with eight hundred ships; and, arriving at the place of his former descent, he landed with­out opposition. The islanders being apprized of his invasion, had assembled an army and march­ed down to the sea-side to oppose him; but seeing the number of his forces, and the whole sea as it were covered with his shipping, they were struck with consternation, and retired to their places of security. The Romans, how­ever, pursued them to their retreats, until at last common danger induced these poor barbarians to forget their former dissensions, and to unite their whole strength for the mutual defence of their liberty and possessions. Cassibelaunus was [Page 13] chosen to conduct the common cause; and for some time he harrassed the Romans in their march, and revived the desponding hopes of his countrymen. But no opposition that undisci­plined strength could make was able to repress the vigour and intrepidity of Caesar. He dis­comfited the Britons in every action; he ad­vanced into the country, passed the Thames in the face of the enemy, took and burned the capital city of Cassibelaunus, established his ally Mandubratius as sovereign of the Tri­nobantes; and having obliged the inhabi­tants to make him new submissions, he again returned with his army into Gaul, having made himself rather the nominal than the real possessor of the island.

Whatever the stipulated tribute might have been, it is more than probable, as there was no authority left to exact it, that it was but indif­ferently paid. Upon the accession of Augus­tus, that emperor had formed a design of vi­siting Britain, but was diverted from it by an unexpected revolt of the Pannonians. Some years after he resumed his design; but be­ing met in his way by the British ambassa­dors, who promised the accustomed tribute, and made the usual submissions, he desisted from his intentions. The year following, find­ing [Page 14] them remiss in their supplies, and untrue to their former professions, he once more pre­pared for the invasion of the country; but a well-timed embassy again averted his indigna­tion, and the submissions he received seemed to satisfy his resentment: upon his death-bed he appeared sensible of the overgrown extent of the Roman empire, and he recommended it to his successors never to enlarge their terri­tories.

Tiberius followed the maxims of Augustus, and wisely judging the empire already too ex­tensive, made no attempt upon Britain. Some Roman soldiers having been wrecked on the British coast, the inhabitants not only assisted them with the greatest humanity, but sent them in safety back to their general. In con­sequence of these friendly dispositions, a con­stant intercourse of good offices subsisted be­tween the two nations; the principal British nobility resorted to Rome, and many received their education there.

Ant. Ch. 16 From that time the Britons began to im­prove in all the arts which contribute to the advancement of human nature. The first art which a savage people is generally taught by their politer neighbours is that of war. The Britons, thenceforward, though not [Page 15] wholly addicted to the Roman method of fight­ing, nevertheless adopted several of their im­provements, as well in their arms as in their arrangement in the field. Their ferocity to strangers, for which they had been always re­markable, was mitigated; and they began to permit an intercourse of commerce even in the internal parts of the country. They still, however, continued to live as herdsmen and hunters, a manifest proof that the country was as yet but thinly inhabited. A nation of hunters can never be populous, as their sub­sistence is necessarily diffused over a large tract of country, while the husbandman converts every part of nature to human use, and flou­rishes most by the vicinity of those whom he is to support.

The wild extravagancies of Caligula, by which he threatened Britain with an invasion, served rather to expose him to ridicule than the island to danger. The Britons therefore, for almost a century, enjoyed their liberty unmo­lested, till at length the Romans, in the reign of Claudius, began to think seriously of re­ducing them under their dominion. The ex­pedition for this purpose was conducted in the beginning by Plautius and other command­ers, [Page 16] with that success which usually attended the Roman arms.

A.D. 43 Claudius himself finding affairs sufficiently prepared for his reception, made a journey thi­ther, and received the submission of such states as, living by commerce, were willing to pur­chase tranquillity at the expence of freedom. It is true that many of the inland provinces preferred their native simplicity to imported elegance, and, rather than bow their necks to the Roman yoke, offered their bosoms to the sword. But the southern coast, with all the adjacent inland country, was seized by the conquerors, who secured the possession by for­tifying camps, building fortresses, and planting colonies. The other parts of the country either thought themselves in no danger, or continued patient spectators of the approach­ing devastation.

Caractacus was the first who seemed willing, by a vigorous effort, to rescue his country and repel its insulting and rapacious conquerors. The venality and corruption of the Roman praetors and officers who were appointed to levy the contributions in Britain served to excite the indignation of the natives, and give spirit to his attempts. This rude soldier, though with [Page 17] inferior forces, continued, for above the space of nine years, to oppose and harrass the Ro­mans; so that at length Ostorius Scapula was sent over to command their armies. He was more successful than his predecessors. He ad­vanced the Roman conquests over Britain, pierced the country of the Silures,A.D. 50 a warlike nation along the banks of the Severn, and at length came up with Caractacus, who had ta­ken possession of a very advantageous post up­on an inaccessible mountain, washed by a deep and rapid stream. The unfortunate British ge­neral, when he saw the enemy approaching, drew up his army, composed of different tribes, and going from rank to rank, exhorted them to strike the last blow, for liberty, safety, and life. To these exhortations his soldiers replied with shouts of determined valour. But what could undisciplined bravery avail against the attack of an army skilled in all the arts of war, and inspired by a long train of conquests. The Britons were, after an obstinate resistance, to­tally routed; and a few days after Caractacus himself was delivered up to the conquerors by Cartismandua, queen of the Brigantes, with whom he had taken refuge. The capture of this general was received with such joy at Rome, that Claudius commanded that he [Page 18] should be brought from Britain, in order to be exhibited as a spectacle to the Roman people. Accordingly, on the day appointed for that purpose, the Emperor ascending his throne, ordered the captives, and Caractacus among the number, to be brought into his presence. The vassals of the British king, with the spoils taken in war, were first brought forward; these were followed by his family, who, with abject lamentations, were seen to implore for mercy. Last of all came Caractacus himself, with an undaunted air and a dignified aspect. He appeared no way dejected at the amazing concourse of spectators that were gathered upon this occasion, but casting his eyes on the splendours that surrounded him, ‘"Alas, cried he, how is it possible that a people possessed of such magnificence at home could envy me an hum­ble cottage in Britain!"’ When brought into the Emperor's presence, he is said to have ad­dressed him in the following manner: ‘"Had my moderation been equal to my birth and for­tune, I had arrived in this city not as a cap­tive but as a friend. But my present misfor­tunes redound as much to your honour as to my disgrace, and the obstinacy of my opposi­tion serves to increase the splendours of your victory. Had I surrendered myself in the begin­ning [Page 19] of the contest, neither my disgrace nor your glory would have attracted the attention of the world, and my fate would have been buried in general oblivion. I am now at your mercy, but if my life be spared I shall remain an eter­nal monument of your clemency and modera­tion."’ The Emperor was affected with the British hero's misfortunes, and won by his address. He ordered him to be unchained upon the spot, with the rest of the captives, and the first use they made of their liberty was to go and prostrate themselves before the Empress Agrippina, who, as some suppose, had been an intercessor for their freedom.

Notwithstanding these misfortunes, the Bri­tons were not subdued, and this island was re­garded by the ambitious Romans as a field in which military honour might still be acquired. The Britons made one expiring effort more to recover their liberty, in the times of Nero,A.D. 59 taking advantage of the absence of Paulinus the Roman general, who was employed in sub­duing the isle of Anglesey. That small island, which was separated from Britain by a narrow channel, still continued the chief seat of the Druidical superstitions, and constantly afforded a retreat to their defeated forces. It was thought necessary therefore to subdue that [Page 20] place, in order to extirpate a religion that dis­dained submission to foreign laws or leaders; and Paulinus, the greatest general of his age, undertook the task. The Britons endeavoured to obstruct his landing on that last retreat of their superstitions and liberties, both by the force of their arms and the terrors of their religion. The priests and islanders were drawn up in order of battle upon the shore, to oppose his landing. The women, dressed like furies, with dishevelled hair and torches in their hands, poured forth the most terrible execra­tions. Such a sight at first confounded the Romans, and fixed them motionless on the spot, so that they received the first assault without opposition. But Paulinus exhorting his troops to despise the menaces of an absurd superstition, impelled them to the attack, drove the Britons off the field, burned the Druids in the same fires they had prepared for their cap­tive enemies, and destroyed all their consecrat­ed groves and altars.

In the mean time the Britons, taking advan­tage of his absence, resolved by a general in­surrection to free themselves from that state of abject servitude to which they were reduced by the Romans. They had many motives to ag­gravate their resentment; the greatness of [Page 21] their taxes, which were levied with unremit­ting severity; the cruel insolence of their con­querors, who reproached that very poverty which they had caused; but particularly the cruel treatment of Boadicea, queen of the Ice­ni, drove them at last into open rebellion. Prasatagus, king of the Iceni, at his death had bequeathed one half of his dominions to the Romans, and the other to his daughters, thus hoping by the sacrifice of a part, to se­cure the rest in his family: but it had a diffe­rent effect; for the Roman procurator imme­diately took possession of the whole; and when Boadicea, the widow of the deceased, at­tempted to remonstrate, he ordered her to be scourged like a slave, and violated the chastity of her daughters. These outrages were suffi­cient to produce a revolt through the whole island. The Iceni, as being the most deeply in­terested in the quarrel, were the first to take arms; all the other states soon followed the ex­ample; and Boadicea, a woman of great beauty and masculine spirit, was appointed to head the common forces, which amounted to two hundred and thirty thousand fighting men. These, exasperated by their wrongs, attacked several of the Roman settlements and colonies with success. Paulinus hastened to relieve [Page 22] London, which was already a flourishing colo­ny; but found on his arrival that it would be requisite for the general safety to abandon that place to the merciless fury of the enemy. Lon­don was soon therefore reduced to ashes; such of the inhabitants as remained in it were massacred; and the Romans, with all other strangers, to the number of seventy thousand, were cruelly put to the sword. Flushed with these successes, the Britons no longer sought to avoid the enemy, but boldly came to the place where Paulinus awaited their arrival, posted in a very advantageous manner with a body of ten thousand men. The battle was obstinate and bloody. Boadicea herself appeared in a chariot with her two daughters, and harrangued her army with masculine intrepidity; but the irregular and undisciplined bravery of her troops was unable to resist the cool intrepidity of the Romans. They were routed with great slaughter, eighty thousand perished in the field, and an infinite number were made prisoners, while Boadicea herself, fearing to fall into the hands of the enraged victor, put an end to her life by poison. Nero soon after recalled Pau­linus from a government, where, by suffering and inflicting so many severities, he was judged improper to compose the angry and alarmed [Page 23] minds of the natives. After an interval, Cerealis received the command from Vespa­sian, and by his bravery propagated the terror of the Roman arms. Julius Frontinus suc­ceeded Cerealis both in authority and reputa­tion. The general who finally established the dominion of the Romans in this island was Ju­lius Agricola, who governed it during the reigns of Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian, and distin­guished himself as well by his courage as hu­manity.

Agricola, who is considered as one of the greatest characters in history, formed a regular plan for subduing and civilizing the island, and thus ren­dering the acquisition useful to the conquer­ors. As the northern part of the country was least tractable, he carried his victorious arms thither, and defeated the undisciplined enemy in every encounter. He pierced into the for­merly inaccessible forests and mountains of Ca­ledonia, he drove onward all those fierce and untractable spirits who preferred famine to sla­very, and who, rather than submit, chose to remain in perpetual hostility. Nor was it without opposition that he thus made his way into a country rude and impervious by nature. He was opposed by Galgacus, at the head of a numerous army, whom he defeated in a decisive [Page 24] action, in which considerable numbers were slain. Being thus successful, he did not think proper to pursue the enemy into their re­treats, but embarking a body of troops on board his fleet, he ordered the commander to surround the whole coast of Britain, which had not been discovered to be an island till the pre­ceding year. This armament, pursuant to his orders, steered to the northward, and there subdued the Orkneys; then making the tour of the whole island, it arrived in the port of Sand­wich, without having met the least disaster.

During these military enterprizes Agricola was ever attentive to the arts of peace. He at­tempted to humanize the fierceness of those who acknowledged his power, by introducing the Roman laws, habits, manners, and learn­ing. He taught them to desire and raise all the conveniencies of life, instructed them in the arts of agriculture, and, in order to pro­tect them in their peaceable possessions, he drew a rampart, and fixed a train of garrisons between them and their northern neighbours; thus cutting off the ruder and more barren parts of the island, and securing the Roman province from the invasion of a fierce and ne­cessitous enemy. In this manner the Britons being almost-totally subdued, now began to [Page 25] throw off all hopes of recovering their for­mer liberty; and having often experienced the superiority of the Romans, consented to sub­mit, and were content with safety. From that time,A.D. 78 the Romans seemed more desirous of securing what they possessed, than of making new conquests, and were employed rather in re­pressing than punishing their restless northern invaders.

For several years after the time of Agricola, a profound peace seems to have prevailed in Britain, and little mention is made of the af­fairs of the island by any historian. The only incidents which occur, are some seditions a­mong the Roman legions quartered there, and some usurpations of the imperial dignity by the Roman governors. The natives remained to­tally subdued and dispirited; the arts of lux­ury had been introduced among them, and seemed to afford a wretched compensation for their former independence. All the men who had a passion for liberty were long since de­stroyed; the flower of their youth were draft­ed out of the island to serve in foreign wars, and those who remained were bred up in ser­vitude and submission. Such, therefore, were very unlikely to give any disturbance to their governors; and, in fact, instead of considering [Page 26] their yoke as a burthen, they were taught to regard it as their ornament and protection. No­thing, therefore, was likely to shake the power of Rome in the island, but the dissentions and distresses of the Romans themselves, and that dreadful period at last arrived.

Rome, that had for ages given laws to na­tions, and diffused slavery and oppression over the known world, at length began to sink under her own magnificence. Mankind, as if by a general consent, rose up to vindi­cate their natural freedom; almost every na­tion asserting that independence which they had been long so unjustly deprived of. It was in these turbulent times, that the emperors found themselves obliged to recruit their legions from the troops that were placed to defend the frontier provinces. When the heart of the empire was contended for, it was not much considered in what manner the extremities were to be defended. In this manner, the more distant parts of the empire were frequently left without a guard; and the weakness of the go­vernment there, frequently excited fresh insur­rections among the natives. These, with thou­sand other calamities, daily grew greater; and, as the enemies of the Roman people en­creased, their own dissensions among each [Page 27] other seemed to encrease in the same propor­tion.

During these struggles the British youth were frequently drawn away into Gaul, to give ineffectual succour to the various conten­ders for the empire, who, falling in every at­tempt, only left the name of tyrants behind them. In the mean time, as the Roman forces decreased in Britain, the Picts and Scots conti­nued still more boldly to infest the northern parts; and crossing the friths, which the Ro­mans could not guard, in little wicker boats, covered with leather, filled the country where­ever they came with slaughter and consterna­tion. When repulsed by superior numbers, as was at first always the case, they retired with the spoil, and watched for the next opportu­nity of invasion, when the Romans were drawn away into the remoter parts of the island.

These enterprises were often repeated, and as often repressed, but still with diminishing vi­gour on the side of the defendants. The southern natives being accustomed to have re­course to Rome, as well for protection as for laws, made supplication to the emperors, and had one legion sent over for their defence. This relief was in the beginning attended with the desired ef­fect, the barbarous invaders were repulsed and [Page 28] driven back to their native deserts and moun­tains. They returned, however, when the Ro­man forces were withdrawn; and although they were again repulsed by the assistance of a legion once more sent from Rome, yet they too well perceived the weakness of the enemy, and their own superior skill in arms.

At length, in the reign of Valentinian the younger, the empire of Rome began to tremble for its capital, and being fa­tigued with distant expeditions, informed the wretched Britons, whom their own arts had en­feebled, that they were now no longer to ex­pect foreign protection. They accordingly, drew away from the island all the Romans, and many of the Britons who were fit for military services. Thus, taking their last leave of the island, they left the natives to the choice of their own government and kings. They gave them the best instructions the calamitous times would permit, for exercising their arms, and repairing their ramparts. They helped the natives to erect a-new a wall of stone built by the emperor Severus across the island, which they had not at that time artizans skilful enough among themselves to repair. Having thus prepared for their departure in a friendly manner, the Romans left the island, never more [Page 29] to return,A.D. 488 after having been masters of it dur­ing the course of near four centuries.

It may be doubted, whether the arts which the Romans planted among the islanders were not rather prejudicial than serviceable to them, as they only contributed to invite the invader, with­out furnishing the means of defence. If we consider the many public ways, and villas of pleasure that were then among them, the many schools instituted for the instruction of youth, the numberless coins, statues, tesselat­ed pavements, and other curiosities that were common at that time, we can have no doubt but that the Britons made a very considerable progress in the arts of peace, although they declined in those of war. But, perhaps, an attempt at once to introduce these advantages will ever be ineffectual. The arts of peace and refinement must rise by slow degrees in every country, and can never be propagated with the same rapidity by which new governments may be introduced. It will take, perhaps, a course of some centuries, before a barbarous people can entirely adopt the manners of their conquerors; so that all the pains bestowed by the Romans in educating the Britons, only serv­ed to render them a more desirable object of invasion, and dressed them up as victims for succeeding slaughter.


THE Britons being now left to them­selves, considered their new liberties as their greatest calamity. They had been long taught to lean upon others for support; and that now taken away, they found themselves too feeble to make any opposition. Far from practising the lessons they had received from the Romans, they aggravated their misfor­tunes with unavailing complaints, which only served to render them still more contemptible. Unaccustomed both to the perils of war, and to the cares of civil government, they found themselves incapable of forming, or executing any measures for resisting the incursions of their barbarous invaders. Though the Ro­man soldiers were drawn away, their families and descendants were still spread over the face of the country, and left without a single per­son of conduct or courage to defend them. To complete the measure of their wretchedness, the few men of any note who remained among them, were infected with the ambition of be­ing [Page 31] foremost in command; and disregarding the common enemy, were engaged in dissen­sions among each other.

In the mean time, the Picts and Scots unit­ing together, began to look upon Britain as their own, and attacked the northern wall with redoubled forces. This rampart, though for­merly built of stone, had been some time be­fore repaired with fods; and consequently, was but ill fitted to repress the attacks of a persevering enemy. The assailants, therefore, were not at the trouble of procuring military engines, or battering rams to overthrow it, but with iron hooks pulled down the inactive defenders from the top, and then undermined the fortification at their leisure. Having thus opened to themselves a passage, they ravaged the whole country with impunity, while the Britons sought precarious shelter in their woods and mountains.

In this exigence, the unhappy Britons had a third time recourse to Rome, hoping to extort by importunity, that assistance which was de­nied upon prudential motives. Aetius, the re­nowned general of Valentinian, had about that time gained considerable advantages over the Goths, and seemed to give fresh hopes of re­storing the Roman empire. It was to him [Page 32] they applied for succour, in a strain of the most abject sollicitation. The Barbarians, said they, on the one hand, drive us into the sea; the sea, on the other, drives us back upon the Barbarians. We have only the hard choice left us, of perishing by the sword, or being drowned in the deep. Such, however, were the calamities of the Romans themselves, surrounded as they were by myriads of savage nations, that they could yield no assistance to such remote and unserviceable allies.

A.D. 448 The Britons, thus neglected, were reduced to despair; while, having left their fields uncul­tivated, they began to find the miseries of fa­mine, added to the horrors of war. It hap­pened, however, that the barbarians them­selves began to feel the same inconveniencies in a country which they had ravaged; and be­ing harrassed by the irruptions of the Bri­tons, as well as the want of necessaries, they were obliged to retreat from the southern parts of the kingdom laden with spoil.

The enemy having thus left the country open, the Britons joyfully issued from their mountains and forests, and pursued once more their usual arts of husbandry, which were at­tended with such abundance the succeeding [Page 33] season, that they soon forgot all their past mi­series. But it had been happy for them, if plenty had not removed one evil to plant an­other. They began, from a state of famine, to indulge themselves in such riot and luxury, that their bodies were totally enervated, and their minds debauched.

Thus entirely occupied in the enjoyment of the present interval of peace, they made no provision for resisting the enemy, who were only taking breath to renew their former in­vasions. Christianity, indeed, had been intro­duced among them some time before; though, at what period, is not certainly known: however, to the other calamities of the state were added also their disputes in theology. The disciples of Pelagius, who was a native of Britain, had encreased in a great degree; and the clergy, who considered his opinions as heretical, were more sollicitously employed in resisting them, than in opposing the common enemy. Besides all these calamities, a terrible pesti­lence visited the southern parts of the island, which thinned its inhabitants, and totally de­prived them of all power of resistance.

It was in this deplorable and enfeebled state, that the Britons were informed of fresh prepa­rations for an invasion from their merciless [Page 34] northern neighbours. Wherefore, to oppose their progress, they pitched upon Vortigern as their general and sovereign, a prince who is said to have raised himself to the su­preme command by the murder of his prede­cessor. This step was only productive of fresh calamities. Vortigern, instead of exerting what strength yet remained in the kingdom, only set himself to look about for foreign as­sistance; and the Saxons appeared to him at once the most martial, and the most likely to espouse his interests.

The Saxons were one branch of those Go­thic nations, which, swarming from the nor­thern hive, came down to give laws, manners, and liberty to the rest of Europe. A part of this people, under the name of Suevi, had, some time before Caesar's invasion of Gaul, sub­dued and possessed an extensive empire in Germany. These, for their strength and va­lour, were formidable to all the German na­tions, and supposed to be more than a match for the gods themselves in war. They were afterwards divided into several nations, and each became famous for subduing that country which was the object of its invasion. France, Germany, and England, were among the num­ber of their conquests.

[Page 35]There is a period between savage rudeness and excessive refinement, which seems pecu­liarly adapted for the purposes of war, and which fits mankind for great atchievements. In this state of half refinement, when com­pared to the Britons, the Saxons were at the time their assistance was thought necessary. They dressed with some degree of elegance, which the generality of the Britons, even though so long under the institutions of the Romans, had not yet learned to practise. Their women used linen garments, trimmed and striped with purple. Their hair was bound in wreaths, or fell in curls upon their shoulders; their arms were bare, and their bo­soms uncovered; fashions, which, in some measure, seem peculiar to the ladies of Eng­land to this day. Their government was ge­nerally an elective monarchy, and sometimes a republic. Their commanders were chosen for their merit, and dismissed from duty when their authority was no longer needful. The sallries they were supplied with, seldom exceeded a bare subsistence; and the honours they received, were the only reward of their su­perior dangers and fatigues. The custom of trying by twelve men is of Saxon original: slavery was unknown among them, and they [Page 36] were taught to prefer death to a shameful existence. We are told by Marcellinus, that a body of them being taken prisoners, were kept for exhibition on the amphitheatre at Rome, as gladiators, for the entertainment of the people. The morning, however, on which they were expected to perform, they were every one found dead in his cell, each chus­ing rather a voluntary death, than to be the ignominious instruments of brutal pleasure to their conquerors. The chastity of this people is equally remarkable; and to be without children, was to be without praise. But their chief excellence, and what they most gloried in, was their skill in war. They had, in some measure, learned discipline from the Romans, whom they had often defeated, and had, for a century and an half before, made frequent de­scents upon the coasts of Britain, for the sake of plunder. They were, therefore, a very formi­dable enemy to the Romans when settled there; and an officer was appointed to oppose their inroads, under the title of the Count of the Saxon shore. Thus, ever restless and bold, they con­sidered war as their trade; and were, in conse­quence, taught to consider victory as a doubt­ful advantage, but courage as a certain good. A nation, however, entirely addicted to war, [Page 37] has seldom wanted the imputation of cruel­ty, as those terrors which are opposed with­out fear, are often inflicted without regret. The Saxons are represented as a very cruel na­tion; but, we must remember, that their enemies have drawn the picture.

It was upon this people, that Vortigern turned his eyes for succour against the Picts and Scots, whose cruelties, perhaps, were still more flagrant. It certainly was not without the most pressing invitations, that the Saxons deigned to espouse their cause; and we are yet in possession of the form of their request, as left us by Wittichindus, a cotemporary historian of some credit. ‘"The poor and distressed Britons, almost worn out by hostile invasions, and har­rassed by continual incursions, are humble suppliants to you, most valiant Saxons, for suc­cour. We are possessed of a wide, extended, and a fertile country; this we yield wholly to be at your devotion and command. Beneath the wings of your valour we seek for safety, and shall willingly undergo whatever ser­vices you may hereafter be pleased to im­pose."’

It was no disagreeable circumstance to these conquerors, to be thus invited into a country upon which they had, for ages before, been [Page 38] forming designs. In consequence, therefore, of Vortigern's solemn invitation, they arrived with fifteen hundred men, under the com­mand of Hengist and Horsa, who were bro­thers, and landed on the isle of Thanet. There they did not long remain inactive; but, be­ing joined by the British forces, they boldly marched against the Pict's and Scots, who had advanced as far as Lincolnshire, and soon gained a complete victory over them.

Hengist and Horsa possessed great credit among their countrymen at home, and had been much celebrated for their valour and the splen­dor of their descent. They were believed to be sprung from Woden, who was worshipped as a God among this people, and were said to be no more than the fourth in descent from him. This report, how fabulous soever, did not a little contribute to encrease their authority among their associates; and being sensible of the fertility of the country to which they came, and the barrenness of that which they had left behind, they invited over great num­bers of their countrymen to become sharers in their new expedition. It was no difficult matter to persuade the Saxons to embrace an enterprise, which promised, at once, an oppor­tunity of displaying their valour, and of reward­ing [Page 39] their rapacity. Accordingly,A.D. 450 they sent over a fresh supply of five thousand men, who passed over in seventeen vessels.

It was now, but too late, that the Britons began to entertain apprehensions of their new allies, whose numbers they found augmenting as their services became less necessary. They had long found their chief protection in pas­sive submission; and they resolved, upon this occasion, to bear every encroachment with patient resignation. But the Saxons being de­termined to come to a rupture with them, easi­ly found a pretext, in complaining, that their subsidies were ill paid, and their provisions withdrawn. They, therefore, demanded that these grievances should be immediately re­dressed, otherwise they would do themselves justice; and, in the mean time, they engaged in a treaty with the Picts, whom they had been called in to repress. The Britons, impelled by the urgency of their calamities, at length took up arms; and having deposed Vortigern, by whose counsel and vices they were thus redu­ced to an extremity, they put themselves un­der the command of Vortimer, his son. Many were the battles fought between these enraged nations, their hatred to each other being still more enflamed by the difference of their reli­gion, [Page 40] the Britons being all Christians, and the Saxons still remaining in a state of idolatry. There is little to entertain the reader in the narration of battles, where rather obstinate va­lour than prudent conduct procured the vic­tory; and, indeed, the accounts given us of them are very opposite, when described by Bri­tish and Saxon annalists. However, the pro­gress the latter still made in the island, suffici­ently proves the advantage to have been on their side; although, in a battle fought at Eglesford, Horsa, the Saxon general, was slain.

But a single victory, or even a repetition of success, could avail but little against an enemy continually reinforced from abroad; for Hen­gist, now becoming sole commander, and pro­curing constant supplies from his native coun­try, carried devastation into the most remote corners of Britain. Chiefly anxious to spread the terror of his arms, he spared neither sex, age, or condition, but laid all the country de­solate before him. The priests and bishops found no protection from their sacred calling, but were slaughtered upon their altars. The people were massacred in heaps; and some, chusing life upon the most abject terms, were contented to become slaves to the victors. It was about this time, that numbers, deserting [Page 41] their native country, fled over to the province of Armorica, since called Brittany, where they settled in great numbers, among a people of the same manners and language with themselves.

The British historians, in order to account for the easy conquest of their country by the Saxons, assign their treachery, not less than their valour, as a principal cause. They alledge that Vortigern was artfully inveigled into a passion for Rowe­na, the daughter of Hengist; and, in order to marry her, was induced to settle the fertile pro­vinces of Kent upon her father, from whence the Saxons could never after be removed. It is alledged also that, upon the death of Vorti­mer, which happened shortly after the victory he obtained at Eglesford, Vortigern his father was reinstated upon the throne. It is added that this weak monarch accepting of a festival from Hengist, three hundred of his nobility were treacherously slaughtered, and himself detained as a captive.

Be these facts as they may, it is certain that the affairs of the Britons gradually declined, and they found but a temporary relief in the valour of one or two of their succeeding kings. After the death of Vortimer, Ambrosius, a Briton, though of Roman descent, was invested with the command, and in some measure proved [Page 42] successful in uniting his countrymen against the Saxons. He penetrated with his army into the very heart of their possessions, and though he fought them with doubtful advantage, yet he restored the British interest and dominion. Still, however, Hengist kept his ground in the country; and inviting over a new tribe of Saxons, under the command of his brother Octa, he settled them in Northumberland. As for himself, he kept possession of the king­dom of Kent, comprehending also Middlesex and Essex, fixing his royal seat at Canterbury, and leaving his new-acquired dominions to his posterity.

A.D. 488 After the death of Hengist, several other German tribes, allured by the success of their countrymen, went over in great numbers. A body of their countrymen, under the conduct of Aella and his three sons,A.D. 477 had some time be­fore laid the foundation of the kingdom of the South Saxons, though not without great oppo­sition and bloodshed. This new kingdom in­cluded Surry, Sussex, and the New Forest: and extended to the frontiers of Kent.

Another tribe of Saxons, under the com­mand of Cerdic and his son Kenric, landed in the west, and from thence took the name of West Saxons. These met a very vigorous op­position [Page 43] from the natives, but being reinforced from Germany, and assisted by their country­men on the island, they routed the Britons; and although retarded in their progress by the celebrated king Arthur, they had strength enough to keep possession of the conquests they had already made. Cerdic, therefore, with his son Kenric, established the third Saxon kingdom in the island, namely, that of the West Saxons, including the counties of Hants, Dorset, Wilts, Berks, and the Isle of Wight.

It was in opposing this Saxon invader that the celebrated prince Arthur acquired his fame. Howsoever unsuccessful all his valour might have been in the end, yet his name makes so great a figure in the fabulous annals of the times, that some notice must be taken of him. This prince is of such obscure origi­nal, that some authors suppose him to be the son of king Ambrosius, and others only his nephew; others again affirm that he was a Cornish prince, and son of Gurlois king of that province. However this be, it is certain he was a commander of great valour, and could courage alone repair the miserable state of the Britons, his might have been effectual. Ac­cording to Nennius, and the most authentic his­torians, [Page 44] he is said to have worsted the Saxons in twelve successive battles. In one of these, namely, that fought at Caerbadon, in Berks, it is asserted that he killed no less than four hun­dred and forty of the enemy with his own hand. But the Saxons were too numerous and powerful to be extirpated by the desultory ef­forts of single valour; so that a peace, and not conquest, were the immediate fruits of his vic­tories. The enemy therefore still gained ground; and this prince, in the decline of life, had the mortification, from some domestic troubles of his own, to be a patient spectator of their encroachments. His first wife had been carried off by Melnas, king of Somerset­shire, who detained her a whole year at Glas­tonbury, until Arthur, discovering the place of her retreat, advanced with an army against the ravisher, and obliged him to give her back, by the mediation of Gildas Albanius. In his se­cond wife, perhaps, he might have been more fortunate, as we have no mention made of her, but it was otherwise with his third consort, who was debauched by his own nephew Mordred. This produced a rebellion, in which the king and his traiterous kinsman meeting in battle, they slew each other.

[Page 45]In the mean time, while the Saxons were thus gaining ground in the west, their country­men were not less active in other parts of the island.A.D. 575 Adventurers still continuing to pour over from Germany, one body of them, under the command of Uffa, seized upon the coun­ties of Cambridge, Suffolk, and Norfolk, and gave their commander the title of King of the East Angles, which was the fourth Saxon kingdom founded in Britain.

Another body of these adventurers formed a kingdom under the title of East Saxony,A.D. 585 or Essex, comprehending Essex, Middlesex, and part of Hertfordshire. This kingdom, which was dismembered from that of Kent, formed the fifth Saxon principality founded in Bri­tain.

The kingdom of Mercia was the sixth which was established by these fierce invaders, com­prehending all the middle counties, from the banks of the Severn to the frontiers of the two last named kingdoms.

The seventh and last kingdom which they obtained was that of Northumberland, one of the most powerful and extensive of them all. This was formed from the union of two smaller Saxon kingdoms, the one called Bernicia, con­taining the present county of Northumberland [Page 46] and the bishoprick of Durham; the subjects of the other, called the Deiri, extending them­selves over Lancashire and Yorkshire. These kingdoms were united in the person of Ethel­frid, king of Northumberland, by the expul­sion of Edwin, his brother-in-law, from the kingdom of the Deiri, and the seizure of his dominions.

In this manner the natives being overpower­ed, or entirely expelled, seven kingdoms were established in Britain, which have been since well known by the name of the Saxon Hep­tarchy. The unfortunate Britons having been exhausted by continual wars, and even worn out by their own victories, were reluctantly compelled to forsake the more fertile parts of the country, and to take refuge in the moun­tainous parts of Wales and Cornwall. All the vestiges of Roman luxury were now almost to­tally destroyed by the conquerors, who rather aimed at enjoying the comforts of life than its magnificence. The few natives who were not either massacred or expelled their habitations, were reduced to the most abject slavery, and employed in cultivating those grounds for their new masters, which they once claimed as their own.

[Page 47]From this time British and Roman customs entirely ceased in the island; the language, which had been either Latin or Celtic, was discontinued, and the Saxon or English only was spoken. The land, before divided into colonies or go­vernments, was cantoned into shires, with Saxon appellations to distinguish them. The habits of the people in peace, and arms in war, their titles of honour, their laws, and methods of trial by jury, were continued as originally practised by the Germans, only with such alter­ations as encreasing civilization produced. Conquerors, although they disseminate their own laws and manners, often borrow from the people they subdue. In the present instance they imitated the Britons in their government, by despotic and hereditary monarchies, while their exemplary chastity, and their abhorrence of slavery, were quite forgotten.

The Saxons being thus established in all the desirable parts of the island, and having no longer the Britons to contend with, began to quarrel among themselves. A country divided into a number of petty independent principa­lities, must ever be subject to contention, as jealousy and ambition have more frequent in­centives to operate. The wars therefore and revolutions of these little rival states were ex­tremely [Page 48] numerous, and the accounts of them have swelled the historian's page. But these accounts are so confusedly written, the mate­rials so dry, uninteresting, and filled with such improbable adventures, that a repetition of them can gratify neither the reader's judgment nor curiosity. Instead therefore of entering in­to a detail of tumultuous battles, petty treach­eries, and obscure successions, it will be more conformable to the present plan, to give some account of the introduction of Christianity among the Saxons, which happened during this dreary period.

The Christian religion never suffered more persecution than it underwent in Britain from the barbarity of the Saxon pagans, who burn­ed all the churches, stained the altars with the blood of the clergy, and massacred all those whom they found professing Christianity. This deplorable state of religion in Britain was first taken into consideration by St. Gregory, who was then pope, and he undertook to send mis­sionaries thither. It is said, that, before his elevation to the papal chair, he chanced one day to pass through the slave-market at Rome, and perceiving some children of great beauty who were set up for sale, he enquired about their country, and finding they were English [Page 49] pages, he is said to have cried out, in the La­tin language, Non Angli sed Angeli forent, si essent Christiani; They would not be English, but Angels, had they been Christians. From that time he was struck with an ardent desire to convert that unenlightened nation, and actual­ly embarked in a ship for Britain, when his pious intentions were frustrated by his being detained at Rome by the populace, who loved him. He did not however lay aside his pious resolution; for, having succeeded to the papal chair, he ordered a monk, named Augustine, and others of the same fraternity, to undertake the mission into Britain. It was not without some reluctance that these reve­rend men undertook so dangerous a task; but some favourable circumstances in Britain seem­ed providentially to prepare the way for their arrival. Ethelbert, king of Kent, in his fa­ther's life-time had married Bertha, the only daughter of Coribert, king of Paris, one of the descendants of Clovis, king of Gaul. But before he was admitted to this alliance, he was obliged to stipulate that this princess should enjoy the free exercise of her religion, which was that of Christianity. She was there­fore attended to Canterbury, the place of her residence, by Luidhard, a Gaulish prelate, who officiated in a church dedicated to St. Martin, [Page 50] which had been built by the Romans, near the walls of Canterbury. The exemplary conduct and powerful preaching of this primitive bi­shop, added to the queen's learning and zeal, made very strong impressions upon the king, as well as the rest of his subjects, in favour of Christianity. The general reception of this holy religion all over the continent might also contribute to dispose the minds of these idola­ters for its admission, and make the attempt less dangerous than Augustine and his associates at first supposed.

This pious monk, upon his first landing in the Isle of Thanet, sent one of his interpreters to the Kentish king, declaring he was come from Rome with offers of eternal salvation. In the mean time he and his followers lay in the open air, that they might not, according to the belief of the times, by entering a Saxon house, subject themselves to the power of heathen necromancy. The king immediate­ly ordered them to be furnished with all ne­cessaries, and even visited them, though with­out declaring himself as yet in their favour. Augustine, however, encouraged by this fa­vourable reception, and now seeing a prospect of success, proceeded with redoubled zeal to preach the gospel, and even endeavoured to call in the aid of miracles to enforce his ex­hortations. [Page 51] So much assiduity, together with the earnestness of his address, the austerity of his life and the example of his followers, at last powerfully operated. The king openly espoused the Christian religion, while his example wrought so successfully on his subjects, that numbers of them came voluntarily to be baptiz­ed, their missioner loudly declaring against any coercive means towards their conversion. The heathen temples being purified, were changed to places of Christian worship, and such churches as had been suffered to decay were repaired. The more to facilitate the reception of Christianity, the pope enjoined his missioner to remove the pagan idols, but not to throw down the altars, observing, that the people would be allured to frequent those places, which they had formerly been accustomed to revere. He also permitted him to indulge the people in those feasts and chearful entertainments which they had been formerly accustomed to celebrate near the places of their idolatrous worship. The people thus exchanged their ancient opinions with readiness, since they found themselves indulged in those innocent relaxations which are only immoral when carried to an excess. Augus­tine was consecrated archbishop of Canterbury, endowed with authority over all the British [Page 52] churches, and his associates, having spread themselves over all the country, completed that conversion which was so happily begun.

The kingdom of the heptarchy which next embraced the Christian faith was that of Northumberland, at that time the most power­ful of the rest: Edwin, a wise, brave, and active prince, then king of the country, was married to Ethelburga, the daughter of Ethelbert, who had been so lately converted. This princess, emulating the glory of her mo­ther, who had been the instrument of convert­ing her husband and his subjects to Christiani­ty, carried Paulinus, a learned bishop, with her into Northumberland, having previously stipulated for the free exercise of her religion. Edwin, whom his queen unceasingly solicited. to embrace Christianity, for a long time hesi­tated on the proposal, willing to examine its doctrines before he declared in their favour. Accordingly he held several conferences with Paulinus, disputed with his counsellors, medi­tated alone, and, after a serious discussion, de­clared himself a Christian. The high priest also of the pagan superstition soon after declar­ing himself a convert to the arguments of Pau­linus, and the whole body of the people una­nimously followed their example.

[Page 53]The authority of Edwin, who was thus converted, soon after prevailed upon Earp­wold, the king of the East Angles, to embrace Christianity. This monarch, however, after the death of Edwin, relapsed into his former idolatry, at the persuasion of his wife. But upon his decease, Sigebert, his half-brother, who had been educated in France, restored Christianity, and introduced learning among the Angles.

Mercia, the most powerful kingdom of all the Saxon heptarchy, owed its conversion, like the former, to a woman. The wife of Peada, who was the daughter of Oswy, king of Northumberland, having been bred in the Christian faith, employed her influence with success in converting her husband and his sub­jects. But it seems the new religion was at­tended with small influence on the manners of that fierce people, as we find Otto, one of their new converted kings, in a few reigns after, treacherously destroying Ethelbert, king of the East Angles, at an entertainment to which he had been invited. However, to make a­tonement for this transgression, we find him paying great court to the clergy, giving the tenth of his goods to the church, and making a pilgrimage to Rome, where his riches pro­cured [Page 54] him the papal absolution. It was upon this occasion, the better to ingratiate himself with the pope, that he engaged to pay him a yearly donation for the support of an English college at Rome; and, in order to raise the sum, he imposed a tax of a penny on each house possessed of thirty pence a year. This imposition being afterwards generally levied throughout the kingdom, went by the name of Peter-pence, and in succeeding times gave rise to many ecclesiastical abuses.

In the kingdom of Essex, Sebert, who was nephew to Ethelbert, king of Kent, of whose conversion we have already made mention, was also prevailed upon by his uncle to embrace the Christian religion. His sons, however, re­lapsed into idolatry, and banished Melitus, the Christian bishop, from their territories, be­cause he refused to let them eat the white bread which was distributed at the commu­nion. But Christianity was restored two or three reigns after, by Sigebert the Good; and such was the influence of its doctrines upon Offa, the third in succession from him, that he went upon a pilgrimage to Rome, and shut himself up during the rest of his life in a cloister.

[Page 55]We know but little of the propagation of Christianity in the kingdom of Sussex; but this being the smallest of all the Saxon heptarchy, it is probable that it was governed in its opi­nions by some of its more powerful neigh­bours. It is said, that, during the reign of Cissa, one of its kings, which continued se­venty-six years, the kingdom fell into a total dependence upon that of Wessex, and to this it is probable that it owed its con­version.

The kingdom of Wessex, which in the end swallowed up all the rest, deserves our more particular attention. This principality, which, as has been already related, was founded by Cerdic, was, of all the Saxon establishments in Britain, the most active and warlike. The great opposition the invaders of this province originally met from the natives, whom they expelled, not without much bloodshed, served to carry their martial spirit to the highest pitch. Cerdic was succeeded by his son Kenric, and he by Ceanhin, a prince more ambitious and enterprizing than either of the former. He had, by waging continual war against the Bri­tons, added a great part of the counties of Devon and Somerset to his dominions; and, not satisfied with conquests over his natural enemies, he attacked the Saxons themselves, [Page 56] till, becoming terrible to all, he provoked a general confederacy against him. This com­bination took place; so that he was at last ex­pelled the throne, and died in exile and mi­sery. His two sons succeeded; and, after a succession of two more, Kynegils inherited the crown. This prince embraced Christianity through the persuasion of Oswald, the king of Northumberland, his son-in-law. After some succeeding obscure reigns, Ceodwalla mounted the throne, an enterprizing, warlike, and suc­cessful prince. He subdued entirely the king­dom of Sussex, and annexed it to his own do­minions. He made also some attempts upon Kent, but was repulsed with vigour. Ina, his successor, was the most renowned and illus­trious of all the kings who reigned in England during the heptarchy. This monarch inherit­ed the military virtues of Ceodwalla, but im­proved by policy, justice, and prudence. He made war upon the Britons, who yet remained in Somerset, and having totally subdued that province, he treated the vanquished with a hu­manity hitherto unknown to the Saxon con­querors. In less than a year after he mounted the throne of Wessex, he was declared mo­narch of the Anglo Saxons, a remarkable proof of the great character he had acquired. He compiled a body of laws, which served as the [Page 57] ground-work of those which were afterwards published by Alfred. He also assembled a general council of the clergy, in which it was determined, that all churches, monasteries, and places of religious worship which had gone to ruin or decay, should be rebuilt and repair­ed. At length, after a distinguished reign of thirty-seven years, in the decline of life, he made a pilgrimage to Rome; and on his re­turn home, shut himself up in a cloister, where he died. To him succeeded Oswald, Cu­dred, Sigebert, Cenulph, and Brithric; all these claiming the crown, not entirely by here­ditary right, nor yet totally rejecting their fa­mily pretensions.

It was in the reign of the last-named mo­narch, that Egbert, a grand-nephew of the late king Ina, began to grow very popular a­mong the West Saxons, both on account of his family and private merit. Being sensible, how­ever, of the danger of popularity, under such a jealous monarch as Brithric, he withdrew se­cretly into France, to the court of Charle­magne, at that time the most polished prince of Europe. This was a school, in which young Egbert failed not to make a rapid proficiency; and he soon acquired such accomplishments, both in arts and arms, as raised him great­ly [Page 58] superior to any of his countrymen at home.

Nor was it long before this prince had an opportunity of displaying his natural and ac­quired talents to advantage. For Brithric be­ing poisoned by his wife Eadburga, the nobi­lity recalled him from France, in order to as­cend the throne of his ancestors. About that time also,A.D. 799 a fortunate concurrence of events seemed to prepare the way for his becoming sole monarch of the whole country. In all the kingdoms of the Heptarchy, an exact rule of succession was but little regarded; while, at the same time, family pretensions were not laid totally aside. Every person of the colla­teral line had as good a right to assert his right as those who claimed by direct descent; so that the reigning monarch was under con­tinual apprehensions from the princes of the blood, whom he was taught to consider as ri­vals, and whose death alone could ensure him tranquility. From this fatal cause, together with the passion princes then had of retiring to monasteries, and the opinion of merit attend­ing the preservation of chastity, even in a mar­ried state; from these causes, I say, the royal families had been entirely extinguished in all the kingdoms, except that of Wessex. Thus, [Page 59] Egbert was the only surviving descendant of those conquerors, who boasted their descent from Woden; and consequently, beside his personal merit, he had hereditary pretensions to the throne of the united kingdoms.

It is indeed probable, that he had already planned the union of the Heptarchy; but, in order to avert the suspicions of the neighbour­ing states, he attacked the Britons in Cornwall, and continued to act as mediator among the Saxon princes, whose differences were become almost irreconcileable. His moderation in these good offices, the prudence he manifested in his own government, and his known capa­city in the affairs of war and peace, procured him such a degree of reputation, that he was soon considered as chief of the Saxon Hep­tarchy.

But his ambition was not to be satisfied with a mere nominal superiority; he still aim­ed at breaking down all distinctions, and unit­ing these petty states into one great and flourish­ing kingdom. The king of Mercia was the first who furnished him with a pretext for re­covering the part of his dominions, which had formerly been dismembered by that state. Beornult, the monarch of that country, who had already almost obtained the sovereignty [Page 60] over the Heptarchy, taking advantage of Eg­bert's absence, who was employed in quelling the Britons, invaded his dominions with a nu­merous army, composed of the flower of his country. Egbert was not remiss in marching to oppose him, with a body of troops less nu­merous than those of Beornulf, but more brave and resolute. Both armies met at Wilton, and a battle ensuing, the Mercians were defeated with terrible slaughter.

In the mean time, while the victor pursued his conquest into the enemies' country, he dispatched his eldest son, Ethelwolf, with an army, into the kingdom of Kent, who soon made himself master of the whole nation, and expelled Baldred, their monarch, to whom his subjects had paid a very unwilling obedience. The East Saxons also, and part of Surry, dis­satisfied with their subjection to the Mercians, readily submited to Egbert; nor were the East Angles backward in sending ambassadors to crave his protection and assistance, against that nation whose yoke they had for some time en­dured, and were resolved no longer to bear. The Mercian king attempting to repress their defection, was defeated, and slain: and two years after, Ludecan, his successor, met with the same fate. Withalf, one of their eolder­men, [Page 61] soon after put himself at their head, but being driven from province to province by the victorious arms of Egbert, he was, at last, obliged to take shelter in the abbey of Croy­land, while Egbert made himself master of the whole kingdom of Mercia. However, in or­der to accustom that people to his dominion, he permitted Withalf to govern the kingdom as a vassal, and tributary under him; thus, at once, satisfying his ambition, and flattering the people with an appearance of their former go­vernment.

The kingdom of Northumberland was the last that submitted to his authority. This state had been long harrassed by civil wars and usur­pations: all order had been destroyed among the people, and the kingdom was weakened to such a degree, that it was in no condition to withstand such an invader as Egbert. The inhabitants, therefore, unable to resist his power, and desirous of possessing some esta­blished form of government, very chearfully sent deputies, who submitted to his authority, and expressed their allegiance to him as their sovereign. By this submission, all the king­doms of the Heptarchy were united under his command; but, to give splendour to his au­thority, a general council of the clergy and [Page 62] laity was summoned at Winchester, where he was solemnly crowned king of England, by which name the united kingdom was thence­forward called.

Thus, about four hundred years after the first arrival of the Saxons in Britain, all their petty settlements were united into one great state,A.D. 827 and nothing offered, but prospects of peace, security, and increasing refinement. At this period, namely, about the eighth cen­tury, the arts and sciences, which had been be­fore only known to the Greeks and Romans, were disseminated over Europe, where they were sufficient to raise the people above mere barbarians; but yet lost all their native splendor in the transplantation. The Eng­lish, at this time, might be considered as po­lite, if compared to the naked Britons at the invasion of Caesar. The houses, furniture, cloaths, eating, and all the real luxuries of sense, were almost as great then as they have been since. But the people were incapable of sentimental pleasure. All the learning of the times was confined among the clergy; and little improvement could be expected from their reasonings, since it was one of their te­nets to discard the light of reason. An eclipse was even by their historians talked of as an [Page 63] omen of threatened calamities; and magic was not only believed, but some actually believed themselves magicians. The clergy themselves were not averse to these opinions, as such, in some measure, served to encrease their authority. Indeed, the reverence for the clergy was car­ried so high, that if a person appeared in a sa­cerdotal habit on the highway, the people flocked round him, and with all the marks of profound respect, received every word he ut­tered as an oracle. From this blind attach­ment, the social and even the military vir­tues began to decline among them. The re­verence towards saints and reliques served to supplant the adoration of the supreme Being. Monastic observances were esteemed more me­ritorious than active virtues; and bounty to the church atoned for all the violences done to society. The nobility, whose duty it was to preserve the military spirit from declining, began to prefer the sloth and security of a cloi­ster, to the tumult and glory of war; and these rewards, which should have gone to en­courage the soldier, were lavished in main­taining the credulous indolence of monastic superstition.


CHAP. IV. From the Accession of EGBERT to the NORMAN CONQUEST.

IT might have been reasonably expected, that a wise and fortunate prince, at the head of so great a kingdom, and so united and nu­merous a people as the English then were, should not only have enjoyed the fruits of peace and quiet, but left felicity to succeeding generations. The inhabitants of the several provinces, tired out with mutual dissen­tions, [Page 65] seemed to have lost all desire of revolt­ing: the race of their ancient kings was ex­tinct, and none now remained, but a prince who deserved their allegiance, both by the me­rit of his services, and the splendor of his birth. Yet, such is the instability of human affairs, and the weakness of man's best conjec­ture, that Egbert was hardly settled on his united throne, when both he and his subjects began to be alarmed at the approach of new and unknown enemies, and the island exposed to fresh invasions.

About this time,A.D. 819 a mighty swarm of those nations, who had possessed the countries bor­dering on the Baltic, began, under the names of Danes and Normans, to infest the western coasts of Europe; and to fill all places, where­ever they came, with slaughter and devasta­tion. These were, in fact, no other than the ancestors of the very people whom they came to despoil, and might be considered as the ori­ginal stock from whence the numerous co­lonies that infested Britain, had migrated some centuries before. The Normans fell upon the northern coasts of France; the Danes chiefly levelled their fury against Eng­land, their first appearance being when Brithric was king of Wessex. It was then,A.D. 787 that a small [Page 66] body of them landed on the coasts of that kingdom, with a view of learning the state of the country; and having committed some small depredations, fled to their ships for safe­ty. About seven years after this first attempt, they made a descent upon the kingdom of Northumberland, where they pilaged a mo­nastery, but their fleet being shattered by a storm, they were defeated by the inhabitants, and put to the sword. It was not till about five years after the accession of Egbert, that their invasions became truly formidable. From that time they continued, with unceasing ferocity, until the whole kingdom was reduced to a state of the most distressful bondage.

As the Saxons had utterly neglected their naval power since their first settlement in Bri­tain; the Danes, who succeeded them in the empire of the sea, found no difficulty in land­ing upon the isle of Sheppey, in Kent, which they ravaged, returning to their ships loaden with the spoil. Their next attempt, the year ensuing, was at the mouth of the Tyne, where they landed a body of fifteen thousand men, that made good their ground against the efforts of Egbert; who, after a battle, was obliged to draw off his forces by night. Within two years after, they landed in [Page 67] Cornwall; and being joined by the Britons there, they advanced towards the borders of Devonshire, where they were totally routed by Egbert, in a pitched battle, at Hengsdown­hill, near Kellington. By this victory, he se­cured the kingdom from invasion for some time; but his death seemed to put a period to the success of his countrymen, and to invite the enemy to renew their devastations with impunity.

He was succeeded by Ethelwolf, his son, who had neither the vigour nor the abilities of his father. This prince had been educated in a cloister, and had actually taken orders during the life of his elder brother; but, upon his death, he received a dispensation to quit the monkish habit, and to marry. He was scarcely settled on his throne, when a fleet of Danish ravagers, con­sisting of thirty-three sail, landed at Southamp­ton; but were repulsed, though not without great slaughter on both sides. However, no de­feat could repress the obstinacy, nor no difficul­ties daunt the courage of these fierce invaders, who still persevered in their descents, and, year after year, made inroads into the country, mark­ing their way with pillage, slaughter, and de­solation. Though often repulsed, they al­ways obtained their end, of spoiling the coun­try, [Page 68] and carrying the plunder away. It was their method to avoid coming, if possible, to a general engagement; but scattering them­selves over the face of the country, they car­ried away, indiscriminately, as well the inhabi­tants themselves, as all their moveable posses­sions. If the military force of the country was drawn out against them, the invaders either stood their ground, if strong enough to oppose; or retreated to their ships, if incap­able of resistance. Thus, by making con­tinual and repeated descents, every part of England was kept in constant alarm, every county fearful of giving assistance to the next, as its own safety was in danger. From this general calamity, the priests and monks were no way exempted; they were rather the chief objects on whom these Danish idolaters wreak­ed their resentment.

In this state of fluctuating success, affairs continued for some time, the English often repelling, and as often being repulsed by their fierce invaders; till, at length, the Danes resolved upon making a settlement in the coun­try,A.D. 852 and landing on the isle of Thanet, stationed themselves there. In this place they kept their ground, notwithstanding a bloody victory gained over them by Ethelwolf. From thence, [Page 69] they soon after removed to the isle of Sheppey, which they considered as more convenient for their tumultuary depredations.

In the mean time, Ethelwolf, the wretched monarch of the country, instead of exerting his strength to repel these invaders, was more solicitous to obey the dictates of monkish su­perstition. In order to manifest his devotion to the pope, he sent his son Alfred to Rome, to receive confirmation from his holiness; and, not satisfied with this testimony of his zeal, un­dertook a pilgrimage thither in person. He passed a twelvemonth in that city, and gained no small applause for his devotion, which he testified by his great liberality to the church. In his return home, he married Judith, daugh­ter to the emperor Charles the Bald; but on his landing in his own dominions, he was sur­prised to find his title to the crown disputed.

His second son, Ethelbald, upon the death of his elder brother, perceiving the miserable state to which the kingdom was reduced, by the king's ill timed superstitions, formed a con­spiracy to expel him from the throne The people seemed equally divided between the claims of the father and son, so that a bloody civil war seemed likely to complete the picture of the calamities of the times. A division of the [Page 70] kingdom at length terminated the dispute; the king was content with the eastern part of the monarchy, while his son was appointed to govern the western, which was the most power­ful, and the most exposed to danger.

Having come to this agreement, a council was summoned of the states of the kingdom; and, besides the ratification of this grant, a tythe of all the produce of the land was settled upon the clergy.

Ethelwolf lived only two years after this agreement; leaving, by will, the kingdom shared between his two eldest sons, Ethelbald and Ethelbert; the west being consigned to the former, the east to the latter. The reign of Ethelbald was of no long continuance; however, in so short a space, he crowded a number of vices sufficient to render his name odious to poste­rity. He married Judith, his own mother-in-law, and was, not without great difficulty, prevailed upon to divorce her. The reign of his brother was of longer duration; and, as we are told, was in every respect more meritorious. Nevertheless, the kingdom was still infested by the Danes, who committed great outrages.

This prince was succeeded by his brother E­thelred, a brave prince, but whose valour was in­sufficient to repress the Danish incursions. In [Page 71] these exploits, he was always assisted by his younger brother, Alfred, afterwards surnamed the Great, who sacrificed all private resent­ment to the public good, having been depriv­ed by the king of a large patrimony. It was during this prince's reign, that the Danes, pe­netrating into Mercia, took up their win­ter quarters at Nottingham; from whence, they were not dislodged without difficulty. Their next station was at Reading, from whence they infested the country with their excursions. The king, attended by his bro­ther Alfred, marched at the head of the West Saxons against them; there, after many reci­procations of success, the king died of a wound which he received in battle, and left to his bro­ther Alfred, the inheritance of a kingdom that was now reduced to the brink of ruin.

Nothing could be more deplorable than the state of the country when Alfred came to the throne. The Danes had already subdued Northumberland and East Anglia, and had penetrated into the very heart of Wessex. The Mercians were united against him; the depen­dence upon the other provinces of the empire was but precarious: the lands lay uncultivated, through fears of continual incursions; and all the churches and monasteries were burned to the [Page 72] ground. In this terrible situation of affairs, nothing appeared but objects of terror, and every hope was lost in despair. The wisdom and virtues of one man were found sufficient to bring back happiness, security, and order; and all the calamities of the times found redress from Alfred.

This prince seemed born not only to defend his bleeding country, but even to adorn humanity. He had given very early instances of those great virtues which after­wards adorned his reign; and was anointed by pope Leo as future king, when he was sent by his father for his education to Rome. On his return from thence, he became every day more the object of his father's fond affec­tions; and that, perhaps, was the reason why his education was at first neglected. He had attain­ed the age of twelve, before he was made ac­quainted with the lowest elements of literature; but hearing some Saxon poems read, which recounted the praise of heroes, his whole mind was roused, not only to obtain a similitude of glory, but also to be able to transmit that glory to posterity. Encouraged by the queen, his mother, and assisted by a penetrating genius, he soon learned to read these compositions, and proceeded from thence to a knowledge of Latin [Page 73] authors, who directed his taste, and rectified his ambition.

He was scarce come to the crown, when he was obliged to oppose the Danes, who had seized Wilton, and were exercising their usual ravages on the countries around. He marched against them with the few troops he could as­semble on a sudden, and a desperate battle was fought, to the disadvantage of the English. But it was not in the power of misfortune to abate the king's diligence, though it repressed his power to do good. He was in a little time enabled to hazard another engagement; so that the enemy, dreading his courage and activity, proposed terms of peace, which he did not think proper to refuse. They had by this treaty agreed to relinquish the kingdom; but, instead of complying with their engagements, they only removed from one place to another, burning and destroying wherever they came.

Alfred, thus opposed to an enemy whom no stationary force could resist, nor no treaty could bind, found himself unable to repel the efforts of those ravagers, who from all quarters invaded him. New swarms of the enemy arriv­ed every year upon the coast, and fresh invasions were still projected. It was in vain that Alfred pursued them, straitened their quarters, and [Page 74] compelled them to treaties; they broke every league; and continuing their attacks with un­abated perseverance, at length totally dispirit­ed his army, and induced his superstitious sol­diers to believe themselves abandoned by hea­ven, since it thus permitted the outrages of the fierce idolaters with impunity. Some of them therefore left their country, and retired into Wales, or fled to the continent. Others submitted to the conquerors, and purchased their lives by their freedom. In this universal defection, Alfred vainly attempted to remind them of the duty they owed their country and their king; but finding his remonstrances inef­fectual, he was obliged to give way to the wretched necessity of the times. Accordingly, relinquishing the ensigns of his dignity, and dismissing his servants, he dressed himself in the habit of a peasant, and lived for some time in the house of an herdsman, who had been en­trusted with the care of his cattle. In this manner, though abandoned by the world, and fearing an enemy in every quarter, still he re­solved to continue in his country, to catch the slightest occasions for bringing it relief. In his solitary retreat, which was in the county of Somerset, at the confluence of the rivers Parret and Thone, he amused himself with music, and [Page 75] supported his humble lot with the hopes of better fortune. It is said, that, one day, being commanded by the herdsman's wife, who was ignorant of his quality, to take care of some cakes which were baking by the fire, he hap­pened to let them burn, for which she severely upbraided him for neglect.

Previous to his retirement, Alfred had con­certed measures for assembling a few trusty friends, whenever an opportunity should offer of annoying the enemy, who were now in pos­session of all the country. This chosen band, still faithful to their monarch, took shelter in the forests and marshes of Somerset, and from thence made occasional irruptions upon strag­gling parties of the enemy. Their success, in this rapacious and dreary method of living, en­couraged many more to join their society, till at length sufficiently augmented, they repaired to their monarch, who had by that time been reduced by famine to the last extremity.

Mean while, Ubba, the chief of the Da­nish commanders, carried terror over the whole land, and now ravaged the country of Wales without opposition. The only place where he found resistance was, in his return, from the castle of Kenwith, into which the earl of Devonshire had retired with a small body of [Page 76] troops. This gallant soldier finding himself un­able to sustain a siege, and knowing the danger of surrendering to a perfidious enemy, was re­solved, by one desperate effort, to sally out and force his way through the besiegers, sword in hand. The proposal was embraced by all his followers, while the Danes, secure in their numbers, and in their contempt of the enemy, were not only routed with great slaughter, but Ubba, their general, was slain.

This victory once more restored courage to the dispirited Saxons; and Alfred, taking ad­vantage of their favourable disposition, pre­pared to animate them to a vigorous exertion of their superiority. He soon therefore ap­prized them of the place of his retreat, and in­structed them to be ready with all their strength at a minute's warning. But still none was found who would undertake to give intelligence of the forces and posture of the enemy. Not know­ing, therefore, a person in whom to confide, he undertook this dangerous task himself. In the simple dress of a shepherd, with an harp in his hand, he entered the Danish camp, tried all his arts to please, and was so much ad­mired, that he was brought even into the pre­sence of Guthrum, the Danish prince, with whom he remained some days. There he re­marked [Page 77] the supine security of the Danes, their contempt of the English, their negligence in foraging and plundering, and their dissolute wasting of such ill-gotten booty. Having made his observations, he returned to his retreat, and detaching proper emissaries among his subjects, appointed them to meet him in arms in the fo­rest of Selwood, a summon which they glad­ly obeyed.

It was against the most unguarded quarter of the enemy that Alfred made his most violent attack, while the Danes, surprized to behold an army of English, whom they considered as totally subdued, made but a faint resistance, notwithstanding the superiority of their num­ber. They were routed with great slaughter; and, though such as escaped fled for refuge into a fortified camp in the neighbourhood, yet, being unprovided for a siege, in less than a fortnight they were compelled to surrender at discretion. By the conqueror's permission,A.D. 876 those who did not chuse to embrace Christi­anity embarked for Flanders, under the com­mand of one of their generals called Hastings. Gothrum, their prince, became a convert, with thirty of his nobles, and the king himself an­swered for him at the font.

[Page 78]Of the Danes who had enlisted with Has­tings, a part returned, contrary to agreement, once more to ravage that country where they had been so mercifully spared, and landing on the coasts of Kent, advanced towards Roches­ter, in hopes of surprising that city. They were soon, however, deterred from proceeding, by hearing that Alfred was upon his march to oppose them. That such depredations might be prevent­ed for the future, this monarch equipped a strong fleet of his own, with which he attacked and destroyed sixteen of their vessels in the port of Harwich. There was now but the port of London open to the invaders, and as that city was but weakly garrisoned, he soon reduced it to capitulation. Having augmented its forti­fications, and embellished it with a number of new edifices, he delivered it in charge to his son-in law, Ethelred, and thus secured the whole country from foreign danger.

Alfred had now attained the meridian of glory; he possessed a greater extent of territory than had ever been enjoyed by any of his pre­decessors; the kings of Wales did him homage for their possessions, the Northumbrians re­ceived a king of his appointing, and no enemy appeared to give him the least apprehensions, or excite an alarm. In this state of prosperity and [Page 79] profound tranquillity, which lasted for twelve years, Alfred was diligently employed in cul­tivating the arts of peace, and in repairing the damages which the kingdom had sustained by war. After rebuilding the ruined cities, which had been destroyed by the Danes, he establish­ed a regular militia for the defence of the king­dom. He took care that all his subjects should be armed and registered; he assigned them a regular rotation of duty; a part was employed to cultivate the land, while others were ap­pointed to repel any sudden invasion from the enemy. He took care to provide a naval force that was more than a match for the invaders, and trained his subjects as well in the practice of sailing as of naval engagements. A fleet of an hundred and twenty ships of war was thus sta­tioned along the coasts; and being well supplied with all things necessary, both for subsistence and war, it impressed the incursive enemy with awe. Not but that there succeeded some very formi­dable descents, which the king found it difficult to repress. Hastings, the Danish chieftain, in particular, appeared off the coast of Kent with a fleet of three hundred and fifty sail; and al­though his forces were vigorously opposed and repulsed by the vigilance of Alfred, yet he found means to secure himself in the possession [Page 80] of Bamflete, near the Isle of Canvey, in the county of Essex. But he was not long settled there, when his garrison was overpowered by a body of the citizens of London, with great slaughter, and his wife and two sons made cap­tives. These experienced the king's clemen­cy: he restored them to Hastings, on condi­tion that he should depart the kingdom. Nor were the East-Anglian Danes, as well as insur­gents of Northumberland, much more suc­cessful. These broke into rebellion; and, yielding to their favourite habits of depreda­tion, embarked on board two hundred and for­ty vessels, and appeared before Exeter. There, however, they met a very bloody reception from Alfred, and were so discouraged, that they put to sea again without attempting any other enterprize. A third body of piratical Danes were even more unsuccessful than either of the former. Great numbers of them, after the departure of Hastings, seized and fortified Sho­bury, at the mouth of the Thames, and having left a garrison there, marched along the banks of the river till they came to Bodington, in the county of Gloucester, where being reinforced by a body of Welshmen, they threw up entrench­ments, and prepared for defence. There they were surrounded by the king's forces, and reduc­ed [Page 81] to the utmost extremity. After having eaten their horses, and having many of them perished with hunger, they made a desperate sally, in which numbers were cut to pieces. Those who escaped, being pursued by the vigi­lance of Alfred, were finally dispersed, or to­tally destroyed. Nor did he treat the Nor­thumbrian freebooters with less severity. Fal­ling upon them while they were exercising their ravages in the west, he took twenty of their ships; and having tried all the prisoners at Winchester, he hanged them as pirates, and as the common enemies of mankind.

Having, by this vigilance and well-timed se­verity, given peace and total security to his subjects, his next care was to polish the coun­try by arts, as he had protected it by arms. He is said to have drawn up a body of laws; but those which remain to this day under his name seem to be only the laws already practised in the country by his Saxon ancestors, and to which, probably, he gave his sanction. The trial by juries, mulcts and fines for offences, by some ascribed to him, are of a much more an­cient date. The care of Alfred for the encou­ragement of learning did not a little tend to improve the morals and restrain the barbarous habits of the people. When he came to the [Page 82] throne, he found the English sunk into the grossest ignorance and barbarism, proceeding from the continued disorders of the govern­ment, and from the ravages of the Danes. He himself complains, that, on his accession, he knew not one person south of the Thames who could so much as interpret the Latin service. To remedy this deficiency, he invited over the most celebrated scholars from all parts of Eu­rope; he founded, or at least re-established, the university of Oxford, and endowed it with ma­ny privileges. He gave, in his own example, the strongest incentives to study. He usually divided his time into three equal portions; one was given to sleep, and the refection of his body, diet, and exercise; another to the dispatch of business; and the third to study and devotion. He made a considerable progress in the different studies of grammar, rhetoric, philoso­phy, architecture, and geometry He was an ex­cellent historian, he understood music, and was acknowledged to be the best Saxon poet of the age. He left many works behind him, many of which remain to this day. He translated the partoral of Gregory I. Boetius de Consola­tione, and Bede's Ecclesiastical History, into the Saxon language. Sensible that his illite­rate subjects were not much susceptible of spe­culative [Page 83] instruction, he endeavoured to convey his morality by parables and stories, and is said to have translated from the Greek the fables of Aesop. Nor did he even neglect the more me­chanical arts of life. Before his time, the ge­nerality of the people chiefly made use of timber in building. Alfred raised his palaces of brick, and the nobility by degrees began to imitate his example. He introduced and encouraged manufactures of all kinds, and no inventor or improver of any ingenious art was suffered to go unrewarded. Even the elegancies of life were brought to him from the Mediterranean; and his subjects, by seeing these productions of the peaceful arts, were taught to respect the virtues of justice and industry, by which alone they could be procured. It was after a glorious reign of twenty-nine years thus spent, in the ad­vancement of his subjects happiness,A.D. 901 that he died in the vigour of his age and the full enjoyment of his faculties, an example to princes, and an ornament to human nature. To give a cha­racter of this prince would only be, to sum up those qualities which constitute perfection. Even virtues seemingly opposite, were happily blended in his disposition; persevering, yet flexible; moderate, yet enterprising; just, yet merciful; stern in command, yet gentle in [Page 84] conversation. Nature also, as if desirous that such admirable qualities of mind should be set off to the greatest advantage, had bestowed on him all bodily accomplishments, vigour, dignity, and an engaging, open countenance. In short, his­torians have taken such delight in describing the hero, that they have totally omitted the mention of his smaller errors, which doubtless he must have had in consequence of his huma­nity.

Alfred had, by his wife Ethelswitha, the daughter of a Mercian earl, three sons and three daughters. His eldest son, Edmund, died without issue, during his father's lifetime. His third son, Ethelward, inherited his fa­ther's passion for letters, and lived a private life. His second son, Edward, succeeded him on the throne.

EDWARD was scarce settled on the throne, when his pretensions were disputed by Ethel­wald, his cousin-german, who raised a large party among the Northumbrians to espouse his cause. At first his aims seemed to be favoured by fortune; but he was soon after killed in battle, and his death thus freed Edward from a very dangerous competitor. Nevertheless, the death of their leader was not sufficient to intimidate his turbulent adherents. During the whole of [Page 85] this prince's reign, there were but few inter­vals free from the attempts and insurrections of the Northumbrian rebels. Many were the battles he fought, and the victories he won; so that, though he might be deemed unequal to his father in the arts of peace, he did not fall short of him in the military virtues. He built several castles, and fortified different cities. He reduced Turkethill, a Danish invader, and obliged him to retire with his followers. He subdued the East Angles, and acquired dominion over the Northum­brians themselves. He was assisted in these conquests by his sister, Ethelfleda, the widow of Ethelbert, earl of Mercia, who, after her husband's death, retained the government of that province. Thus, after Edward had re­duced the whole kingdom to his obedience, and began his endeavours to promote the happiness of his people, he was prevented by death from the completion of his de­signs.

To him succeeded ATHELSTAN,A.D. 925 his natural son, the illegitimacy of his birth not being then deemed a sufficient obstacle to his inhe­riting the crown. To this prince, as to the former, there was some opposition made in the beginning. Alfred, a nobleman of his kin­dred, [Page 86] is said to have entered into a conspiracy against him, in favour of the legitimate sons of the deceased king, who were yet too young to be capable of governing themselves. What­ever his attempts might have been, he denied the charge, and offered to clear himself of it by oath before the pope. The proposal was ac­cepted; and it is asserted, that he had scarce sworn himself innocent, when he fell into con­vulsions, and died three days after. This mo­narch received also some disturbance from the Northumbrian Danes, whom he compelled to surrender; and resenting the conduct of Con­stantine, the king of Scotland, who had given them assistance, he ravaged that country with impunity, till at length he was appeased by the humble submissions of that monarch. These submissions, however, being extorted, were in­sincere. Soon after Athelstan had evacuated that kingdom, Constantine entered into a con­federacy with a body of Danish pirates, and some Welch princes who were jealous of Athel­stan's growing greatness. A bloody battle was fought near Brunsburg, in Northumberland, in which the English monarch was again victo­rious. After this success, Athelstan enjoyed his crown in tranquillity, and he is regarded as one of the ablest and most active of the Saxon [Page 87] kings. During his reign the Bible was trans­lated into the Saxon language; and some al­liances also were formed by him with the princes on the continent.A.D. 941 He died at Glouces­ter, after a reign of sixteen years, and was suc­ceeded by his brother, Edmund.

EDMUND, like the rest of his predecessors, met with disturbance from the Northum­brians on his accession to the throne; but his activity soon defeated their attempts. The great end therefore which he aimed at, during his reign, was to curb the licentiousness of this people, who offered to embrace Christianity as an atonement for their offences. Among other schemes for the benefit of the people, he was the first monarch who by law instituted capital pu­nishments in England. Remarking that fines and pecuniary mulcts were too gentle methods of treating robbers, who were in general men who had nothing to lose, he enacted, that, in gangs of robbers, when taken, the oldest of them should be condemned to the gallows. This was reckoned a very severe law at the time it was enacted; for, among our early ancestors, all the penal laws were mild and merciful. The resentment this monarch bore to men of this desperate way of living was the cause of his death. His virtues, abilities, wealth, and temperance, promised [Page 88] him a long and happy reign; when, on a cer­tain day, as he was solemnizing a festival in Gloucestershire, he remarked that Leolf, a no­torious robber, whom he had sentenced to ba­nishment, had yet the boldness to enter the hall where he was dining, and to sit at the table among the loyal attendants. Enraged at this insolence, he commanded him to leave the room; but on his refusing to obey, the king, whose temper was naturally choleric, flew a­gainst him, and caught him by the hair. The ruffian, giving way to rage also on his side, drew a dagger, and lifting his arm, with a fu­rious blow stabbed the monarch to the heart, who fell down on the bosom of his murderer. The death of the assassin, who was instantly cut in pieces, was but a small compensation for the loss of a king, loved by his subjects, and de­serving their esteem.

The late king's sons were too young to suc­ceed him in the direction of so difficult a go­vernment as that of England; his brother EDRED was therefore appointed to succeed, and, like his predecessors, this monarch found him­self at the head of a rebellious and refractory people. The Northumbrian Danes, as usual, made several attempts to shake off the English yoke; so that the king was at last obliged to [Page 89] place garrisons in their most considerable towns, and to appoint an English governor over them, who might suppress their insurrections on the first appearance. About this time, the monks, from being contented to govern in ec­clesiastical matters, began to assume the direc­tion in civil affairs; and, by artfully managing the superstitions, and the fears of the people, erected an authority that was not shaken off for several succeeding centuries. Edred had blindly delivered over his conscience to the guidance of Dunstan, abbot of Glastonbury, who was afterwards canonized; and this man, under the appearance of sanctity, concealed the most boundless ambition. The monks had hitherto been a kind of secular priests, who, though they lived in communities, were neither separated from the rest of the world, nor use­less to it. They were often married; they were assiduously employed in the education of youth, and subject to the commands of tem­poral superiors. The celibacy, and the inde­pendency of the clergy, as being a measure that would contribute to the establishment of the papal power in Europe, was warmly recom­mended by the see of Rome to all ecclesiastics in general, but to the monks in particular. The present favourable opportunity offered of [Page 90] carrying this measure in England, arising from the superstitious character of Edred, and the furious zeal of Dunstan. Both lent it all the assistance in their power; and the order of Be­nedictine monks was established under the di­rection of Dunstan. Edred implicitly submit­ted to his directions both in church and state; and the kingdom was in a fair way of being turned into a papal province by this zealous ecclesiastic, when he was checked in the midst of his career, by the death of the king, who died of a quinsey, in the tenth year of his reign.

A.D. 954 Edwy, his nephew, who ascended the throne, his own sons being yet unfit to govern, was a prince of great personal accomplishments, and a martial disposition. But he was now come to the government of a kingdom, in which he had an enemy to contend with, against whom, all mi­litary virtues could be of little service. Dun­stan, who had governed during the former reign, was resolved to remit nothing of his au­thority in this; and Edwy, immediately upon his accession, found himself involved in a quar­rel with the monks; whose rage, neither his ac­complishments nor his virtues could mitigate. He seems to have been elected by the secular priests in opposition to the monks; so that their whole [Page 91] body, and Dunstan at their head, pursued him with implacable animosity while living, and even endeavoured to brand his character to posterity.

This Dunstan, who makes a greater figure in these times, then even kings themselves, was born of noble parents, in the west; but being defamed as a man of licentious manners in his youth, he betook himself to the auste­rities of a monastic life, either to atone for his faults, or vindicate his reputation. He seclud­ed himself entirely from the world, in a cell so small, that he could neither stand erect, nor lie along in it. It was in this retreat of constant mortification, that his zeal grew furious, and his fancy teemed with visions of the most extra­vagant nature. His supposed illuminations were frequent; his temptations strong, but he alway resisted with bravery. The devil, it was said, one day paid him a visit in the shape of a fine young woman; but Dunstan, knowing the deceit, and provoked at his importunity, seiz­ed him by the nose with a pair of red hot pincers, as he put his head into the cell, and he held him there, till the malignant spirit made the whole neighbourhood resound with his bellowings. No­thing was so absurd, but what the monks were ready to propagate in favour of their [Page 92] sect. Crucifixes, altars, and even horses, were heard to harrangue in their defence against the secular clergy. These miracles, backed by their stronger assertions, prevailed with the people. Dunstan was considered as the peculiar favourite of the Almighty, and appeared at court with an authority greater than that of kings; since their's was conferred by man, but his allowed by heaven itself. Being possessed of so much power, it may be easily supposed, that Edwy could make but a feeble resistance; and, that his first fault was likely to be attended with the most dangerous consequences. The monk found or made one on the very day of his coronation. There was a lady of the royal blood, named Elgiva, whose beauty had made a strong im­pression on this young monarch's heart. He had even ventured to marry her, contrary to the ad­vice of his counsellors, as she was within the degrees of affinity prohibited by the canon law. On the day of his coronation, while his nobi­lity were giving a loose to the more noisy plea­sures of wine and festivity in the great hall, Edwy retired to his wife's apartment; where, in company with her mother, he enjoyed the more pleasing satisfaction of her conversation. Dunstan no sooner perceived his absence, than conjecturing the reason, he rushed furiously [Page 93] into the apartment, and upbraiding him with all the bitterness of ecclesiastical rancour, drag­ged him forth in the most outrageous manner. Dunstan, it seems, was not without his enemies, for the king was advised to punish this insult, by bringing in him to account for the money with which he had been entrusted during the last reign. This account, the haughty monk refused to give in; wherefore, he was deprived of all the ecclesiastical and civil emoluments of which he had been in possession, and banished the kingdom. His exile only served to encrease the reputation of his sanctity among the people; and Odo, archbishop of Canterbury, was so far transported with the spirit of the party, that he pronounced a divorce between Edwy and El­giva. Ecclesiastical censures were then attend­ed with the most formidable effects. The king could no longer resist the indignation of the church, but consented to surrender his beautiful wife to its fury. Accordingly, Odo sent into the palace a party of soldiers, who seized the queen; and, by his orders, branded her on the face with an hot iron. Not content­ed with this cruel vengeance, they carried her by force into Ireland, and there command­ed her to remain in perpetual exile. This in­junction, however, was too distressing for that [Page 94] faithful woman to comply with; for, being cured of her wound, and having obliterated the marks which had been made to deface her beauty, she once more ventured to return to the king, whom she still regarded as her hus­band. But misfortune still continued to pur­sue her. She was taken prisoner by a party whom the archbishop had appointed to ob­serve her conduct, and was put to death in the most cruel manner; the sinews of her legs cut, and her body mangled, she was thus left to expire in the most cruel agony. In the mean time, a secret revolt against Edwy became almost ge­neral; and that it might not be doubted at whose instigation this revolt was undertaken, Dunstan returned to England, and put himself at the head of the party. The malecontents at last proceeded to open rebellion; and, having placed Edgar, the king's younger brother, a boy of about thirteen years of age, at their head, they soon put him in possession of all the northern parts of the king­dom. Edwy's power, and the number of his adherents every day declining, he was at last obliged to consent to a partition of the king­dom; but his death, which happened soon af­ter, freed his enemies from all further in­quietude, and gave Edgar peaceable posses­sion of the government.

[Page 95]Edgar being placed on the throne by the influence of the monks,A.D. 959 affected to be entire­ly guided by their directions in all his succeed­ing transactions. There has ever been some popular cry, some darling prejudice amongst the English; and he, who has taken the ad­vantage of it, has always found it of excellent assistance to his government. The sanctity of the monks was the cry at that time; and Ed­gar, chiming in with the people, at once pro­moted their happiness, and his own glory. Few English monarchs have reigned with more fortune, or more splendor than he. He not on­ly quieted all domestic insurrections, but re­pressed all foreign invasions; and his power was so well established, and so widely extended, that he is said to have been rowed in his barge by eight tributary kings upon the river Dee. The monks, whom he promoted, are loud in his praise; and yet, the example of his con­tinence was no way corresponding with that chastity and forbearance on which they chiefly founded their superior pretensions to sanctity. It is indeed somewhat extraordinary, that one should have been extolled for his virtues by the monks, whose irregularities were so peculiarly opposite to the tenets they enforced. His first transgression of this kind was, the breaking in­to [Page 96] a convent, carrying off Editha, a nun, by force, and even committing violence on her person. For this act of sacrilege and barbarity, no other penance was enjoined, than that he should abstain from wearing his crown for seven years. As for the lady herself, he was permitted to continue his intercourse with her without scandal. There was another mistress of Edgar's, named Elfleda the Fair, with whom he formed a connec­tion, by a kind of accident. For being at the house of one of his nobles, and fixing his affec­tions on the nobleman's daughter, he privately requested that the young lady should pass that very night with him. The lady's mother knowing his power, and the impetuosity of his temper, prevailed upon her daughter seem­ingly to comply with his request; but, in the mean time, substituted a beautiful domestic in the young lady's place. In the morning, when the king perceived the deceit, instead of being displeased at the stratagem, he expressed pleasure in the adventure; and transferring his love to Elfleda, as the damsel was called, she became his favourite mistress, and main­tained an ascendency over him till his marriage with Elfrida. The story of this lady is too remarkable to be past over in silence.

Edgar had long heard of the beauty of a young lady, whose name was Elfrida, daughter [Page 97] to the earl of Devonshire; but, unwilling to credit common fame in this particular, he sent Ethelwald, his favourite friend, to see, and in­form him, if Elfrida was indeed that incom­parable woman report had described her. Ethelwald arriving at the earl's, had no sooner cast his eyes upon that nobleman's daughter, than he became desperately enamoured of her himself. Such was the violence of his passion, that, forgeting his master's intentions, he soli­cited only his own interests, and demanded for himself the beautiful Elfrida from her father in marriage. The favourite of a king was not likely to find a refufal; the earl gave his con­sent, and their nuptials were performed in pri­vate. Upon his return to court, which was shortly after, he assured the king, that her riches alone, and her high quality, had been the cause of her admiration, and he appeared amazed how the world could talk so much, and so un­justly of her charms. The king was satisfied, and no longer felt any curiosity, while Ethel­wald secretly triumphed in his address. When he had, by this deceit, weaned the king from his purpose, he took an opportunity, after some time, of turning the conversation on Elfrida, representing, that though the fortune of the earl of Devonshire's daughter would be a trifle [Page 98] to a king, yet it would be an immense acquisition to a needy subject. He, therefore, humbly en­treated permission to pay his addresses to her, as she was the richest heiress in the kingdom. A request so seemingly reasonable, was readily complied with; Ethelwald returned to his wife, and their nuptials were solemnized in public. His greatest care, however, was em­ployed in keeping her from court; and he took every precaution, to prevent her appear­ing before a king so susceptible of love, while she was so capable of inspiring that passion. But it was impossible to keep his treachery long concealed. Favourites are never without pri­vate enemies, who watch every opportunity of rising upon their ruin. Edgar was soon in­formed of the whole transaction; but dissem­bling his resentment, he took occasion to visit that part of the country, where this miracle of beauty was detained, accompanied by Ethel­wald, who reluctantly attended him thither. Upon coming near the lady's habitation, he told him, that he had a curiosity to see his wife, of whom he had formerly heard so much, and desired to be introduced as his acquaintance. Ethelwald, thunder-struck at the proposal, did all in his power, but in vain, to dissuade him. All he could obtain, was permission to go be­fore, [Page 99] on pretence of preparing for the king's re­ception. On his arrival, he fell at his wife's feet, confessing what he had done to be posses­sed of her charms, and conjuring her to con­ceal, as much as possible, her beauty from the king, who was but too susceptible of its power. Elfrida, little obliged to him for a passion that had deprived her of a crown, promised com­pliance; but, prompted either by vanity, or revenge, adorned her person with the most ex­quisite art, and called up all her beauty on the occasion. The event answered her expecta­tions; the king, no sooner saw, than he loved her, and was instantly resolved to obtain her. The better to effect his intentions, he conceal­ed his passion from the husband, and took leave with a seeming indifference; but his revenge was not the less certain and fatal. Ethelwald was some time after sent into Northumberland, upon pretence of urgent affairs, and was found murdered in a wood by the way. Some say, he was stabbed by the king's own hand; some, that he only commanded the assassina­tion; however this be, Elfrida was invited soon after to court, by the king's own order, and their nuptials were performed with the usual solemnity.

[Page 100]Such was the criminal passions of a mo­narch, whom the monks have thought proper to represent as the most perfect of mankind. His reign was successful, because it was found­ed upon a compliance with the prejudices of the people; but it produced very sensible evils, and these fell upon his successor. He died, after a reign of sixteen years, in the thirty-third year of his age, being succeeded by his son, Edward, whom he had by his first mar­riage, with the daughter of the earl of Ordmer.

A.D. 957 Edward, surnamed the Martyr, was made king by the interest of the monks, and lived but four years after his accession. In his reign, there is nothing remarkable, if we except his tragical and memorable end. Though this young monarch had been, from the beginning, opposed by Elfrida, his stepmother, who seems to have united the greatest deformity of mind, with the highest graces of person; yet he ever shewed her marks of the strongest regard, and even expressed, on all occasions, the most tender affection for her son, his brother. How­ever, hunting one day near Corfe-castle, where Elfrida resided, he thought it his duty to pay her a visit, although he was not attended by any of his retinue. There desiring some liquor to be [Page 101] brought him, as he was thirsty, while he was yet holding the cup to his head, one of Elfrida's domestics, instructed for that purpose, stabbed him in the back. The king, finding himself wounded, put spurs to his horse; but, fainting with the loss of blood, he fell from the saddle, and his foot sticking in the stirrup, he was dragged along by his horse, till he was kiled. Being tracked by the blood, his body was found, and privately interred at Wareham by his ser­vants.

Ethelred the Second,A.D. 978 the son of Edgar and El­frida, succeeded; a weak and irresolute monarch, incapable of governing the kingdom, or pro­viding for its safety. After a train of dissen­tions, follies, and vices, which seem to have marked some of the former reigns, it is not surprising, that the country was weakened; and the people, taught to rely entirely on preterna­tural assistance, were rendered incapable of de­fending themselves. During this period, there­fore, their old, and terrible enemies, the Danes, who seem not to be loaded with the same accu­mulation of vice and folly, were daily gaining ground. The weakness and the inexperience of Ethelred appeared to give a favourable opportu­nity for renewing their depredations; and, ac­cordingly, they landed on several parts of the [Page 102] coast, spreading their usual terror and devasta­tion. The English, ill provided to oppose such an enemy, made but a feeble resistance, en­deavouring, by treachery, or submission, to a­vert the storm they had not spirit to oppose.

The northern invaders, now well acquainted with the defenceless condition of England, made a powerful descent, under the command of Sweyn king of Denmark, and Olave king of Norway, who, sailing up the Humber, commit­ted on all sides their destructive ravages. The English opposed them with a formidable army, but were repulsed with great slaughter. The Danes, encouraged by this success, marched boldly into the heart of the kingdom, filling all places with the marks of horrid cruelty. Ethelred had, upon a former invasion of these pyrates, bought them off with money, and he now resolved to put the same expedient in practice once more. He sent ambassadors, therefore, to the two kings, and offered them subsistence and tribute, provided they would re­strain their ravages and depart the kingdom. It has often been remarked, that buying off an invasion only serves to strengthen the ene­my, and to invite a repetition of hostili­ties; such it happened upon this occasion: Sweyn and Olave agreed to the terms, and [Page 103] peaceably took up their quarters at South­ampton, where the sum of sixteen thousand pounds was paid them. Olave returned to his native country, and never infested Eng­land more; but Sweyn was less scrupulous, and the composition with him gave but a short interval to the miseries of the English.

The English now found their situation truly deplorable. The weakness of the king,A.D. 998 the divisions of the nobility, the treachery of some, and the cowardice of others, frustrated all their endeavours for mutual defence. The Danes, ever informed of their situation, and ready to take advantage of it, appeared a short time after the late infamous composition, upon the English shore, and rising in their de­mands, in proportion to the people's incapacity to oppose, now demanded twenty-five thousand pounds more. This sum they also received; and this only served to improve their desire for fresh exactions. But they soon had a material cause of resentment given them, by which the in­fraction of the stipulated treaty became neces­sary. The Danes, as hath been already observ­ed, had made several settlements, for many years before, in different parts of the king­dom. There, without mixing with the natives, they still maintained a peaceable correspon­dence [Page 104] and connexion among them. Their mili­tary superiority was generally acknowledged by all; and the kings of England, sensible of that, had been accustomed to keep in pay bodies of Danish troops, whom they quartered in different parts of the country. These mercenaries had attained to such an height of luxury, accord­ing to the old English writers, that they comb­ed their hair once a day, bathed themselves once a week; and, by these arts, then esteemed effeminate, had rendered themselves so agree­able to the fair sex, that they debauched the wives and daughters of the English, and had dishonoured many families. To those insults were added the treachery of their conduct upon eve­ry threatened invasion, as they still shewed their attachment to their own countrymen, against those among whom they were permitted to re­side. These were motives sufficient, in that barbarous age, for a general massacre; and Ethelred, by a policy incident to weak princes, embraced the cruel resolution of putting them all to the sword. This plot was carried on with such secrecy, that it was executed in one day, and all the Danes in England were de­stroyed without mercy. But this massacre, so perfidious in the contriving, and so cruel in the execution, instead of ending the long mi­series [Page 105] of the people only prepared the way for greater calamities.

While the English were yet congratulating each other upon their late deliverance from an inveterate enemy, Sweyn, king of Denmark, who had been informed of their treacherous cruelties, appeared off the western coasts with a large fleet, meditating slaughter; and furious with revenge. The English vainly attempted to summon their forces together, treachery and cowardice still operated, to dispirit their troops or to dissipate them. To these miseries were added a dreadful famine, partly from the bad seasons, and partly from the decay of agriculture. For a while they supposed that the Danish devasta­tions would be retarded by the payment of thir­ty thousand pounds, which the invaders agreed to accept; but this, as in all the former cases, afforded but a temporary relief. For a while they placed some hopes in a powerful navy, which they found means to equip; but this was soon divided and dispersed, without doing them any service. Nothing therefore now remained, but their suffering the just indignation of the conqueror, and undergoing all the evils that war, inflamed by revenge, could inflict. Dur­ing this period, a general consternation, toge­ther with a mutual diffidence and dissention, pre­vailed. [Page 106] Cessations from these calamities were purchased, one after another, by immense sums; but as they afforded a short alleviation of the common distress, at last no other resource re­mained, than that of submitting to the Danish monarch, of swearing allegiance to him, and giv­ing hostages as pledges of sincerity. Ethelred was obliged to fly into Normandy, and the whole country thus came under the power of Sweyn, his victorious rival.

The death of Sweyn, which happened about six weeks after, seemed to offer a favour­able opportunity of once more restoring Ethel­red to the throne, and his subjects to their liber­ties. Accordingly he seized it with avidity; but his misconducts were incurable, and his in­dolence, credulity, and cowardice, obstructed all success. At length, after having seen the greatest part of the kingdom seized by the in­sulting enemy, after refusing to head his troops to oppose them, he retired to London, where he ended an inglorious reign of thirty-five years by a natural death, leaving behind him two sons, the eldest of whom, Edmund, suc­ceeded to his crown and his misfortunes.

A.D. 1016 EDMUND, his son and successor, received the surname of IRONSIDE, from his hardy opposi­tion to the enemy; but this opposition seemed [Page 107] as ineffectual to restore the happiness of his country, as it was to continue him in the pos­session of the throne. He was opposed by one of the most powerful and vigilant monarchs then in Europe; for Canute, afterwards sur­named the Great, succeeded Sweyn as king of Denmark, and also as general of the Danish forces in England. The contest between these two monarchs was therefore managed with great obstinacy and perseverance; the first bat­tle that was fought appeared undecisive; a se­cond followed, in which the Danes were victo­rious: but Edmund still having interest enough to bring a third army into the field, the Danish and English nobility, equally harrassed by these convulsions, obliged their kings to come to a compromise, and to divide the kingdom be­tween them by treaty. Canute reserved to himself the northern parts of the kingdom, the southern parts were left to Edmund; but this prince being murdered about a month after the treaty by his two chamberlains, at Oxford, Ca­nute was left in peaceable possession of the whole kingdom.

Canute, though he had gratified his ambi­tion, in obtaining possession of the English crown, yet was obliged at first to make some mortifying concessions; and, in order to gain the affections [Page 108] of the nobility, he endeavoured to gratify their avarice. But as his power grew stronger, and his title more secure, he then resumed those grants which he had made, and even put many of the English nobles to death, sensible that those who had betrayed their native sovereign would never be true to him. Nor was he less severe in his exactions upon the subordinate ranks of the people, levying at one time seven­ty-two thousand pounds upon the country, and eleven thousand more upon the city of Lon­don only.

Having thus strengthened his new power, by effectually weakening all who had wealth or authority to withstand him, he next be­gan to shew the merciful side of his charac­ter. Nor does it seem without just grounds that he is represented by some historians as one of the first characters in those barba­rous ages. The invectives which are thrown out against him by the English writers seem mere­ly the effect of national resentment, or preju­dice, unsupported by truth. His first step to reconcile the English to his yoke, was, by send­ing back to Denmark as many of his followers as he could safely spare. He made no distinc­tion between the English and Danes in the ad­ministration of justice, but restored the Saxon [Page 109] customs in a general assembly of the kingdom. The two nations thus uniting with each other, were glad to breathe for a while from the tu­mult and slaughter in which they had mu­tually involved each other; and, to confirm their amity, the king himself married Emma, the sister of Richard, duke of Normandy, who had ever warmly espoused the interests of the English.

Canute having thus settled his power in Eng­land beyond the danger of a revolution, made a voyage into Denmark, as his native domi­nions were attacked by the king of Sweden. In this expedition, Godwin, an English earl, was particularly distinguished for his valour, and acquired that fame which afterwards laid a foundation for the immense power he acquired during the succeeding reigns. In another voy­age he made to Denmark, he attacked Nor­way; and, expelling Olaus from his kingdom, annexed it to his own empire. Thus, being at once king of England, Denmark, and Norway, he was considered as the most warlike and potent prince in Europe; while the security of his power inclined his temper, which was natu­rally cruel, to mercy.

As his reign was begun in blood, he was, to­wards the end of it, willing to atone for his for­mer [Page 110] fierceness, by acts of penance and devotion. He built churches, endowed monasteries, and appointed revenues for the celebration of mass. He even undertook a pilgrimage to Rome, where he remained a considerable time; and, besides obtaining from the pope some privi­leges for the English school erected there, he engaged all the princes through whose domi­nions he passed to desist from those heavy im­positions which they were accustomed to exact from the English pilgrims. The piety of the latter part of his life, and the resolute valour of the former, were topics that filled the mouths of his courtiers with flattery and praise. They even affected to think his power uncontroulable, and that all things would be obedient to his command. Canute, sensible of their adulation, is said to have taken the following method to reprove them. He ordered his chair to be set on the sea-shore while the tide was coming in, and commanded the sea to retire. ‘"Thou art under my dominion, cried he; the land up­on which I sit is mine; I charge thee therefore, to approach no farther, nor dare to wet the feet of thy sovereign."’ He feigned to sit some time in expectation of submission, till the waves be­gan to surround him: then, turning to his courtiers, he observed, that the titles of Lord [Page 111] and Master belonged only to him whom both earth and seas were ready to obey. Thus, feared and respected, he lived many years, ho­noured with the surname of Great for his power, but deserving it still more for his vir­tues. He died at Shaftesbury, in the nineteenth year of his reign, leaving behind him three sons, Sweyn, Harold, and Hardicnute. Sweyn was crowned king of Norway, Hardicnute was put in possession of Denmark, and Harold suc­ceeded his father on the English throne.

HAROLD, surnamed HAREFOOT,A.D. 1035 from his swiftness in running, upon his first coming to the crown, met with no small opposition from his younger brother, Hardicnute. But, by the intervention of the nobles, a compromise was made between them; by which it was agreed, that Harold should have London, and all the provinces north of the Thames, while the pos­session of the southern parts should be ceded to Hardicnute; and, until that prince should ap­pear in person, Emma, his mother, should govern in his stead. But this agreement was of short duration; for queen Emma having brought over from Normandy Edward and Al­fred, descendants of the ancient Saxon kings, Alfred was invited, with the warmest profes­sions of friendship, by Harold, to London, and [Page 112] treacherously set upon, by his orders, on the way. Six hundred of his train were murdered in the most cruel manner; he himself was ta­ken prisoner, and his eyes being put out, he was conducted to the monastery of Ely, where he died soon after. Edward and Emma, ap­prised of his fate, fled to the continent, and Harold, without resistance, took possession of the whole kingdom. He lived to enjoy the fruits of his treachery but four years after; and dying, very little regretted by his subjects, he left the succession open to his brother.

A.D. 1040 HARDICNUTE's title was readily acknow­ledged, both by the Danes and the English; and, upon his arrival from the continent, he was received with the most extravagant demonstra­tions of joy. The ceremony of his coronation was scarce performed, when he gave the first specimen of the badness of his disposition, in his impotent insults upon the body of his bro­ther, which he ordered to be dug up, behead­ed, and thrown into the Thames. When it was found some time after by a fisherman, and bu­ried, he ordered it to be again dug up, and to be thrown into the Thames a second time. His malice, however, was in the end ineffec­tual; for it was again found, and buried with the greatest secrecy. Hardicnute's next act of [Page 113] rigorous sovereignty, was the imposition of a grievous tax, for the payment of his navy; which was the more intolerable, as the nation was threatened with a famine. In these acts of severity, Godwin, duke of Wessex, who had been a vile instrument of treachery and oppres­sion during the former reign, was assistant now. However, his base compliances did not entirely screen him from the resentment of Emma, who had the strongest reasons to believe that he was instrumental in the death of prince Alfred, her son. At her instigation, therefore, Alfric, arch­bishop of York, accused him of being an ac­complice, and demanded justice accordingly. Godwin found means to evade the danger, by appealing to the king's avarice, and not to the justice of his cause. He presented him with a magnificent galley, curiously carved and gild­ed, rowed by fourscore men, who wore each of them a gold bracelet on his arm, weighing six­teen ounces. The king, softened by this pre­sent, permitted him to purge himself by oath; and Godwin very readily swore, that he had no hand in the death of Alfred. This king's vio­lent and unjust government was but of short duration. He died two years after his accession, in consequence of excess at the marriage of a Danish lord, which was celebrated at Lambeth. [Page 114] His death, far from being regretted by the English, became the subject of their derision, his anniversary being distinguished by the name of Hock Holiday.

A.D. 1041 EDWARD, surnamed THE CONFESSOR, from his piety, had many rivals, whose claims to the crown were rather more just than his own. The direct descendants of the last Saxon mo­narch were still in being, though at the remote distance of the kingdom of Hungary. Sweyn, the eldest son of Hardicnute, was still alive, though at that time engaged in wars in Nor­way. It required therefore the utmost di­ligence in Edward to secure his claims, before either of these could come over to dispute his title. His own authority, which, though great in the kingdom, was not sufficient to expedite his affairs with the desired dispatch, he was there­fore obliged to have recourse to Godwin, whose power was then very extensive, to second his pretensions. This nobleman, though long an enemy to his family, finding, upon the present occasion, that their interests were united, laid aside all former animosity, and concurred in fixing him upon the throne.

The English, who had long groaned under a foreign yoke, now set no bounds to their joy, at finding the line of their ancient mo­narchs [Page 115] restored; and at first the warmth of their raptures was attended with some vio­lence against the Danes; but the new king, by the mildness of his character, soon composed these differences, and the distinction between the two nations gradually disappeared. Thus, after a struggle of above two hundred years, all things seemed to remain in the same state in which those conflicts began. These invasions from the Danes produced no new change of laws, customs, language, or religion; nor did any other traces of their establishments seem to remain, except the castles they built, and the families that still bear their names. No far­ther mention therefore is made of two distinct nations, for the Normans coming in soon after, served to unite them into a closer union.

The first acts of this monarch's reign bore the appearance of severity, for he resumed all grants that had been made by the crown in for­mer reigns; and he ordered his mother, Em­ma, who was ever intriguing against him, to be shut up in a monastery. As he had been bred in the Norman court, he shewed, in every in­stance, a predilection for the customs, laws, and even the natives of that country; and, a­mong the rest of his faults, though he had mar­ried Editha, the daughter of Godwin, yet, [Page 116] either from mistaken piety, or fixed aversion, during his whole reign, he abstained from her bed.

However these actions might be regarded by many of this king's subjects, for they were all of a doubtful kind, certain it is, that Godwin, who was long grown much too powerful for a subject, made them the pretext of his opposi­tion. He began by complaining of the influ­ence of the Normans in the government, and his animosities soon broke out into action. Eustace, count of Boulougne, who had married Edward's sister, arrived in England upon a visit to the king, and was received with great ho­nour and affection. Upon his return to Do­ver, having sent a servant before him to be­speak lodgings in that city, a fray happened between this domestic and the townsmen, in which he lost his life. The count and his at­tendants attempting to take revenge, the inha­bitants took arms, and both sides engaging with great fury, the count was obliged to find safety by flight, after having lost about twenty of his men, and slain as many of the people. The count, exasperated at this insult, returned to the court, at Gloucester, and demanded jus­tice of the king, who very warmly espoused his quarrel. He instantly gave orders to Godwin, [Page 117] in whose government Dover lay, to go imme­diately to the place, and to punish the inhabi­tants for their crime. This was a conjuncture highly favourable to the schemes of this aspir­ing chief, and thinking that now was the time to ingratiate himself with the people, he abso­lutely refused to obey the king's command. Sensible, however, that obedience would soon be extorted, unless he could defend his inso­lence, he prepared for his defence, or, rather, for an attack upon Edward. Accordingly, under a pretence of repressing some disorders on the Welsh frontier, he secretly assembled a great army, and attempted to surprise the king, who continued, without the smallest suspicion, at Gloucester. Nevertheless, being soon in­formed of Godwin's treachery, his first step was, privately to summon all the assistance he could, and, in the mean while, to protract the time by a pretended negociation. As soon as he found himself in a capacity to take the field, he then changed his tone; and Godwin, finding himself unable to oppose his superior force, or to keep his army together, permitted it to disperse, and took shelter with Baldwin, earl of Flanders. His estates, which were nu­merous, together with those of his sons, were confiscated, and the greatness of the fa­mily [Page 118] seemed, for a time, totally over­thrown.

But this nobleman's power was too strong to be shaken by so slight a blast; for, being assisted with a fleet by the earl of Flanders, he landed on the Isle of Wight, where he was joined by his son Harold, with a squadron which that nobleman had collected in Ireland. From thence being reinforced by great num­bers of his former dependants and followers, he sailed up the Thames, and, appearing before Lon­don, threw all things into confusion. In this exi­gence, the king alone seemed resolute; but his nobility, many of whom were secretly inclined to Godwin, brought on a negociation; in which it was stipulated, that the king should dismiss all his foreign servants, the primate being among the number, and that Godwin should give hos­tages for his own future good behaviour. God­win's death, which followed soon after, pre­vented him from reaping the fruits of an agree­ment, by which the king's authority was almost reduced to nothing.

This nobleman was succeeded in his govern­ments and offices by his son, Harold, who, in his ambition, was equal to his father, but in his virtues and abilities far his superior. By a mo­dest and gentle demeanour he acquired the good-will of Edward, or at least softened those [Page 119] impressions of hatred which he had long borne the whole family. He artfully insinuated him­self into the affections of the people by his li­berality and apparent candour, while every day he encreased his power, by seeming modestly to decline it. By these arts he not only sup­planted Algar, duke of Mercia, whom the king raised up to rival his power, but he got his brother, Tosti, made duke of Northumber­land, upon the death of Siward, who had long governed that province with great glory.

Harold's insinuating manners, his power, and virtues, extended and encreased his popu­larity to such a degree, that he began to be talked of as the most proper person to succeed to the crown. But nothing could be more un­grateful to Edward than such a desire, as he abhorred a successor from the family of God­win. Arouzed, therefore, by these rumours, he sent for his nephew, Edward, from Hun­gary, who was, in fact, the direct descendant from the ancient Saxon kings. Prince Edward soon arrived, but was scarce safe landed, when he died, leaving his pretensions to Edgar Athe­ling, his son, who was too young, weak, and inactive, to avail himself of his title. The king was now therefore thrown into new diffi­culties. He saw the youth and inexperience [Page 120] of Edgar, and dreaded the immoderate ambi­tion of Harold. He could not, without re­luctance, think of encreasing the grandeur of a family which had risen on the ruins of royal authority, and had been stained in the blood of his own brother. In this uncertainty, he is said to have cast his eyes on William, duke of Normandy, as a person fit to succeed him; but of the truth of this circumstance, we must, at this distance of time, be contented to remain in uncertainty.

In the mean time, Harold did not remit in obedience to the king, or his assiduities to the people; still encreasing in his power, and pre­paring his way for his advancement, on the first vacancy, to the throne. In these aims, fortune herself seemed to assist him; and two incidents which happened about this time,A.D. 1057 contributed to fix that popularity, which he had been so long eagerly in pursuit of. The Welsh renewing their hostilities under prince Griffin, were re­pelled by him, and rendered tributary to the crown of England. The other incident was no less honourable: his brother, Tosti, who had been appointed to the government of Northumberland, having grievously oppressed the people, was expelled in an insurrection, and Harold was ordered by the king to reinstate [Page 121] him in his power, and punish the insurgents. While yet at the head of an army, preparing to take signal vengeance for the injury done to his brother, he was met by a deputation of the people who had been so cruelly governed. They assured him that they had no intention to rebel, but had taken up arms merely to protect themselves from the cruelty of a rapa­cious governor. They enumerated the griev­ances they had sustained from his tyranny, brought the strongest proofs of his guilt, and appealed to Harold's equity for redress. This nobleman, convinced of Tosti's brutality, sa­crificed his affection to his duty; and not only procured their pardon from the king, but con­firmed the governor whom the Northumbrians had chosen in his command. From that time, Harold became the idol of the people; and, in­deed, his virtues deserved their love, had they not been excited by ambition.

Harold, thus secure of the affections of the English, no longer strove to conceal his aims, but openly aspired at the succession. He eve­ry where insinuated, that as the heir-apparent to the crown was utterly unequal to the task of government, both from ape and natural im­becility, there was none so proper as a man of mature experience, and tried integrity; he [Page 122] alledged, that a man born in England was only fit to govern Englishmen; and that none but an able general could defend them against so many foreign enemies, as they were every day threatened with. The people readily saw to what these speeches tended; and, instead of discountenancing his pretensions, assisted them with their wishes and applause. Edward, bro­ken with age and infirmities, his mind entirely engrossed by the visions of superstition, and warmly attached to none, saw the danger to which the government was exposed, but took feeble and irresolute steps to secure the succes­sion. While he continued thus uncertain, he was surprised by sickness, which brought him to his end,A.D. 1066 on the fifth of January, in the sixty-fifth year of his age, and twenty-fifth of his reign.

This prince, who was reverenced by the monks, under the title of Saint and Confessor; had but weak pretensions to either, being in­dolent, irresolute, and credulous. The tran­quilty of his reign was owing rather to the weakness of his foreign enemies, than to his own domestic strength. But, though he seem­ed to have few active virtues, yet he cer­tainly had no vices of an atrocious kind; and the want of the passions, rather than their [Page 123] restraint, was then, as it has been long since, the best title to canonization. He was the first, who, from his supposed sanctity, touched for the king's evil.

Harold, whose intrigues and virtues seem­ed to give a right to his pretensions, ascend­ed the throne without any opposition. The citizens of London, who were ever fond of an elective monarchy, seconded his claims; the clergy adopted his cause; and the body of the people, whose friend he had been, sincere­ly loved him. Nor were the first acts of his reign unworthy of the general prejudice in his favour. He took the most effectual mea­sures for an impartial administration of justice; ordered the laws to be revised, and reformed; and those disturbers of the public peace to be punished, who had thriven under the lenity of the last reign.

But neither his valour, his justice, nor his popularity, were able to secure him from the misfortunes attendant upon an ill-grounded title. The first symptoms of his danger, came from his own brother, Tosti, who had taken refuge in Flanders, and went among the princes of the Continent, endeavouring to en­gage them in a league against Harold, whom he represented as a tyrant and usurper. Not con­tent [Page 124] with this, being furnished with some ships by the earl of Flanders, he made a descent up­on the isle of Wight, which he laid under con­tribution, and pillaged along the coast, until he was encountered, and routed by Morcar, who had been appointed to the government from which he was expelled.

But he was not yet without succour, for Harfagar, king of Norway, who had been brought over by his remonstrances, arrived with a fleet of two hundred sail at the mouth of the river Humber, where he was joined by the shattered remains of Tosti's forces. It was in vain that the earls of Mercia and Nor­thumberland attempted to stop their progress, with a body of new-raised undisciplined troops: they were quickly routed, and York fell a prey to the enemy. Mean while, Harold be­ing informed of this misfortune, hastened with an army to the protection of his people, and expressed the utmost ardour to shew himself worthy of their favour. He had given so many proofs of an equitable and prudent ad­ministration, that the people flocked from all quarters to join his standard; and, as soon as he reached the enemy at Standford, he found himself in a condition of giving them battle. The action was very bloody, but the victory [Page 125] was decisive on the side of Harold, and ended in the total rout of the Norwegians, Harfa­gar, their king, and Tosti being slain. Those who escaped, owed their safety to the personal prowess of a brave Norwegian; who, singly, defended a bridge over the Derwent for three hours, against the whole English army; dur­ing which time, he slew forty of their best men with his battle-ax, but he was at length slain by an arrow. Harold, pursuing his victory, made himself master of a Norwegian fleet that lay in the river Ouse; and had the generosity to give prince Olave, the son of Harfagar, his liberty, and to allow him to depart with twen­ty vessels. There had never before been in England an engagement between two such numerous armies, each being composed of no less than threescore thousand men. The news of this victory diffused inexpressible joy over the whole kingdom; they gloried in a mo­narch, who now shewed himself able to de­fend them from insult, and avenge them of their invaders; but they had not long time for triumph, when news was brought of a fresh invasion, more formidable than had ever been formed against England before. This was under the conduct of William, duke of Normandy, who landed at Hast­ings, [Page 126] with an army of disciplined veterans,Sept. 28, 1066. and laid claim to the English crown.

William, who was afterwards called the Conqueror, was the natural son of Robert, duke of Normandy. His mother's name was Arlette, a beautiful maid of Falaize, whom Robert fell in love with, as she stood gazing at her door whilst he passed through the town. William, who was the offspring of this amour, owed a part of his greatness to his birth, but still more to his own personal merit. His body was vigorous, his mind capacious and noble, and his courage not be repressed by apparent danger. His father, Robert, growing old, and, as was common with princes then, supersti­tious also, resolved upon a pilgrimage to Je­rusalem, contrary to the advice and opinion of all his nobility. As his heart was fixed upon the expedition, instead of attending to their remonstrances, he shewed them his son Wil­liam, whom, though illegitimate, he tender­ly loved, and recommended to their care, exacting an oath from them of homage and fealty. He then put him, as he was yet but ten years of age, under the tutelage of the French king; and soon after, going into Asia, from whence he never returned, left young William rather the inheritor of his wishes, [Page 127] than his crown. In fact, William, from the beginning, found himself exposed to many dangers, and much opposition, from his youth and inexperience, from the reproach of his birth, from a suspected guardian, a disputed title, and a distracted state. The regency, appointed by Robert, found great difficulties in supporting the government against this complication of dangers; and the young prince, when he came of age, found himself reduced to a very low condition. But the great qualities which he soon displayed in the field, and the cabinet, gave encouragement to his friends, and struck a terror into his ene­mies. He on all sides opposed his rebel­lious subjects, and repressed foreign inva­ders, while his valour and conduct prevailed in every action. The tranquility which he had thus established in his dominions, induced him to extend his views; and some overtures, made him by Edward the Confessor, in the latter part of his reign, who was wavering in the choice of a successor, enflamed his ambi­tion with a desire of succeeding to the English throne. Whether Edward really appointed him to succeed, as William all along pretend­ed, is, at this distance of time, uncertain; but it is beyond a doubt, that Harold happening [Page 128] to pay a visit to the Norman coast, was induc­ed by this prince, to acknowledge his claims, and to give a promise of seconding them. This promise, however, Harold did not think pro­per to perform, when it stood in the way of his own ambition; and afterwards, when William objected the breach, he excused himself, by alledging, that it was extorted from him, at a time when he had no power to refuse. On whatever side justice might lie, the pretext on William's part was, that he was appointed heir to the crown of England by Edward the Confessor, upon a visit he had paid that mo­narch during his life-time. In consequence of these pretensions, he was not remiss, after the death of Edward, to lay in his claims; but Harold would admit none of them, resolved to defend, by his valour, what his intrigues had won. William, finding that arms alone were to be the final deciders of this dispute, prepar­ed to assert his right with vigour. His sub­jects, as they had long been distinguished for va­lour among the European nations, had, at this time, attained to the highest pitch of military glory. His court was the center of politeness; and all who wished for fame in arms, or was naturally fond of adventure, flocked to put themselves under his conduct. The fame of [Page 129] his intended invasion of England, was diffused over the whole Continent; multitudes came to offer him their services in this expedition; so that he was embarrassed rather in the choice of whom he should take, than in the levying his forces. The pope himself was not be­hind the rest in favouring his pretensions; but, either influenced by the apparent justice of his claims, or by the hopes of extending the autho­rity of the church, he immediately pronoun­ced Harold an usurper. He denounced excom­munication against him, and all his adherents; and sent the duke a consecrated banner, to in­spire him with confidence. With such fa­vourable incentives, William soon found him­self at the head of a chosen army of sixty thou­sand men, all equipped in the most warlike and splendid manner. The discipline of the men, the vigour of the horses, the lustre of the arms and accoutrements, were objects that had been scarcely seen in Europe for some ages before. It was in the beginning of summer that he embarked this powerful body, on board a fleet of three hundred sail; and, after some small opposition from the weather, landed at Pevensey, on the coast of Sussex, with resolute tranquility. William himself, as he came on shore, happened to stumble and fall; but, in­stead [Page 130] of being discomposed at the accident, he had the presence of mind to cry out, that he thus took possession of the country. Different from all the ravagers to which England had been formerly accustomed, this brave prince made no show of invading a foreign country, but rather encamping in his own. Here he continued in a quiet and peaceable manner for about a fortnight, either willing to refresh his troops, or desirous of knowing the reception his pretensions to the crown should meet with among the people. After having refreshed his men at this place, and sent back his fleet to Normandy, to leave no retreat for cowardice, he advanced a­long the sea-side to Hastings, where he publish­ed a manifesto, declaring the motives that in­duced him to undertake this enterprize.

He was soon roused from his inactivity by the approach of Harold, who seemed resolved to defend his right to the crown, and retain that sovereignty which he had received from the people, who only had a right to bestow it. He was now returning, flushed with conquest, from the defeat of the Norwegians, with all the forces he had employed in that expedition, and all he could invite or collect in the country through which he passed. His army was com­posed of active and valiant troops, in high spi­rits, [Page 131] strongly attached to their king, and eager to engage. On the other hand, the army of Wil­liam consisted of the flower of all the Continent, and had been long enured to danger. The men of Bretagne, Bologne, Flanders, Poictou, Maine, Orleans, France, and Normandy, were all vo­luntarily united under his command. England never before, nor never since, saw two such armies drawn up to dispute its crown. The day before the battle, William sent an offer to Harold to decide the quarrel between them by single combat, and thus to spare the blood of thousands; but Harold refused, and said, he would leave it to the God of armies to de­termine. Both armies, therefore, that night, pitched in sight of each other, expecting the dawning of the next day with impatience. The English passed the night in songs and feasting; the Normans, in devotion and prayer.

The next morning, at seven, as soon as day appeared, both armies were drawn up in array against each other. Harold appeared in the center of his forces, leading on his army on foot, that his men might be more encou­raged, by seeing their king exposed to an equality of danger. William fought on horse­back, leading on his army, that moved at once, singing the song of Roland, one of [Page 132] the famous chiefs of their country. The Nor­mans began the fight with their cross-bows, which, at first, galled, and surprised the Eng­lish, and as their ranks were close, their arrows did great execution. But soon they came to closer fight, and the English, with their bills, hewed down their adversaries with great slaugh­ter. Confusion was spreading among the ranks, when William, who found himself on the brink of destruction, hastened, with a select band, to the relief of his forces. His presence restored the suspense of battle; he was seen in every place, endeavouring to pierce the ranks of the enemy, and had three horses slain under him. At length, perceiving that the English line continued impenetrable, he pre­tended to give ground, which, as he expected, drew the enemy from their ranks, and he was instantly ready to take advantage of their dis­order. Upon a signal given, the Normans readily returned to the charge, with greater fury than before, broke the English troops, and pursued them to a rising ground. It was in this extremity, that Harold was seen flying from rank to rank, rallying and inspiring his troops with vigour; and, though he had toiled all day, till near night-fall, in the front of his Kentish men, yet he still seemed unabated in [Page 133] force or courage, keeping his men to the post of honour. Once more, therefore, the victory seemed to turn against the Normans, and they fell in great numbers, so that the fierceness and obstinacy of this memorable battle, was often renewed by the courage of the leaders, whenever that of the soldiers began to slacken. Fortune, at length, determined a victory, that valour was unable to decide. Harold, making a furious onset at the head of his troops, against the Norman heavy armed infantry, was shot into the brains by an arrow; and his two va­liant brothers, fighting by his side, shared the same fate. He fell with his sword in his hand, amidst heaps of slain, and after the battle, the royal corpse could hardly be distinguished among the dead. From the moment of his death, all courage seemed to forsake the English; they gave ground on every side, and were pursued with great slaughter by the vic­torious Normans. Thus, after a battle, which was fought from morning till sun-set, the in­vaders proved successful, and the English crown became the reward of victory. There fell near fifteen thousand of the Normans, while the loss on the side of the vanquished was yet more considerable, beside that of the king, and his two brothers. The next day, [Page 134] the dead body of Harold was brought to Wil­liam, and generously restored, without ran­som, to his mother.

Oct. 14. 1066. This was the end of the Saxon monarchy in England, which had continued for more than six hundred years. Before the times of Alfred, the kings of this race seemed totally immersed in ignorance; and after him, taken up with combating the superstition of the monks, or blindly obeying its dictates. As for the crown, during this period, it was neither wholly elec­tive, nor yet totally hereditary, but disposed either by the will of the former possessor, or obtained by the eminent intrigues or services of some per­son nearly allied to the royal family. As for the laws and customs of this race, they brought in many, long in practice among their German ancestors; but they adopted also many more which they found among the Britons, or which the Romans left behind them after their abdi­cation. They assumed, in imitation of those nations, the name of Kings; nay, some of them, took the Greek appellation of Basileus, a title unknown to the countries from whence they came. Their noblemen also assumed names of Roman authority, being termed Dukes or Duces; while the lower classes of people, were bought and sold with the farms [Page 135] they cultivated; an horrid custom, first intro­duced by the Greeks and Romans, and after­wards adopted by the countries they conquer­ed. Their canon laws also, which often controuled the civil authority, had primari­ly their origin in Rome; and the priests and monks who drew them up, had generally their education there. We must not, there­fore, ascribe the laws and customs which then prevailed over England, entirely to Saxon o­riginal, as many of them were derived from the Britons and Romans. But now the Saxon monarchy was no more; all customs and laws, of whatever original, were cast down into one common mass, and cemented by those of Nor­man institution. The whole face of obliga­tion was altered, and the new masters institut­ed new modes of obedience. The laws were improved; but the taste of the people for po­lite learning, arts, and philosophy, for more than four hundred years after, were still to continue the same. It appears surprising enough, that in such a variety of events, such innova­tion in military discipline, and such changes in government, that true politeness, and what is called taste in the arts, never came to be culti­vated. Perhaps, the reason may be, that while the authority of the church continued so great, [Page 136] the people were afraid of any knowledge but that derived to them through their clergy; and, being secluded from the ordinary conversation of mankind, they were but indifferent judges of human nature. A monk of the tenth cen­tury, and a monk of the eighteen century, are equally refined, and equally fit to advance those studies that give us an acquaintance with ourselves, or that tend to display the mazes of the human heart.


Hall sculp.


NOTHING could exceed the consterna­tion of the English upon the loss of the battle of Hastings; their king slain, the flower of their nobility cut off, and their whole army dispersed or destroyed, struck them with despair. Very little seemed now remaining, but a tame submission to the victor; and William, sensible of their terrors, was care­ful [Page 138] not to lose the fruits of victory by de­lay. Accordingly, after the pursuit of the fly­ing enemy, and a short refreshment of his own army, he set forward on the completion of his design; and sitting down before Dover, took it after a slight resistance, and fortified it with fresh redoubts. After a short delay at this place, he advanced by quick marches towards London, where his approach served to spread new confusion. The inhabitants for some time hesitated between their terrors and their loyal­ty; but, casting their eyes on every side, they saw no person of valour or authority sufficient to support them in their independence. Edgar Atheling, the right heir to the crown, was a weak and feeble prince, without courage or ambition; all their other leaders were either destroyed, or too remote to lend them asistance. The clergy, who had a large share in the deli­beration, declared openly for a prince whose pretensions were acknowledged, and whose arms were blessed by the holy see. Nothing therefore remained, but to submit to the neces­sity of the times, and to acknowledge those claims which it was not in their power to op­pose. As soon, therefore, as William passed the Thames, at Wallingford, Stigand, the pri­mate, made submissions to him in the name of [Page 139] the clergy; and, before he came within sight of the city, all the chief nobility, and Edgar Atheling himself, who just before had been created king, came into his camp, and declar­ed an intention of yielding to his authority. William was glad of being thus peaceably put in possession of a throne, which several of his predecessors had not gained without repeated victories. He therefore accepted the crown upon the terms that were offered him, which were, that he should govern according to the established customs of the country. William, though he had it in his power to dictate his own conditons, rather than receive any, chose to have his election considered rather as a gift from his subjects, than a measure ex­torted by him. He knew himself to be a con­queror, but was willing to be thought a legal king.

In order to give his invasion all the sanction possible, he was crowned at Westminster by the archbishop of York, and took the oath usual in the times of the Saxon and Danish kings, which was, to protect and defend the church, to observe the laws of the realm, and to govern the people with impartiality. Having thus given all possible satisfaction to the Eng­lish, his next care was, to reward the many [Page 140] brave adventurers who had followed his for­tunes. He first divided the lands of the Eng­lish barons who opposed him among the Nor­man barons who had assisted his enterprize; and such as he could neither supply with mo­ney nor lands, he appointed to the vacant of­fices of the state. But, as there were still num­bers unprovided for, he quartered them on the rich abbeys of the kingdom, until better means offered for their advancement. This, which gave no small umbrage to the clergy, was but little resented by the people, who were willing to see their own burthens lightened, by having a part of them laid upon shoulders that were at that time much better able to bear them.

But what gave them great umbrage, was, to see him place all real power in the hands of his own countrymen, and still to give them the possession of the sword, to which he owed all his authority. He disarmed the city of Lon­don, and other places which appeared most warlike and populous, and quartered Norman soldiers in all those places where he most dread­ed an insurrection. Having thus secured the government, and, by a mixture of vigour and lenity brought the English to an entire submis­sion, he resolved to return to the continent, there to enjoy the triumph and congratulation [Page 141] of his ancient subjects. Having, therefore, no reason to apprehend any disturbance in his ab­sence among the English, whose affection he had taken such pains to conciliate, he left the regency with his brother Odo, bishop of Bayeux, and William Fitzosborne. To secure himself yet farther, he resolved to carry along with him all the English noblemen, from whose power or inclination he could apprehend a re­volt; and, pretending to take great pleasure in their conversation, he set sail with his honour­able captives for Normandy, where he was re­ceived by his natural subjects with a mixture of admiration and joy. He resided for some time at the abbey of Feschamp, where he was visited by an ambassador from the king of France, sent to congratulate his success. William, natu­rally fond of splendour, received this embassy with great state and magnificence, while his English courtiers, willing to ingratiate them­selves with their new sovereign, endeavoured to outshine each other, and made a display of riches which struck foreigners with asto­nishment. It was probably this foolish osten­tation that excited the pride of the Normans, to treat men with contempt who were appa­rently so much above them.

[Page 142]In the mean time, the absence of the Con­queror in England produced the most fatal ef­fects. His officers being no longer controlled by his justice, thought this a fit opportunity for extortion; while the English, no longer awed by his presence, thought it the happiest occa­sion for vindicating their freedom. The two governors he had left behind took all opportu­nities of oppressing the people; either desiring to provoke them into rebellion, in order to pro­fit by confiscations, or, in case they sub­mitted tamely to their impositions, to grow rich without slaughter. The inhabitants of Kent, who were more immediately exposed to these outrages, having repeated their com­plaints and remonstrances to no purpose, at length had recourse to Eustace, count of Bou­logne, who assisted them in an attack upon the garrison of Dover. But the Normans were up­on their guard, and having repulsed the assail­ants with some slaughter, took the nephew of count Eustace prisoner. This miscarriage did not deter Edric the Forester from repelling the depredations of the Normans, and, in his turn, from wasting their possessions. But though these open hostilities were not very considerable, the disaffection among the English was general, and the people began too late to perceive, that [Page 143] strength will ever give laws to justice. A secret conspiracy was therefore formed for destroying all the Normans, as the Danes had been for­merly cut off; and this was prosecuted with so much animosity, that the vassals of the earl Coxo put him to death, because he refused to head them against the invaders.

William, being informed of these commo­tions, hastened over to England, and arrived time enough to prevent the execution of this bloody enterprize. The conspirators had al­ready taken the resolution, and fixed the day, for their intended massacre, which was to be on Ash-Wednesday, during the time of divine ser­vice, when all the Normans would be unarmed, as penitents, according to the discipline of the times. But his presence quickly disconcerted all their schemes. Such of them as had been more open in their mutiny, betrayed their guilt by flight; and this served to confirm the proofs of an accusation against those who remained.

From that time forward the king began to lose all confidence in his English subjects, and to regard them as inveterate and irreconcileable enemies. He had already raised such a number of fortresses in the kingdom, that he no longer dreaded the tumultuous or transient efforts of a discontented multitude; he determined to treat [Page 144] them as a conquered nation, to indulge his own avarice, and that of his followers, by numerous confiscations, and to secure his power by hum­bling all who were able to make any resistance. The first signal of his arbitrary power was ma­nifested in renewing the odious tax of Dane­gelt, which had been abolished by Edward the Confessor. This measure produced remon­strances, complaints, and even insurrections, in different parts of the kingdom; but William, conscious of his power, marched against such as were most formidable, and soon compelled them to implore for mercy. In this manner the inhabitants of Exeter and Cornwall excited his resentment, and experienced his lenity.

A.D. 1068 But these insurrections were slight, compar­ed to that in the north, which seemed to threa­ten the most important consequences. This was excited by the intrigues of Edwin and Morcar, the two most powerful noblemen of the English race, who, joined by Blethim, prince of North Wales, Malcolm, king of Scotland, and Sweyn, king of Denmark, re­solved to make one terrible effort for the reco­very of their ancient liberties. But the vigour and celerity of William destroyed their projects before they were ripe for execution; for, ad­vancing towards them at the head a powerful [Page 145] army, by forced marches, the two earls were so intimidated, that, instead of opposing, they had recourse to the Conqueror's clemency, by submission. He did not think proper to reject their advances, but pardoned them without farther hesitation. A peace which he made with Mal­colm, king of Scotland, shortly after, seemed to deprive them of all hopes of future assistance from without.

But whatever the successes of William might have been, the inhabitants, whether English or Normans, were at that time in a most dreadful situation. All the miseries that insolence on one hand, and hatred on the other; that tyran­ny and treason, suspicion and assassination, could bring upon a people, were there united. The Normans were seen to commit continual insults upon the English, and these vainly sought redress from their partial masters. Thus, legal punishment being denied, they sought for private vengeance; and a day seldom passed, but the bodies of assassinated Normans were found in the woods and highways, without any possibility of bringing the perpetrators to jus­tice. Thus, at length, the conquerors them­selves began again to wish for the tranquillity and security of their native country; and seve­ral of them, though entrusted with great com­mands, [Page 146] desired to be dismissed the service. In order to prevent these desertions, which Wil­liam highly resented, he was obliged to allure others to stay, by the largeness of his boun­ties. These brought on fresh exactions, and new insurrections were the natural conse­quence.

The inhabitants of Northumberland, impa­tient of their yoke, attacked the Norman garri­son in Durham, and taking advantage of the governor's negligence, put him, with seven hundred of his men, to the sword. The Nor­man governor of York shared the same fate; and the insurgents, being reinforced by the Danes, and some leaders from Scotland, attack­ed the castle, which was defended by a garrison of three thousand men. Mallet, its governor, that he might the better provide for its de­fence, set fire to some houses which lay conti­guous; but the fire spreading, the whole city was quickly in flames. This proved the cause of his destruction; for the enraged inhabitants joining in the assault, entered the citadel sword in hand, and cut off the whole garrison, with­out mercy. This transient gleam of success seemed to spread a general spirit of insurrec­tion. The counties of Somerset, Dorset, Corn­wall, and Devon, united in the common cause, [Page 147] and determined to make one great effort for the recovery of their former freedom.

William, undaunted amidst this scene of con­fusion, assembled his forces, and led them to­wards the North, conscious that his presence alone would be sufficient to repress these rude efforts of unadvised indignation. According­ly, wherever he appeared, the insurgents either submitted or retired. The Danes were content to return, without committing any farther hos­tilities, into Denmark. Waltheoff, who long defended York castle, submitted to the victor's clemency, and was taken into favour. Edric, another nobleman, who commanded the North­umbrians, made his submission to the Con­queror, and obtained pardon, while the rest dispersed themselves, and left the Normans undisputed masters of the whole kingdom. Edgar Atheling, who had been drawn among the rest into this insurrection, sought a re­treat in Scotland, from the pursuit of his ene­mies. There he continued, till, by proper soli­citation, he was again taken into favour by the king. From that time he remained in Eng­land in a private station, content with opulence and security; perhaps as happy, though not so splendid, as if he had succeeded in the ca­reer of his ambition.

[Page 148]William being now acknowledged master of a people that more than once shewed re­luctance to his government, he resolved to throw off all appearance of lenity, and to inca­pacitate them from future insurrections. His first step was, to order the county of North­umberland to be laid waste, the houses to be burned, the instruments of husbandry to be destroyed, and the inhabitants to seek new ha­bitations. By this order, it is said, that above one hundred thousand persons perished, either by the sword or famine, and the country is sup­posed, even at this day, to bear the marks of its ancient depopulation. He next proceeded to confiscate all the estates of the English gen­try, and to grant them liberally to his Norman followers. Thus, all the ancient and honour­able families were reduced to beggary, and the English found themselves entirely excluded from every road that led either to honour or preferment. They had the cruel mortifica­tion to find, that all his power only tended to their depression, and that the scheme of their subjection was attended with every circumstance of insult and indignity.

He was not yet, however, sufficiently arbi­trary to change all the laws then in being, for those of his own country. He only made se­veral innovations, and ordered the law-pleas in [Page 149] the several courts to be made in the Norman language. Yet, with all his endeavours to make the French the popular language, the English still gained ground; and, what deserves remark, it had adopted much more of the French idiom for two or three reigns before, than during the whole line of the Norman kings succeeding.

The feudal law had been before introduced into England by the Saxons, but this monarch reformed it, according to the model of that practised in his native dominions. He divid­ed all the lands of England, except the royal demesne, into baronies, and conferred those, upon certain military conditions, on the most considerable of his followers. These had a power of sharing their grants to inferior tenants, who were denominated knights, or vassals, and who paid their lord the same duty that he paid the sovereign. To the first class of these baro­nies the English were not admitted; and the few who were permitted still to retain their landed property, were content to be received in the second. The Barons exercised all kinds of jurisdiction within their own manors, and held courts in which they administred justice to their own vassals. This law extended not only to the laity, but also to the bishops and clergy. [Page 150] They had usurped a power, during the Saxon succession, of being governed within them­selves, but William restrained them to the ex­ercise of their ecclesiastical power only and submitted them to a similitude of duties with the rest of their fellow subjects. This they at first regarded as a grievous imposition; but the king's authority was established, by a power that neither the clergy nor the pope could intimi­date. But, to keep the clergy as much as pos­sible in his interests, he appointed none but his own countrymen to the most considerable church-dignities, and even displaced Stigand, archbishop of Canterbury, upon some frivolous pretences. His real motive was, that such a dignity was too exalted for a native to pos­sess.

While he thus was employed in humbling the clergy, he was no less solicitous to repress many of those superstitious practices to which they had given countenance. He endeavoured to abolish trials by ordeal and camp-fight: the ordeal trial, which had been originally of pa­gan institution, and was still held in veneration by the Saxon Christians, was either by fire or water. It was used in criminal cases, where the suspicions were strong, but the proofs not evident. In that of fire, the person accused [Page 151] was brought into an open plain, and several plough-shares, heated red-hot, were placed at equal intervals before him; over these he was to walk blindfold, and if he escaped unhurt, he was acquitted of the charge. In the trial by water, the person accused was thrown, bound hand and foot, into the water: if he sunk, he was declared innocent; if he swam, he was exe­cuted, as being thus miraculously convicted. The trial by camp-fight was performed by single com­bat, in lists appointed for that purpose, between the accuser and the accused. He that, in such a case, came off victorious, was deemed inno­cent; and he that was conquered, if he surviv­ed his antagonist's resentment in the field, was sure to suffer as a malefactor some time after. Both these trials William abolished, as un­christian and unjust; and he reduced all causes to the judgment of twelve men, of a rank nearly equal to that of the prisoner. This method of trial, by jury, was common to the Saxons, as well as the Normans, long before; but it was now confirmed by him, with all the sanction of undisputed authority.

While William was thus employed,A.D. 1071 in re­warding his associates, punishing the refractory, and giving laws for the benefit of all, he was threatened with an insurrection in his domi­nions [Page 152] on the continent, which he thought his presence necessary to suppress. Unwilling, howe­ver, to draw off his Norman forces from England, he carried over a considerable army, composed al­most entirely of English; and, by those brave troops, he soon reduced the revolters to submis­sion. Thus we see a whimsical vicissitude of fortune; the inhabitants of Normandy brought over for the conquest of the English, and the English sent back to conquer the Normans. However, William had not time to enjoy his success unmolested; for accounts were quickly brought him from England, that a new conspiracy was formed, more dreadful, in be­ing supported by the joint efforts of the Normans as well as the English. The adven­turers who had followed the fortunes of Wil­liam into England, had been bred in authority and independence at home, and were ill able to endure the absolute authority which this mo­narch had for some time assumed. The dis­contents were therefore become very general among these haughty nobles, and some wanted only the opportunity of his absence to break out into open rebellion. Among the number was Roger, earl of Hereford, son and heir to Fitzos­borne, who had been the king's principal fa­vourite. This nobleman had, either by way [Page 153] of compliment to the king, or in compliance with some obligation of the feudal law, solicited William's consent to permit the marriage of his sister with Ralph de Guader, earl of Norfolk; but he was flatly refused. Nevertheless, he proceeded to solemnize the nuptials with great magnificence, assembling all his friends, and those of Guader upon the occasion. As the pa­rents of the new married couple were well ac­quainted with the character of William, whose resentment they had every reason to dread, they took the opportunity, while the com­pany was heated with wine, to introduce that as a subject of conversation. They inveighed against the severity of his go­vernment; they observed, that by means of his excessive impositions, he had taken with one hand what he had given with the other; they affected to commiserate the English, whom he had reduced to beggary; and aggravated the defects in his disposition, which they represent­ed as haughty and unforgiving. The guests were ready enough at any time to concur in their com­plaints; but now, warmed by the jollity of the entertainment, they put no bounds to their zeal. They unanimously entered into a con­spiracy to shake off his yoke; and earl Wal­theoff himself, whom we have already seen par­doned upon a former insurrection, was among [Page 154] the foremost on this occasion. But it was not without the greatest anxiety, that he reflected in his cooler intervals upon an engagement made in the ardour of intoxication, big with the most fatal consequences both to himself and his coun­try. In this state of perturbation, he had re­course to his wife, the niece of the king, and un­bosomed himself to her, as he had the most firm reliance on her fidelity. But he was deceived, for she was in love with another, and only want­ed an opportunity of getting rid of her husband at any rate. She, therefore, instantly found means to communicate the whole affair to the king, taking care to represent her husband's conduct in the most disadvantageous point of light. In the mean time, Waltheoff himself gave way to his internal remorse, and confessed the whole conspiracy to Lanfranc, who exhort­ed him, by all means, to reveal it to the king; which he was at last persuaded to do; but it was not till the whole affair had been divulged by his faithless consort. William coolly thank­ed him for his fidelity, but the former account of his perfidy sunk deep in the king's mind, and he secretly resolved to punish it.

During this interval, the conspirators being informed that Waltheoff was gone over to Normandy, justly concluded that their designs were betrayed, and flew [Page 155] to arms before their schemes were ripe for execution. The earl of Hereford was check­ed by Walter de Lacy, a great Baron, in the king's interest. The earl of Norfolk was de­feated by Odo, the king's brother; and the prisoners who were taken had each the right foot cut off, in order to deter others from a simili­tude of treason. The earl himself retired to Denmark; so that William, upon his arrival in England, found that nothing remained for him to do, but to punish the criminals, which was performed with unusual severity. Many of the rebels were hanged, some had their eyes put out, and others their hands cut off. The unfortunate Waltheoff, who had impru­dently entered into the conspiracy, but attempt­ed to atone for his fault by an early confession, found no mercy. He was rich, and he was an Englishman, two faults that served to aggra­vate his guilt; he was accordingly tried, con­demned, and executed. His infamous wife did not long enjoy the fruits of her perfidy; but falling some time after under the king's displeasure, was abandoned by the world, and passed the rest of her life in contempt, re­morse, and misery. Some assert, that this noble­man fell a sacrifice to the cruelty of Odo, not of William; but, however that may be, it is [Page 156] certain, that Waltheoff, and Fitz-Auber, a noble Norman, who was also beheaded on this occasion, were the only persons of note that were executed during the reign of William the Conqueror. Having thus re-established the peace of his government, and extinguished the last embers of rebellion with blood, William returned once more to the continent, in order to pursue Guader, who, escaping from England, had taken refuge with the count of Bretagne. Finding him, however, too powerfully protect­ed by that prince, instead of prosecuting his vengence, he wisely came to a treaty with the count, in which Guader was included.

A.D. 1076 William, having thus secured the peace of his dominions, now expected rest from his labours; and finding none either willing or powerful enough to oppose him, he hoped that the end of his reign would be marked with prosperity and peace. But such is the blind­ness of human hope, that he found enemies where he least expected them, and such too as served to embitter all the latter part of his life. His last troubles were excited by his own chil­dren, from the opposing of whom he could ex­pect to reap neither glory nor gain. He had four sons Robert, Richard, Will [...]am, and Henry, besides several daughters. Robert, his eldest [Page 157] son, surnamed Curthose, from the shortness of his legs, was a prince who inherited all the bravery of his family and nation, but was rather bold than prudent, rather enterprizing than politic. Earnest after fame, and even impatient that his father should stand in the way, he as­pired at that independence to which his tem­per, as well as some circumstances in his situa­tion, conspired to invite him. He had formerly been promised by his father the government of Maine, a province of France, which had submit­ted to William, and was also declared successor to the dukedom of Normandy. However, when he came to demand the execution of these en­gagements, he received an absolute denial; the king, shrewdly observing, that it was not his custom to throw off his cloaths till he went to bed. Robert openly declared his resentment, and was often heard to express his jealousy of his two surviving brothers, William and Henry, for Richard was killed, in hunting, by a stag. These, by greater assiduity, had wrought upon the credulity and affections of the king, and consequently were the more obnoxious to Ro­bert. A mind, therefore, so well prepared for resentment, soon found, or made a cause for an open rupture. The princes were one day in sport together, and, in the idle petu­lance of play, took it in their head to throw [Page 158] water upon their elder brother as he passed through the court, on leaving their apartment. Robert, all alive to suspicion, quickly turned this idle frolic into a studied indignity; and having these jealousies still farther enflamed by one of his favourites, he drew his sword, and ran up stairs with an intent to take revenge. The whole castle was quickly filled with tumult, and it was not without some difficulty, that the king himself was able to appease it. But he could not allay the animosity, which, from that moment, ever after prevailed in his family. Robert, attended by several of his confederates, withdrew to Rouen that very night, hoping to surprise the castle, but his design was defeated by the governor.

The flame being thus kindled, the popular character of the prince, and a sympathy of man­ners, engaged all the young nobility of Nor­mandy and Maine, as well as of Anjou and Brittany, to espouse his quarrel; even his mo­ther, it is said, supported him by secret remit­tances, and aided him in this obstinate resistance by private encouragement. This unnatural con­test continued for several years to enflame the Norman state; and William was at last obliged to have recourse to England for supporting his authority against his son. Accordingly, drawing an army of Englishmen together, he [Page 159] led them over into Normandy, where he soon compelled Robert and his adherents to quit the field, and he was quickly reinstated in all his do­minions. As for Robert, he being no longer able to resist his father, was obliged to take shelter in the castle of Gerberoy, which the king of France had provided for him, where he was shortly after besieged by his father. As the gar­rison was strong, and conscious of guilt, they made a most gallant defence; and many were the skirmishes and duels that were fought under its walls. In one of these, accident brought the king and his son together; but, being both con­cealed by their helmets, they attacked each other with mutual fury. A fierce and dreadful com­bat ensued between them, till at last the young prince wounded his father in the arm, and threw him from his horse. The next blow would, in all probability, have put an end to the king's life, had not he cried out for assistance. Robert then immediately recollected his father's voice, and at once stung with a consciousness of his crime, he leaped from his horse, and raised the fallen monarch from the ground. He then pro­strated himself in his presence, and craved par­don for his offences, promising, for the fu­ture, a strict adherence to his duty. The re­sentment harboured by the king was not so [Page 160] easily appeased; perhaps, his indignation at being overcome, added to his anger; in­stead, therefore, of pardoning his son, he gave him his malediction, and departed for his own camp on Robert's horse, which the prince had assisted him to mount. However, the conduct of the son served, after some recollection, to ap­pease the father. As soon as William was return­ed to Rouen, he became reconciled to Robert, and carried him with him into England, where he was successfully employed in retaliating an invasion of Malcolm king of Scotland.

A.D. 1081 William, being thus freed from foreign and domestic enemies, now began to have sufficient leisure for a more attentive application to the duties of peace. For this purpose, the Dooms­day Book was compiled by his order, which contains a general survey of all the lands in the kingdom; their extent in each district; their proprietors, tenures, value, the quantity of meadow, pasture, wood, and arable land, which they contained; and in some counties, the num­ber of tenants, cottagers, and people of all de­nominations, who lived upon them. This de­tail enabled him to regulate the taxations in such a manner, that all the inhabitants were compelled to bear their duties in proportion to their abilities.

[Page 161]He was no less careful of the methods of saving money, than of accumulation. He re­served a very ample revenue for the crown; and, in the general distribution of land among his followers, he kept possession of no less than four­teen hundred manors in different parts of the country. Such was his income, that it is just­ly said to have exceeded that of any English prince either before or since his time. No king of England was ever so opulent; none so able to support the splendor and magnificence of a court; none had so many places of trust and pro­fit to bestow; and none, consequently, had his commands attended with such implicit obe­dience.

There was one pleasure to which William, as well as all the Normans and ancient Saxons was addicted, which was hunting. To in­dulge this in its utmost extent, he depopulated the county of Hampshire for thirty miles, turn­ing out the inhabitants, destroying all the vil­lages, and making the wretched out-casts no compensation for such a injury. In the time of the Saxon kings, all noblemen without dis­tinction had a right to hunt in the royal fo­rests; but William appropriated all these, and published very severe laws to prohibit his sub­jects from encroaching on this part of his pre­rogative. [Page 162] The killing of a deer, a boar, or even an hare, was punished with the loss of the delin­quent's eyes; at a time, when the killing of a man might be atoned for by paying a mode­rate fine or composition.

As the king's wealth and power were so great, it may be easily supposed, that the riches of his ministers were in proportion. Those of his uterine brother Odo, bishop of Bayeux, were so great, that he resolved to purchase the Pa­pacy. For this purpose, taking the opportuni­ty of William's absence he equipped a vessel at the isle of Wight, on board of which he sent immense treasures, and prepared for his em­barkation, but he was unfortunately detained by contrary winds. In the mean time, William having had intimation of his design, resolv­ed to prevent the exportation of so much wealth from his dominions. Accordingly re­turning from Normandy, where he was then em­ployed, he came into England at the very instant his brother was stepping on board, and imme­diately ordered him to be made a prisoner. His attendants, however, respecting the immunities of the church, scrupled to execute his com­mands; so that the king himself was obliged with his own hand to seize him. Odo, discon­certed at so unexpected an intervention, ap­pealed [Page 163] to the Pope; who, he alledged, was the only person upon earth to try a bishop. To this the king replied, that he did not seize him as bishop of Bayeux, but as earl of Kent; and in that capacity he expected, and would have an account of his administration. He was, therefore, sent prisoner into Normandy; and notwithstanding all the remonstrances and threats of Gregory, he was detained in custody during the remainder of William's reign.

William had scarcely put an end to this transaction, when he felt a very severe blow in the death of Matilda, his queen; and, as misfortunes generally come together, he receiv­ed information of a general insurrection in Maine, the nobility of which had been always averse to the Norman government: upon his arrival on the continent, he found, that the in­surgents had been secretly assisted and excited by the king of France, whose policy consisted in thus lessening the Norman power, by creat­ing dissensions among the nobles of its diffe­rent provinces. William's displeasure was not a little encreased, by the account he received of some railleries which that monarch had thrown out against him. It seems, that Wil­liam, who was become corpulent, had been de­tained in bed some time by sickness; and Philip was heard to say, that he only lay in of [Page 164] a big belly. This so provoked the English monarch, that he sent him word, he would soon be up, and would at his churching present such a number of tapers, as would set the king­dom of France in a flame.

In order to perform this promise, he le­vied a strong army, and entering the isle of France, destroyed and burned all the villages and houses without opposition. He took the town of Mante, which he reduced to ashes. But the progress of these hostilities was stopped by an accident, which shortly after put an end to William's life. His horse chanc­ing to place his fore-feet on some hot ashes, plunged so violently, that the rider was thrown forward, and bruised upon the pummel of the saddle to such a degree, that he suffered a relapse, and was obliged to return to Rouen. Finding his illness encrease, and being sensible of the approach of death, he began to turn his eyes to a future state, from which the pursuit of ambition had long averted them. He was now struck with remorse for all the cruelties and depredations he had made: he endeavour­ed to atone for his former offences, by large presents to churches and monasteries, and by giving liberty to many prisoners whom he unjustly detained. He was even prevailed on, though not without reluc­tance, [Page 165] to consent, with his dying breath, to the deliverance of his brother Odo, against whom he was extremely incensed. He then bequeath­ed Normandy and Le Maine to his eldest son Robert, whom he never loved; to Henry, he left five thousand pounds, and his mother's jointure, without the smallest territory; and though he would not pretend to establish the succession of the crown of England, to which he now began to perceive that he had no title, he expressed his wish that it might devolve to his favourite son William, whom he imme­diately dispatched with letters to the archbi­shop of Canterbury, desiring his assistance. Having thus regulated his temporal affairs, he was conveyed in a litter to a little village near Rouen, where he might settle the concerns of his soul without, noise or interruption. It was there that he died, in the sixty-first year of his age, after having reigned fifty-two in Normandy, and twenty-one in England. His body was interred in the church at Caen, which he himself had founded; but his inter­ment was attended with a remarkable circum­stance. As the body was carrying to the grave, the prelates and priests attending with the most awful silence, a man, who stood upon an emi­nence, was heard to cry out with a loud voice, and to forbid the interment of the body, in a spot [Page 166] that had been unjustly seized by the con­queror. That very place, cried the man, is the area of my father's house; and I now summon the departed soul before the divine tribunal to do me justice, and to atone for so great an op­pression. The bishops and attendants were struck with the man's intrepid conduct; they enquired into the truth of his charge, and find­ing it just, agreed to satisfy him for the damages he had sustained.

William was a prince of great courage and capacity. Ambitious, politic, cruel, vin­dictive, and rapacious. He was fond of glory, and parsimonious merely for the purposes of ostentation. Though sudden and impetuous in his enterprizes, he was cool, deliberate, and indefatigable in times of danger. He is said, by the Norman writers, to be above eight feeet high, his body strong built, and well proportioned, and his strength such, that none of his courtiers could draw his bow. He talked little; he was seldom affable to any, except to Lanfranc, archbishop of Canterbury; with him, he was ever meek and gentle; with all others, stern and austere. Though he rendered himself formidable to all, and odious to many, yet he had policy sufficient to transmit his power to posterity, and the throne is still occupied by his descendants.


Hall sculp.


WILLIAM, surnamed RUFUS,A.D. 1087 from the colour of his hair, had no sooner received the late king's letter to Lanfranc, in his favour, than he hastened to take measures for securing him­self on the throne. Arriving, therefore, before the news of William's death had yet reached Eng­land, his first care was, to take possession of the treasure left by the king at Winchester, which a­mounted [Page 168] to the sum of sixty thousand pounds. He then addressed the primate, who had always considered him with an eye of peculiar affec­tion; and who now, finding the justness of his claim, instantly proceeded to the ceremony of his coronation. At the same time Robert, who had been appointed successor to Normandy, took peaceable possession of that government; where his person was loved, and his accession long desired.

In the beginning of William the Second's reign, the English began to think they had hitherto mistaken this prince's character, who had always appeared to them rude and brutal. He at first seemed to pay the utmost regard to the coun­cils of Lanfranc, the primate, which were mild and gentle, and constantly calculated for the benefit of the nation. Nevertheless, the Norman barons, who knew him better, perceiv­ed that he kept his disposition under an unna­tural restraint, and that he only waited an op­portunity for throwing off the mask when his power should be established. They were, from the beginning, displeased at the division of the empire by the late king; they eagerly desired an union as before, and looked upon Robert as the proper owner of the whole. The natu­ral disposition also of this prince was as pleasing [Page 169] to them, as that of William his brother was odious. Robert was open, generous, and hu­mane; he carried his facility to an excess, as he could scarcely find strength of mind to give any of his adherents the mortification of a re­fusal. But this was a quality no way disagree­able to those who expected to build their am­bition on the easy pliancy of his temper. A powerful conspiracy was therefore carried on against William; and Odo, the late king's bro­ther, undertook to conduct it to maturity.

William, sensible of the danger that threat­ened him on all sides, endeavoured to gain the affections of the native English, whom he pre­vailed upon, by promises of future good treat­ment, and preference in the distribution of his favours, to espouse his interests. He was soon therefore in the field; and, at the head of a nu­merous army, shewed himself in readiness to oppose all who should dispute his pretensions. In the mean time, Odo had written to Robert an account of the conspiracy in his favour, urging him to use dispatch, and exciting him, by the greatness of the danger, and the splen­dor of the reward. Robert gave him the most positive assurances of speedy assistance; but his indolence was not to be excited by distant ex­pectations. Instead of employing his money [Page 170] in levies, to support his friends in England, he squandered it away in idle expences, and un­merited benefits, so that he procrastinated his departure till the opportunity was lost; while William exerted himself with incredible acti­vity, to dissipate the confederacy before he could arrive. Nor was this difficult to effect: the conspirators had, in consequence of Robert's assurances, taken possession of some fortresses; but the appearance of the king soon reduced them to implore for mercy. He granted them their lives, but confiscated all their estates, and banished them the kingdom.

William, thus freed from all danger of insur­rection, and fixed in the peaceable possession of the kingdom, shewed the first instance of his perverse inclinations, in his ingratitude to the English, who had secured him on the throne. The death of Lanfranc, which followed shortly after, took off all restraint from his inclina­tions, and his mind now appeared in its natu­ral deformity, tyrannical, and unjust. He or­dered a new survey to be taken of all the lands and property of the kingdom; and wherever he found them undervalued in the Doom's-day-book, he raised the proportion of taxes ac­cordingly. Even the privileges of the church, which were held very sacred in those times of [Page 171] ignorance, were but a feeble rampart against his usurpations; he seized the vacant bishop­ricks, and openly put to sale such abbies as he thought proper. But, not content­ed with exerting his tyranny over his own dominions, he was resolved to extend his autho­rity over those of his brother. In consequence of this resolution, he appeared in Normandy, at the head of a numerous army; but the no­bility, on both sides, strongly connected by in­terest and alliances, brought on an accommo­dation. Among other articles of this treaty, it was agreed, that, in case either of the brothers should die without issue, the survivor should in­herit all his dominions. It was in vain that Henry, the other brother, remonstrated against this act of injustice; it was in vain that he took arms, and even defended a little fortress, on the coast of Normandy, for some time, against their united assaults. He was at last obliged to surrender; and, being despoiled of even the small patrimony that was left him, he wandered about for some years, with a few attendants, and was often reduced to great poverty.

It was in besieging this fortress, that a circum­stance or two have been related, which serve to mark the character of the two brothers. As Wil­liam was taking the air one day on horseback, at [Page 172] some distance from the camp, perceived two horsemen riding out from the castle, who soon came up and attacked him. In the very first encounter, the king's horse being killed, over­turned, and lay upon him, in such a manner that he could not disengage himself. His an­tagonist, while he remained in this situation, lifted up his arm to dispatch him; when Wil­liam exclaimed, in a menacing tone, ‘"Hold, villain, I am the king of England."’ The two soldiers were immediatly seized with veneration and awe; and, helping him up, accommodated him with one of their horses. William was not ungrateful for this service; he mounted the horse, and ordering the soldier to fol­low, took him into his service. Soon after, Robert had an occasion to shew still greater marks of generosity; for, hearing that the gar­rison was in great distress for want of water, he not only ordered that Henry should be per­mitted to supply himself, but also sent him some pipes of wine for his own table. Rufus did not at all approve of this ill-timed genero­sity; but Robert answered his remonstrances by saying, ‘"Shall we suffer our brother to die with thirst! Where shall we find another when he is gone?"’

[Page 173]The intestine and petty discords that ensued upon this accommodation between Robert and Rufus, seem scarce worthy the attention of history. They indeed produced more real calamities to the people than splendid invasions, or bloody battles, as the depredations of petty tyrants are ever more severely felt by the poor, than the magnanimous projects of ambition. A rup­ture ensued between Rufus and Malcolm, king of Scotland, in which the latter was ultimately surprized, and slain, by a party from Alnwick castle.

A new breach was made some time after be­tween the brothers,A.D. 1093 in which Rufus found means to encroach still further upon Robert's possessions. An incursion from the Welch filled the country of England with alarm; A.D. 1094 but they were quickly repelled, and obliged to find refuge in their na­tive mountains. A conspiracy of the Norman barons in England threatened serious conse­quences; but their schemes were prevented and frustrated. Robert Mowbray, earl of North­umberland, who was at the head of this plot, was thrown into prison, where he died, after thirty years confinement. The count Eu, an­other conspirator, denying the charge, fought with his accuser, in presence of the court, at Windsor, and being worsted in the combat, was [Page 174] condemned to be castrated, and to have his eyes put out. Every conspiracy, thus detected, served to enrich the king, who took care to ap­ply to his own use those treasures that had been amassed for the purpose of dethroning him.

But the memory of these transient broils, and unsuccessful treasons, were now totally eclipsed by one of the most noted enterprizes that ever adorned the annals of nations, or excited the attention of mankind. I mean the Crusades, which were now first projected. Peter the Hermit, a native of Amiens, in Picardy, was a man of great zeal, courage, and piety. He had made a pilgrimage to the holy sepulchre at Jerusalem, and beheld, with indignation, the cruel manner in which the Christians were treat­ed by the Infidels, who were in possession of that place. Unable to suppress his resentment, upon his return, he entertained the bold design of freeing the whole country from the Maho­metan yoke, and of restoring to the Christians the land where their religion was first propa­gated. He first proposed his views to Martin II. at that time pope, who permitted, rather than assisted, this bold enthusiast in his aims. Peter, therefore, warmed with a zeal that knew no bounds, began to preach the Crusade, and to excite the princes of Christendom to the re­covery [Page 175] of the Holy-land. Bare-headed, and bare-footed, he travelled from court to court, preaching as he went, and inflaming the zeal of every rank of people. The fame of this design being thus diffused, prelates, nobles, and princes, concurred in seconding it; and, at a council held at Clermont, where the pope him­self exhorted to the undertaking, the whole as­sembly cried out with one voice, as if by in­spiration, It is the will of God. It is the will of God. From that time, nothing was seen but an universal migration of the western nations into the east; men of all ranks flew to arms with the utmost alacrity, and bore the sign of the cross upon their right shoulder, as a mark of their devotion to the cause. In the midst of this uni­versal ardour that was diffused over Europe, men were not entirely forgetful of their tem­poral interests; for some, hoping a more magnificent settlement in the soft regions of Asia, sold their European property for what­ever they could obtain, contented with receiv­ing any thing for what they were predetermin­ed to relinquish. Among the princes who felt and acknowledged this general spirit of enterprize, was Robert, duke of Normandy. The Crusade was entirely adapted to his inclinations, and his circumstances; he was brave, zealous, covetous [Page 176] of glory, harrassed by insurrections, and, what was more than all, naturally fond of change. In order, therefore, to supply money to defray the necessary charges of so expensive an under­taking, he offered to mortgage his dukedom of Normandy to his brother Rufus for a stipulat­ed sum of money. This sum, which was no greater than ten thousand marks, was readily promised by Rufus, whose ambition was upon the watch to seize every advantage. He was no way solicitous about raising the money, as he knew the riches of his clergy. From them, therefore, he forced the whole; heedless of their murmurs, and aggravating his injustice by the pious pretences he made use of to cover his extortions: thus equipping his brother for his romantic expedition to the Holy-land, he, more wisely, and more safely, took peaceable possession of his dukedom at home.

In this manner was Normandy once more united to England; and from this union, af­terwards, arose those numerous wars with France, which, for whole centuries, continued to depopulate both nations, without conducing in the end to encrease the power of either. However, Rufus was not a little pleased with this acquisition; he made a voyage to his new dominion, and took possession of it for five [Page 177] year, according to agreement with his brother.A.D. 1095 He also demanded of the king of France a part of the territory of Vexin, which, he pretend­ed, was an appurtenance to his duchy, and even attempted to enforce his claims by arms. But, though the cession of Maine and Normandy greatly encreased the king's territories, they added but little to his real power, as his new subjects were composed of men of independent spirits, more ready to dispute than obey his commands. Many were the revolts and insur­rections which he was obliged to quell in per­son; and, no sooner was one conspiracy sup­pressed, than another rose to give him fresh disquietude.

In the midst of these foreign troubles, he found himself involved in a disagreeable quar­rel with Anselm, archbishop of Canterbury, a prelate of an haughty disposition, and extreme­ly tenacious of the rights of the church. There was at that time a schism in the church, be­tween Urban and Clement, who both pretend­ed to the papacy; and Anselm, who had al­ready acknowledged Urban, was determined, without the king's consent, to introduce his au­thority into England. William, who, imitat­ing his father's example, had prohibited his subjects from recognizing any pope whom he [Page 178] had not preriously approved, was enraged at Anselm's pretensions. A synod was summoned at Rockingham, for deposing the prelate; but, instead of obeying the king, the members of it declared, that none but the pope could inflict a censure on their primate. To this was soon after added a fresh offence. Anselm being re­quired to furnish his quota of soldiers, for an intended expedition against the Welsh, reluc­tantly complied; but he sent them so ill equip­ped, that Rufus threatened him with a prose­cution. As the resentments on both sides were encreased, their mutual demands were raised in proportion, till at length their anger pro­ceeded to recrimination; and Anselm, finding it dangerous to remain in the kingdom, desired permission to retire to Rome. This request the king very readily complied with; but, in order to mortify the prelate yet more, he sent an officer to search his baggage, after he was on board, and to seize all his money, on pretence of a law which forbad the exportation of sil­ver. Not content with this, he ordered all his temporalities to be confiscated, and actually kept possession of them the remaining part of his life.

This open infringement of what were then considered as rights of the church, served [Page 179] to unite the pope, as well as all the ecclesias­ticks of his own dominions, against him. Ur­ban even menaced him with the sentence of ex­communication; but he was too earnestly en­gaged in the crusade, to attend to any other business. Rufus, therefore, little regarded those censures, which he found were ineffectual; he had but very little religion at best, and the amazing infatuation of the times inspired him with no very high ideas of the wisdom of its professors. It is reported of him, that he once accepted sixty marks of a Jew, whose son had been converted to Christianity, and who en­gaged him by that present to assist in bring­ing back the youth to Judaism. William em­ployed both menaces and persuasion to that purpose; but finding his efforts ineffectual, he sent for the father, and informing him that the new convert was obstinate in his faith, he re­turned him half the money, and kept the rest for his pains. At another time, he is said to have sent for some learned Christian theolo­gians and some Jewish rabbies, and bade them▪ fairly dispute the points of their religion before him. He was perfectly indifferent, he said, which should prevail; he had his ears open to both, and he would embrace that doc­trine, which, upon comparison, should be [Page 180] found supported on the most solid argu­ments.

In this manner Rufus proceeded, careless of approbation or censure; and only intent upon extending his dominions, either by purchase or conquest. The earl of Poictiers and Guienne, en­flamed with a desire of going upon the crusade, had gathered an immense multitude for that expedition, but wanted money to forward his preparations. He had recourse, therefore, to Rufus; and offered to mortgage all his domi­nions, without much considering what would become of his unhappy subjects that he thus disposed of. The king accepted this offer with his usual avidity; and had prepared a fleet, and an army, in order to take possession of the rich provinces thus consigned to his trust. But an accident put an end to all his ambitious projects, and served to rid the world of a mer­cenary tyrant. His favourite amusement was hunting, almost the only relaxation of princes in those rude times, when the other arts of peace were but little cultivated. The New Forest was generally the scene of his sport; and there he usually spent those hours which were not employed in business of a more serious nature. One day, as he was mounting his horse, in or­der to take his customary amusement, he is [Page 181] said to have been stopped by a monk, who warned him, from some dreams he had the night before, to abstain from that day's diver­sion. Rufus, smiling at his superstition, or­dered him to be paid for his zeal, but desired him to have more favourable dreams for the future. Thus, setting forward, he began the chace, attended by Walter Tyrrel, a French knight, famous for archery, who always accom­panied him in these excursions. Towards sun­set, they found themselves separated from the rest of their retinue; and the king dismounted, either through fatigue, or in expectation of a fresh horse. Just at that instant, a stag bound­ed out before him; and Rufus, drawing his bow, wounded the animal, yet not so mortal­ly but that it fled; while he followed, in hopes of seeing it fall. As the setting sun beamed in his face, he held up his hand before his eyes, and stood in that posture; when Tyr­rel, who had been engaged in the same pursuit, let fly an arrow, which glancing from a tree, struck the king to the heart. He dropt dead instantaneously; while the innocent author of his death, terrified at the accident, put spurs to his horse, hastened to the sea-shore, embarked for France, and joined the crusade that was then setting out for Jerusalem. William's [Page 182] body, being found by some countrymen pas­sing through the forest, it was laid across an horse, and carried to Winchester, where it was, next day, interred in the cathedral, without ce­remony, or any marks of respect. Few la­mented his fate, and none of the courtiers at­tended his funeral.

A.D. 1100 It requires no great art to draw the charac­ter of a prince, whose vices were compensated by scarce one virtue. Rufus was a persidious, encroaching, and a dangerous neighbour, an un­kind and ungenerous relation, a rapacious, and yet a prodigal prince. However, there remains to this day, some monuments of his public spi­rit; the Tower, Westminster-Hall, and Lon­don-bridge, were all built by him, and are evi­dences that the treasures of government were not all expended in vain. William Rufus was slain in the thirteenth year of his reign, and about the fortieth of his age. As he never was married, he left no legitimate issue behind him; the succession, therefore, of course de­volved upon Robert, his elder brother, but he was then too distant to assert his pretensions.


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THERE were now two competitors for the crown; Robert, who had engaged in the holy war, and Henry, the youngest brother, who continued at home. Had Robert been in Normandy when William died, there is no doubt, from the popularity of his charac­ter, and from the treaty formerly concluded between the two brothers, but that he would [Page 184] have been elected without opposition. This valiant and generous prince having led his fol­lowers into Palestine, and there distinguished himself by his courage, his affable disposition, and unbounded generosity, after the taking of Jerusalem, began to think of returning home, and of enjoying in tranquillity that glory, which he had acquired in the field against the infidels. But, instead of taking the most di­rect road to England, he passed through Italy, where he became acquainted with Sibylla, daughter of count Conversana, a lady of cele­brated beauty; and, marrying her, he lavished away, in her company, those hours which should have been employed in the recovery of his kingdom.

In the mean time, Henry, who had been hunting in the New Forest when his brother was slain, took the earliest advantage of the occasion, and hastening to Winchester, resolv­ed to secure the royal treasure, which he knew to be the best assistant in seconding his aims. William de Breteuil, who had the care of the treasury, informed of the king's death, opposed himself boldly to Henry's pretensions. He ventured to assure Henry, that the money in his custody, as well as the crown, belonged to his elder brother, and that he was resolved [Page 185] to continue firm in his just allegiance. The dispute was on the point of producing blood­shed, when several of Henry's partizans arriv­ing, compelled Breteuil to surrender the trea­sure, with a part of which, they in all probabili­ty, hoped to be rewarded for their service. Being possessed of this, without losing time, he next hastened to London, where he procured him­self to be proclaimed king, and instantly pro­ceeded to the exercise of his royal dignity. The barons, as well as the people, acquiesced in a claim which they were unprovided to resist, and yielded obedience from the fears of imme­diate danger.

When ever there is a disputed throne, the people generally become umpires, and thus re­gain a part of those natural rights of which they might have been deprived. Henry easily fore­saw, that to secure his usurped title, his sub­jects were to be indulged, and that his power could only find security in their affections. His first care, therefore, was to make several con­cessions in their favour. He granted them a charter, establishing the churches in possession of all their immunities, abolishing those exces­sive fines which used to be exacted from heirs; granting his barons, and military tenants, the power of bequeathing their money by will, re­mitting [Page 186] all debts due to the crown; offering a pardon for all former offences, and promising to confirm and observe all the laws of Edward the Confessor. These concessions pleased the clergy and the people, while the king, who meant only to observe them while his power was in dispute, boasted of the lenity of his go­verment.

Still farther to ingratiate himself with the people, Henry expelled from court all the ministers of his brother's debauchery and arbi­trary power; he stripped Ralph Flambard, who had been his brother's principal favourite, and, consequently, obnoxious to the people, of his dignity, and had him confined to the Tower. But what gave him the greatest share of popularity, was his recalling Anselm, arch­bishop of Canterbury, who had been banished during the last reign, to his former dignity and his favour. One thing only remained to con­firm his claims without danger of a rival. The English still remembered their Saxon monarchs with gratitude, and beheld them excluded the throne with regret. There still remained some of the descendants of that favourite line; and, a­mong others, Matilda, the niece of Edgar Athel­ing; which lady, having declined all pretensions to royalty, was bred up in a convent, and had [Page 187] actually taken the veil. Upon her Henry first fixed his eyes as a proper consort, by whose means, the long breach between the Saxon and Norman interests would be finally united. It only remained to get over the scruple of her be­ing a nun; but this a council, devoted to his interests, readily admitted; and Matilda being pronounced free to marry, the nup­tials were celebrated with great pomp and so­lemnity.

It was at this unfavourable juncture, that Robert returned from abroad, and after tak­ing possession of his native dominions, laid his claim to the crown of England. But he was now, as in all his former attempts, too late for success. However, as he was a man of undaunt­ed resolution, he seemed resolved to dispute his pretensions to the last; and the great fame he had acquired in the East, did not a little serve to forward, his endeavours. He was also ex­cited to these resolutions by Flambard, who had escaped from the Tower; together with several others, as well of the Norman as the English nobility. Even the seamen were affected with the general popularity of his name, and revolted to him with the greatest part of a fleet that had been equipped to oppose his passage. Henry, who outwardly pretended to slight [Page 188] all these preparations, yet had penetration enough to perceive, that his subjects fluctuated in their inclinations between him and his bro­ther. In this emergency, he had recourse to the bigotry of the people, to oppose their sen­timents of justice. He paid diligent court to Anselm, whole sanctity and wisdom he pretend­ed to revere; and this prelate, in return, em­ployed all his credit in securing him on the throne. He scrupled not to assure the nobles of the king's sincerity in his professions of justice; and even rode through the ranks of the army, recommending to the soldiery the defence of their king, and promising to see their valour rewarded. Thus the people were retain­ed in their allegiance to the usurper, and the army marched chearfully forward to meet Robert and his forces, which were landed in safe­ty at Portsmouth. When the two armies came in sight, they both seemed equally unwilling to hazard a battle; and their leaders, who saw that much more would be lost than gained by such a conflict, made proposals for an accom­modation. This, after the removal of a few obstacles, was agreed to; and it was stipulat­ed, that Robert, upon the payment of a cer­tain sum, should resign his pretensions to Eng­land; and that if either of the princes died [Page 189] without issue, the other should succeed to his dominions. This treaty being ratified, the armies on each side were disbanded; and Ro­bert having lived two months in the utmost harmony with his brother, returned in peace to his own dominions.

But it was not in the power of formal trea­ties to bind up the resentment of a monarch, who knew himself injured, and found it in his power to take revenge. Henry soon shewed his resolution to punish all the heads of the party which had lately opposed him; and this he did, under different pretexts, and by re­peated prosecutions. The earl of Shrewsbury, Arnulf de Montgomery, and Roger, earl of Lancaster, were banished the kingdom, with the confiscation of their estates. Robert de Pontefract, Robert de Mallet, William de Wa­rene, and the earl of Cornwall,A.D. 1103 were treated with equal severity; so that Robert, finding his friends thus oppressed, came over to England to intercede in their behalf. Henry received him very coolly, assembled a council to deli­berate in what manner he should be treated; so that Robert finding his own liberty to be in danger, was glad to ask permission to return; which, however, was not granted him, till he consented to give up his pension.

[Page 190]But the consequences of Robert's indiscre­tion were not confined to his own safety alone; as he was totally averse to business, and only studious of the more splendid amusements or employments of life, his affairs every day be­gan to wear a worse appearance. His servants pillaged him without compunction; and he is described as lying whole days a-bed for want of cloaths, of which they had robbed him. His subjects were treated still more deplorably, for being under the command of petty and ra­pacious tyrants, who plundered them without mercy, the whole country was become a scene of violence and depredation. It was in this miserable exigence, that the Normans at length had recourse to Henry, from whose wise administration of his own dominions, they expected a similitude of prosperity, should he take the reins of theirs. Henry very readily promised to redress their grievances, as he knew it would be the direct method to second his own ambition.A.D. 1105 The year ensuing, there­fore, he landed in Normandy with a strong army, took some of the principal towns; and shewed, by the rapidity of his progress, that he meditated the entire conquest of the country.

Robert, who had already mortgaged, or gi­ven away the greatest part of his demesne, spent [Page 191] his time in the most indolent amusements, and looked upon the progress of Henry with an eye of perfect indifference. But being at last roused from his lethargy, and finding his af­fairs in a desperate situation; he took the strange resolution of appealing, in person, to Henry's natural affections, which this brave, imprudent man, estimated by the emotions of his own heart. Henry received him, not only with coolness, but contempt; and soon taught him, that no virtues will gain that man esteem who has forfeited his pretensions to prudence. Robert, thus treated with indignity, quitted his brother in a transport of rage, expressing an ardent purpose of revenge; to which, Henry paid no sort of regard.

Robert was resolved, however, to shew him­self formidable; even in the most distressed state of his circumstances. Possessed with high ideas of chivalry, which his expedition to the holy land served to heighten, he was willing to re­trieve his affairs by valour, which he had lost by indolence. Being supported by the earl of Mortaigne and Robert de Belesme, Henry's inveterate enemies, he raised an army, and ap­proached his brother's camp, with a view of finishing, by a decisive battle, the quarrel be­tween them. While the two armies were yet [Page 192] in sight of each other, some of the clergy em­ployed their mediation to bring on a treaty; but as Henry insisted upon Robert's renoun­cing the government of his dominions entirely, and one half of the revenue, all accommoda­tion was rejected with disdain, and both sides prepared for battle. Robert was now entered on that scene of action in which he chiefly glo­ried, and in which he was always known to excel. He animated his little army by his example, and led them to the encounter with that spirit which had formerly made the infi­dels tremble. There was no withstanding his first shock; that quarter of the English army where he made the impression gave way, and he was nearly on the point of gaining a com­plete victory. But it was different on that quarter where Belesme commanded; he was put to slight by one of the king's generals, who also advancing himself with a fresh body of horse to sustain his center, his whole army rallied; while Robert's forces, exhausted and broken, gave ground on every side, in spite of all his efforts and acts of personal valour. But though he now saw his army defeated, and thousands falling round him, yet he refused to find safety by flight, or turn his back upon an enemy that he still disdained. He was [Page 193] taken prisoner, with near ten thousand of his men, and all the considerable barons who had adhered to his misfortunes. This victory was followed by the final reduction of Normandy, while Henry returned in triumph to England, leading with him his captive brother, who, af­ter a life of bravery, generosity, and truth, now found himself not only deprived of his patrimony and his friends, but also of his freedom. Henry, unmindful of his bro­ther's former magnanimity with regard to him, detained him a prisoner during the re­mainder of his life, which was no less than twenty-eight years; and he died in the castle of Cardiff, in Glamorganshire. It is even said by some, that he was deprived of his sight by a red-hot copper bason applied to his eyes; while his brother attempted to stifle the re­proaches of his conscience, by founding the abbey of Reading, which was then considered as a sufficient atonement for every degree of barbarity.

The first step Henry took, after his return to England, was to reform some abuses which had crept in among his courtiers; for, as they were allowed by the feudal law to live upon the king's tenants whenever he travelled, they, un­der colour of this, committed all manner of ra­vages [Page 194] with impunity. To remedy this disor­der, he published an edict, punishing with the loss of sight all such as should, under pretext of royal authority, commit any depredations in the places through which they passed. Some disputes also concerning ecclesiastical affairs, which were supported by Anselm, the archbi­shop of Canterbury, were compromised and ad­justed. Henry was contented to resign his right of granting ecclesiastical investitures, but was allowed to receive homage from his bi­shops for all their temporal properties and privi­leges. The marriage of priests also was prohi­bited, and laymen were not allowed to marry within the seventh degree of affinity. The laity were also prohibited from wearing long hair, a mode of dress to which the clergy shew­ed the utmost aversion.

These regulations served to give employ­ment to Henry in his peaceful intervals; but the apprehensions which he had from the dis­satisfaction of his Norman subjects, and his fears for the succession, gave him but too much business to permit any long intervals of relaxa­tion. His principal concern was, to prevent his nephew, William, the son of Robert, from succeeding to the crown, in prejudice of Wil­liam, his own son, for whom he was solicitous [Page 195] to secure it. His nephew was but six years of age, when he committed him to the care of Helie de St. Saen; and this nobleman discharg­ed his trust in his education with a degree of fidelity uncommon at that barbarous period we are describing. Finding that Henry was desirous of recovering possession of his pupil's person, he withdrew, and carried him to the court of Fulk, count of Anjou, who gave him protection. This noble youth, wandering from court to court, evaded all the arts of his power­ful uncle, who was not remiss in trying every method of seizing him, either by treaty or inti­midation. In this struggle, Lewis, the king of France, took the young adventurer's part, and endeavoured to interest the pope in his quarrel. Failing in this, he endeavoured to gain, by force of arms, what his negociations could not obtain. A war ensued between him and Hen­ry, in which many slight battles were fought, but attended with no decisive consequences. In one of these, which was fought at Noyon, a city that Lewis had an intention to surprise, the valour both of the nephew and the uncle, were not a little conspicuous. This young man, who inherited all his father's bravery, charged the van of the English army with such impetuosity, that it fell back upon the main body, com­manded [Page 196] by the king in person, whose utmost efforts were unequal to the attack. Still, how­ever, exerting all his endeavours to stem the torrent of the enemy that was pouring down upon him, a Norman knight, whose name was William Crispin, discharged at his head two such furious strokes of a sabre, that his helmet was cut through, and his head severely wound­ed. At the sight of his own blood, which rushed down his visage, he was animated to a double exertion of his strength, and retorted the blow with such force, that his antagonist was brought to the ground, and taken prisoner. This decided the victory in favour of the Eng­lish, who pursued the French with great slaugh­ter; and it also served to bring on an accom­modation soon after, in which the interests of his nephew were entirely neglected. From this period,A.D. 1119 till the time of that brave youth's death, which happened about eight years af­ter, he appears to have been employed in inef­fectual struggles to gain those dominions to which he had the most just hereditary claims, but wanted power to back his pretensions.

Fortune now seemed to smile upon Henry, and promise a long succession of felicity. He was in peaceable possession of two powerful states, and had a son who was acknowledged [Page 197] undisputed heir, arrived at his eighteenth year, whom he loved most tenderly. His daughter, Matilda, was also married to the emperor Hen­ry V. of Germany, and she had been sent to that court while yet but eight years old, for her education. All his prospects, however, were at once clouded by unforeseen misfor­tunes and accidents, which tinctured his re­maining years with misery. The king, from the facility with which he usurped the crown, dreading that his family might be subverted with the same ease, took care to have his son recognized as his successor by the states of England, and carried him over to Normandy to receive the homage of the barons of that duchy. After performing this requisite cere­mony, Henry returning triumphantly to Eng­land, brought with him a numerous retinue of the chief nobility, who seemed to share in his successes. In one of the vessels of the fleet, his son, and several young noblemen, the com­panions of his pleasures, went together to render the passage more agreeable. The king set sail from Barfleur, and was soon carried by a fair wind out of sight of land. The prince was detained by some accident; and his sailors, as well as their captain Fitz Stephen, having spent the interval in drinking, became so disordered, that they ran [Page 198] the ship upon a rock, and immediately it was dashed to pieces. The prince was put into the boat, and might have escaped, had he not been called back by the cries of Maude, his natural sister. He was at first conveyed out of danger himself, but could not leave a person so dear to perish without an effort to save her. He, therefore, prevailed upon the sailors, to row back and take her in. The approach of the boat, giving several others who had been left upon the wreck, the hopes of saving their lives, numbers leaped in, and the whole went to the bottom. Above an hundred and forty young noblemen of the prin­cipal families of England and Normandy, were lost on this occasion. A butcher of Rouen was the only person on board who escaped; he clung to the mast, and was taken up the next morning by some fishermen. Fitz Stephen, the captain, while the butcher was thus buffetting the waves for his life, swam up to him, and en­quired if the prince was yet living. When, being told, that he had perished; then, I will not out-live him, said the captain, and immedi­ately sunk to the bottom. The shrieks of these unfortunate people were heard from the shore, and the noise even reached the king's ship, but the cause was then unknown. Henry entertain­ed hopes for three days, that his son had put [Page 199] into some distant port of England; but when certain intelligence of the calamity was brought him, he fainted away, and was never seen to simile from that moment to the day of his death.

The rest of this prince's life seems a mere blank, his restless desires having now nothing left worth toiling for, he appeared more fond of repose than ambition. His daughter, Matilda, however, becoming a widow by the death of the emperor, he married her a second time to Geoffry Plantagenet, eldest son of the count of Anjou, and, endeavoured to ensure her acces­sion, by obliging his barons to recognize her as the heir of all his dominions. Some time after, that princess was delivered of a son, who receiv­ed the name of Henry; and the king, farther to ensure her succession, caused all the nobility of England and Normandy to renew their for­mer oaths of allegiance. The barons of these times were ready enough to swear whatever the monarch commanded; but, it seems, they ob­served it no longer than while they were com­pelled to obey. Henry did not long survive these endeavours to secure the succession in his family. He was seized with a sudden illness at St. Denis, a little town in Normandy, from eat­ing too plentifully of lampreys, a dish he was particularly fond of. He died in the sixty-seventh [Page 200] year of his age, and the thirty-fifth of his reign,Dec. 1. 1135. leaving, by will, his daughter Ma­tilda heiress of all his dominions.

If we consider Henry's character impartially, we shall find more to admire than to love in it. It cannot be doubted, but that he was a wise and a valiant prince; and yet our hearts revolt against his success, and follow the un­fortunate Robert even to his captivity. Hen­ry's person was manly, his countenance engag­ing, his eye clear, serene, and penetrating. By his great progress in literature, he had acquired the name of Beau Clerc, or the scholar; and such was the force of his eloquence, that, after a con­ference with him, the pope is said to have given him the preference to all the other princes of Europe. He was much addicted to women, and left behind him a numerous spurious off­spring. Hunting, also, was one of his favou­rite amusements; and he is accused of aug­menting the forests which had been appropriat­ed during the former reigns for that diversion. His justice also seemed to approach cruelty; stealing was first made capital in his reign; and false coining was punished with death and mu­tilation. He first granted the city of London a charter and privileges; and, from this first con­cession, we may date the origin of English liber­ty, such as we find it at this day.


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AS every expedient was used during the life of the late king, to fix the succession in his fa­mily, he, among others, thought that the ag­grandizing his nearest relations would not be an impolitic step. He only dreaded the designs of Robert and his adherents, no way mistrust­ing any attempts from another quarter. With these views, he was very liberal in heaping [Page 202] favours upon the children of his sister Adela, who had been married to the count of Blois. He thought they would be the strongest safe­guard to protect him from the aspiring attempts of his brother, or his posterity; and he was resolv­ed to load them with favours, as being too far removed from the crown to entertain any hopes of succeeding in their designs to obtain it: in pursuance of this plan, he had, some years before his death, invited Stephen and Henry, the two youngest of his sister's sons, into England, and received them with great honour and esteem. Thinking that he could never do too much to se­cure their affections, he married Stephen to the daughter and heiress of Eustace, count of Bou­logne, who brought him an immense fortune. He conferred on him the great estate forfeited by Robert Mallet in England, and by the earl of Montaigne in Normandy. Nor was Stephen's brother, Henry, without his share in the king's liberalities. He was created abbot of Glaston­bury, and bishop of Winchester; so that the two brothers were thus become by far the most powerful subjects in the kingdom.

Such great riches, so much power, and the consciousness of abilities, were the first incen­tives to Stephen's ambition. Placed at no great distance from the throne by birth, and per­ceiving [Page 203] the success of his uncle's usurpation, he resolved to run the same career, and strike for the crown. For this purpose, even during the king's life-time, he used all his arts to pro­cure popularity, and to cultivate the affections of the English nobility. By his bravery, acti­vity, and vigour, he acquired the esteem of the barons; by his generosity and familiar address he obtained the love of the people. No sooner, therefore, was the king known to be dead, than Stephen, conscious of his own power and in­fluence, resolved to secure to himself the pos­session of what he so long desired. He immedi­ately hastened from Normandy, where he then was, and setting sail for England, landed at Do­ver. But there the citizens, apprized of his in­tent, shut their gates against him. From thence he went on to Canterbury, where he was treat­ed with like disrespect; but, passing on, he ar­rived at London, where he was immediately sa­luted king, by all the lower ranks of the people. Being thus secured of the people, his next step was to gain over the clergy; and, for that pur­pose, his brother, the bishop of Winchester, exerted all his influence among them, with good success. The archbishop of Canterbury, as he had taken the oaths of allegiance to Matilda seemed for a while to stand out; but one Hugh Bigod, [Page 204] steward of the houshold, averring upon oath that the late king had expressed his intentions to make Stephen his heir, the archbishop anointed him without farther scruple. Thus was Stephen made king, by one of those speedy revolutions which ever mark the barbarity of a state in which they are customary. The people acqui­esced in his claims from his popularity; the clergy allowed them, being influenced by the intrigues of his brother; and the nobility per­mitted a king, from the weakness of whose title they might derive power to themselves.

The first acts of an usurper are always po­pular. Stephen, in order to secure his tottering throne, passed a charter, granting several privi­leges to the different orders of the state. To the nobility, a permission to hunt in their own forests; to the clergy, a speedy filling of all vacant benefices; and to the people, a restora­tion of the laws of Edward the Confessor. To fix himself still more securely, he took posses­sion of the royal treasures at Winchester, and had his title ratified by the pope with a part of the money.

A crown thus gained by usurpation, was to be kept only by repeated concessions. The nobi­lity and the clergy, in proportion as they were in­dulged in one demand, only prepared to find out [Page 205] others. The barons, in return for their sub­mission, required the right of fortifying their castles, and putting themselves in a posture of defence; nor could the king refuse his consent to such exorbitant demands, as their opposition might be fatal. The clergy imitated the same pernicious example; and, in a short time, all England was filled with these independent fortresses, which the noble­men garrisoned with their own vassals, or with mercenary bravos hired from the continent: nothing could exceed the misery which the kingdom must have been reduced to, at that terrible period of aristocracy. Unbounded ra­pine was exercised upon the people for the maintenance of those troops; the private ani­mosities of the nobility were productive of wars in every quarter; the erection of one castle proved the immediate cause of building many more; and the whole country presented a scene of petty tyranny and hostile preparation. It was in vain that a victory,A.D. 1158 gained by the king over the Scots at Northallerton, promised to allay the murmurs of the people: their mise­ries were risen to too great a height for such brilliant successes to remove. The prince hav­ing usurped the throne without a title, was obliged to tolerate in others that injustice by which he had himself risen to the throne.

[Page 206]Yet not only real, but imaginary grievances were added, to raise the discontents of the peo­ple, and fill the country with complaints against government. The clergy, whose power had been firmly established on the ruins of the regal authority, began, in imitation of the lay barons, to build castles, and entertain garrisons, sensible that their sacred pretensions would be more implicitly obeyed, when their temporal power was sufficient to enforce them. Stephen, who now too late perceived the mischiefs attending these multiplied citadels, resolved to begin with destroying those of the clergy, whose pro­fession seemed to be averse to the duties of war. Taking, therefore, the pretence of a fray which had arisen between the retinue of the bishop of Salisbury and that of the earl of Brittany, he seized that prelate, and obliged both him and the bishop of Lincoln to deliver up their castles, which they had lately erected. This the whole body of the clergy considered as a breach of that charter which he had granted upon his accession; they loudly murmured against his infraction; and even the bishop of Winchester, his brother, resolved to vindicate the privileges of the church, which he pre­tended were openly violated. A synod was as­sembled, in which the disgraced prelates openly [Page 207] inveighed against the king. But he instead of answering their charge in person, sent one of his barons to plead his cause, and intimidate his accusers.

It was in this critical situation of Stephen's affairs, that accounts were brought him of Ma­tilda's landing in England, with a resolu­tion to dispossess him, and regain the crown. Matilda, upon the death of the late king, be­ing then in Normandy, found herself totally unable to oppose the rapid progress of her ri­val. She was not less unfortunate in her con­tinental connections than in those at home. The Norman barons, unwilling to have the union with England dissolved, almost unani­mously declared for Stephen, and put him in possession of their government; while Geoffry himself, Matilda's husband, was content to re­sign his pretensions, and to receive a pension from the English king. He had not, however, long acquiesced in this compromise, when he was incited to a renewal of his wife's claims by Robert earl of Gloucester, natural son of the late king, a nobleman who had, from the be­ginning, opposed the accession of Stephen, and only waited a fit opportunity to begin an in­surrection. This haughty baron, having at length settled with his friends the project of an [Page 208] opposition, retired to the continent, to the court of Matilda, and from thence sent the king a defiance, solemnly renouncing his allegiance. It was not long before he was in a capacity ef­fectually to second his declarations; for, sen­sible of the power of his party in England, he landed, together with Matilda, whose claims he professed to support, upon the coast of Sus­sex. The whole of Matilda's retinue, upon this occasion, amounted to no more than an hundred and forty knights, who immediately took possession of Arundel castle; but the na­ture of her claims soon encreased the number of her partizans, and her forces every day seemed to gain ground upon those of her anta­gonist.A.D. 1139 Mean time Stephen, being assured of her arrival, flew to besiege Arundel, where she had taken refuge, and where she was protected by the queen dowager, who secretly favoured her pretensions. This fortress was too feeble to promise a long defence; and it would have been soon taken, had it not been represented to the king, that, as it was a castle belonging to the queen dowager, it would be an infringe­ment on the respect which was her due, to attempt taking it by force. There was a spirit of generosity mixed with the rudeness of the times, that un­accountably prevailed in many transactions; [Page 209] Stephen permitted Matilda to come forth in safety, and had her conveyed with security to Bristol, another fortress equally strong with that from whence he permitted her to retire. It would be tedious to relate the various skir­mishes on either side, in pursuance of their re­spective pretensions; it will suffice to say, that Matilda's forces encreased every day, while her antagonist seemed every hour to become more unpopular. The troops Stephen led were, in general, foreign mercenaries, commanded by tu­multuous barons, more accustomed to pillage than to conquer. But, in this fluctuation of success, the kingdom was exposed to ruin, which ever side pretended to victory. The castles of the nobility were become receptacles for licensed robbers, who gave their rapine the name of attachment to party. The land was left untilled, the instruments of husbandry were destroyed or abandoned, and a terrible famine, the result of general disorder, oppressed at once the spoiled and the spoilers.

After the misery of numberless undecisive conflicts, added to the rest of the country's ca­lamities, a complete victory, gained by the forces of Matilda, promised to terminate their disputes. Stephen had marched his forces to relieve the city of Lincoln; the earl of Glou­cester [Page 210] led a body of troops to second the efforts of the besiegers.A.D. 1141 These two armies engaged within sight of the city, and a dreadful conflict ensued. After a violent shock, the two wings of Stephen's army, which were composed of horse, were put to flight; and the infantry soon following the example, deserted their king. All the race of the Norman conqueror were brave. Stephen was for some time left with­out attendants, and fought on foot in the midst of his enemies, assaulted by multitudes, and resisting all their efforts, with astonishing intre­pidity. Being hemmed in on every side, he made way for some time with his battle-ax; but that breaking, he drew out his sword and dealt his blows round the circle in which he was en­closed. At length, after performing more than could be naturally expected from a single arm, his sword flying in pieces, he was obliged to surrender himself a prisoner. He was con­ducted to Gloucester; and though at first treated with respect, he was soon after, on some suspicions, thrown into prison and laid in irons.

Stephen and his party now seemed totally disabled. Matilda was possessed not only of su­perior power, but also the juster title. She was considered as incontestible sovereign, and the ba­rons [Page 211] came in daily from all quarters to do her ho­mage. The bishop of Winchester himself, who had espoused her cause against his brother, admit­ted her claims; he led her in procession into his cathedral, and blessed her with the greatest so­lemnity; the archbishop of Canterbury also swore allegiance; and shortly after an ecclesias­tical council, at which none of the laity assist­ed, except deputies from the city of London, confirmed her pretensions; and she was crown­ed at Winchester with all imaginable solem­nity.

A crown thus every way secured,A.D. 1141 seemed liable to be shaken by no accidents; yet such is the vanity of human security, and such was the great encrease of power among the barons, who were in effect masters of those they nomi­nally elected as governors, that Matilda re­mained but a short time in possession of the throne. This princess, beside the disadvan­tages of her sex, which weakened her influence over a martial people, was resolved upon re­pressing the growing power of the nobles, who had left only the shadow of authority to their sovereign. But having neither temper, nor policy sufficient to carry her views into execu­tion, she disgusted those by her pride, to whom she was obliged for her power. The first [Page 212] petition she refused, was the releasement of Stephen; she rejected the remonstrance of the Londoners, who intreated her to mitigate the severe laws of the Norman princes, and revive those of Edward the Confessor. She affected to treat the nobility with a degree of disdain, to which they had long been unaccustomed; while the fickle nation once more began to pity their deposed king, and to repent the steps they had taken in her favour. The bishop of Winchester, who probably was never her sin­cere partizan, was not remiss in fomenting these discontents; and when he found the people ripe for a tumult, detached a party of his friends and vassals to block up the city of London, where the queen then resided. At the same time, measures were taken to insti­gate the Londoners to a revolt, and to seize her person. Matilda having timely notice of this conspiracy, fled to Winchester, whither the bishop, still her secret enemy followed her, watching an opportunity to ruin her cause. His party was soon sufficiently strong to bid the queen open defiance; and to besiege her in the very place, where she first received his benediction. There she continued for some time, but the town being pressed by famine she was obliged to escape, while her brother the [Page 213] earl of Gloucester endeavouring to follow, was taken prisoner, and exchanged for Stephen, who still continued a captive. Thus a sudden revolution once more took place; Matilda was deposed and obliged to seek for safety in Ox­ford. Stephen was again recognized as king, and taken from his dungeon to be placed on the throne!

The civil war now broke out afresh, with all its train of devastations. Many were the battles fought, and various the stratagems of those who conducted the affairs of either party. Matilda escaped from Oxford at a time when the fields were covered with snow, by being dressed all in white, with four knights her at­tendants, habited in the same manner. Ste­phen was upon another occasion surprised by the earl of Gloucester at Wilton; and obliged to find safety by flight. Another time the em­press was obliged to quit the kingdom; and the death of the earl of Gloucester soon after, who was the soul of her party, gave a dreadful blow to her interests.

Yet still the affairs of Stephen continued to fluctuate. Though this monarch had the good fortune to see his rival fly to the continent, and leave him entire possession of the kingdom; though his brother was possessed of the highest [Page 214] authority among the clergy, yet he was still insecure. Finding that the castles built by the noblemen of his own party encou­raged a spirit of independence, and were lit­tle less dangerous than those which remained in the hands of the enemy, he endeavoured to gain these; and this attempt united many of his own adherents against him. This discon­tent was encreased by the opposition of the clergy, who, from having been on his side, be­gan to declare loudly in favour of his oppo­nents. The pope laid his whole party under an interdict, for his having refused to send deputies, to be named by himself, to the gene­ral council at Rheims. By this sentence, which was now first practised in England, di­vine service was prohibited, and all the offices of religion ceased, except baptism and extreme unction. This state of Stephen's affairs looked so unpromising, that a revolution was once more expected, when his submission to the see of Rome for a while suspended the threatened blow.

Stephen had hitherto been opposed only by men who seconded the pretensions of an­other; and who consequently wanted that po­pularity, which those have who fight their own cause. But he was now to enter the lists with a new opposer, who was every day com­ing [Page 215] to maturity, and growing more formida­ble. This was Henry the son of Matilda,A.D. 1149 who had now reached his sixteenth year; and gave the greatest hopes of being one day a valiant leader and a consummate politician. It was usual in those days for young noblemen to re­ceive the honour of knighthood before they were permitted to carry arms; and Henry pro­posed to receive his admission from his great uncle, David, king of Scotland. With this view, and in hopes of once more inspiring his mother's party, he landed in England with a great retinue of knights and soldiers, accompanied by many noblemen, as well English as foreigners. The ceremony was performed by the Scotch king at Carlisle, amidst a multitude of people assembled on this occasion, who all, pleased with the vigour, the address, and still more perhaps with the youth of the prince, secretly began to wish for a revo­lution in his favour. Soon after his return to Normandy, he was by his mother's consent, invested with that duchy▪ which had some time before revoked to her. He was also, upon the death of his father Geoffry Plantage­net, secured in the possession of his dominions; and to add still more to his increasing power, he married Eleanor the daughter and heiress [Page 216] of the duke of Guienne and Poitou; and took possession of these extensive territories.

With this great accession of power, young Henry was now resolved to reclaim his here­ditary kingdom; and to dispute once more Stephen's usurped pretensions. For this pur­pose, being previously assured of the disposi­tions of the majority of the people in his favour, he made an invasion on England,A.D. 1153 where he was immediately joined by almost all the barons of the kingdom. Though it was now the middle of winter, he advanced to besiege Malmsbury; and took the town, after having worsted a body of the enemy that attempted to oppose his march. Soon after Reading, and above thirty other fortresses, submitted without resistance.

In the mean time Stephen, alarmed at the power and popularity of his young rival, tried every method to anticipate the purpose of his invasion, by depriving him of a succes­sion he so earnestly sought after. He had con­voked a council in London, where he pro­posed his own son Eustace, who was but a weak prince, as his associate in government, as well as his successor. He had even expressed a desire of immediately proceeding to the coro­nation; but was mortified to find, that the archbishop of Canterbury refused to perform [Page 217] the ceremony. It was then no time to prose­cute his resentment, when his rival was land­ed, and making hasty strides to the throne; wherefore finding that Henry was advancing with a rapid progress, he marched with all possible diligence to oppose him, where he was besieging Wallingford; and coming in fight, he rested his army to prepare for battle. In this situation the two-armies remained for some time, within a quarter of a mile of each other, a decisive action being every day expected. While they continued thus in anxious expecta­tion, a treaty was set on foot by the interposi­tion of William, earl of Arundel, for termina­ting the dispute without blood. The death of Stephen's son, which happened during the course of the treaty, facilitated its conclusion. It was therefore agreed by all parties, that Ste­phen should reign during life; and that justice should be administered in his name. That Henry should, on Stephen's death, succeed to the king­dom; and William, Stephen's son, should in­herit Boulogne and his patrimonial estate. After all the barons had sworn to this treaty, which filled the whole kingdom with joy, Henry eva­cuated England; and Stephen returned to the peaceable enjoyment of his throne. His reign,Oct. 25, 1154. however, was soon after terminated by his death, [Page 218] which happened about a year after the treaty, at Canterbury, where he was interred.

The fortune of many princes gives them, with posterity, the reputation of wisdom and virtue: Stephen wanted success in all his schemes but that of ascending the throne; and consequently his virtues and abilities now remain doubtful. If we estimate them by the happiness of his subjects, they will appear in a very despicable light; for England was never more miserable than during his reign: but if we consider them as they ap­pear in his private conduct, few monarchs can boast more. Active, generous, and brave, his sole aim was to destroy a vile aristrocacy, that then oppressed the people; but the abilities of no man, however politic or intrepid, were then sufficient to resist an evil, that was too firmly supported by power. The faults therefore of this monarch's reign are entirely to be imput­ed to the ungovernable spirit of the people, but his virtues were his own.


Hall sculp.


WE have hitherto seen the barons and clergy becoming powerful, in proportion to the weakness of the monarch's title to the crown, and enriching themselves with the spoils of enfeebled majesty. Henry Plantagenet had now every right, both from hereditary succes­sion, from universal assent, from power, and personal merit, to make sure of the throne, [Page 220] and to keep its prerogatives unimpaired. He was employed in besieging a castle of one of his mutinous barons upon the continent, when news was brought him of Stephen's death; but, sensible of the security of his claims in England, he would not relinquish his enter­prize till he had reduced the place. He then set out on his journey, and was received in England with the acclamations of all the peo­ple; who, harrassed with supporting opposite pretensions, were now rejoiced to see all parties united.

The first act of Henry's government gave the people an happy omen of his future wise administration. Conscious of his strength, he began to correct those abuses, and to resume those privileges, which had been extorted from the weakness or the credulity of his prede­cessors. He immediately dismissed all those mercenary soldiers, who committed infinite disorders in the nation. He ordered all the castles, which were erected since the death of Henry the first, and were become receptacles of rapine, to be demolished, except a few, which he retained in his own hands for the protection of the kingdom. The adulterated coin was cried down, and new money struck of the right value and standard. He resumed many [Page 221] of those benefactions which had been made to churches and monasteries in the former reigns. He gave charters to several towns, by which the citizens claimed their freedom and privi­leges, independent of any superior but him­self. These charters were the groundwork of English liberty. The struggles which had be­fore this time been, whether the king or the barons, or the clergy, should be despotic over the people, now began to assume a new aspect; and a fourth order, namely, that of the more opulent of the people, began to claim a share in administration. Thus was the feudal go­vernment at first impaired; and liberty began to be more equally diffused throughout the nation.

From this happy commencement, England once more began to respire; agriculture re­turned with security; and every individual seemed to enjoy the happy effects of the young king's wise administration. Not but that some slight commotions proceeded from many of the depressed barons, who were quickly brought to a sense of their duty; as also from the Welsh, who made several incursions; but these were at last obliged to make submission, and to return to their natural fortresses. But to such a state of tranquillity was the whole king­dom [Page 222] brought in a very short time, that Henry thought his presence no longer necessary to preserve order at home; and therefore made an expedition to the continent, where his affairs were in some disorder.

As the transactions of the continent do not pro­perly fall within the limits of this scanty page, it will be sufficient to say, that Henry's valour and prudence seconding his ambition, he soon ex­tended his power in that part of his domi­nions; and found himself, either by mar­riage, or hereditary claims, master of a third part of the French monarchy. He became master, in right of his father, of Anjou, Touraine, and Maine; in that of his mother, of Normandy; in that of his wife, of Gui­enne, Poictou, Xaintonge, Auvergne, Peri­gord, Angumois, and the Limousin; to which he shortly after added Brittany, by marrying his son, who was yet a child, to the heiress of that dukedom, who was yet a child also; and thus securing that province, under pretence of being his son's guardian. It was in vain that Lewis, the king of France, opposed his grow­ing power; and several ineffectual engage­ments served to prove, that little was to be ac­quired by force. A cessation of arms, there­fore, was at first concluded between them; [Page 223] and soon after a peace, which was brought about by the pope's mediation.

Henry being thus become the most powerful prince of his age,A.D. 1161 the undisputed monarch of England, possessed of more than a third of France, and having humbled the barons that would circumscribe his power, he might natu­rally be expected to reign with very little oppo­sition for the future. But it happened otherwise. He found the severest mortifications from a quarter, where he least expected resistance. Though he had diminished the power of the barons, he was sensible that the temporal in­fluence of the clergy was still gaining ground; and was grown to such a pitch, as would shortly annihilate the authority of the sovereign himself.

They now seemed resolved not only to be exempted from the ordinary taxes of the state, but to be secured from its punishments also. They had extorted an immunity from all but ecclesiastical penalties, during the last distracted reign; and they continued to main­tain that grant in the present. It may easily be supposed, that a law which thus screened their guilt, contributed to encrease it; and we accordingly find upon record, not less than an hundred murders committed by men in holy [Page 224] orders, in the short period since the king's accession, not one of which was punished, not so much as with degradation; while the bishops themselves seemed to glory in this hor­rid indulgence.

The mild character, and advanced age, of Theobald, archbishop of Canterbury, toge­ther with his merits, in refusing to put the crown on the head of Eustace, the son of Ste­phen, prevented Henry, during his life-time, from any attempts to repress the vices of his clergy; but after his death, he resolved to ex­ert himself with more activity. For this purpose, and that he might be secure against any opposition, he advanced to that dignity Thomas à Becket, on whose compliance he supposed he could entirely depend.

The famous Thomas à Becket, the first man of English extraction, who had, since the Norman conquest, risen to any share of power, was the son of a citizen of London. Having received his early education in the schools of that metropolis, he resided some time at Pa­ris; and on his return became clerk in the sheriff's office. In that station he was recom­mended to the archbishop of Canterbury, and behaved with so much prudence, that he obtained from that prelate some beneficial dig­nities [Page 225] in the church. Thomas, however, was not contented with moderate preferment; and resolved to fit himself for an higher station in life, by travelling into Italy, where he stu­died the civil law at Bologna. On his return, he appeared to have made so great a proficiency in knowledge, that he was promoted by his patron to the archdeaconry of Canterbury, an office of considerable trust and profit. On the accession of Henry to the throne, he was recommended to that monarch as worthy of greater preferment; and the king finding, on farther acquaintance, that his spirit and abili­ties entitled him to the highest trusts, he soon promoted him to the dignity of chancellor, one of the first civil offices in the kingdom. Preferments were now heaped upon him with­out number. He was made provost of Be­verly, dean of Hastings, and constable of the Tower. He was put in possession of the ho­nours of Eye and Berkham; and, to com­plete his grandeur, he was entrusted with the education of prince Henry, son and heir to the king. His revenues were immense; his expences were incredible. He kept open ta­ble for persons of all ranks. The most costly luxuries were provided for his entertainments. The pomp of his retinue, the sumptuousness [Page 226] of his furniture, and the munificence of his presents corresponded with the greatness of his preferments. His apartments exhibited an odd mixture of the rudeness of the times, and the splendour of his station; they glit­tered with gold and silver-plate, and yet were covered with hay or clean straw in winter, and with green bows or rushes in summer, for the ease of his guests to recline on. A great num­ber of knights were retained in his service, and the greatest barons were fond of being received at his table; the king himself fre­quently condescended to partake of his enter­tainments. He employed two and fifty clerks in keeping accounts of the vacant prelacies, and his own ecclesiastical preferments. When he crossed the sea, he was always attended with five ships; and in an embassy to Paris, he appeared with a thousand persons in his re­tinue, displaying such wealth as amazed the spectators. As he was but in deacons orders, he declined few of the amusements then in fashion. He diverted himself in hawking, hunting, chess-playing, and tilting; at which he was so expert, that even the most approved knights dreaded his encounter. His fami­liarity with the king is ascertained, by a story told of their happening to meet a beggar-man, [Page 227] as they were riding together through London. Would it not be right, says the king, casting his eyes upon a poor wretch that was shiver­ing with cold, to cloath that man in this se­vere season? Certainly, replied his chancel­lor; and you do right in considering his cala­mity. If so then, cried the king, he shall have a coat instantly; and without more de­lay, he began to pull off the chancellor's coat with violence. The chancellor defended him­self for some time; but after a struggle, in which they had both like to have fallen to the ground, he gave up his coat, and the king gave it to the beggar, who, ignorant of the quality of his benefactors, was not a little surprized with his good fortune. Thus great, and intimate, was Becket while yet but chancellor; but when, contrary to the advice of Matilda, he was promoted still higher to the archbishopric of Canterbury, his whole conduct took a new turn. No sooner was he fixed in this high station, which rendered him for life the second person in the kingdom, than he endeavoured to retrieve the character of sanctity, which his former levities might have appeared to oppose. Without consult­ing his master's pleasure, he sent him the seals of his office as lord-chancellor, pretending [Page 228] that he was henceforth to be employed in mat­ters of a more sacred nature. Though he still retained the pomp and splendor of his re­tinue, he was in his own person the most mor­tified man that could be seen. He wore sack­cloth next his skin. He changed it so sel­dom, that it was filled with dirt and vermin. His usual diet was bread, his drink, water; which he rendered further unpalatable, by the mixture of unsavoury herbs. His back was mangled with the frequent discipline. He every day washed on his knees the feet of thirteen beggars. Every one that made pro­fession of sanctity was admitted to his conver­sation; and his aspect wore the appearance of mortification and secret sorrow. To these mortifications he sacrificed all the comforts of life; and it would be unjust to suppose but that he thought these mortifications really me­ritorious.

Henry now saw, when it was too late, the ambitious superiority which Becker aimed at. His resignation of the chancellor's office served to raise his suspicions, how much he was mis­taken in the pliancy of Becket's disposition; but he was soon after convinced, when this churchman, now made archbishop, began to re­vive some antient claims to several church-lands, [Page 229] that had lain dormant ever since the Conquest. Henry, indeed, prevailed upon him to desist from one or two of these claims; but he found for the future that he was to expect, in the seemingly easy Becket, a most obstinate and turbulent opposer to all his schemes of hum­bling the clergy.

Notwithstanding this unexpected opposition, Henry was resolved to try every expedient to rectify the errors that had crept in among the clergy, who, under a pretence of independ­ence upon secular power, were grown most abominably licentious. During the preceding reign, a great number of idle and illiterate persons, in order to enjoy the indulgence of their vices, had entered into holy orders; for the bishops seldom rejected any that presented. These having no benefices, and belonging to no diocese, and consequently subject to no juris­diction, committed the most flagrant enormi­ties with impunity. Among other inventions of the clergy to obtain money, that of selling pardons was introduced, and had become a revenue to the priests. These, and such like grievances, bore hard upon the peo­ple; who were at the same time taught, that their only remedy was implicit submission. A prince of Henry's excellent penetration easily [Page 230] pierced through the mist of ignorance in which the age was involved; and resolved, by a bold struggle, to free the laity from these cle­rical usurpations. An opportunity soon offered, that gave him a popular pretext for beginning his intended reformation. A man in holy or­ders had debauched the daughter of a gentle­man in Worcestershire; and then murdered the father, to prevent the effects of his resentment. The atrociousness of the crime produced a spirit of indignation among the people; and the king insisted that the assassin should be tried by the civil magistrate. This Becket opposed, al­ledging the privileges of the church; and or­dered the criminal to be confined in the bi­shops prison, lest he should be seized by the officers of the king. It was to no purpose that the king desired he might be tried first by an ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and then deli­vered up to the secular tribunal. Becket as­serted that it was unjust to try a man twice for the same offence; and appealed for the equity of his opinions to the court of Rome. This, however, was the time for Henry to make his boldest attack upon the immu­nities of the church; when, to defend itself it must also espouse the cause of the most atrocious of criminals. He therefore sum­moned [Page 231] an assembly of all the prelates in Eng­land, and desired that the murderer should be delivered over to the hands of justice, and a law made to punish such delinquents for the future. Becket retired with the prelates to deliberate; but as he guided in the assembly, they entrenched themselves behind the papal decrees, and they refused to give up their pri­soner. Henry, willing to bring them to an open absurdity, demanded, whether they were willing or not to submit to the ancient laws and customs of the kingdom? To this they replied with equal art, that they were willing, except where their own order was concerned. The king, provoked past bearing by this eva­sive answer, instantly quitted the assembly; and sent Becket orders to surrender the ho­nours and castles which he continued to hold, in consequence of having been chancellor. These being surrendered, the prelate quitted London, without taking the least notice of the assembly.

Labouring for some time under the uncer­tainty of the king's displeasure, Becket was soon after induced to give way, and to pro­mise his majesty, without reserve, a steady ob­servance of the ancient laws and customs of the kingdom. This was the disposition which [Page 232] the king wished to retain him in; and he therefore summoned a general council of the nobility and prelates at Clarendon, to whom he submitted this great and important affair, and desired their concurrence. These coun­cils seem, at that time, convened rather to give authenticity to the king's decrees, than to enact laws that were to bind their posterity. A number of regulations were there drawn up, which were afterwards well known under the title of the Constitutions of Clarendon, and were then voted without opposition. By these regulations it was enacted, that clergy­men accused of any crime should be tried in the civil courts; that laymen should not be tried in the spiritual courts, except by legal and reputable witnesses; that the king should ultimately judge in ecclesiastical and spiritual appeals; that the archbishops and bishops should be regarded as barons, and obliged to furnish the public supplies as usual with persons of their rank; that the goods forfeited by the king should not be protected in churches, or church-yards, by the clergy; and that the sons of villains should not take orders without the consent of their lord. These, with some others of less consequence, or implied in the above, to the number of sixteen, were readily [Page 233] subscribed by all the bishops present; and Becket himself, who at first shewed some re­luctance, added his name to the number. It only remained that the pope should ra­tify them; but there Henry was mistaken. Alexander, who was then pope,A.D. 1164 condemned them in the strongest terms, abrogated, an­nulled, and rejected them; out of sixteen he admitted only six, which he thought not im­portant enough to deserve censure.

How Henry could suppose the pope would give consent to these articles, which must infallibly have destroyed his whole authority in the king­dom, is not easy to conceive; but we may well suppose, that a man of Becket's character must be extremely mortified at finding that he had signed what the pope had refused to confirm. Accordingly, on this occasion, he expressed the deepest sorrow for his former concessions. He redoubled his austerities, in order to punish himself for his criminal compliance; and re­fused to perform at the altar, till he had ob­tained absolution from his holiness. All these mortifications appeared to Henry as little more than specious insults upon himself; his former affection was converted into hatred, and the breach between him and the archbi­shop every day grew wider. At last, willing [Page 234] to supersede the prelate's authority at any rate, he desired that the pope would send a legate into his dominions; who, from the nature of his commission might have a superior controul. This the pope readily granted; and a legate was appointed, but with a clause annexed to his commission, that he was to execute no­thing in prejudice of the archbishop. An authority thus clogged in that very part where it was desired to be unlimited, was no way agreeable to the king; and he sent back the commission with great indignation. He now, therefore went another way to wreak his resentment upon Becket. He had him sued for some lands, which were part of a ma­nor belonging to his primacy; and the primate being detained by sickness from coming into court, his non-attendance was construed into disrespect. A great council was summoned at Northampton, where Becket defended his cause in person; but he was condemned as guilty of a contempt of the king's court, and as wanting in that fealty which he had sworn to his sovereign. All his goods and chattels were confiscated; and the bishop of Winchester was obliged to pronounce the sentence against him. Besides this conviction, the king exhi­bited another charge against him for three hun­dred [Page 235] pounds which he had levied on the honours of Eye and Barkham, while he remained in possession. Becket, rather than aggravate the king's resentment, agreed to give sureties for the payment. The next day, another suit was commenced against him for a thousand marks, which the king had lent him on some former occasion. Immediately on the back of these, a third claim was made, still greater than the for­mer. This was to give an account of the money he had received, and expended, during the time of his chancellorship. The estimate was laid at no less than forty thousand marks; and Becket was wholly unprovided either of the means of balancing his accounts, or of securities for an­swering so great a demand. In this exigence, his friends were divided what counsel to give. Some prelates advised him to resign his see, in hopes of an acquittal; some counselled him to throw himself entirely upon the king's mercy; and some to offer ten thousand marks as a ge­neral satisfaction for all demands. Becket fol­lowed none of these opinions; but with an intrepidity peculiar to himself, arraying himself in his episcopal vestments, and with the cross in his hand, he went forward to the king's palace, and entering the royal apartments, sate down, holding up the cross as his ban­ner [Page 236] of protection. The king, who sate in an inner room, ordered by proclamation the pre­lates and the nobility to attend him; to whom he complained loudly of Becket's insolence and in­flammatory proceedings. The whole council join­ed in condemning this instance of his unaccount­able pride; and determined to expostulate with him upon his inconsistency, in formerly subscrib­ing the Constitutions of Clarendon, and now in being the first to infringe them. But all their mes­sages, threats, and arguments were to no pur­pose; Becket had taken his resolution, and it was now too late to attempt to shake it. He put himself, in the most solemn manner, under the protection of the supreme pontiff; and appealed to him against any penalty which his iniquitous judges might think proper to in­flict. Then, departing the palace, he asked the king's immediate permission to leave Northampton; and upon receiving a refufal, he secretly withdrew in disguise, and at last found means to cross over to the continent.

Here it may be natural to enquire, how a person of such mean extraction should be able to form any kind of opposition to so powerful a monarch as Henry? But the state was then, as it was for some ages after, composed of three distinct powers, [Page 237] all pursuing separate interests, and very little dependent upon each other. These were, that of the king, that of the barons, and that of the clergy; for as yet the people had scarce any influence, separately considered. Of these three powers, the most recent was that of the clergy; which, wanting the sanction of prescriptive right, endeavoured to make up those defects by their superior arts of popularity. They therefore attached the people, who had hitherto been considered as unworthy of notice in the constitution, to their party; and thus gained an acquisition of strength, that was often too powerful for the other two members of the state. The king being but a single person, could have no wide connections among the lower orders of mankind; the nobles being bred up in an haughty independence, were taught to regard the inferior ranks as slaves; the clergy alone, by their duty, being obliged to converse with the lowest as well as the highest orders, were most loved by the populace; who, since they were at any rate to be slaves, were the more willing to obey men who conversed with them, and who seemed to study their welfare, than such as kept them at an humiliating distance, and only regarded them as the instruments of their [Page 238] private ambition. For these reasons therefore, during the times we speak of, the side of the clergy was always espoused by the people; and Becket, upon the present occasion, secretly relied on their encouragement and support.

The intrepidity of Becket, joined to his ap­parent sanctity, gained him a very favourable reception upon the continent, both from the people and their governors. The king of France, who hated Henry, very much affected to pity his condition; and the pope, whose cause he had so strenuously defended, honoured him with the greatest marks of distinction, while he treated Henry's ambassadors with coolness and contempt. Becket, sensible of his power, was willing to shew all possible hu­mility; and even resigned his see of Canter­bury into the pope's hands, in order to receive it back from him with greater solemnity; and with an investiture of more apparent sanctity. Such favours bestowed upon an exile, and a perjured traitor, for such had been his sen­tence of condemnation in England, excited the indignation of Henry beyond measure. He saw his ambassadors slighted, all his endeavours to procure a conference with the pope frustrat­ed, and his subjects daily excited to discon­tents, in consequence of the king's severity to a [Page 239] sanctified character. In this state of resentment, Henry resolved to throw off all dependence upon the pontiff at once; and to free himself, and his people, from a burthen that had long oppressed them without pity. He according­ly issued orders to his justiciaries, inhibiting, under severe penalties, all appeals to the pope or the archbishop; and forbidding any of them to receive mandates from them, or to apply to their authority. He declared it treasonable, to bring over from either of them any interdict upon the kingdom. This he made punishable in secular clergymen by the loss of their and by castration, in regulars by the ampu­tation of their feet, and in laymen by death.

The pope and the archbishop were not re­miss on their side to retort these fulminations, and to shake the very foundation of the king's authority. Becket compared himself to Christ, who had been condemned by a lay tribunal; and who was crucified a-new in the present op­pressions under which the church laboured.

But he did not rest in complaints only. He issued out a censure, excommunicating the king's chief ministers by name, all that were concerned in sequestring the revenues of his see, and all who obeyed or savoured the Con­stitutions of Clarendon. He even threatened [Page 240] to excommunicate the king himself, if he did not immediately repent; and to give his cen­sures the greater energy, he got them to be ra­tified by the pope.

Whatever Henry's contempt of these ful­minations might be in the beginning, he, af­ter some deliberation, began to find them more formidable than he had supposed, and secretly wished for an accommodation. Yet there seemed no other way for terminating these dis­putes, but by the king's appealing to the pope, as umpire between him and the arch­bishop, and this promised no very favourable decision. However, perceiving that his au­thority was beginning to decline among his subjects, and that his rivals on the continent had actually availed themselves of his perplex­ities, he resolved at any rate to apply to the pope for his mediation.A.D. 1167 The pope, on the other hand, was every day threatened himself by the machinations of an antipope. He was apprehensive that the king of England might join against him; he knew his great abilities, and was sensible that as yet no insurrection had been made in consequence of the threats and exhorta­tions of Becket. Thus the disposition of both par­ties produced frequent attempts towards an ac­commodaion; but the mutual jealousies that each bore [Page 241] of the other, and their anxiety not to lose the least advantage in the negotiation, often pro­tracted this desirable treaty. At one time the terms being agreed on, were postponed by the king's refusing to sign; but with a salvo to his royal dignity. At another time they were accommodated, but broke off by Becket's re­fusing to submit; but with a salvo to the ho­nour of God. A third and a fourth negotia­tion succeeded without effect. In this last, all the terms were completely adjusted, when Becket took it into his head to demand a kiss of peace. This the king refused to grant; and both parties once more prepared for mu­tual annoyance.

These disturbances continued for some time longer; Becket never losing an opportunity of impeaching the king's ministers, and obstruct­ing all his measures. At length, however, by the mediation of the pope's legate, all diffi­culties were adjusted; and while the king al­lowed Becket to return, that prelate consented to wave the kiss of peace. The ceremonial of the interview being regulated, when the arch­bishop approached, the king advanced to meet him in the most gracious manner; and conversed with him for some time, with great ease, familiarity, and kindness. All material [Page 242] points being adjusted, Becket attended Henry on horseback; and as they rode together, the prelate begged some satisfaction for the inva­sions of his right by the archbishop of York, who had some time before crowned the young prince. To this Henry replied, that what was past could not be undone; but that he would take care that none but he should crown the young queen, which ceremony was soon to be performed. Becket, transported at this instance of the king's condescension, alighted instantly, and threw himself at the feet of his sovereign, who, leaping from his horse at the same time, lifted him from the ground, and helped him to remount. The terms of their pre­sent agreement were very advantageous to the prelate; and this might have inspired him in the ardour of his gratitude to such an humiliation. It was agreed, that he should not give up any of the rights of the church, or resign any of those pretensions, which had been the original ground of the quarrel; that Becket and his ad­herents should be restored to their livings; and that all the possessors of such benefices be­longing to the see of Canterbury, as had been installed since the primate's absence, should be expelled, and Becket have liberty to supply the vacancies. In return for these concessions, [Page 243] the king only reaped the advantage of seeing his ministers absolved from the sentence of ex­communication, and of preventing an inter­dict, which was preparing to be laid upon all his dominions.

Becket having thus, in some measure, tri­umphed over the king, was resolved to remit nothing of the power which he had acquired. He soon began to shew, that not even a tem­porary tranquillity was to be the result of his reconciliation. Nothing could exceed the in­solence with which he conducted himself upon his first landing in England. Instead of re­tiring quietly to his diocese, with that modesty which became a man just pardoned by his king, he made a progress through Kent, in all the splendor and magnificence of a sove­reign pontiff. As he approached Southwark, the clergy, the laity, men of all ranks and ages, came forth to meet him, and celebrated his triumphal entry with hymns of joy. Thus, confident of the voice and the hearts of the people, he began to launch forth his thunders against those who had been his former oppo­sers. The archbishop of York, who had crowned Henry's eldest son in his absence, was the first against whom he denounced sentence of suspension. The bishops of London and [Page 244] Salisbury he actually excommunicated. Ro­bert de Broc, and Nigel de Sackville, were exposed to the same censures; and many of the most considerable prelates and ministers, who had assisted at the late coronation of the young prince, were partakers in the common calamity. One man he excommunicated for having spoken against him; and another, for having cut off the tail of one of his horses.

Henry was then in Normandy, while the primate was thus triumphantly parading thro' the kingdom; and it was not without the ut­most indignation that he received information of his turbulent insolence. When the sus­pended and excommunicated prelates arrived with their complaints, his anger knew no bounds. He broke forth into the most acrimo­nious expressions against that arrogant church­man, whom he had raised from the lowest station, to be the plague of his life, and the continual disturber of his government. The archbishop of York remarked to him, that so long as Becket lived, he could never expect to enjoy peace or tranquillity; and the king himself burst out into an exclamation, that he had no friends about him, or he would not so long have been exposed to the insults of that ungrateful hypocrite. These words excited [Page 245] the attention of the whole court; and armed four of his most resolute attendants to gratify their monarch's secret inclinations. The names of these knights and gentlemen of his houshold, were Reginal Fitz-Urse, William de Tracy, Hugh de Moreville, and Richard Brito, who immediately communicated their thoughts to each other. They instantly bound themselves by an oath to revenge their king's quarrel; and secretly retiring from court, took shipping at different ports, and met the next day at the castle of Saltwode, within six miles of Can­terbury. Some menacing expressions which they had dropt, and their sudden departure, gave the king reason to suspect their design. He therefore sent messengers to overtake and forbid them, in his name, to commit any vio­lence; but these orders arrived too late to pre­vent their fatal purpose. The conspirators being joined by some assistants at the place of their meeting, proceeded to Canterbury with all that haste their bloody intentions required. Advancing directly to Becket's house, and en­tering his apartment, they reproached him very fiercely for the rashness and the insolence of his conduct; as if they had been willing to enjoy his terrors before they destroyed him. Becket, however, was not in the least terri­fied; [Page 246] but vindicated his actions with that zeal and resolution, which nothing probably but the consciousness of his innocence could in­spire. The conspirators felt the force of his replies; and were particularly enraged at a charge of ingratitude, which he objected to three of them, who had been formerly retained in his service. During this altercation, the time approached for Becket to assist at vespers, whither he went unguarded, the conspirators following, and preparing for their attempt. As soon as he had reached the altar, where it is just to think he aspired at the glory of mar­tyrdom, they all fell upon him; and having cloven his head with repeated blows, he dropt down dead before the altar of St. Benedict, which was besmeared with his blood and brains.

The circumstances of the murder, the place where it was perpetrated, and the fortitude with which the prelate resigned himself to his fate, made a most surprizing impression on the people. No sooner was his death known, than they rushed into the church to see the body; and dipping their hands in his blood, crossed themselves with it, as with that of a saint. The clergy, whose interest it was to have Becket considered as a saint, and per­haps [Page 247] who were real in their belief, considering the times we treat of, did all that lay in their power to magnify his sanctity, to extol the merits of his martyrdom, and to hold him out as the fittest object of the veneration of the people. Their endeavours soon prevailed. In­numerable were the miracles said to be wrought at his tomb; for when the people are brought to see a miracle, they generally find or make one. It was not sufficient that his shrine had the power of restoring dead men to life; it restored also cows, dogs, and horses. It was reported, and believed, that he rose from his coffin before he was buried, to light the tapers designed for his funeral: nor was he remiss, when the funeral ceremony was over, in stretching forth his hands to give his bene­diction to the people. Thus Becket became a saint; and the king was strongly suspected of procuring his assassination.

Nothing could exceed the king's consterna­tion upon receiving the first news of this pre­late's catastrophe. He was instantly sensible that the murder would be ultimately imputed to him. He was apprized that his death would effect what his opposition could not do; and would procure those advantages to the church, which it had been the study of his whole reign [Page 248] to refuse. These considerations gave him the most unfeigned concern. He shut himself up in darkness, refusing even the attendance of his domestics. He even refused, during three days, all nourishment. The courtiers dread­ing the effects of his regret, were at last obliged to break into his solitude; and induced him at last to be reconciled to a measure that he could not redress. The pope soon after be­ing made sensible of the king's innocence, granted him his pardon; but upon condition that he would make every future submission, and perform every injunction that the holy see should require. All things being thus ad­justed, the assassins who had murdered Becket, retired in safety to the enjoyment of their former dignities and honours; and the king, in order to divert the minds of the people to a different object, undertook an expedition against Ireland.

Ireland was at that time in pretty much the same situation that England had been, after the first invasion of the Saxons. They had been early converted to Christianity; and, for three or four centuries after, possessed a very large proportion of the learning of the times; being undisturbed by foreign invasions, and perhaps too poor to invite the rapacity of con­querors, [Page 249] they enjoyed a peaceful life, which they gave up to piety, and such learning as was then thought necessary to promote it. Of their learning, their arts, their piety, and even their polished manners, too many monuments remain to this day for us to make the least doubt concerning them; but it is equally true, that in time they fell from these advantages; and their degenerate posterity, at the time we are now speaking of, were wrapt in the darkest barbarity. This may be imputed to the fre­quent invasions which they suffered from the Danes, who over-ran the whole country, and every where spread their ravages, and con­firmed their authority. The natives, kept in the strictest bondage, grew every day more ignorant and brutal; and when at last they rose upon their conquerors, and totally expelled them the island, they wanted instructors to re­store them to their former attainments. From thence they continued in the most deplorable state of barbarism. The towns that had been formerly built were suffered to fall into ruin; the inhabitants exercised pasture in the open country, and sought protection from danger by retiring into their forests and bogs. Al­most all sense of religion was extinguished; the petty princes exercised continual outrages [Page 250] upon each others territories; and nothing but strength alone was able to procure redress.

At the time when Henry first planned the invasion of the island, it was divided into five principalities, namely, Leinster, Meath, Mun­ster, Ulster, and Connaught; each governed by its respective monarch. As it had been usual for one or other of those to take the lead in their wars, he was denominated sole monarch of the kingdom, and possessed of a power re­sembling that of the early Saxon monarchs in England. Roderic O Connor, king of Con­naught, was then advanced to this dignity, and Dermot M' Morrogh was king of Leinster. This last named prince, a weak licentious tyrant, had carried off and ravished the daughter of the king of Meath, who being strengthened by the alliance of the king of Connaught, invaded the ravisher's dominions and expelled him from his kingdom. This prince, thus justly punish­ed, had recourse to Henry, who was at that time at Guienne; and offered to hold his king­dom of the English crown, in case he recovered it by the king's assistance. Henry readily ac­cepted the offer; but being at that time embarrassed by more near interests, he only gave Dermot letters patent, by which he em­powered all his subjects to aid the Irish prince [Page 251] in the recovery of his dominions. Dermot, re­lying on this authority, returned to Bristol, where, after some difficulty he formed a treaty with Richard, sur-named Strongbow, earl of Pembroke, who agreed to re-instate him in his dominions, upon condition of his being married to his daughter Eva, and declared heir of all his territory. He at the same time con­tracted for succours with Robert Fitzstephen, and Maurice Fitzgerald, whom he promised to gratify with the city of Wexford, and the two adjoining districts which were then in pos­sesion of the Easterlings. Being thus assured of assistance, he returned privately to Ireland, and concealed himself during the winter in the monastery of Ferns, which he had founded. Robert Fitzstephens was first able,A.D. 1172 the ensuing spring, to fulfil his engagements, by landing with an hundred and thirty knights, sixty es­quires, and three hundred archers. They were soon after joined by Maurice Pendergast, who, about the same time, brought over ten knights and sixty archers; and with this small body of forces they resolved on besieging Wexford, which was to be theirs by treaty. This town was quickly reduced; and the adventu­rers being reinforced by another body of men to the amount of an hundred and fifty, [Page 252] under the command of Maurice Fitzgerald, composed an army that struck the barbarous natives with awe. Roderic the chief monarch of the island, ventured to oppose them, but he was defeated; and soon after the prince of Ossory was obliged to submit, and give host­ages for his future conduct.

Dermot being thus re-instated in his here­ditary dominions, soon began to conceive hopes of extending the limits of his power, and making himself master of Ireland. With these views, he endeavoured to expedite Strong­bow; who, being personally prohibited by the king, was not yet come over. Dermot tried to enflame his ambition by the glory of the conquest, and his avarice by the advantages it would procure, he expatiated on the cowardice of the natives, and the certainty of his success. Strongbow first sent over Raymond, one of his retinue, with ten knights and seventy arch­ers; and receiving permission shortly after for himself, he landed with two hundred horse and an hundred archers. All these English forces, now joining together became irresist­ible; and though the whole number did not amount to a thousand, yet, such was the bar­barous state of the natives, that they were every where put to the rout. The city of [Page 253] Waterford quickly surrendered; Dublin was taken by assault; and Strongbow, soon after marrying Eva according to treaty, became master of the kingdom of Leinster upon Der­mot's decease.

The island being thus in a manner wholly subdued, for nothing was capable of op­posing the further progress of the English arms, Henry became jealous of their success, and was willing to share in person those honours, which the adventurers had already secured. He therefore shortly after, landed in Ireland at the head of five hundred knights and some soldiers; not so much to conquer a disputed territory, as to take possession of a subject king­dom. In his progress through the country, he received the homage of the petty chieftains as he went along, and left most of them in pos­session of their ancient territories. In a place so uncultivated, and so ill peopled, there was still land enough to satisfy the adventurers who had followed him. Strongbow was made senes­chal of Ireland, Hugh de Lacy was made go­vernor of Dublin, and John de Courcy receiv­ed a patent for conquering the province of Ulster, which had as yet remained unsubdued. The Irish bishops very gladly admitted the English, as they expected from their superior [Page 254] civilization, a greater degree of reverence and respect. Pope Adrian, who had, in the beginning, encouraged Henry to subdue the Irish, by his bull, granting him the kingdom, now confirmed him in his conquest, and the kings of England were acknowledged as lords over Ireland for ever. Thus, after a trifling effort, in which very little money was expend­ed, and little blood shed, that beautiful island became an appendage to the English crown, and as such it has ever since continued, with unshaken fidelity.

The joy which this conquest diffused was very great; and Henry seemed now to have attain­ed the summit of his utmost wishes. He was now undisputed monarch of the greatest do­main in Europe; father of a numerous pro­geny, that gave both lustre and authority to his crown; victorious over all his enemies, and chearfully obeyed by all his subjects. Henry, his eldest son, had been anointed king, and was ac­knowledged as undoubted successor; Richard, his second son, was invested with the duchy of Guienne and Poitou; Geoffry, his third son, in­herited, in right of his wife, the duchy of Brit­tany; and John, his youngest, was designed as king in Ireland. Such was the flattering prospect of grandeur before him; but such is [Page 255] the instability of human happiness, that this very exaltation of his family, proved the means of embittering his future life, and disturbing his government.

Among the few vices ascribed to this mo­narch, unlimited gallantry was one. Queen Eleanor, whom he had married from motives of ambition, and who had been divorced from her former royal consort for her incontinence, was long become disagreeable to Henry; and he sought in others, those satisfactions he could not find with her. Among the number of his mistresses we have the name of Fair Rosa­mond, whose personal charms, and whose death, make so conspicuous a figure in the romances and the ballads of the time. It is true, that the severity of criticism has rejected most of these accounts as fabulous; but even well-known fables, when much celebrated, make a part of the history, at least of the man­ners of the age. Rosamond Clifford is said to have been the most beautiful woman that was ever seen in England, if what ro­mances and poets assert be true. Henry loved her with a long and faithful attachment; and in order to secure her from the resentment of his queen, who, from having been formerly incontinent herself, now became jealous of his [Page 256] incontinence, he concealed her in a labyrinth in Woodstock Park, where he passed in her company his hours of vacancy and pleasure. How long this secret intercourse continued is not told us; but it was not so closely concealed but that it came to the queen's knowledge, who, as the accounts add, being guided by a clew of silk to her fair rival's retreat, obliged her, by holding a drawn dagger to her breast, to swallow poison. Whatever may be the veracity of this story, certain it is, that this haughty woman, though formerly offensive by her own gallantries, was now no less so by her jealousy; and she it was who first sowed the seeds of dissension between the king and his children.

Young Henry was taught to believe himself injured; when upon being crowned as partner in the kingdom, he was not admitted into a share of the administration. This prince had, from the beginning, shewn a degree of pride that seems to have been hereditary to all the Nor­man succession: when the ceremony of his coronation was performing, the king, willing to give it all the splendour possible, waited upon him at table; and while he offered him the cup observed, that no prince ever before had been so magnificently attended. There is no­thing very extraordinary, replied the young [Page 257] prince, in seeing the son of a count serving the son of a king. From this instance, nothing seemed great enough to satisfy his ambition; and he took the first opportunity to assert his aspiring pretensions. The discontent of young Henry was soon followed by that of Geoffry and Richard, whom the queen persuaded to as­sert their title to the territories assigned them; and upon the king's refusing their undutiful demands, they all fled secretly to the court of France, where Lewis, who was instrumental in encreasing their disobedience, gave them coun­tenance and protection. Queen Eleanor her­self was meditating an escape to the same court, and had put on man's apparel for that purpose, when she was seized by the king's order and put into confinement. Thus Henry saw all his long perspective of future hap­piness totally clouded; his sons, scarce yet ar­rived at manhood, eager to share the spoils of their father's possessions; his queen warmly encouraging those undutiful princes in their rebellion, and many potentates of Europe not ashamed to lend them assistance to support their pretensions. Nor was his prospects much more pleasing when he looked among his sub­jects: his licentious barons, disgusted with a vigilant government, desired to be governed by [Page 258] princes whom they could flatter or intimidate: the clergy had not yet forgot Becket's death; and the people considered him as a saint and a martyr. In this universal disaffection, Henry supported that intrepidity which he had shown through life, and prepared for a contest from which he could expect to reap neither profit nor glory. Twenty thousand mercenary soldiers, joined to some troops which he brought over from Ireland, and a few barons of approved fidelity, formed the sole force with which he proposed to resist his opponents.

It was not long before the young princes had sufficient influence upon the continent to raise a powerful confederacy in their favour. Be­side the king of France, Philip count of Flan­ders, Matthew count of Bologne, Theobald count of Blois, and Henry count of Eu, all declared themselves in their interests. Wil­liam, king of Scotland, also made one of this association, and a plan was concerted for a ge­neral invasion of Henry's extensive dominions. This was shortly after put into execution. The king's continental dominions were invaded on one side, by the counts of Flanders and Bou­logne; on the other by the king of France, with a large army, which the young English princes animated by their presence and popularity. But [Page 259] Henry found means to oppose them on every quarter: the count of Boulogne, being mortally wounded in the assault of the town of Drincourt,A.D. 1173 his death stopped the progress of the Flemish arms on that side. The French army being oblig­ed to retire from the siege of Verneuil, Henry attacked their rear, put them to the rout, and took several prisoners. The barons of Brit­tany also, who had risen in favour of the young princes, shared no better fate; their army was defeated in the field, and, taking shelter in the town of Dol, were there made prisoners of war. These successes repressed the pride and the expectations of the confe­derated forces, and a conference was demand­ed by the French king, to which Henry readily agreed. In this interview, he had the mortification to see his three sons, ranged on the side of his mortal and inveterate ene­my; but he was still more disappointed to find that their demands rose with their incapacity to obtain them by compulsion.

While Henry was thus quelling the inso­lence of his foreign enemies, his English sub­jects were in no small danger of revolting from their obedience at home. The nobility were in general united to oppose him; and an irruption at this time by the king of Scotland, [Page 260] assisted their schemes of insurrection. The earl of Leicester, at the head of a body of Flemmings, invaded Suffolk, but were repulsed with great slaughter. The earl of Ferrars, Roger de Mowbray, and many others of equal dignity, rose in arms; while, the more to aug­ment the confusion, the king of Scotland broke into the northern provinces with an army of eighty thousand men, which laid the whole country into one extensive scene of desolation. Henry, from baffling his enemies in France, flew over to oppose those in England; but his long dissention with Becket still was remem­bered against him, and it was his interest to persuade the clergy, as well as the people, that he was no way accessory to his murder. All the world now began to think the dead prelate a saint; and if we consider the ignorance of the times, perhaps Henry himself thought so too. He had some time before taken proper precautions to exculpate himself to the pope, and given him the most solemn promises to perform whatever penances the church should inflict. He had engaged the Christmas following to take the cross; and, if the pope insisted on it, to serve three years against the infidels, either in Spain or Palestine; and promised not to stop appeals to the holy see. These concessions seemed to [Page 261] satisfy the court of Rome for that time; but they were, nevertheless, every day putting Henry in mind of his promise, and demand­ing those humiliations for his offences to the saint, that could alone reconcile him to the church. He now, therefore, found it the most proper conjuncture to obey, and, knowing the influence of superstition over the minds of the people, and perhaps apprehensive that a part of his troubles arose from the displeasure of heaven, he resolved to do penance at the shrine of St. Thomas of Canterbury, for that was the name given to Becket upon his canonization. As soon as he came within sight of the church of Canterbury, alighting from his horse, he walked barefoot towards the town, prostrated himself before the shrine of the saint, re­mained in fasting and prayer a whole day, watched all night the holy relics, made a grant of fifty pounds a year to the convent, for a constant supply of tapers to illuminate the shrine; and, not satisfied with these submissions, he assembled a chapter of monks, disrobed be­fore them, put a scourge of discipline into each of their hands, and presented his bare shoulders to their infliction. Next day he re­ceived absolution; and departing for London, received the agreeable news of a victory over [Page 262] the Scots, obtained on the very day of his ab­solution.

Having thus made his peace with the church, and brought over the minds of the people, he fought upon surer grounds; every victory he obtained was imputed to the favour of the re­conciled saint, and every success thus tended to ascertain the growing confidence of his party. The victory which was gained over the Scots was signal and decisive. William, their king, after having committed the most horrible de­predations upon the northern frontiers, had thought proper to retreat upon the advance of an English army, commanded by Ralph de Glanville, the famous English lawyer. As he had fixed his station at Alnwick, he thought himself perfectly secure, from the remoteness of the enemy, against any attack. In this however he was deceived; for Glanville, informed of his situation, made an hasty and fatiguing march to the place of his encampment, and ap­proached it very nearly during the obscurity of a mist. The Scotch, who continued in per­fect security, were surprized in the morning to find themselves attacked by the enemy, which they thought at such a distance; and their king venturing with a small body of an hundred horse to oppose the assailants, was [Page 263] quickly surrounded and taken prisoner. His troops hearing of his disaster, fled on all sides with the utmost precipitation, and made the best of their way to their own country.

From that time Henry's affairs began to wear a better aspect; the barons, who had re­volted or were preparing for a revolt, made in­stant submission, they delivered up their castles to the victor, and England in a few weeks was restored to perfect tranquility. Young Henry, who was ready to embark with a large army, to second the efforts of the English in­surgents, finding all disturbances quieted at home, abandoned all thoughts of the expedi­tion. Lewis attempted in vain to besiege Rou­en, which Henry hastened over to succour. A cessation of arms and a conference was once more agreed upon by the two monarchs. Henry granted his sons much less advantageous terms than they formerly refused to accept: the most material, were some pensions for their support, some castles for their residence, and an indemnity to all their adherents. Thus Eng­land once more emerged from the numerous calamities that threatened to overwhelm it, and the king was now left at free liberty to make various provisions for the glory, the happiness, and the security of his people.

[Page 264]His first care was to make his prisoner, the king of Scots, undergo a proper punishment for his unmerited and ungenerous attack. That prince was content to sign a treaty, by which he was compelled to do homage to Henry for his dominions in Scotland. It was agreed, that his barons and bishops also should do the same; and that the fortresses of Edinburgh, Stirling, Berwick, Roxborough, and Jedbo­rough, should be delivered into the hands of the conqueror till the articles were performed. This treaty was punctually and rigorously exe­cuted; the king, barons, and prelates of Scot­land did homage to Henry in the cathedral of York; so that he might now be considered as the monarch of the whole island, the moun­tainous parts of Wales only excepted.

His domestic regulations were as wife as his political conduct was splendid. He enacted severe penalties against robbery, murder, false coining, and burning of houses; ordaining that these crimes should be punished by the amputa­tion of the right-hand and right-foot. The or­deal trial by water, though it still subsisted, was yet so far weakened, as that if a person who came off in this scrutiny were legally convicted by creditable testimony, he should neverthe­less suffer banishment. He partitioned out the [Page 265] kingdom into four divisions; and appointed itinerant justices to go their respective circuits to try causes, to restrain the cruelties of the barons, and to protect the lower ranks of the people in security. He renewed the trial by ju­ries, which, by the barbarous method of camp-fight, was almost grown obsolete. He demo­lished all the new-erected castles that had been built in the times of anarchy and general con­fusion; and, to secure the kingdom more ef­fectually against any threatened invasion, he established a well-armed militia, which, with proper accoutrements, specified in the act, were to defend the realm upon any emergency.

But it was not in the power of wisdom to conciliate the turbulent and ambitious spirits of his sons, who, not contented with rebel­ling against their father, now warmly prose­cuted their enmities against each other. Rich­ard,A.D. 1180 whom Henry had made master of Gui­enne, and who had already displayed great marks of valour in humbling his mutinous barons, refused to obey his father's orders in doing homage to his elder brother for that duchy. Young Henry and Geoffry, uniting their arms, carried war into their brother's dominions; and while the king was endea­vouring to compose their differences, he found [Page 266] himself secretly conspired against by all. What the result of this conspiracy might be, is uncertain; for it was defeated by the death of young Henry, who died in the twenty-sixth year of his age, of a fever, at Martel, not with­out the deepest remorse for his undutiful conduct towards his father.

A.D. 1183 As this prince left no posterity, Richard was become heir in his room; and he soon discovered the same ardent ambition that had misled his elder brother. He refused to obey his father's commands in giving up Guienne, which he had been put in possession of; and even made preparations to attack his brother Geoffry, who was possessed of Brittany. No sooner was this breach made up, at the inter­cession of the queen, than Geoffry broke out into violence, and demanded Anjou to be an­nexed to his dominions of Brittany. This being refused him, he followed the old undu­tiful method of procuring redress, fled to the court of France, and prepared to levy an army against his father. Henry was freed from the danger that threatened him on that quarter, by the affliction of his son's death, who was killed in a tournament at Paris. The loss of this prince gave few, except the king himself, any uneasiness, as he was universally hated, and [Page 267] went among the people under the opprobious name of The Child of Perdition.

But the death of the prince did not wholly remove the cause of his revolt; for Philip, the king of France, disputed his title to the wardship of Arthur, the son of Geoffry, who was now become duke of Brittany, upon the death of his father. Some other causes of dissension enflamed the dispute between the two monarchs. Philip had once more de­bauched Richard from his duty; and insisted upon his marriage being completed with Ade­lais, the sister of France; and threatened to enforce his pretensions by a formidable inva­sion. In consequence of this claim, another conference was held between Gisors and Trie, the usual place of meeting, under a vast elm, that is said to have shaded more than an acre. It was in the midst of this conference upon their mutual rights, that a new object of in­terest was offered to their consideration; and that quickly bore down all secular considera­tions before it. The archbishop of Tyre ap­peared before the assembly in the most miser­able habit, and with looks calculated to in­spire compassion. He had come from the Holy Land, and had seen the oppression of the Christians, who were appointed to defend [Page 268] the Holy Sepulchre, and was a witness of the triumph of the infidels. He painted the distresses of those champions of the cross in the most pa­thetic manner; he deplored their bravery and their misfortunes. The Christians, about a century before, had attacked and taken Jerusalem; but the Saracens recovered courage after the first torrent of success was past, and being every day reinforced by fresh supplies, at last conquered by perseverance a land of warriors, who, in common, preferring celibacy to mar­riage, had not multiplied in the ordinary me­thods of population. The holy city itself was soon re-taken by the victorious arms of Saladin; and all Palestine, except a few ma­ritime towns, was entirely subdued. Nothing now therefore remained of those boasted con­quests, that had raised the glory, and enflamed the zeal of the western world; and nothing was to be seen, of what near a century before had em­ployed the efforts of all the noblest spirits of Eu­rope to acquire. The western Christians were astonished at receiving this dismal intelligence; the whole audience burst into tears; the two kings laid aside their animosity, and agreed to convert their whole attention to the rescuing Jerusalem from the hands of the infidels. They instantly therefore took the cross; many of [Page 269] their most considerable vassals imitated their example; and as the emperor Frederic I. en­tered into the same confederacy, it was univer­sally expected that nothing could resist their united endeavours. But it was the fate of Henry to be crossed in his most darling pursuits by his undutiful and ungrateful children.

Richard, who had long wished to have all the glory of such an expedition to himself, and who could not bear to have even his father a partner in his victories, entered into a confe­deracy with the king of France, who promised to confirm him in those wishes, at which he so ardently aspired. He therefore began by mak­ing an inroad into the territories of the count of Thoulouse, a vassal to the king of France; and this monarch, in order to retaliate, carried war into the provinces of Berri and Auvergne. Henry, who was apprized of their secret confe­deracy, nevertheless attempted to make depre­dations in turn upon the dominions of the French king. Conferences were proposed, attended, and dismissed. At length, Henry found himself obliged to give up all hopes of taking the cross, and compelled to enter upon a war with France and his eldest son, who were unnaturally lea­gued against him. He now saw the confe­deracy daily gaining ground. Ferte Ber­nard [Page 270] fell first into the hands of the enemy; Mans was next taken by assault; Amboise, Chaumont, and Chatteau de Loire, opened their gates upon the enemies appearance; Tours was invested; and the king, who had retired to Saumur, and had daily instances of the cowardice and infidelity of his governors, expected the most dismal issue of all his en­terprizes. While he was in this state of de­spondency, the duke of Burgundy, the count of Flanders, and archbishop of Rheims, in­terposed their good offices; and at last a treaty was concluded, in which he submitted to many mortifying concessions. It was agreed that Richard should marry the princess Ade­lais, and be crowned king of England during the life-time of his father. It was stipulated, that Henry should pay twenty thousand marks to the king of France, as a compensation for the charges of the war; that his own barons should engage to make him observe this treaty; and in case of violating it, to join Philip and Richard against him; and that all his vassals who espoused the cause of Richard, should re­ceive an indemnity for the offence. These were terms sufficiently humiliating to a prince accustomed to give, not receive, commands; but what was his resentment, when, upon de­manding [Page 271] a list of the barons that were to be thus pardoned, he found his son John, his fa­vourite child, among the number. He had long borne an infirm state of body with calm resignation; he had seen his children rebel without much emotion; he saw his own son his conqueror, himself bereft of his power, re­duced to the condition of a fugitive, and al­most suppliant, in his old age; and all this he endured with tranquillity of temper: but when he saw that child, whose interests always lay next his heart, among the number of those who were in rebellion against him, he could no longer contain his indignation. He broke out into expressions of the utmost despair; cursed the day in which he had received his miserable being; and bestowed on his ungrate­ful children a malediction, which he never af­ter could be prevailed upon to retract. The more his heart was disposed to friendship and affection, the more he resented this barbarous return; and now, not having one corner in his heart where he could look for comfort, or fly for refuge from his conflicting passions, he lost all his former vivacity. A lingering fever, caused by a broken heart, soon after terminated his life and his miseries. He died at the castle of Chinon, near Saumur.

[Page 272]His corpse was conveyed by his natural son Geoffry, who of all his children behaved with duty, to the nunnery of Fontevrault; and next day, while it lay in the abbey-church, Rich­ard chancing to enter, was struck with horror at the sight. At his approach, the blood was seen to gush out at the mouth and nostrils of the corpse; and this which, without doubt, was accidental, was interpreted by the super­stition of the times, as the most dreadful re­buke. Richard could not endure the sight. He exclaimed, that he was his father's mur­derer; and expressed a strong, though late, sense of that undutiful conduct, which brought his parent to an untimely grave.

A.D. 1189 Thus died Henry, in the fifty eighth year of his age, and the thirty-fifth of his reign; in the course of which he displayed all the abilities of a politician, all the sagacity of a legislator, and all the magnanimity of an hero. He was of a middle stature, strong and well proportioned, his countenance was lively and engaging; his conversation affable and enter­taining; his elocution easy, persuasive, and ever at command. When he could enjoy lei­sure, he recreated himself, either in learned conversation or reading, and he cultivated his natural talents by study above any prince of his [Page 273] time. During his reign, all foreign improve­ments in literature and politeness, in laws and arts, seem to have been, in a good measure, trans­planted into England. The little learning of the Saxon priests, which was confined to church history, and legendary tales, was now exchanged for the subtleties of school-philosophy. The homely manners of the great were softened by the pomps of chivalry. The people, how­ever, were as yet far from being civilized; and even in their cities, where the social arts were best cultivated, there were amazing in­stances of barbarity. It was common, for in­stance, in London, for great numbers, to the amount of an hundred, or more, of the sons and relations of eminent citizens, to form themselves into a confederacy to plunder and rob their more wealthy neighbours. By these crimes it was become so dangerous to walk the streets at night, that the citizens, af­ter dark, were obliged to continue within doors. A band of these ruffians had one day attacked the house of a rich citizen, with an intention to plunder it. They had already broke through a stone wall with hammers and wedges; and were actually entering the house sword in hand, when the citizen, in compleat armour, supported by his servants, appeared [Page 274] in the passage to oppose them. He cut off the right hand of the first robber that entered; and made such a noble resistance, that his neighbours had time to assemble, and come to his relief. The man who lost his hand was caught; and was tempted by the promise of a pardon to reveal his confederates, among whom was one John Senex, esteemed among the richest and the best born citizens of London. He was convicted by the ordeal trial; and though he offered five hundred marks for his life, the king refused the money, and ordered him to be hanged.

Henry left only two legitimate sons, Rich­ard who succeeded him; and John, who inhe­rited no territory, and therefore received the surname of Lackland. He left three legiti­mate daughters, Maud, who was married to the duke of Saxony, Eleanor married to Al­phonso, king of Castile, and Joan, to William, king of Sicily. He left two natural sons by Rosamond; Richard Longsword, who was af­terwards married to the daughter, and heiress, of the earl of Salisbury; and Geoffry, who was afterwards archbishop of York.


Hall sculp.


RICHARD, who succeeded to the throne without opposition, seemed resolved to discou­rage future disobedience, by dismissing from his service all those who had assisted him in his former undutiful conduct. Those who had seconded his rebellion, instead of meeting with that trust and honour which they expected, were treated with scorn and neglect. He re­tained [Page 276] in his service all the loyal adherents of the late king; and more than once observed, that those who were faithful to one sovereign, would probably continue so to another. He instantly, upon his accession, released his mo­ther from confinement; and was profuse in heaping favours upon his brother John, who afterwards made but a very indifferent return for this indulgence.

But the king was no way suspicious in his temper; nor did he give much attention to his own security, being more earnestly solici­tous of fame. A romantic desire for strange adventures, and an immoderate zeal for the external rites of Christianity, were the ruling passions of the times. By these alone glory was to be acquired; and by these Richard only hoped for glory. The Jews, who had been for some time encreasing in the kingdom, were the first who fell a sacrifice to the enthusiastic zeal of the people; and great numbers of them were slaughtered by the citizens of Lon­don, upon the very day of the king's corona­tion. Five hundred of that infatuated peo­ple had retired into York castle for safety; but finding themselves unable to defend the place, they resolved to perish by killing one another, rather than trust the fury of their persecutors. [Page 277] Having taken this gloomy resolution, they first murdered their wives and children; next threw the dead bodies over the wall against their ene­mies, who attempted to scale it; and then set­ting fire to the houses, perished in the flames.

This horrid massacre, which was in itself so impolitic and unjust, instead of tarnishing the lustre of this monarch's reign, was then consi­dered as a most splendid commencement of his government; and the people were from thence led to form the most favourable senti­ments of his future glory. Nor was it long before he shewed himself perfectly fitted to gratify their most romantic desires. Perhaps impelled more by a love of military glory, than actuated by superstition, he resolved upon an expedition to the Holy Land, and took every method to raise money for so expensive an undertaking. His father had left him a treasure of above an hundred thousand marks; and this sum he endeavoured to augment by all expedients, however pernicious to the pub­lic, or dangerous to royal authority. He set up to sale the revenues and manors of the crown, and several offices of the greatest trust and power. Liberties, charters, castles, and employments, were given to the best bidders. When some of his friends suggested the dan­ger [Page 278] attending this venality, he told them he would sell the city of London itself, if he could find a purchaser. In these times we find but one man who was honest enough to retire from employment, when places were become thus ignominious. This was the great lawyer Glan­ville, who resigned his post of justiciary, and took the cross. Richard was not much dis­pleased at his resignation, as he was able shortly after to sell his employment to Hugh, bishop of Durham, who gave a thousand marks for the office. Thus the king, elated with the hopes of fame, was blind to every other con­sideration. Numerous exactions were practised upon people of all ranks and stations; me­naces, promises, expostulations, were used to fright the timid, or allure the avaricious. A zealous preacher of those times was so far em­boldened as to remonstrate against the king's conduct; and advised him to part with his three daughters, which were pride, avarice, and sensuality. To this Richard readily re­plied, ‘"You counsel right, my friend; and I have already provided husbands for them all. I will dispose of my pride to the templars; my avarice to the monks; and as for my sensuality, the clergy shall share that among them."’ At length, the king having got [Page 279] together a sufficient supply for his undertaking; and having even sold his superiority over the kingdom of Scotland, which had been acquired in the last reign, for a moderate sum, he set out for the Holy Land, whither he was impelled by repeated messages from the king of France, who was ready to embark in the same enter­prize.

The first place of rendezvous for the two armies of England and France was the plain of Verelay, on the borders of Bur­gundy, where, when Richard and Philip ar­rived, they found their armies amounting to an hundred thousand fighting men. These were all ardent in the cause; the flower of all the military in both dominions, and provided with all the implements and accoutrements of war. Here the French prince, and the English, en­tered into the most solemn engagements of mutual support; and having determined to conduct their armies to the Holy Land by sea, they parted, one for Genoa, the other for Marseilles, with a view of meeting the fleets that were to attend them at their respective stations. It was not long after that both fleets put to sea; and nearly about the same time were obliged, by stress of weather, to take shelter in Messina, the capital of Sicily, where [Page 280] they were detained during the whole winter. Richard took up his quarters in the suburbs, and possessed himself of a small fort, which commanded the harbour. Philip quartered his troops in the town, and lived upon good terms with the Sicilian king.

It is now unknown what gave rise to a quar­rel, which happened soon after, between the Sici­lians and the English; it is doubtful whether the intrigues of the French king, or the violent proceedings of Richard. Certain it is, that the Messinese soon took occasion to treat the Eng­lish with great insolence; shut their gates, manned their walls, and set Richard at defi­ance. Richard, who had hitherto acted as a friend, endeavoured to use the mediation of Philip to compromise this quarrel; but while the two monarchs were yet in deliberation, a body of Sicilians issued from the town, and at­tacked the English with great impetuosity. This insult was sufficient to excite the fury of Richard, who naturally bold, and conscious of his own superior force, assaulted the city with such fury, that it was soon taken, and the standard of England displayed on the ram­parts. Philip, who considered the place as his quarters, exclaimed against the insult, and ordered some of his troops to pull down that [Page 281] mark of his disgrace. To this, however, Rich­ard returned for answer, that he was willing to take down the standard, since it displeased his associate; but that no power on earth should compel him to do so. This was sufficient to produce a mutual jealousy between these two princes, which never after subsided; but which was still more enflamed by the opposition of their tempers.

Many were the mistrusts, and the mutual reconciliations between these two monarchs, which were very probably inflamed by the Si­cilian king's endeavours. At length, however, having settled all controversies, they set sail for the Holy Land, where the French arrived long before the English. The little knowlege that was then had of the art of sailing, made that passage by sea very long and dangerous, which is now considered as so trifling. Richard's fleet was once more encountered by a tempest, and two of the ships driven upon the coast of the island of Cyprus. Isaac, who was then prince of that country, either impelled by ava­rice, or willing to discourage the rest of Rich­ard's fleet from landing, pillaged the ships that were stranded, and threw the seamen and sol­diers into prison. But Richard, who soon af­ter arrived, took ample vengeance for that in­jury. [Page 282] He disembarked his troops, defeated the tyrant, entered the capital by storm, obliged Isaac to surrender at discretion, and took the island into his own possession. It was there that Richard married Berengaria, daughter to the king of Navarre, who had attended him in his expedition; and whom he had preferred to Adelais, the king of France's sister, whose charms were not so powerful, or whose fidelity was more suspected.

Upon the arrival of the English army in Palestine, fortune was seen to declare more open­ly in favour of the common cause. The French and English princes seemed to forget their secret jealousies, and act in concert. In be­sieging the city of Acres, while the one made the attack the other guarded the trenches; and this duty they formed each day alternately. By this conduct that garrison, after a long and obstinate resistance, was obliged to capitulate; and, upon condition of having their lives spared, they promised to restore all the prisoners that had been made by the Saracens, and to deliver up the wood of the true cross. Such were the amazing advantages that attended an enter­prize that had laid Asia in blood; and had, in a great measure, depopulated Europe of its bravest forces.

[Page 283]Immediately after the conquest of this place, Philip, either disgusted at the ascendant assumed by Richard, and perhaps displeased at his supe­rior popularity, declared his resolution of reti­ring to France. He pleaded the bad state of his health in excuse for his desertion; and, to give a colour to his friendly professions, he left Richard ten thousand of his troops under the command of the duke of Burgundy. Richard,A.D. 1191 being now left sole conductor of the war, went on from victory to victory. The christian adventurers, under his command, determined to besiege the renowed city of Ascalon, in order to prepare the way for attacking Jerusalem with greater advantage. Saladin, the most renowned of all the Saracen monarchs, was resolved to dis­pute their march, and placed himself upon the road with an army of three hundred thousand men. This was a day equal to Richard's wishes, this an enemy worthy his highest am­bition. The English crusades were victorious. Richard, when the wings of his army were de­feated, led on the main body in person, and re­stored the battle. The Saracens fled in the utmost confusion; and no less than forty thou­sand of their number perished on the field of battle. Ascalon soon surrendered after this victory; other cities of less note followed the [Page 284] example, and Richard was at last able to ad­vance within sight of Jerusalem, the object of his long and ardent expectations. But, just at this glorious juncture, his ambition was to suffer a total overthrow; upon reviewing his forces, and considering his abilities to prose­cute the siege, he found that his army was so wasted with famine, fatigue, and even with victory, that they were neither able, nor willing to second the views of their commander. It appeared, therefore, absolutely necessary to come to an accommodation with Saladin; and a truce for three years was accordingly con­cluded, in which it was agreed, that the sea­port towns of Palestine should remain in the hands of the christians; and that all of that religion should be permitted to make their pilgrimage to Jerusalem in perfect security.

Richard, having thus concluded his expe­dition with more glory than advantage, be­gan to think of returning home, and of en­joying in tranquility those honours which he had reaped with so much danger. But he was at a loss how to proceed. If he should take shipping, and return by the way he came, he must necessarily put himself into the power of the king of France, from whose resentment he had every thing to fear. No way, there­fore, [Page 285] was left but by going more to the north; wherefore taking shipping for Italy, he was once more wrecked near Aquileia. From thence directing his travels towards Ragufa, and putting on the disguise of a pilgrim, he resolved to make his way, in that private man­ner, through Germany. But unfortunately, his intentions and person were not so concealed, but that his quality was suspected; and the gover­nor of Istria pursued him, in order to make him a prisoner. Being thus forced from the direct road, and now become a fugitive, he was obliged to pass by Vienna, where his expences and libe­ralities betraying his dignity, tho' disguised in the habit of a pilgrim, he was arrested by Leo­pold duke of Austria, who commanded him to be imprisoned and loaded with shackles, to the disgrace of honour and humanity. This prince had served under Richard at the siege of Acres; and being disgusted on some af­front, offered him by his commander on that occasion, he took this base method of retaliat­ing the injury. His avarice, also, might have had a share in this procedure, as he expected a large share of that ransom which he knew would be given by the English to extricate their king from bondage. Henry the sixth, who was then emperor of Germany, was equal­ly [Page 286] an enemy to Richard, on account of the al­liance contracted between him, and Tancred king of Sicily, by his marriage with Berenga­ria. When therefore, shortly after, he re­ceived the news of Richard's being in custody, he required the prisoner to be delivered up to him, and stipulated a large sum of money to the duke as a reward for this service. Thus the king of England, who had long filled the world with his fame, was basely thrown into a dungeon, and loaded with irons, by those who expected to reap a sordid advantage from his misfortunes. It was a long time before his subjects in England knew what was become of their beloved monarch. So little intercourse was there between different nations at that time, that this discovery is said by some to have been made by a poor French minstrel, who playing upon his harp near the fortress in which Ri­chard was confined, a tune which he knew that unhappy monarch was fond of, he was answered by the king from within, who with his harp played the same tune; and thus dis­covered the place of his confinement.

In the mean time, while Richard was thus fruitlessly victorious, and afterwards miserably confined, his affairs in England were in a very unprosperous situation. The kingdom, as has [Page 287] been before observed, was put under the go­vernment of two prelates, one of whom had bought his place, and the other had arisen to it by the meanest arts of adulation. The bishop of Durham was ignorant and avaricious. Long­champ his colleague was naturally proud, and still more elated by the consciousness of pos­sessing his master's favour. Tempers so oppo­site soon began their enmity; and Longchamp went even so far, as to arrest the person of his colleague; who was obliged to resign his power to obtain his liberty. It was to no purpose, that the king by his letters commanded Long­champ to re-place his co-adjutor; this haughty prelate refused to obey, alledging that he knew the king's secret intentions better than to com­ply. He proceeded, therefore, still to govern the kingdom alone; and as he knew his situa­tion was precarious, he encreased the number of his guards, without which he never ventured from his palace. In the universal disgust, which so much power and magnificence na­turally produced against him, there were none in the kingdom hardy enough to controul his will, except John the king's brother, who, hav­ing been personally disobliged by this prelate, was willing to catch the present favourable oc­casion, of universal discontent, to oppose him­self [Page 288] to his power. He accordingly ventured to summon, at Reading, a general council of the nobility and prelates; and cited Long­champ to appear before them. Longchamp, sensible of his own insolence, and their enmity, was unwilling to trust himself into their power, but shut himself up in the Tower of London. From thence he fled, in the disguise of a female habit, beyond sea; upon which the archbishop of Rouen was made justiciary in his room. These dissensions were soon known by the king of France, who was by this time returned from the Holy Land. He made all pos­sible use of Longchamp's resentment to divide the English still more effectually; and even had almost prevailed upon John, to throw off his allegiance, by an offer of putting him in possession of all Richard's continental domi­nions.

It was in this precarious situation of af­fairs, that the English were first informed of the captivity of their beloved monarch, and the base treatment he had received, without even the colour of justice to gloss over the injury. The Queen Dowager was particularly enraged at the treatment of her favourite son. She wrote reiterated letters to Pope Celestine, to ex­cite his compassion, or his indignation; but all [Page 289] to very little purpose. The people testified their regard for him with all the marks of violence and despair. The clergy considered him as a sufferer in the cause of the church; and all mouths were filled with the nobleness of his actions, and the greatness of his fall. But while these testified the sincerity of their sorrow, there were some that secretly rejoiced in his disaster, and did all they could to prolong the term of his captivity. Of this number was the king of France, his ancient enemy, and his own bro­ther John, who, forgetting every tie of kin­dred, duty, or gratitude, on the first invitation from Philip suddenly went abroad, and held a conference with him, in which the perpetual captivity of Richard was agreed upon. He stipu­lated to deliver into Philip's hands a great part of Normandy; and in return, he received the French king's assurances of being secured on the English throne; and some say that he did ho­mage for the crown of England. In conse­quence of this treaty, Philip invaded Norman­dy, the fortresses of which were delivered up to him after a colour of opposition; and all but Rouen were subjected to his authority. John, on his side, was equally assiduous to secure Eng­land; and, upon his arrival in London, claim­ed the throne, as being heir to his brother, of [Page 290] whose death he pretended to have received cer­tain intelligence. But in this the traitor's ex­pectations were disappointed. His claim was rejected by all the barons, who took such mea­sures to provide for the security of the king­dom, that John was obliged to return to the continent, and openly to acknowledge his al­liance with the king of France.

In the mean time, the unhappy Richard suf­fered all the mortifications that malicious ty­ranny could inflict. The emperor, in order to ren­der him more impatient for the recovery of his li­berty, and make him submit to the payment of a larger ransom, treated him with the greatest seve­rity, and reduced him to a condition worse than that of the meanest malefactor. Richard, however, was too noble-spirited to be meanly depressed by those indignities. As he did not know what extremities he might be reduced to, or what condescensions he might be obliged to make, he wrote to the justiciary of England to obey no orders that should come from him, if they seemed in the least contrary to his honour, or the good of the nation. His precautions were well founded; for the emperor, willing to intimidate him, had him even accused at the diet of Worms of many crimes and misdemean­nors, partly to justify his own cruelty, and [Page 291] partly to swell the ransom. There he was charged with making an alliance with Tan­cred, the usurper of Sicily; of turning the arms of the crusade against a christian prince; of af­fronting the duke of Austria before Acres; of obstructing the progress of the christian arms, by his contests with the king of France; of con­cluding a truce with Saladin, and leaving Jeru­salem in the hands of the infidels. These frivolous charges were heard by Richard with becoming indignation. He even waved his dignity to answer them; and so fully vindicated himself before the princes who composed the diet, that they exclaimed loudly against the conduct of the emperor, while the pope even threatened him with excommunication. This barbarous monarch now saw that he could no longer de­tain his prisoner. He therefore was willing to listen to terms of accommodation. A ransom was agreed upon, which amounted to an hundred and fifty thousand marks, or about three hun­dred thousand pounds of our money. Of this, Richard was to pay one hundred thousand, before he received his liberty; and sixty-seven hostages were to be delivered for the remain­der. The agreement being thus made, Ri­chard sent Hubert, one of his faithful follow­ers in the Holy Land, to England, with the [Page 292] terms upon which he was to receive his liberty, and with a commission to raise money for that purpose.

In the feudal times, every military tenant was, by law, obliged to give aid for the ransom of his lord from captivity. The tax arising from this obligation was accordingly raised through­out the kingdom, and assessed by itinerant jus­tices. But the ardour of the people out-went the cool offerings of their duty; great sums were raised by voluntary contribution, to purchase the freedom of their king. The churches and monasteries melted down their plate; the bishops, abbots, and nobles, paid a fourth of their annual income; the inferior clergy contributed a tenth of their tythes, and the requisite sum was thus at length amassed; with which queen Eleanor, and the justiciary immediately set out for Germany.

While the English were thus piously em­ployed, in preparing for the ransom of their king, Philip was as assiduously occupied in endeavouring to prolong Richard's captivity. As he had the passions of the emperor to work upon, whom he knew to be avaricious to the last degree, he made him fresh proposals still more lucrative than those which had been agreed upon for Richard's ransom. He offer­ed [Page 239] to marry the emperor's daughter, and to gra­tify him with a sum equal to the ransom, if he would only detain his prisoner for one year more in captivity. The emperor therefore per­ceived, that he had concluded a treaty with Ri­chard too hastily, and repented of his rashness. He was very willing to sacrifice every conside­ration of honour or justice; but then he feared the resentment of his princes, who, in these feudal times, had power to punish his injustice. Thus he continued fluctuating between his ava­rice and his fears, between different motives, equally sordid, until the day fixed for the king's deliverance arrived. His releasement from cap­tivity was performed with great ceremony at Mentz, in presence of the German nobility; the money was paid by queen Eleanor, the hostages were delivered as a security for the remainder, and Richard once more restored to freedom. In the mean time, the emperor beheld his releasement with an agitation of all the malignant passions. He could not bear to see one he had made his enemy in a state of felicity; he could not bear to lose the superior advantages that were of­fered for his detention. All his terrors, from his own subjects, gave way to the superior dictates of avarice; he therefore once more resolved to send him back to his former prison, and [Page 294] gave orders to have him pursued and arrested. But luckily, the messengers were too late. Ri­chard, well acquainted with his perfidy, and se­cretly apprized of the offers of the French king, had ordered some shipping to attend him at the mouth of the Scheld; so that upon his arrival at the place of embarking, he went instantly on board, although the wind was against him, and was out of sight of land when his pursuers reached Antwerp.

Nothing could exceed the joy of the Eng­lish, upon seeing their monarch return, after all his atchievements and sufferings. He made his entry into London in triumph; and such was the profusion of wealth shewn by the ci­tizens, that the German lords, who attended him, were heard to say, that if the emperor had known of their affluence, he would not so easily have parted with their king. He, soon after, ordered himself to be crowned a-new at Winchester. He convoked a general council at Nottingham, at which he confiscated all his traiterous brother's possessions; and then hav­ing made proper preparations for avenging himself on the king of France, he set sail with a strong body of forces for Normandy.

Richard was but one day landed, when his faithless brother John came to make submis­sion, [Page 295] and to throw himself at his monarch's feet. It was not without some degree of resentment,A.D. 1194 that Richard received a prince, who had all along been leagued with his mortal enemy against him. However, at the intercession of queen Eleanor, he was received into favour. ‘"I forgive him," said the king; "and I wish I could as easily forget his offences as he will forget my pardon."’ This condescension was not lost upon a man, whose heart, though naturally bad, was not yet dead to every sentiment of humanity. From that time he served him faithfully; and did him signal services in his battles with the king of France, which follow­ed soon after. These wars, which produced no remarkable event, nor were succeeded by any permanent consequences, only served to keep the animosity of the two nations alive,A.D. 1195 without fixing their claims or pretensions. The most remarkable circumstance, in the te­dious journals of those transactions, is the tak­ing the bishop of Beauvais captive at the head of his vassals, and his being put in prison by Ri­chard. When the pope demanded his liberty, and claimed him as a child of the church, the king sent his holiness the bloody coat of mail, which that prelate had worn in battle; asking whether that was the coat of his son. The [Page 296] cruelty of both parties was in this manner en­flamed by insult and revenge. Both kings frequently put out the eyes of their prisoners, and treaties were concluded and broke with very little repugnance. At length, the pope's le­gate induced them to commence a treaty, which promised to be attended with a firmer reconciliation; but the death of Richard put an end to the contest.

A.D. 1199 Aymar, viscount of Limoges, a vassal of the crown, had taken possession of a treasure, which was found by one of his peasants in digging a field; and to secure the remainder, he sent a part of it to the king. Richard, as su­perior lord, sensible that he had a right to the whole, insisted on its being sent him; and, up­on refusal, attacked the castle of Chalus, where he understood this treasure had been deposited. On the fourth day of the siege, as he was riding round the place to observe where the assault might be given with the fairest suc­cess, he was aimed at by one Bertram de Jour­don, an archer from the castle, and pierced in the shoulder with an arrow. The wound was not in itself dangerous; but an unskilful sur­geon endeavouring to disengage the arrow from the flesh, so rankled the wound that it mortified, and brought on fatal symptoms. [Page 297] Richard, when he found his end approaching, made a will, in which he bequeathed the king­dom, with all his treasure, to his brother John, except a fourth part which he distributed a­mong his servants. He ordered also, that the archer who had shot him, should be brought into his presence, and demanded what injury he had done him that he should take away his life? The prisoner answered with deliberate in­trepidity: ‘"You killed, with your own hands, my father, and my two brothers; and you in­tended to have hanged me. I am now in your power, and my torments may give you revenge; but I will endure them with plea­sure, since it is my consolation, that I have rid the world of a tyrant."’ Richard, struck with this answer, ordered the soldier to be presented with one hundred shillings, and set at liberty; but Marcade the general who com­manded under him, like a true ruffian, or­dered him to be flead alive, and then hanged. Richard died in the tenth year of his reign, and the forty-second of his age, leaving only one natural son, called Philip, behind him.

Richard had all the qualities that could gain the admiration and love of a barbarous age, and few of those that could ensure the ap­probation of his more refined posterity. He [Page 298] was open, magnanimous, generous, and brave, to a degree of romantic excess. But then he was cruel, proud, and resentful. He valued neither the blood, nor the treasure of his sub­jects; and he enfeebled his states by useless expeditions, and wars calculated rather to pro­mote his own revenge than their interests. Du­ring this reign, the inferior orders of the people seemed to encrease in power, and to shew a degree of independent obstinacy. Formerly, they were led on to acts of treason by their ba­rons; they were now found to aim at vindicating their rights, under a leader of their own rank and denomination. The populace of London placed at their head one William Fitzosbern, commonly called Longbeard, who had been bred to the law; but who fonder of popula­rity than business, renounced his profession, and espoused the cause of the poor with un­common enthusiasm. He stiled himself the saviour of the poor; and upon a certain oc­casion even went over to Normandy, where he represented to the king, that the poorer citi­zens were oppressed by an unequal assessment of taxes, and obtained a mitigation. His fame for this became so great among the lower orders of his fellow-citizens, that above fifty thousand of them entered into an engage­ment [Page 299] to defend, and to obey him. Murders were in consequence daily committed in the streets; but whether by Longbeard's order is uncertain. The justiciary (for the king was then absent) summoned him before the coun­cil to answer for his conduct; but he came with such a formidable train, that none were found hardy enough to accuse him. How­ever, he was pursued some time after by a de­tachment of officers of justice; but killing one of them, he escaped with his concubine to the church of St. Mary Le Bow, where he de­fended himself with determined resolution. There he was supplied with arms and provi­sions, and expected to be joined by the popu­lace; but being deceived in his expectations, he was at last forced from his retreat by the smoke of wet straw kindled for the purpose at the door. He was then taken, tried, and convicted; and being drawn at an horse's tail through the streets of London, he was hung in chains, with nine more of his accomplices. The lower class of people when he was dead, began to revere a man that they had not spirit to relieve. They stole his gibbet, and paid it a veneration like that offered to the wood of the cross. The turf on which it stood was carried away, and kept as a preservative from sickness and mis­fortune; [Page 300] and had not the clergy withstood the torrent of popular superstition, his memory might have probably received honours similar to those paid at the shrine of St. Thomas of Canterbury.


Hall sculp.


WERE the claims of princes settled on the same principles that govern the lower or­ders of mankind, John had nothing to fear from a disputed succession. The king of France, who was the only monarch that could assist the pretensions of a rival, had long de­clared for John's title; and during the life of his brother, had given him the most convinc­ing [Page 302] proofs of sincerity in his assistance. But it was otherwise, now that Richard was no more. Philip began to shew, that his for­mer alliances and friendships were calculated not to serve John, but to distress England; not to distribute justice, but to encrease his own power. There was an old claimant of the crown, whom indeed Richard, upon his taking the cross, declared heir to the throne; but who was afterwards set aside, at the instance of the dowager-queen. This was Arthur, the son of his late brother Geoffry, a youth, who, though then but twelve years of age, promised to be deserving of the kingdom. Philip, who only desired an occasion to embarrass John, soon re­solved to second this young claimant's preten­sions; and several of the continental barons immediately declared in favour of Arthur's succession.

John, who was readily put in possession of the English throne, lost no time to second his interest on the continent; and his first care was to recover the revolted provinces from young Arthur, his nephew. The war, therefore, be­tween the English and French king was re­newed with all its former animosity, and all its usual detail of petty victories, and undecisive engagements. At length, a treaty put an end [Page 303] to those contests that only served to thin man­kind, and it was hastened by a circumstance peculiarly favourable. John's nephew, Ar­thur, together with Constantia, his mother, distrusting the designs of the king of France, who only intended to betray them, came to throw themselves on his mercy, and restored the provinces which still continued in their in­terest. Thus this monarch, after a short con­test, saw himself undisputed monarch of all the dominions which were annexed to the Eng­lish throne. But he was ill able to preserve that power by his prudence, which was thus easily obtained by the mutual jealousies of his enemies. His first transgression was his mar­riage with Isabella, the daughter of count An­gouleme, while the queen was yet alive; A.D. 1220 and what still encreased the offence, while Isabella properly belonged to another husband, the count de la Marche, who ardently loved her. This produced an insurrection against him; to repress which, he was obliged to have recourse to his English subjects for assistance, by whose means the confederacy was soon broken; and John found, by his present success, that he might future commit violences with impu­nity.

As the method of deciding all disputes by [Page 304] duel was still in full force, John resolved to avail himself of this advantage against all his refractory barons. He kept a set of hired bra­voes, under the title of his champions; and these he deputed to fight his cause whenever any of the nobility opposed his encroachments. Such contemptible opponents very justly gave the haughty barons disgust, and an universal discontent prevailed amongst them, which at last produced another dangerous confederacy. John attempted to break it by oaths, protesta­tions, and perfidies; but every attempt of this kind only served to connect his enemies, and render his person contemptible.

Something still remained to render John hateful to his subjects; and this ill disposed prince took the first opportunity of becoming so. Young Arthur, who, with his mother, had so imprudently resigned themselves to his protection, soon perceived their error, and found that nothing honourable was to be expect­ed from a prince of his abandoned character. Observing somewhat very suspicious in his man­ner of conducting himself to them, they fled from Mans, where he detained them, and re­tired in the night to Angers, from whence they went once more to take refuge with their old protector. As it was Philip's interest to [Page 305] treat them with all possible indulgence, they were received with great marks of distinction; and young Arthur's interests were soon after very vigorously supported. One town after another submitted to his authority; and all his attempts seemed attended with success. But his unfortunate ardour soon put an end to his hopes and his claims. Being of an enterpriz­ing disposition, and fond of military glory, he had laid siege to a fortress in which the dow­ager-queen was protected; and defended by a weak garrison. John therefore falling upon his little army, before they were aware of his ap­proach, the young prince was taken prisoner, to­gether with the most considerable of the re­volted barons. The greater part of the pri­soners were sent over to England; but the un­fortunate prince himself was shut up in the castle of Falaise. John thus finding a rival at his mercy, from whom he had every thing to dread, began to meditate upon measures which would most effectually remove his fu­ture apprehensions. No other expedient sug­gested itself, but what is foremost in the ima­gination of tyrants, namely, the young prince's death. How this brave youth was dispatched is not well known: certain it is, that from the moment of his confinement he was never [Page 306] heard of more. The most probable account of this horrid transaction is as follows. The king having first proposed to one of his ser­vants, William de la Braye, to dispatch Ar­thur, this brave domestic replied, that he was a gentleman, and not an executioner. This of­ficer having positively refused to comply, John had recourse to another instrument, who went with proper directions, to the castle where Ar­thur was confined to destroy him. But still this prince's fate seemed suspended; for Hu­bert de Bourg, chamberlain to the king, and constable of the place, willing to save him, un­dertook the cruel office himself, and sent back the assassin to his employer. However, he was soon obliged to confess the imposture; for Ar­thur's subjects vowing the severest revenge, Hubert, to appease them, revealed the secret of his pretended death, and assured them, that their prince was still alive, and in his custody. John now finding that all his emissaries had still more compunction than himself, resolved, with his own hands, to execute this bloody deed; and for that purpose had Arthur re­moved to the castle of Rouen, situated upon the river Seine. It was at midnight when John came in a boat to the place, and ordered the young prince to be brought before him. Long [Page 307] confinement, solitude, and the continuance of bad fortune, had now broken this generous youth's spirit; and perceiving that his death was meditated, he threw himself in the most im­ploring manner upon his knees before his un­cle, and begged for mercy. John was too much hardened in the school of tyranny, to feel any pity for his wretched suppliant. His youth, his affinity, his merits, were all dis­regarded, or were even obnoxious in a rival. The barbarous tyrant making no reply, stab­bed him with his own hands; and fastening a stone to the dead body, threw it into the Seine. This inhuman action thus rid John of an hated rival; but happily, for the instruction of future princes, it opened the way to his fu­ture ruin. Having in this manner shewn him­self the enemy of mankind, in the prosperity of his reign, the whole world seemed to turn their back upon him in his distress.

John was now detested by all mankind, and the rest of his reign he only supported himself in power, by making it the interest of some to protect him, and letting others feel the effects of his resentment, if they offered to offend. The loss of all his French provinces immediately followed his last transgression. Not but that he attempted a defence; and even laid siege to [Page 308] Alençon, one of the towns that had revolted from him. But Philip, his active rival, per­suaded a body of knights, who were assembled at a tournament, to take his part; and these rea­dily joining against the parricide, quickly oblig­ed him to raise the siege. John, therefore, re­pulsed, and stript of his dominions, was ob­liged to bear the insult with patience; though, indeed, such was the ridiculous absurdity of his pride, that he assured those about him of his being able to take back in a day, what cost the French years in acquiring.

A.D. 1205 Normandy soon followed the fate of the French provinces. Chateau Gaillard, one of its strongest fortresses, being taken after an ob­stinate siege, the whole duchy lay open to the invader; and while John basely sought safety by flying into England, Philip, secure of his prey, pushed his conquests with vigour. The whole duchy submitted to his authority; and thus, after being for near three centuries dismembered from the French monarchy, was again reunited.

John being thus stript of all his continental dominions, was resolved to wreak his vengeance on that part of the monarchy which still acknow­ledged subjection. Upon his arrival therefore in England, he began to lay the blame of his ill [Page 309] success upon his barons, who he pretended had deserted his standard in Normandy. To punish them for this imputed offence, he le­vied large sums upon their estates and effects, under colour of preparations for a Norman expedition; which, however, he deferred till the next year. When the season came for making it, he summoned all his barons to attend him; and then capriciously deferred the execution of his projects to another opportu­nity. The year following he put to sea, as if with a firm resolution to do wonders; but re­turned soon after, without making the smallest attempt. Another year elapsed, when he pro­mised that he would then redeem his country's reputation by a most signal blow. He set sail, landed at Rochelle, marched to Angers, laid the city in ashes; and hearing that the enemy were preparing to oppose him, he reimbarked his troops, and returned once more to his indig­nant country, loaden with shame and con­fusion.

Hitherto John was rather hateful to his sub­jects than contemptible; they rather dreaded than despised him. But he soon shewed that he might be offended, if not without resentment at least with impunity. It was the fate of this vi­tious prince to make those the enemies of him­self [Page 310] whom he wanted abilities to make the ene­mies of each other. The clergy had for some time acted as a community independent on the crown, and had their elections of each other generally confirmed by the pope, to whom alone they owned subjection. However, the election of archbishops had for some time been a continual subject of dispute between the suf­fragan bishops, and the Augustine monks, and both had precedents to confirm their preten­sions. Things being in this situation, Hubert the archbishop of Canterbury, died; and the Augustine monks, in a very private manner, made choice of Reginald, their sub-prior. The bishops exclaimed at this election, as a mani­fest invasion of their privileges; and a furious theological contest was likely to ensue. A po­litic prince would have seized such a conjunc­ture with joy; and would have managed the quarrel in such a manner as to enfeeble the ex­orbitant power of the clergy, by enflaming their mutual animosity. But John was not a politic prince. He immediately sided with the suffragan bishops; and John de Gray, bishop of Norwich, was unanimously chosen. To decide the mutual claims of both parties, it was expedient to appeal to the see of Rome; an agent was sent by the bishops to maintain their [Page 311] cause, while the monks dispatched twelve of their order to support their pretensions. Inno­cent III. who then filled the chair, possessed an unbounded share of power, and his talents were equal to the veneration in which he was held. He seized with avidity that conjuncture which John failed to use; and vacating the claims of both parties, as uncanonical and illegal, he enjoined the monks to chuse Cardinal Stephen Langton, an Englishman, then at the court of Rome, as a fit person to fill the vacant dignity.

This was an encroachment of power that the see of Rome had long been aiming at, and that it was now resolved to maintain. The being able to nominate to the greatest dignity in the kingdom, next that of the king, was an acquisi­tion that would effectually give the court of Rome an authority, which it had hitherto vainly pretended to assume. So great an insult was to be introduced to this weak prince with persua­sions adapted to his capacity; and the pope ac­cordingly sent him a most affectionate letter, with a present of four gold rings, set with precious stones. He begged John to consider seriously the form of the rings, their number, their mat­ter, and their colour. Their form being round, shadowed out eternity, for which it was his duty to prepare. Their number four, denoted [Page 312] the four cardinal virtues, which it was his du­ty to practise. Their matter being gold, the most precious of metals, denoted wisdom, the most precious of accomplishments, which it was his duty to acquire; and as to their colour, the green colour of the emerald represented faith; the yellow of the saphire, hope; the redness of the ruby, charity; and the splendor of the topaz, good works. John received the rings, thought all the pope's illustrations very beauti­ful; but was resolved not to admit Stephen Langton as archbishop of Canterbury.

As all John's measures were conducted with violence, he sent two knights of his train, who were fit instruments for such a prince, to ex­pel the monks from their convent, and to take possession of their revenues. The pope was not displeased at this instance of his impetuosi­ty; he was sensible that John would sink in the contest, and therefore persevered the more vigorously in his pretensions. He began his attempts to carry his measures by soothing, im­ploring, and urging; he proceeded to threats, and at last sent three English prelates to the king to inform him, that if he persevered in his disobedience, he would put the kingdom un­der the sentence of an interdict. All the other prelates threw themselves on their knees before [Page 313] the king; entreated him in the most earnest manner not to bring upon them the resent­ment of the holy tribunal; exhorted him to receive the new elected primate, and to restore the monks to their convent, from whence they had been expelled. But these entreaties served only to enflame his resentment. He broke out into the most violent invectives; and swore by God's teeth, his usual oath, that if the king­dom was put under an interdict, he would ba­nish the whole body of the clergy, and confis­cate all their possessions. This idle threat only served to hasten the resentment of the pontiff. Perceiving the king's weakness, and how little he was loved by his subjects, he issued at last the sentence of the interdict, which was so much dreaded by the whole nation. This in­strument of terror in the hands of the see of Rome, was calculated to strike the senses in the highest degree, and to operate upon the su­perstitious minds of the people. By it a stop was immediately put to divine service, and to the administration of all the sacraments but bap­tism. The church doors were shut, the statues of the saints were laid on the ground. The dead were refused christian burial, and were thrown into ditches and on the highways, with­out the usual rites, or any funeral solemnity. [Page 314] Marriage was celebrated in the church-yards, and the people prohibited the use of meat, as in times of public penance. They were de­barred from all pleasure; they were prohibited from shaving their beards, from saluting each other, and giving any attention to their appa­rel. Every circumstance seemed calculated to inspire religious terror; and testified the appre­hensions of divine vengeance and indignation. Against such a calamity, encreased by the deplor­able lamentations of the clergy, it was in vain that John exerted all his authority, threatened, and punished, and opposed the terrors of his tempo­ral power to their ecclesiastical censures. It was in vain that he banished some, and confined others; it was in vain that he treated the adherents of Langton with rigour, and ordered all the con­cubines of the clergy to be imprisoned. The church conquered by perseverance; and John saw himself every day growing more obnoxious and more contemptible. The barons, many of whose families he had dishonoured by his li­centious amours, were almost to a man his de­clared enemies. The clergy represented him in the most odious light to the people; and nothing remained to him but the feeble re­lics of that power, which had been so strongly fixed by his grandfather, that all his vices were hitherto unable totally to overthrow.

[Page 315]In the mean time, the pope seeing all the consequences he expected attending the inter­dict; and that the king, was thus rendered per­fectly disagreeable to his subjects, resolved to se­cond his blow; and while the people were yet impressed with terror, determined to take ad­vantage of their consternation. The church of Rome had artificially contrived a gradation of sentences; by which, while she inflicted one punishment, she taught the sufferers to expect more formidable consequences from that which were to ensue. On the back of the interdict therefore, came the sentence of excommuni­cation, by which John was at once rendered impious, and unfit for human society.A.D. 1209 No sooner was this terrible sentence denounced against him, than his subjects began to think of opposing his authority. The clergy were the first to set an example of disobe­dience. Geoffry, archdeacon of Norwich, who was entrusted with a considerable office in the court of Exchequer, resigned his em­ployment, which so exasperated the king that he had him confined; and ordering his head to be covered with a great leaden cope, thus kept him in torment till he died. Most of the other bishops dreading his fate, left the kingdom. Many of the nobility also, ter­rified [Page 316] at the king's tyranny, went into vo­luntary exile, and those who remained, only employed their time in cementing a confe­deracy against him. The next gradation of papal indignation, was to absolve John's subjects from their oaths of fidelity and allegiance; and to declare every one excom­municated who had any commerce with him in public or private; at his table, in his coun­cil, or even in private conversation. John, however, still continued refractory; and only one step more remained for the pope to take, and this was to give away the kingdom to an­other.

No situation could be more deplorable than that of John upon this occasion. Furious at his indignities, jealous of his subjects, and apprehending an enemy in every face; it is said, that fearing a conspiracy against his life, he shut himself up a whole night in the castle of Nottingham, and suffered none to approach his person. Being informed that the king of Wales had taken part against him, he ordered all the Welsh hostages to be instantly put to death. Being apprehensive of the fidelity of his barons, he required their sons and daughters as hostages for their obedience. When his of­ficers repaired on this odious duty to the castle [Page 317] of William Brause, a nobleman of great note, that baron's wife resolutely told them, that she would never trust her children in the hands of a man, who had so barbarously murdered his own nephew. John was so provoked at this merited reproach, that he sent a body of forces to seize the person of Brause, who fled into Ireland with his wife and family. But John's indignation pursued them there; and discover­ing the unhappy family in their retreat, he seiz­ed the wife and son, whom he starved to death in prison, while the unfortunate father narrowly escaped by flying into France.

Mean while the pope, who had resolved on giving the kingdom to another, was employed in fixing upon a person, who was willing to accept the donation, and had power to vindi­cate his claim. Philip, the king of France, seemed of all others the fittest of such an un­dertaking; he was politic and powerful, he had already despoiled John of his continental dominions, and was the most likely person to deprive him of the remainder. To him, there­fore, the pope made a tender of the kingdom of England; and Philip very ardently em­braced the offer. To strengthen the hands of Philip still more, the pope published a crusade against the deposed monarch all over Europe; [Page 318] exhorting the nobility, the knights, and men of every condition, to take up arms against that persecutor of the church, and to enlist under the French banner. Philip was not less active on his part; he levied a great army, and sum­moning all the vassals of the crown to attend him at Rouen, he collected a fleet of seventeen hundred vessels in the sea-ports of Normandy and Picardy,A.D. 1213 already devouring in imagina­tion the kingdom he was appointed to pos­sess.

John, who, unsettled and apprehensive, scarcely knew where to turn, was still able to make an expiring effort to receive the ene­my. All hated as he was, the natural enmity between the French and the English, the name of king which he still retained, and some re­maining power, put him at the head of sixty thousand men, a sufficient number indeed, but not to be relied on, and with these he advan­ced to Dover. Europe now regarded the im­portant preparations on both sides with im­patience; and the decisive blow was soon ex­pected, in which the church was to triumph, or to be overthrown. But neither Philip nor John had ability equal to the pontiff by whom they were actuated; he appeared on this occa­sion too refined a politician for either. He [Page 319] only intended to make use of Philip's power to intimidate his refractory son, not to destroy him. He expected more advantages from his agreement with a prince, so abject both in character and fortune, than from his alliance with a great and victorious monarch; who, having nothing else left to conquer, might convert his power against his benefactor. He therefore, secretly commissioned Pandolf his legate, to admit of John's submission, in case it should be offered, and he dictated the terms which would be proper for him to impose. In consequence of this, the legate passed through France, where he beheld Philip's great arma­ment ready to set sail, and highly commended that monarch's zeal and expedition. From thence he went in person; or as some say, sent over an envoy, to Dover, under pretence of negociat­ing with the barons, and had a conference with John upon his arrival. He there represented to this forlorn prince, the numbers of the ene­my, the hatred of his own subjects, and the secret confederacy there was in England against him. He intimated, that there was but one way to secure himself from impending danger; which was, to put himself under the pope's protection, who was a merciful father, and still willing to receive a repentent sinner to [Page 320] his bosom. John was too much intimidat­ed, by the manifest danger of his situation, not to embrace every means offered for his safety. He assented to the truth of the le­gate's remonstrances, and took an oath to per­form whatever stipulations the pope should impose. Having thus sworn to the perform­ance of an unknown command, the artful Italian so well managed the barons, and so effectually intimidated the king, that he per­suaded him to take the most extraordinary oath in all the records of history, before all the people, kneeling upon his knees, and with his hands held up between those of the legate.

"I John, by the grace of God, king of England, and lord of Ireland, in order to expiate my sins, from my own free will, and the advice of my barons, give to the church of Rome, to pope Innocent, and his successors, the kingdom of England, and all other prerogatives of my crown. I will hereafter hold them as the pope's vassal. I will be faithful to God, to the church of Rome, to the pope my master, and his suc­cessors legitimately elected. I promise to pay him a tribute of a thousand marks yearly; to wit, seven hundred for the king­dom of England, and three hundred for [Page 321] the kingdom of Ireland." Having thus done homage to the legate, and agreed to re­instate Langton in the primacy, he received the crown, which he had been supposed to have forfeited, while the legate trampled un­der his feet the tribute which John had con­sented to pay.

Thus, after all his armaments and expecta­tions, Philip saw himself disappointed of his prey, and perceived that the pope had over­reached him in this transaction. Nevertheless, as he had undertaken the expedition at the pope's request, he was resolved to prosecute the war, in opposition to him and all his censures. He laid before his vassals the ill treatment he had received from the court of Rome; and they all vowed to second his enterprize, except the earl of Flanders, who declared against the impiety of the undertaking. In the mean time, while the French king was resolving to bring this refractory nobleman to his duty, the Eng­lish admiral attacked the French fleet in their harbours, where he took three hundred ships, and destroyed an hundred more. Philip find­ing it impossible to prevent the rest from fall­ing into the hands of the enemy, set fire to them himself, and was thus obliged to give up all designs upon England.

[Page 322] A.D. 1213 John was now once more, by the most ab­ject submissions, reinstated in power; but his late humiliations did not in the least serve to re­lax his cruelty or insolence. One Peter of Pomfret, an hermit, had foretold, that the king this very year should lose his crown; and for that rash prophecy he had been thrown into Corfe castle: John now determined to punish him as an impostor, and had him arraigned for that purpose. The poor hermit, who was pro­bably some wretched enthusiast, asserted the truth of his prediction, alledging, that the king had given up his crown to the pope, from whom he again received it. This argument would have prevailed with any person less cruel than John. The defence was supposed to aug­ment the crime. Peter was dragged at horses tails to the town of Warham, and there hanged on a gibbet, with his son.

In this manner, by repeated acts of cruelty, by expeditions without effect, and humiliations without reserve, John was long become the de­testation of all mankind. Equally odious and contemptible, both in public and private life, he affronted the barons by his insolence, and dishonoured their families by his debaucheries; he enraged them by his tyranny, and impove­rished them by his exactions. But now hav­ing [Page 323] given up the independence of his kingdom to a foreign power, his subjects thought they had a right to claim a part of that power which he had been granting so liberally to strangers.

The barons had been long forming a con­federacy against him; but their union was bro­ken, or their aims disappointed, by various and unforeseen accidents. Nothing at present seem­ed so much to forward their combination, as the concurrence of Langton the primate, who, tho' forced upon the kingdom by the see of Rome, amply compensated to his countrymen by his attachment to their real interests.

This prelate, either a sincere friend of the people, or a secret enemy to the king, or supposing that in their mutual conflict the cler­gy would become superior, or, perhaps, insti­gated by all these motives, had formed a plan for reforming the government, which still continued in a very fluctuating situation. At a synod of his prelates and clergy, convened in St. Paul's, on pretence of examining into the losses sustained by the exiled bishops, he conferred privately with a number of barons, and expa­tiated upon the vices and the injustice of their sovereign. He shewed them a copy of Henry the first's charter, which was luckily found in a monastery; for so little had those charters, [Page 324] extorted from kings at their coronation, been hi­therto observed, that they soon came into dis­use, and were shortly after buried in total ob­livion. There was but one copy of this im­portant charter now left in the kingdom; and that, as was observed, was found in the rub­bish of an obscure monastery. However, it contained so many articles tending to restore and fix the boundaries of justice, that Lang­ton exhorted the confederating barons to insist on the renewal and observance of it. The barons swore they would lose their lives sooner than forego those claims that were found­ed on nature, on reason, and precedent. The confederacy every day began to spread wider, and to take in almost all the barons of England.

A new and a more numerous meeting was summoned by Langton, at St. Edmundsbury, under colour of devotion. He again produced to the assembly the charter of Henry; and re­newed his exhortations to continue stedfast and zealous in their former laudable conspiracy. The barons, enflamed by his eloquence, and still more by their injuries, as also encouraged by their numbers, solemnly swore before the high altar to adhere to each other, to insist on their de­mands, and to persevere in their attempts, until they obtained redress. They agreed, that after [Page 325] Christmass they would prefer their common petition in a body; and in the mean time sepa­rated, with resolutions of putting themselves in a posture of defence; to enlist men, and forti­fy their castles. Pursuant to their promise and obligations, they repaired in the beginning of January to London, accoutered in military garb and equipage, and presented their demands to the king; alledging, that he had promised to grant them, at the time he was absolved from his ex­communication when he consented to a confir­mation of the laws of Edward the Confessor. On the other hand, John, far from complying with their request, resented their presumption; and even insisted upon a promise, under their hands and seals, that they would never demand, or at­tempt to extort, such privileges for the future. This, however, they boldly refused, and consider­ed as an unprecedented act of power; so that, per­ceiving their unanimity, in order for a while to break their combination, he desired further time to consider of an answer to their demands. He promised, that at the festival of Easter, he would give a positive reply to their petition; and offer­ed them the archbishop of Canterbury, the bi­shop of Ely, and the earl mareschal, as sure­ties for fulfilling his engagements. The ba­rons accepted the terms, and peaceably re­turned [Page 326] to their habitations. They saw their own strength, and were certain at any time to enforce their demands.

Freedom could never have found a more fa­vourable conjuncture for its extertions, than un­der the government of a weak and vicious monarch, such as John was, whose resistance only served to give splendour to every opposi­tion. Although he had granted the barons assu­rances of his good intentions, yet nothing was farther from his heart than complying with their demands. In order to break their league, he had recourse to the power of the clergy, of whose influence he had experience, from his own recent misfortunes. He courted their favour, by granting them a charter, establish­ing all those rights, of which they were already in possession, and which he now pretended li­berally to bestow, when he had not the ability to refuse. He took the cross, to ingratiate himself still farther; and, that he might enjoy those privileges annexed to the profession, he appealed to the pope against the usurpation of his barons, and craved his holy protection. Nor were the barons remiss in their appeals to the pontiff. They alledged, that their just pri­vileges were abridged, and entreated the inter­position of his authority with the king. The [Page 327] pope did not hesitate in taking his party. A king who had already given up all to his pro­tection, who had regularly paid the stipulated tributes, and who took every occasion to advance the interests of the church, was much more meritorious in his eyes, than a confederacy of barons, whom, at best, he could manage with difficulty, and whose first endeavours would perhaps be to shake off his authority. He, therefore, wrote letters to England, reproach­ing Langton, and the bishops, for favouring these dissensions, and commanding them to pro­mote peace between the parties. He exhorted the barons to conciliate the king, not with me­naces, but humble entreaties; and promised, up­on their obedience, to interpose his own autho­rity in favour of such of their petitions as he should find to be just. At the same time he an­nulled their association, and forbad them to engage in any confederacy for the future.

Neither the bishops nor barons paid the least regard to the pope's remonstrance; and as for John's pretences of taking the cross, they turned them into ridicule. They had for some time been spectators of the interested views of the see of Rome. They found, that the pope, instead of advancing the interests of the church, his own individual interests always were [Page 328] promoted. They continued, indeed, to re­verence his authority as much as ever, when exerted on points of duty; but they now began to separate between his religious and his political aims, adhering to the one, and rejecting the other. The bishops and ba­rons, therefore, on this occasion, employed all their arts and emissaries to kindle a spirit of revolt in the nation; and there was now scarce a nobleman in the kingdom, who did not ei­ther personally engage in the design, or se­cretly favour the undertaking. After waiting till Easter, when the king promised to re­turn them an answer, upon the approach of that festival they met, by agreement, at Stam­ford. There they assembled a force of above two thousand knights, and a body of foot, to a prodigious number. From thence, elated with their power,A.D. 1215. Apr. 27. they marched to Brackley, about fifteen miles from Oxford, the place where the court then resided. John, hearing of their approach, sent the archbishop of Can­terbury, the earl of Pembroke, and others of his council, to know the particulars of their request, and what those liberties were which they so earnestly importuned him to grant. The barons delivered a schedule, containing the chief articles of their demands, and of which [Page 329] the charters of Henry and Edward formed the groundwork. No sooner were these shewn to the king, than he burst into a furious passion, and asked why the barons did not also demand his kingdom, swearing, that he would never comply with such exorbitant demands. But the confederacy was now too strong to fear much from the consequences of his resent­ment. They chose Robert Fitzwalter for their general, whom they dignified with the titles of ‘"Mareschal of the army of God, and of the Holy Church,"’ and proceeded without fur­ther ceremony to make war upon the king. They besieged Northampton, they took Bed­ford, they were joyfully received into Lon­don. They wrote circular letters to all the nobility and gentlemen who had not yet de­clared in their favour, and menaced their estates with devastation, in case of refusal or delay.

In the mean time, the timid king was left at a place called Odiham in Surry, with a mean retinue of only seven knights, where he vainly endeavoured to avert the storm, by the me­diation of his bishops and ministers. He ap­pealed to Langton against these fierce remon­strants, little suspecting that the primate him­self was leagued against him. He desired him to [Page 330] fulminate the thunders of the church upon those who had taken arms against their prince; and aggravated the impiety of their opposition, as he was engaged in the pious and noble du­ties of the crusade. Langton permitted the tyrant to waste his passions in empty com­plaints, and declared he would not pass any censure, where he found no delinquent. He promised indeed, that much might be done in case some foreign auxiliaries, which John had lately brought over, were dismissed; and the weak prince, supposing his advice sincere, disbanded a great body of Germans and Flemings, whom he had retained in his ser­vice. When the king had thus left himself without protection, he then thought it was the duty of Langton to perform his promise; and to give him the aid of the church, since he had discarded all temporal assistance. But what was his surprize, when the archbishop refused to excommunicate a single baron, but peremp­torily opposed his commands. John, stung with resentment and regret, knew not where to turn for advice or comfort; as he had hitherto sported with the happiness of mankind, he found none that did not secretly rejoice in his sufferings. He now began to think, that any [Page 331] terms were to be complied with; and that it was better to reign a limited prince, than sacri­fice his crown, and perhaps his life to ambi­tion. But first he offered to refer all differences to the pope alone, or to eight barons, four to be chosen by himself, and four by the confe­derates. This the barons scornfully rejected. He then assured them, that he would submit at discretion; and that it was his supreme pleasure to grant all their demands: a confe­rence was accordingly appointed, and all things adjusted for this most important treaty.

The ground where the king's commissioners met the barons was between Staines and Windsor, at a place called Runimede, still held in reverence by posterity, as the spot where the standard of freedom was first erected in England. There the barons appeared, with a vast number of knights and warriors, on the fifteenth day of June, while those on the king's part, came a day or two after. Both sides encamped apart, like open enemies. The debate between power and precedent are ge­nerally but of short continuance. The barons, determined on carrying their aims, would ad­mit of few abatements; and the king's agents being for the most part in their interests, few debates ensued. After some days, the king, [Page 332] with a facility that was somewhat suspicious, signed and sealed the charter required of him; a charter which continues in force to this day, and is the famous bulwark of English liber­ty, which now goes by the name of MAGNA CHARTA. This famous deed, either granted or secured very important privileges to those or­ders of the kingdom that were already possessed of freedom, namely, to the clergy, the barons, and the gentlemen; as for the inferior, and the greatest part of the people, they were as yet held as slaves, and it was long before they could come to a participation of legal pro­tection.

The clergy, by this charter, had their for­mer grants confirmed. All check upon ap­peals to Rome was removed, by allowance to every man to depart the kingdom at pleasure; and the fines upon the clergy, for any offence, were ordained to be proportionable to their tem­poral, not their ecclesiastical possessions. With respect to the barons, they were secured in the custody of the vacant abbies and convents, which were under their patronage. The re­liefs or duties to be paid for earldoms, baro­nies, and knights fees were fixed, which be­fore were arbitrary. This charter decreed, that barons should recover the lands of their [Page 333] vassals, forfeited for felony, after being a year and a day in possession of the crown; that they should enjoy the wardships of their military tenants, who held other lands of the crown by a different tenure; that a person knighted by the king, though a minor, should enjoy the privileges of a full grown man, provided he was a ward of the crown. It enacted, that heirs should be married without disparage­ment, and before the marriage was contracted, the nearest relations were to be informed of it. No scutage, or tax, was to be imposed upon the people by the great council of the nation, except in three particular cases, the king's captivity, the knighting his eldest son, and the marrying his eldest daughter. When the great council was to be assembled, the prelates, earls, and great barons were to be called to it by a particular writ, the lesser barons by a summons of the sheriff. It went on to ordain, that the king shall not seize any baron's land for a debt to the crown, if the baron possesses personal property sufficient to discharge the debt. No vassal shall be allowed to sell so much of his land, as to incapacitate him from performing the necessary service to his lord. With respect to the people, the following were the principal clauses calculated for their benefit. It was ordained, that all the privileges, and [Page 334] immunities, granted by the king to his barons, should be also granted by the barons to their vas­sals. One weight, and one measure, shall be ob­served throughout the whole kingdom; mer­chants shall be allowed to transact all business, without being exposed to any arbitrary tolls and impositions; they, and all freemen, shall be allowed to go out of the kingdom, and return to it at pleasure; London, and all cities and boroughs shall preserve their ancient liberties, immunities, and free customs; aids or taxes, shall not be required of them, except by the consent of the great council; no towns, or in­dividuals, shall be obliged to make, or sup­port bridges but by ancient customs; the goods of every freeman shall be disposed of according to his will; if he die intestate, his heirs shall succeed to them; no officer of the crown shall take any horses, carts, or wood, without the consent of the owner; the king's courts of justice shall be stationary, and shall no longer follow his person; they shall be open to every one, and justice shall no longer be bought, refused, or delayed by them; the sheriffs shall be incapacitated to hold pleas of the crown, and shall not put any person upon his trial, from rumour or suspicion alone, but upon the evidence of lawful witnesses; no [Page 335] freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or dis­possessed of his free tenement and liberties, or outlawed, or banished, or anywise hurt or in­jured, unless by the legal judgment of his peers, or by the law of the land; and all who suffered otherwise in this, and the two for­mer reigns, shall be restored to their rights and possessions; every freeman shall be fined in proportion to his fault, and no fine shall be levied on him to his utter ruin. Such were the stipulations in favour of that part of the people, who, being either merchants, or the descendants of the nobles, or of the clergy, were thus independent of any immediate lord. But that part of the people who tilled the ground, who constituted, in all probability, the majority of the nation, had but one single clause in their favour, which stipulated, that no villain or rustic should by any fine be be­reaved of his carts, ploughs, and instruments of husbandry. As for the rest, they were con­sidered as a part of the property belonging to an estate, and passed away, with the horses, cows, and other moveables, at the will of the owner.

This great charter being agreed to by all, ratified, and mutually signed by both parties, the barons, in order to secure the observance [Page 336] of it, and knowing the perfidious disposition of the king, prevailed upon him to appoint twenty-five of their order as conservators of the public liberty. These were to admonish the king, if he should act contrary to his written obligations; and, in case of resistance, they might levy war against him, and attack his castles. John, with his usual perfidy, seemed to submit passively to all these regulations, however in­jurious to majesty; and even sent writs to the sheriffs, ordering them to constrain every one to swear obedience to the twenty-five barons. He pretended that his government, was hence­forth to undergo a total reformation, more in­dulgent to the liberty and independence of the people. His subjects therefore flattered them­selves with brighter prospects; and it was thought the king's misfortunes had huma­nized his disposition.

But John's seeming tranquillity was but dissimulation. The more care his barons had taken to bind him to their will, the more impatient he grew under their restrictions. He burned with desire to shake off the conditions they had imposed upon him. The submissions he had paid to the pope, and the insults he had sustained from the king of France, slightly af­fected him, as they were his equals; but the [Page 337] sense of his subjection to his own vassals, sunk deep on his mind; and he was determined at all events, to recover his former power of doing mischief. He grew sullen, silent, and reserved. He shunned the society of his for­mer companions; and even retired into the Isle of Wight, as if to hide his disgrace in so­litude. But he was still, however, employed in machinations to obtain revenge. He had sent to the continent to enlist a large body of mer­cenary troops; he had made complaints to the pope of the insurrections of his subjects against him; and the pontiff very warmly espoused his cause. A bull was sent over, annulling the whole charter; and at the same time the fo­reign forces arrived, whom John intended to employ in giving his intentions efficacy.

He now, no longer took shelter under the arts of dissimulation; but acted the bold ty­rant, a character that became him much bet­ter. The barons, after obtaining the char­ter, seemed to have been lulled into a fatal se­curity; and took no measures for assembling their forces, in case of the introduction of a foreign army. The king, therefore, was for some time undisputed master of the field, at the head of an army of Germans, Braban­tines, and Flemings, all eager for battle, and [Page 338] inspired with the hopes of dividing the king­dom among them. The castle of Rochester was first invested; and, after an obstinate re­sistance, was obliged to surrender at discretion. John, irritated at the length of the siege, was going to hang the governor, and all the gar­rison, contrary to the laws of war; but at the intercession of one of his generals, he only put the inferior prisoners to death. After the reduction of this important fortress, the royal interests began to prevail; and two armies were formed, with one of which the king marched northward, subduing all fortresses and towns that lay in his way. The other army, commanded by the earl of Salisbury, was equally vigorous and successful; several sub­mitted at its approach, and London itself was in the utmost danger. The foreign mer­cenaries committed the most horrible cruelties in their march, and ravaged the country in a most dreadful manner. Urged on at once by their natural rapacity, and the cruelty of the king, nothing was seen but the flames of villages and castles; consternation and misery were pic­tured in the looks of the people; and tortures were every where exercised by the soldiers, to make the inhabitants reveal their riches. Where­ever the king marched, the provinces were laid [Page 339] waste on each side his passage; as he considered every estate, which was not his immediate pro­perty, as entirely hostile, and a proper object of military execution.

The barons,A.D. 1215 reduced to this deplorable si­tuation, their estates destroyed, their liberties annihilated, and their persons exposed to the revenge of a malicious tyrant, lost all power of self-defence. They were able to raise no army in England, that could stand before their ravagers, and yet they had no hopes from sub­mission. In this desperate exigence, they appli­ed to the old enemy of their country, Philip, king of France; and offered to acknowledge Lewis, the eldest son of that monarch, as their sovereign, on condition of his affording them protection against their domestic destroy­er. No proffer could have been more agreeable to this ambitious monarch, who long wanted to annex England to the rest of his dominions. He therefore instantly embraced the proposal of the barons; of whom, however, he de­manded five and twenty hostages for the per­formance of their promise. These being sent over, he began to make the most diligent pre­parations for this expedition, regardless of the menaces of the pope, who threatened Philip with excommunication, and actually excom­municated Lewis the son some time after. The [Page 340] first detachment consisted of a body of seven thousand men, which he reinforced soon after by a powerful army, commanded by Lewis himself, who landed at Sandwich without op­position.

John, who but just now saw himself in the career of victory, upon the landing of the French army was stopped all of a sud­den, and found himself blasted in his re­venge and ambition. The first effect of their appearance was, that most of the foreign troops deserted, refusing to serve against the heir of their monarchy. Many considerable noblemen also deserted his party; and his castles daily fell into the hands of his enemies. Thus England saw nothing but a prospect of being every way undone. If John succeeded, a tyrannical and implacable mo­narch was to be their tormentor; if Lewis should prevail, the country was ever after to submit to a more powerful monarchy, and was to become a province of France. What neither human prudence could foresee, nor policy sug­gest, was brought about by an happy and unex­pected concurrence of events. Neither John nor Lewis succeeded in their designs upon the people's happiness and freedom.

Lewis having vainly endeavoured to pacify the pope's legate, resolved to set the pope at [Page 341] defiance, and marched his army against the castle of Rochester, which he quickly reduced. Thence he advanced to London, where the barons and burghers did him homage, and took the oath of fealty, after he had sworn to confirm the liberties and privileges of the peo­ple. Though never crowned king of Eng­land, yet he exercised sovereign authority, granting charters, and appointing officers of state. But how flattering soever the prospect before him appeared, yet there was a secret jealousy that was destroying his ambition, and undermining all his pretensions. Through a great degree of imprudence he on every occasion shewed a visible preference to his natural French subjects, to the detriment of those he came to govern. The suspi­cions of the English against him were still farther encreased, by the death-bed confes­sion of the count de Melun, one of his cour­tiers, who declared to those about him, that it was the intention of Lewis to exterminate the English barons as traitors, and to bestow their dignities and estates upon his own French subjects, upon whose fidelity he could safely rely. Whatever truth there might be in this confession, it greatly operated upon the minds of the people; so that the earl of Salisbury, and other noblemen, who had forsaken John's [Page 342] party, once more deserted to him, and gave no small lustre to his cause.

In the mean time, John was assembling a considerable army, with a view to make one great effort for the crown; and at the head of a large body of troops, he resolved to pe­netrate into the heart of the kingdom. With these resolutions he departed from Lynn, which, for its fidelity, he had distinguished with many marks of favour, and directed his route towards Lincolnshire. His road lay along the shore, which was overflowed at high-water; but not being apprised of this, or being igno­rant of the tides of the place, he lost all his car­riages, treasure, and baggage, by their influx. He himself escaped with the greatest difficulty, and arrived at the abbey of Swinstead, where his grief for the loss he had sustained, and the distracted state of his affairs, threw him into a fever, which soon appeared to be fatal. Next day, being unable to ride on horseback, he was carried in a litter to the castle of Seaford, and from thence removed to Newark, where, after having made his will, he died in the fifty-first year of his age, and the eighteenth of his reign.

This monster's character is too strongly marked, in every transaction of his life, to [Page 343] leave the smallest necessity for disentangling it, from the ordinary occurrences of his reign. It was destructive to the people, and ruinous to himself. He left two legitimate sons behind him; Henry, who succeeded him on the throne, and was now nine years of age; Richard, who was about seven. He left also three daughters; Jane, married to Alex­ander, king of Scots; Eleanor, married to the earl of Pembroke; and Isabella, married to the emperor Frederic II. His illegitimate children were numerous, but unnoted.


Hall sculp.


THE English being now happily rid of a tyrant, who threatened the kingdom with de­struction, had still his rival to fear, who only aimed at gaining the crown, to make it sub­servient to that of France. The partiality of Lewis on every occasion was the more disgust­ing, as it was the less concealed. The diffi­dence which he constantly discovered of the [Page 345] fidelity of the barons, encreased that jealousy which was so natural for them to entertain on the present occasion. An accident happened, which rendered him still more disagreeable to his new subjects. The government of the castle of Hert­ford becoming vacant, it was claimed as of right by Robert Fitzwalter, a nobleman who had been extremely active in his service: but his claim was rejected. It was now, there­fore, apparent, that the English would be ex­cluded from every trust under the French go­vernment; and that foreigners were to engross all the favour of their new sovereign. Nor was the excommunication denounced against Lewis by the pope entirely without its effect. In fact the people were easily persuaded to con­sider a cause as impious and profane, for which they had already entertained an unsurmountable aversion.

In this disposition of the people, the claims of any native, with even the smallest preten­sions to favour, would have had a most proba­ble chance of succeeding. A claim was accord­ingly made in favour of young Henry, the son of the late king, who was now but nine years of age. The earl of Pembroke, a nobleman of great worth and valour, who had faithfully adhered to John in all the fluctuations of his [Page 346] fortune, was, at the time of that prince's death, marshal of England, and consequently at the head of the army. This nobleman determined to support the declining interests of the young prince, and had him solemnly crowned by the bishops of Winchester and Bath, at Gloucester. In order also to enlarge and confirm his own authority upon the pre­sent occasion, a general council of the barons was summoned at Bristol, where the earl was chosen guardian to the king, and protector of the kingdom. His first act was highly pleasing to the people, and reconciled them to the interests of the young prince. He made young Henry grant a new charter of liberties, which con­tained but very few exceptions from that al­ready extorted from his predecessor. To this was added also a charter, ascertaining the ju­risdiction, and the boundaries of the royal fo­rests, which from thence was called the Charta Foresta. By this it was enacted, that all the fo­rests which had been enclosed since the reign of Henry the second, should be again restor­ed to the people, and new perambulations made for that purpose. Offences on the fo­rests were no longer declared to be capital, but punishable by gentler laws; and all the proprietors of land were granted a power of [Page 347] cutting and using their own wood at pleasure. To these measures, which gave universal sa­tisfaction, Pembroke took care to add his more active endeavours against the enemy. He wrote letters, in the king's name, to all the malecontent barons, assuring them of his re­solutions to govern them by their own charters; and represented the danger which they in­curred by their adherence to a French mo­narch, who only wanted to oppress them. These assurances were attended with the de­sired effect. The party in the interests of Lewis began to lose ground every day, by the desertion of some of its most powerful lead­ers. The earls of Salisbury, Arundel, and Warene, together with William Marshall, eldest son of the protector, came over to the young king; and all the rest of the barons appeared desirous of an opportunity of follow­ing their example.

The protector was so much strengthened by these accessions, that he took the field; but the French army appearing, he was obliged to retire. The count de Perche, who command­ed for Lewis, was so elated with his superiori­ty, that he marched to Lincoln; and being admitted into the town, began to attack the castle, which he soon reduced to extremity. [Page 348] The protector, now finding that a decisive blow was to be struck, summoned all his forces from every quarter, in order to relieve a place of so much importance; and he, in turn, appear­ed so much superior to the French, that they shut themselves up within the city, and resolv­ed to take shelter behind the walls. But the garrison of the castle having received a strong reinforcement, made a vigorous sally upon the besiegers, while the English army assaulted them from without; and scaling the walls, entered the city sword in hand. Lincoln was delivered over to be pillaged; the French army was to­tally routed, the commander in chief was kill­ed, and several of the rest made prisoners of war. This misfortune of the French was but the forerunner of another. Their fleet, which was bringing over reinforcements, both of men and money, was attacked by the English, un­der the command of Philip d'Albiney, and was repulsed with considerable loss. d'Albiney is said to have practised a stratagem against them, to which he owed his victory. Having got the wind of the French, he ordered his men to throw quicklime in the faces of the enemy, which blinding them, they were disabled from further defence. These repeated losses served, at length, to give peace to the kingdom. [Page 349] Lewis finding his cause every day declining, and that it was at last grown wholly desperate, began to be anxious for the safety of his person; and was glad to submit to any conditions fa­vourable to his retreat. He concluded a peace with the protector; in which he agreed to leave the kingdom; and in which he exacted, in return, an indemnity for all his adherents. Thus ended a civil war, which had for some time drenched the kingdom in blood; and in which not only its constitution, but all its happiness seemed irretrievable. The death of John, and the abdication of Lewis, were circumstances that could hardly be expected, even by the most sanguine well-wishers of their coun­try. The one was brought about by accident, and the other by the prudence and intrepidity of the earl of Pembroke, the protector, who himself did not long survive his success.

The young king was of a character the very opposite of his father; A.D. 1216 as he grew up to man's estate, he was found to be gentle, merciful, and humane; he appeared easy and good-natured to his dependents; but no way formidable to his enemies. Without activity or vigour, he was unfit to conduct in war; without distrust or sus­picion, he was imposed upon in times of peace. A king of such beneficent and meek qualifica­tions, was very little fitted to hold the reins of [Page 350] a kingdom, such as England was at that time, where every order was aspiring to independence, and endeavouring to plume themselves with the spoils of the prerogative. The protector was succeeded in his office by Peter, bishop of Win­chester, and Hubert de Burgh, high justiciary; but no authority in the governors could control a people, who had been long used to civil discord, and caught every slight occasion to magnify small offences into public grievances. The no­bles were now, in effect, the tyrants of the peo­ple; for having almost totally destroyed the power of the crown; and being encouraged by the weakness of a minority, they considered the laws as instruments made only for their de­fence, and with which they alone were to go­vern. They therefore, retained by force the royal castles, which they had usurped during the former convulsions; they oppressed their vassals; they infested their weaker neighbours; and they invited all disorderly people to take protection under their authority. It is not then to be wondered, that there were many complaints against those who were placed over them; Hubert de Burgh, who seemed to take the lead in government, at this time expe­rienced many conspiracies formed not only a­gainst his authority, but his person; and so lit­tle did the confederates regard secrecy, that [Page 351] they openly avowed their intentions of remov­ing him from his office. The barons being required by him to give up their castles, they not only refused, but several of them entered into a confederacy to surprise London; and, with the Earls of Chester and Albemarle at their head, they advanced as far as Waltham with that in­tention. At that time, however, their aims were frustrated by the diligence of the government: but they did not desist from their enterprize; for meeting some time after at Leicester, in order to seize the king, they found them­selves disappointed in this, as in their former attempt. In this threatening commotion, the power of the church was obliged to inter­pose; and the archbishops and prelates threa­tened the barons with the sentence of excom­munication, should they persist in either of their attempts upon the king, or in detaining his castles. This menace at last prevailed. Most of the fortresses were surrendered; and the number at that time is said to have amounted to above a thousand. But though Henry gain­ed this advantage by the prudence and perse­verance of his minister, yet his power was still established upon a very weak foundation. A contest with his brother Richard, who had a­massed such sums of money, as to be reckoned the richest prince in Europe, soon shewed [Page 352] the weakness both of his power and his disposi­tion. Richard had unjustly expelled an infe­rior baron from his manor; and the king insist­ed upon his restoring him. The other persist­ing in his refusal, a powerful confederacy was formed, and an army assembled; which the king had neither power nor courage to resist. Richard's injustice was declared legal; and his resentment was obliged to be mollified by grants of much greater importance than the manor which had been the first ground of the quarrel. Thus was the king obliged to sub­mit to all the demands of his haughty vassals; and he had scarce any person who seemed soli­citous for his interests, but Hubert de Burgh, whom nevertheless, he discarded in a sudden ca­price; and thus exposed his faithful servant to the violent persecution of his enemies. Among the many frivolous crimes objected to him, he was accused of gaining the king's affections by enchantment, and of sending the prince of Wales a jewel, which he had stolen from the treasury, that rendered the wearer invulnera­ble. Hubert, when he found his ruin resolv­ed on, was compelled to take sanctuary in a church; but the king was prevailed upon to give orders for his being dragged from thence. Thus irresolute and timid, the orders of one moment contradicted those of the preceding. [Page 353] He quickly recalled the orders he had given, and again renewed them. The clergy inter­posed, and obliged the king to permit him to return to his sanctuary; but he was once more constrained to surrender himself a prisoner, and was confined to the castle of Devises. From thence Hubert made his escape; and, though he afterwards obtained the king's pardon, he never testified any desire to encounter future dangers in his service.

But as weak princes are never to be without governing favourites, the place of Hubert was soon supplied by Peter de Roches, bishop of Winchester, a Poictevin by birth, one equally remarkable for his arbitrary conduct, and for his courage and abilities. Henry, in pur­suance of this prelate's advice, invited over a great number of Poictevins, and other foreign­ers,A.D. 1231 who having neither principles nor fortunes at home, were willing to adopt whatever schemes their employer should propose. Every office and command was bestowed on these un­principled strangers, whose avarice and rapaci­ty were exceeded only by their pride and in­solence. So unjust a partiality to strangers very naturally excited the jealousy of the barons; and they even ventured to assure the king, that if he did not dismiss all foreigners from court, [Page 354] they would drive both him and them out of the kingdom. But the bishop of Winchester had taken his measures so well, that he brought over many of the most powerful of the confede­rates, and the estates of the more obnoxious ba­rons were confiscated, for the benefit of his needy countrymen. In these violent measures the king was a calm consenting spectator; he was contented with present advantages; and while these confiscations procured immediate wealth, he little regarded the consequence. But as this king was chiefly swayed by tu­multuary remonstrances, another confederacy, at the head of which the archbishop of Canter­bury was, induced him to dismiss his minister, and to send him and his needy countrymen out of the kingdom. Encouragement to fo­reigners was the chief complaint against the king; and it was now expected that the people were to be no longer aggrieved by seeing such advanced above them. But their hopes were quickly disappointed; for the king having married Eleanor,A.D. 1236 daughter of the count of Provence, he transferred his affections to the strangers of that country, whom he caressed with the fondest affection, and enriched with the most imprudent generosity. Places, digni­ties, and vast treasures, were lavished upon [Page 355] them; many young noblemen, who were wards to the crown, were married to wives of that country; and when the sources of the king's liberality were dried up, he resumed all the grants he had formerly made, in order to con­tinue his favours. The resentment of every rank of people was excited by this mischievous attachment; but their anger was scarce kept within bounds when they saw a new swarm of these intruders come over from Gascony, with Isabella, the king's mother, who had been some time before married to the count de la Marche. To these just causes of complaint were added the king's unsuccessful expeditions to the con­tinent, his total want of oeconomy, and his op­pressive exactions, which were but the result of the former. The kingdom therefore waited with gloomy resolution, resolving to take vengeance, when the general discontent was arrived at ma­turity.

To these temporal discontents, those arising from the rapacity of the see of Rome were add­ed shortly after. The clergy of England, while they were contending for the power of the pope, were not aware that they were effectually op­posing their own interests; for the pontiff hav­ing, by various arts, obtained the investiture of all livings and prelacies in the kingdom, [Page 356] failed not to fill up every vacancy with his own creatures. His power being established, he now began to turn it to his profit, and to enrich the church by every art of extortion and avarice.A.D. 1253 At this time, all the chief benefices of the kingdom were conferred on Italians. Great numbers of that nation were sent over at one time to be provided for; the king's chaplain alone is said to have held at once seven hundred ecclesiastical livings. These abuses became too glaring even for the blind superstition of the people to submit to; they rose in tumults a­gainst the Italian clergy, pillaged their barns, wasted their fields, and insulted their persons. But these were transient obstacles to the papal en­croachments. The pontiff exacted the revenues of all vacant benefices, the twentieth of all ecclesiastical livings without exception, the third of such as exceeded an hundred marks a year, and the half of such as were held by non­residents: he claimed the goods of all intestate clergymen: he pretended a right of inheriting all money got by usury, and he levied voluntary contributions on the people. The indignities which the people suffered from these intruding ecclesiastics were still more oppressive than their exactions. On a certain occasion, while the English were complaining of the avarice of [Page 357] their king, and his profusion to foreign favou­rites, the pope's legate made his triumphal en­try into England, and some business induced him to visit Oxford before his return. He was received there with all possible splendour and ceremony; and the most sumptuous pre­parations were made for his table. One day, as the legate's dinner was preparing, several scholars of the university entered his kitchen, some incited by motives of curiosity, others of hunger: while they were thus employed, in ad­miring the luxury and opulence in which this dignitary was served, and of which they were only to be spectators, a poor Irish scholar ven­tured to beg relief from the cook, who was an Italian, as were all the legate's domestics. This brutal fellow, instead of giving the poor Irish­man an alms, threw a ladle full of boiling water in his face, and seemed to exult in his brutality. The indignity so provoked a Welsh student, who was near, that with a bow, which he happened to have in his hand, he shot the cook dead with an arrow. The legate hearing the tumult, retired in a fright to the tower of the church, where he remained till night-fall. As soon as he found that he might retire in safety, he hastened to the king, who was then at London, and complained to him of the outrage. The king, with his usual [Page 358] submission to the church, appeared in a violent passion, and offered to give immediate satis­faction, by putting the offenders to death. The legate at first seemed to insist upon ven­geance, but at length was appeased by a pro­per submission from the university. All the scholars of that school, which had offended him, were ordered to be stript of their gowns; and to go in procession bare-footed, with halters about their necks, to the legate's house, and there were directed humbly to crave his abso­lution and pardon.

But the impositions of the church appeared in their most conspicuous point of view in a transaction between the pope and the king. The court of Rome, some time before, had reduced the kingdom of Sicily to the same state of vassalage to which England had sub­mitted; but Mainfroy, an usurper, under pretence of governing the kingdom for the lawful heir, had seized upon the crown, and was resolved to reject the pope's authority. As the pontiff found that his own force alone was not sufficient to vindicate his claims, he had recourse to Richard, the king's brother, whose wealth he was not ignorant of; and to him, and his heirs, he offered the kingdom of Sicily, with only one condition, that he should regain it from the hands of the usurper. [Page 359] Richard was too well acquainted with the dif­ficulty of the enterprize to comply with such a proposal; but when it was made to the king himself, the weak monarch, dazzled with the splendour of the conquest, embraced the pro­posal with ardour. Accordingly, without re­flecting on the consequences, or ever consult­ing the parliament, he gave the pope unlimited credit to expend whatever sums he should think proper for completing the conquest of that kingdom. This was what the pope ex­pected and desired; he soon brought Henry in creditor for more than an hundred thousand marks, a debt which he had never been advised with in the contracting. Henry was mortified at the greatness of the sum, and still more at the little prospect of its being laid out with success; but he dreaded the pope's dis­pleasure, and therefore he resolved to have recourse to parliament for a supply.

In this universal state of indignation, it may readily be imagined, that the barons were more liberal of their complaints than their supplies. They determined not to lavish their money on favourites without merit, and expe­ditions without a prospect of success. The clergy themselves began to turn against their spiritual father; and the bishop of London boldly asserted, that if the king, and the pope, [Page 360] should take the mitre from his head, he would clap on an helmet. But though the bishops and clergy were obliged to acquiesce in furnishing a part of this absurd expence, the barons still continued refractory; and instead of supplies, for some time answered with ex­postulations. They urged the king's partiality to foreigners, they aggravated the injuries of his servants, and the unjust seizures made by his of­ficers from men of mercantile professions. The parliament therefore was dissolved, (for so now the general assembly of the nation began to be called) and another soon after was convened with as little success. The urgency of the king's af­fairs, required that money should be procured at any rate; and yet the legate never failed, upon those occasions, to obstruct the king's demands by making several for himself. It was now, there­fore, that Henry went amongst such of his sub­jects as were firmly attached to him, and begged for assistance at their own houses. At one time, he would get money by pretending to take the cross; at another he would prevail by assert­ing, that he was resolved to re-conquer his French dominions. At length his barons, per­ceiving the exigencies to which he was reduced, seemed, in mere pity, willing to grant him aid; and, upon his promising to grant them [Page 361] plenary redress, a very liberal supply was ob­tained,A.D. 1255 for which he renewed their charter with more than usual solemnity. All the prelates and abbots were assembled, with burning ta­pers in their hands; the Magna Charta was read in their presence; and they denounced sentence of excommunication against all who should infringe upon its decisions; they then put out their tapers on the ground, and ex­claimed, ‘"May every soul that proves false to this agreement, so stink and corrupt in hell."’ The king had his part in the cere­mony, and subjoined, ‘"So help me God, I will inviolably keep all these things, as I am a man, as I am a christian, as I am a knight, and as I am a king crowned and anointed."’ Thus solemn was their mutual engagements; but the wretched Henry had no sooner receiv­ed the supplies, for which his parliament had been convoked, than he forgot every article of what he had so solemnly agreed to observe.

Though the king, in the last convention, had solemnly engaged to follow the advice of Eng­lish counsellors, yet he was directed in all his measures by foreigners, and William de Va­lence, on whom he conferred various honours, grasped at every post of profit that was in the royal power to bestow. This imprudent pre­ference, [Page 362] joined to a thousand other illegal eva­sions of justice, at last impelled Simon Mont­fort, earl of Leicester, to attempt an innova­tion in the government, and to wrest the sceptre from the feeble hand that held it. This nobleman was the son of the famous general who commanded against the Albigenses, a sect of enthusiasts that had been destroyed some time before in the kingdom of Savoy. He was married to the king's sister; and, by his power and address, was possessed of a strong interest in the nation, having gained equally the affec­tions of the great and the little. The king was the only person whose favour he disdained to cul­tivate. He so much disregarded Henry's friend­ship or enmity, that when the monarch, upon a certain occasion, called him traitor, Leicester gave him the lie; and told him, that if he were not his sovereign, he would soon make him repent of his insult. Being possessed of pow­er too great for a subject, he had long, though secretly, aspired at the throne, and filled all places with complaints of the king's injustice, partiality, and inability to govern. Having at last found his designs ripe for execution, he called a meeting of the most considerable barons; and concealing his private ambition under the mask of public concern, he repre­sented [Page 363] to them the necessity of reforming the state. He exaggerated the oppressions of the lower orders of people, the violations of the barons' privileges, the continued plun­der of the clergy, and the perfidy of the king. His popularity and his power add­ed weight to his eloquence; and the barons entered into a resolution of redressing public grievances, by taking the administration of the government into their own hands.

The first place where this formidable confe­deracy first discovered itself, was in the parli­ament-house, where the barons appeared in complete armour. The king, upon his entry, asked them what was their intention; to which they submissively replied, to make him their sovereign, by confirming his power, and to have their grievances redressed. Henry, who was ready enough to promise whatever was de­manded, instantly assured them of his intenti­ons to give all possible satisfaction; and for that purpose, summoned another parliament at Ox­ford, to digest a new plan of government, and to elect proper persons who were to be entrusted with the chief authority. This parliament, afterwards called the mad parliament, went ex­peditiously to work upon the business of refor­mation. Twenty-four barons were appointed, [Page 364] with supreme authority, to reform the abuses of the state, and Leicester was placed at their head. Their first step was calculated for the good of the people, as it contained the rude out-line of the house of commons, which makes a part of the constitution at this day. They or­dered,June 11, 1258. that four knights should be chosen by each county, who should examine into the grievances of their respective constituents, and to attend at the ensuing parliament, to give information of their complaints. They ordained, that three ses­sions of parliament should be regularly held every year; that a new high sheriff should be annually elected; that no wards nor castles should be entrusted to foreigners; no new forests made; nor the revenues of any counties let to farm. These constitutions were so just, that some of them have been continued to the present time; but it was not the security of the people, but the establishment of their own power, that this odious confederacy endeavour­ed to effect. Instead of resigning their power, when they had fulfilled the purposes of their appointment, they still maintained themselves in an usurped authority; at one time pre­tending that they had not as yet digested all ne­cessary regulations for the benefit of the state; at another, that their continuance in power [Page 365] was the only remedy the people had against the faithless character of the king: in short, they resolved to maintain their stations till they should think proper to resign their authority. The whole state accordingly underwent a complete alteration; all its former officers were displaced, and creatures of the twenty-four barons were put in their room; they had even the effrontery to impose an oath upon every in­dividual of the nation, declaring an implicit obe­dience to all the regulations executed, and to be yet executed, by the barons, who were thus appointed as rulers. They not only abridged the authority of the king, but the efficacy of parliament, giving up to twelve persons all parliamentary power between each session. Thus these insolent nobles, after having tram­pled upon the crown, now threw prostrate all the rights of the people, and a vile oligarchy was on the point of being established for ever.

The first opposition that was made to these usurpations, was from that very power, which so lately began to take place in the constitu­tion. The knights of the shire, who, for some time, had begun to be regularly assembled in a separate house, now first perceived those griev­ances, which they submitted to the superior as­sembly of the barons for redress. These bold [Page 366] and patriotic men strongly remonstrated against the slowness of the proceedings of their twenty-four rulers; and, for the first time, began to shew that spirit of just resistance, which has ever since actuated their councils in a greater or a less degree. They represented, that though the king had performed all the conditions re­quired of him, the barons had hitherto done nothing on their part, that shewed an equal re­gard for the people; that their own interests and power seemed the only aim of all their de­crees; and they even called upon the king's eldest son, prince Edward, to interpose his au­thority, and save the sinking nation.

Prince Edward was at this time about twenty-two years of age, when the hopes which were conceived of his abilities and his integrity ren­dered him an important personage in the trans­actions of the times, and in some measure a­toned for his father's imbecillity. Upon this occasion his conduct was fitted to impress the people with the highest idea of his piety and justice. He alledged, when appealed to, that he had sworn to the late Constitutions of Oxford, which, though contrary to his own private sen­timents, he yet resolved by no means to in­fringe. At the same time, however, he sent a message to the barons, requiring them to bring [Page 367] their undertaking to an end, or otherwise to ex­pect the most vigorous opposition to their usur­pations. To this the barons were obliged to reply, by publishing a new code of laws, which, though it contained scarce any thing mate­rial, yet they supposed would, for a while, dazzle the eyes of the people, until they could take measures to confirm their authority upon a securer foundation. In this manner, under various pretences, and studied delays, they continued themselves in power for three years; while the whole nation perceived their aims, and loudly condemned their treachery. The pope himself beheld their usurpations with in­dignation, and absolved the king and all his sub­jects from the oath which they had taken to observe the Provisions of Oxford.

The people now only wanted a leader to subvert this new tyranny imposed upon them; but they knew not where, nor whom they could apply to for succour. The king himself, weak, timid, irresolute, and superstitious, was in a manner leagued with those who opposed and depressed his own interests; the clergy, who formerly gave the people redress, were become an independent body, and little concerned in the commotions of the state, which they re­garded as tame spectators. In this distressful [Page 368] situation, they had recourse to young prince Edward, who, at a very early age, had given the strongest proofs of courage, of wisdom, and of constancy. At first, indeed, when applied to, ap­pearing sensible of what his father had suffered by levity and breach of promise, he refused some time to take advantage of the pope's absolu­tion, and the people's earnest application; but being at last persuaded to concur, a parliament was called, in which the king resumed his for­mer authority; and the barons, after making one fruitless effort to take him by surprize at Winchester, were obliged to acquiesce in what they could not openly oppose.

In the mean time the earl of Leicester, no way discouraged by the bad success of his past enterprizes, resolved upon entirely overturn­ing that power, which he had already humbled. For this purpose he formed a most powerful confederacy with the prince of Wales, who in­vaded England with a body of thirty thousand men. To these babarous ravagers Leicester quickly joined his own forces, and the whole kingdom was soon exposed to all the devast­ations of a licentious army. The citizens of London also were not averse to his cause. Under the command of their mayor, Thomas Fitz-Richard, a furious and licentious man, they [Page 369] fell upon the Jews, and many of the more wealthy inhabitants, pillaging and destroying where-ever they came. The fury of the fac­tion was not confined to London only, but broke out in most of the populous cities of the kingdom; while the king, with his usual pusillanimity, deplored the turbulence of the times, and in vain applied to the pope for his holy protection.

In this distressful state of the nation, nothing now remained, but an accommodation with the insurgent barons; and after some time a trea­ty of peace was concluded, but upon the most disadvantageous terms to the king and his par­ty.A.D. 1623 The Provisions of Oxford were again re­stored, and the barons re-established in the so­vereignty of the kingdom. They took pos­session of all the royal castles and fortresses; they even named the officers of the king's houshold; and summoned a parliament to meet at Westminster, in order the more fully to settle the plan of their government. By this assembly it was enacted, that the autho­rity of the twenty four barons should continue; and that not only during the reign of the king, but also during that of prince Edward.

But these were conditions which, though the pusillanimous king could very easily sub­mit to, yet the young prince would by no [Page 370] means acquiesce in. He appealed to the king of France, to whom he consented to refer the subject of his infringed pretensions; and when that just monarch declared in his favour, he resolved to have recourse to arms, the last re­fuge of oppressed royalty. Accordingly, sum­moning the king's military vassals from all quarters, and being reinforced by many of the more equitable barons, he resolved to take the field. His first attempts were successful; Northampton, Leicester, and Nottingham, sub­mitted to his power; and he proceeded into the county of Derby, in order to ravage with fire and sword the estates of such as had espoused the opposite cause. On the other side, the earl of Leicester was besieging Rochester, when he was informed of the king's successes; upon which he raised the siege, and retreated to London, where he was joined by a body of the citizens, amounting to fifteen thousand men. Both armies being thus pretty near equal, they resolved to come to an engage­ment, and Leicester halted within about two miles from Lewes in Sussex; offering, at the same time, terms of accommodation, which he well knew the king would reject. Upon the refusal of these with contempt, both sides prepared for a battle with the utmost rancour and animosity. The earl advanced with his [Page 371] troops near Lewes, where the king had drawn up his forces to give him a proper reception. The royal army was formed in three divisions; prince Edward commanded on the right; Richard, the king's brother, who had been some time before made king of the Romans, was posted on the left wing, and Henry him­self remained in the center. The earl's army was divided into four bodies; the first was con­ducted by Henry de Montfort, son of the ge­neral; the second was commanded by the earl of Gloucester; the third was under the com­mand of the earl himself; and the fourth, con­sisting of Londoners, was under the direction of Nicholas Seagrave. To encourage these insurgents still farther, the bishop of Chichester gave a general absolution to their party; ac­companied with assurances, that if any of them fell in the action, they would infallibly be re­ceived into heaven, as a reward for their suf­fering in so meritorious a cause. The battle was begun by prince Edward, who rushed upon the Londoners, placed foremost in the post of honour, with so much fury, that they were unable to sustain the charge, but giving way, fled with great precipitation. The prince, transported with a desire of revenging the in­sults they had offered to his mother, pursued them four miles off the field of battle, causing [Page 372] a terrible slaughter. While he was making this imprudent use of his victory, the earl of Leicester, who was a skilful commander, pushed with all his forces against the ene­mies left wing, soon put them to the route, and took both the king and his brother pri­soners. It was a dreadful prospect, therefore, to the young prince, who was now returning victorious from the pursuit, to behold the field covered with the bodies of his friends; and still more, when he heard that his father and his uncle were defeated and taken. In this deplorable state, he at first endeavoured to in­spire his remaining troops with ardour; but being artfully amused by Leicester with a pre­tended negotiation, he quickly found his lit­tle body of troops surrounded, and he himself obliged to submit to such terms as the conque­ror thought fit to impose. These were short, and very conformable to his wretched situa­tion. He, together with another general named Henry d'Almain, were to surrender themselves prisoners, as pledges in the place of the king and his brother, who were to be released. The Provisions of Oxford were to continue in full force; but to be revised by six Frenchmen, appointed by the king of France; three pre­lates, and three noblemen, who, with three more of their own chusing, were to be invested [Page 373] with full powers to settle all disturbances that then subsisted. Such was the convention called the Mise of Lewes.

These great advantages were no sooner ob­tained, than Leicester resolved to possess him­self of that power,A.D. 1264 for which he had so long been struggling. Instead of referring the sub­ject in dispute to the king of France, as was agreed on, he kept Richard still a prisoner; and though he had already confined prince Ed­ward in the castle of Dover, yet he effectually took care still to the king continue also in bondage. To add to his injustice, he made use of his name for purposes the most prejudi­cial to the royal interests; and while he every where disarmed the king's adherents, he was cautiously seen to keep his partizans in a pos­ture of defence. The king, a poor contemptible spectator of his own degradation, was carried about from place to place, and obliged to give his governors directions to deliver their cas­tles into the hands of his enemy. To this usurpation of the king's authority, Leicester added the most barefaced and rapacious ava­rice. He seized the estates of no less than eighteen barons, as his share of the spoil gain­ed in the battle of Lewes. He engrossed to himself the ransom of all the prisoners; he monopolized the sale of wool to foreign mar­kets; [Page 374] and to fix himself compleatly in autho­rity, he ordained that all power should be ex­ercised by a council of nine persons, who were to be chosen by three persons, or the majority of them; and these were the earl himself, the earl of Gloucester, and the bishop of Chichester.

In this stretch of power, Leicester was not so entirely secure, but that he still feared the combinations of the foreign states against him, as well as the internal machinations of the royal party. The king of France, at the in­tercession of the queen of England, who had taken refuge at his court, actually prepared to reinstate Henry in his dominions; the pope was not sparing in his ecclesiastical censures; and there were many other princes that pitied the royal sufferings, and secretly wished the usur­per's fall. The miserable situation of the king­dom in the end produced the happiness of poste­rity. Leicester, to secure his ill-acquired power, was obliged to have recourse to an aid till now entirely unknown in England, namely, that of the body of the people. He called a par­liament, where, besides the barons of his own party, and several ecclesiastics, who were not immediate tenants of the crown, he ordered returns to be made of two knights from every shire; and also deputies from the burroughs, which had been hitherto considered as too in­considerable [Page 375] to have a voice in legislation.A.D. Jan. 20. 1265. This is the first confirmed outline of an Eng­lish house of commons. The people had been gaining some consideration since the gradual diminution of the force of the feudal system. The establishment of corporation charters, by which many of the rustic slaves were in a ca­pacity of rescuing themselves from the power of their masters, encreased not only the power of the people, but their ardour to be free. As arts encreased, the number of these little in­dependent republics, if they may be so called, increased in proportion; and we find them, at the present period, of consequence enough to be adopted into a share of the legislature. Such was the beginning of an institution, that has since been the guardian of British liberty, and the admiration of mankind. In this man­ner it owed its original to the aspiring aims of an haughty baron, who flattered the people with the name of freedom, with a design the more completely to tyrannize.

A parliament assembled in this manner, to second the views of the earl, was found not so very complying as he expected. Many of the barons, who had hitherto stedfastly adhered to his party, appeared disgusted at his immode­rate ambition; and many of the people, who found that a change of masters was not a [Page 376] change from misery to happiness, began to wish for the re-establishment of the royal fa­mily. In this exigence, Leicester finding him­self unable to oppose the concurring wishes of the nation, was resolved to make a merit of what he could not prevent; and he accord­ingly released prince Edward from confine­ment, and had him introduced at Westmin­ster hall, where his freedom was confirm­ed by the unanimous voice of the barons. But though Leicester, had all the populari­ty of restoring the prince, yet he was politic enough to keep him still guarded by his emis­saries, who watched all his motions, and fru­strated all his aims.

On the other hand, prince Edward, who had too much penetration not to perceive that he was made the tool of Leicester's ambition, ardently watched an opportunity to regain that freedom, of which he then enjoyed but the ap­pearance. An opportunity soon offered for pro­curing him a restoration of his former liberty with his power. The duke of Gloucester, one of the heads of Leicester's party, being discontent­ed at that nobleman's great power, retired from court in disgust, and went, for safety, to his estates on the borders of Wales. Leicester was not slow in pursuing him thither; and to give greater authority to his arms, carried the [Page 377] king and the prince of Wales along with him. This was the happy opportunity that young Ed­ward long wanted in order to effect his escape. Being furnished by the earl of Gloucester with an horse of extraordinary swiftness, under a pretence of taking the air with some of Leicester's re­tinue, who were in reality appointed to guard him, he proposed that they should run their horses one against the other. When he perceiv­ed that he had thus sufficiently tired their horses, immediately mounting Gloucester's horse that was still fresh, he bid his attendants very politely farewel. They followed him indeed for sometime; but the appearance of a body of troops belong­ing to Gloucester soon put an end to the pursuit. This happy event seemed the signal for the whole body of the royalists to rise. The well known valour of the young prince, the long train of grievances which the people endured; and the countenance of the earl of Gloucester, a man of great power, all combined to encrease their numbers, and inspire their activity. An army was soon assembled which Leicester had no power to withstand; and he saw his hard-earned power every day ravished from him, without being able to strike a single blow in its de­fence. His son, attempting to bring him a reinforcement of troops from London, was, by a vigorous march of young Edward, sur­prized, and his army cut to pieces.

[Page 378]It was not long after, that the earl himself, ignorant of his son's fate, passed the Severne, in expectation of the London army; but in­stead of the troops he expected, he soon per­ceived, that the indefatigable prince was com­ing up to give him battle. Nor was it without a stratagem that his little army was assaulted. While the prince led a part of his troops by a circuit to attack him behind, he ordered ano­ther body of them to advance with the banners of the London army that was just defeated, which, for a long time, the earl mistook for an actual reinforcement, and made dispositions acccrdingly. At last, however, this proud but unfortunate general, perceived his mistake; and saw that the enemy was advancing against him on all sides, with the most regular dis­position and determined bravery. He now, therefore, found that all was lost; and was so struck with dismay, that he could not help ex­claiming, ‘"The Lord have mercy upon our souls, for our bodies are doomed to destruc­tion."’ He did not, however, abandon all hopes of safety; but drew up his men in a compact circle, and exhorted them to fight like men who had all to gain or all to suffer. At the same time, he obliged the old king to put on armour, and to fight against his own cause, in the front of the army. The battle [Page 379] soon began; but the earl's army having been exhausted by famine on the mountains of Wales, were but ill able to sustain the impetu­osity of young Edward's attack, who bore down upon them with incredible fury. Du­ring this terrible day, Leicester behaved with astonishing intrepidity; and kept up the spirit of the action from two o'clock in the afternoon, till nine at night. At last, his horse being kill­ed under him, he was compelled to fight on foot; and tho' he demanded quarter, the adverse par­ty refused it, with a barbarity common enough in the times we are describing. The old king, who was placed in the front of the battle, was soon wounded in the shoulder; and not being known by his friends, he was on the point of being killed by a soldier; but crying out, I am Henry of Winchester the king, he was saved by a knight of the royal army. Prince Edward hear­ing the voice of his father, instantly ran to the spot where he lay, and had him conducted to a place of safety. The body of Leicester being found among the dead, was barbarously mang­led by one Roger Mortimer; and then, with an accumulation of inhumanity, sent to the wretched widow, as a testimony of the royal party's success.

This victory proved decisive; and those who were formerly persecuted, now be­came [Page 380] oppressors in their turn. The king, who was grown vindictive from his sufferings, was now resolved to take a signal vengeance on the citizens of London, who had ever for­warded the interests of his opponents. In this exigence, submission was their only resource; and Henry was hardly prevailed upon from totally destroying the city. He was at last contented to deprive it of its military en­signs and fortifications, and to levy upon the inhabitants a very heavy contribution. Fitz-Richard,A.D. 1265. Aug. 5. the seditious mayor, was imprisoned, and purchased his pardon with the loss of his substance. The rebels every were submitted, or were pursued with rigour. Their castles were taken and demolished; and scarce any were found that disputed the king's authori­ty. Among the few who still continued re­fractory, was one Adam Gordon, formerly go­venor of Dunster castle, and very much cele­brated for his prodigious strength, and great bravery. This courageous baron maintained himself for some time in the forests of Hamp­shire, and ravaged the counties of Berks and Surrey. Prince Edward was, at length, obli­ged to lead a body of troops into that part of the country to force him from thence; and at­tacked his camp with great bravery. Being transported with the natural impetuosity of [Page 381] youth, and the ardour of the action, he leapt over the trench, by which it was defended, attend­ed by a few followers; and thus found himself unexpectedly cut off from the rest of his army. Gordon soon distinguished him from the rest of his attendants; and a single combat began be­tween these two valiant men, which, for a long time, continued doubtful. But the prince's for­tune at last prevailed: Adam's foot happening to slip, he received a wound, which disabled him from continuing the action, and he remained at the mercy of the conqueror. Edward was as mer­ciful as he was brave; he not only granted him his life, but introduced him that very night to his consort at Guilford; procured him his par­don and estate, and received him into favour. Gordon was not ungrateful for such mercy; he ever after followed the prince; and was of­ten found combating by his side in the most dangerous shock of battle. In this manner, the generosity of the prince tempered the inso­lence of victory; and strength was gradually restored to the different members of the consti­tution, that had been so long weakened by the continuance of civil discord.

Edward having thus restored peace to the kingdom, found his affairs now so firmly esta­blished, that it was not in the power of any slight disgust taken by the licentious barons [Page 382] to shake them. The earl of Gloucester, indeed, who had been so instrumental in restoring the king to the crown, thought that no recom­pence could equal his merits. He therefore engaged once more in open rebellion; but was soon brought to submission by the prince, who obliged him to enter into a bond of twenty thousand marks, never to enter into similar schemes for the future. The kingdom being thus tolerably composed, that spirit of adventure and ardour for military glory, which shone forth in all this prince's actions, now impelled him to undertake the expedition against the in­fidels in the Holy Land. The crusade was at that time the great object of ambition; all other wars were considered as trifling, and all other successes as mean, in comparison of those gained over the enemies of Christ and his re­ligion. To that renowned field of blood flocked all the brave, the pious, the ambitious, and the powerful.

In pursuance of this resolution, which, tho' succeeding fashions of thinking have condemn­ed, yet certainly then was prosecuted upon the noblest motives. Edward sailed from England with a large army, and arrived at the camp of Lewis, the king of France, which lay before Tu­nis; and where he had the misfortune to hear of that good monarch's death before his arrival. The [Page 383] prince, however, no way discouraged by this event, continued his voyage, and arrived at the Holy Land in safety.

He was scarce departed upon this pious expe­dition, when the health of the old king began to decline; and he found not only his own consti­tution, but also that of the state, in such a dan­gerous situation, that he wrote letters to his son, pressing him to return with all dispatch. The former calamities began to threaten the kingdom again; and the barons, taking ad­vantage of the king's weakness, oppressed the people with impunity. Bands of robbers in­fested various parts of the nation; and the po­pulace of London once more resumed their ac­customed licentiousness. To add to the king's uneasiness, his brother Richard died, who had long assisted him with his advice in all emer­gencies. He therefore, ardently wished for the return of his gallant son, who had placed the sceptre in hands that were too feeble to hold it. At last overcome by the cares of go­vernment, and the infirmities of age, he order­ed himself to be removed, by easy journies, from St. Edmund's to Westminster, where, sending for the earl of Gloucester, he obliged him to swear that he would preserve the peace of the kingdom; and, to the utmost of his power, maintain the interests of his son. That [Page 384] same night be expired, and the next morning the great seal was delivered to the archbishop of York, and the lords of the privy-council.

Thus died Henry, in the sixty-fourth year of his age, and the fifty-sixth of his reign, the longest to be met with in the English annals. He was a prince more adapted for pri­vate than for public life; his ease, simpli­city, and good nature, would have secured him that happiness in a lower station, of which they deprived him upon a throne. How­ever, from his calamities, the people after­wards derived the most permanent blessings; that liberty which they extorted from his weak­ness they continued to preserve under bolder princes, who succeeded him. The flame of free­dom had now diffused itself from the incorpo­rated towns through the whole mass of the peo­ple, and ever afterwards blazed forth at con­venient seasons; so that in proportion as the upper orders lost, the people were sure to be gainers. In this contest, though they often laid down their lives, and suffered all the calamities of civil war, yet those calamities were consi­dered as nothing, when weighed against the ad­vantages of freedom and security.



  • AELLA, founds the kingdom of the South Saxons, 42
  • Agricola, sent into Britain, 23—defeats the Caledonians, ib.—sails round Britain, 24—humanizes the Britons, ib.—instructs them in the arts of peace, ib.
  • Alfred, account of, 72—succeeds to the crown, 73— marches against the Danes, ib.—is defeated, ib.— relinquishes the ensigns of his dignity, 74—routes the Danes 77—equips a strong fleet, 78—receives homage from the kings of Wales, ib.—cultivates the arts of peace, 79—rebuilds the ruined cities ib.— establishes a regular militia, ib.—provides a naval force, ib.—defeats the pirates, 80—encourages li­terature, 82—founds the university of Oxford, ib. —encourages manufactures, ib.—his character, ib.
  • Ambrosius, succeeds Vortimer, 41—defeats the Saxons and restores the British interest and dominion, 42
  • Anglesea, isle of, taken by Paulinus, 20
  • Anselm, archbishop of Canterbury, declares for Urban, 177—opposes the king's orders, 178—retires to Rome, 179—recalled by Henry, 186—engages in the king's party, 188
  • Arthur, king of England, an account of, 43.
  • Arthur, nephew to John, claims the throne, 3O2.— submits to his uncle, 303—flies to the court of France, 304—defeated and taken prisoner, 305—put to death, ib.
  • Arts and sciences, transplanted into England, 62
  • [Page] Ascalon, taken by the christians, 283
  • Atheling Edgar, retreats into Scotland, 147.—returns to England, and lives retired, ib.
  • Athelstan, ravages Scotland, 86—subdues Constantine, ib.
  • Augustine, the monk, sent into Britain, 49—his exem­plary conduct, 50—lands in the isle of Thanet, ib. converts Ethelbert to christianity, 51—consecrated archbishop of Canterbury, ibid.
  • Augustus, forms a design of invading Britain, 13—di­verted from it, how, ib.—
  • BARONIES, established by William the Con­queror, 149
  • Barons, their power in the reign of William I. 149— form a conspiracy against John, 324—present their demands to the king, 325—despise the pope's re­monstrance, 327—make war against the king, 329. encamp on Runemede, 331—obtain the great charter of liberties, 322—twenty-five of their order appoint­ed as conservators of the public liberty, 336—reduced to the most deplorable circumstances, 339—apply to Philip for relief, ib.—become the tyrants of the peo­ple, 350 — resign their castles, 351 — their un­bounded authority, 364—submit to Henry III. 368 —conclude a peace, 369
  • Battle of Hastings, 181
  • Becket, Thomas à, his extraction, 224—a clerk in the Sheriff's-office, ib.—preferred by the archbishop of Canterbury, 255—studies the civil law at Bologna, ib. —made archdeacon of Canterbury, ib —recommended to Henry II. ib.—made chancellor, ib.—his immense revenues, ib.—his pomp and magnificence, 226—his conduct while chancellor, ib.—promoted to the see of Canterbury, 227—resigns the seals, ib.—changes his conduct, 228—opposes the king, 230—is commanded by the king to surrender his castles, 231—quits Lon­don apruptly, ib.—submits to the king, ib.—signs the [Page] Constitutions of Clarendon, 232—redoubles his aus­terities, 233—his goods and chattels confiscated, 234 —his insolent conduct, 235—puts himself under the pope's protection, 236—retires to the continent, ib.—excommunicates the king's chief ministers by name—239—obtains leave to return, 241—his ad­vantagious terms of agreement, 242—his splendid progress through Kent, 243—suspends the archbishop of York, ib.—excommunicates the bishops of Lon­don and Salisbury, 244—is murdered at the altar, 246—considered as a saint, ib.
  • Bertram de Jourdon, wounds Richard I. with an arrow, 296—his noble answer to that prince, 297—set at liberty, ib.—flead alive by Marcade, ib.
  • Birtha, queen of Kent, exerts herself in the cause of Christianity, 50
  • Blathim, prince of North Wales joins with Edwin and Morcar against William, 144
  • Boadicea, her cruel usage, 21—excites the Britons to a revolt, ib.—heads a considerable army, ib —defeated by the Romans, 22—puts an end to her life by poison, ib.
  • Britannia, its name, whence, 2—its commodities, what, 4
  • Britons, their ancient state, 1—little known before the time of the Romans, 2—their general name, ib.— how distinguished from strangers, ib —their manner of living, 3—their cloathing, ib.—their language, customs, religion, and government, 4—their war-chariots, 5—their druids, 6—their superstition, ib. —their altars, ib.—their courage, 7—are invaded by Caesar, 10—send embassadors to appease Caesar, ib.— their defence against Caesar, 11—are obliged to sub­mit, ib.—accept the terms offered by Caesar, ib.— relieved from the terrors of war, 12—neglect the per­formance of their stipulations, ib.—are again invaded, ib.—make choice of Cassibelaunus for their com­mander, ib.—send an embassy to Augustus, 13—their humanity to Roman soldiers wrecked on their coast, 14 [Page] —their great improvements in war, commerce, &c. ib.—revolt against the Romans, 21—civilized by Agricola, 24—left by the Romans, 28—invaded by the Picts and Scots, 31—apply, in vain, to Rome for relief, 32—chuse Vortigern for their sovereign, 34— invite the Saxons into England, 37—forsake their their country, and take refuge in Wales and Corn­wall, 46—rebel against Edwy, 94
  • Burgh, Hubert de, appointed chief justiciary, 350— quiets the turbulent barons, 351—is discarded from his office, 352—takes sanctuary in a church ib.—es­capes and lives retired, 353.
  • CAESAR, his design of invading Britain, 9—his rea­son for so doing, 10—receives the British embas­sadors, ib.—sets sail for Britain, ib.—lands at Deal, ib.—overcomes the Britons, 11—returns into Gaul, 12—invades Britain a second time, ib.—burns the capital city of Cassibelaunus, 13—returns again into Gaul, ib.
  • Camp-fight, what, 150
  • Canute, the Dane, invades England, 107—is opposed by Edmund, ib.—divides the kingdom with that prince, ib.—is crowned king, ib.—the duplicity of his conduct, ib.—marries Emma, daughter to the Duke of Normandy, 109—undertakes a pilgrimage to Rome, 110—adulations of his subjects, ib.— convinces them of their error, ib.—his death, 111
  • Caractacus, opposes the Romans, 16—is defeated and sent prisoner to Rome, 17—his noble behaviour be­fore Claudius, 18—pardoned and set at liberty, 19
  • Cassibelaunus, commander in chief of the British forces, 11—accepts the conditions offered him by Caesar, ib.
  • Ceaulin, king of Wessex, subdues the Britons, 55— attacks the Saxons, ib.—driven from the throne, 56.
  • Ceodwalla, king of Wessex, subdues the kingdom of Sussex, 56
  • [Page] Cerdic, founds the kingdom of the West-Saxons, 42—
  • Charta Foresta, what, 346
  • Christianity, introduced into Britain, 33—preached in England by Augustine the monk, 49
  • Claudius, invades Britain, 16—receives the submission of many of the inhabitants, ib.—pardons Caractacus, 19
  • Conspiracy, of Edwin and Morcar, frustrated by Wil­liam, 144
  • Constitutions of Oxford, what, 364
  • Crusade, preached up by Peter the hermit, 174
  • Cyprus, island of, reduced by Richard I. 282
  • DANES, invaded England, 65—land upon the island of Shippey, 66—routed by Egbert, 67— —land at Southampton, ib.—repulsed by Ethelwolf, ib.—land on the isle of Thanet, and form a settlement, 68—routed by king Alfred, 77—invade England, 102—sign a treaty with the English, ib.—are mas­sacred, 104
  • Doomsday book, what, 160
  • Druids, account of, 6—their great power, 7
  • Dunstan, account of, 91—his authority at court, 92— insolent behaviour to the king, ib.—banished the king­dom, 93—returns to England, 94—heads the re­bels, ib.
  • EARPWEALD, king of the East-Angles, em­braces the christian religion, 53—relapses into idolatry, ib.
  • East-Angles, converted to christianity, 53
  • Edgar, placed at the head of the populace, 94—ascends the throne, ib.—wholly guided by the monks, 95— his great splendor, ib.—rowed in his barge by eight tributary kings, ib.—carries off Editha, a nun, 96— —retains Elfleda the Fair, ib.—sends Ethelwald to see [Page] Elfrida, 97—receives a false account of that lady, ib consents to her marriage with Ethelwald, 98—visits Elfrida, 99—stabs Ethelwald, ib.—marries Elfrida, ib.—his death, 100
  • Edmund, ascends the throne, 87—curbs the licencious­ness of the people, ib.—institutes capital punish­ments, ib.—murdered by Leolf, the robber, 88
  • Edmund, surnamed Ironside, ascends the English throne, 106—his battles with Canute, 107—makes a treaty with that prince, ib.—murdered by his servants, ib.
  • Edred, placed on the throne, 88—suppresses the insur­rections of the Danes, 89—is entirely governed by Dunstan, ib.—his death, 90
  • Edward, the Elder, successor to Alfred, 84—his suc­cesses, 85—builds several castles, ib.—subdues the East-Angles, ib.
  • Edward, the Martyr, ascends the throne, 100—is mur­dered by order of Elfrida, 101
  • Edward, surnamed the Confessor, ascends the English throne, 114—mildness of his government, 115— confines his mother in a monastery, ib —opposed by Godwin, 117—confiscates the estates of that noble­man, ib.—his death 122—character, ib.
  • Edward, prince of Wales, taken prisoner at the battle of Lewes, 372—gains his liberty, ib. —defeats the Lon­doners, 377—totally defeats the earl of Leicester, 379—his single combat with Adam Gordon, 381— his generosity to that brave man, ib.—undertakes an expedition to the Holy Land, 382
  • Edwin, king of Numberland, converted to christianity, 52—joins in a conspiracy against William, 144
  • Edwy, opposes the power of the monks, 90—marries Elgiva, 92—is divorced, 93—his death, ib.
  • Egbert, grows very popular, 57—withdraws to the court of Charlemagne, ib—recalled from France, 58 —ascends the throne of Wessex, ib.—defeats the Cornish Britons, 59—routs the Mercians, 60—makes himself master of Kent, ib.—receives the submission of the East-Saxons, ib.—becomes master of Mercia, [Page] 61—subdues the kingdom of Northumberland, ib.— is solemnly crowned king of England, 62
  • Elfleda, one of Edgar's mistresses, 96
  • Elgiva, queen to Edwy, her cruel treatment, 91— banished, 93—returns to England, 94—taken pri­soner, ib.—put to death, ib.
  • Elfrida, daughter to the earl of Devonshire, 97—mar­ried to Ethelwald, ib.—beloved by the king, 99— married to Edgar, ib.—causes Edward, her son-in-law, to be stabbed, 100
  • Essex, kingdom of, receives the christian religion, 54.
  • Ethelbert, king of Kent, converted to christianity, 51
  • Ethelburga, exerts herself in the cause of christianity, 52
  • Ethelred, ascends the throne, 101—his follies and vices, ib.—his pussilanimous behaviour, 102—massacres the Danes, 104—returns to London, 106—restored to the throne, ib.—his death, ib.
  • Ethelwald, the favourite of Edgar, sent to see Elfrida, 96—makes a false report to the king, 97—marries that lady, ib.—is stabbed by Edgar, 99
  • Ethelwolf, makes a pilgrimage to Rome, 69—divides the kingdom with Ethelbald, 70
  • Eustace, count of Bologne, visits Edward, 116—fray between his servants and the inhabitants of Dover, ib.
  • FAMINE, a dreadful one, 209
  • Feudal law, reformed, 140
  • Fitzosborne, the lawyer, see Longbeard.
  • GLANVILLE; Ralph de, commands an English army against the Scots, 262—defeats the enemy at Alnwick, ib.—takes William king of Scotland pri­soner, 263—resigns his employment, 278
  • Godwin, earl, 109—his gallant behaviour in Denmark, ib.—great power, ib.—artful behaviour; 113—places [Page] Edward on the throne, 114—his treachery, 116— takes shelter in Flanders, 117—his estates confiscated, ib.—is assisted with a fleet by the earl of Flanders, and lands in England, 118—his death, ib.
  • Gordon, Adam, fights in single combat with prince Edward, 381,—is defeated, and pardoned, ib.—his gratitude, ib.
  • Gray, John de, chosen archbishop of Canterbury, 310 —his election set aside by the pope, 311
  • Gregory, pope, his remarkable apostrophe, 49—sends Augustine into England, ib.
  • HARDICNUTE, crowned, 112—his cruel dis­position, ib.—imposes a grievous tax on his sub­jects, 113—his avarice, ib —his death, ib.
  • Harfagar, assists Tosti, 124—is slain in battle, 125
  • Harold, son of Canute, ascends the throne, 111—di­vides the kingdom with his brother Hardicnute, ib. puts prince Alfred to death, 112—his death, ib.
  • Harold, son of Godwin, his virtues and abilities, 118— his great popularity, 119—his growing power, 120 —repels the Welsh, ib. — his justice and integrity, 121—becomes the idol of the people, ib —aspires to the crown, ib.—ascends the throne of England, 123 — his equitable administration, ib.—is opposed by his brother Tosti, who raises an army against him, ib.— gives him battle at Stamford, 124—obtains a com­plete victory, 125—makes himself master of a Nor­wegian fleet, ib.—his generous treatment of prince Olave, ib.—declared an usurper, 129—excommuni­cated by the pope, ib. — marches against William duke of Normandy, 130—his army, ib.—his be­haviour in the battle, 131—slain by an arrow, 133.
  • Hastings, battle of, 151
  • Hengist, sole commander of the Saxons, 40—cruelty to the Britons, ib.
  • Henry, I. surnamed Beauclerc, ascends the English throne, 183—secures his brother's treasures, 184— grants his subjects a charter, 185—establishes the [Page] churches in possession of their immunities, ib.—re­calls Anselm, 186—marries Matilda, a niece of Edgar Atheling, ib.—his crown claimed by his bro­ther, 187—pays his court to Anselm, 188—makes a treaty with his brother, ib.—banishes several of his barons, 189—passes over into Normandy at the head of his army, 190—defeats his brother's army and takes him prisoner, 192—reduces Normandy and re­turns to England, 193—condemns his brother to per­petual imprisonment, ib.—founds the abbey of Read­ing, ib.—has a dispute with Anselm, 194—en­deavours to seize the son of his brother Robert, ib.— defeats the French army, 196—causes his son to be recognized by the states of England, 197—loses his son in his return to England, 198—his extreme grief for this misfortune, 199—his death and character, 200
  • Henry, II. opposes Stephen, 215—knighted by his uncle David, king of Scotland, ib.—marries Eleanor, daughter of the duke of Guienne, ib.—invades Eng­land, 216—makes a treaty with Stephen, 217— mounts the English throne, 220—corrects many abuses in the government, ib.—demolishes many useless castles, ib.—regulates the coin, ib.—grants charters to several towns, 221—encourages agricul­ture, ib.—reduces the Welsh to submission, ib.—ex­tends his dominions on the continent. 222—advances Thomas à Becket to the see of Canterbury, 224—his familiarity with that prelate, 226—resolves to rectify the errors of the clergy, 229—is opposed by Becket, 230—punishes Becket for his obstinacy, 231—de­termines to throw off all dependence on the pope, 239—permits Becket to return from the continent, 240—is exasperated at the insolent conduct of that prelate, 244—his remarkable exclamation against the archbishop, 245—his consternation at the news of Becket's death, 247—undertakes an expedition against Ireland, 248—lands in Ireland, 253—completes the conquest of that kingdom, 254—his unlimited gal­lantry, ib.—is opposed by his children, 258—does [Page] penance at the shrine of Thomas à Becket, 261— scourged by the monks, ib.—obtains a decisive vic­tory over the Scots, 262—raises the siege of Rouen, 263—grants his sons advantageous terms of peace, ib. —receives the homage of William king of Scotland, 264—his domestic and political conduct, ib.—renews the trials by juries, 265—establishes a well-armed militia, ib.—holds a conference with the king of France, 267—takes the cross, 268—is obliged to sub­mit to a dishonourable peace, 270—pronounces a ma­lediction on his children, 271—his death ib.—his character, 272—his issue, 274
  • Henry, III. crowned king of England at Gloucester, 346—grants a new charter of liberties, ib.—his temper and disposition, 349—his incapacity for governing, 351—his brother Richard forms a confederacy against him, 352—is obliged to submit to the haughty de­mands of his insolent vassals, ib.—discards his faith­ful servant Hubert de Burgh, ib.—orders him to be dragged from the church wherein he had taken sanc­tuary, ib.—his timid and irresolute conduct, 353— takes into his particular favour Peter de Roches, bi­shop of Winchester, ib.—invites over a great number of foreigners, ib.—his conduct highly disgustful to his barons, ib.—confiscates the estates of several of his nobility, 354—is compelled to dismiss his favourites, and rid the kingdom of foreigners, ib.—again relapses into his former weakness of caressing foreigners, ib. —excites the resentment of his people, 355—confers the chief benefices of the kingdom on Italians, 356— is enraged at the insults offered to the pope's legate, 358—foolishly engages in an artful scheme of the pope's, 359—his barons enraged at his folly, 360— desolves the parliament, ib.—convenes another par­liament, ib.—is obliged to have recourse to the mean­est arts in order to raise money, ib.—receives a large supply from the parliament on condition of granting them redress, 361—renews the charter, ib.—assists in the ceremony of denouncing excommunication against all those who should infringe upon the charter, [Page] ib.—breaks all his promises to his parliament, and is again governed by foreigners, ib.—a confederacy formed against him by Simon Montfort, earl of Lei­cester, 362—his barons appear before him in the parliament-house, in complete armour, 363—promises them all possible satisfaction, ib.—summonses ano­ther parliament at Oxford, called the mad parliament, ib.—his son, prince Edward, opposes the insolence of the barons, 366—his distressed situation, 367— calls a parliament and resumes his former authority, 368—is obliged to conclude a disadvantagious peace with the insurgent barons, 369—raises an army against the barons, 370—subdues Northampton and several other towns, ib.—enters the county of Derby, and lays it waste with fire and sword, ib.—resolves to come to an engagement with the rebels, ib.—refuses terms of accommodation offered by Leicester, ib.—is taken prisoner by Leicester, 372—his unhappy situation, 373—his cause espoused by foreign powers, 374—is carried by Leicester into Wales, 376—is obliged by Leicester to put on armour and fight at the head of his army against his son, 377 — receives a wound in his shoulder, being unknown to his friends, 379,—is in danger of being slain, ib.—discovers himself and is ordered by his son to be conducted to a place of safety, ib.—his army obtain a complete victory, ib.— resolves to wreak his vengeance on the citizens of Lon­don, 380—is diverted from his purpose by the sub­missions of the people, ib.—demolishes their castles and fortifications, ib. —finds his health decline, 383 his kingdom again disturbed by refractory barons, ib. —removes from St. Edmund's to Westminster, ib.— his death and character, 384
  • Henry, brother to Stephen,—created abbot of Glaston­bury, and bishop of Winchester, 202—exerts all his influence in favour of his brother, 203—resolves to vindicate the privileges of the church, 206—espouses the cause of Matilda, 211—besieges her in the palace, 212.
  • [Page]JEWS massacred by Richard I. 276
  • Ina, king of Wessex, subdues the Britons, 56— compiles a body of laws, ib.—assembles a council of the clergy, 57—undertakes a pilgrimage to Rome, ib.—retires into a cloister, ib.
  • Innocent III. his artful conduct, 311—his present to John, ib.—lays England under an interdict, 313— excommunicates John, 315—absolves John's subjects from their oaths of fidelity, 316—gives the kingdom of England to another, ib.
  • Interdict, sentence of, what, 313
  • John, brother to Richard I. joins the king of France, 289—claims the crown of England, ib.—his claim rejected by the barons, 290—his possessions con­fiscated, 294—makes his submission to his brother, 295—succceds him as king of England, 301—is in danger of being opposed by prince Arthur, his nephew, 302—renews the war with France, ib. — concludes a treaty with Philip, 303—marries Isabella, daughter, of count Angouleme, ib —quells a dangerous in­surrection formed against him, ib.—offends his ba­rons, 304—another dangerous confederacy formed against him, ib.—renders himself contemptible, ib. —his cruel treatment of his nephew and his mother, ib.—is opposed by young Arthur in concert with Philip, 305—defeats the prince and takes him pri­soner, ib.—confines him in the castle of Falaise, ib. —resolves to put him to death, ib.—removes Arthur to the castle of Rouen, 306—repairs thither himself at midnight, and orders the prince to be brought be­fore him, ib.—stabs the prince with his own hand, 307—is detested for this inhuman action, ib. — is de­prived of all his French provinces, 308—loses the whole dutchy of Normandy, ib.—accuses his barons as the cause of his ill success, 309—his ridiculous treatment of his barons, ib.—his pusillanimous con­duct, ib.—sets sail, and lands at Rochelle, ib.—marches [Page] to Angers, and lays the city in ashes, ib.—returns ingloriously to England, ib.—his impolite behaviour with respect to the clergy, 310—receives a metaphorical pre­sent from the pope, 311—refuses to admit Stephen Lang­ton as archbishop of Canterbury, 312—expels the monks from their convent, and takes possession of their revenues, ib.—receives a threatning message from the pope, ib.—is entreated by his bishops to receive the new-elected primate, 313—his violent behaviour, ib. his authority treated with contempt, 314—is ex­communicated by the pope, 315—opposed by his subjects, ib.—puts Geofry, archdeacon of Norwich, to death, ib.—his subjects absolved from their oaths of allegiance by the pope, 316—his deplorable situa­tion, ib.—shuts himself up in the castle of Notting­ham, ib.—puts all the Welsh hostages to death, ib.— requires the sons and daughters of his barons as hos­tages for their obedience, ib.—sends a body of forces to seize the person of Brause, a nobleman, whose wife had refused to give up her children, 317—throws the wife and son into prison, and has them starved to death, ib.—his kingdom offered, by the pope, to the king of France, ib.—his perplexed situation, 318—raises an army to oppose Philip, ib.—advances to Dover at the head of his forces, ib.—has an interview with the pope's legate, 319—agrees to submit to that pontiff, 320—takes a solemn oath of obedience to that pontiff, ib.—consents to reinstate Langton in the primacy 321—receives his crown from the legate, ib.—re­solves to prosecute the war with France, ib.—his bar­barous treatment of Peter Pomfret, an hermit, 322— his odious proceedings both in public and private, ib. —his barons, in conjuction with Langton, form a con­federacy against him, 323—refuses the demands of the barons, 325—is treated with haughtiness by them, ib.—diverts their purpose by a promise of giving a positive reply to their request, ib.—solicits the favour of the clergy, 326—takes the cross, ib.—appeals to the pope against his barons, ib. — is favoured by the pope, 327—his subjects take arms against him, 328— [Page] sends the archbishop of Canterbury and others to meet the rebels and know their request, ib.—is en­raged at their insolence, and swears never to comply with their demands, 329—his kingdom ravaged by the rebels, ib.—is left at Odiham, in Surry, with only seven knights, ib.—appeals to Langton, ib.— his commands slighted by that prelate, 330—is per­suaded to dismiss his German forces, ib.—is enraged at his own weakness, ib.—agrees to come to terms of accommodation with his barons, 331—sends his com­missioners to meet his barons at a place called Runi­mede, ib.—submissively signs and seals the charter required of him, now known by the name of Magna Charta, 332—appoints twenty-five barons as con­servators of the public liberty, 336—sends writs to to the sheriffs with orders to swear obedience to the twenty-five barons, ib.—his perfidy, ib.—his sullen de­portment, 337—retires to isle of Wight, ib.—sends to the continent to enlist forces, ib.—complains to the pope, who espouses his cause, ib.—throws off his hypocrisy, and again appears the tyrant, ib.—takes the field at the head of a numerous army of Germans, &c. ib.—invests, and takes the castle of Rochester, 338—puts several of the prisoners to death, ib.—pur­sues his victory with great success and cruelty, ib.— burns the the towns, and exercises the most horrid tortures on the people, ib.—is opposed by his barons, who invite over to their assistance Lewis son to the king of France, 339—is deserted by great numbers of his army, 340—again assembles a large force and directs his route towards Licolnshire, 242—loses his carriages, treasure, &c. and is himself in danger of being lost, ib.—is thrown into a fever by the distracted state of his mind, ib.—his death and character, ib.— his issue, 343
  • Isaac, king of Cyprus, pillages the English ships, and imprisons the sailors, 281—is totaly defeated by Ri­chard I. 282
  • [Page]KYNEGILS, king of Wessex, embraces christianity, 56
  • LANGTON, cardinal Stephen, chosen archbishop of Canterbury, 311—refused admittance by John, 312—joins with the barons, 323—produces a copy of Henry the First's charter, ib.—reproached by the pope 327, his noble reply to John, 330
  • Leolf, the robber, stabs Edmund, 88—is killed, ib.
  • Leopold, duke of Austria, arrests Richard I. 285
  • Lewis, son of Philip of France, invited into England by the barons, 340—reduces the castle of Rochester, 341—exercises the sovereign authority, ib.—is deserted by the barons, ib.—rejects the claim of Robert Fitzwalter, 345—excommunicated by the pope, ib. —his army totally routed, 348—his fleet defeated, ib. concludes a peace with the protector, 349,—retires to the continent, ib.
  • Longbeard, espouses the cause of the poor, 278—repre­presents the people's distress to the king, ib.—obtains a mitigation of their taxes, ib.—is summoned before the justiciary, 299—appears with a formidable train, ib.—flies to the church of St. Mary le Bow, ib.—ex­ecuted, ib.—is revered as a saint, ib.
  • Luidhard, a Gaulish prelate, officiates at Canterbury, 49
  • MAD parliament, what, 363
  • Magna Charta, signed in Runimede, 332—sub­stance of that famous deed, ib.—solemnly confirmed, 361
  • Malcolm, king of Scotland, joins with Edwin and Mor­car against William, 144—invades England, 160— is slain in battle, 173
  • [Page] Martin II. recommends the crusade, 175
  • Massacre of the Jews, 276
  • Matilda, neice to Edgar Atheling, married to Henry I. 186
  • Matilda, or Maud, daughter to Henry II, married to to the emperor, 199—afterwards to the count of Anjou, ib.—her title recognized by the English ba­rons, ib.—lands in England, 207—takes possession of Arundel castle, 208—retires to Bristol, 209—de­feats Stephen and takes him prisoner, 210—crowned at Westminster, 211—attempts to abridge the barons power, ib.—her haughty and insolent conduct, 212 —flies to Winchester, ib.—is deposed, and flies to Oxford, 213—passes over to the continent, ib.
  • Mercia, kingdom of, converted to christianity, 53
  • Mise of Lewis, what, 373
  • Montfort, Simon, earl of Leicester, attempts an in­novation in the government, 362—engages the most powerful barons, 363—joins the prince of Wales, 368—concludes a peace with the king, 369—defeats the royal army, 371—takes the king, his brother, and the prince of Wales prisoners, 372—his rapacious avarice, 373—calls a parliament, 374—releases prince Edward, 376—pursues the duke of Gloucester, ib.— is totally defeated and slain, 379
  • Morcar, joins Edwin in a conspiracy against William, 144
  • Mowbray, Robert, conspires against William, II. 173 —dies in prison, ib.
  • NORTHUMBERLAND, kingdom of, embraces christianity, 52—inhabitants of, attack the Nor­man garrison in Durham, 146—put them all to the sword, ib.—destroy the Norman garrison in York, ib. —make themselves master of the castle, and destroy the whole garrison, ib.
  • [Page]ODO, bishop of Bayeaux, defeats the earl of Nor­folk, 155—intends to purchase the papacy, 162 —is seized by his brother, ib.—sent prisoner to Nor­mandy, 163—released from his confinement, 165— espouses the interest of Robert, 169
  • Offa, king of Essex, makes a pilgrimage to Rome, 54— retires into a cloister, ib.
  • Ostorius, Scapula, sent into Britain, 17—defeats Ca­ractacus, ib.
  • Ordeal trial, what, 150—abolished by William I. 151
  • Otto, king of Mercia, destroys Ethelbert at an enter­tainment, 53—pays tythes to the clergy, ib.—makes a pilgrimage to Rome, ib.—imposes the tax, called Peter-pence, 54
  • PANDOLF, the pope's legate, comes over to Eng­land, 319—tenders a remarkable oath to John, 320 —his detestable insolence, 321
  • Paulinus, takes the isle of Anglesea, 20—defeats Boa­dicia, 22—
  • Paulinus, bishop, converts Edwin to christianity, 52
  • Peter, the hermit, preaches up the crusade, 174
  • Peter, bishop of Winchester, made protector, 350— brings over many of the barons, 354
  • Peter-pence, first imposed by Otto, 54
  • Pembroke earl of, supports young Henry, 346—is joined by many powerful barons, 347—made pro­tector, ib —totally routs the French army, 348— concludes a peace with Lewis, 349—his death, ib.
  • Philip, king of France, sets out for the Holy Land, 279 —joins Richard I. at Messina, ib.—becomes jealous of that prince 281—arrives in Palestine, ib.—acts in concert with Richard, 282—takes the city of Acres, ib.—declares his resolution of retiring to France, 283 —assists John against his brother, 289—labours to pro­long [Page] Richard's captivity, ib.—succours prince Arthur, 302—strips John of his continental dominions, 308 —collects a large force for invading England, 318 —becomes the dupe of the pope's politics, 321
  • REGINALD, sub-prior of Christ-church, elected archbishop, 310—his claim vacated by the pope, 311
  • Richard I. surnamed Coeur de Lion, ascends the English throne, 274—discourages future disobedience, ib.— treats his former companions with scorn and neglect, ib.—retains in his service all the friends of the late king, 276—releases his mother from confinement, ib. —heaps favours upon his brother John, ib.—resolves upon an expedition to the Holy Land, 277—sets up to sale the manors and revenues of the crown, ib.— his shrewd reply to the advice of a priest, 278—sets out for the Holy Land, 279—arrives at Verelay, ib. enters into the most solemn engagement with the French king, ib —is obliged by stress of weather to take shelter in Messina, ib.—quarrels with the Sicilian king, 28.—is treated with great insolence by the Messi­nese, ib.—is attacked by the Sicilians, ib.—assaults their city and takes it, ib.—displays his standard on their ramparts, ib.—his haughty reply to Philip, who re­quested him to take down his standard, 281—sets sail again from Messina for the Holy Land, ib—is a second time overtaken by a storm, and his ships driven upon the coast of Cyprus, ib.—his ships pillaged, and his seamen and soldiers thrown into prison by Isaac prince of Cyprus, 281—disembarks his troops, and defeats the tyrant, 282—enters the capital by storm, and obliges Isaac to surrender at discretion, ib.—marries Berengaria, daughter to the king of Navarre, ib.— arrives in Palestine, ib.—besieges the city of Acres, bi. —obliges that garrison to capitulate, ib.—is deserted by Philip, 283—besieges and subdues the city of Asca­lon, ib.—obtains a complete victory over Saladin the [Page] most renowned of the Saracen monarchs, ib.—dis­appointed in his scheme of attacking Jerusalem, 284— is under a necessity of coming to an accommodation with Saladin, ib. —concludes a truce of three years with that monarch, ib.—resolves to return to Eng­land, ib.—is surrounded with difficulties, ib.—takes shipping for Italy, and is wrecked near Aquileia, 285—puts on the disguise of a pilgrim, and travels through Germany, ib.—is suspected, and pursued by the governor of Istria, ib.—is obliged to take a bye-road, and pass through Vienna, ib.—is discovered, and arrested by Leopold, duke of Austria, ib.—is imprisoned and loaded with chains, ib.—is delivered into the hands of the emperor of Germany his in­veterate foe, 286—is unable to make his distresses known to his subjects in England, ib.—is treacherously used by his brother John, in conjunction with the king of France, 289—is treated with the utmost dis­grace and cruelty by the emperor, 290—his spirited behaviour, ib.—is accused by the emperor at the diet of worms of many crimes, ib.—his noble vindication of his innocence, 291—is restored to his liberty on pro­mise of paying a considerable ransom, ib.—returns to England, 294—enters London in triumph, ib.—is crowned a-new at Winchester, ib.—convokes a ge­neral council at Nottingham, ib.—confiscates all his traiterous brother's possessions, ib.—sets sail with a strong body of forces for Normandy, 294—forgives his brother at the intercession of queen Eleanor, 295 takes the bishop of Beauvais prisoner, ib.—his re­markable answer to the pope, who requested the bi­shop might be set at liberty, ib.—attacks the castle of Chalus, 296—is pierced in the shoulder with an ar­row by one Bertram de Jourdon, ib.—his wound proves mortal, ib.—makes his will, 297—orders the archer to be brought before him, ib.—is astonished at his answer, and orders him to be rewarded, ib.— his death, ib.—his character, 298
  • Richard, brother to Henry III. his immense riches, 351 —refuses the kingdom of Sicily, 359
  • [Page] Robert, eldest son to William, his jealousy of his two brothers, 157—endeavours to surprise the castle of Rouen, 158—is joined by the nobility of Normandy, &c. ib.—takes shelter in the castle of Gerberay, 159— is besieged there by William, ib.—defeats his father in single combat, ib.—is pardoned, 160—marches against Malcolm, king of Scotland, ib.—his unpardon­able indolence, 169—makes a treaty with his brother, 171—his kindness to his brother Henry, 172—en­gages in the crusade, 175—mortgages his dukedom to his brother, 176—his gallant actions in Palestine, 184—marries Sibylla, ib.—takes possession of his dutchy, 187—claims the English crown, ib.—re­signs his pretensions, 188—intercedes in behalf of his friends, 189—defeated and taken prisoner, 192— dies in prison, 193
  • Roches, Peter de, persuades Henry to invite over a number of Poictevins, 353
  • Roger, earl of Hereford, forms a conspiracy against William I. 152
  • SALADIN, sultan of Egypt, totally defeated, 283— concludes a truce with Richard I. 284
  • Saxons, an account of, 34—arrive in England, 38— march against the Picts and Scots, ib.—defeat them, ib.
  • Sigebert, king of the East-Angles, restores christianity, 53
  • — king of Essex, embraces christianity, 54
  • —— the Good, restores the christian religion in Essex, 54
  • Stephen, ascends the English throne, 201—heaps fa­vours upon his family, ib.—grants a new charter, 204—promises to observe the laws of Edward the Confessor, ib.—grants the barons a right of fortifying their castle, 205—gains a victory over the Scots, ib. obliges the the bishops to deliver up their castles, 246 —is informed of Matilda's landing in England, 207 [Page] —besieges the castle of Arundel, 208—suffers Matilda to retire to Bristol, 209—becomes very unpopular, ib.—is totally defeated, 210—taken prisoner, ib.— is again recognized as king, 213—is opposed by his barons, 214—his whole party laid under an interdict by the pope, ib.—opposed by Henry, son of Matilda, 215—makes a treaty with Henry, 217—his death and character, 218
  • Stigand, archbishop of Canterbury deposed, 150
  • Sweyn, king of Denmark, invades England, 102—de­feats the English, 103—the English swear allegiance to him, 106—his death, ib.—joins with Edwin and Morcar against William, 144
  • Thomas à Becket. See Becket.
  • Tosti, brother to king Harold, 120—opposes his brother, 124—assisted by the earl of Flanders, ib.—is routed, ib.—is assisted by Harfagar, king of Norway, ib.— routs the armies of Mercia and Northumberland, ib. —defeated by Harold, 23—slain in battle, ib.
  • VORTIGERN, chosen sovereign of the Britons, 34—invites the Saxons into England, 37—de­posed by the people, 39
  • Vortimer, raised to the throne, 40—defeats the Saxons, ib.
  • WALTHEOF, engages in a conspiracy against William I. 153—reveals it to the king, 154— tried and executed, 155
  • Wessex, kingdom of, founded by Cerdic, 55—converted to Christianity, 56
  • [Page] William, duke of Normandy, afterwards William the First, invades England, 120—account of his birth, 126 —claims the crown of England, 127—account of his army, 129—his behaviour in the battle, ib.—de­feats the English, 132—takes Dover, 138—crosses the Thames at Wallingford, ib.—is crowned at Westminster, 139—rewards his army, 140—disarms the city of London, ib.—returns to Normandy, ib.— prevents a massacre of the Normans, ib.—erects a great number of fortresses in the kingdom, ib.— treats the people as a conquered nation, 144—revives the odious tax of Danegelt, ib.—renders abortive a dangerous conspiracy, ib.—his cruel usage of the English, 145—lays the county of Northumberland waste, 148—confiscates the estates of all the English gentry, ib.—orders the pleadings in the several courts to be made in the Norman language, 149— reforms the feudal law, ib.—divides all the land of England into baronies, ib. —abolishes the method of trial by Ordeal and Camp-fight, 151—carries over a considerable army of the English to Normandy, 152 another conspiracy formed against him, ib.—is op­posed by his children, 156—is defeated in single combat by his son Robert, 159—is reconciled to him, 160—compiles Doomsday-book, ib.—makes the New Forest, 161—imprisons his brother Odo, 163—his answer to the French king's raillery, 164—endeavours to atone for his former offences, ib.—his death, 165 —character and issue, 166
  • William, II. surnamed Rufus, ascends the English throne, 167—crowned at Westminster, ib.—orders a new survey of England, 170—makes a treaty with his brother Robert, 171—instance of his generosity, 173—expels the Welch, ib.—purchases the dukedom of Normandy from his brother, 176—involved in a disagreeable quarrel with Anselm, 177—seizes the archbishop's temporalities, 178—is menaced with the sentence of excommunication, 179—is killed in the New Forest, 181—his character, 182
  • [Page] William, son to William II. recognized by the states of England and Normandy, 197—is drowned in his passage to England, 198
  • William, son of Robert, committed to the care of Helie de St. Saen, 195—sent to the court of Anjou, ib.— his great bravery, ib.—his death, 196 William, king of Scotland, ravages the Northern parts of England, 262—his army totally defeated, ib.—taken prisoner, 263—does homage to Henry II. 264

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