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قراءة كتاب Young Folks' History of England

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‏اللغة: English
Young Folks' History of England

Young Folks' History of England

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 8

to help her—for reproving her for her harsh answers. When Stephen's wife came to beg her to set him free, promising that he should go away beyond the seas, and never interfere with her again, she would not listen, and drove her away. But she soon found how foolish she had been. Stephen's friends would have been willing that he should give up trying to be king, but they could not leave him in prison for life; and so they went on fighting for him, while more and more of the English joined them, as they felt how bad and unkind a queen they had in the Empress. Indeed, she was so proud and violent, that her husband would not come over to England to help her, but staid to govern Normandy. She was soon in great distress, and had to flee from Winchester, riding through the midst of the enemy, and losing almost all her friends by the way as they were slain or made prisoners. Her best helper of all—Earl Robert of Gloucester—was taken while guarding her; and she could only get to his town of Gloucester by lying down in a coffin, with holes for air, and being thus carried through all the country, where she had made everyone hate her.

Stephen's wife offered to set the Earl free, if the other side would release her husband; and this exchange was brought about. Robert then went to Normandy, to fetch Maude's little son Henry, who was ten years old, leaving her, as he thought, safe in Oxford Castle; but no sooner was he gone than Stephen brought his army, and besieged the Castle— that is, he brought his men round it, tried to climb up the walls, or beat them down with heavy beams, and hindered any food from being brought in. Everything in the castle that could be eaten was gone; but Maude was determined not to fall into her enemy's hands. It was the depth of winter; the river below the walls was frozen over, and snow was on the ground. One night, Maude dressed herself and three of her knights all in white, and they were, one by one, let down by ropes from the walls. No one saw them in the snow. They crossed the river on the ice, walked a great part of the night, and at last came to Abingdon, where horses were waiting for them, and thence they rode to Wallingford, where Maude met her little son.

There was not much more fighting after this. Stephen kept all the eastern part of the kingdom, and Henry was brought up at Gloucester till his father sent for him, to take leave of him before going on a crusade. Geoffrey died during this crusade. He was fond of hunting, and was generally seen with a spray of broom blossom in his cap. The French name for this plant is genet; and thus his nickname was "Plantagenet;" and this became a kind of surname to the kings of England.

Henry, called Fitz-empress—or "the Empress's son"—came to England again as soon as he was grown up; but instead of going to war, he made an agreement with Stephen. Henry would not attack Stephen any more, but leave him to reign all the days of his life, provided Stephen engaged that Henry should reign instead of his own son after his death. This made Stephen's son, Eustace, very angry, and he went away in a rage to raise troops to maintain his cause; but he died suddenly in the midst of his wild doings, and the king, his father, did not live long after him, but died in 1154.

Maude had learnt wisdom by her misfortunes. She had no further desire to be queen, but lived a retired life in a convent, and was much more respected there than as queen.



A.D. 1154-1189

Henry Fitz-Empress is counted as the first king of the Plantagenet family, also called the House of Anjou. He was a very clever, brisk, spirited man, who hardly ever sat down, but was always going from place to place, and who would let no one disobey him. He kept everybody in order, pulled down almost all the Castles that had been built in Stephen's time, and would not let the barons ill-treat the people. Indeed, everyone had been so mixed up together during the wars in Stephen's reign, that the grandchildren of the Normans who had come over with William the Conqueror were now quite English in their feelings. French was, however, chiefly spoken at court. The king was really a Frenchman, and he married a French wife Eleanor, the lady of Aquitaine, a great dukedom in the South of France; and, as Henry had already Normandy and Anjou, he really was lord of nearly half France. He ruled England well; but he was not a good man, for he cared for power and pleasure more than for what was right; and sometimes he fell into such rages that he would roll on the floor, and bite the rushes and sticks it was strewn with. He made many laws. One was that, if a priest or monk was thought to have committed any crime, he should be tried by the king's judge, instead of the bishop. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas a Becket, did not think it right to consent to this law; and, though he and the king had once been great friends, Henry was so angry with him that he was forced to leave England, and take shelter with the King of France. Six years passed by, and the king pretended to be reconciled to him, but still, when they met, would not give him the kiss of peace. The archbishop knew that this showed that the king still hated him; but his flock had been so long without a shepherd that he thought it his duty to go back to them. Just after his return, he laid under censure some persons who had given offence. They went and complained to the king, and Henry exclaimed in passion, "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?" Four of his knights who heard these words set forth to Canterbury. The archbishop guessed why they were come; but he would not flee again, and waited for them by the altar in the cathedral, not even letting the doors be shut. There they slew him; and thither, in great grief at the effect of his own words, the king came—three years later—to show his penitence by entering barefoot, kneeling before Thomas's tomb, and causing every priest or monk in turn to strike him with a rod. We should not exactly call Thomas a martyr now, but he was thought so then, because he died for upholding the privileges of the Church, and he was held to be a very great saint.

While this dispute was going on, the Earl of Pembroke, called Strongbow, one of Henry's nobles, had gone over to Ireland and obtained a little kingdom there, which he professed to hold of Henry; and thus the Kings of England became Lords of Ireland, though for a long time they only had the Province of Leinster, and were always at war with the Irish around.

Henry was a most powerful king; but his latter years were very unhappy. His wife was not a good woman, and her sons were all disobedient and rebellious. Once all the three eldest, Henry, Richard, and Geoffrey, and their mother, ran away together from his court, and began to make war upon him. He was much stronger and wiser than they so he soon forced them to submit; and he sent Queen Eleanor away, and shut her up in a strong castle in England as long as he lived. Here sons were much more fond of her than of their father, and they thought this usage so hard, that they were all the more ready to break out against him. The eldest son, Henry, was leading an army against his father, when he was taken ill, and felt himself dying. He sent an entreaty that his father would forgive him, and come to see him; but the young man had so often been false and treacherous, that Henry feared it was only a trick to get him as a prisoner, and only sent his ring and a message of pardon; and young Henry died, pressing the ring to his lips, and longing to hear his father's voice.

Geoffrey, the third son, was killed by a fall from his horse, and there were only two left alive, Richard and John. Just at this time, news came that the Mahommedans in the Holy Land had won Jerusalem back again; and the Pope called on all Christian princes to leave off quarreling, and go on a crusade to recover the Holy Sepulchre.

The kings of