« ForrigeFortsett »
they were cut down in great numbers by the Scottish horsemen, and thrown into total confusion.
The fine English cavalry then advanced to support their archers, and to attack the Scottish line. But coming over the ground which was dug full of pits, the horses fell into these holes, and the riders lay tumbling about, without any means of defence, and unable to rise, from the weight of their armour, The Englishmen began to fall into general disorder ; and the Scottish king, bringing up more of his forces, attacked and pressed them still more closely.
On a sudden, while the battle was obstinately maintained on both sides, an event happened which decided the victory. The servants and attendants on the Scottish camp had, as I told you, been sent behind the army to a place afterwards called the Gillies' hill. But when they saw that their masters were likely to gain the day, they rushed from their place of concealment with such weapons as they could get, that they might have their share in the victory and in the spoil. The English, seeing them come suddenly over the hill, mistook this disorderly rabble for a new army coming up to maintain the Scots, and, losing all heart, began to shift every man for himself. Edward himself left the field as fast as he could ride. A valiant knight, Sir Giles de Argentine, much renowned in the wars of Palestine, attended the king till he got him out of the press of the combat. But he would retreat ro farther, “ It is not my custom," he said, “ to fly." With that, he took leave of the king, set spurs to his horse, and calling out his war-cry of Argentine ! Argentine ! he rushed into the thickest of the Scottish ranks, and was killed.
The young Earl of Gloucester was also slain, fighting valiantly. The Scots would have saved him, but as he had not put on his armorial bearings, they did not know him, and he was cut to pieces.
Edward first fled to Stirling Castle, and entreated admittance ; but Sir Philip Mowbray, the governor, reminded the fugitive sovereign that he was obliged to surrender the castle next day, so Edward was fain to fly through the Torwood, closely pursued by Douglas with a body of cavalry. An odd circumstance happened during the chase, which showed how loosely some of the Scottish barons of that day held their political opinions: As Douglas was riding furiously after Edward, he met a Scottish knight, Sir Lawrence Abernethy, with twenty horse. Sir Lawrence had hitherto owned the English interest, and was bringing this band of followers to serve King Edward's army. But learning from Douglas that the English king was entirely defeated, he changed sides on the spot, and was easily prevailed upon to join Douglas in pursuing the unfortunate Edward, with the very followers whom he had been leading to join his standard.
Douglas and Abernethy continued the chase, not giving king Edward time to alight from horseback even for an instant, and followed him as far as Dunbar, where the English had still a friend, in the governor, Patrick earl of March. The earl received Edward in his forlorn condition, and furnished him with a fishingskiff, or small ship, in which he escaped to England, having entirely lost his fine army, and a great number of his bravest pobles.
The English never before or afterwards, whether in France or Scotland, lost so dreadful a battle as that of Bannockburn, nor did the Scots ever gain one of the same importance. Many of the best and bravest of the English nobility and gentry, as I have said, lay dead on the field ; a great many more were made prisoners ; and the whole of king Edward's immense army was dispersed or destroyed.
The English, after this great defeat, were no longer in a condition to support their pretensions to be masters of Scotland, or to continue, as they had done for nearly twenty years, to send armies into that country to overcome it. On the contrary,
they became for a time scarce able to defend their own frontiers against king Robert and his soldiers.
There were several battles fought within England itself, in which the English had greatly the worst. One of these took place near Mitten, in Yorkshire. So many priests took part in the fight, that the Scots called it the Chapter of Mitten,meeting of the clergymen belonging to a cathedral being called a Chapter. There was a great slaughter in and after the action. The Scots laid waste the country of England as far as the gates of York, and enjoyed a considerable superiority over their ancient enemies, who had so lately threatened to make them subjects of England.
Thus did Robert Bruce arise from the condition of an exile, hunted with bloodhounds like a stag or beast of prey, to the rank of an independent sovereign, universally acknowledged to be one of the wisest and bravest kings who the lived. The nation of Scotland was also raised once more from the situation of a distressed and conquered province, to that of a free and independent state, governed by its own laws, and subject to its own princes ; and although the country was, after the Bruce's death, often subjected to great loss and distress, both by the hostility of the English, and by the unhappy civil wars among the Scots themselves, yet they never afterwards lost the freedom for which Wallace had laid down his life, and which king Robert had recovered, not less by his wisdom than by his weapons. And therefore most just it is, that while the country of Scotland retains any recollection of its history, the memory of those brave warriors and faithful patriots should be remembered with honour and gratitude.
105.—THE FALL OF EDWARD II.
GOLDSMITH. The king, finding himself steadily counteracted by all his subjects, had no resource but in another favourite, in whom he reposed all confidence, and from whose connections he hoped for assistance. The name of this new favourite was Hugh le Despenser, a young man of a noble English family, of some merit, and very engaging accomplishments. His father was a person of a much more estimable character than the son ; he was venerable from his years, and respected through life for his wisdom, his valour, and his integrity. But these excellent qualities were all diminished and vilified, from the moment he and his son began to share the king's favour. The turbulent barons, and Lancaster at their head, regarded them as rivals, and taught the people to despise those accomplishments that only served to eclipse their own. The king, equally weak and unjust in his attachments, instead of profiting by the wisdom of his favourites, endeavoured to strengthen himself by their power. For this purpose he married the young Spenser to his piece ; settled upon him some very large possessions in the marches of Wales ; and even dispossessed some lords unjustly of their estates, in order to accumulate them upon his favourite. This was a pretext for which the king's enemies had been long seeking: the earls of Lancaster and Hereford flew to arms; and the lords Audley and Ancori, who had been dispossessed, joined them with all their forces. Their first measure was to require the king to dismiss or confine his favourite, the young Spenser ; menacing him, in case of a refusal, with a determination to obtain their wishes by force. This request was scarcely urged, when they began to shew their resolution to have redress, by pillaging and destroying the lands of young Spenser, and burning his houses. The estates of the father soon after shared the same fate;
and the insurgents, having thus satiated themselves with the plunder of this most opulent family, marched to London, to inflict with their own hands that punishment which had been denied to their remonstrances. Finding a free entrance into the city, they so intimidated the parliament, that a sentence was procured of perpetual exile against the two Spensers, and a forfeiture of their fortune and estates. But an act of this kind, extorted by violence, was not likely to bind the king any longer than necessity compelled him. Some time after, having assembled a small army to punish one of those barons, who had offered an indignity to the queen, he thought it a convenient opportunity to take revenge on all his enemies at once, and to recall the two Spensers, whose company he so ardently desired. In this manner the civil war was rekindled, and the country once more involved in all the horrors of slaughter and devastation.
The king had now gotten the start of his adversaries, and hastened by forced marches towards the borders of Wales, where the enemy's chief power lay. Lancaster, however, was not slow in making head against him ; having summoned all his vassals and retainers, and being joined by the earl of Hereford. Still farther to strengthen his party, he formed an alliance with the king of Scotland, with whom he had long been privately connected. But his diligence on this occasion proved ineffectual : the king, at the head of thirty thousand men, pressed him so closely, that he had not time to collect his forces ; and, flying from one place to another, he was at last stopped in his way towards Scotland, by Sir Andrew Harela, who repulsed his forces in a skirmish, in which the earl of Hereford was slain, and Lancaster himself taken prisoner. As he had formerly shewn little mercy to Gaveston, there was very little extended to him upon this occasion. He was condemned by the court martial ; led, mounted on a lean horse, to an eminence near Pontefract, in circumstances of the greatest indignity; and beheaded by a Londoner. The people, with whom he had once been a favourite, seemed to have quite forsaken him in his disgrace ; they reviled him, as he was led to execution, with every kind of reproach ; and even his own vassals seemed eager to remove suspicion, by their being foremost to insult his distress. About eighteen more of the principal insurgents were afterwards condemned and executed in a more legal manner while others found safety by escaping to the continent.
A rebellion thus crushed, served only to increase the pride and rapacity of young Spenser : most of the forfeitures were seized for his use; and, in his promptitude to punish the delinquents, he was guilty of many acts of rapine and injustice. He himself laid the train for his own future misfortunes, and an occasion soon offered for putting it into effect against aim. The king of France, taking the advantage of Edward's weakness, resolved to confiscate all his foreign dominions. After a fruitless embassy from Edward, to dissuade that monarch from his purpose, the queen of England herself desired permission to go over to the court of France, to endeavour to avert the storm. The French king, though he gave her the kindest reception, was resolved to listen to no accommodation, unless Edward in person should appear, and do him homage for the dominions he held under him. This was reckoned a very dangerous step, and what the king of England could not think of complying with, nor what his favourite Spenser was willing to permit. In this exigence the queen started a new expedient, which seemed calcuiated to remove all difficulties. It was, that Edward should resign the dominion of Guienne to his son, now thirteen years of age; and that the young prince should go to Paris, to pay that homage which had been required of his father. With this proposal all parties agreed, young Edward was sent to Paris ; and the queen, a haughty and ambitious woman, having thus gotten her son in her power, resolved to detain him till her own aims were complied with. Of these objects, one was the expulsion of
the Spensers ; against whom she had conceived a violent hatred, from their great induence over the king.
In consequence of this resolution she protracted the negociation for some time; and being at last desired by the king to return, she replied, that she would never again appear in England till Spenser should be removed from the royal presence, and banished from the kingdom. By this reply, she gained two very considerable advantages; she became popular in England, where Spenser was universally disliked; and she had the pleasure of enjoying the company of a young nobleman, whose name was Mortimer, upon whom she had lately placed her affections. This youth had, in some former insurrection, been condemned for high treason, but had the sentence commuted into perpetual imprisonment in the Tower. Thence, however, he had the good fortuno to escape into France, and soon became distinguished among his party for his violent animosity to Spenser. The graces of his person and address, but particularly his dislike to the favourite, rendered him very acceptable to the queen ; so that, from being a partisan, he became a lover, and was indulged with all the familiarities that her criminal passion could confer. The queen's court now, therefore became a sanctuary for all the malcontents who were banished from their own country, or who chose to come over A correspondence was secretly carried on with the discontented at home ; and nothing was now aimed at but to destroy the favourites, and dethrone the king.
To second the queen's efforts, many of the principal nobles prepared their vassals, and loudly declared against the favourite. The king's brother, the Earl of Kent, was led to engage among the rest; the Earl of Norfolk was prevailed upon to enter secretly into the conspiracy; the Earl of Leicester, heir to the Earl of Lancaster, was from principle attached to the cause : the Archbishop of Canterbury expressed his approbation of the queen's measures ; and the minds of the people were inflamed by all those arts which the designing practice upon the weak and ignorant. While the English were thus disposed to rebel, the queen prepared for her expedition ; and, accompanied by three thousand men-at-arms, passed over from Dordrecht to the British coast, and landed without opposition in Suffolk. She no sooner appeared than there seemed a general revolt in her favour; three prelates, the Bishops of Ely, Lincoln, and Hereford, brought her all their vassals; and Robert de Watteville, who had been sent to oppose her progress, deserted to her with all his forces
. In this exigence the unfortunate Edward vainly attempted to collect his friends, and bring the malcontents to their duty: he was obliged to leave the capital to the resentment of the prevailing party; and the populace, immediately upon his desertion, flew out into those excesses which are the consequence of brutality unrestrained by fear. They seized Walter Stapleton, Bishop of Exeter, as he was passing through the city, beheaded him without any form of trial, and threw his body into the Thames. They also seized upon the Tower, and agreed to show no mercy to any who should oppose their attempts. In the meantime, the king found that the spirit of disloyalty was not confined to the capital, but was diffused over the whole kingdom. He had placed some dependence upon the garrison which was stationed in the Castle of Bristol, under the command of the elder Spenser; but they mutinied against their governor, and that unfortunate favourite was delivered up, and condemned by the tumultuous barons to the most ignominious death. He was hanged on a gibbet in his armour, his body was cut to pieces and thrown to the dogs, and his head was sent to Winchester, where it was set on a pole, and exposed to the insults of the populace. Thus died the elder Spenser, in his ninetieth year, whose character even the malevolence of party could not tarnish. He had passed a youth of tranquillity and reputation ; but his fond compliance with his son's ambition at length involved his age in ruin, though not disgrace.
Young Spenser, the unhappy son, did not long survive the father ; he was taken with some others who had followed the fortunes of the wretched king, in an obscure convent in Wales ; and the merciless victors resolved to glut their revenge in adding insult to cruelty. The queen had not patience to wait the formality of a trial; but ordered him immediately to be led forth before the insulting populace, and seemed to take a savage pleasure in feasting her eyes with his distresses. The gibbet erected for his execution was fifty feet high ; his head was sent to London, where the citizens received it in brutal triumph, and fixed it on the bridge. Several other lords also shared his fato; all deserving pity indeed, had they not themselves formerly justified the present inhumanity, by setting a cruel example.
In the meantime, the king, who hoped to find refuge in Wales, was quickly discovered, and closely pursued by his triumphant enemies. Finding no hopes of succour in that part of the country, he took shipping for Ireland ; but even there his wretched fortune seemed willing to persecute him; he was driven back by contrary winds, and delivered up to his adversaries, who expressed their satisfaction in the grossness of their treatment, he was conducted to the capital, amidst the insults and reproaches of the people, and confined in the Tower. A charge was soon after exhibited, in which no other crimes but his incapacity to govern, his indolence, his love of pleasure, and his being swayed by evil counsellors, were objected against him. His deposition was quickly voted by perliament; a pension was assigned to him for his support ; his son Edward, a youth of fourteen, was fixed upon to succeed him, and the queen was appointed regent during the minority.
The deposed monarch but a short time survived his misfortunes ; he was sent from prison to prison, a wretched outcast, and the sport of his inhuman keepers. He had been at first consigned to the custody of the Earl of Leicester ; but this nobleman showing some marks of respect and pity, be was taken out of his hands, and delivered over to Lord Berkeley, Maltravers, and Gourney, who were intrusted with the charge of guarding him, each for a month. Whatever his treatment from Lord Berkeley might have been, the other two seemed resolved that he should enjoy none of the comforts of life while in their custody. They practised every kind of indignity upon him, as if their design had been to accelerate his death by the bitterness of his sufferings. Among other acts of brutal oppression, it is said that they shaved him for sport in the open fields, using water from a neighbouring ditch. The genius of the people must have been greatly debased, or they would never bave permitted such indecencies to be practised on a monarch, whose greatest fault was the violence of his friendships. He is said to have borne his former indignities with patience, but all fortitude forsook him upon this occasion; he looked upon his merciless insulters with an air of fallen majesty, and, bursting into tears, exclaimed, that the time might come when he should be more decently attended. This, however, was but a vain expectation. As his persecutors saw that his death might not arrive, even under every cruelty, till a revolution had been made in his favour, they resolved to rid themseves of their fears by destroying him at once. Accordingly, his two keepers, Gournay and Maltravers, repaired to Berkeley Castle, where Edward was then confined ; and having concerted a method of putting him to death without any external signs of violence, they threw him on a bed, holding him down by a table, which they placed over him. They then ran a horn-pipe up his body, through which they conveyed a red-hot iron ; and thus burned his bowels without disfiguring his body. By this cruel artifico, they expected to have their crime concealed ; but his horrid shrieks, which were heard at a distance from the castle, soon gave a suspicion of the murder ; and the whole was soon after divulged, by the confession of one of the accomplices.