THE FIRST TWO EDWARDS
 IT was to Prince Edward that the people looked for good
government after the death of Simon de Montfort. He was a
young man, sober in judgment, and known to be in favor of
just and orderly rule. Thenceforth, Henry III. was
guided by his son Edward, and other counselors; and, for the
remaining seven years of his life, the country was quite and
Meanwhile, Prince Edward found stirring work to do in the
last of the Crusades. He had always loved warlike
exercises, and by his success in tournaments had become one
of the most famous knights in Europe. He was religious by
nature, and so, when he found a time in which he was not
needed at home, he was glad to take a share in the Crusades.
In spite of several Crusades which had been
under-  taken since the time of Richard I., the Turks still held
Palestine and the Holy City of Jerusalem. In 1270 Prince
Edward set out with a small company of followers, and
remained about a year in Syria, fighting with great skill
and courage. But he could do little toward driving out he
Turks. At one time he nearly lost his life, as the result
of a Mohammedan plot. While he was resting in his tent,
without his armor, one day, a messenger entered on the
pretext of bringing a letter from the "Old Man of the
Mountain," the ruler of a Mohammedan sect, whose capital was
on Mount Lebanon. These people were called "Assassins," a
name meaning "drunk with haschisch" (a drink made from
hemp); and they were ready for any desperate errand of
murder upon which their master sent them. As the Prince was
reading the letter, the "assassin" drew a poisoned dagger,
and struck him, but fortunately only wounded him in the arm.
The "assassin" was at once slain. As a result of prompt
measures, Edward's wound soon healed, and not long afterward
he departed for England.
When Sicily was reached, news came that Henry III. was
dead, and that Edward I. had been proclaimed King.
Edward did not hurry home to be crowned, but instead
remained in his territory of Gascony for a time, to settle
affairs there. At Châlons, his life was again placed
in danger, in a
 tournament, which was entered upon as a friendly trial of
skill, but which was turned into a deadly battle. Many
knights were slain, and Edward himself was in great danger,
before he and his Englishmen won the day.
Seal of Edward I
Edward's life was always full of activity. He was strong
and brave, very tall and straight, with broad, deep chest,
dark eyes, and brown flowing hair. Because of his long legs
and arms he was called "Longshanks." He was a good
swordsman, a good rider, and a good speaker. He bore an
English name, and was the first King since the Norman
Conquest who used English as his ordinary speech. As Prince
he had been loved by the people, and as King he proved
himself a wise guardian of the people's welfare. He reigned
from 1272 to 1307, and he was guided always by the motto
which at last was placed on his tomb—"Keep Faith."
Though he sometimes had disputes with his people, yet he
always "kept faith" with them.
A Cross Erected by Edward I to the Memory of his Queen
Edward's greatest title to fame rests on the improvements
which he made in the English laws.
In Europe, as a whole, the wanderings of the nations were
now over. The Crusades had come to an end, and strong
governments were beginning to arise. Everywhere there was
need that old laws should be revised and new ones made to
suit the new time.
This was the work which Edward I. did in England. He
revised and put in order the old laws, and he made many new
laws, so that he was regarded as a great "law-giver." We
may truly say that the roots of the English law, as we have
it today, go back to the time of Edward I.
First, Edward punished his own officers and judges for
abusing their powers.
 Then he made laws to check the power of the great feudal
Still another law, called the "Statute of Mortmain," forbade
that any more land should be given or sold to the Church,
especially the monasteries, without the King's consent.
Monasteries were "corporations," which "never died," no
matter how often the individual members of the body might
change; so land held by them was called land in
"mortmain,"—that is, in a "dead hand" which never
relaxed. A great part of the land of England—perhaps
one-third—was already in the hands of the Church; and
since, the King's rights of taxation, and the like, were
less over the Church lands than over other lands, it was
important that the amount of land so held should not be
Another great statute required that every free man should
have arms and armor according to his means, and should
appear for review twice a year. Those who were too poor to
have armor and swords were required to have bows and arrows,
and soon the English people became famed for their skill as
archers. Other provisions of this law required that "watch
and ward" should be kept in
 the towns at night, to guard against crimes; and that when
an offense was committed, all the people should join in "hue
and cry" after the offender, until he was caught.
A great part of Edward's reign was taken up with the wars
which he waged with the Welsh and the Scots, in the endeavor
to bring all parts of Great Britain under the rule of the
The trouble first arose with the Welsh, who inhabited the
mountainous region in the western part of Great Britain.
They were descendants of those Britons who were driven
westward by the invading Anglo-Saxons, until the Severn
river formed their eastern boundary. In the time of the
Normans, powerful Norman lords established themselves along
the borders of the Welsh territory, as "lords of the
Marches." The Welsh were a high-spirited and courageous
people, and they made constant, though usually unsuccessful,
attacks upon these "lords marcher."
When Edward became King, Prince Llewelyn of Wales refused to
do homage. Edward invaded Wales, and besieged the Welsh so
closely, in the mountainous country, that they were forced
by cold and hunger to surrender. In a second war, a few
years later, Prince Llewelyn was killed. This ended the
independence of Wales.
The country has ever since remained under the rule of
England, and the title "Prince of Wales" has usually been
borne by the eldest son of the English Sovereign. Edward
gave Wales a system of government like that of the English
shires, and ruled it wisely and justly.
 Edward I. also fought a long war with Scotland. He
wished to unite the English and the Scots under one rule,
but he managed the matter so badly that, when he died, the
Scots hated the English, and the union was farther off than
The story of Scotland is a long one, and we can tell only a
small part of it here. In the old days, one of the rulers
had become the vassal of an Anglo-Saxon King, and two
centuries later another had yielded to Henry II. Thus
the Kings of England claimed the overlordship of Scotland.
In Edward I.'s time a dispute arose for the crown, and
the Scottish lords appealed to King Edward to decide who had
the best right. Edward decided in favor of John Balliol,
who had the best claim, and he was thereupon crowned King of
When Edward began to exercise certain rights as overlord of
Scotland, Balliol resisted. Thus began the Scottish war,
which, except for some short interruptions, lasted during
the rest of Edward's life. Balliol was driven from his
throne, and an English guardian was placed over the country.
A fiery leader of the Scots then appeared, named William
Wallace, who won a great victory over the English at
But soon King Edward won a greater victory over Wallace, at
Falkirk. The Scots, armed with long spears or pikes, were
drawn up in four great circles, and waited to be attacked.
"I have brought you to the ring," cried Wallace to the
English, "now dance if you can."
The Scottish spearmen were able to turn back the charges of
the English horsemen. But when Edward brought up his
archers, their deadly arrows broke up the Scottish circles,
and gave the victory to the English.
 A few years later, Wallace was taken prisoner, and was
cruelly put to death. Soon the Scots rebelled again, under
Robert Bruce, whom they crowned King. Bruce suffered many
defeats, and at one time was almost ready to give up the
fight. A story is told how, one day as he lay hid, he
watched a spider repair her web over and over again, until
at last it held fast; and thus he, too, took courage and
After Edward's death (in 1307)
nearly all Scotland, until only the castle of Stirling held
out against him. To save Stirling, Edward II., the
unworthy son of Edward I., led a great army into
Scotland, and fought a battle at Bannockburn. The English
were poorly led, while Bruce showed himself a good general.
The Scottish poet, Robert Burns, makes Bruce address his
soldiers in these words:
"Scots wha ha'e wi' Wallace bled,
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led!
Welcome to your gory bed,
Or to glorious victorie!
"Wha will be a traitor knave?
Wha can fill a coward's grave?
Wha sae base as be a slave?
Traitor! coward! turn and flee!
"Wha for Scotland's King and law
Freedom's sword will strongly draw
Free-man stand or free-man fa',
Caledonian! on wi' me!"
The result of the battle was a great victory for the Scots.
The plans of Edward I. to conquer Scotland
 thus came to nothing, and the Scots kept their independence.
The reign of Edward II. lasted twenty years (1307 to
1327), and in every way was a failure. His great father had
trained him carefully to war and to business; but
Edward II. proved utterly worthless, and thought only
of his pleasures. His chief companion was a reckless
favorite, named Piers Gaveston, who was as light-headed as
the King himself. Gaveston called the greatest noblemen of
the kingdom by such names as "the Actor," "the Hog," "the
Black Dog." Three times he was sent out of England into
exile, but each time he came back. The third time that
Gaveston returned, the barons besieged the castle in which
he took refuge; and, when it was captured, the baron whom he
called "the Black Dog" had him put to death.
Again we find the barons making war upon the King, as in the
time of Henry III., but their aims were now more
selfish than they were when Simon de Montfort was at their
head. It was partly because of this that Edward II.
was able to rule as long as he did, in spite of his
misgovernment and failures.
But at last a great conspiracy was formed against him, in
which his Queen, Isabella, herself joined. The King's
fourteen year old son (later Edward III.) was with the
Queen. Bishops and nobles aided them, and the Londoners
murdered the King's ministers. When the King's new
favorites were captured, they were put to death.
Edward II. stood practically alone, and after trying
unsuccessfully to escape to Ireland he fell into the hands
of his enemies.
Then, in a Parliament held in 1327, the question was
 "Whether they would have father or son for King?"
The answer was overwhelmingly against Edward II. He
was declared incapable of ruling, and was deposed. To show
that Edward's reign was really over, the High Steward
stepped forward and broke across his knee the white staff
which was the sign of the Steward's office.
But, so long as Edward lived, his enemies feared lest
he might recover his power, and undo the work which they had
done. So, a few months later, the unhappy man was murdered
by those who had him in charge.
This was the first time since the Norman Conquest, that the
Great Council, which we now call Parliament, had exercised
the right to depose a King. Before we go further, we must
see what this body was, and how its powers had grown; for
the growth of Parliament is the most important fact in all
the history of this period.