Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
EDWARD I.—THE LITTLE WAR OF CHALONS
 IN the days when knights wore armour and fought with sword
and lance, they used often to play at war, as if they had
not real fighting enough.
These mock wars were called tournaments. They took place in
a great open space or plain, which was called the lists. The
knights, dressed in full armour, with painted shields and
waving plumes, met each other and fought as they would in
battle. Each wore the badge of his lady-love in his helmet.
Generally the weapons which they used were blunted, so that
they could not hurt each other much, but sometimes the
weapons were sharp, and the mock fight ended in wounds and
Round the lists were seats where fair ladies and great
princes sat to watch the tournament. Each knight was eager
to do great deeds, so that he might win the praise of the
beautiful ladies who looked on. When the jousting, as it was
called, was over, the fairest lady placed a crown of bay
leaves on the head of the victor. This crown was prized more
than if it had been of gold and gems, and each knight did
his best to win it. It was thought that no knight could show
his love and reverence for his lady better than by jousting
and tilting in her name.
 As Edward travelled home to England he passed through France,
and near to a little town called Chalons. When the count of
that place heard that the great English prince was passing
through his land, he sent a message asking that they might
meet in a tournament with a thousand knights on either side,
lance for lance.
Far and wide Edward was known as a brave and courteous
warrior, and although his knights whispered that the Count
of Chalons had no love for the prince and meant to do him
harm, Edward accepted the challenge, as such a message was
called. Indeed it seemed to him that he was in honour bound
to do so, for it was counted unknightly to refuse a
challenge. Great preparations were made, and on a fair day
in May the plain of Chalons was gay with knights on
horseback, and lovely ladies and people of all ranks in
holiday dress, crowding to see the tournament.
The earth seemed to shake as Edward and his thousand
splendid and brave English knights thundered over it. But
the Count of Chalons came to meet them, not with one
thousand men as had been agreed, but with two thousand.
Yet the English had no fear, and the tournament began. It
was soon seen, however, that it was no friendly trial of
strength, but a fight of bitter hate.
The count rode again and again at Edward, until his lance
was splintered in his hand. Then throwing away the shaft, he
seized the prince round the neck, and tried to drag him from
The Count rode again and again at Edward till his lance was splintered in his hand.
This, according to the rules of the tournament, was a mean
and unknightly thing to do. Edward sat his horse like a
rock, and, great though the strength of the French count
was, he could not move him. Then suddenly Edward spurred
his horse, it sprang forward, and the
 count, who still clung
tightly to Edward, was pulled from his saddle and fell to
the ground with a fearful crash.
Enraged at such unknightly behaviour, Edward leaped down and
beat with the shaft of his lance upon the armour of the
fallen count, heeding not his cries for mercy. As of a
hammer upon an anvil, blow after blow fell, until at last
the rage of the prince was spent, and he allowed the count
The count then offered his sword to the prince in token of
submission, but Edward turned from him in scorn. "Nay, sir
knight," he said, "this day have you proved yourself no true
knight. My servants may receive your tarnished sword, I
shall not touch it." So the count was obliged to give up his
sword to a common soldier, which, for a true knight, was the
Meanwhile the English archers outside the lists, seeing that
the French knights far outnumbered the English, and that
there was no fair play, shot with their arrows at the horses
of the French. Many of them fell dead, dragging their riders
to the ground, where they lay helpless, trampled upon alike
by friend and foe. Then the French foot-soldiers joined in
the fight, and the tournament became a battle.
The English were far outnumbered, but even so they had the
best of it. They took many of the French knights prisoners,
making them pay large sums of money for their freedom. The
common soldiers they slew because, they said, "they were but
rascals and of no great account." So fierce a tournament was
this that, ever after, it was called "The little war of