| Our Island Story|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|A child's history of England from earliest legendary times delightfully retold. Beginning with the stories of Albion and Brutus, it relates all the interesting legends and hero tales in which the history of England abounds through the end of the reign of Queen Victoria. Ages 9-12 |
EDWARD III. OF WINDSOR—THE STORY OF THE BATTLE OF CRECY
 SIX years after the battle of Sluys another great battle was
fought between the French and English at a place called
Crecy. Edward had been marching through France for some
time, when he heard that King Philip was close behind him
with an army of one hundred and twenty thousand men. He
himself had only twenty thousand men, but he resolved to
camp where he was, on a rising ground near the little French
village of Crecy, and there conquer or be conquered.
On Saturday, 26th August 1346 A.D., Edward rose very early. He
divided his army into three parts. One part he gave in
command of his young son Edward, the Black Prince. Prince
Edward took his name from the black armour which he always
wore, and at this time he was only seventeen years old.
Having divided his army, King Edward, carrying a white wand
in his hand and mounted upon a pony, rode slowly through the
ranks, talking to the soldiers and encouraging them. He
looked so cheerful and spoke so bravely, that the soldiers
cheered him as he passed among them, and if any of them had
felt afraid, they took heart again.
Then Edward gave orders that the men should have breakfast
sitting on the ground where they were, each man in his
place. So the men took off their helmets
 and, laying their
weapons down, ate and drank as they sat upon the ground.
The King himself went to a windmill near by, and there
waited and watched for the French to arrive.
When at last the French came in sight, it was about three o'clock
in the afternoon. Then each man of the English rose,
put on his helmet, took his weapon in his hand, and stood
King Philip meanwhile told four knights to ride quickly
forward and bring back news of the English army. The English
saw these knights, and saw, too, that they had come to spy,
but they took no notice of them, and let them return to King
"My lords, what news?" said he, as they rode back to him.
The knights looked at each other in silence, each waiting
for the other to speak first.
"Come, my lords, what news?" said the King again.
Then the bravest of the knights said, "I speak, my lord
King, as you desire, and I hope that my companions will tell
you if they think that I say wrong. The English are encamped
in a strong place. They are well-fed and rested, and are
waiting for you. Our soldiers are hungry and weary with the
long march. My advice is that you halt here, let the
soldiers rest to-night, and to-morrow they will be fresh and
able to conquer the English."
"I thank you, my lord," replied Philip, "it is good advice
and shall be followed." Then turning to his
generals, "Go," he said,
"command a halt."
Two generals rode off, one to the front, the other to the
rear, calling out as they went, "Halt banners, in the name
of God and St. Denis."
The soldiers in front halted as they were commanded, but
those behind would not do so. "We shall not halt until we
are as far forward as the others," they said, and
marched on. When they overtook the soldiers in front, these,
feeling themselves being pushed forward from behind,
moved on too, and neither the King nor the generals could
They marched on until they came close to the English. When
the soldiers in front saw that they were near the English
they fell back, hut those behind still pressed forward so
that the confusion was great. The roads behind the French
army were filled with peasants and country people armed with
sticks and stones. These peasants made a great noise, and
shouting "kill, kill," were eager to be at the English. They
mixed with the army, and made the confusion worse still.
In a few minutes all order was lost, and King Philip, seeing
that there was no help for it, decided to begin the battle
at once. Beside, as soon as he saw the English, his anger
against them rose so that he longed to be fighting them.
"Forward, archers, and begin the battle, in the name of God
and St. Denis," he cried.
The archers advanced, shouting fiercely, in order to
frighten the English.
But the English stood still. Not a man moved so much as a
Again the French archers shouted.
Still the English never moved.
With a third fierce yell the French archers shot.
Then the English archers made one step forward, raised their
bows, and shot arrow after arrow till it seemed as if it
When the French archers felt these terrible arrows pierce
their arms, breast, head, and legs, even through the armour
which they wore, they threw down their bows and fled.
 These archers were not Frenchmen, but Italians, whom Philip
had hired to help him in his war with the English, and when
he saw them throw down their bows and run away he was
dreadfully angry. "Kill these cowards," he shouted, "they do
but stop the way and are of no use." So the French horsemen
dashed upon the flying archers, who, having thrown down
their bows, had no other weapon, and killed as many as they
could, while the English poured arrows upon archers and
It was a terrible battle, and to make it seem still worse,
there was an eclipse of the sun and a thunderstorm while it
was going on. The sky became black, thunder roared,
lightning flashed, and rain fell in torrents. Great flocks
of crows flew over the field caw-cawing, in such a fearful
manner, that even the bravest felt afraid, and thought
something dreadful was going to happen.
At this battle, too, cannon were used for the first time.
Gunpowder had been invented only a short time before, and
people did not yet know what a terrible thing it would
become in battle. The English had four cannon. They were
made of wood bound round with iron, and although perhaps
they did not kill many people, they at least frightened the
French, who already had so much else to make them afraid.
Meanwhile the Black Prince was fighting gallantly with his
part of the army. But the French about him were so fierce
that his knights began to fear for his safety. So a
messenger was sent to the King, who was watching the battle
from the windmill.
"Sire," said the messenger, "we entreat you to send help to
the Prince, your son."
"Is my son dead?" asked the King.
"No, sire, thank God."
 "Is he wounded?"
"No, sire, but he is in danger. The French are fierce about
him and he is in need of help."
"Then, sir," replied the King, "if my son is neither dead
nor wounded, go back to those who sent you. Tell them not to
send again to me this day. Tell them that if they do I shall
neither come nor send help so long as my son is living. Tell
them that I command them to let the boy win his spurs, for I
wish the glory of the day to be his. God will guard him."
The knight returned and told the others what the King had
said, and they were sorry that they had sent any such
message, and resolved to fight to the last.
Edward said that he wanted the Prince to win his spurs. By
that he meant that he hoped he would do such brave deed that
he might be made a knight. When any one was made a knight he
received a pair of golden spurs. So when a man did a great
deed worthy of a knight he was said to have "won his spurs."
The King of Bohemia was with the French army, and his son
Charles was fighting for Philip. The King himself could not
fight because he was blind. When he heard that the day was
going against the French, he asked where his son was.
"We know not," replied the knights who were round him.
"Doubtless he is in the thickest of the fight."
Really he had fled from the field, but these gallant knights
would not grieve their brave old king by telling him so.
"I, too, would strike a blow," said the blind king, "Lead me
into the battle." The knights fastened their horses together
with the King of Bohemia in the middle, so that they might
not lose him in the crowd of soldiers, and dashed into the
fight. When the day was over they
 were all found dead
together, the King still in the middle of them, and their
horses still bound to each other.
In those days a knight always had a crest and motto, called
a device, painted upon his shield. The crest of the King of
Bohemia was three feathers and his motto was Ich dien, which
is German and means "I serve." The arms of a fallen foe
belonged to the conqueror. So when after the battle the
Black Prince was made a knight, he took the motto and the
crest of the King of Bohemia for his own. It has been borne
ever since by the eldest son of the King of England. And
that is why the Prince of Wales has a German motto.
When night fell and the terrible noise and clamour of
fighting ceased, the French were beaten, and their king had
fled from the field. The King of England came down from the
windmill where he had remained watching the fight. He had
not struck a blow, nor put on his helmet all day; not
because he was a coward, but because he wanted the Black
Prince to have all the praise of the victory. There, on the
battle-field, he took his son in his arms and kissed him.
"Dear son," he said, "God give you strength to go on as you
have begun. Bravely and nobly have you fought, and you are
worthy to be a king. The honour of the day is yours."
The prince bowed before his father. "I do not deserve any
praise," he said, "I have only done my duty." But he had
shown himself so brave that his father made him a knight. He
was one of the first knights of the Order of the Garter, a
new Order which Edward III. founded, and the King can bestow
upon any one. You shall hear why it was called by this name.
The King made the Black Prince a Knight of the Order of the Garter.
King Edward III. loved the stories of Arthur and his knights
of the Round Table. He made a new Round
 Table and tried to
bring back those knightly days, and to make his knights and
gentlemen courteous and gentle. One day, at a ball, Edward
picked up a lady's garter. Some one laughed rudely, but
Edward turned to him and said, "Honi soit
qui mal y pense," which is French and
means "Evil be to him who
evil thinks." "Soon," he added,
"you shall see this garter set so high
that you will think it an honour to wear it." And so when he
founded a new order of knighthood he made it the Order of
the Garter, and to this day great men are proud to wear it.
It was founded on St. George's day and the ornament which
the knights of the Garter wear is called the George.
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