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Our Island Story by  H. E. Marshall


 

 

CHAPTER XLI

EDWARD I.—THE LAWGIVER—THE STORY OF THE FIRST PRINCE OF WALES

[196] SOON after "The little war of Chalons," Edward reached England. The people welcomed him with delight, and he and his beautiful queen, Eleanor, were crowned at Westminster Abbey with great splendour.

Since the days of Alfred no king had been received with such joy and love, for the people felt that Edward was truly and indeed an English king.

We think now that such names as Henry, Richard, and John are English names. But they were not known in England until after the Conquest, when they were brought into England by the French. For more than two hundred years the kings of England had borne French names, and had indeed been Frenchmen. But Edward was a Saxon name. The King had been born and had lived nearly all his life in England, he spoke the English language, and he loved his people and his country, which no king of England since Harold had truly done. Not only did Edward love his people, but he longed for their love in return, and tried to be a good king.

The feasting and rejoicing at the coronation continued for a fortnight. Many large new buildings had to be made to hold all the guests. The streets were hung with silk and embroidery. Rich men scattered handfuls [197] of gold and silver to the people. Fountains ran with wine instead of water. For the coronation feast alone there were needed three hundred and eighty cattle, four hundred and thirty sheep, four hundred and fifty pigs, eighteen wild boars, two hundred and seventy-eight flitches of bacon, and twenty thousand fowls. Never had there been such feasting and grandeur in England.

The King of Scotland came to the coronation, and with him a hundred knights. When they got off their horses they let them go free, and any one who caught them might keep them. Seeing this, and not wishing to be outdone, the King's brother, Edmund, and three other nobles came each with a hundred knights riding upon splendid horses and, leaping down, they, too, let them go free for any one to have who would.

Edward was crowned King of England, Lord of Ireland, and Duke of Aquitaine. Aquitaine was all that remained of the great French possessions of Henry II. But Edward longed to rule over the whole island of Britain; he wanted to be Prince of Wales and King of Scotland as well as King of England.

You remember that hundreds of years before this, when the Saxons came to Britain, they gradually drove the Britons out before them, until they took refuge in the mountains of Wales. There they remained, speaking the ancient British language and having very little intercourse with the English, but often fighting with them. And the kings of England, ever since the days of Edward the Confessor, had from time to time forced the Welsh to own them as over-lords.

When Edward came to the throne he sent for Llewellyn, Prince of Wales, to come to do homage; that is, to own him as over-lord. Llewellyn would not come. Six times did Edward send. Still Llewellyn refused.

[198] This made Edward very angry and, hearing that a beautiful lady was coming from France to be married to Llewellyn, he seized her and kept her prisoner in London. He then sent messengers to the Prince of Wales, telling him that he should have his bride when he had done homage, and not till then. Llewellyn, instead of submitting, was furiously angry. He raised an army and marched against Edward. But brave little Wales could not do much against great England. The Welsh were soon defeated and scattered, and their prince starved into submission in his castle on Snowdon. But as soon as Llewellyn did homage to Edward as over-lord, the king acknowledged him as Prince of Wales, and not only let him have his bride but made a great wedding-feast for her and gave her many presents. So there was peace.

But peace did not last long.

In the days when Arthur was king, Merlin, his wise councillor, had foretold that when money should be round, a Prince of Wales should be crowned in London. Before the time of Edward I. there was very little money of any kind. When the people wanted to give change, they took a large piece of money and cut it into two or three or four pieces, just as they liked. This of course made it easy to cheat with money, for, when a coin was cut up, it became difficult to know whether it really was a coin or not.

Edward made a law forbidding people to cut coins into pieces, and he had pennies and small silver coins made, in order that people could give change. So money was round, instead of being all sorts of shapes as it had been.

The Welsh thought that the time of which Merlin had spoken had now come, and they began to fight with [199] the English, hoping to conquer them and to see Llewellyn crowned in London.

But the Welsh were again defeated, and this time Llewellyn was killed. In the cruel fashion of those days his head was cut off and sent to London. There it was crowned with a silver crown and carried through the streets on a spear, and at last it was set upon the Tower, wreathed with willow. Then the English laughed unkindly, saying that the prophecy was fulfilled.

Sad and overcome, the Welsh once more owned England's king as lord, but, when the barons came to do homage to Edward, he promised to give them a Welsh prince as ruler, one who had been born in Wales, and who could neither speak French nor English. On the day appointed, when the barons gathered to do homage to this new ruler, Edward appeared before them carrying in his arms his little baby son, who had been born at Caernarvon Castle only a few days before. He was truly a prince who could neither speak French nor English, nor indeed any other language.

This little prince was named Edward, like his father. Ever since that time, the eldest son of the King of England has been called the Prince of Wales, and England and Wales have formed one kingdom.


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