| 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 POITIERS
 NINE years passed and the quarrelling between France and
England still went on, and in 1356 A.D. the English, under
the Black Prince, gained another great victory over the
French. Philip, the King of France, had died, and his son
John now reigned. He came against the English with such a
great army that the Black Prince, rather than fight, offered
to set free all the prisoners he had made, to give up all
the French towns which he had taken, and to promise not to
fight against the French for seven years.
But that did not satisfy King John. He demanded that the
Prince and the whole English army should give themselves up
The Black Prince refused even to think of such a thing. Then
King John said that he would be satisfied if the Prince and
one hundred of his best knights gave themselves up. Again
the Black Prince refused, and he and his men prepared to
fight, and to win or die.
"My men," said the Prince, "we are only a very small body
compared with the army of the French. But numbers do not
always bring victory. Therefore fight manfully, and, if it
please God and St. George, you shall see me this day act like a true
 The Prince posted his army very cleverly. Only narrow lanes
led to the place he had chosen, behind the hedges of which
his archers were hidden. As the French knights rode down the
lanes, the English archers shot so fast and well that the
knights knew not where to turn, and soon the lanes were
filled with dead and dying men and horses.
The English shouted "St. George," the French
"St. Denis," and fiercely the battle raged.
But, in spite of their
bravery and their numbers, the French lost the day, and both
King John and his son were taken prisoner.
They were led before the Black Prince, who received them
very kindly, and treated them as friends rather than as
prisoners. When the evening came, and supper was served, the
Prince made the French king and his son take the most
honoured places at table, and, instead of sitting down to eat
with them, he himself waited upon them.
King John begged the Black Prince to sit down to supper with
him, but he would not. "It is honour enough for me," he
said, "to serve so great a king and so brave a soldier."
After the battle of Poitiers, the Black Prince remained in
France for some time, then he set out for England, taking
King John with him.
When King Edward heard that they were coming, he gave orders
to the people of London to make the city bright and
beautiful in honour of the King of France. So the houses
were decked with flags and wreaths of flowers, and the
people, dressed in their holiday clothes, marched through
the streets in gay crowds, cheering the King of France and
their own brave Prince.
King John was mounted upon a beautiful white horse, and
beside him rode the Black Prince on a little black
 pony. It
seemed as if the Prince wanted to do everything in his power
to make King John forget that he was a prisoner.
But, in spite of all the kindness shown to him by King
Edward and the Black Prince, John found the months during
which he was kept a prisoner and unable to go back to his
own dear land long and weary. At last, after four years,
Edward made peace with France for a time, and set King John
free on condition that he paid a large sum of money.
King John returned to his own land, but as he could not find
enough money with which to pay Edward, he came back to
prison, like an honourable man, and died in England.
All these wars in France had cost a great deal of money. The
English people were proud of their King and Prince, and glad
that they should win so many battles, and make the name of
England famous; but the people had to pay for these wars.
They had to pay tax after tax, and their poverty and misery
grew greater year by year.
It is true the King could no longer tax the people how and
when he liked, for the power of Parliament grew stronger and
stronger. It was only through Parliament that the King could
now get the money he required, and whenever they gave it to
him they made him promise something in return. In this way,
as the power of Parliament grew, the power of the King
became less, and the country became really more free. But
the poor, who were robbed of nearly all their money, found
it difficult to understand this. So many men had been killed
in the wars that there were too few to do all the work of
the land. There were still slaves in England at this time,
and when these slaves saw that there were not
 enough people
to do the work, they rebelled and refused to work without
wages. Other people joined them, and so there was war
between rich and poor.
Besides poverty, a terrible sickness called the Black Death
fell upon the land. Thousands upon thousands died until
there were not enough people left in the land to sow and
reap and plough. The fields lay barren, no corn was grown,
and the people starved. These were very unhappy times for
King Edward's wars still went on, and it became more and
more difficult to find money for them and, instead of always
winning battles, he now often lost them.
To the sorrow of every one the brave Black Prince died. His
health had been broken by the terrible hardships of his long
wars in France. At last he became so ill that he could no
longer sit upon his horse, nor lead his soldiers in battle,
and he came home to England to die. He was buried with great
pomp in Canterbury Cathedral. There his tomb is still to be
seen, and over it there still hangs the black armour which he
used to wear, and from which he took his name of the Black
King Edward died shortly after his son, and his long reign,
which had been so brilliant and glorious, ended in darkness
and misery, for the people, instead of loving and admiring
their King, had grown to hate him.
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