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EDWARD III. OF WINDSOR—THE STORY OF THE BATTLE OF SLUYS
 WHEN Edward III. was made king in 1327 A.D., he was only
fourteen. He was too young to rule, and the power was really
in the hands of his mother, Queen Isabella, and of a man
called Roger Mortimer, Earl of March. Both the Queen and the
Earl were wicked, so it was a sad time for England. There
was fighting with Scotland, fighting with France, sorrow and
misery at home.
When Edward was eighteen he resolved that he would no longer
be king in name only. He took the Earl of March prisoner,
tried him for the wicked thing he had done, and condemned
him to death.
Queen Isabella he shut up in a castle, and would not allow
her to rule the kingdom any more. But he gave her money to
spend, and he went once every year.
King Edward then really began to reign. He made peace with
France, and, I am sorry to say, war again with Scotland. But
after fighting there for some time he left Scotland, and
began to fight again with France.
The war which now began is called
the "Hundred Years' War," because it lasted,
with times of peace between, for a
hundred years. It began because Edward said that
 he had a
right to be King of France as well as King of England. He
said this was so because his mother, Queen Isabella, was the
sister of King Charles IV. of France, who had died, leaving
no son to succeed him. But the French had a law by which
women were not allowed to wear the crown, so Edward had
really no right to it. He could not receive from his mother
what had never been hers. King Philip VI., who now had the
crown, would, of course, not give it up, so a fierce and
bitter war began.
The first great fight was at sea. Edward sailed from England
with a fleet of about three hundred ships. As he came near
to Sluys, a town in Flanders, he saw such a number of masts
that it seemed as if a forest had come sailing out to sea.
"What ships are these?" said King Edward to the captain of
"They are the ships of the King of France," replied the
captain. "They have oftentime plundered your coasts. They
lately burned the town of Southampton and took your good
ship the Christopher."
"Ah, I have long wished to meet them," replied the King.
"Now, please God and St. George, we will fight them; for in
truth they have done me so much mischief, I will be revenged
upon them if possible."
Edward's wife, Queen Philippa, was at Ghent, and Edward had
many ladies on board who were going to join her there. So he
arranged his vessels with great care, for he knew that the
French had far more men and ships than he had. He put the
ladies in the safest place, and guarded them carefully with
a large body of archers and soldiers.
As the sun and wind were both against Edward, he lowered his
sails and moved round so that the sun
 should be behind him.
The French seeing this thought that he was afraid, and that
he was running away. They had been waiting for the English
in strong battle array. All their ships were fastened
together with heavy chains so as to make it impossible for
the English ships to break through their lines. Seeing the
English flee, as they thought, the French unfastened the
chains and made ready to pursue.
As the royal standard floated from the masthead the French
knew that the King of England was with his fleet, and they
hoped to take him prisoner. They filled the Christopher, the
ship which they had taken from the English, with trumpeters
and drummers and, to the sound of music and shouting, sent
it to attack the English.
But the English won their own ship back again, and amid
great cheering manned it with Englishmen once more.
The battle was fierce and terrible. The English were often
in great danger, for the French were much the stronger, but
when the battle was over there were very few Frenchmen left,
and most of their ships were sunk or destroyed.
It was such a dreadful defeat that no one dared tell the
King of France about it.
At last his court fool told him.
In those days great people always had some one near to amuse
them by making jokes, and by laughing at everything. He was
called a fool, although sometimes he was very wise and
witty. But because he was called a fool he was allowed to
say what he liked, and no one was angry with him.
"The English are great cowards," said the French king's fool
to him one day.
 "Why so?" asked the King.
"Because they have not the courage to jump into the sea and
be drowned, like the French at Sluys," replied the fool.
In this way King Philip was told of the loss of all his
ships, and his anger was so terrible that even his fool fled
from him in fear.