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Chapter XLIV, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 1 page 3


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Richard was supported in his rebellion by Bertrand de Born, lord of Haute-Fort, a distinguished warrior and poet, under whose teaching the natural daring of the prince was fostered, and he received a thorough training in the art of war. Richard at first refused to be included in the truce, but receiving no succour from his allies, he was unable to maintain a defence, and after the loss of many fortresses, he was compelled to return to his father, and implore his pardon. The king, stern and unrelenting towards ordinary offenders, acted with remarkable indulgence towards his rebellious children. An act of reconciliation was agreed upon, by which estates and revenues were assigned to each of the princes; and Henry made peace with the French king and the Earl of Flanders, on condition that they restored the territories which they had occupied since the commencement of the war. On the other hand, Henry agreed to give up those lands which he had conquered, and to liberate all his prisoners, with the exception of the King of Scotland, who had been confined in the castle of Falaise, In the following month of December (a.d. 1174), the Scottish king obtained his freedom by doing homage to Henry, and acknowledging himself as his vassal - thus sacrificing nominally the independence of his kingdom.

The three princes assented to the terms offered by their father, and promised future honour and obedience to him, the two younger taking the oath of fealty. In the year 1175 Henry returned to England with his eldest son, and the reconciliation between them was now so complete, that it is related that they ate at the same table and slept in the same bed.

At length the country enjoyed a short period of tranquillity, and eight years elapsed, during which there was peace at home and abroad, and the energies of the king were engaged in promoting reforms in the internal government of the kingdom. His reputation for wisdom and power at this time stood so high, that the Kings of Navarre and Castile, who had been engaged in a prolonged warfare upon a question of territory, agreed to refer their dispute to the decision of the English monarch, and it is related that he delivered a wise and impartial judgment between them.

The government of Henry appears to have been in the main a just one, while it was firm, uncompromising, and well calculated to keep in check the unruly tempers of the Norman barons. During his reign the commerce of the country recovered from the depressed condition into which it had previously fallen. From remote parts of the East as well as from the Continent and from Ireland, trading vessels of foreign merchants brought articles of convenience and luxury to London. The wines of France, the furs of Normandy, the spices of Arabia, were among the merchandise imported at this time into England, and were employed to minister to that taste for pomp and magnificence which prevailed in the court of Henry II. London was already a populous city, noted for the wealth and luxury of its citizens, and in this reign it first became generally recognised as the capital of the kingdom. In the city and suburbs there were then about thirteen monasteries, and more than a hundred churches, with a fixed population of about 40.000 inhabitants. Industry and the arts were making rapid progress, and labourers and artificers of many different kinds were to be found in the city. Ludgate was at this time the western extremity of London, and where the Strand now pours east or west its stream of busy life, the ground was then divided into fields and orchards, which extended to Westminster. According to Fitz-Stephen, the biographer of Becket, the citizens of London received the title of barons - a statement which, to say the least of it, is improbable; but there can be no doubt that their wealth and intelligence at this period placed them in a higher position than is generally supposed. Other cities had attained to a high degree of importance, either as depots for home produce or manufactures, as seats of learning, or as seaports where the foreign commerce of the country was carried on. Exeter was a fine city, whither merchants resorted to trade for the mineral produce of the country, the mines of Cornwall and Devonshire already yielding a large annual revenue to the crown. Bristol conducted an extensive trade with Ireland and the north of Europe. Chester received ships from different countries with various kinds of merchandise. Lincoln was the seat of extensive home and foreign trade. Winchester and Gloucester were famous for their wines, the vine being then cultivated in the neighbourhood with considerable success, Among other cities mentioned by contemporary writers as being wealthy and populous, were York, Norwich, Lynn, Dunwich in Suffolk, Grimsby, Berwick, and Perth. Dublin is described as a splendid city, worthy to be placed in comparison with London. It is not known with certainty of what the exports of the country at this time consisted; but it is probable that they were confined to provisions, metals, and wool, or woollen goods. According to William of Malmesbury, England was the granary of Europe, where, in times of scarcity, other nations were sure of obtaining corn at a moderate price.

In the year 1182 fresh disputes arose between Henry and his sons. Richard having been called upon to do homage to his elder brother Henry for the provinces of Aquitaine and Poitou, positively refused, and immediately proceeded to put his fortresses in a condition of defence. In the beginning of the following year, Henry the younger and Geoffrey marched an army, part of which was composed of the Brabancon troops, against their brother, and several furious engagements took place between them. The king, alarmed at the grave appearance of the quarrel, recalled his two sons, and on their refusal took up arms in support of Richard. The family war was thus renewed under a new aspect, one of the sons fighting with his father against his two brothers. Contemporary historians speak with a fitting horror of these unnatural contests, and attribute their recurrence to an evil destiny which hung over the race of Plantagenet, as the result of some great crime which remained unexpiated. Revolting stories were related of the origin of the family, and of the deeds of its descendants - stories, of which some are evidently fabulous, and others, probably, had little or no foundation in fact. One of these, which is found in the chronicles of Johannes Bromton, may be given as an instance: - An ancient countess of Anjou, from whom King Henry was descended, was observed by her husband to evince great reluctance to entering a church, and when she did visit one, invariably to quit the edifice before the celebration of the sacrament. The husband, whose suspicions were excited, caused her one day to be forcibly detained by four esquires; but, at the moment of the consecration, the countess threw off the cloak by which she was held, flew out of the church window, and was never seen afterwards. It is related that Prince Richard was accustomed to refer to this anecdote, and to say it was no matter of surprise that he and his family, who had sprung from such a stock, should be on bad terms with each other.

In those days poetry played an important part in the political events of the south of France. All transactions of war, and often those of peace, were proclaimed, made known, and commented upon in rhyme. The songs of the Troubadours circulating through the country, and repeated from mouth to mouth, occupied in a great measure the same place in the twelfth century that our newspapers do in the present day. Among the people of Aquitaine the Queen Eleanor was held in great affection, as having been born among them, and the offences of which she was commonly reported to have been guilty were little regarded by a people whose own standard of morality was low. The long imprisonment with which she had been visited by her husband excited their chivalrous feelings, and her wrongs were a favourite theme with the poets of her native province. The people rejoiced at an opportunity of punishing her husband by any means at their command, and they therefore welcomed the new quarrels which had arisen between the sons and their father.

Henry and his son Richard marched against Limoges, which was in the possession of Henry the younger and Geoffrey. Within a few weeks the eldest brother deserted the cause of the men of Aquitaine, and gave in his submission once more to his father. Geoffrey, however, remained firm, and, supported by the people, continued his opposition. Prince Henry communicated with his brother through Bertrand de Born, and arranged that a meeting should take place between his father and Geoffrey, for the purpose of arranging terms of peace. When the king arrived at Limoges to attend this conference, he was surprised to find the gates of the town shut against him; and on presenting himself with a small escort before the walls, and demanding admittance, he was answered by a flight of arrows, one of which pierced his armour. An explanation ensued, when this occurrence was declared to be a mistake, and the king entered the town, and was met by Geoffrey in an open place, where they began the conference. During the interview a second flight of arrows were discharged from the walls of the castle adjoining, one of which struck the king's horse on the head. Henry ordered one of his esquires to pick up the arrow, and, taking it in his hand, he presented it to Geoffrey, with words of sorrow and reproach.

These attempts at assassination, as revolting in themselves as they were in defiance of the laws of chivalry, have been attributed by some historians to Geoffrey himself; but there is no sufficient reason for supposing that they occurred by the son's command. The hot-tempered soldiers of the south, probably, were little pleased at the prospect of a reconciliation between Geoffrey and his father, which would be made without regard to their interests; and it is not improbable that of their own accord they took this means of putting an end to the conference. It is stated that the archers who made the attack upon the king were not hired soldiers, but volunteers, who had recently joined the army of Geoffrey.

Henry the younger, finding his attempts at mediation frustrated, declared that the men of Aquitaine were obstinate rebels, with whom he would never more make peace or truce, but that he would remain true to his father at all times. And yet a month had scarcely elapsed before he again quitted his father, and entered into a league with his adversaries. The Pope now interposed, and by his command the Norman clergy excommunicated the disobedient son - a penalty which the perjuries of the prince had once before called down upon him. It seems improbable that Henry the younger was in the least disturbed by being under the ban of the Church; but he was induced by some cause to return to his father, who received him once more with forgiveness. The prince promised, in the name of the insurgents, to surrender the town of Limoges; but if he had their warranty for doing so, they soon repented of their determination. The envoys of the king, who were sent to take possession of the town, were butchered within, the walls, and the people, whose national spirit was thoroughly aroused, showed themselves resolved to put down all measures of reconciliation.

Not lone: after these events, the king received a message that his son, having fallen dangerously ill at Ghateau-Martel, near Limoges, was anxious to see him. The king, who remembered the former attempts upon his own life, as well as the recent assassination of his soldiers, feared to trust himself again among these conspirators. He took a ring from his finger, and giving it to the Archbishop of Bordeaux, desired him to convey it immediately to the prince, with the assurance of his father's love. The archbishop executed his mission, and Prince Henry died with the ring pressed to his lips, confessing his undutiful conduct, and showing every sign of contrition. The younger king was twenty-seven years of age at the time of his death, which took place June 11th, 1183.

The stern Plantagenet is said to have been struck with grief at his son's death; but he was not of a nature to waste time in brooding over the irrevocable past. With his sorrow were associated feelings of anger against the rebels of Aquitaine, whose hostile attitude had prevented him from attending the deathbed of the prince. The king immediately collected an army, and on the day after the funeral of his son, he took the town of Limoges by assault, and followed up this success by seizing many castles of the insurgents, which he razed to the ground. Above all the confederates he pursued Bertrand de Born, to whose evil counsel he attributed the numerous acts of rebellion on the part of the princes. Henry besieged the castle of Haute-Fort, and within a short time it fell into his hands; and the chief, Bertrand, was conducted as a prisoner to the royal tent.

Bertrand, as has been already related, was not only a warrior, but a troubadour of renown, as eminent for gaiety and wit as for valour. He had made satirical poems upon the great King Henry, whom he had boasted that he held neither in respect nor fear. Henry now called him into his presence, to see how this gallant song-maker would comport himself in the face of death. "Bertrand," he said, "thou hast been heard to declare that thou never requiredst to use more than half thy wit, but now the time has come when thou wilt need it all." "My lord," the troubadour calmly replied, "I did, indeed, say so; and I said the truth." "And yet I think that thy sense has deserted thee," rejoined the king. "You are right, sire," Bertrand said, in slow and grave tones. "I lost it on the day that the valiant youth thy son expired; then, indeed, I lost all sense and reason." At the mention of his son, the king gave way to a passion of grief; and, to the astonishment of the court, the judge fainted away at the words of the prisoner. When Henry recovered, all thoughts of vengeance had passed away: the man who stood before him, whatever might be his crimes, had been his son's old friend, and for this cause the king spared his life. "Sir Bertrand, Sir Bertrand!" said he, "thou didst well to lose thy senses for my son's sake, for he loved thee better than any man in the world; and I, for love of him, give thee thy life, thy wealth, and thy castle." (Poesies des Troubadours.).

The death of the younger king caused a reconciliation between the several members of this dissevered family. Even the Queen Eleanor was once more taken for a while into favour; and in her presence, the Princes Geoffrey and Richard, as well as their younger brother, Prince John, swore to a solemn bond of final peace and concord (a.d. 1184). The king, distrusting the untamed disposition of his elder sons, appears to have extended his chief favour and affection towards John. In a few months more the peace of the family was again disturbed by Geoffrey, who demanded the earldom of Anjou, and, on being refused, he went over to the French court. Here he passed his time in amusements and dissipations, waiting an opportunity for pursuing his schemes of ambition. One day, when engaged in a tournament, his horse was thrown down, and the prince himself was trampled to death by the horses of the combatants (a.d. 1186).

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Pictures for Chapter XLIV, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 1 page 3

The Siege of Waterford
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Spoon of the Twelfth Century
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Meeting of Henry and Louis on the Plain near Gisors
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Penance of Henry
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Effigy of Eleanor
Effigy of Eleanor >>>>
Richard Coeur de Lion
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Richard Coeur-de-Lion beside the Dead Body of his Father
Richard Coeur-de-Lion beside the Dead Body of his Father >>>>

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