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Reign of Henry III, Part 2 page 4


Pages: 1 2 3 <4>

The princes of "Wales, notwithstanding the great power of the monarchs both of the Saxon and Norman lines, had still preserved authority in their own country. Though they had frequently been forced to pay tribute to the crown of England, they were with difficulty retained in a state of vassalage, or even in peace; and almost through every reign since the Conquest had infested the English frontiers with such petty excursions and inroads as seldom secured a place in general history.

In 1237, Lewellyn, Prince of Wales, declining in years and stricken in infirmities, but still more harassed by the unnatural rebellion of his youngest son, Griffin, had recourse to the protection of Henry, subjecting his principality, which had so long maintained its independence, to vassalage under the crown of England.

His eldest son and heir, David, renewed the homage to England, and having taken his brother prisoner, delivered him into the hands of Henry, who kept him a prisoner in the Tower. Griffin lost his life in attempting to escape from his imprisonment, and the Prince of Wales, freed from the apprehension of so dangerous a rival, paid henceforth less regard to the English monarch, and soon renewed those incursions by which the Welsh, during so many ages, had infested the English borders.

Lewellyn, the son of Griffin, who succeeded to his uncle, although he had performed homage to England, was well pleased to inflame those civil discords on which he rested for security. For this purpose he entered into an alliance with Leicester, and collecting all the forces of his principality, invaded England with an army of thirty thousand men.

He ravaged the lands of Roger de Mortimer, and of all the barons who adhered to the crown; he marched into Cheshire, and committed like depredations on Prince Edward's territories; every place where his disorderly troops appeared was laid waste with fire and sword; and though Mortimer, a gallant and expert soldier, made stout resistance, it was at length found necessary that the prince himself should head the army against this invader. Edward repulsed Prince Lewellyn, and obliged him to take shelter in the mountains of North Wales; but he was prevented from making further progress against the enemy by receiving intelligence of the disorders which soon after broke out in England.

The Welsh invasion was the appointed signal for the malcontent barons to rise in arms; and Leicester, coming over secretly from France, collected all the forces of his party, and commenced an open rebellion. He seized the person of the Bishop of Hereford - a prelate obnoxious to all the inferior clergy, on account of his devoted attachment to the court of Rome. Simon, Bishop of Norwich, and John Mansel, because they had published the Pope's bull, absolving the king and kingdom from their oaths to observe the provisions of Oxford, were made prisoners, and exposed to the rage of the party. The king's demesnes were ravaged with unbounded fury; and as it was Leicester's interest to allure to his side, by the hopes of plunder, all the disorderly ruffians in England, he gave them a general licence to pillage the barons of the opposite party, and even all neutral persons. But one of the principal resources of his faction was the populace of the cities, particularly of London; and as he had, by Ms pretensions to sanctity, and his zeal against Rome, engaged the monks and lower ecclesiastics in his party, his dominion over the inferior ranks of men became uncontrollable. Thomas Fitz-Richard, Mayor of London, a furious and licentious man, gave the countenance of authority to these disorders in the capital; and having declared war against the substantial citizens, he loosened all the bands of government by which that turbulent city was commonly but ill restrained. On the approach of Easter, the zeal of superstition, the appetite for plunder, or what is often as prevalent with the populace as either of these motives, the pleasure of committing havoc and destruction, prompted them to attack the unhappy Jews, who were first pillaged without resistance, then massacred to the number of 500 persons. The Lombard bankers were next exposed to the rage of the people; and though, by taking sanctuary in the churches, they escaped with their lives, all their money and goods became a prey to the licentious multitude. Not content with these excesses, the houses of the rich citizens, though English, were attacked by night; and way was made by sword and fire to the pillage of their goods, and often to the destruction of their persons.

The queen, who, though defended by the Tower, was terrified by the neighbourhood of such dangerous commotions, resolved to go by water to the castle of Windsor; but as she approached the bridge the populace assembled against her. There was a general cry of "Drown the witch;" and besides abusing her with the most opprobrious language, and pelting her with rotten eggs and dirt, they had prepared large stones to sink the barge when the royal party should attempt to shoot the bridge. At this moment the mayor interposed for the queen's protection, and conveyed her in safety to St. Paul's.

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Pictures for Reign of Henry III, Part 2 page 4

The Battle of Taillebourg
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Interior of Westminster Hall
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The Bishop of Worcester meeting the King of the Romans
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Escape of Queen Eleanor
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