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Accession of Edward I page 3


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These successes caused great joy to Llewellyn and his associates, though the struggle which they so heroically maintained was, in reality, hopeless. Fresh troops were constantly arriving to the support of the king, while his numerous fleet offered them protection and support. Among the reinforcements were some mountaineers of the Basque provinces, well suited for that mode of warfare, in which agility of limb and rapidity of motion possessed a decided advantage over the slow operations of the English troops. The Basques followed the Welsh to their fastnesses, and there fought them in their own way, usually with the advantage of numbers. The natives were thus dislodged from their defences, driven from mountain to mountain, and compelled, inch by inch, to retreat.

But while such was the frequent result of these conflicts, the combined efforts of the Welsh leaders were attended with the success which has been described. Llewellyn trusted that the elements to which he owed his former defeat would now exert an influence in his favour, and that the rigours of winter would compel the king to quit the country. But Edward was too able a general to suffer himself to be so defeated. He undertook more vigorous measures, and while pressing the natives to the utmost with his own forces, he dispatched a second army, which had recently been collected, into South Wales, for the purpose of attacking the enemy in the rear. Llewellyn immediately marched to meet this new danger, leaving his brother David to oppose the king. At Bailth, in the valley of the Wye, the Welsh prince found himself suddenly in the presence of a large force of English troops, who were encamped on the opposite side of the river. Llewellyn had advanced in front of his men, and descended a hill to watch the motions of the enemy. He had entered a barn, either for shelter or repose, when he was surprised by a party of English who had crossed the river. Hopeless as the contest was, the prince turned desperately on his assailants, struck his last blow for home and liberty, and then fell, pierced through the body by a spear. His head was cut off, and, by direction of Edward, was sent to London, where it was placed in the Tower, with a crown of willow round the brows. This order was given by the king, in derision of the prophecy of Merlin.

The independence of Wales was buried in the grave of Llewellyn. The king had, indeed, some further resistance to encounter, but it was unorganised and soon subdued, as far as active hostilities were concerned. Many of the native chiefs at once gave in their submission to the crown, bat David maintained his opposition for six months, surrounded by a few followers, in the fastnesses of the mountains. At length he was betrayed into his enemies hands, and was carried in chains to the castle of Rhuddlan. In the following month Edward brought the case of the captive before a parliament, hastily and irregularly summoned at Shrewsbury. That parliament assented obsequiously to whatever the king described as just and necessary; and, consequently, they condemned the Welsh prince to be dragged by a horse to the place of execution, because, after receiving the order of knighthood from the king, he had turned traitor; to be hung, because he had caused the murder of the knights in Hawarden Castle; to have his bowels burned, because he had profaned the sacredness of Palm Sunday, the day on which the deed was committed, and to be quartered, and have his limbs hung up in different places, because he had conspired against the king's life. This shameful sentence was not only carried into effect, but served for many years as a precedent in cases of high treason.

Edward now-directed his attention to more peaceful measures for securing his conquest. He remained in Wales during another year, and occupied himself in enticing the natives as far as possible from their uncultivated habits, and in prevailing upon them to adopt fixed residences and English customs. To this end he divided the country into shires and hundreds, introduced English, laws, which were generally enforced, and took measures for the restoration of tranquility. He also gave charters conferring important privileges on some of the Welsh towns, and amongst others to Rhuddlan, Aberystwith, and Caernarvon. It happened that Queen Eleanor bore her husband a son in the castle of Caernarvon, and Edward availed himself of that circumstance for political purposes. He called together a number of the chief men of the land, to whom he presented the infant as born among them, and of the same country. The child, he said, was Welsh, and as such he should be their prince. They supposed that a separate government was intended, since the infant had an elder brother, who undoubtedly was the heir to the English throne. The ardent nature of the Welsh eagerly caught at this revived hops of independence, and for some time they appeared to have regarded their young prince with feelings of loyalty and affection. Before long, however, the Prince Alphonso, the elder brother, died, and it became evident that such hopes were illusory. From this time the principality of Wales became permanently annexed to the crown, and the title of Prince of Wales was given to the eldest son of the kings of England.

Edward secured his conquest by fortifying anew the castles of Con way and Caernarvon, and by building other fortresses, in which he placed strong garrisons and large stores of provisions. The lands at the foot of Snowdon he divided among his English barons, who also built castles and strongholds for purposes of defence. Such measures proved to be necessary for many years afterwards, for the mountaineers rebelled against these haughty and tyrannical lords, and showed their hatred by continued acts of hostility. Cruelty on the one hand was met by bloody deeds of vengeance on the other, and many of the English nobles sustained a perpetual siege in the strongholds they had built.

After the subjugation of Wales, four years passed away, during which Edward pursued no farther his schemes of. aggrandisement. Showing little interest in the internal affairs of his kingdom, he passed over to the Continent, where his great ability was displayed in the arrangement of a dispute respecting the island of Sicily, which had arisen between the Kings of France, Arragon, and the house of Anjou, Meanwhile, the English people murmured at his absence; the word "government" was associated with the person of the king, and disorders had been increasing which it was believed his presence would terminate. Edward found himself compelled to return to his own country, and soon after he had done so, the course of events in Scotland aroused his ambition in that direction. It will be necessary briefly to trace the narrative of Scottish history, from the reign of Malcolm Caenmore to the date at which we have now arrived.

The influence exercised upon the Scottish people by their queen, Margaret, the sister of Edgar Atheling, was in a high degree beneficial. The fair Saxon introduced among the fierce subjects of her husband the softer manners, the religion, and the dawning civilisation of the south. Malcolm, to whom the name of Caenmore (Great-head) was given, a rude and savage warrior, had conceived for his young bride an affection which knew no bounds. Ignorant of the truths of Christianity, he was induced to join in those devotional services which she habitually practised; and from a human love he learned, as other men have learned, to recognise the influence of a holier feeling. He could not read her books of prayer, but he would kiss them humbly to show his veneration for their use. His power was freely placed in the hands of his young queen, and as freely used by her in reforming abuses in the Church, and in the introduction of various arts and accomplishments.

The people were savage and uncultivated, but they were generous, enthusiastic, and by no means deficient in a sort of rude chivalry. They had a wild imagination, fed by dark and gloomy traditions. They peopled the caves, the woods, the rivers, and the mountains with spirits, elves, giants, and dragons; and are we to wonder that the Scots, a nation in whose veins the blood of the races of Scandinavia is unquestionably mingled, should at a very remote period have evinced an enthusiastic admiration for song and poetry; that the harper was to be found amongst the officers who composed the personal state of the sovereign; and that the country maintained a privileged race of wandering minstrels, who eagerly seized on the prevailing superstitions and romantic legends, and wove them, in rude but sometimes very expressive versification, into their stories and ballads; who were welcome guests at the gate of every feudal castle, and fondly beloved by the great body of the people? (Tytler: History of Scotland.)

While Margaret was spreading among the people the desire for knowledge, Malcolm was enlarging his dominions by conquest; and at the death of this prince (a.d. 1093) Scotland was, comparatively speaking, a united and consolidated nation. Then, however, various disorders took place; and when Alexander, son of Caenmore, at length obtained possession of the throne, the people seemed to have returned to their former condition of barbarism. In a.d. 1123, he was succeeded by his brother David, who, like his father, was sagacious and brave, an affectionate husband, and a gallant soldier. David, as the uncle of the Empress Matilda, daughter of Henry I., considered himself bound to support the title of that princess to the crown. The battle of Northallerton, already described, resulted in a severe defeat to the Scottish king, chiefly owing to the insubordination of a portion of his army. David exerted his power for the improvement of the condition of his subjects; he founded many monastic establishments, in which the learning of the times was preserved, and the sons of the nobles received their education.

David was succeeded by his son Malcolm IV., a brave and energetic prince, but one whose negotiations with, England were unfortunate. Henry II., then in full possession of his power, obtained from the Scottish king the resumption of a portion of Northumberland, which had been ceded by Stephen. The more remote parts of his kingdom were consolidated by Malcolm, who subdued a formidable insurrection among the fierce natives of Galloway. In the year 1165, Malcolm IV. died, and was succeeded by his son William, surnamed the Lion. This prince it was who, having been made prisoner by Henry II., agreed to purchase his liberty by surrendering the independence of his kingdom. This shameful bargain was rescinded by Richard Cceur-de-Lion, who restored the relative positions of the two kingdoms to their former footing. Thus the kingdom of Scotland, properly so called, was restored to its independence, while the possessions in Westmoreland, Cumberland, Northumberland, and Lothian, all of which had made part of the heptarchy, continued to be held by a feudatory title from the English crown.

William was succeeded by his son, Alexander II., a.d. 1214. During the reign of this prince there were few events of importance. He occupied himself rather with the internal affairs of the country than with schemes of foreign aggression, and his policy was attended, on the whole, with favourable results. His son, Alexander III., succeeded to the throne in the year 1249, and the peace and prosperity by which nearly the whole of his reign was distinguished was to be referred in a great measure to the wisdom and patriotism of his ancestors. As a proof of the advance which had been made by the nation in power, we are told that at this time the army of the king amounted to 100,000 men, and 1,000 well-appointed horsemen (Matthew Paris.). Alexander III. was only nine years of age when his father died, but in order to prevent foreign interference with the affairs of the kingdom, the boy was immediately crowned at Scone, and was knighted by the Bishop of St. Andrews. Two years afterwards the English king gave his daughter Margaret in marriage to Alexander; and the nuptials between the two children were celebrated with great pomp at York, in December, a.d. 1251.

The only important danger which threatened Alexander arose from the attacks of the Norwegians, whose old quarrel with the Scots, respecting the islands of the Hebrides, was renewed in this reign. In the summer of 1264, when the young king had just attained to the years of manhood, Haco, of Norway, a powerful chief and a renowned warrior, set sail, at the head of a numerous force, for the Scottish shores. The Norwegian fleet arrived in the Frith of Clyde, while Alexander, assembling his troops, advanced to meet the invaders. A storm arose, by which the foreign armament sustained considerable damage; and its violence was scarcely abated when Haco reached the Bay of Largs, near the mouth of the Clyde. Here he was j met and attacked by the Scottish army, which arrived in | successive divisions. A protracted conflict of three days' | duration took place there, and the plain, still covered with j cairns and rude monuments of the slain, bears witness to the bloody and obstinate character of the struggle. Alexander at length gained a complete victory; the remnant of the invaders retreated to their ships, and effected their escape to the islands of Orkney, where the redoubted Haco died, either from wounds received in the battle, or from mortification at its result. The victory of Largs terminated for ever the wars between Scotland and Norway; and, after a lapse of seventeen years, the two nations cemented their quarrels by a marriage between Margaret, the daughter of Alexander, and the youthful Eric, Haco's successor.

During a period of twenty years succeeding the Norwegian expedition, we may believe that the kingdom of Scotland enjoyed a condition of uninterrupted prosperity. The young king governed his people wisely and well, and, undisturbed by enemies from without, he was able to repress the quarrels of those rival factions of the nobility which for many years had maintained towards each other a position of active or passive hostility. But heavy clouds were gathering round the future of this prosperous king, and at the moment of its greatest glory the royal house of Scotland was doomed to perish from the land. Margaret of England, the queen of Alexander, had died in 1275. Besides the daughter, whose marriage had restored peace to the nation, two sons had been born to him, one of whom died in childhood. In the year 1283 the Queen of Norway expired, leaving only an infant daughter, who had also received the loved name of Margaret. A few months later the prince of Scotland followed his sister to the grave, and thus the king, while yet in the prime of manhood, was bereft of wife and children.

Anxious to secure the succession to his grand-daughter, who was called the Maiden of Norway, Alexander summoned a council or parliament at Scone, and those present bound themselves to accept the Norwegian princess as their sovereign, in the event of the king dying without issue. In the hope of obtaining a direct heir, Alexander took for a second wife Jolita, the daughter of the Count of Dreux. The new queen was young and very beautiful, but the marriage was described as attended by evil omens, and the events which followed it might well assist the imagination of the chroniclers as to the portents they describe. Within a year afterwards Alexander was riding at nightfall from Kinghorn to Inverkeithen, on the shore of the Frith of Forth, when the horse starting or stumbling, rolled with him over a precipice. Thus died a prince whom the nation mourned as the last and worthiest of his line.

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