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Reign of Edward I. Part 1 page 5

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Such was the position of affairs until the spring of the year 1298, when proposals of peace having been made by Philip, they were readily accepted, and the English king returned to his own country. Edward had spent large sums of money in this expedition, which had ended in a manner wholly unworthy of his fame and his resources, But the humiliation of the king had not been confined to the non-success of his arms; he was compelled to give his assent to various reforms introduced by his barons, and to add confirmations of those charters which checked the abuse of arbitrary power. Early in the preceding year the constable of the kingdom, with the earl marshal and many other of the nobles, interposed in defence of the privileges of Parliament, and forbade the officers of the exchequer, in the name of the barons of the kingdom, to collect certain taxes which had been laid on by the king without the consent of the national representatives. The citizens of London were allied with the barons in this measure, and Edward found himself at length compelled to submit. From the city of Ghent, where he was then staying, he sent instructions to this effect to the council of regency, some of whom, were known to favour the demands of Parliament; and at the same place he granted a new confirmation of the two charters, and also of an important enactment, by which it was declared that no impost should be levied without the consent of the peers spiritual and temporal, the knights burgesses, and other freemen of the realm.

Such concessions as these were not made by without great reluctance, and his annoyance at the restrictions thus placed upon him was clearly shown coon after his return to England. His barons, however, were determined that the statutes should not be evaded, and a Parliament having been summoned at York, the king was called upon to give a solemn ratification of the charter-he had granted. Edward excused himself at that time under the plea that he was on his way to chastise the Scots; but he gave his promise to do what was desired of him on his return, and the Bishop of Durham and three barons made oath in the king's name to that effect. 0:i his return from Scotland, Edward met his Parliament at "Westminster, which was assembled in March, a.d. 1299. He now endeavoured by every means in his power to gain time, and when closely pressed, he quitted London, as were by stealth. The barons, however, were not to be thus defeated, and having followed him, and urged the fulfilment of his solemn obligations, Edward found himself compelled to assent. By an extraordinary act of craft, however, he took measures to evade the provisions of the document by adding a clause at the end which destroyed the value of the concession, and subverted the meaning of what had gone before. The cunning of the king had, in this instance, over-reached itself. With few exception?. the barons rose up in indignation, and quitted the assembly and the city, with their retainers. Edward now proposed, as he had done before, to secure the good-will of the people: and to this end he directed the sheriffs of London to call a meeting of the citizens, and to read to them the new confirmation of the charters. The people assembled in great numbers in St. Paul's Churchyard, and listened attentively. It appears that they possessed more intelligence than the king gave them credit for, since, after having applauded the earlier clauses, they no sooner heard the last, than they gave every demonstration of indignation, and proved that they fully comprehended its unworthy purport. The king now perceived that the country was unanimously against him; and having called his Parliament once more together. he threw out the obnoxious clause, and granted all the concessions that had been demanded. There was, in fact. no alternative, if Edward desired to maintain his position and authority. But the king by no means intended that his power should be thus permanently curtailed, and Le retained the deadliest animosity against those barons to whom he owed his humiliation. One by one these patriot nobles, whom we may believe to have been the best and most honourable men in the country, found themselves arraigned on various charges, exaggerated if true, but more commonly false, and serving only as a pretext for the king's vengeance. By means like these they were deprived of their estates, reduced to poverty, and in many cases suffered imprisonment or banishment. So far from being reduced to submission by such arbitrary measures. the rest of the barons only conceived a firmer determination to check the increase of a power which was so unjustly employed.

Four years later, the king sent to the reigning Pope, Clement V., to request a dispensation absolving him from the oaths he had taken, and to which he said he had been driven by a traitorous conspiracy. The Pope, however, evaded the request; and when the further solicitations of Edward failed to produce a more decided effect, he found himself compelled to respect those grants which he had made law. It is a remarkable fact in English history that concessions so important should have been wrung from one of the most grasping and warlike of her kings; and it is certain that, had the resistance of the Scots been less stubborn, or the attitude of the barons less bold and determined, the people of England would have lost much of the liberty which they had obtained by the Great Charter.

Philip le Bel, who was inferior to Edward in warlike accomplishments, was his equal in craft and cruelty. After the English king quitted Flanders, in A.D. 1297, he had no opportunity of conducting further measures of importance in that country, which during the succeeding years was overrun by the French troops. In the year 1302, the Flemings rose against their oppressors, and gained a complete victory over them at Courtrai. That the "rabble of Flemings," as the French called them, should thus overcome the chivalry of France, was a disgrace not to be endured; but while the nobles were wanting for a knightly vengeance, their king was planning a safer and bloodier retaliation. For some time previously Edward had determined to abandon his ally, the Count of Flanders, and to regain possession of Guienne from the King of France by treaty. The Pope was now appealed to, and he proposed an alliance of marriage between the two kings. Edward, who was now a widower, was to marry Margaret, the sister of Philip, and the Prince of Wales was to marry Isabella, the daughter of the French king. Such an alliance had already been contemplated with satisfaction by the negotiators. It is true that there were difficulties in the way: Edward had sworn solemnly to marry his son to Philippa, daughter of the Count of Flanders; he had also pledged his honour that he would never make truce with the French king without the entire concurrence of his ally. But these obstacles served only to delay the progress of the negotiations for a few months. Edward broke off his solemn engagements abroad as readily as he threw aside his oaths at home; and in September, a.d. 1299, the double marriage took place, the son being contracted to Isabella by proxy at the same time that his father was married to Margaret.

A peace between France and England necessarily attended the conclusion of this alliance; and it was agreed that injuries remaining unredressed on either side should be compensated for, and that the possession of Guienne should be settled by negotiations; pending which, Philip gave several towns in Gascony to be held as security by the Pope. In these arrangements, the French king entirely disregarded his alliance with the Scots; and neither in this treaty, nor at its subsequent: ratification, were they in any way mentioned. On the 20th of May, 1303, the treaty was formally concluded. Edward regained possession of the province of Guienne, and, in return, he gave up the Flemings into the hands of their enraged enemies. A few months later, the French barbarously revenged themselves for their former defeat at Courtrai, by attacking the Flemish peasants of the district of Lille, and putting them to death in what the rather a massacre than a battle. A year previously, Count Guy of Flanders had fallen into the hands of Philip, by whom the noble old man was subjected to cruelty which soon resulted in his death. He died in his prison at Compeigne at the age of eighty-one.

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