Front Matter Early Times The Druids The Britons Caesar in Britain Queen Boadicea The Great Walls The Great Irish Saint The Anglo-Saxons Brave King Arthur The Laws of the Saxons The Story of St Augustine Three Great Men The Danish Pirates King Alfred and the Cakes Alfred conquers the Danes A King's Narrow Escape The King and the Outlaw The Monasteries An Unlucky Couple St Dunstan King Canute and the Waves A Saxon Nobleman Lady Godiva's Ride The Battle of Hastings The Conquest Lords and Vassals Death of William The Brothers' Quarrels Arms and Armour The "White Ship" Matilda's Narrow Escapes Story of Fair Rosamond Thomas a Becket Murder of Thomas a Becket Richard's Adventures Richard and the Saracens The Faithful Minstrel Death of Richard The Murder of Arthur The Great Charter The Rule of Henry III A Race Persecution of the Jews The Conquest of Wales A Quarrel with France The Coronation Stone The Insolent Favourite Bruce and the Spider Death of Edward II The Murderers punished The Battle of Crecy The Siege of Calais The Age of Chivalry The Battle of Poitiers The Peasants' Revolt Richard's Presence of Mind A Tiny Queen Henry's Troubles Madcap Harry A Glorious Reign The Maid of Orleans The War of the Roses The Queen and the Brigand The Triumph of the Yorks The Princes in the Tower Richard's Punishment Two Pretenders A Grasping King Field of the Cloth of Gold The New Opinions Death of Wolsey Henry's Wives The King and the Painter A Boy King Lady Jane Grey The Death of Cranmer A Clever Queen Elizabeth's Lovers Mary, Queen of Scots Captivity of Mary Stuart Wreck of the Spanish Armada The Elizabethan Age Death of Elizabeth A Scotch King The Gunpowder Plot Sir Walter Raleigh King and Parliament Cavaliers and Roundheads "Remember" The Royal Oak The Commonwealth The Restoration Plague and Fire The Merry Monarch James driven out of England A Terrible Massacre William's Wars The Duke of Marlborough The Taking of Gibraltar The South Sea Bubble Bonny Prince Charlie Black Hole of Calcutta Loss of the Colonies The Battle of the Nile Nelson's Last Signal The Battle of Waterloo First Gentleman of Europe Childhood of Queen Victoria The Queen's Marriage Wars in Victoria's Reign The Jubilee

Story of the English - Helene Guerber

The Battle of Crecy

One year after the treaty of Northampton, the brave King of Scotland died, leaving the crown to his five-year-old son David. But as the new monarch was a mere child, Baliol, the son of the former king of that name, drove him away and took possession of the crown. To make Edward his friend, Baliol offered to do homage to him for his kingdom, but this so enraged the independent Scots that they turned Baliol out and recalled David.

The result was that war began once more, with Edward and Baliol on one side, and David and his French allies on the other. No very great battles were fought, so Edward left his army to continue the war in Scotland, and prepared to go and fight in France.

Edward had been longing to make his kingdom larger, and he now thought he had a good chance, as he had three separate reasons for fighting the French. In the first place, he said they kept helping his Scotch enemy David Bruce; secondly, French noblemen often made raids into his province of Guienne; and thirdly, he claimed that, as the last French kings died leaving no sons, the crown really belonged to him. This last claim was hardly just, for Edward was the son of a sister of the last three kings of France; so, if the French crown could have passed on to a woman, it would have belonged, not to his mother, but to one of the daughters of the late kings. Nevertheless, it was on this threefold pretext that Edward III. began the Hundred Years' War, so called because about a century passed ere the quarrel was ended.

Calling his Parliament, Edward asked them for money, which they supplied him in exchange for new privileges. It was Edward's intention to sail for Guienne and begin the conflict with the French there; but, owing to contrary winds, he had to change his plans and land in the northern part of France. Hedged in between the Somme River and the sea, Edward saw that his position was unfavourable. Besides, many of his men became sick and died from eating too much fruit, so he was afraid the French army might get the better of him.

By offering a reward of one hundred pounds to any one who would show him a ford across the Somme, Edward cleverly secured a better position near the village of Crecy. Here he had pits dug, and provided his bowmen with sharp stakes to drive into the ground before them so as to form a fence which would prevent the French from riding them down. Then he commanded his men to eat and rest until they were needed.

It seems that one part of the army was then placed under the command of the Prince of Wales, a lad of sixteen. He was distinguished from the other knights by his coal-black armour, which won for him the surname of the Black Prince. Like most youths of his age and time, the Black Prince had been trained in all knightly exercises, but this was his first great battle, and he was very anxious to do some brave deed whereby he might win his knightly spurs.

The French army was about eighty thousand strong, but it was under the command of different French noblemen, who were all eager to press on ahead and strike the first blow. This lack of discipline in the French army, a sudden shower which wet their bowstrings, and the fact that they began fighting when tired by a long march, proved fatal to their hopes of victory.

The archers were in front, but, finding their bows useless, they turned to beat a retreat. As they were hired troops, the French knights fancied they were cowards or traitors, and, falling upon them with drawn swords, began to massacre them. The English took advantage of this confusion, and the Black Prince led a gallant charge into the midst of the French army.

Edward III., who was watching the battle from the top of a windmill on a neighbouring hill, was proud of his son's bravery, and when anxious courtiers pressed forward and begged him to send help to the fighting prince, he asked: "Is my son dead, wounded, or felled to the ground?"

"Not so, thank God!" answered the messengers; "but he is sore beset."

"He shall have no aid from me," exclaimed the king, proudly. "Let him bear himself like a man; in this battle he must win his spurs."

These words, reported to the prince, nerved his arm to greater prowess, and when evening came he saw the whole French army routed. The battlefield was strewn with dead; for, owing to the steady fire of the English archers and the power of their great bows and "cloth-yard" shafts, armour proved but little protection. This battle, fought in 1346, showed the power of the men in the ranks as opposed to the mailed knights and their retainers, and with it began the fall of feudalism. It is interesting to read that cannon were used for the first time at Crecy, though they were not very effective. They merely threw "small iron balls", "to frighten the horses."

Thirty thousand Frenchmen were lying on the plain of Crecy, and on visiting the battlefield the next day, the Black Prince found there the body of the aged King of Bohemia. This monarch was so brave that, although blind and almost helpless, he asked to be led into the thickest of the fray, so that he might strike a few blows.

Two of his knights fastened his horse to their own, and, dashing forward, enabled him to gratify his last wish. Their bodies lay close together, and by them stood the three horses, still tied together, but unharmed. When the young Prince of Wales saw the dead king's banner lying near him, he picked it up, and said he would adopt as his own crest the emblem of the three feathers it bore. He also appropriated the King of Bohemia's motto, "Ich dien" (I serve); and ever since then this motto and crest gave belonged to the Prince of Wales.