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 Story of Fair Rosamond

Stephen, the last of the four Norman kings, died just as one year after the treaty of Wallingford, leaving no children, so Henry had little trouble to get the crown. He is called Henry II., the Shortmantle, and is the first of the Angevine or Plantagenet kings.

The new monarch was only twenty-one years old, and as he was handsome, graceful, and learned, he soon made many friends. Both the Saxons and the Normans were glad to have him reign, and as he dismissed the foreign soldiers whom Stephen had enlisted, issued good coin, and restored law and order, he became very popular.

Besides being one of the cleverest, Henry II. was one of the most powerful kings of his time. He inherited several French provinces from his father, and his wife Eleanor brought him more land. Indeed, he was lord over more territory in France than the French king himself, so it is no wonder the latter was jealous of him.

Although his wife Eleanor was rich, she was so bad-tempered and cruel that Henry could not love her, and, if we are to believe one very romantic story, he neglected her in order to visit a beautiful young lady, called Fair Rosamond. This made Queen Eleanor so jealous that she resolved to kill her beautiful rival.

It was not easy to find Fair Rosamond, however, for the king had built a maze for her at Woodstock, and her bower was in the centre of this labyrinth. Although the way to it could be found only by using a silken thread as clue, Eleanor suddenly appeared before Fair Rosamond one day, and told her she must die, sternly bidding her choose between the dagger and the bowl of poison which she held. We are told that the cruel queen forced Fair Rosamond to drink the poison. But all this happened so long ago that no one knows whether it is true; still, ever since then, when people have to take one of two evils, they are said to have no choice except between the dagger and the bowl.

During the long civil war in the last reign, the barons, as we have seen, had built many castles and waged many private wars. They had learned to do just as they pleased, to respect no one's rights, and to rob, murder, and burn. No one had been safe in the realm, except such as dwelt in the monasteries or convents, and it is no wonder that these were full, for people took refuge in the only place where they could dwell in peace.

The First Trial by Jury.


Henry could not allow the barons to go on thus, and one of his first acts was to call them to order. He made war against all those who would not obey him, and had many of the fortresses pulled down, so that the robber barons could no longer take refuge behind their strong walls. To satisfy the people, he gave them the charter which Stephen had promised, and decided that criminals should be tried by a jury of twelve men. Trial by ordeal was not entirely abolished, but men were no longer forced to prove their innocence by conquering their accusers in battle.

The priests had hitherto been tried only by their own class, who inflicted very slight punishments upon them, but Henry now declared that if a priest or monk did wrong he should be tried and punished just the same as any other man. This change in the law was opposed for some time, and it was only after a long fight with the clergy, or church party, that the new laws were passed. They were carefully drawn up at last, and are known in history as the Constitutions of Clarendon.