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 "White Ship"

To make sure that Normandy should continue to belong to his family, Henry went over there with his son Prince William, to present him to the nobles as their future lord. Henry was about to embark with all his followers, to go back to England, when a seaman came up to him, begging him to sail in his vessel, the White Slip. As William the Conqueror had once promised this captain the privilege of taking the royal family across the Channel, King Henry now bade his son William sail in it.

The king's vessel set out ahead, but the prince delayed, spending the last hours in Normandy in feasting. He sent plenty of wine to the boatmen, that they might drink his health, and when he finally set sail he bade the half-drunken sailors row fast, so as to overtake his father's ship.

Before the White Ship had gone very far, it ran upon a sunken reef, stove a hole in its bottom, and began to sink. The captain hurried Prince William into a small boat, and pushed away; but the prince heard his sister call for help, and insisted upon going back to save her.

As the small boat drew near the sinking vessel, so many frightened people crowded into it that it sank at the same time as the White Ship, with all its living freight. It was thus that Prince William died the death of a hero; but we are told that, although he did so noble a deed in the face of great danger, he was, on the whole, an unfeeling lad. Indeed, he is reported to have said that when he became king he would make Englishmen draw the plough themselves, like beasts of burden.

The White Ship went down, but three men were still afloat, clinging to a few spars which were tossing up and down on the waves. These men were the captain, a nobleman, and a Norman butcher. As soon as the captain could speak, he wildly inquired, "Where is the prince?" When he heard that William had gone down with the rest, he let go his hold and sank into the sea.

The nobleman clung to the spar all night; but when morning came he was too exhausted and cold to hold on any longer, so he also was drowned. The only person saved was the butcher. When the calamity became known, no one dared tell the sad news to the king. Finally a weeping boy was sent to him; and when Henry learned why the child's tears were flowing, his heart was filled with such intense grief that he never smiled again.

Henry's son was dead, and his sole living child was Matilda, the widow of the Emperor of Germany. She now married Geoffrey, Duke of Anjou, who was surnamed Plantagenet because he generally wore a sprig of yellow broom (planta genistae)  in his cap.

No woman had ever ruled over England then, but Henry wanted Matilda to be his successor, and to make sure that she should inherit his crown, he made all the barons swear fidelity to her. They did so reluctantly, because in those troublous times it seemed that the country could be safe only under an able-bodied man and a warrior.

Having taken these precautions, Henry fancied that he had made Matilda's succession certain. He reigned thirty-five years, lived to see his three grandsons, and we are told that he died from eating too many lampreys, a kind of fish of which he was very fond.