Young Folks' History of England HTML version

14. Henry III, Of Winchester, A.D. 1216—1272
King John left two little sons, Henry and Richard, nine and seven years old,
and all the English barons felt that they would rather have Henry as their king
than the French Louis, whom they had only called in because John was such
a wretch. So when little Henry had been crowned at Gloucester, with his
mother's bracelet, swearing to rule according to Magna Carta, and good
Hubert de Burgh undertook to govern for him, one baron after another came
back to him. Louis was beaten in a battle at Lincoln; and when his wife sent
him more troops, Hubert de Burgh got ships together and sunk many vessels,
and drove the others back in the Straits of Dover; so that Louis was forced to
go home and leave England in peace.
Henry must have been too young to understand about Magna Carta when he
swore to it, but it was the trouble of all his long reign to get him to observe it.
It was not that he was wicked like his father— for he was very religious and
kind-hearted—but he was too good-natured, and never could say No to
anybody. Bad advisers got about him when he grew up, and persuaded him
to let them take good Hubert de Burgh and imprison him. He had taken
refuge in a church, but they dragged him out and took him to a blacksmith to
have chains put on his feet; the smith however said he would never forge
chains for the man who had saved his country from the French. De Burgh was
afterwards set free, and died in peace and honor.
Henry was a builder of beautiful churches. Westminster Abbey, as it is now,
was one. And he was so charitable to the poor that, when he had his children
weighed, he gave their weight in gold and silver in alms. But he gave to
everyone who asked, and so always wanted money; and sometimes his men
could get nothing for the king and queen to eat, but by going and taking
sheep and poultry from the poor farmers around; so that things were nearly
as bad as under William Rufus—because the king was foolishly good-natured.
The Pope was always sending for money, too; and the king tried to raise it in
ways that, according to Magna Carta, he had sworn not to do. His foreign
friends told him that if he minded Magna Carta he would be a poor creature—
not like a king who might do all he pleased; and whenever he listened to
them he broke the laws of Magna Carta. Then, when his barons complained
and frightened him, he swore again to keep them; so that nobody could trust
him, and his weakness was almost as bad for the kingdom as John's
wickedness. When they could bear it no longer, the barons all met him at the
council which was called the Parliament, from a French word meaning talk.
This time they came in armor, bringing all their fighting men, and declared
that he had broken his word so often that they should appoint some of their
own number to watch him, and hinder his doing anything against the laws he
had sworn to observe, or from getting money from the people without their
consent. He was very angry; but he was in their power, and had to submit to
swear that so it should be; and Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, who had