Young Folks' History of England HTML version

16. Edward II, Of Caernarvon, A.D. 1307—1327
Unlike his father in everything was the young Edward, who had just come to
manhood in mind, for he was silly and easily led as his grandfather, Henry
III., had been. He had a friend—a gay, handsome, thoughtless, careless
young man—named Piers Gaveston, who had often led him into mischief. His
father had banished this dangerous companion, and forbidden, under pain of
his heaviest displeasure, the two young men from ever meeting again; but
the moment the old king was dead, Edward turned back from Scotland,
where he was so much wanted, and sent for Piers Gaveston again. At the
same time his bride arrived —Isabel, daughter to the King of France, a
beautiful girl—and there was a splendid wedding feast; but the king and
Gaveston were both so vain and conceited, that they cared more about their
own beauty and fine dress than the young queen's, and she found herself
quite neglected. The nobles, too, were angered at the airs that Gaveston
gave himself; he not only dressed splendidly, had a huge train of servants,
and managed the king as he pleased, but he was very insolent to them, and
gave them nick-names. He called the king's cousin, the Earl of Lancaster, "the
old hog;" the Earl of Pembroke, "Joseph the Jew;" and the Earl of Warwick,
"the black dog." Meantime, the king and he were wasting the treasury, and
doing harm of all kinds, till the barons gathered together and forced the king
to send his favorite into banishment. Gaveston went, but he soon came back
again and joined the king, who was at last setting out for Scotland.
The nobles, however, would not endure his return. they seized him, brought
him to Warwick Castle, and there held a kind of Court, which could hardly be
called of Justice, for they had no right at all to sentence him. He spoke them
fair now, and begged hard for his life; but they could not forget the names he
had called them, and he was beheaded on Blacklow Hill.
Edward was full of grief and anger for the cruel death of his friend; but he
was forced to keep it out of sight, for all the barons were coming round him
for the Scottish war. While he had been wasting his time, Robert Bruce had
obtained every strong place in Scotland, except Stirling Castle, and there the
English governor had promised to yield, if succor did not come from England
within a year and a day.
The year was almost over when Edward came into Scotland with a fine army
of English, Welsh, and Gascons from Aquitaine; but Robert Bruce was a great
and able general, and he was no general at all; so when the armies met at
Bannockburn, under the walls of Stirling, the English were worse beaten than
ever they had been anywhere else, except at Hastings. Edward was obliged to
flee away to England, and though Bruce was never owned by the English to
be King of Scotland, there he really reigned, having driven every Englishman
away, and taken all the towns and castles. Indeed, the English had grown so
much afraid of the Scots, that a hundred would flee at the sight of two.