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Книга Famous Men of The Middle Ages. Страница 24

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At the end of this time Henry invited him to come back to England . Not long after, however, the old quarrel began again. One day while Henry was sojourning in France , he cried out in a moment of passion, while surrounded by a group of knights, "Is there no one who will rid me of this turbulent priest?"

Four knights who heard him understood from this angry speech that he desired the death of Becket, and they went to England to murder the Archbishop. When they met Becket they first demanded that he should do as the king wished, but he firmly refused. At dusk that same day they entered Canterbury Cathedral, again seeking for him. "Where is the traitor, Thomas Becket?" one of them cried.

Becket boldly answered, "Here am I — no traitor, but a priest of god."

As he finished speaking the knights rushed upon him and killed him.

The people of England were horrified by this brutal murder. Becket was called a martyr and his tomb became a place of pious pilgrimage. The Pope canonized him and for years he was the most venerated of English saints.

King Henry was in Normandy when the murder occurred. He declared that he had had nothing whatever to do with it and he punished the murderers.

But from this time Henry had many troubles. His own sons rebelled against him, his barons were unfriendly, and conspiracies were formed. Henry thought that God was punishing him for the murder of Becket and so determined to do penance at the tomb of the saint.

For some distance before he reached Canterbury Cathedral where Becket was buried he walked over the road with bare head and feet. After his arrival he fasted and prayed a day and a night. The next day he put scourges into the hands of the cathedral monks and said, "Scourge me as I kneel at the tomb of the saint." The monks did as he bade them and he patiently bore the pain.

Henry finally triumphed over his enemies and had some years of peace, which he devoted to the good of England .

In the last year of his life, however, he had trouble again. The king of France and Henry's son Richard took up arms against him. Henry was defeated and was forced to grant what they wished. When he saw a list of the barons who had joined the French king he found among them the name of his favorite son John, and his heart was broken. He died a few days later.

II

Henry's eldest surviving son, Richard, was crowned at Westminster Abbey in 1190. He took the title of Richard I but is better known as "Ceur de Lion" ("the lion-hearted"), a name which was given him on account of his bravery. He had wonderful strength and his brave deeds were talked about all over the land.

With such a man for their king, the English people became devoted to chivalry, and on every field of battle brave men vied with another in brave deeds. Knighthood was often the reward of valor. Then, as now, knighthood was usually conferred upon a man by his king or queen. A part of the ceremony consisted in the sovereign's touching the kneeling subject's soldier with the flat of a sword and saying, "Arise, Sir Knight." This was called "the accolade."

Richard did not stay long in England after his coronation. In 1191 he went with Philip of France on a Crusade.

The French and English Crusaders together numbered more than one hundred thousand men. They sailed to the Holy Land and joined an army of Christian soldiers encamped before the city of Acre . The besiegers had despaired of taking the city but when reinforced they gained fresh courage.

Ceur de Lion now performed deeds of valor which gave him fame throughout Europe . He was the terror of the Saracens. In every attack on Acre he led the Christians and when the city was captured he planted his banner in triumph on its walls.

So great was the terror inspired everywhere in the Holy Land by the name of Richard that Moslem mothers are said to have made their children quiet by threatening to send for the English king.

Every night when the Crusaders encamped, the heralds blew their trumpets, and cried three times, "Save the Holy Sepulchre!" And the Crusaders knelt and said, "Amen!"

The great leader of the Saracens was Saladin. He was a model of heroism and the two leaders, one the champion of the Christians and the other the champion of the Mohammedans, vied with each other in knightly deeds.

Just before one battle Richard rode down the Saracen line and boldly called for any one to step forth and fight him alone. No one responded to the challenge, for the most valiant of the Saracens did not dare to meet the lion-hearted king.

After the capture of Acre Richard took Ascalon (As'-ca-lon). Then he made a truce with Saladin, by which the Christians acquired the right for three years to visit the Holy City without paying for the privilege.

III

Richard now set out on his voyage home. He was wrecked, however, on the Adriatic Sea near Trieste . To get to England he was obliged to go through the lands of Leopold, duke of Austria , one of his bitterest enemies. So he disguised himself as a poor pilgrim returning from the Holy Land .

But he was recognized by a costly ring that he wore and was taken prisoner at Vienna by Duke Leopold. His people in England anxiously awaited his return, and when after a long time he did not appear they were sadly distressed. There is a legend that a faithful squire named Blondel went in search of him, as a wandering minstrel traveled for months over central Europe , vainly seeking for news of his master.

At last one day, while singing one of Richard's favorite songs near the walls of the castle where the king was confined, he heard the song repeated from a window. He recognized the voice of Richard. From the window Richard told him to let the English people and the people of Europe know where he was confined, and the minstrel immediately went upon his mission.

Soon Europe was astounded to learn that brave Richard of England, the great champion of Christendom, was imprisoned. The story of Blondel is probably not true, but what is true is that England offered to ransom Richard; that the Pope interceded for him; and that finally it was agreed that he should be given up on the payment of a very large sum of money. The English people quickly paid the ransom and Richard was freed.

The king of France had little love for Richard, and Richard's own brother John had less. Both were sorry that Ceur de Lion was at liberty.

John had taken charge of the kingdom during his brother's absence, and hoped that Richard might pass the rest of his days in the prison castle of Leopold .

As soon as Richard was released, the French king sent word to John, "The devil is loose again." And a very disappointed man was John when all England rang with rejoicing at Richard's return.

Upon the death of Richard, in 1199, Arthur, the son of his elder brother Geoffrey, was the rightful heir to the throne. John, however, seized the throne himself and cast Arthur into prison. There is a legend that he ordered Arthur's eyes to be put out with red hot irons. The jailor, however, was touched by the boy's prayer for mercy and spared him. But Arthur was not to escape his uncle long. It is said that one night the king took him out upon the Seine in a little boat, murdered him and cast his body into the river.

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