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The Battle of Crecy

1015 raid through the French territories of Normandy, when King Philip of France pursued him with a force far larger than his own. Edward was on the bank of the River Somme, and dared not fight with the stream in his rear lest his little army be pushed back into it by sheer force of numbers. All day he rode along the shore of the Somme looking for a ford. His men were hard pressed and exhausted; the French close behind them At length the ebbing tide gave Edward a chance to cross. A few French knights on the other side endeavored to hold him back, but were easily defeated. Then the returning tide covered the ford, and King Philip and his huge army could pursue no farther till the next day.

Edward, advancing at leisurely pace, planted his army in a strong place near the village of Crecy. "Here," he said, "we will await the Frenchmen."

The famous battle of Crecy that followed on the next day, August 26, 1346, was the greatest of King Edward's victories. During the desperate contest Edward, Prince of Wales, only sixteen years old, was placed in such peril that the Earl of Warwick, who was near him, became greatly alarmed and sent an urgent request to the King for reinforcements.

"Is the prince wounded?" asked the King.

"Thank God, not yet, sire."

"Is he unhorsed?"

"No, sire, but he is in the greatest possible danger."

"He shall have no aid from me; let him win his spurs."

The son was called the Black Prince, because of the color of his armor, and right well did he win his spurs on that eventful day, for no veteran knight could have acquitted himself more bravely. The French were completely defeated and fled in despair. Edward the Black Prince is one of the most heroic figures in English history.

Another fact that gives importance to the battle of Crecy is that small cannon were used there for the first time. The "bombards" were employed mainly to frighten the horses of the French cavalry. The invention of gunpowder, as you have learned, is generally attributed to the learned English monk, Roger Bacon, though others have been credited with the discovery, and it was certainly known to the Chinese and Arabs centuries before.

Edward's next act was to march against Calais, which, after a siege of nearly a year, he conquered through famine. So exasperated was he by the city's prolonged resistance that he swore that all the inhabitants should be put to the sword. Finally he consented to spare them on condition that six of the leading burgesses, barefooted, bareheaded, and with halters about their necks, should come forward and place themselves at his disposal. Eustace of St. Pierre, one of the richest, immediately offered himself, and five others, of hardly less

prominence, promptly did the same. When they came into the presence of the King, he savagely ordered their heads struck off, but his wife, Queen Philippa, threw herself at his feet and begged so piteously that they might be spared that he yielded. Edward settled Calais with a colony of English in whose possession the city remained for more than two hundred years.

Through the efforts of Pope Clement VI., a truce was now brought about, but the Scots had taken advantage of Edward's absence to invade England. They were defeated at Nevill's Cross, in October, 1346, and David Bruce, their king, was taken prisoner.

It was in 1349 that the appalling plague known as "The Black Death" rolled like a prodigious Car of Juggernaut over Europe, as though Divine wrath had determined to destroy man because of his wickedness. When the awful scourge swept out of England one-third of the people lay stretched in death, and those that were left were dazed by what seemed a blast of the day of judg ment. But they soon rallied from the spell and resumed murdering one another with their usual enjoyment.

One effect of the Black Death was that laborers were so scarce that they could command extravagant wages. King and Parliament tried to check this by the passage of the Statutes of Laborers, compelling them to work for their former hire, and forbidding them to pass from one shire to another, but the difficulty was only partly met.

The truce ended, and war with France was renewed in 1355. Edward the Black Prince was once more its hero. He started from the English possessions in southern France and made a raid similar to that in which his father had formerly devastated Normandy. The French, under a new king, John the Good, pursued him with a force vastly outnumbering his own. So fast indeed did the Frenchmen ride that they got between the prince and his destined goal, shutting him off from escape. He was in a trap.

Before attacking the little band of sturdy Englishmen, King John the Good' sent one of his churchmen, Cardinal Perigord, to urge Edward to surrender. The Prince, knowing his men exhausted as well as overmatched, was ready to agree to almost any terms of peace. So all day long Perigord was kept riding between the hostile camps. King John, however, would listen to nothing less than the absolute surrender of Prince Edward with one hundred of his best knights. That would be to accept the battle as lost without fighting it, and the English scornfully refused.

So on the 19th of September, 1356, was fought the battle of Poitiers. It was the counterpart of Crecy. The English bowmen and the English knights. were invincible. The vast horde of Frenchmen fled. King John was taken prisoner. The Black Prince treated him with the greatest courtesy, compli

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