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FRANCIS LANCELOTT, ESQ. Queens of England. Vol.1.

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FRANCIS LANCELOTT, ESQ.
Queens of England. Vol.1.
page 104



whose father haying died, was now Count de la Marche. By this singular treaty, Hugh de la Marche, unable to obtain tho beautiful Isabella as a wife, accepted her eldest daughter in her stead. To him the Princess Joanna was accordingly betrothed, and, shortly afterwards, delivered up, to be educated. On the ratification of this alliance, Count de la Marche bravely overcame and heat back the French invaders; and John, flushed with success, returned to England, where, by further acts of aggression and despotism, he drove the barons to demand from the crown concessions which no one, in those days of stern feudalism, would have dared to ask from a valiant, politic sovereign. It was shortly after his return to England, in 1214, that John endeavoured to invade the honour of the unfortunate Matilda the Fair, daughter of the brave Lord Eitz-Walter. Both the maiden and the father very properly rejected his suit, which so enraged him, that he banished Fitz-Walter, despoiled his castles, and afterwards caused Matilda the Fair to he poisoned. This felon act completely maddened the already greatly-exasperated barons. They flew to arms, drove the recreant John to sue for mercy, and, on the 18th of June, 1215, wrested from him that key-stone of English liberty, MagnaCharta, Being now overcome both by the clergy and the laity, John's rage knew no hounds. Shutting himself up in his fortress at Windsor, where many a deed of hell had been perpetrated by his bidding, he gave vent to his maniacal fury in detestable maledictions. He cursed himself, cursed his friends, cursed his foes, tore the tapestry into shreds, smashed the furniture, and bit and gnawed his own clothing, and gnashed his teeth at everything that came in his way. As soon as his hot paesion had subsided, he wrote to the Pope for aid, and after dispatching agents to the continent for mercenary troops, and taking other not over-wise or prudent steps, secretly retired to the Isle of Wight, where he amused himself in making piratical excursions against his own subjects.* Here he tarried so long that the barons thought him dead, and deemed his loss a good riddance. However, on the arrival of the mighty army of mercenaries for which he had quietly waited for a long three months, he emerged from his concealment, and landing at Dover, carried fire and sword into the towns and villages throughout England ; marking the track of his onward march with blood and ruins, and each morning eagerly firing with his own hands thfa house that had sheltered him on the previous night. At this period, Isabella spent a short time at her dower castle on Savernake Forest. But by the desire of John, she, to avoid falling into the hands of his enemies, retired to the better-fortified palace at Gloucester, where her children had already been placed. The barons now despaired of making a good king of a bad man, and being greatly straitened, they ventured on the unpatriotic and. dangerous course of inviting over the heir of France as a competitor for that crown which they solemnly declared John unworthy to wear. The Pope in this instance had found it expedient to side with John, but the barons, having the whole nation on their side, snapped their fingers at the thunders of the Vatican. Prince Louis of France, as little daunted as the English by the anathemas from the Holy See, landed with powerful forces, and John was fast being beaten, when suddenly a report was spread abroad, that the French intended to murder the English nobles as soon as the King was vanquished. This report, true or false, once more turned the scale in favour of John, and he was rapidly collecting an army to drive out the French, when, on crossing the wash at Lynn, in Norfolk, to Swineshead Abbey in Lincolnshire, the tide unexpectedly rushing up the * This account is taken from Matthew Paris ; but Rymer and other authorities assure us, that John was at Runnymede on the nineteenth of June, at Winchester on the twenty-eighth, at Oxford in July, and at Dover in September. It therefore may be questioned if he left England at all.


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