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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 117



cease their traffic during that period, under penalty of heavy forfeitures. Nor was this the extent of the King's tyranny over London, for immediately afterwards he, by harassing letters, demanding pecuniary aid, extorted from the richest men there presents to the amount of two thousand pounds (thirty thousand pounds present money), whilst his emissaries, armed with royal authority, seized all meats, drinks, and vendible articles they could set their eyes upon, for the use of the King and Queen. Indeed, to such an extent were these extortions and legal robberies carried, that the terrified citizens concealed their goods,and in the bitterness of their hearts, exclaimed, "Woe to us! Woe to us! for the liberty of London, so often bought, granted, guaranteed, and sworn to be respected, is trampled to the dust by our rapacious rulers ! Oh, it were wiser to starve in idleness, than to be robbed of the just reward of our toil, by these hungry foreigners !" The money extorted from the Londoners was gone in a trice, and in 1249, Henry and Eleanora degraded themselves by soliciting gifts from all who entered their presence. The Queen, in modest whispers, told the ladies of her court, " It would be greater charity to bestow alms on her, than on tho wretches who begged from door to door." The King proceeded more boldly in the matter ; sending for the nobles one by one, he told them his poverty compelled him to claim their assistance, which he claimed, not as a right, but as a favour. " Behold," said he, " I am indebted by my charters in a sum of thirty thousand marks, and yet, for the honour of England, must wage war with France. In the name of Heaven ! help me, and I will hereafter help you." Neither did Henry lose an opportunity of asking money from the clergy. To the Abbot of llamsey, whom he chanced to meet, he whispered, "For God's sake ! give me— I mean lend mc—a hundred pounds, for I am in need, and must have that sum without delay." The astute Abbot, deeming it unwise to deny the King's request, answered, " I will give you the money as you are in poverty, but I never lend." These mean devices, however, but poorly answered their intended end, for both the nobles and the clergy, knowing the war with France to be a fiction invented to filch them of their money, resolved not to be outwitted, and meeting craft by craft, told the beggar King they had so impoverished themselves to supply his previous demands, that although they now had the will, they had not the means to alleviate his poverty. These unpleasant rebuffs dejected the King and Queen, who, leaping from one extreme to the other, were next seized with a fit of miserly economy. Dispensing with royal hospitality, they diminished the number, and reduced the pay of their household servants, ceased to wear their royal robes, refused to give alms and gratuities of every kind, and to save the expense of keeping a table and line their purses to boot, daily invited themselves and a select few of their foreign friends to dine with one or the other of their wealthy subjects, from whom they invariably extracted a proof of loyal affection, in the form of a costly present at their departure. Possibly these presents were obtained by Eleanora for exhibiting^ tho renowned Tom Thumb of the thirteenth century; as, according to Matthew Paris, a well-proportioned dwarf, not more than three feet high, was this year found in the Isle of Wight, and the Queen, to excite the astonishment of beholders, took him about with her as a natural prodigy. Another of the King's expedients to raise money was the punishment of all who committed the most trifling trespasses on the royal forests, by heavy fines and confiscations. For killing a stray deer, or a hare, on the highway, an estate would be confiscated, and if any one muttered against the unjust proceedings, the inquisitors imprisoned him for his impudence.


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