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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 196



where clearly explained ; althoug-h, if Ronsard, an obscure French writer of the fourteenth century, is to be accredited, one evening, about this time, the Queen visited him in his cell, sent her attendants home, and fastened herself in with him. Midnight came, all was still and silent ; the gaoler became alarmed, more than once tapped at the door without receiving an answer, and when at length he peered through a secret chinli in the ceiling of the cell, he beheld the Queen and her paramour locked in each other's arms, fast asleep. On the following night tbe tongue of this inquisitive gaoler was for ever silenced : he died suddenly, probably from the effects of poison. Powerful as was the influence of the Spencers at court, they, with all their earnest endeavours, could not procure the execution of Mortimer. It was put off from day to day, and at length the King, doubtless to please his adulterous consort, who at this period possessed considerable influence over his mind, startled the nation by, for charity and the love of God, commuting the sentence of death against Roger Mortimer to that of perpetual imprisonment. This bold rebel evidently considered he owed little gratitude to the King for granting him his life ; as, shortly afterwards, although a prisoner, he organized a plan for the seizure of the Tower and Wallingford Castle. The plot, however, was detected, one of his accomplices hanged, and he himself again sentenced to death. Put the Queen resolved that he should not die, whilst the Spencers were equally determined that he should. Both parties exerted their utmost eiforts to effect their purpose ; the influence of the Queen prevailed ; by a royal act of grace a pardon was granted, the twice-condemned traitor was permitted to live on unmolested in the Tower ; and thus a feeling of bitter animosity was engendered between Isabella and the Spencers, which ultimately cost the latter their lives. Meanwhile, the King had made ineffectual efforts to re-establish his superiority over Scotland ; and on the thirtieth of May, 1323, a truce was concluded, for thirteen years, between the two nations. About this time, the superstition of the people raised the slumbering hopes of the Spencers' foes. Reports were extensively circulated that miracles had been wrought at the tomb of the Karl of Lancaster. The people, viewing the Earl and his unfortunate followers as the champions and martyrs of their liberties, fully accredited the report. The clergy, being favourable to the Lancasterian party, fostered this sentiment ; the Earl was pronounced a saint, and such numbers flocked to his tomb, that the King ordered the church of Pontefract, where he was buried, to be closed. Therumour, however, still gainedground. Before the Earl's picture, set up in St. Paul's, the good Londoners worshipped as at a holy shrine, till Edward ordered the Bishop of London to put a stop to the " diabolical fraud." Miracles were said to have been wrought by the bodies of several of the Earl's followers who had been beheaded or hanged. Bands of armed men suddenly appeared in several counties, a plot was detected for the murder of the elder Spencer, and the whole nation, urged by the Queen and her friends, appeared ripe for another rebellion. Aware of the popularity of their adversaries, whose cause the Queen openly espoused, Edward and his ministers used diligent exertions to preserve peace and order. More than one riot was suppressed with energy and discretion, and an attempt to liberate from imprisonment several of the King's knights, taken at Boroughbridge, was prevented ; yet, strange to tell, Roger Mortimer, tbe man most feared, " and one," says Speed, " whom the devil reserved to kindle new dissension with, and to strive up a most miserable civil war, had the good fortune to effect his escape." The romantic circumstances attending Mortimer's escape are briefly these :— On the first of August, being Lammas Lay—the night was dark and stormy— he invited the constable and wardens of the Tower to a grand banquet, and corrupted the fidelity of Girard de Asplaye, the constable's valet, who put into their drink a soporiferous drug, provided by the Queen, AVhilst they slept, Morti


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