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Narrow Escape of King John.
was carried into effect in a single arms with the ill-fated prince, his day, and the sister of Sweyn, who nephew. These, loaded with irons, had married an English noble, was he distributed among the Norman included in the slaughter. Her and English prisons, where many of brother speedily avenged her and them perished under cruel treathis butchered countrymen, landed the ment, and no fewer than twentynext year in Cornwall, marched to two of the noblest and bravest of Exeter, which he utterly destroyed, them were starved to death in Corfe and spared none of its inhabitants. Castle.'* To fire and slaughter succeeded the On the 15th of May, 1213, John famine of the year 1005, which, by resigned England and Ireland 'to those who could find wherewithal to God, to St. Peter and St. Paul, and satisfy their hunger, was hailed as a to Pope Innocent and his succesblessing, because, for a time at least, sors ;' and, after doing homage to it expelled the Danes. But these Pandolph, the Pope's legate, commarauders returned with returning forted himself by dragging Peter of prosperity, and in the year 1014, the Pomfret (whom he had thrown into wretched Ethelred having fled with the dungeons of Corfe Castle, for his family to Normandy, Sweyn be
that he would lose his came King of England. But his
crown in this very year) at horses' rule was of the shortest, for he died tails to Wareham, through its in the same year, and fugitive Ethel streets, and back again, and hanging red was, not without difficulty, per him, with his son, on a gibbet erected suaded to return and occupy his tot within sight of the castle. In 1215 tering throne for two miserable (June 19), he signed Magna Charta, years, at the expiration of which became sullen, melancholy, and detime, and in 1016, he finished his jected accordingly, and retired to ignoble reign.
the Isle of Wight. The brave Edmund, his eldest son, The next year was the last of his was immediately crowned in London, wretched life.
now in perbut the gallantry of his spirit and all petual motion, not knowing whither the noble qualities of his nature were in to go nor whom to trust. He therevain. The curse of bloodshed seemed fore carefully avoided fighting, and into rest upon his house; his reign did cessantly marched from place to place not continue for a year; he was mur to break the measures of his enemies. dered by the contrivance of a traitor, He thought himself safest in the county one of his family, before the close of the of Norfolk, where he chose the town of year 1017.
Lynn to secure his treasures, including Edmund left two sons, neither of his crown and sceptre. This town hal whom succeeded to the throne. The expressed for him such affection and line of his descendants, excluded first loyalty, that as a mark of his gratitude by Danish usurpation, and afterwards he granted it great privileges, presenting by the Normans, was restored to the to the first mayor his own sword, which crown after the lapse of six hundred is said still to be preserved there. Howyears; but it was restored in that ever, fearing his treasures were not safe fated royal line, of whose destiny this even in this his favourite town, he reruined castle stands the monument-as solved to remove them into Lincolnit was the victim.
shire. Endeavouring to effect this reDuring the reign of John, the moval, he
very narrowly escaped castle again became a royal residence.
drowning with his whole army, in the Here the felon king deposited his
large Marsh or Wash which parts the
two counties of Lincoln and Norfolk. treasure and regalia ; here the jealous tyrant confined his state prisoners.
He had himself barely effected the
crossing, together with a portion of his When, in 1202, he took the pretty
forces, when the tide coming rapidly Arthur' at the castle of Mirbel, in up the river Well-stream, the marshi was Poitou, he captured many barons overflowed, and his baggage containing and above two hundred knights of the treasure, also the remainder of his Poitou and Guienne, who were in troops and attendants, were swallowed
* The mixture of demoniacal blood, to which the Plantagenet princes attributed their paroxysms of fury, seems to have been of the strongest in John, whose outbreaks are described by Richard of Devizes, as something beyond anger. On such occasions he was terribly changed. His forehead, like Redgauntlet's, was corrugated, his flaming eyes glistened, and his colour became livid.
up by the waters. He arrived that night at Swineshead Abbey, where he lodged. His vexation for the loss threw him into a violent fever, which he aggravated by eating largely of peaches. On the morrow, he was carried on a litter to Seaford Castle, and thence next day to Newark. Some will have it that he was poisoned by a monk of Swineshead Abbey, and Shakspeare has adopted this tradition; but the contemporary historians have not attributed his end to such a cause, nor is it asserted by any one who wrote within sixty years of that time. The stories of his being poisoned are also various in their particulars; the one attributes the king's death to the poison extracted from a toad put into a cup of wine, the other to a dish of poisoned pears, of which the monk who presented them ate three, which were not poisoned, leaving all the rest for the use of the king:
Thus the curious in obituaries may choose between the fever, the indigestion, the toad-drugged posset, and the monk's pears daintily spiced with the manna of St. Nicholas : we think it pretty clear that King John died of Magna Charta.
When Henry the Third, who succeeded in the tenth year of his age, was crowned at Gloucester, under the auspices of the wise, brave, and honest Earl of Pembroke, who had so faithfully served his miserable master, John, and had been unani. mously chosen guardian of the young king, and protector, a portion of the regalia was still at Corfe Castle; and Peter de Maulay, the constable, delivered there for the king's use, on the demand of the new Protector, the crown-a plain circle or chaplet of gold, and probably Saxon—which was placed on his head. Henry's second coronation, at a later period, was celebrated in Westminster Abbey. The castle was now deli. vered to Pembroke, and a fair pri soner, the Princess Eleanora, who had passed many sad years in the custody of her infamous uncle, was found incarcerated. Here, too, were found, in addition to jewels and other valuables, large stores of mili. tary engines, which John had collected in the vain hope of subjugating the barons and revoking the Great Charter.
But the Protector died; and then commenced the troubles of the weak Henry. Peter de Maulay forcibly
resumed possession of the castle, which was held in such high consideration by Simon de Montfort and his adherents, that it was the third which they demanded to be ceded as pledges for the future good conduct of the king.
Whether the unfortunate second Edward enjoyed this castle as a residence is uncertain ; but there is no doubt that, in his reign, it was put into complete repair at the expense of the crown, and that it be. came his prison when the Queen and her paramour took the fallen monarch out of the honourable custody of Henry of Lancaster, to hand him over to the tender mercies of those shames to knighthood, Maltravers and Gournay. Those ruflians removed him from Kenilworth Castle, where he had passed the winter under the wardship of his uncle the Earl, and hurried the doomed prisoner from place to place under cloud of night, that no one might with certainty know his whereabout. First they brought him to Corfe Castle, then to Bristol Castle, whence the worthy citizens would have delivered him, but his inhuman keepers got scent of the scheme, and conveyed him to Berkeley Castle, whose roofs soon rung with the
Shrieks of an agonizing king. Brilliant as was the reign of our third Edward, his early days were gloomy enough. He must soon have discovered the nature of the connexion between his mother and her gentle Mortimer; and the cruel po. sition in which he was placed in her hands may, as Mr. Bankes chari. tably observes, palliate the crimes into which he was driven ; 'but he must always, even in the brightest days of his triumphant glory, have shuddered when he called to recollection the dark dawn of his splendid career;' and if a public condemnation and execution, the records of which exist, had not taken place, it would have been difficult to find credit for the romantic story of the Earl of Kent.
Of all the mysterious transactions of that day, none will appear more extraordinary than that of which Corfe Castle was the scene. The Earl of Kent, brother to Edward II., had no great genius for public affairs, but was naturally sincere and generous. He
The Earl of Kent.
had suffered himself to be deceived by could not but imagine that some the artifices of Queen Isabella, and great prince or king was there, for joined her against his own brother, whose pleasure and honour these never imagining she would have carried
pageants were performed. The matters so far: when once engaged in the rebellious party, the suddenness of
rumour that the old king was alive
soon spread, and at last, as was dethe revolution would not permit him to recede. The disorderly behaviour of
signed, came with some show of that queen, the insolence of Mortimer,
authority to the ears of the Earl of and general ill conduct of public affairs, Kent, who, in his desire to sift the which clouded the new reign, now truth out, entangled himself more brought a deep conviction to his mind, strongly in an error. of repentance for the course he had The Earl had a confidant, a preachtaken. Too generous to conceal his ing friar, whom he privily sent to feelings, Isabella and Mortimer resolved the castle with a charge to dive into on his destruction, and, in order to ac- the matter. complish this, they prepared for him a
He, at last, under much caution, with most extraordinary snare. It is probable that they found rumours already
a great to-do, obtaining to be admitted rife through the kingdom, to the effect
into the castle, was even then, under that Edward II. was not dead ; and
pretended fear, kept close, all day, in whether they first originated or only
the porter's lodge ; but, at night, being, cultivated those reports, an opinion to
for more securiiy, disguised in lay habit, that intent did prevail for a long season.
he was brought into the great hall,
where he beheld one clothed in royal Two persons, pretended friends, came
habiliments, to personate a king, so that to the Earl of Kent, and informed him
the friar himself, either deceived by the that his brother, Edward II., was still a prigoner in Corfe Castle, strictly
glimmering of the lamps, or the distance guarded, and suffered to be seen by
which he was forced to keep, or the none but his domestics, who were guarded
strength of prejudice working upon his with him. This pretended secret was
fancy, did really take him for the father confirmed by the testimony of several
of the young King, as he sat, with persons of distinction, including two
seeming majesty and princely attendants, bishops. The Earl of Kent had himself
at a royal supper. assisted at the private funeral of the Whether the friar was an instruKing, his brother, but he had not seen ment in the plot, or was really perthe body, and might have been deceived suaded that he had seen the King, in the obsequies ; he determined to re- certain it is that he convinced the lease him, if he were still alive. About Earl that he had seen his royal this time (says Stow) the Queen Isabella,
brother alive and well, at supper. who bore an inveterate hatred against
The generous Earl then declared Edmund Plantagenet, Earl of Kent, one of the King's uncles, chiefly for the
with an oath that he would rescue Earl of Marche's sake, to whose unrea
the King from that unworthy consonable pride the noble Prince's courage
finement. scorned to yield, began earnestly to in
It should be borne in mind that, form the King her son against him, as while the rumours were rife, the guilty of matters into which the subtle Earl, having occasion to be at the Mortimer had craftily ensnared the court of Rome, had held a conferopen-hearted gentleman.
ence at Avignon with Pope John It may well excite surprise how XXII. on other matters, and afterany man should now be accused of wards desired counsel of his Holiendeavouring to deliver the mur. ness relative to Edward his brother, dered king, who had been two years the late King, since it was current in a bloody grave; but the arts by through England that he was alive which the innocent Earl was led to and well. On hearing this, the his destruction were worthy of the Pope commanded him, as he valued fiends in human shape who invented his blessing, to help towards the them, and might have deluded a legs King's deliverance to the utmost of suspicious person.
his ability, giving him and all his Mortimer, to carry on the delusion, partakers plenary absolution, prois said to have appointed several mising to bear the charges of the knights to make shows, masks, and whole undertaking, and threatening other diversions upon the battle. him with excommunication if he did ments and roofs of Corfe Castle, not use his best endeavours for his which the country people observing, brother's right and liberty.
On the Earl's return he sent his and treasure exceeding much, for to confidential friar to Corfe with the maintain and help your quarrel so far result above stated; and the Earl forth, that you shall be King again, as was further confirmed in his belief you were before, and thereto they have by the assertions of another friar,
all sworn to me upon a book, as well who rejoiced in the name of Dun
prelates as earls and barons. head. Magic was as much credited All was accomplished. Mortimer by the aristocracy of that day as immediately gave the letter to the table-turning is in this year of grace
Queen, who laid it before the king, 1853, so that some of our earls and her son, not without magnifying the countesses must not smile if they peril which awaited him from his should chance to hear or read that uncle's practices, and obtaining his Dunhead, discoursing' with the leave to secure that prince's person. chivalrous Earl of Kent, at Kensing, The Earl was apprehended at Win. ton, told him that he had conjured chester, where the Parliament was up a spirit which assured him that assembled, impeached, brought beEdward, the late King, was still liv. fore his peers, and his own letter, ing. That this Dunhead was one of
which he could not disown, produced Mortimer's emissaries can hardly be against him. Defence, it seems, he doubted, whatever may be thought felt to be useless, but said that seve. of the other friar.
ral lords, among whom were the The credulous Earl thus assured Archbishop of York and Bishop of went to the castle, and there
London, were concerned in the plot, Spake with the constable thereof, Sir
and that they had assured him of John Daverill, and, after many rich
five thousand men to assist in it. He presents, desired secretly to know of was condemned to lose his head for him whether his brother, the late King, the treason, and was brought out to was yet alive or dead, and if he were die, in his twenty-eighth year, on the alive, that he might have a sight of 9th of March, in the year 1329. The him. Now this Sir John Daverill, being head was ready, but where was the Mortimer's creature, answered, that in executioner! The Earl was so much deed his brother was in health, and
beloved that the headsman who had under his keeping, but that he durst not
been engaged slunk secretly away. show him to any man living, since he was forbid, in behalf of the King that
Hour after hour passed ; noon, afternow was, and also of the Queen-mother noon, evening came, but no one and of Mortimer, to show his person to
could be found to do the horrid any one whatsoever, except only unto work. At last, towards nightfall, them.
the old resource of giving a conNo woodcock ever walked into a demned criminal his life upon conspringe more contentedly than the dition of his taking that of a fellowpoor Earl, who was so completely creature, was put in action — the deceived that he delivered to the Earl's long agony was terminated, constable a letter, desiring him to and his head rolled on the scaffold. bear it to his brother, which he An uncle and a father! an early promised to do, and carried it to death-load that for a young king's Mortimer.
conscience; but a mother and her This letter, sealed with the Earl's loving friend helped him to bear the seal, began thus :
burden. Wherever there is mis. To the noble knight, Edward of Caer chief, the choicest weapon in the narvon, Edmund of Woodstock, worship
armoury of the prince of darkness and reverence, with brotherly allegiance is sure to be at the bottom of it, and and subjection : -Sir knight, worshipfull we have only to ask with Quevedo's and dear brother, if it please you, I pray honest functionary, 'Who is she p'* heartily that you be of good comfort, for I shall so ordain for you
The beautiful Countess of Kent that you
shall soon come out of prison, and be delivered
was the mother of Richard II., and of that trouble which you are in; and
in his time Thomas Holland, Earl of may your highness understand that I Kent, and Alicia his wife, near rela. have unto me assenting almost all the
tives of the King, possessed the great men of England, with all their castle, which they appear to have apparel-that is to say, with armour
held unmolested through the
Fraser's Magazine for October, 1853, p. 416.
Sir Christopher Hatton.
troubles that closed their unhappy granted to a fortunate subject, and kinsman's reign. When they died, became a step in the advancement Henry IV, granted this royal pro of the handsome Hatton, ere perty' to the head of the house of
The seals and maces danced before him. Beaufort,* and in that family it con Born he was of a family more antinued until the reign of Henry VI.,
cient than wealthy in Northamptonshire. when, though the war of the roses Being young and of a comely tallness did not reach the castle walls, the of body and amiable countenance, he owner was at last overwhelmed in got into such favour that she took him the common ruin of the Lancastrians, into her band of fifty gentlemen penand the castle, with the rest of the sioners; and afterwards, for his modest Duke's forfeited estates, was granted
sweetness of condition, into the number to George Duke of Clarence. On of the gentlemen of her Privy Chamber ; his death-Mr. Bankes sticks to the
made him captain of her guard, viceMalmsey butt-the castle and royal
chamberlain, and one of her Privy Coundomains of Corfe reverted to the
cil ; and lastly made him Lord Chan
cellor of England, and honoured him Crown.
with the order of George. When the third Richard fell at
But he grew old and ailing-her Bosworth, and
Majesty snubbed him, and, as he The rose of snow
died unmarried, the castle passed to Entwined with her blushing foe,
his nephew, Sir William, I son of a Henry VII. prepared Corfe Castle sister of Sir Christopher. Sir Wilfor the residence of his mother, the liam left no children, and the proCountess of Richmond and Derby; perty came ultimately to his widow, and a very good countess too. She
the Lady Elizabeth Hatton, daugherected the noble monument to her ter of Thomas Cecil, Earl of Exeter, parents, the Duke and Duchess of who became the second wife of Lord Somerset, that still graces Wim Chief Justice Coke, to whose domesborne Minster, and endowed in that tic happiness she by no means contown a school which bears, most un. tributed, though she, as well as her righteously, the name of Queen Eli beautiful daughter, “the Lady Franzabeth. T'he Countess outlived the
ces,' did, not a little, to the scandaKing, her son, but only for one year; lous chronicles of gentle King Jamie and at her death the castle again re the Sixth of Scotland and First of verted to the Crown, and became the England, and of his unfortunate property of Henry VIII.
Corfe Castle remained unappro This dashing lady was fond of field priated by any favoured courtier sports, hawking especially, and, during the reign of the bluff King. among other fashionable pursuits, All who had won any favour in his was much addicted to necromancy. eyes were intent upon the plunder The celebrated wizard, Forman, was of the bags and lands of hoarding said to be much in her confidence. Perabbots; but at his death, and when sons of both sexes, and of all ranks of the proud and grasping Seymourt life, resorted to him in large numbers, to became protector, Corfe was added
consult his art in the marshes of Lamto the vast amount of property, re.
beth, where he dwelt. He adopted a
rule which confined the list of his inligious and royal, which this most industrious of Earls had accumulated
quiries to those who had some degree of
education ; for, in no case would he and was accumulating, till his high
answer any questions, unless the incareer terminated in blood on Tower
quirers first wrote with their own hands hill, in January, 1553; and so the their names at length in a book, which castle again lapsed to the Crown. he kept for this purpose, and thus, by
In Elizabeth's time the castle was means of these names, he had more than
* The Earl of Somerset.
† Earl of Hertford. # 1588, which the astronomer Koningsberg had foretold, an hundred years before, would be an admirable year, produced the Spanish Armada, and Corfe was now again to become a fortress. Cannon were for the first time mounted on its battlements, and the Queen, to encourage the good spirit which was abroad, gave a charter to the inhabitauts of the castle and borough, conferring on them the same rights and privileges a4 those enjoyed by the inhabitants and barons of the Cinque ports, including the richt of returning two members to Parliament.