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CLOSE OF THE SIEGE-ALBINI.
the king spared William de Albiney and the other nobles and gentlemen, and sent them to Corfe Castle, and other places, to be kept as prisoners.*
“Neverthelesse—as the booke that belonged to Bernewell Abbie saiththere was not any of them hanged, saving one arcubalister onlie, whome the king had brought up of a child. But, howsoever the king dealt with them after they were yielded, true it is (as by the same booke it appeareth) there had been no siege in those daies more earnestlie inforced, nor more obstinatlie defended : for after that all the limmes of the castelle had beene reuersed and throune downe, they kept the maister tower, till halfe thereof was also overthrowne, and after kept the other halfe, till through famine they were constreined to yeeld, having nothing but horsse-flesh and water to susteine their liues withall.”+
Of William de Albini, who had command of the castle garrison, and was the best officer among the confederated barons, the following anecdote is recorded :1-Early one morning, after the fortunes of the besieged had become nearly desperate, and when Albini was making his usual round of the battlements, to see that all was in good order and every man at his post, he
The names here enumerated as the friends and ment to have expelled the old inhabitants, and to abettors of Albini William de Lancaster, have peopled it with strangers. But whether this was William de Emeford, Thomas de Muleton, Osbert so or not, sure it is that he was vere sorrowfull for Gifford, Osbert de Bobie, Odinell de Albiney, Robert the losse of this succor and aid which thus perished in Charnie, Richard Gifford, and Thomas de Lincoln— the seas, though it happened very well for his subnames which are variously spelt in the different chro- jects of England, that should have been sore oppressed nicles.— See the preceding note.
by such multitude of strangers, which for the most # The following occurrence, as mentioned by the part must needs have lived upon the countrie, to the same historian, shows the force upon which King John utter undooing of the inhabitants wheresoever they had calculated, in addition to the powerful army with should have come.” which he actually beleaguered the castle :-“Here is | Una dierum dum obsidio castri Roffensis duraret, to be remembered, that whilest the siege laie thus at Rex et Savaricus circumibant castrum, ut infirmiora Rochester, Hugh de Boues, a valiant knight, but full ejus considerarent. Quos cùm coguovisset quidam of pride and arrogancie, a Frenchman borne, but optimus arcubalistarius Willielmi de Albineto, ait banished out of his countrie, came down to Calice illi : Placeat tibi, domine mi, ut occidam Regem with an huge number of men of warre and souldiers hostem nostrum cruentissimum spiculo hoc, quod to come to the aid of King John. But as he was habeo promptum? Cui ille: Non, non, absit gluto upon the sea with all his people, meaning to land at pessime, ut in sanctum Domini mortem procuremus. Dover, by a sudden tempest which rose at that in- Et ille : Non parceret tibi in consimili casu. Tum stant, the said Hugh with all his companie was Willielmns : Fiat Domini beneplacitum: Dominus drowned by shipwracke. Soone after the bodie of the disponet, non ille. In hoc similis erat David parsame Hugh, with the carcases of other innumerable centis Saul, cùm occidisse potuit. Hoc posteà non both of men, women, and children, were found not latuit Regem, nec ob hoc voluit parcere capto, quin farre from Yermouth, and along that coast. There ipsum suspendisset, si permissum ei fuisset.—Matth. were of them in alle fortie thousand, as saith Matthew Paris. Hist. Angl. 270. Paris; for of all those which he brought with him, The above anecdote is also related in the “Adthere was (as it is said) not one man left alive. mirable Curiosities of Englande, 1682," with some
“The king (as the same went, but how true I know little difference in the expression. It is honourable not) had given by charter vnto the said Hugh de to Albini, of whose character notice has already apBoues the whole countrie of Northfolke, so that he peared in this work.
was thus accosted by one of his retainers, a favourite cross-bowman: “ Seigneur, behold the tyrant!" pointing at the same instant to the well
known person of King John, who was cautiously reconnoitring the weakened points of the castle.
“Well,” said Albini, “it is the king; what wouldest thou?"
“Shall I take him off, by your leave ?” said the bowman, suiting the action to the word and adjusting a steel bolt to the bow-string; “shall 1 despatch this swift messenger to his highness? only say the word !"
“Nay, God forbid !” said Albini, raising his hand to check the rash attempt—"forbear! it is the king!"
“ Very well, seigneur," said the arcubalister, with a mortified air, “ be it according to your pleasure. Only, methinks, that were the tyrant
in your place, and you on the outwork yonder, there would be no 'God forbid ! 'Tis a fine target, seigneur!"
“Nay, nay, no more of this; keep thy shafts for better use; we must not do as the king would do, nor as the king has done. He is the anointed of the realm ; and if his deeds have ill corresponded with his duties, we shall not mend things by an act of treachery."
“True, seigneur,” said the bowman, submissively, but still keeping his eye on the mark, and raising the weapon instinctively to his eye; 'tis the last chance, and when the horse-flesh and fresh water fail us, God have mercy upon the garrison !"
“Let us abide the worst,” said Albini; “brave hearts and the favour of Heaven are a match for the king and all his army. Besides, I expect Fitzwalter and his barons to raise the siege.”
“They are right tardy in their march, seigneur; almost two months have they loitered thus."
“Nay, methinks I see them even now, descending yonder height. Seest thou aught?" “I can see nothing but the king and this cross-bow," said the archer; "and
led he, despondingly, “'tis beyond reach—'tis lost !"
" and yet,
ALBINI AND THE ARBALIST.
“No matter," said Albini," thou hast more honourable work before thee: for see, they prepare for a new assault—the ladders are out—to thy post, and I to mine. The event is with God, not with King John!"
“ Maybe so," said the staunch bowman, “maybe so, but with King John I wot is neither sickness nor starvation. His host, I warrant me, have all breakfasted this morning, while some that I could name have been three days under arms with little better cheer than the castle well.”
“ Too true,” said Albini,“ too true. We must all fast as well as fight; but to-night, please God, even to-night, the barons may arrive, the siege may be raised, and thou and thy brave companions shall sup in the king's larder. What say'st thou to that, Hugo ?”
“My appetite is right keen, seigneur, and my thirst not a whit behind my appetite."
“ Well then, courage! and see what God will send us."
“ Amen!” said the bowman, “and never fear me for courage when Albini commands. And yet, seigneur, had this little bolt been sent home, much blood, methinks, would have been spared. But no matter now, the die is cast; and if once caught by the tyrant, yonder stands the gibbet! more, here goes."
“ Ay, by my troth, and a right good aim,” said Albini; “ thou hast hit the first man between the joints of his harness—he tumbles dead from the ladder. This is the right game, so once more, God and freedom be the word !" '
“God and freedom !” responded the bowman; and herewith the closing horrors of the siege began.
The aid sent to the barons by the French court in this struggle is stated at nearly seven thousand men. “ Heere is to be noted,” says Holinshed, " that during the siege of Rochester, as some write, there came out of France to the number neere hand of seaven thousand men, sent from the French king vnto the aid of the barons, at the suit of Saer de Quincie Earle of Winchester, and other ambassadours that were sent from the barons, during the time of this siege; although it should seeme, by Matthew Paris, that the said earle was not sent till after the Pope had excommunicated the barons. The Frenchmen that came over at this first time landed at Orwell, and other hauens there neere adioining."*
Elated with the success which had crowned his operations against the Castle of Rochester, King John, says the historian,t marched through the kingdom like an implacable despot, inflicting every act of barbarity and spoliation on the relations and estates of those who had opposed his tyrannical measures.
Holinshed, 188. Also Paris,
† Hist. and Antiq. of Rochester. Hume, Hist.
In the meantime, the barons, hopeless of ever retrieving their wretched state of affairs by their own unaided strength, had recourse to the last painful expedient of calling in foreign aid, and applied to Philip of France, who, as it favoured his own interest, and flattered his ambition, was easily persuaded to enter into their views. Intent upon this grand object, extensive preparations were set on foot; an armament was fitted out, and the following year, his son Louis the Dauphin was placed at its head, and with a fleet of seven hundred vessels set sail for the English coast. Landing at the port of Sandwich, the French auxiliaries were joined by those of the confederate barons, and presented so menacing a front that King John, becoming alarmed, left the capital and set out for Winchester. On his march through Sussex he was met by Gualo, the Pope's nuncio, who had just arrived in England, and in whom the despotic monarch found a warm partisan. For the sacrilegious Dauphin having thus dared to invade the patrimony of St. Peter—as his Holiness was pleased to style the kingdom-it became his duty to wield the spiritual weapons of the Church against him. With this view he repaired to the French camp, and there excommunicated with all due solemnity the rash intruder and his whole army. Louis was at first intimidated by this awful denunciation, and made some concessions in order to ward off the coming vengeance; but when he found that the sun was not darkened that the elements did not fight against him—that his camp was not depopulated, nor his march impeded, he resumed courage, set the legate at defiance, and proceeded in his expedition. As the first operation of the war, he invested the Castle of Rochester, which, having lost much of its defensive outworks in the previous siege, could offer no effectual resistance, and speedily fell into the hands of the Dauphin. He then proceeded to London, where he was received with triumph.* But the King dying the same year, his son Henry succeeded to the throne, and this event, for a time, restored public tranquillity, and rendered the cause of freedom independent of foreign influence.
Rochester Castle, however, was destined to figure once more in the same great question which had agitated the country during the preceding reign, Henry the Third, by that open predilection for foreigners which he exhibited on various public occasions, had excited both disgust and indignation among the nobles of his own court, who in their turn lost no favourable occasion of manifesting the sentiments by which they were guided. This spirit was fully evinced at the grand tournaments which from time to time drew together the chivalry of the land, and where they always found, to their mortification, a preference given to foreign adventurers by the English monarch. Meditating
Op. citat.-Charles. - Antiq, of Roch.-Paris. Hist. Angl. fol. 282.
TOURNAMENT AT ROCHESTER.
designs against the freedom of his own people, he naturally foresaw the consequences, and appears to have been anxious to conciliate the favour of those foreign knights whom, after the manner of his father, he could make the willing instruments of his despotism whenever the question should be ripe for discussion in the field. This unnational prejudice was particularly observed at the great solemn tournament which was held on the Sth of December, 1251, in the fields to the south-east of Rochester Castle. It was one of the most imposing military spectacles that had ever taken place in the King's presence, and numbered among the combatants the noblest and the bravest of the land; while the lists were graced with all that native beauty and virtue which so fascinated the chivalry of other nations, and inspired the noblest deeds among their own.
Attracted to this spectacle, where they were sure of a cordial welcome, a crowd of foreign knights arrived at Rochester on the eve of the fete, and were received with marked distinction by the king. The morning of the spectacle brought a still greater portion into the lists; but the events of the day were not marked by anything in speech or bearing that could reflect disgrace on the knightly courtesy which passed between the combatants. The English knights, determined to maintain their national character, entered the lists against all foreigners without exception. Their challenge was freely accepted by the strangers, and in the course of the day many a spear was shivered, many a knight unhorsed; but still the palm was borne away by Englishmen. Mortified with defeat, the foreigners were compelled to retire into the city without any of the usual tokens of victory for which they had travelled so far; while some of them, conscious that their conduct in the lists had violated certain laws of chivalry, took refuge in the Castle, there to avoid popular indignation, and await some favourable moment for escape.*
It was on this occasion that Henry was made fully aware of the spirit which now actuated his young nobles; and the result was another civil war, and another siege of the Castle of Rochester by Simon de Montfort. The Castle at that time was held by Earl Warren for the King; and on Montfort's arrival on the west bank of the Medway, opposite the fortress, he found an army strongly posted, and ready to dispute with him the passage of the bridge. He determined, nevertheless, to try the fortune of war. He condensed his strength, and, having sent Gilbert de Clare to attack the town on the south,
* Hist. of the Castle. Civil and Milit. Transact.-Chronicles.