Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

guide the car of empire ; lest, like an unSkilful Phaeton, by keeping too near the fiery tract of despotism on the one hand, or the equally destructive path of timid relaxation on the other, he wanders like the son of Phæbus far from the beaten way, and shares his fate. This easiness of temper in Edward threw himn into the hands of favourites, to whom he implicitly gave up his will, and on whom he bestowed honours and riches with an unbounded profusion.

The first of these was Piers Gavaston, the son of a Gascon knight of some distinction, who had honourably served the late King; and who, as a reward for his merits, had obtained an establishment for his son in the family of the Prince of Wales. This young Ca:alier soon insinuated himself into the affections of his master by his agreeable behaviour, and by supplying him with all those innocent though frivolous amusements which suited his capacity and inclinations. Endowed with the utmost elegance of shape

and and person, conspicuous for a fine mięn and easy carriage, expert in all warlike and gene teel exercises, and celebrated for his wit, it is not much to be wondered at, if Edward gave up a heart, naturally disposed to friendship and confidence, to this accomplished young gentleman. His discerning father, Edward the First, apprehensive of the consequences, banished Gavaston the kingdom; and on his death-bed made the Prince promise never to recall him. Unmindful of this solemn protestation, no sooner did Edward find himself his own master, than he sent for his favourite ; and so great was his impatience to testify to the world his regard for him, that before his arrival at court he created him Earl of Cornwall : he soon after bestowed on him immense possessions, and married him to his own niece.

However unapprehensive persons, even of the highest rank, determined on the gratification of their favourite passions may be, yet the speculative reader of history cannot

A 4

avoid

[ocr errors]

avoid remarking, that such breaches of folemn compacts, though only verbal ones, are ever attended with fatal consequences, Thus Edward, by indulging the friendly effusions of his heart to an unwarrantable extreme, on a rapacious favourite, in despite of his father's dying injunctions and his own repeated affeverations, roused the dormant spirit of the haughty and restlefs Barons, and involved himself in contests which rendered his whole reign unquiet, and at length brought him to a tragical end.

This partiality to Gavaston served only to excite the jealousy of the Barons, and after many contests ended in his destruction. But no sooner was he made prisoner, and, according to the savage manners of the age, immediately executed, than the King, accuftoined to controul, looked around him for a proper person to supply his place. Hugh Le Despencer, a young Englishman of a noble family, who likewise possessed all those external accomplishments of person and

address

address fitted to engage the weak mind of Edward, attracted his notice, and was received into the same degree of confidence and favour. A similar train of incidents to those which had attended the attachment of Edward to Gavaston now took place; and by the fame unavoidable progression led, after some years, to as fatal a conclusion. The King was addicted to no vice, but having a distaste to all serious business, and, conscious of his inability to hold the reins of government, he gave this minion also unlimited power, and set no bounds to his favours, Le Despencer, equally, haughty and rapacious with his predecessor, drew on himself the animosity of the Barons: they consequently had recourse to arms, and procured by force from Edward a sentence of perpetual exile against him. But a reverse of fortune enabled the King to recall his favourite, and fix him in the fame plenitude of power, till the following incident brought about the ruin of both.

A dispute arising between Edward and Charles the Fair, king of France, concern

ing some affairs relating to the province of Guienne, his queen Isabella was sent over to endeavour to settle it with her brother. While she was making some progress in the negociation, Charles, increasing his demands, started a new proposition ; he insisted, that king Edward should appear at his court, to do homage for the territories he held under him. No method appeared to evade this demand, yet many difficulties occurred to prevent a compliance with it. Le Despencer, by whom the King was implicitly governed, had been engaged in many quarrels with the Queen, who aspired to the same authority, and on that account continually opposed all his measures. Though this artful Princess on her leaving England had taken care to diffemble her animosity, yet Le Despencer, perfectly acquainted with her sentiments, was unwilling to attend the King to Paris, as he was apprehensive of being exposed to insults in a kingdom, where it was natural to conclude Isabella would meet with credit and support. Nor was he less alarmed by

« ZurückWeiter »