The Big Red One is an American war epic starring Lee Marvin and Mark Hamill and written and directed by Samuel Fuller, based on his own combat experiences as a soldier with the 1st Infantry Division (aka “The Big Red One”), from fighting in North Africa, through the D-Day invasion of Normandy, until Germany’s surrender in May 1945.
During World War II, Samuel Fuller (1912–1997) enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1942 and was assigned to the 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division (aka “the Big Red One”). Fuller saw combat in every major European campaign and was awarded the Bronze Star, the Silver Star, and the Purple Heart. After the war Sam Fuller became a pulp fiction writer and then a filmmaker specializing in B-movies, but making a film based on his own war experiences was never far from his mind. By 1958 he had a “Big Red One” script completed. John Wayne got wind of the project and asked Fuller if he could star in the movie, but Oscar Dystel, head of Bantam Books, encouraged Fuller to write a book instead of doing a movie. In the end Fuller did neither because he could not formulate a coherent narrative (Peary, 2012, p. 79). In 1974 director-producer Peter Bogdanovich, a close friend of Fuller’s who had been hearing his war stories for years, offered to produce Fuller’s “Big Red One” film and persuaded Paramount studio head Frank Yablans to option the property. Yablans paid Fuller $5,000 to write a new script. By the time Fuller had it completed, Yablans had left Paramount and been replaced by Robert Evans, who let the option lapse. Ultimately Lorimar, a new mini-studio specializing in TV production, took over the project but repeatedly scaled down its projected budget, from $12 million to just $4 million, precluding some planned location shooting in Tunisia and Yugoslavia (now Slovenia). Gene Corman, Roger Corman’s brother, replaced Bogdanovich as producer. As was always Fuller’s intention, U.S. Marine Corps WWII veteran Lee Marvin was hired to play the iconic lead role of the sergeant. The only other big name was Mark Hamill (Star Wars), who played Pvt. Griff. Robert Carradine (who also appeared in Star Wars) played Zab, a cigar-chomping private representing a WWII-era Fuller.
Principal photography took place in the spring and summer months of 1978. Directing battle scenes with a loaded .45 pistol in his hand, Fuller would fire into the air after a take to remind his actors of the mortal gravity of combat. Castle scenes were filmed in Ireland and winter forest scenes were shot in California’s Sierra Madre Mountains, but most of the film was shot at various locations in Israel, with Nazi soldiers played by Jewish extras (paid $11 per day), wearing yarmulkes under their helmets. A quarry at Rosh Ha’ayin near Tel Aviv doubled for the Kasserine Pass in Tunisia; a Roman amphitheater at Beit She’an near the Israel-Jordan border stood in for the El Djem Coliseum in Tunisia; North African and European beach invasion scenes were shot on beaches at Caesarea and Netanya, midway between Haifa and Tel Aviv; Sicilian village scenes were shot in Haifa; and an abandoned armory at Schneller Army Base in Jerusalem stood in for Falkenau concentration camp, its swastikas hidden from the religious school opposite. The shoot went well, but post-production proved exceedingly rocky. Fuller eventually assembled a four-and-a-half-hour rough cut, but Lorimar executives rejected it as not “epic” enough in content to warrant its lengthy running time. They took the editing away from Fuller and hired journeyman editor Morton Tubor to cut the film down to 113 minutes, leaving 60 percent of Fuller’s rough cut on the cutting room floor. They also hired composer Bodie Chandler (Futureworld) to write a score without consulting Fuller: another indignity that Fuller had to accept because his contract did not grant him final cut.
A boldface title added to the 2004 version reads: “This is a fictional life based on factual death.” The film then begins in black and white on 11 November 1918 (Armistice Day, World War I). A private (Lee Marvin) kills a German soldier who walked toward him in a pose of surrender. Back at his headquarters, the private, a member of the 1st Division, is informed that the “war’s been over for four hours.” The film then shifts ahead to November 1942, when the same man, now a sergeant in the “Big Red One,” leads his five-man rifle squad (1st Platoon, I Company of the 3rd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment) through Northern Africa. Over the next two years the squad fights in Sicily, storms Omaha Beach at D-Day, and helps to liberate France (even battling Germans garrisoned inside a mental asylum with the unsolicited help of a mental patient who commandeers a machine gun and ironically declares himself “sane” and therefore qualified to fight). The squad also takes part in the invasion of Germany and the liberation of one of the Nazi death camps at war’s end. Simultaneously, the sergeant’s German counterpart, a noncommissioned officer (NCO) named Schroeder (Siegfried Rauch), fights in the same skirmishes from the other side, showing unending loyalty to his country and to Hitler. As the American forces continue across France, the unit passes the spot where the sergeant killed the conceding German soldier 26 years earlier. A First World War monument now stands at the site, and Pvt. Johnson (Kelly Ward) naively mistakes it for a newly minted WWII memorial—a bitter irony not lost on the sergeant. The unit concludes its tour with the liberation of the Falkenau concentration camp. Afterwards, Schroeder surprises the sergeant in the woods at night in an attempt to surrender. The sergeant, having just buried a small child released from the concentration camp, stabs Schroeder. The sergeant’s unit arrives, informing him that the war was over “about four hours ago.” As the squad leaves the area, Pvt. Griff (Mark Hamill) sees that Schroeder is alive. The sergeant and his unit then scramble to save the German soldier’s life on their way back to camp.
The Big Red One premiered at the 33rd Cannes Film Festival in May 1980 and was released in the United States on 18 July. For a film that had been drastically abridged in the editing process and consigned to limited distribution, it did quite well at the box office ($7.2 million gross) and elicited glowing critical notices. For example, the anonymous reviewer for Variety called it “a terrific war yarn, a picture of palpable raw power which manages both intense intimacy and great scope at the same time” (31 December 1979). Vincent Canby also offered praise: “The movie’s battle footage is mostly small-scale but terrifically effective, especially in a sequence devoted to the 1944 landings at Omaha Beach in Normandy, which is as good as anything in The Longest Day. Mr. Fuller’s characters aren’t very interesting but, in this case, banality has a point. These really are ordinary guys and not the wildly representative ones seen in most Hollywood war movies. More important, one is always aware of the soldiers’ sense of isolation even in the midst of battle and of the endlessness of their task. If they survive one battle, their only reward is to be able to fight another” (Canby, 1980). In his posthumously published memoirs, Fuller confessed to being “thrilled by the almost universal esteem. Yet I can’t stop thinking about my four-and-a-half-hour version of the movie, which is somewhere in the vaults at Warner Brothers, who bought the rights several years ago” (Fuller, 2002, p. 482). In 2004, eight years after Fuller’s death, film critic/historian Richard Schickel brought Fuller’s unrealized dream of a director’s cut to fruition. Using 70,000 feet of vault footage and Fuller’s original shooting script as a guide, Schickel produced The Big Red One: The Reconstruction: a 158-minute version that removes a gratuitous voice-over device and restores 45 minutes of missing content, allowing for more depth and scope, more detailed characterizations, and a more meaningful narrative shape than was evident in the original theatrical release in 1980. Reviews this time were even more enthusiastic. Roger Ebert awarded the film four out of four stars and wrote, “The restored [The] Big Red One is able to suggest the scope and duration of the war, the way it’s one damned thing after another, the distances traveled, the pile-up of experiences that are numbing most of the time but occasionally produce an episode as perfect as a short story” (Ebert, 2004).
Reel History Versus Real History
In the words of military historian Clayton Odie Sheffield, “The Big Red One is historically accurate in the macro sense, but incorporates a good deal of dramatic license” (Sheffield, 2001, p. 117). Sheffield then goes on to enumerate some of the film’s embellishments or omissions. For example, in depicting the 1st Infantry Division’s landings near Oran, Algeria (8 November 1942), the movie shows French troops reading American leaflets that urge nonresistance, which is actually not possible because the landings took place at 0100 hours—too dark for any defender to read a leaflet. It also shows the Vichy commander initiating a brief exchange of gunfire, resulting in a few casualties on both sides, after which the French and American soldiers join each other and celebrate their union on the beach. Sheffield says: “In all accounts from the 16th Regiment sector, resistance was either non-existent or light and unorganized, and there were no beach reunions commemorating a cease-fire with the joining of two armies in a truce” (Sheffield, 2001, p. 118). Sheffield also notes that the 16th Regiment “was hit with winter rains and snow while deployed in the Kasserine Pass area,” but the movie depicts almost no inclement weather (Sheffield, 2001, pp. 118–119). Sheffield finds the movie’s depiction of action in Sicily credible but notes a number of chronological and tactical inaccuracies in the film’s rendition of the landings at Normandy on D-Day. He further notes that insofar as The Big Red One “provides very little replication of large combat formations of soldiers,” it does not need to feature much heavy equipment (Sheffield, 2001, p. 121). As was true of other cash-strapped WWII productions (e.g., The Battle of the Bulge), Fuller deploys M4 Sherman tanks with German decals to stand in for German panzers, but Sheffield finds the discrepancy “irrelevant.” Finally, some critics thought Lee Marvin, 54 at the time of the film shoot in 1978, was too old to play a WWII U.S. Army sergeant. Yet he was just a few years older than his own father, Lamont Walter Marvin (1896–1971), who was a sergeant in World War II in his late forties. Indeed, after the film came out, Marvin told an interviewer, “I really played my father” (Johnson, p. 39).
The quantity and the quality of blood spilt at Evesham rendered it a decisive victory; the dead can neither negotiate nor stage a comeback. Montfort’s ghost would haunt his killers for some time to come, but his gory end meant that he could trouble them only in the improbable guise of a popular saint. Likewise, the simultaneous dispatch of so many of the earl’s diehard supporters seemed to herald a new political dawn. Edward’s triumph in battle ensured that his father, though physically traumatised, was restored to full and unfettered power. The schemes to limit the king’s authority, begun in 1258 and repeatedly challenged, modified and reinstated thereafter, had also perished. Whatever future the idea of reform might have, it would not be imposed on the Crown by force. God had granted victory to the royalists. Henceforth the monopoly of might lay with Henry and his son.
It should have been a relatively straightforward matter to transform this military supremacy into a lasting peace. In the end, Montfort had been a man more feared than loved. Even before Evesham his regime had been close to the point of collapse, hamstrung by a lack of genuinely loyal support. When news of the earl’s death broke, men who had been biding their time during his rule came swiftly back to the king’s side. At Windsor Castle the garrison surrendered at once, as did the troops holding the Tower of London. Only at Kenilworth Castle, to which Simon de Montfort junior had retreated, was stronger resistance expected, and even here there was hope for the royalists in the depth of their enemies’ despair. Young Simon had arrived at Evesham too late, but still in time to witness his father’s head being paraded on the point of a spear – a sight, it was said, that left him unable to eat or drink for days.
The mercy that Montfort had been denied in his final encounter would be the essential ingredient in making a firm peace. If at that instant chivalry had been suspended for the sake of political convenience, it was now imperative that it be revived for the same reason. Edward seems to have been well aware of this. For him, the killing at Evesham, as well as being a means to an end, had also been a cathartic moment. He may not have mourned the passing of his uncle, but he is said to have wept openly for the loss of so many others, including his sometime friend Henry de Montfort, who had died fighting alongside his father. Accordingly, in the aftermath of battle, Edward was minded to be merciful. When several leading Montfortians, including the earl’s former steward, approached him just three days later, he promised them his protection, and assured them that neither they nor their goods would be harmed. They duly agreed to submit, and thus the surrender of two more garrisons – those at Berkhamsted and Wallingford – was secured.
For such men, the fact that Edward’s concessionary attitude extended not only to their persons but also to their property was crucially important. Disinheritance, more so even than death, was the rebel’s greatest fear, for it entailed lasting shame and the end of his family’s fortune. Consequently it was also the offended overlord’s greatest threat, and one that in 1265 Henry III was in a strong position to invoke. In the immediate wake of Evesham the king had authorised the seizure of all lands held by his enemies. Royalists had rushed from the battlefield to occupy the manors of those who were known, or even merely believed, to be Montfortians. The reappropriation was startlingly swift. In a matter of weeks more than a thousand properties were confiscated.
Edward, who had hurried to Chester in order to superintend the recovery of his own estates, appears to have assumed that this nationwide land-grab was a prelude to a bargaining process. During this time, for example, he had letters sent to the garrison at Kenilworth, promising them death and disinheritance unless they agreed to an immediate surrender. The threat was dire, but the corollary was also clear. Those who did submit, by implication, would be spared such terrible penalties.
But by the time Edward had returned south, his father had decided on a different course of action. In the middle of September, during a specially convened parliament at Winchester, Henry proclaimed his peace. Then, the following day, he dropped a political bombshell. The lands lately seized by his faithful subjects, he announced, would not in any circumstances be returned to their former owners; all those who had stood with Montfort to whatever degree were to remain disinherited forever.
As the wiser men in attendance were quick to observe, this was a poisonous prescription. Richard of Cornwall was a man with more reason than most to harbour thoughts of vengeance towards the Montfortians, having only just been released from captivity at Kenilworth, where he had been kept in chains. Yet he was still shrewd enough to appreciate that his brother’s policy could lead only to further conflict, for if former rebels had no hope of recovering their lands, they had no reason to lay down their arms. Along with a few other magnates, the earl washed his hands of the whole sorry business and withdrew from court in protest.
His nephew, however, did not accompany him. Despite his instinctive understanding of the need for settlement, Edward went along with the royalist majority that was bent on revenge. It may be that he felt unable to resist the demands of his own powerful supporters. Roger Mortimer, in the words of one writer, was ‘greedy for spoils’. Whatever the case, Edward took his place among the seventy or so individuals close to the king who were rewarded with a share of the loot. The trouble was that more than four times that number had been deprived of their stake in society.
The next target for the royalists’ vengeance was London. Henry felt particularly venomous towards the capital and its citizens, whom he regarded as Montfort’s willing collaborators. During the earl’s rule, the mayor of London, called upon to swear fealty to his sovereign, had actually dared to couch his oath in conditional terms. ‘We will be faithful and duteous to you,’ the wretched man had said, ‘so long as you will be a good lord and king.’ Henry now set out to deliver London a lesson of his own by way of return. From Winchester he moved to Windsor, to where he summoned an army, and let it be known that he intended to besiege the city.
This news sent London into a panic. A small band of committed Montfortians wanted to man the walls and resist, but the majority agreed that the only sensible course was to throw themselves on the king’s mercy. To this end, the mayor and some forty of the more eminent citizens set out for Windsor in early October in the hope of allaying the royal wrath. They were only partially successful. The planned siege was called off, but the delegates themselves, in spite of the safe-conducts they had received, were cast into prison. Henry then proceeded to enter London unopposed, and celebrated the feast of the Confessor on 13 October in Westminster Abbey, ceremoniously wearing his crown to emphasise his majesty. Meanwhile, in the city itself the indiscriminate redistribution of property continued, and again Edward willingly accepted his share of the spoils. Several of his friends were rewarded with confiscated houses, and he himself was given custody of the mayor and certain other prominent prisoners.
The hostility that the king and his son harboured towards London, of course, arose to a large extent as a result of the attack on the queen in the summer of 1263. Eleanor of Provence had crossed to France soon after that notorious incident and had remained there ever since, masterminding her husband’s return to power. Now, at last, she was expected home, and the court moved into Kent in anticipation of her arrival. On 29 October Edward met his mother off the boat at Dover, and two days later she was reunited with Henry at Canterbury. It had been almost two years since the royal couple had seen each other, and the disagreements that had arisen between them during the struggle with Montfort had long since been forgotten; if anything their affection for each other had deepened. In a letter to Louis IX written some time later, Henry spoke fondly of Eleanor, saying he was ‘cheered by the sight of her, and by talking to her’.
Such amiable companionship had also been denied to Edward, but shortly before his mother’s return he was reunited with his own wife. Eleanor of Castile appears to have been kept with the king during her husband’s year of confinement, and subjected to the same close supervision. Montfort’s rule must have been a deeply distressing time for the young couple, with each of them left for long periods uncertain of the other’s fate. Nor was their misery during these months to be measured solely by the stress of captivity and conflict; family life had also been disastrous. Their daughter Katherine, born at some point after 1261, and at that date their only child, had died in September 1264. Another daughter, born in January 1265 and christened Joan, was dead within eight months (and thus perhaps never seen alive by her father). The benefits of peace, therefore, were anticipated in personal as well as political terms. By the time of the queen’s return in October, her daughter-in-law was once again pregnant.
Also returning to England at this moment, probably with his mother, was Edward’s younger brother, Edmund. Although his youth had precluded him from playing any major role in the tumultuous years leading up to Evesham, Edmund was nevertheless to become the greatest beneficiary of the controversial peace. While the court was still at Canterbury, he received from his father all the lands once held by Simon de Montfort, and in due course he received the late earl’s title too. The counterpart to his elevation, and adding to the general joy among the royal family at their reunion, was the departure of Henry’s sister, Eleanor de Montfort. The widowed countess, who had been holed up at Dover since her husband’s death, had surrendered to Edward just days before the queen’s return, and crossed the Channel into permanent exile.
Amid the comings and goings of familiar faces, there was one individual who stood out as an obvious newcomer. Ottobuono de Fieschi was an Italian by birth, a lawyer by training and, since 1252, a cardinal. Now, in the autumn of 1265, he had arrived in England in his new capacity as a legate a latere – that is, he had been sent from the pope’s side with extensive powers to act in the pope’s name. At the time of his appointment Montfort had still been in power, and Ottobuono had therefore been authorised, if necessary, to invade England with the assistance of the king of France. Evesham, however, had removed this unhappy prospect, and the legate was able to land peaceably at Dover in the company of the queen. He would, of course, still have much work to do, punishing and pardoning on the pope’s behalf, and helping to rebuild the authority of both the Crown and the Church. But the earl’s death and the collapse of his regime must have given Ottobuono reason to imagine that his task would be an easier one than he and his master in Rome had originally envisaged.
If so, he was soon disappointed. The vengeful policy of disinheritance proclaimed at Winchester was already working its pernicious effect. Montfortians who had been deprived of their lands by the king’s decision were taking to the woods and the fens, and preparing to resist his government like so many desperate Robin Hoods. In December the court moved to Northampton in readiness to tackle the rebel garrison at Kenilworth, but the planned assault had to be postponed because of the local risings that were breaking out in other parts of the country. Simon de Montfort junior, the royalists discovered, had already left his father’s castle and gone into Lincolnshire, where other disinherited men were rallying to his banner. The marshy and inaccessible region known as the Isle of Axholme provided them with a natural fortress.
The royalists were therefore obliged to divide their forces, and while Henry remained at Northampton, his eldest son set out to subdue the new rebel base. Left to his own devices, Edward felt free to pursue a more conciliatory line, and he soon brokered a deal with his adversaries. In return for a guarantee of life, limb and liberty, they agreed to submit to the king’s judgement at Easter. Young Simon came to Northampton to stand trial immediately, and was sentenced to a year’s exile.
With equal suddenness, however, these initiatives broke down. Simon took fright, fearing he would not be allowed to leave the country after all, and fled abroad in February. (A few months later, he was followed by his younger brother Guy.) The problem for the royalists, it was becoming clear, was not merely military; they were also struggling against the belief among their enemies that their promises counted for nothing.
What was true in general applied to Edward in particular. In retrospect, one tends to admire Edward’s cunning and courage in the years leading up to Evesham, and indeed in many of his actions contemporaries would have found nothing remiss. To some extent chivalry endorsed guile and deception. The advance into battle with borrowed Montfortian banners, for instance, would have been seen by most as nothing more than a clever ruse. Yet there had been other occasions during the war where Edward’s actions had amounted to perfidy – his escape from the city of Gloucester in early 1264 being especially notorious. On the strength of that episode, the author of The Song of Lewes had famously compared Edward to a leopard (leopardus in Latin, which rhymed with Edwardus). If we divide the word, he explained, it becomes leo (lion) and pardus (panther). To be a lion was good; they were commendably ferocious. Panthers, on the other hand, were apparently shifty and untrustworthy creatures, and that, averred the poet, was Edward’s problem. ‘A lion by pride and fierceness, he is by inconstancy and changeableness a panther, changing his word and promise, cloaking himself in pleasant speech. When he is in tight spot he promises whatever you wish, but as soon as he has escaped, his promise is forgotten.’
Saddled with such a reputation, all Edward could do was continue with his conciliatory stance and hope thereby to disprove his opponents’ negative assumptions. His first notable success in this regard came in mid-March, at which point he joined forces with his old friend Roger Leybourne. At the start of the year Leybourne had been charged with the task of securing the coastal towns of Kent and Sussex. The Cinque Ports, as they are still corporately known, had become a refuge for pirates and Montfortian sympathisers – it had been via the port of Winchelsea that Simon junior had made good his escape. Leybourne had set about reducing them to obedience with his usual flair for military operations, and had already succeeded in taking Sandwich by storm.
What ultimately won over Winchelsea, however, was not simply the combined land–sea assault that Edward and Leybourne proceeded to unleash, but the generosity of the concessions that the former now brought to the table. In return for their submission, the defenders were guaranteed all their lands and liberties, and freely pardoned all their recent crimes. The leniency of these terms seemed most unfair to the London chronicler who recorded them; just two months earlier Henry III had imposed a massive 20,000 mark fine on the capital in return for having a similar pardon. But the calculated clemency of the king’s son was soon seen to be paying dividends. The Cinque Ports remained conspicuously loyal thereafter, and Edward – in his new capacity as their warden – derived a personal profit from the peace he had imposed.
Nevertheless, this success was but a single swallow, not the sudden advent of summer. The royalist plan for April had been to resume the assault on Kenilworth, but the weeks after Easter witnessed a new wave of violence as the king’s opponents – the Disinherited, as they had now been popularly dubbed – failed to keep to the terms of their earlier surrender and instead went on the rampage. One group laid waste to the counties of East Anglia; others began to create similar havoc in the Midlands and in Hampshire. Rumour had it that the sons of Montfort had raised troops overseas and were poised to return. Once again, the royalists were forced to disperse to deal with the hydra that Henry III had ill-advisedly created.
At length, they began to obtain the upper hand. In mid-May Edward’s cousin and companion in captivity, Henry of Almain, scored a signal victory over one band of rebels at Chesterfield in Derbyshire, capturing some of the leaders and putting the rest to flight. A few days later Edward himself defeated another group that had been terrorising the people of Hampshire from their camp in Alton Wood. This encounter, which saw the heir to the throne engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the rebels’ leader, Adam Gurdon, soon became the stuff of legend. Edward was said to have been so impressed with the skill of his adversary that he allowed him generous terms of surrender. The reality was not quite so romantic: although Gurdon was spared, he was afterwards taken to Windsor for imprisonment. Nevertheless, the story shows how Edward’s reputation was beginning to improve. Far from being the duplicitous and bloodthirsty leopard, he was now spoken of as a model of chivalrous clemency.
By midsummer the royalists were again ready to resume their assault on Kenilworth, where the garrison was still determined to resist. The great stone fortress, modified and improved by Montfort, presented a formidable challenge, not least because of the great artificial lake that obstructed its western approaches. Reducing the castle would depend to a large extent on the skill of the king’s engineers, and thus, despite the use of barges from his own lordship of Chester, there was little for Edward himself to do. Command in this instance lay with his younger brother, Edmund, who had commenced the siege some weeks earlier and who, as Montfort’s successor, was also Kenilworth’s new lord.
This lull in Edward’s workload was timely, however, for his wife was approaching the end of her term, and the gap in his known itinerary suggests that he probably went to join her at Windsor. There, on the night of 13–14 July, Eleanor was safely delivered of a healthy baby, which to general rejoicing was a boy. The citizens of London demonstrated their delight by awarding themselves the following day off work, and danced through the streets as they had on the occasion of Edward’s birth twenty-seven years earlier. No doubt the father himself was equally pleased and proud, but the most noteworthy aspect of his response was the decision to call the new child John. At a time of continuing baronial rebellion, it seems remarkably bold, not to say brash, of Edward to have resurrected the name of his notorious grandfather, and to have bestowed it on the son who might one day succeed him.
The rebellion still showed no signs of diminishing. Soon after Edward’s return to Kenilworth – he reappears there in early August – news came of yet another outbreak in East Anglia. John Deyville, a committed Montfortian who had repeatedly evaded capture, had marshalled his fellow malcontents and seized the city of Ely. As with their earlier stand at Axholme, the Disinherited had found themselves another isolated fastness in the Fens, from which they were able to mount devastating raids against neighbouring towns and villages.
The prospect of seemingly ceaseless insurgency reinforced the argument for offering the rebels more lenient terms, and in August a parliament assembled at Kenilworth to determine precisely what these terms should be. Edward, to judge from his own generosity in the preceding months, is likely to have endorsed the moderate view, but, as at the start of the siege, he seems to have maintained a low profile during the discussions, perhaps deliberately. As it was, the final decision, announced at the end of October, was seen to be the work of Cardinal Ottobuono and Henry of Almain, who had jointly headed the debating committee. In the teeth of opposition from hard-liners such as Roger Mortimer, it was agreed that the rebels would be allowed to recover their lost lands in return for substantial fines – several times the annual rent of the properties concerned, the scale varying according to the degree of each individual’s offence. Since the fines raised from these manors would be paid to their royalist occupiers, nobody stood to lose out entirely. The rebels would eventually redeem their inheritances, and the royalists would still feel that they had been adequately rewarded.
The Dictum of Kenilworth, as this scheme became known, was a major step in the right direction. It induced many minor offenders, whose fines had been fixed at twice their annual incomes, to lay down their arms and accept the king’s peace. But the hardcore Montfortians at Kenilworth and Ely, expected to forego five years’ rent in return for forgiveness, rejected the deal as still too harsh and vowed to fight on. In the case of the Kenilworth garrison this constituted an act of considerable bravado, for their ability to resist was fading fast. In the end, after six months under siege, the prospect of imminent starvation induced them to surrender in the days immediately before Christmas.
At the start of the new year of 1267, therefore, it remained only to deal with the rebels ensconced at Ely, and in February the royalists reassembled at nearby Bury St Edmunds to begin the task. An exchange of messengers between the two camps confirmed that there was no hope of further compromise. Deyville and his colleagues were true disciples of Montfort, convinced of the righteousness of their cause. To Henry’s observation that he would be fully justified in retaining their lands forever, they replied that his redemption scheme was tantamount to disinheritance anyway. Military action was evidently the only option; Edward’s appearance at several coastal towns in January suggests that he was probably mustering the necessary naval support for an attack on the island city.
Yet again, however, as the royalists closed in to suppress what seemed to be the last centre of resistance, another sprang up. News now came from the north of a rising led by John de Vescy, a young and devoted acolyte of the late earl of Leicester (legend has it that he saved Montfort’s severed foot at Evesham and took it home to venerate). Although he had accepted the Dictum of Kenilworth, Vescy had latterly come to regret his decision; for him and others; the sight of their former opponents occupying their ancestral estates had evidently proved too much to stomach. Together they had formed a solemn league, forcibly reoccupied their lands and castles, and vowed to defend them.
On learning of this latest upset, Edward assembled a host of knights and sped north, arriving at Vescy’s castle of Alnwick around the end of March. As in similar confrontations of the previous year, it seems that some serious fighting ensued, and Alnwick was retaken by force. Once again, however, what struck contemporaries was Edward’s magnanimity in victory. ‘Pious and merciful’, enthused one London chronicler, ‘he not only put off vengeance, but offered his pardon to the offender’. It probably helped in this instance that Vescy, although an idealistic adherent of Montfort, had also grown up in the royal household, and it is fair to point out that after his surrender he still remained saddled with a substantial fine. Nevertheless, the swiftness with which Edward had quelled the northern rising was impressive, and neither Vescy nor his neighbours created any troubled thereafter. Indeed, as the same chronicler correctly noted, the young lord of Alnwick became one of Edward’s closest friends.
The king, by contrast, had enjoyed far less success against the stalwart defenders of Ely and was castigated for his inactivity on this score. Having decamped from Bury to Cambridge in order to begin his military operations, Henry had attempted to invade the island with a fleet of boats, but his attempt had ended in failure, and the royalists had been repulsed with heavy losses.
This setback, however, was the least of the king’s worries. Far worse was the alarming split that had arisen within his own ranks. Gilbert de Clare, the young earl of Gloucester, whose role in Montfort’s downfall had proved so crucial, had belatedly come out in support of the remaining rebels. In early April he had led a great number of his own troops to London, and Cardinal Ottobuono, charged with holding the city in the king’s name, had naively (and in spite of the concern expressed by the Londoners themselves) allowed his army to enter. The citizens fears were quickly realised. Once inside the walls Gloucester’s men had seized control, and were soon joined by some of the Disinherited from Ely, including John Deyville. The London mob, quiet since the previous year, had also declared in favour of this new alliance. The legate had fled to the Tower, which in consequence had been placed under siege. Meanwhile, across the rest of the capital, the rebels readied themselves for a final showdown. Great ditches were dug and earthworks raised around the city, as well as around the neighbouring borough of Southwark. This time, London would be ready to resist.
With Gloucester’s backing and the capital’s reoccupation, there was a real chance that sporadic insurgency could escalate into a new civil war. Towards the end of April Edward rejoined his father at Cambridge, bringing with him a large army he had recruited in northern England (and possibly even from the Lowlands of Scotland). Thus reinforced, the royalists marched towards London in early May. At the same moment the redoubtable Roger Leybourne was sent overseas to engage the services of foreign mercenaries, and Eleanor of Provence was stationed at Dover ready to receive them. Local levies and siege equipment were demanded from neighbouring counties in expectation of taking the capital by force.
Ultimately, however, reason and moderation averted the need for further bloodshed. Cardinal Ottobuono, having negotiated his way out of the Tower, played a major role, persuading the English clergy to contribute to a relief fund for the Disinherited. But the real heroes of the hour were Richard of Cornwall and the other moderate magnates who had condemned the harsh treatment of the rebels over eighteen months earlier. Under their auspices, a new agreement was reached, which saw a crucial amendment to the Dictum of Kenilworth. Henceforth, it was announced, rebels who agreed to redeem their lands would obtain repossession immediately, rather than (as had formerly been the case) at the end of their term of repayment. This had been Gloucester’s chief demand, and having obtained it he agreed to stand down his men. In mid-June the earl withdrew from London, allowing Henry III to enter a few days later and proclaim his peace. It remained only to bring the rump of rebels at Ely to heel, a task that fell to Edward, and that he accomplished the following month.
At long last, the disturbances of the past decade had come to an end. They would, of course, have ended far sooner had the victors of Evesham not embarked on their understandable but ill-judged policy of retribution. Instead, the battle had been followed by two more years of unnecessary violence and destruction. England, already in a terrible state of confusion at the time of Montfort’s death, had been reduced to total chaos. In almost every corner of the kingdom lordship and landholding were in dispute, and nowhere had escaped the repeated waves of destruction. During the recent occupation of London, even Henry III’s precious Palace of Westminster had been sacked, the looters making off with windows, doors and fireplaces.
But the work of reconstruction and regeneration could now finally begin, and the heavens themselves seemed to be in sympathy. Back in 1258, when the revolution had broken, the weather had been appalling, and in consequence a terrible famine had stalked the land. In 1267, by contrast, the bad times had clearly passed, and the air was filled with hope. One Londoner writing that summer noted with satisfaction the richness of the woods and the spinneys, the gardens and the cornfields, and concluded ‘this year was more fruitful than any in times past’.
‘Moreover,’ added another of the capital’s contented inhabitants, ‘an enormous amount of Gascon wine was imported.’
In these days of renewed optimism, there was no greater cause for hope than the character of the heir to the throne. More than any other individual, Edward had been transformed by the tumultuous events of the past ten years. The swaggering youth whose irresponsible excesses had been lamented by the late Matthew Paris was gone; in his place was a man who, at twenty-eight, had proved his ability on almost every relevant score. The civil war, culminating in the two great battles of Lewes and Evesham, had shown that he possessed a general’s skill and a lion’s courage. The hard-won peace that had eventually followed had allowed him to demonstrate his flair for persuasion and to repair his associated reputation for panther-like duplicity. Without question, Edward had emerged as the most powerful figure in English politics. More than ever before, he looked like a king in waiting.
And yet who knew how long he would have to wait? Henry III, at almost sixty, was old but hardly ancient; despite his tendency to complain of ill-health, he might soldier on for several years to come. In such a scenario, Edward would have to assume a much more subdued role than the one he had been playing of late. He could, of course, assist his father in the business of government, but for the next few years government promised to be a tedious business of settling land disputes. Equally, he could attend to his own estates, but here too there was little prospect of genuine excitement. The one arena that would have presented a challenge was Wales, but Edward’s concerns there had lately been ceded to others. His lands in south Wales had been transferred to his younger brother in 1265; those in the north had been lost to Llywelyn ap Gruffudd in the summer of 1263, when the castles of Dyserth and Deganwy had finally fallen, and there was no question, given England’s exhaustion and instability, of recovering them at any point soon. Accordingly, in the late summer of 1267, Henry and his sons travelled to the Welsh border and granted Llywelyn a permanent peace.
What Edward and his friends craved was fresh adventure. Their desire for further opportunities to prove their martial prowess is clear from the numerous tournaments they organised in the autumn of 1267. But counterfeit combat was no substitute for the real thing, to which recent events had made them accustomed; these young but experienced warriors now required an altogether larger stage for their ambitions. The answer to their predicament was therefore obvious – the natural next step for knights in search of renown. Edward and his friends should go on crusade.
The idea of an English crusade had hung fire since the mid-1250s, at which point Henry III’s half-baked plan of leading an expedition had finally collapsed. To some extent the king’s dalliance in this highly emotive area of foreign policy had been the cause of his domestic crisis. Having initially vowed to fight in the Holy Land, he had subsequently fallen in with the pope’s suggestion that the kingdom of Sicily would make an equally legitimate target. Alas for Henry, his subjects had begged to differ, and ultimately overcome his bull-headed intransigence on this and other issues by depriving him of power. As a result, the only holy war that Englishmen had experienced had been a kind of ironic parody. In 1263 Montfort and his youthful devotees had decided that their cause was so righteous that it constituted a crusade; a little later the papacy had thrown its weight behind the royalists and conferred crusade status on their struggle to overthrow Montfort. Both sides, it seems, had ridden into battle at Evesham with crosses stitched to their surcoats.
By this time, however, the papacy had reverted to its original tune and placed the Holy Land back at the top of its military agenda. In 1263 a new call to arms had been issued to the princes of Europe, exhorting them to go east. Needless to say, it had fallen on deaf ears in war-torn England, but the subsequent coming of peace had encouraged the pope to renew his efforts. Promoting the new crusade was a major part of Cardinal Ottobuono’s remit as papal legate; with the help of the English clergy, he had begun a propaganda drive soon after his arrival. To some extent, it sat well with his other aim of bringing reconciliation. From the time of the First Crusade onwards, preachers of the cross had urged Christians to stop sinfully fighting against each other, and to head east instead, so that they could righteously slaughter the infidel.
But in the fraught atmosphere after Evesham, not everyone was convinced. In February 1267 the rebels in Ely had responded with scorn to the suggestion that they should leave the country at the pope’s say-so. To them Ottobuono’s presence was simply a reminder of the disreputable schemes concocted by the Crown and the papacy a decade earlier; his message was clearly a cynical plot to remove Englishmen from England so that their lands might be given to foreigners. Even once peace had been restored, such attitudes proved hard to dispel. The cardinal preached the cross in London immediately after Henry III had reoccupied the city, but few of those who responded to his call were former rebels.
Among royalists, by contrast, the response was rather more encouraging. Those receiving the redemption fines imposed after the peace were obviously in a better financial position to go on crusade than those obliged to pay them. Moreover, apart from sheer kicks, there were two additional factors that gave the king’s supporters greater motivation. First, and most obviously, there was a strong religious imperative. The victors of Evesham would have felt a great debt of gratitude to God, as well as the need to atone for the exceptional level of bloodshed. Secondly, and probably no less importantly, there was once again the matter of Anglo-French rivalry. In March 1267 Louis IX had announced his intention of taking the cross for the second time. This had been the essential breakthrough as far as the papacy was concerned, but for the English royal family, their friends and relatives, it merely drew attention to the unfulfilled vows they had sworn in 1250. To hesitate again could only magnify their existing embarrassment on this score.
What made sense to royalists in general, however, seemed altogether less sensible in the case of the heir to the throne. Edward was the best guarantor of stability and guardian of the Crown’s interests; were he removed, even for a short time, the kingdom might again descend into chaos. Henry III, for all his religious conviction, was clearly appalled at the prospect of losing his eldest son, and many others must have shared in his concern. Representations were evidently made to the pope, who responded in early 1268 by reiterating them in a letter to Edward and urging him not to go. A little later, recognising that Henry remained anxious to have his venerable vow fulfilled by proxy, the pope suggested that his second son, Edmund, would make a more suitable substitute.
But Edward was undeterred by such objections. In his mind it was an equally unconscionable thought that his friends should go without him. His household, although composed for the most part of Englishmen, still contained some high-ranking French knights, several of whom had travelled to the East with Louis IX a generation before and who must have been particularly influential. The same was true of Louis himself, who had become close to Edward, his nephew, as a consequence of their frequent contact during the 1260s. The French king’s encouragement and the example of his countrymen evidently counted for more than the admonitions of Henry III and the pope. By the end of 1267, if not before, Edward had resolved to go.
At length, the objectors in England were won over. Cardinal Ottobuono was soon convinced that an English crusade would go ahead only if Edward was its leader, and Henry III was eventually talked round in the early months of 1268. By the start of the summer the stage was set, and a special parliament was summoned to Northampton – a location almost certainly selected because of its spectacular church of the Holy Sepulchre, built by a knight of the First Crusade in imitation of the original he had seen in Jerusalem. There, on Sunday, 24 June 1268 – the feast of St John the Baptist – Ottobuono preached the pope’s message, and Edward, his brother Edmund and their cousin Henry of Almain all responded by taking the cross. Hundreds of others followed their example. For the most part they were royalists, such as Roger Clifford, Roger Leybourne and William de Valence, but a handful of former rebels also joined their company. John de Vescy, the rehabilitated lord of Alnwick, was one. Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester, was another, and by far the most important in terms of portraying the crusade as a pathway to reconciliation. The carefully co-ordinated ceremony was clearly a breakthrough moment, and represented the culmination of Cardinal Ottobuono’s efforts. His mission in England completed, the legate left for home the following month.
With regard to the ceremony at Northampton, two other important points deserve to be noted. First, the exultation that day followed on directly from the joyous scenes of the previous month, when Edward and Eleanor had celebrated the birth of their second son, whom they named Henry in honour of his grandfather. Second, the fact that she was now a mother to two small children in no way deterred Eleanor from taking the cross herself. Women were in general discouraged from going on crusade, but by the thirteenth century it had become quite common for ladies of the highest rank to accompany their husbands eastward. Eleanor de Montfort, for example, had done so in the 1240s, as had Queen Margaret of France. On this occasion the French queen was happily staying behind, but her son Philip was planning to take his wife, Isabel, and Edward’s youngest sister, Beatrice, intended to travel with her husband, the son of the duke of Brittany. Given this context, Eleanor of Castile was almost bound to participate. Indeed, given her closeness to Edward, her well-attested fondness for chivalric pursuits, and also the fact that she was the daughter of Ferdinand III, one of Spain’s greatest crusading heroes, it would have been altogether more surprising had Eleanor elected to remain at home.
As for Henry III in the 1250s, so too now for his son, the question became one of preparation and, more specifically, money. To go on crusade had always been an extremely costly undertaking. From the time of the First Crusade onwards, knights had been forced to mortgage or sell their estates in order to raise the necessary funds to maintain themselves and their dependants during the many months, often running into years, that an expedition might last.
Such personal economies were still in order in 1268, but there were also some alternative sources of funding available. By the thirteenth century, crusading had become a well-organised, centrally managed institution under the direction of the pope. The papacy, in fact, had pioneered many of the fund-raising techniques still employed by international charities today. Collection boxes were placed in churches; people were prompted to leave bequests in their wills. The papacy had even hit upon the neat idea of encouraging the non-military members of society to take the cross, then allowing them to redeem their vows in exchange for a cash payment. Using all the money raised by such methods, the Church was able to subsidise the kind of crusaders that were really wanted – warriors with the appropriate experience and equipment.
In theory, therefore, Edward should have been able to lay his hands on such funds. The problem was that, because of his father’s earlier opposition, his initial application for a grant had been declined. Following Henry’s subsequent volte-face, Ottobuono had endeavoured to reverse this decision, commending Edward to the pope as a doughty leader worthy of financial support. Alas, however, the pope died before he could be prevailed upon to change his mind, and the college of cardinals fell into a protracted argument over who should be his successor. Thus, for the foreseeable future, Edward was unable to count on obtaining funds from what should have been the most obvious source.
Denied money by the Church, Edward determined to raise it instead from the laity. In the autumn of 1268 plans were laid to convince parliament to finance a crusade by means of a national tax. This was nothing if not ambitious. To begin with, the country had only recently emerged from years of devastating civil war. More to the point, that war had been provoked, in part, by the excessive financial demands of the Crown. By the time of the famous Oxford parliament of 1258, the knights of the shire had become so fed up with Henry III’s oppressive government that they had been willing to support its overthrow. Some of them, for the same reason, had subsequently gone on to support Simon de Montfort. The revolution might now have been reversed, and Montfort might have been dead and buried, but the grievances that had given force to both remained very much alive. It had been over thirty years since parliament had agreed to approve a royal request for tax. Unless the complaints of local society were answered, it was a situation that was unlikely to change.
Edward thus faced a seemingly impossible situation. To persuade men to vote him money, he would have to address their grievances, yet to address their grievances, he would have to ease their financial burden. It was similar to the vicious circle that had defeated his father. Unable to obtain parliament’s consent to taxation, Henry had ordered his sheriffs, foresters and justices to raise more revenues. This, in turn, only made the men of the localities feel even more oppressed, and thus rendered them even less likely to vote the king a tax the next time he summoned a parliament.
Any attempt to conciliate local opinion therefore had to be carefully judged; it would have made no sense to cede the right to any regular form of revenue in the vague hope that this might engender enough goodwill to permit the collection of a one-off tax. What was needed was a targeted concession: something that would ease the demands, not on everyone’s pockets, but specifically on those of the knights in parliament. For this reason, Edward proposed legislation against the Jews.
As the popularity of crusading implies, thirteenth-century England was an aggressively Christian country, and it would not be incorrect to say that Christianity dominated the lives of each and every one of its 3 to 4 million inhabitants. It would be incorrect, however, to claim that the kingdom was entirely uniform in its religious observance, for amid this massive Christian majority lived a tiny number of non-believers. The Jews had first arrived in England shortly after the Norman Conquest, at which point they had established a small community in London. Two centuries later they could be found dwelling in most of the country’s major towns and cities, yet collectively they still accounted for no more than 5,000 people.
As a minority population, marked out as different by their faith and rituals (and to some extent their appearance and dress), the Jews were always liable to be marginalised and persecuted. In one respect, however, difference had given them a distinct advantage. In the late twelfth century the pope had forbidden Christians from practising usury, or lending money at interest. In so doing he effectively created a Jewish moneylending monopoly. From that moment on, any Christian wishing to obtain financial credit, from the humblest local landowner to the king of England himself, had to look to the Jews to provide it.
Needless to say, while being moneylenders made the Jews necessary, it hardly made them any more popular, and they would not have survived for long had they not been protected by the English Crown. Unfortunately, such protection came at a price, and that price was systematic exploitation. Almost as soon as their monopoly of the credit market had been established, it was decided that the Jews were, in effect, the king’s property, much as if they had been unfree peasants living on one of his manors. As such, the king could tax them at will, imposing a so-called ‘tallage’ whenever he felt the need. It also meant that when a Jew died, all his assets went to the Crown, including any outstanding loans he had made that had yet to be collected.
To contemporary Christians, none of this seemed in any way unreasonable: the Jews, it was felt, should be kept in their place, just as unfree peasants were. If anything, the Crown’s treatment was regarded in many quarters – Rome, for instance – as rather too lenient. Put crudely, if the king wanted his Jews to turn a profit, it behoved him to keep his demands moderate, and allow the Jewish community to prosper. For the first part of the thirteenth century, this was by and large what had happened. By the time of Edward’s birth in 1239, thanks to their special relationship with the Crown, England’s Jews were probably the most prosperous in Europe.
But thereafter Henry III, with characteristic incompetence, had contrived to wreck the system. Unable to obtain taxation from parliament to fund his misguided European adventures, Henry had turned to the Jews and tallaged them without mercy. In the two decades after 1240, the king had unthinkingly extorted a total of nearly 100,000 marks, taking twice the annual average that had been customary before this point. As a result, by the early 1260s, the prosperity of the Jewish community had been broken beyond repair.
The financial persecution of a small, infidel minority might have elicited no more than a general shrug of indifference had that minority not also been moneylenders. As it was, Henry’s rapacious harrying of the Jews had knock-on effects that were equally disastrous for many of his Christian subjects. Inevitably, once their own savings had been exhausted, Jewish creditors looked to recover the monies they had loaned to others. It was similarly inevitable, however, that their clients could not offer immediate repayment. Thus, in order to meet the king’s pressing demands for cash, the Jews were forced to take the extreme step of selling their loans on to others at a heavy discount. A debt of £100, for example, might be sold for £50, or even far less, if the need for quick capital was sufficiently desperate.
So far, so uncontroversial: it hardly mattered to Christians if a few Jewish moneylenders went to the wall in this way. The problem for Christians lay in the motives of those who were the purchasers in this new market. Discounted Jewish debts were typically snapped up by the richest individuals at Henry III’s court – William de Valence and Richard of Cornwall were two of the most prominent pioneers in the field. Such men were not concerned to recover the principal of a loan, nor even (as the Jews themselves were) the considerable interest that would accumulate on it. The target on which their acquisitive eyes were fixed was the property against which the loan had been secured. Having obtained a debt, there was nothing to stop an unscrupulous Christian speculator from demanding immediate repayment of the entire sum – repayment that, naturally, the unfortunate debtor would not be able to produce. This being the case, the speculator could simply foreclose on the debt and seize whatever lands had been put up as collateral. A modern analogy would be a bank suddenly deciding to sell its mortgages to an individual who refused to respect the repayment terms, and who began repossessing the properties on which the mortgages had been secured.
Thus the effects of Henry III’s punitive taxation of the Jews had been felt far beyond the Jewish community itself. For a few very wealthy courtiers with capital to spare, it had created a new and easy way to obtain lands. For the majority of lesser landowners, by contrast, it had created nothing but misery and distress. Some, having done nothing more than take on perfectly serviceable debts from the only available source, had found themselves partially or totally disinherited. Others – anyone else who still owed money to the Jews – had in consequence become extremely anxious lest the same should happen to them. Reform had been demanded in 1258, but nothing had been done. In 1260, at the time of Edward and Montfort’s Easter rising, the Jewish exchequer, where records of debt were kept, had been raided and robbed of its rolls. Finally, during the years of civil war violence, attacks on the Jews themselves had begun. Between 1263 and 1267 there were massacres in, among other places, London, Canterbury, Winchester, Lincoln, Bristol, Nottingham and Worcester. Angry, fearful Montfortian knights, already encouraged to be anti-Semitic by their Christian religion, struck down their creditors in the hope of erasing the evidence of their indebtedness. The restoration of peace had brought an end to these attacks, but the problems associated with Jewish credit remained.
It was these problems that Edward proposed to remedy in the hope that he could thereby appease the knightly class, and thus obtain the tax for his crusade. At the start of 1269 he and Henry of Almain pushed for a raft of legal restrictions on Jewish moneylending aimed at curtailing its abuse by rich Christians. Debts to Jews, they suggested, should not be sold to Christians without prior permission from the king; those that were ought not to gather interest. In addition, they advocated doing away altogether with so-called ‘rentcharges’ – a novel device whereby a debtor made annual payments from his property in return for his loan, and another means by which predatory magnates were wont to snap up encumbered estates.
But when these measures were published in the Easter parliament of 1269 they failed to have the desired effect. The knights of the shires had witnessed plenty of well-intentioned but toothless legislation passed in the previous decade; it may well have been that they insisted on seeing these new measures enforced before they would consider the question of money. This, in turn, may have provoked opposition from those great men in attendance who had a vested interest in the existing operation of Jewish credit and who no doubt hoped that the new laws would simply be left to gather dust. Whatever the case, no effort was subsequently made to enforce the restrictions, and no consent was obtained for a grant of taxation.
Edward was running out of options. If neither the clergy nor the laity would grant him financial aid, his crusade was doomed to fail. In the relentless search for funds a certain desperation was already apparent. In the early months of 1269 his father had handed him the custody (and hence the revenues) of seven royal castles, eight counties and the city of London. Later, in April, his brother Edmund was married to a rich heiress, Avelina de Forz, who stood to inherit the earldoms of Devon and Aumale, the Isle of Wight and extensive lands in Yorkshire. Lastly, in May, there was an exceedingly shabby episode whereby both brothers and several of their powerful friends – Henry of Almain and William de Valence chief among them – conspired to deprive the earl of Derby, Robert de Ferrers, of all his property. A former Montfortian, Ferrers was also a foolish young man who had clashed several times with Edward during the course of the war. He should nonetheless have been allowed to stand, like other rebels, to the Dictum of Kenilworth and recover his estates by redemption. That he was not is testimony to the personal animosity Ferrers aroused in both Edward and his fellow crusaders, but above all it underlines their greed: the earl’s estates and titles, extorted from him under duress, were duly transferred to Edmund.
While the magnates of England floundered in their struggle to raise money, in France the crusade was gaining an unstoppable momentum. Louis IX, in his capacity as the expedition’s undisputed captain, had summoned a final council of war to Paris that summer, which Edward dutifully attended in August. The meeting was not without its benefits. The French king took pity on his hard-up nephew and furnished him with a loan of £17,000 (the sum to be repaid over twelve years from the customs revenues of Bordeaux). Although not nearly enough to cover all costs, this was at least a sizeable step in the right direction. In other ways, however, the Paris summit compounded the pressure on Edward. During their debates Louis and the other leaders fixed a firm date for their departure. The crusade would leave from southern France, it was agreed, in one year’s time – whether the English were ready or not.
Part of Edward’s problem was the attitude of his father. Although Henry III continued to pay lip-service to the idea of going on crusade and had dropped his objection to his eldest son’s involvement, his overriding ambition lay in a different (and to some extent opposing) direction. Whereas Edward intended to thank God for his victory at Evesham by going east, Henry wished to celebrate his divine deliverance at home, on his doorstep. The new church at Westminster Abbey, begun in 1245, was still a long way from completion (the east end and the transepts were finished, but the nave was only half-built). Nevertheless, enough had been done for the king to prepare for the reburial of Edward the Confessor, his hero, whose tomb had been removed when construction work had started. Henry’s hopes had evidently been pinned for some time on a dedication service in 1269: that year’s liturgical calendar was a rare, exact match with the calendar of 1163, when the Confessor’s body had last been translated. Ever since his restoration to power, the king had urged on the works relentlessly, ploughing whatever spare cash he could find into finishing the abbey’s ceremonial sections. Everything had to be ready by the feast of St Edward on 13 October; Henry intended it to be the climactic moment of his long and troubled reign.
Edward returned from France in good time to participate. Viewed optimistically, there was a chance that his father’s day of triumph might occasion a breakthrough for the crusade. To witness his supreme moment, Henry had summoned an especially large parliament. If its lesser members were sufficiently dazzled by the spiritual experience, they might well condescend to approve the much-needed tax grant.
Alas, the great day did not go quite as planned. The dedication went ahead, and the saint’s body was reverently moved to its new, not-quite-finished shrine: Henry, Richard of Cornwall, Edward and Edmund carried the Confessor’s coffin in a solemn procession around the church themselves. But before the ceremony there were arguments over precedence between the officiating archbishop of York and the rest of the clergy, and a similar row arose between the citizens of London and Winchester ahead of the feast that followed. Moreover, while the new church was undeniably awesome, and the king’s hospitality excited ‘the admiration and wonder of all’, neither was enough to alter the mood of the knights in parliament. Asked once again to sanction the collection of tax, they once again refused.
Nor was that the only problem. Notably absent from the dedication of the new abbey was Gilbert de Clare, the easily displeased earl of Gloucester. Although he had taken the cross at Northampton the previous year, Gilbert had subsequently become irritated on a number of scores with both Edward and Henry (he had been particularly irked by concessions made in the March of Wales to Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, which hurt his own interests in the region). Isolated incidents seemed like a concerted campaign to get him; the contemptible treatment of his one-time ally Robert de Ferrers cannot have done much to allay his fears. According to one chronicler, the earl now professed to be staying away from court in the autumn of 1269 because he believed that Edward was plotting to capture him.
Far from uniting men in common purpose, the crusade appeared to be deepening the divisions between them. The knights of the shires, still aggrieved with the king’s government, refused to subsidise the adventure. Former Montfortians, burdened by their redemption fines, had mostly declined to take part. From the first the expedition had threatened to drive a new wedge between Edward and his father, and to some extent Henry’s support remained equivocal. Now the earl of Gloucester, the single greatest participant after Edward himself, seemed disaffected to a point that might jeopardise the realm’s fragile peace. None of this boded well for a departure in ten months’ time. And yet, at the same time, the crusade could not be abandoned. Financially, because of his agreement with Louis IX, and spiritually, because of his vow at Northampton, Edward was bound to go.
Even the spiritual obligations were more complicated and onerous than might have been wished. Some four years prior to taking the cross, Edward had made another solemn promise before God. The occasion had been one of his several sea crossings in the winter of 1263–64, a voyage that apparently became so perilous that the passengers had feared for their lives. There was a strong tradition among medieval aristocrats, when faced with such circumstances, of swearing to found a religious house in the event of their deliverance, and at the time Edward had shown no hesitation in upholding it. As a consequence, he had not one but two vows to honour, and he could hardly consider embarking on a crusade (which would entail, among manifold other dangers, more sea voyages) until the earlier one had been fulfilled. It was probably for this reason that he left Westminster at the end of 1269 and travelled to his own lordship of Chester. He had already determined that his religious house, a Cistercian abbey, should be situated at Darnhall, near Winsford, but he may have wished to inspect the sight for himself and perhaps also, in view of his financial straits, to moderate the scale of its endowment.
Edward thus spent both Christmas and New Year in the north-west, but he had few other reasons to celebrate. If he was to join the crusade he would have to leave England in six months’ time, yet the obstacles in his path still seemed insurmountable. In February, at which point he returned south, there was hope that his breach with Gilbert de Clare could be healed by the intervention of Louis IX. This plan, however, came to nothing. According to a Kentish chronicler, the earl crossed the Channel to Paris, but paid no heed to the French king’s counsels.
When parliament reassembled after Easter, therefore, it represented Edward’s last chance both to settle with Clare and to obtain the crucial tax. Fortunately, in the case of the former, matters got off to an encouraging start. The earl soon agreed to the suggestion that his quarrel with Edward should be put to arbitration, and Richard of Cornwall, that seasoned settler of disputes, was drafted in to devise a suitable compromise. Meanwhile, Edward and the other crusaders must have set about persuading the knights of the shire to vote in favour of a subsidy. Records of parliament at this date are virtually non-existent, so one can only imagine how much hard bargaining, arm twisting and bribery took place between the session’s opening and the crucial vote a fortnight later. One of the chief demands of the shire knights must have been a confirmation of Magna Carta (on which more later), for Henry in due course obliged them on just this score. The key concession, however, is likely to have been a firm commitment to enforce the restrictions on Jewish moneylending, introduced but seemingly stifled the previous year. When, on 14 May, the king instructed the exchequer to enforce the legislation with immediate effect, thereby relieving a large section of the local landowners in parliament of the burden of the Jewish debts, it was a clear quid pro quo. Two days earlier, the crusade tax had finally been approved.
Suddenly everything was possible. Henry III was so thrilled by this last-minute breakthrough that a week later he announced his intention of joining the expedition (a fit of enthusiasm that was mercifully short lived). Another week on and Richard of Cornwall succeeded in resolving Edward’s dispute with Gilbert de Clare. It took a further month to hammer out the precise terms, but on 27 May it was agreed that neither man would wage war on the lands of the other, and that Gilbert would set out for the East a year after Edward’s departure.
That departure now had to follow very fast if the English were to make the French deadline; the weeks of waiting while the first fruits of the tax were gathered must have been hugely frustrating. During this time Edward drew up formal contracts with the men who would be serving under him, which reveal that his force numbered 225 knights. Every crusader, however, would have travelled with a number of attendants: Eleanor of Castile, for example, was taking her steward, her valet, her tailor and two of her clerks. In total, therefore, the English army probably numbered around a thousand people.
At last, all was ready, and the court moved to Winchester for a final round of preparations. On 2 August Edward appointed a committee of five men, headed by Richard of Cornwall, to supervise his lands and affairs during his absence. The earl was also nominated as the guardian of his godson’s three children – John, now four, and Henry, two, had recently been joined by baby Eleanor. The same day, Edward issued the foundation charter for his abbey at Darnhall, and two days later he was formally made his father’s proxy when Henry III at last resigned his twenty-year-old vow. The crusaders then moved to Portsmouth, where the fleet that would convey them across the Channel was waiting, but contrary winds and the death of the archbishop of Canterbury meant they had to wait a further fortnight. It was not until 20 August, having first been diverted to Dover, that Edward, Eleanor and their companions finally set sail for France.
They had already been cutting it fine; now they were officially late. Louis IX and the other crusaders had resolved to set out from southern France no later than 18 August. Edward’s original intention had been to travel via Gascony, in order to provide for the duchy’s security and to collect more men and supplies. This plan now had to be abandoned. In an attempt to make up lost time, the English army passed directly through France, covering more than 600 miles in the space of a month. By the end of September they had reached the appointed rendezvous, Aigues Mortes, a port on the Mediterranean coast, developed by Louis at the time of his first crusading adventure.
It must have been disappointing, if not altogether surprising, to discover that the French king and his companions were already long gone. Perhaps aware of Edward’s delay, and no doubt unwilling to watch an idle army consume his carefully stockpiled supplies, Louis had peremptorily set out at the beginning of July. The surprise lay not in his premature departure but in his direction of travel. The French fleet had not sailed east, as expected, but south. Astonishingly, in spite of the years of planning and the pressing needs of the Holy Land, Louis had made a last-minute alteration to his itinerary, and decided to lead his army to North Africa.
The instigator of this unexpected and seemingly perverse decision was the king’s youngest brother, Charles of Anjou. An adventurous and fiercely ambitious man, Charles had recently succeeded where Henry III had so conspicuously failed, and established himself as king of Sicily. Invested by the pope in 1266, he had subsequently cemented his rule by conquering the island and beheading his German rival. Now he wished to carve out a wider Mediterranean empire and was targeting Tunis on the African coast. Of old the emirs there had paid a gold tribute to Sicily’s kings, but latterly this custom had lapsed, and Tunis had become a refuge for Charles’s enemies. The new king was determined to reverse the situation, and saw in his elder brother’s crusade the perfect instrument. Somehow he persuaded Louis that the Holy Land’s interests would be best served by a strike on Tunis; a rumour that the emir was ready to convert to Christianity may have helped him argue his case.
One can only wonder at the reaction of Edward and his companions on being told that the crusade for which they had saved and struggled for so long had been redirected in such an apparently whimsical fashion. (And, one is bound to wonder, had they arrived sooner, would they have been able to prevent its redirection?) As it was, they saw little option but to follow where the main French army had led. In early October they set out from Aigues Mortes in Louis’s wake, clearly unaware that any hope of uniting with the French king were already in vain.
For Louis was already dead. He had died on 25 August, just days after Edward had left England, carried off by a plague that had struck the French army soon after its arrival in Africa. Several hundred other Frenchmen had also succumbed, and the survivors had concluded that the best way forward was a negotiated retreat. Charles of Anjou, whom providence had deigned to spare, had succeeded in obtaining the promises he needed from the Tunisian emir, and saw no reason to prolong hostilities. Thus, by the time the English arrived on 9 November, the African adventure was over. Edward was reportedly appalled to discover that a peace deal had already been reached and that the French had already begun their withdrawal. Faced for a second time with a fait accompli, and perhaps wondering whether they would get to do any fighting at all, the English crusaders agreed to Charles’s suggestion that they should sail to Sicily before deciding how to proceed.
In the event the decision was made for them. On reaching Sicily, the French fleet put in at Trapani, a town on the island’s western tip, only to be smashed to pieces by a great storm. More men and horses were lost, as well as a great deal of treasure and supplies. It was enough to persuade Louis’s son and successor, Philip III, who was no doubt still reeling from the loss of his father and a younger brother, that the crusade was a doomed enterprise. In January 1271 he departed back in the direction of France, taking the overland route through Italy, leading what had essentially become a great funeral procession.
The storm was no less decisive for the English, but pointed them in a different direction. Edward’s ships had found an alternative anchorage – possibly Palermo – and had been spared destruction. This was taken as a sign of divine approval: God had protected them and clearly intended them to continue. There were evidently some voices in the English camp urging caution, perhaps fearful that France, after Louis’s death, would prove an unstable neighbour. Edward, in response, detached Henry of Almain from his side and sent him north with the retreating French army, intending that his cousin should bolster the governments of England and Gascony. But beyond this, the thoughts of the English that winter were focused on completing the mission to which they were sworn. Fresh ships were hired and fresh supplies gathered, and when Edward put to sea once more in the spring, his course was set firmly for the East.
More specifically, it was set for Outremer – the Christian lands ‘beyond the sea’. Some 170 years earlier, in their quest to capture Jerusalem, the first crusaders had conquered a broad swathe of territory along the eastern Mediterranean coast. At Antioch, Tripoli and Edessa, these pioneers had established themselves as counts and princes, while in the Holy City itself they had set themselves up as kings.
And, for a time, their dominions had flourished. Settlers came from the West, building castles, cathedrals, towns and villages. Pious knights vowed to defend the new colonies, banding together in brotherhood to form revolutionary new organisations – the military orders of the Hospital and the Temple. At its greatest extent, Outremer stretched over a hundred miles inland, and as far south as the shores of the Red Sea.
This age of expansion, however, had not lasted for long. In the generations that followed, the Muslim world recovered its composure and retaliated. By the end of the twelfth century the kingdom of Jerusalem had been reduced to a narrow coastal strip, and its kings, having lost the Holy City itself in 1187, were reduced to ruling from the port of Acre (modern-day Akko).
After these upheavals came half a century of comparative stability. In spite of fresh crusades and Muslim counteroffensives, the territorial status quo was preserved. Such significant alterations as did take place – the brief Christian reoccupation of Jerusalem, for example, negotiated by Richard of Cornwall – owed more to a prevailing spirit of practical accommodation that to the periodic outbursts of militancy.
But in the interval between Cornwall’s crusade and the coming of his nephew the political landscape of the Holy Land had again been radically transformed, and militancy was once more in the ascendant. The obliging Islamic rulers with whom the earl had treated were gone, swept away by revolution; the Mamluks, their former soldier-slaves, were now the masters of the Muslim state, and they were altogether less inclined to do deals with the infidel. From 1260, under the leadership of the short but ferocious Sultan al-Zahir Baybars, they had switched to the offensive, and soon the castles and cities of Outremer had begun to fall like ripe fruit. Caeserea, fortified at great expense by Louis IX, was taken in 1265; Antioch, the city of song and legend, fell just three years later. When, in the spring of 1271, Crac des Chevaliers, the greatest of all the crusader castles, surrendered after a prolonged siege, it seemed as if these were the end days for Christian rule in the East.
Thus, for the citizens of Acre, the sight of an English fleet sailing into their harbour just a few weeks later could hardly have been more timely or more welcome. Prior to that point, as one chronicler credibly reported, they had been completely demoralised, and contemplating the unhappy prospect of having to surrender to the sultan’s forces. But, the same writer continued, the coming of Edward and his companions in the second week of May gave them fresh hope, and encouraged them to believe that they might weather the impending storm.
Baybars, when he heard of Edward’s arrival, also experienced a change of heart. At that moment he was over a hundred miles to the north, still engaged in his military campaign, and advancing with what a Muslim chronicler called ‘resolute determination’ towards the Christian city of Tripoli. On hearing the news from Acre, however, ‘his resolution weakened somewhat’. Tripoli was granted a ten-year truce, and the sultan moved south to deal with the source of his distraction.
He came, no doubt, partly to size up his new foe, but mostly to demonstrate the extent of his own might. In early June he arrived in the vicinity of Acre, but made no immediate move against the city itself. Instead, he attacked the nearby castle of Montfort, which succumbed after a short siege. Only then did Baybars complete his advance, taking with him the castle’s captured garrison, which he proceeded to release right in front of Acre’s walls.
For those inside the city, especially the newcomers, this calculated display of magnanimity was a deeply dispiriting sight. The English, as we have seen, numbered no more than a few hundred knights, plus their lesser attendants. Mamluk armies, by contrast, were typically reckoned in thousands, and sometimes tens of thousands. The disparity in this instance was not lost on the leader of the new crusade as he looked out from Acre’s battlements. ‘When Edward saw the sultan’s host, and his great power,’ said one local chronicler, ‘he knew well that he did not have enough men to fight him.’ Baybars’ message was clear: the English, like Outremer’s other Christian inhabitants, were there at his sufferance. The following morning, once it was evident that no one was going to contest this assertion, he withdrew his forces.
Unfortunately for the English, this was not to be their only lesson in the harsh realities of life in the Holy Land. The following month, ignoring the sultan’s warning, Edward led a retributive raid into Muslim territory. His target was the castle at St Georges Lebeyne (modern al-Bi’na), some twelve miles east of Acre, and by all accounts his troops did plenty of damage, seizing some crops, destroying others, and killing many unfortunate Muslims. But, as the same accounts attest, there were also numerous casualties among the crusaders; July, the English discovered, is not the best time to don a mail shirt in the Middle East. So great was the heat that many of them died of thirst, their departure apparently hastened by an unfamiliar diet of fruit, raisins and honey.
It thus became evident to Edward that if he was to have any hope of beating Baybars he must do two things. First, he must wait for it to cool down a bit. Second, he must find himself some allies. The men of Acre, including the Knights Templar and the Knights Hospitaller, could clearly be counted on, for they had participated in the raid on St Georges. So too could the titular king of Jerusalem, Hugh de Lusignan. He had already aided the English once before, inasmuch as he was also the king of Cyprus, and the crusaders had briefly stopped on the island during the last stage of the voyage. The hope now became that he could help them again in the same capacity. His Cypriot subjects took some convincing – it is 150 miles from Cyprus to Acre – but at length (and after Edward’s personal intervention) they also agreed to provide military service. And so, as the summer days grew shorter, the list of allies lengthened. In September it received a further boost when Edward’s brother Edmund belatedly arrived, bringing more reinforcements from England.
By themselves, such efforts might seem a futile waste of time – mere wishful thinking on the part of a man who been told too many stories about his Lionhearted ancestor. Trying to defend a beleaguered city was one thing; dreaming of defeating Baybars was quite another. The first might be construed as a noble cause; the second seemed more like suicide. It did not matter how many men came out of the West: no amount of co-operation among Christians was going to produce a force capable of beating the Mamluks in battle.
The fact was, however, that the Christians were not by themselves, for the revolution that had brought Baybars and his brethren to power was not the only shock wave to have rocked the Middle East in recent times. It was not to the West, but to the North, that the crusaders now looked in the hope of the greatest aid. As soon as Edward had arrived in Acre, he had dispatched three members of his household on a dangerous mission. They had gone to seek an alliance with Abagha Khan, ruler of the Mongols.
The rise of the Mongols had been, without question, the single most astonishing event of Edward’s age; it still remains one of the most remarkable occurrences in the whole of human history. Around the start of the thirteenth century, the horsemen of the Central Asian steppes had ceased fighting each other, begun fighting their neighbours and, in the space of just seven decades, carved out the second most extensive empire the world has ever seen (only the British Empire exceeded it and then by only a narrow margin). From China in the east, across southern Russia and even unto the fringes of Europe itself, the Mongols, led at first by the mighty Ghengis Khan and later by his sons, had conquered and slaughtered everything in their path.
Accordingly, there had been much initial consternation among the princes and peoples of Christendom about the speed of their advance. But in the 1250s the threat to Europe had receded as the Mongols had begun to invade the Middle East, and suddenly the ferocious heathens of yesteryear had started to look like potential partners in the struggle against the Mamluks. In 1265 Abagha, great-grandson of Ghengis and ruler of the il-Khanate (the Persian province of the Mongol Empire) was married to a daughter of the Christian emperor of Constantinople; there was even talk in some quarters (quite inaccurate, as it turned out) that he himself might convert. Regardless of his religious orientation, however, the il-khan was united with the Christians in regarding Baybars and the Mamluks as his enemies, and that was reason enough to hope for an alliance.
It evidently took Edward’s ambassadors several months to deliver his message, and one can only imagine the perils and hardships they must have endured in order to do so: Abagha’s reply, when it arrived, was dated at Margheh, a city over 700 miles from Acre (not far from Tabriz in modern Iran). Nevertheless, the reply was highly encouraging. While the il-khan could not come himself – he was at that instant dealing with other enemies – he indicated that lieutenants would shortly be invading the Holy Land in order to engage with Baybars. A combined offensive, it seemed, was on.
And with immediate effect. Abagha’s letter can hardly have reached Acre before the news that thousands of Mongol horsemen were indeed pouring southwards. By October they were just 200 miles away and had already driven the Mamluks out of the ancient city of Aleppo. Baybars rose to the bait. He and his men did not fear the il-khan’s forces. They had beaten them once already, eleven years earlier, at the celebrated battle of Ain Julat (a rare setback in the otherwise relentless Mongol advance). This new invasion would be similarly repulsed. In November the sultan and his army rode north.
Now was the moment for the Christian coalition to strike. On 23 November Edward, his brother and the English crusaders, King Hugh and the barons of Cyprus, the Templars, the Hospitallers and the knights of Acre all rode out. Their target this time was Qaqun, a castle some forty miles to the south. Recently redeveloped by Baybars as a centre for governing the surrounding lordships, Qaqun represented a valuable prize in its own right. More important for the crusaders, however, was the castle’s strategic significance, for it lay halfway between Acre and Jerusalem, and guarded the road that ran between them. If the English were to have any chance of retaking the Holy City, they would have to take Qaqun first.
It must therefore have been a bitter disappointment to Edward and his friends that in this last respect their mission failed. As before, they succeeded in slaughtering many local herdsmen and seizing large numbers of animals; indeed, to read the enthusiastic reports of local Christian chroniclers, one might almost imagine that cattle-rustling had been the principal objective. The castle at Qaqun, however, held out. It was, as one writer explained, ‘very strong, surrounded by ditches full of water’. The crusaders would undoubtedly have taken it, he continued, had not a Muslim relief force approached (and, added a Muslim writer, chased them back in the direction of Acre).
Nor was this the only disappointment. On their return the Christians discovered that the clash they had been counting on in the north had not taken place. On learning of Baybars’ advance, the Mongols had withdrawn from their positions and retreated. By early December the sultan had reoccupied the city of Aleppo, where he was in due course informed of the unsuccessful attack on Qaqun. ‘If so many men cannot take a house,’ he observed witheringly, ‘it seems unlikely that they will conquer the kingdom of Jerusalem.’
It was Baybars’ initial intention to punish the crusaders for their presumption; he was already halfway to Acre with his army before foul weather forced him to abandon his plans. Just how serious his assault would have been remains an open question. Retaliation was no doubt on the sultan’s mind, but it is highly unlikely that he would have wished to reduce the city to rubble. The fact of the matter was that Acre was a great mercantile hub, and Baybars needed it to continue functioning as such. His recent conquests against the Christians had given him control of the north–south routes through the Holy Land, and these would be crucial in countering the more serious threat presented by the Mongols. But Acre also had a role to play in this greater struggle, for the prosperity of the Mamluk Empire was to some extent dependent on trade with the Christian capital. Moreover, as this implies, there were also many Christians living in Acre who were equally dependent on the same commercial links. The merchants of Venice, masters of the Mediterranean market, had an especially large stake in the city. Such considerations and vested interests provided a powerful argument for mutual toleration, and the preservation of the status quo.
As such, of course, they were anathema to a committed crusader who had been conditioned from birth to see this part of the world in black-and-white terms. When he arrived in Acre Edward had been appalled to find Christians trading with Muslims, and had endeavoured to implement a ban (without success: the Venetians had simply responded by waving the royal charter that guaranteed their commercial privileges). If his refusal to engage with such practical politics seems lamentable, one can well understand his frustration. He and his companions had travelled thousands of miles and spent impossible sums to reach the Holy Land. They were tantalisingly close to their goal – Jerusalem lies just seventy miles from Acre – and could not lightly abandon the hope of attaining it. At some point during their stay, Eleanor of Castile presented her husband with a specially commissioned copy of De re militari (Concerning Matters Military), a celebrated tract on warfare by the Roman writer Vegetius; it is tempting to imagine Edward leafing through its pages in search of inspiration. He certainly remained focused on military matters. It was probably during the winter of 1271-72, confined within Acre, that he began to build a new tower in the city walls. His hope was clearly that the struggle with Baybars would continue, and it must therefore have been a galling blow when, in April 1272, a ten-year truce was agreed with the sultan. ‘He was not pleased when the peace was made,’ wrote one Muslim commentator, ‘and did not become a party to it.’
Being the only significant non-signatory to a ceasefire made Edward a dangerous loose cannon. Even some of those who had cheered his arrival the previous year would now no doubt have happily waved him back onto a boat. It was Baybars, however, who took active steps to hasten the Englishman’s departure. Accounts of what happened are almost hopelessly confused in their detail. According to Muslim sources, who would seem best placed to know the background, the sultan instructed one of his lieutenants to pretend to be ready to betray his own side. It was a simple ruse, but it was also the first positive news that the English had received in months, so Edward (no stranger to employing deception in his own dealings) allowed himself to be taken in. When Muslim messengers arrived at his court – bearing gifts, in the best enemy-tricking tradition – they were welcomed and allowed to stay for some time. It was not until 17 June (which happened to be Edward’s birthday) that they put their plan into action. With the promise of news concerning Baybars, one of their number secured a private audience and, finding himself alone with Edward and his interpreter, revealed his true purpose by drawing a dagger. According to English sources – better placed to know the details of the attack – Edward succeeded in killing his would-be assassin but not before sustaining a serious injury himself. He had been stabbed, with a blade that was feared to be poisoned.
It as at this point, famously, that legend has Eleanor of Castile intervening to save her stricken husband; in one version of events she proves her love (and mettle) by sucking the poison from his wound. Sadly, this is almost certainly a retrospective romanticisation. It was first reported half a century later by an Italian writer, and even he was careful to preface his account with the medieval chronicler’s time-honoured disclaimer ‘they say that …’. Other accounts of the scene have Eleanor being led away weeping by John de Vescy, and suggest that it was another of Edward’s close friends, Otto de Grandson, who attempted the sucking operation.
Whatever the case, there was nothing at all fanciful about the degree to which Edward’s life had been placed in peril. The day after the assault he drew up his will in anticipation of the worst, and for a time it seemed that the worst would happen. The greatest danger from such injuries was that they would turn gangrenous, and infection would spread to the rest of the body, slowly killing the victim. This apparently started to happen to Edward’s wound, and it seems he was saved only by having the blackened flesh around it cut away. Such a procedure was in itself highly risky – the patient in this instance would have been well aware that, in similar circumstances, a careless surgeon had hastened the demise of his great-uncle Richard. It is arresting to think that, had he not had ready access to the skilled doctors of Acre, Edward would have quite likely died there and then, and the future history of the British Isles, if not of the Middle East, might have been profoundly different.
Although his enemy refused to die, Baybars had otherwise achieved his objective. Edward’s injury meant that the English crusade had now definitely reached its end. In truth this was a conclusion that had been apparent ever since the sealing of the truce. Edmund had left for home the following month, and later in the summer other English commanders began to follow suit. Their leader delayed a little while longer. Prevailing headwinds in the eastern Mediterranean meant that the journey home usually took twice as long as the outward voyage – anything up to eight weeks – and Edward would have needed to convalesce for as long as possible before subjecting himself to such an ordeal. Eleanor, too, having recently given birth to a baby daughter, Joan, would have been in no immediate hurry to leave.
As a summer turned to autumn, however, and a seasonal easterly wind began to blow, the couple finally bade farewell to the Holy Land. In late September they sailed from Acre, and by the start of November they were back in Sicily, where they were again welcomed by Charles of Anjou. Unable to travel quickly because of his wound, and doubtless already starting to enjoy the celebrity status conferred by his miraculous survival, Edward spent Christmas in Charles’s company on the Italian mainland. He was still there early in the new year when messengers arrived from England, and hailed him as their king.
Battle of the Faubourg St Antoine (1652) by the walls of the Bastille, Paris.
Reception of the Grand Condé at Versailles following his victory at Seneffe. The Grand Condé advances towards Louis XIV in a respectful manner with laurel wreaths on his path, while captured enemy flags are displayed on both sides of the stairs. It marked the end of Condé’s exile, following his participation to the Fronde.
The Battle of Seneffe took place on 11 August 1674, during the 1672–1678 Franco-Dutch War near Seneffe in present-day Belgium. It was fought by a French army commanded by Louis II de Bourbon, Prince de Condé and a combined Dutch-Imperial-Spanish force led by William of Orange. While a clear French victory, both sides suffered heavy losses and it had little impact on the outcome of the war in the Low Countries.
The Peace of Westphalia, as we have seen, had not included France and Spain. France was still animated with the ancient spirit of rivalry, while Spain, on the other hand, though terribly exhausted, found in the aspect of affairs, some hopeful and encouraging circumstances. The state of her foreign relations was favourable. The peace which she had concluded with the United Netherlands had diminished the number of her enemies; on the side of England, now approaching the close of her long civil war, there was nothing to be dreaded; and though the German branch of the House of Austria was precluded by the peace from lending her any open assistance, yet she might reckon on the good wishes, and even the secret aid, of the Emperor Ferdinand II. Above all, the Cabinet of Madrid was encouraged by the domestic troubles which then agitated France.
The sedition of the Fronde, though it nearly caused a revolution in France, is important in the general affairs of Europe only as crippling for some years the power of that country, and ranging the military talents of Condé on the side of Spain.
Although the victories of Condé and Turenne had gratified the national vanity and thrown a lustre on the administration of Anne of Austria and Mazarin, they had not been purchased without many sacrifices and privations. As a financier Mazarin had no skill, and Eméri, his agent, was entirely unscrupulous. The taxes had been everywhere increased, and in some places, as Languedoc, it had been necessary to levy them by force. But it was the Parisians, and especially the sovereign courts, that had been chiefly incensed by the tyrannical proceedings of the cabinet. In 1644 Eméri had thought proper to revive an obsolete edict, passed in 1548, soon after the invasion of Charles V, and inspired by the fear that the capital might be besieged, by which it was forbidden to erect any buildings outside the walls of Paris. Its operation, however, had subsided with the alarm which gave it birth, and the vacant space had been covered with the dwellings of the poorer classes of the population. The proprietors were now called upon to pay a tax in proportion to the space occupied; and, in case of non-compliance, they were threatened with the demolition of their houses. The president Barillon and several others, who pleaded in favour of these poor people, were snatched from their homes and incarcerated. Barillon was carried to Pinerolo in Piedmont, where he soon after died. Among other ways of raising money, Mazarin resorted to a forced loan, and put a duty on all articles of consumption entering Paris. This last measure, as it touched the pockets of all, may be regarded as the principal cause of the disturbances which followed. Having thus disgusted the citizens, his next step was to alienate the magistrates. The guaranty of hereditary succession to offices that had been purchased, renewable every nine years, expired on January 1st, 1648; and Mazarin, to insure the submission of the Parliament, and compel them to register his edicts, refused to renew it. As there were between 40,000 and 50,000 families in France dependent on these places, the discontent thus occasioned may be imagined. New magistrates were created, and the old ones were only continued in their places at a sacrifice of four years’ income. In order, however, not to offend the whole Parliament, the edict was confined to such chambers as were not strictly courts of justice; as theChambre des Comptes, the Cour des Aides, and the Grand Conseil. But these chambers called upon the Parliament to defend their rights; and by an Arret d’Union, deputies from all the chambers were summoned to meet together in the Chambre de St. Louis, and consult for the common good. The Arret was annulled by the Royal Council, yet the self-constituted chamber continued its sittings, and instead of confining itself to questions concerning the interest and jurisdiction of the Parliament, it now announced its object to be nothing less than the reformation of the State.
France seemed to be on the eve of a revolution, and the scenes then passing in England might well inspire the Queen and her minister with dread. After a little attempt at violence, Mazarin yielded, and allowed the Chamber of St. Louis to proceed. Nothing seemed wanting to the success of the movement but sincere and resolute leaders. But these were not forthcoming. The two chiefs of the Parliament, the advocate-general Omer Talon and the president Mole, were honest, well-intentioned men, but not of the stuff which makes revolutionists. How could a thorough reform proceed from the Parliament?—men with bought places which they regarded as an estate with succession to their heirs; bred up in all the forms of legal etiquette, and imbued with an unbounded reverence for the royal prerogative. Many, indeed, among the French nobles were willing to promote any disturbance that might overthrow Mazarin; for, if the people hated the Cardinal for his financial measures, the nobles both detested and despised him for his personal character. As a foreigner, both ignorant and neglectful of the ancient laws and customs of the country, Mazarin was naturally an object of suspicion and dislike. At the head of the malcontent nobles was the King’s uncle, Gaston d’Orleans. But the Catiline of the Fronde was the young and profligate abbe Francis Paul de Gondi, afterwards the celebrated Cardinal de Retz. Gondi, Count of Retz, of Italian origin, had come into France with Catharine de’ Medici, and had, as we have seen, been one of the principal advisers of the St. Bartholomew. Since that period the family had been in almost hereditary possession of the archbishopric of Paris, and at the time of which we write the uncle of the Abbe Gondi was in the enjoyment of that dignity. The nephew had attached himself to the Duke of Orleans, and Mazarin had endeavored to gain him by making him Coadjutor to his uncle, and consequently successor to the archbishopric; an unlucky step for Mazarin, since this post gave the abbe great influence with the Parisian clergy, and enabled him to excite, through the pulpits, the fanaticism of the populace. The Coadjutor and the nobles with whom he acted had, however, no real sympathy either with the people or the Parliament; they were actuated only by vanity and self-interest, and the desire to wring as much as possible from the fears of the Court. Perhaps the only sincere leader of the movement was Broussel, an aged counsellor of the Parliament; a man of small means, but whose firmness and resolution made him the idol of the populace. After passing through a period marked by endless intrigues, the Court, supported by the éclat of Condé’s victory at Lens, caused some of the noisiest orators of the Parliament, and among them Broussel, to be arrested; upon which the people rose, barricaded the streets, and compelled his release. Seeing that the populace were no longer under the control even of the Parliament, the pride of Anne of Austria began to yield to the influence of fear, and to the advice of the unfortunate Henrietta of England, who since 1644 had been living in France. By the declaration of October 24th, 1648, one of the crises of the Fronde, the Queen conceded all the demands of the Parliament. Thus, on the very same day when the French policy was completely successful abroad by the conclusion of the Peace of Westphalia, the government at home was in a state of dissolution; and that triumph of diplomacy —so much were the minds of the people engrossed with their domestic affairs—passed almost unheeded.
The support of Condé, who had returned to Paris in September crowned with the prestige of victory, and had helped to bring about the arrangement with the Parliament, was contested by Mazarin and the Coadjutor. Condé was, however, a dangerous confederate. His character, except on the field of battle, did not show to much advantage; his judgment was unsteady, his temper violent and overbearing. As he had a great contempt for the Parisians, and detested the lawyers, the Court found little difficulty in buying him by the alienation of some of the royal domains. His conduct towards the Parliament soon brought matters to a crisis. That body having been convened for December 16th, to consider how the Court performed its engagements, some of the members complained of the quartering of troops in the neighborhood of Paris. Condé, who attended the meeting as one of the guarantors of the Declaration of October, replied with threatening words and gestures, which were resented with a storm of groans and hisses. Condé, in great irritation, now went to the Queen, and pressed her to allow him to attack Paris; and after some deliberation it was resolved that, while the Spanish war was interrupted by the winter, Paris should be reduced to obedience by military force. On January 6th, 1649, Anne of Austria gave the signal by retiring with the Court to St. Germain. A civil war was now begun. Condé blockaded Paris, and the Parliament on their side, after treating with contempt a royal order to transfer themselves to Montargis, declared Mazarin an enemy of France, and ordered him to quit the Court in twenty-four hours, and the kingdom in a week. They allied themselves with the other Parliaments of the kingdom, and took into their service many nobles with their retainers; among whom may be named Condé’s brother, the Prince of Conti, the Dukes of Longueville, Elboeuf, Brissac, Bouillon, Beaufort, and the Marquis de la Boulaye. The Parisians chose Conti for their generalissimo; but they were no match for regular troops under a general like Condé. They were defeated in every skirmish; by February they began to feel the effects of famine; and on March 11th they were glad to conclude a peace with the Queen, through the mediation of the Duke of Orleans, which, from its being negotiated at the former seat of Richelieu, has been called the Peace of Rueil.
This peace, though ultimately abortive, arrested France on the brink of destruction. Turenne, who had been directed to remain with his army in Swabia till the spring, in order to insure the execution of the Peace of Westphalia, had signified to the Court his disapproval of the siege of Paris; had told Mazarin to rely no longer on his friendship, and had ended by placing himself and his army at the service of the Parliament and the public. Such a step on the part of Turenne seems almost inexplicable, except, perhaps, from some personal resentment against Mazarin, and the desire to recover Sedan for his family, confiscated by Richelieu in 1642. The Archduke Leopold, Governor of the Spanish Netherlands, emboldened by these troubles, had advanced with his forces as far as the Aisne between Laon and Rheims; but on learning the peace of Rueil, he recrossed the frontier, and he and his lieutenants subsequently took Ypres and St. Venant. To wash out this disgrace, Mazarin directed against Cambrai the troops which had blockaded Paris, united with the ancient army of the Rhine; but Harcourt, who commanded (Condé had refused the post), though he gained some small successes, failed in the main enterprise. Meanwhile all was anarchy in France. In the provinces order and authority were shaken to their foundations; the taxes could not be regularly levied, and it was difficult to find money even for the expenses of the King’s household. Provence and Guienne were in a state of revolt; Paris and its Parliament were still restive. It cannot be doubted that the consummation of the English rebellion had some influence on these troubles. At Paris it was the universal topic. Nothing was talked of but liberty and a republic; the monarchy, it was said, had grown decrepit, and must be abolished.
As the best method of quelling these disturbances and procuring a little money, the Queen, with the young king, returned to Paris, August 18th, accompanied by Mazarin and Condé, and were well received by the Parisians. But Condé, by his pride and insolence, soon rendered himself insupportable, not only to the Queen and Mazarin but also to the Fronde. The Cardinal availed himself of this latter circumstance to ruin the Prince. He persuaded Condé that the Coadjutor and the Duke of Beaufort, now one of the chief demagogues of Paris, intended to assassinate him. Condé’s carriage was actually fired at while passing over the Pont Neuf, and a valet killed. Mazarin has been suspected of having concerted this affair; however that may be, he at least knew how to avail himself of it. Condé denounced the outrage to the Parliament, and involved himself in an implacable quarrel with the heads of theFronde. Thus deprived of supporters, Condé became an easy victim to the arts of Mazarin. It was determined to arrest him, together with his brother Conti, and his brother-in-law Longueville. The promise of a cardinal’s hat for Gondi procured for the Court the assistance of the Fronde; the Duke of Orleans consented to the measure, and the three princes, when on the point of leaving a council that had been held at thePalais Royal, were arrested, and quietly conducted to Vincennes (January 18th, 1650). It is said that the order for this arrest had been obtained from Condé himself, onpretence that it was to be used against some other person. This was the second crisis of the sedition. The old Fronde had expired; its leaders had sold themselves to the Court; but in its place sprang up the new Fronde, called also, from the affected airs of its leaders, the Petits Maîtres. The beautiful Duchess of Longueville was the soul of it, aided by her admirer, Marsillac, afterwards Duke de la Rochefoucauld, and by the Duke of Bouillon. On the arrest of her husband and her brother, the duchess had fled to Holland, and afterwards to Stenai; where she and Bouillon’s brother, Turenne, who styled himself the “King’s Lieutenant-General for the liberation of the Princes”, entered into negotiations with the Archduke Leopold. Bouillon himself had retired intoGuienne, which province was alienated from the Court because Mazarin maintained as its governor the detested Epernon. In July, Bouillon and his allies publicly received a Spanish envoy at Bordeaux. Condé’s wife and infant son had been received in that city with enthusiasm. But on the approach of Mazarin with the royal army, the inhabitants of Guienne, alarmed for their vintage, now approaching maturity, showed signs of submission; after a short siege, Bordeaux surrendered, on condition of an amnesty, in which Bouillon and La Rochefoucauld were included; and the Princess of Condé was permitted to retire (October 1st).
In the north, the Frondeurs, with their Spanish allies, seemed at first more successful. In the summer Leopold had entered Champagne, penetrated to FertéMilon, and some of his marauding parties had even reached Dammartin. Turenne tried to persuade the Archduke to march to Vincennes and liberate the princes; but while he was hesitating, Gaston transferred the captives to Marcoussis, whence they were soon after conveyed to Havre. Leopold and Turenne, after a vain attempt to rouse the Parisians, retreated to the Meuse, and laid siege to Mouzon. The Cardinal himself, like his patron Richelieu, now assumed the character of a general. Uniting with his troops in the north the army of Guienne, he took up his quarters at Rethel, which had been captured by Du Plessis Praslin. Hence he ordered an attack to be made on the Spaniards, who were entirely defeated; many of their principal officers were captured, and even Turenne himself narrowly escaped the same fate (December 15th). The Cardinal’s elation was unbounded. It was a great thing to have defeated Turenne, and though the victory was Du Plessis’, Mazarin assumed all the credit of it. He forgot that he owed his success to the leaders of the old Fronde, and especially to the Coadjutor; he neglected his promises to that intriguing prelate, though Gondi plainly declared that he must either be a prince of the Church or the head of a faction. Mazarin was also imprudent enough to offend the Parliament; and he compared them with that sitting at London, which, indeed, was doing them too much honor. The Coadjutor went over to the party of the princes, dragging with him the feebleminded Orleans, who had himself been insulted by the Queen. Thus was produced a third phase of this singular sedition— the union of the old Fronde with the new. The Parliament now clamoured for the liberation of the princes. As the Queen hesitated, Gaston bluntly declared that the dismissal of Mazarin was necessary to the restoration of peace; while the Parliament added to their former demand another for the Cardinal’s banishment. Mazarin saw his mistake, and endeavored to rectify it. He hastened to Havre in order to liberate the princes in person, and claim the merit of a spontaneous act. But it was too late; it was plain that he was acting only by constraint. The princes were conducted back in triumph to Paris by a large retinue sent to escort them. On February 25th, 1651, their innocence was established by a royal declaration, and they were restored to all their dignities and charges.
Mazarin, meanwhile, who saw that for the present the game was lost, retired into exile: first into Bouillon, and afterwards to Brühl on the Rhine, where the Elector of Cologne offered him an asylum. From this place he corresponded with the Queen, and continued to direct her counsels. The anarchy and confusion which ensued in France were such as promised him a speedy return. Châteauneuf had ostensibly succeeded to his place; but Orleans and Condé ruled supreme, and ministers were dismissed and appointed at their pleasure. The Parliament in its turn wanted to establish a republic of the robe, and passed the most violent resolutions, which the Queen, who was a sort of prisoner at the Palais Royal, was obliged to confirm. Anne’s situation—who was subjected on the one side to the dictation of the princes, on the other to the threats of the Parliament—became intolerable and the Coadjutor availed himself of her distress to push his own interests. He promised to procure the recall of Mazarin on condition of receiving a cardinal’s hat: a fact which can scarcely be doubted, though he pretends in his Memoirs that he made no such engagement. To relieve herself from her embarrassments, the Queen Regent resolved to declare her son of age when he should have completed his thirteenth year, on September 6th. This step would release her from of the rule of the Duke of Orleans; and at the same time her son would be able to confirm all that Mazarin had done in his name. Already in address, figure, and bearing, the youthful Louis XIV was admirably fitted to sustain the part of a king; and everybody acknowledged that he was formed to rule a people which loves to see absolute power fitly represented, and surrounded with pomp and splendour. On the day after his birthday, his majority was declared in a solemn Lit de Justice; but he was compelled to promise that Mazarin should never return, and thus to inaugurate his reign with a falsehood. In the same assembly was also published a Justification of Condé; yet that prince absented himself from the ceremony on the ground that the calumnies of his enemies prevented him from appearing before the King. By his haughtiness and violence he had again completely isolated himself. He had separated from the leaders of the Fronde; he had offended both the Court and the Parliament; nay, he had even alienated Turenne, who hastened to reconcile himself with the Queen and Mazarin. Anne had been advised again to arrest Condé; but he got notice of it, and fled to St. Maur. He had now no alternative but to throw himself into the arms of the enemies of his country.
At a meeting of his principal adherents held at Chantilli, Condé resolved upon war; and he proceeded at once to his government of Berri, and thence to Bordeaux (Sept. 22nd). Through his agent, Lenet, he had procured the support of the Spanish Government, which, besides promising considerable sums of money, engaged to send thirty vessels and 4,000 men to Bordeaux, while 5,000 more were to join the prince’spartizans at Stenai. Eight Spanish ships actually arrived soon after in the Gironde with troops and money; but ultimately Spain, always in want of means, did nothing of importance. The defection of Turenne spoilt Condé’s plans, who wanted Turenne to march on Paris from the north, while he himself advanced from the south. The majority of Louis was also unfavourable to Condé; he had now to fight against the King in person, and the King’s name was a tower of strength. Louis and his mother were with the royal army, which was commanded by the Count d’Harcourt. The struggle lasted during the month of November. Condé, worsted in every encounter, offered to treat on the basis of Mazarin’s return; but the Cardinal, who saw that that event depended not on the Prince, refused to negotiate. He had quitted Brühl, towards the end of October, for Hui, in the territory of Liége, whence he had advanced to Dinant. He was in correspondence with the governors of provinces and places in the north of France, who were for the most part his creatures. La Vieuville—the same whom Richelieu had ousted—had again obtained the direction of the finances, and forwarded money to Mazarin; with which he levied soldiers in the electorate of Cologne and bishopric of Liége, After some anxious hesitation, Anne wrote to Mazarin, authorizing him to return “for the succour of the King” (Nov. 17th). The Parliament were furious, and unanimously opposed his return. They were now in a singular situation. On the one hand they were obliged to pronounce Condé guilty of high treason; on the other they were drawing up the most terrible resolutions against the minister who governed both the Queen and country. They had to oppose on one side absolute power and ministerial despotism; on the other an oligarchy of princes, united only by selfish views, and utterly regardless of the national interests.
Meanwhile Mazarin pursued his march, and penetrated by Rethel into Champagne. At this news the Parliament issued a decree, confiscating his estates, and even the income of his prebends. They caused his palace in Paris, together with the library and furniture, to be sold; and out of the proceeds they offered a reward of 150,000 livres to whomsoever should bring him to justice, “alive or dead”. Nevertheless, Mazarin continued his advance towards Poitiers, where the Court was then residing. His guards wore his own colours (green). The King went a league out of the town to meet him, and the very next day he assumed the ostensible direction of affairs. Fortune, however, seemed once more to turn. Condé, reinforced by the troops of the Duke of Orleans, and leaving his brother Conti and the Count de Marsin as his representatives in Guienne, marched against the royal forces under Hocquincourt, and defeated them near Bleneau (April 7th, 1652). The royal army would have been annihilated, had not Turenne arrived in time to save it. At this juncture, Charles II of England, who had fled to France with his brother, the Duke of York, endeavored to bring about an accommodation between the French Court and the princes; but a conference held at St. Germain, towards the end of April, had no result.
Condé having marched upon Paris, the stream of war was diverted towards the capital. During two or three months, Condé and Turenne displayed their generalship by countermarches and manoeuvres about Paris, while the Court went from place to place. At length on July 2nd, Turenne ventured an attack on Condé, who had entrenched himself in the faubourg St. Antoine. The young King, accompanied by Mazarin, had come to the heights of Charonne to see the issue; and Turenne, although from the strength of Condé’s position, he would willingly have declined a battle, was neither willing to disappoint Louis, nor to awaken the suspicions of the mistrustful Cardinal. The Prince never displayed better generalship than on this occasion; yet he was on the point of being overcome, when he was saved by an unexpected accident. The Parliament, which had declared its neutrality, had entrusted the command of the Bastille to Mademoiselle de Montpensier, called in the Memoirs of those times La Grande Mademoiselle, the stout-hearted daughter of the Duke of Orleans, who had distinguished herself by the defence of that city against the Royalists. She took, with great valour but little judgment, a distinguished part in these wars; and it was said that her object was to compel the King to marry her, though he was eleven years her junior. While her father shut himself up in the Luxembourg, and would give no orders, Mademoiselle exhorted the citizens to stand by the Prince, and directed on the royal troops the guns of the neutral fortress which she commanded, the first of which she is said to have fired with her own hand. Even this circumstance, however, would not have saved Condé, had she not persuaded the citizens to open the gates and admit him and his troops; when Turenne was compelled to retreat. Louis XIV never forgave the Princess, who afterwards severely expiated her conduct.
The result of this victory was that Paris declared in favour of the princes; a provisional government was organized in that capital; the Duke of Orleans, though Louis was of age, was declared Lieutenant-General of the kingdom; and Condé, who still kept up his connection with Spain, was appointed generalissimo of the forces. The King having retired to Pontoise, summoned thither the Parliament of Paris, declaring null and void all that they should do in the metropolis. Only a few score members appeared at Pontoise, but they assumed all the functions of the Parliament. Louis had found himself compelled to announce his willingness that Mazarin should retire; but as the Cardinal was very loath to quit his post, the Parliament of Pontoise, by concert with the Court, drew up a remonstrance beseeching the King to remove every pretext for disaffection by dismissing his minister; and Louis, after pronouncing a pompous eulogium on Mazarin, permitted him to retire (Aug. 10th). The Cardinal now fixed his residence at Bouillon, close to the frontier.
The King, who had betaken himself to Turenne’s army at Compiegne, and received from all sides assurances of loyalty and devotion, offered an amnesty to Condé and the Parisians; but though all desired peace, none were inclined to trust an offer dictated by the influence of the detested Cardinal. Condé, however, though the Dukes of Wurternberg and Lorraine had marched to his assistance, began to find his position untenable. All the magistrates of Paris had been changed; the Court had gained the Coadjutor, by procuring for him from the Pope a cardinal’s hat; and while Condé despaired of the favour of the higher classes, de Retz caballed against him with the lower. The Parisians had sent some deputies to the King at Pontoise, who were delighted with their reception. Condé felt that it was time to fly. He quitted Paris for Flanders about the middle of October, and in the following month accepted from the Spanish general, Fuensaldana, the baton of generalissimo of the forces of Philip IV, with the red scarf which he had vanquished at Rocroi and Lens: thus degenerating from a rebel into a renegado. About the same time, the Queen and Louis XIV entered Paris, escorted by the troops of Turenne. At their approach the Duke of Orleans retired to Blois, where he spent the remainder of his life in the obscurity befitting it. Mademoiselle de Montpensier was relegated to Bois le Comte; Broussel was incarcerated, and about a dozen members of the Parliament were banished to various places. An edict of amnesty was published, from which, however, the Prince of Condé, the Duke of Beaufort, and other leaders of the Fronde, were excepted. Subsequently, in 1654, Condé was sentenced to death by the Parliament, as a traitor.
Mazarin, however, still remained in exile. He could not yet rely on the disposition of the Parisians, especially so long as the arch intriguer, the Cardinal de Retz, remained among them. But that subtle prelate at length outwitted himself. The Queen on entering Paris had received him very graciously, and even attended one of his sermons at St. Germain l’Auxerrois. Deceived by these appearances, de Retz put too high a value on his services. In order to get rid of him, the Court offered him the management of the affairs of France at Rome; but De Retz demanded in addition, honors, governments, and money for his friends; and when these were refused, he began to negotiate with Condé. But the time for such pretensions was past. On December 19th, after paying a visit to the Queen, he was arrested by a captain of the guard, and confined at Vincennes; whence he was afterwards removed to Nantes. This was the end of his political career; for though he contrived to escape from Nantes, whence he proceeded into Spain, and afterwards to Rome, he was not allowed to return to France during the lifetime of Mazarin. De Retz has preserved a great reputation chiefly through his literary talent. As a politician he had no patriotic, nor even definite views; he loved disturbances, partly for their own sake, partly for the advantage he derived from them. After the pacification of Paris, the malcontents in the provinces were soon reduced. Bordeaux, where the Fronde had revived under the name of L’Ormée, was one of the last places to submit.
While these things were going on, Mazarin had joined Turenne and his army near Bar; and towards the-end of January, 1653, he set out for Paris, which he entered February 3rd. Louis XIV went out in state to meet him, and gave him a place in his own carriage. It is said that the Cardinal had distributed money among the leaders of the mob to cheer him on his entrance; it is certain that he was not only received with acclamation by the populace, but also feasted by the magistrates. The jurists of the Parliament displayed servility, and he received the visits of some of those very counsellors who had set a price upon his head. Such was the end of the Fronde; a movement without grandeur or possible result, whose sterility only confirmed the power of the King and of the minister. From this time till the end of his life Mazarin reigned with absolute power; for he maintained the same influence over the young King as he had previously exerted over Louis’s mother. His avarice and despotism grew worse than before. The management of the finances was intrusted to the most unworthy persons, among whom Fouquet astonished Europe by his magnificence. Mazarin made the interests of France subordinate to his own avaricious views, and his plans for the advancement of his family. Fortune seemed to favour all his enterprises. His nieces, the Mancini, celebrated for their beauty, were all married into princely houses; and Louis XIV himself was with difficulty dissuaded from giving his hand to one of the six.
The Fronde is the last occasion on which we find the French nobles arrayed in open war against the Crown. Henceforth they became the mere satellites of the Court, whose power was supported, and whose splendour was increased, by their presence. While these events were taking place in France, King Charles I was publicly executed on the scaffold, January 20th, 1649; the House of Peers, as well as the monarchy, was abolished, and the government of the kingdom conducted by the Commons; Cromwell gradually assumed the supreme power, both military and civil, and after reducing the Royalists by his victories in Ireland, Scotland, and England, and reviving by his vigorous foreign policy the lustre of the English name, he finally, in December, 1653, caused himself to be named “Lord Protector”.
Five hundred years ago, when the Ottoman Turks sailed into the Red Sea to secure the precious Muslim Holy Places of Mecca and Medina and see off the Portuguese ‘Frankish’ threat, the Tihamans welcomed them in much the same open-hearted manner as my kind host had welcomed me.
Unlike the Zaydi Shiitei northern highlanders who make up perhaps a quarter of Yemen’s population today, Tihamans are Shafai Sunnnis. Weary of exploitation by those hungry northern tribes led by a Zaydi Shiite priestly caste of descendants of the Prophet Mohammed, rulers known as imams, it was only to be expected that Tihamans would welcome Sunni Ottoman influence. But the Ottomans – intent on uniting the entire Muslim umma, Sunni and Shiite, under their caliphate – were not content with going where they were wanted. Penetrating inland towards those northern highlands, they soon encountered Zaydi resistance. Imam Sharaf al-Din and his tribes may have been too weak at the time to expel the Turks from Aden and the coastal regions, but he would not surrender his southern highland stronghold of Taiz, barely an hour’s drive inland from Mocha today, let alone his northern highland capital of Sanaa.
Nevertheless, during that first decade of Ottoman presence in Yemen, the 1540s, it looked as if the Turks would be able to complete their conquest. Not until 1547 was their progress halted by Imam Sharif al-Din’s son Mutahhar who, having retreated to Thula – a rocky highland fastness to the north of Sanaa – managed to withstand a forty-day siege there. At last accepting there was no dislodging him, the Turks acknowledged his dominion over swathes of the northern highlands and a gentlemanly truce was agreed when Mutahhar pledged a nominal obedience to the Ottoman Sultan. He could congratulate himself on having achieved what all future imams and the Zaydi highlanders would achieve up to and even beyond the formal abolition of the imamate four centuries later: the exclusion of any foreign invader – whether Muslim or infidel – from most of their northern highlands. He was to accomplish a great deal more than that over the next twenty years, largely thanks to the Ottomans’ waning interest in their distant and irritatingly inhospitable acquisition.
Increasingly preoccupied with the conquest of central Europe and especially Vienna, the Ottomans allowed South Arabia to slip down their list of priorities. With its ferociously hostile northern tribes and equally repellent terrain – craggily mountainous and cold inland, oppressively hot on the coast – the region had nothing whatsoever to recommend it except its strategic position at the lower opening to the Red Sea and its proximity to Islam’s Holy Places. The Sublime Porte would maintain a military presence there and collect as many taxes as possible rather than attempt to establish a full-scale occupation. Despite having subjugated much more than Tihama and Aden and all the southern highlands, the Ottomans were soon gladly delegating the tax farming and administration to local sheikhs. Naturally, for those sheikhs to agree to collect taxes to enrich the Sultan ‘it was necessary’, as a French historian puts it, ‘to constantly shower them with gifts’. The sheikhs commanded a higher and higher price for their loyalty, which meant there was less and less profit to be made by a succession of pashas who bemoaned their miserable lot and pined for plum postings in places where the living was easier and the pickings far richer – Cairo, Damascus or Basra. They vented their spleen and frustrated ambition in savage over-taxation of the natives. Swathes of fertile land in the southern highlands were deserted by peasants fleeing taxes too punitive to pay. In this way, portions of the population who, like the Tihamans, had at first been amenable to Ottoman rule, were needlessly alienated.
A desperately greedy Mahmud Pasha meddled with the mint, devaluing the coinage by tampering with its gold content and pocketing the spare gold himself. Soon noticing that their local currency salaries were not buying them nearly as much as those of their peers in Anatolia or Egypt, Ottoman soldiers fell to making up the shortfall by extortion from the locals. When that resource ran dry they began flogging off their personal possessions and even their weapons. Mahmud Pasha bled Yemen as dry as he could for seven years before bribing his way into a posting to Cairo. His departure in February 1565 was a memorable enough affair to have warranted recording; his entourage comprised a personal guard of a hundred slaves and his luggage included a throne and many chests of treasure. A side effect of an Ottoman decision to divide the province of Yemen in two after his complaint that its extent and terrain made communications too slow, was that his successor’s opportunities for personal gain were dramatically restricted. The fiefdom of Ridvan Pasha who took charge of the north-western half of the province – in effect the fortified towns of Sanaa and Saada – was not half as rich a prize as the peacefully prospering Tihama with its Red Sea ports, and the central southern highlands where a promising export commodity, coffee, was starting to thrive.
Dissatisfied, Ridvan Pasha lost no time in trying to improve his situation. Insisting on a renegotiation of the thirteen-year-old truce with Mutahhar al-Din, he sent a tactlessly high-handed qadhiii to open talks, with predictably damaging results. Deciding that he was no longer bound by the truce, Mutahhar began to foment fresh trouble for the Turks and Ridvan Pasha’s determination to extend taxation to Mutahhar’s northern highlands gave him the perfect casus belli. He fired the first shot, at a Turkish tax collector. What followed was the steady reconquest of the country by and for Mutahhar’s Zaydi highlander tribesmen, beginning with the capture of the fortress at Saada, the only stronghold north of Sanaa that the Ottomans controlled. By January 1567 all the northern highlands except for Sanaa and Amran were under his control, with Ridvan Pasha suing for peace before being recalled to Constantinople to be punished for his incompetence with three years in jail. While besieging Sanaa, Mutahhar ensured that the southern and western routes to the capital were closed to prevent any Turkish reinforcements under the pasha of the south, Murad the One-Eyed, coming to Sanaa’s aid.
When Murad the One-Eyed did belatedly stir himself to relieve Sanaa, Mutahhar was ready for him. In June, in a narrow defile, Muttahar’s Zaydi fighters managed to ambush a hundred Ottoman horsemen and slaughter every one of them. Playing on mounting popular hatred of the Turks, Mutahhar then called for a general uprising against Ottoman domination, whipping up righteous outrage at the Turks’ lax standards of Muslim observance: ‘So where is the fury? Where has the passion gone? While these men [the Turks] degrade women of high status, taking them off to evil haunts where they can take their pleasure … you eat, drink, dance and play music.’
Soon even the Sunni southern highlands and coastal regions were heeding the Zaydi call to rise and throw off the Ottoman yoke. After guaranteeing its Turkish garrison’s safe passage back to Taiz, the southern highland town of Jiblah took a gleeful revenge by slaughtering every Ottoman soldier as soon as they left their fortress. Abandoning Sanaa to its fate, desperate to return to the southern highland town of Taiz where the Ottoman treasury was kept, Murad the One-Eyed risked relying on a local tribesman to guide him back south. Immediately, he was double-crossed. In a narrow mountain pass, his cavalcade was bombarded by boulders hurled by tribesmen infesting the mountains. In a valley transformed into a mud bath after tribesmen had flooded it by diverting a stream, his soldiers blundered about helplessly, sitting ducks for the enemy above them.
Sanaa fell to Mutahhar in the summer of 1567 and the new pasha who arrived to take up his post in the south was appalled to discover how little land there was left for him to squeeze for taxes. Encircled by hostile tribes, Taiz and its treasury was perilously isolated and nearby Zabid overrun with Turks who had fled there from every other part of the province. No wiser than any of his predecessors, the newcomer delegated the job of raising more taxes to an unscrupulous qadhi from Mocha. By October 1567 he had lost Taiz and his treasury. To the south in Aden a tiny 200-strong Turkish garrison surrendered without a fight, its Ottoman governor fleeing by sea.
Only then did alarm bells start clanging at the Porte. In the words of one contemporary Turkish writer, it was only the loss of one of the world’s finest natural harbours that finally awakened a terror in the Ottomans. They feared ‘the cursed Franks’ would seize Aden. They knew that the Europeans’ superior ‘knowledge of artillery and cannon fire and their care for ports and castles’ would make it hard to recapture again and they trembled at the prospect of losing their Holy Places. Only a massive task force, mustered in Egypt, could save the situation, they believed, but, despite an Ottoman chronicler’s proud boast that every Egyptian, ‘save the useless, such as a very old sheikh, or child, or the like’ rushed to sign up for the Yemen campaign, inefficiency and power struggles delayed its departure for nine months. Not until December 1558 did a fresh pasha cross the Red Sea with an army of 3,000 to start the reconquest, and it was not until spring the following year that the Ottomans turned the tide in their favour with the overland arrival of the then Ottoman ruler of Egypt, Sinan Pasha, at the head of a main force that rejoiced in 4,000 horses, 10,000 camels, ‘great pavilions, pedigree horses dressed in gold with bridles of gold and silver, weapons, armour and helmets’, to say nothing of the heavy guns and supplies sent by sea.
Naturally biased in favour of the Ottomans, the main Turkish chronicler of the reconquest refers to Imam Mutahhar’s forces as heretic Zaydis and takes cheap shots at the lame Imam himself by referring to him as a ‘cripple’ and emphasising his pathetic inability to ride anything but a donkey. But there is much that rings thrillingly true and vivid in his description of the miseries the Turks faced in recapturing Yemen. The appalling harshness of so much of the highlands struck the chronicler again and again: ‘there was nothing human or friendly there: the land was lost only to gazelle and camels the colour of the desert: behind every rock lurked a pack of monkeys or a pride of lions … nothing but the howling of jackals, the hooting of owls and the sound of crows.’ Oxen could pull their heavy gun carriages on flat land, but only manpower could heave them over mountain passes too steep and narrow for wheeled transport. The author complains of a wadi that ‘curves like a snake and anyone who takes it would risk being poisoned by the string of vipers coiled in its dangerous crannies’, where ‘horses would wade up to the belly and stirrup’. He describes a place whose mountains ‘pierce the clouds, a place where there was only pain’. He also details an engagement in which Zaydi tribesmen ‘of extreme coarseness’ were occupying a mountain top, ‘spreading out behind the rocks like cockroaches and beetles’ and rolling giant boulders down onto the Turks, who responded with great blasts from their cannons, ‘throwing up sparks like castles’.
The Zaydi tribes were no match for the Ottomans’ determined assault with their new-fangled artillery. Imam Mutahhar, who had fled to Kawkaban, another rocky mountain-top fastness not far from Sanaa, was forced to descend to parley with Sinan Pasha, an occasion apparently ominously marred by his donkey transport breaking wind on departure. Sinan Pasha graciously granted Mutahhar the governorship of the area around Saada, but the Ottomans were back in charge by 1571, reunited in a single vilayet under his firm rule. Imam Mutahhar’s death the following year spelt the end of his dynasty. Rival families disputed the succession until, in the closing years of the sixteenth century, a new dynasty of imams emerged, the al-Qasim, to trouble the Turks again. Yet another 8,000-strong force of Egyptians was mustered, but only with great difficulty. Many soldiers had to be forced on board ship at Cairo and the army was soon decimated by casualties, desertion and disease.
This third and final effort to secure Yemen for the Ottoman caliphate lacked conviction. The Porte was losing interest in holding Yemen. With the golden prize of Vienna still untaken, the vilayet of Yemen was judged just too costly in manpower and materiel to be bothering with any longer. With Portuguese power in the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean waning, the Turks’ terror of Franks capturing the Muslim holy places was also fading, especially as they were on better terms with the latest Frankish powers to take an interest in the region – the British and the Dutch – than they had ever been with the Portuguese. Mocha, their last toehold, was growing rich by its coffee trade and already home to both the British and Dutch East India companies’ trading posts by 1636, when the last Ottoman governor of the port acknowledged the obvious, gathered up his tiny remaining garrison, and boarded a ship for Egypt.
Yemenis were slow to realise it, but the British and Dutch vessels crowding into Mocha to buy coffee in the early seventeenth century represented a far greater long-term threat to their prosperity and independence than any Ottoman army intent on subjugating their precious highlands. English East India Company merchants had first put in to Ottoman Mocha in January 1609, twenty-three years before the Turks abandoned Yemen. In spite of finding it ‘unreasonable hot’, a merchant named John Jourdain had judged the port ‘a very plesaunt place to bide in, were it not for the Turkes’ tyrannie’. He had soon been disappointed to discover that he would need special permission from the Sultan in Constantinople if he wanted to set up a ‘factory’ (trading post) there and begin buying a commodity he called ‘cohoo’.iii Coffee’s special stimulating effects were a secret known only to the Muslim world at the time, so the plant intrigued Jourdain. On his trek inland into the mountains to Sanaa to parley with the pasha, he had noticed how jealously the Yemenis guarded their lucrative export, wrapping it in mystery and wonder – ‘it is reported this seede will growe at noe other place but neere this mountaine’, he wrote.
Ever interested in turning a profit from their troublesome southernmost province, the Ottomans had been encouraging coffee production and, with it, Mocha’s prominence. The southern highlands behind the Red Sea coastal plain, through which Jourdain must have passed en route for Sanaa, had experienced the equivalent of a Gold Rush. Its mountainsides had been transformed by an intricate lacework of terraces designed to take maximum advantage of the flash flood monsoon rains. A French visitor noted admiringly that ‘the greatest piece of husbandry that belongs to them [Yemenis], consists in turning the course of Rivulets and Springs, that descend from the Mountains into their Nurseries, conveying the Water by little Canals to the Foot of the Trees’. Those patterned mountainsides where a little coffee but more qat is grown these days remain one of the most beautiful and impressively workmanlike features of western Yemen, a startling testament to the people’s ingenuity and fortitude.
Back in the early seventeenth century, detachments of Ottoman soldiers guarded the precious coffee plantations and anyone apprehended in the act of trying to smuggle coffee seedlings out of the country was heavily fined. It was a disincentive that failed to deter the first Dutch visitor to Mocha, a merchant named Pieter van der Broeck, from removing a few to the Dutch Republic in 1616 and planting them in a greenhouse. That theft enabled a group of Amsterdam grandees to present the king of France with a single coffee sapling, a curiosity for his own Paris greenhouse. Yemenis were about to learn that if the Muslim Turks had come to their country to fight and steal, the Christian Franks who had come to trade and steal were not so different.
In 1618, the Porte had granted permission to both the English and Dutch to establish their ‘factories’ in Mocha. By the middle of the century, with the Turks gone, the port’s coffee trade with Europe was expanding fast and Yemen thriving. By the century’s end Mocha was reportedly exporting some ten million kilos of coffee a year. However, the effect of that first Dutch theft was about to be sorely felt. Yemenis were soon to lose their world coffee monopoly. In European colonies in south-east Asia, and South America and Africa, the precious plant could now be grown more cheaply thanks to colonised slave labour. The growing failure to compete would lead not only to the decay of Mocha and the southern highlands, but also to the impoverishment of the northern highlands that had so richly benefited from the trade since the Turks’ departure.
But Mocha has furnished Yemenis with some small consolation for their loss in the form of another plant – qat (catha edulis). A Koranically permitted stimulant derived from chewing the evergreen qat shrub’s tenderest top leaves for up to six hours a day, qat has long been as emblematic of Yemeni culture as the wearing of the jambiyah or the futa. Yemenis believe the life-enhancing properties of both coffee and qat were discovered at precisely the same time by a fourteenth-century Sufi named Ali Ibn Umar al-Shadhili who, while residing as a hermit in the vicinity of Mocha for twenty years, nourished himself and his meditations on both substances. There was a time, probably as far back as the sixteenth century, when coffee and qat vied for pole position in Yemenis’ hearts, a state of affairs reflected in this imagined debate between the two substances:
Qat says: they take off your husk and crush you. They force you in the fire and pound you. I seek refuge in God from people created by fire.
Coffee says: A prize can be hidden in ritual. The diamond comes clear after the fire. And fire doesn’t alter gold. The people throw most of you away and step on you. And the bits they eat, they spit out. And the spittoon is emptied down the toilet.
Qat scoffs: You say I come out of the mouth into a spittoon. It is a better place than the one you will come out of!
Qat has the last ribald word here, but its high standing did not stop Imam Mutahhar’s father, the great Sharaf al-Din, issuing a fatwa against it in 1543, commanding that all qat trees in his domains be immediately uprooted and burnt. He had taken fright at the reported ill-effects of the plant after discovering some of his closest entourage stumbling around his palace, slurring their words, claiming that halal [permitted by the Koran] qat, rather than haram [forbidden by the Koran] wine, was to blame. The chronicler of this tale piously protests the Imam’s harsh outlawing of his people’s main solace, noting that ‘God, realising that qat was utterly blameless, allowed some qat shoots to survive under the earth until the downfall of this dynasty, when they shot forth again, by means of his Grace. He the Creator par excellence!’
Qat has had the whip hand over coffee ever since in Yemen, but it was never and will never be the enriching export commodity that coffee once was. Its defenders will point out that it is neither as mind altering nor as harmful to the health as alcohol, and forcefully argue that if not for its nation-wide popularity, if not for the fact that one in every seven Yemenis is involved in the cultivation, distribution and sale of qat, much of rural Yemen would be deserted. Its more numerous detractors will contest that it is both disgraceful and dangerous for Yemenis to be growing so much qat, that it represents a ruinous waste of money and time and, most importantly, water. There are those, however, who quietly reason that, if not for the passive consolations of qat, many more young Yemeni males than is presently the case would be eagerly resorting to the more active consolations of jihad.
In 339 Philip marched of the Amphictyonic forces in yet another sacred war (the fourth), into Greece, not as invader but as commander which had been declared the previous year against the people of Amphissa, a city of west Locris. His command gave him the means to lead an army legitimately into Greece. Once there he intended to end his war with Athens and bring Greece firmly under Macedonian control once and for all. The time for diplomacy was well past.
At the spring meeting of the Amphictyonic Council in 340 the Amphissans had charged the Athenians with impiety for rededicating in the newly built temple to Apollo at Delphi some Persian and Theban shields seized after the Battle of Plataea in 479. The temple had not yet been reconsecrated, so the Athenians were technically guilty of sacrilege. The Amphissans urged the council to fine them 50 talents and deny them access to the Oracle. Politics rather than impiety was again at the heart of the charge: the Amphissans as allies of the Thebans were reacting to the inscription that the Athenians had added to these shields-“The Athenians from the Medes and the Thebans, when they fought on the opposite side to the Greeks.” Anyone viewing this dedication would be reminded that during the Persian Wars the Thebans had contemptibly joined ranks with the Persians and fought with them against Greek troops at Plataea, the final battle on the mainland in the wars.
The members of the Athenian delegation to the council made excuses not to address the Amphissan accusation-except for Aeschines. Rather than trying to explain the Athenians’ action, which clearly embarrassed the Thebans, he turned the tables on the Amphissans, boldly censuring them for sacrilegiously cultivating part of the sacred Plain of Cirrha below Delphi and constructing buildings on it. The council sent a contingent of troops to investigate Aeschines’s allegations; finding them credible, they were in the process of destroying the buildings when Amphissan troops attacked and beat them back. After diplomatic demands on the part of the council were rebuffed, a sacred war was declared against Amphissa later in 339, and at the behest of its Thessalian members Philip was appointed commander of its army. This Fourth Sacred War was a lackluster affair that ended the following year.
The Amphissan charge of sacrilege against Athens never again materialized. Demosthenes later claimed that Aeschines had worked in tandem with Philip to provoke this sacred war so that the king could march back into Greece. That cannot be true, because Philip was far away fighting the Scythians when the council met and-like the Athenians-had no idea what the Amphissans planned to do, so he was not part of a conspiracy with them. The opportunity to command Amphictyonic troops was a welcome one for the king, but he did not immediately march into Greece, because of the onset of winter and because he was still recuperating from the wound he had suffered in the clash with the Triballi. In the following spring he had recovered enough to lead his troops southward and established a camp at Cytinium, six miles north of the Gravia Pass, through which lay Amphissa.
Then, as often in his reign, Philip defied expectations to achieve his personal goals. In this case, he left Cytinium but bypassed Amphissa and turned southeast, down the Cephissus Valley, through Phocis, to the Boeotian border, and there captured the town of Elatea, only two to three days’ march from Athens. He had clearly decided to leave Amphissa be for the moment while he dealt with the Athenians as well as the Thebans, who in the same year had expelled the garrison he had installed in 346 in Nicaea, which controlled access to Thermopylae. He sent an embassy to the Thebans demanding that they return Nicaea to him and either join him in attacking Athens, keeping whatever Athenian spoils they seized when the city fell, or allow his army passage through Boeotia to Attica.
With the renowned Macedonian army encamped on the Boeotian border the Thebans’ mood must have been grim indeed. Philip had treated them leniently in 346, but they had no reason to assume continued benevolence on his part now. The Athenians likewise feared the worst. An emergency Assembly was summoned, at which Demosthenes urged the people to put aside their enmity for the Thebans and join with them in a last-ditch effort to save themselves and Greece from Philip. Demosthenes had been working to this end since 346, when he realized that only an effective union of Athens and Thebes had the chance to stop Philip. His planning now paid off: the people accepted his arguments and sent him at the head of an embassy to petition the Thebans for alliance. He left with a contingent of troops, which held fast at Eleusis while the Thebans debated the issue.
The Theban Assembly was packed. The Macedonians spoke first and bluntly pointed out that if the Thebans refused Philip’s demand, his men would plunder Boeotia mercilessly. Demosthenes then gave his speech. After it the Thebans voted-in favor of allying with Athens and so going to war with Macedonia. What Demosthenes said is unknown-Plutarch claimed that his oratory “stirred [the Thebans’] courage, kindled their desire to win glory and threw every other consideration into the shades. As if transported by his words, they cast off all fear, self-interest or thought of obligation towards Macedonia and chose the path of honor.” The Thebans’ decision was certainly courageous, but they are unlikely to have been swayed for these reasons, not least because they exacted significant concessions from Demosthenes: the Athenians were to recognize Thebes’s hegemony of the Boeotian League, pay for one-third of the costs of land operations and the entire bill for naval engagements, and agree to the Thebans being in sole command of the army and sharing in the command of the combined fleet. Still, on the motion of his cousin Demomeles and the orator Hyperides, a jubilant Demosthenes was rewarded on his return to Athens with a gold crown (his second) at the Dionysia festival in March.
To prevent Philip from marching into Boeotia and Attica the Thebans developed a two-stage defensive position. A force of their infantry and 10,000 Athenian-hired mercenaries commanded by the Athenian Chares and the Theban Proxenus was deployed to the Gravia Pass, while another joint force was posted 20 miles away at Parapotamii, on the Boeotian border, close to Phocis. These positions were good, defensive ones, and the Thebans deserve praise for their strategy. When Philip learned that all the passes from Mount Parnassus to Lake Copais were under Athenian- Theban control he knew that he had only two choices: either force his way through or-with winter fast approaching-return home (as the Thebans were banking on him to do). At this point both sides dispatched embassies to the other Greeks for support. Few responded-only Megara, Corinth, Achaea, Euboea, Acarnania, and some islands supported the Greek cause, and just the Thessalians, Phocians, and Achaeans (in the Peloponnese) marched to join Philip. The reason for this lackluster response was probably the same as for the lack of enthusiasm for the Fourth Sacred War: the Greeks were tired of fighting and expected Philip to settle matters anyway.
Later in the same year, 338, Philip and the Greeks clashed in some minor skirmishes in and around the Cephissus Valley before he decided that it was time to act more aggressively. He targeted the enemy troops at the Gravia Pass since he could not use his cavalry in the narrower pass at Parapotamii. Resorting to his tried and tested trick of a Thracian revolt, Philip arranged for a letter to his generals to be intercepted by Chares and Proxenus with his plans to leave for Thrace immediately. As “proof ” he directed some of his men at Cytinium to break camp. Chares was just as gullible as he had been at Byzantium in 340 and believed the letter’s content. He allowed his guards to relax their vigil, and Philip struck fast and decisively. He ordered his general Parmenion to attack Chares and his men, who were caught unprepared. Parmenion’s troops massacred many of the mercenaries and seized the pass; three hours later Parmenion reached Amphissa, which promptly surrendered to him, thereby ending the Fourth Sacred War.
In the meantime, Philip bore down on the other Greek allies at Parapotamii, who could not hold him back and fled to the plain of Chaeronea (not far from Thebes). The Thebans had deliberately chosen this plain as a fallback position because it was merely two miles wide and had hills on its northern and southern sides and several rivers dissecting it, hence Philip would find it difficult to deploy his cavalry effectively. There the Greeks prepared to make their last-ditch stand against the invader.
Map showing Philip’s movements during 339–338 BC
THE BATTLE OF CHAERONEA
The Greek coalition troops numbered 30,000 infantry and 3,800 cavalry and were commanded by the Athenian generals Chares, Lysicles, and Stratocles and the Theban general Theagenes. Boeotia provided 12,000 hoplites, including the elite Sacred Band, and the Athenians, 6,000 citizen soldiers (to age 50) and 2,000 mercenaries. Demosthenes, who had the phrase “good luck” emblazoned in gold letters on his shield, was one of the infantrymen in the Athenian contingent. Philip commanded 30,000 infantry and 2,000 cavalry, composed of 24,000 Macedonians and the rest from Thessaly and Phocis. The Greeks set up camp on the western side of the plain of Chaeronea, and the Macedonians, on its eastern-in his biography of Alexander Plutarch states that Alexander pitched his tent next to an oak tree by the Cephissus River, “which was known as Alexander’s oak” even in the biographer’s lifetime. The Cephissus flowed from the northwest to the southeast, forming the plain’s eastern border, so Plutarch’s anecdote helps to fix Alexander’s location in the Macedonian battle line.
Philip was in no rush to fight and waited for the Greek forces to assemble their battle line before he drew up his own. The Greek right flank was stationed by the Cephissus River and had the Boeotians with the Sacred Band on the far right. The Athenians and 5,000 light-armed infantry under Stratocles were stationed on the left flank by the Haemon (Lykuressi) stream. The other Greek allies were in the center of that line. On the enemy front, Philip put himself on his right flank, along with his hypaspists, facing the Athenians. On his left flank, facing the Boeotians, were the Companion Cavalry.
Although it was under Alexander’s command, he was most likely supported by Parmenion and Antipater because Diodorus stated that he was stationed next to Philip’s “most seasoned generals.” The various battalions that made up the Macedonian phalanx were in the center. The Greeks had deliberately strung out their line to cover almost the entire two miles of the plain’s width, forcing Philip to match it rather than risk being outflanked. That meant that he had to decrease the depth of his phalanx, thereby reducing its mass and the force of its charge. Further, the narrowness of the plain and its marshy areas impeded his usual cavalry attack. The Greeks were risking everything on a frontal charge with their right flank, which would then pivot to push the Macedonian left onto the boggy ground, even into the Cephissus. Philip therefore had to break up the opposing line and have his infantry carry the day. To this end, his strategy was to open gaps in the enemy line through which his men would pour while neutralizing the threat posed by the fearsome Sacred Band as quickly as possible. Although the troop numbers of both sides were roughly the same, and the Greek strategy was by no means flawed, there was a considerable difference in battle experience between the two sides. The Macedonian army had fought virtually every year since 358 against a variety of foes, from Greeks to Thracians to Scythians. Apart from reversals against Onomarchus of Phocis in 353 and the Triballi in 339, it had never been beaten-in fact, Philip may well have overcome the Triballi had he not been unexpectedly and severely wounded. By contrast, the Greeks had fought rarely in the previous two decades and had never faced the massed Macedonian army. The Boeotians had seen the most action, but only from their involvement in the Third Sacred War, and the Athenians’ hardest battles had been relatively minor ones on Euboea.
The Battle of Chaeronea took place in early August (either the seventh or ninth of Metageitnion). Philip planned a three-phase operation to upset the allied strategy. For the first phase he directed his entire line to march toward the Greeks at an acute angle, not face on, with his right flank closer to the Greek line than the left. When the Macedonian right under Philip came into contact with the Athenians on the Greek left, he put the second phase of his strategy into operation. Rather than engaging the Athenians in hand-to-hand fighting as they expected, he began to lead his wing sideways to the right, and the rest of his line followed suit. The Athenian left moved to stay with him, but as it did so it opened a gap toward the Greek center. The troops posted there and up to the right flank scrambled to plug it, while the Sacred Band on the extreme right followed orders and stood fast. Thinking that Philip was actually retreating, Stratocles allegedly exhorted his men to attack and shut him up in Macedonia. His impetuosity proved fatal.
Philip’s retreat was a feigned one. He continued for about 100 feet and then stopped by the Haemon to bring his third phase into play. Alexander and the cavalry on the Macedonian left now rushed to the gap that still remained open between the immobile Sacred Band and the rest of the Greek line. Once through it, they wheeled round at speed to encircle the band, cutting it down to the last man, and then quickly re-formed to assault the other Boeotian soldiers. In the meantime, Philip’s men turned back and charged the startled Athenians, forcing them into the river valley. The king had deliberately taken up a position opposite the inexperienced Athenians, anticipating that they would quickly buckle. He was right. The Athenians stood no chance as the Macedonians mowed them down and then broke the allied center apart. The fighting turned into a massacre as 1,000 Athenians were slain and 2,000 were taken prisoner. The other allies also lost substantial numbers, and the Haemon was said to have run red with blood. Perhaps as much as half of the Greek army was killed or captured. In complete shock and disarray the survivors (including Demosthenes) managed to struggle over the Kerata Pass to Lebadea (Levadhia) in Boeotia and thence to their homes.
Philip ordered the bodies of his men to be cremated as was the custom with those killed in battle. Then he buried their ashes under a large burial mound (polyandreion), 23 feet high, and honored them with a procession and sacrifice. The mound on the plain today, in which archaeologists discovered bones, teeth, and long spearheads from sarissas, is probably this mass grave. Two contradictory ancient accounts detail Philip’s actions following these solemn arrangements. The first is that while walking the battlefield he stumbled across the corpses of the 300 members of the Sacred Band, who had fought to the last man, and burst into tears. His reaction must have stemmed from his memory of watching the band train while he was hostage in Thebes and his admiration of their courage. To memorialize their bravery he ordered a statue of a lion to be set up on the spot.
The second account is that he got so drunk after his victory that he began to mock the prisoners and Demosthenes, sneeringly chanting the opening words of the latter’s decrees before the Assembly: “Demosthenes, son of Demosthenes, of Paeania moved this.” One of the Athenian captives, an orator named Demades, grew so incensed at his conduct that he contemptuously asked him, “O King, when Fortune has cast you in the role of Agamemnon, are you not ashamed to act the part of Thersites?” Philip was said to have sobered up instantly at the reference to Agamemnon, the leader of the Greeks in the Trojan War, and Thersites, who was slapped down for not knowing his place. Whether either story is true is not known, although the restored monument of the lion that stands at Chaeronea today (the original was broken in the Greek War of Independence) lends credence to the first one; Theopompus, in his critical history of Philip, may have been responsible for the second anecdote.
Philip’s victory at Chaeronea changed the face of Greek politics forever. Gone were the Greeks’ cherished ideals of autonomia and eleutheria (pp. 11-13), and even though the polis as an entity continued to exist, the Greeks now had to contend with the practical rule of Macedonia. The contemporary Athenian orator Lycurgus remarked of the battle, “with the corpses of those who died here the freedom of the Greeks was also buried,” and some centuries later Justin’s comment was equally sober: “for the whole of Greece [Chaeronea] marked the end of its glorious supremacy and of its ancient independence.” But while Philip had won the battle, could he now establish peace? An even greater challenge for him now was to reconcile the Greeks to Macedonian rule. At the same time he had to contend with the worrying prophecy he had received before the battle:
Let me fly far from the battle at Thermodon (Chaeronea), let me take refuge Watching from high in the clouds, as I soar with the wings of an eagle. Tears are for the loser, but death for the victor.
As events the following year proved, he should have heeded that closing line more closely. Philip must also have been delighted at the role that the 18-year-old Alexander had played in the battle. His father had entrusted him with a key command, and he had not failed him. His routs of the allied right flank and the Sacred Band were portents of his future military successes in Asia. So, too, were aspects of his life before the battle and even the manner of his conception and birth, all of which were said to have signaled future greatness.
In the early summer of 1934, the US Army Air Corps released a requirement for a multi-engined medium bomber intended primarily for the coast-defence role. The requirement called for the ability to deliver a 2000 lb (907 kg) bomb load over a range of at least 1020 miles (1641 km) but preferably 2200 miles (3540 km) at a speed of at least 200 mph (322 km/h) but preferably 250 mph (402 km/h). Boeing had already developed its Models 214, 215 and 246 series of closely related monoplanes for limited use as the B-9 series of twin-engined experimental and service test bombers, and fully appreciated that the monoplane layout of these aircraft offered little scope for improvement in its twin-engined form given the relative lack of power available from contemporary radial piston engines, or those foreseeable in the immediate future. The design team therefore chose to construe the USAAC’s multi-engined specification as meaning not necessarily just two engines as adopted by other contenders.
The design team decided that a three-engined powerplant, with an engine in the nose, was impractical, and therefore agreed a four-engined design. The design team began work in June 1934 on the Model 299, and construction of the prototype began in August of the same year as the start of a programme that was to produce one of the most important warplanes of all time. At the time it was designing the Model 299, Boeing was also at work on the considerably larger Model 294 (XBLR-1, later XB-15) bomber prototype, and the Model 299 can be regarded as an aerodynamic and structural cross between the Model 247 transport and Model 294 bomber. From the former came the basic structural design and from the latter the disposition of the four-engined powerplant, the circular-section fuselage, and the arrangement of the crew, weapons (both defensive and offensive) and other military equipment within the fuselage. In terms of size the Model 299 was about midway between the Model 247 and Model 294, and its span was only 8 ft 3 in (2.51 m) greater than that of its most significant rival, the military derivative of the twin-engined Douglas DC-3 transport that was designed as the DB-1 and developed into the B-18 Bolo bomber. The Model 299 prototype was a company-owned aeroplane, and first flew in July 1935 with a powerplant of four Pratt & Whitney R-1690-S1EG Hornet radial engines each rated at 750 hp (559 kW), a crew of eight (two pilots, bombardier, navigator/radio operator and four gunners), an offensive load of 4800 lb (2177 kg) with eight 600 lb (272 kg) bombs carried internally, and a defensive armament of five 0.3 in (7.62 mm) Browning trainable machine guns in a small nose turret and in four blister fairings (one dorsal, one ventral and two beam positions).
At this time, the USAAC had little funding and, thus lacking the ability to order the Model 299 into large-scale production, proceeded by ordering small batches, each introducing a significant improvement in capability over its predecessor. The 13 Y1B-17 service test aircraft were therefore followed by one example of the Y1B-17A, 39 examples of the B-17B, 38 examples of the B-17C and 42 examples of the B-17D, before the emergence of the first large-scale production variant, the B-17E, that resulted directly from the lessons of air operations over Europe in the opening campaigns of the war. The revised type was known to the manufacturer as the Model 2990, and its most important changes from the Model 299H (B-17C and B-17D) were a completely revised rear fuselage carrying larger tail surfaces, improved armour protection, a number of internal enhancements, and revised defensive armament. This last was particularly important: the waist positions were simplified, power-operated Sperry turrets each armed with two 0.5 in (12.7 mm) machine guns were added in the dorsal and ventral positions, and a manually operated tail turret had a further pair of 0.5 in (12.7 mm) machine guns. The first B-17E flew in September 1941, and the initial 112 aircraft off the production line featured a ventral turret that was remotely controlled from a periscopic sight in a Plexiglas blister located several feet farther to the rear; from the 113th aeroplane onwards, this installation was replaced by a Sperry ball turret accommodating a gunner. Other major changes included a powerplant of four R-1820-65 radial piston engines each rated at 1200 hp (895 kW).
FIRST B-17E DELIVERIES
The first B-17E bombers were delivered to the 7th Bombardment Group that joined the 19th Bombardment Group in the Pacific theatre from December 1941, and others of the 512 aircraft were allocated to the units that formed the first elements of the 8th Army Air Force in the UK from May 1942. The first British-based unit to become operational with the B-17E was the 97th Bombardment Group, which flew its first mission over Europe in August 1942. Other medium-range raids, mainly to targets in occupied North-West Europe, followed into the early part of 1943, but much of the European-based B-17E strength was diverted, from October 1942, to create the striking element of the new 12th Army Air Force that was to support the Anglo-American landing in Northwest Africa during November 1942 and the subsequent campaign up to the final elimination of the Axis forces from Africa by May 1943. Some 45 B-17E bombers were transferred to the RAF in late 1942 for use by Coastal Command designated as Fortress Mk IIA (the designation Fortress Mk I had been used for 20 B-17C aircraft) and, with the newer B-17F that had been delivered to the RAF earlier than the B-17E thus receiving the designation Fortress Mk II, served with four maritime and four meteorological reconnaissance squadrons.
The B-17F resulted from direct American operational experience, in this instance with the B-17D against the Japanese. The B-17F was externally distinguishable from the B-17E only by its single-piece blown rather than multi¬ piece built-up Plexiglas nose transparency, but the variant in fact incorporated more than 400 subtler but collectively very important changes that made the B-17F an altogether more formidable warplane. It was powered by four R-1820-97 radial piston engines each rated at 1200 hp (895 kW). Changes were added incrementally throughout the B-17F’s production life, including improved armour protection, provision for external bomb racks under the wing, increasing the maximum possible bomb load to 20,800 lb (9435 kg) for short-range missions, additional ball-and-socket machine gun mounts in the nose and the radio compartment for an extra three 0.5 in (12.7 mm) trainable machine guns, an electronic link between the Norden bomb sight and the autopilot, changed control settings, more photographic equipment, a revised oxygen system, upgraded main landing gear units allowing an increase in maximum take-off weight to 65,000 lb (29,484 kg) and eventually to 72,000 lb (32,659 kg), a dual braking system, self-sealing oil tanks, extra electrical power generation capability, dust filters over the carburettor air inlets, provision for 909.3 Imp gal (4133.7 litres) of auxiliary fuel in `Tokyo tanks’ installed in the wings, and paddle-blade propellers for the R-1820-97 radial piston engines but installed in revised nacelles to allow the full feathering of the wider-chord props.
The initial B-17F flew in May 1942, just two days after the delivery of the last B-17E, and was the first Flying Fortress to be built in the block system adopted by the USAAF in 1942 to differentiate minor improvements of standard introduced on the production line, but not meriting a change in the basic letter suffix. Production totalled 3405 aircraft in the form of 2300 from Boeing in 28 blocks, 605 from Douglas in 18 blocks, and 500 from Lockheed’s Vega subsidiary in 11 blocks. The B-17F was allocated initially to the 8th Army Air Force in Europe, and flew the first American bombing mission against a target in Germany during January 1943. Thereafter the B-17F became the mainstay of the steadily increasing US daylight bombing effort, but operations from mid-1943 revealed that the Germans were becoming wise to American tactics and also to the defensive limitations of the B-17F. The crisis in this variant’s career arrived in August and October 1943 with two major bombing efforts that resulted in very heavy American losses. The first was a raid by 376 aircraft on factories at Schweinfurt, Wiener Neustadt and Regensburg, and the second a raid by 291 aircraft on Schweinfurt. In each case the attacks lost some 60 aircraft as the Germans waited until the US escort fighters had turned back and then attacked the poorly coordinated bomber streams with a succession of fighters that attacked head-on against the bombers’ most vulnerable defensive arc.
The final B-17G resulted directly from the experience of the US bomber crews in 1943, which revealed that the B-17F lacked adequate defence against head-on fighter attack. The primary change in the B-17G was therefore the introduction of a power-operated Bendix chin turret armed with two 0.5 in (12.7 mm) machine guns and controlled remotely from the glazed nose position that was now a more practical unit as it lost the one or two manually operated 0.5 in (12.7 mm) machine guns that had been fitted in the B-17F. These weapons had not enjoyed adequate fields of fire to be truly effective, and had also made movement in the nose position very difficult. Other changes effected successively in the B-17G were an improved navigator position, refinement of the bomb-control system, electric rather than hydraulic turbocharger control, improved turbochargers, an emergency oil supply for propeller feathering, improved cockpit instrumentation, a primitive form of electrical power boosting for the control column as a means of reducing pilot workload during heavily-laden formation flight, and further upgrading of the defensive armament. This last was effected by alterations to the waist and tail positions: the former were fitted with fixed windows that deflected the icy airflow that otherwise affected the two gunners, and then staggered longitudinally so that each of the two gunners could move freely without impeding the other; the latter became known as the `Cheyenne turret’ when modifications that reduced overall length by 5 in (0.127 m) increased the tail turret’s field of fire by an appreciable degree and replaced the original ring-and-bead sight with a reflector sight. The single gun was later removed from the navigator’s position, whose hatch mounting was deemed to provide inadequate fields of vision and fire.
The first B-17G was delivered in September 1943, and production lasted to April 1945, when the 8680th B-17G was delivered to end Flying Fortress production after the completion of 12,731 aircraft. The B-17G was the most prolific of all Flying Fortress variants: each of the three manufacturers produced the type in 23 blocks, deliveries from Boeing, Douglas and Vega amounting to 4035, 2395 and 2250 aircraft respectively.
Very much like the Halifax and Lancaster its blind spots were picked out early. For the 17F this was dead on from the front and a little from below leaving the upper turret useless being unable to depress far enough, the ball turret was too far back to shoot properly to the front and the two guns in the nose didn’t point ahead. Made sense to add the chin turret.
The American Bombers in all theaters and all heavy bombers quickly found out that the enemy’s head on attacks were really hard to defend against with single flexible .50 brownings. The head on attacks were a great tactic for the fighters because when you are going 300mph and the bomber is going 250mph, you are closing on each other head on at 500 plus mph and it limited the ability of the bomber gunners to return fire. That being said, the chin turret was added to counter this major threat and add highly focused firepower to the front to make the fast closing head on attacks less fun for the fighters. The same thing happened with the B-24 bombers in the pacific, so the mechanics in the field started taking the rear B-24 turrets and adding them to the front of the B-24 aircraft and it worked great for them too. I can’t imagine how much work it took to add a turret in the field like that with the extreme modification to the front of the aircraft, including a larger area added underneath the turret. With the B-24 front turret, they couldn’t add them too the production line quick enough, so the new aircraft would get sent to modification centers across the country to get the front turret added and the guys no longer had to jerry rig turrets into the aircraft in the field.
The idea for the chin turret of the B-17G actually came from the YB-40 gunship concept during the time period of the B-17F production run. The YB-40 gunship concept was a failure, but the B-17G inherited not only the chin turret, but the offset waist gunner positions and the improved tail gun station (referred to as a “Cheyenne”) from the YB-40.
As a side note, the 13 .50 caliber guns of the B-17G paled in comparison to the YB-40’s average of 16 .50 guns, but a few were known to have been modified to carry more than this number.