Internet Shakespeare Editions

Author: Ralph Coggeshall
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Chronicon Anglicanum (Selection)


The attempt to blind Prince Arthur

From The English Chronicle of Radulph Of Coggeshall

1So the King's counsellors, realizing that the Bretons were making many massacres and revolts everywhere for the sake of their lord Arthur, and that no firm peace-agreement could be made so long as Arthur remained alive, suggested to the King that he should order the noble youth to be deprived of his eyes and genitals, so that he would thereafter be rendered incapable of princely rule, and also the hostile party would be calmed from the insanity of constant conflict, and submit to the King. Provoked then by the tireless coming together of his enemies and irritated by their threats and evil qualities, at length in fury he ordered three of his servants to go to Falaise as quickly as possible and perform this hateful task. Two indeed of the servants, detesting to commit such a hateful deed against so noble a youth, fled from the King's court. The third, however, came to the castle in which the royal youth was carefully guarded by Sir Hubert de Burgh, the King's chamberlain, with triple fetters about his feet. When this man reported the order of their lord the King to Hubert, great weeping and mourning broke out among the soldiers who guarded Arthur, being moved by intense pity for the noble youth. And Arthur, when he knew the cruel judgment given by his uncle upon him, despairing completely of his own safety, broke down into tears and mournful complaints. But when the man who had been sent by the King to perform this work stood in his presence and his identity was made known to the moaning, tearful boy, suddenly he rose up, excited amid his lamenting, and laid hands violently on that man to avenge his own destruction, crying with tearful voice to the soldiers standing round: "My dearest lords! For the love of God grant me a little time so that I may avenge myself on that wicked man ere he pluck out my eyes, for this may be the last of all men that I may behold in this present life."

2To put an end to this disturbance the soldiers quickly rose and restrained their hands, and at the command of lord Hubert the young man who had come [from the King] was ejected from the bedchamber. Through his expulsion and by the consoling conversation of those present Arthur's agony was relieved and he received some little consolation.

3But Hubert, the King's chamberlain, wishing to uphold the King's integrity and good fame, and looking forward to the King's forgiveness, preserved the royal boy unharmed, considering that his lord the King would soon repent of such an order, but would ever afterwards have hated exceedingly the man who had presumed to obey his cruel order, which he believed emanated from a sudden fury rather than from an utter falling away from equity and justice. Wishing therefore to mitigate in time the King's wrath and to restrain the anger of the Bretons, he let it be known in the castle and throughout the province that the King's judgment had been put into effect and that Prince Arthur had ended his last day through grief of heart and the bitter pain of his wounds, which rumour, for fifteen days, flew ceaselessly through the whole kingdom. In short the trumpet blew through streets and castles as if for his soul. His clothing was distributed to a leper hospital. It was made known that his body had been taken to the Cistercian abbey of St. Andrew, and there buried. At such rumours the Bretons were not pacified in mind but still more fiercely excited and where they could they raged more furiously than before, swearing that they would never desist from warring against the King of England, who had presumed to commit so detestable a crime against his own overlord and nephew. So it came about that it was necessary to declare publicly that Arthur whom they had rumoured to be dead was yet alive and unharmed, so that the ferocity of the Bretons might be somewhat reduced. When this was intimated to the King, he was fruitlessly displeased for a time that his orders had not been carried out. Then some of his soldiers told their lord the King that he would find it impossible to get soldiers to guard his castles if he presumed to carry out such an unhappy judgment on his nephew Prince Arthur; for if hereafter it befell any of his soldiers to be captured by the King of France or other enemies, they would at once be allotted without mercy a similar vengeance.