For Edward's side see the preface of Sir F. Palgrave to the work above, and Mr. Freeman's essay on "The Relations between the Crowns of England and Scotland."]
The personal character of Edward the First had borne a large part in the constitutional changes which we have described, but it becomes of the highest moment during the war with Scotland which covers the latter half of his reign.
[Authorities. - Scotland itself has no contemporary chronicles for this period: the jingling rimes of Blind Harry are two hundred years later than the death of his hero, Wallace. Those of England are meagre and inaccurate; the most important are the "Annales Angliae et Scotia:" and" Annales Regni Scotiae," Rishanger's Chronicle, his "Gesta Edwardi Primi," and three fragments of annals (all published in the Rolls Series). The portion of the so-called Walsingham's History which relates to this time is now attributed by its latest editor, Mr. Riley, to Rishanger's hand. But the main source of our information lies in the copious collection of state papers preserved in Rymer's "Fœdera,"in the Rotuli Scotue," and in the "Documents and Records illustrative of the History of Scotland," edited by Sir F. Palgrave. Mr. Robertson, in his " Scotland under her Early Kings," has admirably illustrated the ages before the quarrel, and Mr. Burton in his History of Scotland has stated the quarrel itself with great accuracy and fairness.
In his own time, and amongst his own subjects, Edward was the object of almost boundless admiration. He was in the truest sense a national King. At the moment when the last trace of foreign conquest passed away, when the descendants of those who won and those who lost at Senlac blended for ever into an English people, England saw in her ruler no stranger, but an Englishman. The national tradition returned in more than the golden hair or the English name which linked him to our earlier Kings. Edward's very temper was English to the core. In good as in evil he stands out as the typical representative of the race he ruled, like them wilful and imperious, tenacious of his rights, indomitable in his pride, dogged, stubborn, slow of apprehension, narrow in sympathy, but like them, too, just in the main, unselfish, laborious, conscientious, haughtily observant of truth and self-respect, temperate, reverent of duty, religious. He inherited indeed from the Angevins their fierce and passionate wrath; his punishments, when he punished in anger, were without pity; and a priest who ventured at a moment of storm into his presence with a remonstrance dropped dead from sheer fright at his feet.
But for the most part his impulses were generous, trustful, averse from cruelty, prone to forgiveness. "No man ever asked mercy of me," he said in his old age, "and was refused." The rough soldierly nobleness of his nature breaks out at Falkirk, where he lay on the bare ground among his men, or in his refusal during a Welsh campaign to drink of the one cask of wine which had been saved from marauders: "It is I who have brought you into this strait," he said to his thirsty fellow-soldiers, " and I will have no advantage of you in meat or drink." A strange tenderness and sensitiveness to affection lay in fact beneath the stern imperiousness of his outer bearing. Every subject throughout his realm was drawn closer to the King who wept bitterly at the news of his father's death, though it gave him a crown; whose fiercest burst of vengeance was called out by an insult to his mother; whose crosses rose as memorials of his love and sorrow at every spot where his wife's bier rested. " I loved her tenderly in her lifetime," wrote Edward to Eleanor's friend, the Abbot of Cluny; "I do not cease to love her now she is dead." And as it was with mother and wife, so it was with his people at large.
All the self-concentrated isolation of the earlier Angevins disappears in Edward. He was the first English king since the Conquest who loved his people with a personal love, and craved for their love back again. To his trust in them we owe our Parliament, to his care for them the great statutes which stand in the forefront of our laws. Even in his struggles with her England understood a temper which was so perfectly her own, and the quarrels between King and people during his reign are quarrels where, doggedly as they fought, neither disputant doubted for a moment the worth or affection of the other. Few scenes in our history are more touching than that which closes the long contest over the Charter, when Edward stood face to face with his people in Westminster Hall, and with a sudden burst of tears owned himself frankly in the wrong.
But it was just this sensitiveness, this openness to outer impressions and outer influences, that led to the strange contradictions which meet us in Edward's career. Under the first king whose temper was distinctly English a foreign influence told most fatally on our manners, our literature, our national spirit. The rise of France into a compact and organized monarchy from the time of Philip Augustus was now making its influence dominant in Western Europe. The "chivalry" so familiar in Froissart, that picturesque mimicry of high sentiment, of heroism, love, and courtesy, before which all depth and reality of nobleness disappeared to make room for the coarsest profligacy, the narrowest caste-spirit, and a brutal indifference to human suffering, was specially of French creation. There was a nobleness in Edward's nature from which the baser influences of this chivalry fell away. His life was pure, his piety, save when it stooped to the superstition of the time, manly and sincere, while his high sense of duty saved him from the frivolous self-indulgence of his successors. But he was far from being wholly free from the taint of his age. His passionate desire was to be a model of the fashionable chivalry of his day.
He had been famous from his very youth as a consummate general; Earl Simon had admired the skill of his advance at Evesham, and in his Welsh campaign he had shown a tenacity and force of will which wrested victory out of the midst of defeat. He could head a furious charge of horse at Lewes, or organize a commissariat which enabled him to move army after army across the harried Lowlands. In his old age he was quick to discover the value of the English archery, and to employ it as a means of victory at Falkirk. But his fame as a general seemed a small thing to Edward when compared with his fame as a knight. He shared to the full his people's love of hard fighting. His frame, indeed, was that of a born soldier - tall, deep-chested, long of limb, capable alike of endurance or action. When he encountered Adam Gurdon, a knight of gigantic size and renowned prowess, after Evesham he forced him single-handed to beg for mercy. At the opening of his reign he saved his life by sheer fighting in a tournament at Challon. It was this love of adventure which lent itself to the frivolous unreality of the new chivalry.