Front Page Titles (by Subject) BOOK VII.: FROM THE DEATH OF WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR, TO THE LAST GENERAL CONSPIRACY OF THE ENGLISH AGAINST THE NORMANS. 1087—1137. - History of the Conquest of England by the Normans; Its Causes, and its Consequences, in England, Scotland, Ireland, & on the Continent, vol. 1
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BOOK VII.: FROM THE DEATH OF WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR, TO THE LAST GENERAL CONSPIRACY OF THE ENGLISH AGAINST THE NORMANS. 1087—1137. - Augustin Thierry, History of the Conquest of England by the Normans; Its Causes, and its Consequences, in England, Scotland, Ireland, & on the Continent, vol. 1 
History of the Conquest of England by the Normans; Its Causes, and its Consequences, in England, Scotland, Ireland, & on the Continent, translated from the seventh Paris edition, by William Hazlitt (London: H.G. Bohn, 1856). In 2 volumes. Vol. 1.
Part of: History of the Conquest of England by the Normans; Its Causes, and its Consequences, in England, Scotland, Ireland, & on the Continent, 2 vols.
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FROM THE DEATH OF WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR, TO THE LAST GENERAL CONSPIRACY OF THE ENGLISH AGAINST THE NORMANS.
Quarrel between king William and Philip I., king of France—King William burns the town of Mantes—Last moments of king William—His death—His funeral—Election of William Rufus—The goldsmith Otho. banker of the invasion—Verses in praise of the Conqueror—Civil war among the Normans—Termination of the civil war—Treaty between William Rufus, king of England, and his brother Robert, duke of Normandy—Revolt of the English monks of the convent of St. Augustin—Conspiracy of the monks of this convent against their Norman abbot—Alliance between the monks and the citizens of Canterbury—Tyranny of the Norman bishops and counts—Fresh vexations inflicted upon the monks of Croyland—New quarrels among the Normans—Moderation of Eudes Fitz-Hubert—Heavy burdens imposed upon the English—Terror of the English on the approach of the king—Severity of the forest laws—Last chase of William Rufus—His death—Henry elected king of England—He addresses himself to the English—Utter insincerity of his promises—He wishes to marry an Englishwoman—Opposition of the Norman nobles to the contemplated match—Marriage of the king to Editha, Edgar’s niece—More civil war—Revolt of earl Robert de Belesme—His banishment—State of the English population—Renewed quarrel between the king and his brother Robert—Levy of money in England—Duke Robert becomes his brother’s prisoner—The son of duke Robert takes refuge in France—Foreign abbots installed into English monaster’s—Sufferings and complaints of the English monks—Popular superstitions—Embarkation of the children of king Henry—Their shipwreck—Indifference of the English to the calamity thus endured by the king and the Norman families—Invectives of the English historians on this occasion—Mabile, daughter of Robert Fitz-Aymon—Norman anecdote—English anecdote—Trial and sentence of the Saxon Brihtstan—Anglo-Norman tribunals—Oath taken to Matilda, surnamed the Empress—Marriage of Matilda with the earl of Aujou—Festivities at Rouen on the occasion—Election of Stephen of Blois—His popularity with the Norman barons—His rupture with them—Conspiracy of the English—Flight of the conspirators—Subsequent insurrections—Difficulties experienced by the historian.
During his stay in Normandy, in the first months of the year 1087, king William occupied himself in terminating an old dispute with Philip I., king of France. Favoured by the troubles which followed the death of duke Robert, the county of Vexin, situated between the Epte and the Oise, had been dismembered from Normandy, and re-united to France. William flattered himself that he should be able to recover this portion of his inheritance without a war; and, pending the result of the negotiations, he reposed from his fatigues at Rouen; he even kept his bed, by the advice of his physicians, who were seeking to reduce his excessive corpulence by a rigorous diet. Thinking he had little to fear from a man absorbed in such cares, Philip gave evasive replies to the demands of the Norman; and, on his part, the latter seemed to take the delay patiently.1 But the king of France having one day said jestingly to his friends: “By my faith, the king of England is very long about his lying-in; there will be great rejoicing at his churching,” this sarcasm, reported to William, offended him to such a degree that he forgot everything but vengeance. He swore by his greatest oath, by the splendour and birth of God, that he would be churched at Nôtre Dame-de-Paris, with ten thousand lances for his candles.2
Suddenly resuming his activity, he assembled his troops, and in the month of July entered France through the territory of which he claimed possession. The wheat was still in the fields, and the trees laden with fruit. He ordered everything to be laid waste on his way; the harvests were trodden under foot by the cavalry, the vines torn up, and the fruit trees cut down.3 The first town he came to was Mantes-sur-Seine; it was fired by his order, and he himself, in a sort of destructive phrenzy, rode in the midst of the flames, to enjoy the spectacle and encourage his soldiers.
As he was galloping over the ruins, his horse placed his feet upon some burning embers, started, fell, and wounded his rider in the stomach. The agitation into which he had thrown himself by riding about and shouting, the heat of the fire and of the weather, rendered his wound dangerous;4 he was conveyed very ill to Rouen, and thence, unable to support the noise of the streets, to a monastery outside the city.1 He languished for six weeks, surrounded by physicians and priests, and his illness growing worse and worse, he sent money to Mantes, to rebuild the churches he had burnt; he also sent sums to the convents and poor of England, to obtain, says an old English poet, pardon for the robberies he had committed there.2 He ordered the Saxons and Normans whom he had imprisoned to be set at liberty. Among the former were Morkar, Siward Beorn, and Ulfnoth, brother of king Harold, (one of the two hostages for whose deliverance Harold made his fatal journey.)3 The Normans were Roger, formerly earl of Hereford, and Eudes bishop of Bayeux, William’s half-brother by the mother’s side.
William, surnamed Rufus, and Henry, the king’s two youngest sons, did not quit his bedside, waiting with impatience for him to dictate his last will. Robert, the eldest of the three, had been absent since his last quarrel with his father. It was to him that William, with the consent of the barons of Normandy, had formerly left his title of duke; and, notwithstanding the malediction he had since pronounced upon Robert, he did not seek to divest him of this title, which the wishes of the Normans had destined for him. “As to the kingdom of England,” he said, “I leave it to no one, because I did not inherit it, but acquired it by force, and at the price of blood; I replace it in the hands of God, contenting myself with expressing the wish that my son William, who has ever been submissive to me in all things, may obtain it, if it please God, and prosper in it.” “And what will you give me then, my father?” energetically demanded Henry, the youngest son. “I give thee,” said the king, “five thousand pounds in silver, from my treasury.” “But what can I do with this money, if I have neither land nor house?” “Content ye, my son, and have confidence in God; allow thy elder brothers to precede thee; thy time will come after theirs.” Henry immediately withdrew to receive the five thousand pounds; he had them carefully weighed, and deposited in a coffer, strongly banded with iron and supplied with good locks. William Rufus departed at the same time for England, in order to get crowned.1
On the 10th of September, at sunrise, king William was awakened by the sound of bells, and asked what it meant; he was answered that they were ringing prime at the church of Saint Mary. He raised his hands, saying: “I commend my soul to Mary, the holy mother of God,” and almost immediately expired. His physicians and the other attendants who had passed the night with him, seeing him dead, hastily mounted their horses, and went to look after their property. The servants and vassals of lower rank, after the flight of their superiors, carried off the arms, plate, clothes, linen, and everything portable, and also fled, leaving the body almost naked upon the floor. It remained, thus abandoned, several hours;2 for throughout Rouen the people had become as it were intoxicated, not with grief, but with fear for the future; they were, says an old historian, as much troubled as though they had seen an hostile army before the gates of their city. The men ran wildly to and fro, asking advice from their wives, their friends, from the first person they met; they removed and concealed their goods, or endeavoured to sell them at a loss.
At last the churchmen, priests, and monks, having recovered their senses and their strength, arranged a procession. Dressed in the habits of their order, with the cross, candles, and censors, they came to the corpse, and prayed for the soul of the deceased. The archbishop of Rouen, William, ordered that the body of the king should be transported to Caen, and buried in the cathedral of Saint Stephen the proto-martyr, which the king had built. But his sons, his brothers, all his relations had deserted him; none of his officers was present; not one appeared to take charge of his obsequies; and it was a private country gentleman, named Herluin, who, out of good nature and for the love of God, say the historians of the time, undertook the trouble and the expense of the ceremonial. He hired men and a hearse at his own expense, removed the body to the banks of the Seine, and thence upon a boat, by river and by sea, to Caen. Gilbert, abbot of Saint Stephens, came, with all his monks, to meet the body; many priests and laymen joined them; but a fire which suddenly broke out dissolved the procession, and priests and laymen all hastened to extinguish it. The monks of Saint Stephen alone remained, and carried the body of the king to their house.1
The inhumation of the great chief, the famous baron, as the historians of the period style him, was not completed without fresh incidents. All the bishops and abbots of Normandy were assembled for the ceremony; they had prepared the grave in the church, between the choir and the altar; the mass was finished; they were about to lower the body, when a man, advancing from the crowd, said aloud: “Priests and bishops, this land is mine; it was the site of my father’s house; the man for whom you are now praying took it from me by force, to build his church upon it.2 I have not sold my land; I have not pawned it; I have not forfeited it; I have not given it: it is mine by right, and I demand it.3 In the name of God, I forbid the body of the spoiler to be placed here, or to be covered with my glebe.” The man who thus spoke was Asselin Fitz-Arthur, and all present confirmed the truth of what he had said. The bishops made him approach, and agreed to pay him sixty pence for the immediate place of sepulture, and to give him equitable recompence for the rest of the land. The king’s body was without a coffin, clothed in its royal habit; when they proceeded to place it in the grave, which had been constructed in masonry, the aperture was found to be too narrow; in forcing the body in, it burst.4 They burnt abundance of incense and perfumes, but in vain; the people dispersed in disgust, and the priests themselves, hastening the ceremony, soon quitted the church.5
William Rufus, on his way to England, learned the death of his father at the port of Wissant, near Calais. He hastened to Winchester, the city where the royal treasure was deposited, and gaining over William de Pont-de-l’Arche, the keeper of the treasure, obtained the keys.6 He had an inventory taken of it, and weighed it carefully; he found it to consist of 60,000 pounds of fine silver, with much gold, and a quantity of jewels.1 He next assembled all the high Norman barons then in England, announced the death of the Conqueror, was chosen king by them, and crowned by archbishop Lanfranc in the cathedral of Winchester, while the lords who had remained in Normandy were holding a council as to the succession.2 Many of the latter were desirous that the two countries should have but one and the same government; they wished to give the crown to duke Robert, who had returned from exile; but the activity of William anticipated them.
His first act of royal authority was again to imprison the Saxons Ulfnoth, Morkar, and Siward Beorn, whom his father had restored to liberty;3 he then drew from the treasury a great quantity of gold and silver, which he gave to the goldsmith Otho to be converted into ornaments for the tomb of him whom he had abandoned on his death bed.4 The name of the goldsmith Otho merits a place in this history, because the territorial register of the conquest mentions him as one of the great proprietors newly created.5 Perhaps he had been the banker of the invasion, and had advanced part of the funds upon mortgage of English lands; we may easily believe this, for the goldsmiths of the middle ages were also bankers; perhaps, also, he had merely made commercial speculations in the domains acquired by the lance and the sword, giving to the adventurers, those men-at-arms errant, a class of men so common at that period, gold in exchange for their lands.
A sort of literary competition was now entered into between the Latin versifiers of England and of Normandy, for the epitaph which was to be cut on the tomb of the deceased king; it was Thomas, archbishop of York, who carried off the honours.6 Several pieces of verse and prose in praise of the Conqueror have been preserved to our days, and amongst the eulogies bestowed on him by the priests and literary men of the period, there are some very singular: “English nation!” exclaims one of them, “why hast thou troubled the repose of this prince, so much the friend of virtue?”1 “O! England,” cries another, “thou wouldst have cherished him, thou wouldst have esteemed him in the highest degree, had it not been for thy folly and thy wickedness.”2 “His reign was pacific and fruitful,” says a third; “and his soul was benevolent.”3 None of the epitaphs remain which the conquered nation pronounced upon him, unless we regard as an instance of the popular exclamations occasioned by his death, these verses of an English poet of the thirteenth century: “The days of king William were days of vexation and sorrow, so that much people of England thought his life too long.”4
Meantime, the Anglo-Norman barons who had not concurred in the election of William Rufus returned to England, furious at his having become king without their consent; they resolved to depose him, and to substitute for him his eldest brother, Robert, duke of Normandy.5 At the head of this party was Eudes de Bayeux, brother to the Conqueror, who had just come out of prison, and many rich Normans or English-Frenchmen, as the Saxon chronicle calls them.6 The Red king (for so the historians of the time designate him),7 seeing that his countrymen conspired against him, called to his aid the men of English race, conciliating their support by the hope of some mitigation of their sufferings.8 He summoned around him several of those whom the recollection of their past power still caused to be regarded by the English nation as their natural chiefs; he promised them the best laws they should themselves require, the best which had ever been in the country;1 he restored to them the right to carry arms, and the right of the chase; he stayed the levy of imposts and of all odious tributes; but this did not last long, say the contemporary annals.2
For these concessions of a few days, and perhaps also from a secret desire to come to blows with the Normans,3 the Saxon chiefs consented to defend the king’s cause, and published in his name and their own this ancient proclamation of war, that which once aroused every Englishman capable of bearing arms: “Let each man that is not a nothing, whether in the town or country, leave his house and come.”4 Thirty thousand Saxons assembled at the appointed place, received arms, and were enrolled under the king’s banner.5 They were nearly all foot-soldiers; William led them by a rapid march, with his cavalry, composed of Normans, to the city of Rochester, where bishop Eudes and the other recusant chiefs had fortified themselves, awaiting the arrival of duke Robert, to march upon Canterbury and London.6
It appears that the Saxons of the royal army displayed great ardour at the siege of Rochester. The besieged closely pressed, soon demanded to capitulate, on condition of acknowledging William for their king, and of retaining under him their lands and honours.7 William at first refused; but the Normans of his army, not having the same zeal as the Saxons in this war, which was for them a civil war, and not desiring to reduce their countrymen and relations to extremity, considered the king too inveterate against the defenders of Rochester.8
They sought to appease him: “We who have aided thee in danger,” said they, “pray thee to spare our countrymen, our relatives, who are also thine, and who aided thy father to conquer England.” The king gave way, and at last granted the besieged liberty to quit the city with their arms and horses. Bishop Eudes endeavoured further to obtain that the king’s military music should not play in token of victory at the departure of the garrison, but William angrily refused, and said, that he would not make this concession for a thousand gold marks; the Normans of Robert’s party quitted the city which they had not been able to defend, with colours lowered, to the sound of the royal trumpets. At this moment loud clamours arose from the English in the royal army: “Bring us cords,” they cried; “we will hang this traitor bishop, with all his accomplices. O king! why dost thou let him go free? He is not worthy to live, the traitor, the perjured murderer of so many thousand men.”1
It was amidst these imprecations that the prelate who had blessed the Norman army at the battle of Hastings quitted England, never more to return. The war amongst the Normans lasted some time longer; but this family quarrel gradually subsided, and terminated in a treaty between the two parties and the two brothers. The domains that the friends of Robert had lost in England, for having embraced his cause, were restored to them, and Robert himself resigned his pretensions to the crown in consideration of large territorial possessions.2 It was agreed between the two parties, that the king, if he survived the duke, should have the duchy of Normandy, and that in the contrary case, the duke should have the kingdom of England; twelve men on the part of the king, and twelve on the part of the duke, confirmed this treaty by oath.3 Thus ended both the Norman civil war and the alliance which this war had occasioned between the English and the king. The popular concessions that the latter had made, were all revoked, his promises belied, and the Saxons returned to their position of oppressed subjects.4
Near the city of Canterbury was an ancient monastery, founded in honour of the missionary Augustin, who converted the Saxons and Angles. Here were preserved, in a higher degree than in the religious houses of less importance, the national spirit, and the remembrance of ancient liberty. The Normans perceived this, and early endeavoured to destroy this spirit by reiterated humiliations. The primate Lanfranc commenced by abolishing the ancient privilege of the monks of Saint Augustin, of being exempt from all ecclesiastical discipline but that of their own abbot.1 Although the abbot, at this time, was a Norman, and as such little liable to any suspicion of indulgence towards the men of another race, Lanfranc deprived him of the charge of his monks, which he himself assumed; he then forbad the bells of the monastery to be rung before the office had rung from the cathedral, paying no respect, says the historian, to this maxim of the Holy Scriptures: Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. The Saxon monks murmured at being subjected to this restriction, and, to manifest their discontent, they celebrated the offices late, negligently, and with all sorts of irregularities, such as reversing the crosses, and walking in procession barefooted against the course of the sun.2 “They do violence to us,” said they, “in contempt of the canons of the church; well, we will violate the canons in the service of the church.”3 They requested the Norman, their abbot, to transmit a protest from them to the pope; but the only reply of the abbot was to punish them as rebels, and to shut up the building, so that they could not go out.4 This man, who sacrificed his personal independence out of hatred to the Saxons, died in the year 1088, and then archbishop Lanfranc himself proceeded to the monastery, taking with him a Norman monk, called Guy, a man much beloved by the king.5 He called upon the monks of St. Augustin, in the name of the royal authority, to receive and instal the new abbot forthwith; but all emphatically answered that they would do nothing of the sort.6 Lanfranc, furious at this resistance, ordered that those who refused to obey should immediately quit the monastery. They almost all departed, and the Norman was installed in their absence with the usual ceremonies. The prior of the monastery, named Elfwin, and several other monks, all of Saxon birth, were then seized and imprisoned. Those who had departed at the command of the archbishop went and seated themselves on the ground under the walls of the castle of Canterbury. They were informed that a certain number of hours was granted them within which to return to the monastery, but that after that time they would be regarded and treated as vagabonds; they remained for awhile undecided, but the hour for refection came; they suffered from hunger, and many, repenting, sent to archbishop Lanfranc and promised obedience. He made them swear on the relics of St. Augustin to remain faithful to this promise. They who refused to take the oath were imprisoned, until weariness of captivity should render them more docile. One of them, named Alfred, who fled and was afterwards found wandering by the road-side, was put in irons in the archiepiscopal palace at Canterbury. The spirit of resistance was appeased for some months, and then again became still more violent than before; a conspiracy was formed against the life of the new abbot of foreign race. One of the conspirators, named Colomban, was taken, brought before the archbishop, and questioned as to his design of killing the Norman. “I had that intention,” answered the monk boldly, “and assuredly would have executed it.” Lanfranc ordered him to be tied naked to the doors of the monastery, and to be publicly whipped.
In the year 1089, the primate Lanfranc died; and the monks, delivered from the terror with which he had inspired them, commenced a third revolt, of a more serious character than the two others. They called to their aid the Saxon inhabitants of Canterbury, who, embracing this quarrel as a national quarrel, came armed to the house of the abbot of Saint Augustin, and attacked it. The abbot’s people resisted, and on both sides there were several men wounded and killed. Guy, with great difficulty, escaped from his adversaries, and hastened to shut himself up in the cathedral. On hearing of the affair, the Normans, Gaucelme, bishop of Winchester, and Gondulph, bishop of Rochester, hastened to Canterbury, whither numerous detachments of troops were sent by the king’s order. The monastery of Saint Augustin was occupied militarily; the trial of the monks was commenced, and they were condemned in a body to receive corporal punishment, which two foreign monks, Guy and Le Normand, inflicted on them at the discretion of the bishops; they were then distributed in various parts of England, and in their place twenty-four monks and a prior came from the continent. All those inhabitants of Canterbury who were taken by the Norman troops in arms were condemned to lose their eyes.
These struggles, fruits of the hatred and despair of the conquered, were reproduced at the same time in many churches of England; and generally, wherever Saxons, united in a body, and not reduced to the last degree of slavery, encountered the chiefs or governors of foreign race. These chiefs, whether priests or laymen, differed only in their dress; under the coat of mail, or under the cope, it was the same insolent, cruel, avaricious conqueror, treating the conquered as beings of an inferior race to his own. Jean de la Villette, bishop of Wells, formerly a physician at Tours, pulled down the houses of the canons of his church to build himself a palace with their materials.1 Renouf Flambard, bishop of Lincoln, formerly a valet to the duke of Normandy, committed such depredations in his diocese, that the inhabitants wished to die, said an ancient historian, rather than live under his authority.2 The Norman bishops went to the altar, as the earls to their military reviews, between two rows of lances; they passed the day in playing at dice, hunting, hawking, and drinking.3 One of them, in a fit of gaiety, had prepared for his Saxon monks, in the great hall of the monastery, a repast at which he made them eat meats forbidden by their order, and served up by women with dishevelled hair and half naked.4 Those of the monks who at this sight desired to withdraw, or who even turned away their eyes, were maltreated and called hypocrites by the Norman prelate and his friends.5
Against such adversaries the remnant of the Anglo-Saxon clergy could not maintain any very protracted combat; every day, age and persecution removed some of the old monks or priests; the resistance, at first energetic, was gradually extinguished.6 The fact of being peopled by a majority of men of English race was with any monastery ground for the hatred and oppression of the great. This was experienced under William Rufus, by the monastery of Croyland, already so ill treated at the time of the conquest. After a conflagration which had consumed part of their houses, the Norman count of the district in which it stood, presuming that the charters of the abbey had perished in the flames, summoned the monks to appear in his court at Spalding, to produce their title. On the appointed day they sent one of their number, Trig, who took with him their ancient charters in the Saxon language, confirmed by the Conqueror, whose seal was appended. The monk displayed his parchments before the count and his officers, who laughed at and insulted him, saying that these barbarian and unintelligible scrawls were of no authority. The sight of the royal seal, however, produced some effect; the Norman viscount, who dared not break it or publicly seize the charters to which it was attached, allowed the monk to depart; but he sent servants after him, armed with sticks, to seize him on the road, and take the charters from him. Trig only avoided them by following a bye road.1
The peace which reigned among the conquerors of England was once more disturbed in the year 1094, by the revolt of several chiefs against the king. One of the causes of this revolt was the exclusive right to hunt in the forests of England, established by William the Bastard and vigorously maintained by his son.2 At the head of the malcontents was Robert, son of Roger de Molbray, earl of Northumberland, who possessed two hundred and eighty manors in England.3 Robert did not appear at the court of the king on one of the days fixed for the political conferences of the barons and Anglo-Norman knights. His absence excited suspicion, and the king issued a proclamation that every great landholder who did not appear at his court at the approaching feast of Whitsuntide, should be excluded the public peace. Robert de Molbray did not attend, from fear of being seized and imprisoned; whereupon William despatched the royal troops to Northumberland. He besieged and took several castles; he blockaded that of Bamborough, to which earl Robert had withdrawn, but he could not make himself master of it. After many useless efforts, the king constructed opposite Bamborough a wooden fortress, which he called, in his Norman language Malveisin, or bad neighbour, left a garrison in it, and returned southwards. The garrison of the new fortress surprised Robert in a sortie, wounded and made him prisoner. He was condemned to perpetual imprisonment, and his accomplices were exiled from England.1
The estates of these banished men, in town and country, remained for some time without a master and without cultivation. It appears that the king’s favourites allowed them to remain untilled, after having taken from them everything of any value, indifferent as to property, the origin of which and the uncertainty of political events, rendered it too precarious. On their part, the royal officers, in order that the exchequer might lose none of its revenues, continued to levy from the town or hundred to which the vacant property appertained the entire amount of the territorial tax, a charge that fell upon the men of English race.2 The people of Colchester, according to an old narrative, returned great thanks to Eudes Fitzhubert, viscount or governor of the town, for assuming in his own name the lands of the disinherited Normans, and consenting to pay the taxes demanded in respect of them.3 If we may credit the same account, this Eudes gained the love of the people of Colchester by his equitable and mild administration. He is the only chief imposed upon the English by the foreign power to whom history bears such a testimony.
This exception to the law of the conquest did not extend beyond one single town; everywhere else things followed their course, and the royal officers, say the chronicles, were worse than robbers; they pillaged without mercy the cornloft of the peasant, and the shop of the trader.4 Oxford was governed by Robert d’Ouilly, who spared neither poor nor rich; in the north, Odineau d’Omfreville seized the goods of the English in his vicinity, in order to compel them to hew and carry stones for the construction of his castle.1 Around London, the king also levied by force troops of men to construct a new wall for the Conqueror’s tower, a bridge over the Thames, and in Westminster a palace or hall of audience, for the assemblies of his barons.
“The counties to whose share these works fell,” says the Saxon chronicle, “were cruelly afflicted; every year that passed was heavy and full of sorrow, on account of the vexations without number and the multiplied taxes.”2
Historians less laconic have transmitted to us some details of the sorrows and torments that the conquered nation suffered. Wherever the king passed in his journeys through England, the country was ravaged by his people.3 When they could not themselves use all the provisions or goods that they found in the houses of the English, they made the owner himself carry them to the neighbouring market, and sell them for their profit; at other times they burned them for amusement, or if it were wine or other beverage, washed the feet of their horses with it. “The ill treatment to which they subjected the heads of families, their outrages upon the women and girls,” adds the contemporary historian, “one would blush to relate; accordingly, at the first rumour of the king’s approach, all fled from their abodes, and retired, with whatever they could carry, to the depths of the forest or other desert places.”4
Fifty Saxons who, by some happy chance or perhaps by a little political cowardice, had managed to retain a remnant of their property, were accused, falsely or justly, of having hunted in the royal forests, and of having killed, taken, and eaten deer; such were the terms of the criminal charge brought against them. They denied the charge, and the Norman judges inflicted on them the ordeal by fire, which the ancient English laws only sanctioned when demanded by the accused. “On the appointed day,” says an eye-witness, “all underwent the sentence, without any mercy; it was piteous to behold; but God, in preserving their hands from burning, showed clearly their innocence, and the wickedness of their persecutors.” When it was reported to king William that after three days the hands of the accused were unscathed: “What of that,” said he; “God is no judge of these things; these matters concern me, and it is I who ought to judge them.”1 The historian does not relate what the new sentence was, or what the fate of the unhappy English, whom now no pious fraud could save.
The Saxons, persecuted by William Rufus for transgressing the laws of the chase, far more rigorously than they had been even by his father, had no other way of revenging themselves than by calling him, in derision, keeper of the forests, and wild beast-herd, and spreading sinister rumours as to these forests, into which no man of English race could enter armed without risking his life. They said that the devil, under terrible forms, appeared there to the Normans, and told them of the terrible fate that he reserved for the king and his counsellors.2 This popular superstition obtained authority by the singular chance which rendered hunting in the forest of England, and especially in the New Forest, fatal to the race of the Conqueror. In the year 1081, Richard, eldest son of William the Bastard, had mortally wounded himself there; in the month of May of the year 1100, Richard, son of duke Robert, and nephew of William Rufus, was killed there by an arrow carelessly shot;3 and, singular circumstance, this king himself also met with the same death there in the July of the same year.
On the morning of his last day, he held a grand breakfast4 with his friends in Winchester castle, and then prepared for the proposed chase. While he was fastening his shoes, jesting with his guests, a workman presented to him six new arrows. He examined them, praised the workmanship, took four to himself, and gave the two others to Walter Tirel, saying: “Sharp arrows for the best shot.” Walter Tirel was a Frenchman who had great possessions in Poix and Ponthieu; he was the king’s most cherished intimate, and constant companion. At the moment of departure there came in a monk of St. Peter’s abbey at Gloucester, bearing despatches from his superior. The latter, a Norman by birth and named Serlon, sent word, expressing the utmost uneasiness at the circumstance, that one of his monks (probably of English race) had had a vision of ill-omen in his sleep; that he had seen Jesus Christ seated upon a throne, and at his feet a woman, who supplicated him saying: “Saviour of the world, look down with pity upon thy people, who suffer under the yoke of William.” On hearing this message, the king burst into loud laughter. “Do they take me for an Englishman, with their dreams?” said he; “do they think I am one of the idiots that turn back because an old woman dreams or sneezes? Come, Walter de Poix, to horse!”1
Henry, the king’s brother, William de Breteuil, and several other lords, accompanied him to the forest: the hunters dispersed, but Walter Tirel remained with the king, and their dogs hunted together. Both were at their post opposite each other, the arrow in the cross-bow and the finger on the trigger,2 when a large stag, turned up by the huntsmen, advanced between the king and his friend. William pulled the trigger, but the cord of his crossbow breaking, the arrow did not fly, and the stag, astonished at the sharp sound, stopped and looked around. The king signed to his companion to shoot, but the latter did not obey the signal, either because he did not see it or because he did not understand it. Thereupon William impatiently exclaimed: “Shoot, Walter, shoot, in the devil’s name!”3 And on the instant an arrow, either that of Walter of from another hand, pierced his chest; he fell without uttering a word and expired. Walter Tirel ran to him; but finding him without life, he remounted his horse, galloped to the coast, passed over to Normandy, and thence into France.
At the first rumour of the king’s death, all participating in the chase hastily quitted the forest to see to their affairs. His brother Henry galloped to Winchester to the royal treasury;4 and the body of William Rufus remained on the ground, abandoned as that of the Conqueror had been. Some charcoal burners, who found him pierced with the arrow, placed him in their cart, wrapped in rags through which the blood trickled along the road.1 In this manner were the remains of the second Norman king conveyed to Winchester castle. Henry, already arrived there, imperiously demanded the keys of the royal treasury. As the keepers were hesitating, William de Breteuil himself, arriving from the New Forest, entered all out of breath, and opposed this demand: “Thou and I,” he said to Henry, “ought loyally to remember the fealty we swore to the duke Robert thy brother: he has received our oath of homage, and, absent or present, he is entitled to it.”2 A violent quarrel ensued; Henry drew his sword, and, with the aid of his attendants, who flocked in, took possession of the treasure and of the royal ornaments.
It was certainly true that, in the terms of the treaty of peace concluded between William and duke Robert, and sworn to by all the Anglo-Norman barons, the crown was due to the duke; but he was then far from England and from Normandy. The exhortations of pope Urban II. to all Christians to recover the Holy Land, had produced a powerful effect upon his adventurous spirit, and he was among the first who had departed with the great levy en masse made to the cry of Dieu le Veut, in the year 1096, and which, three years after, attained the object of its pilgrimage in the capture of Jerusalem. When the death of his brother William happened, Robert was on his return to Normandy; but, little suspecting what the delay would cost him, he stayed some time to prosecute a love affair at the court of one of the Norman lords settled in Italy. Thus taken by surprise, and without a leader, his partisans could not withstand those of Henry. The latter, master of the royal treasure, came to London, where the principal Normans assembled; and, three days after the death of his brother, he was elected king by them and solemnly crowned.3 The prelates favoured him, because he was greatly attached to them and to the literature of the period, a circumstance which procured for him the surname of Clerc, or Beauclerc.4 It is even said that the Saxons preferred him to his competitor, because he had been born and brought up in England.1 He promised at his coronation to observe the good laws of king Edward; but declared that he would, like his father, retain the exclusive enjoyment of the forests.2
King Henry, the first of the name, had neither the faults nor the good qualities of his eldest brother Robert. The latter was volatile and fanciful, but generous and of good faith; the other was an able administrator, greatly given to dissimulation. Notwithstanding the facility with which he had ascended the throne, he thought it prudent not to rely too entirely on the faith of those who had elected him. He suspected the fidelity of the Normans, and resolved to create for himself in England a power independent of them, and to arouse, for his own purposes, the patriotism of the Saxons. He extended his hand to the poor conquered natives, who were ever flattered in the hour of danger and crushed when that hour had passed away. He convoked their leading men, and, by an interpreter, addressed them in the following terms:—
“My friends and liegemen, natives of this country, in which I was myself born. You know that my brother would have my crown. He is a haughty man, who cannot live in repose; he openly despises you, holding you as cowards and gluttons, and would trample you under his feet. But I, a mild and pacific king, propose to maintain you in all your ancient liberties, and to govern you by your own counsels, with moderation and prudence. I will give you, if you require it, a writing to this effect, signed with my own hand, and will confirm it by oath. Stand firm, then, by me; for, supported by English valour, I fear not the mad menaces of the Normans.”3
The writing promised by the king to the English, or, to use the language of the period, his royal charter, was drawn up; as many copies of it made as there were Norman counties in England, and, to invest it with the more solemnity, a new seal, made for the purpose, was affixed to it.4 The copies were deposited in the principal church of each county, but they did not remain there long; all were removed when the king retracted his promises, and, in the phrase of an ancient historian, impudently falsified his word.1 Three copies only remained which escaped by chance; one at Canterbury, one at York, and the other at Saint Albans.2
The same policy that induced Henry I. to take this step with the English, led him to adopt another still more decisive; this was to take a wife of Anglo-Saxon race. There was then in England an orphan daughter of Malcolm, king of Scotland, and of Margaret, sister of king Edgar. She was named Edith, and had been brought up in the abbey of Rumsey, in Hampshire, under the care of another of Edgar’s sisters, Christina, who, after taking refuge in Scotland with her brother, had assumed the veil in the year 1086. As a king’s daughter, many of the high Norman barons had sought Edgar’s niece in marriage; she was demanded of William Rufus by Alain de Breton, lord of Richmond, in Yorkshire;1 but Alain died before the king had given her to him. William de Garenne (Warenne), earl of Surrey, then sought her; but for some reason or other the marriage did not take place.2 It was this lady whom king Henry’s ablest counsellors proposed to him as a wife, with a view thus to gain the support of the whole Anglo-Saxon race against Robert and his partisans.
On their part, many of the English conceived the futile hope of witnessing the return of the old Saxon times, when the granddaughter of the Saxon kings should wear the crown. Those who had any relations with the family of Edith went to her, and intreated her not to refuse this union.3 She showed much repugnance, it is not precisely known for what reason; but they who urged her were not discouraged, and so beset her, says an ancient author, that she at last said yea, out of sheer weariness of saying nay. “Noble and gracious lady,” they urged, “it is in thy power to retrieve the ancient honour of England; thou wilt be a sign of alliance, a pledge of reconciliation, but if thou persist in thy refusal, eternal hatred will remain between the two races, and blood will not cease to flow.”4
As soon as Edgar’s niece had given her assent, they changed her name, and instead of Edith, she was called Matilda, which sounded more agreeably in Norman ears.5 This was not the only precaution that became necessary; for a strong party was formed against the marriage, principally composed of those who openly or secretly favoured duke Robert, whose numbers were augmented by many who, from national pride, thought it unworthy of the conquerors of England to have a Saxon woman for their queen. Their ill will raised up all sorts of unforeseen obstacles; they alleged that Matilda, brought up from her infancy in a convent, had been consecrated to God by her parents; it was reported that she had been seen publicly wearing the veil, and this report suspended the celebration of the marriage, to the great joy of those who were opposed to it.1
There was at this time, in the archiepiscopal throne of Canterbury, a monk of Bec, named Anselm, a man of learning and virtue, to whom the historians of the period render this honorable testimony, that the native English loved him as though he had been one of themselves.2 Anselm had come by chance to England, in the reign of the first William, at the time when Lanfranc, seeking to destroy the reputation of the saints of English race, was fiercely attacking the sanctity of archbishop Elfeg, murdered by the Danes. Entirely absorbed with his project, the primate conversed with the Norman monk on the history of the Saxon Elfeg, and what he called his pretended martyrdom. “For my part,” answered Anselm, “I think this man a martyr and truly a martyr; for he preferred to die rather than injure his country. He died for justice, as Saint John for truth, and both for Christ, who is truth and justice.”3
Become primate in his turn, under William Rufus, Anselm persevered in the spirit of equity which had inspired this answer, and in his good will towards the English. He was one of the most zealous partisans of the marriage sought by the latter, but when he learned the reports respecting Edgar’s niece, he declared that nothing should induce him to take from God one who was his spouse, to unite her to a carnal husband. Wishing, however, to assure himself of the truth, he questioned Matilda, who denied that she had been consecrated to God; she even denied that she had ever worn the veil of her own accord, and offered to prove this before all the prelates of England. “I must confess,” she said, “that I have sometimes appeared veiled; but only for this reason: in my youth, when I was under the care of my aunt Christina, she, to protect me, as she said, from the libertinism of the Normans, who assailed the honour of every woman they met, used to place a piece of black stuff on my head, and when I refused to wear it, she treated me harshly. In her presence, I wore this cloth, but as soon as she left me, I threw it on the ground, and trampled on it in childish anger.”1
Anselm, unwilling to act in this great difficulty upon his own judgment, convoked an assembly of bishops, abbots, monks, and lay-lords, in Rochester. Several witnesses cited before this council confirmed the truth of the girl’s statement. Two Norman archdeacons, William and Humbault, were sent to the convent in which Matilda had been educated, and on their return, deposed that the public voice, as well as the testimony of the sisters, agreed with her declaration.2 At the moment when the assembly was about to deliberate, archbishop Anselm withdrew, that he might not be suspected of using any influence upon it; and when he returned, he who spoke for all the rest announced, in these terms, the common decision: “We think that the girl is free, and may dispose of her person, relying herein upon the authority of a judgment pronounced in a similar case, by the venerable Lanfranc, at a time when the Saxon women, who had sought shelter in the nunneries, through fear of the great William’s soldiers, demanded their liberty.”
Archbishop Anselm replied that he fully concurred in this decision, and, a few days after, celebrated the marriage of the Norman king and the niece of the last king of English race; but before pronouncing the nuptial benediction, desirous of dissipating all suspicion, and disarming malignity, he ascended a platform raised for the purpose in front of the church door, and related to the people the inquiry that had been made and the decision that had been given in accordance with it. These facts are stated by an eye-witness, Edmer, a Saxon by birth and monk of Canterbury.
All these precautions could not overcome what the historian Edmer calis the heart-malice of certain men,3 that is to say, the repugnance of many of the Normans to what they deemed the misalliance of their king. They amused themselves at the expense of the newly-married pair, calling them Godrik and Godiva, employing these Saxon names by way of derision.1 “Henry knew it and heard it,” says an ancient chronicler, “but he affected to laugh at it heartily, adroitly concealing his anger.”2 When duke Robert had landed in Normandy, the irritation of the malcontents assumed a more serious character; many Anglo-Norman lords crossed the Channel to support the rights of the dispossessed brother, or sent him encouraging messages, inviting him to hasten to England, and assuring him of their fidelity, pursuant to the compact formerly concluded with William Rufus.3 And accordingly, on Robert’s landing in England, his army was rapidly augmented by a great number of barons and knights; but the bishops, the common soldiers, and the men of English race, remained on the king’s side.4 The latter more especially, with their old instinct of national hatred, ardently desired that the two factions should fight. There was no battle on the duke’s disembarkation, because Robert landed on the coast of Hampshire, while Henry awaited him on that of Sussex. Some days elapsed before the armies could meet, and the least inveterate among the Normans of both parties, availing themselves of the interval, interposed, and appeased this quarrel between brothers and countrymen. It was arranged that Robert should once more renounce his pretensions to the kingdom of England, for an annual pension of two thousand pounds of silver, and that the confiscations made by the king upon the duke’s friends, and by the duke upon the king’s, should be restored.5
This treaty deprived the English of an occasion of satisfying with impunity their national aversion to the conquerors, and of killing the Normans under the covert of a Norman banner. But, ere long, this occasion again presented itself, and was eagerly seized. Robert de Belesme, one of the most powerful earls of Normandy and England, was cited before the general assembly to answer to forty-five charges. Robert appeared, and demanded, as was the custom, permission freely to seek his friends and take counsel with them as to his defence; but once out of the council-hall, he mounted his horse, and hastened to one of his strongholds. The king and lords, who had vainly awaited his answer, declared him a public enemy unless he presented himself at the next assembly. But Robert de Belesme, preparing for war, supplied with ammunition and arms his castles of Arundel and Tickhill, and the citadel of Shrewsbury, which was in his keeping. He also fortified Bridgenorth, near the Welsh frontier; and it was towards this point, that the royal army marched to assail him.
King Henry had been besieging Bridgenorth three weeks, when the Norman earls and barons interposed to terminate the war, and to reconcile Robert de Belesme with the king. “For they thought,” says an old historian, “that the victory of the king over earl Robert would give him the means to bend them all to his will.” They came in a great body to Henry, and demanded a conference, or, as it was termed in the French tongue, a parlement, to treat of peace. The assembly was held in a plain near the royal camp. On the side of the neighbouring hill was a body of three thousand English, who, knowing the object of the conference of the Norman chiefs, were greatly excited, and cried: “O king Henry, believe them not; they seek to lay a snare for thee; we are here, we will aid thee, and make the attack for thee; agree to no peace with the traitor until thou holdst him fast, dead or alive.” For this once, the Normans did not succeed in their attempt at conciliation; the siege of Bridgenorth was vigorously prosecuted, and the fortress taken; the capture of that of Shrewsbury soon followed, and Robert de Belesme, compelled to capitulate, was dispossessed and banished.1
The vanity of the English enrolled under the royal banner might be flattered by their military successes against the insurgent Normans, but the nation at large derived no relief from it; and, if it was avenged on some of its enemies, it was for the profit of another enemy. Though the king had married a Saxon wife and had received a Saxon nickname from the Norman chiefs, he was a Norman at heart. His favourite minister, the count de Meulan, was conspicuous among all the other foreign dignitaries for his hatred to the natives.2 It is true that the popular voice surnamed Matilda the good queen; she counselled the king, it is said, to love the people; but facts reveal no trace of her counsels or of her influence.1 The following is the manner in which the Saxon chronicle of the monastery of Peterborough prefaces its account of the events that followed the so eagerly-desired marriage of Henry with Edgar’s niece: “It is not easy to recount all the miseries with which the country was afflicted this year, by the unjust and constantly-renewed taxes. Wherever the king travelled, the people in his train vexed the poor people, and committed in various places murders, and set fire to places.” Each succeeding year in the chronological series is marked by a repetition of the same complaints, set forth nearly in the same terms, and this very monotony gives an additionally gloomy colouring to the recital. “The year 1105 was most miserable, owing to the loss of the harvest, and the taxes, the levy of which never ceased.2 The year 1110 was full of misery, owing to the bad season, and the taxes which the king raised for the portion of his daughter.” This daughter, named Matilda, after her mother, and who was at this time five years old, was married to Henry, fifth of the name, emperor of Germany. “All this,” says the Saxon chronicle, “cost the English nation dear.”3
That which cost it still dearer, was an expedition which king Henry undertook against his brother, the duke of Normandy. Personally, Henry had no motive to be the first to break the peace that existed between himself and Robert, since the latter had renounced all pretensions to the kingdom of England. But a short time previous, the duke had paid a visit to his brother, as to a dear friend; and had even, in return for the hospitality he received, given to his sister-in-law Matilda the pension which, in the terms of their treaty, the king was to pay him.4 This act of courtesy was not the only good office that Henry had experienced on the part of his eldest brother, the most generous and least politic of this family. Formerly, when Henry was without lands, and discontented with his condition, he had endeavoured to seize Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy.1 Robert and William Rufus besieged him there, and closely pressing him, reduced him to a want of water. The besieged sent to entreat his brothers not to deny him the free enjoyment of that which belongs to all men, and Robert, touched by this appeal, ordered his soldiers to allow those of Henry to supply themselves with water. Hereupon, William Rufus was enraged with Robert: “You show great skill in warfare,” said he, “you who supply your enemy with drink; you have now only to furnish him with meat too.”—“How!” answered the duke, “should I leave a brother to die of thirst? what other brother have we, were we to lose him?”2
The recollection of this service and of this fraternal affection vanished from Henry’s mind as soon as he became king. He essayed by every means to injure Robert, and even to avail himself of his heedless character, facile even to imprudence, and which rendered the duke of Normandy quite unfit to manage his affairs. Many abuses and disorders were introduced into his duchy, and, as a consequence, there were many malcontents, whom Robert’s volatility prevented him from heeding and his easy nature from punishing. King Henry artfully availed himself of these circumstances to interfere in the quarrels between the Normans and their duke; at first in the character of an intercessor, and then, removing the mask when discord recommenced, as the protector of Normandy against the ill government of his brother. He called upon Robert to cede the duchy to him in exchange for a sum of money. “Thou hast the title of lord,” he said to him in his message, “but thou art no longer a lord in reality; for they who should obey thee, scorn thee.” The duke indignantly refused to accede to this proposition, and Henry at once proceeded to compass his brother’s downfall by force of arms.3
Preparing to depart for Normandy, he ordered a great subsidy of money to be raised in England, to defray the expenses of this expedition; and his collectors exercised the most cruel violence towards the Saxon citizens and peasants.1 They drove from their poor cabins those who had nothing to give; they took out their doors and windows, and carried off even the least article of furniture. Against those who appeared to possess anything, frivolous charges were instituted: they dared not appear before the courts of justice, and their property was then confiscated.2 “Many persons,” says a contemporary, “saw nothing new in these grievances, knowing that they existed during the whole reign of William, brother of the present king, not to speak of what passed in the time of their father. But, in our days, there was a reason why these vexations were more hard and insupportable than ever: it was that they were employed against a people despoiled of all, utterly ruined, and against whom their masters were furious because they had nothing.”3 Another writer of the period relates that troops of labouring men used to come to the king’s palace or meet him on his rides, and throw before him their ploughshares in token of distress, and as if to declare that they renounced the cultivation of their native land in despair.4
The king departed for Normandy, conquered duke Robert, and made him prisoner, with his most trusty friends, in a battle fought near the castle of Tinchebray, three leagues from Mortain. A remarkable incident in this victory was, that the Saxon king, Edgar, was among the prisoners.5 Having renounced all hopes for his country and for himself, he had settled in Normandy with duke Robert, whom he soon loved as a brother, and whom he even accompanied to the Holy Land.6 He was brought to England, and the king, who had married his niece, granted him a small pension, upon which he lived for the remainder of his days, in the country, solitary and obscure.1 Duke Robert experienced, on the part of his brother, more rigorous treatment; he was sent, under a strong guard, to Cardiff castle in South Wales, opposite Gloucester, in a district recently taken from the Welsh. Robert, separated from England by the Severn, at first enjoyed a degree of liberty; he could walk about the adjacent country; but one day he attempted to escape, and seized a horse; he was pursued, and brought back to his prison, which he never again quitted. Some historians, but of the following century, relate that his eyes were put out by order of his brother.2
At the time of his defeat, Robert had a son still under age, named William, whom king Henry endeavoured to get possession of, but who was taken to France by one of his father’s friends.3 Louis, king of the French, adopted him, and had him brought up in his palace; he gave him horses and armour, according to the custom of the period, and feigning to take an interest in his misfortunes, converted him into a means of disquieting the duke-king his neighbour, whose power gave him umbrage. In the name of this son of Robert, the king of France formed a league which was joined by the Flemings and the Angevins. King Henry was attacked on every part of his Norman frontier; he lost towns and castles one after another; and, at the same time, the friends of duke Robert conspired against his life.4 For several years he never slept without having a sword and buckler at his bed’s-head.5 But however formidable the confederation of his external and internal enemies, it did not prevail against the power which he derived from combined Normandy and England.
Robert’s young son continued to live on the wages of the king of France, as his vassal, and to follow this king in his wars. They went together to Flanders, after a sedition in which had perished the duke of Flanders, Karle or Charles, son of Knut, king of the Danes, who had himself also been killed in a revolt.1 The king of France entered Flanders, with the sanction of the most powerful men of the country, to punish the murderers of the late duke: but, without such sanction and solely by virtue of feudal suzerainty (a right greatly questioned), he placed young William on the throne of the late duke, in furtherance of his object to render him powerful and then to oppose him to king Henry. There was little resistance to this unpopular king, so long as the king of France and his troops remained in Flanders; but, after their departure, a general revolt broke out against the new lord imposed upon the country by foreigners. The war proceeded with various success between the barons of Flanders and the son of Robert. The insurgents placed at their head the count of Alsace, Thiedrik, of the same race with themselves, and a descendant of one of their ancient dukes. This popular candidate attacked the protegé of the king of France, who, wounded at the siege of a town, died shortly afterwards. Thiedrik of Alsace succeeded him, and king Louis found himself obliged, despite his lofty pretensions, to acknowledge as legitimate duke of the Flemings, the man whom they had themselves chosen.2
Prior to his departure for the Continent to sustain the protracted war which his nephew and the king of France had excited against him, Henry had, with the consent of his bishops and barons, introduced an extensive creation of abbots and prelates. According to the Saxon chronicle, there had never been so many abbots made at once, as in the forty-first year of the reign of the French in England.3 At this period, while the daily intercourse with the church held so great a place in men’s lives, such an event, although of little moment in our eyes, was far from uninfluential upon the destiny of the English population, in as well as out of the cloister. “Of these new shepherds,” says the contemporary Edmer, “most were rather wolves than shepherds. We must suppose that such was not the king’s intention; and yet this were more probable, had he selected at least a few of the natives of the country. But if you were English, no degree of virtue or merit could procure you the lowest employment, whilst a foreigner by birth was, as such, judged worthy of any position. We live in evil days.”1
Among the new abbots instituted by king Henry, in the year 1107, was conspicuous a certain Henry de Poitou, who had come to England because it was a country in which priests made their fortune more speedily than elsewhere, and lived under less restraint. This Poitevin obtained from the king the abbey of Peterborough, and “he demeaned himself there,” says the contemporary chronicle, “as a hornet in a hive, seizing upon all he could find to take in the convent and out of the convent, and transmitting all he got to his own country.” He was a monk of Cluny, and had promised the superior of that order, by oath on a relic of the true cross, to procure for him the entire property of the abbey of Peterborough, with all its possessions in land and goods. At the time the Saxon chronicler wrote, the abbot had made his request to the king, and the royal decision was pending; “May God,” says the Saxon author, “have mercy on the monks of Peterborough, and this unfortunate house! truly it is now that they need the aid of Christ, and of every Christian nation.”2
These sufferings, to which we cannot refuse our compassion, since they were undergone by men, and that the foreign government rendered them common to both priests and laymen, by daily depressing more and more the hearts and minds of the English, appear to have increased in them the superstitious tendencies of their nation and their time; they seem to have derived some consolation from imagining that God from time to time revealed his anger against their oppressors by terrible signs. The Saxon chronicle affirms that, when abbot Henry the Poitevin entered Peterborough, there appeared at night, in the forests between the monastery and the town of Stamford, black huntsmen, tall and of fearful forms, who, leading black dogs with glaring eyes, and mounted on black horses, chased black hinds: “People worthy of belief have seen them,” says the narrator, “and for forty nights consecutively the sound of their horns was heard.”3 At Lincoln, on the tomb of a Norman bishop, Robert Bluet, a man infamous for his debaucheries, other phantoms were visible for several nights.1 Accounts were circulated of terrible visions, which, said the story, had appeared to king Henry in his sleep, and so terrified him that three times in the same night he had sprung from his bed and seized his sword.2 It was about this time that the pretended miracles at the tomb of Waltheof were renewed;3 those of king Edward, whose beatification was not contested by the Normans, on account of his relationship to William the Conqueror, also occupied the imagination of the English.4 But these vain fireside stories, these superstitious regrets for the men and days that were past, gave the people neither relief for the present, nor hope for the future.
The son of king Henry and Matilda inherited none of his mother’s good will towards the English. He was heard publicly to say, that if ever he reigned over those miserable Saxons he would make them draw the plough, like oxen.5 When this son, named William, formally received his knightly arms, all the Norman barons accepted him as successor to the king, and swore fealty to him. Shortly after this, he married the daughter of Foulques, earl of Anjou. This union detached the Angevins from the confederation formed by the king of France, who himself ere long abandoned the war, on condition that William, son of Henry, should acknowledge himself his vassal for Normandy and do him homage for it.6 Peace being thus completely re-established, in the year 1120, in the beginning of winter, king Henry, his legitimate son William, several of his natural children, and the Norman lords of England, prepared to return home.7
The fleet was assembled in the month of December, in the port of Barfleur. At the moment of departure, one Thomas Fitzstephen came to the king, and offering him a gold mark, said: “Stephen, son of Erard, my father, served thy father all his life upon the sea, and it was he who commanded the vessel which bore thy father to the conquest; lord-king, I entreat thee to grant me in fief the same office: I have a vessel called La Blanche Nef, fiftly provided.”1 The king answered that he had already chosen a vessel for himself, but that to meet the request of Fitzstephen, he would confide to his charge his two sons, his daughter, and their suite. The vessel which bore the king sailed first, with a south wind, at sunset, and next morning reached England in safety.2 Somewhat later in the evening, La Blanche Nef set sail; the sailors who manned it had asked for wine previous to their departure, which the young and joyous passengers had distributed in profusion. The vessel was worked by fifty rowers: Thomas Fitzstephen held the helm, and the ship went rapidly on, in the moonlight, along the coast near Barfleur.3 The sailors, excited by the wine, made every effort to overtake the king’s ship. Too intent upon this object, they heedlessly involved themselves among the breakers at a place then called the Ras de Catte, now known as the Ras de Catteville.4 The Blanche Nef, going at her utmost speed, struck on a rock, which drove in her left side: the crew sent forth a cry of distress, which was heard by the king’s vessels, already on the open sea; but no one suspected its cause.5 The water poured in, and the vessel sank with all in it, to the number of three hundred persons, among whom were eighteen women.6 Two men alone clung to the main-mast, as it floated on the water: a butcher of Rouen, named Berauld, and a young man of higher birth, named Godefroi, son of Gilbert de Laigle.7
Thomas, the master of La Blanche Nef, after having sunk once, returned to the surface; perceiving the heads of the two men who held on to the mast, “And the king’s son,” said he, “what has become of him?”—“He has not appeared, neither he, nor his sister, nor any of their company.” “Woe is me!” exclaimed Fitzstephen; and he plunged beneath the waves. This December night was extremely cold, and the most delicate of the two survivors, losing his strength, relinquished his hold on the most that supported him, and sank, commending his companion to the mercy of God. Berauld, the poorest of all, still supported himself afloat, in his jacket of sheep-skin, and he alone again saw the day; some fishermen picked him up in their boat, and it is from him that the details of the event were learned.1
Most of the English chroniclers, in relating this catastrophe, so grievous to their masters, express but little compassion for the misfortune of the Norman families. They call it a Divine vengeance, a judgment of God, and discern something supernatural in this shipwreck in fine weather and a calm sea.2 They recal the contemptuous and malignant language of young William with reference to the Saxons. “The proud man said, I shall reign,” exclaims a contemporary; “but God said, It shall not be, impious one, it shall not be; and the brow of the wicked, instead of wearing a diadem of gold, has been dashed against the rocks.”3 They accused the young man, and those who perished with him, of infamous vices, unknown, they said, to England, before the arrival of the Normans.4 The invectives and accusations of these writers, indeed, often exceed all bounds; as in other cases do their flatteries and their obsequiousness, manifesting them men who at once hate and fear. “Thou hast seen,” says one of them, in a letter which was intended to remain secret, “thou hast seen Robert de Belesme, that man who made murder his most agreeable recreation; thou hast seen Henry, earl of Warwick, and his son Roger, the ignoble soul; thou hast seen king Henry, the murderer of so many men, the violator of his oaths, the gaoler of his brother. . . . . Perhaps thou wilt ask me, why in my history I so highly praised this Henry: I have said that he was remarkable among kings for his wisdom, his courage, and his wealth; but these kings, to whom we all take the oath, before whom the very stars of heaven seem to bow, and whom the women, the children, and the idlers among men, gaze at on their way, rarely throughout their kingdom is there one man to be found so guilty as they; and this has given rise to the expression, royalty is crime.”1
According to the old historians, king Henry was never seen to smile after the shipwreck of his children. Matilda, his wife, was dead, and reposed at Winchester, within a tomb, the epitaph on which was partly in English, a circumstance that for many years did not recur on the monuments of the rich and great of England.2 Henry married a second wife, not of Anglo-Saxon race, which had now again fallen into contempt because the son of the Conqueror no longer needed it. This new marriage of the king was sterile, and all his tenderness was now concentrated upon a natural son, named Robert, the only son who remained to him.3 At about the time this son became old enough to marry, it happened that one Robert Fitz-Aymon, a rich Norman, possessor of great domains in Gloucestershire, died, leaving as heiress of his property an only daughter, called Aimable, and familiarly Mable or Mabile. King Henry negotiated with the relations of this girl a marriage between her and his son Robert; the relations consented, but Aimable refused, and persisted in her refusal for a long time, without explaining the motives of her repugnance, until at last, driven to extremity, she declared that she would never be the wife of a man who had not two names.
The two names, or the double name, composed of a Christian name and a surname, either purely genealogical, or indicating the possession of an estate or the exercise of some office, was one of the signs by which the Norman race in England was distinguished from the other race.4 In bearing only his own name, in the centuries which followed the conquest, a man incurred the risk of passing for a Saxon; and the provident vanity of the heiress of Robert Fitz-Aymon was alarmed at the idea that her future husband might be confounded with the mass of the natives. She fairly confessed this scruple in a conversation she had with the king, and which is related in the following manner, by a chronicle in verse:—
“Sire,” said the young Norman, “I know that your eyes are fixed on me, much less for myself than for my inheritance; but having so great an inheritance, were it not great shame to take a husband who has not a double name? In his lifetime my father was called Sir Robert Fitz-Aymon. I will not belong to a man whose name does not also show whence he comes.” “Well said, damsel,” answered king Henry; “Sir Robert Fitz-Aymon was the name of thy father; Sir Robert Fitz-Roi shall be the name of thy husband.” “A fair name, I grant, and honourable for him all his life; but how shall be called his sons, and his son’s sons?” The king understood this question, and immediately answered: “Damsel, thy husband shall bear a name without reproach for himself and his heirs; he shall be called Robert of Gloucester, for I will create him earl of Gloucester, him and all who shall descend from him.”1
By the side of this anecdotal illustration of the life and manners of the conquerors of England, may be placed some others, less amusing, of the fate of the natives. In the year 1124, Raoul Basset, chief justiciary, and several other Anglo-Norman barons, held a great assembly in Leicestershire; here they summoned before them a number of Saxons, charged with highway robbery; that is to say, with partisan warfare, which had succeeded to more regular defensive operations against the foreign power. Forty-four of these, accused of robbing with arms in their hands, were condemned, by judge Basset and his assessors, to death, and six others to lose their eyes. “Persons worthy of credit,” says the contemporary chronicle, “attest that most of them died an unjust death; but God, who sees all, knows that his unhappy people are oppressed beyond all justice; first, they are despoiled of their goods, and then they are deprived of life. This year was hard to bear; he who possessed anything, however little, was robbed of it, by the taxes and the decrees of the powerful; he who had nothing, died of hunger.”2
A circumstance which occurred some time before this may throw some light upon these decrees, which despoiled the unhappy Saxons of all. In the sixteenth year of the reign of Henry I., a man named Brithtstan, living in Huntingdonshire, wished to devote himself, with all he possessed, to the monastery of St. Ethelride. Robert Malartais, the Norman provost of the hundred, conceived that the Englishman only desired to become a monk, in order to escape the punishment of some secret offence against the foreign power, and he hereupon accused him, as it would appear, altogether at random, of having found a treasure and appropriated it to his own use, which was an infringement upon the king’s rights; for the Norman kings claimed to be born-possessors of all money found underground.1 Malartais, in the king’s name, forbad the monks of Saint Ethelride to receive Brithtstan into their monastery; he then seized the Saxon and his wife, and sent them before the justiciary Raoul Basset, at Huntingdon. The accused denied the crime imputed to him; but the Normans called him liar, insulted him for his short stature and his excessive corpulence, and pronounced a sentence which adjudged him and all that he possessed to the king. Immediately after sentence, they demanded from the Englishman a declaration of his property, real and personal, with the names of his debtors. Brithtstan gave it; but the judges, not satisfied with the statement, told him several times that he was an impudent liar. The Saxon answered in his language: “My lords, God knows that I speak the truth;” he repeated these words patiently several times, says the historian, “without anything further.”2 His wife was obliged to give up fifteen pence and two rings that she had about her, and to swear that she retained nothing. The condemned man was then taken, bound hand and and foot, to London, thrown into prison, and loaded with iron chains, the weight of which exceeded his strength.3
The sentence of the Saxon Brithtstan was pronounced, according to the testimony of the ancient historian, in the assembly of justice; or, as the Normans called it, la cour du comté, the county court of Huntingdon. These courts, in which all causes were tried, except those concerning the high barons, which were reserved for the King’s Bench, were presided over by the viscount of the county, whom the English called sheriff, or by a circuit judge, a justicier errant, as it was called in the Norman tongue.1 In the county-court sat, as judges, the possessors of free tenements, whom the Normans called Franc tenants, and the natives franklings, adding a Saxon termination to the French adjective.2 The county-court, like that of the king, had periodical sessions, and those who failed to attend them paid a certain fine for having, as the legal acts of the time express it, left justice without judgment.3 None had a right to sit there, unless he wore the sword and baldric, the insignia of Norman liberty, and unless, moreover, he spoke French.4 The judges attended girt with their swords, and thus kept away the Saxons, or, in the language of the old acts, the villeins, the country people, and all men of ignoble and low race.5 The French language was, so to speak, the criterion of a capacity to act as a judge; and there were even cases in which the testimony of a man, ignorant of the language of the conquerors, and thus betraying his English descent, was not considered valid. This is proved by a fact posterior, by more than sixty years, to the period at which we are now arrived. In 1191, in a dispute affecting the abbot of Croyland, four persons gave evidence against him; these were Godfrey de Thurleby, Gaultier Leroux de Hamneby, William Fitz-Alfred, and Gilbert de Bennington. “The false testimony given by them was registered,” says the old historian, “and not the truth spoken by the abbot; but all present thought that the judgment would be favourable to him, because the four witnesses had no knightly fief, were not girt with the sword, and one of them even could not speak French.”6
Of king Henry’s two legitimate children, Matilda still lived, the wife of Henry V., emperor of Germany. She became a widow in the year 1126, and returned to her father; notwithstanding her widowhood, the Normans continued in courtesy to style her empress.1 At Christmas, Henry held his court, in great pomp, at Windsor castle, and all the Norman lords of both countries, assembled by his invitation, promised fealty to Matilda, both for the duchy of Normandy and for the kingdom of England, swearing, after her father’s death, to obey her as they had obeyed him.2 The first who took this oath was Stephen, son of the earl of Blois and of Adele, daughter of William the Conqueror, one of the king’s most intimate friends, and almost the favourite.3 In the same year, Foulqnes, earl of Anjou, seized with the new enthusiasm of the century, became what was called a soldier of Christ, assumed the cross, and departed for Jerusalem. Uncertain as to his return, he gave the earldom to his son Geoffroy, surnamed Plante Genest, from his habit of wearing a sprig of flowering broom in his hat, instead of a feather.4
King Henry conceived a great liking for his young neighbour, earl Geoffroy d’Anjou, for his personal attractions, the elegance of his manners, and his valour; he became his knightly godfather, and defrayed, at his own cost, the ceremony, at Rouen, of his admission to chivalry.5 After the bath, into which, according to custom, the young knight was immersed, Henry gave him, as his knightly godson, a Spanish charger, a suit of mail, lance and sword proof, gold spurs, a shield emblazoned in gold with the three lions, a helmet set with jewels, an ash lance with a head of Poitiers steel, and a sword, of temper so fine that it passed for the work of Waland,6 the fabulous smith of northern traditions.7 The king of England’s friendship was not confined to these proofs, and he resolved to marry the earl to his daughter Matilda, the empress, and the union was celebrated, but without the previous consent of the lords of Normandy and England; a circumstance attended with most serious consequences to the fortunes of the married pair.1 Their nuptials were celebrated in the Whitsuntide of the year 1127, and the rejoicings continued for three weeks.2 On the first day, heralds in their state costume went through all the squares and streets of Rouen, making this singular proclamation: “By order of king Henry, let no man here present, native or foreigner, rich or poor, noble or villein, be so bold as to absent himself from the royal rejoicings; whoever takes not his share in the entertainments and sports, shall be held guilty of offence towards his lord the king.”3
Of this marriage was born, in the year 1133, a son who was called Henry, after his grandfather, and whom the Normans surnamed Fitz-empress, son of the empress, to distinguish him from the elder Henry, whom they called Fitz-Guilliaume-Conquéreur. On the birth of his grandson, the Norman king once more convoked his barons of Normandy and England, and required them to acknowledge as his successors, the children of his daughter after him and after her; they outwardly consented, and swore fealty. The king died two years after, in Normandy, thinking that he left an undisputed crown to his daughter and his grandson; but it happened far otherwise; on the first intelligence of his death, Stephen of Blois, his nephew, sailed for England, where he was elected king by the prelates, earls, and barons, who had sworn to give the kingdom to Matilda.4 The bishop of Salisbury declared that this oath was void, because the king had married his daughter without the consent of the lords: others said that it would be shameful for so many noble knights to be under the orders of a woman.5 Stephen’s election was sanctioned by the benediction of the primate of Canterbury, and, what was highly important at this period, approved by a bull of pope Innocent II.
“We have learned,” said the pontiff to the new king, “that thou hast been elected by the common voice and unanimous consent of the lords and people, and that thou hast been crowned by the prelates of the kingdom.1 Considering that the suffrages of so great a number of men cannot have been combined in thy favour without a special co-operation of the Divine grace; that besides thou art a near relation of the late king, and that thou didst promise obedience and reverence to Saint Peter on the day of thy coronation, we admit all that has been done for thee, and adopt thee specially, with paternal affection, for the son of the blessed apostle Peter, and of the holy Roman church.”2
Stephen of Blois was very popular with the Anglo-Normans, because of his tried valour, and his affable and generous disposition. He promised, on receiving the crown, to give to each of his barons the free enjoyment of the forests which had been appropriated by king Henry, after the example of the two Williams, and to secure by proper instruments the liberties of the church and of the nation.3 The first portion of the new reign was peaceful and happy, at least for the Norman race. The king was lavish and magnificent in his tastes, and most generous to those around him.1 He drew largely upon the treasure that the Conqueror had amassed and his two successors augmented;2 he alienated or distributed in fiefs the lands that William had reserved as his share of the conquest, and which was called the royal demesne; he gave independent earls and viscounts to districts and towns hitherto administered for the sole benefit of the king by royal governors. Geoffroy of Anjou, Matilda’s husband, agreed to remain at peace with him, for a pension of five thousand marks, and Robert of Gloucester, natural son of the late king, who at first manifested an intention of vindicating the rights of his sister, took the oath of allegiance and homage to Stephen.3
But this calm did not last long; towards the year 1137 many young barons and knights who had fruitlessly demanded of the new king a portion of his demesne lands and castles, proceeded to take possession of them by force. Hugh Bigot seized Norwich castle; one Robert that of Badington; the king recovered both, but the spirit of opposition went on gaining strength from the moment that it had first manifested itself.4 The bastard son of king Henry suddenly broke the peace he had sworn to Stephen, and sent from Normandy a message defying him, and renouncing his homage. “That which induced Robert to take this step,” says a contemporary, “was the answers given him by many religious men whom he consulted, and especially an apostolical sentence, as it was called, of the pope, which enjoined him to obey the oath he had taken to Matilda his sister, in presence of their father.” Thus was annulled the brief of the same pope in favour of king Stephen; and war could now alone decide between the two competitors. The malcontents, encouraged by the defection of the late king’s son, were in movement throughout England, preparing for the contest. “They have made me king,” said Stephen, “and now they abandon me; but, by the birth of God, they shall never call me a deposed king.” To secure an army on which he could depend, he collected mercenaries from all parts of Gaul. “As he promised good pay, the soldiers hastened to enrol themselves; horsemen and light infantry, especially Flemish and Bretons.”1
The conquering population of England was thus again divided into two hostile factions. The state of things became the same as under the two preceding reigns, when the sons of the conquered took part in the quarrels of their masters, and turned the scale on one side, in the vain hope of improving their condition. But now that a similar juncture presented itself, taught by past experience, the English stood apart. In the quarrel between Stephen and the partisans of Matilda, they were neither for the established king, who pretended that his cause was that of order and of the public peace, nor for the daughter of the Norman prince and the Saxon princess: they resolved to be for themselves; and there was formed that which had not been seen since the dispersion of the camp of Ely, a national conspiracy for the freedom of the country. “On an appointed day,” says a contemporary author, “all the Normans in England were to be massacred.”2
The historian does not detail how this plot had been arranged, who were its chiefs, what classes of men joined it, or in what places and at what signal it was to break out.3 He only relates that the conspirators of 1137 had renewed the former alliance of the patriot Saxons with the men of Wales and Scotland, and that they had even the intention of placing a Scotsman at the head of their emancipated kingdom, perhaps David, the reigning king of Scotland, son of Margaret, Edgar’s sister. The enterprise failed, because a disclosure, or perhaps mere hints of it, reached the Norman Richard Lenoir, bishop of Ely, under the seal of confession. At this period, even the strongest minds never exposed themselves to the probable danger of death without having set their consciences in order; and when the attendance of penitents was more than usually numerous, it was an almost certain sign of some political movement. In watching in this way the proceedings of the Saxons, the clergy of Norman race fulfilled the principal object of their admission to office: for by means of insidious questions put to penitents overflowing with devotion, it was easy to discover the hidden thought of revolt; and rarely could the man whom the priest thus interrogated defeat the craft of him whom he deemed to have the power to bind and loose upon earth and in heaven. The bishop of Ely communicated his discovery to the other bishops, and superior agents of authority: but notwithstanding the promptitude of their measures, “many, and these the most important of the conspirators,” says the contemporary author, “had time to fly.” They withdrew to Wales, and sought to excite her population to make war upon the Normans. The numbers who were taken, perished on the gibbet or by other means.1
This event took place sixty-six years after the last defeat of the insurgents of Ely, and seventy-two after the battle of Hastings. Whether the chroniclers have not told us all, or whether after this time the tie which bound Saxon to Saxon and made of them one people, could not be renewed, it would certainly appear that no further projects of deliverance, formed by common accord among all classes of the Anglo-Saxon population, occurred in the succeeding centuries. The old English cry, Down with the Normans! no longer resounds in history; the later insurrections have for their rallying cry terms indicating not national but civil war: thus, in the fourteenth century, the English peasants, in insurrection, shouted No gentlemen!1 and in the seventeenth, the people in town and country cried, No more proud lords and rotten hearted bishops! We shall still, however, to a certain extent, discover in the facts we are about to relate, traces of the old hostility of the two races.
It has now become very uncertain how long the terms noble and rich were, in the popular feelings of the English, synonymous with those of usurper and foreigner; the exact value of the language of the old historians is too often a problem for the modern historian. The former addressed themselves to people who knew, respecting their own social position, many secrets which have not come down to posterity; they could safely, therefore, be vague and cautiously unexplicit, for they were understood at half a word. But for us, how is it possible to understand the old chroniclers, if we are not first acquainted with the aspect and physiognomy of the times in which they wrote? And where can we study these times but in the chronicles themselves? This is the vicious circle in which all the moderns who seek to portray with fidelity the historic scenes of the old world, and the happy or miserable fate of the generations that are gone, are constantly and necessarily turning. Their work, full of difficulties, can never produce a perfect fruit; thanked, then, let them be, for even the small portion of truth which their toils so painfully resuscitate.
[1 ] Calumniam de Vulcassino comitatu. (Order. Vital., lib. viii. p. 655.) Seditiosorum frivolis sophismatibus usus est. (Ib.)
[2 ] Chron. de Normandie; Rec. des Histor. de la France, xiii. 240. Joh. Bromton, col. 980.
[3 ] Order. Vitalis, ut sup.
[4 ] Id. p. 656.
[1 ] Order. Vitalis, ib.
[2 ] To bete thulke robberye, that hym thogte he adde ydo. (Rob. of Gloucester, p. 369.)
[3 ] Chron. Saxon., p. 192.
[1 ] Saxon Chron., 659.
[2 ] A prima usque ad tertiam. (Id. ib. p. 661.)
[1 ] Id. ib.
[2 ] Id. ib.
[3 ] Roman de Rou, ii. 302. Chron. de Normandie, ut sup. xiii. 242.
[4 ] Pinguissimus venter crepuit. (Ib.)
[5 ] Id. ib.
[6 ] Dugdale, Monast. Anglic., ii. 890.
[1 ] Ingulf., p. 106.
[2 ] Dugdale, ut sup.
[3 ] Alured, Beverlac., ut sup. lib. ix. p. 136. Florent. Wigorn., p. 642.
[4 ] Order. Vitalis, lib. viii. p. 663.
[5 ] Domesday Book, ii. p. 97, 98.
[6 ] Solius Thomæ—versus ex auro inserti sunt. (Order. Vital., ut sup.)
[2 ] Guill. Pictav., p. 207.
[5 ] Chron. Saxon., p. 192.
[6 ] Tha riceste frencisce men—ealle frencisce men. (Ib.)
[7 ] Li ris ros. (Roman de Rou, ii. 305.) The rede kyng. (Rob. of Gloucest., p. 383.)
[8 ] Chron. Saxon., p. 194.
[1 ] Joh. Bromton, col. 984. Annal. Waverleienses, ut sup. p. 136.
[3 ] Joh. Bromton, ut sup.
[4 ] Annales Waverleienses, p. 136.
[5 ] Order. Vitalis, lib. viii. p. 667.
[6 ] Florent. Wigorn., p. 643.
[7 ] Order. Vitalis, ut sup.
[1 ]Ib. p. 668.
[2 ] Florent. Wigorn., p. 644.
[4 ] Nihil postmodum tenuit quod promisit. (Joh. Bromton, p. 984.)
[1 ] Willelm. Thorn., Chron., apud Hist Anglic Script., (Selden) ii. col. 1791.
[2 ]Ib. col. 1792.
[3 ] Annal. Eccles. Winton.; Anglia Sacra, i. 298.
[4 ] Willelm. Thorn., ut sup.
[5 ]Ib. col. 1793.
[6 ] Chron. Sax., p. 179.
[1 ] Hist. de episcop. bathon. et wellens.; Anglia Sacra, i. 559.
[2 ] Annal. eccles. Winton.; Anglia Sacra, i. 295.
[3 ] ...ut majus illos consules, quam monachos, pro famulorum frequentias putares. (Hen. Knyghton, ut sup. col. 2367.)
[4 ]Ib. col. 2372.
[6 ] Matth. Paris, Vitæ Abbatum S. Albani, i. 54.
[1 ] Ingulf., p. 107.
[2 ] Willelm. Malmesb., lib. iv. p. 124.
[3 ] Order. Vitalis, lib. viii. p. 703.
[1 ] Chron. Saxon., p. 203.
[2 ] Terras damnatorum...et pro culpis eliminatorum dum nemo coleret, exigebantur tamen plenaliter fiscalia, et hac de causâ populus valde gravabatur. (Dugdale, Monast. Anglic., ii. 890.)
[3 ] Id. ib.
[4 ] Order. Vital., lib. x. p. 773.
[1 ] Leland, Collectanea, iv. 116.
[2 ] Chron. Saxon., p. 206.
[3 ] Ut quæque pessundarent, diriperent, et totam terram devastarent. (Eadmer, p. 94.)
[1 ]Ib. p. 48.
[2 ] Simeon Dunelmensis, Hist. Dunelm., apud Script. rer. Anglic., (Selden) i. 225. Roger de Hoveden, p. 468.
[3 ] Order. Vital., lib. x. p. 780.
[4 ] Rex mane cum suis parasitis comedit. (Ib. p. 782.)
[2 ] Knyghton, lib. ii. ut sup. col. 2375.
[3 ] Trahe, trahe arcam, ex parte diaboli. (Ib.)
[4 ] Order. Vital., ut sup.
[1 ] Willelm. Malmesb., de Gestis, &c., lib. iv. ut sup. p. 126.
[2 ] Order. Vital., ut sup.
[3 ] Chron. Saxon., (Gibson) p. 208.
[4 ] Joh. Bromton, col. 997.
[1 ] Guilielm. Neubrig., p. 297.
[2 ] Joh. Bromton, ut sup.
[3 ] Matthew Paris, i. 62.
[4 ] Thomas Rudborne, Hist. Major. Winton. Anglia Sacra, i. 274.
[1 ] Matthew Paris, loco citato.
[2 ] [“This charter, which laid the foundation for the subsequent charters of Henry’s successors, is entitled Institutiones Henrici Primi. Matthew Paris has twice recited this charter, namely, under the years 1100 and 1213, and two copies of it are entered in the Red Book of the Exchequer, one of which is prefixed to king Henry’s laws, published by Lambard and Wilkins. It is likewise printed in Richard of Hagustald’s history of king Stephen, and a copy of it, taken from the Textus Roffensis, has since been published by Hearne, and afterwards again by Mr. Justice Blackstone in his Law Tracts. This is acknowledged to be the most correct copy of any, being compiled by Ernulf, bishop of Rochester, who died ad 1114.”—Crabbe, H. of English Law, p. 52.] The following translation is adopted from Mr. Thomson’s Historical Essay on Magna Charta, one of the most valuable contributions to historical literature ever made: “In the year of our Lord’s incarnation M. C. I., Henry, the son of king William, after the death of his brother William, by the grace of God, king of the English, to all his faithful subjects, greeting. Know ye, that because through the mercy of God and the common council of the barons of all England, I was crowned king of the same, and because the kingdom hath been oppressed by unjust exactions,—for the honour of God, and the love which I have towards you all, I have firstly set at liberty the Holy Church of God, so that I will neither sell, nor let out to farm, nor upon the death of any archbishop, or bishop, or abbot, will I take any thing from the lordship of the church or its tenants until a successor shall have been admitted to it. And I also take away all evil customs with which the kingdom of England has been unjustly oppressed, and which are here in part set down. If any of my earls, or barons, or others who hold of me, shall die, his heir shall not redeem the estate as he was wont to do in the time of my brother; but shall relieve it by a just and lawful relief. In like manner shall the tenants of my barons relieve their lands of their lords by a just and lawful relief. And if any of my barons or other tenants, will give his daughter, sister, niece, or kinswoman in marriage, he shall treat with me about it; but I will neither take anything of his for that licence, nor will I prevent him giving her in marriage unless he be willing to join her to my enemies. And if upon the death of a baron, or other of my tenants, there remain a daughter and heir, I will give her in marriage, together with her lands, by the counsel of my barons. And upon the death of a man, if his wife be left without children, she shall have her dower and marriage-portion; and I will not give her again in marriage excepting by her own consent. But if the wife be left with children, she shall then have her dower and marriage-portion whilst she lawfully preserves her body; and I will not dispose of her in marriage, but according to her own will. And of the lands and children, there shall be appointed guardians, being either the wife or some near kinsman, who ought to be just. And I also command that my barons conduct themselves in like manner towards the sons, daughters, and wives, of their tenants. The common mintage of money which was accustomed to be taken in cities and counties, though not paid in the time of king Edward, I do wholly forbid to be taken for the future. If any coiner or other person shall be taken with false money, due justice shall be done upon him. All pleas and debts which were due to my brother, I forgive, excepting my just farms; and excepting those things which were covenanted for concerning the inheritance of others, or for those which properly concerned other men. And if any have engaged anything for his own inheritance, that I forgive; with all reliefs which were agreed upon for lawful inheritances. And if any of my barons or tenants lie sick, and he will give, or designs to bequeath his money, I grant that it shall be disposed of accordingly. But if, being prevented by war or sickness, he should neither give nor dispose of his money, his wife, children, or relations, and his lawful tenants, shall divide it between them for the good of his soul, as it shall seem best to them. If any (of my barons or tenants) shall forfeit, he shall not give a pledge in forbearance of the fine, as was done in the time of my father and brother, excepting according to the manner of the fine: so that it shall be satisfied as it was wont to be before the time of my father, in the time of my other ancestors. But if he be convicted of perfidy or any other wickedness, he shall make a due satisfaction for it. Also I pardon all murders, from the day in which I was crowned king: and those which shall hereafter be committed shall have satisfaction according to the laws of king Edward. I have, by the common council of my barons, retained in my hands all forests in the same manner as they were held by my father. I also grant of my own free-will to knights who defend their lands by their habergeons, (that is to say, tenants by military service,) that their demesne lands and carriages shall be free from all guilds and payments to works: so that being so greatly relieved, they may the more easily provide themselves with horses and arms, better fitting my service and the defence of my kingdom. I also establish firm peace in the whole of my realm, and command it to be held for the future. I also restore to you the law of king Edward, with those amendments with which my father improved it by the counsel of his barons. If any man hath taken anything of mine, or the goods of another, since the death of king William, my brother, the whole shall speedily be restored without any other satisfaction: but if he shall retain anything, he shall pay a heavy recompence for it.—Witnessed by Maurice, bishop of London, and bishop Gundulf, and William, bishop elect of Winchester; and earl Henry, earl Simon, Walter Gifford, Robert de Montfort, Roger Bigot, and Henry de Port; at London, when I was crowned.”
[1 ] Willelm. Malmesb., de Gestis, &c., lib. v. ut sup. p. 164.
[2 ] Order. Vitans, lib. viii. p. 702.
[3 ] Matthew Paris, i. 58.
[4 ] Instantes enim importune dicebant: O mulierum generosissima ac gratissima...quod si non feceris, causa eris perennis inimicitiæ gentium diversarum, et sanguine humani effusionis irrestaurabilis. (Ib.)
[5 ] Order. Vital., ut sup.
[1 ] Eadmer, Hist. Nova, (Selden) 56.
[2 ]Ib. p. 112.
[3 ] Martyr, inquit, videtur egregius qui mori maluit...Sic ergo Johannes pro veritate, sic et Elphegus pro justitiâ. (Joh. Sarisburiensis, de Vitâ Anselmi; Anglia Sacra, ii. 162.)
[1 ] Eadmer, pp. 56, 57.
[2 ] Id. ib.
[3 ] Id. ib.
[1 ] Willelm. Malmesb., de Gestis, &c., lib. v. ut sup. p. 156. Vocantes eum Godrych Godefadyr. (Knyghton, lib. ii. col. 2375.)
[2 ] Audiebat hæc ille et formidabiles cachinnos, iram differens, ejiciebat. (Willelm. Malmesb., loco citato.)
[3 ] Florent. Wigorn., p. 650.
[4 ] Id. ib.
[5 ] Id. ib.
[1 ] Order, Vital., p. 806, 807.
[2 ] Eadmer, pp. 94.
[2 ] Chron. Saxon., p. 212.
[3 ]Ib. p. 213—216
[4 ] Order. Vitalis, lib. xi. p. 805.
[1 ] Thomas Rudborne, ut sup. p. 263.
[2 ] Willelm. Malmesb., de Gestis, reg. Angl. &c., lib. iv. ut sup. p. 121.
[3 ] Order. Vitalis, p. 820.
[1 ] Nullus in collectoribus pretatis aut misericordiæ respectus fuit, sed crudelis exactio super omnes desævit. (Eadmer, p. 83.)
[2 ] Aliis atque aliis miserabilibus modis affligi et cruciari...Nova et excogitata forisfacta objiciebantur. (Ib.)
[4 ] Dialogus de Scaccario; Seldeni notæ ad Eadmeri, Hist., p. 216.
[5 ] Chron. Saxon., p. 214.
[6 ] Ducem...quasi collactaneum fratrem diligebat. (Order. Vital., lib. x. p. 778.)
[1 ] Pedetentim pro ignavia...contemptui haberi cæpet...nunc remotus et tacitus, canos suos in agro consumit. (Willelm. Malmesb., de Gestis, &c., lib. iii. p. 103.)
[2 ] Matth. Paris, i. 63.
[3 ] Order. Vitalis, lib. xi. p. 838.
[4 ]Ib. p. 838, et seq. Sugerius, vita Lodovici Grossi, apud Script. rer. Gallic, et Francic, xii. 44.
[1 ] Johan. Iperius, Chron., apud Script. rer. Gallic. et Francic., xiii. 466.
[3 ] Chron. Saxon., p. 214.
[1 ] Eadmer, p. 110.
[2 ] Chron. Saxon., pp. 235, 236.
[3 ]Ib. 232.
[1 ] ...loci custodes nocturnis umbris exagitatos. (Knyghton, col. 2364.)
[2 ]Ib. col. 2383.
[3 ] Eisdem diebus...miranda valde magnalia sua ad tumbam Sancti Waldevi martyris. (Petri Blesensis, Continuat. Ingulfi, ut sup. p. 116.)
[4 ] Ingulf., p. 84.
[5 ] Knyghton, col. 2382. Joh. Bromton, col. 1013. Thomas Walsingham, Ypodignia Neustriæ, apud Camden, Anglica, &c., p. 444.
[6 ] Sicut Rollo, primus Normanniæ dux, jure perpetuo promiserat. (Anonymus, apud Script. rer. Gallic. et Francic., xiv. 16.)
[7 ] Order. Vital., lib. xii. p. 867.
[3 ]Ib. 868.
[4 ] Willelm. Gemet., p. 297.
[5 ] Order. Vital., loc. cit.
[6 ]Ib.—Willelm. Malmesb., de Gestis reg. Ang., lib. v. p. 165
[7 ] Order. Vital., ut sup.
[1 ] Order. Vitalis, ut sup.
[2 ] Manifestum Dei apparuit judicium...mare tranquillo perierunt. (Gervas. Cantuar., Chron., apud Hist. Angl. Script., (Selden) ii. col. 1339.) Enormiter in mari tranquillissimo. (Matth. Westmon., p. 240.)
[3 ] Henric. Huntind., Epist. de contemptu mundi; Anglia Sacra, ii. 696.
[4 ] Superbia tumidi, luxuriæ et libidinis omnis tabe maculati. (Gervas Cantuar., loc. cit.) Scelus Sodomæ noviter in hao terrâ divulgatum. (Eadmer, p. 24.) Nefandum illud et enorme Normannorum crimen. (Anglia Sacra, ii. 40.)
[1 ] Hen. Huntind., ut sup. p. 699.
[2 ] Hic jacet Matildis regina, ab Anglis vocata Mold the good queen. (Thomas Rudborne, Hist. Maj. Winton.; Ang. Sacra, i. 277.)
[3 ] Willelm. Gemet., p. 606.
[4 ] Hicksius, Dissertatio Epistolaris: Thesaurus Linguarum Septent. ii. 27.
[1 ] Robert of Gloucester’s Chronicle, p. 431, et seq.
[2 ] Chron. Sax., p. 228.
[1 ] Leges Henrici, i. cap. x. § i.
[2 ]Wat, min lauert, godel mihtin hec sege sod, respondebat. (Order. Vital., p. 629.)
[3 ]Ib. 630.
[1 ] Justitiarii itinerantes. See Spelman, Gloss., verbo Justitia.
[2 ] Franci tenentes. The termination ling, in the Germanic languages, indicates resemblance or filiation. When the English ceased the practice of strongly aspirating their language, the word frankling became franklin. See Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.
[3 ] Quod justitiam sine judicio dimiserunt. (Leges Henrici, i. cap. xxix. § i.)
[4 ] Glossar. ad Matth. Paris, verbo Assisa.
[5 ] Villani vero vel Cotseti vel Ferdingi, vel qui sunt istius modi viles vel inopes personæ non sunt inter legum judices numerandi. (Leges Hen. [Editor: illegible word] loc. cit.)
[6 ] Petrus Blesensis, ut sup. p. 458.
[1 ] Quoad vixit sibi nomen retinens imperatricis. (De Orig. comit. Andegav.; apud Script. rer. Gallic. et Francic., xii. 537.)
[2 ] Matth. Paris, i. 70.
[3 ] Et primus omnium comes Blesensis. (Ib.)
[4 ] Script. rer. Gallic. et Francic., xii. 581, in nota c, ad calc. pag. Chron. de Normandie, ib. xiii. 247.
[5 ] Johannes Monac. Major. Monast., Hist. Gaufredi ducis Normann., ib. xii. 520.
[6 ]Galannus; the Volundar of the Scandinavian Edda, and the Wayland Smith of the legends of England and Scotland.
[7 ] Johannes Monachus, loc. cit.
[1 ] Willelm. Malmesb., Historiæ Novellæ, lib. i. apud rer. Angl. Script., (Savile) p. 175.
[2 ] Joh. Bromton, col. 1016.
[3 ] Johan. Monachus, ut sup. p. 521.
[4 ] Matth. Paris, i. 74.
[5 ] Fore nimis turpe si tot nobiles fæminæ subderentur. (Ib.)
[1 ] Epist. Innocent. Papæ, apud Script. rer. Gallic. et Francic., xv. 391.
[2 ]Ib. 392.
[3 ] Vovit. quod nullius vel clerici vel laici sylvas in manu suâ retineret. (Matth. Paris, i. 74.)
“THE CHARTER OF KING STEPHEN CONCERNING THE LIBERTIES OF THE CHURCH AND KINGDOM OF ENGLAND.
“I, Stephen, by the grace of God, and by consent of the clergy and people, king of England, and consecrated by William, archbishop of Canterbury, and legate of the holy Roman church; and afterwards confirmed by Innocent, pontiff of the holy Roman see;—do hereby grant, in respect and love of God, that the holy church shall be free; and I confirm all reverence due to it. I promise to act nothing in the church, nor in ecclesiastical affairs, simoniacally, nor will I permit it to be done. I defend and confirm that the power, justice, and dignities, of ecclesiastical persons and all clerks, and the distribution of their goods, shall be in the hands of the bishops. I grant and establish, that the dignities of churches confirmed by their privileges and the customs held by ancient tenure, shall remain inviolable. All the possessions and tenures of churches, which they held on that day when king William my grandfather was alive and dead, I grant to be free and absolute to them, without any false reclamation: but if the church shall hereafter claim any of those things which were possessed or enjoyed before the death of the king, and which it now may want, I reserve that to my indulgence and dispensation, to be either discussed or restored. But whatsoever hath been bestowed upon it since the king’s death, either by the liberality of the king, or the gift of great persons, or the oblation, purchase, or any exchange, of faithful men, I confirm, and shall be conferred upon them. I promise to preserve peace and justice in all things to the utmost of my power. The forests which William, my grandfather, and William, my uncle, have made and held, I reserve to myself: but all the rest, which king Henry had superadded, I restore, and grant, quit, and discharged to the churches and the kingdom. If any bishop, or abbot, or other ecclesiastical person, shall reasonably distribute his goods before his death, or appoint them to be so distributed, I grant that it shall remain firm: but if he be prevented by death, distribution of them shall be made by consent of his church for the good of his soul. Whilst episcopal sees shall remain vacant of pastors, both they and all their possessions shall be committed to the power and keeping of clerks, or other honest men of the same church, until a pastor shall be canonically substituted. All exactions, injustice, and miskennings, wickedly introduced either by sheriffs, or by any others, I totally abolish. The good and ancient laws and just customs in murders, pleas, and other causes, I will observe, and do hereby establish and command to be observed. But all this I grant, saving my royalty and just dignity. Witnesses: William, archbishop of Canterbury, Hugh, bishop of Rouen, Henry (de Blois), bishop of Winchester, Roger, bishop of Salisbury, Alexander, bishop of Lincoln, Nigel, bishop of Ely, Everard, bishop of Norwich, Simon, bishop of Worcester, Bernard, bishop of St. David’s, Audoen, bishop of Evreux, Richard, bishop of Avranches, Robert (de Bethun), bishop of Hereford, Æthelwulf, bishop of Carlisle, and Roger, the chancellor, and Henry, the king’s nephew, and Robert (consul), earl of Gloucester, William, earl of Warren, Ranulph, (Randle de Gernons,) earl of Chester, Robert, (Roger de Newburgh,) earl of Warwick, Robert de Vere, and Milo de Gloucester, Bryan Fitz-Earl, Robert D’Oyly, the constable, William Martell, Hugh Bigod, Humphrey de Bohun, Simon de Beauchamp the Sewer, William de Albini, Eudonius Martell the Butler, Robert de Ferrers, William Penr’, of Nottingham, Simon de Sainthz, William de Albain, Payne Fitz-John, Hamon de St. Clare, and Ilbert de Lacy. At Oxford, in the year from the Incarnation of our Lord. 1136, namely the first of my reign.”
The other Charter of Liberties granted by this sovereign, was a short general one for the whole realm; it was also written in Latin, without date, and is preserved in an ancient entry in the Cottonian manuscript, Claudius D. II., Art. 25, fol. 75, or 68 b, whence the following translation has been made: “Stephen, by the grace of God, king of England, to the justiciaries, sheriffs, barons, and all his officers and faithful subjects, French and English, greeting. Know ye that I have granted, and by this present charter have confirmed to all my barons and people of England, all the liberties and good laws and customs, which Henry, my uncle, gave and granted to them, which were had in the time of king Edward. Wherefore I will, and strictly command, that they have and hold all those good laws and liberties of me and of my heirs, for them and for their heirs, freely, fully, and securely, and prohibit any one to cause any molestation or impediment upon them,—upon my forfeiture. Witnessed by William Martel, at London.”—Thomson, Essay on Magna Charta, p. 406.
[1 ] Willelm. Malmesb., Hist. Nov., ut sup. p. 176.
[2 ] [On the accession of Stephen, it amounted in money to an hundred thousand pounds, equivalent to 1,500,000l. of our present money, besides a vast quantity of jewels and plate.]
[3 ] Willelm. Malmesb., Hist. Nov., p. 179.
[4 ] Matth. Paris, i. 75.
[1 ] Willelm. Malmesb., ut. sup. p. 179, 180.
[2 ] Order. Vital., lib. xiii. p. 912.
[3 ] [“Ordericus Vitalis was a contemporary writer, and of good credit in general; yet, as no other ancient author mentions this plot, I think the truth of it is much to be questioned; especially as that author is not always so accurate in the account he gives of transactions in England, as in relating those that happened in France or Normandy, where he resided. It does not appear, even from the story he tells, that the king of Scotland himself was privy to this design. Nor does it seem at all probable, that without any encouragement given by him, a general massacre of the Normans in England should be then designed by the English, when, by intermarriages between the two nations continually made, even from the accession of William the Conqueror, their blood was so mixed, and so many families in all parts of England were the offspring of both. The city of London, where the greatest strength of the English then lay, was well-affected to Stephen, and continued to be so till his death. Upon the whole therefore I conjecture, that if any of them were executed for a conspiracy, while the king was abroad, as Ordericus Vitalis relates, it was not for a general one against all the Normans, but for a more confined one, of private resentment and revenge against some of those, to whom he had confided the administration of government during his absence, particularly in the northern and western parts of the kingdom, where the conspirators might be favoured by the Scotch and the Welsh.”]—Lyttleton, H. of Hen. II., p. 459.
[1 ] Id. ib.