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Augustin Thierry, History of the Conquest of England by the Normans; Its Causes, and its Consequences, in England, Scotland, Ireland, & on the Continent, vol. 2 [1856]

Edition used:

Augustin Thierry, 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. 2.

About this Title:

Volume 2 of a 2 volume work. Thierry was a pioneering liberal historian who collected large bodies of primary source material to use in his writings. He is particular remembered for his class analysis based upon the idea of conquest. This work is a classic exposition of this thesis showing the conquest of the Anglo-Saxons by the French Normans.

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The text is in the public domain.

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This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.

Table of Contents:

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  • . . The Folc of Normandie,
  • That among us woneth yet, and schulleth ever mo: . . . .
  • Of the Normannes beth thys hey men, that beth of thys lond,
  • And the lowe men of Saxons. . . . .
  • Robert of Gloucester’s Chronicle, vol. I., p. 3 & 363.
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William the Conqueror

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BY AUGUSTIN THIERRY, member of the institute.
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savill and edwards, printers, chandos-street.

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    from the battle of the standard to the insurrection of the poitevins and bretons against henry ii.


    • Vassalage of the kings of Scotland—Political state of Scotland—Populations of Scotland—Social equality and language of the Scots—Highland and island clans—Hostility of the Scots to the Anglo-Normans—Entry of the Scots into England—Assembling of the Anglo-Norman army—Battle of the Standard—Invasion of the Welsh—Conquests of the Normans in Wales—Bernard de Neuf Marché—Richard d’Eu, called Strongbow—Norman monks and priests in Wales—Norman bishops driven out by the Welsh—Manners and character of the Welsh—Civil war among the Anglo-Normans—Vexations and ravages committed by the Normans—King Stephen besieges Bristol—Attack on the isle of Ely—Stephen made prisoner—Matilda elected queen of England—Her arrogance—Matilda driven from London by the citizens—Revival of the party of Stephen—Landing of Henry, son of Matilda—Termination of the civil war—Eleanor, duchess of Aquitaine—Marriage of Eleanor with the son of Matilda—State of southern Gaul—Its population—Its social state—Henry II. of England—Expulsion of the Flemings—Mixture of races—Saxon genealogy of Henry II.—War of Henry II. against his brother—War against the Bretons—Submission of Brittany—National insurrection of the Bretons—Their defeat—Insurrection of the Poitevins—Peace between the kings of France and England—Termination of Breton independence—Message of a Welsh chieftain to the king of France—War against the Toulousans—Character of the southern Gauls . p. 1
  • BOOK IX.

    from the origin of the quarrel between king henry ii. and archbishop thomas beket, to the murder of the archbishop.


    • Adventures of Gilbert Beket—Birth and education of Thomas Beket—Thomas, archdeacon and chancellor of England—Political conduct of Thomas Beket—Disputes between the king and the Anglo-Norman Edition: current; Page: [vi]clergy—Beket archbishop of Canterbury—Coolness between the king and him—First quarrel between them—Excommunication of an Anglo-Norman baron—Hatred of the Anglo-Norman barons to the archbishop—Council of Clarendon—New laws of Henry II.—Importance of the quarrel between the king and the archbishop—Policy of the pope in the affair of Beket—The archbishop seeks to withdraw from England—A new assembly at Northampton—Archbishop Thomas accused and condemned—Second citation of the archbishop—His firmness—Appeal of the king and the bishops to the pope—Counter appeal of Beket—Flight of Beket—Letter of Henry II. to the king of France—Beket cordially received by the king of France—Conduct of pope Alexander III.—Thomas retires to the abbey of Pontigny—Excommunications pronounced by Beket—Intrigues of the court of Rome—Interview between the king and the two legates—Beket driven from Pontigny—Congress of Montmirail—Thomas abandoned by the king of France—Negotiations of Henry II.—Persecution of the Welsh priests—Affection of the Welsh people for Beket—Reconciliation of the king of Fiance with Beket—Two new legates arrive in Normandy—Conference between these legates and Henry II.—Complaints of Beket against the court of Rome—The pope is compelled to declare his real views—Negotiations between the king and the archbishop—Interview and reconciliation of the king and the archbishop—Departure of archbishop Thomas for England—Attempts of the Normans against him—Two bishops denounce him to the king—Conspiracy of four Norman knights—Murder of the archbishop—Insurrection of the inhabitants of Canterbury—Beket regarded by the native English as a saint—Girauld de Barri elected bishop of St. David’s—His banishment—His return and reinstallation—Persecution exercised upon him—He repans to the court of Rome—He is condemned by the pope—Gratitude of the Welsh towards him—Petition of eight Welsh chieftains to Alexander III.—National motives for appeals to the pope in the middle ages . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52
  • BOOK X.

    from the invasion of ireland by the normans established in england to the death of henry ii.


    • Character of the Irish—Attempts of the popes upon Ireland—Their indifferent success—Ecclesiastical revolution in Ireland—Unpopularity there of the papal power—Enterprise of Henry II. and the pope against Ireland—Bull of Adrian IV.—Norman settlers in Wales—Alliance between them and an Irish king—First establishment of the Anglo-Normans in Ireland—Their election of a leader—Their conquests—Jealousy of them on the part of Henry II.—He proceeds to Ireland—Submission of several Irish chieftains—Cowardice of the Irish bishops—Disquietudes of Henry II.—Conduct of the clergy of Normandy—Fictitious Edition: current; Page: [vii]narrative of the death of Thomas Beket—Letter of Henry II. to the pope—Departure of the king for Normandy—His reconciliation with the court of Rome, and rehabilitation of Beket—Scenes of hypocrisy—Bull of Alexander III.—Domestic troubles of Henry II.—Discovery of a conspiracy—Prince Henry acknowledged king in France—His manifesto—Progress of the quarrel—General abandonment of Henry II.—His return to England, and penance at the tomb of Beket—Motives and results of this proceeding—Bertrand de Born—The Troubadours—Reconciliation of the royal family—Hostilities between Richard and Henry—Interview between king Henry and prince Geoffroy at Limoges—Death of Henry the younger—Interview between king Henry and Bertrand de Born—Re-establishment of peace—Fresh revolt of Richard—The kings of France and England assume the cross—The crusades—Resumption of hostilities—Death and burial of Henry II. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 120
  • BOOK XI.

    from the accession of king richard i. to the execution of the saxon, william longbeard.


    • State of Ireland under the Anglo-Normans—Three populations in Ireland—Insurrection of the Irish—Political conduct of a papal legate—Conquest of the kingdom of Ulster—Invasion of that of Connaught—Prince John, son of Henry II., sent into Ireland—Insult offered to the Irish chieftains—Fresh insurrection—Inveterate hostility of the two races—Petition of the Irish to the pope—Cruelties of the Anglo-Irish—Unyielding patriotism of the native Irish—Tenacity of the Cambrian race—Popular belief respecting king Arthur—Pretended discovery of the tomb of Arthur—Prediction of a Welshman to Henry II.—Accession of Richard I.—His first administrative measures—He departs for the Crusades—His quarrel with the people of Messina—Misunderstanding between him and the king of France—Their reconciliation—Ordinance of the two kings—Taking of Acre—Return of the king of France—State of affairs in England—Quarrel between the chancellor William de Longchamp and earl John, king Richard’s brother—Impeachment of the chancellor—Convocation of the citizens of London—Dismissal of the chancellor—His flight—His arrest—Accusations brought by the king of France against king Richard—Feigned apprehensions of assassination—Institution of the gardes-du-corps—Fresh complaints of Philip against Richard—Departure of king Richard—He lands on the coast of Istria—His arrest and imprisonment—Intrigues of the king of France and of earl John—King Richard acknowledges himself vassal of the emperor—Alliance between earl John and the king of France—Richard ransomed—His release and return to England—Siege of Nottingham—Visit of the king to Sherwood Forest—Robert, or Robin Hood, king of Edition: current; Page: [viii]the outlaws—Popularity of the outlaws—Character of Robin Hood—Popular ballad on Robin Hood—His long celebrity—Tradition respecting his death—Outlaws of Cumberland—Adam Bell, Clym of the Clough, and William of Cloudesly—Freebooting loses its patriotic colouring—King Richard resumes his crown—Ambition of the king of France—War between the two kings—Treachery of earl John—Restoration of peace—Policy of the northern populations—Interview of the two kings—State of Auvergne—The king of France attacks that country—Sirventes of king Richard and of the earl of Auvergne—State of England—Saxon families—Assemblies of the London citizens—Character of William Longbeard—Conspiracy of the Londoners—Longbeard tried and executed—He popularly passes for a martyr—Observations . . . 188
    • I.

      the continental normans and bretons; the angevins and the populations of southern gaul.

      Birth of Arthur, duke of Brittany—Insurrection of Anjou and Maine—Policy of the king of France—Death of Arthur—Indignation of the Bretons—Invasion of Normandy—Taking of Rouen—Repentance of the Bretons—The Poitevins resist the king of France—Complete submission of Normandy—Project of a new invasion of England—Entrance of the English into Normandy—Guienne remains to the king of England—Heresy of the Toulousans and Albigenses—Crusade against the Albigenses—Additional aggrandizement of the kingdom of France—Charles of Anjou becomes count of Provence—Discontent and regrets of the Provençals—Insurrection of the cities of Provence—Termination of Provençal nationality—Limits of the kingdom of France—Character of the Basque population—Political condition of the Basques—Policy of the counts de Foix—Policy of the barons of Gascony—They pass alternately from one king to another—Confederation of the Armagnacs—The Gascons join the king of France—Conquest of Guienne by the French—Revolt of Bordeaux—Second conquest of Bordeaux—Patriotic efforts of the Armagnacs—Guienne and Gascony become parts of France . 249

    • II.

      the inhabitants of wales.

      Wars of the Welsh against the Anglo-Normans—Complete submission of Wales—Persecution of the Welsh bards—Welsh refugees in France—Yvain of Wales—Free companies—The chevalier Rufin—Promises of the king of France to the Welsh—Insurrection of Owen Glendowr—Panic terror of the English soldiers—Landing of the French in Wales—March and retreat of the French—Termination of the insurrection of the Welsh—Wars of the succession in England—Enterprise of Henry Tudor—The Welsh under Henry VII., Henry VIII., Elizabeth, and the Stuarts—Actual state of the Welsh population—Turn of mind and character of the Welsh nation—Differences of idiom in Wales—Language of Cornwall . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 279

      Edition: current; Page: [ix]
    • III.

      the scots.

      Prophecy of Merlin—Nine pretenders to the throne of Scotland—Invasion of Edward I.—William Wallace—Robert Bruce—Enfranchisement of Scotland—Character of the people of the border—Social condition of the Scots—Establishment of the Reformation—English puritans—Scottish covenanters—Alliance between the two nations—Civil war in England—Misunderstanding between the two nations—Charles II. proclaimed king in Scotland—Oliver Cromwell enters Scotland—Measures taken against the Scots—Restoration of Charles II.—Persecution of the Presbyterians—Their insurrection—Battle of Bothwell-bridge—Expulsion of the Stuarts—Sympathy of the Scots for the martyrs—National character and spirit of the Scots—Present condition of the Gaelic population . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 297

    • IV.

      the native irish and the anglo-norman irish.

      Effect of the conquest in Ireland—Degeneration of the Anglo Irish—Tenacity of the natives—Invasion of Edward Bruce—Reform and civilization of Ireland—Influence of the Irish bards—Common hatred to England—Catholicism of the Irish—Entire completion of the territorial conquest—Religious and patriotic insurrections—Alliance of the Irish with Charles I.—Invasion of Ireland by Cromwell—Attitude of the Irish on the restoration of the Stuarts—Invasion of William III.—Political association of the Irish—White Boys—Hearts of Oak—Right Boys—Volunteers—Patriotic views of the Volunteers—Their provincial assemblies—Peep-o’-day Boys—Defenders—The United Irishmen—Influence of the French revolution—The Orangemen—Organization of the United Irishmen—Succours from France—First symptoms of insurrection—Rise of the United Irishmen—Irish republic—Attack upon Dublin—Defeat of the United Irishmen—Rise of the Presbyterians—Landing of the French in Ireland—Their defeat—Termination of the rebellion—The Union . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 319

    • V.

      the anglo-normans and the english by race.

      Poitevin courtiers in England—Alliance between the Saxons and Normans—League of the barons against king John—Magna Charta—Expulsion of the foreigners—Louis of France called in by the Anglo-Norman barons—Retreat of the French—Return of the Poitevins—Second insurrection of the Anglo-Norman barons—Simon de Montfort—his popularity—Language of the Anglo-Norman aristocracy—State of the higher classes of England—Impressment of artisans—Labourers—State of the land—Peasants or cottagers in England—Great fermentation among the peasants—Political writings circulated in the country districts—Insurrection of the peasants—The insurgents march upon London—Their first demand—Their conduct in London—Their interview with Richard II.—The insurgents quit London—Wat Tyler and John Ball—Murder Edition: current; Page: [x] of Wat Tyler—The king deceives the insurgents—Dispersion and terror of the insurgents—Alarm of the gentry throughout England—Proclamation of Richard II.—Termination of the peasants’ insurrection—Things remain in their former state—Individual enfranchisements—Separation of the parliament into two chambers—Position of the commons in the parliament—French the language of the court and the nobility—French literature in England—Revival of English poetry—Character of the new English language—The Norman idiom becomes extinct in England—Dissolution of the Norman society—Remnant of the distinction between the two races . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 347


  • Vol. I.
    • I. Arymes Prydyn Vawr, the Great Armed Confederacy of Britain 374
    • II. Imperial Decree respecting the Gaulish Bishops . . . . . 379
    • III. Conference of Bishops respecting the Conversion of the Burgundian King . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 380
    • IV. Speech of a Northumbrian Chief . . . . . . . . . . 383
    • V. Victory Song of Brunanburgh . . . . . . . . . . . 384
    • VI. Breton Song . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 386
    • VII. Poetical Narratives of the Battle of Hastings . . . . . . 388
    • VIII. Letter respecting the Bayeux Tapestry . . . . . . . . 410
    • IX. Ballad of William the Conqueror and the Men of Kent . . . 412
    • X. Poetical Narrative of the Surrender of London . . . . . 415
    • XI. Saxon Names of English Provinces and Towns . . . . . 416
    • XII. Roll of Battle Abbey and Lists of the Conquerors of England 417
    • XIII. Enumeration of the Lands of Brihtrik . . . . . . . . 426
    • XIV. Imprisonment of Brihtrik . . . . . . . . . . . . 428
    • XV. Extracts from Domesday Book . . . . . . . . . . . 429
    • XVI. Narrative of the Exploits of Hereward . . . . . . . . 439
  • Vol. II.
    • I. Cruelties exercised by the Normans . . . . . . . . . 24
    • II. War Song of Bertrand de Born . . . . . . . . . . 55
    • III. History of the Marriage of Gilbert Beket . . . . . . . 139
    • IV. Ballad on the Captivity of Gilbert Beket . . . . . . . 139
    • V. Details of the worldly life of Thomas Beket . . . . . . 139
    • VI. Letter of John of Salisbury to Beket . . . . . . . . 139Edition: current; Page: [xi]
    • VII. Letter relating to the intrigues of Henry II. at the court of Rome . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 139
    • VIII.—of Beket to Cardinal Albert . . . . . . . . 139
    • IX.—of Beket’s fellow-exiles to the same . . . . . . 139
    • X.—of John of Salisbury on the landing of Beket . . . 139
    • XI. Extract from a letter of the same on the murder of Beket . 139
    • XII. Narrative of the murder, by Grim . . . . . . . . 139
    • XIII. Letter of Louis VII. to the pope, demanding vengeance on the murderers . . . . . . . . . . . . 139
    • XIV.—of Thibault, earl of Blois, on the same subject . . 139
    • XV.—of bishop of Lisieux . . . . . . . . . . . 139
    • XVI.—of Henry II. to the pope . . . . . . . . . 139
    • XVII.—of Henry II. to the pope, on his sons’ rebellion . . 139
    • XVIII. Political poems of Bertrand de Born . . . . . . . 167
    • XIX. Sirvente of Richard Cœur-de-Lion on his captivity . . . 220
    • XX. Popular ballad on king Richard and Robin Hood . . . 223
    • XXI. Popular ballad on the birth of Robin Hood . . . . . 224
    • XXII., XXIII. Sirventes of Bertrand de Born . . . . . . 237
    • XXIV. Sirvente of the dauphin of Auvergne, on his quarrel with the king of England . . . . . . . . . . . 240
    • XXV. Treaty of alliance between Owen-ap Griffith and Philip le-Hardi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 280
    • XXVI. List of the company of Yvain of Wales . . . . . . 282
    • XXVII. List of the company of John Wynn . . . . . . . . 282
    • XXVIII. Receipt of Robin-ap-Llwydin, and list of his company . . 282
    • XXIX. List of the company of Edward-ap-Owen . . . . . . 282
    • XXX. List of the company of Owen-ap-Griffith, and his receipt . 282
    • XXXI. Undertaking of Yvain of Wales to Charles V. for a sum of 300,000 gold francs, and treaty of alliance between them and their subjects . . . . . . . . . . . . . 283
    • XXXII. Letter of Owen Glendowr, prince of Wales, to Charles VI. of France . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 287
    • XXXIII. The Souters of Selkirk . . . . . . . . . . . . 303
    • XXXIV. The battle of Bothwell Brig . . . . . . . . . . 316
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Vassalage of the kings of Scotland—Political state of Scotland—Populations of Scotland—Social equality and language of the Scots—Highland and island clans—Hostility of the Scots to the Anglo-Normans—Entry of the Scots into England—Assembling of the Anglo-Norman army—Battle of the Standard—Invasion of the Welsh—Conquests of the Normans in Wales—Bernard de Neuf Marché—Richard d’Eu, called Strongbow—Norman monks and priests in Wales—Norman bishops driven out by the Welsh—Manners and character of the Welsh—Civil war among the Anglo-Normans—Vexations and ravages committed by the Normans—King Stephen besieges Bristol—Attack on the Isle of Ely—Stephen made prisoner—Matilda elected queen of England—Her arrogance—Matilda driven from London by the citizens—Revival of the party of Stephen—Landing of Henry, son of Matilda—Termination of the civil war—Eleanor, duchess of Aquitaine—Marriage of Eleanor with the son of Matilda—State of southern Gaul—Its population—Its social state—Henry II. of England—Expulsion of the Flemings—Mixture of races—Saxon genealogy of Henry II.—War of Henry II. against his brother—War against the Bretons—Submission of Brittany—National insurrection of the Bretons—Their defeat—Insurrection of the Poitevins—Peace between the kings of France and England—Termination of Breton independence—Message of a Welsh chieftain to the king of France—War against the Toulousans—Character of the southern Gauls.

The friendship which, at the period of William’s conquest, had been suddenly formed between the Anglo-Saxon people and that of Scotland, although cooled since by several circumstances, Edition: current; Page: [2] had never been entirely broken. On the day, indeed, when Malcolm Kenmore, king Edgar’s brother-in-law, was constrained to confess himself the vassal of the Conqueror, a kind of moral barrier was raised between the Scottish kings and the English by race; but Malcolm himself and his successors ill endured this condition of vassalage that force had imposed on them. More than once, seeking to throw it off, they became aggressors of the Anglo-Normans by way of reprisal, and marched south of the Tweed; more than once, also, the Normans passed that river, and the oath of feudal subjection was, by turns, broken and renewed, according to the chances of war. Besides, the kings of Scotland never reckoned among the duties they had contracted in accepting the title of liegemen, the obligation to close their country against the Anglo-Saxon emigrants.

The multitude of men of all ranks and conditions who, after a futile struggle against the invaders, expatriated themselves to Scotland, considerably augmented there the previous mass of Germanic population established between the Tweed and the Forth. The kings who succeeded Malcolm were not less generous than he to these refugees; they gave them lands and offices, and admitted them into their state-council, where gradually the true Scottish language, the Gaelic or Erse, was supplanted by the Anglo-Danish dialect, spoken in the lowlands of Scotland. By the same revolution, the Scottish kings discarded the patronymic surnames which recalled to mind their Celtic origin, and only retained simple proper names, Saxon or foreign, as Edgar, Alexander, David, &c.

The hospitality which the chiefs of Scotland accorded to the men of Saxon race flying from the Normans, was, as we have already seen, offered by them also to men of Norman race, discontented with the share which had fallen to them in the division of the conquest, or banished from England by the sentence of their own chiefs. These sons of the conquerors came, in great numbers, to seek fortune where the conquered had found refuge. Most of them were tried soldiers; the Scottish kings took them into their service, delighted to have Norman knights to oppose to the Normans beyond the Tweed. They received them into their intimacy, confided high commands to them, and even, to render their Edition: current; Page: [3] court more agreeable to these new guests, studied to introduce into the Teutonic language spoken there, many French words and idioms.1 Fashion and custom gradually naturalized these exotic terms throughout the country south of the Forth, and in a short time the national language became there a singular medley of Teutonic and French, in about equal proportions.

This language, which is still the popular dialect of the inhabitants of southern Scotland, retained but very few Celtic words, Erse or Breton, most of them expressing features peculiar to the country, such as the various accidents of an extremely various soil. But, notwithstanding the little figure made by the remains of the ancient idiom of the Scottish plains in the new language, it was easy to see, in the spirit and manners of the population of these districts, that it was a Celtic race, in which other races had mingled without entirely renewing it. Vivacity of imagination, the taste for music and poetry, the custom of strengthening the social bond by ties of relationship, marked out and recognised in the most distant degree, are original features which distinguished then, and still distinguish, the inhabitants of the left bank of the Tweed from their southern neighbours.

Further westward in the plains of Scotland, these features of Celtic physiognomy appeared more strongly impressed, because the people there were more removed from the influence of the royal cities of Scone and Edinburgh, whither the multitude of foreign emigrants flocked. In the county of Galloway, for instance, the administrative authority was, up to the twelfth century, only regarded as a fiction of paternal authority; and no man sent by the king to govern this country could exercise his command in peace, unless he was accepted as head of the family, or chief of the clan, by the people whom he was to rule.2 If the inhabitants did not think fit to assign this title to the king’s officer, or if the old hereditary chief of the tribe did not voluntarily yield him this privilege, the tribe would not recognise him, for all his Edition: current; Page: [4] royal commission, and he himself was soon fain to resign or sell this commission to the chief preferred by the people.1

In the places where the emigrants from England, Saxons or Normans, obtained territorial domains on condition of fealty and service, they built a church, a mill, a brewery, and some houses, for their people, which the Saxons called the hirède, and the Normans la menie. The collection of all these edifices, surrounded by a palisade or a wall, was called l’enclos or the tun, in the language of the lowlands of Scotland. The inhabitants of this inclosure, masters and servants, proprietors and farmers, composed a sort of little city, united like a Celtic clan, but by other ties than relationship, by those of service and pay, obedience and command. The chief, in his square tower, built in the midst of the more humble dwellings of his vassals or labourers, resembled in general appearance the Norman of England, whose fortress dominated the huts of his serfs. But there was a great difference between the real condition of the one and of the other. In Scotland, the subordination of the poor to the rich was not servitude; true, the name of lord, laird, in the Teutonic language, and of sire in the French, was given to the latter, but as he was neither a conqueror, nor the son of a conqueror, he was not hated, and none trembled before him. A sort of familiarity brought more or less nearly together the inhabitant of the tower and the dweller in the cottage; they knew that their ancestors had not bequeathed to them mortal injuries to revenge upon each other.

When war assembled them in arms, they did not form two separate peoples, the one horse, the other foot; the one clothed in complete steel, the other denied spurs under penalty of ignominious punishment. Every man, armed according to his means, in a coat of mail or a quilted doublet, rode his own horse, well or ill-caparisoned. In Scotland, the condition of labourer on the domain of another man, was not humiliating as in England, where the Norman term villain has become, in the vernacular tongue, the most odious of epithets. A Scotch farmer was commonly called the gude-man; his lord could only demand from him the rents and services mutually settled between them; he was not Edition: current; Page: [5] taxed haut et bas, as in a conquered country;1 and accordingly no insurrection of peasants was ever seen in Scotland; the poor and rich sympathized, because poverty and riches were not derived from victory and expropriation. The races of men, like the different idioms, were mingled in every rank, and the same language was spoken in the castle, the town, and the hut.

This language, which, from its resemblance to that of the Anglo-Saxons, was called Anglisc or English, had a very different fate in Scotland and in England; in the latter country, it was the idiom of the serfs, the artizans, the shepherds; the poets, who wrote for the upper classes, composed only in pure Norman; but, north of the Tweed, English was the favourite tongue of the minstrels attached to the court; it was polished, refined, elaborate, graceful, and even distinguished, whilst, on the other side of the same river, it was becoming rude and inelegant, like the unfortunate people who spoke it. The few popular poets who, instead of rhyming in French for the sons of the Normans, continued to rhyme in English for the Saxons, felt this difference, and complained of their inability to employ, under penalty of not being understood, the fine language, the bold flights, and the complex versification of the southern Scots. “I have put,” says one of them, “into my simple English, out of love for simple folk, what others have written and said more elegantly; for it is not to the proud and noble I address myself, but to those who could not understand a more refined English.”2 In this polished English of the lowlands of Scotland were clothed old British traditions, which remained in the memory of the inhabitants of the banks of the Clyde, long after the British language had perished in those districts. In the lowlands Edition: current; Page: [6] of the south-west, Arthur and the other heroes of the Cambrian nation were more popular than the heroes of the ancient Scots, than Gaul-Mac-Morn, and Fin-Mac-Gaul, or Fingal, father of Oshinn, or Ossian,1 sung in the Gaelic language in the highlands and islands.2

The population which spake this language, almost entirely similar to that of the natives of Ireland, was still, in the twelfth century the most numerous in Scotland, but the least powerful, politically, since its own kings had deserted its alliance for that of the inhabitants of the south-east. It knew this, and remembering that the plains occupied by these new comers had been of old the property of its ancestors, it hated them as usurpers, and denied them the name of Scots, under which foreigners confounded them with it, and gave them instead that of Sassenachs, that is to say Saxons, because whatever their origin, all of them spoke the English language. The children of the Gaels long regarded as mere acts of reprisal the incursions of war and pillage made upon the lowlands of Scotland. “We are the heirs of the plains,” said they; “it is just we should resume our own.”3

This national hostility, the effects of which the inhabitants of the plain greatly dreaded, rendered them ever ready to encourage in the kings of Scotland all sorts of arbitrary and tyrannical measures, tending to destroy the independence of the highlanders. But it would seem as though there were in the manners, as in the language of the Celtic populations, a principle of eternity which mocks the efforts of time and of man. The clans of the Gael perpetuated themselves under their patriarch chieftains, whom the members of the clan, all bearing the same name, obeyed as sons obey their father. Every tribe not having a patriarch and not living as one family, was considered base; few incurred this dishonour, and to avoid it, the poets and historians, adepts in genealogies, were always careful to make each new chief descend from the primitive chief, from the common ancestor of the Edition: current; Page: [7] whole tribe.1 In token of this descent, which was never to be interrupted, the reigning chief added to his own name a patronymic surname, which all his predecessors had borne before him, and which his successors were to take after him; and, according to Celtic etiquette, this surname served them in lieu of a title. The feudal style of the public acts of Scotland was never current in the highlands or islands, and the same man, who at the court of the kings entitled himself duke or earl of Argyle, on his return to Argyleshire, in the bosom of his tribe, again became Mac-Callam-More, that is, the son of Callam the great.2

All the tribes spread over the western coast of Scotland from the Mull of Cantyre to the North Cape, and in the Hebrides, which were also called Innis Gail or the islands of the Gael, lived in separate societies under this patriarchal authority; but above all their peculiar chiefs, there was in the twelfth century a supreme chief, who, in the language of the lowlanders, was called the lord or king of the Isles. This king of the whole Gaelic population of Scotland had his residence at Dunstaffnage, upon a rock on the western coast, the ancient abode of the Scottish kings, prior to their emigration to the east; sometimes, also, he inhabited the fortress of Artornish in Mull, or the island of Ilay, the most fertile if not the largest of the Hebrides. Here was held a high court of justice, the members of which sat in a circle, on seats cut out of the rock. Here also was a stone, seven feet square, upon which the king of the Isles stood on the day of his coronation. Erect on this pedestal, he swore to preserve to every one his rights, and to do justice at all times; then, the sword of his predecessor was put into his hands, and the bishop of Argyle and seven priests crowned him in the presence of all the tribes of the Isles and of the mainland.3

The authority of the king of the Hebridean isles extended sometimes over Man, situated more southward, between England and Ireland, and sometimes this island had a king of its own, issue of Irish race, or of the old Scandinavian chiefs who had rested here after their sea excursions. The kings Edition: current; Page: [8] of the western isles acknowledged as their suzerains, sometimes the kings of Scotland and sometimes those of Norway, as self-interest or compulsion dictated.1 The natural aversion of the Gael to the lowland Scots aided to maintain the independence of this purely Gaelic kingdom, which still existed in all its plenitude at the time which this history has now attained, and the king of the Isles treated, on terms of equality, with him of Scotland, his rival in ordinary times, but his natural ally against a common enemy, for example, against the kings of England; for the instinct of national hatred, which had so often impelled the ancient Scots towards southern Britain, had not yet disappeared from among the Scottish highlanders.2

In the lowlands of Scotland, a war against the Anglo-Normans could not fail to be extremely popular; for while the Saxons by origin, who inhabited that country, burned with a desire to revenge their own misfortunes and those of their ancestors, by a singular concurrence of circumstances, the Norman refugees in Scotland themselves yearned to cross swords with their countrymen who had banished them from England.3 The desire to regain the domains they had formerly usurped, not less ardent in them than in the hearts of the Anglo-Saxons was the wish to recover their country and their hereditary property, occasioned, in the council of the kings of Scotland, where the new citizens sat in great numbers, an almost universal vote for war with the conquerors of England. Gael, Saxons, Normans, Highlanders, Lowlanders, though from different motives, all agreed on this point; and it was probably this unanimity, well known by the native English, which encouraged the latter to count on the support of Scotland, in the great conspiracy framed and discovered in the year 1137.

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For some time past, emissaries from the English people had come in crowds to the court of the Scottish kings, nephews of the last Anglo-Saxon king, conjuring them, by the memory of their uncle Edgar, to march to the assistance of the oppressed nation to which they were related. But the sons of Malcolm Kenmore were kings, and, as such, little disposed to commit themselves in a national revolt, without powerful motives of personal interest. They remained deaf to the complaints of the English and the suggestions of their own courtiers during the life of Henry I., with whom they had some ties of relationship through his wife, Matilda, daughter of Malcolm. When Henry made the Norman barons swear to give the kingdom, after his death, to his daughter by Matilda, David, then king of Scotland, was present and took the oath as vassal of Henry I.; but when the lords of England, violating their word, instead of Matilda, chose Stephen of Blois, the king of Scotland began to think the cause of the Saxons the best.1 He promised to assist them in their project of exterminating all the Normans, and perhaps, in return for this vague promise, he stipulated, as was rumoured at the time, that he should be made king of England, did the enterprise succeed.

The enfranchisement of the English did not take place, as we have seen above, owing to the vigilance of a bishop. The king of Scotland, however, who had only joined that people because he had, on his side, warlike projects against the Normans, assembled an army and marched towards the south. It was not in the name of the oppressed Saxon race that he entered England, but in the name of Matilda, his cousin, dispossessed, he said, by Stephen of Blois, usurper of the kingdom.2

The English people cared little more for the wife of Geoffroy of Anjou than for Stephen of Blois, and yet the populations nearest the frontiers of Scotland, the men of Cumberland, Westmoreland, and all the valleys whose rivers run to swell the waters of the Tweed, impelled by the simple Edition: current; Page: [10] instinct which leads us to seize with avidity every means of escape, received the Scots as friends and joined them.1 These valleys, of difficult access and scarce subjected by the Normans, were in great measure peopled with Saxons whose fathers had been banished at the time of the Conquest.2 They came to the camp of the Scots in great numbers and without any order, upon little mountain horses, their only property.

In general, with the exception of the cavalry of Norman or French origin, whom the king of Scotland brought with him, and who were clad in complete and uniform mail, the great body of the troops presented a most disorderly variety of arms and attire. The inhabitants of the eastern lowlands, men of Danish or Saxon descent, formed the heavy infantry, armed with cuirasses and strong pikes; the inhabitants of the west, and especially those of Galloway, who still retained a marked impress of their British descent, were, like the ancient Britons, without defensive arms, and carried long javelins, the points of which were sharp, and the wood slender and fragile; lastly, the genuine Scots, highlanders and islanders, wore caps ornamented with the feathers of wild fowl, and large mantles of striped wool, fastened round the waist with a leathern belt, whence hung a long broad-sword; they carried a round shield of light wood, covered with a thick leather, on the left arm; and some of the island tribes used two-handed axes, like the Scandinavians; the equipment of the chiefs was the same as that of the men of the clan; they were distinguished only by their longer feathers, lighter, and floating more gracefully.

The numerous, and for the most part irregular, troops of the king of Scotland, occupied without resistance all the country between the Tweed and the northern limits of the province of York. The Norman kings had not as yet erected in this district the imposing fortresses which they afterwards raised there, and thus no obstacle stayed the progress of the Edition: current; Page: [11] Scottish ants, as an old author calls them.1 It appears that this army committed many cruelties in the places through which it passed; the historians talk of women and priests massacred, of children thrown into the air and caught on the points of lances; but, as they talk with little precision, it is not known whether these excesses fell only upon men of Norman descent, and were the reprisals of the English by race, or whether the native aversion of the Gaelic population for the inhabitants of England was exercised indifferently on the serf and on the master, on the Saxon and on the Norman.2 The northern lords, and especially the archbishop of York, Toustain, profited by the report of these atrocities, spread vaguely, and, perhaps, in an exaggerated form, to counteract, in the minds of the Saxon inhabitants of the banks of the Humber, the interest they would naturally feel in the cause of the enemies of the Norman king.3

To induce their subjects to march with them against the king of Scotland, the Norman barons skilfully flattered old local superstitions; they invoked the names of the saints of English race, whom they themselves had once treated with such contempt; they adopted them, as it were, as generalissimos of their army, and archbishop Toustain raised the banners of St. Cuthbert of Durham, of St. John of Beverly, and of St. Wilfred of Ripon.

These popular standards, which, since the Conquest, had scarce seen the day, were taken from the dust of the churches, and conveyed to Cuton Moor, near Elfer-tun, now North Allerton, thirty-two miles north of York, the place where the Norman chiefs resolved to await the enemy. William Piperel and Walter Espec, of Nottinghamshire, and Guilbert de Lacy and his brother Walter, of Yorkshire, assumed the command. The archbishop, who could not attend, on account of illness, sent in his place Raoul, bishop of Durham, probably driven from his diocese by the invasion of the Scots.4 Edition: current; Page: [12] Around the Saxon banners, raised by lords of foreign race in the camp of Allerton, a half religious, half patriotic instinct drew together a number of the English inhabitants of the surrounding towns and plains. These no longer bore the great battle-axe, the favourite weapon of their ancestors, but were armed with large bows and arrows a cloth yard long. The Conquest had worked this change in two different ways: first, those of the natives, who had stooped to serve the Norman king in battle, for food and pay, had necessarily applied themselves to Norman tactics; and next, those who, more independent, had adopted the life of partisans on the roads and of free-hunters in the forests, had also found it desirable to lay aside the weapons adapted for close combat, for others better fitted to reach, from a distance, the knights of Normandy and the king’s stags. The sons of both these classes having been from their infancy exercised in drawing the bow, England had become, in less than a century, the land of good archers, as Scotland was the land of good lances.

While the Scottish army was passing the Tees, the Norman barons actively prepared to meet its attack. They raised upon four wheels, a mast, having at its summit a small silver box, containing a consecrated host, and around the box floated the banners which were to excite the English to fight well.1 This standard, of a kind common enough in the middle ages, was in the centre of the army. The Anglo-Norman knights took up their post around it, after having sworn together by faith and oath, to remain united for the defence of the country, in life and death.2 The Saxon archers flanked the battle array, and formed the vanguard. On the news of the approach of the Scots, who were rapidly advancing, the Norman Raoul, bishop of Durham, ascended an eminence in the midst of the army, and delivered in French3 the following harangue:

“Noble lords of Norman race, you who make France tremble, and have conquered England; the Scots, after having done you homage, seek to drive you from your lands. But if our fathers in so few numbers subjected a great part of Gaul, Edition: current; Page: [13] shall we not conquer these half-naked people, who oppose to our swords nothing but the skin of their bodies, or a leathern buckler?1 Their pikes are long, it is true, but the wood is fragile, and the iron of poor temper. These people of Galloway have been heard to say, in their vain boasting, that the sweetest drink to them were the blood of a Norman. Do ye so that not one of them shall return to his family to boast of having killed a Norman.”2

The Scottish army, having for its standard a simple lance with a guidon, marched in several bodies. The young Henry, son of the king of Scotland, commanded the lowlanders and the English volunteers of Cumberland and Northumberland; the king himself was at the head of all the clans of the highlands and islands; and the knights of Norman origin, armed at all points, formed his guard.3 One of them, named Robert de Brus, a man of great age, who sided with the king of Scotland, by reason of his fief of Annandale,4 and had no personal enmity against his countrymen of England, approached the king, as he was about to give the signal of attack, and addressing him in a mournful tone, said: “O king, dost thou reflect against whom thou art about to fight? It is against the Normans and the English, who have ever served thee so well and promptly in council and in the field, and have subjected to thee thy people of Gaelic race. Thou thinkest thyself, then, sure of the submission of these tribes? Thou hopest, then, to hold them to their duty, with the sole aid of thy Scottish men at arms?5 remember that it was we who first placed them in thy hands, and that hence sprung the hatred which they bear our countrymen.”6 This speech seemed to make a great impression on the king; but William, his nephew, exclaimed, impatiently: “these are the words of a traitor.” The old Norman replied to this insult, by abjuring, in the formula of the period, his oath of faith and homage, and then galloped to the enemy’s camp.7

The highlanders who surrounded the king of Scotland Edition: current; Page: [14] raised their voices, and shouted the ancient name of their country, “Albyn! Albyn!1 This was the signal for combat. The men of Cumberland, of Liddesdale, and of Teviotdale, made a firm and rapid charge upon the centre of the Norman army, and, to adopt the expression of an ancient historian, broke it like a spider’s web;2 but ill supported by the other bodies of Scots, they did not reach the standard of the Anglo-Normans. The latter recovered their ranks, and repulsed the assailants with great loss. At a second charge, the long javelins of the south-western Scots broke against the hauberks and shields of the Normans. The highlanders then drew their long swords to fight hand to hand; but the Saxon archers, deploying on the sides, assailed them with a shower of arrows, while the Norman horse charged them in front, in close ranks, and with lances low. “It was a noble sight,” says a contemporary, “to see the stinging flies issue humming from the quivers of the southern men, and fall upon the foe thick as hail.”

The Gael, brave and hardy men, but ill adapted for regular military evolutions, dispersed the moment they found they could not break the enemy’s ranks.3 The whole Scottish army, compelled to retreat, fell back upon the Tyne. The conquerors did not pursue it beyond this river, and the district which had risen in insurrection upon the approach of the Scots, remained, notwithstanding their defeat, emancipated from Norman domination. For a long period after this battle, Westmoreland, Cumberland, and Northumberland formed part of the kingdom of Scotland; and the new position of these three provinces prevented the Anglo-Saxon spirit and character from degenerating there so much as in the more southern portions of England. The national traditions and popular ballads survived and perpetuated themselves north of the Tyne,4 and it was thence that English poetry, annihilated in the districts inhabited by the Normans, returned once more at a later period, to the southern provinces.

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While these things were passing in the north of England, the Welsh, who had promised to aid the Saxons in their great plan of deliverance, executing this promise, notwithstanding the failure of the enterprise elsewhere, commenced upon the whole line of their frontiers an attack upon the strongholds erected by the Normans. The Cambrians, an impetuous and vehement race of men, rushed to this sudden aggression with a sort of national fanaticism; there was no quarter for any man who spoke the French tongue; the barons, knights, and soldiers, who had usurped estates in Wales, the priests and monks who had intruded upon the churches and churchlands, all these were slaughtered, or driven from the properties they occupied.1 The Cambrians exhibited much cruelty in these acts of reprisal, but then they themselves had undergone unprecedented sufferings at the hands of the Anglo-Normans. Hugh-le-Loup, and Robert de Maupas, had almost exterminated the native population of Flintshire; Robert de Ruddhlan had seized the Welsh in his district and made serfs of them; Robert de Belesme, earl of Shrewsbury, say the historians of the period, tore the Welsh with claws of iron.2

The conquerors of England, not content with possessing the fertile lands of that country, had early begun, with equal avidity, to invade the rocks and marshes of Cambria.3 The chiefs of the bands established in the western provinces, almost all solicited from king William or his sons, as a sort of supplementary pay, licence to conquer from the Welsh: such is the language of the old acts.4 Many obtained this permission; others dispensed with it, and, equally with the first, attacked the Welsh, who resisted bravely, and defended their country inch by inch. The Normans, having made themselves masters of the eastern extremities of Wales, erected there, according to their custom, a line of strongholds.5

These fortresses had gradually become so numerous and so near to each other, that when, in 1138, the Welsh undertook Edition: current; Page: [16] to break through the chain, nearly the whole of South Wales, the valleys of Glamorganshire and Brecknockshire, and the great promontory of Pembrokeshire, were already severed from ancient Cambria. Various circumstances had contributed to facilitate these conquests. First, in the reign of William Rufus, a civil war among the southern Welsh (an event but too common with them) introduced into Glamorganshire, as hired auxiliaries of one of the contending parties, a band of Norman adventurers, commanded by Robert Fitz-Aymon. This Robert (the same whose daughter refused to accept a husband without two names), after fighting for a Welsh chieftain, and receiving his wages, on his return to his domain in Gloucestershire reflected upon the terrible effect that his steel-clad men and horses had produced upon the Cambrians,1 and the reflection suggested to him the project of visiting as a conqueror the chieftain he had served as a mercenary. He collected a more numerous band than before, entered the valley of Glamorganshire, and took possession of the districts nearest to the Norman frontier.2 The invaders divided out the country among themselves, according to their ranks. Robert Fitz-Aymon had for his share three towns, and became earl of the conquered territory. Among his principal companions, history mentions Robert de St. Quentin, Pierre-le-Sourd, Jean-le-Flamand, and Richard de Granville, or Grainville, as the Normans pronounced it.3 They had each of them whole villages or vast domains, and from poor hirelings became, in the eye of posterity, the stock of a new race of nobles and powerful barons.

At about the same time, Hamlin, son of Dreux de Balaon, built a castle at Abergavenny, and one William, who constructed a fortress at Monmouth, assumed the name of William de Monemue, according to the Norman euphony:4 this William, for the salvation of his soul, made a donation of a Welsh church to the monks of St. Florent at Saumur; in the same neighbourhood, Robert de Candos or Chandos founded and endowed a priory for a body of monks from Normandy.5 During the wars which a numerous party of Edition: current; Page: [17] Normans carried on against William Rufus and Henry I., in favour of duke Robert, these kings summoned to their aid all the soldiers of fortune they could collect. These, for the most part, like the soldiers of the Conqueror, required in compensation for their services, the promise of territorial possessions, for which they did homage beforehand to the kings. In payment of these debts, there were first appropriated the lands confiscated from the Normans of the opposite party, and when this resource was exhausted, the adventurers had letters of marque upon the Welsh.1

Several captains of free companies who received their wages in this coin, distributed out among themselves, before they had conquered them, the counties around Glamorganshire, and added the name of each portion so self-allotted, to their own name; then upon the expiration of their time of service in England, they took their way westward, to assume possessession, as they phrased it, of their inheritances.2 Thus, in the reign of William Rufus, Bernard de Neuf-Marché seized upon Brecknockshire, and dying, left it, say the acts, in lawful property to his daughter Sybil.3 In the time of king Henry, one Richard, a Norman by birth, count of Eu, conquered the Welsh province of Divet or Pembroke, with a small army of Brabançons, Normans, and even of English, whom the miseries of their own subjection had reduced to the condition of adventurer-invaders of other men’s lands. Richard d’Eu in this campaign received from his Flemings and his English the Teutonic surname of Strongboghe or Strongbow, and by a singular chance, this soubriquet, unintelligible to the Normans, remained hereditary in the family of the Norman earl.4

Strongbow and his companions in arms proceeded by sea to the westernmost point of the land of Divet, and landing there, drove back eastward the Cambrian population of the coast, massacring all who resisted them. The Brabançons were at this period the best infantry in Europe, and the land invaded, generally level in its character, enabled them to make full advantage of their heavy armour.5 Effecting a Edition: current; Page: [18] rapid conquest, they divided out the towns, houses, and lands, and built castles to secure themselves from the incursions of the vanquished. The Flemings and Normans, who occupied the first rank in the conquering army, were the most favoured in the division of the spoil, and their posterity constituted the new proprietors and new nobles of the land. Several centuries afterwards, these nobles and proprietors were still distinguishable by the French turn of their names, preceded by the particle de, or the word fils or fitz, according to the old orthography.1 The descendants of the English who took part in the expedition, composed the middle class of small landowners and free farmers; their language became the common tongue of the vanquished district, whence it expelled the Welsh idiom, a circumstance which gave to Pembrokeshire the cognomen of Little England beyond Wales.2 A remarkable monument of this conquest long subsisted in the country: a road along the crest of the mountains, and which, constructed by the conquerors for the purpose of facilitating their marches and securing more rapid intercommunication, retained for several centuries the name of the Fleming way.3

Encouraged by the example of Richard Strongbow, earl of Pembroke, other adventurers landed in Cardigan bay; and one Martin de Tours or des Tours, invaded the land of Keymes or Kemys, in company with Guy de Brionne and Guerin de Mont Cenis, or, as it was called in Norman, Mont Chensey.4 Martin de Tours assumed the title of lord of Keymes, as sovereign administrator of the country in which his men at arms established themselves.5 He opened an asylum there for all the French, Flemish, and even English by birth, who chose to come and augment his colony, swear fealty and homage to him against the Welsh, and receive lands on condition of service, with the title of free guests of Keymes.6 The town which these adventurers founded was called Le Bourg neuf (Newtown), and the spot where the war-chief who had become lord of the country erected his principal dwelling, was long called Château-Martin (Castle Edition: current; Page: [19] Martin), pursuant to the genius of the old French tongue.1 To sanctify his invasion, Martin built a church and a priory, which he peopled with priests, brought, at a great expense, from the abbey of St. Martin de Tours, and whom he selected, either because the town of Tours was his native place, or because its name was the same with his own.2 On his death, he was buried in a marble tomb, in the nave of the new church, and the Touravese priests of the lordship of Keymes recommended to the benedictions of every Christian, the memory of their patron, who, said they, had by his pious zeal revived in that land the tottering faith of the Welsh.3

The imputation thus thrown out, which the Norman prelates had made so much use of to authorize their intrusion and the dispossession of all the clergy of English race, was renewed against the Cambrians, by those to whom the conquerors of Wales gave churches or abbeys. To colour by some sort of pretext the violent expulsion of the former bishops and priests of this country, they declared them en masse heretics and false Christians.4 Yet the bishops of Cambria had long since been reconciled with the Romish church, had re-entered, as it was then termed, the Catholic unity, and one of them, the bishop of St. David’s, had even received the pallium.5 They complained bitterly to the pope of the usurpation of their churches by men of foreign race and impious lives.6 But he paid no heed to them, considering those who had re-established the tax of Peter’s pence as excellent judges of what was good for men’s souls. After this useless appeal, the Welsh, driven to extremity, vindicated justice for themselves, and in many places expelled, in their turn, by force of arms, the foreign priests who had expelled their priests and disposed of the property of the church as of private patrimony.7

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These acts of national vengeance were more frequent in the maritime districts, further removed from the centre of Anglo-Norman power. On the coast facing the isle of Anglesea, conquered simultaneously with that island by the soldiers of the earl of Chester, there was an episcopal city called Bangor, where king Henry I. had established a Norman prelate, named Hervé. To fulfil to the king’s satisfaction his pastoral functions, amidst a country scarce subjected, Hervé, says an ancient author, drew his double-edged sword,1 launching forth daily anathemas on the Cambrians, while he made war upon them at the head of a troop of soldiers.2 The Welsh did not allow themselves to be excommunicated and massacred without resistance; they defeated the bishop’s army, killed one of his brothers, and many of his men, and compelled him to make a hasty retreat.3 Hervé returned to king Henry, who congratulated him4 on having suffered for the faith, and promised him a recompence. The reigning pope, Pascal, wrote with his own hand to the king, recommending to him this victim of what he called the persecution and ferocity of the barbarians.5

Yet at this period, the Welsh nation was, perhaps, of all Europe, that which least merited the epithet of barbarian; despite the evil which the Anglo-Normans inflicted upon them every day, those who visited them unarmed, as simple travellers, were received with cordial hospitality; they were at once admitted into the bosom of the best families, and shared the highest pleasures of the country, music and song.

“They who arrive in the morning,” says an author of the twelfth century, “are entertained until evening with the conversation of the young women, and the sounds of the harp.”6 There was a harp in every house, however poor it might be, and the company, seated in a circle round the musician, sang, alternately, stanzas, sometimes extemporised; challenges passed Edition: current; Page: [21] for improvisation and song, from man to man, and sometimes from village to village.1

The vivacity natural to the Celtic race, was further manifested in the Cambrians by an excessive taste for conversation, and their promptitude in repartee. “All the Welsh, without exception, even in the lowest ranks,” says the ancient author already quoted, “have been gifted by nature with a great volubility of tongue, and extreme confidence in answering before princes and nobles; the Italians and French seem to possess the same faculty; but it is not found among the English of race nor among the Saxons of Germany nor among the Allemans. The present servitude of the English will, doubtless, be alleged as the cause of this want of assurance in the English; but such is not the true reason of this difference, for the Saxons of the continent are free, and yet the same defect is to be remarked in them.”2

The Welsh, who never, like the Germanic tribes, undertook invasive expeditions out of their own country, and who, in one of their national proverbs, wished that “every ray of the sun were a poniard to pierce the friend of war,”3 never, on the other hand, made peace with the foreigner, so long as he occupied their territory, how long soever he remained there, how firmly fixed soever in castles, villages, and towns. The day on which one of these castles was demolished, was a day of universal rejoicing, in which, to use the words of a Welsh writer, the father deprived of an only son forgot his calamity.4 In the great insurrection of 1138, the Normans, attacked along the whole line of their marches, from the mouth of the Dee to the Severn, lost numerous fortified posts, and for some time, were obliged, in their turn, to assume a defensive attitude.5 But the advantage obtained by the Cambrians was of no great importance, because they did not prosecute the war beyond the limits of their mountains and their valleys. Their attack, however vigorous, gave, therefore, less alarm to the conquerors of England, than the invasion Edition: current; Page: [22] of the king of Scotland, and was of still less utility to the Saxon people, who had placed their hopes in it.1

King Stephen deemed it unnecessary to quit his southern residence to march against either the Scots or the Welsh. But, shortly afterwards, the Norman partisans of Matilda, daughter of Henry I., gave him deeper uneasiness. Invited to England by her friends, Matilda landed on the 22nd September of the year 1139, threw herself into Arundel Castle on the coast of Sussex, and thence gained that of Bristol, which was held by her brother, Robert earl of Gloucester.2 On the news of the pretender’s arrival, many secret discontents and intrigues revealed themselves. Most of the northern and western chiefs solemnly renounced their homage and obedience to Stephen of Blois, and renewed the oath they had taken to the daughter of king Henry. The whole Norman race of England seemed divided into two factions, which observed each other for awhile with wary distrust, ere they came to blows. “Neighbour,” say the historians of the time, “suspected neighbour; friend, friend; brother, brother.”3

Fresh bands of Brabançon soldiers, hired by one or other of the two rival parties, came with arms and baggage by different ports and various roads, to the rendezvous respectively assigned by the king and by Matilda,4 each side promising them the lands of the opposite faction as pay. To meet the expenses of this civil war, the Anglo-Normans sold their domains, their villages and their towns in England, with the inhabitants, body and goods.5 Many made incursions upon the domains of their adversaries, and carried off horses, oxen, sheep, and the men of English race, who were seized even in towns, and taken away, bound back to back.

“Every rich man,” says the Saxon chronicle, “built castles, and defended them against all, and they filled the land full of castles. They greatly oppressed the wretched people, by making them work at these castles, and when the castles were finished, they filled them with devils and evil Edition: current; Page: [23] men. Then they took those whom they suspected to have any goods, by night and by day, seizing both men and women, and they put them in prison for their gold and silver, and tortured them with pains unspeakable, for never were any martyrs tormented as these were. They hung some up by their feet, and smoked them with foul smoke; some by their thumbs, or by the head, and they hung burning things on their feet. They put a knotted string about their heads, and writhed it till it went into the brain. They put them into dungeons wherein were adders, and snakes, and toads, and thus wore them out. Some they put into a crucet-house, that is, into a chest that was short and narrow, and not deep; and they put sharp stones in it, and crushed the man therein, so that they broke all his limbs. There were hateful and grim things, called sachenteges,1 in many of the castles, and which two or three men had enough to do to carry. The sachentege was made thus: it was fastened to a beam, having a sharp iron to go round a man’s throat and neck, so that he might no ways sit, nor lie, nor sleep, but that he must bear all the iron. Many thousands they exhausted with hunger. I cannot and I may not tell of all the wounds and all the tortures that they inflicted upon the wretched men of this land; and this state of things lasted the nineteen years that Stephen was king, and ever grew worse and worse. They were continually levying an exaction from the towns, which they called tensery,2 and when the miserable inhabitants had no more to give, then plundered they and burned all the towns; so that well mightest thou walk a whole day’s journey, nor even shouldest thou find a single soul in a town or its lands tilled.

“Then was corn dear, and flesh, and cheese, and butter, for there was none in the land. Wretched men starved with hunger; some lived on alms, who had been erewhile rich; some fled the country; never was there more misery, and never acted heathens worse than these. At length they spared neither church nor churchyard, but they took all that was valuable therein, and then burned the church and all together. Neither did they spare the lands of bishops or Edition: current; Page: [24] of abbots or of priests, but they robbed the monks and the clergy, and every man plundered his neighbour, as much as he might. If two or three men came riding to a town, all the township fled before them, and thought that they were robbers. The bishops and clergy were ever cursing them, but this to them was nothing, for they were all accursed, and forsworn, and reprobate. The earth bare no corn; you might as well have tilled the sea, for the land was all ruined by such deeds, and it was said openly that Christ and his saints slept. These things, and more than we can say, did we suffer during nineteen years, because of our sins.”1

The greatest terror prevailed in the environs of Bristol, where the empress Matilda and her Angevins had established their head-quarters. All day long men were brought into the city, bound and gagged with a piece of wood or an iron bit.2 Troops of disguised soldiers were constantly leaving the castle, who, concealing their arms and language, and attired in the English habit, spread through the town and neighbourhood, mingling with the crowd in the markets and streets, and there, suddenly seizing those whose appearance denoted easy circumstances, carried them off to their quarters and put them to ransom. It was against Bristol that king Stephen first directed his army. This strong and well-defended city resisted, and the royal troops revenged themselves by devastating and burning the environs.3 The king next attacked, one by one and with better success, the Norman castles along the Welsh frontier, the seigneurs of which had nearly to a man declared against him.

While he was engaged in this protracted and troublesome war, insurrection broke out in the eastern districts of the country; the marshy lands of Ely, which had served as a refuge to the last of the free Saxons, became a camp for the Normans of the Angevin faction. Baldwin de Reviers or Redvers, earl of Devonshire, and Lenoir, bishop of Ely, raised against king Stephen intrenchments of stone and mortar in Edition: current; Page: [25] the very place where Hereward had erected a fortress of wood.1 This district, always considered formidable by the Norman authority, on account of the facilities it presented for hostile assemblage and defence, had been placed by Henry I. under the authority of a bishop, whose superintendence was to be combined with that of the earl or viscount of the province.2 The first bishop of the new diocese of Ely was the same Hervé whom the Welsh had expelled from Bangor; the second was Lenoir, who discovered and denounced the great conspiracy of the English in the year 1137. It was not out of personal zeal for king Stephen, but from patriotism as a Norman, that the latter served the king against the Saxons; and as soon as the Normans had declared against Stephen, Lenoir joined them, and undertook to make the islands of his diocese a rendezvous for the friends of Matilda.3

Stephen attacked his adversaries in this camp as William the Conqueror had formerly attacked the Saxon refugees there. He constructed bridges of boats, over which his cavalry passed, and completely routed the troops of Baldwin de Reviers and bishop Lenoir.4 The bishop fled to Gloucester, where the daughter of Henry I. then was with her principal partisans. Her friends in the west, encouraged by the king’s absence, repaired the breaches in their castle-walls, or, transforming into fortresses the towers of the great churches, furnished them with war-machines, and dug moats round them, even in the churchyards, so that the bodies were laid bare and their bones scattered.5 The Norman prelates did not scruple to participate in these military operations, and were not the least active in torturing the English to make them give ransom. They were seen, as in the first years of the Conquest, mounted upon war-horses, clad in armour, and a lance or bâton in their hands, directing the works and the attacks, or casting lots for the spoil.6

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The bishop of Chester and the bishop of Lincoln were remarkable among the most warlike. The latter rallied the troops beaten at the camp of Ely, and re-formed, upon the eastern coast, an army which king Stephen came to attack, but with less success than before; his troops, victorious at Ely, dispersed near Lincoln: abandoned by those who surrounded him, the king defended himself alone for some time; but at last, obliged to yield, he was taken to Gloucester, to the quarters of the countess of Anjou, who, by the advice of her council of war, imprisoned him in the donjon of Bristol. This defeat ruined the royal cause. The Normans of Stephen’s party, seeing him conquered and captive, passed over in crowds to Matilda. His own brother, Henry, bishop of Winchester, declared himself for the victorious faction; and the Saxon peasants, who equally detested both parties, profited by the misfortune of the conquered to despoil them and maltreat them in their flight.1

The grand-daughter of William the Conqueror made her triumphal entry into the city of Winchester; bishop Henry received her at the gates, at the head of the clergy of all the churches. She took possession of the royal ornaments, and of Stephen’s treasure,2 and convoked a great council of prelates, earls, barons, and knights. The assembly decided that Matilda should assume the title of queen, and the bishop who presided pronounced the following form:—“Having first invoked, as was befitting, the assistance of Almighty God, we elect, for lady of England and Normandy, the daughter of the glorious, rich, good, and pacific king Henry, and promise her faith and support.”3 But the good fortune of queen Matilda soon made her disdainful and arrogant; she ceased to solicit the counsel of her old friends, and treated with little favour those of her adversaries who sought to make peace with her. The authors of her elevation, when they requested aught of her, often underwent a refusal; and when they bowed before her, says an old historian, she did not rise to acknowledge the homage.4 This conduct cooled the zeal of her most devoted partisans, and the majority of them, Edition: current; Page: [27] quitting her, without, however, declaring for the dethroned king, awaited the result in repose.1

From Winchester, the new queen went to London. She was the daughter of a Saxon, and the Saxon citizens, from a kind of national sympathy, were better pleased to see her in their city, than they were to see there the king of pure foreign race;2 but the enthusiasm of these serfs of the Conquest made little impression on the proud heart of the wife of the count of Anjou, and the first words she addressed to the citizens of London, were a demand for an enormous subsidy. The citizens, whom the devastations of war and the exactions of Stephen had reduced to such distress that they were in fear of a speedy famine, intreated the queen to pity them, and to wait until they had recovered from their present misery, ere she imposed new tributes on them. “The king has left us nothing,” said the deputies from the citizens, submissively. “I understand,” said the daughter of Henry I., disdainfully; “you have given all to my adversary; you have conspired with him against me; and you would have me spare you.” Obliged to pay the tax, the citizens of London seized the occasion to present an humble petition to the queen: “Noble lady,” said they, “let it be permitted us to follow the good laws of king Edward, thy great uncle, instead of those of thy father the king Henry, which are harsh and ill to bear.”3 But, as if she blushed for her maternal ancestors and abnegated her Anglo-Saxon descent, Matilda became furious at this petition, treated those who dared to address it to her as the most insolent of serfs, and threatened them fiercely. Deeply aggrieved, but dissimulating their anger, the citizens returned to the Guildhall,4 where the Normans, become less suspicious, allowed them to assemble to arrange among themselves the payment of the taxes; for the government had adopted the custom of imposing these upon the towns in the mass, without troubling themselves as to the manner in which the impost should be raised by individual contributions.

Queen Matilda waited in full security, either in the Tower or in the new palace of William Rufus at Westminster, for Edition: current; Page: [28] the citizens to come and present to her on their knees the gold she had demanded, when suddenly the bells of the town rang the alarm: an immense crowd filled the streets and squares. From every house issued a man, armed with the first weapon that had come to hand. An ancient author likens the multitude who thus tumultuously assembled to bees quitting a hive. The queen and her Norman and Angevin barons, thus surprised, and not daring to risk, in the narrow and tortuous streets, an encounter in which the superiority of arms and of military skill could be of no avail, speedily mounted their horses and fled. They had hardly passed the last houses of the suburbs, when a troops of English hastened to the lodgings they had occupied, broke open the doors, and not finding the men, seized upon all they had left behind. The queen hastened along the Oxford road with her barons and knights; from time to time some of these quitted her to retreat in greater safety alone by cross roads and bye paths; she entered Oxford with her brother the earl of Gloucester, and the few who had followed the road she pursued as the safest, or who forgot their own danger in hers.1

This danger, however, was not great; the people of London, satisfied with having driven the new queen of England from their walls, did not pursue her. Their insurrection, the result of an ebullition of fury, without any previous project and without connexion with any other movement, did not constitute the first act of a national insurrection. The expulsion of Matilda and her adherents, however, while it did not profit the English, served the partisans of king Stephen, who entering London, occupied the city and garrisoned it with their troops, under colour of alliance with the citizens. The wife of the imprisoned king repaired hither also, and took up her quarters in the Tower; all that the citizens obtained was permission to enrol a thousand of their number, with helmet and hauberk, among the troops who assembled in the name of Stephen, to serve, as auxiliaries of the Normans, under William and Roger de la Chesnaye.2

The bishop of Winchester, seeing his brother’s party regaining Edition: current; Page: [29] some strength, deserted the opposite faction, and declared once more for the prisoner of Bristol; he unfurled the king’s flag on Winchester castle and on his own episcopal palace, which he had fortified and embattled like a castle. Robert of Gloucester and the partisans of Matilda came to besiege it. The garrison of the castle, constructed in the centre of the city, set fire to the surrounding houses, in order to harass the besiegers; and in the mean time, the London army attacking the latter unexpectedly, compelled them to retire to the churches, which were set on fire as a mode of driving them out. Robert of Gloucester was taken prisoner, and his followers dispersed. Barons and knights threw aside their arms, and travelling on foot to avoid recognition, traversed, under assumed names, the towns and villages. But, besides the king’s partisans, who followed them closely, they encountered on their way other enemies, the Saxon peasants, furious against them in their defeat, as they had been just before against the opposite party, under similar circumstances; they stopped the proud Normans, whom, despite their efforts to disguise themselves, they recognised by their language, and compelled them to run before them, by blows of their whips. The archbishop of Canterbury, other bishops, and a number of seigneurs, were maltreated in this way and despoiled of their horses and clothes. Thus, this war was for the native English at once a source of misery and of joy—of that frantic joy we feel amidst suffering, in returning evil for evil. The grandson of a man who had died at Hastings, now found himself master of the life of a Norman baron or prelate, and the English women, who turned the spinning-wheel in the service of noble Norman dames, laughed as they heard related the sufferings of queen Matilda on her departure from Oxford; how she had fled with three knights, on foot, and by night, through the snow; and how she had fearfully passed the enemy’s posts, trembling at the least sound of men and horses, or at the voice of the sentinels.1

Soon after the brother of Matilda, Robert earl of Gloucester, had been taken prisoner, the two parties concluded an agreement, by which the king and the earl were exchanged, Edition: current; Page: [30] one for the other, so that the dispute resumed its first position. Stephen quitted Bristol castle and resumed the exercise of royalty, his government extending over the portion of the country where his partisans predominated; that is to say, over the central and eastern provinces of England. As to Normandy, none of his orders reached it; for during his captivity, the whole of that country had yielded to earl Geoffroy, the husband of Matilda, who, shortly afterwards, with the consent of the Normans, transferred the title of duke of Normandy to his eldest son Henry.1 The party of Stephen thus lost the hope of recruiting itself beyond seas; but as he was master of the coast, he was in a position to prevent any succour thence to his adversaries at home, who were shut up in the west. Their only resource was to hire bodies of Welsh, who, though ill armed, by their bravery and singular tactics, arrested, for awhile, the march of the king’s partisans.2

While the struggle was thus languidly prolonged on both sides, Henry, son of Matilda, left Normandy with a small army, and succeeded in landing in England. On the first rumour of his arrival, many nobles began to abandon the cause of Stephen; but, as soon as they learned that Henry had but a few followers and very little money, most of these returned to the king, and the desertion ceased.3 The war went on in the same way as before; castles were taken and retaken, towns pillaged and burnt. The English, flying from their houses, through force or fear, raised huts under the walls of the churches; but they were soon driven from them by one or the other party, who converted the church into a fortress, embattling its towers, and furnishing them with war machines.4

Stephen’s only son, Eustache, who had more than once signalized himself by his valour, died, after having pillaged a domain consecrated to Saint Edmund, king and martyr; his death was, according to the English, the consequence of the outrage he had dared to commit on this saint of English Edition: current; Page: [31] race.1 Stephen having now no son to whom he could desire to transmit the kingdom, proposed to his rival, Henry of Anjou, to terminate the war by an accommodation; he required that the Normans of England, and of the continent, should allow him to reign in peace during his life, on condition that the son of Matilda should be king after him. The Normans consented to this, and peace was re-established. The tenour of the treaty, sworn by the bishops, earls, barons, and knights of both parties, is presented to us under two very different aspects by the historians of the time, according to the faction they favour. Some say that king Stephen adopted Henry as his son, and that in virtue of this preliminary act, the lords swore to give in heritage to the adopted son, his father’s kingdom;2 others, on the contrary, assert that the king positively acknowledged the hereditary right of the son of Matilda to the kingdom, and that in return the latter benevolently granted him permission to reign for the remainder of his life.3 Thus contemporaries, equally worthy of belief, deduce from two principles, entirely opposite, the legitimacy which they accord to the grandson of Henry I. Which are we to believe on this point? neither the one nor the other; the truth is, that the same barons who had elected Stephen despite the oath sworn to Matilda, and who afterwards elected Matilda despite the oath sworn to Stephen, by a new act of will, designed, as successor to Stephen, the son of Matilda and not the mother: from this all-potent will was derived the royal legitimacy.4

Shortly before his expedition to England, Henry had married the divorced wife of the king of France, Eleanor, or Alienor, or, more familiarly, Aanor, daughter of William, earl of Poitou and duke of Aquitaine, that is to say, sovereign Edition: current; Page: [32] of all the western coast of Gaul, from the mouth of the Loire to the foot of the Pyrenees.1 According to the custom of this country, Eleanor enjoyed there all the power that her father had exercised; and, moreover, her husband, though a foreigner, could share the sovereignty with her. King Louis VII. had enjoyed the privilege so long as he remained united to the daughter of earl William, and he maintained officers and garrisons in the towns of Aquitaine; but, as soon as he had repudiated her, he found himself under the necessity of recalling his seneschals and troops.2 It was in Palestine, whither Eleanor had followed her husband to the crusades, that their misunderstanding broke out. Persuaded, right or wrong,3 that the queen played him false with a young Saracen, Louis solicited and obtained the divorce refused by the church to common people, but frequently granted to princes.4

A council was held at Beaugency-sur-Loire, before which the queen of France was summoned. The bishop who acted as accuser, announced that the king demanded a divorce, “because he had no confidence in his wife, and should never feel assured as to the lineage issuing from her.”5

The council, passing this scandalous proposition over in silence, declared the marriage null, under pretext of consanguinity, perceiving, somewhat late after a union of sixteen years, that Eleanor was her husband’s cousin, within one of the prohibited degrees.6 The divorced wife, on her return to her own country, stopped for awhile at Blois. During her stay in this town, Thibaut, earl of Blois, endeavoured to conciliate her and to obtain her hand. Indignant at the refusal he received, the earl resolved to retain the duchess of Aquitaine in prison in his castle, and even to marry her by force.7 She suspected this design, and departing by night, descended the Loire to Tours, a town which then formed part Edition: current; Page: [33] of the earldom of Anjou. On hearing of her arrival, Geoffroy, the second son of the earl of Anjou and the empress Matilda, seized with the same desire as Thibaut de Blois, placed himself in ambush at Port de Piles, on the frontiers of Poitou and Touraine, to stop the progress of the duchess, seize her and marry her; but Eleanor, says the historian, was warned by her good angel, and suddenly took another road to Poitiers.1

It was hither that Henry, the eldest son of Matilda and of the earl of Anjou, more courteous than his brother, repaired to solicit the love of the daughter of the duke of Aquitaine. He was accepted, and conducting his new wife to Normandy, he sent bailiffs, justiciaries, and Norman soldiers to the cities of southern Gaul. To the title of duke of Normandy he thenceforward added those of duke of Aquitaine and earl of Poitou;2 and his father already possessing Anjou and Touraine, their combined sovereignty extended over the whole western portion of Gaul, between the Somme and the Pyrenees, with the exception of Brittany. The territories of the king of France, bounded by the Loire, the Saone, and the Meuse, were far from having so great an extent. This king grew alarmed at seeing the aggrandizement of the Norman power, the rival of his own ever since its birth, and still more so since the conquest of England. He had made great efforts to prevent the union of young Henry with Eleanor of Aquitaine, and had required him, as his vassal for the duchy of Normandy, not to contract marriage without the consent of his suzerain lord.3 But the obligations of the liegeman to the suzerain, even when the two parties had expressly acknowledged and consented to them, were of small value between men of equal power. Henry took no heed to this prohibition to marry; and Louis VII. was fain to content himself with the new oaths of homage which the future king of England made to him for the earldom of Poitou and the duchy of Aquitaine.4

Oaths of this kind, vague in their tenour, taken unwillingly, and in some sort a mere form, had long been the only tie existing Edition: current; Page: [34] between the successors of the ancient Frank kings and the sovereign chiefs of the country comprised between the Loire and the two seas; for the Frank domination had not taken root in these districts so deeply as in those nearer Germany. In the seventh century, the nations of Europe who had relations with Gaul, already designated it all by the name of France; but in the Gaulish territory itself this name was far from possessing such universality. The course of the Loire formed the southern limit of Frankish Gaul, or of the French country; beyond this was the Roman territory, differing from the other in language and manners, and especially in civilization.1

In the south, the inhabitants, high or low, rich or poor, were nearly all of pure Gaulish race, or at least their German descent was not accompanied there by the same superiority of social condition which was attached to it in the north. The men of Frankish race who had come into southern Gaul, either as conquerors or as agents and commissioners of the conquerors, settled north of the Loire, did not succeed in propagating themselves as a distinct nation amidst a numerous population collected in great towns; and accordingly, the inhabitants of France and Burgundy usually employed the term Romans to designate those of the south.2

Many of the successors of Clodowig added to their title of king of the Franks, that of prince of the Roman people;3 in the decline of that first dynasty, the population of Aquitaine and Provence chose native dukes and counts, or, what is more remarkable, obliged the descendants of their governors of Teutonic race to revolt with them. But this enfranchisement of southern Gaul was scarcely accomplished, when the accession of a second race of kings restored to the Frank nation its pristine energy, and again directed it to the conquest of the south.

Once more masters of these beautiful lands, the Gallo-Franks placed there governors and judges,4 who, under the form of tribute, carried off all the money in the country; but, Edition: current; Page: [35] on the first favourable occasion, the southerns refused to pay, rose, and drove out the foreigners. Hereupon the Franks descended from the north to reassert their right of conquest; they came to the banks of the Loire at Orleans, Tours, or Nevers, to hold their Champ-de-Mai in arms.1 The war commenced between them and the inhabitants of the Limousin or Auvergne, then the outpost of the Gallo-Roman population. If the Romans (to speak in the language of the period) found themselves too weak to contend, they proposed to the chief of the Frenchmen to pay him the impost every year, preserving their political independence.2 The Frank prince submitted this proposition to his leudes,3 in their assembly, held in the open air; if the assembly voted against peace, the army continued its march, cutting down the vines and fruit trees, and carrying off men, cattle and horses.4 When the cause of the south had been completely defeated, the judges, the Frank grafs and skepen, re-installed themselves in the towns, and, for a more or less extended period, this form figured at the head of the public acts: “In the reign of the glorious king Pepin; in the reign of the illustrious emperor Karle.

Karle, or Charlemagne, with the consent of all the Frank lords, established as king of Aquitaine5 his son Lodewig, whom the Gauls called Louis. This Louis became, in his turn, emperor or keisar of the Franks, and under this title, ruled at once Germany, Italy, and Gaul. In his own lifetime, he desired his sons to enjoy this immense authority, and the unequal division he made excited discord among them. The southern Gauls took part in these quarrels, in order to envenom them and thus contribute to weaken their masters. While awaiting the moment to revolt under chiefs of their own race and language, they gave the crown of their country to members of the imperial family, indeed, but these such as neither the emperor nor the supreme assembly of the Franks Edition: current; Page: [36] desired to reign;1 hence resulted protracted wars and fresh devastations in the towns of Aquitaine. The great struggle for royalty which arose towards the close of the ninth century, and continued for a century, gave some relief to the Aquitans. Indifferent to the two rival parties, having no common interest either with the family of Charlemagne or with the kings of new race, they kept aloof, and made use of the dispute as a pretext for resisting alike the power of both. When the Gallo-Franks, renouncing the Austrasian Karle, called Le Gros, chose for their king the Neustrian Eudes, count of Paris, a national king, named Ranulf, then arose in Aquitaine, who, shortly after, under the modest titles of duke of the Aquitans and count of the Poitevins, reigned in full sovereignty, from the Loire to the Pyrenees. King Eudes quitted France to subject Aquitaine; but he did not succeed in this object. With their material resistance, the inhabitants of the south combined a sort of moral opposition; they set themselves up as defenders of the rights of the old dispossessed family, for the sole reason that the French would no longer acknowledge these rights.

Hereupon nearly all the independent chiefs of Aquitaine, Poitou, and Provence, proceeded to assert themselves descendants of Charlemagne on the female side, and applied this hypothetical descent as authority for denouncing as usurpers the kings of the third dynasty.2 After Charles le Simple, the legitimate heir of Charlemagne, had been imprisoned in Peronne, his name was placed at the head of the public acts in Aquitaine, as though he still reigned; when his son had recovered the power, the Aquitans would not allow him to exercise the slightest authority over them, directly or indirectly.

The victory of the French over the second and third Germanic dynasties was permanently decided by the election of Hugh,3 surnamed Capet or Shapet in the Romane language of Outre-Loire. The people of the south took no part in this election, and did not acknowledge king Hugh; the latter, at the Edition: current; Page: [37] head of his people between the Meuse and the Loire, made war upon Aquitaine; but, after repeated efforts, he only succeeded in establishing his suzerainty over the provinces nearest the Loire, Berry, Touraine, and Anjou.1 As the reward of his adhesion, the count of the latter province obtained the hereditary title of seneschal of the kingdom of France; and, at solemn banquets, had the charge of serving the meats at the king’s table on horseback. But the attraction of such honours did not seduce the counts or dukes of the more southern districts; they maintained the combat, and the great mass of population who spoke the language of oc, did not acknowledge, in reality or in semblance, the authority of the kings of the country in which they said oui. The south of Gaul, distributed into various principalities, according to the natural divisions of the land or the ancient circumscription of the Roman provinces, thus appeared, towards the eleventh century, freed from every remnant of the subjection which the Franks had imposed on it, and the people of Aquitaine had thenceforth for their sovereigns men of their own race and language.

It is true, that north of the Loire, from the end of the tenth century, one same language was also common to kings, lords, and commons; but in this country, where the conquest had never been controverted, the seigneurs loved not the people; they felt in their hearts, perhaps without noting it, that their rank and their power were derived from a foreign source. Although severed for ever from their old Teutonic stock, they had not renounced the manners of the conquest they alone in the kingdom enjoyed territorial property and personal freedom. On the contrary, in the petty southern sovereignties, though there were ranks among men, though there were higher and lower classes, castles and cottages, insolence in wealth and tyranny in power, the soil belonged to the body of the people, and none contested with them its free possession, the franc-aleu, as it was termed in the middle ages. It was the popular mass which, by a series of efforts, had recovered this soil from the invaders of Outre-Loire. The duchies, the countships, the viscountships, all the lordships, were, more or less, national: most of them had originated in Edition: current; Page: [38] periods of revolt against the foreign power, and had been legitimised by the consent of the people.

But, inferior to the southern provinces in social organization, in civil liberty, and in traditions of government, the kingdom of France was powerful from its extent, and formidable abroad; none of the states which shared with it the ancient territory of Gaul, equalled it in power; and its chiefs often made the dukes and counts of the south tremble in their large cities, enriched by arts and by commerce. Often, to secure the continuance of peace with France, they offered their daughters in marriage to French princes, who, by this false policy, were admitted among them as relations and allies. It was thus that the union of the daughter of duke William with king Louis VII. opened, as we have seen, the towns of Aquitaine and Poitou to foreign garrisons. When, after the divorce of Eleanor, the French had withdrawn, her second marriage introduced Angevins and Normans, who, like the French, said oui and nenny, instead of oc and no.1 Perhaps there was more sympathy between the Angevins and the inhabitants of the south, than between the latter and the French, because civilization increased in Gaul the further south it lay. But the difference of language, and more especially of accent, necessarily reminded the Aquitains that Henry Fitz-Empress, their new lord, was a foreigner.

Shortly after the marriage, which made him duke of Aquitaine, Henry became earl of Anjou, by the death of his father, but upon the express condition of transferring that province to his younger brother on the day he himself should become king. He swore this oath with every demonstration of solemnity, on the corpse of the departed, but the oath was broken, and Henry retained the earldom of Anjou, when the Norman barons, more faithful than he to their word, called him to England, to succeed king Stephen.2 As soon as he had taken possession of the crown, he denounced Stephen as an usurper, and proceeded to abolish all that he had done.3 Edition: current; Page: [39] He drove from England the Brabançons who had settled there after aiding the royal cause against Matilda. He confiscated the lands which these men had received as their pay, and demolished their strongholds, in common with those of all the other partisans of the late king; desiring, he said, to reduce the number to what it had been under king Henry, his grandfather.1 The bands of foreign auxiliaries who had come to England during the civil war, had committed infinite pillage on the Normans of the party opposed to that which they served; their chiefs had seized upon domains and mansions, and had then fortified them against the dispossessed Norman lords, imitating the fathers of the latter, who had in like manner fortified the habitations taken from the English.2 The expulsion of the Flemings was for the whole Anglo-Norman race a subject of rejoicing, as great as their own expulsion would have been for the Saxons. “We saw them all,” says a contemporary author—“we saw them all cross the sea to return from the camp to the plough, and again become serfs, after having been masters.”3

Every man who in the year 1140 had, on the invitation of king Stephen, unharnessed his oxen to cross the Channel to the battle of Lincoln, was thus treated as an usurper by those whose ancestors had, in 1066, unharnessed theirs to follow William the Bastard. The conquerors of England already looked upon themselves as the legitimate possessors; they had effaced from their memory all recollection of their forcible usurpation and of their former condition, fancying that their noble families had never exercised any other function than that of governing men. But the Saxons had a longer memory: and in the complaints drawn from them by the cruelty of their lords, they said of many an earl or prelate of Norman race: “He drives us and goads us, as his father goaded his plough-oxen on the other side of the Channel.”4

Despite this consciousness of their own position and of the origin of their government, the Saxon race, worn out by suffering, Edition: current; Page: [40] gave way to an apathetic resignation. The little English blood which the empress Matilda had transmitted to Henry II., was, they said, a guarantee for his goodwill towards the people;1 and they forgot how this same Matilda, though more Saxon than her son, had treated the citizens of London. Writers, either from sheer simplicity of good faith, or hired to extol the new reign, proclaimed that England at length possessed a king, English by nation; that she had bishops, abbots, barons, and knights, the issue of both races, and that thus national hatred had, for the future, no basis.2 No doubt, the Saxon women, seized upon and married by force after the battle of Hastings, or after the defeats of York and Ely, had, amid their despair, borne sons to their masters; but these sons of foreign fathers, did they deem themselves brothers of the citizens and serfs of the land? Would not the desire to efface the stain of their birth in the eyes of the Normans of pure race, render them still more overbearing, even than the latter, towards their maternal countrymen? It is also true, that, in the first years of the invasion, William the Conqueror had offered women of his nation and even of his own family to Saxon chiefs, still free; but these unions were few in number; and as soon as the conquest seemed complete, no Englishman was held noble enough for a Norman woman to honour him with her hand. Besides, even supposing that many English in birth, by denying the cause of their country, by unlearning their own language, by playing the part of flatterers and parasites, had raised themselves to the privileges of the men of foreign race, this individual fortune did not weaken, in reference to the mass of the conquered, the mournful effects of the Conquest.

Perhaps, indeed, the mixture of races was in England, at this time, more favourable to the oppressors than to the oppressed; for, as the former lost their foreign character, if we may so express it, the inclination to resist diminished in the hearts of the latter. A violent reaction, the only efficacious resource against the iniquities of the conquest, became less possible. To the fetters of usurped domination were superadded moral bonds, the respect for men for their own blood, and those Edition: current; Page: [41] kindly affections which render us so patient under domestic despotism. Accordingly, Henry II. was pleased to see the Saxon monks, in the dedications of their books, set forth his English genealogy, and without mentioning either his grandfather, Henry I., or his great grandfather, the Conqueror, place him as the descendant of king Alfred. “Thou art the son,” they said, “of the very glorious empress Matilda, whose mother was Matilda, daughter of Margaret, queen of Scotland, whose father was Edward, son of king Edmund Ironsides, the great grandson of the noble king Alfred.”1

Whether by chance or design, predictions were circulated at the same time, announcing the reign of Henry of Anjou as an epoch of relief, and, in some measure, of resuscitation, for the English. One of these prophecies was attributed to king Edward on his death bed; and it was said that he delivered it, in order to reassure those who then feared for England the ambitious projects of the duke of Normandy. “When the green tree,” he said to them, “after having been cut down and moved from its root to a distance of three acres, shall itself approach its root once more, shall flourish and bear fruit, then a better time will come.”2 This allegory, invented for the purpose, was readily interpreted. The felled tree was the family of Edward, which had lost the crown on the election of Harold; after Harold had come William the Conqueror, and his son William Rufus; these completed the number of three kings foreign to the ancient family; for it is to be observed that the interpreters omitted Edgar, because he still had relations in England or Scotland, to whom, in a question of descent from the noble king Alfred, the Angevin Henry would have had very inferior pretensions. The tree again approached its root when Matilda married Henry I.; it flourished in the birth of the empress Matilda, and, lastly, it bore fruit in that of Henry II. These miserable tales only merit a place in history on account of the moral effect they produced on the men of former times. Their object was to divert from the person of the king the hatred which the Saxons nourished against all Normans; but nothing could prevent Henry II. from being regarded as the representative Edition: current; Page: [42] of the conquest: it was in vain that his friends mystically surnamed him the corner stone of junction for the two walls, that is to say, the two races:1 no union was possible amidst such utter inequality of rights, properties, and power.

Difficult as it was for an Anglo-Saxon of the twelfth century to recognise as natural successor of the kings of English race, a man who could not even say king in English, the pertinacious reconcilers of the Saxons with the Normans put forward assertions still more extraordinary; they undertook to prove the Conqueror himself the legitimate heir of king Alfred. A very ancient chronicle, cited by an ancient author, relates that William the Bastard was the own grandson of king Edmund Ironsides.2 “Edmund,” says this chronicle, “had two sons, Edwin and Edward, and also a daughter, whose name history does not mention, on account of her ill life, for she had illicit intercourse with the king’s tanner.” The king, greatly enraged, banished his skinner from England, with his daughter, who was then pregnant. Both passed into Normandy, where, living on public charity, they had successively three daughters. One day, as they were begging at Falaise, at the door of duke Robert, the duke, struck with the beauty of the wife and her three children, asked her who she was. “I am,” she answered, “an Englishwoman, and of royal blood.” At this answer, the duke treated her honourably, took the tanner into his service, and received into his palace one of their daughters, who afterwards became his mistress and the mother of William, surnamed the Bastard, who, for the greater probability, always remained the grandson of a tanner of Falaise; although by his mother he was a Saxon and a descendant of Saxon kings.3

The violation of the oath which Henry II. had, as we have seen, sworn to his brother Geoffroy, involved him, soon after his arrival in England, in a war on the continent. With the assistance of the partisans of his right to the earldom of Anjou, Geoffroy obtained possession of several strongholds. Henry sent an army of Englishmen against him. The English, animated Edition: current; Page: [43] by the antipathy they had borne, ever since the conquest, to the populations of Gaul, vigorously prosecuted the war, and in a short time secured a triumph to the ambitious and unjust brother.1 The conquered Geoffroy was obliged to accept, in exchange for his lands and his title of earl, a pension of a thousand pounds English and two thousand livres of Anjou.2 He had become once more a simple Angevin baron, when, by a fortunate chance for him, the people of Nantes made him count of their town and territory.3 By this election, they detached themselves from the government of Bretagne, with which it had been formerly incorporated by conquest, but which they had preferred to the domination of the Frank kings, without, however, any very vehement attachment, owing to the difference of language.

Aggrandized by fortunate wars, in the interval between the ninth to the eleventh century, Brittany was in the twelfth century torn by internal divisions, the result of its very prosperity. Its frontiers, which extended beyond the Loire, comprehended two populations of different race, one of which spoke the Celtic idiom, the other the Romane tongue of France and Normandy; and as the earls or dukes of the whole country enjoyed the favour of the one of these two races of men, they were disliked by the other. The Nantese who elected Geoffroy of Anjou as their earl, naturally belonged to the former of these two parties, and they only called on the Angevin prince to govern them in order to release themselves from the authority of a seigneur of pure Celtic race.4 Geoffroy of Anjou did not long enjoy his new dignity, and on his death, the town passed, if not freely, at least without repugnance, under the sovereignty of Conan, hereditary earl of Brittany, and possessor in England of Richmond castle, built in the time of the conquest, by the Breton, Alain Fergant.5 Hereupon, king Henry II., on a pretension entirely novel, claimed the town of Nantes, as a portion of the inheritance of his brother; he treated the earl of Edition: current; Page: [44] Brittany as an usurper, confiscated the estate of Richmond, and then crossing the sea, came with a large army to compel the citizens of Nantes to acknowledge him as lord, and to reject earl Conan. Incapable of resisting the forces of the king of England, the citizens obeyed against their will; the king placed a garrison within their walls, and occupied all the country between the Loire and the Vilaine.1

Having thus gained a footing on the Breton territory, Henry II. extended his ambition still further, and concluded with the same Conan, from whom he had just taken the town of Nantes, a treaty which threatened the independence of all Brittany. He affianced his youngest son, Geoffroy, eight years of age, to Constance, daughter of Conan, and then five years old.2 In the terms of this treaty, the Breton earl engaged to make the future husband of his daughter heir to his dominions, and the king, in return, guaranteed to Conan possession for life of the earldom of Brittany, promising him aid, succour, and support, towards and against all.3 This treaty, the inevitable result of which would be the extension, at some future day, of the domination of the Anglo-Normans over the whole of Western Gaul, greatly alarmed the king of France; he negotiated with the pope, Alexander III., to engage him to prohibit the union of Geoffroy and Constance, on account of consanguinity; Conan being the grandson of a bastard daughter of Henry the second’s grandfather; but the pope would not recognise this relationship, and the precocious nuptials of the young couple were celebrated in the year 1166.4

Shortly after, a national insurrection broke out in Brittany, against the chief who trafficked with a foreign king in the independence of his country. Conan summoned Henry II. to his assistance, and in the terms of their treaty of alliance, the king’s troops entered Brittany by the Norman frontier, under pretext of defending the legitimate earl of the Bretons against the insurgents.5 Henry gained possession of Dol, and of several smaller towns, in which he placed garrisons. Soon after, Edition: current; Page: [45] half voluntarily, half compulsorily, earl Conan resigned his power into the hands of his protector, allowing him to exercise the administrative authority and to levy tributes throughout Brittany. The timid and feeble waited on the Angevin king in his camp, and, according to the ceremonial of the time, did him homage for their lands; the clergy hastened to compliment, in the Latin tongue, the man who came in the name of God to visit and console Brittany.1 But the divine right of this foreign usurpation was not universally recognised, and the friends of old Brittany, assembling from all its districts, formed against king Henry a sworn confederation for life and death.2

The bond of nationality was already too weak in Brittany for this country to derive from itself sufficient resources for its rebellion. The insurgents accordingly opened a correspondence abroad; they came to an understanding with their neighbours the people of Maine, who, since the reign of William the Bastard, had given a most unwilling obedience to the Norman princes.3 Numbers of Manseaux entered the league sworn in Brittany against the king of England, and all the members of this league adopted as their patron the king of France, the political rival of Henry II., and the most powerful of his competitors. Louis VII. promised assistance to the insurgent Bretons, not from love of their independence, which his predecessors had assailed so fiercely during so many centuries, but through hatred to the king of England, and the desire to acquire for himself in Brittany that supremacy which his enemy might lose there.4 To attain this object at small cost, he contented himself with mere promises to the confederates, leaving upon them all the burden of an enterprise of which he was to share the profits. Speedily attacked by the entire forces of king Henry, the Breton insurgents were defeated, and lost the towns of Vannes, Léon, Auray, and Fougères, their castles, domains, soldiers, wives and daughters, whom the king took for hostages, and whom he amused himself with dishonouring, by seduction or by violence:5 one of Edition: current; Page: [46] them, the daughter of Eudes, viscount de Porrhoët, was his cousin in the second degree.1

About the same time, a distaste for the domination of the king of England became strongly felt by the inhabitants of Aquitaine, more especially by those of Poitou and the Marche de France, who, being the children of a mountainous country, were of a fierce temperament, and were in a better position to carry on a patriotic war.2 Though husband of the daughter of the earl of Poitou, Henry II. was a foreigner to the Poitevins, who ill endured to see officers of foreign race violating or destroying the customs of their country by ordinances drawn up in the Angevin or Norman language. Many of these new magistrates were driven forth, and one of them, a native of Perche, and earl of Salisbury, was killed at Poitiers by the people.3 An extensive conspiracy was formed under the direction of the principal lords and rich men of north Aquitaine, the count De la Marche, the duke d’Angoulême, the viscount De Thouars, the abbot of Charroux, Aymery de Lezinan or Luzignan, Hugh and Robert de Silly.4 The Poitevin conspirators placed themselves, as the Bretons had done, under the patronage of the king of France, who demanded hostages from them, and engaged, in return, not to make peace with king Henry without including them in it;5 but they were crushed, as the Bretons had been, Louis VII. remaining a mere spectator of their war with the Angevin king.

The leading men among them capitulated with the conqueror; the others fled to the territory of the king of France, who, unfortunately for them, began to grow weary of war with king Henry, and to desire a truce. These two princes, after having long laboured to injure each other, at length came to a formal reconciliation in the little town of Montmirail in Perche. It was agreed that the king of France should secure to the other king possession of Brittany, and should give up to him the refugees of that country and of Poitou; that, in return, the king of England should expressly acknowledge himself the vassal and liegeman of the king of Edition: current; Page: [47] France, and that Brittany should be comprehended in the new oath of homage. The two rivals shook hands and embraced cordially; then, in virtue of the new sovereignty which the king of France acknowledged in him over the Bretons, and pursuant to the treaty, Henry II. instituted as duke of Brittany, Anjou, and Maine, his eldest son, who in this quality took the oath of vassalage between the hands and on the lips of the king of France. In this interview the Angevin king gave utterance to sentiments of tenderness, most absurd in their exaggeration, towards a man who, the day before, was his mortal enemy. “I place,” said he, “at your disposal myself, my children, my lands, my forces, my treasures, to use and to abuse, to keep or to give, at your pleasure and good will.” It would seem as though his reason was somewhat deranged by the joy of having the Poitevin and Breton emigrants in his power. King Louis gave them up to him, upon the derisive condition that he should receive them into favour, and restore to them their property.1 Henry promised this, and even gave them publicly the kiss of peace, as a guarantee of this promise, but most of them ended their days in prison or on the scaffold.

The two kings having separated under this appearance of perfect harmony, which, however, was not of long continuance, Henry, the eldest son of the king of England, transferred to his young brother, Geoffroy, the dignity of duke of Brittany, only retaining for himself the earldom of Anjou. Geoffroy did homage to his brother, as the latter had done to the king of France; he then proceeded to Rennes to hold his court, and receive the submission of the lords and knights of the country.2 Thus did the two hereditary enemies of the liberty of the Bretons deprive them, by mutual accord, of the sovereignty of their native land, the Angevin prince making himself immediate lord, the French prince, suzerain lord, and this great revolution took place without apparent violence. Conan, the last earl of pure Breton race, was not deposed, but his name did not again appear in the public acts: thenceforth there was, properly speaking, no longer any nation in Brittany; there was a French party and an Angevin or Norman party, labouring in opposite directions for one or the other power.

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The ancient national language, abandoned by all who desired to please either of the two kings, became gradually corrupted in the mouths of the poor and the peasants, who, however, still remained faithful to it, and preserved it, in great measure, for centuries, with the tenacity of memory and of will which characterizes the Celtic race. Despite the desertion of their national chiefs to foreigners, Normans or French, and the public and private servitude which was the result, the populace of Lower Brittany have never ceased to recognise in the nobles of their country the children of the soil. They have never hated them with that violent hatred which was elsewhere borne to the lords, issue of a foreign race; and under the feudal titles of baron and knight, the Breton peasant still saw the tierns and the mactierns of the time of his independence; he obeyed them with zeal in good and in evil, engaged in their intrigues and their political quarrels, often without understanding them, but through habit and that instinct of devotion which the Welsh tribes and the highlanders of Scotland had for their chieftains.

It was not alone the populations contiguous to France, such as the Bretons and Poitevins, which, in their quarrels with the king of England, sought to make common cause with his political rival. After the rupture of the peace of Montmirail, Louis VII. received from a country with which he had before had no relations, and of whose existence he was almost ignorant, a despatch conceived in the following terms:—

“To the most excellent king of the French, Owen, prince of Wales, his liegeman and faithful friend: greeting, obedience, and devotion.

“The war which the king of England had long meditated against me, broke out last summer, without any provocation on my part; but, thanks to God and to you, who occupied his forces elsewhere, he lost more men than I on the fields of battle. In his rage, he has wickedly mutilated the hostages held from me; and retiring, without concluding any peace or truce, he has ordered his men to be ready by next Easter, to march once more against us. I therefore intreat your Clemency to inform me, by the bearer of these presents, if you Edition: current; Page: [49] propose to make war upon him at that period, so that on my part I may serve you, by harassing him as you may desire. Let me know what you would counsel me to do, and also what succours you will give me, for without aid and counsel from you, I fear I shall not be strong enough against our common enemy.”1

This letter was brought by a Welsh priest, who presented it to the king of France in his plenary court. But the king, having scarce in his whole life heard of Wales, suspected the messenger to be an impostor, and would not recognise either him or Owen’s despatch. The latter was accordingly obliged to write a second missive to authenticate the contents of the first: “You did not believe,” said he, “that my letter was really from me; but it was, I affirm, and call God to attest it.”2 The Cambrian chief again styled himself, “faithful servant and vassal of the king of France.” This circumstance is worthy of mention, because it teaches us, not to take literally or without a strict examination, the forms and phrases of the middle ages. The words vassal and lord often, indeed, expressed a real relationship of subordination and dependence, but they were also often a mere form of politeness, especially when the weak sought the alliance of the strong.

The duchy of Aquitaine or of Guienne, as it came to be called, did not extend beyond the eastern limits of the second of the ancient Aquitanian provinces, and thus the towns of Limoges, Cahors, and Toulouse were not comprised in it. This last city, the ancient residence of the Visigoth kings and of the Gallo-Roman chiefs, who after them governed the two Aquitaines combined to resist the Franks, had become the capital of a small separate state, which was called the county of Toulouse. There had been great rivalries in ambition between the counts of Toulouse and the dukes of Guienne, and, on both sides, various attempts to subject to one sole authority all the country between the Rhone, the Ocean, and the Pyrenees. Hence had arisen many disputes, treaties, and alliances, by turns made and unmade, in accordance with the instability natural to the people of the south. Edition: current; Page: [50] Henry II., become duke of Aquitaine, examined the records of these former conventions, and finding among them a sort of pretext for annulling the independence of the county of Toulouse, he advanced troops, and laid siege to the town. Raymond de Saint Gilles, count of Toulouse, raised his banner against him, and the commune of Toulouse, a corporation of free citizens, also raised theirs.1

The common council2 of the city and suburbs (such was the title borne by the municipal government of the Toulousans,) opened, through their chief, negotiations with the king of France to obtain assistance from him. This king marched to Toulouse by Berri, which, for the most part, belonged to him, and through the Limousin, which gave him free passage; he compelled the king of England to raise the siege of the town, and was received in it with great joy by the count and the citizens.3 The latter, collected in a solemn assembly, voted him a letter of acknowledgments, in which they thanked him for having succoured them as a patron and as a father, an expression of affectionate gratitude which implied no acknowledgment of civil or feudal subjection on their part.4

But this habit of imploring the patronage of one king against another became a cause of dependence, and the period when the king of England, as duke of Aquitaine and earl of Poitou, obtained influence over the affairs of the south of Gaul, was, for its inhabitants, the commencement of a new epoch of decay and misfortune. Placed thenceforth between two rival and equally ambitious powers, they attached themselves sometimes to one, sometimes to the other, according to circumstances, by turns supported, abandoned, betrayed, sold by both. From the twelfth century, the Southerns were never well off, except when the kings of France and England were at war: “When will this truce end between the Sterlings and the Tournois?” they cried, in their political songs;5 and their eyes were ever turned towards the north, asking: “What are the two kings about?”6

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They detested all foreigners, yet a restless turbulence, a wild passion for novelty and movement, impelled them to seek their alliance, whilst within they were torn by domestic quarrels and petty rivalries between man and man, town and town, province and province. They were vehemently fond of war, not from the ignoble thirst for gain, nor even from the elevated impulse of patriotic devotion, but for that which war presents of the picturesque and poetical; for the excitement, the noise, the display of the battle field; to see the lances glitter in the sun, and to hear the horses neigh in the wind.1 One word from a woman sufficed to send them to a crusade under the banner of the pope, for whom they had small liking, and risk their lives against the Arabs, of all the nations in the world that with which they had most sympathy and moral affinity.2

With this volatility of character, they combined the graces of imagination, a taste for the arts and for refined enjoyments; they were industrious and rich; nature had given them all, all except political prudence and union, as descendants of the same race, as children of one country: their enemies combined to destroy them, but they would not combine to love each other, to defend each other, to make one common cause. They paid a severe penalty for this, in losing their independence, their wealth, and even their learning. Their language, the second Roman language, almost as polished as the first, has, in their own mouths, given place to a foreign tongue, the accentuation of which is repugnant to them, while their natural idiom, that of their liberty and of their glory, that of the noblest poetry of the middle ages, has become the patois of the peasant. But regret for these changes is futile: there are ruins made by time which time will never repair.

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Adventures of Gilbert Beket—Birth and education of Thomas Beket—Thomas, archdeacon and chancellor of England—Political conduct of Thomas Beket—Disputes between the king and the Anglo-Norman clergy—Beket archbishop of Canterbury—Coolness between the king and him—First quarrel between them—Excommunication of an Anglo-Norman baron—Hatred of the Anglo-Norman barons to the archbishop—Council of Clarendon—New laws of Henry II.—Importance of the quarrel between the king and the archbishop—Policy of the pope in the affair of Beket—The archbishop seeks to withdraw from England—A new assembly at Northampton—Archbishop Thomas accused and condemned—Second citation of the archbishop—His firmness—Appeal of the king and the bishops to the pope—Counter appeal of Beket—Flight of Beket—Letter of Henry II. to the king of France—Beket cordially received by the king of France—Conduct of pope Alexander III.—Thomas retires to the abbey of Pontigny—Excommunications pronounced by Beket—Intrigues of the court of Rome—Interview between the king and the two legates—Beket driven from Pontigny—Congress of Montmirail—Thomas abandoned by the king of France—Negotiations of Henry II.—Persecution of the Welsh priests—Affection of the Welsh people for Beket—Reconciliation of the king of France with Beket—Two new legates arrive in Normandy—Conference between these legates and Henry II.—Complaints of Beket against the court of Rome—The pope is compelled to declare his real views—Negotiations between the king and the archbishop—Interview and reconciliation of the king and the archbishop—Departure of archbishop Thomas for England—Attempts of the Normans against him—Two bishops denounce him to the king—Conspiracy of four Norman knights—Murder of the archbishop—Insurrection of the inhabitants of Canterbury—Beket regarded by the native English as a saint—Girauld de Barri elected bishop of St. David’s—His banishment—His return and reinstallation—Persecution exercised upon him—He repairs to the court of Rome—He is condemned by the pope—Gratitude of the Welsh towards him—Petition of eight Welsh chieftains to Alexander III.—National motives for appeals to the pope in the middle ages.

In the reign of Henry I., there lived at London a young citizen, of Saxon origin, but sufficiently rich to associate with the Normans of that city, whom the historians call Beket.1 Edition: current; Page: [53] It is probable that his real name was Bek, and that the Normans among whom he lived, added to this a diminutive familiar to them, and made it Beket, as the English of race and language called it Bekie.1 About the year 1115, Gilbert Bekie or Beket, assumed the cross, either to accomplish a vow of penance, or to seek fortune in the Christian kingdom of Jerusalem. But he was less fortunate in Palestine than the squires and sergeants of Normandy had been in England, and instead of becoming like them, powerful and opulent by conquest, he was taken prisoner and reduced to slavery.

Degraded and despised as he was, the English slave inspired the daughter of a Saracen chief with love. He escaped by her assistance, and returned to his own country; and his deliverer, unable to live without him, soon abandoned the paternal roof and went in quest of him. She knew but two words intelligible to the people of the west: London and Gilbert.2 By aid of the former, she reached England in a ship laden with merchants and pilgrims; and by means of the latter, going from street to street, and repeating Gilbert! Gilbert! to the crowd who surrounded her, she found the man she loved. Gilbert Beket, after obtaining the opinion of several bishops on this wondrous incident, had his mistress baptised, changed her Saracen name into that of Matilda, and married her. This marriage made a great sensation by its singularity, and became the subject of several popular romances, two of which, preserved to our own times, exhibit the most touching details.3 In the year 1119, Gilbert and Matilda had a son, who was called Thomas Beket, according to the mode of double names introduced into England by the Normans.

Such, according to the narrative of some ancient chroniclers, was the romantic origin of a man destined to trouble in so violent and unexpected a manner the great grandson of William the Conqueror in the enjoyment of his power.4 Edition: current; Page: [54] This man, born to torment the Anglo-Norman race, received an education peculiarly calculated to give him access to the nobles and great men, and to gain their favour. At an early age he was sent to France, to study the laws, sciences, and language of the continent, and to lose the English accent, which was then considered in England altogether vulgar.1 Thomas Beket, on his return from his travels, was in a position to converse and associate with the most refined people of the dominant nation, without shocking their ears or their taste by a word or gesture recalling to mind his Saxon origin. He soon put this talent to use, and, still very young, insinuated himself into the familiar friendship of one of the rich barons resident near London. He became his daily guest, and the companion of his pleasures.2 He rode the horses of his patron, and sported with his birds and his dogs, passing the day in these amusements, forbidden to every Englishman who was not either the servant or associate of a man of foreign origin.3

Thomas, full of gaiety and supple address, ingratiating, refined, obsequious, soon acquired a great reputation in high Norman society.4 The archbishop of Canterbury, Thibaut, who, from the primacy instituted by the Conqueror, was the first person next after the king, hearing the young Englishman spoken of, sent for him, and, liking him, attached him to his person. Having induced him to take orders, he appointed him archdeacon of his metropolitan church, and employed him in several delicate negotiations with the court of Rome.5 Under Stephen, archdeacon Thomas conducted with pope Eugenius an intrigue of the bishops of England, partisans of Matilda, the object of which was to obtain from the pope a formal prohibition to crown the king’s son. When, a few years after, the son of Matilda had obtained the crown, Thomas Beket was presented to him as a zealous servant of his cause during the usurpation; for so was the reign of Stephen now designated by most of those who had before elected, crowned, and defended him against the pretensions of Matilda. The archdeacon of Canterbury Edition: current; Page: [55] made himself so agreeable to the new king, that a few years saw him raised by the royal favour to the high office of chancellor of England, that is to say, Keeper of the seal of three lions, the legal emblem of the power founded by the Conquest.1 Henry II. further confided to the archdeacon the education of his eldest son, and attached to these two offices large revenues, which, by a singular chance, were derived from places of fatal memory to the English: from the prebend of Hastings, the custody of the castle of Berkhamsted, and the governorship of the Tower of London.2

Thomas was the assiduous companion and the intimate friend of king Henry, sharing his most frivolous and most worldly amusements.3 Raised in dignity above all the Normans of England, he affected to surpass them in luxury and seigneural pomp. He maintained in his pay seven hundred knights completely armed. The trappings of his horses were covered with gold and silver; his plate was magnificent, and he kept open table for persons of high rank. His purveyors procured, from the most remote places and at great expense, the rarest delicacies. The earls and barons esteemed it an honour to visit him: and no person coming to his house left it without a present of sporting dogs or birds or of horses or rich vestments.4 The great lords sent their sons to serve in his house and to be brought up there; he kept them for a considerable time, then armed them knights, and, in dismissing them, furnished each with a complete military equipment.5

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In his political conduct, Thomas demeaned himself as a true and loyal chancellor of England, in the sense which already attached to these words; that is to say, he laboured with all his might to maintain and even to augment the personal power of the king towards and against all men, without distinction of race or state, Normans or Saxons, priests or laymen. Although a member of the ecclesiastical order, he more than once engaged in a struggle with that order on behalf of the fisc or of the royal exchequer. When Henry undertook the war against the count of Toulouse, there was levied in England, to defray the expenses of the campaign, the tax which the Normans called escuage, the tax of shields, because it was payable by every possessor of an estate large enough to maintain a man-at-arms, who, within the time prescribed by the summons, did not appear at the muster, armed, and with his shield on his arm.1 The rich prelates and the rich abbots of Norman race, whose warlike spirit had mitigated since there had been no occasion for pillaging the Saxons, and no civil war among the Normans, excused themselves from obeying the military summons, because, they said, holy church forbad their shedding blood; they refused, further, for the same reason, to disburse the fine for non-appearance; but the chancellor insisted upon their paying it. The high clergy hereupon launched out in invectives against the audacity of Thomas: Gilbert Foliot, bishop of London, publicly accused him of plunging a sword into the bosom of his mother the church, and archbishop Thibaut, his former patron, threatened to excommunicate him.2 Thomas was in no way moved by these ecclesiastical censures; and shortly afterwards he again exposed himself to them, by fighting with his own hands in the war of Toulouse, and, deacon as he was, being the first to mount to the assault of the fortresses.3 One day, in an assembly of the clergy, several bishops asserted exaggerated Edition: current; Page: [57] maxims of independence as regarded the royal power: the chancellor, who was present, gainsaid them openly, and reminded the prelates, in a severe tone, that they were bound to the king in the same oath as the men of the sword were, by the oath to aid in preserving his life, his limbs, his dignity, and his honour.1

The harmony which had subsisted in the first years of the Conquest, between the Norman barons and prelates, or, to speak in the language of the period, entre l’empire et le sacerdoce, had not been of long duration. Scarcely installed in the churches that William and his knights opened for them with their spears, they became ungrateful to those who had thus given them their titles and their possession. Concurrently with the disputes between the kings and the barons, differences arose between the barons and the clergy, between this order and royalty: these three powers became disunited, when the power, hostile to all three, the Anglo-Saxon race, ceased to be feared. The first William was wholly wrong in his calculation of an enduring union, when he gave to the ecclesiastical power established by the Conquest, a power before unknown in England. He thought to obtain by this means an augmentation of personal power; perhaps he was right, as far as regarded himself, but he did a great injury to his successors.

The reader is already acquainted with the royal decree by which, destroying the former responsibility of the priests to the civil judges, and giving to the members of the high clergy the privilege of being judges, William had instituted episcopal courts, taking cognizance of certain lay cases and of all proceedings instituted against priests. The Norman priests, priests of fortune, if we may use the expression, soon exhibited in England the most disorderly habits; they committed murders, rapes, and robbery, and as they were only responsible to their own order, these crimes were seldom punished, a circumstance which multiplied them to a fearful extent. Not long after the accession of Henry II., men reckoned up one hundred murders committed by priests who still remained alive and at liberty. The only means of checking and punishing these disorders was to abolish the ecclesiastical privilege established Edition: current; Page: [58] by the Conqueror, the temporary necessity for which had ceased, since the rebellions of the English were no longer feared. It was a reasonable reform, and, moreover, from a motive less pure, for the extension of their own territorial jurisdictions, the men of the sword desired it, and loudly censured the law decreed by their ancestors in the great council of king William the First.

For the sake of the temporal power of which he was the sovereign depositary, and actuated also, we may fairly believe, by motives of justice and reason, Henry II. determined to execute this reform;1 but that he might effect it easily and without disturbance, it was necessary that the primacy of Canterbury, that species of ecclesiastical royalty, should be in the hands of a man devoted to the person of the king, to the interests of the royal power, and the cause of the barons against the churchmen. It was also necessary that this man should be insensible to the greater or less degree of suffering of the native English; for the absurd law of clerical independence, formerly directed especially against the conquered population, after having greatly injured it while it still resisted, had become favourable to it. Every Saxon serf, who managed to be ordained priest, was thenceforth for ever exempt from servitude, because no action brought against him as a fugitive slave, either by the royal bailiff or by the officers of the seigneurs, could oblige him to appear before secular justice; as to the other justice, it would not consent to allow those who had become the anointed of Christ to return to the plough. The evils of national subjugation had multiplied in England the number of these priests from necessity, who had no church, who lived upon alms, but who, at least, differing from their fathers and their countrymen, were neither attached to the glebe, nor penned up within the walls of the royal towns.2 The faint hope of this resource against foreign oppression was, at this time, next to the miserable success of servility and adulation, the most brilliant prospect for a man of English race. The lower classes were accordingly as zealous for Edition: current; Page: [59] the clerical privileges as their ancestors had been against the resistance of the clergy to the common law of the country.

The chancellor, having passed his youth amongst men of high birth, seemed likely to have lost all national interest in the oppressed people of England. On the other hand, all his friendships were with laymen; he appeared to know no other rights in the world than those of royal power; he was the favourite of the king, and the functionary best versed and most able in state affairs: the partisans of ecclesiastical reform, accordingly, thought him a peculiarly fit person to become the principal instrument in it; and long before the death of archbishop Thibaut, it was commonly rumoured at court that Thomas Beket would obtain the primacy.1 In the year 1161, Thibaut died, and the king immediately recommended his chancellor to the choice of the bishops, who rarely hesitated to elect a candidate thus introduced to them. On this occasion, however, they opposed an unwonted resistance. They declared that it would be against their conscience to raise to the see of the blessed Lanfranc a hunter and a war rior by profession, a man of the world and its turmoil.2

On their part, the Norman lords who lived apart from the court, and more especially those across the Channel, violently opposed the nomination of Thomas. The king’s mother used every effort to dissuade him from making the chancellor archbishop.3 Perhaps, too, many who had not seen Beket often enough or closely enough to place full assurance in him, felt a kind of presentiment of the danger of intrusting such great power to a man of English origin; but the king’s confidence was unbounded. He persisted against all remonstrances, and swore by God that his friend should be primate of England. Henry II. was at this time holding his court in Normandy, and Thomas was with him. In one of their daily conferences on affairs of state, the king told him he must prepare to cross the sea on an important mission. “I will obey,” answered the chancellor, “as soon as I shall have received my instructions.” “What!” said the king, in Edition: current; Page: [60] an expressive tone, “dost thou not then guess what I mean, and that I am firmly resolved that thou shalt be archbishop?” Thomas smiled, and raising the lappet of his rich dress—“Look,” said he, “at the edifying man, the holy man whom you would charge with such sacred functions.1 Besides, you have views as to ecclesiastical matters to which I could never lend myself; and I fear that if I were to become an archbishop, we should soon cease to be friends.”2 The king received this answer as mere badinage, and immediately one of his justices, sir Richard de Lucy, conveyed to the bishops of England, who for thirteen months had delayed the election, the formal order to nominate the court candidate without delay.3 The bishops yielding to what they then called the royal hand, obeyed with apparent readiness.4

Thomas Beket, the fifth primate since the Conquest, and the first of English race, was ordained priest, the Easter Saturday, June 2, of the year 1162, and the day after was consecrated archbishop by the prelate of Winchester, in the presence of the fourteen suffragans of the see of Canterbury. A few days after his consecration, those who saw him did not recognise him. He had laid aside his rich vestments, disfurnished his sumptuous house, broken with his noble guests, and made friends with the poor, with beggars, and Saxons. Like them he wore a coarse dress, lived on vegetables and water, and presented an humble and mournful air; it was for them only that his banquet-hall was thrown open and his money expended. Never was change of life more sudden, exciting so much anger on one side, so much enthusiasm on the other.5 The king, the earls, the barons, all those whom Beket had formerly served, and who had contributed to his clevation, deemed themselves betrayed and insulted. The Norman bishops and clergy, his old antagonists, remained in suspense, closely watching him; but he became the idol of the lower classes: the monks, the inferior clergy, and the natives of every rank saw in him a brother and a protector.

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The astonishment and anger of the king passed all bounds when he received, in Normandy, a message from the primate, returning to him the royal seal, with a short message, “that he desired him to provide himself with another chancellor, for he could hardly suffice to the duties of one office, much less of two.”1 Henry regarded as hostile an abdication by which the archbishop seemed desirous of releasing himself from every tie of dependence on him; and he was all the more irritated at this that he had in no degree expected it. His friendship was converted into bitter aversion, and on his return to England, he received his former favourite disdainfully, affecting to despise, in a monk’s dress, him whom he had so often entertained in the habit of a Norman courtier, with a poniard at his side, a plumed cap on his head, and shoes with long points turned up like ram’s horns.2

The king at once commenced against the archbishop a regular system of attack and personal vexations. He took from him the archdeaconry of Canterbury, which he had continued to hold with the episcopal see; he next set up in opposition to him one Clerambault, a monk from Normandy,3 a man of daring character and ill life, who had cast aside his clerical habit in his own country, and whom the king now made abbot of the monastery of Saint Augustin at Canterbury. Clerambault, backed by the court, refused to take the oath of canonical obedience to the primate, in contravention of the order decreed by Lanfranc for the purpose of destroying the independence of the monks of Saint Augustin, when the Saxon monks still resisted the Normans. The new abbot grounded his refusal upon the plea that formerly, that is to say, before the Conquest, his monastery had enjoyed full and entire liberty. Beket asserted the prerogative which the first Norman kings had attached to his see. The dispute grew warm on both sides; and Clerambault, by the advice of the king and the courtiers, referred his cause to the judgment of the pope.

There were at this time two popes, the cardinals and Edition: current; Page: [62] Roman nobles not having been able to agree in their choice. Victor was acknowledged legitimate by the emperor of Germany, Frederick, but disowned by the kings of France and England, who recognised his competitor, Alexander, the third of that name, who, driven from Rome by his adversaries, was now in France.1 It was to the latter that the new abbot of Saint Augustin addressed a protest against the primate of England, in the name of the ancient liberties of his convent; and, singular circumstance, these same liberties, formerly annihilated by the authority of pope Gregory VII. in the interest of the Norman Conquest, were declared inviolable by pope Alexander III., at the request of a Norman abbot against an archbishop of English race.

Thomas, irritated at this defeat, returned the courtiers attack for attack, and as they had availed themselves against him, of rights anterior to the Conquest, he, too, proceeded to claim all that his church had lost since the invasion of the Normans. He summoned Gilbert de Clare to restore to the see of Canterbury the domain of Tunbridge, which his ancestor had received in fief;2 and he advanced pretensions of the same kind against several other barons, and against the officers of the royal demesne.3 These demands tended, indirectly, to shake to its foundation the right of property of all the Anglo-Norman families, and thus occasioned general alarm. Prescription was invoked, and Beket roundly replied that he knew of no prescription for injustice, and that whatever had been taken without a good title ought to be restored. The sons of the companions of William the Bastard thought the soul of Harold had descended into the body of him whom they themselves had made primate.

The archbishop did not give them time to recover from this first agitation; and in defiance of one of the customs most respected since the Conquest, he placed a priest of his own choice, one Lawrence, in the vacant living of Eynesford, in Kent, in the domain of the Norman knight, William d’Eynesford, a tenant-in-chief4 of the king. This William, in common with all the Normans, claimed to dispose and had Edition: current; Page: [63] hitherto in fact disposed, of all the churches on his fief, just as much as of the farms. He named priests at his pleasure, as he did farmers, administrating, by men of his choice, religious aid and instruction to his Saxons, freemen and serfs; a privilege called the right of patronage. In virtue of this right, William d’Eynesford expelled the priest sent by the archbishop; but Beket excommunicated William for having done violence to a priest. The king interposed against the primate; he complained that, without previous reference to him, one of his tenants-in-chief had been excommunicated, a man liable to be called to his council and his court, and entitled to present himself before him at all times and in all places; a circumstance that had exposed his royal person to the danger of coming unwittingly in contact with an excommunicated man. “Since I was not informed of it,” said Henry II., “and since my dignity has been injured in this essential point, the excommunication of my vassal is null; I require the archbishop, therefore, to withdraw it.”1 The archbishop gave an unwilling assent, and the king’s hatred grew more bitter than ever. “From this day forth,” he said, publicly, “all is at an end between this man and me.”2

In the year 1164, the royal justiciaries, practically revoking the ancient law of the Conqueror, cited before them a priest, accused of rape and murder; but the archbishop of Canterbury, as supreme ecclesiastic of all England, declared the citation void, in virtue of the privileges of the clergy, as ancient in the country as those of the Norman royalty. He ordered his own officers to arrest the culprit, who was brought before an ecclesiastical tribunal, deprived of his prebend, whipped publicly with rods, and suspended from any office for several years.3 This affair, in which justice was respected to a certain point, but in which the royal judges were completely set aside, created a great sensation. The men of Norman descent were divided into two parties, one of which approved, and the other greatly blamed the primate. The bishops were for him; the men of the sword, the court and the king, against him. The king, naturally self-willed, suddenly converted the private dispute into a legislative question; Edition: current; Page: [64] and convoking, in a solemn assembly at Westminster, all the lords and prelates of England, he set forth to them the numerous crimes committed daily by priests. He added, that he had discovered a means of suppressing these crimes, in the ancient customs of his predecessors, and especially in those of his grandfather Henry I. He demanded, according to custom, of all the members of the assembly, whether they did not think it were well to revive the customs and laws of his ancestors.1 The laymen replied in the affirmative; but all the priests, with Thomas at their head, answered: “Saving the honour of God and of holy church.”2 “There is poison in these words,” answered the king furiously, and immediately departed, without saluting the bishops, and the affair remained undecided.3

A few days after, Henry II. summoned separately to him, Roger, archbishop of York, Robert de Melun, bishop of Hereford, and several other prelates of England, whose purely French names sufficiently indicate their origin. By means of promises, long explanations, and perhaps insinuations, as to the presumed designs of the English Beket against all the nobles of England, and by various other reasonings, which the historians do not detail, the Anglo-Norman bishops were nearly all gained over to the king’s party.4 They promised to favour the re-establishment of the alleged customs of Henry I., who, in truth, had never practised others than those of William the Conqueror, the founder of ecclesiastical privilege. Moreover, for the second time since his differences with the primate, the king addressed himself to pope Alexander; and the pope, complaisant to excess, without investigating the affair, declared him perfectly in the right. He even sent a special messenger with apostolical letters, enjoining all the prelates, and especially him of Canterbury, to accept and observe the laws of the king of England, whatever they might be.5 Left alone in his opposition, and deprived Edition: current; Page: [65] of all hope of support, Beket was fain to yield. He went to the king at his residence at Woodstock, and, in common with the other bishops, promised to observe faithfully, and without any restriction, all the laws that should be made.1 In order that this promise might be renewed authentically amidst a solemn assembly, king Henry convoked in the village of Clarendon in Wiltshire, not far from Winchester, the great council of the Anglo-Norman archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, earls, barons, and knights.2

The council of Clarendon was held in the month of March, 1164, under the presidency of John, bishop of Oxford. The king’s officers set forth the reforms and new ordinances which he chose to entitle the ancient customs and liberties of his grandfather, Henry I.3 The bishops solemnly gave their adhesion to all they had heard; but Beket refused his, and accused himself of insane weakness in having promised to observe, without reserve, the laws of the king, whatever they might be. The whole Norman council was in a state of excitement. The bishops implored Thomas, and the barons threatened him.4 Two knights of the Temple begged of him, with tears in their eyes, not to dishonour the king; and as this scene was taking place in the great hall, there were discerned through the open doors, men in the adjoining apartment, buckling on their armour and their swords.5 The archbishop grew alarmed, and gave his word to observe the customs of the king’s grandfather without restriction, only asking leave to examine them more at leisure and to verify them.6 The assembly appointed three commissioners to draw up these articles, and adjourned till the next day.7

Towards evening, the archbishop departed for Winchester, where he was sojourning. He was on horseback, with a numerous train of priests, who, on the way, talked of the events of the past day. The conversation, at first tranquil, grew animated by degrees, and at length became a dispute, in which every one took the side accordant with his views. Some praised the conduct of the primate, or excused him for having yielded to Edition: current; Page: [66] the force of circumstances: others blamed him warmly, saying, that ecclesiastical liberty was about to perish in England through the fault of one man. The most excited of all was a Saxon, named Edward Grim, who carried the archbishop’s cross; inflamed by the discussion, he spoke loud, and with great gesticulation: “I see plainly,” said he, “that now-a-days those only are esteemed who exhibit towards princes boundless compliance; but what will become of justice? who will fight for her when the general has allowed himself to be conquered? or what virtues shall we henceforth find in him who has lost courage?” The latter words were heard by Thomas, whose attention had been attracted by the agitation and vehemence of the speaker’s voice. “With whom are you angry, my son?” he said to the cross-bearer. “With yourself,” answered the latter, full of a sort of enthusiasm; “with you, who have renounced your conscience in raising your hand to promise the observance of these detestable customs.” This violent reproach, in which national feeling had, perhaps, as great a share as religious conviction, did not anger the archbishop, who, after a moment’s reflection, addressing his countryman in gentle tones, said: “My son, you are right; I have committed a great fault, and I repent me of it.”1

Next day, the pretended customs or constitutions of Henry I. were produced in writing, divided into sixteen articles, containing an entire system of regulations, contrary to the ordinances of William the Conqueror.2 Among them Edition: current; Page: [67] were several special regulations, one of which prohibited the ordaining as priests, without the consent of their lord, those who, in the Norman language, were called natifs or naifs, Edition: current; Page: [68] that is to say, serfs, all of whom were of native race. The bishops were required to affix their seals in wax at the foot of the parchment which contained the sixteen articles: they all did this, with the exception of Thomas, who, without openly retracting his first adhesion, demanded further delay. But the assembly completed the signatures, and this refusal of the archbishop did not prevent the new laws from being forthwith promulgated. Letters were sent from the royal chancery addressed to all the Norman judges or justiciaries of England and the continent. These letters ordered them, in the name of Henry, by the grace of God, king of Edition: current; Page: [69] England, duke of Normandy, duke of Aquitaine, and earl of Anjou, to have executed and observed by the archbishops, bishops, abbots, priests, earls, barons, burgesses, and peasants, the ordinances decreed in the great council of Clarendon.1

A letter from the bishop of Poitiers, who received one of these despatches, brought to his diocese by Simon de Tournebu and Richard de Lucy, justiciaries, gives us in detail the instructions they contained. It is curious to compare these instructions with the laws published eighty years before, in the name of William I. and his barons; for, on the two sides, we find the same threats and the same penalties sanctioning contrary orders.

“They have forbidden me,” says the bishop of Poitiers, “to summons before me any of my diocesans, on the demand of any widow, orphan, or priest, unless the officers of the king or of the lord of the fief, in which the cause in question arose, have made denial of justice; they have declared that if any one obey my summons, all his goods shall be forthwith confiscated and himself imprisoned; lastly, they have signified to me that if I excommunicate those who refuse to appear before my episcopal justice, such excommunicated persons may, without displeasing the king, attack my person or that of my priests, and my own property or that of my church.”2

From the moment when these laws, made by Normans in a village of England, were decreed as obligatory upon the inhabitants of nearly all the west of Gaul, upon the Angevins, Manseaux, Bretons, Poitevins and Aquitans, and all these various populations took sides in the quarrel between Henry and archbishop Thomas Beket, the court of Rome observed with more attention an affair which in so short a time had assumed such importance. This profoundly political court now meditated how to derive the greatest possible advantage, whether from war or from peace. Rotrou, archbishop of Rouen, a man less immediately interested than the Normans of England in the conflict between royalty and the English primacy, came on a mission from the pope to observe things more closely, and to propose, on speculation, an accommodation, Edition: current; Page: [70] under pontifical mediation;1 but the king, elevated with his triumph, replied that he would not accept this mediation, unless the pope would previously confirm the articles of Clarendon by an apostolic bull; the pope, who had more to gain than to lose by delay, refused to give his sanction until he was better informed on the subject.2

Hereupon, Henry II. soliciting, for the third time, the aid of the pontifical court against his antagonist Beket, sent a solemn embassy to Alexander III., soliciting for Roger, archbishop of York, the title of apostolical legate in England, with the power of making and unmaking, appointing and deposing.3 Alexander did not grant this request, but he conferred on the king himself, by a formal commission, the title and powers of legate, with supreme authority to act as he thought fit in all points but one, the deprivation of the primate. The king, seeing that the pope’s intention was to avoid coming to a conclusion, received this novel commission with displeasure, and at once sent it back.4 “We will employ our own power,” said he, “and we think it will suffice to make those return to their duty who assail our honour.” The primate, abandoned by the Anglo-Norman bishops and barons, and having only on his side poor monks, burgesses, and serfs, felt he should be too weak against his antagonist, if he remained in England, and he accordingly resolved to seek aid and an asylum elsewhere. He proceeded to the port of Romney, and twice went on board a vessel about to sail; but twice the wind was adverse, or the captain of the ship, fearing the king’s anger, refused to sail.5

Some months after the council of Clarendon, Henry II. convoked another at Northampton;6 and Thomas, in common with the other bishops, received his writ of summons. He arrived on the day appointed, and hired lodgings in the town; but he had scarce taken them, when the king filled them with his men and horses.7 Enraged at this insult, the Edition: current; Page: [71] archbishop sent word that he would not attend the parliament until his house was vacated by the king’s horses and people.1 It was restored to him, indeed, but the uncertainty of the result of this unequal struggle made him fearful of engaging further in it, and however humiliating it was for him to be a suppliant to a man who had just insulted him, he repaired to the king’s apartments, and demanded an audience. He waited vainly the whole day, while Henry was amusing himself with his falcons and his dogs.2 Next day, he returned and placed himself in the king’s chapel during mass, and when the latter came out he left it, and approaching him with a respectful air, asked his permission to proceed to France. “Ay,” answered the king; “but first you must give an account of several matters, and, especially, repair the injury you have done to John, my marshal, in your court.”3

This John, surnamed le Maréchal from his office, had some time previously appeared before the episcopal court of justice at Canterbury to demand an estate in the diocese, which he said he was entitled to hold in hereditary fief. The judges had rejected his claim as unfounded; whereupon the plaintiff had faussé the court, that is to say, protested on oath that it denied him justice. “I admit,” said Thomas to the king, “that John le Maréchal appeared before my court; but far from receiving any wrong there from me, it is I who received wrong and insult from him; for he produced a psalter, and swore upon it that my court was false and denied him justice; whereas, according to the law of the land, whoever desires to impugn the court of any man, must swear upon the Holy Gospels.”4 The king affected to regard this explanation as altogether frivolous. The accusation of denial of justice brought against the archbishop, was prosecuted before the great Norman council, who condemned him, and by their sentence, placed him at the king’s mercy, that is to say, adjudged to the king all that he might be pleased to take of the property of the condemned man.5 Beket was at first inclined to protest against this sentence, and fausser jugement, as it Edition: current; Page: [72] was then termed, but the sense of his weakness determined him on making terms with his judges, and he compounded for a fine of 500 pounds of silver.

Beket returned to his house; his heart saddened with the annoyances he had experienced, grief threw him into an illness.1 As soon as the king heard this, he hastened to send him an order to appear next day before the council of Northampton, to account for the public moneys and revenues of which he had had the management when chancellor.2 “I am weak and suffering,” he replied to the royal officers; “and besides, the king knows as well as I, that the day on which I was consecrated archbishop, the barons of his exchequer and Richard de Lucy, grand justiciary of England, declared me free and discharged from all bonds, all accounts, and all demands whatever.” The legal citation remained in force; but Thomas did not appear to it, alleging his illness. Officers of justice, who came on several occasions to ascertain whether he was really incapable of walking, brought him a schedule of the king’s demands, amounting to forty-four thousand marks.3 The archbishop offered to pay two thousand marks Edition: current; Page: [73] to relieve himself from this process, so disagreeable in itself, and so full of bad faith, but Henry refused any kind of accommodation, for it was not the money that influenced him Edition: current; Page: [74] in the affair. “Either I will be no longer king,” said he, “or this man shall no longer be archbishop.”

The delays allowed by law had expired: it was necessary Edition: current; Page: [75] for Beket to present himself, and, on the other hand, he had been warned that if he appeared at court, it would not be without danger for his liberty or his life. In this extremity, Edition: current; Page: [76] collecting all his strength of soul, he resolved to go forth, and to be firm. On the morning of the decisive day, he celebrated the mass of Saint Stephen, the proto-martyr, whose service Edition: current; Page: [77] commences by the words: “The princes sat and spoke against me.” After the mass, he put on his pontifical robes, and taking his silver cross from the hands of him who usually bore Edition: current; Page: [78] it, he set forth, holding it in his right hand and the reins of his horse in the left. Alone, and still bearing his cross, he entered the great hall of council, traversed the crowd, and seated himself. Henry II. was then in a more retired apartment with his private friends, occupied in discussing, in this privy council, the means of getting rid of the archbishop with the least possible disturbance. The news of the unexpected array in which he had appeared confounded the king and his counsellors. One of them, Gilbert Foliot, bishop of London, hastily left the private apartment, and advancing to the place where Thomas was seated: “Why dost thou come thus,” said he, “armed with thy cross?” and he laid hands upon the cross, in order to take possession of it, but the primate held it forcibly. The archbishop of York then joined the bishop of London, and said to Beket: “It is defying the king, our lord, to come thus in arms to his court, but the king has a sword whose edge is sharper than that of a pastoral staff.” The other bishops, manifesting less violence, contented themselves with counselling Thomas, for his own sake, to place his dignity of archbishop at the king’s mercy, but he did not heed them.

While this scene was passing in the great hall, Henry was greatly angered to find his adversary sheltered under his pontifical attire; the bishops, who, at first, had perhaps consented to projects of violence against their colleague, were now silent, taking care not to encourage the courtiers to lay hands on the stole or cross. The king’s counsellors were at a loss what to do, when one of them said: “Why not suspend him from all his rights and privileges by an appeal to the holy father? This were a way to disarm him.” This advice, hailed as a sudden inspiration, singularly pleased the king, and, by his order, the bishop of Chichester, advancing to Thomas Beket, at the head of his colleagues, addressed him thus:

“Some time thou wert our archbishop, and we were bound Edition: current; Page: [79] to obey thee; but because thou hast sworn fealty to our sovereign lord the king, that is, to preserve to the utmost of thy power, his life, limbs, and royal dignity, and to keep his laws, which he requires to be maintained, and, nevertheless, dost now endeavour to destroy them, particularly those which in a special manner concern his dignity and honour; we therefore declare thee guilty of perjury, and owe for the future no obedience to a perjured archbishop. Wherefore, putting ourselves and all that belongs to us under the protection of our lord the pope, we cite thee to his presence, there to answer to these accusations.”1

To this declaration, made with all the solemnity of legal forms, and all the emphasis of assured confidence, Beket merely replied: “I hear what you say!”2 The great assembly of lords was then opened, and Gilbert Foliot charged before it the late archbishop with having celebrated, in contempt of the king, a sacrilegious mass, under the invocation of the evil spirit;3 then came the demand of accounts of the revenues of the office of chancellor, and the claim of forty-four thousand marks. Beket refused to plead, alleging the solemn declaration which had theretofore released him from all ulterior responsibility. Hereupon the king rising, said to the barons and prelates: “By the faith ye owe me, do me prompt justice on this my liegeman, who, duly summoned, refuses to answer in my court.” The Norman barons having put the matter to the vote, pronounced a sentence of imprisonment against Thomas Beket. When Robert, earl of Leicester, charged to read the sentence, pronounced in the French language, the first words of the accustomed form: “Hear the judgment pronounced against you,” the archbishop interrupted him: “Son earl,” said he, “hear you first. You are not ignorant how serviceable and how faithful, according to the state of this world, I have been to the king. In respect whereof it has pleased him to promote me to the archbishopric of Canterbury, God knows, against my own will. For I was not unconscious of my weakness; and rather for the love of him than of God, I acquiesced therein: which is this day sufficiently apparent; since God withdraws both himself and Edition: current; Page: [80] the king from me. But in the time of my promotion, when the election was made, prince Henry, the king’s son, to whom that charge was committed, being present, it was demanded in what manner they would give me to the church of Canterbury? And the answer was, ‘free and discharged from all the bonds of the court.’ Being therefore free and discharged, I am not bound to answer, nor will I, concerning those things, from which I am so disengaged.” Hereupon the earl said: “This is very different from what the bishop of London reported to the king.” To which the archbishop replied, “Attend, my son, to what I say. By how much the soul is of more worth than the body, so much are you bound to obey God and me rather than an earthly king: nor does law or reason allow that children should judge or condemn their father: wherefore I disclaim the judgment of the king, of you, and of all the other peers of the realm, being only to be judged, under God, by our lord the pope: to whom, before you all, I here appeal, committing the church of Canterbury, my order, and dignity, with all thereunto appertaining, to God’s protection and to his. In like manner do I cite you, my brethren and fellow-bishops, because you obey man rather than God, to the audience and judgment of the sovereign pontiff; and so relying on the authority of the catholic church, and the apostolical see, I depart hence.”

After this sort of counter appeal to the power which his adversaries had first invoked, Beket rose and slowly traversed the crowd.1 A murmur arose on every side; the Normans cried: “The false traitor, the perjurer, whither goes he? Why let him to depart in peace? Remain here, traitor, and hear thy sentence.”2 At the moment of quitting the hall, the archbishop turned round, and, looking coldly around him: “If my sacred order,” said he, “did not forbid, I could answer in arms those who call me traitor and perjurer.”3 He mounted his horse, went to the house where he lodged, had the tables laid for a great repast, and gave orders to assemble all the poor people in the town. Numbers came, whom he fed. He supped with them, and that same night, while the king and his Norman chiefs were prolonging their Edition: current; Page: [81] evening repast, he quitted Northampton, accompanied by two brothers of the Cistercian order, one of English race, named Skaiman, and the other of French origin, called Robert de Caune. After three days journeying, he reached the marshes of Lincolnshire, and concealed himself in the hut of a hermit. Thence, under a complete disguise and the assumed name of Dereman, the Saxon turn of which insured obscurity, he reached Estrey, near Canterbury, where he stayed eight days; he then proceeded to the coast near Sandwich.1 It was now the 10th of November, a period at which to cross the Channel becomes dangerous. The archbishop went on board a small vessel, in order to avoid suspicion, and after a perilous transit, landed near Gravelines, and thence, on foot, and in a wretched plight, reached the monastery of Saint Bertin, in the town of Saint Omer.2

On the news of his flight, a royal edict was published in all the provinces of the king of England, upon both shores of the ocean. In the terms of this edict, all the relations of Thomas Beket, in ascending and descending line, even the old men, pregnant women, and young children, were condemned to banishment.3 All the possessions of the archbishop and of his adherents, or of those who were asserted to be such, were sequestrated into the hands of the king, who made presents of them to those whose zeal he had experienced in this affair.4 John, bishop of Poitiers, who was suspected of friendship towards the primate and of favour to his cause, received poison from an unknown hand, and only escaped death by chance.5 Royal missives, in which Henry II. called Thomas his enemy, and forbad any counsel or aid being given to him or his friends, were sent to all the dioceses of England.6 Edition: current; Page: [82] Other letters, addressed to the earl of Flanders and all the high barons of that country, requested them to seize Thomas, late archbishop, a traitor to the king of England, and a fugitive with evil designs.1 Lastly, the bishop of London, Gilbert Foliot, and William, earl of Arundel, waited on the king of France, Louis VII., at his palace of Compiegne, and gave him a despatch, sealed with the great seal of England, and conceived in the following terms:—

“To his lord and friend, Louis, king of the French, Henry, king of England, duke of Normandy, duke of Aquitaine, and earl of Anjou—

“Know that Thomas, late archbishop of Canterbury, after a public sentence, rendered in my court by the high court of the barons of my kingdom, has been convicted of fraud, of perjury, and treason towards me, and has since traitorously fled my kingdom, with evil designs; I earnestly intreat you, therefore, not to allow this man, laden with crimes, or any of his adherents, to dwell on your lands, or any of your subjects to lend to my greatest enemy help, aid or counsel; for I protest that your enemies, or those of your kingdom, should receive none from me, or from any of my people. I expect from you that you will assist me in the vindication of my honour and the punishment of my enemy, as you would have me to do for you, did you need it.”2

From his asylum at Saint Bertin, Thomas awaited the effect of Henry’s letters to the king of France and the earl of Flanders, in order to know in what direction he might proceed without peril. “The dangers are many, the king’s hands are long” (wrote one of his friends, whom he had desired to feel the ground with Louis VII. and at the papal court, Edition: current; Page: [83] then established at Sens). “I have not yet applied to the Roman church,” continues the same correspondent, “not knowing what to seek there as yet; they will do much against you, and little for you. Powerful and rich men will come to them, scattering money with both hands, which has ever greatly influenced Rome; whereas, poor and unaided as we are, what will the Romans care for us? You tell me to offer them two hundred marks; but the opposite party will propose four hundred, and I warrant you that—through love for the king and respect for his ambassadors—they will rather take the greater sum than wait for the less.”1 The king of France gave a favourable reception to Thomas Beket’s messenger, and after having taken counsel with his barons, granted to the archbishop and his companions in exile peace and security in his kingdom, adding graciously, that it was one of the ancient flowers of the crown of France to give protection to exile against their persecutors.2

As to the pope, who had then no interest in counteracting the king of England, he hesitated two days ere he received those who came to Sens on the part of the archbishop; and when they asked him to send Thomas a letter of invitation to his court, he positively refused.3 But, with the aid of the free asylum granted him by the king of France, Beket came to the papal court without invitation. He was received coldly by the cardinals,4 most of whom at first treated him as a firebrand, and said he must check his enterprising temperament. He set forth to them the origin and whole history of his quarrel with Henry II. “I do not boast of great wisdom,” said he, “but I should not be so mad as to oppose a king for trifles; for know, that had I consented to do his will in all things, there would now not be in his kingdom a power equal to mine.”5 Without taking any decisive part in the dispute, the pope gave the fugitive permission to receive assistance in money and provisions from the king of France.6 He allowed him also to excommunicate all who had seized Edition: current; Page: [84] and detained the property of his church, excepting only the king, who had distributed it.1 At length, he asked from him a statement in detail of the articles of Clarendon, which pope Alexander himself, at the solicitation of king Henry, had approved, as it would seem, without having very carefully read them, if at all. Alexander, however, now deemed the sixteen articles utterly opposed to the honour of God and of holy church. He denounced them as tyrannical usurpations, and harshly reproached Beket with the passing adhesion he had given to them on the formal injunction of a pontifical legate.2 The pope excepted from this reprobation six articles only,3 and among them that which deprived the serfs of enfranchisement on becoming priests; and he solemnly pronounced anathema against the partisans of the other ten.4

The archbishop then enlarged upon the ancient liberties of the church of Canterbury, to whose cause he said he had devoted himself; and then accusing himself of having been intrusively forced into his see, in contempt of those liberties, by the royal power, he resigned his ecclesiastical dignity into the hands of the pope.5 The pope reinvested him with it, saying, “that he, who had hitherto lived in affluence and delights,6 Edition: current; Page: [85] should now be taught, by the instructions of poverty, the mother of religion, to be the comforter of the poor when he returned to his see: wherefore he committed him over to one of the poor of Christ, from whom he was to receive, not a sumptuous, but simple entertainment, such as became a banished man and a champion of Christ.”1 Beket was recommended to the superior of the abbey of Pontigny, on the confines of Burgundy and Champagne, where he was, for the present, to live as a simple monk. He submitted, assumed the habit of the Cistercian monks, and followed in all its rigour the discipline of monastic life.2

In his retreat at Pontigny, Thomas wrote and received many letters, and among them several from the bishops of England and the whole body of Anglo-Norman clergy, full of bitter irony. “Fame has brought us the news that, renouncing for the future all plots against your lord and king, you humbly submit to the poverty to which you are reduced, and are expiating your past life by study and abstinence.3 We congratulate you hereupon, and counsel you to persevere in this good path.” The same letter reproached him, in humiliating terms, with the lowness of his birth and his ingratitude towards the king, who, from the rank of a Saxon and a nothing, had raised him high as himself.4 Such were the views of the bishops and lords of England with reference to Beket. They were indignant at what they called the insolence of the parvenu;5 but among the lower classes, whether of clergy or laity, he was beloved and pitied, and ardent, though silent prayers were offered up that he might succeed in all he should undertake.6 In general, he had as adherents all those who were hostile to the Anglo-Norman government, whether as subjects by conquest or as political opponents. Edition: current; Page: [86] One of those who most courageously exposed themselves to persecution to follow him, was a Welchman named Culin.1 Another, a Saxon by birth, was thrown into prison, and remained there a long time, on his account;2 and the poison given to the bishop of Poitiers seems to prove that there was fear entertained of his partisans in southern Gaul, whose population unwillingly obeyed a king of foreign race; he had also zealous friends in Lower Brittany; but it does not appear that he had any warm partisans in Normandy, where obedience to king Henry was regarded as a national duty. The king of France favoured the antagonist of Henry II. from motives of a less elevated character, wholly exempt from any real affection, and simply for the purpose of embarrassing his political rival.

In the year 1166, Henry II. went to Normandy, and on the news of his landing, Thomas quitted the abbey of Pontigny and proceeded to Vezelay, near Auxerre. Here, in presence of the people assembled in the principal church on Ascension-day, he mounted the pulpit, and with the greatest solemnity, amid the ringing of bells and the light of the tapers, pronounced a sentence of excommunication against the defenders of the constitutions of Clarendon, against the detainers of the sequestered property of the church of Canterbury, and against those who kept priests or laymen imprisoned on his account. Beket also pronounced, by name, the same sentence against the Normans Richard de Lucy, Jocelin Bailleul, Alain de Neuilly, Renouf de Broc, Hugh de Saint Clair, and Thomas Fitz-Bernard, courtiers and favourites of the king.3 Henry was then at Chinon, a town in his earldom of Touraine, and on the new sign of life given by his adversary, a fit of violent fury seized upon him; carried beyond all self-possession, he cried that the traitor sought to kill him body and soul; that he was most unhappy in having none around him but traitors, not one of whom thought of freeing him from the annoyances he endured at the hands of one single Edition: current; Page: [87] man.1 He took off his cap, and threw it on the ground, unbuckled his belt, divested himself of his clothes, and snatching the silk coverlid from his bed, rolled in it before all his nobles, biting the mattress and tearing the wool and hair with his teeth.2

Coming a little to himself, he dictated a letter to the pope, reproaching him with protecting traitors, and he sent to the clergy of Kent an order to write in their own name to the sovereign pontiff, saying that they repudiated the sentences of excommunication pronounced by the archbishop.3 The pope replied to the king—begging him not to communicate his letters to any living soul—that he was ready to give him full satisfaction, and that he had deputed two extraordinary legates to him with power to absolve all excommunicated persons.4 And, in point of fact, he sent to Normandy, under this title and with this power, William and Otho, cardinal-priests, the first openly sold to the king, and the second ill-disposed to the archbishop.5 While these two ambassadors were traversing France, announcing on their way that they were about to content the king of England and confound his enemy,6 the pope, on his return to Italy, sent word to Thomas to place all confidence in them, and begged him, in consideration of the care which he had shown in choosing men favourable to his cause, to employ himself with the earl of Flanders in obtaining alms for the Roman church.7

But the archbishop was warned of the little confidence these assurances merited, and bitterly complained, in a letter addressed to the pope himself, of the duplicity employed against him. “There are some,” said he, “who say that you have purposely prolonged my exile, and that of my companions in misfortune for a year, in order to make, at our expense, a more advantageous bargain with the king. I Edition: current; Page: [88] hesitate to believe this; but to give me as judges such men as your two legates, is it not truly giving me the chalice of passion and of death?”1 In his indignation, Thomas sent to the papal court despatches in which he did not spare the king, calling him a tyrant full of malice; these letters were given, and perhaps sold, to Henry II. by the Roman chancery.2 Before entering, according to their instructions, upon a conference with the king, the legates invited the archbishop to a private interview; he went to it full of a distrust, and a contempt ill concealed. The Romans conversed with him solely on the grandeur and power of king Henry, of the low estate from which the king had raised him, and of the danger he ran in braving a man so powerful and so beloved by holy church.3

Arrived in Normandy, the pontifical envoys found Henry II. surrounded by Anglo-Norman lords and prelates. The discussion opened with the causes of the quarrel with the primate; Gilbert Foliot, bishop of London, stated the case; he said that the dispute arose from a sum of forty-four thousand marks, of which the archbishop obstinately refused to give an account, pretending that his ecclesiastical consecration had exempted him from all debt, as his baptism had freed him from all sin. Foliot added to these witticisms other jests about the excommunications pronounced by Beket, saying that they did not receive them in England from pure economy of horses and men, seeing that they were so numerous that forty couriers would not suffice to distribute them all. At the moment of separating, Henry humbly intreated the cardinals to intercede for him with the pope, that he would deliver him from the torment caused him by one single man. In pronouncing these words, the tears came into his eyes; cardinal William, who was sold to him, wept as from sympathy; cardinal Otho could scarce refrain from laughter.4

When pope Alexander, reconciled with all the Romans by the death of his competitor Victor, had returned to Italy, he Edition: current; Page: [89] sent from Rome letters to Henry II., wherein he announced that Thomas should assuredly be suspended from all authority as archbishop, until he should regain the king’s favour.1 Nearly at the same time, a diplomatic congress was held at Ferté-Bernard in Vendomois, between the kings of England and France. The former publicly exhibited the pope’s letters, saying with a joyous air: “Thank Heaven, our Hercules is without his club. He can do nothing for the future against me or against my bishops, and his terrible threats are now merely ridiculous, for I hold in my purse the pope and all his cardinals.”2 This confidence in the success of his intrigues gave the king of England a new ardour of persecution against his antagonist; and shortly after, the general chapter of Citeaux, of which the abbey of Pontigny was a dependent, received a despatch, wherein Henry II. signified to the priors of the order that if they valued their possessions in England, Normandy, Anjou, and Aquitaine, they must cease to harbour his enemy.3

The reception of this letter caused great alarm in the chapter of Citeaux. The superior immediately set out for Pontigny, with a bishop and several abbots of the order. He came to Beket, and, in the name of the order, said to him mildly, but significatively: “God forbid the chapter should, on such injunctions, expel you; but it is a notification we give you, that you may in your prudence decide what is to be done.”4 Thomas replied, without hesitation, that he would prepare for his departure. He quitted the monastery of Pontigny in the month of November 1168, after two years residence there, and then wrote to the king of France to request another asylum. On receiving his letter, the king exclaimed: “Oh, religion! religion! what has become of thee? They who call themselves dead to the world banish, for the world’s sake, an exile in the cause of God!”5 He received Edition: current; Page: [90] the archbishop on his territory, but it was evidently as a matter of policy that he showed himself, on this occasion, more humane than the monks of Citeaux.

About a year after, a reconciliation took place between the kings of France and of England; a meeting was appointed at Montmirail in Perche, to settle the terms of the truce; for, since the Normans had reigned in England, there had been but brief intervals of peace between the two countries.1 Meantime frequent assemblies were held in or near the towns on the frontiers of Normandy, Maine, and Anjou; and the contending interests were discussed with the greater facility, that the kings and lords of France and of England spoke exactly the same language. The former brought Thomas Beket with them to the congress of Montmirail. Availing themselves of the influence which his state of dependence on them gave them over him, they had induced him to consent to make, under their auspices, his submission to the king of England, and to become reconciled with him,2 the archbishop yielding to their interested solicitations, from weariness of his wandering life, and of the humiliation he felt in eating the bread of strangers.3

When the two antagonists met, Thomas, quelling his pride, placed one knee on the ground, and said to the king: “My lord, the whole quarrel existing between us, I submit entirely to your judgment, as sovereign arbiter, in every point, saving the honour of God.”4 But the moment this fatal reservation passed the lips of the archbishop, the king, setting at nought his conciliatory proceeding and his humble posture, overwhelmed him with a torrent of abuse, calling him proud, ungrateful, and heartless; then, turning to the king of France: “Know you,” said he, “what would befal me, were I to admit this reservation? He would pretend that all that pleases me, and does not please him, is contrary to the honour of God; and by means of these two words, he would render me Edition: current; Page: [91] a nullity. But I will make him a concession. Certes, there have been before me in England kings less powerful than I, and, doubtless, also, there have been in the see of Canterbury, archbishops more holy than he; let him only act towards me as the greatest and most holy of his predecessors has acted towards the least of mine, and I shall be content.”1

To this evidently ironical proposition, comprehending fully as much mental reservation on the part of the king as Thomas had comprised in the clause, saving the honour of God, the whole assembly, French and English, cried out that it was quite enough, that the king humbled himself sufficiently; and, the archbishop remaining silent, the king of France, in his turn, said to him: “Well, why do you hesitate? here is peace offered you.” The archbishop calmly replied that he could not in conscience accept peace, yield himself up and his liberty of action, unless saving the honour of God. At these words, the whole assembly, of both nations, vied with each other in charging him with measureless pride, of outrecuidance, as it was then called. One of the French barons loudly exclaimed, that he who resisted the counsel and unanimous will of the lords of two kingdoms was no longer worthy of an asylum. The kings remounted their horses, without saluting the archbishop, who withdrew, deeply dejected.2 No one in the name of the king of France offered him food or lodging, and on his return he was compelled to live on the alms of priests and of the populace.3

That his vengeance might be complete, Henry II. only needed somewhat more decision on the part of pope Alexander. To obtain the deprivation, the object of all his efforts, he exhausted the resources which the diplomacy of the time placed at his disposal, resources far more extensive that we at all imagine at the present time. The Lombard towns, the national cause of which was then combined with that of the pope against the emperor Frederic I., almost all received messages from the king of England. He offered the Milanese three thousand marks of silver, and to defray the Edition: current; Page: [92] expenses of repairing their walls, which the emperor had destroyed; to the Cremonese, he offered three thousand marks; a thousand to the Parmesans, and as many to the Bolognese, if they would solicit from Alexander III., their ally, the degradation of Beket, or at least his translation to an inferior see.1 Henry also applied to the Norman lords of Apulia to employ their credit in favour of a king, issue of the same race with themselves. He promised to the pope himself as much money as he should require to extinguish at Rome the last remnant of schism, and, further, ten thousand marks for himself, with power absolutely to dispose of the nomination to the bishoprics and archbishoprics vacant in England.2 The last offer proves that, in his hostility against archbishop Thomas, Henry II., at this time, by no means aimed at the diminution of the papal authority. New edicts forbad, under extremely severe penaltics, the admission into England of the friends or relations of the exile, or of letters from him or his friends, or of letters from the pope, favourable to his cause, letters which might well be apprehended in the very probable event of some diplomatic manœuvring on the part of the pontifical court.3

To maintain a correspondence with England, despite this prohibition, the archbishop and his friends employed the disguise of Saxon names,4 which, on account of the low condition of those who bore them, awakened little disquietude in the Norman authorities. John of Salisbury, one of the ablest authors of the age, and who had lost his property from his attachment to the primate, wrote under the name of Godrik, and styled himself a knight in the pay of the commune of Milan.5 As the Milanese were then at war with the emperor Frederic, he put down, in his letters, to the account of the latter, all the reproaches he intended to apply to the king of England. The number of those whom the Norman authority persecuted on account of this affair was considerably augmented by a royal decree, couched in these terms: “Let Edition: current; Page: [93] every Welshman, priest or layman, who shall enter England without letters of licence from the king, be seized and thrown into prison, and let all Welsh persons be expelled the schools in England.”1 To understand the reason of this ordinance and the point which most sensibly wounded the interests of the king and the Anglo-Norman barons in the resistance of Thomas Beket, the reader must turn his attention for a moment to the territories recently acquired or conquered from the Cambrian nation.

Wales, overrun, as we have seen, by invasions in every direction, exhibited the same scenes of oppression and of national struggle which England had presented in the first fifty years of the Conquest. There were daily insurrections against the conquerors, especially against the priests who had come in the train of the soldiers, and who, soldiers themselves, under a peaceful habit, devoured with their relations, settled with them, what war had spared.2 Forcing themselves on the natives as spiritual pastors, they seized, in virtue of the patent of a foreign king, the sees of the former prelates, elected by the clergy and people of the country. To receive the sacraments of the church from the hands of a foreigner and an enemy was, for the Welsh, an insupportable affliction, perhaps the most cruel tyranny of the conquest. Accordingly, from the moment when archbishop Beket raised his front against the king of England, the national opinion in Cambria strongly declared itself for the archbishop, first for the popular reason that every enemy of an enemy is a friend, and next, because a prelate of Saxon race, struggling with the grandson of the conqueror of the Saxons, seemed in some measure the representative of the religious rights of all the men forcibly united under the Norman domination.3 Although Thomas Beket was entirely a stranger to the Cambrian nation in affection as in birth, although he had never manifested Edition: current; Page: [94] the slightest indication of interest for it, this nation loved him, and in the same way, would have loved also any stranger who, however distant, however indirectly, however uninfluenced by friendly views to it, had awakened in it the hope of obtaining once more priests born in its bosom and speaking its language.

This patriotic sentiment, deeply rooted in the people of Wales, was manifested with invincible determination in the ecclesiastical chapters, where foreigners and natives were mingled together. It was searcely ever possible to induce the latter to give their votes to any but a Welshman of pure race without any admixture of foreign blood;1 and, as the choice of such candidates was never confirmed by the royal power of England, and as, on the other hand, nothing could overcome the inveteracy of the voters, there was a sort of perpetual schism in most of the churches of Cambria, a schism more reasonable than many that have made more noise in the world. It was thus that with the cause of archbishop Thomas, whatever his personal motives, whether ambition, love of opposition and self-will, or the conscientious conviction of a great duty, was combined, in every direction, a national cause, that of the races of men reduced to servitude by the ancestors of the king whose adversary he had declared himself.

The archbishop, deserted by the king of France, his former protector, and reduced to subsist upon alms, lived at Sens, in a poor inn. One day, while seated in the common room, conversing with his companions in exile, a messenger from king Louis presented himself, and said to them: “The king my lord, invites you to proceed to his court.” “Alas!” cried one of the spectators, “it is doubtless to banish us, and so we shall be excluded from both kingdoms, and have no hope of assistance but from those thieves of Romans, who occupy themselves solely in seizing the spoils of the unfortunate and the innocent.”2 They followed the messenger, sad and thoughtful, as men anticipating a great calamity. But to their great surprise, the king received them with extraordinary Edition: current; Page: [95] marks of affection and even of tenderness. He wept on seeing them,1 and casting himself at Thomas’s feet, said to him: “It is you, my father, it is you alone who saw justly; all the rest of us were blind, in counselling you against God. I repent, my father, I repent, and promise, for the future, no more to desert you and yours.”2 The true cause of this sudden change was a new project of war on the part of the king of France against Henry II.

The pretext of this war was the vengeance exercised by the king of England upon the Breton and Poitevin refugees, whom the other king had given up to him on condition of his receiving them into his grace. It is probable that, in signing the treaty of Montmirail, king Louis had in no degree supposed that the clause in their favour, inserted out of very shame, would be executed; but shortly after, when Henry II. had put the richest of the Poitevins to death, the king of France, having reasons of self-interest for renewing the war, availed himself of the bad faith of the Angevin towards the refugees,3 and his first act of hostility was to restore to Thomas Beket his protection and support. Henry II. complained, by a special message, of this flagrant violation of the treaty of Montmirail. “Go,” said the king of France to the messenger, “go and tell your king, that if he adheres to the customs of his ancestor, I may surely adhere to my hereditary right to aid the exiled.”4

Ere long, the archbishop, resuming the offensive, hurled new sentences of excommunication against the courtiers, servants, and chaplains of the king of England, and especially against the retainers of the property of the see of Canterbury. He excommunicated so great a number, that, in the doubt whether the sentence had not been secretly ratified by the pope, there was not, in the king’s chapel, a single priest who at the service of the mass dared give him the kiss of peace.5 Thomas further sent to the bishop of Winchester, Henry, Stephen’s brother, and consequently a secret enemy of Edition: current; Page: [96] Henry II., a mandate interdicting in England all religious ceremonies, except the baptism of infants and the confession of the dying, unless the king, within a certain time, gave satisfaction to the church of Canterbury.1 One English priest, upon this mandate, refused to celebrate mass; but his archdeacon reprimanded him, saying: “If you were ordered by the archbishop not to eat again, would you abstain from eating?”2 The sentence of interdict not having obtained the sanction of any bishop in England, was not executed; and the bishop of London departed for Rome, with messages and presents from the king.3 He brought back, purchased at heavy cost, a formal declaration, affirming that the pope had not ratified and would not ratify, the sentences of excommunication pronounced by the archbishop. The pope himself wrote to Beket, ordering him to recal these sentences with the shortest delay.4

But the court of Rome, always careful to procure personal sureties on every occasion, required that each excommunicated person, on receiving absolution, should take an oath never to separate from the church.5 All of them, and especially the king’s chaplains, would readily have consented to this, but the king would not permit it, preferring to leave them under the sword of Saint Peter (gladius beati Petri, spiculum beati Petri, as the phrase ran) than to deprive himself of a means of disquieting the Romish church. To terminate this new dispute, two legates, Vivian and Gratian, went to Henry, at Domfront. He was hunting at the time of their arrival, and returned from the forest to visit them at their lodgings. During his interview with them, the whole band of hunters, with young Henry, the king’s eldest son, at their head, came to the inn where the legates were, shouting and sounding their horns to announce the taking of a stag. The king abruptly interrupting his conversation with the envoys from Rome, went to the hunters, complimented them, said that he made them a present of the animal, and then returned Edition: current; Page: [97] to the legates, who exhibited no anger, either at the strange incident, or at the cavalier manner in which the king treated them and the object of their mission.1

A second conference took place in the park of Bayeux; the king proceeded thither on horseback, with several bishops of England and Normandy. After some unimportant conversation, he asked the legates if they had clearly decided not to absolve his courtiers and chaplains without conditions. The legates said this was impossible. “Then, by the eyes of God,” exclaimed the king, “I never again in my life will hear speak of the pope,” and he hastened to his horse. The legates, after some show of resistance, granted all he asked.2 “Then,” said Henry II., “you will proceed to England, in order that the excommunication may be raised as solemnly as possible.” The legates hesitated to answer. “Well,” said the king, impatiently, “do as you please; but know that I take no account either of you or of your excommunications, and care no more for them than for an egg.” He hastily mounted his horse, but the Norman archbishops and bishops ran after him, calling to him to dismount and renew the conversation. “I know, I know as well as you what they can do,” said the king, still continuing his way; “they will place my lands under interdict; but I, who can take a walled town every day, can punish a priest who shall come and place my kingdom under interdict.”3

At last, the excitement on both sides being appeased, a new discussion was entered upon respecting the king’s quarrel with Thomas Beket. The legates said that the pope desired to see an end of this scandalous affair; that he would do much to obtain peace, and that he would undertake to make the archbishop more docile and tractable. “The pope is my spiritual lord and father,” said the king, greatly softened; “and I consent, for my part, to do much at his request; I will even restore, if necessary, to him of whom we speak, his archbishopric and my peace, for him and all those who, on his account, are banished from my lands.” The interview at which the Edition: current; Page: [98] terms of peace were to be agreed upon was fixed for the next day; but at this conference, king Henry practised the expedient of reservations for which he so reproached the archbishop, and sought to insert the condition, “saving the honour and dignity of his kingdom.”1 The legates refused to accede to this unexpected clause; but their modified refusal, though suspending the final decision of the affair, did not destroy the good understanding between them and the king. They gave full power to Rotrou, archbishop of Rouen, to go and by the pope’s authority relieve Gilbert Foliot, bishop of London, from his sentence of excommunication.2 They sent at the same time, letters to Beket, recommending him, in the name of the obedience he owed to the church, humility, gentleness, and circumspection towards the king.3

It will be remembered with what assiduity William the Bastard and his councillor, Lanfranc, laboured to establish, for the better maintenance of the conquest, the absolute supremacy of the see of Canterbury. It will also be remembered that one of the privileges attached to this supremacy, was the exclusive right of crowning the kings of England, least the metropolitan of York might one day be led, by the rebellion of his diocesans, to oppose a Saxon king, anointed and crowned by him, to kings of the conquering race. This danger no longer existing, after a century of possession, the politicians of the court of Henry II., to weaken the power of Thomas Beket, resolved to create a king of England, anointed and crowned without his participation.4

For this purpose, king Henry presented his eldest son to the Anglo-Norman barons, and set forth, that, for the welfare of his vast provinces, a colleague in the royalty had become necessary to him, and that he desired to see Henry his son decorated with the same title as himself. The barons offered no obstacle to the views of their king, and the young man received the royal unction from the hands of the archbishop of York, assisted by the suffragan bishops of the province of Canterbury, in Westminster Abbey, immediately dependent on Edition: current; Page: [99] the latter see. All these circumstances constituted, according to the ecclesiastical code, a complete violation of the privileges of the English primacy.1 At the banquet which followed the coronation, the king waited on his son at table, saying, in the effusion of his paternal joy, that from that day the royalty no longer belonged to him.2 He little expected, that in a few years, this phrase, so heedlessly uttered, would be raised up against him, and that his own son would call upon him no longer to bear the title of king, since he had solemnly abdicated it.

The violation of the ancient rights of the primacy took place with the consent of the pope; for previous to undertaking it, Henry II. had provided himself with an apostolic letter, authorising him to crown his eldest son how he pleased and by whom he pleased.3 But, as this letter was to remain secret, the Roman chancery did not scruple to send Thomas Beket another letter, equally private, in which the pope protested that the coronation of the young king by the archbishop of York had been performed against his will, and that equally against his will had the bishop of London been relieved from his excommunication.4 At these manifest falsehoods, Beket lost all patience; and he addressed to a Roman cardinal, named Albert, in his own name and that of his companions in exile, a letter full of reproaches, the bitterness of which passed all bounds:

“I know not how it is that at the court of Rome it is ever the cause of God that is sacrificed; so that Barabbas is saved and Christ is put to death. This is the seventh year in which, by the authority of that court, I remain proscribed, and the church in suffering. The unfortunate, the banished, the innocent, are condemned before you, for the sole reason that they are weak, because they are the poor of Jesus Christ, and that they demand justice. I know that the envoys of the king distribute or promise my spoils to the cardinals and courtiers; let the cardinals rise against me, if they will; let them arm for my destruction, not only the king of England, but the whole world: I will never swerve from the fidelity due to the church, Edition: current; Page: [100] in life or in death, placing my cause in the hands of God, and ready to endure proscription and exile. It is my firm resolve never again to solicit the pontifical court. Let those repair to it who avail themselves of iniquity, and who return full of pride at having trampled on justice and made innocence a prisoner.”1

This energetic attack had not the effect of making ultramontane policy retrograde one single step; but positive menaces on the part of the king of France, then at open rupture with the other king, lent efficacious aid to the remonstrances of the exile. “I demand,” wrote Louis VII. to the pope; “I demand that you at length renounce your deceitful and dilatory proceedings.”2 Pope Alexander, who found himself, as he expressed it, in the position of an anvil between two hammers,3 seeing that the hammer of the king of France was raised to strike, became all at once of opinion that the cause of the archbishop was really the cause of Heaven. He sent to Thomas a brief, suspending the archbishop of York and all the prelates who had assisted at the coronation of the young king; and even went so far as to menace Henry II. with ecclesiastical censure, unless he forthwith vindicated the primate against the courtiers who held his property and the bishops who had usurped his privileges.4 Henry II., alarmed at the good understanding between the pope and the king of France, yielded for the first time; but it was from motives of interest, and not from fear of a banished man, whom all his protectors abandoned and betrayed in turns.

The king of England accordingly announced that he was prepared to open definitive negotiations for peace. The archbishop of York and the bishops of London and Salisbury sought to dissuade him from this. Labouring with their utmost efforts to prevent any reconciliation, they told the king that peace would be of no advantage to him, unless the donations made out of the property of the see of Canterbury were permanently Edition: current; Page: [101] ratified. “And it is known,” they added, “that the annulling of these royal gifts will be the principal feature of the archbishop’s demands.”1 Grave reasons of external policy determined Henry II. not to adopt these counsels, though they perfectly agreed with his personal aversion to Thomas Beket. Negotiations commenced; there was an exchange of letters between the king and the archbishop, indirectly and by third hands, as between two contracting powers. One of Thomas’s letters, drawn up in the form of a diplomatic note, is worth giving as a curious specimen of the diplomacy of the middle ages.

“The archbishop,” said Beket, speaking of himself, “insists that the king, if the reconciliation take place, shall give him the kiss of peace publicly; for this formality is a solemn custom with all nations and all religions, and nowhere, without it, has any peace been concluded between persons previously enemies. The kiss of any other than the king, of his son, for example, would not answer the end, for it might be inferred that the archbishop had re-entered into grace with the son rather than with the father; and if once this idea were spread abroad, what resources would it not furnish to the malevolent? The king, on his part, might pretend that his refusal to give the kiss meant that he did not engage himself willingly, and might, therefore, afterwards break his word, without subjecting himself to the brand of infamy. Besides, the archbishop remembers what happened to Robert de Silly and the other Poitevins who made their peace at Montmirail; they were received into the grace of the king of England with the kiss of peace, and yet, neither this token of sincerity publicly given nor the consideration due to the king of France, mediator in the affair, secured to them peace or life. It is not, therefore, too much to demand this guarantee, in itself, even if given, so insecure.”2

On the 22nd July, 1170, in a vast meadow3 between Freteval and Laferté-Bernard, a solemn congress was held for the double pacification of the king of France with the king of England and of the latter with Thomas Beket. The archbishop proceeded thither, and when, after the discussion of Edition: current; Page: [102] political affairs, the assembly approached his own, he had a conference apart, in the centre of the field, with his adversary. The archbishop demanded of the king, first, that he should be allowed to punish the injury done to the dignity of his church by the archbishop of York and his own suffragans. “The coronation of your son by another than myself,” said he, “has enormously wounded the ancient rights of my see.” “But who then,” asked the king, warmly, “who then crowned my great grandfather William, the conqueror of England? Was it not the archbishop of York?” Beket replied, that at the period of the conquest the church of Canterbury was without a legitimate pastor; that it was, so to speak, captive under one Stigand, an archbishop repudiated by the pope, and, in this emergency, it was necessary that the prelate of York, whose title was better founded, should crown the Conqueror.1 After this historical reference, the worth of which the reader can appreciate, and some other arguments, the king promised to remedy all Beket’s complaints; but as to the demand for the kiss of peace, he politely evaded it, saying to the archbishop: “We shall soon meet in England, and will embrace there.”2

On leaving the king, Beket saluted him, bending his knee; and with a reciprocal courtesy, which astonished all present, Henry II., as he mounted his horse, arranged his robes, and held the stirrup for him.3 Next day some return of their old familiarity was remarked between them.4 Royal messengers conveyed to the young Henry, the colleague and lieutenant of his father, a letter couched in these terms: “Know that Thomas of Canterbury has made his peace with me, to my entire satisfaction. I command you then to give him and his all their possessions freely and peaceably.”5 The archbishop returned to Sens to make ready for the journey; his friends, poor and dispersed in various places, prepared their slight luggage, and then assembled to wait upon the king of France, who, in their own words, had not rejected them Edition: current; Page: [103] when the world abandoned them.1 “You are then about to depart?” said Louis VII. to the archbishop: “I would not for my weight in gold have given you this counsel; and, if you will believe me, do not trust your king until you have received the kiss of peace.”2

Several months had already elapsed since the reconciliation interview; yet, notwithstanding the ostensible order despatched by the king to England, no instance was known wherein the usurpers of property of the church of Canterbury had been made to restore it; on the contrary, they publicly ridiculed the credulity and simplicity of the primate, in thinking himself restored to favour. The Norman, Renouf de Broc, went so far as to say that, if the archbishop came to England, he would not have time given him wherein to eat a whole loaf.3 Beket further received from Rome letters warning him that the king’s peace was only a peace in words, and recommending him, for his own safety, to be humble, patient, and circumspect.4 He solicited a second interview, for the purpose of having an explanation upon these fresh points of complaint, and the meeting took place at Chaumont, near Amboise, under the auspices of the earl of Blois.5 On this occasion Henry’s manner was frigid, and his people affected not to notice the archbishop. The mass celebrated in the royal chapel was a mass for the dead, selected expressly, because, in this service, those present do not mutually give the kiss of peace at the gospel.6 The archbishop and the king, before they separated, rode some way together, loading each other with bitter reproaches.7 At the moment Edition: current; Page: [104] of leavetaking, Thomas fixed his eyes upon Henry, in an expressive manner, and said to him solemnly: “I believe I shall never see you again.” “Do you then take me for a traitor?” warmly exclaimed the king, who understood the meaning of these words. The archbishop bowed and departed.1

Several times on the day of reconciliation, Henry II. had promised that he would come to Rouen to meet the prelate, pay all the debts he had contracted in exile, and thence accompany him to England, or, at least, direct the archbishop of Rouen to accompany him. But on his arrival at Rouen, Beket found neither the king, nor the promised money, nor that any order to accompany him had been transmitted to the archbishop. He borrowed three hundred livres, and by means of this sum proceeded to the coast near Boulogne. It was now the month of November, the season of storms; the primate and his companions were obliged to wait some days at the port of Wissant, near Calais.2 One day that they were walking upon the beach, they saw a man running towards them, whom they at first took to be the master of their vessel, coming to summon them on board;3 but the man told them that he was a priest, and dean of the church of Boulogne, and that the count, his lord, had sent him to warn them not to embark, for that troops of armed men were waiting on the coast of England, to seize or kill the archbishop. “My son,” answered Thomas, “were I sure of being dismembered and cut to pieces on the other shore, I would not stay my steps. Seven years absence is enough both for the pastor and for his flock.” The travellers embarked; but willing to derive some advantage from the warning they had received, they avoided a frequented port, and landed in Sandwich bay, at the spot nearest to Canterbury.4

5Notwithstanding their precautions, the report spread that the archbishop had landed near Sandwich. Hereupon the Norman Gervais, viscount of Kent, marched to that town, with all his men-at-arms, accompanied by Renouf de Broc Edition: current; Page: [105] and Renauld de Garenne, two powerful lords and Beket’s mortal enemies. At the same report, the burgesses of Dover, men of English race, took up arms, on their part, to defend the archbishop, and the people of Sandwich armed for the same purpose, when they saw the Norman horse approach.1 “If he has the audacity to land,” said the viscount Gervais, “I will cut his head off with my own hand.”2 The ardour of the Normans was somewhat modified by the attitude of the people; they advanced, however, with drawn swords, when John, dean of Oxford, who accompanied the prelate, rushed to meet them, exclaiming: “What are you doing? Sheathe your swords; would you have the king pass for a traitor?”3 The populace collecting, the Normans returned their swords to their scabbards, contented themselves with searching the coffers of the archbishop for any papal briefs they might contain, and returned to their castles.4

Upon the whole road from Sandwich to Canterbury, the peasants, artisans, and tradesmen came to meet the archbishop, saluting him, shouting, and collecting in great numbers; but scarcely any man of wealth, or rank, or simply of Norman race, welcomed the exile on his return;5 on the contrary, they avoided the places through which he passed, shutting themselves up in their houses, and spreading from castle to castle the report that Thomas Beket was letting loose the serfs in town and country, who were following him, drunk with frenzied joy.6 From his metropolitan city, the primate repaired to London, to salute the son of Henry II. All the citizens of the great city were collected in the streets to receive him; but he had scarcely entered it when a royal messenger stayed his progress in the name of the young king, and communicated to him the formal order to return to Canterbury and to remain there.7 At this moment, a London Edition: current; Page: [106] citizen, enriched by commerce despite the exactions of the Normans, advanced to Beket, and offered him his hand. “And you, too!” cried the messenger, “you, too, speak with the king’s enemy?—return at once whence you came!”1

The archbishop received with disdain the young king’s order, and said that, if he retraced his steps, it was only because he was recalled to his church by a great approaching solemnity—that of Christmas.2 Beket returned to Canterbury, surrounded by poor men, who, at their own peril, arming themselves with shields and rusty lances, formed an escort for him. They were several times insulted by men who appeared seeking to excite a quarrel, in order to furnish the royal soldiers with a pretext for interfering and killing the archbishop, without scandal, amidst the tumult. But the English bore all these provocations with imperturbable calmness.3 The order intimated to the primate to remain within the walls of the dependences of his church was published by sound of trumpet in every town, as an edict of the public authority; other edicts denounced as enemies to the king and kingdom all who should manifest any favour to him or his;4 and a great number of the citizens of London were cited before the Norman judges to answer a charge of high treason for their reception of the archbishop, “the king’s enemy,” in their city.5 All these proceedings of the men in power warned Beket that his end was nigh; and he wrote to the pope, asking him to have the prayers for the dying offered up in his name.6 He ascended the pulpit, and in presence of the people assembled in the cathedral of Canterbury, preached a sermon on this text: “I am come to die amongst you.”7

The court of Rome, pursuing its constant policy of never allowing disputes in which it could interfere completely to subside, after having sent to the archbishop an order to absolve the prelates who had crowned the son of the king, had given him a fresh permission to excommunicate the prelate Edition: current; Page: [107] of York, and to suspend the other bishops.1 This time, it was Henry II. who was deceived by the pope; for he was entirely ignorant that Beket had gone to England provided with such letters.2 The latter had at first intended to employ them merely as a minatory means of making his enemies capitulate. But the fear lest these papers should be seized on his landing, made him afterwards determine upon sending them on before him,3 and thus the pope’s letter and the new sentences of excommunication became prematurely public; the resentment of the bishops, thus unexpectedly attacked, exceeded all measure. The archbishop of York and several others, hastened across the Channel to Henry, who was still in Normandy, and presenting themselves before him:4 “We intreat you,” they said, “to protect the crown, the priesthood; your bishops of England are excommunicated because, according to your orders, they crowned the young king, your son.” “Ha!” cried the king, in a tone which showed his utter surprise; “then, if all who consented to the coronation of my son are excommunicated, by the eyes of God, I am so too!” “Sire, this is not all,” continued the bishops; “the man who has done you this injury is setting the whole kingdom in a flame; he marches about with armed bodies of horse and foot, prowling round the fortresses, and seeking to take them.”5

On hearing this grossly exaggerated statement, the king was seized with one of those fits of passion to which he was subject; he changed colour, and beating his hands together: “What!” he exclaimed, “shall a man who has eaten my bread, who came to my court upon a lame horse, lift his foot to strike me? shall he insult the king, the royal family, and all the kingdom, and not one of the lazy servants whom I nourish at my table do me right for such an affront?”6 These words went not forth in vain from the king’s lips; four knights of the palace, Richard le Breton, Hugh de Morville, William de Traci, and Renault Fitz-Ours, who heard him, making a vow Edition: current; Page: [108] together for life and death, suddenly departed for England, on Christmas day.1 Their absence was not perceived, or still less, its cause suspected; and even while they were galloping to the coast, the council of Norman barons, assembled by the king, named three commissioners to arrest and imprison Thomas Beket, on a charge of high treason;2 the conspirators, however, who were in advance of the royal commissioners, left them nothing to do.

Five days after Christmas-day, the four Norman knights arrived at Canterbury. This city was all excitement on account of new excommunications which the archbishop had just pronounced against persons who had insulted him, and, in particular, against Renouf de Broc, who had amused himself with cutting off the tail of one of his horses.3 The four knights entered Canterbury with a troop of armed men whom they had collected from the castles on their way.4 They first required the provost of the city to order the citizens to march in arms, on the king’s service, to the archbishop’s palace; the provost refusing, the Normans ordered him, at least to take measures that, throughout the day, no citizen should stir, whatever might happen.5 The four conspirators, with twelve of their friends, then proceeded to the palace and to the apartment of the primate.6

Beket had just finished dinner, and his followers were still at table; he saluted the Normans on their entrance, and demanded the object of their visit. They made no intelligible answer, but sitting down, looked fixedly at him for some minutes.7 Renault Fitz-Ours at length spoke: “We come from the king,” said he, “to demand that the excommunicated be absolved, that the suspended bishops be re-established, and that you yourself do penance for your offences towards the king.”8 “It was not I who excommunicated the archbishop of York,” replied Beket, “but the sovereign pontiff; it is he, consequently, who alone has the power to Edition: current; Page: [109] absolve him. As to the others, I will re-establish them if they will make their submision to me.”1 “But of whom, then,” asked Renault, “do you hold your archbishopric? from the king, or from the pope?”—“I hold the spiritual rights from God and from the pope, and the temporal rights from the king.” “What! it is not, then, the king who gave you all?”—“By no means,” replied Beket.2 The Normans murmured at this answer, denounced the distinction as a quibble, and became impatient, moving about on their chairs and twisting their gloves.3 “You threaten me, it would appear,” said the primate; “but ’tis in vain; were all the swords in England drawn against me, you would get nothing from me.” “We will do more than threaten,” answered Fitz-Ours, suddenly rising, and the others followed him to the door, crying: “To arms!4

The door of the apartment was immediately closed behind them; Renault armed himself in the outer court, and taking an axe from the hands of a carpenter who was at work there, struck the door to force it open.5 The archbishop’s people, hearing the blows, intreated the primate to seek refuge in the church, which communicated with his apartment by a cloister or gallery; he refused, and they were impelling him thither, when one of the attendants remarked that the vesper bell had rung. “Since it is the hour for my duty, I will go to the church,” said the archbishop; and having his cross borne before him, he slowly traversed the cloister, and advanced towards the high altar, separated from the nave by an iron grating, the door of which was open.6 He had scarcely set foot on the steps of the altar, when Renault Fitz-Ours appeared at the other end of the church, in his coat of mail, his long, two-edged sword in his hand, crying: “A moi, à moi, vassaux du roi!” The other conspirators were immediately behind him, armed like himself from head to foot, and brandishing their swords. The persons who were with the Edition: current; Page: [110] primate proposed to shut the grating; he forbad this, and left the altar to prevent it; they earnestly intreated him to take refuge in the subterranean church, or to ascend the stairs, which, by many windings, led to the roof of the edifice. This advice was equally rejected. Meantime, the knights advanced; a voice exclaimed: “Where is the traitor?” No one answered. “Where is the archbishop?” “Behold him,” replied Beket, “but there is no traitor here; what came you to do in the house of God, in such attire? what is your object?” “Your death.” “I am prepared to die; you will not see me avoid your swords; but in the name of Almighty God, I forbid you to touch any of my companions, priest or layman, great or small.” At this moment he received a blow from the flat of a sword on his shoulders, and he who struck him said: “Fly, or thou diest.” He did not stir; the knights endeavoured to drag him out of the church, feeling scrupulous of killing him in it. He struggled with them, and declared firmly that he would not withdraw but would compel them to execute their intentions or their orders in the sacred place.1

During this struggle, the priests in attendance upon the primate all fled and abandoned him, with one sole exception, the cross-bearer, Edward Grim, the same who had so fearlessly expressed his opinions after the council at Clarendon. The conspirators, seeing that he was totally unarmed, took little notice of him, and one of them, William de Tracy, raised his sword to strike the archbishop on the head; but the faithful and courageous Saxon immediately extended his right arm to parry the blow: the arm was cut off, and Thomas received but a slight wound.2 “Strike, strike, all of you!” cried the Norman to his companions; and a second blow on the head prostrated the archbishop with his face to the earth; a third blow split his skull, the stroke being so violent that the sword broke on the pavement.3 A man-at-arms, named William Maltret, contemptuously kicked the motionless body, saying: “Thus die the traitor who troubled the kingdom and excited the English to revolt.”4

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And, indeed, an historian relates that the inhabitants of Canterbury arose and collected tumultuously in the streets.1 Among them was seen not one rich man or noble; all these remained within their houses, and semeed intimidated by the popular excitement.2 Men and women, by their dress readily recognisable as Saxons, hastened to the cathedral church and rushed in at every door. At sight of the body, still extended near the steps of the altar, they wept, and exclaimed that they had lost their father; some kissed the feet and hands, and others dipped their garments in the blood which covered the pavement. On their side, the Norman authorities did not remain inactive; and an edict, proclaimed by sound of trumpet, forbad any one to say publicly that Thomas of Canterbury was a martyr.3 The archbishop of York ascended the pulpit to announce his death as an effect of the divine vengeance, saying that he had perished like Pharaoh, in his crime and in his pride.4 Other bishops preached that the body of the traitor ought not to repose in holy ground, but should be cast on a dunghill or left to rot on a gibbet.5 An attempt was even made by the soldiers to get possession of the body of the Norman king’s enemy; but the priests were warned in time, and hastily buried it in the vaults of their church.6

These efforts of the powerful to persecute even beyond the tomb the man who had dared to withstand them, rendered his memory still more dear to the oppressed population; they made a saint of him, in defiance of the Norman authority and without the sanction of the Roman church.7 As Waltheof before him, Thomas Beket worked, upon the spot where he had died, miracles visible to Saxon imaginations, and the report of which, hailed with enthusiasm, spread over England. Two years elapsed ere the new saint was acknowledged and canonized at Rome; and all that time it was with Edition: current; Page: [112] no slight danger that those who believed in him named him in their masses, and that the poor and sick visited his tomb.1 The cause he had maintained with such inflexible determination, was that of mind against power, of the weak against the strong; and, above all, that of the conquered of the Norman conquest against the conquerors. Under whatever aspect we view his story, this national attribute is discernible; it may be deemed subordinate to others, but its existence cannot be denied. It is certain that the popular voice associated in the same regret the memory of St. Thomas of Canterbury and the recollection of the conquest. It was said, incorrectly perhaps, but with a poetry, the meaning of which is unequivocal, that the death of the saint had been sworn in the same castle and in the same chamber, in which was sworn the oath of Harold, and the oath of the chiefs of the army to the Bastard, previous to the expedition against England.2

A circumstance worthy of remark is, that the only primate of Norman race who, prior to the English Beket, had opposed lay authority, was a friend to the Saxons, and, perhaps, the only friend they had found among the race of their conquerors. This was Anselm, he who pleaded against Lanfranc the cause of the saints of old England. Anselm, become archbishop, endeavoured to revive the ancient custom of ecclesiastical elections in lieu of the absolute right of royal nomination, introduced by William the Conqueror. He had to combat at once William Rufus, all the bishops of England, and pope Edition: current; Page: [113] Urban, who supported the king and the bishops.1 Persecuted in England and condemned at Rome, he was compelled to retire to France, and in exile wrote as Thomas Beket wrote after him: “Rome loves money more than justice; there is no help in her for him who has not wherewithal to purchase it.”2 After Anselm came other archbishops, more docile to the traditions of the conquest; Raoul, William de Corbeil, and Thibaut, Beket’s predecessor. None of them attempted to enter into opposition with the royal power, and union reigned between royalty and the priesthood, as in the time of the invasion, until the fatal moment when an Englishman by birth obtained the primacy.

A fact no less remarkable is, that a few years after the death of Thomas Beket, a priest arose in Wales, who, following his example, but from motives more unequivocally national, and with a less tragic result, struggled against Henry II. and against John, his son and second successor. In the year 1176, the clergy of the ancient metropolitan church of Saint David, in Pembrokeshire, chose for a bishop, subject to the ultimate approbation of the king of England, Girauld de Barri, archdeacon, the son of a Norman, and the grandson of a Norman and a Welshwoman.3 The priests of St. David selected this candidate of mixed origin, because they knew perfectly well, says Girauld de Barri himself, that the king would never allow a Cambrian of pure race to become the chief of the principal church of Wales.4 This moderation was vain, and the choice of a man born in the country, and Welsh by his grandmother, was regarded as an act of hostility to the royal power. The property of the church of Saint David was sequestrated, and the principal priests of that church were cited to appear before king Henry in person, at his castle of Winchester.5

Henry asked them menacingly how they had dared, of themselves and without his order, not merely to choose a bishop, but to elect him; then, in his own bed-chamber, he Edition: current; Page: [114] ordered them to elect forthwith a Norman monk named Peter, whom they did not know, who was not introduced to them, and whose name only was told to them. They accepted him tremblingly, and returned to their country, where shortly after bishop Peter arrived, escorted by a number of servants, and accompanied by relations, male and female, among whom he distributed the territorial possessions of the church of Saint David. He imposed a tax on the priests of that church, took the tithe of their cattle, and exacted from all his diocesans extraordinary aids and presents at the four great festivals of the year. He so cruelly afflicted the people of the country that, despite the danger they incurred in resisting a bishop imposed by the Anglo-Normans, they drove him from his church, after having endured him for eight years.1

Whilst the elected of king Henry II. was pillaging the church of St. David, the elected of the clergy of that church was living proscribed and an exile in France, without aid or encouragement, for the king considered, that by protecting an obscure bishop of the petty country of Wales, he could not do the king of England any material injury or annoyance. Girauld, destitute of all resources abroad, found himself obliged to return home, notwithstanding the danger he might incur there; and on the eve of quitting Paris he went to pray in the chapel which the archbishop of Reims, brother of king Louis VII. had consecrated to the memory of Thomas Beket, in the church of Saint Germain l’Auxerrois.2 Arrived in England, his powerless position secured him exemption from maltreatment; nay, by a private arrangement with the Norman prelate whom the Welsh had driven from Saint David’s, he was charged ad interim and simply as bishop’s substitute with the episcopal functions. But he soon renounced his office in disgust at the vexations to which he was subjected by his principal, who every day sent him orders to excommunicate one or more of his own partisans and most devoted friends.3 The Normans of England had just undertaken the conquest of Ireland. They offered Girauld, whom they did not wish to be a bishop in his native land, three bishoprics and an Ireland; but, though Edition: current; Page: [115] the grandson of one of the conquerors of Cambria, Girauld would not consent to become an instrument of oppression to a foreign nation. “I refused,” he says, in his narrative of his own life, “because the Irish, like the Welsh, will never accept or receive as bishop, unless upon compulsion, a man not born amongst them.”

In the year 1198, in the reign of John, son of Henry II., the Norman bishop of Saint David’s died in England; and hereupon the Welsh chapter, by an unanimous act of will and of courage, without awaiting the order of the king of England, again proceeded to an election, and, for the second time, nominated Girauld de Barri.1 On receiving this intelligence, king John flew into a violent passion. He had the election declared null by the archbishop of Canterbury, in virtue of the pretended right of religious supremacy over all Britain, which six hundred years before the Cambrians had so energetically refused to acknowledge. The elect of Saint David’s denied this supremacy, declaring that his church had been, from all antiquity, metropolitan and free, without subjection to any other, and that consequently no primate had power to revoke its elections.2 Such had, in fact, been the right of the church of Saint David’s, previous to the conquest of Pembrokeshire in the reign of Henry I. One of the first operations of Norman authority had been to abolish this prerogative, and to extend over the Cambrians the ecclesiastical unity established in England as a curb for the Anglo-Saxons. “Never in my life,” said Henry I., “will I permit the Welsh to have an archbishop.”3

Thus the dispute as to ecclesiastical privilege between Girauld and the see of Canterbury, was nothing more or less than one of the phases of the great question of the subjection of Wales. A strong army could alone settle the dispute, and Girauld had no army. He went to Rome to the pope, the common resource of men who had no other, and found at the pontifical court an envoy from the king of England, who had anticipated him, laden with magnificent presents for the sovereign pontiff and the cardinals.4 The elected of Saint David’s brought with him nothing but old, Edition: current; Page: [116] worm-eaten title-deeds, and the supplications of a nation which had never been rich.1

In anticipation of the decree to be procured from the Sacred College by king John’s ambassador, Regnault Foliot, (who, by a curious chance, bore the same name with one of Beket’s mortal foes,) that at no time had there been an archbishop of Saint David’s, all the possessions of that church and the private property of Girauld de Barri were confiscated. Proclamations denounced as traitor to the king the self-styled elect of the Cambrians, the audacious man who sought to raise against the king his subjects of Wales. Raoul de Bienville, bailiff of Pembroke, a gentle ruler, merciful to the conquered, was deprived of his office, and one Nicolas Avenel, notorious for his ferocious character, came from England to replace him.2 This Avenel published an address to the Welsh in these terms: “Know all that Girauld the archdeacon is the king’s enemy, and aggressor against the crown; if any of you dare to hold correspondence with him, such man’s house, his land, and his goods shall be given to the first comer.” In the intervals of three journeys that Girauld made to Rome, and between which he had to remain in concealment to avoid violence, menacing injunctions were conveyed to his former residence. One of them ran thus: “We order and counsel thee, as thou lovest thy body and thy limbs, not to hold any chapters or synods in any place within the king’s territory; and consider thyself warned that thy body and all that belongs to thee, wherever thou mayst be found, will be placed at the mercy of the lord king in good custody.”3

After a period of five years, during which the court of Rome, following its usual policy, prefaced its final sentence by vague decisions alternately favourable and unfavourable to both parties, Girauld was formally condemned, upon the testimony of some Welshmen, induced by poverty and fear to sell themselves to the Normans, and whom Regnault Foliot took to Rome with great ceremony to bear witness against their own country. Terror and bribes at length brought even the members of the chapter of Saint David to desert the bishop of their choice, and to acknowledge the Edition: current; Page: [117] supremacy of a foreign metropolis. When Girauld de Barri, after his deprivation, returned to his country, none dared open their doors to him; and the persecuted of the conquerors was shunned as a leper. The Normans, however, had no desire to make him undergo the fate of Thomas Beket, and he was only cited before a synod of bishops in England, to be censured and to receive his sentence of canonical degradation. The Norman prelates amused themselves with rallying him on his vast labours and their small success. “You must be mad,” said the bishop of Ely, “to take so much trouble to do people a good which they do not desire, and to make them free in spite of themselves; for you see that they now disown you.” “You say the truth there,” answered Girauld, “and I was far from expecting such a result. I did not think that the priests of St. David, who so recently were members of a free nation, were capable of bowing beneath the yoke like you English, so long since serfs and slaves, and with whom slavery has become a second nature.”

Girauld de Barri renounced all public affairs, and, devoting himself entirely to literature, under the title of Giraldus Cambrensis, Girauld the Cambrian, he obtained greater celebrity in the world as an elegant writer, than he had done as the antagonist of power. In fact, few people in Europe, in the twelfth century, took any interest in the question whether or no the last remnant of the ancient population of the Celts should lose its religious and civil independence among foreigners. There was small sympathy abroad in such a calamity; but in the heart of Wales, in that portion of the country whither the terror of the Norman lances had not yet penetrated, the exertions of Girauld for Wales were an universal subject of conversation and of praise. “Our country,” said the chief of Powis, in a political assembly, “has sustained great struggles with the men of England; but none of us ever did so much against them as the elected of Saint David’s; for he has stood as a rock against their king, their primate, their priests, against all of them, for the honour of Wales.”1 At the court of Llewellyn, the chief of North Wales, at a solemn banquet, a bard arose, and took his harp to celebrate the devotion of Girauld to the cause of Saint David and of the Welsh nation.2 Edition: current; Page: [118] “So long as our land shall endure,” said the poet, in extempore verse, “let his noble daring be commemorated by the pens of those who write and the mouths of those who sing.”1

We of the present day may well smile at these squabbles between kings and bishops, which made so much noise in centuries less enlightened than our own; but we must acknowledge that among these disputes there were some, at least, of a very grave nature. To the Roman chancery, the centre of the diplomacy of the middle ages, there often came appeals founded upon justice and upon truly national interests; and such, we must confess, were seldom deemed worthy of being the objects of a pontifical bull. Neither bull nor brief of pope Alexander III. menaced Henry II. when eight Welsh chiefs appealed to that pope against the foreign bandits whom the kings of England quartered upon them under the titles of priests and bishops. “These bishops, come from another land,” said the chiefs in their petition, “detest us, us and our country; they are our mortal enemies; how can they take an interest in the welfare of our souls? They have been placed among us, as in ambush, to shoot at us from behind, like Parthians, and excommunicate us at the first order they receive. Whenever an expedition is making ready in England against us, suddenly the primate of Canterbury places an interdict upon the territory they purpose to invade; and our bishops, who are his creatures, hurl anathema upon the whole people in a body, and, by name, upon the chiefs who arm to fight at their head. Thus all among us who perish in the defence of our country die excommunicate.”2

If the reader will picture to himself the horror of such a situation, at a time when catholicism reigned dominant from one end of Europe to the other, he will at once comprehend how fearful an engine of subjection the Christian conquerors possessed, who had a reserve of churchmen in the train of their steel-clad battalions. He will readily conceive how men of courage and natural good sense addressed themselves to the pope, supplicated him, and put their trust in him; he will conceive that men, who were neither prebendaries nor monks, rejoiced, in the middle ages, to see those who crushed the people under the feet of their chargers, themselves called Edition: current; Page: [119] upon to render an account to a power too often their accomplice in oppression and in contempt of man. He will feel less pity for the grandees of the age when the dart of excommunication chances to fall on their mailed cuirass; for they often applied it to strike unarmed populations. Having once planted in another man’s field their bandroled lance, they denounced for every defender of the paternal inheritance, death in this life, and, by the mouth of the priests, everlasting damnation in the next; over the body of the dying they held out their hand to the sovereign pontiff, and dividing with him the spoil of the vanquished people, nourished by voluntary tributes those ecclesiastical thunders which sometimes glanced upon themselves, but which, when hurled in their service, struck a sure and mortal blow.

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Character of the Irish—Attempts of the popes upon Ireland—Their indifferent success—Ecclesiastical revolution in Ireland—Unpopularity there of the papal power—Enterprise of Henry II. and the pope against Ireland—Bull of Adrian IV.—Norman settlers in Wales—Alliance between them and an Irish king—First establishment of the Anglo-Normans in Ireland—Their election of a leader—Their conquests—Jealousy of them on the part of Henry II.—He proceeds to Ireland—Submission of several Irish chieftains—Cowardice of the Irish bishops—Disquietudes of Henry II.—Conduct of the clergy of Normandy—Fictitious narrative of the death of Thomas Beket—Letter of Henry II. to the pope—Departure of the king for Normandy—His reconciliation with the court of Rome, and rehabilitation of Beket—Scenes of hypocrisy—Bull of Alexander III.—Domestic troubles of Henry II.—Discovery of a conspiracy—Prince Henry acknowledged king in France—His manifesto—Progress of the quarrel—General abandonment of Henry II.—His return to England, and penance at the tomb of Beket—Motives and results of this proceeding—Bertrand de Born—The Troubadours—Reconciliation of the royal family—Hostilities between Richard and Henry—Interview between king Henry and prince Geoffroy at Limoges—Death of Henry the younger—Interview between king Henry and Bertrand de Born—Re-establishment of peace—Fresh revolt of Richard—The kings of France and England assume the cross—The crusades—Resumption of hostilities—Death and burial of Henry II.

The reader must now quit Britain and Gaul, to which this history has hitherto confined him, and, for some moments, transport himself to the Western Isle, called by its inhabitants Erin, and by the English Ireland.1 The people of this island, brothers of the Scottish highlanders, and forming with them the last remains of a great population, which, in ancient times, had covered Britain, Gaul, and part of the Spanish peninsula, had several of the physical and moral characteristics Edition: current; Page: [121] which distinguish the original races of the south. The major portion of the Irish were men with dark hair and impetuous passions, loving and hating with vehemence, prompt to anger, yet of a sociable disposition. Enthusiasts in many things, and especially in religion, they mixed up Christianity with their poetry and their literature, the most cultivated, perhaps, of all western Europe. Their island counted a host of saints and learned men, venerated in England and in Gaul, for no country had furnished more Christian missionaries, uninfluenced by other motives than pure zeal to communicate to foreign nations the opinions and faith of their own land.1 The Irish were great travellers, and always ingratiated themselves with the people they visited, by the extreme facility with which they conformed to their customs and modes of life.2

This facility of manner was combined in them with an intense love of their national independence. Invaded at various periods by different nations of the north and of the south, they had never admitted a prescription of conquest or made voluntary peace with the sons of the stranger; their old annals contain narratives of terrible acts of vengeance exercised, often after the lapse of a century, by the natives on their conquerors.3 The remnant of the ancient conquering races, or the small bands of adventurers who from time to time had sought lands in Ireland, avoided the effects of this patriotic intolerance, by incorporating themselves with the Irish tribes, by submitting to the ancient social order established among the natives, and by learning their language. This was the case with the Danish and Norwegian pirates, who, in the course of the eighth and ninth centuries, founded on the eastern coast several colonies, where, renouncing their former life of robbery, they built towns and practised commerce.

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When the Roman church had established its dominion in Britain by the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons, she laboured incessantly to extend over Erin the empire she claimed to exercise over all the worshippers of Jesus Christ. As in Ireland there were no pagan conquerors to convert, the popes were fain to content themselves with seeking, by letters and messages, to induce the Irish to establish in their island an ecclesiastical hierarchy similar to that of the continent, and, like it, calculated to serve as a step to the pontifical throne. The men of Erin, like the Britons of Cambria and of Gaul, having spontaneously organized Christianity in their country, without in any way conforming to the official organization decreed by the Roman emperors, had no fixed and determinate episcopal sees. Their bishops were simple priests, to whom had been confided, by election, the purely honorary charge of superintending or visiting the churches. They did not constitute a body superior to the rest of the clergy; there were no different degrees of hierarchy among them; in a word, the church of Ireland had no archbishop, and not one of its members needed to visit Rome to solicit or buy the pontifical pallium. Thus enjoying full independence of foreign churches, and administered, like any other free society, by elective and revocable chiefs, this church was at an early period stigmatized as schismatic by the consistory of Saint John Latran; a continuous system of attack was directed against it, with that perseverance inherent in the successors of the old senate, who, by dint of one unvarying will applied to one unvarying purpose, had subjugated the universe.

The new Rome had not, like the old, legions issuing from her gates to conquer nations; all her power was in address and in her skill to make alliance with the strong; an unequal alliance for the latter, which, under the names of friends and sons, rendered them subjects and vassals. The victories of the conquerors, and especially those of the still pagan barbarians, presented, as may have been observed more than once in this history, the most ordinary occasions for the political aggrandizement of the pontifical court. It carefully watched the rise of the first thought of ambition in the invading kings, as the moment at which to enter into association with them; and, in default of foreign conquests, it loved and encouraged internal despotism. Hereditary monarchy was the system it best liked, Edition: current; Page: [123] because under hereditary monarchy it only needed to gain possession of the mind of one family to acquire absolute authority over a whole nation.

Had such a system prevailed in Ireland, it is probable that the religious independence of this country would have been early destroyed by mutual agreement between the popes and the kings. But, although the Irish had chiefs to whom the Latin title of reges might be applied, and was, in fact, applied in public acts, the greater number of these kings, and their perpetual dependence on the various Irish tribes, whose simple name served them as a title,1 gave slight hold to Roman policy. There was, indeed, in Erin, a chief superior to all the rest, who was called the great king or the king of the country, and who was chosen by a general assembly of the chiefs of the different provinces;2 but this elective president of the national confederation swore to the whole nation the same oath which the chiefs of the tribes swore to their respective tribes, that of inviolably observing the ancient laws and hereditary customs. Moreover, the share in power of the great king was rather the execution than the decision of general affairs, all of which were regulated in councils held in the open air, upon a hill, surrounded by a deep ditch;3 here, the laws of the land were made, and here the disputes between province and province, town and town, and occasionally between man and man, were contested, sometimes in a very tumultuous manner.4

It may be easily understood that such a social order, whose basis was the people themselves, and where the impulsion always emanated from the variable and passion-led mass, was little favourable to the projects of the court of Rome. Accordingly, despite all their efforts with the kings of Ireland, during the four centuries and a half which elapsed between the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons and the descent of the Normans into England, the popes effected not the slightest change in the religious practices and organization of the clergy of Erin, or the smallest tribute from the inhabitants of Edition: current; Page: [124] the island.1 After the conquest of England, the intrigues of the primate Lanfranc, a man devoted to the simultaneous aggrandisement of the papal power and of the Norman domination, energetically directed upon Ireland, began to make some slight impression on the national mind of the priests of this island; Lanfranc combining with his credit as a man of learning and eloquence, other efficacious means of persuading and seducing, for he had accumulated great wealth, the result of his share of the pillage of the Anglo-Saxons, and, if ancient testimonies are to be believed, of selling to the bishops of Norman race the pardon of their violence and excesses.2

In the year 1074, an Irishman, named Patrick, after having been elected bishop by the clergy and people, and confirmed by the king of his province and by the king of all Ireland, went to be consecrated at Canterbury, instead of contenting himself, as was the ancient custom, with the benediction of his colleagues; this was the first act of obedience to the laws of the Roman church, which required that every bishop should be consecrated by an archbishop who had received the pallium, and it was not long ere these new seeds of religious servitude bore their fruit. From that time, several Irish bishops accepted in succession the title of pontifical legate in Hibernia; and about the period at which this history has arrived, Christian, bishop of Lismore and papal vicar, conjointly with Papirius, a Roman cardinal, undertook to reorganize the church of Ireland, according to the views and interests of the court of Rome. After four years’ efforts he succeeded, and in a synod attended by the bishops, abbots, kings, chiefs, and other magistrates of Hibernia, with the consent of all present, say the old acts, and by apostolical authority, four archbishops were instituted, to whom were assigned, as fixed sees, the cities of Armagh, Dublin, Cashel, and Tuam.3 But notwithstanding the appearance of national consent given to these measures, the ancient spirit of independence still prevailed: the clergy of Ireland exhibited little docility in their submission to the new hierarchal order, and Edition: current; Page: [125] the people had infinite repugnance towards the foreign practices, and especially to the money-tributes which it was sought, under various names, to levy for the benefit of the ultramontane church. Still dissatisfied with the Irish, despite their concessions, the court of Rome continued to call them bad Christians, lukewarm Christians, rebels to apostolical discipline; it watched as closely as ever an occasion to obtain better hold upon them, by associating its ambition with some temporal ambition, and this occasion soon offered itself.

When Henry, son of Geoffroy Plantegenest, became king of England, it occurred to him to signalize his accession as first king of Angevin race, by a conquest almost as important as that of his paternal ancestor, the Norman William. He resolved to take possession of Ireland, and, following the example of the Conqueror of England, his first care was to send to the pope a proposition to concur in this new enterprise, as his predecessor, Alexander II., had taken part in the first.1 The reigning pope was Adrian IV., a man of English birth, whose family name was Breakspear, and who, by expatriating himself at a very early age, had escaped the miseries of his condition. Too proud to work in the fields or to beg in England, says an ancient historian, he adopted a bold resolution, inspired by necessity;2 he went to France, then to Provence, then to Italy, entered a rich abbey as secretary, became abbot, then bishop, and finally pope;3 for the Roman church was thus far liberal, that she made the fortune of all who devoted themselves to her service, without distinction of origin. On the pontifical throne, Adrian seemed to have forgotten all the resentment of an Englishman against the oppressors of his nation; far from showing anything of that spirit which, a few years afterwards, animated the opposition of Thomas Beket, he exhibited the greatest complaisance towards king Henry II. He received very graciously his message relative to the project of subjugating Ireland, and with the sanction of the sacred college, replied to it in a bull, from which we will make some extracts:—

“Adrian, bishop, servant of the servants of God, to his Edition: current; Page: [126] dearly beloved son in Jesus Christ, the illustrious king of England, salutation and apostolic benediction.

“Thou hast let us to know, dearly beloved son in Jesus Christ, that thou desirest to enter the island of Hibernia, to subject the people there to the yoke of the laws, to extirpate the seeds of vice, and also to enforce the payment to the blessed apostle Peter, of the annual pension of a penny for each house. According to this laudable and pious desire, the favour it merits, and a gracious reply to thy request, we consent that, to extend the limits of holy church, to arrest the course of vice, to reform men’s manners, implant virtue, and propagate the Christian religion, thou enter into that island, and execute there, according to thy prudence, whatever thou shalt judge fitting for the honour of God and the salvation of souls. We command that the people of that country receive thee and honour thee as their lord and master, saving the right of the churches, which must remain intact, and also the annual pension of a penny from every house to the blessed Peter and to the most holy Roman church.

“If, then, thou thinkest fit to put into execution what thou hast conceived in thought, employ all thy care in forming that people to good manners, so that, by thy efforts and by those of men of known sufficiency in faith, word, and life, the church may in that country be adorned with a new lustre; that the religion of Christ may be planted there and grow; that, in a word, everything concerning the honour of God and the salvation of souls may, by thy prudence, be ordered in such a manner that thou mayest become worthy to obtain in heaven eternal recompence, and upon earth a glorious name in all ages.”1

This flow of mystic eloquence served, we may see, as a sort of decent envelop for a political compact exactly similar to that of William the Bastard with pope Alexander II. Henry II. would probably have hastened to accomplish, like William, his singular religious mission, if another conquest, that of Anjou from his own brother Geoffroy, had not at the precise moment diverted his attention. He next fought against the Bretons and Poitevins, who, unluckily for their safety, preferred their national independence to the yoke of a Edition: current; Page: [127] friend of the church. Lastly, the rivalry of the king of France, ever at work openly or secretly, and, above all, the long and serious quarrel with the primate of Canterbury, prevented his going to conquer in Ireland temporal royalty for himself, and for the pope spiritual royalty and the rent of a penny for each house. When Adrian IV. died, his bull still slept, awaiting employment, in the treasure-chest of the royal charters of England, and it would perhaps have ripened there during the whole of the king’s life, had not unexpected events created an occasion for bringing it out to daylight.

We have seen above how Norman and Flemish adventurers had conquered Pembrokeshire and part of the western coast of Wales. In establishing themselves in the domains usurped by them, these men had not quitted their old manners for habits of order and repose; they consumed in gaming and debauchery all the revenues of their lands, which they drained instead of bettering, calculating upon new expeditions, rather than upon economy, for the repair of their fortunes. Briefly, in the condition of great landed proprietors, of rich seigneurs terriens, to use the language of the epoch, they had retained the character of soldiers of fortune, ever disposed to run the chances of a foreign war, either on their own account or in the pay of others. It was under this aspect they were remarked by the people of Erin, who, in the prosecution of their commerce, often visited the coasts of Wales. For the first time, they saw, in the vicinity of Ireland, a colony of men trained to wear those complete suits of steel which the language of the period called armure Française;1 the sight of the coats of mail and great Flemish war-horses of the companions of Richard Strongbow, a new thing for the Irish, who were only acquainted with light arms, caused them great surprise.2 The travellers and merchants on their return spread marvellous accounts of the strength and warlike skill of the new inhabitants of the west of Britain. Just at this time, the chief of one of the eastern provinces of Ireland was at war with a neighbouring chief; struck with the accounts he heard of the conquerors of Pembrokeshire, he bethought himself Edition: current; Page: [128] of asking some of them to enlist in his service for high pay, and to aid him in destroying his enemy, whose downfal he prosecuted with that passionate fury which the Irish ever exhibited in their civil wars.1

The Normans and Flemings of Wales, although decorated since their conquest with the titles of honour designating the rich and powerful, in the French language of the middle ages, saw nothing strange in the proposition of the Irishman Dermot Mac Morrogh, chief or king of the province of Lagheniagh, or Leinster. Having made an agreement with him as to the pay2 and the duration of the service, they embarked, four hundred knights, squires and archers, under the command of Robert Fitz-Stephen, Maurice Fitz-Gerauld, Hervè de Mont-Maurice and David de Barry.3 They sailed in a straight line from the westernmost point of Wales to the easternmost point of Ireland, and landed near Wexford, a town founded by the Danes in one of their expeditions of mixed piracy and commerce. This town, which formed part of the territory of Dermot Mac Morrogh, had been taken from him by a stratagem of his adversary and the defection of the inhabitants. Its present garrison came out to meet the hostile army and its auxiliaries; but, when they saw the horses barbed with iron and the steel-clad warriors of Wales, in all their panoply, wholly new to them, a sort of panic terror seized upon them; though far more numerous, they dared not venture an engagement in the open fields, and burning in their retreat all the surrounding villages and all the provisions they could not carry with them, they shut themselves up within the walls of Wexford.4

Dermot and the Normans besieged it, and made upon it three consecutive assaults, with little success, because the great horses, the lances twelve feet long, the cross-bows, and cuirasses of mail of the assailants, were mainly of advantage in the open field. But the intrigues of the bishop of Wexford,5 who had influence enough to reconcile the inhabitants with their king, opened the gates to the ally of the foreigners, who, entering Edition: current; Page: [129] the town without striking a blow, immediately marched in a north-westerly direction to pursue his adversaries and deliver his kingdom. In this expedition, the military skill and complete armour of his allies were a vast assistance to him. The most formidable weapons of the people of Erin were a small steel axe, long javelins, and short, but very sharp arrows. The Normans, secured by their armour from injuries by such weapons as these, rode in upon the natives, and while the shock of their great chargers overthrew the small horses of Ireland, attacked with their strong lances or large swords, the rider, whose only defensive armour was a shield of light wood and long tresses of hair, plaited on each side of the head.1 The whole province of Leinster was reconquered by Mac Morrogh, who, delighted with the prodigious aid given him by the Normans, after having faithfully paid them their hire, invited them to dwell with him, and offered them, as an inducement, more lands than they possessed elsewhere.2 In the effusion of his gratitude, he gave to Robert Fitz-Stephen and to Maurice Fitz-Gerauld the government and revenue of the town of Wexford and its precincts; to Hervé de Mont-Maurice two districts on the coast, between Wexford and Waterford; and to the rest, lands proportionate to their rank and military talent.3

This intervention of strangers in the internal quarrels of the country, and above all, the establishment of these foreigners in permanent colonies in the towns and on the territory of the king of Leinster, alarmed all the surrounding provinces, and private enmity to Dermot was converted into national hostility.4 He was placed, as a public enemy, under the ban of the Irish confederation, and, instead of one king, well-nigh all the kings of the country declared war against him. The new colonists, seeing their cause closely bound up with his, resolved to exert every effort to support him while defending themselves, and at the first murmur of the gathering storm they sent some of their followers to England to collect fresh Edition: current; Page: [130] vagabond-adventurers, Normans, French, and even English. They were promised pay and lands; numbers came, whom king Dermot received as he had done the first, raising the fortune of each on his landing far above its previous condition, the depression of which was self-declared by the surnames of some of them, such as Raymond le Pauvre,1 who, without changing the appellation, became a high and puissant baron on the eastern coast of Ireland.

The foreign colony, gradually augmented under the auspices of the chief of Leinster, who now saw in it his only protection, had, despite its engagements, a tendency to separate its cause from that of the Irish king, and to form of itself an independent society. Ere long, the adventurers disdained to march to battle under the leadership of the man whose pay they were receiving, a man ignorant of skilled warfare—of, as the phrase then ran, les faits d’armes de la chevalerie. They desired to have a captain of great military reputation, and invited over to command them, Richard, son of Gilbert Strongbow, and grandson of the first earl of Pembroke.2 This man, noted among the descendants of the conquerors of Wales as possessor of the most extensive domains, was at this time so impoverished by his excessive expenditure, and so harassed by his creditors, that, to avoid their pursuit and to repair his fortunes, he did not hesitate to comply with the summons of the Normans in Ireland.3

His reputation and his rank procured for him many followers. He landed, with several vessels filled with soldiers and munitions of war, at the same spot where the allies of Dermot had landed two years before, and was received with great honours by his countrymen and by the king of Leinster, fain to welcome this new friend, who might yet one day become formidable to himself.4 Richard, joining with his army the Norman colony, assumed the command of the united forces, and attacked Waterford, a city of the kingdom of Mumham or Munster, nearest to the territory occupied by the Normans. Edition: current; Page: [131] This city, founded by the northern corsairs, as is evidenced by its Teutonic name, was taken by assault.

The Normans left a garrison in it, and, advancing northwards, attacked Dyvlin or Dublin, another city founded by the Danes, and the largest and richest on the eastern coast. Supported by all the troops of king Dermot, they took Dublin, whence they made incursions in different directions upon the open country, seizing upon some districts, obtaining others by capitulation, and laying the foundations of many fortresses, edifices still rarer in Ireland than they had been in England before the conquest.1

The Irish, vividly struck with the rapid progress of the foreigners, attributed it to the Divine anger, and, mingling a sentiment of humanity with their superstitious fears, thought to allay the scourge come upon them from England, by emancipating all the men of English race who, captured by pirates or purchased, had become slaves in Ireland.2 This generous resolution, decreed in a great council of the chiefs and bishops of the country, did not sheathe the sword of Richard Fitz-Gilbert. Master of the kingdom of Leinster, in the name of the Irishman Dermot, whose daughter he married,3 and who became the protégé and vassal of his late mercenaries, the Norman threatened to conquer all the country with the help of new supplies of adventurers whom he summoned from England.

But the rumour of the prodigious aggrandisement of this new power reaching king Henry II. aroused his jealousy.4 So far he had beheld without uneasiness, and even with satisfaction, the establishment of the warriors of Pembroke on the coasts of Ireland, and their connexion with one of the kings of the country, who was thus engaged against his countrymen in an hostility favourable to the designs of the king of England, should he ever realise his plan of conquest. But the possession of a great portion of the island by a man of Norman race, who every day augmented his forces by opening an asylum to adventurers, and who could already, if he chose, Edition: current; Page: [132] pay to the pope the rent of a penny for each house, greatly alarmed the king’s ambition. He issued a threatening proclamation, ordering all his liegemen then in Ireland to return to England before the approaching festival of Easter, under penalty of forfeiture of all their property, and perpetual banishment. He also forbad any vessel from his territories in England or the continent to proceed to Ireland under any pretext. This prohibition arrested the progress of Richard Strongbow, who suddenly found himself cut off from all supplies of men, provisions, or arms.1

From want of personal daring, or of the means of maintaining himself by his own strength, Richard endeavoured to negotiate an accommodation with the king, and sent one of his lieutenants, Raymond le Gros, to wait upon him in Aquitaine. The envoy was ill received by the king, who would not reply to any of his propositions, or rather replied to them in a very expressive manner by confiscating all Richard’s domains in England and Wales. At the same time, the Norman colony in Leinster underwent a fierce attack from the men of Danish race established on the north-eastern coast of Ireland, in conjunction with the native Irish. The confederates were supported by Godred, king of the Isle of Man, a Scandinavian by name and origin, and chief of a mixed people of Gauls and Teutons. They attempted to recover Dublin; the Normans resisted, but fearing the effects of this new league formed against them at a moment when they were deprived of all external aid in consequence of the royal ordinances, they thought they could not do better than to reconcile themselves with the king, at whatever cost. Henry II. required very hard conditions, but the earl of Pembroke and his companions submitted to them. They gave to the king the city of Dublin and the best of the other towns they had conquered. In return, the king gave back to Richard Fitz-Gilbert his confiscated domains, and confirmed to the Normans in Ireland their territorial possessions there, to hold in fief of him on condition of fealty and homage. From supreme chief that he then was, Richard Strongbow became seneschal in Ireland of the king of England; and the king himself immediately set forth to visit the new possessions he had thus easily acquired.2

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The rendezvous assigned to the royal army was on the western coast of Pembrokeshire. Before going on board his vessel, Henry II. paid his devotions in the church of Saint David, and recommended to Heaven the expedition he was about to undertake, as he said, for the advancement of holy church. He landed at Waterford, where the Norman chiefs of the kingdom of Leinster, and Dermot Mac Morrogh, still king in name, but whose titular royalty necessarily expired on the landing of the foreign king, received him as, in that century, vassals received a sovereign lord.1 Their troops formed a junction with his army, and marching westward, the combined forces reached the city of Cashel without opposition. The inhabitants of the surrounding districts, hopeless of successfully resisting so powerful an army, emigrated in crowds to the mountainous country beyond the Shannon. The kings of the southern provinces, left by this panic terror at the mercy of the foreigner, were obliged to obey his summons, to swear fealty to him, and to declare themselves tributaries.2 The Normans divided out among themselves the lands of the fugitive Irish; and when the latter returned, driven back by distress, the conquerors received them in the quality of serfs on their own fields. Norman garrisons were placed in the towns, Norman officers superseded the old national chiefs and a whole kingdom, that of Cork, was given by king Henry to Robert Fitz-Stephen, one of the captains of adventurers who had opened for him so facile a road into Ireland.3

After having thus shared out and organized the provinces of the south, the king proceeded northwards to the great city of Dublin. Immediately upon his arrival, in the name of his right of lordship, founded, as he said, upon donation by the church, he summoned all the Irish kings to appear at his court to take the oath of faith and homage.4 The kings of the south attended, but the sovereign of the great western province of Connaught, to whom belonged at this time the supremacy over all the rest, and the national title of king of the country, replied that he would attend no man’s court, he himself being the only chief of all Ireland.5 The altitude Edition: current; Page: [134] and ruggedness of the mountains, and the extent of the marshes of his province, permitted him with impunity to set this example of patriotic haughtiness.1 It was alike in vain that the summons of the king of England reached the north of the island; not a chief of the province of Thuall or Ulster came to do homage at the Norman court of Dublin; and the nominal sovereignty of Henry II. remained bounded by a line from north-east to south west, from the mouth of the Boyne to that of the Shannon.2

A palace of wood, polished and painted in the Irish fashion, was constructed at Dublin, and it was here that the chiefs who had consented to place their hands as vassals in those of the foreign king,3 passed Christmas. Here was displayed for several days all the pomp of Norman royalty; and the Irish, a docile and sociable race, fond of novelty and susceptible of vivid impressions, took pleasure, if we may believe the ancient authors, in viewing the splendour which surrounded their masters, their horses, their arms, and the gold adorning their dresses.4 The members of the clergy, and especially the archbishops, installed a few years before by the pontifical legates, played a great part in this submission to the law of the strongest. The prelates of the western and northern provinces, indeed, did not, any more than the political chiefs of these provinces, attend at Dublin; but those of the south and east swore fidelity to king Henry, towards and against all men.5 They addressed the bearer of the bull of Adrian IV. in this verse, so often applied by the clergy to conquerors: “Blessed is he who cometh in the name of the Lord.” But Henry II. was not content with these uncertain proofs of obedience and resignation; he required others of a more solid nature, demanding that every Irish bishop should give him letters, signed and sealed, in the shape of a formal charter, by which all declared that of their own free will and motion they had constituted “king and lord of Ireland, the glorious Henry Fitz-Empress, and his heirs for ever.”6

King Henry resolved to send these letters to the reigning pope, Alexander III., to obtain from him a formal confirmation Edition: current; Page: [135] of the bull of pope Adrian. To prove in a striking manner his intention to execute the clauses stipulated in that bull for the advantage of the Romish church, he assembled in the city of Cashel a synod of Irish bishops and Norman priests, chaplains, abbots, or simple monks, to arrange the definitive establishment of the papal dominion in Hibernia. This synod prescribed the strict observance of the canons prohibiting marriage within the sixth degree of consanguinity, a law quite new to Ireland, where, in the utmost innocence, were contracted a host of unions reprobated by the church in the other Christian countries. The council of Cashel also passed other resolutions, having for their object the general enforcement of canonical discipline, and it was decreed that the services of the churches of Ireland should for the future be modelled upon those of the churches of England. “Hibernia,” said the acts of this council, “being now, by the grace of divine providence, subjected to the king of England, it is just that she should receive from that country the order and the rules best adapted for reforming her, and for introducing into her a better manner of life.”1

These events took place nearly two years after the murder of Thomas Beket, at a period when king Henry found himself compelled by political necessity to display infinite humility towards the pope; all his former haughtiness in reference to cardinals and legates, and his resolution to maintain against the episcopal power what he then called the rights and dignity of his crown, had now vanished. The need to obtain the sanction and support of the sovereign pontiff for the securing his authority in Ireland, was not the only cause of this change; the death of the primate of Canterbury had also contributed to it. However great the king’s desire had been to be relieved of his antagonist; however emphatically he might have expressed this desire in his passion, the circumstances of the assassination, committed in broad daylight, at the foot of the altar, displeased and disquieted him. “He was vexed,” says a contemporary, “at the manner in which the martyrdom took place, and feared to be called a traitor, for having, in sight of all men, given his full peace to the holy man, and then immediately sent him to perish in England.”2

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The political enemies of Henry II. had eagerly availed themselves of this accusation of treason and perjury; they disseminated it zealously, and gave the name of the field of traitors to the meadow in which the reconciliation of the primate and the king of England had taken place.1 The king of France exhausted himself in invectives and messages to excite in every quarter hatred towards his rival, and more especially to renew the insurrection of the provinces of Aquitaine and Brittany. Following the example of the Anglo-Saxon population, but from wholly different motives, king Louis did not await a decree of the Roman church to exalt as a saint and martyr him whom he had by turns assisted, abandoned, and again assisted, at the dictate of his own interest. The impression of horror which the murder of the archbishop had produced on the continent furnished him with a pretext for breaking the truce with king Henry, and he flattered himself that he should have the sovereign pontiff as an auxiliary in the war he proposed to recommence. “Let the sword of Saint Peter,” he wrote, “be drawn from the scabbard to avenge the martyr of Canterbury. For his blood cries aloud in the name of the universal church, and demands satisfaction from the church.”2 Thibaut, earl of Blois, vassal of the king of France, who desired to extend, at the expense of the other king, his territories around Touraine, was still more violent in the despatches he sent to the pope. “The blood of the just,” he said, “has been spilled; the dogs of the court, the familiars, the servants of the king of England, became the ministers of his crime.3 Most holy father, the blood of the just cries to you; may the Father Almighty inspire you with the will, and give you the power to avenge it.”4

Lastly, the archbishop of Sens, who styled himself primate of the Gauls, pronounced a sentence of interdict upon all the continental provinces of the king of England.5 This was a potent means of arousing popular discontent in these provinces, Edition: current; Page: [137] for the execution of a sentence of interdict was accompanied by lugubrious forms, which made a deep impression on the mind. The altars were stripped, the crucifixes placed on the ground, the bones of the saints were taken from their shrines and strewed over the pavement of the churches, the doors were taken away and replaced by heaps of bushes and thorns, and no religious ceremony took place, except the baptism of infants and the confession of the dying.1

The Norman prelates, who bore no political hatred to Henry II., did not execute this sentence; and the archbishop of Rouen, who assumed the authority of primate of the continental provinces subject to the king of England, forbad, by pastoral letters, the bishops of Anjou, Brittany, and Aquitaine, to obey the interdict until it had been ratified by the pope.2 Three bishops and several Norman priests departed on an embassy to Rome to exonerate Henry II. from the accusation of murder and perjury.3 No member of the Aquitan clergy took part in this mission, the king distrusting them, from their having manifested a disposition unfavourable to his cause. We can judge of the spirit which animated them by the following letter, addressed to the king himself, by William de Trahinac, prior of the abbey of Grandmont, near Limoges, an abbey to which Henry was greatly attached, and the church of which he was at this time rebuilding. “Ah! lord king, what is this I hear of you? I would not have you ignorant that, since the day I learned you had fallen into a mortal sin, I sent away the workmen who, in your pay, were building the church of our house of Grandmont, in order that there might no longer be anything in common between you and us.”4

While the king of France and the other enemies of Henry II. were directly charging him with the murder of the archbishop of Canterbury, and endeavouring to represent the crime of the four Norman knights as the result of an express mission, the friends of the king were labouring to spread an entirely different version of the affair. They represented the violent death of Thomas Beket as a mere accident, in which the Edition: current; Page: [138] king’s animosity had no share. A fictitious narrative of the facts, drawn up and signed by a bishop, was sent to pope Alexander III., in the name of all the clergy of Normandy. The Norman prelates related, that being one day with the king to discuss the affairs of the church and of the state, they had suddenly learned from some persons just returned from England, that certain enemies of the archbishop, driven to extremities by his provocations, had thrown themselves upon him and killed him;1 that this melancholy news had been for some time concealed from the king, but that at last it had necessarily reached his ears, it being impossible to allow him longer to remain ignorant of a crime, the punishment of which appertained to him by the right of power and the sword; that at the first words of this sad recital, he had burst into lamentations, and given way to a grief which revealed the soul of the friend rather than that of the prince, now appearing stupified, now uttering cries and sobs; that he had passed three whole days shut up in his chamber, refusing all nourishment and all consolation, and seeming to have the project of putting an end to his life. “So much so,” added the narrators, “that we, who at first lamented the fate of the primate, began to despair of the king, and to believe that the death of the one would calamitously involve that of the other. At length his intimate friends ventured to ask him what afflicted him to this degree, and prevented his returning to himself: ‘It is,’ he answered, ‘that I fear the authors and accomplices of this abominable crime have promised themselves impunity, relying upon my former displeasure towards the archbishop, and that my reputation may suffer from the malevolence of my enemies, who will not fail to attribute all to me; but, by Almighty God, I have in no way concurred therein, either by will or by acquiescence, unless it be construed into a crime on my part that heretofore I misliked the archbishop.’ ”2

This story, in which the exaggeration of the sentiments, the dramatic display, the attempt to exhibit the king as the tender friend of the primate, are manifest proofs of falsity, obtained little credit at the court of Rome or elsewhere. It Edition: current; Page: [139] did not prevent the malevolent from propagating the equally false report, that Thomas Beket had been killed by the express order of Henry II. To weaken this impression, the king resolved himself to address to the pope an account of the murder and of his own deep regret, more conformable with the truth than that of the prelates of Normandy, but still inexact.1 The king took care not to admit that the four assassins had left his court after having heard him utter an exclamation of fury which might pass for an order, and he exaggerated his kindness towards the primate, alike with the offences of the latter. “I had,” he said, “restored to him my friendship and the full possession of his property; I had allowed him to return to England at my expense; but, on his return there, instead of the joys of peace, he brought with him sword and flame. He questioned my royal dignity, and excommunicated my most zealous followers without reason. Then, those whom he had excommunicated, and others, no longer able to support the insolence of this man, threw themselves upon him and killed him, which I cannot relate without great grief.”2

The court of Rome at first made a great noise about the sacrilegious outrage committed upon the Lord’s anointed; and when the Norman clergy sent thither, presented their credentials, and pronounced the name of Henry, by the grace of God, king of England, all the cardinals arose, exclaiming: “Hold! hold!”3 But when, on quitting the hall of audience, each had privately seen the glitter of the king’s gold,4 they became much more tractable, and consented not to consider him a direct accomplice in the murder. Thus, despite the public clamour and the efforts of his enemies, the king of England was not excommunicated; and two legates proceeded from Rome to receive his justification and to absolve him.5 Things had arrived at this point, when Henry II. departed for Ireland, and by its easy conquest gave a diversion to his Edition: current; Page: [140] disquietude. But this very success placed him in a new relation of dependence on the papal power. In the midst of his military and political labours in the country he had just conquered, he had his eyes unceasingly fixed upon the opposite coast, anxiously awaiting the coming of the Roman ambassadors. When, at length, in the Lent which closed the year 1172, he learned that the cardinals Albert and Theodin had arrived in Normandy, he laid aside everything else to visit them, and departed, leaving his conquests in Ireland to the care of Hugh de Lacy.1

King Henry had already obtained from the court of Rome the erasure of his name from the list of persons excommunicated for the murder of Thomas Beket; but this court, then sovereign in such cases, still allowed the accusation of indirect complicity to weigh upon him.2 An absolute and definitive pardon was not to be pronounced until after fresh negotiations and fresh pecuniary sacrifices. In case the king should not submit to the conditions of the treaty, the legates were charged to lay England and the continental possessions of England under interdict, which would open to the king of France admission to Brittany and Poitou. But, on the other hand, if Henry II. yielded to all their demands, the legates were to oblige the king of France, by the threat of a similar sentence, immediately to conclude peace with the other king.3

The first interview of the king of England with the two cardinals took place in a convent near Avranches. The demands of the Romans, thoroughly alive to the difficult position in which the king was placed, were so exorbitant, that the latter, notwithstanding his resolution to go a great way to please the church, refused to submit to their proposals. He said, on leaving them: “I return to Ireland, where I have much to do; as to you, go in peace throughout my territories, wherever you please, and accomplish your mission.”4 But Henry II. reflected that the weight of his affairs in Ireland would soon be too heavy for him, unsupported by pontifical favour; and on their side, the cardinals became less exacting. Edition: current; Page: [141] They again met, and after mutual concessions, peace was concluded between the court of Rome and the king, who, according to the official report of the legates, manifested great humility, fear of God, and obedience to the church.1 The conditions imposed upon Henry II. were, a money tribute towards the expenses of the war against the Saracens, the obligation to repair in person to that war, or to take the cross, as it was then called, and lastly, the abolition of the statutes of Clarendon, and of all other laws, ancient or modern, which should be condemned by the pope.2

In pursuance of previous arrangement, the king went in state to the cathedral of Avranches and, laying his hand on the Gospel, swore before all the people, that he had neither ordered nor desired the death of the archbishop of Canterbury, and that, on learning it, he had felt more grief than joy. The legates repeated to him the articles of peace and the promises he had made, and he swore to execute them all in good faith and without fraudulent reservation.3 Henry, his eldest son and colleague in royalty, swore this at the same time with him; and, as a guarantee of this double promise, the conditions were drawn up in a charter, at the foot of which was affixed the royal seal.4 This king, so lately full of haughty assumption in reference to the pontifical power, called upon the cardinals not to spare him. “Lord legates,” he said, “here is my body; it is in your hands; and know, for a certainty, that whatever you order, I am ready to obey it.” The legates contented themselves with making him kneel before them as they gave him absolution for his indirect complicity, exempting him from the obligation to receive upon his bare back the stripes ordinarily administered to penitents.5 The same day he forwarded to England letters sealed with his great seal, announcing to all the bishops that they were thenceforth dispensed from keeping their promise to observe the statutes of Clarendon,6 and to the nation, that peace was re-established, to the honour of God and of the church, of the king and of Edition: current; Page: [142] the kingdom.1 A pontifical decree, declaring the archbishop saint and martyr, with which the legates had come provided as a diplomatic document necessary to their purpose, was also sent to England, with orders to promulgate it in the churches, public squares, and in all the places where previously those who had dared to call the assassination of the king’s enemy a crime, had been flogged and pilloried.

On the arrival of this news and of the brief of canonization, there was great commotion among the high personages of England, laymen and clergy, thus suddenly called upon to change their language and opinion, and to adopt as an object of public worship the man whom they had persecuted with such fierce inveteracy. The earls, viscounts, and barons who had awaited Thomas Beket on the sea-shore, to kill him, the bishops who had insulted him in his exile, who had envenomed the king’s hatred against him, and brought to Normandy the denunciation which occasioned his death, assembled in the great hall of Westminster, to hear the reading of the papal brief, which was couched in these terms:—

“We give you all to wit, whoever you be, and enjoin you by our apostolic authority, solemnly to celebrate the memory of Thomas, the glorious martyr of Canterbury, every year on the day of his passion, so that by addressing your prayers and vows to him, you may obtain the pardon of your offences, and that he, who living underwent exile, and dying suffered martyrdom for the cause of Christ, being invoked by the faithful, may intercede for us with God.”2

Scarcely was the reading of this letter concluded, when all the Normans, priests and laymen together, raised their voices and exclaimed: “Te Deum laudamus.” While some of the bishops continued to chant the verses of the hymn of thanks-giving, the others burst into tears, saying, with passionate sobs: “Alas! miserable creatures that we are! we had not for our father all the respect we owed him, neither in his exile, nor when he returned from exile, nor even after his return.3 Instead of assisting him in his troubles, we obstinately persecuted him. We confess our error and our iniquity.”4 And as though these individual exclamations were Edition: current; Page: [143] not enough to prove to king Henry II. that his faithful bishops of England could turn whichever way the wind of his royal will blew, they arranged among themselves that one of them should, in public, in the name of the others, pronounce their solemn confession.1 Gilbert Foliot, bishop of London, once the most eager persecutor of the primate, the man most deeply compromised with the pontifical court for the part he had taken in the persecution of the new saint, and in the catastrophe which had crowned them, swore publicly that he had not participated in the death of the archbishop, either by deed, word, or writing. He was one of those who, by their complaints and their false statements, had so violently excited the king’s anger against the primate; but an oath wiped out all; the Romish church was satisfied, and Foliot retained his see.

The political advantages which were to result from this great change were speedily obtained by the king of England. First, by the mediation of the legates, he had an interview with the king of France on the frontiers of Normandy, and concluded peace upon conditions as favourable as he could hope for.2 Next, as the price of the relinquishment he had just made of his former projects of ecclesiastical reform, he received from pope Alexander III. the following bull relative to the affairs of Ireland: “Alexander, bishop, servant of the servants of God, to his dearly beloved and illustrious son Henry, king of England, salutation, grace, and apostolic benediction.

“Seeing that the gifts granted for good and valid cause by our predecessors, ought to be ratified and confirmed by us, having maturely weighed and considered the grant and privilege of possession of the land of Hibernia, belonging to us, delivered by our predecessor Adrian, we ratify, confirm, and grant, in like manner, the said grant and privilege, reserving the annual pension of a penny from each house, due to Saint Peter and the Roman church, as well in Hibernia as in England, and providing also that the people of Hibernia be reformed in their lives and in their abominable manners, that they become Christian in fact as in name, and that the church Edition: current; Page: [144] of that country, as rude and disorderly as the nation itself, be brought under better laws.”1 In support of this donation of an entire people, body, and goods, a sentence of excommunication handed over to Satan all who should dare to deny the rights of king Henry and his heirs over Ireland.

Everything now appeared settled in the most satisfactory manner, for the great grandson of the conqueror of England. The man who had troubled him for nine years was no more; and the pope who had made use of the obstinate determination of that man to alarm the ambition of the king, now amicably aided the king in his projects of conquest. That nothing might disturb his repose, he dispensed him, by absolution, from all the remorse which might trouble his conscience, after a murder committed, if not by his order, at least to please him. He even exempted him, by implication, from the obligation of punishing those who had committed that murder, in excess o zeal for his interest;2 and the four Normans, Traci, Morville, Fitz-Ours, and Le Breton, dwelt safely and at peace in a royal castle in the north of England. No justice prosecuted them but that of public opinion, which spread a thousand sinister reports respecting them;3 for example, that even animals were horrified at their presence, and that the dogs refused to touch the bones from their table. In gaining the sanction of the pope against Ireland, Henry II. was, by this augmentation of external power, amply recompensed for the diminution of his influence over ecclesiastical affairs; and there is nothing to show that he did not readily assent to the latter sacrifice. A pure taste for good was not the motive which had actuated him in his legislative reforms; and it will be remembered that he had already more than once proposed to the pope to abandon to him the statutes of Clarendon, and still more, if on his side he would consent to sacrifice Thomas Beket. Thus, after protracted turmoil and agitation, Henry II. enjoyed in repose the delight of satisfied ambition: but this calm was of brief duration; new vexations, with which, by a singular fatality, was again mixed up the memory of the archbishop, soon afflicted the king.

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The reader bears in mind that, during the life of the primate, Henry, being unsuccessful in persuading the pope to deprive him of his title, had resolved to abolish the primacy itself, and with this view had caused his eldest son to be crowned by the archbishop of York.

This step, apparently of no other importance than that it attacked in its foundation the hierarchy established by the conquest, had consequences which none had foreseen. As there were two kings of England, the courtiers and flatterers having, as it were, double employment, divided themselves between the father and the son. The younger and more active in intrigue sided with the latter, whose reign offered a longer perspective of favour.1 A peculiar circumstance more especially procured him the affection of the Aquitans and Poitevins, able, insinuating, persuasive men, eager after novelty, and prompt to avail themselves of any opportunity of weakening the Anglo-Norman power, which they obeyed with reluctance. The good understanding between Eleanor of Guienne and her husband had long ceased to exist. The latter, once in possession of the honours and titles which the daughter of earl William had brought to him as her portion, and for which, as the old historians say, he had alone loved and married her,2 kept mistresses of every rank and nation. The duchess of Aquitaine, passionate and vindictive as a woman of the south, endeavoured to inspire her sons with aversion towards their father, and by treating them with the utmost tenderness and indulgence, to raise up in them a support against him.3 Ever since the eldest had shared the royal dignity, she had given him friends, councillors, and confidants, who, during the father’s numerous absences, excited as much as possible the ambition and pride of the young man.4 They had little difficulty in persuading him that his father, in crowning him king, had fully abdicated in his favour; that he alone was king of England, and that no other person ought to assume the title or exercise the sovereign authority.5

The old king, as Henry II. was now designated, soon perceived Edition: current; Page: [146] the evil designs which the confidants of his son sought to inculcate upon him; he several times obliged him to change his friends, and to dismiss those whom he most loved.1 But these measures, which the continual occupations of Henry II. upon the continent and in Ireland prevented him from following up, angered the young man without correcting him, and gave him a sort of right to call himself persecuted, and to complain of his father.2 Things were in this position when peace was re-established, by the mediation of the pope, between the kings of France and of England. One of the causes of their last quarrel was that king Henry, when crowning his son by the hands of the archbishop of York, had not, at the same time, crowned his son’s wife, Marguerite, the daughter of the king of France.3 This grievance was now remedied; and Marguerite, crowned queen, requested to visit her father at Paris. Henry II., having no reasons to oppose to this demand, allowed the young king to accompany his wife to the court of France; and, on their return, found his son more discontented than ever:4 he complained of being a king without land or treasure, and of not having a house of his own in which to live with his wife;5 he went so far as to ask his father to resign to him, in full sovereignty, the kingdom of England, the duchy of Normandy, or the earldom of Anjou.6 The old king counselled him to remain quiet, and to have patience until the time when the succession to all his territories would fall to him naturally. This answer raised the anger of the young man to the highest point; and from that day forth, say the contemporary historians, he did not address a single word of peace to his father.7

Henry II. entertaining fears as to his conduct, and desiring closely to observe him, made him travel with him in the province of Aquitaine. They held their court at Limoges, where Raymond, count of Toulouse, quitting his alliance with the king of France, came to do homage to the king of England, pursuant to the vacillating policy of the southerns, ever balancing and passing alternately from one to the other Edition: current; Page: [147] of the kings their enemies.1 Count Raymond made a fictitious transfer to his ally of the territory he governed, which was then by a similar legal fiction returned to him to hold in fief, he taking in respect of it the oath taken by a vassal to whom a lord really conceded an estate. He swore to observe to Henry fealty and honour, to give him aid and counsel towards and against all, never to betray his secrets, and to reveal to him, on occasion, the secrets of his enemies.2 When the count of Toulouse came to this last portion of the oath of homage:—“I have to warn you,” he said to the king, “to secure your castles of Poitou and Guienne, and to distrust your wife and son.”3 Henry took no public notice of this information, indicating a plot which the count of Toulouse had been solicited to join; but he availed himself of several large hunting-parties, as they seemed, composed of his most devoted adherents, to visit the fortresses of the country, place them in a state of defence, and assure himself of the men who commanded them.4

On their return from this progress in Aquitaine, the king and his son stopped to sleep at Chinon, and in the night, the son, without notice to his father, quitted him, and proceeded to Alençon. The father pursued, but failed to overtake him; the young man went to Argentan, and thence during the night into the territory of France.5 As soon as the old king heard this, he mounted his horse, and with the utmost possible rapidity visited the whole frontier of Normandy, inspecting the fortresses, and placing them in a state of defence against surprise. He then sent despatches to all his castellans of Anjou, Brittany, Aquitaine, and England, ordering them to repair and guard with redoubled care their fortresses and towns.6 Messengers also repaired to the king of France, to learn what were his intentions, and to claim the fugitive in the name of paternal authority. Edition: current; Page: [148] King Louis received these ambassadors in full court, having at his right hand young Henry, attired in royal robes. When the messengers had presented their despatches, according to the ceremonial of the time: “From whom bring you this message?” asked the king of France. “From Henry, king of England, duke of Normandy, duke of Aquitaine, earl of the Angevins and of the Manceaux.” “That is false,” answered the king, “for here at my side is Henry king of England, who has nothing to say to me through you. But if it be the father of this king, the late king of England, to whom you give these titles, know that he is dead since the day on which his son assumed the crown; and if he still pretends to be king, after having, in the sight of the world resigned the kingdom to his son, it is a matter we shall soon remedy.”1

And, in effect, young Henry was acknowledged sole king of England, in a general assembly of all the barons and bishops of the kingdom of France. King Louis VII. and, after him, all the lords, swore, their hands on the Gospel, to assist the son with all their power to conquer the territories of his father. The king of France had a great seal made with the arms of England, that Henry the Younger might affix this token of legality to his charters and despatches. As a first act of sovereignty, the latter made donations of lands and honours in England and upon the continent to the principal lords of France, and to other enemies of his father. He confirmed to the king of Scotland the conquests which his predecessor had made in Northumberland; and gave to the earl of Flanders the whole county of Kent, with the castles of Dover and Rochester. He gave to the count of Boulogne a vast domain near Lincoln, with the county of Mortain in Normandy; and to the earl of Blois, Amboise, Chateau Reynault, and five hundred pounds of silver from the revenues of Anjou.2 Other donations were made to several barons of England and Normandy, who had promised to declare against the old king; and Henry the Younger3 sent despatches, sealed with his new royal seal, to his own friends, his mother’s friends, and even to the pope, whom he endeavoured Edition: current; Page: [149] to gain over by the offer of greater advantages than the court of Rome then derived from its friendship with Henry II. This last letter was, in some measure, the manifesto of insurrection; for it was to the sovereign pontiff that were then made the appeals which, in our times, are addressed to public opinion.

A singular peculiarity of this manifesto is, that Henry the Younger assumes therein all the titles of his father, except that of duke of Aquitaine, doubtless the better to conciliate the favour of the people of that country, unwilling to acknowledge any right over them but that of the daughter of their last national chief. A still more remarkable circumstance is the origin which the young king attributes to his quarrel with his father, and the manner in which he justifies himself for having violated the commandment of God, which prescribes honour to father and to mother. “I pass over in silence,” says the letter, “my own personal injuries, to come to that which has most powerfully influenced me. The reprobate villains who, even in the very temple, massacred my foster father, the glorious martyr of Christ, Saint Thomas of Canterbury, remain safe and unharmed; they have still deep root in the land; no act of royal justice has pursued them after so frightful a crime. I could not endure this negligence, and this was the first and principal cause of the present discord. The blood of the martyr cried out to me; I could not comply with his demand, I could not give him the vengeance and the honours due to him; but I at least evinced my respect for him by visiting his sepulchre, in the sight and to the astonishment of the whole realm. My father was greatly incensed against me for so doing; but I, certes, heed not the offending a father, when the alternative is offending Christ, for whom we ought to abandon both father and mother. This is the origin of our dissensions; hear me then, most holy father, and judge my cause; for it will be truly just, if it be justified by thy apostolic authority.”1

To appreciate these assertions at their just value, it will be sufficient to recal to mind the proclamations issued by the young king himself, when Thomas Beket came to London. Edition: current; Page: [150] Then, it was by his express command that access to the capital and to all the towns in England, except Canterbury, was forbidden to the archbishop, and that every man who had presented his hand to him, in token of welcome, was declared a public enemy. The remembrance of these notorious facts was still fresh in the memory of the people, and hence, doubtless, the general surprise occasioned by the visit of the persecutor to the tomb of the persecuted, if the visit, indeed, be not altogether fabulous. To this statement, set forth with all the forms of deference that could flatter the pride of the Roman pontiff, the young king added a sort of scheme of the new administration which he proposed to institute throughout his father’s states. Should God grant him permission to conquer them, he intended, he wrote, to reinstate ecclesiastical elections in all their liberty, without the intervention in any way or degree of the royal power; he proposed that the revenues of vacant churches should be reserved for the future incumbent, and no longer be levied for the revenue, not being able to endure that the “property of the cross acquired by the blood of the Crucified, should administer to that luxury and splendour, without which kings cannot live.” That the bishops should have full power to excommunicate and to interdict, to bind and to loose, throughout the kingdom, and that no member of the clergy should ever be cited before lay judges, as Christ before Pilate. Henry the Younger offered further to add to these regulations any which the pope might be pleased to suggest, and lastly, intreated him to write officially to all the clergy of England, “that by the inspiration of God, and the intercession of the new martyr, her king had conferred liberties upon them which would excite their joy and gratitude.”1 Such a declaration would indeed have been of great assistance to the young man, who, looking upon his father as already dead, styled himself Henry the Third. But the court of Rome, too prudent lightly to abandon the certain for the uncertain, was in no haste to answer this despatch, and until fortune should declare herself in a more decisive manner, preferred the alliance of the father to that of the son.

Besides this son, who was commonly called the young king, Edition: current; Page: [151] in the Norman language, li reys Josnes, and lo reis Joves in the dialect of the southern provinces, the king of England had three others: Richard, whom, notwithstanding his youth, his father had created earl of Poitiers, and who was called Richard of Poitiers; Geoffroy, earl of Brittany, and lastly, John, surnamed Sans-terre (Lackland), because he alone, of them all, had neither government nor province.1 The latter was too young to take a part in the quarrel between his father and his eldest brother; but the two others embraced the cause of the latter under the influence of their mother, and secretly urged on by their vassals of Poitou and Brittany.2

It was with the vast portion of Gaul now united under the authority of Henry II., as it had been with the whole of Gaul, in the time of the Frank emperor, Lodewig, commonly called Louis-le-pieux, or le Debonnaire. The populations who dwelt south of the Loire would no more be associated with those who resided north of that river, or with the people of England, than the Gauls and Italians of the empire of Charlemagne with the Germans under the sceptre of a German king. The rebellion of the sons of Henry II. concurring with these national distastes, and associating with them, as formerly that of the children of Louis-le-Debonnaire, could not fail to reproduce, although in a more limited arena, the dark scenes which signalized the discords of the family of the Frank Cæsars.3 The sword once drawn between father and son, neither would be permitted to return it at his pleasure to the scabbard; for connected with the two rival parties in this domestic war there were nations, there were popular interests, which would not turn with the vacillations of paternal indulgence or of filial repentance.

Richard of Poitiers and Geoffroy of Brittany quitted Aquitaine, where they resided with their mother Eleanor, to join their eldest brother at the court of France. Both arrived there in safety; but their mother, on her way to the same court, was arrested, disguised as a man, and thrown into prison by order of the king of England.4 On the arrival of the two young brothers, the king of France made them swear solemnly Edition: current; Page: [152] as their elder brother had done, never to conclude a peace or truce with their father, but through the barons of France. The war then commenced on the frontiers of Normandy.1 As soon as the news of these events spread over England, the whole country was in a state of excitement. Many men of Norman race, and especially the younger men, declared for the son’s party;2 the Saxon population, as a body, remained indifferent to the dispute; individually, the serfs and vassals took the side which their lord adopted. The citizens were enrolled, whether they would or no, in the cause of the earls or viscounts who governed the towns, and armed, either for father or son.

Henry II. was now in Normandy, and well nigh each day witnessed the departure from his palace of one or more of his most trusted courtiers, men who had eaten at his table, and to whom he had, with his own hands, given the belt of knighthood.3 “It was for him,” says a contemporary, “the extreme of grief and despair to see, leaving him for the enemy, one after the other, the guards of his chamber, those to whom he had confided his person and his life; for almost every night some one departed, whose absence was discovered at the morning call.”4 In this deserted condition, and amidst the dangers it presented, the king displayed much apparent tranquillity. He followed the chase more earnestly than ever;5 he was gay and affable to the companions who remained with him, and replied with gentleness to the demands of those who, profiting by his critical position, required exorbitant remuneration for their fidelity.6 His greatest hope was in the assistance of foreigners. He sent to great distances, soliciting the aid of kings who had sons.7 He wrote to Rome, soliciting from the pope the excommunication of his enemies; and in order to obtain in this court an influence superior to that of his adversaries, he made to the apostolic see that admission of vassalage, which William the Conqueror had so haughtily Edition: current; Page: [153] refused.1 His letter to pope Alexander III. contained the following passages: “You, whom God has raised to the sublimity of the pastoral functions, to give to his people the knowledge of salvation, though absent in body, present in mind, I throw myself at your feet. To your jurisdiction appertains the kingdom of England, and I am bound and held to you by all the obligations which the law imposes on feudatories. Let England then experience what the Roman pontiff can effect, and as you do not employ material weapons, defend the patrimony of the blessed Peter with the spiritual sword.”2

The pope met this demand by ratifying the sentences of excommunication which the bishops who remained faithful to the king had hurled against the partisans of his sons.3 He sent, moveover, a special legate, charged to re-establish domestic peace, and to take care that this peace, whatever its conditions in other respects, should be productive of some new advantage to the princes of the Roman church.

Meantime, on one side the king of France and Henry the Younger, and on the other, the earls of Flanders and Brittany, passed in arms the frontier of Normandy. Richard, the second son of the king of England, had repaired to Poitou, and most of the barons of that country rose in his cause, rather from hatred to the father than from love for the sons.4 Those who, in Brittany, some years before, had formed a national league, revived their confederation, and armed apparently for count Geoffroy, but in reality for their own independence.5 Thus attacked at once on several points, the king of England had no troops on whom he could fully rely, but twenty thousand of the mercenaries, then called Brabançons, Cotereaux, or Routiers, bandits in time of peace, soldiers in time of war, serving indifferently every cause; as brave as any other troops of the period, and better disciplined.6 With a portion of this army, Henry II. arrested the progress of the king of France; the other portion he sent against the revolted Edition: current; Page: [154] Bretons, who were defeated in a pitched battle by the military experience of the Brabançons, and compelled to retreat to their castles and to the town of Dol, which the king of England besieged and took in a few days.1

The defeat of the Bretons diminished the ardour, not of the sons of king Henry and their Norman, Angevin, or Aquitan partisans, but of the king of France, who, above all things, desired to carry on the war at the least possible expense. Fearing to be involved in a too great expenditure of men and money, or desirous of essaying other political combinations, he one day said to the rebellious sons, that they would do well to effect a reconciliation with their father. The young princes, constrained by the will of their ally to a sudden return of filial affection, followed him to the place appointed for the conference of peace.2 Not far from Gisors, in a vast plain, there stood a gigantic elm, whose branches had been artificially bent down to the earth, forming a covered circle, under which, from time immemorial, the interviews of the dukes of Normandy and the kings of France had taken place.3 Thither came the two kings, accompanied by their archbishops, bishops, earls, and barons. The sons of Henry II. made their demands, and the father seemed disposed to make them considerable concessions. He offered to the eldest, one half of the royal revenues of England and four good fortresses in that country, if he chose to reside there, or, if he preferred it, three castles in Normandy, one in Maine, one in Anjou, and one in Touraine, with all the revenues of his ancestors the earls of Anjou, and half the revenues of Normandy.4 He offered, in like manner, lands and revenues to Richard and Geoffroy. But this facility on his part, and his earnest desire to remove permanently every source of dissension between his sons and himself, alarmed the king of France,5 who, no longer desiring peace, allowed the partisans of Henry’s sons, who greatly feared it, to create obstacles and intrigues tending to break off the negotiations thus favourably commenced.6 One of these men, Robert de Beaumont, Edition: current; Page: [155] earl of Leicester, went so far as to insult the king of England to his face, and to lay his hand on his sword.1 He was withheld from actual violence by the surrounding nobles; but the tumult which ensued stayed all accommodation, and hostilities soon recommenced between the father and the sons. Henry the Younger and Geoffroy remained with the king of France; Richard returned to Poitou; and Robert de Beaumont, who had personally menaced the king, went to England to join Hugh Bigot, one of the richest barons of the land, and a zealous partisan of the rebellion.2

Ere earl Robert could reach his town of Leicester, it was attacked by Richard de Lucy, the king’s grand justiciary. The earl’s men-at-arms made a vigorous defence, and compelled the Saxon burgesses to fight for them; but part of the rampart giving way, the Norman soldiers retreated into the castle, leaving the town to its fate.3 The burgesses continued their resistance, unwilling to yield at discretion to men who deemed it a venial sin to kill an insurgent Englishman. Obliged at length to capitulate, they purchased, for three hundred pounds of silver, permission to withdraw from the town, and to proceed wherever they thought fit.4 They sought a refuge upon the lands of the church: some went to Saint Alban’s, and many to Bury Saint Edmund’s, named after a martyr of English race, who, according to the popular notion, was ever ready to protect his countrymen against the tyranny of the foreigners. On their departure, the town was dismantled by the royal troops, who broke down the gates and levelled the walls.5 While the English of Leicester were thus punished because their Norman governor had taken part in the revolt, one of the lieutenants of that governor, Anquetil Malory, having collected a body of earl Robert’s vassals and partisans, attacked Northampton, held by its viscount for the king. The viscount obliged the burgesses to take up arms for his party in the same way that those of Leicester had been compulsorily armed on the other side. A great number were killed and wounded, and two hundred taken prisoners.6 Such was the calamitous part played by Edition: current; Page: [156] the population of English race in the civil war of the sons of their conquerors.

The natural sons of king Henry had remained faithful to their father, and one of them, Geoffroy, bishop of Lincoln, vigorously urged on the war, besieging the castles and fortresses of the barons on the other side.1 Meantime, Richard had been fortifying the towns and castles of Poitou and Angoumois, and it was against him that the king now marched with his faithful Brabançons, leaving Normandy, where he had most friends, to combat the king of France. He laid siege to Saintes, then defended by two castles, one of which bore the name of the Capitol, a reminiscence of old Rome preserved in several cities of southern Gaul.2 After taking the fortresses of Saintes, Henry attacked with his war machines the two towers of the episcopal church, wherein the partisans of Richard had fortified themselves.3 He took it, with the fort of Taillebourg and several other castles, and, on his return to Anjou, devastated all the frontier of Poitou, burning the houses, and uprooting the vines and fruit trees.4 He had scarcely arrived in Normandy, when he learned that his eldest son and the earl of Flanders, having assembled a large naval force, were preparing to make a descent upon England.5 This news decided him upon immediately returning to that country; he took with him, as prisoners, his wife Eleanor, and his daughter-in-law Marguerite, the daughter of the king of France.6

From Southampton, where he landed, the king proceeded to Canterbury, and, as soon as he beheld its cathedral church, at three miles distance, he dismounted from his horse, quitted his silken robes, took off his shoes, and continued his journey barefoot upon the stony and, at that moment, muddy road.7 Arrived at the church which contained the tomb of Thomas Beket, he prostrated himself with his face to the earth, Edition: current; Page: [157] weeping and sobbing, in sight of all the people of the town, attracted thither by the ringing of the bells.1 The bishop of London, the same Gilbert Foliot who had been the greatest enemy of Beket in his lifetime, and who, after his death, had proposed to throw his body upon a dunghill, mounted the pulpit, and, addressing the congregation: “All you here present,” he said, “know that Henry, king of England, invoking, for the salvation of his soul, God and the holy martyr, protests before you that he neither ordered, wished, nor wilfully caused, nor desired in his heart the death of the martyr. But, as it is possible, that the murderers availed themselves of some words imprudently escaping him, he declares that he seeks penitential chastisement of the bishops here assembled, and consents to submit his bare back to the discipline of the rod.”2

And in effect, the king, accompanied by a great number of Norman bishops and abbots, and by all the Norman and Saxon priests of the chapter of Canterbury, proceeded to the subterranean church, where two years before the body of the archbishop had been placed as in a fortress to remove it from the insults of the royal officers.3 Here, kneeling upon the tomb-stone, and stripping off his clothes, he placed himself, with bare back in the posture in which his justiciaries had placed the English who were publicly whipped for having received Thomas on his return from exile, or for having honoured him as a saint. Each of the bishops, the parts being previously arranged, took one of those whips with several lashes, used in the monasteries to inflict ecclesiastical correction, and which, for that reason, were called disciplines. Each struck two or three gentle blows on the king’s shoulders, saying: “As thy Redeemer was scourged for the sins of men, so be thou scourged for thy own sin.”4 From the hands of the bishops, the whips passed into those of the priests, who were in great numbers, and for the most part of English race.5 These sons of the serfs of the conquest impressed the marks of the whip upon the flesh of the grandson of the Conqueror, Edition: current; Page: [158] with a secret satisfaction, revealed by some bitter jests in the contemporary narratives of the affair.1

But neither this joy nor this triumph of a moment, produced any fruit for the English population; on the contrary, that population was duped in this scene of hypocrisy acted before it by the king of Angevin race. Henry II. seeing the greater number of his continental subjects turning against him, recognised the necessity of rendering himself popular with the Saxons in order to gain their support. He thought lightly of a few strokes of a whip, could he at such a price obtain the loyal services which the English populace had rendered to his ancestor, Henry I. In fact, since the murder of Thomas Beket, the love of this new martyr had become the passion, or more accurately, the madness of the English nation. The religious worship with which the memory of the archbishop was surrounded, had weakened, had superseded, well nigh every patriotic reminiscence. No tradition of national independence was more powerful than the deep impression produced by those nine years, during which a primate of Saxon race had been the object of the hopes, the prayers, the conversation of every Saxon. A marked proof of sympathy with this popular sentiment was, then, the most effective attraction by which the king could draw the native English to him, and render them, in the words of an old historian, “manageable in bit and harness.”2 This was the true cause of the pilgrimage of Henry II. to the tomb of him whom he had, at first, loved as the companion of his pleasures, and afterwards mortally hated as his political opponent.

“After having been thus whipped, of his own free will,” says the contemporary narration, “he persevered in his prayers to the holy martyr, all day and all night, taking no nourishment, leaving the church for no need; as he had come, so he remained, allowing no carpet or similar thing to be placed under his knees. After matins, he made the circuit of the upper church, prayed before all the altars and all the Edition: current; Page: [159] relics, and then returned to the tomb of the saint. On Saturday, when the sun had risen, he heard mass; then, having drunk water blessed by the martyr, and filled a flask with it, he joyously departed from Canterbury.”1

This ostentatious display of contrition had entire success; it was with perfect enthusiasm that the burgesses of the towns, and the serfs of the country, heard it preached in the churches that the king had reconciled himself with the blessed martyr, by penitence and tears.2 It happened, by chance, that at the same time, William, king of Scotland, who had made an hostile incursion upon the English territory, was defeated and made prisoner near Alnwick in Northumberland. The Saxon population, passionately intent upon the honour of Saint Thomas, viewed in this victory a manifest token of the benevolence and protection of the martyr, and from that day forth sided with the old king, whom the saint thus evidently favoured. Acting upon this superstitious impulse, the native English enrolled themselves in crowds under the royal banner, and fought with ardour against the accomplices of revolt. Poor and despised as they were, they formed the great mass of the population, and nothing can resist such a power when it is organized. The enemy were defeated in every county, their castles taken by assault, and numbers of earls and barons made prisoners. “So many were taken,” says a contemporary, “that they could hardly procure cords enough wherewith to bind them, or prisons enough wherein to confine them.”3 This rapid series of victories arrested the project of descent upon England formed by Henry the Younger and the earl of Flanders.4

But on the continent, where the populations subject to the king of England had no national affection for the English Beket, the affairs of Henry II. prospered no better after his visit and his flagellation at the martyr’s tomb than before. On the contrary, the Poitevins and Bretons recovered from their first defeat, and renewed more firmly their patriotic associations. Eudes de Porrhoet, whose daughter the king of England had formerly dishonoured, and whom the same king had subsequently banished, returned from exile, and again Edition: current; Page: [160] rallied in Brittany all who were weary of the Norman domination.1 The malcontents made some daring excursions that gave to Breton temerity celebrity all over the continent. In Aquitaine, Richard’s party also resumed courage, and fresh troops of insurgents assembled in the mountainous parts of Poitou and Perigord, under the same chiefs who, a few years before, had risen in arms at the instigation of the king of France.2 Hatred of the foreign power collected around the lords of the castles the inhabitants of the towns and villages, men free in body and goods; for servitude did not exist south of the Loire, as it did north of that river.3 Barons, castellans, and portionless sons of castellans, also adopted the same side, from a motive less pure, the hope of making a fortune by the war.4 They opened the campaign by attacking the rich abbots and bishops of the country, most of whom, according to the spirit of their order, supported the cause of established power. They pillaged their domains, or, arresting them on the highways, shut them up in their castles till they paid ransom.5 Among these prisoners was the archbishop of Bordeaux, who, according to the papal instructions, had excommunicated the enemies of the elder Henry in Aquitaine, as the archbishop of Rouen excommunicated them in Normandy, Anjou, and Brittany.6

At the head of the insurgents of Guienne figured, less from his fortune and rank, than from his indefatigable ardour, Bertrand de Born, seigneur of Haute-Fort, near Perigueux, a man who combined in the highest degree all the qualities necessary to the fulfilment of a distinguished part in the middle ages.7 He was a warrior and a poet, a man ever under the impulsive influence of an excessive need of action, of emotion; of an activity and an ability which he employed wholly in political affairs. But this agitation, vain and turbulent in appearance, was not without a real object, without a close reference to the welfare of his native land. This extraordinary Edition: current; Page: [161] man appears to have had the profound conviction, that his country, adjoining the states of the kings of France and of England, had no other escape from the dangers which ever threatened it, on one side or the other, but in war between its two enemies. Such seems to have been the idea which, during Bertrand’s life, guided his actions and his conduct. “At all times,” says his Provençal biographer, “he desired that war should be between the king of France and the king of England, and if the kings made peace or truce, he worked and toiled to undo that peace or that truce.”1 With this view, Bertrand employed all his address to develop and envenom the quarrel between the king of England and his sons; he was one of those who, gaining an ascendancy over the mind of young Henry, aroused his ambition and excited him to revolt.2 He gained equal influence over the other sons, and even over their father, ever to their detriment and to the profit of Aquitaine. This is the testimony rendered of him by his ancient biographer, with all the pride of a man of the south, setting forth the moral superiority of one of his countrymen over the kings and princes of the north: “He was master whenever he pleased of king Henry of England and his sons, and always did he desire that they should all of them, the father, the sons and the brothers, be at war with each other.”3

His efforts, crowned with complete success, obtained for him an ill reputation with those who saw in him only a counsellor of domestic discord, a man seeking maliciously, to speak the mystic language of the period, to raise blood against flesh, to divide the head from the members.4 It is for this reason that Dante makes him, in his Inferno, suffer a punishment analogous with the figurative expression by which his offence was designated. “I saw, and still seem to see, a body without a head advancing towards us, carrying its severed head in its hand by the hair, like a lantern. Know Edition: current; Page: [162] that I am Bertrand de Born, he who gave ill counsel to the young king.”1

But Bertrand did something more: he was not content with giving to young Henry that counsel against his father which the poet terms ill counsel; he gave to him similar counsel against his brother Richard, and when the young king was dead, to Richard against the old king; and lastly, when the latter was dead, to Richard against the king of France, and to the king of France against Richard. He never allowed them to remain for an instant upon a good understanding, but constantly animated them one against the other, by the sirventès or satirical songs so greatly in vogue at that time.2

Poetry then played a great part in the politics of the countries south of the Loire. No peace, no war, no revolt, no diplomatic transaction, took place that was not announced, proclaimed, praised or blamed in verse. These verses, often composed by the very men who had taken an active part in the events that formed their subject, were of an energy almost inconceivable to him who regards the ancient idiom of southern Gaul, in the effeminate aspect it has assumed since the French dialect has replaced it as a literary language.3 The songs of the trobadores,4 or Provençal, Toulousan, Dauphinese, Aquitainan, Poitevin, and Limousin poets, rapidly circulated from castle to castle, from town to town, doing in the twelfth century the office of newspapers, in the country comprised between the Vienne, the Isere, the mountains of Auvergne and the two seas. There was not as yet in this country any religious inquisition; men there freely and openly criticised that which the people of the other portions of Gaul scarcely dared to examine. The influence of public opinion and of popular passions, was everywhere Edition: current; Page: [163] felt, in the cloisters of the monks as in the castles of the barons; and, coming to the subject of this history, the dispute between Henry II. and his sons so vividly excited the men of Aquitaine, that we find the impress of these emotions even in the writings, generally characterized by very little animation, of the Latin chroniclers. One of these, an anonymous dweller in an obscure monastery, cannot refrain from interrupting his narrative with a poetical prose version of the war song of the partisans of Richard.

“Rejoice, land of Aquitaine, rejoice, land of Poitou; the sceptre of the northern king recedes. Thanks to the pride of that king, the truce is at length broken between the realms of France and of England; England is desolate, and Normandy mourns. We shall see the king of the south coming to us with his great army, with his bows and his arrows. Woe to the king of the north, who dared raise his lance against the king of the south, his lord; his downfall approaches, and the stranger will devour his land.”

After this outburst of joy and of patriotic hate, the author addresses Eleanor, alone of the family of Henry II. dear to the Aquitans, because she was born among them.

“Thou wert taken from thy native land and carried among strangers. Reared in abundance and delicacy, thou didst enjoy a regal liberty, thou didst live in the bo om of riches, thou wert amused by the sports of thy women, by their songs, sung to the sound of the guitar and of the drum; and now, thou lamentest, thou weepest, thou art consumed with grief; return to thy cities, poor prisoner.

“Where is thy court? where are thy young companions? where thy counsellors? Some, dragged far from their country, have suffered an ignominious death; others have been deprived of their sight; others, banished men, wander over the face of the earth. Thou criest, and none listen to thee, for the northern king keeps thee inclosed like a besieged city: cry out then, cease not to cry out; raise thy voice as a trumpet, that thy sons may hear thee, for the day approaches in which they will deliver thee, and thou shalt again behold thy native land.”1

To these expressions of love for the daughter of the ancient Edition: current; Page: [164] national chiefs, succeeds a malediction upon the cities, which, of choice or necessity, still stood out for the king of foreign race, and warlike exhortations to those of the other side, menaced with an attack of the royal troops.

“Woe to the traitors of Aquitaine! for the day of chastisement is at hand. Rochelle dreads that day; she doubles her walls and her moats; she surrounds herself on every side with the sea, and the sound of this great work is heard beyond the mountains. Flee before Richard, duke of Aquitaine, ye who inhabit that shore; for he will overthrow the proud, he will destroy the chariots and those who guide them; he will annihilate all, from the highest to the lowest, who refuse him admittance to Saintonge. Woe to those who seek aid from the king of the north! Woe to you, rich men of Rochelle, who confide in your riches! the day will come when there will be no escape for you, when flight will not save you; when the bramble, instead of gold, will fill your mansions; and when the nettle will grow on your walls.

“And thou, maritime citadel, whose bastions are high and strong, the sons of the stranger will come to thee; but soon they will all flee to their own country, in disorder and covered with shame. Fear not their threats, raise thy front boldly against the north; stand upon thy guard, place thy foot on thy entrenchments; call thy neighbours, that they may come in strength to thy aid; range in a circle around thee all who inhabit thy bosom and cultivate thy land, from the southern frontier to the gulf wherein the ocean foams.”1

The success of the royal cause in England soon allowed Henry II. to cross the Channel with his faithful Brabançons and a body of Welsh mercenaries, less disciplined than the Brabançons, but more impetuous, and disposed, from the very hatred they bore the king, to wage furious war upon his sons.2 These men, skilled in the art of military ambuscade and of partisan warfare among woods and marshes, were employed in Normandy to intercept the convoys and provisions of the French army, then besieging Rouen.3 They succeeded so well in this by dint of activity and address, that this great army, apprehending famine, suddenly raised the Edition: current; Page: [165] siege and withdrew. Its retreat gave king Henry the opportunity of assuming the offensive. He regained, inch by inch, all the territory that his enemies had occupied during his absence; and the French, once more weary of the enormous expenses they had so fruitlessly undergone, again informed Henry the Younger and his brother Geoffroy that they could no longer assist them, and that if they could not alone maintain the war against their father, they must be reconciled with him.1 The two princes, whose power was limited without foreign aid, were fain to obey. They allowed themselves to be conducted to an interview between the two kings, at which they made, perforce, diplomatic protestations of repentance and filial tenderness.

A truce was agreed upon, which would give the king of England time to go to Poitou, and force his son Richard to submit like the two others. The king of France swore that he would give Richard no more aid, and imposed the same oath on the two brothers, Henry and Geoffroy. Richard was indignant on learning that his brothers and his ally had concluded a truce from which he was excluded. But, incapable of resisting alone the forces of the king of England, he returned to him, implored his pardon, restored the towns he had fortified, and quitting Poitou, followed his father to the frontiers of Anjou and France, where a general congress or parliament was held to settle the peace.2 Here, under the form of a political treaty, was drawn up the act of reconciliation between the king of England and his three sons. Placing their hands in those of their father, they swore to him the oath of liege homage, the ordinary form of every compact of alliance between two men of unequal power, and so solemn in this age as to establish between the contracting parties ties reputed more inviolable than those of blood.3 The historians of the epoch are careful to observe that, if the sons of king Henry II. now declared themselves his men, and swore allegiance to him, it was to remove from his mind every suspicion as to the sincerity of their return.4

This reconciliation of the Angevin princes was a calamitous Edition: current; Page: [166] event for the various populations which had taken part in their quarrels. The three sons, in whose name they had revolted, kept their oath of homage by delivering up these populations to the vengeance of their father, and themselves undertaking to execute it.1 Richard, especially, more imperious and of a more rugged temperament than his brothers, inflicted all the injury he could on his former allies of Poitou; these, reduced to despair, maintained against him the national league at the head of which they had before placed him, and pressed him so closely that the king was obliged to send him powerful succours, and to go in person to his assistance. The excitement of the people of Aquitaine increased with the danger. From one end of that vast country to the other, a war broke out, more truly patriotic than the former, because it was against the whole family of the foreign princes; but for this very reason, the success was necessarily more doubtful, and the difficulties greater.2 During nearly two years the Angevin princes and the barons of Aquitaine fought battle after battle, from Limoges to the foot of the Pyrenees, at Taillebourg, at Angouleme, at Agen, at Dax, and at Bayonne. All the towns which had adopted the party of the king’s sons, were militarily occupied by Richard’s troops, and overwhelmed with taxes, in punishment of their revolt.3

Whether from policy or good feeling, Henry the Younger took no part in this odious and dishonourable war; he even maintained relations of friendship with many of the men who had supported him and his brothers. Thus he lost none of his popularity in the southern provinces, and this circumstance was, for the family of Henry II., a fresh source of discord, which the able and indefatigable Bertrand de Born laboured with all his energies to develop. He attached Edition: current; Page: [167] himself more than ever to the young king, over whom he resumed all the ascendancy of a man of strong mind and resolute determination. Out of this connexion arose a second league, formed against Richard by the viscounts of Ventadour, Limoges, and Turenne, the count of Perigord, the seigneurs de Montfort and de Gordon, and the burgesses of the country, under the auspices of Henry the Younger and the king of France.1 Consistently with his usual policy, this king entered into only vague engagements with the confederates, but Henry the Younger made them positive promises; and Bertrand de Born, the soul of the confederation, proclaimed it in a poem designed, says his biographer, to confirm his friends in their common resolution.2

Thus war recommenced in Poitou between Henry and earl Richard. But, at the very outset, Henry the Younger breaking his word, listened to propositions of accommodation with his brother, and, for a sum of money and an annual pension, consented to quit the country and desert the insurgents.3 Without thinking any more of them or their fate, he visited foreign courts, those of France, Provence, and Lombardy, spending the price of his treachery, and acquiring wherever he went high renown for magnificence and chivalry; conspicuous in warlike jousts, which were just coming into fashion, tourneying, resting, sleeping, solacing himself, as an ancient historian relates.4

In this way he passed more than two years, during which the barons of Poitou, Angoumois, and Perigord, who had confederated under his auspices, had to sustain a fierce war at the hands of the earl of Poitiers. Their towns and their castles were besieged, and their lands laid waste by fire.5 Among the towns attacked, Taillebourg was the last to surrender, and when all the barons had submitted to Richard, Bertrand de Born alone still resisted in his castle of Haute-Fort.6 Amidst the fatigues and anxieties attending this desperate struggle, he retained sufficient freedom of thought to Edition: current; Page: [168] compose verses on his own position, and satires on the cowardice of the prince who passed in amusements the days which his old friends were passing in war and in suffering.

“Since the lord Henry has no land, and seeks not to have any, let him be named the king of cowards.

“For cowardly is he who lives on the wages and wears the livery of another. The crowned king who takes the pay of another, resembles not the gallant knight of former days; since he has deceived the Poitevins, and lied to them, let him no longer hope to be loved by them.”1

Henry the Younger felt these reproaches when, satiated with the pleasure of being cited as a spendthrift and chevalereux, he again turned his attention to the more solid advantages of power and territorial wealth. He then returned to his father, and pleaded with him the cause of the people of Poitou, whom Richard was overwhelming, he said, with unjust vexations and tyrannical domination.2 He went so far as to censure the king for not protecting them as he ought, he who was their natural defender.3 He accompanied these complaints with personal demands, again asking for Normandy or some other territory, where he might live in a manner worthy of his rank, with his wife, and out of whose revenues he could pay the wages of his knights and sergeants. Henry II. at first firmly objected to this demand, and even constrained the young man to swear that for the future he would claim no more than one hundred Angevin livres a day for his expenses, and ten livres of the same money for his wife. But things did not long remain in this position; Henry the Younger renewed his complaints, and the king, now yielding, ordered his two other sons to swear to their eldest brother the oath of homage for the provinces of Poitou and Brittany. Geoffroy consented; but Richard refused point-blank, and, in indication of his firm intention to resist the order, placed all his towns and castles in a state of defence.4

Henry the Younger and Geoffroy, his vassal, then marched against him, with their father’s consent; and, on their entering Edition: current; Page: [169] Aquitaine, the country once more rose against Richard. The confederacy of the towns and barons was renewed, and the king of France declared himself the ally of the young king and of the Aquitans.1 Henry II., alarmed at the serious turn which this family quarrel thus suddenly assumed, recalled his two sons, but they disobeyed the order, and persisted in warring upon the third. Obliged to take a decisive part, unless he chose to witness the triumph of the independence of Poitou and of the ambitious aims of the king of France, he joined his forces to those of Richard, and went in person to besiege Limoges, which had opened its gates to young Henry and Geoffroy.2 Thus the domestic war recommenced under a new aspect. It was no longer the three sons leagued together against the father, but the eldest and the youngest fighting against the other son and the father.

The historians of the south, eye-witnesses of these events, seem to have comprehended the active part taken in them by the populations, whose country was their theatre, and the national interests involved in these rivalries which appeared wholly personal. The historians of the north, on the contrary, only view in them the unnatural war of the father against the sons, and of the brothers among themselves, under the influence of an evil destiny hanging over the race of Plantagenet, in expiation of some great crime. Several sinister tales as to the origin of this family passed from mouth to mouth. It was said that Eleanor of Aquitaine had, at the court of France, a love affair with Geoffroy of Anjou, her husband’s father; and that this same Geoffroy had married the daughter of Henry I. during the life of the emperor her husband; a circumstance which, in the opinion of the period, amounted to a kind of sacrilege.3 Lastly, it was rumoured of a former countess of Anjou, grandmother of the father of Henry II., that her husband having remarked with terror that she went rarely to church, and always left it before the mass, resolved to retain her forcibly, by four squires, during that celebration; but at the moment of the consecration, the countess, throwing off the mantle by which they held her, flew out at a window and was never after seen Edition: current; Page: [170] Richard of Poitiers, according to a contemporary, used to relate this adventure, and to observe: “Is it to be wondered at, that, coming from such a source, we live ill one with the other? What comes from the devil, must return to the devil!”1

A month after the renewal of hostilities, Henry the Younger, whether from apprehension of the results of the unequal struggle in which he had engaged against his father and the most powerful of his brothers, or from a revival of filial tenderness, once more abandoned the Poitevins. He went to the camp of Henry II., revealed to him all the secrets of the confederation formed against Richard, and intreated him to interpose as mediator between his brother and himself.2 His hand on the Gospel, he swore solemnly that never again would he separate from Henry, king of England, but would be faithful to him, as to his father and his lord. This sudden change of conduct was not imitated by Geoffroy, who, more pertinacious and more loyal towards the revolted Aquitans, remained with them and continued the war.3 Messengers then came to him from the old king, urging him to terminate a quarrel, which was advantageous only to the common enemies of his family. Among other envoys was a Norman priest, who, holding a cross in his hand, intreated earl Geoffroy to spare the blood of the Christians, and not to imitate the crime of Absalom. “What! thou wouldst have me relinquish my birthright?” said the young man. “God forbid, monseigneur,” answered the priest; “I seek nothing to your detriment.” “Thou dost not understand my words,” rejoined the earl of Brittany; “it is the destiny of our family not to love each other. That is our heritage, and none of us will ever renounce it.”4

Notwithstanding his reiterated treachery to the barons of Aquitaine, the young Henry, a man of wavering mind, and incapable of a firm decision, still maintained personal relations with several of the conspirators, and especially with Bertrand de Born. He undertook to play the part of mediator between them and his brother Richard, flattering himself with the chimerical hope of arranging the national quarrel at Edition: current; Page: [171] the same time with the family quarrel.1 To this end he made several advances to the chiefs of the league of Poitou, but he received from them nothing but haughty and hostile replies.2 As a last attempt, he proposed to them a conference at Limoges, offering to repair thither himself, with his father, and but a small train, to remove all distrust.3 The town of Limoges was at this time under siege by the king of England; it is not known whether the confederates formally consented to allow their enemy to enter, or whether the young man, eager to make himself of importance, promised more in their name than he was warranted in doing. However this may have been, when Henry II. arrived before the gates of the town, he found them closed, and he received from the ramparts a flight of arrows, one of which penetrated his doublet, and another wounded one of his knights who rode beside him. This affair passed as a mistake, and, after a fresh explanation with the insurgent chiefs, it was agreed that the king should freely enter Limoges, to confer with his son Geoffroy. They met in the great market-place; but during the interview, the Aquitans who formed the garrison of the castle, and who could not calmly witness the commencement of negotiations which would ruin all their projects of independence, shot at the old king, whom they recognised by his dress and the banner carried beside him; the bolt of a crossbow aimed at him from the ramparts of the citadel, pierced his horse’s ear. The tears came into his eyes; he had the arrow picked up, and presenting it to Geoffroy: “Say, my son,” he exclaimed, “what has thy unhappy father done to thee to deserve that thou should render him a mark for thy archers?”4

Whatever the faults of Geoffroy towards his father, he was not to blame in this matter; for the archers who had aimed at the king of England were not soldiers in his pay, but his independent allies. The northern writers reproach him for not having sought out and punished them; but he had no such authority over them, and since he had bound up his cause with their national hostility, he had, whether he would or no, to undergo all the consequences. Henry the Younger, piqued Edition: current; Page: [172] at finding his efforts defeated by the obstinacy of the Aquitans, declared them all incurable rebels, and that he would never make peace or truce with them, but would be faithful to his father at all times and in all places. In token of this submission, he gave his horse and arms into the king’s keeping, and remained several days with him, under every appearance of the warmest friendship.1

But by a sort of fatality in the life of king Henry’s eldest son, it was ever at the moment when he was making to one party the strongest protestations of devotion, that he was most immediately about to separate from it, and to engage with the opposite party. After having, in the words of an historian of the time, eaten at the same table with his father, and placed his hand in the same dish, he suddenly quitted him, leagued again with his adversaries, and proceeded to Le Dorat, a town on the frontiers of Poitou, which the insurgents had made their head-quarters. He ate with them at the same table, as he had done with the king, swore loyalty to them towards and against all, and a few days after abandoned them to return to the other camp. Fresh scenes of tenderness took place between the father and the son, and the latter thought he acquitted his conscience in intreating the king to be merciful to the rebels. He rashly promised, in their name, the surrender of the castle of Limoges, and announced that it would suffice to send messengers to the garrison to receive its oaths and hostages. But it was not so, and those who went on this mission from the king of England were nearly all put to death by the Aquitans. Others, who were sent at the same time to Geoffroy to negotiate with him, were attacked in his presence; two were killed, a third seriously wounded, and the fourth thrown into the river from the bridge.2 It was thus that the national spirit, severely, cruelly inflexible, mocked the hopes of the princes and their projects of reconciliation.

Shortly after these events, Henry II. received a message announcing to him that his eldest son, having fallen dangerously ill at Chateau-Martel, near Limoges, asked to see him.3 The king, whose mind was full of that which had just Edition: current; Page: [173] happened to his people, and of what had happened to himself in the two conferences at Limoges, suspected some snare on the part of the insurgents: he feared, says a contemporary author, the wickedness of these conspirators,1 and notwithstanding the assurances of the messenger, he did not go to Chateau-Martel. A second messenger soon came to inform him that his son Henry had died on the 11th of June, in his twenty-seventh year.2 The young man, in his last moments, had manifested great signs of contrition and repentance: he had insisted on being drawn from his bed by a cord, and placed on a heap of ashes.3 This unexpected loss occasioned the king great affliction, and augmented his anger against the Aquitans, to whose perfidy he attributed the feeling of timidity that had kept him away from his dying son.4 Geoffroy himself, touched with his father’s grief, returned to him, and abandoned his allies, who then found themselves alone in presence of the family whose dissensions had constituted their strength.5 The day after the funeral of Henry the Younger, the king of England vigorously attacked the town and fortress of Limoges by assault, and took them, with the castles of several of the confederates, which he completely demolished.6 He pursued Bertrand de Born with even greater inveteracy than all the others; “for he believed,” says an ancient narrative, “that Bertrand had been the cause of all the wars that the young king, his son, had made against him; and for this he came to Haute-Fort to take and destroy it.”7

The castle of Haute-Fort did not long hold out against all the king’s forces, united with those of his two sons, Richard and Geoffroy of Brittany. Forced to surrender at discretion, Bertrand de Born was led to his enemy’s tent, who, before pronouncing the sentence of a conqueror on the conquered, desired to enjoy, for a space, the pleasure of revenge, in treating with derision the man who had inspired him with fear, and who had boasted that he felt no fear on his own part. “Bertrand,” said he, “you who once said that you never needed more than half your sense, know that this is an occasion Edition: current; Page: [174] upon which the whole would do you no harm.” “My lord,” answered the man of the south, with that habitual assurance which the feeling of his intellectual superiority gave him, “it is true I said so, and I said the truth.” “And I,” rejoined the king, “think that you have lost your sense.” “Yes, sire,” answered Bertrand, gravely, “I lost it on the day when the valiant young king, your son, died; on that day I lost both my sense and my reason.” At the name of his son, which he did not expect to hear pronounced, the king of England burst into tears, and fainted. When he came to himself, he was changed; his projects of revenge had disappeared, and he now saw in the man before him only the former friend of the son whom he lamented. Instead of the bitter reproaches and the sentence of death which Bertrand might have expected: “Sire Bertrand, sire Bertrand,” he said to him, “well may you have lost your senses for my son; for he loved you more than he loved any man in the world; and I, for the love of him, restore to you your life, your possessions, and your castle. I give you my friendship and my favour, and I grant you five hundred silver marks for the damage you have sustained.”1

The misfortune which had struck the family of Henry II. reconciled not only the sons and the father, but also the father and the mother, a far more difficult thing, from the nature of the enmity existing between them.2 Common tradition accuses Eleanor of having poisoned one of her husband’s mistresses, the daughter of an Anglo-Norman baron, named Rosamonde or Rosemonde. A good understanding, however, was now effected between them, and the queen of England, after an imprisonment of ten years, was restored to liberty. In her presence the family peace was solemnly sworn and confirmed by writing and by oath, as an historian of the time expresses it, between king Henry and his sons, Richard, Geoffroy, and John, the latter of whom hitherto had been too young to take a part in his brothers’ intrigues.3 The continual affliction which the revolts of the others had occasioned the king, had led him to place the greatest affection upon John; and this preference itself had contributed to Edition: current; Page: [175] embitter the minds of the elder brothers, and to make the period of concord very brief.1 After a few months of union, the peace was again disturbed by the ambition of Geoffroy. He demanded the earldom of Anjou, in addition to his duchy of Brittany, and on the rejection of his application, passed into France, where, awaiting an occasion to recommence the war, he occupied himself with the amusements of the court.2 Thrown from his horse in a tournament, he was trodden under foot by the horses, and died of his wounds.3 After his death, it was earl Richard’s turn to unite in friendship with the king of France against the will of his father.4

The crown of France had just fallen to Philip, second of that name, a young man, who affected towards Richard still more friendship than his father, Louis VII., had manifested to Henry the Younger. “Every day,” says a contemporary historian, “they ate at the same table and from the same dish, and at night they slept in the same bed.” This vast friendship gave umbrage to the king of England, and much uneasiness as to the future. He sent repeated messages to France, summoning his son home; Richard regularly replied that he was coming, but he did not come. At length he departed, as if for his father’s court; but passing by Chinon, where a portion of the royal treasure was deposited, he carried off the greatest part of it, despite the resistance of the keepers.5 With this money he proceeded to Poitou, and fortified, garrisoned, and provisioned several castles. Recent events had substituted for the former effervescence of the Aquitans an entire apathy, and the hatred which Richard had excited by his want of faith and his cruelties was still too vivid to allow men, however discontented with the Angevin government, to repose confidence in him. He remained therefore alone, and, unable to commence operations without the concurrence of the barons of the country, he made up his mind to return to his father, and implore his pardon, rather from necessity than from goodwill. The old king, who had gone through every solemn form of reconciliation between himself and his sons, essayed, on this occasion, to Edition: current; Page: [176] bind Richard by an oath on the Gospel, which he made him take in presence of a great assemblage of clergy and laymen.1

The late attempt of the earl of Poitiers remaining without effect, produced no rupture of peace between the kings of France and England. The two kings had long since agreed to hold a conference, at which permanently to regulate those points of contending interests which might, if not settled, produce renewed misunderstanding. They met, in January 1187, between Trie and Gisors, at the Great Elm already referred to. The Christian conquerors of Syria and Palestine were at this time undergoing great reverses; Jerusalem and the wood of the true cross had just fallen once more into the power of the Mohammedans, under the command of Salah-Eddin, popularly called Saladin.2 The loss of this precious relic renewed that public enthusiasm for the crusades which had somewhat cooled in the past half century. The pope overwhelmed the princes of Christendom with messages, urging them to make peace among themselves and combined war upon the infidels. The cardinals promised to renounce riches and pleasures, to receive no present, and not to mount a horse until the Holy Land should be reconquered; they promised, further, to be the first to take the cross, and to march at the head of the new pilgrims, begging alms.3 Preachers and missionaries repaired to all the courts, to all the assemblies of the great and the rich; several came to the interview of the kings of France and England; and, among others, William, archbishop of Tyre, one of the most celebrated men of the time for learning and eloquence.

This prelate had the ability to induce the two kings, who could not agree about their own affairs, to concur in making war on the Saracens, setting aside the while their own personal differences.4 They confederated together as brothers-in-arms, in what was termed the cause of God, and, in token of their engagement, received from the hands of the archbishops a cross of cloth, which they attached to their attire; that of the king of France was red, that of the king of England white.5 In receiving them, they signed themselves on the forehead, the mouth, and the breast, and swore not to lay aside the cross of the Lord on land or sea, in country Edition: current; Page: [177] or in town, until they returned from the great passage.1 Many lords of both kingdoms took the same oath, influenced by the example of the kings, by the desire to obtain the remission of all their sins, by the constant inculcation of the subject from every pulpit, and even by the popular songs which in every street glorified all who should fight in the Holy Land against the Paynim foe.2 One of these, composed by a priest of Orleans, reached as far as England, and there excited, says a contemporary writer, many men to take up the cross;3 although written in a learned language, this poem bears a sufficient impress of the ideas and style of the epoch to merit translation:—

“The wood of the cross is the standard that the army will follow, it has never given way; it has gone onward by the power of the Holy Spirit.4

“Let us go to Tyre, ’tis the meeting-place of the brave: ’tis there should go they who, in European courts, so arduously labour, without good fruit, to acquire the renown of chivalry.5

“The wood of the cross is the standard that the army will follow.

“But, for this war, there needs robust combatants, and not effeminate men; they who are too assiduous as to their persons gain not God by prayers.6

“The wood of the cross, etc.

“He who has no money, if he be faithful, sincere faith will suffice for him: the body of the Lord is provision enough on the way for him who defends the cross.7

“The wood of the cross, etc.

“Christ, in giving his body to the executioner, lent to the sinner; sinner, if thou wilt not die for Him who died for thee, thou returnest not that which God has lent thee.8

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“The wood of the cross, etc.

“Listen, then, to my counsel; take up the cross, and say, in making thy vow, I recommend myself to Him who died for me, who gave for me His body and His life.1

“The wood of the cross is the standard that the army will follow.”

The king of England, wearing the white cross on his shoulder, proceeded to Mans, where he assembled his council to discuss the means of defraying the expenses of the holy war in which he had just engaged.2 It was decided that, in all the countries subject to the Angevin sway, every man should be made to pay the tenth part of his yearly revenue and of his personal property; but, from this universal decimation, were excepted, the arms, horses, and vestments of the knights, the horses, books, vestments, and ornaments of the priests, and jewels and precious stones, both of laymen and of priests. It was also ordered that the priests, knights, and sergeants-at-arms, who should take up the cross, should pay nothing; but that the burgesses and peasants who should join the army, without the express consent of their lords, should not the less pay their tithe.3

The subsidy, decreed at Mans for the new crusade, was levied without much violence in Anjou, Normandy, and Aquitaine. The only minatory measure employed in these various countries, where the authority of Henry II. was modified by traditions of national administration, was a sentence of excommunication, pronounced by the archbishops and bishops, against all who should not faithfully pay their quota to the persons charged with collecting the tax.4 The collection was made in each parish by a commission formed of the officiating priest, a templar, a hospitaller, a royal officer, a clerk of the king’s chapel, and an officer and chaplain of the seigneur of the place. The composition of this council, in which men of the locality had a place, offered to the inhabitants some guarantee of impartiality and justice. Moreover, if a dispute arose as to the proportion of the sum demanded, four or six notables of the parish were to be assembled to declare, upon Edition: current; Page: [179] oath, the value of the personalty of the appellant, whom their testimony condemned or absolved. These precautions, employed, even in the middle ages, in countries where the public administration was not properly a government of conquest, were probably practised also in England with reference to the earls, barons, knights, bishops, in a word, to all the men of Norman race; but they were wholly omitted with regard to the Saxon burgesses, and replaced by a more expeditious and entirely different process, which deserves mention.1

King Henry crossed the Channel, and while his officers, lay and clerical, were collecting, in the terms of his ordinances, the tax from the landholders, he had a list drawn up of the richest citizens in all the towns, whom he summoned to personally appear before him at a fixed day and place. The honour of being admitted into the presence of the descendant of the Conqueror was in this way granted to two hundred citizens of London, to an hundred of York, and to a proportionate number of the inhabitants of other cities and towns. The letters of summons admitted no excuse or delay. The citizens did not all meet on the same day; for king Henry liked great assemblies of the English no better than his ancestors liked them. They were received in parties, on different days and in different places. On their introduction to the royal presence, the sum required from them was signified to them by an interpreter, “and thus,” says a contemporary, “the king took from them the tenth of all their property, according to the estimate of the notables who were acquainted with their means. The refractory he imprisoned until they had paid the last farthing. In like manner he acted towards the Jews of England; which procured him incalculable sums.”2 This assimilation of the men of English race with the Jews affords the exact estimate of their political state at the commencement of the second century after the conquest. It should be observed also that the convocation of the inhabitants of the towns by the king, far from being a sign of civil liberty, was, on the contrary, in this and in many similar cases, a mark of servitude and a means of vexation applied especially to men of inferior condition.

Notwithstanding the treaty and the oath of the two kings, Edition: current; Page: [180] it was to anything but the recovery of Jerusalem that the money raised from the Saxons and Jews of England, and the contributions of the nobles of that country and of the continental provinces, were applied. The enemy of old did not sleep, say the historians of the time, and his malice soon rekindled the flame of war between those who had just sworn not to bear arms against Christians until their return from the Holy Land.1 The occasion of this rupture was a difference of interests between Richard of Poitiers and the count of Toulouse, Raymond de Saint Gilles. The Aquitans and the Poitevins, who had regained strength and energy since their last defeat, availed themselves of the confusion occasioned by this quarrel to form new plots and new leagues against the Anglo-Norman power. On his side, the king of France, pursuant to the policy of his ancestors, could not abstain from siding with the party opposed to the Normans, and from attacking in Berri the fortresses belonging to the king of England.2 The war soon extended along the whole frontier of the countries governed by the two kings. On both sides many towns were taken and retaken, farms burned, vineyards devastated; at length, the rival powers, weary of fruitlessly damaging each other, resolved to treat for peace. The kings Henry and Philip met under the Great Elm, but they separated without having come to an accommodation upon any point. The youngest of them, irritated at the failure of the conference, vented his anger upon the tree under which it had been held, and had it cut down, swearing by the saints of France, his favourite oath, that no parliament should ever again be held on that spot.3

During this war, Richard, against whom, ostensibly at least, king Philip had commenced it, manifested a tendency to go over to this monarch, a circumstance that greatly alarmed his father. He went so far as a proposal to refer to the judgment of the barons of France, the quarrel between him and count Raymond de Saint Gilles. Henry II. would not consent to this, and distrusting his son, refused to treat for peace, except in a personal interview with Philip.4 At this conference, which took place near Bonmoulins, in Normandy, Edition: current; Page: [181] the king of France made propositions in which Richard’s interests were so closely bound up with his own, that they seemed the result of some secret compact previously concluded between them.

At one of the truces formerly sworn between Henry II. and Louis, the father of Philip, it had been agreed that Richard should marry Alix or Aliz, daughter of the king of France, and receive with her, as a marriage portion, the county of Vexin, hitherto a constant subject of contest between the two crowns. As a guarantee for the faithful execution of this treaty, Aliz, still a child, was placed in the hands of the king of England, that he might have the custody of her, until she was old enough to marry.1 But war having soon afterwards again broken out, and the sons of the king of England having leagued with the king of France, the marriage was deferred, Henry still retaining the young girl who had been confided to him. He affected only to keep her as an hostage; but it was generally believed that political reasons did not influence him in detaining her a captive in an English castle, but that he had conceived a violent passion for her, which he even satisfied, say several historians, after the death of his mistress, Rosamond. Some writers assure us that during the wars against his sons he had resolved to take Aliz for his wife, repudiating Eleanor, so as to obtain for himself the aid which the king of France gave to his adversaries. But it was in vain that he solicited a divorce of the court of Rome, and, to obtain it, loaded the pontifical legates with presents.2

In the conferences he had previously held with the king of England, Philip had repeatedly demanded the solemnization of the marriage of his sister Aliz with the earl of Poitiers, and this was the first condition that he put forward at the congress of Bonmoulins. He further demanded that his future brother-in-law should be forthwith declared heir to all the states of king Henry, and in this character receive the oath of homage of the barons of England and of the continent. But Henry II. would not consent to this, apprehending a recurrence of the vexations that had formerly resulted from the premature elevation of his eldest son. On this refusal, Richard, furious with passion, again did that which he had Edition: current; Page: [182] already so often done: in the very presence of his father, turning to the king of France, and placing his joined hands in those of that monarch, he declared himself his vassal, and did homage to him for the duchies of Normandy, Brittany, and Aquitaine, and for the earldoms of Poitou, Anjou, and Maine. In return for this oath of fealty and homage, Philip gave him in fief the towns of Chateauroux and Issoudun.1

This usurpation of all Henry’s rights on the continent was the hardest blow that Richard had yet struck at his father; it was the commencement of a new domestic quarrel, as violent as that first dispute which, as we have seen, arose out of the attempts at usurpation made by Henry the Younger. The discontented populations appreciated the importance for them of the occasion, and were at once agitated with a movement of revolt. The barons, who for more than two years had remained quiet, the men of Poitou, late the sworn enemies of Richard, declared for him the moment they thought him at mortal enmity with the king.2 Henry II. came to Saumur to make his preparations for war; meanwhile his barons and knights quitted him in crowds to follow his son, whose party, supported by the king of France and by all the southern provinces, seemed likely to be the most powerful. The king of England had with him the majority of the Normans, of the Angevins, and of those who feared the sentences of excommunication, the aid of which the pope’s legate lent him. But while the priests of Anjou were pronouncing these ecclesiastical sentences in their churches, the Bretons, entering in arms, devastated the country, and attacked the king’s fortresses and castles. Overwhelmed by the ill fortune which had so long pursued him, almost without cessation, Henry fell ill with grief, and taking no military measures, left his defence wholly to the legates and archbishops. They multiplied their decrees of excommunication and interdict, and sent message after message to Richard and to the king of France, in turns conciliatory and menacing. These had little influence on the mind of Richard, but more on that of Philip, ever as disposed for peace as for war, provided he could gain as much by the one as by the other.

The king of France consented to hold a conference with Edition: current; Page: [183] the other king, which Richard was fain to attend, and whither came the cardinal John of Anagni, the pope’s legate, and the archbishops of Reims, Bourges, Rouen, and Canterbury. Philip proposed to the king of England much the same conditions as at the interview of Bonmoulins—namely, the marriage of Aliz with Richard, and the nomination of the latter as heir to all his father’s territories, under the guarantee of the oath of homage of all the barons of England and the continent. But Henry II., who had now, even more than at the former conference, reason to distrust Richard, again rejected these demands, and proposed to marry Aliz to John, his other son, who hitherto had always shown himself obedient and affectionate towards him. He said that if this marriage were adopted, he should have no objection to declare John heir to all his continental provinces. This proposition involved Richard’s ruin; and either from a scruple of honour, or from a want of confidence in Henry’s youngest son, the king of France refused to sanction it and to abandon his ally. Cardinal John then interposed, and declared that, pursuant to his express mission, he should lay France under interdict. “Lord legate,” said Philip, “pronounce thy decree, if thou so please; I fear it not. The Roman church has no right to proceed against France, either by interdict or otherwise, when her king thinks fit to arm against rebellious vassals in vindication of his own injuries and the honour of his crown; I see thou hast touched the king of England’s sterlings.” Richard, whose interests were far more deeply involved, did not content himself with rallying the pontifical envoy; he drew his sword, and would have proceeded to some act of violence, had not those present restrained him.1

The old king, compelled to fight, assembled his army; but his best soldiers had abandoned him to join his son. In a few months he lost the towns of Mans and Tours, with all their territory; and while the king of France was attacking him in Anjou by the northern frontiers, the Bretons advanced by the west, and the Poitevins by the south.2 Without any means of defence, and without authority, enfeebled in body and in mind, he resolved to seek peace in assenting to all the other party’s demands.3 The conference between the two kings Edition: current; Page: [184] (for Richard did not attend, awaiting elsewhere the result of the negotiations) was held in a plain between Tours and Azay-sur-Cher. Philip’s demands were, that the king of England should expressly acknowledge himself his liegeman, and place himself at his mercy and discretion;1 that Aliz should be confided to the care of five persons, chosen by Richard, until the return of the latter from the crusades, for which he was to depart with the king of France at mid-Lent;2 that the king of England should renounce all right of suzerainty over the towns of Berri, formerly dependent on the dukes of Aquitaine, and that he should pay to the king of France twenty thousand silver marks, as ransom for that monarch’s conquests;3 that all those who had attached themselves to the party of the son against the father should remain vassals of the son, and not of the father, unless of their own motion they returned to the latter;4 lastly, that the king should receive his son into his grace by the kiss of peace, and should sincerely and in good faith abjure all rancour and all animosity against him.5

The old king had no means or hope of obtaining gentler conditions; he armed himself, therefore, with patience, as well as he could, and conversed with king Philip, listening to him with a docile air, as one man receiving the law from another. Both were on horseback in the middle of the plain, and whilst they conversed together, says a contemporary, it suddenly thundered, though the sky was cloudless, and a fierce flash of lightning fell between them, without doing them any harm.6 They immediately separated, both greatly terrified, and, after a short interval, rejoined each other; but a second clap of thunder, louder and more terrible than the first, burst forth almost at the same moment. The king of England, whom the distressed position to which he was reduced, mental grief and physical malady, rendered more susceptible of excited emotions, perhaps connecting this natural incident with his own destiny, was so agitated, that he abandoned the reins of his horse, fell forward on his saddle, and Edition: current; Page: [185] would have fallen to the ground, had not his attendants supported him.1 The conference was suspended, and as Henry II. was too ill to attend a second interview, the articles of peace, drawn up in writing, were taken to his chamber for his formal consent.2

The messengers of the French king found him in bed. They read to him the treaty of peace, article by article. When they came to that which related to the persons, secretly or openly, of Richard’s party, the king asked their names, that he might know how many men there were whose fealty he had to renounce.3 The first person named to him was John, his youngest son. On hearing this name pronounced, the king, with an almost convulsive movement, rose on his seat, and, casting fearful glances around with his haggard eyes, exclaimed: “Is it true, indeed, that John, my heart, my favourite son, he whom I cherished more than all the rest; he, my love for whom has brought upon me all my misfortunes, is it indeed true that he has abandoned me?” He was answered that it was so. “Well, then,” he murmured, falling back on his bed, and turning his face to the wall, “let all things go as they will; I care no longer for myself or for the world.” A few moments after, Richard approached the bed, and demanded the kiss of peace from his father, in execution of the treaty. The king gave it him with apparent calmness; but, as Richard withdrew, he heard his father mutter to himself: “If God would only spare my life till I were revenged on thee!” On his arrival at the French camp, the earl of Poitiers repeated this to king Philip and his courtiers, who all shouted with laughter, and jested upon the fine peace thus concluded between father and son.4

The king of England, feeling his malady increase, had himself removed to Chinon, where, in a few days, he was reduced to the point of death. In his last moments he was heard to utter these broken sentences, in reference to his misfortunes and to the conduct of his sons: “Shame!” he exclaimed; “shame to a conquered king! Cursed be the day on which I was born, and cursed of God be the sons whom I Edition: current; Page: [186] leave behind me.”1 The bishops and clergy around him sought by every effort to induce him to recal this malediction on his children, but he persisted in it to his last breath.2 After his death, his body was treated by his servants as that of William the Conqueror had been; all abandoned him, after having stripped him of his clothes and seized upon every valuable in the room and in the house.3 King Henry had desired to be buried at Fontevrault, a celebrated nunnery, a few leagues south of Chinon; scarcely could men be found to envelop the body in a shroud, or horses to convey it.4 The corpse was already deposited in the great church of the abbey, awaiting the day of sepulture, when earl Richard learned, from public report, his father’s death.5 He came to the church, and found the king lying in a coffin, his face uncovered, and still exhibiting, by the contraction of his features, the signs of an agonized death. This sight occasioned the earl of Poitiers an involuntary shudder. He knelt and prayed before the altar; but he rose in a few moments, after the interval of a paternoster, say the historians of the period, and quitted the church, never to return to it. The same contemporary writers assure us that, from the moment Richard entered the church until he left it, the blood incessantly flowed in abundance from the nostrils of the deceased. Next day the funeral took place. The officiating priests wished to decorate the corpse with some insignia of royalty; but the keepers of the treasury of Chinon would supply none, and after infinite intreaties only sent an old sceptre and a ring of no value. In default of a crown, the head was encircled with a sort of diadem, made with some gold fringe from a woman’s dress; and thus singularly attired did Henry, son of Geoffroy Plantagenest, king of England, duke of Normandy, Aquitaine, and Brittany, earl of Anjou and Maine, lord of Tours and Amboise, descend to his last abode.6

A contemporary author views in the misfortunes of Henry II. a sign of Divine vengeance upon the Normans, the tyrants of invaded England. He connects this miserable death with Edition: current; Page: [187] those of William Rufus, of the sons of Henry I., of the brothers of Henry II., and of his two eldest sons, who all died a violent death in the flower of their age: “Such,” said he, “was the punishment of their unlawful reign.”1 Without adopting this superstitious view, it is certain that the calamities of king Henry were a result of the events which placed the southern provinces of Gaul under his domination. He had rejoiced infinitely in this augmentation of power; he had given his sons the territories of others in appanage, glorying to see his family reign over many nations of different race and of different manners, and to reunite, under the same sceptre, that which nature had divided. But nature did not lose her rights; and at the first movement made by the peoples to regain their independence, division entered the family of the foreign king, who saw his own children serve his own subjects as instruments against him, and who, whirled to and fro, up to his last hour, by domestic feuds, experienced on his death-bed the bitterest feeling a man can carry with him to the tomb, that of dying by a parricide.

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State of Ireland under the Anglo-Normans—Three populations in Ireland—Insurrection of the Irish—Political conduct of a papal legate—Conquest of the kingdom of Ulster—Invasion of that of Connaught—Prince John, son of Henry II., sent into Ireland—Insult offered to the Irish chieftains—Fresh insurrection—Inveterate hostility of the two races—Petition of the Irish to the pope—Cruelties of the Anglo-Irish—Unyielding patriotism of the native Irish—Tenacity of the Cambrian race—Popular belief respecting king Arthur—Pretended discovery of the tomb of Arthur—Prediction of a Welshman to Henry II.—Accession of Richard I.—His first administrative measures—He departs for the Crusades—His quarrel with the people of Messina—Misunderstanding between him and the king of France—Their reconciliation—Ordinance of the two kings—Taking of Acre—Return of the king of France—State of affairs in England—Quarrel between the chancellor William de Longchamp and earl John, king Richard’s brother—Impeachment of the chancellor—Convocation of the citizens of London—Dismissal of the chancellor—His flight—His arrest—Accusations brought by the king of France against king Richard—Feigned apprehensions of assassination—Institution of the gardes-du-corps—Fresh complaints of Philip against Richard—Departure of king Richard—He lands on the coast of Istria—His arrest and imprisonment—Intrigues of the king of France and of earl John—King Richard acknowledges himself vassal of the emperor—Alliance between earl John and the king of France—Richard ransomed—His release and return to England—Siege of Nottingham—Visit of the king to Sherwood Forest—Robert, or Robin Hood, king of the outlaws—Popularity of the outlaws—Character of Robin Hood—Popular ballad on Robin Hood—His long celebrity—Tradition respecting his death—Outlaws of Cumberland—Adam Bell, Clym of the Clough, and William of Cloudesly—Freebooting loses its patriotic colouring—King Richard resumes his crown—Ambition of the king of France—War between the two kings—Treachery of earl John—Restoration of peace—Policy of the northern populations—Interview of the two kings—State of Auvergne—The king of France attacks that country—Sirventes of king Richard and of the earl of Auvergne—State of England—Saxon families—Assemblies of the London citizens—Character of William Longbeard—Conspiracy of the Londoners—Longbeard tried and executed—He popularly passes for a martyr—Observations.

The impossibility of combining every fact in one narrative, now compels the historian to return to the epoch at which Henry II. received from pope Alexander III. the bull investing Edition: current; Page: [189] him with the lordship of all Ireland. The king hereupon immediately despatched the Normans, William Fitz-Elme, and Nicholas, dean of Wallingford, who, on their arrival in Ireland, convoked a synod of all the high clergy of the newly conquered provinces.1 The diploma of Alexander III. and the bull of Adrian IV. were solemnly read in this assembly, and ratified by the Irish bishops, involved by their first submission in fresh acts of weakness. Several, however, soon repented, and took part in the conspiracies which were secretly carried on in the places occupied by the Norman garrisons, or even in the open resistance of the still free provinces on the Shannon and the Boyne. Lawrence, archbishop of Dublin, one of the first who had sworn fealty to the conqueror, engaged in several patriotic insurrections, and from the friend of the foreigners, became the object of their hatred and persecution.2 They replaced him by a Norman, John Comine, who, to accomplish his new mission, conducted himself in such sort towards the natives, that his countrymen gave him, in jest, the surname of Ecorche-villain.3

In a few years, the conquest extended as far as the eastern and southern frontiers of the kingdoms of Connaught and Ulster. A line of fortresses and palisadoed redoubts, stretching along the frontier of the invaded territory, procured it the Norman appellation of Pal or the Pale. Every foreign baron, knight, or squire, quartered within the Pale, had taken care to fortify his domain; each had a castle, great or small, according to his rank and wealth. The lowest class of the conquering army, and in particular the English soldiers, labourers, or merchants, dwelt together in entrenched camps, formed round the castles of their leaders, or in the towns which the natives had partly abandoned. The English language was spoken in the streets and market-places of these towns, and the French in the fortresses newly erected by the lords of the conquest. All the names of these chiefs that history has preserved, are French, as Raymond de Caen, Guillaume Ferrand, Guillaume Edition: current; Page: [190] Maquerel, Robert Digarre, Henri Bluet, Jean de Courcy, Hughes le Petit, and the numerous family of the Fitz-Geraulds, who were also called Gerauldines.1 Thus the English who had come to Ireland in the train of the Anglo-Normans, were in a middle state between the latter and the natives, and their language, the most despised in their own country, held in the island of Erin an intermediate rank between that of the new government and the Gallic idiom of the conquered. All that remained of Irish population within the inclosure of the Pale, or the Anglo-Norman territory, was soon confounded in one common servitude, no distinction remaining between the friend of the foreigners and the man who had resisted them; all became equal in the eyes of the conquerors, as soon as they no longer needed assistance. In the kingdom of Leinster, as elsewhere, they only left to the inhabitants of their land and property that which was not worth the taking from them. They who had called in the Normans and fought with them, repented and revolted;2 but wanting organization, they could not carry on their revolt, and the foreigners accused them of fickleness and perfidy. These interested reproaches passed into contemporary history, which at every page lavishes them upon all of Irish race.3

Towards the year 1177, the men of Connaught and Ulster, not content with defending the approaches to their own country, resolved to attempt the enfranchisement of the invaded territory. They advanced as far as Dublin; but, unskilled in the art of besieging, they did not succeed in gaining possession of this city, which had been recently fortified, and were thus arrested in their progress. The Normans, to compel them to retreat by a powerful diversion, entered Ulster, under the command of John de Courcy. This manœuvre obliged the king of Connaught to quit the south-eastern country, and to return northwards; many of the ancient chiefs, and even of the Irish bishops of the Anglo-Norman territory, joined his army.4

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At this time a cardinal, named Vivian, who had been sent by the pope to Scotland to collect money, having succeeded in his mission, landed in the north of Ireland, in the district whither the war had just been transferred. Notwithstanding all the evil that the Roman church had inflicted upon Ireland, the legate was received with great honour by the chiefs of the Irish army; they intreated him, with deference, to counsel them, and to tell them whether it was not lawful for them to oppose with all their power the usurpation of the king of England. From fear or calculation, the pontifical legate gave them the reply they desired, and even exhorted them to fight to the death in defence of their country. This encouragement excited an universal joy and a warm friendship towards the cardinal, who, without losing any time, announced that he would make a collection for the church of Rome. In the fulness of their content, the chiefs of the army and the people gave as much as they could, and the legate, continuing his journey, entered the Anglo-Norman territory.

Arrived at Dublin, he was ill received by the king’s barons and justiciaries, who reproached him with having encouraged the Irish to resistance, and ordered him to depart forthwith, unless he chose publicly to retract what he had said. The cardinal, without hesitation, proclaimed king Henry II. sovereign and lawful master of Ireland, and, in the name of the church, fulminated a decree of excommunication against every native who did not acknowledge him. The Normans were as delighted at this sentence as their adversaries had been at the approbation bestowed on their patriotic devotion, and the legate filled his coffers at leisure throughout the conquered part of the island. He then went to visit the Norman army, which had just invaded Ulster. This army suffered greatly from a scarcity of provisions, because, at their approach, the inhabitants hid or burned their provisions, or stored them in the churches, to stay the pillage of the foreigners by the fear of sacrilege. If such scruples did not wholly check the soldiers, they, at least, produced in them a certain degree of moral restraint, which, added to their physical privations, delayed the progress of the campaign. The chief of the expedition, John de Courcy, asked the cardinal if they who fought for the rights of king Henry, could not, without sin, force open the doors of the churches and Edition: current; Page: [192] take the provisions from them? “In this case,” answered the accommodating Roman, “the Irish alone would be guilty of sacrilege, who, to sustain their rebellion, dare to transform the church of God into a granary and a storehouse.”1

The invasion of Ulster was successful, though incomplete: the maritime towns and low country fell into the hands of the foreigners; but the mountainous districts remained free, and the natives collected there, and carried on a guerilla warfare.2 While John de Courcy was fortifying himself in his new conquest, the Norman Mile or Milon, who styled himself Mile de Cogham, because he possessed an estate of that name in England, crossed the river Shannon with six hundred horse, and entered the province of Connaught. He was followed thither by Hugh de Lacy, who was accompanied by greater forces. On their approach, the inhabitants withdrew to the forests, driving their cattle before them, taking away all they could, and burning the rest, together with their houses. This system of defence would probably have succeeded, had not the king of Connaught, who hitherto had shown himself the bravest man in Ireland, requested to capitulate, and consented to acknowledge himself liegeman of the king of England.3 His defection weakened the spirit of his people; but the nature of their country, the most mountainous in the island, and intersected by lakes and marshes, prevented the Anglo-Normans from completely effecting its conquest. They obtained few lands there, and settled in but a limited number; the only bond of subjection by which they retained their authority over this part of Ireland being the oath of vassalage sworn by the chief who had become their friend.

Hugh de Lacy married one of the daughters of this chief, and his companions in victory, dispersed among the native population, married, like himself, women of the country.4 Whether from the tendency to imitation, natural to man, or from a politic desire to ingratiate themselves with the natives, they gradually quitted the manners and customs of the Normans for those of the Irish, having at their banquets a harper, and preferring music and poetry to tournaments and warlike jousts.5 This change greatly displeased the barons Edition: current; Page: [193] settled in the southern and eastern provinces, where the natives, reduced to servitude and held in contempt by their lords, inspired the latter with no desire to imitate them. They treated those who adopted the usages or married the women of the country, as degenerate and misallied, and the children born of these marriages were regarded as very inferior in nobility to those of pure Norman race. Moreover, they distrusted them, fearing least the tie of relationship should some day attach them to the cause of the conquered people; which, however, did not take place until many centuries after.

On the other hand, the king of England distrusted the lords settled in Ireland, alarmed at the idea that, sooner or later, one of them might undertake to found a new empire in that island. To avert this danger, Henry II. resolved to send one of his sons to represent him, under the title of king of Ireland; and, as he could not trust any of the three eldest, who were alone capable of properly fulfilling the mission, he selected John, the youngest of all, scarcely as yet fifteen.1 The day on which this prince received knighthood at Westminster, his father made all the conquerors of the isle of Erin swear to him the oath of vassalage. Hugh de Lacy and Mile de Cogham did homage to him for Connaught, and John de Courcy for Ulster. The south-western part of the island was not yet subjected: it was offered in fief to two brothers, Herbert and Josselin de la Pommeraye, upon the sole condition that they should conquer it; they refused the gift, which seemed to them too onerous. But Philip de Brause accepted it, and did homage for it to the new king of Ireland, declaring that he held of him, for the service of sixty men, a district into which no Norman had yet penetrated.2

The fourth son of Henry II. embarked in April 1185, and landed at Waterford, accompanied by Robert le Pauvre, his marshal, and a great number of young men, brought up at the court of England, who had never seen Ireland, and who, alike strangers to the conquerors of the country and to the natives, followed the new king, in the hope of making a rapid fortune at the expense of both. Upon landing, John Edition: current; Page: [194] proceeded to Dublin, where he was received with great ceremony by the archbishops and all the Anglo-Normans of the district. Many of the Irish chiefs who had sworn fealty to king Henry and to the foreign barons, came to salute the young prince, according to the form of their country.

This ceremonial was much less refined than that of the Norman court; it left each man free to give to the person invested with sovereign power, the token of affection he thought fit, and in the way he thought fit. The Irish had no idea but that they were to follow the ancient customs, and, accordingly, one simply bowed before the son of king Henry, another shook hands with him, a third wished to embrace him; but the Normans regarded this familiarity as impertinent, and treated the native chiefs as rude, unmannerly, untaught churls. Amusing themselves with insulting them, they pulled their long beards, or their hair, which hung down on each side of the head, or touched their dress with a contemptuous air, or pushed them towards the door. These insults did not remain unavenged, and the same day all the Irish chiefs left Dublin in a body. Many people of the surrounding districts, taking with them their children and their goods, followed them, and sought refuge, some in the south with the king of Limerick, who still struggled against the conquest; others with the king of Connaught, who soon placed himself at the head of a new patriotic insurrection.1

In the almost general war which then arose between the Irish and their conquerors, a circumstance favourable to the former was the jealousy of the young king’s courtiers towards the barons and knights of the conquest. Having nothing to lose in this war, they looked upon it as an occasion presented to them of supplanting the first settlers in their commands and their position. They accused and calumniated them to the son of Henry II., who, frivolous, careless, and devoted to the companions of his pleasures, despoiled in their favour the founders and supporters of the Norman power in Hibernia. He spent in debauchery all the money received from England for the payment of the troops; his army, ill commanded and discontented, obtained little success against the insurgents, and the cause of the conquerors began to be in danger. As Edition: current; Page: [195] soon as this peril was felt, the young king and his courtiers fled and quitted the island, taking with them all the money they could collect, and leaving the two populations really interested in the war, to fight it out between them.1

The struggle of these two races of men continued for a long period, under every form, in open country and in towns, by strength and by stratagem, by open attack and by assassination. The same spirit of hatred to the foreign power which, in England, had strewed with Norman corses the forests of Yorkshire and Northumberland, now filled with them the lakes and marshes of Erin. A feature giving a peculiar character to the conquest of the latter country is, that the conquerors of Ireland, ranking as oppressors in reference to the natives, were reduced to that of oppressed, in reference to their countrymen who had remained in England. The evil that the sons of the conquerors inflicted upon the subjugated nation, was in part retaliated upon them by the kings of whom they held, who, doubting their fidelity, regarded them almost as a foreign race. There was, however, infinite difference between the tyrannies which the English, established in Ireland, underwent from the government of England, and those which they themselves inflicted on the natives for a long series of ages. A document of the fourteenth century may answer the purpose of much detail, and complete, for the reader, the idea of a conquest in the middle ages.

“To pope John, Donald O’Neyl, king of Ulster, and the inferior kings of that territory, and all the population of Irish race.

“Most holy father, we transmit to you some exact and true information of the state of our nation and the injustice we suffer, and which our ancestors have suffered, from the kings of England, and their agents, and the English barons born in Ireland. After having driven us by violence from our spacious habitations, from our fields and our paternal inheritances; after having forced us, in order to save our lives, to fly to the mountains, the marshes, the woods, and the hollows of the rocks, they continually harass us in these miserable asylums to expel us thence, and appropriate the whole of our country to themselves. From this there results between them and us an Edition: current; Page: [196] implacable enmity; and it was a former pope who placed us in this deplorable situation. They had promised this pope to form the people of Hibernia to good manners, and to give them good laws: but far from so doing, they have destroyed all the written laws which heretofore governed us. They have left us without laws, the better to accomplish our ruin; or have established perfectly detestable laws, of which the following are examples.

“It is a rule in the courts of justice of the king of England in Ireland, that any man, not of Irish race, may bring any sort of action against an Irishman, while this power is prohibited to all Irishmen, lay or clerical. When, as too often happens, an Englishman assassinates an Irishman, priest or layman, the assassin is not corporally punished, or even made to pay a fine: on the contrary, the more considerable among us the assassinated man, the more is the murderer excused, honoured, and recompensed by his countrymen, even by the ecclesiastics and bishops. No Irishman may dispose of his property on his death-bed, but the English appropriate it all. All the religious orders established in Ireland upon the English territory are forbidden to receive any Irishman into their houses.

“The English, who have dwelt among us for many long years, and who are called men of mixed race, are not less cruel towards us than are the others. Sometimes they invite to their table the greatest men of our land, and treacherously kill them at board, or while they sleep. It is thus that Thomas de Clare, having invited to his house Brien the Red, of Thomond, his brother-in-law, put him to death by surprise, after having partaken with him of the same consecrated host, divided into two parts. These crimes they deem honourable and praiseworthy; it is the belief of all their laity, and many of their churchmen, that there is no more sin in killing an Irishman than in killing a dog. Their monks boldly assert that, for having killed a man of our nation (which too often happens), they would not abstain one single day from saying mass. As a proof of this, the monks of the order of Citeaux, established at Granard, in the diocese of Armagh, and those of the same order at Ynes, in Ulster, daily attack in arms, wound and kill the Irish, and yet regularly say mass. Brother Simon, of the order of Minorites, a relation of the bishop of Coventry, has publicly declared from the pulpit that there is Edition: current; Page: [197] not the slightest sin in killing or robbing an Irishman. In a word, all maintain that they are at full liberty to take from us, if they can, our lands and our goods, and their conscience does not reproach them for this, even at the hour of death.

“These grievances, added to the difference of language and of manners which exists between them and us, destroy every hope of our ever enjoying peace or truce in this world, so great on their side is the desire to rule, so great on ours the legitimate and natural desire to throw off an insupportable servitude, and to recover the inheritance of our ancestors. We preserve in our heart’s core an inveterate hatred, the result of long memories of injustice, of the murder of our fathers, our brothers, our cousins, which will never be forgotten, either by us or by our sons. Thus, then, without regret or remorse, so long as we shall live, we shall fight them in defence of our rights, ceasing only to combat and injure them when they themselves, through want of power, shall cease to do us evil, and when the Supreme Judge shall take vengeance on their crimes, which we firmly hope will happen sooner or later. Until then, we will, for the recovery of that independence which is our natural right, make war upon them to the death, constrained as we are thereto by necessity, and preferring to confront the peril as brave men than to languish amidst insult and outrage.”1

This promise of war to the death, made more than four hundred years ago, is not yet forgotten; and, melancholy circumstance, but well worthy to be remarked, blood has been shed in our own times, in Ireland, in the old quarrel of the conquest. The hour when this quarrel will be terminated, belongs to a future that we cannot as yet discern; for, notwithstanding the mixture of races, the intercommunion of every kind brought about by the course of centuries, hatred to the English government still subsists, as a native passion, in the mass of the Irish nation. Ever since the hour of invasion, this race of men has invariably desired that which their conquerors did not desire, detested that which they liked, and liked that which they detested. She whose misfortunes were in a degree caused by the ambition of the popes, attached herself to the doctrines of popery with a sort of fury, the instant that England Edition: current; Page: [198] emancipated herself from them. This indomitable pertinacy, this faculty of preserving through centuries of misery the remembrance of their lost liberty, and of never despairing of a cause always defeated, always fatal to those who have dared to defend it, is perhaps the strangest and the noblest example ever given by any nation.

Something of the tenacity of memory and of the national spirit which characterize the Irish race has been exhibited, at the same epochs, by the native Welsh. Weak as they were at the close of the twelfth century, they still hoped not only to recover the conquered portion of their own immediate country, but a return of the time when they possessed the island of Britain. Their immoveable confidence in this chimerical hope, made such an impression upon those who observed it, that in England, and even in France, the Welsh were considered to possess the gift of prophecy.1 The verses in which the ancient Cambrian poets had expressed, with effusion of soul, their patriotic wishes and expectations, were looked upon as mystic predictions, the exposition of which it was sought to discover in the great events of the day.2 Hence the singular celebrity which Myrdhin, a bard of the seventh century, enjoyed five hundred years after his death, under the name of Merlin the Enchanter. Hence also, the extraordinary renown of king Arthur, the hero of a petty nation, whose existence was scarcely known upon the continent. But the books of this petty nation were so full of poetry, they had so powerful an impress of enthusiasm and conviction, that once translated into other languages, they became most attractive reading for foreigners, and the theme upon which the romance writers of the middle ages most frequently constructed their fictions. It was thus that the old war-chief of the Cambrians appeared, in the fabulous histories of the Norman and French trouvères, the ideal of a perfect knight, and the greatest king that ever wore crown.

Not content to adorn this personage with every knightly perfection, many foreigners believed in his return, well nigh as firmly as did the Welsh themselves; this opinion gained ground even among the conquerors of Wales, whom it terrified Edition: current; Page: [199] despite all their efforts to conquer the impression; various reports, each more fantastic than the rest, nourished this belief. Now it was said that pilgrims, returning from the Holy Land, had met Arthur in Sicily, at the foot of Mount Etna;1 now, that he had appeared in a wood in Lower Brittany, or that the foresters of the king of England, in making their rounds by moonlight, often heard a great noise of horns, and met troops of hunters, who said they formed part of the train of king Arthur.2 Lastly, the tomb of king Arthur was nowhere to be found; it had often been sought but never discovered, and this circumstance scemed a confirmation of all the reports in circulation.3

The contemporary historians of the reign of king Henry II. admit that all these things formed for the Welsh a groundwork for national enthusiasm, and great encouragement in their resistance to foreign rule.4 The stronger minded among the Anglo-Normans ridiculed what they called the Breton Hope; but this hope, so vivid, so real, that it communicated itself by contagion even to the enemies of the Cambrians, gave umbrage to the statesmen of the court of England.5 To give it a mortal blow, they resolved to discover the tomb of Arthur, and this they did in the following manner. About the year 1189, a nephew of the king, named Henry de Sully, ruled the abbey of Glastonbury, raised on the site of the building whither popular tradition related that the great Cambrian chief had retired, to await the cure of his wounds. This abbot all at once announced, that a bard of Pembrokeshire had had a revelation as to the sepulchre of king Arthur; and hereupon extensive excavations were commenced within the walls of the monastery, care being taken the while to keep apart all persons who were likely to raise doubts on the Edition: current; Page: [200] subject.1 The desired discovery was of course made, and there was found, say the contemporaries, a Latin inscription engraved on a metal plate, and bones of an extraordinary size. These precious remains were raised with great marks of respect,2 and Henry II. had them placed in a magnificent coffin, of which he did not grudge the expense, thinking himself amply repaid by the injury done to the Welsh, in depriving them of their long cherished hope, of the superstition which animated their courage, and shook that of their conquerors.3

The patriotic determination of the Cambrians, however, survived the hope of king Arthur’s return, and they were still far from resigning themselves to foreign rule. This disposition of mind gave them confidence in themselves, so undoubting that it almost seemed to partake of insanity. In an expedition which king Henry II. made in person to the south of Wales, a Cambrian chief, under the influence of one of those family feuds which were the capital vice of the nation, came to his camp and joined him, The king received him as a valuable auxiliary, and questioning him on the probable chances of the war: “Dost thou think,” he said, “that the rebels can withstand my army?” At this question, patriotic pride awakened in the heart of the Welshman. Looking at the king with an air at once calm and assured, he answered: “King, your power may, to a certain extent, weaken and injure this nation, but utterly to destroy it requires the anger of God. In the day of judgment no other race, no other tongue than that of the Kymrys will answer for that corner of the earth to the Sovereign Judge.”4

The historians do not say in what terms Henry II. replied to these words, so impressed with imperturbable conviction; but the idea of the prophetic skill of the Welsh was not without power over him; at least, so his flatterers thought, for his name is found, by interpolation, in many of the old poems attributed to the bard Myrdhin.5

One day, as the same king, returning from Ireland, passed through Pembrokeshire, a countryman accosted him, to communicate Edition: current; Page: [201] an entirely religious prediction, remarkable only for the circumstances which accompanied it. The Welshman, thinking that a king of England must needs understand English, addressed Henry II. in that language, thus: “God holde ye, king.1 This salutation was followed by an harangue of which the king understood but a few words; wishing to answer, and unable to do so, he said in French to his squire: “Ask this peasant if he is telling us his dreams.” The squire, whose less elevated position enabled him to converse with Saxons, served as an interpreter between his master and the Cambrian.2 Thus, to the fifth king of England since the Conquest, the English language was almost a foreign tongue. The son and successor of Henry II., Richard, upon whose reign our history now enters, could just as little converse in English; but then he spoke and wrote equally well the two Romane languages of Gaul, that of the north and that of the south, the tongue of oui and the tongue of oc.

The first administrative act of Richard I., when his father (as we have seen) was buried in the church of Fontevrault, was to arrest Stephen de Tours, seneschal of Anjou and treasurer of Henry II. He shut him up, chained hand and foot, in a dungeon, which he did not quit until he had given up to the new king all the deceased king’s money, and his own too.3 Richard then crossed the Channel, accompanied by his brother John, and, on his arrival in England, took the same precautions as on the continent; he hastened to the various royal treasuries in different cities, and had their contents collected, weighed and enumerated. The love of gold was the first passion manifested by the new monarch; and as soon as he had been consecrated and crowned, according to ancient custom, he began to sell everything he possessed, lands, castles, towns, his whole demesne, and in some places the domains of others, if we are to credit an historian of the time.4

Many rich Normans, priests and laymen, profited by the opportunity, and bought, at a cheap rate, portions of the Edition: current; Page: [202] large share of the conquest which William the Bastard had reserved for himself and his successors.1 The Saxon burgesses of many towns belonging to the king, clubbed together to purchase their houses, and to become, for an annual rent, proprietors of the place they inhabited.2 By the operation of such a compact or treaty, the town making it became a corporation, regulated by officers responsible to the king for the payment of the municipal debt, and to the citizens for the employment of the money raised by personal contributions. The reigns of the successors of Richard I. exhibit many of these conventions by which the cities of England gradually emerged from the condition to which the Norman Conquest had reduced them,3 and it is wholly probable that he himself used this mode of filling his coffers, at a time when he seemed to neglect no means of so doing. “I would sell London,” he said to his courtiers, “if I could find a purchaser.”4

The money thus accumulated by the king of England in the first months of his reign, seemed destined to the expenses of the expedition to the Holy Land, which he had sworn to accomplish in common with Philip of France. Yet Richard displayed little haste to set out; his companion in pilgrimage was obliged to send ambassadors to England to remind him of his plighted word, and to inform him that the time of departure was definitively fixed for the festival of Easter. Richard, seeing no excuse for further delay, convoked at London a general assembly of his earls and barons, at which all those who with him had made a vow to take up the cross, swore to be at the place of meeting without fail. The ambassadors took this oath upon the soul of the king of France, and the barons of England upon the soul of their own king. Vessels were collected at Dover, and Richard crossed the sea.5

Upon the point of departure for the new crusade, the kings of England and France made a compact of alliance and brotherhood-in-arms, swearing that each would maintain the life and honour of the other; that neither would fail the other in the hour of danger; that the king of France would Edition: current; Page: [203] defend the rights of the king of England, as he would his own city of Paris, and the king of England those of the other king, as he would those of his own city of Rouen. Richard sailed from one of the ports of southern Gaul, which, from the frontiers of Spain to the coast of Italy, between Nice and Venitimille, were all free, depending nominally on the crown of Arragon.1 King Philip, who had no maritime town on the Mediterranean, went to Genoa, and embarked in vessels furnished him by this rich and powerful city.2 The fleet of the king of England joined him by the Straits of Gibraltar; and the two kings, having coasted along Italy, took up their winter quarters in Sicily.3

This island, conquered a century before by the Norman lords of Apulia and Calabria, formed, with the opposite territory, a kingdom acknowledging the suzerainty of the holy see. In the year 1139, Roger, first king of Sicily and Naples, had received from pope Innocent II. investiture by the standard. After the reign of his son and that of his grandson, the crown fell to one of his natural sons, named Tancred, who had acceded shortly previous to the arrival of the two kings at Messina. Both were received with great marks of respect and friendship; Philip had lodgings provided for himself and his barons within the town; and Richard established himself outside the walls, in a house surrounded by a vineyard.

One day that he was walking in the environs of Messina, accompanied by a single knight, he heard the cry of a falcon in the house of a peasant. Falcons, like all other birds of chase, were at this time in England, and even in Normandy, noble property, prohibited to villeins and burghers, and reserved for the amusement of barons and knights. Richard, forgetting that in Sicily things were not exactly as they were in his own kingdom, entered the house, seized the bird, and was about to carry it away; but the Sicilian peasant, though the subject of a king of Norman race, was not accustomed to suffer what the English endured; he resisted, and, calling his neighbours to his aid, he drew his knife upon the king. Richard endeavoured to use his sword against the peasants who collected around him, but the weapon breaking in his Edition: current; Page: [204] hands, he was fain to flee, pursued with sticks and stones.1 Shortly after this adventure, the habit of going any length in England with the villeins and burghers, involved the king in a more serious affair. There was, near Messina, on the coast of the Straits, a monastery of Greek monks, which its position rendered very strong: Richard, thinking the building commodious for holding his stores, expelled the monks and placed a garrison in it. But the inhabitants of Messina, resolved to show the foreign prince how greatly this act of contemptuous arrogance towards them displeased them, closed their gates, and refused the king of England’s people admission to the city. On hearing this, Richard, furious with anger, hastened to the palace of Tancred, and required him to chastise, without delay, the citizens who had dared to oppose a king. Tancred commanded the Messinese to abstain from hostilities, and peace seemed re-established; but Sicilian vindictiveness did not subside at the dictate of political considerations. Some days after, a troop of the most indignant and bravest of the citizens of Messina assembled on the heights around the quarters of the king of England, for the purpose of assailing him unexpectedly when he should pass with a limited train. Weary of waiting, they attacked the house of a Norman officer, Hugh le Brun; there ensued a combat and a great tumult, which coming to the ears of Richard, who was then in conference with king Philip upon the affairs of the holy war, he hastened to arm himself and his people. With superior forces, he pursued the citizens to the gates of the town: the latter entered, but admission was refused to the Normans, upon whom there rained from the walls above, a shower of arrows and stones. Five knights and twenty sergeants of the king of England were killed; at length, his whole army coming up, broke down one of the gates, and, taking possession of the city, planted the banner of Normandy on all the towers.

During this combat, the king of France had remained a tranquil spectator, without, say the historians, offering any aid to his brother-in-pilgrimage; but when he saw the standard of the king of England floating on the ramparts of Messina, he demanded that this flag should be removed and replaced Edition: current; Page: [205] by his own. This was the commencement of a quarrel between the brothers-in-arms, which time only embittered. Richard would not yield to the pretensions of the king of France; but, lowering his banner, committed the city to the custody of the knights of the Temple until he obtained satisfaction from king Tancred for the conduct of the Messinese. The king of Sicily granted everything that was asked, and, more timid than a handful of his subjects had shown themselves, he made his great officers swear, by his soul and their own, that he and his people, by land and by sea, would at all times maintain faith and peace with the king of England and all his people.

In proof of his fidelity to this oath, Tancred gave Richard a letter, which he assured him had been sent to him by king Philip, and in which that monarch said that the king of England was a traitor, who had not observed the conditions of the last peace made with him, and that if Tancred and his people would fall upon him, by day or by night, the army of France would aid them. Richard kept this communication for some time secret; but in one of the frequent disputes resulting from their prolonged stay in the same place, he suddenly presented the letter to the king of France, and asked him if he recognised it? Without replying to this question, Philip assailed the king of England: “I see what it is,” said he; “you seek a quarrel with me, as a pretext for not marrying my sister Aliz, whom you have sworn to wed; but be sure that if you abandon her, and take another wife, I will be a life-long enemy of you and yours.” “I cannot marry your sister,” calmly answered Richard; “for it is certain that she had a child by my father; as I can prove by good testimony, if you so require.”1 This was not a discovery that Richard had only just made respecting his affianced bride; he had known of the affair at the time when, to injure his father, he showed as we have seen, so great a desire to conclude this marriage. But that which he had promised, ambitious to reign, he did not, as crowned king, deem himself bound to accomplish; and he made Philip undergo the proof, by evidence, of his sister’s shame. The facts, as it would seem, were incontestable; and the king of France, unable to persist in his Edition: current; Page: [206] demand, released Richard from his promise of marriage, in consideration of ten thousand marks of silver, payable in four years. On this condition, says the contemporary narrator, he gave him leave to marry whomsoever he pleased.1

Once more friends, the two kings set sail for the Holy Land, after having again sworn upon the relics and upon the Gospel, faithfully to sustain each other, going and returning. On the eve of departure, the following ordinance was published in the two camps:—

“Know that it is forbidden to every one in the army, except the knights and priests, to play for money at any game whatever, during the transit; the priests and knights may play so long as they lose no more than twenty sous in one day and night, and the kings may play for as much as they will.

“In the company of the kings, or in their ship, and with their permission, the royal sergeants-at-arms may play up to twenty sous; and so in the company of the archbishops, bishops, earls, counts, and barons, and with their permission, their sergeants may play to the same amount.

“But if, of their own authority, sergeants-at-arms, labourers or sailors, presume to play, the former shall be flogged once a day for three days; and the latter shall be plunged three times into the sea, from the top-mast.”2

God, say the historians of the time, blessed the holy pilgrimage of these pious and sage kings. Philip arrived first off the city of Ptolemais or Saint Jean-d’Acre, then besieged by the Christians whom Salah-Edin had driven from Jerusalem and Palestine; Richard joined him here after a long delay, during which he had conquered the island of Cyprus from a prince of the race of Comnena. As soon as the two kings had united their forces, the siege of Acre advanced rapidly; their heavy guns, their pierriers, their mangonneaux, and their trebuchets did such execution upon the walls, that a breach was opened in a few days, and the garrison obliged to capitulate.3 This victory, which produced the most vivid enthusiasm among the Christians of the east, did Edition: current; Page: [207] not, however, assure concord between the crusader princes. Despite the oath taken by the two kings upon the Gospel, they and their soldiers hated and abused and calumniated each other inveterately.1

Most of the chiefs of the army, whatever their rank or their country, were divided by rivalries, ambition, avarice, or pride. On the day of the taking of Acre, the king of England, finding the banner of the duke of Austria planted on the walls beside his own, had it taken down, torn, and thrown into a sewer.2 Shortly after, the marquis of Montferrat, who disputed with Guy de Lusignan the vain title of king of Jerusalem, was assassinated at Tyre by two fanatic Arabs, and the king of England was charged with having hired them to do the deed. Lastly, a few months afterwards, the king of France falling ill, thought, or feigned to think, that he had been poisoned by some secret agent of the king of England.3 Under this pretext he abandoned the enterprise he had vowed to achieve, and left his companions in pilgrimage to fight alone against the Saracens.4 Richard, more obstinate than he, continued with every effort the difficult task of reconquering the holy city and the wood of the true cross.

While performing, with little result, exploits that rendered his name an object of terror throughout the east, his kingdom of England was the theatre of great troubles caused by his absence. The native English had not, indeed, essayed a revolt against their lords of Norman race; but misunderstandings had arisen among the latter. On his departure for the crusade, king Richard had confided no authority to his brother John, who then bore no other title than that of earl of Mortain. Faithful to that old instinct of discord which he himself ascribed to all the members of his family, Richard distrusted and disliked his brother. A stranger to the family, a stranger even to Anjou and to Normandy, William de Longchamp, bishop of Ely, a native of Beauvais, had been charged by the king with the supreme direction of affairs, under the title of chancellor and grand justiciary of England. Lastly, king Richard had made his natural brother Geoffroy swear that he Edition: current; Page: [208] would not set foot in England until three years after his departure, his expectation being that he should return within that time.1

The chancellor, William de Longchamp, master of the entire royal power, used it to enrich himself and his family; he placed his relations and friends of foreign birth in all the posts of profit and honour; confided to them the custody of the castles and towns, which he took, under various pretences, from men of pure Norman race, whom, equally with the English he made to feel the weight of insupportable exactions.2 The authors of the time say that, thanks to his rapine, no knight could keep his silver-plated baldric, no noble his gold ring, no woman her necklace, no Jew his merchandize.3 He affected the manners of a sovereign, and sealed the public acts with his own seal, instead of with the seal of England;4 a numerous guard was posted round his palace; wherever he went, a thousand horse and more accompanied him, and if he lodged in any man’s house, three years’ income did not suffice to repair the expense he and his train had occasioned in one single day.5 He procured at great expense from France, trouveres and jongleurs to sing in the public squares, verses wherein it was affirmed that the chancellor had not his equal in the world.6

John, earl of Mortain, the king’s brother, a man no less ambitious and no less vain than the chancellor, beheld with envy this power and pomp, which he would fain himself have displayed. All whom the exactions of William de Longchamp angered, or who desired a political change wherein to make their fortune, formed a party around the earl, and an open struggle was soon established between the two rivals. Their enmity broke forth in reference to one Gerard de Camville, a man of Norman race, whom the chancellor sought to deprive of the governorship, or, as it was then called, the viscounty of Lincoln, which the king had sold to him.7 The chancellor, who wished to give this office to one of his friends, ordered Gerard to surrender the keys of the royal castle of Lincoln; Edition: current; Page: [209] but the viscount resisted the order, declaring that he was liegeman of the earl John, and that he would not give up his fief, until he had been judged and condemned to forfeiture in the court of his lord.1 On this refusal, the chancellor came with an army to besiege the castle of Lincoln, took it, and expelled Gerard de Camville, who demanded reparation for this violence from John, as his suzerain and protector. As a sort of reprisal for the injury done to his vassal, earl John seized upon the royal castles of Nottingham and Tickhil, placed his knights there, and unfurled his banner, protesting, says an ancient historian, that if the chancellor did not promptly do justice to Gerard, his liegeman, he would visit him with a rod of iron.2 The chancellor was alarmed, and negotiated an accommodation, by which the earl remained in possession of the two fortresses he had seized upon; this first step of prince John towards the authority his brother had feared to confide in him, was soon followed by more important attempts.

Geoffroy, the natural son of Henry II., who had been elected archbishop of York during his father’s life, but had long remained without confirmation by the pope, at length obtained from Rome permission to receive consecration from the prelate of Tours, the metropolitan of Anjou. Immediately after his consecration he departed for England, notwithstanding the oath which the king his brother had obliged him to take. The chancellor received information of this; and as the archbishop was about to sail from the port of Wissant, messengers came to him, and forbad him, in the king’s name, to cross the sea. Geoffroy took no heed to this prohibition, and armed men were posted to seize him on landing. Having evaded them by disguising himself, he reached a monastery at Canterbury, the monks of which received him, and concealed him in their house. But the rumour of his presence there soon spread; the monastery was invested by soldiers, and the archbishop, seized in the church as he was saying mass, was imprisoned in the castle of the city, under the charge of the constable Matthew de Clare. This violent arrest created great excitement throughout England; and earl John, availing himself of the occasion, openly took up his brother’s cause, Edition: current; Page: [210] and menacingly ordered the chancellor to set the archbishop at liberty. The chancellor did not venture to resist; and, becoming more daring, the earl of Mortain proceeded to London, convoked the great council of barons and bishops, and charged William de Longchamp before them with having enormously abused the power which the king had confided to him. William had displeased so many persons, that his accuser was sure of a favourable audience. The assembly of barons cited him to appear before them; he refused, and, assembling troops, marched from Windsor, where he then was, to London, to prevent the barons from assembling a second time. But the earl’s troops met him at the gates of the city, attacked and dispersed his escort, and forced him to throw himself, in great haste, into the Tower of London, where he remained close shut up, while the barons and bishops, assembled in parliament, deliberated on his fate.1

The majority of them resolved to strike a decisive blow, and to remove the man to whom king Richard had confided the viceroyalty, and who, according to legal forms, could not be deposed without the express order of the sovereign. In this daring enterprise, the earl of Mortain and the Anglo-Norman barons resolved to involve the Saxon inhabitants of London, in order to secure, if it became necessary to fight, the aid of that great city’s population. On the day fixed for their assembly, they rang the great alarm bell; and as the citizens issued from their houses, persons stationed in various places told them to go to Saint Paul’s church.2 The traders and artisans went thither in crowds to see what was on foot; they were surprised to find assembled there the nobles of the land, the sons of the men of the conquest, with whom they had no other relations than those of villein and lord. Contrary to their usual practices, the barons and prelates gave a cordial reception to the citizens, and a sort of transient fraternity appeared, despite the difference of social condition, between the Normans and Saxons. The latter understood as much as they could of the harangues pronounced before them in the French language; and, the debate over, there was read a letter purporting to be from the king, dated at Messina, and setting forth that if the chancellor conducted himself ill in his Edition: current; Page: [211] office, he might be deposed, and the archbishop of Rouen substituted for him. This having been read, the votes of the whole assembly were taken without distinction of race; and the Norman heralds proclaimed, “that it had pleased John, earl of Mortain, the king’s brother, all the bishops, earls, and barons of the kingdom, and the citizens of London, to depose from his office the chancellor, William de Longchamp.”1

Meantime the chancellor was close shut up in the Tower of London; he might have sustained a siege there; but, abandoning every thought of defence, he offered to capitulate. Egress was granted him, on condition of his surrendering to the archbishop of Rouen, his successor, the keys of all the king’s castles. He was made to swear not to quit England until he had made this surrender, and his two brothers were imprisoned as hostages for his word. He withdrew to Canterbury, and after staying there some days, resolved to flee, preferring to leave his brothers in danger of their lives than to restore the castles, by the possession of which he hoped to regain all he had lost. He left the town on foot and disguised, having over his male attire a woman’s petticoat and a cape with large sleeves; his head was covered with a veil of thick cloth, and he held a roll of cloth under his arm, and a measure in his hand. In this guise, that of the female English traders of the period, the chancellor went to the sea-coast, where he had to await for some time the vessel he had engaged to convey him abroad.2

He sat down tranquilly on a stone, with his bundle on his knees; some passing fishermen’s wives accosted him, asking the price of his cloth; but not knowing a word of English, the chancellor made no answer, which greatly surprised the women. They went on, however; but other women came up, saw the cloth, and examining it, asked the same question as their predecessors. The pretended trader continuing silent, the women repeated their question; at length, driven to extremity, the chancellor laughed aloud, thinking by such an answer to escape from his embarrassment. At this illtimed mirth the women thought they were addressing an idiot or a mad woman, and raising his veil for further examination, discovered the face of a dark-complexioned man, recently Edition: current; Page: [212] shaved. Their cries of surprise aroused the workmen of the port, who, delighted with an object of diversion, threw themselves on the disguised person, dragged him about by his clothes, threw him down, and amused themselves with his futile efforts to escape from them or to make them understand who he was. Having dragged him for some time over the stones and mud, the fishermen and sailors ended by shutting him up in a cellar, which he only quitted upon making himself known to the agents of the Norman authority.1

Obliged to fulfil his engagements with the earl of Mortain and his partisans, the ex-chancellor gave up to them the keys of the castles, and thus obtained permission freely to leave England. On his arrival in France, he hastened to write word to king Richard that his brother John had seized upon all his fortresses, and would usurp his kingdom if he did not forthwith return.2 Other news, still more alarming, soon reached the king of England in Palestine. He learned that Philip of France, passing through Rome, had induced the pope to release him from the oath of peace he had sworn to Richard, and that, on his arrival at Fontainebleau, he had boasted that he would soon disturb the states of the king of England.3 Notwithstanding the distance which now separated him from Richard, king Philip still affected to fear some treachery or snare on his part.4 Once, on arriving at the castle of Pontoise for recreation, he suddenly appeared anxious, and hastily returned to Paris. He immediately assembled his barons, and showed them letters just arrived, he said, from beyond seas, and which warned him to be on his guard, for that the king of England had, from the east, sent hassassis or assassins to kill him.5

Such was the name, then quite new in European languages, by which were designated certain Mahometans, fanatics in religion and patriotism, who thought to gain Paradise by devoting themselves to kill by surprise the enemies of their faith. It was generally believed that there existed in the defiles of Mount Libanus a whole tribe of these enthusiasts, subject to a chief called the “Old Man of the Mountain,” and Edition: current; Page: [213] that the vassals of this mysterious personage joyfully ran to meet death at the first signal from their chief.1 The name of Haschischi, by which he was designated in Arabic, was derived from that of an intoxicating plant, of which they made frequent use to exalt or stupify themselves.2

It will be readily understood, that the name of these men who poniarded people without the slightest warning of their attack, stabbed generals of armies in the very midst of their soldiers, and who, so they had struck their victim, themselves died laughing, necessarily inspired the western crusaders and pilgrims with great alarm. They brought back so vivid a memory of the terror they had felt at the mere word assassin, that this word soon passed into every mouth, and the most absurd tales of assassination readily found in Europe people disposed to credit them. This disposition existed, it would appear, in France, when king Philip assembled his barons in parliament at Paris. None of them expressed a doubt as to the king’s danger; and Philip, whether the more to excite hatred among his vassals against the king of England, or to give himself greater security against his other enemies and against his subjects themselves, surrounded his person with extraordinary precautions.3 “Contrary to the custom of his ancestors,” say the contemporary writers, “he was always escorted by armed men, and instituted, for more security, guards of his body, selected from among the men most devoted to him, and armed with great maces of iron or brass.” It is mentioned, that some persons, who, with their previously accustomed familiarity, approached him too near, ran great risk of their lives. “This royal innovation astonished and singularly displeased many.”4

The ill effect produced by the institution of these bodyguards, then called sergents à masses, obliged king Philip again to convoke the assembly of the barons and bishops of France.5 He renewed before them his former imputations Edition: current; Page: [214] against the king of England, assuring them that it was he who had caused the marquis of Montferrat to be killed at Tyre, in broad daylight, by assassins in his pay.1 “Is it then astonishing,” asked the king, “that I should take more care of myself than usual? nevertheless, if my precautions seem to you unbefitting or superfluous, say so, and I will discontinue them.”2

The assembly of course answered, that whatever the king thought fit to do for his personal safety was proper and just; the body-guards were maintained, and the institution existed many centuries after the belief in the mysterious power of the Old Man of the Mountain had disappeared from France.3 Another question addressed by king Philip to his barons was this: “Tell me, is it not fitting and lawful that I take prompt and full vengeance for the manifest injuries this traitor, Richard, has done me?” Upon this point the reply was still more unanimous, for the barons of France were all animated with the old spirit of national rancour against the Norman power.4

Notwithstanding the distance which then separated him from France, king Richard was quickly informed of these matters, because, in the fervour of zeal excited in Europe against the followers of Mahomet, new pilgrims departed every day for the Holy Land. The deposition of the chancellor, and the occupation of the fortresses by earl John, had greatly disturbed the king of England, who foresaw that, sooner or later, his brother, following the example he himself had given, would unite his projects of ambition with the projects of hostility of the king of France. These fears troubled him to such a degree, that, despite the vow he had taken not to quit the Holy Land, so long as there remained an ass for him to eat,5 he concluded a truce of three years, three months, and three days, with the Saracens, and departed for the west.

Arrived off Sicily, he thought it might be dangerous for him to land in one of the ports of southern Gaul, because Edition: current; Page: [215] most of the seigneurs of Provence were relations of the marquis of Montferrat, and because the count of Toulouse, Raymond de Saint Gilles, suzerain of the maritime districts west of the Rhone, was his personal enemy. Apprehending some ambush on their part, instead of traversing the Mediterranean, he entered the Adriatic, having dismissed most of his suite in order to avoid recognition. His vessel was attacked by pirates, whose friendship, after a vigorous skirmish with them, he conciliated; and leaving his own vessel for one of theirs, was conveyed in it to a little port on the coast of Istria. He landed with a Norman baron, named Baldwin de Bethune, his chaplains maître Philip and maître Anselme, some Templars, and a few servants. It was necessary to obtain a passport from the seigneur of the province, who resided at Goritz, and who, by an unfortunate chance, was nearly related to the family of the marquis of Montferrat. The king sent one of his people to seek the safe conduct required, ordering him to present to the count of Goritz a ring, set with a large ruby, which he had bought in Palestine of a Pisan merchant. This ruby, already celebrated, was recognised by the count. “Who are they who send thee to ask this permission?” said he to the messenger. “Pilgrims returning from Jerusalem.” “Their names?” “One is Baldwin de Bethune, and the other Hugh le Marchand, who offers you this ring.” The count of Goritz, examining the ring attentively, remained for some time silent; he then said: “Thou sayest not true; his name is not Hugh; he is king Richard. But since he designed to honour me unknown with a gift, I will not arrest him; I return him his present, and leave him free to proceed on his way.”

Surprised at this incident, which he had by no means anticipated, Richard immediately departed; no attempt was made to stay him. But the count of Goritz sent to inform his brother, the lord of a town at no great distance, that the king of England was in the country, and would pass through his lands. This brother had in his service a Norman knight, named Roger d’Argenton, whom he directed to visit every day all the inns where pilgrims lodged, and to see if he could not discover the king of England by his language, or any other token; promising him, if he succeeded in arresting him, the government of half his town. The Norman knight prosecuted Edition: current; Page: [216] his inquiries for several days, going from house to house, and at last discovered the king. Richard endeavoured to conceal who he was, but, driven to extremity by the Norman’s questions, he was fain to avow himself. Hereupon, Roger, with tears, implored him to flee forthwith, offering him his best horse; he then returned to his lord, told him that the news of the king’s arrival was a false report, and that he had not found him, but only Baldwin de Bethune, a countryman of his, who was returning from the great pilgrimage. The count, furious at having missed his aim, arrested Baldwin, and threw him into prison.

Meantime, king Richard was pursuing his flight on the German territory, his only companions being William de l’Etang, his intimate friend, and a valet, who spoke the Teutonic language, either from being an Englishman by birth, or because his inferior condition had permitted him to acquire the English language, at that time closely resembling the Saxon dialect of Germany, and altogether without French words, French expressions, or French constructions. Having travelled three days and three nights without taking any nourishment, almost without knowing whither they were going, they entered the province which in the Teutonic language was called Œster-reich, that is to say, country or the East. This name was a last reminiscence of the old empire of the Franks, of which this country had formed the eastern extremity. Œster-reich, or Autriche, as the French and Normans called it, was a dependent of the Germanic empire, and was governed by a lord who bore the title of here-zog, or duke; and, unfortunately, this duke, named Leotpolde, or Leopold,1 was the same whom Richard had mortally offended in Palestine by tearing down and dishonouring his banner. His residence was at Vienna on the Danube, where the king and his two companions arrived, exhausted with hunger and fatigue.

The servant who spoke English went to the exchange to convert gold besants into the money of the country. He made a great parade of his person and his gold, assuming an air of importance and the manners of a courtier. The citizens, conceiving suspicions, took him before their magistrate to Edition: current; Page: [217] ascertain who he was. He represented himself as the domestic of a rich merchant who was to arrive in three days, and was hereupon set at liberty. On his return to the king’s lodging, he related his adventure, and advised him to depart at once, but Richard, desiring repose, remained. Meantime the news of his landing reached Austria; and duke Leopold, eager for revenge, and still more so to enrich himself by the ransom of such a prisoner, sent spies and soldiers in every direction in search of him. They traversed the country without discovering him; but one day the same servant who had once before been arrested, being in the market-place purchasing provisions, a pair of his master’s richly-embroidered gloves, such as the nobles of the period wore with their court attire, were seen in his belt. He was again seized, and put to the torture to extract an avowal; he confessed the facts, and named the inn where king Richard was to be found. The house was immediately surrounded by the duke of Austria’s troops, who, surprising the king, forced him to surrender. The duke treated him with respect, but shut him up in a prison, where chosen soldiers guarded him, with drawn swords, night and day.1

As soon as the report of the king of England’s arrest got abroad, the emperor or Cæsar of all Germany, Henry VI., summoned the duke of Austria, his vassal, to transfer the prisoner to him, alleging that an emperor alone ought to keep a king in prison. Duke Leopold submitted with seeming good grace to this singular reasoning, stipulating, however, for at least a portion of the ransom. The king of England was then removed from Vienna to one of the imperial fortresses on the banks of the Rhine; and the delighted emperor sent to the king of France a message, more agreeable to him, says an historian of the time, than a present of gold and jewels. Philip immediately wrote to the emperor, congratulating him on his prize, advising him to preserve it carefully, because, he said, there would be no peace in the world if such a firebrand got loose, and, lastly, offering to pay a sum equal to, or even exceeding, the ransom of the king of England, if the emperor would transfer his captive to him.2

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The emperor, as was the custom, submitted this proposition to the diet or general assembly of the lords and bishops of Germany. He set forth Philip’s propositions, and justified the imprisonment of Richard by the pretended crime of murder committed on the marquis of Montferrat, the insult offered to the banner of the duke of Austria, and the truce of three years concluded with the Saracens. For these misdeeds, the king of England, he said, ought to be declared the capital enemy of the empire.1 The assembly decided that Richard should be tried by it for the offences imputed to him; but it refused to deliver Richard to the king of France.2 The latter did not await the prisoner’s trial to send an express message to him, that he renounced him for his vassal, defied him, and declared war against him.3 At the same time he made to the earl of Mortain the same offers he had formerly made to Richard when exciting him against his father. He promised to guarantee to earl John the possession of Normandy, Anjou, and Aquitaine, and to aid him to obtain the crown of England; he only asked him in return to be faithfully his ally, and to marry the unfortunate Aliz.4 Without concluding any positive alliance with king Philip, John commenced intriguing with all the countries subject to his brother; and, under pretext that Richard was dead, or ought to be regarded as such, he demanded the oath of fealty from the public officers, and from the governors of the castles and towns.5

The king of England was informed of these machinations by several Norman abbots, who obtained permission to visit him in his prison, and especially by his former chancellor, William de Longchamp, the personal enemy of the earl of Mortain.6 Richard received him as a friend persecuted in his service, and employed him in various negotiations. The day fixed for the king’s trial arrived; he appeared as a prisoner before the Germanic diet assembled at Worms; to be absolved on every point, he had only to promise an hundred thousand marks of silver, and to acknowledge himself vassal of the emperor.7 This admission of vassalage, which was nothing more than a simple formality, derived importance in the eyes of the emperor from his pretensions to the universal Edition: current; Page: [219] domination of the Cæsars of Rome, whose heir he pretended to be. The feudal subjection of the kingdom of England to the German empire was not of a nature to have any protracted duration, yet its admission and declaration were made with all the pomp and ceremony required by the customs of the period. “King Richard,” says a contemporary, “divested himself of the kingdom, and remitted it to the emperor, as to the universal suzerain, investing him with it by his hood, and the emperor returned it him, to hold it in fief, on the condition of an annual subsidy of five thousand pounds sterling, and invested him with it by a double cross of gold.”1 After this ceremony, the emperor, bishops, and lords of Germany, promised by oath, upon their soul, that the king of England should be set at liberty as soon as he had paid an hundred thousand silver marks; and from that day Richard was less strictly confined.2

Meantime, the earl of Mortain, pursuing his intrigues and machinations, solicited the justiciaries of England, the archbishop of Rouen, and the barons of Normandy, to swear fealty to him, and to acknowledge him as king. The majority refused; and the earl, knowing himself too weak to compel them to his wish, crossed over to France, and concluded a formal treaty with king Philip. He declared himself vassal and liegeman of this monarch for England and all the other states of his brother, swore to marry his sister, and to resign to him a considerable part of Normandy, Tours, Loches, Amboise, and Montrichard, whenever, by his aid, he should become king of England.3 Lastly, he subscribed this clause: “And if my brother Richard were to offer me peace, I would not accept it without the consent of my ally of France, even though my ally were to make peace on his own account with my said brother Richard.”4

Upon the conclusion of this treaty, king Philip passed the frontiers of Normandy with a numerous army, and earl John distributed gold among the Welsh tribes who were still free, in order to induce them to assist, by an invasion, the machinations of his partisans in England.5

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This people, oppressed by the Normans, joyfully placed their national hatred at the service of one of the two factions which dilacerated their enemy; but, incapable of great efforts beyond the little country where they so obstinately defended their independence, they were of little use to the adversaries of king Richard. Nor did these obtain much success elsewhere in England, so that earl John determined to take up his abode for awhile with the king of France, and to direct all his attention upon Normandy. But though thus freed from the scourge of war, England was none the happier, for she was subjected to enormous tributes, levied for the king’s ransom. The royal collectors overran the country in every direction, making every class of men contribute, priests and laymen, Saxons and Normans. All the sums levied in the provinces were brought to London; it had been calculated that the total amount would constitute the sum required for the ransom; but an enormous deficiency was found, occasioned by the peculation of the collectors. This first collection accordingly being insufficient, the royal officers commenced another, covering, say the historians, under the plausible name of the king’s ransom, their own shameful rapine.1

Richard had been nearly two years in prison; he was tired of his captivity, and sent message after message to his officers and friends in England, and on the continent, urging them to deliver him by paying his ransom.2 He complained bitterly of being neglected by his people, and of their not doing for him what he would have done for them. He made his plaint in a song composed in the southern Romane language, an idiom he preferred to the less polished dialect of Normandy, Anjou, and France.

“I have many friends, but they give meagrely: shame to them, that for want of ransom, I have been a prisoner two winters.”3

“Let my men and my barons, English, Normans, Poitevins, and Gascons, know that no companion of mine, were he ever Edition: current; Page: [221] so poor, would I leave in prison for the sake of gold. I say not this in reproach; but I am still a prisoner!—”

While the second collection for the king’s ransom was being made throughout England, officers of the emperor came to London, to receive, as part payment, the money which had been already got together.1 They tested the quality and verified the weight, and affixed their seals on the bags containing it, which were then conveyed by English sailors to Germany, at the risk and responsibility of the king of England.2 On receiving the money, the Cæsar of Germany sent one-third of it to the duke of Austria, as his share of the prize.3 A new diet was then assembled to decide on the fate of the prisoner, whose release was fixed for the third week after Christmas, on condition of his leaving a certain number of hostages as security for the payment of the balance remaining due.4

King Richard consented to anything and everything, and the emperor, delighted with his facility, determined to make him a present in return. By a formal charter he granted him, to hold in fief, several provinces over which he himself had but a disputed pretension; the Viennois and part of Burgundy, and the towns and territories of Lyons, Arles, Marseilles, and Narbonne. “Now it should be known,” says a contemporary, “that these territories given to the king by the emperor, contain five archbishoprics, and thirty-three bishoprics, but it must also be known that the said emperor has never been able to exercise any sort of authority over them, and the inhabitants have never acknowledged any lord nominated or presented by him.”5

When the king of France, and earl John, his ally, learned the resolution passed in the imperial diet, they feared they should not have time to execute their design before the king’s release. They accordingly sent messengers in all haste to the emperor, offering him seventy thousand marks of silver, if he would prolong, if but for a year, the imprisonment of Richard, or if he preferred it, one thousand marks of silver for each extended month of captivity, or an hundred and fifty thousand marks, if he would transfer the Edition: current; Page: [222] prisoner to the custody of the king of France and the earl. Tempted by these brilliant offers, the emperor was inclined to break his word, but the members of the diet, who had sworn to keep it faithfully, opposed his views, and exercising the power vested in them, set the captive at liberty about the end of January 1194.1 Richard could not proceed either to France, or to Normandy, at that time invaded by the French; the safest course for him was to embark from some German port, and sail direct to England. But it was now the season of storms; he was necessitated to wait more than a month at Antwerp, and meantime the emperor was again tempted by avarice; the hope of doubling his profits overruled the fear of displeasing chiefs less powerful than himself, and whom, as lord paramount, he had a thousand ways of reducing to silence. He resolved a second time to seize the prisoner, whom he had allowed to depart; but this treacherous design becoming known, one of the hostages who had remained with the emperor found means to warn the king. Richard immediately embarked in the galiot of a Norman merchant, named Alain Tranchemer; and having thus escaped the soldiers sent to arrest him, landed safely at Sandwich.2

Received with great demonstrations of joy, he found the majority of the Anglo-Norman earls and barons devoted to his cause. But just before, the great council or parliament of the kingdom had declared the earl of Mortain a public enemy, and had ordered that all his lands should be confiscated, and all his castles besieged. At the time of the king’s arrival, this order was being executed, and, in all the churches, sentence of excommunication was being pronounced against the earl and his adherents, in the name of the archbishops and bishops, amid the ringing of bells and the glare of tapers. The news of the arrival of Cœur-de-Lion (so the Normans surnamed king Richard,) terminated the resistance of the garrisons that still held for earl John. All surrendered, except that of Nottingham, which would not credit the report; the irritated king, prompt in his anger, marched to this town to besiege it in person, even before entering London.3

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His presence in the camp before Nottingham was announced to the garrison by an unwonted flourish of trumpets, horns, clarions, and other instruments of military music; but, deeming it a stratagem of the besiegers, they persevered in their resistance. The king, denouncing a terrible punishment upon them, assaulted the town and took it; but the garrison retired into the castle, one of the strongest that the Normans had built in England. Before battering the walls with his great guns and war-machines, Richard had a gibbet raised, high as a tall tree, and had hanged upon it, in sight of the garrison, several men who had been taken in the first assault. This spectacle seemed to the besiegers a more certain indication of the king’s presence than any they had before observed, and they surrendered at discretion.1

After his victory, king Richard, by way of recreation, made a pleasure journey into the greatest forest of England, which stretched from Nottingham to the centre of Yorkshire, over a space of several hundred miles; the Saxons called it Sire-Wode, a name changed, in the lapse of centuries, to that of Sherwood. “Never before in his life had he seen these forests,” says a contemporary narrator, “and they pleased him greatly.”2 On quitting a long captivity, the mind is ever vividly sensible to the charms of picturesque scenery; and, moreover, with this natural attraction was probably combined another, appealing still more powerfully, perhaps, to the adventurous spirit of Richard Cœur-de-Lion. Sherwood was at this time a forest formidable to the Normans; it was the dwelling of the last remains of the bands of armed Saxons who, still abnegating the conquest, persisted in withdrawing from the law of the foreigner. Everywhere hunted, pursued, tracked like wild beasts, it was here only that, favoured by the locality, they had been able to maintain themselves in any number, under a sort of military organization, which gave them a more respectable character than that of mere highwaymen.

At about the time that the hero of the Anglo-Norman baronage visited Sherwood forest,3 there lived in that forest a man who was the hero of the serfs, of the poor and of the low—in a word, of the Anglo-Saxon race. “At this time,” says an ancient chronicler, “there arose among the disinherited, Edition: current; Page: [224] the most famous robber, Robert Hode, with his accomplices, whom the stolid vulgar celebrate in games and sports at their junketings, and whose history, sung by the minstrels, delights them more than any other.”1 In these few words are comprised all our historical data as to the existence of the last Englishman who followed the example of Hereward; to find any traces of his life and character, it is to the old romances and popular ballads that we must of necessity resort. If we cannot place faith in all the singular and often contradictory incidents related in these poems, they are, at least, incontestable evidence of the ardent friendship of the English nation for the outlaw-chief whom they celebrate, and for his companions, who, instead of labouring for masters, “ranged the forest merry and free,” as the old burthens express it.2

It cannot be doubted that Robert, or, more commonly, Robin Hood, was of Saxon origin; his French Christian name proves nothing against this opinion, for with the second generation after the conquest, the influence of the Norman clergy had, in a great degree, superseded the former baptismal names of England by the names of saints and others used in Normandy. The name of Hood, or Hode, is Saxon, and the ballads most ancient in point of date, and consequently the most worthy of attention, place the ancestors of him who bore it in the class of peasants.3 Afterwards, when the recollection of the revolution effected by the conquest had become less vivid, the imagination of the rustic poets embellished their favourite personage with the pomp of grandeur and riches: they made him an earl, or at least the grandson of an earl, whose daughter, having been seduced, fled, and gave birth to the hero, in a wood. This theory formed the subject of a popular romance, full of interest and of graceful conceptions; but the supposition itself rests on no probable authority.4

Whether or no Robin Hood was born, as the ballad relates—

  • “Amang the leaves sae green,”
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it was certainly in the woods that he passed his life, at the head of several hundred archers, formidable to the earls, viscounts, bishops, and rich abbots of England, but beloved by the farmers, labourers, widows, and poor people. These “merry men” granted peace and protection to all who were feeble and oppressed, shared with those who had nothing the spoils of those who fattened on other men’s harvests, and, according to the old tradition, did good to the honest and industrious.1 Robin Hood was the boldest and most skilful archer of the band; and after him was cited Little John, his lieutenant and brother-in-arms, inseparable from him in danger and in pastime, and equally so in the old English ballads and sayings. Tradition also names several others of his companions—Mutch, the miller’s son, old Scathlocke, and a monk, called Friar Tuck, who fought in frock and cowl, and whose only weapon was a heavy quarter-staff. They were all of a joyous humour, not seeking to enrich themselves, but simply to live on their booty, and distributing all they did not actually need themselves among the families dispossessed in the great pillage of the conquest. Though enemies of the rich and powerful, they did not slay those who fell into their hands, shedding blood only in their own defence.2 Their attacks fell chiefly on the agents of royal authority and on the governors of towns or provinces, whom the Normans called viscounts, and the English sheriffs.

  • “But bend your bows, and strok your strings,
  • Set the gallow-tree about;
  • And Christ’s curse on his head, said Robin,
  • That spares the sheriff and the sergeant!”3

The sheriff of Nottingham was the person against whom Robin Hood had the oftenest to contend, and who hunted him most closely, on horseback and on foot, setting a price on his head, and exciting his companions and friends to betray him. But none betrayed him, while many aided him to escape the dangers in which his daring often involved him.4

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“I would rather die,” said an old woman to him one day, “I would rather die than not do all I might to save thee; for who fed and clothed me and mine, but thou and Little John?”1

The astonishing adventures of this bandit chief of the twelfth century, his victories over the men of Norman race, his stratagems and his escapes, were long the only national history that a man of the people in England transmitted to his sons, having himself received it from his ancestors. Popular imagination adorned the person of Robin Hood with all the qualities and all the virtues of the middle ages. He is described as alike devout in church and brave in combat; and it is said of him that once within a church for the purpose of hearing the service, whatever danger presented itself, he would not depart until the close.2 This scrupulous devotion exposed him more than once to the danger of being taken by the sheriff and his men; but he always found means of effectual resistance, and instead of being taken by the sheriff himself, it would seem, from the old story, somewhat liable, indeed, to a suspicion of exaggeration, that he himself took prisoner the sheriff.3 Upon this theme, the English minstrels of the fourteenth century composed a long ballad, of which some verses merit quotation, if only as examples of the fresh and animated colouring given by a people to its poetry, at a time when a really popular literature exists.

  • “In somer, when the shawes be sheyn,
  • And leves be large and long,
  • Hit is full mery in fayre forest
  • To here the foulys song;
  • To se the dere draw to the le,
  • And leve their hillis hee,
  • And shadow hem in the levis grene,
  • Under the grenewode tre.
  • Hit befel on Whitsontyde,
  • Erly on a May mornyng,
  • The son up feyre can spring, that day,
  • And the birddis mery can sing.
  • This is a mery morning, seid litull John,
  • Be hym that dyed on tree,
  • And moe mery man than I am on,
  • Was not in Christante.
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  • Pluk up thi hert, my dere mayster,
  • Litull John can say,
  • And think it is a full fayre time,
  • In a mornyng of May.
  • The on thyng greves me, seyd Robyn
  • And does my hert mych woo,
  • That I may not no solem day
  • To mas ne matyns go.
  • Hit is a fourtnet and more, seyd Robyn,
  • Sin I my Savyor see;
  • To day will I to Notyngham, said Robyn,
  • With the myght of Mylde Mary.
  • * * * *
  • Then Robyn goes to Notyngham,
  • Hymselfe mornyng allone,
  • * * * *
  • He goes into Seinte Mary chyrche,
  • And knelyd doun before the rode.1
  • * * * *

Robin Hood was not only renowned for his devotion to saints and to saints’ days; he himself had, like the saints, his festival day, in which, religiously observed by the inhabitants of the villages and small towns of England, nothing was permitted but games and amusements. In the fifteenth century, this custom was still observed; and the sons of the Saxons and Normans took part in these popular diversions in common, without reflecting that they were a monument of the old hostility of their ancestors. On that day, the churches were deserted equally with the workshops; no saint, no preacher was more influential than Robin Hood; and this continued even after the Reformation had given a new impulse to religious zeal in England. We have this fact attested by an Anglican bishop of the sixteenth century, the celebrated and excellent Latimer.2 “I came once myselfe,” says the bishop, in the sixth sermon before king Edward VI., “to a place, riding on a jorney homeward from London, and I sent worde over night into the toune that I wolde preche there in the morning, because it was a holy day, and methought it was Edition: current; Page: [228] an holy dayes worke. The church stode in my waye; and I tooke my horse and my company and went thither (I thought I should have found a great company in the churche), and when I came there, the churche dore was fast locked. I taried there half an hower and more; at last the keye was found, and one of the parishe comes to me and says: ‘Sir, this is a busie daye with us, we cannot heare you; it is Robin Hoode’s day.1 The parish are gone abroad togather for Robin Hoode; I pray you let (hender) them not.’ ” The bishop had assumed his ecclesiastical attire, but he was fain to lay it aside, and to continue his journey, giving place to archers dressed in green, who, in a theatre formed of branches, were enacting the parts of Robin Hood, Little John, and all their band.2

Traces of this long-enduring memory, in which were buried even the recollection of the Norman invasion, subsist to the present day. In York, at the mouth of a small river, there is a bay which, in all modern maps, bears the name of Robin Hood’s bay;3 and, not long ago, in the same county, near Pontefract, travellers were shown a spring of clear fresh water, called Robin Hood’s well, at which they were invited to drink in honour of the famous archer.4 Throughout the seventeenth century, old ballads of Robin Hood, printed in gothic letters (a style of printing singularly liked by the lower classes of English), circulated in the country districts, by the medium of hawking pedlars, who sung them in a sort of recitative.5 Several complete collections of them were made for the use of town readers, one of which bore the pretty title of Robin Hood’s Garland. These books, now become rare, interest only the erudite; and the history of the heroes of Sherwood, divested of its poetical decorations, is now scarce found but among children’s tales.

None of the ballads that have been preserved relate the death of Robin Hood; the common tradition is that he perished in a nunnery, whither, one day, being ill, he had repaired for medical aid. He had to be bled, and the nun who performed this operation, having recognised Robin Hood, intentionally drew so much blood from him that he died.6 Edition: current; Page: [229] This story, which can neither be affirmed nor denied, is quite consistent with the manners of the twelfth century; many women, then, in the rich nunneries, studied medicine, and compounded remedies which they administered gratutiously to the poor. Further, in England since the conquest, the superiors of the nunneries and most of the nuns were of Norman extraction, as is proved by their statutes drawn up in old French;1 a circumstance that may, perhaps, explain how the chief of the Saxon bandits, who had been outlawed by royal ordinance, found enemies in the convent where he had sought assistance. After his death, the troop of which he was the chief and the soul disbanded; and his faithful companion, Little John, despairing of being able to hold his ground in England, and urged by a desire to prosecute his old war upon the Normans, went to Ireland, where he took part in the revolts of the natives.2 Thus was dissolved the last troop of English brigands that, having a political character, merit a place in history.

Between the refugees of the camp of Ely and the men of Sherwood, between Hereward and Robin Hood, there had been, especially in the north of England, a succession of partisan chiefs and outlaws, who were not without reputation, but of whom we know too little to admit of our considering them as historical personages. The names of several of them, such as Adam Bell, Clym of the Clough, or Clement of the Valley, and William Cloudesly, were long preserved in popular memory. The adventures of these three men, who cannot be separated from each other, any more than Robin Hood from Little John, are the subject of a long poem, composed in the eleventh century, and divided into three parts or cantos.3 Nothing positive can be said as to the authenticity of the facts there related, but they contain many original features calculated to present to the reader in a more striking light the idea which the English had formed of the moral character of those men, who, in the period of servitude, preferred the life of bandits to that of slaves.

Adam Bell, Clym of the Clough, and William Cloudesly, Edition: current; Page: [230] were, it would seem, natives of Cumberland. Having all three infringed the Norman forest laws, they were outlawed, and compelled to flee for their lives.1 United by the same fate, they swore brotherhood, according to the custom of the period, and went together to dwell in the forest of Inglewood, which the old romance calls Englishewood, between Carlisle and Penrith.2 Adam and Clement were not married; but William had a wife and children, whom he soon yearned to see. One day, he said to his two companions that he would go to Carlisle, and visit his wife and children. “Brother,” answered they, “we counsel you not to do this:

  • “If the justice may you take
  • Your life were at an end.”3

William went despite this advice, and arrived at night in the town; but, recognised by an old woman whom he had once assisted, he was denounced to the judge and to the sheriff, who surrounded his house, took him, and rejoicing at this capture, had a new gibbet raised in the market-place to hang him.4 Fortunately, a little boy, a swineherd, who, while with his swine in the wood, had often seen William, and received alms and food from him, hastened to inform Adam and Clym of the fate of their adopted brother.5 The dangerous enterprise in which they engaged to save him is described with infinite animation by the old popular poet, whose description of the devotion of these men to each other is full of natural ease and truth:

  • “William said to his brethren two,
  • ‘This day let us live and die;
  • If ever you have need, as I have now
  • The same shall you find by me.’ ”6
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In the combat, terminated by this unexpected deliverance, the three brothers-in-arms made great carnage of the royal officers and justice-men of Carlisle. They killed the sheriff, the judge, and the town-porter.

  • “Many a man to the ground they threw,
  • * * * * * * *
  • Many a woman said—‘Alas!’ ”1

It is in a tone of pleasantry and a spirit of rejoicing that these numerous murders are related in the old song, the author of which manifests little goodwill to the agents of royal authority. His three heroes, however, end as the nation itself had ended, by growing weary of their resistance, and by coming to terms with the enemy. They proceed to London, to the king’s palace, seeking a charter of peace. But even at the moment of making this act of submission, they retain their old character of pride and savage freedom:

  • “Of no man would they ask no leave,
  • But boldly went in thereat;
  • They preced prestly unto the hall,
  • Of no man have they dread . . . . ”2

If Robin Hood be the last chief of outlaws or Anglo-Saxon bandits that has enjoyed veritable popular celebrity, we are not thence to conclude that no man of the same race followed after him the same kind of life, in a spirit of political hostility to the government exercised by men of foreign race and language. The national struggle would continue under the form of brigandage, and the idea of freeman and of enemy to the foreign law, long remained associated together. But this had an end; and as the epoch of the conquest receded, as the English race, growing accustomed to the yoke, became attached by habit to that which it had tolerated from despair, brigandage gradually lost its patriotic sanction, and re-descended to its natural condition, that of an infamous profession. From that time forth the business of a bandit in the forests of England, without becoming less perilous, without requiring less individual Edition: current; Page: [232] courage and address, no longer produced heroes. There only remained in the opinion of the lower classes a great indulgence for the infractions of the game laws, and a marked sympathy for those who, from need or pride, braved these laws of the conquest. The life of the adventurous poacher, and in general the forest life, are affectionately celebrated in many comparatively modern songs and poems, all vaunting the independence enjoyed under the greenwood, in the good greenwood1 where there are no enemies but winter and rough weather,2 where—

  • “All are mery and free,
  • As happy as the day is long, as leaf on the tree.”3

King Richard, on his return to London, was crowned a second time with ceremonies that we have seen exactly reproduced in our days.4 After the rejoicings at this second coronation, he annulled at one stroke all the sales of domains that he had so freely made before departing for the crusade, alleging them to have been pledges which the holders were bound to restore. It was all in vain that the buyers presented their deeds, sealed with the great seal of the crown. The king, giving a mild form to this compulsory expropriation, said to them: “What pretext have you for retaining in your hands that which belongs to us? have you not amply repaid yourselves your advances out of the revenue of our domains? If so, you know that it is a sin to exercise usury towards the king, and that we have a bull from the pope prohibiting this under pain of excommunication. If upon a just account of what you have paid and what you have received, there should appear to be any balance due to you, we will pay it out of our own treasury, to leave you no subject of complaint.”5

No one had the courage to present such an account, and all was restored to the king without any compensation. He thus resumed possession of the castles, towns, offices, and domains that he had alienated; and this was the first benefit Edition: current; Page: [233] that the Norman race of England derived from the return of its chief, without whom the courtiers had declared it could not live, any more than a body without a head. As to the English race, after having been crushed with taxes for the deliverance of the king, it was crushed once more for that of the hostages whom Richard had left in Germany, and for the expenses of the war he had to maintain against the king of France.1

It was not only in Normandy that Philip threatened to annihilate the power of his rival; he had leagued himself again with the barons of the north of Aquitaine; he had promised them aid and succours, and they, encouraged rather by his promises than by any actual assistance of his, had again attempted to establish their independence against the Anglo-Norman power.2 It was the passion of nationality and the desire to be the subject of no neighbouring king, of no man who was not of their own race and language, that had induced them to conclude the alliance with king Philip; but he, heeding not their patriotic sentiments, had wholly different views with reference to them. He aspired to extend his authority over the Gaulish provinces of the south, so as to become king of all Gaul, instead of being only king of France. Following the example of the Germanic chancery, which attributed to each successive emperor the actual possession of all the territories that his predecessors had governed and lost, the king of France and his council carried back, in idea, the boundaries of their legitimate dominion to the Pyrenees, where it was believed that Charlemagne had raised a cross to serve as a perpetual limit between France and Spain.3 “It is thither,” said a poet of the period, a parasite of king Philip, “it is thither thou shouldst extend thy tents and thy territories, that thou mayest possess without reserve the domains of thy ancestors, that the stranger may no longer occupy a foot of land within our frontiers, and that the white dragon, with its Edition: current; Page: [234] venemous brood, may be extirpated from our gardens, as the Breton prophet promised us.”1

Thus the patriotic predictions put forth by the ancient Cambrian bards, to raise the courage of their nation, invaded by the Anglo-Saxons, passed, after the lapse of more than five hundred years, as prophecies in favour of the French against the Normans. This is, doubtless, a striking illustration of the capricious turns of human affairs; and another, not less remarkable, is, that the same provinces which the king of France alleged to be his, as the inheritance of Charlemagne, the emperor also claimed, in virtue of the rights of the same prince, who enjoyed the singular privilege of being regarded at once as French and as German. The cession of lands recently made by the Cæsar of Germany to king Richard was founded on this pretension. Besides the whole of Provence and part of Burgundy, imperial liberality, according to the ancient historians, had also granted him, over the county of Toulouse that right of perpetual suzerainty which the king of France at the same time asserted for himself. But, in reality, the counts of Toulouse enjoyed full political independence, and, according to the forms of the age, were free of their homage.2

On the eve of opening the campaign against the king of France, Richard thought it necessary to operate upon public opinion, by relieving himself, in a striking manner, from the reproach of the murder of the marquis of Montferrat. He produced a forged autograph letter of the Old Man of the Mountain, written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin characters, and containing the following passages:3

“To Leopold, duke of Austria, and to all the princes and peoples of the Christian faith, greeting. Seeing that several kings in foreign lands impute the death of the marquis to Richard, king and lord of England, I swear, by the God who reigns eternally, and by the law which we obey, that king Richard had no share in that murder. Know that we have given these presents in our house and castle of Messiac, the middle of September, and have sealed them with our seal, the year 1505 after Alexander.”4

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This singular despatch was officially published by William de Longchamp, who had again become chancellor of England, and sent to the foreign princes and to the monks who were known to occupy themselves in drawing up the chronicles of the time.1 Its manifest falsity was not remarked in an age when historical criticism and the knowledge of Eastern manners had slight prevalence in Europe. It even weakened, it would seem, the moral effect of the imputations of the king of France among his own vassals, and encouraged those of the king of England to fight more determinedly in a cause which they now thought the good cause; for there was at this period much superstition on this point. As soon as the two armies approached each other in Normandy, the army of France, which hitherto had ever taken the lead, began to retrograde. Earl John lost all courage as soon as he saw the chances of war becoming uncertain, and he resolved to betray his allies in order to regain his brother’s favour. This treason was accompanied by atrocious circumstances—by the massacre of a great number of French knights whom the earl had invited to an entertainment. But notwithstanding all his vast demonstrations of repentance and friendship, Richard, who remembered that he had more than once acted a similar part towards their father, Henry II., placed no reliance in him, and, to use the words of the contemporary historians, gave him neither lands, nor towns, nor castles.2

King Philip, successively driven from all the towns of Normandy that he had occupied, was soon fain to conclude a truce, which allowed Richard to carry his arms southward, against the insurgents of Aquitaine.3 At their head were the viscount of Limoges and the count of Perigord, whom king Richard summoned to surrender up their castles. “We hold thy menaces as nought,” they answered: “thou hast returned far too proud, and we will render thee, despite thyself, humble, courteous, and frank, and will chastise thee by warring against thee.”4 To render this reply more than a mere gasconade, it was necessary that peace should again be broken between the two kings; for the insurgents were by no means able to resist the forces of Richard, unless Philip kept at least Edition: current; Page: [236] a portion of those forces engaged. It was the famous Bertrand de Born, who, pursuing his political system, employed himself in rekindling war between the two enemies of his country. By his secret intrigues and his satirical verses, he determined the king of France to violate the truce he had just sworn; and, this time, the field of battle was Saintonge instead of Normandy. The first encounter of the two kings, at the head of their troops, took place at Mirambeau. They were only separated by a rivulet, on the banks of which each had respectively pitched his camp.1 The king of France had with him French, Burgundians, Flemings, and men of Champagne and of Berri; the king of England, Normans, English, Angevins, Tourainese, Manceaux, and men of Saintonge.2

Whilst the two hostile armies were thus in presence of each other, both armed, several times, for the purpose of beginning the fight; but the archbishops, bishops, abbots, and other ecclesiastics, who had met together to labour for the re-establishment of peace, went from one camp to the other, intreating the kings to postpone the battle, and proposing arrangements which they deemed calculated to terminate the war. King Philip was the most difficult to persuade and the most exacting in his demands; he was resolved to fight, he said, unless Richard made him the oath of vassalage for Normandy, Guienne, and Poitou. This was his final resolve; as soon as it was repeated to Richard, the English monarch vaulted on his horse, placed his helmet on his head, gave the signal to advance and to sound trumpet, and unfurled his banner to cross the water. “Now, this confidence was given him,” says an old history in the Provençal language, “by the circumstance that the Champagnese had secretly promised him that they would not come to blows with his men, by reason of the great quantity of sterlings he had distributed among them.3

On their side, king Philip and all his people mounted their horses, and armed, with the exception of the Champagnese, who did not put on their helmets. This was the sign of their defection, and it intimidated the king of France, who had in no way anticipated it. This alarm changed all his views; Edition: current; Page: [237] and immediately sending for the bishops and ecclesiastics who had before intreated him in vain, he begged them to go, and say to Richard, that he declared him free from all vassalage, if he would conclude a peace. The king of England was already in full march, when the prelates and monks met him, carrying crucifixes in their arms, weeping, and conjuring him to have mercy on so many brave men, who, on both sides, would perish if a battle took place. They undertook that the king of France should comply with all his demands, and should immediately withdraw to his own territory. Peace was granted, the two kings swore a truce of ten years and dismissed their troops, no longer wishing to occupy themselves with arms, says an old chronicle, but only with the chase, with games, and with maltreating their men.1

The evil that king Philip could do to his Frenchmen was slight in comparison with that which Richard now inflicted upon the Aquitans, and more especially upon those who had revolted against him. “This peace was a great affliction to them,” says the same narrator; “and especially to Bertrand de Born, who was more chagrined thereat than any other person, for he delighted only in war, and above all in war between the two kings.”2 He had once more recourse to his usual device of biting satire against the most irritable of the two rivals. He circulated poems in which he said that the French and Burgundians had exchanged honour for base crouching, and that king Philip was all hot for war before he had put on his armour, but that, as soon as he was armed, he lost courage.3 On their part, the other barons of Poitou and the Limousin, the same who had so fruitlessly made war upon king Richard, now excited that monarch to enter once more the field against the king of France, promising him their aid. Richard believed them, and, suddenly recommencing hostilities, devastated the provinces of France that bordered on his own.4

King Philip, who would probably have been the first to recommence the war, had he been the first ready, complained of this violation of the sworn truce, and addressed himself to the bishops under whose auspices and guarantee it had been Edition: current; Page: [238] concluded. These again interposed, and obtained from the king of England his consent that a diplomatic conference should be held on the frontiers of Berri and Touraine. But the two kings, unable to agree upon any one point, began to abuse each other; and he of England gave the other the lie to his face, and called him a base renegade. “Whereat Bertrand de Born rejoiced,” says his old biographer, “and composed a sirvente, in which he urged the king of France to commence the war with fire and blood, and reproached him with loving peace more than a monk. But despite all that Bertrand de Born could say in sirventes and couplets to king Philip, reminding him of the injury and shame that had been done him, he would not war against king Richard; but Richard warred against him, pillaged, took and burned his villages and his towns; at which all his barons, who loved not the peace, rejoiced, and Bertrand de Born composed another sirvente to confirm Richard in his purpose.”1

The destiny of Aquitaine to be incessantly balanced between two foreign powers, equally hostile to its independence, and yet by turns its allies, according to the circumstances of the warfare which divided them; this destiny, which afterwards became that of Italy, weighed at this period upon the whole of southern Gaul, comprising the mountainous country called Alvernhe in the Romane language of the south, and Auvergne in that of the north. This country, after having energetically resisted the invasion of the Franks, conquered by them, in common with the rest of the Gaulish territory, had been, for a time, comprehended in their conquest; it had then recovered its national freedom under the roi-faineans, the successors of Chlodowig; then devastated, and again conquered by the sons of Karle-Martel, it had become a province of the vast empire which they founded. Lastly, the dismemberment and total ruin of this empire had once more emancipated it; so that, in the twelfth century, the people of Auvergne were governed as freely as the civilization of the epoch admitted, by lords of their own race and language, who bore the title of counts, and who were also called dauphins (dalfins, dolphins), because a figure of this fish formed part of their coat-of-arms.

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The dauphin of Auvergne acknowledged as suzerains the dukes of Aquitaine, perhaps from a reminiscence of the government of the Romans and of the subordination of the local magistrates of the empire to the provincial magistrates. As duke of Aquitaine, the king of England had received his oath of vassalage, according to the ancient custom, and the dauphin had exhibited no repugnance to render this purely nominal duty of submission. But it happened that after having, without much success, ravaged the dominions of the king of France, Richard, weary of the war, and desirous of concluding a truce more durable than the preceding, proposed to his rival to exchange with him the suzerainty of Auvergne for other political advantages. This proposition was accepted, and the king of England undertook to guarantee the cession he had made, or, in other words, to aid him in overcoming any objection on the part of the people of the country. This objection was soon manifested, the Auvergnats refusing to accept the king of France as their suzerain, first, because they had never had any such relations with him; and secondly, says an old history, because he was avaricious, a bad lord, and too near a neighbour. As soon as he had sent his officers to receive the homage of the count of Auvergne, who dared not at first refuse it, he purchased one of the strongest fortresses in the country, and garrisoned it; and shortly afterwards took from the count the town of Issoire, thus preparing the way for the conquest of the whole country, a conquest which he hoped to achieve without a war.

Richard perceived the projects of the king of France, but he took no steps to arrest them, foreseeing that Auvergne would one day lose patience, and relying upon the national hatred which the new lord was increasing, not only to regain the suzerainty, but to derive aid from it in the first war he should undertake against the rival of his ambition. And, accordingly, as soon as he deemed fit to break the truce, he sent word to the dauphin: “I know the great injuries the king of France has done you and your lands; and if you will, by revolting, lend me aid, I will support you, and will give you knights, cross-bowmen, and money, as much as you require.” The count of Auvergne, crediting these promises, proclaimed the ban of national insurrection throughout his country, and commenced war against king Philip. But when Edition: current; Page: [240] Richard saw the struggle begun, he acted towards the Auvergnats as Louis, father of Philip, had acted towards the Poitevins; he formed a renewed truce with the king of France, and passed over into England, without in the smallest degree troubling himself as to the fate of the dauphin and of Auvergne. The French army entered that country, and, as the ancient chronicle expresses it, put it to fire and flame, seizing the fortified towns and the finest castles. Unable to resist such an enemy single-handed, the dauphin concluded a suspension of arms, during which he sent his cousin, count Gui, and ten of his knights to England, to remind king Richard of the promises he had made. Richard gave the count and his companions an ill reception, and sent them back without affording them men, arms, or money.

Ashamed and afflicted at having been thus deceived, and yielding of necessity to their fate, the Auvergnats made peace with the king of France, acknowledging his suzerainty over them, and again swearing to him the oath of homage. Shortly afterwards the truce between the two kings expired, and Philip immediately resumed fierce war upon the continental subjects of his rival. At this intelligence Richard proceeded to Normandy, whence he sent a message to the dauphin of Auvergne and count Gui, to the effect that the truce being broken between himself and the king of France, they ought, as loyal friends, to come to his aid, and fight for him. But they were not to be deceived a second time, and remained at peace with king Philip. Richard, hereupon, by way of avenging himself, composed, in the Provençal tongue, satirical couplets in which he said that, after having sworn fealty to him, the dauphin abandoned him in the hour of danger. The dauphin, equally ready with his pen, answered the king’s verses in others characterized by more candour and dignity. “King,” said he, “since you sing of me, you shall find me responsive. If ever I vowed an oath to you ’twas madness and folly on my part; I am not a crowned king, or a man of great riches: yet I can keep my own with my people, between Puy and Aubusson; and thank God I am neither a serf nor a Jew.”1

This last epigrammatic stroke seems allusive to the massacre and spoliation of the Jews which had taken place in Edition: current; Page: [241] England in the commencement of Richard’s reign,1 and to the miserable condition of the natives of that country. However imperfect the state of society, in the twelfth century, in the southern provinces of Gaul, there was an enormous distance between its system and that of England, governed by foreigners. The difference of language, combining with that of condition, the haughtiness of the noble, all the greater that he had less means of entering into moral relation with his inferiors, that Norman insolence which, according to the old poet, increased with years,2 and the hostility of races, still vivid in the heart of the English, all this gave to the country an aspect somewhat similar to that of Greece under the rule of the Turks. There were Saxon families who, by an hereditary vow, had bound themselves, from father to son, to wear the beard long, as a memory of the old country and a token of disdain for the customs introduced by the conquest.3 But these families could do nothing, and the sons of the conquerors, not fearing them, allowed them to display in peace the mark of their descent, and the futile pride of a time which could never return.

In the year 1196, when king Richard was occupied in warring against the king of France, and his officers were levying money for the expenses of his campaigns and the payment of the balance of his ransom, the city of London was called upon to pay an extraordinary tax.4 The king’s chancellor addressed the demand to the chiefs of the city, who, by a singular association of the two languages spoken in England, were called mayor and aldermen.5 These convoked, in the Guild-hall, or husting, as it was designated in the Saxon tongue, the principal citizens to deliberate, not as to granting the subsidy, but simply as to the proportions in which it should be paid by the citizens.6 In this assembly, composed for the most part of native English, there was a certain Edition: current; Page: [242] number of men of Norman, Angevin, or French race, whose ancestors, settling in England at the time of the conquest, had devoted themselves to commerce or trade. Either by reason of their foreign descent or of their riches, the citizens of this class formed in London a sort of ruling party; they governed the deliberations of the council, and often silenced the English, whom the habit of being oppressed rendered timid and circumspect.

But there was, at this time, in the class of natives, a man of very different character, a genuine old Saxon patriot, who let his beard grow, that he might in no way resemble the sons of the foreigners.1 His name was William, and he enjoyed great consideration in the city, on account of his zeal in defending, by every legal means, those of his fellow citizens who underwent injustice.2 The child of parents, whose industry and economy had secured him an independence, he had retired from business, and passed all his time in the study of jurisprudence.3 No Norman clerk surpassed him in the art of pleading in the French tongue, before a court of justice, and when he spoke English, his eloquence was vigorous and popular. He devoted his knowledge of the law and his power of language to save the poorer citizens from the embarrassments in which legal chicanery had involved them, and to protect them from the vexations of the rich, the most frequent of which was the unequal partition of the taxes.4 Sometimes the mayor and aldermen altogether exempted from the payment of taxes those who were best able to pay them, sometimes they called upon every citizen to contribute the same amount, without any regard to the difference of means, so that the heaviest burden fell upon the poor.5 These had often remonstrated, and William had pleaded their cause with more ardour than success.6 His efforts had rendered him dear to the citizens of lower condition, who named him the poor man’s advocate;7 on the other hand, the Normans and their party surnamed him, ironically, the man with the Edition: current; Page: [243] beard, and accused him of leading the multitude astray, by giving them a measureless desire for liberty and happiness.1

This singular personage, the last representative of the hostility of the two races which the conquest had united on the same soil, appeared in his accustomed character at the common council of 1196. As mostly their habit, the leading citizens were for a distribution of the common charges that should throw only the smallest portion on themselves; William Longbeard alone, or almost alone,2 opposed them, and the dispute growing warm, they overwhelmed him with abuse, and accused him of rebellion and of treason to the king. “The traitors to the king,” answered the Englishman, “are they who defraud his exchequer, by exempting themselves from paying what they owe him, and I myself will denounce them to him.”3 He passed the sea, went to Richard’s camp, and kneeling before him and raising his right hand, demanded from him peace and protection for the poor people of London. Richard listened to his plaint, said that he would do it right, and when the petitioner departed, thought no more of the matter, too much occupied with his great political affairs to descend to the details of a dispute between simple citizens.4

But the Norman barons and prelates who filled the higher posts in the chancery and treasury took up the matter, and, from the instinct of nationality and aristocracy, warmly opposed the poor and their advocate. Hubert Gaultier, archbishop of Canterbury and grand justiciary of England, enraged that a Saxon should dare to denounce to the king men of Norman race, and apprehending a recurrence of the circumstance, ordered by edict every citizen of London to remain in the city, under penalty of being imprisoned as traitor to the king and kingdom.5 Several merchants who, despite the orders of the grand justiciary, went to Stamford fair, were arrested and imprisoned.6 These acts of violence caused a great fermentation in the city; and the poorer citizens, by an instinct natural to man in all times, formed an association for their mutual defence. William with the Edition: current; Page: [244] Long Beard was the soul and chief of this secret society, in which, say the contemporary historians, fifty-two thousand persons were engaged.1 They collected such arms as citizens, half serfs, could procure in the middle ages, iron-headed staves, axes, and iron crow-bars, wherewith to attack the fortified houses of the Normans, if they came to blows.2

Urged by a natural desire to intercommunicate their sentiments and encourage each other, the poor of London assembled from time to time and held meetings in the open air, in the squares, and the market-places. At these tumultuous meetings William was the spokesman, and received applause which, perhaps, he was too fond of receiving, and which thus made him neglect the moment to act and to strike a decisive blow for the interests of those whom he sought to render formidable to their oppressors. A fragment of one of these harangues is given by a contemporary chronicler, who declares that he had it from the mouth of a person who was present. The speech, though its purpose was entirely political, turned, like the sermons of our days, upon a text from scripture, and this text was: “With joy shall ye draw water of the wells of salvation.” William applied these words to himself: “It is I,” he said, “who am the saviour of the poor; you, poor, who have felt how heavy is the hand of the rich, draw now from my well of water a salutary doctrine; and draw thence joyfully, because the hour of your relief is at hand. I shall separate the waters from the waters, that is to say, the men from the men; I will separate the people, humble and of good faith, from the proud and faithless; I will separate the elect from the reprobate, as light from darkness.” Under this vague and mystic phraseology, the imagination of the hearers doubtless discerned sentiments and desires of a more precise nature; but the popular enthusiasm was not promptly turned to account; and the advocate of the poor allowed himself to be forestalled by the high Norman functionaries, who, assembling in parliament at London the bishops, earls, and barons, of the surrounding counties, cited the orator of the people to appear before this assembly.3

William obeyed the summons, escorted by a great multitude who followed him, calling him the saviour and king of the Edition: current; Page: [245] poor. This unequivocal manifestation of immense popularity intimidated the barons of the parliament; employing artifice, they postponed the proceedings to a future sitting, which did not take place, and occupied themselves in working on the minds of the people by skilful emissaries.1 False promises and false alarms, aptly disseminated, calmed the public effervescence and discouraged the partisans of insurrection. The archbishop of Canterbury and the other justiciaries themselves convoked several meetings of the petty citizens of London; and discoursing to them, sometimes of the necessity of preserving order and peace, sometimes of the king’s ample means of crushing sedition, they succeeded in spreading doubt and hesitation among the conspirators.2 Seizing this moment of weakness and vacillation, ever fatal to popular parties, they demanded, as hostages and guarantees of the public tranquillity, the children of a great many families of the middle and lower classes. The citizens had not sufficient resolution to oppose this demand; and the cause of power was gained, as soon as the hostages, taken from London, were imprisoned in various fortresses.3

Notwithstanding the influence given them by the anxiety which prevailed in London as to the fate of the hostages, the justiciaries dared not publicly arrest the man whose destruction was contemplated in all these proceedings. They resolved to watch a moment when William should be from home alone, or with but few companions; two rich citizens, probably of Norman race, and one of whom was named Geoffroy, undertook this duty.4 Followed by armed men, they watched for several days all the movements of the Man with the Long-Beard; and one day, as he was quietly walking with nine friends, the two citizens approached him with an air of indifference, and, suddenly, Geoffroy laid hands on him, and gave the signal for the men-at-arms to advance.5 William’s only weapon of defence was one of those long knives which, at that period, were worn in the belt; he drew it, and with one blow laid Geoffroy at his feet. The soldiers came up at the same moment, armed, Edition: current; Page: [246] from head to foot, in dagger-proof mail; but William and his nine companions, by dint of courage and address, got clear of them, and took refuge in the nearest church, dedicated to the Virgin, and called by the Normans the church of Saint-Mary de l’Arche.1 They closed and barricadoed the doors. Their armed pursuers endeavoured unavailingly to force an entrance; the grand justiciary, on learning the news, sent couriers to the adjacent castles for more troops, not relying, at this critical juncture, on the garrison of the Tower of London alone.2

The report of these events caused great fermentation in the town: the people were sensible to the danger of a man who had so generously taken up their defence;3 but in general they exhibited more of sorrow than of anger. The sight of the soldiers marching into the city, and occupying the streets and market-places, and above all the conviction that, on the first outbreak, the hostages would be put to death, kept the citizens in their shops.4 It was in vain that the refugees awaited assistance, and that a few determined men exhorted their fellow citizens to march in arms to Saint Mary’s church. The masses remained motionless as if struck with stupor.5

Meanwhile, William and his friends prepared, as best they might, to sustain a siege in the tower, whither they had retired; repeatedly summoned to come forth, they pertinaciously refused to do so; and the archbishop of Canterbury, in order to force them from their post, had a quantity of wood collected, and set fire to the church.6 The heat and the smoke which soon filled the tower, compelled the besieged to descend, half suffocated.7 They were all taken, and as they were being led away bound, the son of the Geoffroy whom William had killed, approached him, and with a knife ripped open his stomach.8 Wounded as he was, they tied him to a horse’s tail, and dragged him thus through the streets to the Tower, where he appeared before the archbishop, Edition: current; Page: [247] and, without any sort of trial, received sentence of death. The same horse dragged him in the same manner to the place of execution.1 He was hanged with his nine companions; “and thus,” says an old historian, “perished William Longbeard, for having embraced the defence of the poor and of truth, if the cause makes the martyr, none may more justly than he be called a martyr.”2

This opinion was not that of one man only, but of all the people of London; who, though they had not had the energy to save their defender, at least wept for him after his death, and regarded as assassins the judges who had condemned him. The gibbet on which he had been hanged was carried away in the night as a relic, and those who could not procure any part of the wood, collected pieces of the earth in which it had stood. So many came for this earth, that in a short time a large pit was formed on the place of execution. People went there not only from the vicinity, but from all parts of the island, and no native Englishman failed to fulfil this patriotic pilgrimage when his affairs called him to London.3

Ere long, popular imagination attributed the gift of miracles to this new martyr in the cause of resistance to foreign domination; his miracles were preached, as those of Waltheof had been, by a priest of Saxon origin;4 but the new preacher shared the fate of the former, and it was no less dangerous now to believe in the sanctity of Him with the Long Beard than it had been, an hundred and twenty years before, to believe in that of the last Anglo-Saxon chief. The grand justiciary Hubert sent soldiers to disperse with their lances the crowd who assembled to insult him, as he said, by bestowing such honours on the memory of an executed malefactor.5 But the English were not disheartened; driven away in the day, they returned at night to pray; soldiers were placed in ambush, and seized a great number of men and women, who were publicly whipped, and then imprisoned.6 At length, a permanent guard, posted on the spot which the English persisted in regarding as hallowed, prevented all access to it, the only measure Edition: current; Page: [248] that could discourage the popular enthusiasm, which then by degrees died away.1

Here should properly terminate the narrative of the national struggle which followed the conquest of England by the Normans; for the execution of William Longbeard is the last fact which the original authors positively connect with the conquest. That there were, at subsequent periods, other events impressed with the same character, and that William was not the last of the Saxons, are indubitable propositions, but the inexactitude of the chronicles, and the loss of ancient documents, leave us without any proofs on this subject, and reduce us, all at once, to inductions and conjectures. The main task of the conscientious narrator, therefore, ends at this point; and there only remains for him to present, in a summary form, the ulterior destiny of the persons whom he has brought upon the stage, so that the reader may not remain in suspense.

And by the word personages, it is neither Richard, king of England, nor Philip, king of France, nor John, earl of Mortain, that is to be understood; but the great masses of men and the various populations who have simultaneously or successively figured in the preceding pages. For the essential object of this history is to contemplate the destiny of peoples, and not that of certain celebrated men; to relate the adventures of social, and not those of individual life. Human sympathy may attach itself to entire populations, as to beings endowed with sentiment, whose existence, longer than our own, is filled with the same alternations of sorrow and of joy, of hope and of despair. Considered in this light, the history of the past assumes somewhat of the interest which is felt in the present; for the collective beings of whom it treats have not ceased to live and to feel; they are the same who still suffer or hope under our own eyes. This is its most attractive feature; this it is that sweetens severe and arid study; that, in a word, would confer some value upon this work, if the author had succeeded in communicating to his readers those emotions which he himself experienced while seeking in old books names now obscure and misfortunes now forgotten.

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Birth of Arthur, duke of Brittany—Insurrection of Anjou and Maine—Policy of the king of France—Death of Arthur—Indignation of the Bretons—Invasion of Normandy—Taking of Ronen—Repentance of the Bretons—The Poitevins resist the king of France—Complete submission of Normandy—Project of a new invasion of England—Entrance of the English into Normandy—Guienne remains to the king of England—Heresy of the Toulousans and Albigenses—Crusade against the Albigenses—Additional aggrandizement of the kingdom of France—Charles of Anjou becomes count of Provence—Discontent and regrets of the Provençals—Insurrection of the cities of Provence—Termination of Provençal nationality—Limits of the kingdom of France—Character of the Basque population—Political condition of the Basques—Policy of the counts de Foix—Policy of the barons of Gascony—They pass alternately from one king to another—Confederation of the Armagnacs—The Gascons join the king of France—Conquest of Guienne by the French—Revolt of Bordeaux—Second conquest of Bordeaux—Patriotic efforts of the Armagnacs—Guienne and Gascony become parts of France.

Towards the end of the reign of Henry II., and some months after the death of his second son, Geoffroy, earl or duke of Brittany, there occurred an event of little importance in itself, but which became the cause, or at least the occasion, of great political revolutions; the widow of count Geoffroy, Constance, a woman of Breton race,1 gave birth to a son, whom his paternal grandfather, the king of England, wished to baptize in the name of Henry. But the Bretons, who surrounded the mother, were all opposed to the idea that the child, who would one day become their chief, should receive a foreign name.2 He was, by acclamation, called Arthur, and was baptized in this name, as popular with them as with Edition: current; Page: [250] the Welsh. The king of England took umbrage at this act of national will, and not venturing to remove Arthur from the Bretons, he compulsorily married the mother to one of his officers, Ranouf, earl of Chester, whom he made duke of Brittany, to the prejudice of his own grandson, now an object of suspicion in his eyes because the Breton nation loved him. But this nation, shortly after, expelled Ranouf of Chester, and proclaimed the son of Constance, still a mere boy, their chief.

This second act of national will, more serious than the first, involved the Bretons in a war with king Richard, successor to Henry II. While they were fighting for their own cause and that of young Arthur, the boy himself, directed by his mother, separated from them, and sometimes passed over to the king of England, his uncle, and sometimes to the French king, who entertained, in reference to the Bretons, similar views with those of the king of England. The ambitious projects of the king of France were assisted in Brittany, as in nearly all the western provinces of Gaul, by the general weariness of Anglo-Norman domination. Not only the Poitevins, who had for fifty years past been in continual revolt, but the Manceaux, the Tourangeaux, and even the Angevins, to whom their own counts, since they had become kings of England, had been almost entire strangers, also aspired to a great change. Without themselves desiring anything beyond an administration more devoted to their national interests, they met the policy of the king of France half way, and most imprudently aided him, in the hope of his aiding them, against the king of England.

Of all the continental provinces subject to the Normans, Guienne alone, at this time, exhibited no decided repugnance towards them, because the daughter of its ancient national chiefs, Eleanor, widow of Henry II. still lived, and tempered by her influence the harshness of the foreign government. Almost immediately after the death, by a cross-bow shot, of king Richard in Limousin, the revolution, which had been preparing some time, but which the fear of his military activity had kept in check, broke out. His brother John was recognised without opposition, king of England, and duke of Normandy and Aquitaine. But Anjou, Maine, and Touraine, separated themselves simultaneously from the Norman cause, proclaiming the young duke of Brittany their lord. The Edition: current; Page: [251] Poitevins imitated this defection, and formed, with their neighbours of the north and west, a league offensive and defensive. At the head of this league figured the Breton people, unfortunately represented by a mere boy and a woman, who, fearing to fall into the hands of the English king, gave up to the king of France, Philip II., all that the popular courage had recovered from the Anglo-Normans in the various confederate countries, and recognised his suzerainty over Anjou, Maine, and Brittany. Philip, whom the French surnamed Augustus, dismantled the towns and razed the fortresses which his new vassals had opened to him. When young Arthur, his liegeman and voluntary prisoner, addressed to him, on behalf of the people who had intrusted themselves to him, some remonstrances upon his conduct: “Am I not at liberty,” said the king, “to do as I please in my own lands?”1

Arthur soon perceived the fault he had committed in confiding himself to the mercy of one of the two kings, to escape from the other. He fled from Paris, and not knowing whither to go, delivered himself up to king John, his uncle, who, receiving him with infinite endearments, was about to imprison him, when the young duke, warned of his purpose, returned to the French king. The latter already despaired of being able to retain his new provinces, against at once the will of the inhabitants and of the king of England; he thought it better, therefore, to make with the latter an advantageous peace, and to obtain it, sacrificed his guest and protégé, whom he obliged to do homage to king John for Anjou, Maine, and Brittany. Philip, in return for these good offices, obtained peace, thirty thousand marks of gold, many towns, and the promise that, if John died without heirs, he should inherit all his possessions on the continent. In virtue of this treaty, the French garrisons of Anjou and Maine were replaced by Norman troops and by Brabançons in the pay of the king of England.

While Philip-Augustus was despoiling the young Arthur of his heritage, he was educating him at his court with his own children, and conciliating him in order to meet the contingency of a new rupture with king John. This rupture soon happened, on the occasion of a general insurrection of Edition: current; Page: [252] the Poitevins, under the direction of Hugh le Brun, count de La Marche, whom the king of England had deprived of his betrothed bride. All the barons of Poitou and those of a portion of Limousin confederated together, and when the king of France saw them compromised, hoping to profit by whatever they might venture to do, he suddenly broke the peace, and declared for them, on condition that they would take the oath of faith and homage to him. He forthwith produced Arthur on the political scene, gave him in marriage his daughter Marie, aged five years, had him proclaimed earl of the Bretons, Angevins, and Poitevins, and sent him at the head of an army to conquer the towns of Poitou, which still held out for the king of England.

The Bretons made alliance with the insurgent Poitevins, and promised to send them five hundred horse and four thousand foot. Awaiting this reinforcement, the new earl of Poitou laid siege to the town of Mirebeau, a few leagues from Poitiers, where, by a chance that proved fatal to the besiegers, the widow of Henry II. happened to be. The town was taken without much resistance, but Eleanor of Aquitaine retired into the castle, which was very strong, while Arthur and the Poitevins occupied the town. They were in the greatest security, when king John, urged by the desire of releasing his mother, appeared, after a rapid march, suddenly at the gates of Mirebeau, and made Arthur prisoner, with most of the chiefs of the insurrection. He took them into Normandy, and soon afterwards Arthur disappeared without any one knowing in what manner he had perished. Among the Normans, who had no feeling of national hatred or repugnance towards the king of England, it was said that the boy had died of sickness in the castle of Rouen, or, according to others, that he had killed himself in endeavouring to make his escape over the walls of the town. The French, animated by the spirit of political rivalry, affirmed that king John had poniarded his nephew with his own hand, one day that he was passing the Seine with him in a boat. The Bretons, who had centred all their hopes of liberty in young Arthur, adopted much the same story, but changed the scene of action, which they placed at Cherbourg, on the sea shore.1 The Edition: current; Page: [253] death of Arthur, however it happened, occasioned a great sensation, more especially in Brittany, where it was regarded as a national calamity. The same ardent imagination that had made the Bretons believe their future destiny bound up with that of the boy, filled them with an exaggerated affection for the king of France, because he was the enemy of Arthur’s murderer. It was he whom they called upon to take vengeance for the deed, promising to aid him with all their power in any hostilities he might undertake against the king of England. Never king of France had so favourable an occasion for making himself master of those Bretons who were so attached to their independence.1 Philip, as suzerain, received the plaint of the lords and bishops of Brittany as to the murder of their young duke, and cited the king of England, his vassal for Normandy, to appear before the court of the barons of France, who now began to be called pairs (peers), a name borrowed from the romances on the life of Charlemagne. King John, as was expected, did not appear before the peers, and was accordingly condemned by them. All the lands he held of the kingdom of France were declared forfeit, and the Bretons were invited to take up arms to secure the execution of this sentence, which would only be effective in being followed up by a conquest.

The conquest was made, not by the power alone of the king of France, or by the authority of the decree of his peers, but by the co-operation, the more energetic that it was voluntary, of the surrounding populations, hostile to the Normans. Philip-Augustus did but appear on the frontier of Poitou, and an universal insurrection threw open to him well nigh every fortress; and when he returned to attack Normandy, the Bretons had already invaded and occupied a great portion of it. They took by assault Mont Saint-Michel, seized upon Avranches, and burned all the villages between that town and Caen. The report of their ravages, and the terror they inspired, contributed greatly to the success of the king of France, who, with the Manceaux and the Angevins, advancing from the east, took Andelys, Evreux, Domfront, and Lisieux, and at Caen formed his junction with the Breton army.

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It was the first time that Normandy had been so simultaneously attacked by all the populations which surrounded her, south, east, and north; and it was also the first time that she had had a chief so indolent and so incompetent as king John. He hunted or amused himself while Philip and his allies were taking, one after another, all the towns and fortresses of the country; in less than a year he had none left him but Rouen, Verneuil, and Château-Gaillard. The people of Normandy made great but fruitless efforts to drive back the invaders; and at length only yielded from want of succours, and because their brothers in origin, the Normans of England, secured by the ocean, were in no way anxious to relieve them from a danger which did not threaten themselves. Moreover, finding themselves, as the result of their conquest, raised above the popular condition, they had little sympathy with the burgesses and peasants on the other side of the water, though descended from the same ancestors with themselves.

The citizens of Rouen suffered all the extremities of famine before they thought of capitulating; and when their provisions entirely failed them, they concluded a truce of thirty days with the king of France, at the expiration of which they were to surrender, if they did not meantime receive succours. In the interval, they sent some of their people to England to inform king John of the extremity to which they were reduced. The envoys found the king playing at chess; he did not quit his game, or answer them until he had finished it, and then merely said: “I have no means of assisting you within the period named, so do the best you can.”1 The town of Rouen surrendered; the two places that still resisted followed the example, and the conquest of the whole country was established. This conquest, less severe upon the Normans than that of England had been upon the Saxons, was still not without its humiliation and suffering. The French razed the walls of a great many towns, and compelled the citizens of Rouen to demolish, at their own expense, their old fortifications, and to build a new castle in a place more convenient for the conquerors.2

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The national vanity of the Bretons was, no doubt, flattered, when they saw their ancient enemies, those who had struck the first blows on their national independence, subjugated, in their turn, by a foreign power. But this miserable satisfaction was all the fruit they derived from the victories they had won for the king of France. Moreover, in contributing to place their neighbours under the yoke, they had placed themselves under it, it becoming impossible for them to evade the domination of a king, who was environing them on every side, and combining with his own forces all those of Normandy. The constraint of French supremacy grew more and more intolerable to them; they attempted several times, but in vain, to renew their alliance with the king of England. To drown for awhile the thought of their own lost liberty, they, with a sort of insane fury, aided the kings of France entirely to destroy that of the populations along the Loire. They laboured at the aggrandizement of the French monarchy, and, at the same time, managed to maintain, to some extent, the remains of their ancient rights against the administrative invasions of that now powerful monarchy. Of the populations of Gaul, the Breton was, perhaps, at all times, that which manifested, in the highest degree, the need of political action. This innate disposition is far from being extinct among them, as is attested by the active part they have taken, in one way and another, in recent revolutions.

After having co-operated with the Bretons in the downfal of Normandy, the Angevins lost, as a result of this event, every relic of national existence, and the Manceaux never regained the independence of which the Normans had deprived them. The earls of Anjou were replaced by seneschals of the king of France, and the domination of this king was extended beyond the Loire, as far as Poitou. The rich Poitevins were not permitted to marry their daughters to any but French husbands.1 Under this yoke, novel to them, they repented of having repudiated the patronage of the king of England, and commenced negotiations with him, in which the malcontents of Anjou and Maine took part. A general insurrection was preparing in these three provinces, when the celebrated battle of Bovines, in assuring the fortunes of the Edition: current; Page: [256] kingdom of France, intimidated the conspirators.1 The Poitevins alone adhered to their resolution, and rose against king Philip, under the same chiefs who had, with him and for him, fought against king John. But Philip soon crushed them, with the aid of those who had feared to oppose him, of the Angevins, the Manceaux, the Tourangeaux, and the Bretons, and he carried his conquests southward as far as Rochelle. Thus these unhappy populations, from the absence of mutual affection and good understanding, fell, one after the other, under the yoke, and the overthrow of the Norman power on the continent, destroying the sort of equilibrium by means of which the southern countries had remained independent, the movement began by which, sooner or later, but infallibly, the whole of Gaul was to become French.

The restoration of Normandy to the kings of England could alone arrest this impulsion of things; but the incompetence of king John and the ability of Philip-Augustus, prevented anything of the kind from taking place, notwithstanding the discontent of the country. “Although the yoke of the king was light,” says a poet of the thirteenth century, “Neustria long chafed at being subject to it; and yet, wishing well to those who wished him ill, he did not abolish their ancient laws, or give them reason to complain of being troubled with foreign regulations.”2 No revolt of any importance took place in Normandy against the French. The popular discontent exhaled in individual murmurings, in regrets for past times, and especially for “Richard the Lion-hearted, whom no Frenchman had ever equalled,” said the Norman soldiers, even in the camp of the king of France.3 The political nullity into which this nation, so renowned for its courage and its lofty pride, suddenly fell, may be attributed, perhaps, to that very pride, which forbad it to seek aid from its former subjects of Brittany, or to treat with them for an offensive league against the common oppressor. Further, the hope which the Normans had in the population that governed England, and the ancient sympathy of relationship between them and that population of gentlemen, would rapidly become extinct. Edition: current; Page: [257] When the two countries had ceased to be united under the same sceptre, the only inhabitants of England with whom the people of Normandy had frequent relations were merchants, men of English race, speaking a language foreign to the Normans, who, besides, nourished a hostile sentiment towards them, that of commercial rivalry. The ancient ties could not, therefore, fail to break between England and Normandy, while every day fresh bands were formed between the latter country and France, where the mass of the people spoke the same language with the Normans, and bore all the signs of a common origin, for every vestige of the Danish race had long ceased to exist in Normandy.

All these causes led to the result that, in less than a century after their conquest by Philip Augustus, the Normans, without scruple, nay, with ardour, espoused the enmity of the kings of France to England. In the year 1240, some of them formed an association with the Bretons for the purpose of privateering against English vessels. In each war that afterwards arose between the two countries, fleets of piratical vessels from Normandy essayed descents on the southern coast of England, for the purposes of devastation and pillage. The town of Dieppe was especially famous for these armaments. At length, when the great quarrel of succession, which occupied the whole of the fourteenth century, broke out between Philip V. and Edward III., the Normans conceived a project involving no less than a new conquest of England, a conquest as absolute, and perhaps more methodical than that of William the Bastard. The crown and all the public domains were adjudged beforehand to the chief of the expedition. All the lands of the barons and nobles of England were to belong to titled personages, the property of the commoners to the towns, and that of the churches to the clergy of Normandy.1

This project, which, after three centuries of possession, was to reduce the conquerors of England to the state in which they themselves had placed the English in race, was drawn up with the utmost detail, and presented to king Philip de Valois at his castle of Vincennes, by the deputies of the Norman Edition: current; Page: [258] nation. They requested permission to place his son, their duke, at the head of the enterprise, and offered to defray the whole expense, requiring from the king only the aid of an ally, in case of reverses. The agreement was signed, sealed, and deposited at Caen, but circumstances, which the history of the period does not detail, retarded the execution. No progress was yet made in it when, in the year 1346, the king of England landed at Cape La Hogue, to take possession of the country which he called his hereditary domain.1 The Normans, attacked unexpectedly, no more resisted the English army, than the Anglo-Normans, perhaps, would have resisted their invaders, had the projected expedition taken place. The towns were closed, the bridges cut down, the roads broken up, but nothing stayed the march of that army, whose leading chiefs, the king included, spoke no other language than French with the Norman accent.

Notwithstanding this conformity of language, no national sympathy was aroused in their favour, and the towns which opened their gates only did so from necessity. In a short time, they took Barfleur, Carentan and Saint-Lo. In the official reports, drawn up in the French language, which they sent to England, they compared these towns in size and wealth to Sandwich, Leicester, and Lincoln, to which they still gave the name of Nicole.2 At Caen, where they visited, with great ceremony, the tomb of William the Conqueror, the author of their ancestors’ fortunes, they found, among the town charters, the original of the treaty concluded between the Normans and the king of France for a new conquest, at which they were so enraged, that they pillaged and massacred the inhabitants. Then, still pillaging, they directed their course towards the ancient frontier of France, to Poissy, which they entered; then they went to Picardy, where between them and the French was fought the famous battle of Crécy.

The plan of invasion found at Caen was immediately forwarded to England, and publicly read in all the towns, in order to exasperate the popular mind against the king and Edition: current; Page: [259] against the French, from whom the Normans were now no longer distinguished. At London, the archbishop of Canterbury read this document after service, in front of the cross in St. Paul’s church-yard. As it was drawn up in the French language, all the nobles present could understand it, and it was then translated into English for the people of low condition.1 This and the other means employed to interest the English in the quarrel of their king were not without effect upon them. The ambitious passions of the master, in the minds of the subjects assumed the form of a blind hatred to all the people of France, who, on their part, amply returned hate for hate. There was but one class of men in the two countries which escaped this frenzy, that of the poor fishermen of either shore, who, during the utmost fury of the wars, never did each other harm; “never warring,” says Froissart, “but rather aiding each other; buying and selling upon the sea, one from the other, when either had had better fishing than the other.”

By a singular destiny, while Normandy, the native land of the kings and nobles of England, became a country hostile to them, Aquitaine, from the sea of Rochelle to the Pyrenees, remained subjected to their authority, without apparent repugnance. We have seen how this country had been retained under the Anglo-Norman domination, by the influence of the duchess Eleanor, the widow of Henry II. After the death of this princess, the Aquitans preserved their faith to her grandson, from fear of falling under the lordship of the king of France, who, master of Poitou, had become their immediate neighbour. Pursuing a policy observed in the middle ages, they preferred, independently of all other considerations, to have as seigneur a king whose states lay at a distance, and for this reason, that generally the remote suzerain allowed the country to govern itself according to its local laws, and by men born within it, whereas a contiguous prince seldom permitted this arrangement.

The royal power preserved in south-west Gaul, would, perhaps, have long served as a fulcrum for the still independent populations of the south against the king of France, had not an unexpected event suddenly destroyed all the strength Edition: current; Page: [260] of the country between the Mediterranean, the Rhone, and the Garonne. The county of Toulouse, and the great lordships depending on it in the thirteenth century, by alliance or vassalage, far surpassed in civilization all the other parts of the ancient Gaulish territory. A great commerce was carried on thence with the ports of the east; its towns had the same form of municipal constitution, the same liberty, with the great Italian communes, which they imitated even in external appearance. Every rich citizen built himself a house, flanked with towers, and every citizen’s son became a knight if he chose, and jousted at tournaments with the noblest.1

This tendency to equality, which gave great umbrage to the noblesse of France, Burgundy, and Germany, opening a free communication among all classes, communicated to the minds of those who dwelt on the European coasts of the Mediterranean an activity which they exercised in every species of modern culture. They possessed the most elegant literature of all Europe, and their written idiom was classic in Italy and in Spain. With them Christianity, fervent and even enthusiastic,—for they were of an impassioned nature,—did not consist in a passive submission to the doctrine and observances of the Romish church. Without revolting against that church, without being sensible of the exact degree of their dissent from her, they had, in the course of the thirteenth century, adopted new opinions, singularly combined with old dogmas opposed to the Catholic dogma.

The church, alarmed at the extension and increase of the heresy of the southern Gauls, at first employed the resources of her powerful organization to stay its progress. But it was in vain that the pontifical couriers brought to Alby, Toulouse, and Narbonne, bulls of excommunication and anathema against the enemies of the Roman faith. Heterodoxy had gained upon even the ministers of the churches whence these bulls were to be fulminated, and the bishops themselves, though more firm in the Catholic discipline, being powerless, did not know how to decide, and at length underwent the influence of the universal example. It seemed clear that this great schism, in which all classes and ranks of society participated, Edition: current; Page: [261] could only be extinguished by a blow struck on the population, in a mass, by a war of invasion, which should destroy the social order whence had emanated its independence of spirit and its precocious civilization. This was what pope Innocent III. undertook, in the first years of the thirteenth century. Abusing the example of the crusades against the Saracens, he had one preached against the inhabitants of the county of Toulouse and of the diocese of Alby, and published throughout Europe, that whoever would arm, to war against them, should obtain the remission of his sins and a share in the property of the heretics.1

Unfortunately, the times were favourable to this crusade of Christians against Christians. The conquests of the king of France in Normandy, Anjou, and Aquitaine, had caused in these various countries the ruin or banishment of many men, and thus augmented the number of chevaliers sans avoir, of “knights with nothing,” and of reckless fortune-hunters. The pilgrimage against the Albigeois (for so the war was designated) promised less risk, and a more certain profit, than the crusade against the Arabs, and accordingly the army of the new pilgrims soon numbered fifty thousand men of every rank and nation, but especially French and Flemings. The king of France sent fifteen thousand soldiers, and the king of England allowed a body of troops to be enrolled in Guienne, under the command of the archbishop of Bordeaux.

It would exceed our limits to recount in detail all the barbarities of the crusaders at the sacking of Beziers, Carcassonne, Narbonne, and other towns, laid under the ban of the church; to say how the inhabitants were massacred without distinction of age or sex, of catholic or heretic. “Poor towns,” exclaims a poet, an eye-witness of these calamities, “how have I formerly seen you, and how see I you now.”2 From the Garonne to the Mediterranean, the whole country Edition: current; Page: [262] was devastated and subjugated; and the chief of the conquering army, Simon de Montfort, not venturing to retain for himself such vast domains, did homage for them to the king of France.

As the crusaders, whose numbers increased every day, made new conquests, the suzerainty of this king extended more and more over the south of Gaul. The county of Toulouse, and the territories of Agen, Carcassonne, and Beziers, after three centuries of independence, were thus again attached to the kingdom which had formerly possessed them. A treaty, concluded in a moment of distress, between the heir of Simon de Montfort and the successor of Philip-Augustus, soon converted this feudal supremacy into direct sovereignty. Fully to secure this immense acquisition, Louis VIII. raised an army, assumed the cross, and proceeded to the south. He passed, not without resistance, the Rhone at the bridge of Avignon, took Beaucaire and Nîmes, which he united under the authority of a seneschal, placed also a seneschal at Carcassonne, and marched upon Toulouse, whose inhabitants then were in full revolt against the crusaders and against himself.

Hatred of the French name was the national passion of the new subjects of the king of France; that name never issued from their mouths unless accompanied by some injurious epithet.1 The troubadours in their sirventes called upon the son of the count of Toulouse to come with the aid of the king of Aragon, and reconquer his heritage, making a bridge of French corses.2 During the minority which followed the death of king Louis VIII., an extensive conspiracy was formed from the Vienne to the foot of the Pyrenees, having for its object to drive back the French within their ancient limits. The chiefs of the valleys through which the Arriege flows, and where the Adour takes its source, the counties of Foix and Cominges, formed an alliance with the count de Marche and the castellans of Poitou. The king of England, too, on this occasion, did not hesitate to take a decisive part, Edition: current; Page: [263] since it was no longer a pilgrimage against heresy that was to be opposed, but the political power of the king of France. The attempt, however, had little success; the catholic clergy, zealous for French dominion, terrified the confederates by threatening them with a new crusade, and repressed the movements of the Toulousans by means of the terrible police then instituted under the name of Inquisition. Weary of a hopeless struggle, the heir of the ancient counts of Toulouse made a definitive peace with king Louis IX., ceding to him all his rights, by a treaty far from voluntary. The king gave the county of Toulouse to his brother Alphonse, already count of Poitou by a similar title, and equally against the will of the country.

Notwithstanding these accessions, the kingdom of France had not yet, on the southern side, attained the limits whither aspired the ambition of its kings, nourished by the popular traditions of the reign of Charlemagne. The banner of the gold fleur-de-lys was not yet planted on the Pyrenees, and the chiefs of the populations which inhabited the foot or the slopes of those mountains were still free to give their homage to whom they pleased. Some, it is true, offered it to the king of France; but others, and these the greater number, were faithful to the kings of Aragon or Castile, or to the king of England; and others, again, remained without any suzerain at all, holding of God alone.

While one of the brothers of Louis IX. ruled the counties of Toulouse and Poitou, the other, named Charles, was count of Anjou and Maine. Never had the family of any French king combined such power, for we must not mistake the kings of the Franks for kings of France. The limits of this kingdom, formerly bounded by the Loire, already extended, in the middle of the thirteenth century, to the Mediterranean; on the south-west, it bordered upon the possessions of the king of England in Guienne, and on the south-east, upon the independent territory which bore the old name of Provence, (Provincia.) About this time, the count of Provence, Rémond Beranger, died, leaving an only daughter, called Beatrix, under the guardianship of some relations. The guardians, masters of the girl and of the county, offered the king of France to give both the one and the other to his brother, Charles d’Anjou; and the king, having agreed to the proposed Edition: current; Page: [264] conditions, sent troops into Provence, which entered it as friends. Charles d’Anjou proceeded thither soon afterwards, and Beatrix was married to him, without having been much consulted on the subject. As for the people of the country, their aversion to a foreign count, and especially to one of French race, was unequivocal.1 They had before them the example of what their neighbours on the other side of the Rhone suffered under the government of the French. “Instead of a brave lord,” says a contemporary poet, “the Provençals are to have a master; they may no longer build towers or castles, they will no longer dare to bear lance or shield before the French. May they die rather than be reduced to such a condition!”2

These fears were soon realized. All Provence was filled with foreign officers, who, treating the natives as subjects by conquest, levied enormous imposts, confiscated estates, and imprisoned and put to death their owners without trial and without sentence. At first, these excesses of power met with little resistance, because the clergy, making itself, in the words of an old poet, a whetstone for the swords of the French,3 upheld their domination by the terrible menace of a crusade. The troubadours, accustomed to serve in the south as organs of the patriotic interest, undertook the dangerous task of arousing the people, and shaming them out of their disgraceful endurance. One of them, playing on the name of his country, said that it ought no longer to be called Proensa (the land of the preux), but Faillensa (the land of the failers), because it allowed a foreign domination to replace its national government. Other poets, in their verses, addressed the king of Aragon, the former suzerain of Provence, inviting him to come and expel the usurpers from his lands. Others, again, urged the king of England to head an offensive league against the French; their object being war, by means of which they might effect their enfranchisement. “Why is not the game commenced,” they said, “in which many a helm will be split, many a hauberk pierced?”4

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Things were at this point, when the king of France, departing for the crusade in Egypt, took his brother, Charles d’Anjou, with him. News soon came that the two brothers had been made prisoners by the Saracens, and hereupon there was universal joy in Provence. It was said that God had worked this miracle to save the liberty of the country. The towns of Aix, Arles, Avignon, and Marseilles, which enjoyed an almost republican organization, made open preparations for war, repairing their fortifications, collecting provisions and arms; but the imprisonment of Charles d’Anjou was not of long duration. On his return, he began by devastating the whole district of Arles, in order to intimidate the citizens; he then blockaded them so long with a numerous army, that after enduring infinite sufferings they were fain to surrender. Such was the end of this great commune, as free in its days of prosperity as those which then flourished in Italy. Avignon, whose municipal constitution resembled that or Arles, opened its gates on the approach of Alphonse, count of Toulouse and Poitiers, who came to aid his brother in subjecting the Provençaux.1

At Marseilles, the inhabitants of all ranks took up arms, and putting out to sea, attacked the count’s fleet. But the coolness between the higher burghers and the country seigneurs and castellans produced fatal dissensions. The Marseillese were ill supported by this class of men, many of whom thought it more knightly to serve under the banner of the foreigner than to make common cause with the friends of national independence. Reduced to their own resources, the latter obtained a favourable capitulation, which, however, the count’s French agents soon violated without scruple. Their tyranny and their exactions became so insupportable, that, despite the danger, a revolt was formed against them, in which they were all seized by the people, who, however, contented themselves with imprisoning them. The insurgents took possession of the chateau Saint-Marcel, shut the gates of the city, and sustained a second siege, during which the people of Montpellier, though long enemies of the Marseillese from commercial rivalry, profited by the last moments of their own independence to succour Marseilles against the conquerors Edition: current; Page: [266] of southern Gaul. Notwithstanding this assistance, the town, attacked by superior forces, was obliged to yield. All the stores in its public arsenals were removed, and the citizens were disarmed. A knight, named Boniface de Castellane, at once warrior and poet, who, by his sirventes, had excited the insurrection of the Marseillese,1 and had then fought in their ranks, was, according to some historians, taken and beheaded. The castellans and seigneurs who had abandoned the cause of the towns, were treated by the count almost as harshly as those who had adhered to it. He used every means to depress and impoverish them, his authority being strengthened by the public misery and terror.2

The Provençals never recovered their ancient municipal liberty, or the high civilization and riches which had resulted from it. But, very singularly, after two centuries, the extinction of the house of the counts of Anjou, under which they had preserved at least a shadow of nationality, by an administration distinct from that of France, occasioned them almost as much grief as had the accession of that house. To fall under the immediate authority of the kings of France, after having been governed by counts, appeared to the people of Provence, about the close of the fifteenth century, a new national calamity. It was this popular feeling, rather than the personal qualities of René, surnamed the Good, which occasioned the long memory of him retained by the Provençals, and the exaggerated idea of public prosperity which tradition still connects with his reign.

Thus were annexed to the kingdom of France all the provinces of ancient Gaul situate right and left of the Rhône, except Guienne and the valleys at the foot of the Pyrenees. The old civilization of these provinces received a mortal blow in their compulsory reunion with countries far less advanced in intellectual culture, in industry, and in manners. The most disastrous epoch in the history of the peoples of southern France is that at which they became French, when the king, whom their ancestors used to call the king of Paris,3 began to term them his subjects of the langue d’oc, in contradistinction Edition: current; Page: [267] to the old French of Outre-Loire, who spoke the langue d’oui. From that time the classic poetry of the south, and even the language consecrated to it, disappeared from Languedoc, Poitou, Limousin, Auvergne, and Provence. Local dialects, inelegant and incorrect, prevailed in every direction, and soon replaced the literary idiom, the beautiful language of the troubadours.1

The jurisdiction of the first seneschals of the kings of France in Languedoc, bounded on the west by that of the officers of the king of England in Aquitaine, only reached southward as far as the valleys which announce the vicinity of the great chain of the Pyrenees. It was here that the conquest of the crusaders against the Albigenses had stopped, because the profit of a war in a mountainous country, bristling with castles, built on the rocks like eagles’ nests, did not seem at all equivalent to the dangers it would involve. Thus, on the southern frontier of the possessions of the two kings there remained a free territory, extending from one sea to the other, and which, extremely narrow at its eastern and western extremities, reached towards its centre the confluence of the Aveyron and the Garonne.

The inhabitants of this territory were divided into lordships under different titles, as all the south had been before the French conquest; and these various populations, with one sole exception, presented the signs of a common origin in their language and character. This race of men, more ancient than the Celtic races of Gaul, had probably been driven back to the mountains by a foreign invasion, and, together with the western part of the Gaulish Pyrenees, they also occupied the Spanish side of these mountains. The name they gave themselves in their own language—a language differing from all the known tongues—was Escualdun, in the plural Escualdunac. Instead of this name, the Romans had employed, we know not for what reason, those of Vaques, Vasques, or Vascones, which have been retained, with certain variations of orthography, in the neo-Latin languages of Spain and Gaul. The Vasques or Basques never wholly underwent the yoke of the Roman administration which ruled all their neighbours, or, like the latter, quitted their language for the Latin tongue, Edition: current; Page: [268] or any of its modifications. They, in like manner, resisted the invasions of the Germanic peoples; and neither the Goths nor the Franks had succeeded in annexing them at all permanently to their empire. When the Franks had occupied all the large cities of the two Aquitaines, the western mountaineers became the centre and fulcrum of the frequent rebellions of the inhabitants of the plain. The Basques were thus allied against the Frank kings of the first and second race, with the Gallo-Romans, whom they disliked and whom they were accustomed to pillage in the intervals of these alliances. It was this often renewed confederation which gave the name of Vasconie or Gascony to the portion of Aquitaine situated between the mountains and the Garonne; and the difference of termination in the nominative and oblique cases of the same Latin word occasioned the distinction of Basques and of Vascons or Gascons.1

In placing themselves at the head of the great league of the natives of southern Gaul against the conquerors of the North, the only object of the Basques appears to have been their own independence, or the material profits of war, and by no means the establishment of their political sway in the plains, or the foundation of a new state; whether from excessive love of their native land, and contempt for foreign countries, or from a peculiar idiosyncrasy, ambition and the desire for renown were never their dominant passions. While with the aid of the insurgents, with whom they had so powerfully co-operated, there were formed, for the noble families of Aquitaine, the counties of Foix, Comminges, Bearn, Guienne, and Toulouse, they, as little seeking to be masters as consenting to be slaves, remained a people, a free people in their mountains and their valleys. They carried political indifference so far as to allow themselves to be nominally comprised in the territory of the count of Bearn, and in that of the king of Navarre, men of foreign race, whom they allowed to style themselves seigneurs of the Basques, on the understanding that this lordship should be in no way or degree real or effective.2

It was under this aspect that they appeared in the thirteenth Edition: current; Page: [269] century, interfering, as a nation, in the affairs of none of the surrounding countries; divided into two different suzerainties, from habit, from indifference, not from constraint, and making no attempt to form a junction as one people. The only thing that seemed nationally to interest them, was the maintenance of their hereditary customs and laws decreed in their cantonal assemblies, which they called Bilsâr. No passion, either of friendship or of hate, induced them to take part in the wars of foreigners; but if offered good pay, they were ready, individually, to enrol themselves under any banner, no matter whose or in what cause. The Basques, in common with the Navarrese and the inhabitants of the eastern Pyrenees, had, at this time, the same high reputation as light troops that the Brabançons had as heavy infantry.1 Their agility, their familiarity with rugged paths, an instinctive sharpness of wit and aptitude for stratagem, arising to a certain extent from their life of mountain hunter and shepherd, rendered them excellently suited for sudden attacks, for ambuscades, for night surprises, for forced marches in bad weather and over bad roads.

Three cantons only of the Basque country, Labour, the Valley of Soule, and Lower-Navarre, were in the ancient territory of Gaul: the rest formed part of Spain. The city of Bayonne, dependent on the duchy of Guienne, marked on the sea-coast the extreme limit of the Romane tongue, perhaps advanced somewhat more northwards in anterior centuries. At the gates of Bayonne commenced the territory of the count or viscount of Bearn, the most powerful seigneur in those parts, and whose policy generally influenced that of all the surrounding lords. He recognised no suzerain in any fixed and permanent manner, unless, perhaps, the king of Aragon, whose family was allied with his own. As to the king of England, of whom he held some fiefs near Bayonne, he by no means deemed himself at his disposal, and only swore him fealty and homage in consideration of a large sum. It was at a cheaper rate, but still for money, that this king obtained the homage of the less powerful lords of Bigorre, Comminges, of the three valleys, and of Gascony proper. They more than once, in the thirteenth century, Edition: current; Page: [270] made war, in his pay, against the king of France; but on the first indication of lofty assumption, on the first act of tyranny of their adopted suzerain, the Gascon chiefs would forthwith abandon him, and ally with his rival, or themselves form a league against him. This league, often renewed, maintained a correspondence with Guienne, for the purpose of exciting insurrection there, and its success in this way, at different epochs, would seem to indicate a prevalent desire to unite all south-western Gaul in an independent state. This notion was peculiarly agreeable to the upper classes and to the rich burghers of the towns of Guienne; but the lower orders clung to the English domination, under the persuasion that there would be no market for the wines of the country, if the English merchants ceased to trade with them.

Towards the commencement of the fourteenth century, a treaty of alliance and of marriage united in perpetuity in the same person the two lordships of Foix and Bearn, and thus founded a considerable power upon the common frontier of the kings of France and England. In the long war which, shortly after, broke out between these two kings, the first made great efforts to bring over the count of Foix to his side, and to induce him to act, in the conquest he meditated in Guienne, the part that the Bretons, the Angevins, and the Mançeaux had formerly played in that of Normandy. The count was gained by the promise, made in advance, of the towns of Dax and Bayonne; but as the expedition then undertaken did not succeed, all alliance was soon broken between the kingdom of France and the counts of Foix. Resuming their ancient position of complete political independence, the chiefs of this small state remained, as in observation, between the two rival powers, each of which made every effort to bring them to a declaration. Once, in the middle of the fourteenth century, the king of France sent Louis de Sancerre, one of his marshals, to count Gaston de Foix, to say that he had a great desire to come and see him. “He will be welcome,” answered the count, “I shall be happy to receive him.”—“But, sir,” said the marshal, “it is the king’s intention on his arrival to ascertain, clearly and distinctly, whom you will back, French or English; for you have ever maintained reserve in the war, arming at no request and at no command that you have received.” “Messire Louis,” replied the count, Edition: current; Page: [271] “if I have abstained from arming, I had good reason and warranty therein; for the war between the kings of France and England concerns not me. I hold my country of Béarn of God, my sword, and my birthright; and I am in no way called upon to place myself in the servitude or in the enmity of either the one or the other king.”1

“Such is the nature of the Gascons,” adds the old historian who relates this anecdote. “They are unstable, and never faithful to one lord for thirty years together.” Throughout the war between the kings of England and France, the reproach of fickleness, ingratitude, and perfidy was alternately applied by the two kings to the lords who desired to remain free and neutral, and whom each was intent upon securing for himself. The pettiest castellan in Gascony was courted by messages and by letters sealed with the great seal of France or of England.2 Hence the importance attained, towards the fifteenth century, by persons of whom little had been heard before, as the sires d’Albret, d’Armagnac, and many others far less powerful, such as the sires de Durfort, de Duras, and de Fezensac. To secure the alliance of the seigneur d’Albret, the chief of a little territory of heath and furze, the king of France, Charles V., gave him in marriage his sister, Isabelle de Bourbon. The sire d’Albret came to Paris, where he was received and fêted in the palace of his brother-in-law; but in the midst of this cordial reception, he could not help saying to his friends: “I will remain French, since I have promised it; but, by God, I had a better life, both I and my people, when we fought for the king of England.”3 About the same time, the sires de Durfort and de Rosan, made prisoners by the French in a battle, were both released without ransom, on condition, says a contemporary, that they would turn French, and promise, on their faith and honour, for ever to remain good Frenchmen, they and theirs.4 They swore it; but, on their return, they answered the first person who asked them the news: “Ah! sire, by constraint and menace of death, they made us become French; but we tell you, that in taking this oath, in our hearts we still kept Edition: current; Page: [272] faith to our natural lord, the king of England; and whatever we said or did, we will never be French.”1

The value set by such powerful kings on the friendship of a few barons, arose more especially from the influence which these barons, according to the party they adopted, could and did exercise over the castellans and knights of the duchy or Guienne, a great number of whom were related to them by marriage. Moreover, the Aquitans had, in general, more intimate relations with them than with the officers of the king of England, who could not speak the language of the country, or spoke it ill, and whose Anglo-Norman stateliness was altogether discordant with the vivacity and ease of the southerns. Accordingly, whenever one of the Gascon lords embraced the French party, a greater or less number of knights and squires of Aquitaine joined with him the army of the king of France. The various operation of this influence occasioned, during the whole of the fourteenth century and half of the fifteenth, constant movement among the noble population of the castles of Guienne; but far less among the bourgeoisie. This class of men adhered to the sovereignty of the king of England from the then prevalent idea that the sway of the other king would infallibly destroy all municipal liberty. The rapid decline of the communes of Languedoc, since they had become French, so deeply fixed this opinion in the minds of the Aquitans, that it made them quite superstitious on the subject. When the king of England, Edward III., assumed the title of king of France, they were alarmed, as though the mere title added to his name would altogether change his conduct towards them. Their apprehensions were so great, that, to dissipate them, king Edward thought it necessary to address to all the towns of Aquitaine a letter in which was the following passage: “We promise, in good faith, that, notwithstanding our taking possession of the kingdom of France, appertaining to us, we will not deprive you, in any manner, of your liberties, privileges, customs, jurisdictions, or other rights whatsoever, but will leave you in full enjoyment thereof, as heretofore, without any infringement by us or by our officers.”2

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In the first years of the fifteenth century, the count d’Armagnac, who had for some time past been, with the sire d’Albret, at the head of a league formed among all the petty lords of Gascony, for the purpose of maintaining their independence, by relying, according to circumstances, on France or on England, formed an alliance with one of the two parties who, under the names of Orleans and Burgundy, then disputed the government of France. He engaged thus in a foreign quarrel, and brought his confederates into it, less, perhaps, from political motives than from personal interest; for one of his daughters had married the duke of Orleans, chief of the party of that name. Once mixed up with the intrigues and disputes which divided France, the Gascons, with the impetuosity of their southern temperament, displayed so great an activity, that the Orleans party soon changed its name to that of Armagnac, and the only party distinctions in the kingdom became those of Burgundians and Armagnacs. Notwithstanding the generality of this distinction, there were no true Armagnacs but those of the south, and these, enveloped as it were in a faction more numerous than themselves, forgot in their passionate partisanship the cause which had first made them league together, the independence of their native land. The interests of their country ceased to be the sole object of their policy; they no longer freely changed their suzerain and their allies, but blindly followed all the movements of a foreign faction.1

Under the reign of Charles VII., this faction involved them more deeply than they had ever before been involved in alliance with the king of France against England. After the astonishing victories which signalized the deliverance of the country invaded by the English, when, to complete this great reaction, it was resolved to expel them from the continent, and to deprive them of Guienne, the friends of the count of Armagnac all employed their utmost energies in urging la fortune de la France to this final goal. Their example induced those of the Gascon lords, who still held for the king of England, to desert him for king Charles. Of this number was the count de Foix; and this petty prince, who, a few years before, had promised the former of the two kings Edition: current; Page: [274] to conquer Languedoc for him, now undertook to superintend for the other that of the whole duchy of Aquitaine.1

A sort of superstitious terror, arising from the rapidity of the French triumphs, and the part played in them by the celebrated Maid of Orleans, now reigned in this country. It was believed that the cause of the king of France was favoured by Heaven, and when the count de Penthievre, chief of the French army, and the counts de Foix and d’Armagnac, entered on three sides the country of Guienne, they did not experience, either from the inhabitants or from the English, anything like the resistance formerly opposed to them. The English, despairing of their cause, gradually retreated to the sea; but the citizens of Bordeaux, more earnest for their municipal liberty than the English army for the dominion of its king on the continent, endured a siege of several months, nor did they capitulate at last, but on the express condition that they should be for ever exempt from taxes, subsidies, and forced loans. The city of Bayonne was the last to surrender to the count de Foix, who besieged it with an army of Bearnese and Basques, the former of whom followed him to the war because he was their seigneur, and the latter, because they hoped to enrich themselves. Neither of these two populations was in any degree interested in the cause of France; and while the Bearnese soldiers fought for king Charles, the Bearnese people looked upon the French as dangerous foreigners, and guarded their frontier against them. Once, during the siege of Saint-Sever, a French column, whether from mistake or in order to shorten its journey, entered the Bearnese territory; on the news of its march the tocsin rang in the villages, the peasants assembled in arms, and there took place between them and the troops of the king of France an engagement celebrated in the annals of the country, as the battle of Mesplede.2

The French seneschal of Guienne, who filled at Bordeaux the place of the English officer bearing the same title, did not take, before the assembled people, the ancient oath his predecessors had been accustomed to take at their installation, when they swore, in the Bordelaise tongue, to preserve Edition: current; Page: [275] to all people of the town and the country, lors franquessas, vrivileges et libertats, establimens, fors, coustumas, usages, et observences.1 Notwithstanding the capitulation of most of the towns, the duchy of Guienne was treated as a conquered territory; and this state of things, to which the Bordelais were not accustomed, so chafed them, that, less than a year after the conquest, they conspired with several castellans of the country to drive out the French with the aid of the king of England. Deputies from the town repaired to London and treated with Henry VI., who accepted their offers, and despatched four or five thousand men under John Talbot, the famous captain of the age.

The English having landed at the peninsula of Medoc, advanced without any resistance, because the main body of the French army had withdrawn, leaving only garrisons in the towns. On the news of this debarkation, there was great discussion at Bordeaux, not as to whether they should again become English, but as to the manner in which they should treat the officers and soldiers of the king of France.2 Some wished them to be allowed to depart without impediment or injury, others that full vengeance should be inflicted on them. During the discussion, the English troops arrived before Bordeaux, some citizens opened one of the gates, and most of the French who remained in the town became prisoners of war. The king of France sent, in all haste, six hundred lances and a number of archers, to reinforce the garrisons of the towns; but before these succours arrived at their destination, the army of Talbot, now joined by all the barons of the Bordelais, and four thousand men from England, reconquered nearly all the fortresses.

Meantime king Charles VII. came in person, with a numerous army, to the frontiers of Guienne. He at first endeavoured to open a correspondence with the people, but he did not succeed; no one gave his co-operation in effecting the restoration of the royal government.3 Finding himself thus reduced to depend wholly on force, he took several towns by assault, and beheaded, as traitors, all the men of the country who were found with arms in their Edition: current; Page: [276] hands. The counts de Foix and d’Albret, and the other seigneurs of Gascony, gave him, in this campaign, the same aid as in the former; they reconquered southern Guienne, while the French army fought with the English, near Castillon, a decisive battle, in which John Talbot and his son were killed. This victory opened the road to Bordeaux for the army of the king and that of the confederate lords. They formed a junction at a short distance from the town, which they sought to starve into surrender by devastating its territory; and, at the same time, a fleet of Poitevin, Breton, and Flemish vessels, entered the Gironde. The English, who formed the majority of the garrison of Bordeaux, seeing the town invested on all sides, demanded to capitulate, and constrained the citizens to follow their example. They obtained permission to embark and to take with them all those citizens who desired to accompany them; so great a number departed in this way, that for many years Bordeaux was without population and without commerce.1

In the terms of the capitulation, twenty persons only were to be banished for having conspired against the French. Among the number, were the sires de l’Esparre and de Duras; their property, and that of all the other suspected persons, served to recompense the conquerors. The king withdrew to Tours; but he left strong garrisons in all the towns, resolved, says a contemporary, to hold the rod over the heads of the people.2 And to reduce, says the same historian, the town of Bordeaux to more complete subjection than before, the French built two citadels there, the château Trompette, and the fort de Hâ. During the progress of these works, the French arrested the sire de l’Esparre, who had broken his ban; he was taken to Poitiers, where he was condemned to death, beheaded, and cut into six pieces, which were exposed in different places.

Long after this last conquest of Guienne, many of its inhabitants regretted the government of the English, and watched occasion to resume correspondence with England. Although they did not succeed in these intrigues, the effect of them was feared, and ordinances of the king of France forbad any Englishman to reside at Bordeaux. The English Edition: current; Page: [277] vessels were to leave their guns and other arms, with their powder, at Blaye; and the English merchants could not enter any house in the town, or go into the country to taste or buy wines, unless accompanied by armed men and officers appointed expressly to watch their actions and words. At a later period, these officers, useless in their former capacity, became sworn interpreters.1

Despite its regrets, the province of Guienne remained French; and the kingdom of France, extending to Bayonne, weighed, without counterpoise, upon the free territory of Gascony. The lords of the country at the foot of the Pyrenees soon felt that they had gone too far in their affection for the French monarchy. They repented, but too late, for it was no longer possible for them to struggle against that monarchy, now comprehending the whole extent of Gaul, with the exception of their petty country. Yet the majority of them courageously adventured upon the unequal contest; they sought a fulcrum in the revolt of the high noblesse of France against the successor of Charles VII., and engaged in the league which was then called le bien public.2 The peace which the French leaguers made soon after with Louis XI., for money and offices, did not satisfy the southerns, whose views in this patriotic war had been wholly different. Frustrated in their hopes, the counts d’Armagnac, de Foix, d’Albret, d’Astarac, and de Castres, addressed themselves to the king of England, inviting him to make a descent on Guienne, and promising to march to his aid with fifteen thousand fighting men, to transfer to him all the towns of Gascony, and even to secure for him Toulouse.3 But English policy was no longer favourable to wars on the continent, and the offer of the Gascons was refused. In their conviction that their ancient liberty was for ever gone, did not the province of Aquitaine once more become a separate state, several of them intrigued to induce the brother of the king of France, Charles, duke de Guienne, to declare himself independent. But the duke died of poison, as soon as Louis XI. perceived that he listened to these suggestions; Edition: current; Page: [278] and a French army besieged in Lectoure count John d’Armagnac, the most active partisan of the cause of Gascony. The town was taken by assault, and given over to fire and blood; the count perished in the massacre; and his wife, who was within two months of her confinement, was forced, by the French officers, to take a draught which was to procure abortion, but which caused her death in two days.1 A member of the family of Albret, made prisoner in this war, was beheaded at Tours; and, shortly after, a bastard of Armagnac, who attempted to restore the fortunes of his country, and succeeded in taking several places, was also captured and put to death. Lastly, James d’Armagnac, duke de Nemours, who entertained, or was supposed to entertain, similar designs, was beheaded at Paris, at the Piliers des Halles, and his children were placed under the scaffold during their father’s execution.

This terrible example was not lost upon the barons of Gascony; and although many men of that country turned their eyes to the other side of the ocean; although they long hoped the return, with English succours, of Gaillard de Durfort, sire de Duras, and the other Gascons or Aquitans who had sought refuge in England,2 no one dared undertake that which the Armagnacs had undertaken. The count de Foix, the most powerful lord of the Pyrenees, abandoned all idea of any other conduct towards the kings of France than that of a loyal servant, gallant at their court, brave in their camps, devoted to them in life and death. Most of the chiefs of these countries and the nobles of Guienne pursued the same policy; incapacitated from doing aught of themselves, they intrigued for the titles and offices which the king of France bestowed on his favourites. Many obtained these, and even supplanted the native French in the good graces of their own kings. They owed this advantage, rather brilliant than solid, to their natural shrewdness, and an aptitude for business, the result of their long and arduous efforts to maintain their national independence against the ambition of the neighbouring kings.

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Wars of the Welsh against the Anglo-Normans—Complete submission of Wales—Persecution of the Welsh bards—Welsh refugees in France—Yvain of Wales—Free companies—The chevalier Rufin—Promises of the king of France to the Welsh—Insuriection of Owen Glendowr—Panic terror of the English soldiers—Landing of the French in Wales—March and retreat of the French—Termination of the insurrection of the Welsh—Wars of the succession in England—Enterprise of Henry Tudor—The Welsh under Henry VII., Henry VIII., Elizabeth, and the Stuarts—Actual state of the Welsh population—Turn of mind and character of the Welsh nation—Differences of idiom in Wales—Language of Cornwall.

The reproach of fickleness and perfidy, so long lavished on the free populations of southern Gaul by their national enemies, the French and the Anglo-Normans, was constantly applied by the latter to the natives of Cambria.1 And, indeed, if it were perfidy not to recognise any right of conquest, and to make incessant efforts to shake off the foreign yoke, the Welsh were certainly the most faithless of all nations; for their resistance to the Normans, by force and by stratagem, was as pertinacious as had been that of their ancestors against the Anglo-Saxons. They carried on a perpetual war of skirmishes and ambuscades, intrenching themselves in the forests and marshes, and seldom risking an engagement on level ground with horsemen armed at all points. The wet and rainy season was that in which the Cambrians were invincible;2 they then sent away their wives and children, drove their flocks into the mountains, broke down the bridges, let loose the ponds, and beheld with delight the brilliant cavalry of their enemies sinking in the waters and mud of their marshes.3 In general the first engagements were in their favour, but in the long run force gained the victory, and a fresh portion of Wales was conquered.

The chiefs of the victorious army took hostages, disarmed the inhabitants, and forced them to swear obedience to the Edition: current; Page: [280] king and justiciaries of England; this compulsory oath was speedily violated,1 and the Welsh insurgents would besiege the castles of the foreign barons and judges. On the news of this resumption of hostilities, the hostages, imprisoned in England in the royal fortresses, were generally put to death, and sometimes the king himself had them executed in his presence. John, son of Henry II., had twenty-eight, all under age, hanged in one day, before he sat down to breakfast.2

Such were the scenes presented by the struggle of the Welsh against the Anglo-Normans, up to the period when king Edward, the first of that name since the conquest, passed the lofty mountains of North Cambria, which no king of England before him had crossed. The highest summit of these mountains, called in Welsh Craigeiri, or the snowy peak, and in English Snowdon, was considered sacred to poetry, and it was believed that whoever slept there awoke inspired.3 This last bulwark of Cambrian independence was not forced by English troops, but by an army from Guienne, composed for the most part of Basque mercenaries.4 Trained in their own mountains to military tactics almost identical with those of the Welsh, they were more adapted to surmount the difficulties of the country than the heavy cavalry and regular infantry who had hitherto been employed in the service.

In this great defeat perished a man whom his countrymen, in their old spirit of patriotic supersition, had regarded as predestined to restore the ancient British liberty. This was Llewellyn ap Griffith, chief of North Wales, who had gained more victories over the English than any of his predecessors.5 There existed an old prediction, that a prince of Wales would be crowned at London; mockingly to accomplish this prophecy, king Edward had the head of Llewellyn, crowned with a wreath of ivy, stuck on a pike on the topmost turret of the Tower of London. David, brother of this unfortunate prince, attempted to resume the war; but, taken alive by the English Edition: current; Page: [281] troops, he was hanged and quartered, and his head was placed beside that of his brother on the battlements of the Tower, where the rain and the wind bleached them together.1

It is said, that after his victory, Edward I. assembled the leaders of the conquered people, and announced to them that, out of regard to their spirit of nationality, he would give them a chief, born in their own country, and who had never spoken a single word either of French or English. All were full of joy at this, and sent forth loud acclamations.2 “Well then,” said the king, “you shall have for a chief and prince, my son, Edward, just born at Caernarvon, and whom I here name Edward of Caernarvon.” Hence the custom of giving the title of prince of Wales to the eldest sons of the kings of England.

Edward I. erected a great number of fortresses on the coasts,3 that he might at all times forward troops by sea; and cut down the forests of the interior, which might serve as a refuge for the partisan bands.4 If it be not true that he ordered the massacre of all the Welsh bards, he it was, at all events, who commenced the system of political persecution, of which this class of men were constantly the object on the part of the kings of England.5 The principal bards had perished in great numbers in the insurrectionary battles; the survivors, deprived of their protectors, after the downfal of the rich men of the country, and compelled to sing their verses, from town to town, were placed within the category of men without ostensible means of living, by the Anglo-Norman justiciaries. “Let no minstrels, bards, rhymers, or other Welsh vagabonds, be henceforth permitted to overrun the country as heretofore,” said their ordinances.6 No native Welshman could, under the same ordinances, occupy the smallest public post in his native country; to be viscount, seneschal, chancellor, judge, constable of a castle, registrar, forester, etc., it was essential to have been born in England, or in some other foreign country.7 Edition: current; Page: [282] The towns and castles were occupied by foreign garrisons, and the natives were taxed arbitrarily, or, as the royal decrees expressed it, at the discretion of their lords, to supply maintenance for the garrisons of the said castles.1

Many, forced by the conquest to expatriate themselves, passed into France, where they were well received; this emigration continued during the whole of the fourteenth century, and it is from these refugees that descend the French families that bear the now common name of Gallois or Le Gallois. The most considerable of those who proceeded thither in the reign of Philip VI. was a young man named Owen, whom the king retained in his palace, and brought up among the pages of his chamber. This Owen was of the family of Llewellyn, probably his great nephew, perhaps his grandson; and the French, who regarded him as the legitimate heir of the principality of Wales, called him Evain or Yvain of Wales.2 After the death of Philip de Valois, the young exile continued to reside at the court of France, greatly beloved by king John, by whose side he fought at the fatal battle of Poitiers. Afterwards, in the reign of Charles V., war recommencing against the English, Owen was entrusted with various military commands, and, among others, with a descent upon Guernsey, which had been English since the conquest of England by the Normans. Although a simple squire, he had more than once knights of renown under his orders; his company, as it was then called, consisted of an hundred men-at-arms, at whose head he made several campaigns in Limousin, in Perigord, and in Saintonge, against the captains of the king of England. One of his relations, John Win or Wynne, celebrated for his graceful deportment, and who was surnamed le poursuivant d’amours, served with him in this war, having, in like manner, under his banner a small troop of Welsh exiles.3

The grand-nephew of Llewellyn nourished in exile the thought of freeing his country from English domination, and Edition: current; Page: [283] of recovering, as he himself says in a charter, the inheritance of the kings of Wales, his predecessors.1 He received from king Charles V. assistance in money, munitions, and vessels; but notwithstanding this support, his ambition and his courage, he never revisited Cambria, and only encountered the English on foreign fields. He followed Duguesclin into Spain, where, for two years, the kings of France and of England waged war in the name of the rivalry of two pretenders to the throne of Castile, Peter the Cruel and Henry de Transtamare.

In one of the combats fought in this war, the earl of Pembroke and other English knights of Norman origin, were taken prisoners by the French, and, as they were being conducted to Santander, Owen went to see them, and, addressing the earl in French, said: “Come you, sir earl, to this country to do me homage for the lands you hold in the principality of Wales, of which I am heir, and which your king takes from me contrary to all right?”2 The earl of Pembroke was astonished to hear a man, whom he did not know, address him in this manner: “Who are you,” asked he, “that speak to me thus?” “I am Owen, son of the prince of Wales, whom your king of England slew, disinheriting me; but, when I can, with the aid of God and of my dear lord, the king of France, I will apply a remedy; and know, that were it place and time for me to combat you, I would prove upon you that you and your fathers, and those of the earl of Hereford, have done me and mine treason and wrong.” Hereupon one of the earl of Pembroke’s knights, named Thomas Saint-Aubin, advanced to the Welshman and said: “Yvain, if you seek to maintain that in my lord, or his father, there has been or is any treason, or that he owes you homage, or anything else, throw down your glove, and you will soon find one to take it up.” “You are a prisoner,” answered the Welshman; “I cannot in honour challenge you now, for you are not your own man, but belong to those who have taken you; when you are free, I will speak further to you on the subject, and the thing shall not remain where it is.”3 The dispute, however, Edition: current; Page: [284] had no result, for before the earl of Pembroke and Thomas Saint-Aubin had regained their liberty, Yvain of Wales died of a stiletto stab administered by a countryman of his, in whom he placed full confidence, but who had sold himself to the king of England. This murder was committed in the year 1378, near the town of Mortagne in Saintonge, then besieged by the French. The assassin effected his escape, and went into Guienne, where he was well received by the seneschal of Landes and the other English commanders.

Very few Cambrians consented to serve the ruler of their country; and they who came to the wars of France, under the standard of Edward III., did so on compulsion, and against their will. The Welsh who were levied, en masse, to form bodies of light infantry, brought with them into the king of England’s armies their national enmity to the English, and often quarrelled and came to blows with them; often, too, they deserted to the French with arms and baggage, or spread over the country to live as free companies. This was a profession much in vogue at this time, and in which the Cambrians excelled, from their long habit of guerilla warfare in their forests and mountains. Thus, one of these great companies, which at this period rendered themselves so celebrated and so terrible, was under the orders of a Welshman, who was called in France the chevalier Rufin, but whose real name was probably Riewan.1 This captain, under whom adventurers of all nations had assembled, had adopted, as his district of pillage, the country between the Loire and the Seine, from the frontiers of Burgundy to those of Normandy. His head-quarters were sometimes near Orleans, sometimes near Chartres: he put to ransom or occupied the little towns and the castles, and was so dreaded, that his men went in scattered troops of twenty, thirty, or forty, and none dared attack them.2

In the second half of the fourteenth century, when the kings of France and England were mutually exhausting every means of injuring each other, the former, who had learned to comprehend the national spirit of the Cambrians, sought to turn to account the patriotism of this petty nation, whose existence was scarcely suspected by his predecessors of the Edition: current; Page: [285] twelfth century.1 More than once his emissaries proceeded to north and south Wales, promising the natives the aid and protection of France, if they would rise against the English power. These agents spread themselves over the country, most of them attired as mendicant monks, a body greatly respected at this period, and whose habit was least liable to suspicion from the circumstance that it was worn by men of every nation, who made it a means of support. But the Anglo-Norman authority detected these manœuvres, and on several occasions expelled all foreigners from Wales, priests, laymen, and more especially the itinerant monks.2 It also prohibited the native Welsh from holding, upon any tenure whatever, any lands on the English territory.3 The long expected insurrection was to commence on the arrival of a French fleet in sight of the Welsh coast; for several years this fleet was expected by the Cambrians and by the English with very different feelings. Many proclamations of king Edward III. and Richard II. have this preamble: “Whereas our enemies of France propose to land in our principality of Wales—”4 followed by orders to all the Anglo-Norman lords of the country and marches of Wales, without delay, to garrison and provision their castles and fortresses, and to the justiciaries to seize and imprison, in safe custody, all men suspected of corresponding with the enemy.5

The preparations of France for a descent upon Wales, were less considerable and less prompt than the king of England feared, and the Cambrians hoped. A rumour of it spread in the year 1369, and there was then formed a project of restoring the family of Llewellyn in the person of the unfortunate Yvain of Wales; but this pretender to the crown of Cambria died; and the century passed away without any real effort. In making great promises to the Welsh, France had no other design than that of exciting an insurrection which would create a diversion of part of the forces of England; and, on their side, the Welsh, unwilling rashly to hazard a movement, awaited the arrival of the promised succours ere they would revolt. At length, weary of the delay, and impatient Edition: current; Page: [286] to recover their national independence, they put themselves in motion, taking the chance of being supported. The immediate occasion of the insurrection was a casual circumstance, of little importance in itself.

Towards the end of the year 1400, a noble Welshman, who, from an ambition to shine, had repaired to the court of England, where he was well received, offended king Henry IV. and was compelled to quit London. Partly from personal resentment and the embarrassment of his position, partly from an impulse of patriotism, he resolved to place himself at the head of a movement which all his countrymen desired, but which no one had ventured to commence. He descended from an ancient chief of the country, and was called Owen Glendowr, a name which, at the court of England, in order to give it a Norman aspect, had been converted into Glendordy.1 As soon as Owen had raised the ancient standard of the Kymrys, in the recently conquered portion of Wales, the most considerable men of these districts collected around him. Among others, there were several members of a powerful family, named Ab Tudowr, or son of Tudowr, who counted among their ancestors one Ednyfed Vychan, who, desirous of having armorial bearings, like the barons of England, had emblazoned on his escutcheon three severed Norman heads.2 On the report of this national movement, the scattered remnant of the Welsh bards became animated with a new enthusiasm, and announced Owen Glendowr as the man who was to accomplish the ancient predictions, and to restore the crown of Britain to the Kymrys. Several poems, composed on the occasion, have come down to us.3 They produced such an effect, that, in a great assembly of the insurgents, Owen Glendowr was solemnly proclaimed and inaugurated chief and prince of all Cambria. He sent messengers into South Wales to diffuse the insurrection, while the king of England, Henry IV., ordered all his loyal subjects of Wales, French, Flemish, English, and Welsh, to arm against Owen de Glendordy, self-styled prince of Wales, guilty of high treason to the royal majesty of England.4

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The first engagements were favourable to the insurgents. They defeated the English militia of Herefordshire, and the Flemings of Ross and Pembrokeshire. They were about to cross the English frontier when king Henry, in person, advanced against them with considerable forces. He obliged them to retreat; but he had scarcely set foot on the Welsh territory, than incessant rains, flooding the roads, and swelling the rivers, prevented his further advance, and compelled him to encamp his army for several months in unhealthy places, where they suffered at once from sickness and hunger. The soldiers, whose imaginations were excited by fatigue and inaction, recalled to mind with terror old popular legends as to the sorceries of the Welsh,1 and believed the bad weather they suffered to be the work of supernatural powers, obedient to Owen Glendowr.2 Seized with a sort of panic terror, they refused to march further against a man who had the tempest at his disposal. This opinion gained ground among the people in England; but all Owen’s magic consisted in his indefatigable activity, and in his great ability. There was at this period, among the Anglo-Norman aristocracy, a party of malcontents who desired to dethrone king Henry IV. At their head were Henry Percy, son of the earl of Northumberland,3 a family most powerful in the country ever since the conquest, and Thomas Percy, his brother, earl of Worcester; with these the new prince of Wales established a correspondence, and the alliance they concluded attached for a moment to the cause of Welsh independence all the northern marches of Wales, between the Dee and the Severn, and more especially of the county of Chester, whose inhabitants, of pure English race, were naturally less hostile to the Cambrians than were the Normans and Flemings established in the south. But the complete defeat of the two Percys, in a battle fought near Shrewsbury, dissolved the friendly relations of the Welsh insurgents with their neighbours of English race, and left them no other resources than their own strength and their hope in the aid of the king of France.4

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This king, Charles VI., who had not yet entirely fallen into imbecility, seeing the Cambrians at open hostility with the king of England, resolved to fulfil towards them his promises and those of his predecessors. He concluded with Owen Glendowr a treaty, the first article of which ran thus: “Charles, by the grace of God, king of France; and Owen, by the same grace, prince of Wales; will be united, confederated and bound to each other by the ties of true alliance, true friendship, and good and solid union, especially against Henry of Lancaster, the enemy of the said lords, king and prince, and against all his aiders and abettors.”1

Many Welshmen proceeded to France to accompany the troops which king Charles was to send, and many of them were taken in various landings which the French first attempted on the coast of England, preferring to enrich themselves with the pillage of some great town or sea-port, than to make war in the poor country of Wales,2 among mountains and marshes.

At length, however, a large fleet sailed from Brest to aid the Cambrians; it carried six hundred men-at-arms, and eighteen hundred foot soldiers, commanded by John de Rieux, marshal of France, and John de Hangest, grand-marshal of the cross-bowmen. They landed at Milford in Pembrokeshire, and seized upon that town and upon Haverford, both founded, as their names indicate, by the Flemings, who in the reign of Henry I. had taken possession of and occupied the country. The French then proceeded eastward, and, at the first purely Welsh town they reached, found ten thousand insurgents, commanded by a chief whom the historians of the time do not name. The combined forces then marched to Caermarthen, and thence to Llandovery, and thence towards Worcester, attacking and destroying on their way the castles of the Anglo-Norman barons and knights.3 Some miles from Worcester, a strong English army met them, but instead of offering them battle, it took up a position, and entrenched itself in the hills. The French and Welsh followed the example, and the two hostile bodies remained thus for a week in presence of each other, separated by a deep Edition: current; Page: [289] valley. Every day both armies formed into battle array to commence the attack, but nothing actually took place beyond some skirmishing, in which a few hundred men were killed.

The French and Welsh army soon suffered from want of provisions, the English occupying the plain around their encampments. Acting upon their usual tactics, the Welsh threw themselves by night on the baggage of the enemy, and, carrying off most of their provisions, necessitated the retreat of the English army, which, it would appear, was resolved not to commence the fight.1 The French men-at-arms, little accustomed to a dearth of food, and whose heavy armour and extensive baggage rendered incommodious and disagreeable to them warfare in a poor and mountainous country, grew weary of the enterprise, in which there was much obscure danger, and little renown to be acquired by brilliant feats of arms. Leaving therefore the Cambrians to contend with their national enemies, they quitted Wales, and landed at Saint Pol-de-Leon, relating that they had made a campaign, which in the memory of man no king of France had ventured to undertake,2 and had ravaged more than sixty leagues of country in the territories of the king of England, glorying only in the injury done to the English, and not at all in the aid they had given the Welsh, in whom, for themselves, no one in France took any interest.

The insurgents of south Wales were defeated, for the first time, in 1407, on the banks of the Usk, by an English army under the command of Henry, son of king Henry IV., who, bearing in England the title of prince of Wales, was charged with the conduct of the war against the chief elected by the Welsh. A letter which he wrote to his father, announcing this victory, is preserved among the ancient public acts of England. It is in French, the language of the Anglo-Norman aristocracy, but in a French somewhat differing in orthography, grammar, and, as far as we can judge, in pronunciation, from the language of the court of France at the same period. It would appear that, with the accent of Normandy, retained in England by the men of Norman descent, another accent had gradually combined, differing from all the dialects of the French language, and which the sons of the Normans had Edition: current; Page: [290] contracted by hearing English spoken around them, and by themselves speaking the Anglo-French jargon, which was the medium of their communications with the lower classes. This, at least, may be inferred from reading the following passages,1 taken promiscuously from the letter of the son of Henry IV., “Mon tres-redoutè et três soverein seigneur et peire . . . le onzieme jour de cest present moys de Mars, vos rebelx des parties de Glamorgan, Uske, Netherwent et Overwent, feurent assemblez à la nombre de oyt mille gentz . . . A eux assemblerent vos foialx et vaillants chivalers . . . vos gentz avoient le champe; nientmeins . .”

The fortune of the Welsh insurgents constantly declined after their first defeat, although ten years elapsed between that defeat and the entire subjection of the country. Perhaps, also, their hope of the aid of the French, a hope continually deceived but still fondly cherished, caused them a kind of discouragement never felt by their ancestors, who relied only on themselves. Owen Glendowr, the last person invested with the title of prince of Wales by the election of the Welsh people, survived the ruin of his party, and died in obscurity. His son Meredith capitulated, went to England, and received his pardon from the king.2 The other chiefs of the insurrection were also pardoned, and several of them even obtained posts at the court of London, in order that they might not return to Wales, which, indeed, had ceased to be inhabitable by the Welsh, from the increased vexations of the agents of English authority. Among these Cambrians, exiles by necessity or ambition, was a member of the family of the sons of Tudowr, named Owen ap Meredith ap Tudowr, who, during the reign of Henry V., lived with him as groom of his chamber, and was very much in grace with the king, who granted him many favours, and deigned to address him as nostre chìer et foyal. His manners and handsome form made a vivid impression on queen Catherine of France, who, becoming widow of Henry V., secretly married Owen ap Edition: current; Page: [291] Tudowr or Oven Tudor, as he was called in England. He had by her two sons, Jasper and Edmund, the second of whom, on attaining manhood, married Margaret, daughter of John de Beaufort, earl of Somerset, issue of the royal family of Plantagenet.

It was at this period that the branches of this family were slaughtering each other in a dispute for the possession of the crown conquered by William the Bastard. The right of hereditary succession had by degrees prevailed over the election retained, though imperfectly, in the first periods following the conquest. Instead of interfering to adjudge the crown to the most worthy to wear it, the Anglo-Norman aristocracy contented themselves with examining which of the pretenders approached nearest by his lineage to the original stock of the Conqueror. All was decided by the comparison of those genealogical trees of which the Norman families were so proud, and which from their form were called pé de gru, or crane’s foot, in modern English, pedigree. The order of hereditary succession was tolerably peaceful so long as the direct line of descendants of Henry II. endured; but when the inheritance passed to the collateral branches, numerous pretenders on the score of hereditary right arose, and there were more factions, troubles, and discords, than the practice of election had ever occasioned. Then broke out the most hideous of civil wars, that of relations against relations, of grown men against children in the cradle. For several generations, two numerous families were killing each other, either in pitched battles or by assassination, to maintain their legitimacy, without either of the two being able to destroy the other, some member of which always started up to combat and dethrone his rival, and reign until he himself was dethroned.1 There perished in these quarrels, according to the historians of the time, sixty or eighty princes of the royal house, nearly all young, for the life of the males was brief in these families. The women, who lived longer, had time to see their sons massacred by their nephews, and the latter by other nephews or uncles, themselves speedily assassinated by some equally near relation.

In the reign of Richard III., of the house of York, who Edition: current; Page: [292] owed the crown to several assassinations, a son of Edmund Tudor and Margaret Beaufort, named Henry, was in France, whither he had been obliged to fly as an antagonist of the York party. Weary of living in exile, and relying on the universal hatred excited by king Richard, he resolved to try his fortune in England, as a claimant of the crown, in right of his mother, a descendant of Edward III. Having neither cross nor pile,1 as an old historian expresses it, he applied to the king of France, Louis XI., who gave him some money, with which he hired three thousand men in Normandy and Brittany. He sailed from Harfleur, and, after a passage of six days, landed in Wales, the country of his paternal ancestors. On landing, he unfurled a red flag, the ancient standard of the Cambrians, as though his project were to raise the nation, and render it independent of the English.2 This enthusiastic people, over whom the power of emblems was ever very great, without examining whether the quarrel between Henry Tudor and Richard III. was not wholly foreign to them, ranged themselves, by a sort of instinct, around their old standard.

The red flag3 was planted on Snowdon, which the pretender assigned as a rendezvous for those Welsh who had promised to arm in his cause. Not one failed on the appointed day.4 Even the bards, resuming their ancient spirit, sang and prophesied, in the style of other days, the victory of the Kymrys over the Saxon and Norman enemy. But the matter in hand was by no means the release of the Cambrians from the yoke of the foreigner; all the fruit of the victory for them was to place a man with a little Welsh blood in his veins on the throne of the conquerors of Wales. When Henry Tudor arrived on the frontiers of England, he found a reinforcement of several thousand men brought to him by sir Thomas Boucher, a Norman by name and origin; other gentlemen of the western counties came with their vassals and yeomen to join the army of the pretender. He penetrated into the English territory without encountering any obstacle, as far as Bosworth in Leicestershire, where he gave battle to Richard III., Edition: current; Page: [293] defeated him, killed him, and was crowned in his stead under the title of Henry VII.

Henry VII. placed in his armorial bearings the Cambrian dragon beside the three lions of Normandy. He created a new office of poursuivant-at-arms, under the name of rouge-dragon,1 and, with the aid of the authentic or fabulous archives of Wales, traced his genealogy back to Cadwallader, the last king of all Britain, and, through him, up to Brutus, son of Æneas, the pretended father of the Britons.2 But to these acts of personal vanity was limited the gratitude of the king to the people whose devotion had procured him victory and the crown. His son, Henry VIII., while he allowed the Welsh, whom Henry VII. had ennobled for services rendered to his person, to retain the Norman titles of earls, barons, and baronets, treated, like his predecessors, the mass of the people as a conquered nation, at once feared and disliked, and undertook to destroy the ancient customs of the Cambrians, the remnant of their social state, and even their language.3

When the religious supremacy of the pope had been abolished in England, the Welsh, whom the Roman church had never aided in their attempts to maintain their national independence, adopted, without repugnance, the religious changes decreed by the English government. But this government, which gave every encouragement to the translation of the Bible, did not have it translated into Welsh; on the contrary, some natives of that country, zealous for the Reformation, having, at their own expense, published a Welsh version of the Scriptures, far from praising them, as would have been done in England, the authorities ordered the destruction of all the copies, which were taken for this purpose from the churches, and publicly burnt.4 English authority, at about the same time, attacked the historical manuscripts and documents, then more numerous in Wales than in any other country of Europe. The high families who possessed archives began to keep them secret, either as a mode of paying court to England, or to preserve them from destruction.5 Some of these families even incurred disfavour Edition: current; Page: [294] for communicating curious information to the learned men, who, towards the close of the sixteenth century, made researches into the antiquities of Wales. An estimable writer, Edward Lhuyd, author of British Archaiology, experienced infinite mortification on account of the publication of his book. This class of learning and research became matter of suspicion in the eyes of authority, and he who to prosecute it went to reside in Wales, was doubly an object of distrust. One antiquarian was actually subjected to public prosecution for an offence of this sort, in the reign of Elizabeth, the last descendant of Henry Tudor.

The Scottish family of the Stuarts showed quite as little good will to the Welsh nation; and yet, when the English rose against this family, the majority of the Welsh enrolled themselves on its side, from a sort of national opposition to the feelings of the English people. Perhaps, too, they hoped to effect some degree of freedom for themselves, amid the troubles of England, and by a compact with the royal family, whom they supported against the English. Things, however, turned out otherwise; royalty succumbed, and Wales, as being royalist, had to endure still greater oppression than before. Since that time the Welsh have tranquilly participated in all the political changes occurring in England, no longer rebelling, but still not forgetting the grounds upon which they might to themselves justify rebellion. “We will bear in mind,” says one of their writers, “that the lordships and best lands of the country are in the hands of men of foreign race, who have taken them by violence from the ancient legitimate proprietors, whose names and real heirs are well known to us.”

In general, the possessors of great domains and lordships in Wales were, up to a recent date, and probably still are, to a certain extent, harder than those in England towards their farmers and peasants; a fact, no doubt, attributable to the comparative novelty of the conquest of the Welsh provinces, not accomplished until about the fourteenth century, so that the nobles there are much newer-comers, and to the further circumstance that the tongue of the natives has always remained distinct from that of the conquerors. The species of national hostility between the seigneurs and the peasants has extended the emigration of the poorer Welsh families to Edition: current; Page: [295] the United States of America. There these descendants of the ancient Kymrys have lost their manners and their language, and have forgotten, in the bosom of the most complete liberty that civilized man can enjoy, the vain dreams of British independence. Those who have remained in the land of their ancestors retain, amidst the poverty or mediocrity of fortune which has ever been their lot, a character of haughty pride, the offspring of great recollections and long hopes, always deceived, but never abandoned. They stand with erect front before the powerful and rich of England and of their own country, “and think themselves a better and nobler race,” said a Welshman of the last century, “than this nobility of yesterday, the issue of bastards, of adventurers, and of assassins.”1

Such is the national spirit of the most energetic among the present Cambrians, and they carry it, sometimes, to such a point, that the English designate them Red-hot Welshmen. Since the revolution of America and of France, this spirit is combined in them with all the grand ideas of natural and social liberty that those revolutions have everywhere aroused. But, whilst ardently desiring the progress of high modern civilization, the enlightened inhabitants of Wales have not lost their ancient passion for their national history, language, and literature. The wealthy among them have formed associations for the publication of their numerous collections of historical documents, and with the view of reanimating, if possible, the cultivation of the old poetic talent of the bards. These societies have established annual poetical and musical meetings, for the two arts ever go hand in hand in Wales; and out of, perhaps, a somewhat superstitious respect for ancient customs, the literary and philosophical assemblies of the new bards are held in the open air, on the hills. At the time when the French revolution still made the English government tremble, these meetings, always very numerous, were forbidden by authority, on account of the democratic principles which prevailed at them.2 Now they are perfectly free, and there is every year awarded by them the prize of poetical inspiration, a faculty which the Cambrian language expresses in one word, Awen.3

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The Awen is now found principally among the northern Welsh, the last who maintained their ancient social state against the invasion of the Anglo-Normans.1 It is also among them that the native language is spoken with the greatest purity, and over the largest extent of country. In the southern counties, earlier conquered, the Welsh dialect is mixed up with French and English idioms. There are, indeed, entire districts whence it has completely disappeared; and often a brook or bridle-path marks the separation of the two languages, of, on the one side, corrupt Cambrian, on the other, a barbarous English, spoken by the mixed posterity of the Flemish, Norman, and Saxon soldiers who conquered the country in the twelfth century. These men, although, for the most part, of the same condition with the conquered population, have retained a sort of hereditary disdain for it. They affect, for example, not to know the name of a single individual inhabiting the part of the hundred or parish in which Welsh is spoken. “I don’t know the man,” is the reply; “I believe there’s some such person lives somewhere in Welshland.”2

Such is the actual state of that population and that language, for which the bards of the sixth century daringly predicted eternity of duration: their prediction, however, will not, at all events, be falsified in our days. The Cambrian idiom is still spoken by a sufficiently extensive population to render its future extinction very difficult to foresee. It has survived all the other dialects of the ancient British language; for that of the natives of Cornwall came within the category of a dead language towards the close of the last century. It is true that since the tenth century, when it was driven by the Anglo-Saxons beyond the river Tamer,3 the population of Cornwall has never played any political part. At the time of the Norman conquest, it supported the English of the adjacent counties in their resistance to the foreigners, but, conquered with them, it participated in all the phases of their subsequent fate. As it gradually mingled more and more closely with the populations of English race, its original language lost ground from north to south, so that, an hundred years ago, there were only a few villages at the extremity of Edition: current; Page: [297] the promontory, where the ancient idiom of the country was still spoken. In 1776, some travellers questioned, on this subject, an old fisherman in one of these villages, who answered: “I only know four or five persons who speak British, and they are old people like myself, from sixty to eighty years of age; the young people don’t know a word of it.”1

Thus the eighteenth century beheld the end of the language of Cornwall, which now exists only in a few books. It differs in a remarkable manner from the Welsh dialect, and had probably been spoken in the ancient times by all the British tribes of the south and east, by the men whom the old annals call Loëgrwys, who, before they joined the Kymrys in Britain, dwelt, for a longer or shorter period, in the southwest of Gaul.2


Prophecy of Merlin—Nine pretenders to the throne of Scotland—Invasion of Edward I.—William Wallace—Robert Bruce—Enfranchisement of Scotland—Character of the people of the border—Social condition of the Scots—Establishment of the Reformation—English puritans—Scottish covenanters—Alliance between the two nations—Civil war in England—Misunderstanding between the two nations—Charles II. proclaimed king in Scotland—Oliver Cromwell enters Scotland—Measures taken against the Scots—Restoration of Charles II.—Persecution of the Presbyterians—Their insurrection—Battle of Bothwell-bridge—Expulsion of the Stuarts—Sympathy of the Scots for the martyrs—National character and spirit of the Scots—Present condition of the Gaelic population.

In the year 1174, William, king of Scotland, invaded the north of England; but he was conquered and taken prisoner by the Anglo-Norman barons, and his defeat was regarded as a miraculous effect of the pilgrimage that king Henry II. had made to the tomb of Thomas Beket.3 Those who took him prisoner, shut him up in the castle of Richmont, now Edition: current; Page: [298] Richmond, in Yorkshire, built, in the time of the conquest, by the Breton, Alain Fergan. This circumstance, again, was regarded as a fulfilment of a prophecy of Merlin, conceived in these terms: “He shall be bridled with a bit, forged on the shores of the Armorican gulf.”1 And what is still stranger, is that the same prophecy had, a few months before, been applied to Henry II. when closely pressed by the Breton auxiliaries of his sons.2 The king of Scotland, removed from Richmond to Falaise, only quitted his prison on renewing the oath of homage which his predecessors had sworn to the Norman kings, and then broken.3 This act of enforced submission gave the king of England very little influence over the affairs of Scotland, so long as there were no intestine divisions, that is to say, during the hundred and twenty years which elapsed, up to the death of Alexander the Third.

Royalty among the Scots had never been purely elective, for their whole social order was founded on the principle of family; but, on the other hand, hereditary royalty had never any fixed rules: and the brother was often preferred to the grandson, and even to the son of the late king. Alexander III. left neither son nor brother, but cousins in great number, most of them of Norman or French origin, by the father’s side, and bearing French names, such as Jean Bailleul, Robert de Brus, Jean Comine, Jean d’Eaucy, Nicolas de Solles, &c.4 There were nine pretenders to the crown on various titles. Unable to agree among themselves, and feeling the necessity of terminating the dispute peaceably, they submitted it to Edward I., king of England, as to their suzerain lord.5 King Edward declared for him who had the best title, according to hereditary right by primogeniture: this was John Bailleul or Baliol, as the Scotch spelt it. He was crowned, but the king of England, taking advantage of the deference which the Scots had just exhibited to him, resolved to render practical that suzerainty over them which hitherto had been purely honorary.

The king of Scotland, in order to secure support against Edition: current; Page: [299] the intrigues of his competitors, lent himself at first to the views of the king of England; he gave to Englishmen most of the offices and dignities of the kingdom, and repaired to the court of his suzerain, to do him homage and receive his orders. Encouraged by this condescension of the king his protégé, Edward went the length of demanding from him, as pledges of his fealty and allegiance, the fortresses of Berwick, Edinburgh, and Roxburgh, the strongest in all Scotland.1 But so decided a national opposition arose against this demand, that John Baliol was fain to reject it, and to refuse the English troops admission to his fortresses. Hereupon Edward summoned him to Westminster, to answer for the refusal; but, instead of obeying the summons, Baliol solemnly renounced his homage and faith as vassal. On hearing this, the king of England exclaimed, in his Norman-French: “Ah! le fol felon telle folie fait! s’il ne veint à nous, nous veindrons à ly!”2

Edward I. set out for Scotland with all his chivalry of England and Aquitaine; with English archers so skilful that they seldom threw away one of their twelve arrows, and were wont to say, jestingly, that they had twelve Scots in their pouch; and, lastly, with a body of light-armed Welsh, who more often fought with the English than with the enemy, pillaged them whenever any opportunity occurred, and most frequently remained neuter in action. Notwithstanding the courage and patriotic energy of the Scots, the progress of the war was unfavourable to them. Their king did not support them heartily, and was ever desirous of making the amend to Edward for the resistance he had undertaken, as he said, through ill and false counsel.3 Moreover, there were at this time, in Scotland, neither well-fortified towns, nor fortresses, such as those the Normans had built in England. The seigneural habitations were not donjons, surrounded by a triple wall, but small square towers, with a simple ditch, when not situated on the edge of some natural ravine. King Edward accordingly penetrated without difficulty into the lowlands of Scotland, took possession of all the towns, placed garrisons Edition: current; Page: [300] in them, and removed to London the famous stone on which the kings of the country were crowned.1 Such of the Scots as would not submit to foreign sway, took refuge in the northern and western mountains, and in the forests which adjoined them.

From one of these retreats issued the famous patriot, William Walleys or Wallace, who for seven years made war upon the English, at first as a guerilla-chief, and then at the head of an army. The conquerors called him a highway robber, a murderer, an incendiary;2 and when they took him, hanged him at London, and stuck his head on a pike on the loftiest pinnacle of the Tower. The inhabitants of the conquered portion of Scotland suffered to the utmost extent the evils that follow upon a conquest; they had foreign governors, bailiffs, and sheriffs. “These English,” says a contemporary poet, “were all avaricious and debauched; haughty and contemptuous; they insulted our wives and daughters; good, worthy, and honoured knights were put to death by the cord. Ah! freedom is a noble thing!”3

This feeling, deeply impressed in the heart of the Scots, soon rallied them round another chief—Robert de Brus, or Bruce, one of the former competitors of John Baliol. Bruce was crowned king in the abbey of Scone, at a time when there was scarce a town, from the Tweed to the Orcades, that was not in the power of the English. Without an army and without treasure, he, like Wallace, took up his quarters in the forests and mountains, whither he was pursued by his enemies, with horse and foot, and dogs trained to hunt man, like game, by the scent.4 No one in the kingdom, says Froissart, dared lodge him, in castle or in fortress. Hunted like a wild beast, he went from mountain to mountain, from lake to lake, living on the produce of the chase and of fishing, until he reached the Mull of Cantyre, whence he gained the small Edition: current; Page: [301] island of Rachin or Rath Erin, lying near the coast of Ireland.

There he planted his royal standard as proudly as though he had been at Edinburgh, sent messengers into Ireland, and obtained some succours from the native Irish, on the ground of the ancient fraternity of the two nations, and of the common hatred they bore of the Anglo-Normans. He then sent messengers to the Hebrides, and along the whole western coast, soliciting the support of the Gaelic chiefs of those districts, who, in their wild independence, were very indifferent as to what became of the population of the lowlands of Scotland, which they called Saxon alike with that of England, and for which they had scarce more affection. All the clans, however, with one exception, promised him their faith and assistance. The chiefs and barons of the lowlands, of English, Norman, or Scottish race, formed among themselves compacts of alliance and fraternity-in-arms, in life and death, for king Robert and Scotland, against any man, French, English, or Scot.1 Probably, by the first of these names, they meant the king and all the lords of England, who at that time spoke among themselves no other language than French;2 for the French, the continental French, were warm friends of the patriots of Scotland.

Robert Bruce appointed as the rendezvous of his partisans a spot near the place where the western chain of mountains rises; and here was fought the decisive battle of Bannockburn. The Scotch were victorious; and their enemies, weakened by this great defeat, found themselves successively driven from all the fortified towns, and compelled to repass the Tweed in disorder, pursued in their turn by all the people of the southern lowlands, and especially by the men of the border, a population very formidable for an army in retreat.

The limits of England and Scotland were never well determined towards the west, where the country is mountainous and intersected in every direction by infinite valleys and small streams. The inhabitants of a large extent of this district were, properly speaking, neither Scots nor Edition: current; Page: [302] English, and the only national name by which they were known was that of Borderers, that is to say, people of the border or frontier. They were an aggregation of all the races of men that had come into Britain: of Britons, expelled by Anglo-Saxons; of Saxons, expelled by Normans; of Anglo-Normans or Scots banished for felonies or other crimes. This population was divided into great families, like the Celtic clans, but the names of these clans or families were, for the most part, English or French. The language of all the inhabitants was the Anglo-Danish dialect of the south of Scotland and the north of England. The chiefs and vassals lived familiarly together, the former in his embattled house, surrounded by rude palisades, and having the bed of some torrent for a moat; the latter in huts built around it. All followed the trade of marauders, their food being oxen and sheep, stolen from the inhabitants of the neighbouring plains. They made their expeditions on horseback, armed with a long lance, and having for defensive armour a quilted doublet, on which were sewn, as regularly as might be, plates of iron or brass.1

2 Though divided, administratively, into two distinct nations, and, according to the territory they occupied, subjects or Scotland or of England, they nevertheless regarded the kings of these two countries as foreigners, and were by turns Scots, when they purposed forage in England, and English, when a descent was to be made upon Scotland. They seldom fought among themselves, but in personal quarrels. As to their robberies, they exercised them without mercy, but at the same time without cruelty, as a profession having its rules and its points of honour. The richer of them assumed armorial bearings, a fashion which the Normans had introduced into England and Scotland. Their arms, which are still worn by several families of the country, are nearly all allusive to the manner of life of the ancient borderers. Generally, the field of the escutcheon is the sky with moon and stars, to signify, that the best time for the borderers was the night; the mottoes, in English or Latin, are equally significant; for example:—Watch weel—Sleep not for I watch—Ye shall want ere I want, and so on.

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Scotland, restored to freedom, gave the name of saviour to Robert Bruce, a man of Norman origin, and whose ancestors, in the time of the conquest of England, had usurped, upon the Scottish territory, the town and valley of Annan. The ancient kings of Scotland had confirmed to them, by charters, possession of this domain, where the ruins of their castle are still visible. Of all the countries of Europe, Scotland is that wherein the mixture of the races has been most easily effected, and where it has left the fewest traces in the respective situation of the different classes of inhabitants. There were never villeins or peasant serfs in this country, as in England and in France, and the antiquarians have observed that the ancient acts of Scotland offer no example of the sale of the man with the land; that in none are found this form, so usual elsewhere: “With the buildings, and all the chattels, labourers, beasts, ploughs, &c.”1 From time immemorial, the burghers of the principal towns have sat in the great council of the kings of Scotland, beside the warriors of high rank, who styled themselves, in the Norman manner, knights, barons, earls, and marquises, or retained the ancient Anglo-Danish titles of thanes and lairds. When it became necessary to defend the country, the various trades’ companies marched under their own banners, led by their burgmaster. They had their honour to maintain on the field of battle, and their share of glory to win. Old popular ballads, still sung, not long since, in the southern districts of Scotland, celebrate the bravery of the shoemakers of Selkirk at the famous battle of Flodden, fought and lost, in 1513, by James IV. of Scotland.2

National opposition, or the natural reaction of the spirit of liberty against power, followed, in Scotland, the course it must ever follow in countries where the nation is not divided into two races of men, separated one from the other by a state of hereditary hostility; it was constantly and almost solely directed against the kings. In civil wars there were but two parties, that of the government and that of the body Edition: current; Page: [304] of the governed, and not, as elsewhere, three parties—royalty, the nobles, and the people. The military and opulent class never joined the kings against the people, and the people had seldom occasion to favour the royal power out of hatred to that of the nobles. In times of trouble, the struggle was between the king and his courtiers on one side, and on the other, all the orders of the nation leagued together. It is true that the active and turbulent barons and nobles of Scotland always prominently figured in political commotions, and that, to adopt the expression of one of them, they “belled the cat;1 but their frequent acts of violence against the king’s favourites and against the kings themselves, were rarely unpopular.

Towards the middle of the sixteenth century, a new bond strengthened this kind of political alliance between the nobles and bourgeoisie of Scotland; they embraced, together, and as it were with one impulse, the most extreme opinions of religious reformation, those of Calvin. The whole population of the south and east, speaking the same language and having the same views and the same civilization, co-operated in this revolution. It was only the mountain clans and a few lords of the northern lowlands that adhered to the catholic religion, the former from a spirit of innate hostility to the lowlanders, the latter from individual conviction rather than from any esprit de corps. Even the bishops did not oppose any very vigorous resistance to the partisans of the Reformation; the only formidable opposition they met with was from the court, early impressed with the fear that religious might lead to political changes; but the innovators were triumphant in the struggle; they got possession of king James VI., still a child, and brought him up in the new doctrines.

His mother, the unfortunate Mary Stuart, ruined herself by her ignorance of the national character of the Scots; it was after a battle fought against the presbyterian reformers that she passed into England, where she perished on a scaffold. After her death, and while her son still lived in Scotland, professing, in the new spirit of his nation, the presbyterian creed in all its rigour, the line of the Tudor kings of England Edition: current; Page: [305] became extinct in the person of Elizabeth, grand-daughter of Henry VII. James, a descendant of Henry VII. on the female side, was thus the next heir to the Tudors. He came to London, where he was readily acknowledged, and assumed the title of king of Great Britain, uniting under their ancient name his two kingdoms of England and Scotland. It is from him dates the royal arms of Britain, the three lions passant of Normandy, the lion rampant of Scotland, and the harp of Ireland; and the British standard, whereon the white cross of Saint Andrew combines with the red cross of Saint George.

King James, the first of that name in England, found opinion, in reference to the religious reformation, very different in his new kingdom from what it was in Scotland. There was not among the English any generally established opinion as to religious belief. They differed on this point according as they belonged to the higher or to the lower classes of the nation, with whom the ancient hostility of the two races seemed to re-appear under new forms. Though time and the intermingling of blood had greatly abated this primitive hatred, there still lurked in men’s hearts a confused sentiment of mutual dislike and distrust. The aristocracy were strongly in favour of the modified reformation, instituted fifty years before by Henry VIII., a reformation which, simply substituting the king for the pope, as head of the Anglican church, retained for episcopacy its ancient importance. The bourgeoisie, on the contrary, inclined to the complete reformation established by the Scots, whose worship, free from bishops, was independent of all civil authority. The partisans of this opinion formed a sect, persecuted by the government, but in whom persecution did but increase their enthusiasm; they were excessively strict, even upon the smallest points, which procured for them the name of precisians or puritans. The nickname, Round-heads, by which they were ludicrously designated, was derived from their wearing their hair short and without any curl, a custom quite contrary to the fashion then followed by the gentlemen and courtiers.

The presbyterians of England had flattered themselves with the hope that they were about to see their belief reign in the person of a presbyterian king; but the triumph of this religious creed being bound up with that of the popular Edition: current; Page: [306] interest over the aristocratic interest, the king, whoever he might be, could not sanction it. The episcopal church, accordingly, was sustained under James I., as under Elizabeth, by rigorous measures against the adversaries of that church; nay more, from the habit of dwelling upon the political dangers of puritanism in England, the king formed the project of destroying it even in Scotland, where it had become the state religion, and he entered, for this purpose, into an open struggle, not only with the middle and lower classes, but with the entire nation. It was a difficult enterprise, and he made little progress in it, bequeathing it, with the crown, to his son Charles I.

Charles, extending and systematizing his father’s views, resolved to approximate the Anglican worship to the forms of catholicism, and to impose this worship, so reformed, upon the two kingdoms of England and Scotland. He thus displeased the episcopalians and the aristocratic classes of England, whilst he raised against him the whole Scottish nation. Nobles, priests, and burgesses, entering into open rebellion, assembled spontaneously at Edinburgh, and signed there, under the name of Covenant, an act of national union, for the defence of the presbyterian religion. The king levied an army, and made preparations for a war with Scotland; and on their side the Scots raised national regiments, whose hats bore this device: “For Christ’s crown and covenant.”1 Men of every rank hastened to enrol themselves in this militia, and the ministers of religion pronounced from the pulpits malediction upon every man, horse, and lance that should side with the king against the defenders of the national faith.2 The resistance of the Scots was entirely approved in England, where discontent against king Charles became general on account of his religious innovations and his attempts to govern in an absolute manner, without the concurrence of the assembly which, under the name of parliament, had never ceased to exist since the conquest.

The burgesses of England, who had at first only appeared in this assembly as men summoned before the king and barons to receive their demands for money and to comply with them, Edition: current; Page: [307] had become, by a gradual revolution, an integral part of the parliament. In connexion with a certain number of petty feudatories, called knights of the shire,1 they formed, under the name of house of commons, a section of the great national council; in the other house, that of the lords, sat the titled men, the earls, marquises, barons, and Anglican bishops. This chamber, like the other, opposed the projects of Charles I.; but there was this difference between the two houses, that the lords aimed only at maintaining the established religion and the ancient privileges of parliament, while of the commons, the majority aspired to the establishment of presbyterianism and a diminution of the royal authority.

This desire for reform, moderate enough as regarded political order, was supported out of doors by something more vehement than itself, the old instinct of popular hatred to the noble families, proprietors of nearly the entire soil of the country. The inferior classes felt the vague want of some great change; their present position was intolerable to them, but not clearly perceiving what would improve it, they attached themselves to the most extreme political opinions, as in religion to the most rigid and gloomy puritanism. It was thus that the habitual language of the sect, which sought all in the Bible, became that also of the ultras in politics. This party, placing themselves ideally in the position of the Jews amidst their enemies, gave to their opponents the names of Philistines and of sons of Belial. They borrowed from the Psalms and the prophets the threats they sent forth against the lords and bishops, threatening, in the words of the Scripture, to take up “the two-edged sword, and to bind their nobles with fetters of iron.2

Charles I. had great difficulty in collecting men and money for the war against the Scots. The city of London refused him a loan of 300,000l., and the soldiers openly declared that they would not risk their lives merely to support the pride of the bishops. During the delays occasioned by these difficulties, the Scots, commencing the attack, invaded England and advanced to the Tyne, preceded by a manifesto in which they declared themselves brothers and friends of the English Edition: current; Page: [308] people, and called down upon themselves maledictions from on high, if they in the slightest degree injured the country or individuals. No resistance was offered them but by the royal army, which they completely defeated near Newcastle. After this victory, the generals of the Scottish army excused themselves, in proclamations addressed to the English nation, for the violence of the measures they had been obliged to adopt in the defence of their rights, and expressed the hope that their success might aid that nation in vindicating its own menaced liberties. The commons replied by voting thanks and a money-aid to the Scots; and several envoys left London to conclude a treaty of alliance and friendship between the two nations at Edinburgh.

This compact was signed in 1642, and, the same year, the English parliament, and especially the house of commons, entered into an open struggle with royal power. By degrees, the opposition became centered in the latter chamber; for the great majority of the lords, seeing whither the dispute tended, had joined the king. The lower house voted itself the sole national representation, and invested with all the rights of parliament; and while the borough members and the petty landed proprietors, thus seized upon the legislative power, the people out of doors armed spontaneously, and took possession of all the royal arsenals. On the other hand, the king, preparing for war, planted his standard with the three lions of Normandy, on the keep of Nottingham castle. All the old castles, built by the Normans or their posterity, were closed, provisioned, furnished with artillery, and war to the death began between the sons of the seigneurs and the sons of the villains of the middle ages.

In this struggle, the Scots powerfully aided the parliament of England, which, as a first step, abolished episcopacy and established the presbyterian religion. This community of worship was the basis of a new treaty or covenant between the two peoples; they became security, one for the other, for the defence of Christianity without bishops; but though this alliance was concluded in good faith, it had neither the same meaning nor the same object with the two nations. The civil war was for the Scots a religious quarrel with Charles Stuart, their countryman and national king; it would, accordingly, end for them the moment the king should acknowledge Edition: current; Page: [309] the legal existence of the presbyterian worship in England as in Scotland. With the English, on the contrary, there was an instinct of revolution, going much beyond the mere desire to reform the episcopal church. This difference in the two nations, the necessary result of their different situation, and for some time not manifest to either, was of a nature to produce discord between them as soon as it became known, which soon occurred.

At the battle of Naseby, in Northamptonshire, the royal army was completely routed, and the king himself, his retreat cut off, yielded himself voluntarily to the Scots, his countrymen, choosing to be their prisoner rather than that of the parliamentarians. The Scots transferred him to their allies, not with the intention of destroying him, but that these might oblige him to conclude a treaty advantageous to both parties. Discussions of a very different nature now arose in the English army: the point was no longer the historical question of the origin of royal and seigneural power, for as to these time had effaced all the data: ardent minds became enthusiastically impressed with the idea of substituting for the ancient form of government an order of things founded on abstract justice and absolute right. They thought they saw the prediction of this order of things in the famous epoch of a thousand years, announced by the Apocalypse, and, in their favourite phraseology, they called it the reign of Christ. These enthusiasts, in like manner, relied upon a passage in the Holy Scriptures to justify their bringing Charles I. to trial and judgment, saying that the blood shed in the civil war ought to fall upon his head, so that the people might be absolved.

During these discussions, the groundwork of which was most grave, though the form was fantastic, the parties who had latest entered upon the struggle against royalty, the lower populace and the ultra-reformers in religion, gained ground, and ejected from the revolution those who had commenced it, the landed proprietors and rich citizens, Anglicans or presbyterians. Under the name of independents, there arose by degrees a new sect, which, rejecting even the authority of ordinary priests, invested every one of the faithful with sacerdotal functions. The progress of this sect greatly alarmed the Scots; they represented that in going beyond the religious Edition: current; Page: [310] reformation, such as they had established it by common accord, the English were violating the solemn act of union concluded between the two peoples. This was the commencement of a misunderstanding which attained the highest point when the independents, having seized upon the king’s person, imprisoned him, and made him appear as a criminal before a high court of justice.

Seventy judges, selected from the house of commons, the parliamentary army, and the citizens of London, pronounced sentence of death on Charles Stuart, and the abolition of royalty. Some acted from a deep conviction of the king’s guilt; others conscientiously desired the establishment of an entirely new social order; others, again, actuated by ambition alone, aspired to the usurpation of the sovereign authority. The death of Charles I. put an end to the reign of the presbyterians in England, and to the alliance of the English with the Scots. The latter, judging of the social condition of the English by their own, could not comprehend what had taken place; they deemed themselves unworthily betrayed by their former friends; and combining with this mortification a secret national affection for the Stuarts, their countrymen, they renewed amicable relations with this family, the instant that the English so violently cast it off. While, at London, all the royal statues were being thrown down, and on their pedestals there was inscribed: The last of the kings has passed away,1—Charles, son of Charles I., was proclaimed king in the capital of Scotland.

This proclamation did not imply, on the part of the Scots, any abandonment of the reforms they had achieved and defended, sword in hand. When the commissioners from Scotland waited, at Breda, on Charles II., who had already assumed, of his own motion, the title of king of Great Britain, they signified to him the rigorous conditions on which the parliament of Edinburgh consented to ratify this title; these were the adhesion of the king to the first covenant signed against his father, and the perpetual abolition of episcopacy. Charles II., at first, made only evasive answers, in order to gain time for a stroke which he hoped would make him king without conditions. James Graham, marquis of Montrose, at first a Edition: current; Page: [311] zealous covenanter, and then a partisan of Charles I., was charged with this enterprise. He landed in the north of Scotland, with a handful of adventurers collected on the continent, and addressing himself to the chiefs of the mountain and island clans, he proposed to them a war at once national and religious against the presbyterians of the lowlands. The highlanders, who once already in the year 1645 had risen under the command of Montrose against the authority of the covenanters, and had been completely defeated, showed little inclination for a new attack; only a few ill-organized bands descended into the lowlands, around a flag on which was painted the decapitated body of Charles I.1 They were routed: Montrose himself was taken, tried as a traitor, condemned to death, and executed at Edinburgh. Hereupon Charles II., hopeless of regaining absolute royalty, condescended to that offered him by the Scottish commissioners, signed the covenant, swore to observe it inviolably, and entered Edinburgh as king, beneath the quartered limbs of the unfortunate Montrose, suspended from the gates of the town.

While acknowledging the rights of Charles II., the Scots did not propose to aid him in reconquering royalty in England. They separated their national affairs from those of their neighbours, and only contemplated the securing to the son of Charles I. the title of king of Scotland. But the party which in England had seized upon the revolution, grew alarmed at seeing the heir of him whom they called the last of the kings established over a portion of Great Britain. Fearing an hostile attempt on his part, the independents resolved to anticipate it. General Fairfax, a rigid presbyterian, was charged with the command of the army raised to invade Scotland; but refusing to serve against a nation which, he said, had helped the good work for which he had first drawn the sword, he sent in his resignation to the house of commons. The soldiers themselves manifested no inclination to fight men whom they had so long styled our brethren of Scotland.

The successor of Fairfax, Oliver Cromwell, a man of rare political and military activity, overcame this hesitation by Edition: current; Page: [312] persuasion or violence, marched to the north, defeated the Scots and their king at Dunbar, and occupied Edinburgh. He called upon the people of Scotland to renounce Charles II., but the Scots refused to abandon in danger him whom they had involved in danger, and patiently endured the oppressions inflicted by the English army in all directions. Charles II. was far from rendering them devotion for devotion; in the extremity of Scotland’s misfortunes, deserting the presbyterians, he surrounded himself with old partisans of episcopacy, with highland chiefs, who gave the name of Saxons, Sassenachs, to their neighbours of a different religion, and debauched young nobles, to whom he said, in his orgies, that the religion of the Roundheads was not worthy of a gentleman. With the aid of the adventurers whom he assembled around him, he attempted an invasion of the western coast of England, while the English army occupied the east of Scotland. There were still in Cumberland and Lancashire many catholic families who, on his approach, took up arms for him. He hoped to raise Wales, and turn to profit the national enmity of the Cambrians to the English, but his troops were completely beaten near Worcester; and he himself fled in disguise, through many dangers, to the western coast, whence he sailed for France, leaving the Scots under the weight of the misfortunes which his coronation and his invasion of England had brought upon them.

These misfortunes were overwhelming; viewed with distrust, as a place of landing and of encampment for the enemies of the revolution, Scotland was treated as a conquered province. On the slightest appearance of revolt or opposition, her leading men were imprisoned or put to death; the thirty Scottish members, who had seats in the great council of the commonwealth of England, far from affording their fellow-citizens aid and succour, became the instruments of the foreign tyranny. Oliver Cromwell governed the Scots despotically up to the moment when, under the name of Protector, he obtained an unlimited authority over the whole of Great Britain; general George Monk, who succeeded him in Scotland, pursued a line of conduct equally harsh and cruel. Such was the state of things when, in the year 1660, after the death of the Protector and the deposition of his son, Edition: current; Page: [313] Richard Cromwell, Monk, suddenly changing sides, conspired against the republic and for the re-establishment of royalty.

The joy caused by the restoration of the Stuarts was universal in Scotland; it was not, as in England, caused simply by the sort of discouragement and political scepticism into which the ill success of the revolution had thrown men, but by a sentiment of real affection for a man whom the Scots regarded almost as the king of their choice. The return of Charles II. was not connected, in their country, with the re-establishment of an ancient social order, oppressive and unpopular; this great event appeared to their eyes, a personal restoration, as it were. They hoped that things would return to the point in which they were before the invasion of Cromwell’s army, and that the covenant, then sworn by Charles II., would be the rule of his government. They attributed the king’s former distaste for the rigidness of presbyterian discipline to youthful errors, which age and misfortune must have corrected.

But the son of Charles I. nourished in his bosom all the hatred of his grandfather and of his father against puritanism, and he felt no personal gratitude to the Scots for the gift of a kingdom which, in his opinion, was his by right of inheritance. Thinking himself, then, free from all obligation towards them, he had the covenant torn to pieces in the marketplace at Edinburgh, and bishops, sent from England, were paraded in triumph by royal officers along the streets. They required from all the ministers of worship the oath of obedience to their orders, the abjuration of the covenant, and the recognition of the absolute authority of the king in ecclesiastical matters. They who refused to take the oath were declared seditious rebels, and were violently expelled from their livings and churches, which were given to new comers, for the most part Englishmen, ignorant and of ill life. These proceeded to celebrate the services and to preach sermons, but none came to hear them, and the churches were deserted.1

The faithful, zealous in their national cause, assembled every Sunday in the bye-places and mountains, which served as refuge for the persecuted ministers; a severe law was Edition: current; Page: [314] issued against these peaceful meetings, to which the agents of authority gave the name of conventicles. Troops were quartered upon the villages whose inhabitants did not frequent their church, and many persons, suspected or convicted of having attended conventicles, were imprisoned, and even publicly whipped. These acts of severity took place principally in the south-western districts, whose population was more disposed to resistance, either from the nature of the country, covered with hills and ravines, or from a remnant of the enthusiastic and pertinacious character of the British race, from which most of them were descended. It was in these districts that the presbyterians began to meet in arms at their secret assemblies, and that whole families, quitting their houses, went to live among the rocks and marshes, in order freely to hear the exhortations of their proscribed priests, and to satisfy the requirements of their conscience.

The constantly increasing severity of the measures against the conventicles, soon occasioned an open insurrection, in which figured as chiefs many rich and influential men of the country. The movement did not extend to the eastern provinces, because the forces of the government, and the terror they inspired, augmented the nearer the vicinity to the capital. The presbyterian army was defeated on the Pentland Hills by the regular troops, who had orders to kill the prisoners, and to pursue the fugitives with enormous bloodhounds.1 After the victory, every family in Ayrshire and Galloway was required to swear an oath not to attend the presbyterian assemblies, and not to give food or refuge to a wandering minister or contumacious presbyterian. Upon the refusal of many persons, all the inhabitants in a body were declared rebels and enemies to the king; and pardons not filled up were distributed for any murders that might be committed upon them.

2These atrocities were at length crowned by a measure more monstrous than all. The northern highland clans were authorized to descend into the plain and to commit there all the devastation which their old instinct of national hatred against the inhabitants should suggest to them. For Edition: current; Page: [315] several months eight thousand highlanders overran Ayrshire and the neighbouring counties, pillaging and killing at will. A regiment of dragoons was sent from Edinburgh to assist and protect them in their expedition. When it was thought that they had produced the desired effect, an order sealed with the great seal sent them back to their mountains, and the dragoons remained by themselves to secure the entire submission of the country.1 But the evils inflicted upon the presbyterians had augmented their fanaticism by reducing them to despair; some of the most exasperated meeting on the road archbishop Sharp, whom Charles II. had named primate of Scotland, dragged him from his carriage, and killed him in his daughter’s arms.

This crime of a few men was avenged upon the whole country by redoubled vexations and a host of executions. A second rebellion arose, more general and more formidable than the first. The presbyterian army, this time commanded by old soldiers, many of noble family, comprehended several cavalry regiments, composed of landed proprietors and rich farmers, but it was without artillery or ammunition. Every regiment had a blue flag, the favourite colour of the covenanters. Troops of women and children, following the army to the field of battle, excited the men by their cries. Sometimes, after having marched and fought a whole day, without eating or drinking, they would range in a circle round their ministers, and listen with enwrapt attention to a sermon of several hours’ duration, before they thought of seeking provisions or of taking repose.

Such was the army which, a few miles from Glasgow, routed the regiment of guards, the best cavalry of all Scotland, occupied the town, and forced a body of ten thousand men to fall back upon Edinburgh. The alarm it caused the government was such that considerable forces were sent in all haste from London, commanded by the duke of Monmouth, natural son of Charles II., a man of gentle disposition, and inclined to moderate principles, with whom were joined two lieutenants of a very different character: general Thomas Dalziel, and Graham of Claverhouse, who, neutralizing the conciliatory tendencies of Monmouth, obliged him to give battle to the Edition: current; Page: [316] insurgents near the little town of Hamilton, south of Glasgow. The Clyde, whose stream is very deep in this spot, was crossed by a long and narrow stone bridge, called Bothwell Bridge, which the presbyterians occupied. They were driven from this position by the artillery that fired upon them from the bank of the river, and by a charge of cavalry upon the Bridge. Their defeat was complete, and the English army entered Edinburgh, carrying on their pikes severed heads and hands, and bringing, tied two and two upon carts, the chiefs of the presbyterian army, and the ministers whom they had taken prisoners, who underwent with the greatest firmness torture and death, bearing testimony unto death, as they expressed it, to the truth of their national faith.1

The presbyterian party could not recover their defeat of Bothwell Bridge, and the mass of the Scots, renouncing the covenant, in the defence of which so much blood had been spilt, submitted to a kind of modified episcopacy, and acknowledged the authority of the king in ecclesiastical matters. But grief at having lost a cause that had been national for a century and a half, and the memory of the battle which had destroyed all hope of ever seeing it triumph, long survived in Scotland. Old ballads, still sung in the villages at the close of the last century, speak of Bothwell Bridge, and of the brave men who died there, with touching expressions of sympathy and enthusiasm.2 Even at the present day the peasants take off their caps when they pass the blackened stones that here and there, upon the hills and moors, mark the graves of the puritans of the eighteenth century.

As the enthusiasm and energy of the Scottish presbyterians gradually lessened, the government became less distrustful and less cruel towards them. James, duke of York, who, in the reign of his brother, Charles II., had, for pastime, witnessed the infliction of the torture upon refractory ministers, exercised no severity against them after he became king; and his endeavours to substitute catholicism for protestantism were far from exciting so much hostility in Scotland as in England. The presbyterians forgave him his love of popery, Edition: current; Page: [317] in consideration of the hatred he displayed to the episcopalians, their latest persecutors. When a conspiracy, led by the bishops and nobles of England, called in William of Orange and expelled James II., the Scottish people exhibited little enthusiasm for this revolution, lauded as so glorious on the other side of the Tweed; they even hesitated to concur in it, and their adhesion was rather the work of the members of government assembled at Edinburgh, than a genuine act of national assent. Yet the authors of the revolution of 1688 made to Scotland, in matters of religion, concessions which they had not made to England, where the intolerant laws of the Stuarts were maintained in all their rigour. On the other hand, the few obstinate enthusiasts who, under the name of Cameronians, endeavoured, in the beginning of the eighteenth century, to rekindle the half extinct flame of puritanism, were violently persecuted, and bore testimony, by the whip and pillory, on the market-place of Edinburgh. After their time, this austere and impassioned belief, which had combined into one sect the whole populations of the Scottish lowlands, was gradually concentrated in a few isolated families, distinguished from the rest by a more strict observance of the practices of their worship, a more rigid probity, or a greater affectation of it, and the habit of employing the words of the Scriptures on every occasion.

Notwithstanding the evils which the Stuarts had inflicted upon Scotland ever since they had filled the throne of England, the Scots preserved a sort of sympathy for this family, independent, in the minds of numbers, of all political or religious opinions. An instinctive aversion to the new dynasty was felt concurrently, though in unequal degree, by highlanders and by lowlanders. The former threw into it all the ardour of their ancient hatred to the people of England; among the latter, differences of social position, of connexion with the existing government, of religious belief or personal character, produced different shades of zeal in the cause of the heirs of James II. The Jacobite insurrection of 1715, and that of 1745, on the landing of the son of the Pretender, both commenced in the highlands: the second found in the towns of the south and east partisans enough to create a belief that the Celtic and Teutonic races of Scotland, hitherto enemies to Edition: current; Page: [318] each other, were about to become one nation. After the victory of the English government, its first care was to destroy the immemorial organization of the Gallic clans. It executed many chiefs of these clans on the scaffold; it removed others from the country, in order to suspend the exercise of their patriarchal authority; it constructed military roads over moor and mountain, and enrolled a great number of highlanders among the regular troops serving on the continent. As a sort of compromise with the tenacity of the Gael to their ancient customs, they were allowed to combine, in a singular manner, a portion of their national costume with the English uniform, and to retain the bagpipes, their favourite instrument.

When the Scots lost their religious and political enthusiasm, they directed to the cultivation of literature, the imaginative faculties which seem in them a last trace of their Celtic origin as Gauls or as Britons. Scotland is perhaps the only country of Europe where knowledge is really a popular acquirement, and where men of every class love to learn for learning’s sake, without any practical motive, or any view to change their condition. Since the final union of that country with England, its ancient Anglo-Danish dialect, ceasing to be cultivated, has been replaced by English as the literary language. But, notwithstanding the disadvantage experienced by every writer who employs in his works an idiom different from that of his habitual conversation, the number of distinguished authors of every class, since the middle of the last century, has been far greater in Scotland than in England, taking into account the difference of population of the two countries. It is more especially in historical composition and in narrative that the Scots excel; and we may consider this peculiar aptitude as one of the characteristic indications of their original descent; for the Irish and the Welsh are the two nations who have at greatest length and most agreeably drawn up their ancient annals.

Civilization, which makes rapid progress among all the branches of the Scottish population, has now penetrated beyond the lowland towns into the highlands. Perhaps, however, in seeking to propagate it there, the means adopted of late years have been too violent, have been more calculated to Edition: current; Page: [319] effect the destruction than the amelioration of the Gaelic race. Converting their patriarchal supremacy into seigneural rights of property over all the land occupied by their clans, the heirs of the ancient chiefs, the English law in their hands, have expelled from their habitations hundreds of families to whom this law was absolutely unknown. In place of the dispossessed clans, they have established immense flocks and a few agriculturists from other parts, enlightened, industrious persons, capable of carrying into execution the most judicious plans of cultivation. The great agricultural progress of Rosshire and Sutherlandshire is greatly vaunted; but if such an example be followed, the race of the most ancient inhabitants of Britain, after having preserved itself for so many centuries and among so many enemies, will disappear, without leaving any other trace than a vicious English pronunciation in the places where its language used to be spoken.


Effect of the conquest in Ireland—Degeneration of the Anglo-Irish—Tenacity of the natives—Invasion of Edward Bruce—Reform and civilization of Ireland—Influence of the Irish bards—Common hatred to England—Catholicism of the Irish—Entire completion of the territorial conquest—Religious and patriotic insurrections—Alliance of the Irish with Charles I.—Invasion of Ireland by Cromwell—Attitude of the Irish on the restoration of the Stuarts—Invasion of William III—Political association of the Irish—White Boys—Hearts of Oak—Right Boys—Volunteers—Patriotic views of the Volunteers—Their provincial assemblies—Peep-o’-day Boys—Defenders—The United Irishmen—Influence of the French revolution—The Orangemen—Organization of the United Irishmen—Succours from France—First symptoms of insurrection—Rise of the United Irishmen—Irish republic—Attack upon Dublin—Defeat of the United Irishmen—Rise of the Presbyterians—Landing of the French in Ireland—Their defeat—Termination of the rebellion—The Union.

The conquest of Ireland by the Anglo-Normans is perhaps the only conquest where, after the first disasters, the slow and imperceptible course of events has not brought about Edition: current; Page: [320] a gradual amelioration in the state of the conquered people. Without having ever enfranchised themselves from the foreign domination, the descendants of the Anglo-Saxons have still made great progress in prosperity and civilization. But the native Irish, though apparently placed in a similar position, have been constantly declining for the last five centuries; and yet that population is gifted by nature with great vivacity of mind and a remarkable aptitude for every class of intellectual labour. Although the soil of Ireland is fertile and adapted for cultivation, its fecundity has been alike unprofitable to the conquerors and to their subjects; so that notwithstanding the extent of their domains, the posterity of the Normans has become gradually impoverished, in common with that of the Irish. This singular and mournful destiny, which weighs almost equally on the old and on the new inhabitants of Erin, has for its cause the vicinity of England, and the influence which her government has exercised, ever since the conquest, over the internal affairs of that island.

This influence has always manifested itself at a time and in a manner to disturb the course of amicable relations which time and the custom of living together were tending to establish between the Anglo-Irish and the Irish by race. The intervention of the kings of England, whatever its ostensible aim, has always had the effect of keeping up the primitive separation and hostility. In times of war, they assisted the men of Anglo-Norman race; when the latter had compelled the natives to tranquillity, the kings, jealous of their power, and fearing a political separation, studied in every mode to injure and weaken them. Thus it became impossible that the struggle between the two populations should ever terminate, whether by the victory of the one or of the other, or by their complete fusion. This fusion, a rapid one had it taken place, would have presented a phenomenon which has not been met with elsewhere. Attracted by the gentleness of character and sociability of the natives, their conquerors felt an irresistible tendency to assimilate with the conquered, to adopt their manners, their language, and even their dress. The Anglo-Normans became Irish; they exchanged their feudal titles of earl and baron for patronymic surnames; the Dubourgs called themselves Mac-William-Bourg; the De Veres, Mac-Swine; the Delangles, Mac-Costilagh; the Fitz-Urses, Edition: current; Page: [321] Mac-Mahon; and the Fitz-Geraulds, Mac-Gheroit.1 They acquired a taste for Irish song and poetry, they invited the bards to their tables, and entrusted their children to women of the country. The Normans of England, so haughty towards the Saxons termed this degeneration.

To check the degeneration, and maintain entire the ancient manners of the Anglo-Irish, the kings and parliament of England made many laws, most of them very severe.2 Every Norman or Englishman by race, who married an Irishwoman, or wore the Irish dress, was treated as an Irishman—that is to say, as a serf in body and goods. Royal ordinances were published, regulating the cut of the hair and beard in Ireland, the number of ells of stuff that were to go to a dress, and the colour of the stuff. Every merchant of English race who traded with the Irish was punished by the confiscation of his merchandise; and every Irishman found travelling in the part of the island inhabited by the Anglo-Normans, especially if he were a bard, was considered and treated as a spy.3 Every lord, suspected of liking the Irish, became, for that sole offence, the mark of political persecution; and, if he were rich and powerful, he was accused of seeking to become king of Ireland, or, at least, of a desire to separate that kingdom from the crown of England. The great council of barons and knights of Ireland, who, like those of England, assembled every year in parliament, was regarded with almost as much scorn and hatred as were the national assemblies held by the native Irish on the hills.4 Every sort of freedom was refused to the parliament of Ireland: it could not assemble until the king sanctioned the purposes of its convocation, and even then it only passed laws sent ready drawn up from England. At the same time, the English government employed all its means of action upon the native Irish, to make them renounce their national customs and their ancient social order. It caused the archbishops, nearly all of them men from England, to declare that the ancient laws of the country, those which had governed Ireland in the ages when she was called the Island of the Saints, were abominable to God.5 Every Irishman Edition: current; Page: [322] convicted of having submitted any case to judges of his nation, was excommunicated, and ranked among those whom the ordinances of England called les irreys anemis nostre seigneur le rey.1

To counteract the efforts made by the English government to destroy their ancient manners, the Irish applied themselves with obstinate pertinacity to maintain them.2 They manifested a violent aversion to the polish and refinement of the Anglo-Norman manners: “Ne faisant compte,” says the historian Froissart, “de nulle jolivetè, et ne volant avoir aucune connoissance de gentillesse, mais demeurer en eur rudesse première.”3 This rudesse was only external, for the Irish, when they chose, could live with foreigners and gain their affection, especially if they were enemies to the English. They concluded against the latter political alliances with several of the continental kings; and when, in the fourteenth century, the Scot, Robert Bruce, was named king by his countrymen, bodies of Irish volunteers crossed the sea to support him. After the entire enfranchisement of Scotland, Edward Bruce, brother of Robert, made a descent upon the north of Ireland, to aid the natives to regain their country, and the Anglo-Norman degenerates, to take vengeance for the vexations inflicted on them by their king.4 In fact, several of the latter, and among others, the Lacys, joined the Scottish army, which, in its march southwards, sacked several towns and dismantled many castles built by the sons of the companions of John de Courcy, the first conqueror of Ulster. Several families, who possessed great domains in those parts, such as the Audelys, the Talbots, the Touchets, the Chamberlains, the Mandevilles, and the Sauvages, all Normans by name and origin, were obliged to quit the country.5 On his arrival at Dundalk, Edward Bruce was elected and crowned king of Ireland, despite the excommunication pronounced by the pope against him, his aiders and abettors.6

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But his reign lasted only a year, and he was killed in a battle lost against considerable forces sent from England. The Scottish troops were recalled to their own country, and by degrees the Anglo-Normans regained their domination in Ireland, without, however, attaining their former limits towards the north. Most of Ulster remained Irish, and the few Norman families seen there after these events were poor, or had formed relations with the natives. By degrees, even the descendants of the conqueror, John de Courcy, degenerated.1 Notwithstanding the short duration and the little effect of the conquest of Edward Bruce, its recollection remained deeply imprinted on the mind of the Irish people. His name was applied to many places he had never visited, and many a castle, not built by him, was called Bruce Castle, as in Wales, and in the south of Scotland, many ruins bear the name of Arthur.

Things in Ireland resumed the same situation as before; the natives making no further conquests over the Anglo-Normans by their arms, did so by their manners, and the degeneration continued. The measures taken against this evil, consisting, for the most part, of laws as to the manner in which people should divert themselves and dress, and of prohibitions of the stuffs most common in the country, and consequently the least expensive, occasioned daily inconvenience and loss to the English population established in Ireland, whose resentment confirmed their attachment to the manners it was sought to compel them to quit, against their will and against the nature of things. As to the Irish by race, the action of the government upon them was limited in time of peace to the attracting to England their numerous chiefs and princes, and to the procuring for the king of England the guardianship and custody of their sons. It was considered a great achievement to give them a taste for the lordly pomp and aristocratic manners of the time: this was called first the reform, and then the civilization of Ireland.

But the habit of familiarity between persons of different conditions was so deeply rooted in this country, that the Anglo-Norman knights, charged with the education of the young Edition: current; Page: [324] heirs of the ancient kings of Erin, could never make them discontinue the custom of eating at the same table with their bards and followers, or from shaking hands with every one.1 Few of the Irish chieftains who, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, obtained charters of Anglo-Norman nobility, and the titles of earl or baron, long retained these titles, foreign to their language, and having no relation to the history, manners, and social order of their nation. They became weary of bearing them, preferring to be called, as before, O’Neil or O’Brien, instead of earl of Thomond or of Tyrone. Even where they did not themselves adopt this course, public opinion often obliged them to renounce these signs of alliance with the enemies of their country; for public opinion had organs respected and feared by every Irishman.

These organs of popular praise or blame were the bards, poets, and musicians by profession, whose immemorial authority was founded on the passion of the Irish for poetry and song. They formed in Ireland a sort of constituted body, whose advice was sought in all important matters; and the duties of a good king, according to ancient political maxims, were to honour the bards and to conform to the laws. Ever since the invasion of the Anglo-Normans, the corporation of bards had taken part against them, and not a member of the body had ever belied his attachment to the ancient liberty of the country. The chief objects of praise in their verses were the enemies of the English government, and they pursued with their most biting satire all who had made peace with it, and had accepted any favour from it. Lastly, they boldly ranked above the princes and chiefs, friends to the kings of England, the rebels and bandits, who, from hatred to the foreign power, exercised armed robbery, and pillaged by night the houses of the Saxons.2 Under this name the natives comprised all the English or Normans who did not speak the Erse language, but, probably, a mixed dialect of French and old English. They accorded the name of Irish only to themselves and to those who had adopted their idiom, while in England the name of English was denied to the men of that nation established in Ireland, who were called Irois in Edition: current; Page: [325] the Norman language, and, in the English, Irse or Irisch, the only distinction between them and the genuine Irish being that the latter were called wild Irish.

The situation of the Anglo-Irish, detested by the natives around them, and despised by their countrymen across the Channel, was one of singular difficulty. Obliged to struggle against the action of the English government, and, at the same time, to resort to the support of that government against the attacks of the ancient population, they were, by turns, Irish against England, and English against the inhabitants of Gaelic race. This embarrassment could only be terminated by the rupture of the tie of dependence which bound them to England, and by the complete establishment of their domination over the natives. They simultaneously aimed at this double object; and, on their side, the natives also endeavoured to separate themselves from England, by recovering their lands and throwing off all authority not purely Irish. Thus, though the policy of the Irish by conquest and that of the Irish by race were naturally based upon mutual hostility, there was still a common point at which the views of these two classes of men concurred: the desire to restore to Ireland its independence as a state. These complex interests, which the natural course of things was ill calculated to bring to a simple order of relations, were complicated still more in the sixteenth century, by a revolution which added the seeds of religious dissension to the ancient elements of political hostility.

When king Henry VIII. had, for his own benefit, abolished the papal supremacy in England, the new religious reformation, established without difficulty over the eastern coast of Ireland, and in the towns where English was spoken, made little progress in the interior of the country. The native Irish, even when they understood English, were little inclined to hear sermons preached in that language; and, besides, the missionaries sent from England, acting upon the instructions they had received, enjoined it upon them as an article of faith to renounce their ancient usages, and to adopt the manners of the English.1 Their aversion to those manners, and to the government which sought to impose them, extended to Edition: current; Page: [326] the Reformation and to the reformers, whom they were accustomed to designate by the simple name of Saxons, Sassons. On the other hand, the Norman or English families, settled in places remote from the sea, and in some measure beyond the reach of authority, resisted the attempts made to persuade or force them to change their religion. They clung to catholicism, and this again knitted fresh ties of sympathy between them and the Irish. This change had also the effect of connecting with the general affairs of Europe, the quarrel of the native Irish against the sons of their invaders, a quarrel hitherto confined to the corner of land which it actually occupied. It became, thenceforward, a portion of the great contest between catholicism and protestantism; and the demands for foreign aid made by the population of Ireland, were no longer addressed merely to tribes of the same origin, peopling part of Scotland, but to the Catholic powers, to the pope, and to the kings of Spain and France.1

The popes, more especially, those ancient enemies of Ireland, who had authorised its conquest by Henry II., and had excommunicated all the natives who armed against the English power, now became their firm allies, and were loved by them with all their soul, as they loved whatsoever gave them the hope of recovering their independence. But the court of Rome in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries converted this unfortunate country into the focus of political intrigues, entirely foreign to its enfranchisement. By means of their apostolic nuncios, and more especially of the order of the Jesuits, who, on this occasion, displayed their wonted ability, the popes effected the formation in Ireland of a party of pure catholics, as hostile to the Irish of race, become protestants, as to the English themselves, and detesting the latter, not as usurpers, but as anti-papists. In the rebellions which afterwards broke out, this party played a part distinct from that of the Irish catholics who took up arms from simple motives of patriotism; it is easy to perceive this difference, even in the enterprises Edition: current; Page: [327] wherein these two classes of men acted together and in concert.1

Under favour of the troubles resulting from religious contests, and the encouragement which the Catholic powers afforded to the insurgents of all parties, the old cause of the native Irish seemed to regain some force; their energy was aroused, and the bards sang that a new soul had descended upon Erin.2 But the enthusiasm created by religious dissensions had also communicated itself to the Anglo-Irish reformers, and even to the English, who, about the end of the sixteenth century, served in the wars of Ireland with more ardour than ever, as in a sort of protestant crusade. Their zeal furnished queen Elizabeth with more money and troops for these wars than any English monarch had obtained before her. Resuming with great means and vast activity the incomplete work of the conquest, Elizabeth recovered the northern provinces, and invaded the west, which had hitherto resisted. All this territory was divided into counties, like England, and governed by English, who, with a view, as they said, to civilise the wild Irish, made them perish by thousands of hunger and misery.

James I. pursued the work of this civilization by seizing a number of chiefs, and having them tried at London for past or present rebellion. According to the old Anglo-Norman law, they were condemned to lose their domains, as felons to their liege lord; and, under this name of domains, care was taken to comprise the whole extent of country occupied by the clans whom they ruled, seeing that in England the tenants of every lordship were only the farmers of the lord for longer or shorter terms. By means of this arbitrary assimilation of two orders of things entirely different, king James confiscated in Ireland whole districts, which he sold, in lots, to adventurers, as they were called. The dispossessed clans sought refuge in the mountains and forests, whence they soon issued in arms to attack the new English colonies; but they were repulsed by superior forces, and the province of Ulster, which had been the principal theatre of the war, was declared forfeit, and all titles of proprietorship within it Edition: current; Page: [328] declared null and void. They were not even allowed to remove their furniture; and a company of capitalists was established in London to effect the colonization of this district upon an uniform plan. They hired a number of Scottish labourers and artisans, who sailed from Galloway, and established themselves in Ireland, in the neighbourhood of Derry, which, under the name of Londonderry, became a manufacturing town. Other emigrants from the same nation passed in succession into the north of Ireland, and formed there a new population and a new religious party; for they were zealous presbyterians, and, in point of creed, equally hostile to the Anglicans and to the catholics.

The troubles arising in England at the beginning of the reign of Charles I., again encouraged the party of old Ireland and of the Irish papists; at first, because the struggle in which the government was engaged with the English people, lessened its means of action externally, and, afterwards, because the king’s marked inclination for catholicism seemed to promise the catholics his support, or, at least, his sanction. The purely religious faction, under the command of an Anglo-Irishman, George Moor, was the first to rise up against what it called the tyranny of the heretics. It obtained little success, so long as that portion of the people which nourished political hatred against the English remained quiet, or did not assist it; but as soon as the native Irish, led by Phelim O’Connor, took part in the civil war, that war was pushed forward more vigorously, and had for its object, not the triumph of the catholics, but the extirpation of all the foreign colonists, of ancient or of recent date. The presbyterian colonists of Ulster and the Anglican inhabitants of the western provinces were attacked in their houses, amid cries of Erin go Bragh! (Hurrah for Ireland!) and it is calculated that forty thousand persons perished at this time, in various ways.

The news of this massacre produced a great impression in England, and although the victory obtained by the men of Irish race was in reality a great blow to the power of the king, the parliament accused him of having promoted the slaughter of the protestants. He warmly vindicated himself from the accusation, and, to remove all suspicion, sent to Ireland troops that he would fain have retained in England for the maintenance of his authority. The parliament gave, by anticipation, Edition: current; Page: [329] the lands of the rebels to those who would furnish money for the expenses of the war. The English army gave no quarter to any Irishman, rejecting even the submission of those who offered to lay down their arms. Despair communicated fresh strength to the fanatics in religion or patriotism. Though their military resources were far inferior, they resisted the English, and even recovered from them the province of Ulster, whence they expelled many families of Scottish race. Become thus again masters of the greater part of Ireland, they formed a council of national administration, composed of bishops, ancient chiefs of tribes, feudal lords of Anglo-Norman origin, and deputies chosen in each county by the native population.

When the civil war broke out between the king and the parliament of England, the national assembly of the Irish carried on a correspondence with both these parties, offering to join that which should most amply recognise the independence of Ireland. Whatever may have been the diplomatic skill natural to the Irish, it was difficult to effect a formal union between them and the parliamentarians; for the latter were at this time animated with a fierce hatred to the papists; the king came to terms more easily and more promptly with the confederates. By a treaty signed at Glamorgan, they engaged to furnish him with ten thousand men; and, in return, he made concessions to them, which were almost equivalent to the abdication of his royalty, as far as Ireland was concerned. This union did not hold, but it was the king who first violated it, by substituting for it a private treaty with those of the Anglo-Irish who had espoused the quarrel of the royalists of England, at the head of whom was the duke of Ormond. The mass of the confederates, who, their object being a total separation, were not a whit more royalist than parliamentarian, were not comprehended in this alliance, and even the papist party was excluded from it, because political interests alone were contemplated. Under the conduct of the papal nuncio, this party formed a stricter alliance than ever with the native party, which recognised as its chief a man of the name of O’Neil; but the intrigues of the nuncio and the intolerance of the priests, who had obtained great influence over the unenlightened multitude, again embroiled the affairs of the Irish, by confounding the religious with the patriotic cause. A few of the stronger minded alone continued Edition: current; Page: [330] to view these two interests in a distinct manner; and, after the condemnation to death of Charles I., they opened negotiations with the founders of the republic, while the Anglicans and presbyterians of Ireland, joining the duke of Ormond, proclaimed Charles II.

The alarmed republicans despatched to Ireland their best captain, Oliver Cromwell, who, in the ardour of his zeal and the inflexibility of his policy, carried on against all parties a war of extermination, and even undertook to complete fully and finally the conquest of the island. After having distributed among his troops, who were in arrears of pay, the lands taken from the rebels, he renewed, upon a larger scale, the great expropriation executed by James I. Instead of expelling the Irish, house by house and village by village, which enabled them to collect in the neighbouring forests, the western province of Connaught was assigned as the sole habitation for all the natives and for the Anglo-Irish catholics. All such received orders to repair thither, within a given time, with their families and goods; and when they were assembled there, a cordon of troops was formed round them, and death was denounced upon any who should cross that line. The vast extent of territory thus rendered vacant was sold by the government to a company of rich capitalists, who retailed it in lots to new colonists and speculators.

Thus arose in Ireland, beside the Irish of race, the old Anglo-Irish, and the Scotch presbyterians, a fourth population, distasteful to the former, both on account of its origin and of its recent establishment in the country. No serious discord took place between them so long as the republic of England remained powerful under the protectorate of Cromwell; but after his death, when the English government fell into anarchy, there was formed in Ireland, for the restoration of the Stuarts, a party composed, for the most part, of Anglo-Irish protestants or catholics, with a small minority of natives. The bulk of the latter, hostile by instinct to every enterprise tending to place the country under the power of an Englishman, far from giving their adhesion to the party of Charles II., openly opposed his being proclaimed king of Great Britain and Ireland. The dispute between the pure Irish and the royalists grew so warm, that both sides took up arms, and several engagements took place; but the friends of the Stuarts, Edition: current; Page: [331] comprising all the colonists, old and new, got the better of a population which the late government had disorganized and impoverished.

Charles II., who felt that his re-establishment was owing to the lassitude of parties, carefully avoiding whatever might revive them, made little change in Ireland. He resisted the demands made by the papists and the natives to resume possession of their property, occupied by the soldiers or the new colonists; but under the reign of his successor, James II., himself a catholic, the catholic party, aided by the royal authority, acquired great ascendancy in Ireland. All the civil and military offices were given to papists, and the king, who doubted the result of the struggle he was maintaining in England against public opinion, essayed to organize in Ireland a force capable of supporting him. It was in this island that, after his deposition, he sought refuge. He assembled at Dublin a parliament, composed of papists and native Irish. The latter, previous to any other discussion, called upon king James to recognise the entire independence of Ireland; the king refused, unwilling to abandon any of his ancient prerogatives, but offered, as a compromise, not to tolerate any other religion than catholicism. The Irish, inflexible in their purpose of political enfranchisement, answered by a message, that since he separated himself from their national cause, they would manage their affairs without him.1 It was amidst these dissensions that the new king of England, William III., landed in Ireland with considerable forces, and gained, over the two confederate parties of the old Irish and the papists, the decisive battle of the Boyne.

The conquest of Ireland by William III. was followed by confiscations and expropriations which planted in the island one more English colony, round which rallied the zealous protestants and all the friends of the revolution, who assumed the appellation of Orangemen. The entire administration of public affairs passed into their hands, and the catholics no longer filled any office; but the protestants who oppressed them, were themselves oppressed by the government of England, as, for five centuries past, the English established in Ireland had ever been. Their industry and commerce were Edition: current; Page: [332] cramped by prohibitive duties, and the Irish parliament was seldom permitted to assemble. Under queen Anne, this parliament was deprived of the few rights that remained to it; and, as if to extenuate the wrong in the eyes of the Anglicans, and to blind them to their own interest by flattering their religious animosities, the papists were fiercely persecuted. They were disqualified from holding landed property or farms on long terms, and even from bringing up their children at home. But community of suffering, though in a very unequal degree, united in one opposition the protestants and the Anglo-Irish catholics, or Irish by race, who formed a new party, entirely political, under the name of Patriots. They all agreed upon one point, the necessity of rendering Ireland independent of England; but the former desired this solely out of hatred to the government, and the latter out of hatred to the English nation, or, rather, to the English race. This is proved by satires, composed in the middle of the last century, against the sons of Erin who learned and spoke English.1

The patriot party augmented by degrees, and, on several occasions, came to blows with the English party, on the report, true or false, that it was intended finally to suppress the parliament of Ireland. At about the same time, the great landed proprietors of the south and the east began to convert their arable lands into pasture, with a view to increase their revenues by the breeding of cattle. This agricultural change occasioned the expulsion of a great number of small farmers, the ruin of many poor families, and a great cessation of work for the labourers, who were mostly Irish by race, and catholics. The discharged labourers, and others who were without work, and who thought they had as much right as the lord himself to the lands on which, from time immemorial, they had fed their sheep, assembled in organized troops. Armed with guns, swords, and pistols, and preceded by bagpipes, they overran the country, breaking down the fences, levying contributions on the protestants, and enrolling the catholics in their association, assuming the title of White Boys, from the white shirt they all wore as a rallying token.2 Several persons of Irish origin, and of some fortune, joined this association, Edition: current; Page: [333] which, it would appear, was negotiating with the king of France and the son of the Pretender, Charles Edward, when the latter was defeated at Culloden. It is not precisely known what their political projects were; it is probable that they would have acted in concert with the French expedition, which was to be commanded by M. de Conflans;1 but when France renounced this plan, the efforts of the White Boys were confined to a petty warfare against the agents of the royal authority.

In the northern counties, another association was formed under the name of Hearts of Oak; its members, for mutual recognition, wore an oak branch in their hats: farmers, evicted on the expiration of their lease, also united and armed, under the name of Hearts of Steel; and, at last, a fourth society, still more closely knit together, appeared in the southern counties, under the name of Right Boys. All those who joined it, swore to pay no tithes to any priest, not even to catholics, and to obey the orders of no one, except those of a mysterious chief, called Captain Right.2 This oath was so strictly observed, that in many places the officers of the government could not, at any price, obtain men to execute the sentences pronounced upon Right Boys.

While the struggle between these various associations and the civil and military authority was occasioning infinite disorder and spoliation in the country, some landed proprietors and young men of rich protestant families formed, under the name of Volunteers, a counter-association for the sole purpose of maintaining the public peace; at their own expense they furnished themselves with horses and arms, and patrolled night and day the places where there was any disturbance. The rupture of England with her colonies of North America had just involved her in a declaration of war from France, Spain, and Holland. All the troops employed in Ireland were recalled, and this country remained exposed to the aggressions of these three powers, and of the privateers which infested the seas. The great Anglo-Irish proprietors making loud complaints on this subject to the ministry, the answer was, “Arm, and look to yourselves.”3

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The rich class zealously availed themselves of this permission. The companies of volunteers previously formed, served as a model and nucleus for the organization of a body of national militia, which, under the same name, soon increased to the number of forty thousand men. As it was almost wholly composed of Anglo-Irish protestants, the government, so far from distrusting it, presented it with a large quantity of arms and ammunition. Those who conceived the original idea of this great military association, had no other object than the defence of the Irish soil against the enemies of England; but Ireland was so wretched, every class of men underwent there such vexations, that, as soon as the volunteers felt their power, they resolved to employ it in ameliorating, if possible, the condition of the country. A new spirit of patriotism was developed among them, embracing with equal kindliness all the inhabitants of the island, without distinction of race or of religion. The catholics who entered the association were eagerly received, and arms were given them, notwithstanding the old law which reserved the use of them to protestants alone. The Anglican soldiers gave the military salute, and presented arms to the chaplains of the catholic regiments;1 monks and ministers of the reformed church shook hands and mutually congratulated each other.

In every county the volunteers held political meetings, each of which sent deputies to form a central assembly, with full power to act as representing the Irish nation.2 This assembly, held in Dublin, passed various resolutions, all based on the principle that the English parliament had no right to make laws for Ireland, and that this right rested wholly in the Irish parliament. The government, entirely occupied with the war against the United States of America, and having no force capable of counterbalancing in Ireland the organization of the volunteers, acknowledged, in a bill passed in 1783, the legislative rights of the two Irish chambers. Further, the habeas corpus act, securing every English subject from illegal imprisonment, was, now for the first time, introduced into Ireland. But these enforced concessions were far from being made in good faith; and as soon as peace was concluded in 1784, the agents of the government began to suggest to the Edition: current; Page: [335] volunteers to dissolve as useless, and to order the disarming of the catholics, according to the laws. Several regiments declared that they would only lay down their arms with their lives, and the protestants, concurring in this declaration, announced that their subaltern-officers and arms should be at the service of any Irishman who wished to exercise himself in military evolutions.1

This spirit of mutual toleration was considered extremely formidable by the English government, which accordingly employed itself in destroying it, and in reviving the old religious and national hatred. It effected this object to a certain extent, by impeding the political meetings, and clubs of the volunteers, and by intimidating or seducing many members of this society. The rich were the first to desert, as being, in general, more cautious and less ardent than people of inferior condition. Deprived of its ancient chiefs, the association fell into a sort of anarchy, and the influence of unenlightened men was soon apparent in the gradual abandonment of the great principle of nationality, which, for a moment, had effaced all party distinctions. Following up some personal disputes, the more fanatic protestants began, in various places, forcibly to disarm the papists; there was formed for this purpose, a society under the name of Peep-o’-day Boys, because it was generally at this hour they entered the houses of the catholics. The latter, as a security against their violence, formed, under the name of Defenders, a counter-association, which did not always confine itself to defensive measures, but attacked the protestants in reprisal; this association gradually numbered all the catholics who withdrew from the society of the volunteers, whose dissolution became complete in all the counties, except Dublin, where it was retained as a municipal police. The society of Peep-o’-day Boys having, as it would seem, no distinct political object, contented itself with partial aggressions upon its antagonists; but the Defenders, the majority of whom were of Irish race, were animated with the instinctive aversion of the natives of Ireland towards all foreign colonists. Whether from the recollection of a former alliance or from conformity of character and manners, the Irish by race had a greater Edition: current; Page: [336] inclination for the French than for any other nation; the leading Defenders, who, for the most part, were priests or monks, kept up a correspondence with the cabinet of Versailles, in the years which preceded the French revolution.

This revolution made a vivid impression on the more patriotic of the various sects of Irish. There was then at Dublin a Catholic committee, formed of rich persons and priests of that religion, who undertook to transmit to the government the complaints and demands of their co-religionists; hitherto they had limited themselves to humble petitions, accompanied with protestations of devotion and loyalty; but, suddenly changing their tone, the majority of the members of the catholic committee resolved that it was now time to demand, as a natural right, the abolition of the laws against catholicism, and to invite every catholic to arm in assertion of this right. At the same time, there was formed at Belfast, a locality occupied by the Scottish colonists introduced into Ireland under James I., a presbyterian club, whose special object it was to consider the political state of Ireland and the means of reforming it. The Dublin committee speedily proposed to this club an alliance founded on community of interest and opinion, and the presidents of the two assemblies, one of them a catholic priest, and the other a Calvinist minister, carried on a political correspondence. These amicable relations became the basis of a new association, that of the United Irishmen, whose object was a second time to rally all the inhabitants of the island in one party. Clubs of United Irishmen were established in many towns, and especially in those of the east and south, all organized on the same model, and governed by similar rules. The various parties, united in this new alliance, made mutual concessions: the catholics published an explanation of their doctrines, and a disavowal of all hostility to other Christian sects; the majority, at the same time, making a formal renunciation of all claims to the lands taken at different times from their ancestors.

Thus the mainspring of English domination in Ireland was broken by the reconciliation of all the classes of her population, and the government accordingly adopted vigorous measures against what it called, by a new word, the revolutionary spirit. The habeas corpus act was suspended, but the association Edition: current; Page: [337] of United Irishmen, nevertheless, continued to recruit its numbers in all the counties, and to carry on friendly communication with the nation which invited all others to become free like itself. The festival of the French Federation was celebrated at Dublin on the 14th July, 1790, and in the course of 1791 many addresses were sent from all parts of Ireland to the Constituent assembly.1 When the coalition at Pilnitz declared war against France, the United Irishmen of Belfast voted supplies of money to the French armies, and on learning the retreat of the duke of Brunswick, had public rejoicings in many towns.2 In general, the Irish patriots aimed at following and imitating the movements of the French revolution. They established a national guard, like that of France; and the soldiers of this body, clothed and armed by subscription, saluted each other by the name of citizen. In 1793, they all became republicans, in language and in principles: Anglicans, Calvinists, and papists, united in this; and the titular catholic archbishop of Dublin, in one of his pastoral letters, endeavoured to prove from the example of the Italian republics of the middle ages, that the catholics were the creators of modern democracy.3

The ill success of the French revolution struck a heavy blow at the power of the United Irishmen, by diminishing their own confidence in the infallibility of their principles, and by giving a sort of authority to the accusations of their enemies. The English ministry seized the moment at which this hesitation of opinion was manifested, to make the catholics a concession, which it had hitherto denied them; it gave them the privilege of bringing up their children themselves, and of exercising some of their political rights: the object being to represent the Irish Union to the papists as needless for the future, and, if they continued to agitate, to render them odious to the other sects, in imputing to them the secret design of exterminating the protestants. The bands of Defenders, who still overran several counties, gave weight to these imputations; and the Anglicans of Connaught, more readily alarmed in consequence of their limited numbers amidst the native Irish, armed spontaneously in the year 1795, and formed associations under the title of Orangemen. Edition: current; Page: [338] Their political dogma was the rigorous maintenance of the order of things established by William III., and of all the oppressive laws made, since his reign, against the catholics and the men of Irish race. From the outset, they displayed a fanaticism which rendered them formidable to such of their neighbours as differed from them in religion or in origin; nearly fourteen hundred families emigrated, southward and eastward, to escape this new persecution.

Several acts of cruelty, committed by the Orangemen on the catholics, excited great hatred against them; and all the violence exercised by the military and civil agents of the government were laid to their charge; such as the torture inflicted on suspected persons, and the destruction of the printing presses. A man accused of being an Orangeman at once became the object of popular vengeance; and, as this accusation was vague, it was easy for evil-intentioned men to make use of it for the purpose of destroying whom they chose; every protestant had reason to fear incurring it. The bond of Irish union was greatly weakened by this mutual hatred and distrust of the two religious parties; to remedy the evil by a more concentrated organization, the public association was replaced by a secret society, based on an oath and passive obedience to chiefs whose names were only known by a few associates. The society was divided into sections, communicating with each other by means of superior committees, composed of deputies elected from among the body. There were district committees and provincial committees; and above these was a directory of five members, who regulated the whole union, which consisted of nearly an hundred thousand members. The superior and inferior chiefs formed a military hierarchy, with the ranks of lieutenant, captain, major, colonel, general, and general-in-chief. Every associate, who possessed the means, was to furnish himself, at his own expense, with fire-arms, powder, and ball; among the poorer members, pikes were distributed, made by subscription and in great numbers by members of the union. This new plan of organization was carried into execution in 1796, in Munster, Leinster, and Ulster; but Connaught was not so prompt, owing to the vigilance of the Orangemen, and the support they afforded to the agents of authority.1

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The men whom the Irish Union acknowledged as their superior chiefs were of various origin and religion: Arthur O’Connor, who, in the popular opinion, was descended from the last king of all Ireland; lord Edward Fitz-Gerald, whose name connected him with the old Norman family of the Fitz-Geraulds; father Quigley, an Irishman by birth, and a zealous papist; Theobald Wolf-Tone, a lawyer of English origin, professing the philosophical opinions of the eighteenth century. Priests of every religion were members of the society; in general, they filled the higher stations; but there was no jealousy among them, or even distrust of the sceptical doctrines of some of the associates. They urged their parishioners to read much and variously, and to form reading-clubs at the houses of the schoolmasters or in the barns. Sometimes ministers of one religion were seen preaching in the church of another; an auditory, composed half of catholics and half of Calvinists, would listen with earnest attention to the same sermon, and then receive at the church-door a distribution of philosophical tracts, such as the Age of Reason, by Thomas Paine, of which many copies were printed at Belfast.1

This tendency to subject their particular habits or creed to the views and orders of the Union, was exhibited in the lower classes by a total abstinence from all strong liquors, an abstinence difficult to observe in a damp, cold climate. The Directory recommended it, in 1796, to all the members, in order that each might cease to pay to the English government the duty on spirits;2 and towards the close of the same year, they announced by printed circulars the approaching arrival of a French fleet. Fifteen thousand men, in fact, who left France under the command of general Hoche, arrived in Bantry bay, but a tempest, which dispersed their vessels, prevented their landing.

This unexpected incident, and the tardiness of the Executive Directory of France in preparing a second expedition, gave the English government leisure to labour actively at the destruction of the Irish Union; visits by day and by night were made more frequently than ever upon suspected persons. In houses where arms were supposed to be concealed, the occupants were forced to confession, by the application, if they Edition: current; Page: [340] refused to answer, of various kinds of torture; the most usual being to half hang them, to whip them until they were half flayed, and to tear off the hair and the skin with a pitch cap. The Irish, driven to extremity by these cruelties, resolved to begin the insurrection, without waiting for the arrival of the French; pikes were fabricated, and balls cast with renewed activity. The government saw what was going on; for the larger trees near the towns were cut down and taken away at night, the leaden spouts disappeared from every house, and the catholics frequented the churches and confessionals oftener than usual. But notwithstanding this accession of zeal, their good understanding with the protestants did not cease to exist; a man who, in the beginning of 1798, was executed at Carrickfergus, as an agent of the United Irishmen, was accompanied to the scaffold by a monk and two presbyterian ministers.

In this state of things, one of the delegates from Leinster to the Irish Union, not pressed by any imminent danger, or gained over by considerable offers, but suddenly seized with a sort of panic terror, denounced to a magistrate of Dublin, a partisan of the government, the place where the committee of which he was a member was to hold one of its sittings. Upon this information thirteen persons were seized, with papers compromising many others. Numerous arrests took place, and four days after, an assemblage of several thousand men, armed with pikes and muskets, collected some miles from Dublin, and marched upon the city.1

This was the commencement of the insurrection of the United Irishmen, which, for a moment, extended over the whole country between Dublin and the Wicklow mountains, intercepting all communication between the capital and the southern provinces. The precautions of defence adopted at Dublin, where there was plenty of artillery, secured that city from the attack of the insurgents; but several other less considerable towns fell into their hands. The first engagement between them and the royal troops took place on the hill of Tara, where, in ancient times, the general assembly of the Irish used to be held. The battalions of United Irishmen had green flags, upon which was painted a harp, surmounted, in lieu of Edition: current; Page: [341] a crown, with a cap of liberty, and the English words, liberty or death, or the Irish motto, Erin go bragh. The catholic members bore with them to the fight absolutions signed by a priest, upon which was drawn a tree of liberty; in the pockets of many of the dead were found books of litanies, and translations of the republican songs of France.1

The catholic priests, who nearly all held posts in the insurgent army, employed their influence to prevent the mal-treatment of those protestants, against whom, though not members of the Union, it had no political grievance. They saved many of these from falling victims to the fanaticism which animated the lower ranks of the army, and their constant cry was: “This is not a religious war.” Whatever may have been their other excesses, the insurgents always respected women,2 which neither the Orangemen nor even the English officers did, notwithstanding their pretensions to honour and refinement. These soldiers, who made the murder of a single prisoner matter of bitter reproach against the rebels, handed over their own without scruple to the executioner, because they said, this was the law. There were whole counties in revolt, where not a single protestant was killed; but not one of the insurgents, taken in arms, obtained his life; so that the chiefs of the United Irishmen said emphatically: “We fight with the cord round our necks.”

According to the instructions of the Irish Directory, the insurrection should have commenced on the same day and the same hour in every town; but the arrest of the leaders, in compelling the persons compromised to hasten their outbreak, destroyed the concert, which alone could assure success to this perilous enterprise. The movement was only from place to place, and the associates remote from Dublin, having time to reflect, suspended their active co-operation until the insurrection should have attained certain territorial limits. In a short time, it extended to Wexford, where a provisional government was installed, under the name of Executive Directory of the Irish Republic. The green flag was unfurled on the arsenals and public buildings, and a few small vessels were equipped as cruizers, under the flag of the insurgents.3 They formed an entrenched camp, which became Edition: current; Page: [342] their head-quarters, on Vinegar Hill, near Wexford. They had some artillery there; but, entirely without field-pieces, they were, in order to make their way into towns, compelled to dash in upon the enemy’s cannon, a mode of fighting the most destructive of all, but which they practised with characteristic gaiety.1 At the assault upon Ross, in Cork, a piece of heavy cannon, planted at one of the gates, with its discharges of grape-shot, stayed the assailants. One of the insurgents rushed forward to the mouth of the piece, and thrusting his arm into it, shouted: “Forward, boys, I’ve stopped it!”2

The insurgent chiefs, thinking that to take the capital would determine all the towns that still hesitated, made a desperate attack upon Dublin; it failed completely, and the failure was fatal to the Irish cause. Shortly after, a battle lost near Wicklow restored that town to the royal troops, and, from this time, discouragement and divisions took possession of the patriot ranks: they were accusing and repudiating their chiefs, while an English army was advancing, by forced marches, against the camp at Vinegar Hill. With the aid of its artillery, it drove out the insurgents, most of whom were armed only with pikes, and pursuing them in the direction of Wexford, obliged them to evacuate that town, where the new republic perished, after a month’s existence. The Irish made a sort of regular retreat, from hill to hill, but as they had no cannon, they could not make a stand anywhere, and the want of provisions soon compelled them to disband. The prisoners were tortured to extract from them the names of their chiefs; but they denounced none but those who were already dead or prisoners.3 Thus terminated the eastern and southern insurrection, but, during its last moments, another broke out in the north, among the presbyterians of Scottish race.

This population, in general more enlightened than the catholics, were calmer and more deliberate in their proceedings. They waited for news of the southern revolt to be confirmed ere they would act. But the delay occasioned by this caution gave the government time to take its measures; and when the insurrection commenced with the attack upon Edition: current; Page: [343] Antrim, this town had been strengthened by an accession of infantry and cavalry, with cannon and howitzers. The presbyterians, joined by some catholics of English or Irish origin, made the attack on three sides, having no artillery but a six-pounder, in so bad a condition that it could only be fired twice, and another without a carriage, which they had hastily mounted on the trunk of a tree and two small cart-wheels. For a moment they were masters of the town and of a part of the English artillery; but fresh reinforcements from Belfast obliged them to retire, while fifteen hundred men, posted on the Derry road, intercepted the succours they expected from that quarter.

The insurrection broke out with more success in Down, where the Irish, after defeating the royal troops, formed, near Ballinahinch, a camp similar to that on Vinegar Hill. Here was fought a decisive battle, in which the insurgents were defeated, but not until they had approached the English cannon so closely as to touch them. The royal soldiers took Ballinahinch, and punished the town by burning it. Belfast, which had been, in some measure, the moral focus of the insurrection, remained in the hands of the government, and this circumstance produced upon the northern insurgents the same impression that the fruitless attack upon Dublin had made upon their northern brethren. Their discouragement was accompanied by the same symptoms of division: false or exaggerated reports of the cruelties committed by the catholics upon the protestants of the southern counties, alarmed the presbyterians, who thought themselves betrayed, and that the patriotic struggle in which they had engaged had degenerated into a war of religion; they accepted an amnesty, after which their principal leaders were tried and put to death.1

The victory of the English government over the insurgents of Leinster and Ulster destroyed the Irish Union, and, in great measure, its spirit; men of different sect and origin had scarce anything further in common than their disgust at the existing state of things, and the hope of a French invasion. On the news of the late insurrections, the Executive Directory of France had, at length, yielded to the intreaties Edition: current; Page: [344] of the Irish agents, and granted them some troops, who landed in the west of Ireland a month after all was at an end in the north, east, and south. These succours consisted of about fifteen hundred men of the army of Italy and of that of the Rhine, commanded by general Humber. They entered Killala, a little town of Mayo, and after making all the English garrison prisoners, unfurled the green flag of the United Irishmen. The general, in his proclamations, promised a republican constitution under the protection of France, and invited all the people, without distinction of religion, to join him. But in this district, which had given birth to the first societies of Orangemen, the protestants were, in general, fanatic foes of the papists, and devoted to the government: few of them complied with the invitation of the French, the greater number hiding themselves or taking to flight. The catholics, on the contrary, came in great numbers, and despite all that was said at the time of the irreligion of the French, the priests did not hesitate to declare for them, and, with all their powers of persuasion, urged their parishioners to take up arms. Several of these ecclesiastics had been driven from France by the revolutionary persecutions, yet these were as ready as the rest to fraternize with the soldiers.1 One of them went so far as to offer his chapel for a guardhouse. New patriotic songs were composed in which the French words, ça ira, en avant! were mixed up in English verses, with old Irish burthens.

The French and their allies marched southwards. Entering Ballina, they found in the market-place a man hanging from a gibbet, for having distributed insurgent proclamations; all the soldiers, one after the other, gave the corpse the republican salute. The first encounter took place near Castlebar, where the English troops were completely defeated, and, in the following night, fires lighted on all the hills gave the signal of insurrection to the population between Castlebar and the sea. The plan of the French was to march as rapidly as possible upon Dublin, collecting on their way the Irish volunteers; but the discord which reigned between the protestants and the catholics of the west rendered the number of these volunteers much less than it would have been in the eastern provinces.

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While general Humber’s fifteen hundred men were advancing into the country, their position becoming hourly more difficult, from the non-extension, in a proportionate degree, of the insurrection, thirty thousand English troops were marching against them from different points.1 The general manœuvred for some time to prevent their junction, but, obliged to fight a decisive battle at Ballinamuck, he capitulated for himself and his men, without any stipulations in favour of the insurgents, who retreated alone to Killala, where they endeavoured to defend themselves. They could not maintain the post; the town was taken and plundered by the royal troops, who, after having massacred a great number of Irish, drove the remainder into the neighbouring mountains and forests. Some of them formed bands there, and carried on a sort of guerilla warfare; others, to escape judicial pursuit, lived in caverns which they never quitted, and whither their relations brought them food.2 Most of those who could not conceal themselves in this way were hanged or shot.

Amidst the disunion of the different Irish sects and parties, their old hatred to the English government continued to manifest itself by the assassination of its agents, in the places where the insurrection had manifested itself, and elsewhere by partial revolts, which broke out a year later.3 In general, all classes of the population had their eyes fixed upon France: at the victories of the French they rejoiced, at those of the English they mourned. Their hope was that France would not give peace to England, without stipulating expressly for the independence of Ireland: they retained this hope up to the treaty of Amiens. The publication of this treaty created universal dejection among them. Two months after the conclusion of the peace, many refused to credit it, and said, impatiently: “Is it possible that the French have become Orangemen?”4 The English ministry profited by the general depression to tighten the political bond between Ireland and England by the abolition of the ancient Irish parliament. Although this parliament had never done much good to the country, men of all parties clung to it as a last sign of national existence, and the project of uniting England and Edition: current; Page: [346] Ireland under one legislature displeased even those who had assisted the government against the insurgents of 1798. They combined their discontent with that of the people, and assembled to remonstrate; but their opposition extended no further.

There is now but one parliament for the three united kingdoms, and it is from this assembly, the immense majority of which are English, that Ireland awaits the measures and laws that are to pacify her. After many years of vain solicitations, after many menaces of insurrection, one of her numerous wounds has been healed, by the emancipation of the catholics, who may now exercise public functions and sit in the united parliament; but many other grave questions remain to be settled. The exorbitant privileges of the Anglican church, the changes violently operated in property by wholesale confiscations and spoliations, and lastly, beyond all the quarrels of race, of sect and of party, the supreme question, that of the national independence and the Repeal of the Union between Ireland and England; such are the causes whence, sooner or later, may again arise the sad scenes of 1798. Meantime, the misery of the lower population, hereditary hatred, and a permanent hostility to the agents of authority, multiply crime and outrage, and convert a fertile country, whose people are naturally sociable and intellectual, into the most uninhabitable spot in Europe.

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Poitevin courtiers in England—Alliance between the Saxons and Normans—League of the barons against king John—Magna Charta—Expulsion of the foreigners—Louis of France called in by the Anglo-Norman barons—Retreat of the French—Return of the Poitevins—Second insurrection of the Anglo-Norman barons—Simon de Montfort—His popularity—Language of the Anglo-Norman aristocracy—State of the higher classes of England—Impressment of aitisans—Labourers—State of the land—Peasants or cottagers in England—Great fermentation among the peasants—Political writings circulated in the country districts—Insurrection of the peasants—The insurgents march upon London—Their first demand—Their conduct in London—Their interview with Richard II.—The insurgents quit London—Wat Tyler and John Ball—Murder of Wat Tyler—The king deceives the insurgents—Dispersion and terror of the insurgents—Alarm of the gentry throughout England—Proclamation of Richard II.—Termination of the peasants’ insurrection—Things remain in their former state—Individual enfranchisements—Separation of the parliament into two chambers—Position of the commons in the parliament—French the language of the court and the nobility—French literature in England—Revival of English poetry—Character of the new English language—The Norman idiom becomes extinct in England—Dissolution of the Norman society—Remnant of the distinction between the two races.

After the conquest of Anjou and Poitou by king Philip-Augustus, many men of these two countries, and even those who had conspired against the Anglo-Norman domination, conspired against the French, and allied themselves with king John. This monarch gave them no efficacious aid; all he could do for those who had exposed themselves to persecution on the part of the king of France, by intriguing or taking up arms against him, was to give them an asylum and a welcome in England. Thither repaired, from necessity or from choice, a great number of these emigrants, intellectual, adroit, insinuating men, like all the southern Gauls, and better fitted to please a king than the Normans, generally more slow-witted and of less pliant temperament.1 The Poitevins, accordingly, speedily attained infinite favour at the court of England, and even supplanted the old aristocracy in the good graces of Edition: current; Page: [348] king John. He distributed among them all the offices and fiefs at his disposal, and even, under various pretexts, deprived several rich Normans of their posts in favour of these new comers. He married them to the heiresses who were under his wardship, according to the feudal law, and made them guardians of rich orphans under age.1

The preference thus manifested by the king for foreigners, whose ever-increasing avidity drove him to greater exactions than all his predecessors had committed, and to usurp unprecedented powers over persons and property, indisposed all the Anglo-Normans towards him. The new courtiers, feeling the precariousness of their position, hastened to amass all they could, and made demand upon demand. In the exercise of their public functions, they were more eager for gain than had been any former functionaries; and, by their daily vexations, rendered themselves as odious to the Saxon citizens and serfs as they already were to the nobles of Norman origin. They levied on the domains the king had given them more aids and taxes than any lord had ever demanded, and exercised more rigorously the right of toll on the bridges and highroads, seizing the horses and goods of the merchants, and only paying them, says an old historian, in tallages and mockery.2 Thus they harassed, at once and almost equally, the two races of men who inhabited England, and who, since their violent approximation, had not as yet experienced any one suffering, or sympathy, or aversion, in common.

The hatred to the Poitevins and the other favourites of the king, brought together, for the first time, two classes of men, hitherto, as a general rule, standing apart from each other. Here we may date the birth of a new national spirit, common to all born on English soil. All, in fact, without distinction of origin, are termed natives, by the cotemporary authors, who, echoing the popular rumour, impute to king John the design of expelling, if not of exterminating the people of England, and giving their estates to foreigners.3 These exaggerated alarms were, perhaps, even more strongly felt Edition: current; Page: [349] by English burghers and farmers than by the lords and barons of Norman race, who yet were alone really interested in destroying the foreign influence, and in forcing king John to revert to his old friends and countrymen.

Thus, in the commencement of his reign, John was in a position closely resembling that of the Saxon king Edward, on his return from Normandy.1 He menaced the rich and noble of England, or, at least, gave them reason to think themselves menaced, with a sort of conquest, operated, without apparent violence, in favour of foreigners, whose presence wounded, at the same time, their national pride and their interests.2 Under these circumstances, the barons of England adopted against the courtiers from Poitou and Guienne, and against the king who preferred them to his old liegemen, the same course that the Anglo-Saxons had adopted against Edward and his Norman favourites—that of revolt and war. After having signified to John, as their ultimatum, a charter of Henry I., determining the limits of the royal prerogative, on his refusal to keep within the legal limits that his predecessors had recognised, the barons solemnly renounced their oath of fealty, and defied the king, the manner at this period of declaring mortal war. They elected for their chief, Robert Fitz-Walter, who took the title of Marshal of the army of God and of holy church, and acted, in this insurrection, the part played by the Saxon Godwin, in that of 1052.3

Fear of the gradual operation, in favour of Poitevin priests, of the ecclesiastical deprivations with which the Norman conquest had, at one blow, struck the entire clergy of English race, and at the same time, a sort of patriotic enthusiasm, added the Anglo-Norman bishops and priests to the party of the barons against king John, though this king was then in high favour with the pope. He had renewed to the holy see the public profession of vassalage made by Henry II. after the murder of Thomas Beket; but this act of humility, far from being as useful to the cause of John as it had been to that of his father, only served to bring down upon him public contempt, and the reproaches even of the clergy, who Edition: current; Page: [350] felt themselves endangered in their dearest interests, the stability of their offices and possessions. Abandoned by the Anglo-Normans, king John had not, like Henry I., the art of raising in his favour the English by origin, who, besides, no longer constituted a national body capable of aiding, en masse, either party. The burghers and serfs immediately depending on the barons, were far more numerous than those of the king; and, as to the inhabitants of the great towns, though they enjoyed privileges and franchises granted by the royal power, yet a natural sympathy drew them to that side which comprehended the majority of their countrymen. The city of London declared itself for those who unfurled their banners against the foreign favourites, and the king suddenly found himself left with no other supporters of his cause, than men born out of England, Poitevins, Gascons, and Flemings, commanded by Savari de Mauléon, Geoffroy de Bouteville, and Gautier de Buck.1

John, alarmed at seeing in his adversaries’ ranks all the zealous asserters of the independence of the country, whether as sons of the conquerors or as native English, subscribed the conditions required by the revolted barons. The conference took place in a large meadow called Runnymede, between Staines and Windsor, where both armies encamped; the demands of the insurgents having been discussed, were drawn up in a charter, which John confirmed by his seal. The special object of this charter was to deprive the king of that branch of his power by means of which he had fostered and enriched men of foreign birth at the expense of the Anglo-Normans. The population of English race was not forgotten in the treaty of peace which its allies of the other race formed with the king. Repeatedly, during the civil war, the old popular demand for the good laws of king Edward had figured in the manifestoes, which claimed, in the name of the English barons, the maintenance of the feudal liberties;2 but it was not, as under Henry I., the Saxon laws which the charter of the Norman Edition: current; Page: [351] king guaranteed to the descendants of the Saxons. It would seem, on the contrary, that they who drew up this memorable act, desired formally to abolish the distinction between the two races, and to have in England merely various classes of one people, all, to the very lowest, entitled to justice and protection from the common law of the land.

The charter of king John, since called Magna Charta,1 secured the rights of liberty and property of the classes of

1 Magna Charta.

John, by the grace of God, King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and Earl of Anjou, to the Archbishops, Bishops, Abbots, Earls, Barons, Justiciaries of the Forests, Sheriffs, Governors, and Officers, and to all Bailiffs, and others his faithful subjects, greeting. Know ye, that we, in the presence of God, and for the health of our soul, and the souls of all our ancestors and heirs, and to the honour of God and the exaltation of his Holy Church, and amendment of our Kingdom, by advice of our venerable Fathers, Stephen, Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of all England and Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, Henry, Archbishop of Dublin, William, Bishop of London, Peter of Winchester, Jocelin of Bath and Glastonbury, Hugh of Lincoln, Walter of Worcester, William of Coventry, Benedict of Rochester, Bishops, and Master Pandulph, the Pope’s Sub-Deacon and ancient Servant, Brother Aymeric, Master of the Temple in England, and the Noble Persons, William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke, William, Earl of Salisbury, William, Earl of Warren, William, Earl of Arundel, Alan de Galoway, Constable of Scotland, Warin Fitz Gerald, Peter Fitz Herbert, and Hubert de Burgh, Seneschal of Poitou, Hugh de Neville, Matthew Fitz Herbert, Thomas Basset, Alan Basset, Philip Albiney, Robert de Roppell, John Marshall, John Fitz Hugh, and others our liege men, have, in the first place, granted to God, and by this our present charter confirmed, for us and our heirs for ever:

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Norman origin, and at the same time established the right of the classes of Saxon origin to enjoy the ancient customs so favourable to them. It guaranteed their municipal Edition: current; Page: [353] franchises to the city of London and to all the towns of the kingdom; it modified the royal and seigneural statute-labour on the repair of castles, roads, and bridges; it gave special Edition: current; Page: [354] protection to merchants and traders, and, in suits against peasants, it prohibited the seizure of their crops or agricultural implements.

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The principal article, if not as to ultimate results, at least in reference to the interests of the moment, was that by which the king promised to send out of the kingdom all the foreigners Edition: current; Page: [356] whom he had invited or received, and all his foreign troops. This article seems to have been received with great joy by all the people of England, without distinction of origin; perhaps, Edition: current; Page: [357] indeed, the English by race attached higher importance to it than to all the rest. That hatred of foreign domination which for a century and a half past had vainly fermented in Edition: current; Page: [358] men’s souls, impotent against the order of things established by the Norman conquest, was let loose against the new comers whom king John had enriched and laden with honours. From the moment in which their expulsion was legally pronounced, every Saxon lent his aid to execute the decree; the more noted foreigners were besieged in their houses, and upon their retreat their domains were pillaged.1 The peasants stopped on the roads all whom public report, right or wrong, indicated as foreigners. They called upon them to pronounce some English words, or, at all events, a sentence of the mixed language employed by the nobles in conversing with the inferior population; and when the suspected person was convicted of inability to speak either Saxon or Anglo-Norman, or to pronounce these languages with the accent of southern Gaul, he was maltreated, despoiled, and imprisoned without scruple, whether knight, priest, or Edition: current; Page: [359] monk. “It was a sad thing,” says a contemporary author, “for the friends of the foreigners to see their confusion, and the ignominy with which they were overwhelmed.”1

After having, against his will, and in bad faith, signed the charter, king John retired to the Isle of Wight, to await in security the occasion to resume the war. He solicited of the pope and obtained a dispensation from the oath he had sworn to the barons, and the excommunication of those who remained in arms to enforce his observance of his word. But no bishop in England consenting to promulgate this sentence, it remained without effect. The king, with what money he had left, hired a fresh body of Brabançons, who found means to land on the southern coast, and who, by their skill and military discipline, gained at first some advantages over the irregular army of the confederate barons and burghers. Thereupon, Edition: current; Page: [360] the former, fearing to lose all the fruit of their victory, resolved, like the king, to obtain foreign aid: they addressed themselves to Philip-Augustus, and offered to give his son Louis the crown of England, if he would come to them at the head of a good army. The treaty was concluded; and young Louis arrived in England with forces enough to counterbalance those of king John.

The entire conformity of language which then existed between the French and the Anglo-Norman barons necessarily modified, with the latter, the distrust and dislike ever inspired by a foreign chief; but it was different with the mass of the people, who, in reference to language, had no more affinity with the French than with the Poitevins. This dissonance, combined with the spirit of jealousy which speedily manifested itself between the Normans and their auxiliaries, rendered the support of the king of France more prejudicial than useful to the barons. Germs of dissolution were beginning to develop themselves in this party, when king John died, laden with the hatred and contempt of the entire population of England, without distinction of race or condition, actuated by which, the historians of the period, ecclesiastics though they be, give king John no credit for his constant submission to the holy see: in the history of his life they spare him no injurious epithet; and, after relating his death, they compose or transcribe epitaphs, such as these: “Who weeps, or has wept, the death of king John? hell, with all its foulness, is sullied by the soul of John.”1

Louis, son of Philip-Augustus, assumed, by the consent of the barons, the title of king of England; but the French who accompanied him soon conducted themselves as in a conquered country. The greater the resistance of the English to their vexations, the more harsh and grasping did they become. The accusation, so fatal to king John, was made against Louis of France: it was said that, in concert with his father, he had formed the project of exterminating or banishing all the rich and noble of England, and of replacing them by foreigners. Aroused by national interests, all parties united in favour of prince Henry, son of John, and the French, left alone, or nearly so, accepted a capitulation which gave them their lives, on condition of their immediate departure.

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The kingdom of England having thus reverted to an Anglo-Norman, the charter of John was confirmed, and another, called the Forest Charter,1 giving the right of the chace to

Charta forestæ.
Made at Westminster, 10th Feb., Anno 9 Hen. III. ad 1225, and confirmed Anno 28 Edw. I. ad 1299.

Edward, by the grace of God, King of England, Lord of Ireland, and Duke of Guyan, to all to whom these presents shall come, sendeth greeting. We have seen the Charter of the Lord Henry our father, sometime King of England, concerning the Forest, in these words:

Henry, by the grace of God, King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and of Guyan, &c. as in the beginning of the Great Charter. Edition: current; Page: [362] the possessors of estates, was granted by Henry III. to the men of Norman race. But ere many years had elapsed, the new king, son of a Poitevin woman, who had again married in her own country, sent for and welcomed his uterine brothers, and many other men, who came, as in the time of king John, to seek their fortune in England. Family affection, and the easy, agreeable humour of the new Poitevin emigrants, had the same influence upon Henry III. as upon his predecessor; the great offices of the court, and the civil, military and ecclesiastical dignities, were once more heaped upon men born abroad. After the Poitevins flocked in the Provençals, Edition: current; Page: [363] because king Henry had married a daughter of the count of Provence; and after them, came Savoyards, Piedmontese, and Italians, distant relations or protégés of the queen, all attracted by the hope of wealth and advancement. Most of them attained their object, and the alarm of a new invasion of foreigners spread as rapidly and excited as much indignation as in the preceding reign. In the public complaints on the subject, the terms formerly employed by the Saxon writers, after the conquest, were repeated; it was said that, to obtain favour and fortune in England, it was only necessary not to be English.1

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A Poitevin, named Pierre Desroches, the favourite minister and confident of the king, when he was called upon to observe the charter of king John and the laws of England, was wont to reply: “I am no Englishman, to know aught of these charters or these laws.”1 The confederation of the barons and burghers was renewed in an assembly held in London, at which the principal citizens swore to will all that the barons should will, and to adhere firmly to their laws. Shortly afterwards, most of the bishops, earls, barons, and knights of England, having held a council at Oxford, leagued together for the execution of the charters and the expulsion of the foreigners, by a solemn treaty, drawn up in French, and containing the following passage: “We make known to all, that we have sworn upon the holy gospel, and are bound together by this oath, and promise in good faith that each and all of us will aid one another against all men; and if any go counter to this, we shall hold him our mortal foe.”2

Singularly enough, the army assembled on this occasion to destroy the foreign influence, was commanded by a foreigner, Simon de Montfort, a Frenchman by birth, and brother-in-law of the king.3 His father had acquired great military reputation and immense wealth in the crusades against the Albigenses, and he himself was not deficient either in talent or in political skill. As is almost ever the case with men who throw themselves into a party from which their interest and position would seem naturally to exclude them, he displayed more activity and determination in the struggle against Henry III. than the Norman Robert Fitz-Walter had shown in the first civil war. A stranger to the Anglo-Norman aristocracy, he seems to have had much less repugnance than they to fraternize with men of English descent; and it was he who, for the first time since the conquest, summoned the commons to deliberate on public affairs, with the bishops, barons, and knights of England.

War thus commenced once more between the men born on English soil, and the foreigners who held offices and lordships there. The Poitevins and the Provençals were those whose Edition: current; Page: [365] expulsion was most ardently pursued. It was more peculiarly against the near relations of the king and queen, such as Guillaume de Valence and Pierre de Savoie, that the hatred of all classes of the population was directed;1 for the native English embraced with renewed ardour the cause of the barons, and a singular monument of this alliance subsists in a popular ballad on the taking of Richard, the king’s brother, and emperor elect of Germany. This ballad is the first historical document that exhibits the mixture of the Saxon and French languages, though the mixture, as yet, is but a sort of patchwork, and not a regular fusion, like that which later gave birth to modern English.2

After several victories gained over the king’s party, Simon de Montfort was killed in a battle, and the ancient patriotic superstition of the people was awakened in his favour. As an enemy to the foreigner, and, in the words of a contemporary, defender of the rights of legitimate property, he was honoured with the same title that popular gratitude had assigned to those who, in the time of the Norman invasion, sacrificed themselves in the defence of the country. Like them, Simon received the title of defender of the native people; it was denounced as false and wicked to call him traitor and rebel;3 and, in common with Thomas Beket, he was proclaimed saint and martyr.4 The leader of the army of the barons against Henry III. was the last man in whose favour was manifested this disposition to confound together the two enthusiasms of religion and of politics; a disposition peculiar to the English race, and which was not shared by the Anglo-Normans; for although Simon de Montfort had done far more for them than for the citizens and serfs of England, they did not sanction the beatification accorded him by the Edition: current; Page: [366] latter, and left the poor country people to visit alone the tomb of the new martyr, and seek miracles there.1 Such miracles were not wanting, as we learn from various legends; but as the aristocracy gave no encouragement to the popular superstition, the miracles were soon lost sight of.2

Notwithstanding the esteem which Simon de Montfort had manifested towards the men of Saxon origin, an enormous distance still separated them from the sons of the Normans. The chief chaplain of the army of the barons, Robert Grosse-Tête, bishop of Lincoln, one of the most ardent promoters of the war against the king, reckoned but two languages in England, Latin for the learned, and French for the unlearned; it was in the latter tongue that, in his old age, he wrote books of piety for the use of the laity, neglecting altogether the English language and those who spoke it.3 The poets of the same period, even the English by birth, composed their verses in French when they sought honour and profit from them. It was only the singers of ballads and romances for the burghers and peasants, who used the pure English, or the mixed Anglo-French language, that was the ordinary means of communication between the higher and lower classes. This intermediate idiom, the gradual formation of which was a necessary result of the conquest, was at first current in the towns where the two races were more mingled together, and where the inequality of conditions was less than in the country. Here it insensibly replaced the Saxon tongue, which, now only spoken by the poorest and rudest classes of the nation, fell as much beneath the new Anglo-Norman idiom as this was beneath the French, the language of the court, of the baronage, and of all who had any pretensions to refinement of manners.4

The rich citizens of the great towns, and more especially those of London, sought, from interest or vanity, by Frenchisizing their language more or less skilfully, to imitate the Edition: current; Page: [367] nobles and approach nearer to them; they thus early acquired the habit of saluting each other by the title of sire, and even of styling themselves barons.

The citizens of Dover, Romney, Sandwich, Hythe, and Hastings, towns of extensive commerce, which were then, as they still are, called the cinque ports, or the five ports of England par excellence, assumed, in imitation of the Londoners, the title of Norman nobility, using it corporately in their municipal acts, and individually in their private relations. But the genuine Norman barons considered this pretension outrecuidente. “It is enough to make one sick,” they said, “to hear a villein call himself a baron.”1 When the sons of the citizens arranged a tournament of their own, in some field of the suburbs, the seigneurs would send their valets and grooms to disperse them, with the intimation that skilled feats of arms did not appertain to rustics, and mealmen, and soap-sellers, such as they.2

Despite this indignation of the sons of the conquerors at the resistless movement which tended to approximate to them the richest portion of the conquered population, this movement was sensibly manifested during the fourteenth century, in the towns upon which royal charters had conferred the right of substituting magistrates of their own election for the seigneural viscounts and bailiffs. In these corporate towns, the burghers, strong in their municipal organization, commanded far more respect than the inhabitants of the petty towns and hamlets, which remained immediately subject to royal authority; but a long time elapsed ere that authority paid to the citizens individually the same consideration and respect as to the body of which they were members. The magistrates of the city of London, under the reign of Edward III., admitted to the royal feasts, already participated in that respect for established authority which distinguished the Anglo-Norman race; but the same king who entertained, at the third table from his own, the lord mayor and aldermen, treated almost as a serf of the conquest every London citizen, who, neither knight nor squire, exercised any trade or mechanical art. If, for example, he desired to embellish his Edition: current; Page: [368] palace, or to signalize himself by decorating a church, instead of engaging the best painters of the city to come and work for a given sum, he issued to his master-architect an order in the following terms: “Know, that we have charged our friend, William of Walsingham, to take from our city of London as many painters as he shall need, to set them to work in our pay, and to keep them as long as they are needed; if any be refractory, let him be arrested and kept in one of our prisons, there to abide until further orders.”1 Again, if the king conceived a fancy for music and singing after his dinner, he, in like manner, sent forth officers of his palace to bring before him the best players and singers they could find, in London or the suburbs, without any reference whatever to their own inclinations.2 And thus, too, on the eve of departure for the French wars, we find king Edward requiring from his chief engineer twelve hundred stoneballs for his war-machines, and authorising him to take stonemasons and other artisans, wherever he could find them, to labour in the quarries, under penalty of imprisonment.3

Such was still, at the end of the fourteenth century, the condition of those whom several historians of the time call the villains of London: and as to the country villains, whom the Normans, Frenchisizing the old Saxon names, called bondes, cotiers, or cotagers, their personal sufferings were far greater than those of the burghers, and without any compensation; for they had no magistrates of their own choice, and among themselves there was no one to whom they gave the title of sire or lord.4 Unlike the inhabitants of the towns, their servitude was aggravated by the regularisation of their relations with the seigneurs of the manors to which they belonged; the ancient right of conquest was subdivided into a host of rights, less violent in appearance, but which involved the class of men subject to them in numberless shackles. Travellers of the fourteenth century express their astonishment at the multitude of serfs they saw in England, and at the extreme hardness of their condition in that country,5 compared Edition: current; Page: [369] with what it was on the continent, and even in France. The word bondage conveyed, at this period, the last degree of social misery; yet this word, to which the conquest had communicated such a meaning, was merely a simple derivative from the Anglo-Danish bond, which, before the invasion of the Normans, signified a free cultivator and father of a family living in the country; and it is in this sense that it was joined with the Saxon word hus, to indicate a head of a house, husbond, or husband, in modern English orthography.1

Towards the year 1381, all those in England who were called bonds, that is to say, all the cultivators, were serfs of body and goods, obliged to pay heavy aids for the small portion of land which supported their family, and unable to quit this portion of land without the consent of the lords, whose tillage, gardening, and cartage of every kind, they were compelled to perform gratuitously. The lord might sell them with their house, their oxen, their tools, their children, and their posterity, as is thus expressed in the deeds: “Know that I have sold such a one, my naif (nativum meum), and all his progeny, born or to be born.”2 Resentment of the misery caused by the oppression of the noble families, combined with an almost entire oblivion of the events which had elevated these families, whose members no longer distinguished themselves by the name of Normans, but by the term gentlemen, had led the peasants of England to contemplate the idea of the injustice of servitude in itself, independently of its historical origin.

In the southern counties, whose population was more numerous, and especially in Kent, the inhabitants of which had preserved a vague tradition of a treaty concluded between themselves and William the Conqueror for the maintenance of their ancient rights and liberties,3 great symptoms of popular agitation appeared in the commencement of the reign of Richard II. It was a time of excessive expense with the court and all the gentlemen, on account of the wars in France, which all attended at their own cost, and wherein each vied with the other in the magnificence of his train and his armour. The proprietors of the lordships and manors overwhelmed Edition: current; Page: [370] their farmers and serfs with taxes and exactions, alleging, for every fresh demand, the necessity of going to fight the French on their own ground, in order to prevent their making a descent upon England. But the peasants said: “We are taxed to aid the knights and squires of the country to defend their heritages; we are their slaves, the sheep from whom they shear the wool; all things considered, if England were conquered, we should lose much less than they.”1

These and similar thoughts, murmuringly exchanged on the road, when the serfs of the same or of neighbouring domains met each other on their return from labour, became, after awhile, the theme of earnest speeches, pronounced in a sort of clubs, where they collected in the evening.2 Some of the orators were priests, and they derived from the Bible their arguments against the social order of the period. “Good people,” they said, “things may not go on in England, and shall not, until there be no more villains or gentlemen among us, but we be all equal, and the lords no more masters than we. Where is their greater worth, that they should hold us in serfage? We all come from the same father and mother, Adam and Eve. They are clothed in fine velvet and satin, lined with ermine and minever; they have meat, and spices, and good wines; we, the refuse of the straw, and for drink, water. They have ease and fine mansions, we pain and hard labour, the rain and the wind, in the open fields.” Hereupon the whole assembly would exclaim tumultuously: “There shall be no more serfs; we will no longer be treated as beasts; if we work for the lords, it shall be for pay.”3 These meetings, held in many parts of Kent and Essex, were secretly organized, and sent deputies into the neighbouring counties to seek the counsel and aid of men of the same class and opinion.4 A great association was thus formed for the purpose of forcing the gentlemen to renounce their privileges. A remarkable feature of the confederation is, that written pamphlets, in the form of letters, were circulated throughout the villages, recommending to the associates, in mysterious and proverbial terms, perseverance and discretion. These productions, Edition: current; Page: [371] several of which have been preserved by a contemporary author, are written in a purer English, that is to say, less mixed up with French, than are other pieces of the same period, destined for the amusement of the rich citizens. Except as facts, however, these pamphlets of the fourteenth century have nothing curious about them; the most significant of them is a letter addressed to the country people by a priest, named John Ball, which contains the following passages: “John Ball greeteth you all well, and doth give you to understand he hath rung your bell. Now right and might, will and skill; God speed every idle one; stand manfully together in truth and helping. If the end be well, then is all well.”1 Notwithstanding the distance which then separated the condition of the peasants from that of the citizens, and more especially from that of the London citizens, the latter, it would appear, entered into close communication with the serfs of Essex, and even promised to open the gates of the city to them, and to admit them without opposition, if they would come in a body to make their demands to king Richard.2 This king had just entered his sixteenth year, and the peasants, full of simple good faith, and a conviction in the justice of their cause, imagined that he would enfranchise them all in a legal manner, without their needing to resort to violence. It was the constant theme of their conversations: “Let us go to the king, who is young, and show him our servitude; let us go together, and when he shall see us, he will grant us his grace of his own accord; if not, we will use other means.”3 The association formed round London was rapidly extending, when an unforeseen incident, in compelling the associates to act before they had attained sufficient strength and organization, destroyed their hopes, and left to the progress of European civilization the gradual abolition of servitude in England.

In the year 1381, the necessities of the government, arising from the prosecution of the war and the luxury of the court, occasioned the levy of a poll-tax of twelvepence for every person, of whatever station, who had passed the age of fifteen. The collection of this tax not having produced as much as had been expected, commissioners were sent to Edition: current; Page: [372] inquire into the subject. In their examination of the noble and rich, they were courteous and considerate, but towards the lower classes they were excessively rigorous and insolent. In several villages of Essex, they went so far as an attempt to ascertain the age of young girls in an indecent manner. The indignation caused by these outrages created an insurrection, headed by a tiler, named Walter, or familiarly Wat, and surnamed, from his trade, Tyler. This movement created others, in Sussex, Bedfordshire, and Kent, of which the priest, John Ball, and one Jack Straw were appointed leaders.1 The three chiefs and their band, augmented on its march by all the labourers and serfs it met, proceeded towards London “to see the king,” said the simpler among the insurgents, who expected everything from the mere interview. They marched, armed with iron-tipped staves, and rusty swords and axes, in disorder, but not furious, singing political songs, two verses of which have been preserved:

  • When Adam delved and Eve span,
  • Who was then the gentleman?

They plundered no one on their way, but, on the contrary, paid scrupulously for all they needed.2 The Kentish men went first to Canterbury to seize the archbishop, who was also chancellor of England; not finding him there, they continued their march, destroying the houses of the courtiers and those of the lawyers who had conducted suits brought against serfs by the nobles. They also carried off several persons whom they kept as hostages; among others a knight and his two sons; they halted on Blackheath, where they entrenched themselves in a kind of camp. They then proposed to the knight whom they had brought with them, to go as messenger from them to the king, who on the news of the insurrection had withdrawn to the Tower of London. The knight dared not refuse; taking a boat, he proceeded to the Tower, and kneeling before the king: “Most dread lord,” he said, “deign to receive without displeasure the message I am fain to bring; for, dear lord, it is by force I come.” “Deliver your message,” answered the king; “I will hold you excused.” “Sire, the commons of your kingdom intreat Edition: current; Page: [373] you to come and speak with them; they will see no one but yourself; have no fear for your safety, for they will do you no evil, and will always hold you their king; they will show you, they say, many things it is necessary for you to know, and which they have not charged me to tell you; but, dear lord, deign to give me an answer, that they may know I have been with you, for they hold my children as hostages.” The king having consulted with his advisers, said “that if on the following morning the peasants would come as far as Rotherhithe, he would meet them, and speak with them.” This answer greatly delighted them. They passed the night in the open air as well as they could, for they were nearly sixty thousand in number, and most of them fasted, for want of food.1

Next day, the 12th of June, the king heard mass in the Tower; and then, despite the entreaties of the archbishop of Canterbury, who urged him not to compromise himself with shoeless vagabonds,2 he proceeded in a barge, accompanied by some knights, to the opposite shore, where about ten thousand men from the camp at Blackheath had collected. When they saw the barge approach, “they,” says Froissart, “set up shouts and cries as if all the devils from hell had come in their company,” which so terrified the king’s escort that they intreated him not to land, and kept the barge at a distance from the bank. “What would you have?” said the king to the insurgents: “I am here to speak with you.” “Land, and we will show you more readily what we would have.” The earl of Salisbury, answering for the king, said: “Sirs, you are not in fit order for the king to come to you;” and the barge returned to the Tower. The insurgents went back to Blackheath, to tell their fellows what had occurred, and there was now but one cry among them: “To London, to London, let us march upon London.”3

They marched accordingly to London, destroying several manor-houses on their way, but without plundering them of anything: arrived at London-bridge, they found the gates closed; they demanded admission, and urged the keepers not to drive them to use violence. The mayor, William Walworth, Edition: current; Page: [374] a man of English origin, as his name indicates, wishing to ingratiate himself with the king and the gentry, was at first resolved to keep the gates shut, and to post armed men on the bridge to stop the peasants; but the citizens, especially those of the middle and lower classes, so decidedly opposed this project, that he was fain to renounce it. “Why,” said they, “why are we not to admit these good folk? they are our people, and whatever they do is for us.”1 The gate was opened, and the insurgents, over-running the city, distributed themselves among the houses in search of food, which every one readily gave them, from good will or from fear.

Those who were first satisfied, hastened to the palace of the duke of Lancaster, called the Savoy, and set fire to it, out of hatred to this lord, the king’s uncle, who had recently taken an active part in the administration of public affairs. They burned all his valuable furniture, without appropriating a single article; and threw into the flames one of their party whom they detected carrying something away.2 Actuated by the same sentiment of political vengeance, unmixed with other passion, they put to death, with a fantastic mockery of judicial forms, several of the king’s officers. They did no harm to men of the citizen and trading class, whatever their opinions, except to the Lombards and Flemings, who conducted the banks in London, under the protection of the court, and several of whom, as farmers of the taxes, had rendered themselves accomplices in the oppression of the poor. In the evening, they assembled in great numbers in Saint Catherine’s-square, near the Tower, saying they would not leave the place until the king had granted them what they required; they passed the night here, from time to time sending forth loud shouts, which terrified the king and the lords in the Tower. The latter held counsel with the mayor of London as to the best course to be pursued in so pressing a danger: the mayor, who had deeply compromised himself with the insurgents, was for violent measures. He said nothing could be easier than to defeat, by a direct attack with regular forces, Edition: current; Page: [375] a set of people, running in disorder about the streets, and scarce one in ten of whom was well armed. His advice was not followed, the king preferring the counsel of those who said: “If you can appease these people by good words, it were best and most profitable; for if we begin a thing we cannot achieve, we shall never regain our ground.”1

In the morning, the insurgents who had passed the night in St. Catherine’s-square, set themselves in motion, and declared that unless the king came to them forthwith, they would take the Tower by assault, and put to death all that were within it. The king sent word that if they would remove to Mile-end, he would meet them there without fail, and shortly after their departure he accordingly followed them, accompanied by his two brothers, by the earls of Salisbury, Warwick, and Oxford, and by several other barons. As soon as they had quitted the Tower, those insurgents who had remained in the city entered it by force, and running from chamber to chamber, seized the archbishop of Canterbury, the king’s treasurer, and two other persons, whom they decapitated, and then stuck their heads upon pikes. The main body of the insurgents, numbering fifty thousand men, was assembled at Mile-end when the king arrived. At sight of the armed peasants, his two brothers and several barons were alarmed, and left him, but he, young as he was, boldly advanced, and addressing the rioters in the English tongue, said: “Good people, I am your king and sire; what want you? what would you have from me?” Those who were within hearing of what he said, answered: “We would have you free us for ever, us, our children, and our goods, so that we be no longer called serfs or held in serfage.” “Be it so,” said the king; “return to your houses, by villages, as you came, and only leave behind you two or three men of each place. I will have forthwith written, and sealed with my seal, letters which they shall carry with them, and which shall freely secure unto you all you ask, and I forgive you all you have done hitherto; but you must return every one of you to your houses, as I have said.”2

The simple people heard this speech of the young king with great joy, not imagining for a moment that he could deceive Edition: current; Page: [376] them; they promised to depart separately, and did so, quitting London by different roads. During the whole day, more than thirty clerks of the royal chancery were occupied in writing and sealing letters of enfranchisement and pardon, which they gave to the deputies of the insurgents, who departed immediately upon receiving them. These letters were in Latin, and ran thus:

“Know that, of our special grace, we have enfranchised all our lieges and subjects of the county of Kent, and of the other counties of the kingdom, and discharged and acquitted all and several of them from all bondage and serfage.

“And that, moreover, we have pardoned these said lieges and subjects their offences against us, in marching to and fro in various places, with armed men, archers, and others, as an armed force, with banners and pennons displayed.”1

The chiefs, and especially Wat Tyler and John Ball, more clear-sighted than the rest, had not the same confidence in the king’s words and charter. They did all they could to stay the departure and dispersion of the men who had followed them, and succeeded in collecting several thousand men, with whom they remained in London, declaring that they would not quit it until they had obtained more explicit concessions, and securities for such concessions.

Their firmness produced its effect upon the lords of the court, who, not venturing as yet to employ force, advised the king to have an interview with the chiefs of the revolt in Smithfield. The peasants, having received this notification, repaired thither to await the king, who came, escorted by the mayor and aldermen of London, and by several courtiers and knights. He drew up his horse at a certain distance from the insurgents, and sent an officer to say that he was present, and that the leader who was to speak for them might advance. “That leader am I,” answered Wat Tyler, and heedless of the danger to which he exposed himself, he ordered his men not to move hand or foot until he should give them a signal, and then rode boldly up to the king, approaching him so near that his horse’s head touched the flank of Richard’s steed. Without any obsequious forms, he proceeded explicitly to demand certain rights, the natural result Edition: current; Page: [377] of the enfranchisement of the people, namely, the right of buying and selling freely in towns and out of towns, and that right of hunting in all forests, parks, and commons, and of fishing in all waters, which the men of English race had lost at the conquest.1

The king hesitated to reply; and, meantime, Wat Tyler, whether from impatience, or to show by his gestures that he was not intimidated, played with a short sword he had in his hand, and tossed it to and fro.2 The mayor of London, William Walworth, who rode beside the king, thinking that Wat Tyler menaced Richard, or simply carried away by passion, struck the insurgent a blow on the head with his mace, and knocked him from his horse. The king’s suite surrounded him, to conceal for a moment what was passing; and a squire of Norman birth, named Philpot,3 dismounting, thrust his sword into Tyler’s heart and killed him. The insurgents, perceiving that their chief was no longer on horseback, set themselves in motion, exclaiming: “They have slain our captain! let us kill them all!” And those who had bows, bent them to shoot upon the king and his train.4

King Richard displayed extraordinary courage. He quitted his attendants, saying, “Remain, and let none follow me;” and then advanced alone towards the peasants, forming in battle array, whom he thus addressed: “My lieges, what are you doing? what want you? you have no other captain than I. Tyler was a traitor; I am your king, and will be your captain and guide; remain at peace, follow me into the fields, and I will give you what you ask.”5

Astonishment at this proceeding, and the impression ever produced on the masses by him who possesses the sovereign power, induced the main body of the insurgents to follow the king, as it were, by a mechanical instinct. While Richard withdrew, talking with them, the mayor hastened into the city, rung the alarm-bell, and had it cried through the streets: “They are killing the king! they are killing the king!” Edition: current; Page: [378] As the insurgents had quitted the city, the English and foreign gentlemen, and the rich citizens, who sided with the nobles, and who had remained in arms in their houses with their people, fearful of pillage, all came forth, and, several thousand in number, the majority being on horseback and completely armed, hastened towards the open fields about Islington, whither the insurgents were marching in disorder, expecting no attack. As soon as the king saw them approach, he galloped up to them, and joining their ranks, ordered an attack upon the peasants, who, taken by surprise and seized with a panic terror, fled in every direction, most of them throwing down their arms. Great carnage was made of them, and many of the fugitives, re-entering London, concealed themselves in the houses of their friends.1

The armed men who, at so little risk, had routed them, returned in triumph, and the young king went to receive the felicitations of his mother, who said to him: “Hola, fair son, I have this day undergone much pain and fear for you!” “Certes, madam, I can well believe it,” answered the king; “but you may now rejoice, and thank God, whom we may justly praise, seeing that I have this day recovered my kingdom of England and my inheritance which I had lost.” Knights were made on this occasion, as in the great battles of the period, and the first whom Richard II. honoured with this distinction were the mayor Walworth and the squire Philpot, who had assassinated Wat Tyler. The same day, a proclamation was made, from street to street, in the king’s name, ordering all who were not natives of London, or who had not lived there a complete year, to depart without delay; and setting forth that if any stranger was found therein the next morning, he should lose his head as a traitor to the king and kingdom.2 The insurgents who had not yet quitted the city, hereupon dispersed in every direction. John Ball and Jack Straw, knowing they should be seized if they showed themselves, remained in concealment, but they were soon discovered and taken before the royal officers, who had them beheaded and quartered. This intelligence spread around London, stayed in its march a second body of revolted serfs, who, advancing from the remoter counties, had been longer Edition: current; Page: [379] on their road; intimidated with the fate of their brethren, they turned back and dispersed.1

Meantime, all the counties of England were in agitation. Around Norwich, the great landholders, gentlemen, and knights hid themselves; several earls and barons, assembled at Plymouth for an expedition to Portugal, fearing an attack from the peasants of the neighbourhood, went on board their ships, and although the weather was stormy, anchored out at sea. In the northern counties, ten thousand men rose, and the duke of Lancaster, who was then conducting a war on the borders of Scotland, hastened to conclude a truce with the Scots, and sought refuge in their country. But the turn of affairs in London soon revived the courage of the gentry in all parts; they took the field against the peasants, who were ill armed and without any place of retreat, while the assailants had their castles, wherein, the drawbridge once raised, they were secure. The royal chancery wrote, in great haste, to the castellans of cities, towns and boroughs, to guard well their fortresses, and let no one enter, under pain of death. At the same time it was everywhere announced that the king would enfranchise under his royal seal all serfs who remained quiet, which greatly diminished the excitement and energy of the people, and gave them less interest in their chiefs. The latter were arrested in various places, without much effort being made to save them: all were artisans for the most part, with no other surname than the appellation of their trade, as Thomas Baker, Jack Miller, Jack Carter, and so on.2

The insurrection being completely at an end from the defeat of the insurgents, the imprisonment of the chiefs, and the relaxation of the moral bond which had united them, proclamation was made by sound of trumpet, in the towns and villages, in virtue of a letter addressed by the king to all his sheriffs, mayors and bailiffs of the kingdom, thus conceived:—

“Make proclamation, without delay, in every city, borough and market town, that all and every tenant, free or otherwise, do, without resistance, difficulty, or delay, the works, services, aids, and labour, to their lords due, according Edition: current; Page: [380] to ancient custom, and as they were wont to do before the late troubles in various counties of the kingdom;

“And rigorously prohibit them longer to delay the said services and works, or to demand, claim, or assert any liberty or privilege they did not enjoy before the said troubles.

“And whereas, at the instance and importunity of the insurgents, certain letters patent under our seal were granted to them, giving enfranchisement from all bondage and serfage to our lieges and subjects, as also, the pardon of the offences committed against us by the said lieges and subjects;

“And whereas the said letters were issued from our court, without due deliberation, and considering that the concession of the said letters manifestly tended to our great prejudice and to that of our crown, and to the expropriation of us, the prelates, lords, and barons of our realms, and of holy church;

“With the advice of our council, we, by these presents, revoke, cancel and annul the said letters, ordering further, that those who have in their possession our said charters of enfranchisement and pardon, remit and restore them to us and our council, by the fealty and allegiance they owe us, and under penalty of forfeiture of all they can forfeit to us.”1

Immediately after this proclamation, a body of horse traversed, in every direction, the counties inhabited by the insurgents who had obtained charters. A judge of the king’s bench, Robert Tresilyan, accompanied the soldiers, and made a circuit with them of every village, publishing on his way, that all who had letters of enfranchisement and pardon must surrender them to him without delay, under penalty of military execution upon the entire body of the inhabitants. All the charters brought to him were torn and burned before the people; but, not content with these measures, he sought out the first promoters of the insurrection, and put them to death with terrible tortures, hanging some, four times over, at the corners of the town, and drawing others and throwing their entrails into the fire, while themselves yet breathed.2 After this, the archbishop, bishops, abbots, and barons of the kingdom, Edition: current; Page: [381] with two knights from each shire, and two burgesses from each borough town, were convoked in parliament, by letters from king Richard.1 The king set forth to this assembly, the grounds of his provisional revocation of the charters of enfranchisement, adding that it was for them to decide whether the peasants were to be freed or not.

“God forbid,” answered the barons and knights, “we should subscribe to such charters. ’Twere better for us all to perish in one day; for of what use our lives, if we lose our heritages.”

The act of parliament ratifying the measures already taken, was drawn up in French, having probably been discussed in that language.2 We do not know what share the deputies of the towns took in the debate, or even whether they were present at it; for although they were convoked, in the same form as the knights of the shire, they often assembled separately, or only remained in the common chamber during the discussion of the taxes to be imposed on merchandise and commerce. However, whatever may have been the part taken in the parliament of 1381, by the borough-members, the affection of the commoner class towards the cause of the insurgents is beyond a doubt. In many a place did they repeat the words of the Londoners: “These are our people, and whatever they do, is for us.” All who, not being noble or gentle, censured the insurrection, were ill regarded by public opinion, and this opinion was so decided, that a contemporary poet, Gower, who had enriched himself by composing French verses for the court, deemed it an act of courage to publish a satire, in which the insurgents were ridiculed.3 He declares that this cause has numerous and important partisans, whose hatred may be dangerous, but that he will rather expose himself to the danger than abstain from speaking the truth. It will thus seem probable, that, if the rebellion, begun by peasants and shoeless vagabonds, had not been so soon quelled, persons of a higher class might have assumed the conduct of it, and, with better means of success, might have effected its Edition: current; Page: [382] object. Then indeed, ere long, as a contemporary historian expresses it, toute noblesse et gentillesse might have disappeared from England.1

Instead of this, matters remained in the order established by the conquest, and the serfs, after their defeat, continued to be treated in the terms of the proclamation, which said to them, “Villains you were and are, and in bondage you shall remain.”2

Notwithstanding the failure of the open attempt they had made, at once to free themselves from servitude and to destroy the distinction of condition which had succeeded the distinction of race, the natural movement tending gradually to render this distinction less marked, still continued, and individual enfranchisements, which had commenced long before this period, became more frequent. The idea of the injustice of servitude in itself, and, whatever its origin, ancient or recent, the grand idea, that had formed the bond of the conspiracy of 1381, and to which the instinct of liberty had elevated the peasants before it reached the gentry, at length came upon the latter.

In the moments when reflection becomes calmer and more profound, when the voice of interest or avarice is hushed before that of reason, in moments of domestic sorrow, of sickness, and of the peril of death, the nobles repented of possessing serfs, as of a thing not agreeable to God, who had created all men in his own image. Numerous acts of enfranchisement, drawn up in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries,