Charlotte Mary Yonge.

Cameos from English History, from Rollo to Edward II online

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CAMEOS FROM ENGLISH HISTORY

FROM ROLLO TO EDWARD II.

By Charlotte Mary Yonge


1873




PREFACE.


The "Cameos" here put together are intended as a book for young people
just beyond the elementary histories of England, and able to enter in
some degree into the real spirit of events, and to be struck with
characters and scenes presented in some relief.

The endeavor has not been to chronicle facts, but to put together a
series of pictures of persons and events, so as to arrest the attention
and give some individuality and distinctness to the recollection, by
gathering together details at the most memorable moments. Begun many
years since, as the historical portion of a magazine, the earlier ones
of these Cameos have been collected and revised to serve for school-room
reading, and it is hoped that, if these are found useful, they may ere
long be followed up by a second volume, comprising the wars in France,
and those of the Roses.

_February 28th, 1868._




CONTENTS.

INTRODUCTION

CAMEO I. ROLF GANGER (900-932)

CAMEO II. WILLIAM LONGSWORD AND RICHARD THE FEARLESS (932-996)

CAMEO III. YOUTH OF THE CONQUEROR (1026-1066)

CAMEO IV. EARL GODWIN (1012-1052)

CAMEO V. THE TWO HAROLDS (1060-1066)

CAMEO VI. THE NORMAN INVASION (1066)

CAMEO VII. THE BATTLE OF HASTINGS (1066) CONTENTS.

CAMEO VIII. THE CAMP OF REFUGE (1067-1072)

CAMEO IX. THE LAST SAXON BISHOP (1008-1095)

CAMEO X. THE CONQUEROR (1066-1087)

CAMEO XI. THE CONQUEROR'S CHILDREN (1050-1087)

CAMEO XII. THE CROWN AND THE MITRE (1087-1107)

CAMEO XIII. THE FIRST CRUSADE (1095-1100)

CAMEO XIV. THE ETHELING FAMILY (1010-1159)

CAMEO XV. THE COUNTS OF ANJOU (888-1142)

CAMEO XVI. VISITORS OF HENRY I. (1120-1134)

CAMEO XVII. THE BATTLE OF THE STANDARD (1135-1138)

CAMEO XVIII. THE SNOWS OF OXFORD (1138-1154)

CAMEO XIX. YOUTH OF BECKET (1154-1162)

CAMEO XX. THE CONSTITUTIONS OF CLARENDON (1163-1172)

CAMEO XXI. DEATH OF BECKET (1166-1172)

CAMEO XXII. THE CONQUEST OF IRELAND (1172)

CAMEO XXIII. THE REBELLIOUS EAGLETS (1149-1183)

CAMEO XXIV. THE THIRD CRUSADE (1189-1193)

CAMEO XXV. ARTHUR OF BRITTANY (1187-1206)

CAMEO XXVI. THE INTERDICT (1207-1214)

CAMEO XXVII. MAGNA CHARTA (1214-1217)

CAMEO XXVIII. THE FIEF OP ROME (1217-1254)

CAMEO XXIX. THE LONGESPÉES IN THE EGYPTIAN CRUSADES (1219-1254)

CAMEO XXX. SIMON DE MONTFORT (1232-1266)

CAMEO XXXI. THE LAST OF THE CRUSADERS (1267-1291)

CAMEO XXXII. THE CYMRY (B.C. 66-A.D. 1269)

CAMEO XXXIII. THE ENGLISH JUSTINIAN (1272-1292)

CAMEO XXXIV. THE HAMMER OF THE SCOTS (1292-1305)

CAMEO XXXV. THE EVIL TOLL (1294-1305)

CAMEO XXXVI. ROBERT THE BRUCE (1305-1308)

CAMEO XXXVII. THE VICTIM OP BLACKLOW HILL (1307-1313)

CAMEO XXXVIII. BANNOCKBURN (1307-1313)

CAMEO XXXIX. THE KNIGHTS OF THE TEMPLE (1292-1316)

CAMEO XL. THE BARONS' WARS (1310-1327)

CAMEO XLI. GOOD KING ROBERT'S TESTAMENT (1314-1329)




CAMEOS

OF

THE HISTORY OF ENGLAND




INTRODUCTION.


Young people learn the history of England by reading small books which
connect some memorable event that they can understand, and remember,
with the name of each king - such as Tyrrell's arrow-shot with William
Rufus, or the wreck of the White Ship with Henry I. But when they begin
to grow a little beyond these stories, it becomes difficult to find a
history that will give details and enlarge their knowledge, without
being too lengthy. They can hardly be expected to remember or take an
interest in personages or events left, as it were, in the block. It was
the sense of this want that prompted the writing of the series that here
follows, in which the endeavor has been to take either individual
characters, or events bearing on our history, and work them out as fully
as materials permitted, so that each, taken by itself, might form an
individual Cameo, or gem in full relief, and thus become impressed upon
the mind.

The undertaking was first begun sixteen years ago, for a periodical for
young people. At that time, the view was to make the Cameos hang, as it
were, on the thread furnished by ordinary childish histories, so as to
leave out what might be considered as too well-known. However, as the
work made progress, this was found to be a mistake; the omissions
prevented the finished parts from fitting together, and the characters
were incomplete, without being shown in action. Thus, in preparing the
Cameos for separate publication, it has been found better to supply what
had previously been omitted, as well as to try to correct and alter the
other Cameos by the light of increasing information.

None of them lay claim to being put together from original documents;
they are only the attempt at collecting, from large and often not easily
accessible histories, the more interesting or important scenes and
facts, and at arranging them so that they may best impress the
imagination and memory of the young, so as to prepare them for fuller
and deeper reading.

Our commencement is with the Dukes of Normandy. The elder England has
been so fully written of, and in such an engaging manner for
youthful readers, in the late Sir Francis Palgrave's "History of the
Anglo-Saxons," that it would have been superfluous to expand the very
scanty Cameos of that portion of our history. The present volume, then,
includes the history of the Norman race of sovereigns, from Rollo to
Edward of Carnarvon, with whose fate we shall pause, hoping in a second
volume to go through the French wars and the wars of the Roses. Nor have
we excluded the mythical or semi-romantic tales of our early history. It
is as needful to a person of education to be acquainted with them, as
if they were certain facts, and we shall content ourselves with marking
what come to us on doubtful authority.




CAMEO I. ROLF GANGER. (900-932.)

_Kings of England_.
901. Edward the Elder.
924. Athelstan.

_Kings of France_.
898. Charles
the Simple.
923. Rudolf.

_Emperors of Germany_.
899. Ludwig IV.
912. Konrad.


If we try to look back at history nine hundred years, we shall see a
world very unlike that in which we are now moving. Midway from the birth
of our Lord to the present era, the great struggle between the new and
old had not subsided, and the great European world of civilized nations
had not yet settled into their homes and characters.

Christianity had been accepted by the Roman Emperor six hundred years
previously, but the Empire was by that time too weak and corrupt to be
renewed, even by the fresh spirit infused into it; and, from the 4th
century onward, it had been breaking up under the force of the fierce
currents of nations that rushed from the north-east of Europe. The Greek
half of the Empire prolonged its existence in the Levant, but the Latin,
or Western portion, became a wreck before the 5th century was far
advanced. However, each conquering tribe that poured into the southern
dominions had been already so far impressed with the wisdom and dignity
of Rome, and the holiness of her religion, that they paused in their
violence, and gradually allowed themselves to be taught by her doctrine,
tamed by her manners, and governed by her laws. The Patriarch of
Rome - _Papa_, or Father - was acknowledged by them, as by the subjects of
Rome of old; they accepted the clergy, who had already formed dioceses
and parishes, and though much of horrible savagery remained to be
subdued in the general mass, yet there was a gradual work of
amelioration in progress.

This was especially the case with the Franks, who had overspread the
northern half of Gaul. Their first race of kings had become Christians
simultaneously with their conquest; and though these soon dwindled away
between crime and luxury, there had grown up under them a brave and
ambitious family, whose earlier members were among the most
distinguished persons in history.

Charles Martel turned back the Saracens at Tours, and saved Europe from
Mahometanism, and his grandson, Charles the Great, rescued the Pope from
the Lombards, and received from him in return the crown of a new Empire
of the West - the Holy Roman Empire, which was supposed to be the great
temporal power. As the Pope, or Patriarch, was deemed the head of all
bishops, so the Emperor was to be deemed the head of all kings of the
West, from the Danube and Baltic to the Atlantic Ocean - the whole
country that had once been held by Rome, and then had been wrested from
her by the various German or Teutonic races. The island of Great Britain
was a sort of exception to the general rule. Like Gaul, it had once been
wholly Keltic, but it had not been as entirely subdued by the Romans,
and the overflow of Teutons came very early thither, and while they were
yet so thoroughly Pagan that the old Keltic Church failed to convert
them, and the mission of St. Augustine was necessary from Rome.

A little later, when Charles the Great formed his empire of Franks,
Germans, Saxons, and Gauls, Egbert gathered, in like manner, the various
petty kingdoms of the Angles and Saxons under the one dominant realm of
Wessex, and thus became a sort of island Emperor.

It seems, however, to be a rule, that nations and families recently
emerged from barbarism soon fade and decay under the influence of high
civilization; and just as the first race of Frankish kings had withered
away on the throne, so the line of Charles the Great, though not
inactive, became less powerful and judicious, grew feeble in the very
next generation, and were little able to hold together the multitude of
nations that had formed the empire.

Soon the kingdom of France split away from the Empire; and while a fresh
and more able Emperor became the head of the West, the descendants of
the great Charles still struggled on, at their royal cities of Laon and
Soissons, with the terrible difficulties brought upon them by restless
subjects, and by the last and most vigorous swarm of all the Teutonic
invaders.

The wild rugged hills and coasts of Scandinavia, with their keen
climate, long nights, and many gulfs and bays, had contributed to nurse
the Teuton race in a vigor and perfection scarcely found elsewhere - or
not at least since the more southern races had yielded to the enervating
influences of their settled life. Some of these had indeed been tamed,
but more had been degraded. The English were degenerating into
clownishness, the Franks into effeminacy; and though Christianity
continually raised up most brilliant lights - now on the throne, now
in the cathedral, now in the cloister - yet the mass of the people lay
sluggish, dull, inert, selfish, and half savage.

They were in this state when the Norseman and the Dane fitted out their
long ships, and burst upon their coasts. By a peculiar law, common once
to all the Teuton nations, though by that time altered in the southern
ones, the land of a family was not divided among its members, but all
possessed an equal right in it; and thus, as it was seldom adequate to
maintain them all, the more enterprising used their right in it only to
fell trees enough to build a ship, and to demand corn enough to victual
their crew, which was formed of other young men whose family inheritance
could not furnish more than a sword or spear.

Kings and princes - of whom there were many - were exactly in the same
position as their subjects, and they too were wont to seek their
fortunes upon the high seas. Fleets coalesced under the command of
some chieftain of birth or note, and the Vikings, or pirates, sailed
fearlessly forth, to plunder the tempting regions to the south of them.

Fierce worshippers were they of the old gods, Odin, Frey, Thor; of the
third above all others, and their lengthy nights had led to their
working up those myths that had always been common to the whole race
into a beauty, poetry, and force, probably not found elsewhere; and that
nerved them both to fight vehemently for an entrance to Valhalla, the
hall of heroes, and to revenge the defection of the Christians who had
fallen from Odin. They plundered, they burnt, they slew; they specially
devastated churches and monasteries, and no coast was safe from them
from the Adriatic to the furthest north - even Rome saw their long ships,
and, "From the fury of the Northmen, good Lord deliver us," was the
prayer in every Litany of the West.

England had been well-nigh undone by them, when the spirit of her
greatest king awoke, and by Alfred they were overcome: some were
permitted to settle down and were taught Christianity and civilization,
and the fresh invaders were driven from the coast. Alfred's gallant son
and grandson held the same course, guarded their coasts, and made
their faith and themselves respected throughout the North. But in
France, the much-harassed house of Charles the Great, and the
ill-compacted bond of different nations, were little able to oppose
their fierce assaults, and ravage and devastation reigned from one end
of the country to another.

However, the Vikings, on returning to their native homes, sometimes
found their place filled up, and the family inheritance incapable of
supporting so many. Thus they began to think of winning not merely gold
and cattle, but lands and houses, on the coasts that they had pillaged.
In Scotland, the Hebrides, and Ireland, they settled by leave of nothing
but their swords; in England, by treaty with Alfred; and in France, half
by conquest, half by treaty, always, however, accepting Christianity as
a needful obligation when they accepted southern lands. Probably they
thought that Thor was only the god of the North, and that the "White
Christ," as they called Him who was made known to them in these new
countries, was to be adored in what they deemed alone His territories.

Of all the sea-robbers who sailed from their rocky dwelling-places by
the fiords of Norway, none enjoyed higher renown than Rolf, called the
ganger, or walker, as tradition relates, because his stature was so
gigantic that, when clad in full armor, no horse could support his
weight, and he therefore always fought on foot.

Rolf's lot had, however, fallen in what he doubtless considered as evil
days. No such burnings and plunderings as had hitherto wasted England,
and enriched Norway, fell to his share; for Alfred had made the bravest
Northman feel that his fleet and army were more than a match for theirs.
Ireland was exhausted by the former depredations of the pirates,
and, from a fertile and flourishing country, had become a scene of
desolation; Scotland and its isles were too barren to afford prey to
the spoiler; and worse than all, the King of Norway, Harald Harfagre,
desirous of being included among the civilized sovereigns of Europe,
strictly forbade his subjects to exercise their old trade of piracy on
his own coasts, or on those of his allies. Rolf, perhaps, considered
himself above this new law. His father, Earl Rognwald, as the chief
friend of the King, had been chosen to cut and comb the hair which
Harald had kept for ten years untrimmed, in fulfilment of a vow, that
his locks should never be clipped until the whole of Norway was under
his dominion. He had also been invested with the government of the great
Earldom of Möre, where the sons of Harald, jealous of the favor with
which he was regarded by their father, burnt him and sixty of his men,
in his own house. The vengeance taken by his sons had been signal, and
the King had replaced Thorer the Silent, one of their number, in his
father's earldom.

Rolf, presuming on the favor shown to his family, while returning from
an expedition on the Baltic, made a descent on the coast of Viken, a
part of Norway, and carried off the cattle wanted by his crew. The King,
who happened at that time to be in that district, was highly displeased,
and, assembling a council, declared Rolf Ganger an outlaw. His mother,
Hilda, a dame of high lineage, in vain interceded for him, and closed
her entreaty with a warning in the wild extemporary poetry of the North:

"Bethink thee, monarch, it is ill
With such a wolf, at wolf to play,
Who, driven to the wild woods away,
May make the king's best deer his prey."

Harald listened not, and it was well; for through the marvellous
dealings of Providence, the outlawry of this "wolf" of Norway led to the
establishment of our royal line, and to that infusion of new spirit into
England to which her greatness appears to be chiefly owing.

The banished Rolf found a great number of companions, who, like himself,
were unwilling to submit to the strict rule of Harald Harfagre, and
setting sail with them, he first plundered and devastated the coast of
Flanders, and afterward turned toward France. In the spring of 896, the
citizens of Rouen, scarcely yet recovered from the miseries inflicted
upon them by the fierce Danish rover, Hasting, were dismayed by the
sight of a fleet of long low vessels with spreading sails, heads carved
like that of a serpent, and sterns finished like the tail of the
reptile, such as they well knew to be the keels of the dreaded Northmen,
the harbingers of destruction and desolation. Little hope of succor or
protection was there from King Charles the Simple; and, indeed, had
the sovereign been ever so warlike and energetic, it would little have
availed Rouen, which might have been destroyed twice over before a
messenger could reach Laon.

In this emergency, Franco, the Archbishop, proposed to go forth to meet
the Northmen, and attempt to make terms for his flock. The offer was
gladly accepted by the trembling citizens, and the good Archbishop went,
bearing the keys of the town, to visit the camp which the Northmen had
begun to erect upon the bank of the river. They offered him no violence,
and he performed his errand safely. Rolf, the rude generosity of whose
character was touched by his fearless conduct, readily agreed to spare
the lives and property of the citizens, on condition that Rouen was
surrendered to him without resistance.

Entering the town, he there established his head-quarters, and spent a
whole year there and in the adjacent parts of the country, during which
time the Northmen so faithfully observed their promise, that they were
regarded by the Rouennais rather as friends than as conquerors; and
Rolf, or Rollo, as the French called him, was far more popular among
them than their real sovereign. Wherever he met with resistance, he
showed, indeed, the relentless cruelty of the heathen pirate; but
where he found submission, he was a kind master, and these qualities
contributed to gain for him an easy and rapid conquest of Neustria, as
the district of which Rouen was the capital was then called.

In the course of the following year, he advanced along the banks of the
Seine as far as its junction with the Eure. On the opposite side of the
river, there were visible a number of tents, where slept a numerous army
which Charles had at length collected to oppose this formidable enemy.
The Northmen also set up their camp, in expectation of a battle, and
darkness had just closed in on them when a shout was heard on the
opposite side of the river, and to their surprise a voice was heard
speaking in their own language, "Brave warriors, why come ye hither, and
what do ye seek?"

"We are Northmen, come hither to conquer France," replied Rollo. "But
who art thou who speakest our tongue so well?"

"Heard ye never of Hasting?" was the reply.

Hasting was one of the most celebrated of the Sea-Kings. He had fought
with Alfred in England, had cruelly wasted France, and had even sailed
into the Mediterranean and made himself dreaded in Italy; but with him
it had been as with the old pirate in the poem:

"Time will rust the sharpest sword,
Time will consume the strongest cord;
That which moulders hemp and steel,
Mortal arm and nerve must feel.
Of the Danish band, whom 'Earl Hasting' led,
Many wax'd aged, and many were dead;
Himself found his armor full weighty to bear,
Wrinkled his brows grew, and hoary his hair;
He leaned on a staff when his step went abroad,
And patient his palfrey, when steed he bestrode.
As he grew feebler, his wildness ceased,
He made himself peace with prelate and priest;
He made himself peace, and stooping his head,
Patiently listen'd the counsel they said.

"'Thou hast murder'd, robb'd, and spoil'd,
Time it is thy poor soul were assoil'd;
Priests didst thou slay and churches burn,
Time it is now to repentance to turn;
Fiends hast thou worshipp'd with fiendish rite,
Leave now the darkness and wend into light;
Oh, while life and space are given,
Turn thee yet, and think of heaven.'

"That stern old heathen, his head he raised,
And on the good prelate he steadfastly gazed,
'Give me broad lands on the "Eure and the Seine,"
My faith I will leave, and I'll cleave unto thine.'
Broad lands he gave him on 'Seine and on Eure,'
To be held of the king by bridle and spear,

"For the 'Frankish' King was a sire in age,
Weak in battle, in council sage;
Peace of that heathen leader he sought,
Gifts he gave and quiet he bought;
And the Earl took upon him the peaceful renown,
Of a vassal and liegeman for 'Chartres' good town:
He abjured the gods of heathen race,
And he bent his head at the font of grace;
But such was the grizzly old proselyte's look,
That the priest who baptized him grew pale and shook."

Such had been the history of Hasting, now Count of Chartres, who without
doubt expected that his name and example would have a great effect upon
his countrymen; but the answer to his question, "Heard ye never of
Hasting?" met with no such answer as he anticipated.

"Yes," returned Rollo; "he began well, but ended badly."

"Will ye not, then," continued the old pirate, "submit to my lord the
King? Will ye not hold of him lands and honors?"

"No!" replied the Northmen, disdainfully, "we will own no lord; we will
take no gift; but we will have what we ourselves can conquer by force."
Here Hasting took his departure, and returning to the French camp,
strongly advised the commander not to hazard a battle; but his counsel
was overruled by a young standard-bearer, who, significantly observing,
"Wolves make not war on wolves," so offended the old sea-king, that he
quitted the army that night, and never again appeared in France. The
wisdom of his advice was the next morning made evident, by the total
defeat of the French, and the advance of the Northmen, who in a short
space after appeared beneath the walls of Paris.

Failing in their attempt to take the city, they returned to Rouen, where
they fortified themselves, making it the capital of the territory they
had conquered.

Fifteen years passed away, the summers of which were spent in ravaging
the dominions of Charles the Simple, and the winters in the city of
Rouen, and in the meantime a change had come over their leader. He had
been insensibly softened and civilized by his intercourse with the good
Archbishop Franco; and finding, perhaps, that it was not quite so easy
as he had expected to conquer the whole kingdom of France, he declared
himself willing to follow the example which he had once despised, and to
become a vassal of the French crown for the duchy of Neustria.

Charles, greatly rejoiced to find himself thus able to put a stop to
the dreadful devastations of the Northmen, readily agreed to the terms
proposed by Rollo, appointing the village of St. Clair-sur-Epte, on
the borders of Neustria, as the place of meeting for the purpose of
receiving his homage and oath of fealty. It was a strange meeting which
there took place between the degenerate and almost imbecile descendant
of the great Charles, with his array of courtly followers and his
splendor and luxury, and the gigantic warrior of the North, the founder
of a line of kings, in all the vigor of the uncivilized native of a cold
climate, and the unbending pride of a conqueror, surrounded by his tall
warriors, over whom his chieftainship had hitherto depended only on
their own consent, gained by his acknowledged superiority in wisdom in
council and prowess in battle.

The greatest difficulty to be overcome in this conference, was the
repugnance felt by the proud Northman to perform the customary act of
homage before any living man, especially one whom he held so cheap as
Charles the Simple. He consented, indeed, to swear allegiance, and
declare himself the "King's man," with his hands clasped between those
of Charles; but the remaining part of the ceremony, the kneeling to



Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeCameos from English History, from Rollo to Edward II → online text (page 1 of 45)