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common life was thus superadded to the spiritual sanctity of their
[FN [a] L'Abbé Conc. tom. x. p. 371, 372. com. 2. [b] Padre Paolo
sopra benef. eccles. p. 30.]

When the usurpations, therefore, of the church had come to such
maturity as to embolden her to attempt extorting the right of
investitures from the temporal power, Europe, especially Italy and
Germany, was thrown into the most violent convulsions, and the pope
and the emperor waged implacable war on each other. Gregory dared to
fulminate the sentence of excommunication against Henry and his
adherents, to pronounce him rightfully deposed, to free his subjects
from their oaths of allegiance; and instead of shocking mankind by
this gross encroachment on the civil authority, he found the stupid
people ready to second his most exorbitant pretensions. Every
minister, servant, or vassal of the emperor, who received any disgust,
covered his rebellion under the pretence of principle; and even the
mother of this monarch, forgetting all the ties of nature, was
seduced to countenance the insolence of his enemies. Princes
themselves, not attentive to the pernicious consequences of those
papal claims, employed them for their present purposes; and the
controversy, spreading into every city of Italy, engendered the
parties of Guelf and Ghibbelin; the most durable and most inveterate
factions that ever arose from the mixture of ambition and religious
zeal. Besides numberless assassinations, tumults, and convulsions to
which they gave rise, it is computed that the quarrel occasioned no
less than sixty battles in the reign of Henry IV., and eighteen in
that of his successor, Henry V., when the claims of the sovereign
pontiff finally prevailed [c].
[FN [c] Padre Paolo sopra benef. eccles. p. 113.]

But the bold spirit of Gregory, not dismayed with the vigorous
opposition which he met with from the emperor, extended his
usurpations all over Europe; and well knowing the nature of mankind,
whose blind astonishment ever inclines them to yield to the most
impudent pretensions, he seemed determined to set no bounds to the
spiritual, or rather temporal monarchy, which he had undertaken to
erect. He pronounced the sentence of excommunication against
Nicephorus, Emperor of the East: Robert Guiscard, the adventurous
Norman, who had acquired the dominion of Naples, was attacked by the
same dangerous weapon: he degraded Boleslas, King of Poland, from the
rank of king; and even deprived Poland of the title of a kingdom: he
attempted to treat Philip, King of France, with the same rigour which
he had employed against the emperor [d]: he pretended to the entire
property and dominion of Spain; and he parcelled it out amongst
adventurers, who undertook to conquer it from the Saracens, and to
hold it in vassalage under the see of Rome [e]: even the Christian
bishops, on whose aid he relied for subduing the temporal princes, saw
that he was determined to reduce them to servitude; and by assuming
the whole legislative and judicial power of the church, to centre all
authority in the sovereign pontiff [f].
[FN [d] Epist. Greg. VII. epist. 32, 35. lib. 2. epist. 5. [e] Epist.
Greg. VII. lib. 1. epist. 7. [f] Greg. epist. lib. 2. epist. 55.]

William the Conqueror, the most potent, the most haughty, and the most
vigorous prince in Europe, was not, amidst all his splendid successes,
secure from the attacks of this enterprising pontiff. Gregory wrote
him a letter, requiring him to fulfil his promise in doing homage for
the kingdom of England to the see of Rome, and to send him over that
tribute, which all his predecessors had been accustomed to pay to the
vicar of Christ. By the tribute he meant Peter's pence; which, though
at first a charitable donation of the Saxon princes, was interpreted,
according to the usual practice of the Romish court, to be a badge of
subjection acknowledged by the kingdom. William replied, that the
money should be remitted as usual; but that neither had he promised to
do homage to Rome, nor was it in the least his purpose to impose that
servitude on his state [g]. And the better to show Gregory his
independence, he ventured, notwithstanding the frequent complaints of
the pope, to refuse to the English bishops the liberty of attending a
general council which that pontiff had summoned against his enemies.
[FN [g] Spicileg. Seldeni ad Eadmer, p. 4.]

But though the king displayed this vigour in supporting the royal
dignity, he was infected with the general superstition of the age, and
he did not perceive the ambitious scope of those institutions, which,
under colour of strictness in religion, were introduced or promoted by
the court of Rome. Gregory, while he was throwing all Europe into
combustion by his violence and impostures, affected an anxious care
for the purity of manners; and even the chaste pleasures of the
marriage-bed were inconsistent, in his opinion, with the sanctity of
the sacerdotal character. He had issued a decree prohibiting the
marriage of priests, excommunicating all clergymen who retained their
wives, declaring such unlawful commerce to be fornication, and
rendering it criminal in the laity to attend divine worship, when such
profane priests officiated at the altar [h]. This point was a great
object in the politics of the Roman pontiffs; and it cost them
infinitely more pains to establish it, than the propagation of any
speculative absurdity which they had ever attempted to introduce.
Many synods were summoned in different parts of Europe before it was
finally settled; and it was there constantly remarked, that the
younger clergymen complied cheerfully with the pope's decrees in this
particular, and that the chief reluctance appeared in those who were
more advanced in years: an event so little consonant to men's natural
expectations, that it could not fail to be glossed on, even in that
blind and superstitious age. William allowed the pope's legate to
assemble, in his absence, a synod at Winchester, in order to establish
the celibacy of the clergy; but the church of England could not yet be
carried the whole length expected. The synod was content with
decreeing, that the bishops should not thenceforth ordain any priests
or deacons without exacting from them a promise of celibacy; but they
enacted, that none, except those who belonged to collegiate or
cathedral churches, should be obliged to separate from their wives.
[FN [h] Hoveden, p. 455, 457. Flor. Wigorn. p. 638. Spellm. Concil.
fol. 13 A. D. 1076.]

[MN Revolt of Prince Robert.]
The king passed some years in Normandy; but his long residence there
was not entirely owing to his declared preference of that duchy: his
presence was also necessary for composing those disturbances which had
arisen in that favourite territory, and which had even originally
proceeded from his own family. Robert, his eldest son, surnamed
Gambaron or Curthose, from his short legs, was a prince who inherited
all the bravery of his family and nation; but without that policy and
dissimulation, by which his father was so much distinguished, and
which, no less than his military valour, had contributed to his great
successes. Greedy of fame, impatient of contradiction, without
reserve in his friendships, declared in his enmities, this prince
could endure no control even from his imperious father, and openly
aspired to that independence, to which his temper, as well as some
circumstances in his situation, strongly invited him [i]. When
William first received the submissions of the province of Maine, he
had promised the inhabitants that Robert should be their prince; and
before he undertook the expedition against England, he had, on the
application of the French court, declared him his successor in
Normandy, and had obliged the barons of that duchy to do him homage as
their future sovereign. By this artifice, he had endeavoured to
appease the jealousy of his neighbours, as affording them a prospect
of separating England from his dominions on the continent; but when
Robert demanded of him the execution of those engagements, he gave him
an absolute refusal, and told him, according to the homely saying,
that he never intended to throw off his clothes till he went to bed
[k]. Robert openly declared his discontent; and was suspected of
secretly instigating the King of France and the Earl of Britany to the
opposition which they made to William, and which had formerly
frustrated his attempts upon the town of Dol. And as the quarrel
still augmented, Robert proceeded to entertain a strong jealousy of
his two surviving brothers, William and Henry, (for Richard was killed
in hunting by a stag,) who, by greater submission and complaisance,
had acquired the affections of their father. In this disposition on
both sides, the greatest trifle sufficed to produce a rupture between
[FN [i] Order. Vital. p. 545. Hoveden, p. 457. Flor. Wigorn. p. 639.
[k] Chron. de Mailr. p. 160.]

The three princes, residing with their father in the castle of L'Aigle
in Normandy, were one day engaged in sport together; and after some
mirth and jollity, the two younger took a fancy of throwing over some
water on Robert as he passed through the court on leaving their
apartment [l]; a frolic, which he would naturally have regarded as
innocent, had it not been for the suggestions of Alberic de
Grentmesnil, son of that Hugh de Grentmesnil whom William had formerly
deprived of his fortunes, when that baron deserted him during his
greatest difficulties in England. The young man, mindful of the
injury, persuaded the prince that this action was meant as a public
affront, which it behoved him in honour to resent; and the choleric
Robert, drawing his sword, ran upstairs, with an intention of taking
revenge on his brothers [m]. The whole castle was filled with tumult,
which the king himself, who hastened from his apartment, found some
difficulty to appease. But he could by no means appease the
resentment of his eldest son, who, complaining of his partiality, and
fancying that no proper atonement had been made him for the insult,
left the court that very evening, and hastened to Rouen, with an
intention of seizing the citadel of that place [n]. But being
disappointed in this view by the precaution and vigilance of Roger de
Ivery, the governor, he fled to Hugh de Neufchatel, a powerful Norman
baron, who gave him protection in his castles; and he openly levied
war against his father [o]. The popular character of the prince, and
a similarity of manners, engaged all the young nobility of Normandy
and Maine, as well as of Anjou and Britany, to take part with him; and
it was suspected, that Matilda, his mother, whose favourite he was,
supported him in his rebellion by secret remittances of money, and by
the encouragement which she gave his partisans.
[FN [l] Order. Vital. p. 545. [m] Ibid. [n] Order. Vital. p. 545.
[o] Ibid. Hoveden, p. 457. Sim. Dun. p. 210. Diceto, p. 487.]

[MN 1079.] All the hereditary provinces of William, as well as his
family, were, during several years, thrown into convulsions by this
war; and he was at last obliged to have recourse to England, where
that species of military government which he had established gave him
greater authority than the ancient feudal institutions permitted him
to exercise in Normandy. He called over an army of English under his
ancient captains, who soon expelled Robert and his adherents from
their retreats, and restored the authority of the sovereign in all his
dominions. The young prince was obliged to take shelter in the castle
of Gerberoy in the Beauvoisis, which the King of France, who secretly
fomented all these dissensions, had provided for him. In this
fortress he was closely besieged by his father, against whom, having a
strong garrison, he made an obstinate defence. There passed under the
walls of this place many rencounters, which resembled more the single
combats of chivalry than the military actions of armies; but one of
them was remarkable for its circumstances and its event. Robert
happened to engage the king, who was concealed by his helmet; and both
of them being valiant, a fierce combat ensued, till at last the young
prince wounded his father in the arm, and unhorsed him. On his
calling out for assistance, his voice discovered him to his son, who,
struck with remorse for his past guilt, and astonished with the
apprehensions of one much greater, which he had so nearly incurred,
instantly threw himself at his father's feet, craved pardon for his
offences, and offered to purchase forgiveness by any atonement [p].
The resentment harboured by William was so implacable, that he did not
immediately correspond to this dutiful submission of his son with like
tenderness; but giving him his malediction, departed for his own camp,
on Robert's horse, which that prince had assisted him to mount. He
soon after raised the siege, and marched with his army to Normandy;
where the interposition of the queen, and other common friends,
brought about a reconcilement, which was probably not a little
forwarded by the generosity of the son's behaviour in this action, and
by the returning sense of his past misconduct. The king seemed so
fully appeased, that he even took Robert with him into England; where
he intrusted him with the command of an army, in order to repel an
inroad of Malcolm, King of Scotland, and to retaliate by a like inroad
into that country. The Welsh, unable to resist William's power, were,
about the same time, necessitated to pay a compensation for their
incursions; and every thing was reduced to full tranquillity in this
[FN [p] Malmes. p. 106. H. Hunt. p. 369. Hoveden, p. 457. Flor.
Wig. p. 639. Sim. Dun. p. 210. Diceto, p. 287. Knyghton, p. 2351.
Alur. Beverl. p. 135.]

[MN 1081. Doomsday-book.]
The state of affairs gave William leisure to begin and finish an
undertaking, which proves his extensive genius, and does honour to his
memory: it was a general survey of all the lands in the kingdom, their
extent in each district, their proprietors, tenures, value; the
quantity of meadow, pasture, wood, and arable land, which they
contained; and in some counties the number of tenants, cottagers, and
slaves of all denominations, who lived upon them. He appointed
commissioners for this purpose, who entered every particular in their
register by the verdict of juries; and after a labour of six years
(for the work was so long in finishing) brought him an exact account
of all the landed property of his kingdom [q]. This monument, called
Doomsday-book, the most valuable piece of antiquity possessed by any
nation, is still preserved in the Exchequer; and though only some
extracts of it have hitherto been published, it serves to illustrate
to us, in many particulars, the ancient state of England. The great
Alfred had finished a like survey of the kingdom in his time, which
was long kept at Winchester, and which probably served as a model to
William in this undertaking [r].
[FN [q] Chron. Sax. p. 190. Ingulph, p. 79. Chron. T. Wykes, p. 23.
H. Hunt. p. 370. Hoveden, p. 460. M. West. p. 229. Flor. Wigorn. p.
641. Chron. Abb. de Petri de Burgo, p. 51. M. Paris, p. 8. The more
northern counties were not comprehended in this survey; I suppose
because of their wild, uncultivated state. [r] Ingulph, p. 8.]

The king was naturally a great economist; and though no prince had
ever been more bountiful to his officers and servants, it was merely
because he had rendered himself universal proprietor of England, and
had a whole kingdom to bestow. He reserved an ample revenue for the
crown; and in the general distribution of land among his followers, he
kept possession of no less than one thousand four hundred and twenty-
two manors in different parts of England [s], which paid him rent,
either in money, or in corn, cattle, and the usual produce of the
soil. An ancient historian computes, that his annual fixed income,
besides escheats, fines, reliefs, and other casual profits to a great
value, amounted to near four hundred thousand pounds a year [t]; a sum
which, if all circumstances be attended to, will appear wholly
incredible. A pound in that age, as we have already observed,
contained three times the weight of silver that it does at present;
and the same weight of silver, by the most probable computation, would
purchase near ten times more of the necessaries of life, though not in
the same proportion of the finer manufactures. This revenue,
therefore, of William, would be equal to at least nine or ten millions
at present; and as that prince had neither fleet nor army to support,
the former being only an occasional expense, and the latter being
maintained without any charge to him by his military vassals, we must
thence conclude, that no emperor or prince, in any age or nation, can
be compared to the Conqueror for opulence and riches. This leads us
to suspect a great mistake in the computation of the historian:
though, if we consider that avarice is always imputed to William, as
one of his vices, and that having by the sword rendered himself master
of all the lands in the kingdom, he would certainly in the partition
retain a great proportion for his own share; we can scarcely be guilty
of any error in asserting, that perhaps no king of England was ever
more opulent, was more able to support by his revenue the splendour
and magnificence of a court, or could bestow more on his pleasures, or
in liberalities to his servants and favourites [u].
[FN [s] West's inquiry into the manner of creating peers, p. 24. [t]
Order. Vital. p. 523. He says one thousand and sixty pounds and some
odd shillings and pence a day. [u] Fortescue, de Dom. reg. et
politic. cap. 111.]

[MN The new forest.]
There was one pleasure to which William, as well as all the Normans
and ancient Saxons, was extremely addicted, and that was hunting; but
this pleasure he indulged more at the expense of his unhappy subjects,
whose interests he always disregarded, than to the loss or diminution
of his own revenue. Not content with those large forests which former
kings possessed in all parts of England, he resolved to make a new
forest near Winchester, the usual place of his residence; and for that
purpose he laid waste the country in Hampshire for an extent of thirty
miles, expelled the inhabitants from their houses, seized their
property, even demolished churches and convents, and made the
sufferers no compensation for the injury [w]. At the same time, he
enacted new laws, by which he prohibited all his subjects from hunting
in any of his forests, and rendered the penalties more severe than
ever had been inflicted for such offences. The killing of a deer or
boar, or even a hare, was punished with the loss of the delinquent's
eyes; and that at a time, when the killing of a man could be atoned
for by paying a moderate fine or composition.
[FN [w] Malmes. p. 3. H. Hunt. p. 731. Anglia Sacra, vol. i. p.

The transactions recorded during the remainder of this reign may be
considered more as domestic occurrences which concern the prince, than
as national events which regard England. Odo, Bishop of Baieux, the
king's uterine brother, whom he had created Earl of Kent, and
intrusted with a great share of power during his whole reign, had
amassed immense riches; and agreeably to the usual progress of human
wishes, he began to regard his present acquisitions but as a step to
farther grandeur. He had formed the chimerical project of buying the
papacy; and though Gregory, the reigning pope, was not of advanced
years, the prelate had confided so much in the predictions of an
astrologer, that he reckoned upon the pontiff’s death, and upon
attaining, by his own intrigues and money, that envied state of
greatness. Resolving, therefore, to remit all his riches to Italy, he
had persuaded many considerable barons, and among the rest, Hugh, Earl
of Chester, to take the same course; in hopes that, when he should
mount the papal throne, he would bestow on them more considerable
establishments in that country. [MN 1082.] The king, from whom all
these projects had been carefully concealed, at last got intelligence
of the design, and ordered Odo to be arrested. His officers, from
respect to the immunities which the ecclesiastics now assumed,
scrupled to execute the command, till the king himself was obliged in
person to seize him; and when Odo insisted that he was a prelate, and
exempt from all temporal jurisdiction, William replied, that he
arrested him not as Bishop of Baieux, but as Earl of Kent. He was
sent prisoner to Normandy; and, notwithstanding the remonstrances and
menaces of Gregory, was detained in custody during the remainder of
this reign.

[MN 1083.] Another domestic event gave the king much more concern: it
was the death of Matilda, his consort, whom he tenderly loved, and for
whom he had ever preserved the most sincere friendship. Three years
afterwards he passed into Normandy, and carried with him Edgar
Atheling, to whom he willingly granted permission to make a pilgrimage
to the Holy Land. [MN 1087. War with France.] He was detained on
the continent by a misunderstanding, which broke out between him and
the King of France, and which was occasioned by inroads made into
Normandy by some French barons on the frontiers. It was little in the
power of princes at that time to restrain their licentious nobility;
but William suspected, that these barons durst not have provoked his
indignation, had they not been assured of the countenance and
protection of Philip. His displeasure was increased by the account he
received of some railleries which that monarch had thrown out against
him. William, who was become corpulent, had been detained in bed some
time by sickness; upon which Philip expressed his surprise that his
brother of England should be so long in being delivered of his big
belly. The king sent him word, that, as soon as he was up, he would
present so many lights at Notre-dame, as would perhaps give little
pleasure to the King of France; alluding to the usual practice at that
time of women after childbirth. Immediately on his recovery, he led
an army into L'Isle de France, and laid every thing waste with fire
and sword. He took the town of Mante, which he reduced to ashes. But
the progress of these hostilities was stopped by an accident which
soon after put an end to William's life. His horse starting aside of
a sudden, he bruised his belly on the pommel of the saddle; and being
in a bad habit of body, as well as somewhat advanced in years, he
began to apprehend the consequences, and ordered himself to be carried
in a litter to the monastery of St. Gervas. Finding his illness
increase, and being sensible of the approach of death, he discovered
at last the vanity of all human grandeur, and was struck with remorse
for those horrible cruelties and acts of violence, which, in the
attainment and defence of it, he had committed during the course of
his reign over England. He endeavoured to make atonement by presents
to churches and monasteries; and he issued orders, that Earl Morcar,
Siward, Bearne, and other English prisoners, should be set at liberty.
He was even prevailed on, though not without reluctance, to consent,
with his dying breath, to release his brother Odo, against whom he was
extremely incensed. He left Normandy and Maine to his eldest son
Robert: he wrote to Lanfranc, desiring him to crown William King of
England: he bequeathed to Henry nothing but the possessions of his
mother Matilda; but foretold that he would one day surpass both his
brothers in power and opulence. He expired in the sixty-third year of
his age, in the twenty-first year of his reign over England, and in
the fifty-fourth of that over Normandy.

[MN 9th Sept. Death and character of William the Conqueror.]
Few princes have been more fortunate than this great monarch, or were
better entitled to grandeur and prosperity, from the abilities and the
vigour of mind which he displayed in all his conduct. His spirit was
bold and enterprising, yet guided by prudence: his ambition, which was
exorbitant, and lay little under the restraints of justice, still less
under those of humanity, ever submitted to the dictates of sound
policy. Born in an age when the minds of men were intractable and
unacquainted with submission, he was yet able to direct them to his
purposes; and partly from the ascendant of his vehement character,
partly from art and dissimulation, to establish an unlimited
authority. Though not insensible to generosity, he was hardened

Online LibraryDavid HumeThe History of England, Volume I → online text (page 23 of 57)