Edward Augustus Freeman.

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mind ; on one point he was to be a benefactor to his
kingdom through all succeeding ages. The realm of
England was to be one and indivisible. No ruler or sub-
ject in the kingdom of England should again dream that
that kingdom could be split asunder. When he offered
Harold the underkingship of the realm or of some part
of it, he did so doubtless only in the full conviction that
the offer would be refused. No such offer should be
heard of again. There should be no such division as
had been between Cnut and Edmund, between Hartha-
cnut and the first Harold, such as Edwin and Morkere
had dreamed of in later times. Nor should the kingdom
be split asunder in that subtler way which William of
all men best understood, the way in which the Frankish
kingdoms, East and West, had split asunder. He would
have no dukes or earls who might become kings in all but
name, each in his own duchy or earldom. No man in
his realm should be to him as he was to his overlord at
Paris. No man in his realm should plead duty towards
an immediate lord as an excuse for breach of duty
towards the lord of that immediate lord. Hence
William's policy with regard to earldoms. There was


to be nothing like the great governments which had
been held by Godwine, Leofric, and Siward ; an Earl of
the West-Saxons or the Northumbrians was too like a
Duke of the Normans to be endured by one who was
Duke of the Normans himself. The earl, even of the
king's appointment, still represented the separate being
of the district over which he was set. He was the
king's representative rather than merely his officer; if
he was a magistrate and not a prince, he often sat in the
seat of former princes, and might easily grow into a
prince. And at last, at the very end of his reign,
as the finishing of his work, he took the final step
that made England for ever one. In 1086 every land-
owner in England swore to be faithful to King William
within and without England and to defend him against
all his enemies. The subject's duty to the King was to
override any duty which the vassal might owe to any
inferior lord. When the King was the embodiment of
national unity and orderly government, this was the
greatest of all steps in the direction of both. Never did
William or any other man act more distinctly as an Eng-
lish statesman, never did any one act tell more directly
towards the later making of England, than this memor-
able act of the Conqueror. Here indeed is an addition
which William made to the law of Edward for the truest
good of the English folk. And yet no enactment has
ever been more thoroughly misunderstood. Lawyer
after lawyer has set down in his book that, at the as-
sembly of Salisbury in 1086, William introduced "the
feudal system." If the words " feudal system " have any
meaning, the object of the law now made was to hinder
any " feudal system" from coming into England. William


would be king of a kingdom, head of a commonwealth,
personal lord of every man in his realm, not merely,
like a King of the French, external lord of princes whose
subjects owed him no allegiance. This greatest monu-
ment of the Conqueror's statesmanship was carried into
effect in a special assembly of the English nation gathered
on the first day of August 1086 on the great plain of
Salisbury. Now, perhaps for the first time, we get a
distinct foreshadowing of Lords and Commons. The
Witan, the great men of the realm, and "the landsitting
men," the whole body of landowners, are now distin-
guished. The point is that William required the per-
sonal presence of every man whose personal allegiance
he thought worth having. Every man in the mixed
assembly, mixed indeed in race and speech, the King's
own men and the men of other lords, took the oath and
became the man of King William. On that day Eng-
land became for ever a kingdom one and indivisible,
which since that day no man has dreamed of parting

The great assembly of 1086 will come again among
the events of William's later reign ; it comes here as the
last act of that general settlement which began in 1070.
That settlement, besides its secular side, has also an
ecclesiastical side of a somewhat different character.
In both William's coming brought the island kingdom
into a closer connexion with the continent ; and brought
a large displacement of Englishmen and a large promo-
tion of strangers. But on the ecclesiastical side, though
the changes were less violent, there was a more marked
beginning of a new state of things. The religious mis-


sionary was more inclined to innovate than the military
conqueror. Here William not only added but changed ;
on one point he even proclaimed that the existing law
of England was bad. Certainly the religious state of
England was likely to displease churchmen from the
mainland. The English Church, so directly the child of
the Eoman, was, for that very reason, less dependent
on her parent. She was a free colony, not a con-
quered province. The English Church too was most
distinctly national ; no land came so near to that ideal
state of things in which the Church is the nation on
its religious side. Papal authority therefore was weaker
in England than elsewhere, and a less careful line was
drawn between spiritual and temporal things and juris-
dictions. Two friendly powers could take liberties with
each other. The national assemblies dealt with ecclesias-
tical as well as with temporal matters ; one indeed among
our ancient laws blames any assembly that did other-
wise. Bishop and earl sat together in the local Gemdt,
to deal with many matters which, according to con-
tinental ideas, should have been dealt with in separate
courts. And, by what in continental eyes seemed a
strange laxity of discipline, priests, bishops, members
of capitular bodies, were often married. The English
diocesan arrangements were unlike continental models.
In Gaul, by a tradition of Eoman date, the bishop was
bishop of the city. His diocese was marked by the
extent of the civil jurisdiction of the city. His home,
his head church, his bishopstool in the head church, were
all in the city. In Teutonic England the bishop was
commonly bishop, not of a city but of a tribe or district ;
his style was that of a tribe ; his home, his head church,


his bishopstool, might be anywhere within the territory
of that tribe. Still, on the greatest point of all matters
in England were thoroughly to William's liking; no-
where did the King stand forth more distinctly as the
Supreme Governor of the Church. In England, as in
Normandy, the right of the sovereign to the investiture
of ecclesiastical benefices was ancient and undisputed.
What Edward had freely done, William went on freely
doing, and Hildebrand himself never ventured on a word
of remonstrance against a power which he deemed so
wrongful in the hands of his own sovereign. William
had but to stand on the rights of his predecessors. When
Gregory asked for homage for the crown which he had in
some sort given, William answered indeed as an English
king. What the kings before him had done for or paid
to the Roman see, that would he do and pay ; but this
no king before him had ever done, nor would he be the
first to do it. But while William thus maintained the
rights of his crown, he was willing and eager to do all
that seemed needful for ecclesiastical reform. And the
general result of his reform was to weaken the insular
independence of England, to make her Church more like
the other Churches of the West, and to increase the
power of the Roman Bishop.

William had now a fellow-worker in his task. The
subtle spirit which had helped to win his kingdom was
now at his side to help him to rule it. Within a few
months after the taking of Chester Lanfranc sat on the
throne of Augustine. As soon as the actual Conquest
was over, William began to give his mind to ecclesi-
astical matters. It might look like sacrilege when he
caused all the monasteries of England to be harried.


But no harm was done to the monks or to their posses-
sions. The holy houses were searched for the hoards
which the rich men of England, fearing the new king,
had laid up in the monastic treasuries. William looked
on these hoards as part of the forfeited goods of rebels,
and carried them off" during the Lent of 1070. This
done, he sat steadily down to the reform of the English

He had three papal legates to guide him, one of
whom, Ermenfrid, Bishop of Sitten, had come in on a
like errand in the time of Edward. It was a kind of
solemn confirmation of the Conquest, when, at the
assembly held at Winchester in 1070, the King's
crown was placed on his head by Ermenfrid. The
work of deposing English prelates and appointing
foreign successors now began. The primacy of York
was regularly vacaa,t ; Ealdred had died as the Danes
sailed up the Humber to assault or to deliver his city.
The primacy of Canterbury was to be made vacant by
the deposition of Stigand. His canonical position had
always been doubtful ; neither Harold nor William had
been crowned by him; yet William had treated him
hitherto with marked courtesy, and he had consecrated
at least one Norman bishop, Remigius of Dorchester.
He was now deprived both of the archbishopric and of
the bishopric of Winchester which he held with it, and
was kept under restraint for the rest of his life.
According to foreign canonical rules the sentence may
pass as just ; but it marked a stage in the conquest of
England when a stout-hearted Englishman was removed
from the highest place in the English Church to make
way for the innermost counsellor of the Conqueror. In


the Pentecostal assembly, held at Windsor, Lanfranc
was appointed archbishop ; his excuses were overcome
by his old master Herlwin of Bee ; he came to England,
and on August 15, 1070 he was consecrated to the

Other deprivations and appointments took place' in
these assemblies. The see of York was given to Thomas,
a canon of Bayeux, a man of high character and
memorable in the local history of his see. The abbey
of Peterborough was vacant by the death of Brand, who
had received the staff from the uncrowned Eadgar. It
was only by rich gifts that he had turned away the
wrath of William from his house. The Fenland was
perhaps already stirring, and the Abbot of Peterborough
might have to act as a military commander. In this
case the prelate appointed, a Norman named Turold,
was accordingly more of a soldier than of a monk.
From these assemblies of 1070 the series of William's
ecclesiastical changes goes on. As the English bishops
die or are deprived, strangers take their place. They
are commonly Normans, but Walcher, who became
Bishop of Durham in 1071, was one of those natives
of Lorraine who had been largely favoured in Edward's
day. At the time of William's death Wulfstan was the
only Englishman who kept a bishopric. Even his de-
privation had once been thought of. The story takes
a legendary shape, but it throws an important light on
the relations of Church and State in England. In an
assembly held in the West Minster Wulfstan is called on
by William and Lanfranc to give up his staff. He re-
fuses; he will give it back to him who gave it, and
places it on the tomb of his dead master Edward. No


efforts of his enemies can move it. The sentence is
recalled, and the staff yields to his touch. Edward was
not yet a canonized saint ; the appeal is simply from the
living and foreign king to the dead and native king.
This legend, growing up when Western Europe was
torn in pieces by the struggle about investitures, proves
better than the most authentic documents how the right
which Popes denied to Emperors was taken for granted
in the case of an English king. But, while the spoils of
England, temporal and spiritual, were thus scattered
abroad among men of the conquering race, two men at
least among them refused all share in plunder which
they deemed unrighteous. One gallant Norman knight,
Gulbert of Hugleville, followed William through all his
campaigns, but when English estates were offered as his
reward, he refused to share in unrighteous gains, and
went back to the lands of his fathers which he could
hold with a good conscience. And one monk, Wimund
of Saint-Leutfried, not only refused bishoprics and
abbeys, but rebuked the Conqueror for wrong and
robbery. And William bore no grudge against his
censor, but, when the archbishopric of Eouen became
vacant, he offered it to the man who had rebuked him.
Among the worthies of England Gulbert and Wimund
can hardly claim a place, but a place should surely be
theirs among the men whom England honours.

The primacy of Lanfranc is one of the most memor-
able in our history. In the words of the parable put forth
by Anselm in the next reign, the plough of the English
Church was for seventeen years drawn by two oxen of
equal strength. By ancient English custom the Arch-


bishop of Canterbury was the King's special counsellor,
the special representative of his Church and people.
Lanfranc cannot be charged with any direct oppression ;
yet in the hands of a stranger who had his spiritual con-
quest to make, the tribunitian office of former arch-
bishops was lost in that of chief minister of the sovereign.
In the first action of their joint rule, the interest of
king and primate was the same. Lanfranc sought for
a more distinct acknowledgement of the superiority of
Canterbury over the rival metropolis of York. And this
fell in with William's schemes for the consolidation of
the kingdom. The political motive is avowed. Nort-
humberland, which had been so hard to subdue and
which still lay open to Danish invaders or deliverers,
was still dangerous. An independent Archbishop of
York might consecrate a King of the Northumbrians,
native or Danish, who might grow into a King of the
English. The Northern metropolitan had unwillingly
to admit the superiority, and something more, of the
Southern. The caution of William and his ecclesiastical
adviser reckoned it among possible chances that even
Thomas of Bayeux might crown an invading Cnut or
Harold in opposition to his native sovereign and bene-

For some of his own purposes, William had per-
haps chosen his minister too wisely. The objects of
the two colleagues were not always the same. Lanfranc,
sprung from Imperialist Pavia, was no zealot for extra-
vagant papal claims. The caution with which he bore
himself during the schism which followed the strife
between Gregory and Henry brought on him more than
one papal censure. Yet the general tendency of his ad-


ministration was towards the growth of ecclesiastical, and
even of papal, claims. William never dreamed of giving
up his ecclesiastical supremacy or of exempting church-
men from the ordinary power of the law. But the division
of the civil and ecclesiastical jurisdiction, the increased
frequency of synods distinct from the general assemblies
of the realm even though the acts of those synods
needed the royal assent were steps towards that ex-
emption of churchmen from the civil power which was
asserted in one memorable saying towards the end of
William's own reign. William could hold his own
against Hildebrand himself; yet the increased intercourse
with Rome, the more frequent presence of Eoman
Legates, all tended to increase the papal claims and
the deference yielded to them. William refused homage
to Gregory ; but it is significant that Gregory asked for
it. It was a step towards the day when a King of Eng-
land was glad to offer it. The increased strictness as to
the marriage of the clergy tended the same way. Lan-
franc did not at once enforce the full rigour of Hilde-
brand's decrees. Marriage was forbidden for the future ;
the capitular clergy had to part from their wives ; but
the vested interest of the parish priest was respected.
In another point William directly helped to undermine
his own authority and the independence of his kingdom.
He exempted his abbey of the Battle from the authority
of the diocesan bishop. With this began a crowd of
such exemptions, which, by weakening local authority,
strengthened the power of the Roman see. All these
things helped on Hildebrand's great scheme which made
the clergy everywhere members of one distinct and ex-
clusive body, with the Roman Bishop at their head.


Whatever tended to part the clergy from other men
tended to weaken the throne of every king. While
William reigned with Lanfranc at his side, these things
were not felt ; but the seed was sown for the contro-
versy between Henry and Thomas and for the humilia-
tion of John.

Even those changes of Lanfranc's primacy which
seem of purely ecclesiastical concern all helped, in some
way to increase the intercourse between England and
the continent or to break down some insular peculiarity.
And whatever did this increased the power of Rome.
Even the decree of 1075 that bishoprics should be
removed to the chief cities of their dioceses helped to
make England more like Gaul or Italy. So did the
fancy of William's bishops and abbots for rebuilding
their churches on a greater scale and in the last devised
continental style. All tended to make England less of
another world. On the other hand, one insular peculi-
arity well served the purposes of the new primate.
Monastic chapters in episcopal churches were almost
unknown out of England. Lanfranc, himself a monk,
favoured monks in this matter also. In several churches
the secular canons were displaced by monks. The
corporate spirit of the regulars, and their dependence
on Rome, was far stronger than that of the secular
clergy. The secular chapters could be refractory, but
the disputes between them and their bishops were
mainly of local importance ; they form no such part of
the general story of ecclesiastical and papal advance as
the long tale of the quarrel between the archbishops
and the monks of Christ Church.

Lanfranc survived William, and placed the crown


on the head of his successor. The friendship between
king and archbishop remained unbroken through their
joint lives. Lanfranc's acts were William's acts ; what
the Primate did must have been approved by the King.
How far William's acts were Lanfranc's acts it is less
easy to say. But the Archbishop was ever a trusted
minister, and a trusted counsellor, and in the King's fre-
quent absences from England, he often acted as his
lieutenant. We do not find him actually taking a
part in warfare, but he duly reports military successes
to his sovereign. It was William's combined wisdom
and good luck to provide himself with a counsellor than
whom for his immediate purposes none could be better.
A man either of a higher or a lower moral level than
Lanfranc, a saint like Anselm or one of the mere worldly
bishops of the time, would not have done his work so
well. William needed an ecclesiastical statesman, neither
unscrupulous nor over-scrupulous, and he found him in
the lawyer of Pavia, the doctor of Avranches, the monk
of Bee, the abbot of Saint Stephen's. If Lanfranc some-
times unwittingly outwitted both his master and himself,
if his policy served the purposes of Rome more than
suited the purposes of either, that is the common course
of human affairs. Great men are apt to forget that
systems which they can work themselves cannot be
worked by smaller men. From this error neither
William nor Lanfranc was free. But, from their own
point of view, it was'their only error. Their work was
to subdue England, soul and body ; and they subdued it.
That work could not be done without great wrong : but
no other two men of that day could have done it with
so little wrong. The shrinking from needless and



violent change which is so strongly characteristic of
William, and less strongly of Lanfranc also, made their
work at the time easier to be done ; in the course of
asjes it made it easier to be undone.



THE years which saw the settlement of England, though
not years of constant fighting like the two years between
the march to Exeter and the fall of Chester, were not
years of perfect peace. William had to withstand foes
on both sides of the sea, to withstand foes in his own
household, to undergo his first defeat, to receive his
first wound in personal conflict. Nothing shook his
firm hold either on duchy or kingdom ; but in his later
years his good luck forsook him. And men did not fail
to connect this change in his future with a change in
himself, above all with one deed of blood which stands
out as utterly unlike all his other recorded acts.

But the amount of warfare which William had to go
through in these later years was small compared with
the great struggles of his earlier days. There is no tale
to tell like the war of Val-es-dunes, like the French in-
vasions of Normandy, like the campaigns that won Eng-
land. One event only of the earlier time is repeated
almost as exactly as an event can be repeated. William
had won Maine once ; he had now to win it again, and
less thoroughly. As Conqueror his work is done ; a


single expedition into Wales is the only campaign of
this part of his life that led to any increase of territory.

When William sat down to the settlement of his
kingdom after the fall of Chester, he was in the strictest
sense full king over all England. For the moment the
whole land obeyed him ; at no later moment did any
large part of the land fail to obey him. All opposition
was now revolt. Men were no longer keeping out an
invader ; when they rose, they rose against a power
which, however wrongfully, was the established govern-
ment of the land. Two _such movements took place.
One was a real revolt of Englishmen against foreign rule.
The other was a rebellion of William's own earls in their
own interests, in which English feeling went with the
King. Both were short sharp struggles which stand
out boldly in the tale. More important in the general
story, though less striking in detail, are the relations of
William to the other powers in and near the isle of
Britain. With the crown of the West-Saxon kings, he
had taken up their claims to supremacy over the whole
island, and probably beyond it. And even without such
claims, border warfare with his Welsh and Scottish
neighbours could not be avoided. Counting from the
completion of the real conquest of England in 1070,
there were in William's reign three distinct sources of
disturbance. There were revolts within the kingdom of
England. There was border warfare in Britain. There
were revolts in William's continental dominions. And
we may add actual foreign warfare or threats of foreign
warfare, affecting William, sometimes in his Norman,
sometimes in his English character.

With the affairs of Wales William had little personally


to do. In this he is unlike those who came immediately
before and after him. In the lives of Harold and of
William Ruf us personal warfare against the Welsh forms
an important part. William the Great commonly left this
kind of work to the earls of the frontier, to Hugh of
Chester, Roger of Shrewsbury, and to his early friend
William of Hereford, so long as that fierce warrior's life
lasted. These earls were ever at war with the Welsh
princes, and they extended the English kingdom at their
cost. Once only did the King take a personal share in
the work, Avhen he entered South Wales, in 1081. We
hear vaguely of his subduing the land and founding
castles ; we see more distinctly that he released many
English subjects who were in British bondage, and that
he went on a religious pilgrimage to Saint David's. This
last journey is in some accounts connected with schemes
for the conquest of Ireland. And in one most remark-
able passage of the English Chronicle, the writer for
once speculates as to what might have happened but did
not. Had William lived two years longer, he would
have won Ireland by his wisdom without weapons. And
if William had won Ireland either by wisdom or by
weapons, he would assuredly have known better how to
deal with it than most of those who have come after him.
If any man could have joined together the lands which

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Online LibraryEdward Augustus FreemanWilliam the Conqueror → online text (page 10 of 14)