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The history of Normandy and of England (Volume 2) online

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puts us all to shame !

32. Richard, during this era, had to struggle
against fraud and deception, treachery and hos-
tility, to labour against assaults so sharp, com-
binations so potent that at first they threatened
the very existence of the State ; yet, nevertheless,
so overruled as to seal the independence of Nor-
mandy, and to enable his descendant, in the
fourth degree, to achieve the conquest of England.

Seizing the opportunity when Lothaire and Thibaut

V OToitofi

Gerberga held their Court at Laon, Thibaut came



before them and warned them of their impending Richard.
danger. He expatiated upon Richard's direct
authority, and also upon his resulting influence,
scarcely less threatening. Not a square toise of
land in Normandy, would Richard own that he
held of the King. Nay, added Thibaut, he rules
the French as though he were their sovereign ,
and as this expression could not extend to the
King's dominions, it must be construed as refer-
ing to the preponderance which he possessed in
the Duchy of France by reason of his Capetian

Concurrently with these arguments, Thibaut

3 A2


954-987 kept Lothaire's apprehensions seething, by exag-
'"^^p gerating the Pirate's military and social power. -
Verily, no safety for France, otherwise than
in Eichard's destruction. Bold Gerberga soli-
cited Thibaut to advise. Thibaut was plain-
spoken. Open force, or sagacity,- -that is to say,
device or stratagem, trick or treason, were alike
allowable. Whatever language the Pirate spoke,
whatever garb he might put on, he was excluded
from the social compact.- -This doctrine was
one of the Arcana Imperil, not to be displayed
abroad, but always concealed in the breast.
The catastrophe of Picquigny was a scene for
example rather than detestation.

Assistance Negotiations were opened with Bruno, re-
viving the recollections of the Land. Old men

sought from

Archbishop we re living who had heard from their fathers


how cleverly Archbishop Wilibert, Count Henry,
and Count Everard had delivered the Carlovingian
community from the Black Dane, whom no
Baptism could purify, no alliance bring within
the protecting pale of Carlovingian civilization.
The King gladly assented. Gerberga entered
readily into the scheme. Otho also, and the
security of France and through France, of
Germany silenced all the scruples which con-
science might raise.

33. Lothaire, Gerberga, Otho, Thibaut,
Bruno, all agreed upon the ultimate object of
their confederacy. Why should they not ?


It would have been out of character for any one 954-937
of them to have held aloof from any mischief - * -


against Richard. Thibaut, certainly the most
active, and at this juncture, perhaps the most
powerful, assembled his forces at Beauvais ;
whilst, at the same time, a bland communication
was transmitted by Bruno to Richard, speaking Bnmo m-

3 vites Richard

much of peace and amity, and his wish to pro- J e r e n c c e n a " t
tect Richard against his enemies, inviting him to
an interview at Amiens. No object as the
bidding ran did Archbishop Bruno seek more
earnestly than a reconciliation between Richard
and his nephew the King.

Richard was thrown off his guard. With-
out consideration, neither receiving nor seeking
advice, he marched forward to the place of confer-
ence, lightly and easily, as though he were going
forth for amusement or pastime.- -Many were the
marvels sung by the Minstrels in after times con-
cerning the preternatural trials and perils which
befel Richard-sans-Peur in the forest glades,
seductions and terrors, encounters with
fairies bright and ugsome fiends, and now, when,
having entered the Beauvoisin, he was passing
through the woodlands, a veritable adventure
occurred, which, with due embellishment, might
have figured in the lay. It was the sudden Mysterious


apparition of two Knights starting through the ?;. ve '' l f

11 o Kicnard of

thicket, hot, and fagged, and dusty, so muffled hu dimger '
in their mantles that their faces could not be


954-987 , Their errand was one of very substantial
reality. These friendly strangers were Thibaut's
men. They had learnt the intended treason,
perpetual imprisonment, or death, had been de-
vised. Greeting Duke Richard, he at their
request turned aside ; and they intimated to him,
in terms obscure and emblematical, yet not unin-
telligible, that a great danger was imminent.
They probably adopted this semblance of mys-
tery for the purposes of relieving their conscience
and also rescuing Richard, yet equivocally evad-
ing the opprobrium of directly betraying their
master's counsel. Noble Duke, said they, what
choose ye to be your lot ? Ruler amongst
your own people, or a banished man ? Shep-
herd, swineherd, or worse ?

Richard was astounded. Richard-sans-Peur
felt fear now; and when, in after times, the
Knights told their own story, they related how
Richard's colour rose, not from anger, but from
real and actual alarm and confusion. Silent
awhile, he broke that silence : Whose Lieges
were they? What matters it, replied they, if
faithful to thee. No more questions did Richard
ask. His guerdons bespoke his gratitude for
the warning, and also his comprehension of the

accepts the

mSns g tr d snare. Richard's own golden-hilted sword did
the one Knight receive. Four pounds in weight
did that hilt weigh. The Companion was
honoured by Richard's golden bracelet the
ensign of his ducal dignity equi-ponderous


with the splendid sword-hilt, and also fashioned 954-937
of the purest gold. The Monitors vanished. , *


Richard rejoined his Nobles and Cortege
Gautier-le-Yeneur no doubt amongst them- -and
related the strange encounter which had befallen
him. Some slight debate seems to have ensued ;
but they were ultimately unanimous in accepting
the counsel conveyed by the enigma.- -Forward
would be folly ; and forthwith must Richard
return to Rouen.

34. Bruno waited for Richard anxiously,
fretfully, impatiently. At length, a messenger
despatched from Rouen, informed him that his evil
intentions were disclosed. Bitterly vexed by this
revelation, uncertain by whose intervention his
machinations had been thwarted, the Archbishop
again assumed the character of a peace-maker.
Courteously did Bruno reiterate his entreaty,
seeking to conciliate Richard by meeting him on
his own confines. Let Richard advance as far
as the Epte, and, accompanied by Lothaire, the
Archbishop would gladly undertake the journey.
Richard tartly refused. The Normans were
deeply incensed. The discomfited deceit only
encreased the enmity of the two nations. The
news spread widely. The iniquity of the
proposed stratagem, condemned more sternly


by reason of its failure, brought Bruno
into discredit. A report circulated in Nor-
mandy, that, when the intelligence reached
Italy, the Pope was inclined to fulminate a sen-


954-987 tence of deposition against the Archbishop. But
* it would have been a hard matter for the Pontiff


thus to deal with a Prince of the Empire. Bruno's
acts and deeds, life and conversation, should be
carefully studied. In him, we begin to see the
mischievous consequences resulting from the an-
nexation of temporal sovereignty to ecclesiastical
dignity. But temporal sovereignty must not be
confounded with temporal authority, nor be
mistaken for the position which the Bishops
held as chief magistrates of their city, protecting
fathers of their people, interposing between
subject and sovereign.
silence of The German Chroniclers, with one exception,

the German

mpStfo? seemed to have agreed to observe a careful
terference reticence as to any circumstances which might

in trench

affect Bruno's reputation. The notice of the share
he took in the unnatural conspiracy against Otho
was probably disclosed by accidental want of cau-
tion. They also, for some less obvious reason, have
ignored his connexion with France. The impor-
tant part which Bruno acted in securing Lothaire's
accession is known to us only through the French
authorities. With respect to Bruno's dealing with
Richard, had the device succeeded, the event
would perhaps have been recorded no less care-
fully and clearly, than the happy consummation
of the plot against the .Danish spouse of Gisella.
g 35. None so mortified by Richard's
escape as the participator in the plot,- -possibly
its originator, Thibaut. He immediately recom-


menced his dealings with ready Lothaire, and 954-937
readier Gerberga, persevering in the object of in- - -


ducing them to crush the rebellious enemy. Could
they bear that the red-headed Pirate should put
all France to shame ? He insisted upon the ne-
cessity of bringing Normandy into subjection.-
Ogni medaglia ha il suo rovescio.- -Perhaps if
Thibaut of Chartres could plead his own cause, we
might have been persuaded to moderate our opini-
ons of his failings. Vying with Arnoul in length
of life, the epithet of Le Tricheur was partly
supplanted by the more kindly appellation of
Le Vieux ; and it is curious to observe that no
period of history exhibited more signal instances
of longevity in Royal and Princely families than
the close of the tenth century. Without doubt,
also, there were many who accepted Thibaut in
the character of a useful and patriotic member of
the state, by reason of his steady enmity against
the Normans : and Arnoul being removed, first
transiently, and afterwards permanently, from
the field of action, Thibaut came forward as the
Protector of the Carlovingian Commonwealth
against the astuteness or violence of the Pagans.
The Paschal festival called the nobles to
Laon, and the festive meeting was followed by a
remarkable CourPleniere, a Placitum Regale, at 961 _
antient Soissons. The locality must be marked.

at Soissons.

This Merovingian Capital constituted the chief
City in the Verniandois ; and rare was it for the
King of France to convene such an assembly


954-987 beyond the narrow circuit of his own Crown-land.
- - Soissons, the place now selected, would attract


a fuller appearance of his Nobles and Allies.
Lothaire had prepared for action with his usual
vigour. Accompanied by Gerberga, he had been
traversing his dominions, and thus gained
support. Eichard's chief enemies thronged
at Soissons - - a Military Muster as well as a
Great Council, or perhaps we should term it a
Military Council, such as appears not unfre-
quently in antierit English history. No Prelates
are noticed as having concurred, but the issue
reveals that the question was debated whether
it would be more expedient to declare open war
against Richard, or again try to secure him by
deceit;- -and the latter course was adopted.

Widely spread were Richard's friends. Had
not many a knight in Lothaire's service tasted
the bounty of the Norman Duke? None of the
movements of the French were unknown to him.
Sticks 4 Secretly, suddenly, assembling his troops, he
fnd 3. crossed the country, and attacked Soissons, seek-
ing to effect the dispersion of the Convention. But
the royal forces were equally on the alert : and
Richard, beat off with considerable loss, retreated
to Rouen. Norman and French historians are al-
ways far apart from each other. Fluent Dudo and
his Norman successors avoid making the slightest
allusion to Richard's bold but bootless enterprise ;
whilst faithful Frodoardus and discreet Richerius


are consistently silent respecting the whole series 951-98?
of transactions which we are now reviewing. , >


36. Richard's defeat encouraged Lothaire
to assume a high position. A noble Embassador ^^'i
appeared in the Palace of Rouen summoning 1
Richard to perform homage. Richard received
the Envoy in his Cour Pleniere, surrounded by
Prelates and Baronage. The proceedings of
Lothaire' s representative were energetic, and not
uncourteous. Richard was reminded of the sub-
missions which Sire and Grandsire had rendered
to the Crown of France. To these expostula-
tions, persuasions were conjoined. Would it be
judicious to resist the King of France, and the
power which the King could command ? Consi-
dering the chances of war, might not even Richard
be compelled to return to the country whence
Rollo came, to old Denmark, beyond the sea?
And something was thrown in concerning the
machinations of Richard's enemies.

As to the arguments deduced from previous
homages, Richard had a Plea in bar ;- -the release
made by Louis on the banks of the Epte, an
act which terminated the question. Nevertheless,
Richard was perplexed ; his discomfiture before
the walls of Soissons, might be the prelude of
adverse fortune. Lothaire, professing to be^ a j e r s e a

,,-,.. . P T conference

earnestly desiring a compromise 01 disputes, pro- with Richard
posed a conference. Abandoning precedence, SS^ 6
the King of France would meet Richard on his boundary "
own Norman land, where the Duke might listen


954-937 to proposals leading to a thorough pacification.
< ' - Smooth words, but false. The success or failure


of the projected negotiations were items of
comparatively small importance in Lothaire's
calculations - - matters almost indifferent. He
and Gerberga, and Thibaut, indeed all his chief
Allies had resolved to extinguish the rivalry
between France and Normandy by a shorter
process. They would rid themselves of the evil
fruit, by cutting down the evil tree: and the
trysting place was duly suggested by some skilful
observer, well acquainted with the country-
perhaps Thibaut himself- -not less intelligently
chosen than the Isle of Picquigny, for the object
they all yearned to obtain.
Alterations In order that we may interpret the subse-

in the mari-

iluo^aTgeo- quent movements, we must open the map, and

graphyofthe ,. . , 1

North $ca direct our attention to the river whose name

and Channel.

furnishes the first article in every Geographical
dictionary. Twenty-one European streams, at the
very least, are severally designated as the " Aa."
Amongst these, the most important is that great
" Aa," which, during the last century, severed
France from the Austrian Netherlands, and still
continues a political boundary : the latter do-
mination, being replaced in our own day, by
the Kingdom of Belgium. Now, from that
same "Aa," unto the Seine, and even beyond
the Seine to the promontory of the Hogue,
we may observe how the Channel and North
Sea coasts are intersected by numerous streams


or streamlets, larger or smaller, which, fer- 954-937
tilizino; the soil, and ministering to the mari- - -

*T 955-956

time interests of the land, are also more or less
available as military defences. The general lines
of course and outlet are not materially altered ;
yet manifold changes have taken place in the
physical features of the chorography ;- -extensive
tracts accumulated by alluvial deposits ; here,
the run widened ; there, estuaries filled up and
converted into lush pastures ; fresh waters com-
mingled with the salt tide ; rivers so deepened
by the up-rushing wave, that the tall oar worked
by the fishermen's long arm, can no longer reach
the bed ; whilst, in others, so shallowed by the
rising banks and shoals, that the bark cannot
speed her way.

37. The Bresle, the well-known river of Ar-
ques, severed Ponthieu from Normandy. The

the Seine.

defence of the island fortress by Hollo's genuine
Northmen, evidences the availability of that fron-
tier line. A stout defence could Richard have
made on that border, had Lothaire there at-
tempted hostilities. Journeying on westward,
we are next stayed by the Tare. Is it not in-
teresting to find amongst the North-folk of East
Anglia, the namesake of the Northman's stream ?
Further, we arrive at the Diupe, the Dieppe,
the Deep-water, which as my readers may
recollect, or ought to recollect, first invited the
erection of the now flourishing sea-port City. This
same Diupe is formed by the confluence of the


954-987 Bethune, and the Eaulne, the Celtic Allan water,
' - where, for the present, we must stay, adverting


however to the circumstance, that the same con-
formation of territory continues until we reach
another Celtic stream, the Durdan, and thus
onward till we meet the mouth of the Seine.
ace of During the earlier mediaeval period, however,

appoTntedV the Bethune had not acquired its present name,

Lothaire on

being considered emphatically the Deep water;
and Lothaire had fixed his place of conference on
the borders of the Eaulne, so that Richard might
be led to take his station on the inland Delta,
with the Deep-water in his rear. This position
would not be advantageous. Richard was fully
aware, that, if possible, Lothaire would endeavour
to circumvent him. Yet such was his disturbed
state of mind that, knowing his danger, he could
not determine to shun it. He had however em-
ployed all due precautions. The country folk
had armed themselves, all ready for another
Maromme melee, and he advanced with a power-
ful body well picked- -well chosen ; includ-
ing the proudest combatants of Armorica and
Normandy. All ardent for enterprise, and
amongst them none more daring than Gautier-le-
Yeneur, none more strenuous in fight, and
Richard's companion day by day.
ad- 8 38. With Lothaire marched proudly the

ith 5

three bad neighbours, Baldwin of Flanders
Geoffrey of Anjou and, above all, Thibaut.
Could you have asked them the question, there

ranees with




was not one who would have shrunk from the v ^-w j
"yea," that whether by foul means or fair, their 1^C%<r
delight would have been to send Richard to
Valhalla- -though they would have called that
dark region by a different name. In the same
manner as we now colloquially compute military
strength by sabres and bayonets, it was said that
the army of Lothaire numbered seven thousand
helmets and three thousand gilded shields. All
these were gathering beyond the Eaulne, whilst
Richard proceeded confidently and cheerily.

Reports however, somewhat alarming;, were scouts sent

out by

spreading concerning the French forces, and Richard -
Richard sent forth three Espials to ascertain the
facts. How and in what guise was Lothaire
advancing ? They separated, searching the coun-
try ; and the first Scout crept so close as to ob-
serve the preparations of the French. No one
who saw them could now doubt but that as
enemies they were to be deemed. Lothaire was
holding a Council of war with the three Mai-
voisins, preparing for the battle. Thibaut the
Tricheur in full armour, Geoffrey Grisgonnelle,
his grey gown doffed, and he, shining in rattling
steel, young Baldwin armed and yearning for
the fight ; all, glowing with eagerness to surprise
and exterminate the foe.

The sky was bright and the breeze refreshing,
the grass tender and green, the copsewood-shade
inviting, the cloth spread upon the turf, and
Richard improved the time for morning carousal.


954-987 Well loaded were the sumpters with creature-com-
* forts, and Duke and Damoiseaux having sat down.


a hundred Yalets were ministering to the party.
Richard and his Companions were beginning
to enjoy their banquet, when, in scurried the first
Scout, shouting as he drew nigh, proclaiming
how imminent was the danger. Richard would
not stir ; he would complete his meal, and
desired his Seneschal to bring another course,
merrily telling his merry men that when they
had eaten enough and drank enough, then should
the banner be raised, and all go forward.
intelligence More cates WQYQ dished, more cyder brought.

brought of '

oMh a e pproacl1 but there was much between the cup and the


lip ; for then galloped up the second Scout,
screaming that the French were marching ;
and, close upon his heels the last Scout of the
three. Such haste had the good Knight made,
speeding as for life or death, that the spikes of
his spurs were blooded up to his heels, so deep
had he scored into his swift horse's flanks.
The French were charging! Alas for the ban-
quet ! cates and cyder left on the grass, and all
prepared for the deadly stour.

Jf h the crossins O ur Narrators are as it were entangled
amongst the rivers, and the tales they tell are
perplexed and confused. But when was any ac-
count of any battle completely clear ? We can dis-
cern that Lothaire himself had not yet crossed the
Eaulne. Richard immediately hastened his march
towards the ford, and there he took his stand.


He, the Preux, the bold one, followed by the . 954 7 937 ,
flower of Normandy, preparing for the worst, l^^p
But Lothaire was very vigilant. A French de-
tachment crossed the ford, and, at their head, a
single Knight, panoplied like the son of an Em-
peror. First and foremost did Richard assail
the enemy. The French Knight, confidently ex-
pecting the attack, charged the Duke with more
courage than good fortune.- -He fell transfixed
by the Norman lance, and his followers were cut
down by the Normans.

But Lothaire was pushing forwards furiously.
Seven hundred banners did he lead to the strife.
To await their assault would have been a des-
perate venture. The keen-toned cornet sounded The Nor-
mans fall

the retreat ; and the retreat ensued. Richard ^ p e n the
and his troops fell back upon the Deep Water, 1
where he was supported by the rural levies,
glowing the opportunity of defending their Sove-
reign and their honour. Geoffrey of Anjou had
however partly anticipated him, occupying the
vicinity. And now came up the Royal squadron.
Desperate was the battle waged in the Dieppe
water :- -knights struck down, and struggling in J h
the stream, sinking into the pits of the river
bed, mixing their blood with the waves. Many
a hard blow hit ;- -horses plunging in the wet
gravel, or slithering and sliding on the silt and
the slimy margins. Thrice did Richard raise
the Norman war-cry " Diex aie /" his own folks
joining him, whilst (as the excited Trouveur tells)
VOL. ii. SB


954-987 all the slogans attributed to the various provincial
A . nationalities were resounding. " Mon joie!"


cried the Frenchman : - " Arras /' the Fleming :
"Valle!" the Angevin; and Thibaut himself,
shouting out "Passe avant et Chartres ! r Face
to face, the two Sovereigns observed each other ;
and, whenever Lothaire saw Richard lift up the
sword, did not his heart, as the Normans tell us,
die within him ? Lothaire was actually thrown
off his horse, though not by Richard, but, unhurt,
he speedily regained his seat and resumed the
contest. Richard fought desperately, and Thi-
baut could distinguish the young Duke's clear
voice rising amidst the turmoil, vituperating him
as a miscreant and a traitor. But who. so prominent in the group as
Gautier-le-Veneur ? All the interest of the battle
seemed at one juncture to be concentrated upon
the Huntsman, as though he had been the sole
object of the conflict. Dragged off his horse-
seized by the enemy rescued and remounted by
the ready Duke on the best he had perhaps his
own charger ; and now, again for the battle. But
the strength of the French was wasting. Three
hundred horses lost ; black, dappled and grey.

Loire's Lothaire was distracted: his movement to the


vexation. ]? or( j s ^ though judiciously planned, had become
most inopportune; he had not calculated the
mischances and circumstances of the amphibious
fight, the dashings and the splashings, the stum-
blings and the risings. And when the Trouveur
chaunted the "geste," at Woodstock or West-


minster, how delighted were the attentive listeners 954-937

v .>,

when they heard the familiarly expected verses, < *


describing Lothaire's yellow face, permeated by
spite and malice, becoming ten times uglier. How
he tore his own banner all to rags and tatters, and
flung away his sword, raging and raving as if he
were crazy.

Lothaire abandoned the battle-scene, the flood
and the field, with the utmost speed : and Richard,
gleefully rejoicing, exclaimed, when he saw the

Online LibraryFrancis PalgraveThe history of Normandy and of England (Volume 2) → online text (page 48 of 60)