Francis Palgrave.

The history of Normandy and of England (Volume 3) online

. (page 11 of 41)
Online LibraryFrancis PalgraveThe history of Normandy and of England (Volume 3) → online text (page 11 of 41)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

nown of the Norman name, afforded relief to
the burdened mother country. Crowds of young
soldiers came flocking to Falaise, opening their
ready hands for the tinkling sous Rouennois,
offering their aid; and Robert, casting off his
allegiance, appeared in open rebellion.

Robert's 12. No lingering on Duke Richard's part.


beiges Summoning his forces, Richard invested Falaise.
Besiegers and besieged were equally inflamed by
the malignity inseparable from civil war, bro-
ther always fiercest against brother. The ducal


ordnance was brought to bear upon the out- 1021-1035
works, whilst Robert's soldiers were cleared off
from the walls by the bolts which the arbalests

Richard became exasperated ; Falaisc, more pacification

between the

and more straitened. Robert miht dread to be

p '

dropped into the dungeon pit if the Castle were


stormed. He was advised to sue for peace. The
competitors agreed upon a partition. The Hies-
rnois was conferred on Robert ; but Falaise was
reserved to the elder. Merrily did they return
to Rouen. Great rejoicings ensued. A banquet,
in Rollo's palatial Castle, imparted splendour to
the reconciliation. But the young and flourishing
Richard was suddenly stricken ; and he passed
from the hall to the death-bed. Many of the
party shared the same fate. Whilst the exhila-
ration of the feast was at its height, the funeral
bells were knelling. No one doubted but that sudd^rf
poison had been in the cup. Never was Robert BfchJa


exonerated from the imputation of fratricide ; to poison-
never was the dark stain effaced ; never was the
obscure suspicion dispelled.

13. Robert's accession did not experience Rob e er s tTi. of
any opposition, but the event is related without
emphasis. No expression of sentiment recorded.

No prayer or benediction in the Cathedral. At illegitimate

1 > children of

the time when Richard's marriage contract was ex- Ricburd
ecuted, the young Duke had already three children

chance children as they would be euphemized
amongst our country folk a son Nicholas, and


io24-io35 two daughters. Nothing is said or hinted concern-
ing their mother or mothers, yet Robert acted as
though he had some reasons to apprehend rivalry
from the boy Nicholas ; and he was tranquilly
put out of the way. The stripling, placed as an
Oblate in the Abbey of Fecamp, took very kindly
to his clerical vocation. He grew up to be a
learned and a good man, in due time Abbot of
Saint Ouen. He rebuilt the Abbey Church ;
and, if the opinion of some architectural an-
tiquaries be correct, the apse, so well known
as the " tour des clercs, ' is the memorial of
Nicholas, who, living through three generations,
attended the Conqueror's funeral.

u - Bab 7 Adela, the poor little ducal
widow, obtained, in due time, a suitor without any

Baudouin de

Li 8 ie, bis son. coquetry. Baudouin a-la-belle-barbe, Baldwin
Adeia Bushy-beard, sued for the infant daughter of

married to

de lisle'. 11 France on behalf of his sou Baudouin, (afterwards
Count of Flanders,) Baudouin de Lisle. She be-
came the mother of Matilda, our Matilda,
the Conqueror's Queen.

Robert's 2> 15. Historians and archaeologists have

epithets or

bestowed much unprofitable pains upon the
legends, in which they discover grounds for
a vague conjecture, that the solid sturdy Robert
became identified with a certain imaginary or le-
gendary hero, and in such manner as to earn the
ugly epithet of le-D table. Other archa3ologists
seem to enlist our Duke in the meisne or train of
Hellekin, or Huiiekin, the Gallic Wilde j&ger,
or Wild huntsman. Yet, whatever may have been


Kobert's secret crimes, he never manifested any 1024-1035
open tendency to outrage or cruelty. Courteous,
joyous, debonnaire and benign, was the son of
Richard le-Bon before the world ; and his life
and conversation consistent. The poor and dis-
eased ever commanded his sympathies, and par-
ticularly did he labour to relieve the sufferings
of the miserable mesel. This Robert, second
of the name in the opinion of those genealogists
who accept Rollo-Robert as the first, was truly
Robert le-Magnifique^ as well as Robert le-Diable.
Fully did he deserve the epithet earned by his
abounding munificence.

The Magnifico commenced his reign by in-
creasing the salaries of his retainers, and dupli-
cating their liveries, the Court allowances for
back and belly. According to popular exagge-
rations, which may in some degree be accepted as
expansions of truth, Robert's gifts were so liberal,
that those whom he benefitted died of joy. He
never could satisfy himself that his bounties were
adequate to the claims of the receivers : and,
endued with a virtue far more rare than libe-
rality, his heart never grudged what his hand
bestowed. Yet, despite his generosity and joy-
ous munificence, Robert's general conduct was
unsatisfactory, and in the last year of his life
he displayed all that wild, exuberant hilarity
which saddens the thoughtful observer more
than grief : an unseasonable joke may be more
melancholy than the darkest despondency.

Once settled in his authority ; at least as


1024-1035 much settled as his flighty hilarious character
would allow him to be, Falaise became his


feskfenc'e. favourite residence. Site, air, water, hunting-
grounds, copses, shaws, all pleased him ; and
the various anecdotes concerning Robert's de-
meanour, trivial in themselves, but which ac-
quire value by accumulation, are evidences that
the young Duke mixed pleasantly with his

The peltry manufacture, and all the branches
of the leather trade flourished in Falaise. Buck-
skin and doe-skin, calf-skin, and sheep-skin, and
the bullock's tough hide, were supplied cheaply
and abundantly from the glade and the pas-
ture. Foreigners resorted to the thriving bour-
gade and were welcomed as denizens. Thus, in
the time of Richard le-Bon, a certain Herbert,
or Robert, or Fulbert, three names which may
be easily confounded the one with the other by
the careless transcriber, established himself there.

Robert or " Robertus Belliparius," as Alberic of Trois-

Fulbert, the

fontaines writes the word Pelliparius, following
the thick German pronunciation, was born at
Chaumont, in the Walloon country, near the
Abbey of Florines, in the Diocese of Liege,
but he and his wife, Doda, removed to " Hoie,"
where, as it is noted, they dwelt in the Market
Place, near the old Exchange. " Manentes ad
veteras cambias in foro Hoiense." And Alberic
also furnishes some particulars (not relevant to
our history) concerning the courtship and mar-


riage of the " Belliparius," with the said Doda, . Iu2t ~ 103 ^
otherwise Duida.

Considered in themselves, these circumstances
are somewhat trifling, but they were traditional
in the localities. Alberic, who collected the in-
formation on the spot, informs us that he had
heard old folks tell the story of the fortunate
Currier's family ; and the minuteness of these
details testifies that Fulbert continued a " cele-
brity' in his former neighbourhood more than
a century after his grandchild the Conqueror's
death, and imparts identity to the personage.
One daughter had the Belliparius and Doda, the
Arietta, or Herleva, of the Norman chroniclers.
Fulbert was wealthy; a currier or tanner by
trade, he also carried on the business of a beer

16. A strong prejudice exists in Germany
against the artificers who furnish the currier
with the raw material needful for his manu-
facture. Those who pursued the useful, albeit
disgusting, trade of skinning beasts, were stig-
matized as a distinct and degraded caste
ranked amongst the races maudites of France, T he skinners
holding a place somewhat between a mesel and
a gypsey, cohabiting or marrying only amongst
themselves. It was the ever present and in-
tolerable burning brand of unmerited and unre-
moveable ignominy, which drove the famous
Rhine robber, Schinderhans, to desperation.

The opinion concerning the foulness of the




1024-1035 vocation seems to have been very general. The
antient Hebrew gnome : Let the learned man
skin dogs, or break the Sabbath, rather than
abase his talent by employing the gift as the
means of making money, affords equally a curi-
ous exemplification of the honour rendered to
intellect by the fine old Rabbins, and their
detestation of the disgusting business which,
employing an excusable exaggeration, they
paralleled with so great a transgression as the
violation of the Seventh day's rest.

All analogous avocations all employments
dealing with the raw hide participated in the
same obloquy. Prosperous as Fulbert was, he
could not merge the Tanner in the Brewer. It is
probable that the union of these trades encreased
unpopularity. In England, Tanners were

and nrewer prohibited from brewing, as though the junction


of these callings might be injurious to the public
health, or productive of some other inconveni-
ences. There are queer and, to ale drinkers,
rather disagreeable stories current, concerning
the smoothness imparted to the good liquor by
animal matter. And whoever sought to tease or
scoff at Fulbert or his, led you into the tan-yard.
Such being the state of the public mind, we may
easily imagine the sensation created in Falaise,
when, adopting the expression so familiar among
our lower classes, it was talked and gossiped all
round the town how the Duke "kept company"
with the Tanner's daughter. The Chroniclers



detail these amours with much gusto. Some 1024-1035
say Robert became acquainted with the damsel .\ii.-tta, tho


at a dance: others, that he was first attracted by *-<

J and t

seeing her delicate little feet gleaming through
the translucent streamlet, still rippling round
the base of the rock upon which the huge Donjon
stands. The window is shewn through which
as the Cicerone now tells you, the Duke first
beheld her.

Arietta did not affect coyness ; but Fulbert,
who desired she should be married honestly
in her own station, opposed the Duke's haunting
the house. The Duke, however, neither could
nor would be warned or driven away from the
premises. One son, one only son, was acknow-
ledged as their offspring. Robert bestowed upon
the boy the ancestral name of William, and he
was nursed in the house of his Grandfather, the

g 17. Such a connexion as Robert had
formed with the ultra-plebeian Arietta, could not
fail to be resented by her aristocratic betters
as a personal affront ; but her inferiors, whether
male or female, were far more offended;
would it not have been more than could fairly be
demanded from poor human nature, that such
an insult to respectability should be condoned. -
Arietta's pretty feet had taken the shine out of
all the other pretty feet in Falaise. We may
picture to ourselves how the Burgess wives, who
prided themselves in character and decorum,

L 2

C mne.vion


1024-1035 avenged themselves by scorn ; the like, their
husbands, who would be equally provoked by
the hybrid Tanner's good fortune. And it was


with Arietta. w jth the dear delight of mortifying a flourishing
neighbour, that a worthy Burgess, residiug near
the Tannery, observing Gruillaume, old Griiillaume
Talvas, (so called, as it is said, from the hardness
of his disposition, popularly compared to the
toughest of bucklers,) Lord of Belesnie and
proud Alencon, sauntering along the street, he,
the said Burgess, merrily, and with malice pre-
pense, invited the noble Baron to walk in and
admire his Suzerain's son.

This Talvas was very distinguished by his
ancestry ; he, the representative of one of the


3i2 L 534 536. three greatest Duchy families, the three lead-
ing lineages of the land. When Richard Sans-
peur established feudality in his dominions,
Osmond de Centvilles, the trusty friend who had
rescued the young Duke from captivity or death,
was acknowledged as Premier among the nobility ;
Bernard, the Dane, the bulwark of the Terra
Normannorum, from whom sprung the Harcourts
and their wide ramifications, the second ; and
Ivo de Belesme, the faithful vassal of Guillaume
Longue-epee, the third ; and of this Ivo, the
Guillaume now before us was either the son
or the grandson. The Belesme family appear
inferior in nominal precedence to the two others,
but equal, perhaps more than equal, in pre-
potence and power.


Earnestly did the austere Chieftain, burning ^4-1035
with indignation, gaze upon the babe, who, as
we collect from the lively tale-teller, Master Wace,
behaved very much like ordinary babies.

e " Shame ! shame ! shame ! " exclaimed the

curses tne

Baron ; " for by thee and thine, shall I and b
mine be brought to loss and dishonour."

Guilleaumc fit varlct petit

A Falaise fu nurri ;

Le viel Guillcaume Talcvaz

Ki tint Seez, Belesme, e Vignaz

Par Falaise un jour trespassout,

Ne sai dire quel part alout.

Un des Burgeis 1'ad apele

En riant ad lui a parle".

Sire, dit il, ci vous tournez,

En cest ostel ce"auns entrez.

Veez le fils vostre seigneur

Si semblera bien a ennur !

Ou est ? dist-il, montrez le nioi.

Aporter le fist devant soi.

Je ne sai ke 1'enfanz fist

Ne s'il pleura, ne se il rist,

Quant Talevaz Tout esgarde"

De pres veu, et avise

Honte soit dist-il, honte soit !

E par tierce foiz dist, Honte soit

Car par toi e par ta ligne

lert la mienne moult abaisse"

E par toi e par ton lignage

Oront mes hoirs grant damage

Volentiers empeirie 1'eust

De la parole, se il peust

Talevaz ainsi s'en tourna

De grant pose niot ne sonna.


1024-1035 The imprecation bespake the bitterness of the
old man's heart, seeking to blast the infant by
the Evil eye, and smite him by the curse. Nor
were the words idle. As far as belonged to
the unconscious infant they prognosticated the
troubles which would fall upon his head, the
malediction the cause of its own fulfilment ; and
they become peculiarly significant when we listen
to Gruillaume Talvas as speaking the sentiments
pervading the country.

* ol3ert 2 18. Further offence was speedily eiven

gives more o / O

offen c e. by Duke Robert. He continued defying and
despising popular feeling a line of conduct be-
speaking either conscientious courage or egregious
folly. Fulbert, having doffed his blouse, struts
in peacock-pride, invested with the office of
Court Chamberlain ; whilst Arietta, coming for-
ward from behind the half-drawn curtain, stands
before the world in her ambiguous station of
honour and shame ; less than a wife, and more
than a concubine.

It is a consistent contradiction in the human
character, that any strong point on which we
value ourselves is likely to exhibit our most
desperate failure. The Dnkes of Normandy had
prudently attended to the advantages resulting
from the matrimonial alliances contracted by their
daughters : but, with respect to their own personal
conduct they blindly obeyed the unbridled impulses
of their lusts. From Eollo downwards, Richard
Sans-peur was the only one who had a lawful wife


absolutely exempted from cavillation ; and he was 1024-1035
unfaithful to her. In a licentious age, the Dukes of
Normandy, casting off all yoke, were distinguished
by their contempt of all moral restraint ; sons
of Belial : and, to the small degree that the vicious-
ness of private character damages the influence of
public men, the profligacy of the Norman Dukes
diminished Normandy's importance in the eyes
of foreign Powers. How often had Eichard
Sans-peur been flouted in high places as the son
of a concubine.

Whilst the debonnaire Robert conciliated the
community on his own behalf, all the liberality
of the Maguifico could not purchase favour for
his child. In previous cases, the illegitimacy
had either been removed by a mantle marriage,
or, if that ceremony had not been performed,
coudonated ; and the Norman people hugged
themselves in every delusion whereby the op-
probiuni could be extenuated or concealed.
Look to Guenora, the daughter of a very
humble functionary, but who could boast, (as
the world affirmed,) of her antieut Danish de-
scent how cordially- was she received. Far
otherwise with respect to Arietta; her eleva-
tion was intolerable, From first to last, where-
ever William her bastard moved, whether in Court
or in Camp, he was always more or less in bad ? leljeiaiiism -
odour, surrounded, so to speak, by his native air,
the fetid atmosphere of the unsavoury tan-yard.
Had the laws of heraldry been then settled, as


his mother's


1024-1035 they subsequently were, by the snip and the clip
of the Tailor, we may fancy that, upon his cotte
cFarmes, the abatement of bastardy, the beude
sinister, (which, according to the modern indul-
gent Code of the Lord Lion beyond the Tweed,
assumes the more elegant shape of an oiie wavy,)
whether Or or Argent, Azure or Gules, would
have always looked like a strip of raw leather.
T f h the stardy William the Conqueror, the founder of the
never 161 most noble Empire in the civilized world, could


never rid himself of the contumelious appella-
tion which bore indelible record of his father's sin.

In all history, William, is the only individual
to whom such an epithet has adhered throughout
his life and fortunes. Was the word of affront ever
applied to Alphonso, the stern father of the noble
house of Braganza, by any one except a Castilian ?
Not so, William a Bastard was William at the
hour of his birth ; a Bastard in prosperity ;
a Bastard in adversity ; a Bastard in sorrow ;
a Bastard in triumph ; a Bastard in the ma-
ternal bosom ; a Bastard when borne to his
horror-inspiring grave. " William the Conqueror,"
relatively, but "William the Bastard," positively;
and a Bastard he will continue so long as the
memory of man shall endure.

19. Discontent was leavening broad Nor-
mandy. All the numerous and powerful collate-
ral descendants of Guillauine Lougue-epee, nay,
of Rollo, were collectively and individually in-
sulted through the Tanner's grandchild. He


would cut them off from every chance of the sue- 1024-1035
cession. Each resented the exclusion from the
inheritance as an unpardonable injury ; and
Belesme-Talvas had spoken out for them all.


Amongst the disappointed kindred, the most for- and hi 8U nc c ie'


midable was Robert, the married clerk, Arch-
bishop of Rouen, and Count of Evreux, Duke
Robert's uncle, the legitimated son of Guenora,
the marriage subsequent to cohabitation being
fully satisfactory to the Norman mind; and he
was also the lawful heir. Had Robert died at this
juncture, leaving only Arietta's stigmatized issue,
then, if law was law, the rights of the Count
Bishop were incontestable.

There were not those wanting, especially, as
we may collect, amongst the nobles, who roused
Duke Robert's suspicions against his relations;
and, wisely preparing to prevent the danger,
he laid siege to Evreux. In this position the
Archbishop assembled large forces. Reduced
to great straits, he attempted to support himself
by his spiritual authority ; and he fulminated
an excommunication against his nephew, at
the same time, placing Normandy under a
general interdict. The Archbishop then with-
drew to the court of King Robert, who received
him hospitably. Duke Robert relented. Some
say that he discovered he had acted on false
suggestions, and he recalled the Archbishop,
who thenceforth avoided giving occasion of


1024-1035 20. This annoying contest concluded,
another of a similar character emerged. Hugh,
Bishop of Bayeux, was the son of Ralph, Count
of Ivri, the half-brother of Richard Sans-peur, the
queller of rebels, who had crushed the insurgent
peasantry ; and, whether by right or by wrong, the
Bishop took possession of Ivri. He caused the
awe-inspiring dungeon tower to be well prepared

tKwiop d of f r defence. But Duke Robert, according to
his accustomed tactics, was enabled to reduce
this important possession without bloodshed.
He blockaded the castle so straitly, that Bishop
Hugh, like his cousin the Archbishop, was
obliged to sue for mercy. It was granted, but
upon the hardest terms. He went forth, and
wandered many years in exile. The too cele-
brated Odo, Arietta's son by Herlouin de Conte-
ville, the husband taken by her after Duke
Robert's death, and who figures at full length in
the acts and transactions of the Conquest, was
Hugh's congenial successor.

Robert proceeding boldly onwards, now as-
sailed a far more dangerous enemy. Fully was
he conscious of the spite which the Talvas en-
tertained towards him. But he had the great
feudatory in his grip, and he knew how to
work his ducal prerogatives. Alencon, where,
as we collect from subsequent events, the Duke's
connexion with the loathed Tanner's daughter
had excited great and permanent disgust, was
held by Talvas, jure beneficii ; or, in more modern


constitutional terminology, a Feud. Robert's 1024-1035
purse commanded Robert's soldiery ; and, raising
his troops, he besieged the town.

21. The Ducal forces were so vigilant that
Talvas could not discover any means of escape ;
he was now paying the cost of the imprecations
he had fulminated before the cradle. Haughty Taivwsur.

* renders.

Talvas was compelled to seek pardon pardon
was granted, but, painful the pinch sustained
by the Premier baron. He submitted to the chas-
tisement, which was now becoming a species of
established law. Unshod and half stripped he
came forth, the saddle girt upon his old gibbous
shoulders. Robert was satisfied ; and Talvas,
having rivetted his broken oath, prepared for
mischief, when the good time for turbulence
should really come.

22. Robert le-Magnifique's position, geo-
graphical, political, and social, enabled him to ex-
ercise considerable influence over his neighbours'
affairs. Normandy presents herself as one of the
great powers composing the Capetian Confederacy
perhaps the greatest. France and England be-
held in the Norman Duke, a Potentate who could
support or menace either kingdom. Emma's hus-
band had jarred against Richard le-Bon ; and the
matrimonial connexion had failed to extinguish
the smouldering enmity. Ethelred's unhappy
expedition against the Cotentin testified the
anxiety created in England by the possibility of
an invasion from the warrior-teeming, iron-bound


M24-1035 coas ^ . w hich ? culminating at Cherbourg, always
threatened the Channel shores. Moreover., the
smiling countenance which the Norman Sove-
reigns turned towards their Danish kinsmen,
was a suspicious feature in their policy.

^3. Flanders, at this juncture, afforded
to Duke Robert a favourable opportunity of


protection, manifesting his own political importance. The
younger Baudouin, known in history as Baudouin
de Lisle, he who had espoused the Adela, rose
against his father, Baudouin-a-la-belle-barbe.
The venerable parent, expelled by the valiant,
sagacious, but undutiful son, sought refuge in the
Castle of Falaise, Falaise for it was in this
stronghold that Robert resided and held his
court, whilst he deserted the antient palace of
Rouen. Did any harassing reminiscences haunt
Stp- Rollo's banquet hall? Duke Eobert willingly
Robert afforded his aid to the suppliant Count ; he

pacifies the

brought up his army into Flanders, perpetrating
devastations so germane with the character
of a Robert le-Diable, that some suppose it
was by reason of the ferocity displayed during
this foray, that he acquired his mythic name.
Yet we may half condone the delight which
must have been felt by a great grandson of
Longue-epee, when he could punish the land of
Old Arnold the murderer.

The insurgent nobles who headed the revolt
abandoned the insurgent son ; and, soliciting
peace, they besought Robert to act as mediator.


Tranquillity being restored, the pacification be- 1024-1035
tween Normandy and Flanders expanded into
that amicable intercourse, which, old grudges
forgotten, placed Baudouin de Lisle's excellent
daughter, the affectionate Matilda, on the Eng-
lish throne she, who humanly speaking, be-

Online LibraryFrancis PalgraveThe history of Normandy and of England (Volume 3) → online text (page 11 of 41)