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rity, concord, justice, and judgment to be ob-
served and defended amongst Englishman and
Norman, Frenchman and Breton, Wales and
Cornwall, Picts and Scots of Albany, and
throughout every island, province, or country,
constituting the Empire of Albion ; and all
throughout that empire were to be faithful to
William, and defend him against his enemies ;
all the free men, throughout the empire, were to
hold their possessions in quietness and in peace,
free from all exactions and all unjust talliage,
so that nothing should be taken from them, and
nought exacted except their free service, due by
law, and as it should be enacted by the common
council of the realm.

With respect to William's reluctance, re-
presented, as it has often been, as the result of


dissimulation and feigned humility, its causes 1068
are ambiguous. Possibly some witty Jongleur
had even then put into jingle the statesman's

apophthegm, la parole a ete donne a Vhomme
pour couvrir ses pensees : William hesitated, like
Cromwell and Caesar ; but his hesitation, unlike
theirs, was the preliminary to assent ; a dis-
claimer, followed by an acceptance, claims no
great credit for its sincerity, and yet it might
be sincere. William himself may have seen
that his acceptance of the title of king would
limit his authority. Moreover, when any ob-
ject, long and anxiously sought, is obtained, we
accept it with more fear than joy, shrinking
instinctively from that which we have coveted,
and saddened by the forebodings that the fulfil-
ment of human wishes will never satisfy the
desires of the human heart.

10. Preparations were now to be made for coronation.
the coronation : the right of administering the oath,
performing the ordination, and placing the crown
on the king's head, belonged to none but the
Archbishop of Canterbury, as the representa-
tive of the community. Stigand had already sti
become William's homager, and had forwarded
his cause ; but William repelled him at once
from the office, and upon the ground, that, hav-
ing obtained his elevation by unlawful means,
he was unworthy to perform the sacred office ;
and Aldred, Archbishop of York, without any
precedent, and contrary to every privilege, was


^ appointed to officiate in his stead. As in the
case of his predecessor, the coronation was pre-
pared to be celebrated in the Abbey of West-
minster. William caused the monastery to be
surrounded by Norman soldiery : their ranks
closed around, the objects of curiosity, perhaps,
of fear, to the surrounding crowds. This pre-
caution might seem to indicate apprehension of
part taken attack, though none was declared. Archbishop

by Aldred.

Aldred opened the proceedings. He presented
William to the English who filled the interior
of the building. At an earlier period, the king
would have been inaugurated beneath the open
sky. Aldred was celebrated for his eloquence.
After a proper and fitting discourse, grave and
well composed, addressed to the English in their
own English tongue, he presented William to
the multitude, and asked the people, as of old,
if they acknowledged him as their king. Gos-
fried, Bishop of Coutances, turning to the
Normans, enquired of them, in like manner, if
^ e y were w ini n g that their duke should assume
the royal authority. All assent, and .the loud-
est shouts of gladness rend the air. Next
followed the solemn ritual : the prayers began,
but the very ceremony of the compact which
William was concluding with the people over
whom he was called to rule, became the means
of destroying the mutual confidence of the sove-
reign and the community. Cloud and storm are
not more uncontroullableby human foresight than


the movements of a multitude. It is an awful
feeling to stand without a building wherein any
important event is taking place, the impassive
walls enclosing so much passion within. When
the shouts, testifying the acceptance of William
as a sovereign, burst from the Abbey, the Nor-
man soldiery, ignorant of their import, or pur-
posely misconstruing them, assumed the acclaim
to be the token of insurrection and treason.
They immediately fired the adjoining buildings ;
all, without doubt, of timber, and thatched with
reeds or straw. The conflagration spread with
so much rapidity, as to be quickly seen within
the Abbey, and all the crowd there, of every
rank and degree, the clergy excepted, rushed
out in terror. Amidst this alarm the service
proceeded. William was anointed with the
holy oil. He took the oath upon the Gospel-
book, kissing the golden cross, and swore that
he would defend Holy Church, forbid all
rapine, and rule the people committed to his
charge, according to the law. Yet such was
the contagion of the panic, that the officiating
clergy could scarcely proceed. William him-
self, who never before had known apprehension,
trembled with very fear ; and thus was the dia-
dem placed upon his head by Aldred, when he
was confirmed as sovereign of the Island Em-


pire. The victor of Hastings was agued with
terror when receiving his prize.

the fire.


1066 From the first moment, this incident was

accepted by the English as a portent of cala-
mity, and it was permitted to work its accom-

Effect of ill ^ 7

Sr cn plishment. The mischance was imputed to
Norman fraud or cruelty : and these suspicions
were followed by plans of vengeance. This
portent darkened the first paragraph, as it were,
in William's reign ; and how strangely, in our
subsequent history, did such apparently for-
tuitous events become realities ! It was in
that Abbey that Charles, altering, without as-
signable cause, the colour of his royal robe,
appropriated to himself the prophecies which
told the misfortune of the White King. When
he thus came to the throne, could people forget,
how, as Prince of Wales, the thunderbolt had
struck down the ostrich plumes ? and when the
royal standard, at Nottingham, was cast down
by the winds of heaven as soon as raised, did
it ever wave again in prosperity ?

11. This interruption to the ceremony
seems to have postponed a most important portion
of the transaction, the receipt of the homages.
Immediately after the coronation, William quitted

William 7

Westminster, and returned again to Barking,
sheltering himself in the forest, disporting with
hawk and hound, and, at the same time,
superintending the important works already
commenced under the direction of his clerk,
Gundulph, towards the eastern extremity of


London. Here the English chieftains repaired

to him, few in number, for few were surviving, g
and none of those who had partaken in the h
conflict of Hastings. Edwin and Morcar, who
had abandoned Harold in the fight ; Copsi,
from the north, bearing with him the fame of
honour and valour and truth ; Thurkill, of Li-
mesi, one of the few English who afterwards re-
tained their possessions under the new dynasty;
Siward and Aldred, the sons of Ethelgar, King
Edward's nephew ; Edric, the wild, as much a
Cymric as an English lord ; and some others
of inferior degree, came forth and submitted,
seeking his grace and favour, and having taken
the oaths of fealty, received back their posses-
sions from his hands. Yet this proceeding must
not be construed into a restoration of forfeitures
incurred by resistance : on the contrary, it was
an acknowledgment of their previous right :
it was that renovation of the bond of homage
which became necessary, as the recognition of
the new lord or sovereign, when death had dis-
solved the previous engagement ; and down to
our own day, the repetition of the same cere-
mony by prelates and peers, upon the accession
of the sovereign, attests that most antient prin-
ciple of our monarchy.

Tranquillity now outwardly prevailed again.
It was a lurid calm ; yet all seemed quiet. Wil-
liam, however, fully knew the extent of his


dangers, and they were such as required the
utmost exertion of every talent, as well of the
statesman as of the warrior. His situation


was mos t complicated : he had assumed the
crown, not in the character of an ambitious
invader, but as a lawful sovereign asserting his
legitimate rights. He was, if possible, to for-
get the existence of the party by whom he had
been opposed ; and, exercising merely so much
rigour as was needful for the purpose of shew-
ing his confidence in his own cause, to abstain
from any appearance of revenge.

12. Claiming as the national king, he was
bound to govern upon national principles, to con-
ciliate public opinion, and to fulfil the compact
which had placed him upon the throne, a peace-
ful sovereign, governing according to law. But, as


Duke of Normandy, he was under great and
heavy engagements towards those who had as-
sisted him in the enterprize, all volunteers, not
one of whom he could have compelled to cross
the channel against his own free will, all who
had expected, and many who had been pro-
mised, to be guerdoned by the riches of Eng-
land. All who had fitted out the ships which
conveyed his troops, all who had assisted him
in council at Lillebonne, or at Hastings in the
field, and this not alone to his own liegemen,
but to the mixed and mingled multitude, Bre-
tons, Flemings, Poitevins, all who had joined
in the enterprize. All, whether of high or



low degree, were equally expectant. Not only .
barons, knights, and vavassours, but the churls,

the peasants, the menials, the craftsmen, the Mixed

diameter of

varlets, who had formed a part of the host : all ^ " v h c
that rascal rout, the followers of the army, conqueror.
bearing the same relation to the more noble
robbers, that cur and jackal do to the lion,
butchers, cooks, jugglers, barbers, bakers, long-
bowmen and cross-bowmen, monks who had wan-
dered from the cloister, and priests neglectful
of their vows, all mingled together, and all
ravenous for the prey and depredation of Eng-
land. It was a hard matter, indeed, to recon-
cile these most discordant characters, of King
of England and Duke of Normandy, and the
slightest indiscretion might either bring on a
national resistance on the part of the English,
or a rebellion of the Norman soldiery. And
had there been no other cause of apprehension,
still William would have found it most arduous
to preserve the station in which alone success
could be expected, that of watching for every
occasion, and profiting by all.

13. In truth, however, the Conquest had ^;4 3 ,. f 3
hardly begun : William had gained nothing be- s
yond a portion of Harold's earldom : the North-
umbrians would acknowledge no earl except one
of their own choice, and how imperfect would be
the obedience of such an earl to the King at
Winchester or Westminster. In the districts
beyond the marsh-lands, so near to the spot
VOL. in. c c

ance of


where he then was stationed, and yet so inacces-
sible, Edgar Atheling was still recognized ; the
west had given no token of obedience : the Kings
of the Scots and of the Britons were to be
coerced into obedience ; but, above all, how was
he to withstand that enemy, which, occupying
so large a portion of the island, encircled him, as
it were, on every side ? From the first moment
of his accession, to the end of his reign, the
battle-axe of the Dane was glittering before
him. He learned to defy the convulsive efforts
of the English : he disdained the anger of the
King of the French, but the Dane never allowed
him to rest.
Their Almost from the Thames to the Firths of

dominion* rt

Scotland, there was a Danish population of
more or less density, Danish Earldoms in the
far north and in the Isles, Erin overcome by
the Danish strength, Jutland and the Isles of
the Baltic preparing to send forth their forces ;
and the sea, not a protection against the in-
vaders, but their path, their home.

When it was first heard in Denmark how
William had invaded England, the intelligence
excited the most hostile and angry feeling.
What the Danes once had held they never
abandoned, never deemed their right to be
barred. William's enterprize was viewed as
an invasion, not made upon Harold, but upon
their own inheritance. There was no longer
any national sympathy between the Northmen

roused in


and the Normans. The exploits of Earl Hollo, .
Kudo-jarl, might become the subject of a Saga,
but his descendants were Frenchmen, now T

now alien

speaking a strange tongue, and entirely severed
from their antient kinsmen in Scandinavia ; and
there was no feeling of sympathy or com-
munity of interest by which hostility could be
restrained. When William was in the height of
his exultation at his recent conquest, perhaps,
on the very day of his coronation, a Danish
knight appeared before him, bearing the defi-
ance of the Danish King. "Let him render hom-
age and tribute for his kingdom of England :
if he refuses, let him expect that Sweno will
forthwith deprive him both of crown and king- Denmark
dom." The danger was in every way imminent :
the arrival of Sweno, who would be supported
by so large a number of his own race in Eng-
land ; and the whole coast, from the mouth of
the Thames to the Humber, Essex, Suffolk,
Norfolk, Lincoln, and York, invited almost his
invasion. But William had fully prepared him-
self, and organized his plans ; and he pursued
them from the first moment of his landing, to
the conclusion of his reign ; and this rendered
him the founder of the British Empire.

14. William began by fully demonstrating

treats him

first progress.

that he would enforce the supremacy of the law :
as far as his power extended, he entirely re-
stored tranquillity. He made a progress through
the whole of that part of England which obeyed

cc 2


him, extending, probably, for we can only speak
on imperfect notices, in a species of diagonal
line from Oxford, or thereabouts, to the Hum-
ber ; but yet including large districts which
retained a species of virtual independence.
Wherever he ruled, the highways were cleared
from robbers. Watling Street and Ikenild
Street were traversed as safely as they might
have been in the days of Mulmutius. Foreign
traders, the Dane, the Fleming, the German,
resorted in safety to the ports, bringing profit
to the dealer, and custom to the king. No
taxes yet were levied, for William had just
taken possession of the contents of the trea-
sury. His soldiery were rigidly restrained from
in his army. ra pi ne anc [ violence. Not a meal could be taken

from an Englishman against his will, nor an
insult offered to the daughters of the land.
This was a wise policy on his part: it was
good for the English people, but better even
for the Norman invaders that they should be
thus held in. Had they been allowed at this
juncture to disperse themselves in the towns
and over the provinces, how easily might they
have been cut off and destroyed by any popular
insurrection. There might have been another
repetition of the massacre of St. Brice's day.
He made no distinction of persons in the ad-


ministration of justice, excepting, perhaps, that
punishment fell heaviest upon his own followers
if they offended. The usages of the country con-


tinned inviolate : he came as the heir of his cousin,
the Confessor, and his cousin's laws continued
the code of the laud, simply because no other
jurisprudence was recognized or introduced ; and
it is possible that that formal conformation [con-
firmation (?)] of them which now exists, may
date from the commencement of William's reign.
London obtained a special covenant. " Wil-
liam the King, greets William the Bishop, God-
frcy the Port-reeve, and all the burgesses within
London, friendly. Ye shall be worthy to enjoy
all the laws ye were worth in King Edward's
days. Every child shall take to his father's
inheritance after his father : no man shall do
you any wrong." Few words : this precious
document, still perfect as the day when the pen
passed upon the parchment, still in the Guild-
hall, still in the City archives, still in the very
treasury of the successors of the old Port-
reeves and burgesses, lies within the palm of
your hand ; but contains in its brief compass
all that the citizens could or can require. Wil-
liam guarantees to them, not this jurisdiction
or that franchise, nor does he set out their
boundary or measure their houses and lands;
but he secures them all : William the Conqueror
secures to the citizens of London, collectively
and individually, all the rights, all the freedom,
which, amidst every chance and change, they
alone, of all the burgher communities in Eng-
land, nay, of all the municipalities in Christen-



^ dom, have retained till the present day. In

Duration of each charter granted by successive kings, by

the privileges

of the cu y . Normans and Plantagenets, York, Lancaster,
and Stewart, the grant of William is repeated
as the first chapter of their great book of civil
liberties. Yet there was one to whom grati-
tude was due from London, besides William
the King. It was William the Bishop whose
influence aided in obtaining this special grant.
Bishop William's tomb had been demolished
during the general devastation of the memo-
rials of ancient piety ; yet, until the structure
of St. Paul's was consumed, the Lord Mayor
and aldermen, when on the "Scarlet Days"
they resorted to the Cathedral, turned aside
as they advanced up the nave, and visited the
gravestone which covered his remains, as some
small token, now that the lamps were extin-
guished, and the obit suppressed, and the dirge
no longer sung, of their respect for Bishop
William's memory.

William's 2 15. William furthermore employed this


period in making the circuit of his dominions so
far as he could venture ; and during the whole
of his reign he annually, whenever time allowed,
wore his crown at the three great festivals of
Christmas, Easter, and Whitsuntide, in three
of the great cities, of Wessex, Mercia, and
Danelagh. This was not a mere matter of
state or policy. According to the Anglo-Saxon
constitution, all remedial jurisdiction was an-



nexed to the person of the king ; and William,
in order that he might the better be enabled,
like his predecessors, to administer justice to
the suitor, and to grant grace and mercy to
those by whom it might be sought, endeavoured,

? English.

perhaps promised, to learn the English tongue.
This, however, was never accomplished by him :
the excuse was found in the troubles and cares
of royalty, and, as it was said, in the inaptitude
of mature and advancing age.

Many of these measures had. without doubt, spirit


their full effect. It was by William's civil ad- tion -
ministration, however mixed with violence, that
England, about to split into fragments, was
knit and bound together, in order that it might
become one realm, under one High Court of
Parliament, one king. The Conquest did not
give us our constitution, but prepared the way
for the constitution, through many an age of
turmoil and trouble ; and for turmoil and trouble
William was immediately prepared

16. It was a notorious fact, to friend and rtifica
foe, to Normans and English, that the paucity
of defensible strongholds in England had con-
tributed equally to the successes of the Danes
as to William's own. Not that strongholds
were entirely wanting. Some Roman fortifi-
cations still existed, and were strong and de-
fensible. They had enabled the Londoners to
resist William's forces : they had almost turned
him at Dover. Exeter was confident in the



power of resistance which the fortifications of
the Caesars would give. Colchester and Chester
might equally have depended upon theirs ; but
some places which the Romans had fortified had
become waste and desert, and there were no
citadels in the most important points, which
William's strategic genius showed him ought
to be occupied against a foreign, or still more,
an internal enemy. There was, at this moment,
evidently no object more important than that
of restraining the population, should it become
discontented, and of preventing a multitude,
brooding insurrection, from becoming an open

toe ll To n we? f During William's residences at Barking, he
had begun, as before mentioned, his works ad-
joining London. As the citizens looked at the
trenches, broken by his pioneers, hard by the
river Thames, they might, perhaps, at first
doubt, or not be willing to understand, the
intent of the builder. A royal palace the
fabric was, and indeed still is, according to
law, and here we may enter the great council
chamber, supported by pillars of oak, hard as
iron, and the royal chapel, whose massy columns
and circular apse remind you of the Norman
Basilica. The builder, as it seems, was one
Gundulph, a monk of Bee, a friend of Laufranc,
and who seems to have obtained the rank of
chaplain in William's court. But the building
was also a palace of defence : the fosse be-


came deeper, and the flood gates were made , . v
and opened which let in the water of the river
as it rose and fell with the tide, and the walls
grew higher and higher, and the works now
known as the Tower rapidly arose under the
direction of the master mason who stood by.
The model of this building was found in
William's own birth-place, Falaise, no other a

Castle the

alteration having been made except what wa s modelfor

necessary from the difference of locality : our
Tower upon the low banks of a great stream,
Falaise with the living rock for its core. A
monument of foreign domination was therefore
now constantly before the Barons of London :
yet it is remarkable that the King, yielding
either to respect for the rights of that power-
ful, unruly, and jealous community, or to ap-
prehension of the indignation which he might
excite by their infringement, encroached as
little as possible upon the city ground. He
erected it over the old Roman wall, of which
a portion may yet be traced within the build-
ing. More than one half, therefore, of the its
Arx Palatina, as it was proudly called, was
and is in Middlesex : and whilst an ample
circuit of the hamlets in the shire land on the
eastern side of the boundary was placed under
the authority of the Royal Constable, his juris-
diction in the municipal territory does not ex-
tend beyond the very gates of the fortress.
Even on the shore of the river, this military

the White


jurisdiction, important as it must have been,
was ill-defined : and because William hesi-
tated in his usurpations of 1067, the extent of
the powers derived from his acts is at this day
contested by the magistracy against a warrior
more distinguished than the Conqueror, to whose
[1846] hand the crown has now intrusted the keys of
the fortress.

William dreaded the citizens, and dared not
himself confront them within their city. But
he gained this object by other means, not less
effectual, and yet without offending their pride.
Through the intervention, as incidental circum-

stances, for history is silent, enable us to
collect, of the Bishop of London, Ralph Bay-
nard obtained the ancient soke or jurisdiction
far within the city, but like the Tower, on the
shores of the Thames, upon which he erected
the castle which bore his 'name. It became the
head of his extensive barony, which included
fifty lordships and more, in Essex, in Suffolk,
in Norfolk, in Hertfordshire, rendering him one
of the most powerful of the Norman Baronage.
Great were the privileges and honours held in
London by Ralph Baynard ; he and his heirs
bore the Banner of the City, and in time of
war, he came forth from the great door of the
Metropolitan Cathedral, and received from the
hands of the Port-reeve and the Aldermen the
sign, "bearing thereon the semblance of the
Patron Saint in silver and in gold/' which



he was to wave for the honour and service of .
the community. And many other were the
privileges of Baynard in time of war and of
peace : above all, that when the citizens held
their Great Council, he was ever to attend the
same, and to sit on the hustings next to the
chief magistrate ; whilst all the judgments given

Online LibraryFrancis PalgraveThe history of Normandy and of England (Volume 3) → online text (page 25 of 41)