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gant attempted to throw off his obedience to
his father-in-law ; and William, assembling his
forces in the Isle of Wight, crossed over to
Normandy, never to return.







1. BRITTANY, notwithstanding the patron-
age bestowed by William upon Allan le-Roux,
Earl of Richmond, was inclined to resist the Nor-
man suzerainty. The nature of their subjection
to Normandy is one of the most obscure points
in the most obscure of histories, that of the
Armorican Bretons ; but the Normans never re-
nounced their claim, and William now deter-
mined to enforce their antient obedience. The
occasion was opportune. Alan Fergant, who
had succeeded to the Dukedom of Yannes,
which, as it will be recollected, was the capi-
tal of Bretagne Bretonnante or Celtic Brit-
tany, and as such considered to be the Duke of
the regal Duchy, had been recently engaged in
war with Geoffrey, the Count of Rennes. He
had defeated his competitor and cast him into
prison, where he died, but his dominion was
scarcely settled : and William, having, as it
seemed to him, no further anxiety for England,


108 T 6 ~ 7 , determined to reassert his authority as the de-
scendant of Hollo in Brittany.

William might have rested, but he sought
trouble, and for the last, and fatal time, he
passed over to Normandy. He assembled his
forces: the Normans entertained a great an-
tipathy to all their neighbours, and willingly
joined him. He laid siege to D61, and swore
bitterly that he would never depart until he had
compelled the town to surrender. The place
was not strong, and there appeared little reason
for this exasperation ; yet his boast was vain,
and he trusted in a power which he no longer
possessed. Alan Fergant advanced towards him
with a large force, magnified by report to 15,000
men. It is said that Philip of France supported
him in person. The besieged knew nought of the
army advancing to their rescue ; and strangely
must they have been surprised, when, from the

Retreats, walls, they beheld the royal camp breaking up,
and the Anglo-Norman army fleeing away. Such
was the case : William had retreated at the ap-
prehension of an unseen enemy : he had aban-
doned his camp, his baggage, his stores, to the
amount, as it was reckoned, of fifteen thousand
pounds sterling, all of which rewarded the Duke

Fe^T. ith of Brittany. William was glad to conclude a
peace ; and his daughter Constance, wise and

[Placed also J

p n 526 5 j virtuous, tall and fair, became the wife of Alan ;
and thus the old connexion was renewed, pre-
paring the way for a further union of the powers.


2. William became more and more weak-
encd, more and more perplexed, partly by the en-
creasing affliction arising from his son's diso-
bedience and ingratitude, partly by dissensions
with his own Suzerain. Amongst the other
troubles and causes of trouble, attached, like
so many curses, to the inheritance of Hollo, was
the still unsettled claim to the territory, after-
wards called the Norman Yexin or Beaucassin.
William had been unable to assert his right v
a better and more just cause of quarrel than
such pretensions usually are. Whether from
policy or from apprehension, William had been
loth to wage war, either against Henry or
Philip. Indeed, every battle which the Duke
of Normandy fought against the King of the
French, might become an example of insub-
ordination, recoiling upon the King of the
English. But he now determined to recover
this territory, not only as his own, but in con-
sequence of its great importance. Like all
border countries, it contained a turbulent and
unquiet population, and in this instance French-
men both by race and interest, they were always
ready to infest the Normans.

3. The fatal opportunity now arose, which
gave an excuse and an incitement to action. With-
out any assigned reason, though most probably
instigated by Robert, the burgesses of Mantes
declared a petty war against William, and
crossing the Eure, with a disorderly body of


W86 v ~ 7 . marauders, they plundered the neighbourhood
of Evreux, particularly the domains of William
de Breteuil and Roger de Ivry. They made
much spoil, and took many prisoners, and re-
turned driving herds and flocks before them,
and conducting the bound captives, from whom
so good a profit was to be made, glorying equally
in the gain, and in the affront thus offered to
the pride of Normandy,

William was roused to great anger ; he was
offended by the insult of this foray, and, con-
necting Philip with the transaction, he de-
manded the cession of Mantes, Pont-Isare, and
Chaumont, in addition to the whole of the
Beaucassin territory thus unjustly withheld.
Philip refused, raising many cavils unfairly,
and instigated by the undutiful Robert ;
evading rather than denying the claims. Coarse
jests passed between the sovereigns, by which
they were mutually embittered ; and William,
now no longer to be restrained, prepared to
assert his rights by the sword.

4. It is rare that the chroniclers become
descriptive ; in this instance, adopting the style
of the Trouveurs, and most probably echoing
invade, the some popular ballad of the day, they tell us
how the harvest was ripening, the grape swell-
ing on the stem, the fruits reddening on the
bough, when William entered the fertile land.
As he advanced, the corn was trodden down,
the vineyards rooted up, the country havocked,


the gifts of Providence wastefully destroyed. 1087 _
An imprudent sally of the inhabitants of Mantes,
with the intention, of saving their crops, enabled
William to enter their town, which was fired by Mantes on

v fire.

the soldiery. Churches and dwellings alike
sunk in the flames, many of the inhabitants
perished, even the recluses were burned in their

William, aged and unwieldy in body, yet
impetuous and active in mind, cheered the
desolation, and gallopped about and about

through the burning ruins. His steed stumbled


amidst the glowing embers : like the third
sovereign who bore the name of William, the
royal rider received a fatal injury from his fall.
A lingering inflammation ensued, which the
skill of his attendants could neither allay nor
heal. He called in Gilbert Maminot, Bishop
of Lisieux, and Gunthard, Abbot of Jumieges,
both yet retaining their former leech-craft, and
well competent to comfort him, if he could be
comforted, in body and in mind. The noise, the
disturbance, the tainted atmosphere of Rouen,
became intolerable to the fevered sufferer, and
he was painfully removed to the conventual
buildings of St. Gervase, on the adjoining hill.
The inward combustion spread so rapidly that
no hope of recovery remained, and William
knew that there was none.

5. Firmly contemplating the end, and yet
dreading its approach, he sent for Rufus and


. Henry, his sons ; and now ensued that conflict
of feeling never entirely absent from the death
bed, but sometimes so painMly visible, when,
as personified in the symbolical paintings of old,
we behold the good angel and the evil demon
contending for the mastery of the departing
sou l : the clinging to earthly things with a deep
consciousness of their worthlessness, self-con-
demnation, and self-deceit, repentance and ob-
duracy, the scales of the balance trembling be-
tween heaven and hell. " No tongue can tell,"
said he, " the deeds of wickedness I have per-
petrated in my weary pilgrimage of toil and
care." He deplored his birth, born to warfare,
polluted by bloodshed from his earliest years,
his trials, the base ingratitude he had sustained.
He also extolled his own virtues, praised his
own conscientious appointments in the Church :
expatiated upon his good deeds, his alms, and
the monasteries and nunneries which under his
reign had been founded by his munificence.

hbraata?. But Rufus and Henry are standing fcy that
bedside, and who is to be the Conqueror's heir ?
How are his dominions to be divided ? William
must speak of his earthly authority ; but every
word relating to the object of his pride is uttered

Robert. in agony. Robert, as first-born, is to take Nor-
mandy : it was granted to him before William
met Harold in the field of the valley of blood.
" Wretched," declared the King, " will be the
country subjected to his rule ; but he has re-


ceived the homage of the barons, and the con- .
cession, once made, cannot be withdrawn. Of
England, I will appoint no heir : let Him in
whose hands are all things, provide according to
His will." All the wide wasting wretchedness
produced by his ambition rose up before him : it
seemed as if the air around him was filled with
the waitings of those who had perished at his
behest, by the sword, by famine, and by fire.
Bitterly lamenting his anger, his harshness, his
crimes, he declared that he dared not bestow
the realm he thus had won : and yet this re-
serve was almost a delusion : the natural feel-
ing of a father prevailed, and he declared his
hope that Rufus, who from youth upwards, Rufiu -
whatever were his other defects of character,
had been an obedient son, might succeed him.
And what was Henry Beauclerc to inherit ? Hem>
A treasure of five thousand pounds of silver.
Henry began to lament this unequal gift.
" What will all this treasure profit me," ex-
claimed he, " if I have neither land, nor house,
nor home?" William comforted his youngest
son, and that strangely, by intimating his fore-
boding that Henry, becoming far greater than
either brother, would one day possess far greater
and ampler power.

But the very words which William had
spoken, now excited his own apprehensions :
the intimations he had thus given, might, by
implying a doubt of his right to confer the sue-


cession, instigate rebellion. He turned him
round in his weary bed, and directed that a
writ should be prepared, addressed to Lanfranc,
commanding him to place Rufus on the throne ;
and the dying man, he who had just vowed that
he would not take thought concerning the sinful
inheritance, affixed his royal signet to the in-
strument by which, in fact, he bequeathed the
unlawful gain ; and he forthwith delivered the
same to Rufus, kissed him, and blessed him ;
Rufus leaves and Rufus hastened away towards England, lest

at once. >

he should lose the blood-stained crown. Henry,
too, departed, to secure his legacy, and to con-
sider how he should best protect himself against
the troubles which he might occasion or sus-

6. Both sons have now left their dying
parent. More suspense, more agony. Those
who surrounded him had heard of alms and of
repentance, of contrition and of distribution of
to *^ e wea ^ u no longer his own. Some portions to
8 make amends for the wrongs he had committed,
some to the poor ; the ample residue to his
sons. But as yet no real charity ; of forgive-
ness, nothing had been said by William, nothing
of remission to the captives in the dungeon,
upon whom the doom of perpetual imprison-
ment had been past. William assented to the
remark, and yet justified himself for his severity.
Morcar had been hardly treated, and yet how
could he, William, restrain the fear which he


had felt of his influence ? Roger de Breteuil
had shewn a fell revenge, yet let them be freed ;
Woolnoth, the brother of Harold, a child when
he fell into the hands of the Conqueror, who
had sternly kept him in bonds since the days of
his infancy, and Siward of the North, were to
be released; and William ended by command- " O e nt'cai hi8
ing that all the prison doors in England and'
Normandy should be opened, except to one
alone : except to Odo his brother. Much were
those about William saddened by this hardness:
many arid urgent were the entreaties made, but
above all by the third brother, Robert of Mor-
taigne. At length William relaxed his severity,
but without relenting, declaring his unchange-
able conviction of Odo's perfidy, and that he
yielded against his will.

This act of grudging, coerced, extorted for-
giveness was his last. A night of somewhat d
diminished suffering ensued, when the troubled
and expiring body takes a dull, painful, unrestful
rest before its last earthly repose. But as the
cheerful, life-giving rays of the rising sun were
darting above the horizon, across the sad apart-
ment, and shedding brightness on its walls,
William was half awakened from his imperfect
slumbers by the measured, mellow, reverbe-
rating swelling tone of the great cathedral bell.
"It is the hour of prime," replied the attendants
in answer to his enquiry. Then were the priest-
hood welcoming with voices of thanksgiving the


1< f 7 _ . renewed gift of another day, and sending forth
the choral prayer, that the hours might flow in
holiness till blessed at their close :

" Now that the sun is gleaming bright,

Implore we, bending low,
That He, the uncreated light,
May guide us as we go.

" No sinful word, nor deed of wrong,

Nor thoughts that idly rove,
But simple truth be on our tongue,
And in our hearts be love.

" And while the hours in order flow,

O Christ, securely fence
Our gates, beleaguered by the foe,
The gate of every sense.

" And grant that to thine honour, Lord,

Our daily toil may tend ;
That we begin it at Thy word,
And in Thy favour end."

But his time of labour and struggle, sin and
repentance was past. William lifted up his
o Sep. hands in prayer and expired.

7. As was very common in those times, the
death of the great and rich was the signal for
a scene f disgraceful neglect and confusion.
Not that we are now more purified or softened
in heart : even in our own days the degraded
chamber of a departed monarch witnessed the
vilest rapacity ; but in earlier periods the eager
greediness, now usually restrained from much
outward demonstration by habits of decorum
and dread of punishment, was displayed and


vented without hesitation, fear, or shame. His ._ 1087 ,
sons had already departed : all who remained
of higher degree rushed out to horse, each has-
tening to his home, for the purpose of protecting
his property against the dreaded confusion of
an interregnum, or preparing to augment it.
Those of meaner rank, the servants and ribalds t p h ' e un b d u " d ^ g
of the court, stripped the body, even of its last
garments, plundered every article within reach,
and then, all quitting him, left the poor diseased
body lying naked on the floor.

Consternation and apathy were, after some
hours, diminished. The clergy recollected their
duty, and offered up the prayers of the Church ;
and the archbishop directed that the body
should be conveyed to Caen. But there was
no one to take charge of the obsequies, not one
of those who were connected with William by
consanguinity, or bound to him by blood or by
gratitude ; and the duty was performed by the
care and charity of Herlouin, a knight of hum-
ble fortune, who himself defrayed the expenses,
grieved at the indignity to which the mortal
spoil of his Sovereign was exposed, and who, as
the only mourner, attended the coffin during its
conveyance to Caen.

8. At the gates of Caen, clergy and laity came
forth to receive the body, but at that very time
flames arose, the streets were filled with heavy
smoke : a fire had broken out which destroyed
good part of the city : the procession was dis-

to is


10 v 87 _ . persed, and the monks alone remained. They
brought the body to St. Stephen's monastery,
and took order for the royal sepulture. The
grave was dug deep in the presbytery, between
altar and choir. All the bishops and abbots of
Normandy assembled. After mass had been
sung, Gilbert, Bishop of Evreux, addressed the
people ; and when he had magnified the fame of
the departed, he asked them all to join in prayer
for the sinful soul ; and that each would pardon
any injury he might have received from the
in monarch. A loud voice was now heard from

S. Stephen B.

the crowd. A poor man stood up before the
bier, Asceline, the son of Arthur, who forbade
that William's corpse should be received into
the ground he had usurped by reckless violence.
The Bishop forthwith instituted an enquiry
into the charge. They called up witnesses, and
the fact having been ascertained, they treated
with Asceline and paid the debt, the price of
that narrow little plot of earth, the last bed of
the Conqueror. Asceline withdrew his ban;
but as the swollen corpse sank into the grave,
it burst, filling the sacred edifice with corrup-
tion. The obsequies were hurried through, and
thus was William the Conqueror gathered to
tis fathers, with loathing, disgust, and horror.











1. WE have now arrived at the conclusion of General


the era of great individual and greater national
suffering. England was mercifully dealt with.
Since the reign of Ethelred, the empire had been
gradually losing all power of defence against
foreign enemies, whilst the people, deeply cor-
rupted, were exaggerating the faults and losing
the virtues of their ancestors. In the same
manner as the sins of the European community
demanded the visitation of the French revolu-
tion, so did England require the discipline of
the Norman sword. The sceptre was taken
from the English race, and they were placed
beneath the dominion of the alien, raised up to
fill the throne, and to whom the power was

VOL. in. Q Q


2. One of the most prominent consequences
resulting from the Conquest, was its effect upon
the external relations of the kingdom. England
was brought into a closer connexion with the
general affairs of the Commonwealth of Western
Former Christendom than had ever subsisted before. Of


England course, a previous degree of intercourse had
always existed of necessity. The narrow seas
might be crossed by the merchant : missionaries
were sent forth from our island to the banks of
the Rhine. As we rush along his waters, the
gigantic towers of Maintz still attest the pious
labours of Boniface. After the desolations of
the Danes, holy men might be brought from
Gaul to Glastonbury or to Malmesbury, for the
purpose of renewing the chain of ecclesiastical
tradition in the minster, which an Alfred's piety
had raised again from the ground. Further-
more, the community of intellect continued,
though in a limited degree. Alcuin, the friend
and companion of Charlemagne, was known and
praised as an Englishman. Bede was univer-
sally received as a father of the Church ; and
Duns Scotus, and some few other British names,
were known in the libraries of Gaul and Ger-
many. But notwithstanding all these links, and
we may moreover enumerate amongst them an
occasional matrimonial alliance or a compli-
mentary embassy, the limited intercourse and
connexion was gradually diminishing. England,


enclosed within her four seas, always harassed ^ ad fanen
by the fears or the presence of the still pagan
Northmen, was becoming more and more foreign
to the feelings and thoughts and interests of the
rest of Western Christendom.

Perhaps there is no one fact which illus-
trates this severance more forcibly and more
completely, than the circumstance that when
Anselm attended the council of Rome (1098),
the fathers were utterly unable to decide what
place should be assigned to the insular prelate
in that venerable assembly. In the reign of
the Confessor, Anselm's predecessor had crossed
the Alps to receive from the Pope the pallium
by which he was confirmed in the primacy,
but an Archbishop of Canterbury had never
before been seen taking his seat in council
amongst the other members of the western
hierarchy. No person living, no not the oldest,
had known such a thing. From their prede-
cessors, the prelates present had heard nothing
of the station amongst them of Anselm's pre-
decessors : their records told them nothing : if
they turned over the acts of preceding councils,
they did not find one single signature of an
English bishop or an English abbot. In other
words, England had no representatives in what
were, virtually, the Parliaments of Christendom.

Urban removed all difficulties of station and
precedence, by giving to Anselm the highest


Honours to
Aneelm at


place in the synod : he caused him to sit in the
apse, where he himself was stationed, having
already in the council of Bari, addressed him
almost as a colleague "Includamus hunc in
orbe nostro, quasi alterius orbis Papam ;" a
most significant epithet, and in which, it should
seem, that more than a mere complimentary
honour was implied. It appears to have amounted
almost to an acknowledgment that Britain was
considered as a co-ordinate empire, such as it
was when the Basileus of Albion appeared as
sharer with Charlemagne in the sacred honours
of royalty, when he and Charlemagne were,
in fact, the only sovereigns in the Roman

Such had been the separation of Britain from
the rest of the Christian Commonwealth, that,
by the accession of the Conqueror and his dy-
nasty, the political situation of England was
entirely changed. The waters of the Channel
still continued to divide the cliffs of Albion from
the cliffs of Gaul, but the island and the firm
land were compelled to be constantly in com-
munication with each other, to be united by
sympathies, and cognizant of each other by
hostilities. Henceforward England and France
! ' were connected by domestic ties, whether con-
joined in friendship or conflicting in the field.
The same lineages spread over England and
Normandy and Flanders : it was hard to say
who was the foreigner. But perhaps even more


influential than these tics and relationships were
the influences of doctrine and opinion. England
was now prevented, as it were, from drifting
away. The theory at this period of the Western Enters into

the political

Commonwealth, was that of unity : a unity of
often disturbed in practice, but which, yielding
a nominal supremacy to the empire, and a real,
though contested, supremacy to the Pope, im-
pressed the nations of Europe that they con-
stituted one community. Eome became the
common sensorium of Europe, and through
Eome all the several portions of Latin Europe
sympathized and felt with each other. Hence
the great difficulty of writing the history of the
middle ages. The history of the papacy enters
as an element into the history of each state or
kingdom, and at the same time that so much of
that history must be brought in as is needful to
illustrate your national transactions, you must
avoid any exuberance of discussion or detail,
which may perplex the course of events with
which you are more immediately concerned.
The geographer cannot complete the square of
the map of England, unless he introduces an
angle of the opposite coast ; but much more
must be done by the historian.

3. I must now pass to the effects occasioned
at home by the accession of the Norman king, and
to the manner in which the bitterness of the lot
of the English was mitigated, and the inevitable
miseries of foreign conquest speedily overruled.


hom ectsat Speedily : for, when three generations and four
had passed away, so had its evils disappeared.
It was a storm which purified the air : a flood
which fertilized the soil.

It has been considered, in the words of the
most popular of our historians, " that it would
be difficult to find a revolution more destruc-
tive, or attended with a more complete sub-
jection of the antient inhabitants." We are
accustomed to lament over Harold as the

Online LibraryFrancis PalgraveThe history of Normandy and of England (Volume 3) → online text (page 37 of 41)