James Bryce Bryce.

The book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 9) online

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Online LibraryJames Bryce BryceThe book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 9) → online text (page 47 of 55)
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The Normans made their way by easy
stages, and without encounter-
ing opposition, to London,
the headquarters o f
Harold's government.
On Christmas Day,
1066, the Con-
queror was duly
crowned at


This illustration, from the painting by Mr. Seymour Lucas, R.A., in the Royal Exchange, represents the moment
when William the Conqueror, attended by his queen and surrounded by his bishops and nobles, is handing the
charter to Godfrey. The architecture is taken from the Chapel of the Pyx at Westminster, which is generally
accepted as having been built before the Norman Conquest, while the costume is taken from the Bayeux Tapestry.



This estimate of the character of the Conqueror, from the pen of one who knew him personally,
is taken from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the earliest history written in the English language
and the earliest vernacular record of national events in modern Europe. The name of the author
is not given, but there is strong evidence to show that in its original form it was undertaken at the
suggestion of King Alfred, and that some parts of it were actually written by him. Compiled in the
form of a book of annals, the Chronicle is supposed to have been begun about 892, at Winchester,
the capital of the West Saxon kingdom, and continued by various chroniclers down to 115J.

I F any would know what manner of man King William was, the glory he
* obtained and of how many lands he was lord, then will we describe him as
we have known him, we, who have looked upon him, and who once lived in
his court. This King William, of whom we are speaking, was a very wise
and a great man, and more honoured and more powerful than any of his
predecessors. He was mild to those good men who loved God, but severe
beyond measure towards those who withstood his will. He founded a noble
monastery on the spot where God permitted him to conquer England, and
he established monks in it, and he made it very rich. In his days the great
monastery at Canterbury was built, and many others also throughout Eng-
land. King William was also held in much reverence ; he wore his crown
three times every year when he was in England : at Easter he wore it at Win-
chester, at Pentecost at Westminster, and at Christmas at Gloucester. And
at these times, all the men of England were with him, archbishops, bishops,
abbots, and earls, thanes, and knights. So also was he a very stern and a
wrathful man, so that none durst do anything against his will, and he kept
in prison those earls who acted against his pleasure. He removed bishops
from their sees and abbots from their offices, and he imprisoned thanes, and
at length he spared not his own brother Odo.

A MONGST other things, the good order that William established is not to
** be forgotten ; it was such that any man, who was himself aught, might
travel over the kingdom with a bosom-full of gold unmolested ; and no man
durst kill another, however great the injury he might have received from him.
He reigned over England, and being sharp-sighted to his own interest, he
surveyed the kingdom so thoroughly that there was not a single hide of land
throughout the whole of which he knew not the possession, and how much
it was worth, and this he afterwards entered in his register. The land of
the Britons (Wales) was under his sway, and he built castles therein ; more-
over, he had full dominion over the Isle of Mann (Anglesea) : Scotland also
was subject to him from his great strength ; the land of Normandy was his
by inheritance, and he possessed the earldom of Maine ; and had he lived
two years longer he would have subdued Ireland by his prowess, and that
without a battle. Truly there was much trouble in these times, and very
great distress ; he caused castles to be built and oppressed the poor. The
king was also of great sternness, and he took from his subjects many marks
of gold, and many hundred pounds of silver, and this, either with or without
right, and with little need. He was given to avarice and greedily loved gain.
He made large forests for the deer, and enacted laws therewith, so that who-
ever killed a hart or a hind should be blinded. As he forbade killing the
deer, so also the boars ; and he loved the tall stags as if he were their father.
He also appointed concerning the hares, that they should go free.
HTHE rich complained and the poor murmured, but he was so sturdy that he
recked naught of them ; they must will all that the king willed, if they
would live ; or would keep their lands ; or would hold their possessions ; or
would be maintained in their rights. Alas ! that any man should so exalt
himself, and carry himself in his pride over all ! May Almighty God show
mercy to his soul, and grant him the forgiveness of his sins ! We have
written concerning him these things, both good and bad, that virtuous men
might follow after the good and wholly avoid the evil, and might go in the
way that leadeth to the kingdom of heaven.



In these forty pictures by Daniel Maclise, R.A., the story of the events leading up to the Norman invasion
till the death of Harold is told in graphic form, giving a vivid outline of this period of great historic interest.

Harold, departing on a visit to William of Normandy, takes leave of Edward the Confessor.

Harold and his knights ride to their place ol embarkation at Bosham, Sus

panions brought as prisoners before Guy of Ponthieu and his Norman knigh

Id and the Saxons are confined in the Castle of Beaurain, near Montreuil

Harold's captivity announcfd to William ot Normandy, who is inform, d that Guy ol Ponthieu dtrni

Guy of Ponthieu gives further audience to Harold and his companions, whose release is demanded by heralds from Duke William

Harold. William's companion in his campaign in Britta

William confers upon Harold the dignity of a Norman knigr


Harold's oath of fidelity to William, sworn over the concealed relics of the saints

Harold, about to return to England, bids adieu to William, who loads him with farewell gifts.

Harold, returned from Normandy, presents himself to Edward the Contesso

Morcar, elected Earl ol Northumbiia in place ol Tostig ; Harold mediatis with thi

The marriage of Harold with Aldyth, sister of Edwin anil Mores


William, in his hunting-ground at Rouen, receives intelligence fi

Tostig, defeated in his attempt against Harold, flies in his galley from the English coast.

Hugues Maigrot, a monk, has audience of King Harold, to propose conditions from Duke Williai


William, bent upon invading England, begs for the aid of Philip I. of France, and of Baldwin, Earl of Flanders, his father-in-lav

William consults the nobles and merchants ot his dukedom for help in his design.


William displays the relics of St. Valery to allay the discont

Duke William in his galley, and accompanied by his fleet, crosses to England.

William stumbles as he lands, but, grasping the earth with 1

Meanwhile Tostig and Harald Hardrada are victorious, and receive the submission of the city of York.

The retreat of Edwin and Morcar from York.


w / y$. :-9

th Tostig, his brother, and with Hardrada, Tostig s ally, before the bat


Morning of battle. A Norman chief, leads Duke William's van, singing the song of Roland and juggling with his sword.

Normans, retreating, ;

nd turned by William,


act the rumour of his having fallen.

Harold, in front of the standard of England, is pierced by a falling arrow.

The night after the battle : Edith discovers amid the slain the body of Harold, last Saxon King of England.













THE Norman Conquest is one of the
turning points in English history.
It came at a moment when the Teutonic
policy of Egbert, Alfred, and Edgar
was falling to pieces through the growth
of new disruptive forces. In another
century the great earldoms, if left to
run their natural course of development,
would have become independent king-
doms in fact if not in name. The
Anglo-Saxon intellect had touched its
zenith three centuries before the battle of
Senlac, and since then had remained
stationary, or perhaps retrograded. Except
under external pressure it was most likely
that England would have remained im-
pervious to the new ideas of law, politics,
science, and religion, which had grown up
under the fostering care of the Continental
churches. A short period of devastating
warfare, a longer experience of the evils of

Norman despotism and Nor-
The Political man feudalisni) were not too
Ascendancy ^ , a ke iQ for re _

of the Norman Jjgj^ to the F European
commonwealth. Nor is it a mere fancy to
ascribe the higher qualities of the English
nationality to the union of a stoical
and freedom-loving, but sluggish and
unimaginative, German stock with a race
which had engrafted French taste, Italian
statecraft, and Burgundian religious enthu-
siasm upon the robust moral qualities of

We have first to sketch the process by
which the political ascendancy of the
Norman was riveted upon the nation.
This was the work of William the Con-
queror (1066-1087), and it was barely
begun by the day of his coronation.
South-east England alone was then in his
hands, and the submission of the earls of
Mercia and Northumbria, tendered shortly
afterwards, did little to secure the loyalty
of those provinces. The west was secured
only by the surrender of Exeter, where
Harold's family had found a temporary

refuge in the year 1068. The northerners
were aided in their resistance by Malcolm
of Scotland and Sven, or Sweyn, of Den-
mark. The English earls proved traitors,
and the Confessor's nephew, Edgar
Atheling, came forward as a claimant to
Wh the throne. The Danes, how-

ever, were bought off, the king
England lay ~ . , . ' . . ,

Desolate Scotland was intimidated

into a profession of fidelity ;
England beyond the Humber was harried
so mercilessly by the Normans that
many parts lay desolate for sixty years
after ; and the famous stand of the native
English under Hereward the outlaw, in the
Isle of Ely, was, for want of Danish help,
an episode of merely local importance.

In 1075 Waltheof, the last of the English
earls, was lured by two of his Norman
equals into a conspiracy of which the
object was to raise the conquered people
in a general rebellion for the benefit of
the ringleaders. But the plot was dis-
closed, and Waltheof atoned for his folly
with his life. Long before his fall the
Church and the great mass of the common
people had acquiesced in the foreign
domination, and William's later cam-
paigns against Norman and English ele-
ments of disaffection were waged partly
with English troops. The explanation of
his rapid success is to be found in the
moderation with which he used his victory.
While confiscating the lands of those who
had actually fought against him, he left
the great mass of proprietors in undis-
turbed possession. To all but the greatest
Wh th landowners and stoutest pat-
* riots the Conquest meant little

Conquest r

Meant more tnan ^ e exchange of
an English for a Norman lord.
Representing himself as the lawful heir
of Anglo-Saxon kings, the Conqueror
pursued the general policy of exacting
none but customary rights, and of respect-
ing vested interests. None the less he
contrived, without departing from the



strict letter of the law, to endow with
English lands an army of between 5,000
and 6,000 Norman knights. His conquest,
unlike that of Canute, swept away the
native ruling class, and put in its place an
alien aristocracy, permeated with the spirit
of continental feudalism, unacquainted
with the language and traditions of their
social inferiors, and seldom restrained from
lawless violence by motives of piety or
prudence. Fortunately for the future of the

u wit nation, the Anglo - Norman
now William U-TJ. i j

Safe uarded noD " ltv was almost as danger-
. ,"' ous to its master as to the

his Subjects . _ .. , , ..,,.

native English, and William
was constrained to hold it in check by
measures which directly and indirectly
safeguarded his new subjects. Though
he yielded to the theory that all land-
holders, as such, were entitled to civil
jurisdiction over their free and unfree
tenants, he maintained the courts of the
shire and hundred, and kept a tight hold
on cases of a capital nature. He was
chary of granting compact estates which
might develop into principalities : the
earldoms of Kent, Cornwall. Shrewsburv.

Hereford, and Chester, and the episcopal
palatinate of Durham, were created either
in favour of his own kinsmen or for the
protection of the frontiers against the
Scots and Welsh. The enormous grants
of land which he conferred upon others of
his followers were composed of widely
scattered manors ; and in every shire the
office of the sheriff was maintained as a
check upon the feudatories. The great
official earldoms were abolished, and those
which he created carried with them no
rights except over single shires.

In the central government there was a
careful avoidance of the appearance of
change. The Conqueror promised at his
accession to observe the law of Edward.
The promise was substantially fulfilled
so far as the private and criminal law was
concerned ; where these were changed,
for example by the abolition of the death
penalty, the change was popular. With
regard to the central government the
promise could not be kept. The relation
of the crown to the most important of
its subjects was completely changed :
those who had been primarily national


Visiting Normandy in 1087, to deal with the French barons who had been making inroads into his dominions, William
was riding down the steep street of the town of Mantes on the Seine, when his horse stumbled, throwing him against
the high pommel of the saddle. Realising that the injury was serious, he requested that he might be carried to
Rouen and laid in the monastery of St. Gervais, where he died on September 9th, 1087, at the age of sixty-one. In the
above picture he is seen lying where he was stripped by the robber servants who watched him during his last hours.

From a drawing by Sir John Gilbert, R.A.

The body of the Conqueror was taken to Caen, for burial in the monastery of St. Stephen. Mass had been celebrated, the
corpse placed on the bier, and the panegyric on the deceased pronounced by the Bishop of Evreux, when Ascelin Fitz- Arthur,
who had often complained of the Conqueror's dealings with him, declared that the man who had just been praised was a
robber. " The very land on which you stand is mine," said he ; " by violence he took it from my father, and, in the name
of God, I forbid you to bury him in it." Although this protest failed, William's remains were not allowed to rest in peace.

officials were now feudal tenants of the
king. The royal court of justice,, became
feudal in composition, law, and procedure.
For the Witan was substituted the Mag-
num Concilium, to which all tenants in
chief were summoned. The new body
had little influence upon the government,
and served more as a means of publishing
the king's will and obtaining the assent
of his subjects to resolutions which he had
framed v/ithout their help than as a con-
stitutional check. The revenue.
Landowners , ,. t -, i , i

. too, became feudal in its cha-

~ racter. Though Danegelds were

Conqueror , , , . , ,. , , .,

regularly levied, feudal aids

and dues must have formed at least an
equally important item in the royal budget.
It is true that the Conqueror declined to
consider his power as solely feudal in
its character. In the year. 1086 he sum-
moned all the principal landowners of
England, whether tenants-in-chief or not,
to a moot at Salisbury, which reminds
us of a Prankish May-field, and the
assembled host was constrained to swear
allegiance to the king as against all other
lords.- The principle thus enunciated was

ever afterwards upheld, and proved a
valuable safeguard against feudal rebels.
But neither the Conqueror nor his suc-
cessors were completely successful in com-
bating the theory that the allegiance of
tenants in chief was limited by the terms
of their feudal contract.

The condition of the English Church
had furnished a pretext for the Conquest,
and it was therefore natural that William
should encourage such reforms as would
bring the English clergy into line with
their brethren of the Continent. In his
first steps towards this end he invited or
tolerated the assistance of papal legates.
But after 1070, Lanfranc, who replaced
the schismatic Stigand in the primacy, was
the chief counsellor of the crown in
ecclesiastical matters. A native of Pavia,
and trained originally as a lawyer, Lan-
franc migrated in early life to Normandy
and entered the monastery at Bee, a
house which had been largely instrumental
in reforming the Norman Church accord-
ing to Cluniac ideas. A statesman rather
than a saint, Lanfranc showed perhaps
more vigour than justice in his dealings






with the English clergy. Native prelates
were deposed whenever possible and
Normans were nominated in their place ;
but in general his measures were well
conceived and adapted to the peculiar
circumstances of England. While he in-
sisted on the celibacy of the regular clergy,
he did not require those paro-
chial priests who were already
married to put away their
wives, but only made it illegal
for the rest to contract marriage in the
future. His most momentous reform was
the separation of the ecclesiastical from
the lay courts. Hitherto the bishops had
sat in the shire courts to try spiritual cases,
and the result had been a scandalous
intermixture of the canon and the common
law. Henceforth all cases
which concerned the cure
of souls were to be tried
before the bishop or arch-
deacon sitting without
lay assessors. The result
was to create a chain of
new tribunals which
steadily encroached upon
the jurisdiction of the
lay courts, and caused
the greatest of the
mediaeval conflicts be-
tween the English Church
and State. Lanfranc,
however, can hardly be
blamed for the distant
effects of a measure which
was primarily intended
to disentangle the Church
from secular interests.
The concordat which he
and William established
between the Church and
State is a

should be done in any episcopal synod
or council without the king's consent,
and that no tenants in chief should be
excommunicated except by the royal

A further clause is significant of the
change which the Cluniac movement had
produced in the position of the clergy.
William insisted that no Pope should be
acknowledged in England, and that no
papal legates or letters should be received
without his permission. He had cause to
make these stipulations, for Gregory VII.
claimed an oath of allegiance to the papacy
in return for the support which, as a


The second son of the Conqueror, William II.,
known as Rufus, succeeded his father on the
throne of England in 1087. He was of a savage
and unrestrained nature, and showed respect
neither for the baronage nor for the Church.

proof of the archbishop's
It provided that nothing

The Hard
Rule of

cardinal, he had given to William's enter-
prise. The demand was refused. William
promised to fulfil all the obligations which
had been recognised by his predecessors,
but would go no further, and Gregory
was prudent enough not to press his
point. But the abstract pretensions of the
papacy, however cautiously they might
be applied to particular cases, were still
sufficient to justify William's uneasiness.

The Conqueror died in 1087. from the
effects of an accident during the sack of
Mantes, a frontier town of France. He
was succeeded in Normandy by his son
Robert, who had been a headstrong
subject and proved a feeble ruler. In
England the influence of Lanfranc and
the expressed wishes of the Conqueror pro-
cured the recognition
of Robert's younger
brother, William Rufus.
A feud between the two
brothers was the natural
consequence of a parti-
tion which both resented.
In England there were
conspiracies to replace
William by his brother,
and the king retaliated
by invading Normandy.
The struggle ended in
1096, when Robert, in
order to provide himself
with funds for the First
Crusade, mortgaged Nor-
mandy to his brother.
Rufus was now at liberty
to engage in wild schemes
for the incorporation of
France with Normandy.
But a chance arrow
put an end to his career
as he was hunting in the New Forest
in noo ; and in Robert's absence Henry
Beauclerk, the third son of the Conqueror,
obtained the recognition of his title from
the English Church and nobles. The
new king inherited from his brother two
domestic problems. Rufus had
oppressed both the baronage
and the Church. In his deal-
ings with the former he had
insisted on regarding feudal grants as
conferring only a life estate, had demanded
extortionate reliefs as the price of con-
firming heirs in the lands of their ancestors,
and had abused the rights of wardship and
marriage which a feudal lord possessed over
his infant and female tenants. Vacant


bishoprics and abbacies he had insisted on
treating as though they were escheated
fiefs ; he had appropriated their revenues,
prolonged the vacancies, and demanded,
under the name of a relief, large sums
from those whom he eventually appointed.
Chief among the preferments which he had
exploited was the see of Canterbury, left
vacant by the death of Lanfranc in 1089.
A fit of sick-bed repentance led him, in
1093, to appoint the saintly Anselm of Bee
as Lanfranc's successor. He had, however,
afterwards repented of his repentance. For
Anselm, in his character of tenant in chief,

of Belesme, whose head, the Earl oi
Shrewsbury, was the rallying-point of the
disaffected barons.

As much a foreigner as his father and
Rufus had been, Henry still contrived to
conciliate the native English by a marriage
with Matilda of Scotland, the niece of
Edgar Atheling, and a lineal descendant
of Alfred the Great, by reviving the courts
of shire and hundred which feudal usurpa-
tion had been undermining, and by taking
stern but necessary measures for the
maintenance of the public peace. His
hand fell heavily upon insubordinate

The exact circumstances attending- the death of William Rufus are shrouded in mystery. On August 3rd, 1100,
he was hunting in the New Forest with Sir Walter Tyrrel, a Norman knight, who, so the story goes, anxious to display
his skill, shot an arrow at a stag that had suddenly started up near them ; the arrow, glancing from a tree, struck the
king in the breast and instantly killed him. It has been asserted that Tyrrel intentionally killed the king, while William's
death has also been attributed to an aggrieved peasant. The king's body was buried in St. Swithin's, Winchester.

From the painting by E. F. Burney

was later exposed to incessant persecutions
from the Curia Regis, or royal court, and
went into a voluntary exile in 1097.
Henry's first measures were designed to
conciliate the classes whom his father had
offended. He recalled Anselm, and issued
a charter of liberties in which he promised
to the Church her former freedom, to the
barons a just assessment of their feudal
liabilities, and to the people in general the
restoration of the law of Edward. He was
thus enabled to defeat an attempt to
bring in his brother Robert as a counter-
claimant, and to expel the unruly house

barons and more vulgar malefactors. He
executed justice on them not merely
through the Curia Regis, but also
through itinerant judges whom he sent on
circuit through the shires to hold extra-
ordinary assizes in the local courts.

The repression of feudal independence
was much facilitated by the conquest of
Normandy. The single victory of Tinche-
brai in 1106 gave the king the possession

Online LibraryJames Bryce BryceThe book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 9) → online text (page 47 of 55)