Page images

each are such as would naturally be levelled at a crafty statesman and a hero respectively.

NOTE E. p. 32.


THE charge of sacrilege, of spoliation of churches and monasteries, is one which Godwine and Harold share with almost every powerful man of those times. William of Malmesbury speaks of it as a characteristic of the reign of Eadward; only he adds that the King's panegyrists attributed this, along with the other evils of the time, to Godwine and his sons. According to them, it was for these crimes of one sort or another that Eadward banished the whole family. The whole passage (ii. 196) is curious;

"Fuerunt tamen nonnulla quæ gloriam temporum deturpârunt; monasteria tunc monachis viduata; prava judicia a perversis hominibus commissa. . . . . Sed harum rerum invidiam amatores ipsius ita extenuare conantur; monasteriorum destructio, perversitas judiciorum, non ejus scientiâ, sed per Godwini filiorumque ejus sunt commissa violentiam, qui Regis ridebant indulgentiam; postea tamen ad eum delata, acriter illorum exsilio vindicata."

This is of course Norman talk, and we know very well what to think of the "perversitas judiciorum." But we have a similar account in Eadmer (4); "Regnante . . . Edwardo . . . . monasteriorum quæ usque id tempus destructioni supererant plurima destructio facta est." The context seems to accuse Godwine, and there is undoubtedly a certain groundwork of truth in the charge. It will therefore be worth while to go through the evidence on which Godwine and his sons are charged with this and other acts of sacrilege. On this evidence I have two general comments to make.

First, In estimating charges of this sort we must remember that we commonly hear one side only. The works of Ealdorman Ethelweard and Count Fulk form so small a portion of our authorities that we may say that the whole history of these times was written by churchmen. And those churchmen were far more com


monly monks than seculars. The monks of course tell the story in their own way, and we do not often get the layman's answer. A legal claim against a monastery or other ecclesiastical body runs a very fair chance of being represented as a fraudulent or violent occupation. To detain or to recover property which had at any time come, even by illegal means, into ecclesiastical hands was denounced as a sin, and we find strange scruples on this head entertained by not very scrupulous persons. (See two most instructive accounts in Kemble, ii. 30, 47.) And as regards Harold, Domesday is hardly an impartial witness against him. If he acquired lands by as good a title. as he acquired the Crown, the Norman writers would, if they had the least excuse, speak of their acquisition in the same way in which they speak of his acquisition of the Crown.

Secondly, It was a very common thing for the reeves or other officers of powerful men to deal very freely with both monastic and other lands that came in their way. This they sometimes did without the knowledge of their masters. Thus Heming, in the Worcester Cartulary (p. 391), reckons three classes of "maligni homines" who unjustly deprived the Church of Worcester of its possessions. First come the "Dani hanc patriam invadentes ;" secondly, after them (" postea "), are the "injusti præpositi et regii exactores;" lastly, in his own day ("istis temporibus") come the "violenti Normanni." Sir Henry Ellis (ii. 142) has collected out of Domesday and elsewhere a number of instances of spoliation by underlings, of one of which, the story about Christ Church and Harold Harefoot, I have already spoken (see vol. i. p. 500). Some of these I shall have to mention again.

Now we shall come across distinct evidence that some of the charges against Godwine and Harold come under one or other of these heads. And in estimating other charges of the kind against Godwine, Harold, or anybody else, we should always bear in mind that we are hearing one side only, and that it is quite probable that an equally good defence might be forthcoming. The charge of sacrilege is brought against Godwine in the one English Chronicle which may be called in some degree hostile to him. The Abingdon Chronicle (1052) recording his death, adds, " Ac he dyde ealles to lytle dædbote of pære Godes are pe he hæfde of manegum halgum stowum.” But even this must be read with the same qualification.

The general picture of destruction of monasteries mentioned by Eadmer and William of Malmesbury sounds strange at a time when so many monasteries were being founded and endowed and their churches being rebuilt. I conceive that it rests mainly on two remarkable cases, those of the Abbeys of Berkeley and Leominster, which seem to have got confounded together in legendary history. To the history of Leominster Abbey I have given a special Note (see Appendix N). I conceive it to be a legendary version of this story when Walter Map (De Nugis Curialium, p. 201, ed Wright) tells a tale of the destruction of Berkeley nunnery, how Godwine sets a handsome nephew to seduce the nuns, how he then complains to the King of their misconduct, how he procures the dissolution of the house and the grant of its possessions to himself. Still it is certain that there was a real suppression of a monastery at Berkeley, and that Godwine profited by it in some way or other. As in Domesday we find Leominster in the hands of the Lady Eadgyth, with only a most incidental mention of the Abbess and nuns, so we find Berkeley (163) in the hands of the King, without any mention of monks or nuns, or of Godwine either. But that there had been a monastery at Berkeley appears from a variety of evidence. See Cod. Dipl. i. 276, ii. 111; Flor. Wig. 805, 915, in the former of which years we find an Abbess, Ceolburh by name, presiding over the house, while in the latter it was governed by an Abbot, Æthelhun. But, as Professor Stubbs has shown in the Archæological Journal, vol. xix. (1862), p. 248, the existence of an Abbess does not necessarily imply the presence of nuns, as many monasteries seem to have had either Abbots or Abbesses, as suited family convenience. There is also mention of nuns at Berkeley at a time later than Godwine, in a charter of Adeliza, Queen of Henry the First (Monasticon, iv. 42, and vi. 1618), and in the Pipe Roll of 31 Hen. I. (ed. Hunter, p. 133; "in vestitura iii. monialium, lx.s." For this last reference I have to thank Professor Stubbs). By the charter of Adeliza the Church of Berkeley, with the "prebends of two nuns," was granted to the new Abbey of Reading, by which the church was afterwards transferred to Saint Augustine's at Bristol (Smyth's Lives of the Berkeleys, p. 49). But the whole account of these later nuns of Berkeley is very obscure, and whatever they were, they must have been a revival of the old foundation later than the time of Godwine. For the destruction of the


monastery at Berkeley, and Godwine's share in it, are undoubted facts, though we are left without any explanation as to their causes. A most remarkable entry in Domesday (164) tells us that, when Godwine was at Berkeley, his wife Gytha refused to eat anything which came out of that lordship, because of a pious scruple arising out of the destruction of the Abbey. Godwine therefore bought of Azor, one of several bearers of that name (see below, Note QQ), the lordship of Woodchester (a place near Stroud, noted for its Roman remains), for her maintenance when in Gloucestershire; "Gueda mater Heraldi Comitis tenuit Udecestre. Godwinus Comes emit ab Azor, et dedit suæ uxori, ut inde viveret, donec ad Berchelai maneret. Nolebat enim de ipso manerio aliquid comedere, propter destructionem Abbatiæ." We have no further account, except the evidently mythical tale told by Walter Map. It is by no means clear whether there were or were not any nuns at Berkeley in Godwine's time, and probably no one would accept Walter Map's tale as it stands. But that tale may very likely be the story of Swegen and Eadgifu transferred from Leominster to Berkeley and enriched with romantic improvements. Both Leominster and Berkeley were monasteries suppressed in the reign of Eadward. Godwine or his family were concerned in, or profited by, the suppression of both. Both were restored, in one shape or another, in later times; both became connected with the Abbey of Reading. To substitute one name for the other was one of the most obvious of confusions. The details of the story of course grew, like the details of other stories. But in any case it is plain that Berkeley Abbey was suppressed, and that Godwine had a power of disposing of its revenues. Here then we have one clear case in which Godwine was concerned in the destruction of a monastery. We do not know whether he had any justification to offer for his conduct, but we know that it was not approved by his own wife.

It appears also that Godwine was charged by the Norman Archbishop Robert with converting some lands belonging to the see of Canterbury to his own use. But this time we for once get the Godwinist version. The lands of the Earl and the Archbishop joined, and there was a dispute about boundaries. But it is plain that the lands which Robert claimed were lands of which Godwine was in actual possession, and that Godwine's friends looked upon the Archbishop and not the Earl as being the intruder. This is a


N n

very important case, from our having for once the tale told from the side of the layman. It is a case which by itself would be enough to make us always weigh the possibility that there may have been another side to many other cases in which we get only the churchman's statement. It is impossible for us now to tell on whose side the legal right lay in the dispute between Godwine and Robert; but there is every appearance that it was simply a question for a legal tribunal, a question in which each side may well have urged its claims in good faith. The story, as told by the Biographer of Eadward (p. 400), runs as follows;

"Accedebat autem ad exercendos odiorum motus pro Episcopo in caussam justam quod terræ quædam Ducis contiguæ erant quibusdam terris quæ ad Christi attinebant Ecclesiam [that is, Christ Church, Canterbury]. Crebræ quoque erant inter eos controversiæ, quod eum dicebat terras archiepiscopatûs sui invasisse, et in injuriâ suâ usibus suis eas tenere. Ferebat autem idem industrius Dux incautius furentem Episcopum pacifice. . . . Coquebat tamen vehementius quosdam suorum illa Ducis injuria, et nisi ejus obstiterit prohibitio, gravi Episcopum persæpe multâssent contumeliâ.”

In this last clause we seem to see the over-zealous officers, of whom we hear in other stories, and whom Godwine so characteristically keeps in order.

This may or may not be the same story as that referred to by Eadmer (4), where he speaks of Godwine as defrauding the see of Canterbury of the town of Folkestone by the connivance of Archbishop Eadsige; "Godwinus utpote hostis Ecclesiæ Cantuariensis, nam seducto Edzino Archiepiscopo, villam ipsius Ecclesiæ nomine Folchestanum ei surripuit." In Domesday (9 b) Folkestone appears as held by William of Arques, with the notice, Hoe manerium tenuit Goduinus Comes," without any mention of the manor as having been held by the Archbishop. But in another entry in the same shire (5 b) we read the following history; "Hoc manerium fuit et est de episcopatu Rofensi; sed Goduinus Comes T. R. E. emit illud de duobus hominibus qui eum tenebant de Episcopo, et eo ignorante facta est hæc venditio." These lands afterwards came into the hands of Odo of Bayeux, and were recovered from him for the church of Rochester by Lanfranc. A more difficult entry is found in Wiltshire (72 b), where we read of land held by a tenant of Osbern Giffard; "Ednodus tenuit


« PreviousContinue »