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DIFFERENCE OF LANGUAGE.
rators. But one of the worst aggravations of the conquest lay in the difference of language between Normans and Saxons. William, indeed, had once set himself to learn English; but the difficulties of the task had been too great; and his barons could never pronounce the names of the cities they stormed: they called Lincoln, Nichole; and York, Eurwic. Gradually, indeed, a kind of mixed dialect sprang up, something like the lingua Franca of the Levant, or the slang of Anglo-Indian society, confounding the two vocabularies and disregarding grammatical forms. But during William's reign, when there were no central courts except the king's council, and no trained advocates, justice was administered by men unacquainted with the vernacular. No doubt there was always a steward or clerk of the court, who interpreted for the people, and with whom the real management of business lay. But it was not the less an evil to the nation, that its laws and their science were treated in a foreign idiom, and that the assistance of professional men began to be needed by those who sought justice.
Few of the conqueror's own acts made a deeper impression on his times than the formation of the New Forest. The Hampshire preserves of the Saxon kings were increased by laying waste seventeen thousand acres; the villagers were partially evicted, and more than twenty churches destroyed; tufts of yew are still said to show where the old churchyards were.
1 "Anglicam locutionem plerumque sategit ediscere, ut sine interprete querelam subjectæ gentis posset intelligere."-Orderic, vol. ii., p. 215. Of the mixed language that sprung up, there is curious proof in a story given by dean Milman, of a Jew who travelled with two ecclesiastics, and punned in the two languages on his reverend companions.-History of the Jews, vol. iii., pp. 331, 332.
2 The accounts differ from twenty-two to fifty-two. "If, as is commonly reported, thirty-six churches were destroyed by the conqueror," &c.-Ellis's Introduction to Domesday, pp. xxxii., xcii. "The Domesday record proves that although thirty manors in the very heart of the district ceased to be cultivated after the afforestation, the great majority continued in tillage as before. *The great grievance was the subjection of the entire district to the savage forest law of the Normans."-Murray's Handbook of Hampshire, pp. 245, 246.
NORMAN AND SAXON CONTRASTS.
The nature of the soil, which is thin and sandy, proves that the district can never have been thickly inhabited. The excuse that William wished to prevent the landing of an enemy is less tenable; the district of the New Forest lay opposite to his own Norman dominions. His contemporaries regarded the act as the wanton barbarity of a man who loved the pursuit of game better than his subjects' happiness; it seemed the judgement of heaven that two of William's sons, Richard and William Rufus, perished in the forest which their father's violence had enlarged.
The rival prejudices of Norman and English writers make it difficult to decide which of the two peoples was the more civilized. That a part of the Norman force raised the battle-cry of Thor on the field of the Downs, argues barbarism as well as heathendom. Norman literature before the conquest is worthless; their law-courts have nothing to match the splendid series of Anglo-Saxon charters. But these are rather proofs that their civilization was modern, than that it did not exist. For a century and a-half, English literature had been almost barren, while within thirty years the Italians, Lanfranc and Anselm, had founded a school in Normandy which was unrivalled in its own days, and which almost reconstructed philosophical thought in Europe. The English were renowned throughout Europe for their perfection in the mechanical arts and embroidery; but they imported their artists from Germany; and they produced nothing in architecture to rival those magnificent castles and cathedrals which the Normans have scattered broad-cast over the land. It seems certain that the Normans were more cleanly in their habits, and more courtly in their manners; their vices were rather passionate than gross; they had the virtues of gentlemen, large-handedness and the love of adventure. Timid devotion bound the Saxon to his church while a narrow insular spirit was separating him from the European centre
1 Depping, Expeditions des Normands, tom. ii., p. 234.
2 Lingard, vol. ii., pp. 12, 13.
SECULAR SPIRIT OF THE NORMANS.
of religion. The Norman distinguished better between the dues of Cæsar and of God; he built churches, and attended mass; but he drew a line between the citizen and the priest, which the latter was never allowed to over-pass. He connected the country with Europe and Roman law, but he kept it free from foreign tyranny; the Italian legate or tax-gatherer might venture here under a weak king; but the barons repeatedly drove him back or foiled him; and under an able sovereign, Henry II. or Edward I., the see of Rome was limited to its natural functions of directing the European church and adjusting the law of nations. To sum up all, England without the Normans would have been mechanical, not artistic; brave, not chivalrous; the home of learning, but not of thought; a state governed by its priests, instead of a state controlling its church. We owe to Normandy the builder, the knight, the schoolman, and the statesman.
1 Norman contempt for Saxon superstition, and Saxon horror of Norman profanity, often pierce through the chronicles. Thus William Rufus, on the day of his death, asked one who was warning him not to hunt, "Do you think I am like the English, who give up the business or journey they have in hand, because some one sneezes, or for an old wife's dream?"—Orderic, vol. iv., p. 87.
LAST YEARS OF THE CONQUEROR.
CHARACTERISTICS OF A FEUDAL ARISTOCRACY.-PRINCE ROBERT'S REBELLION. -IMPRISONMENT OF EUDES OF BAYEUX.—WILLIAM'S DEATH AND TESTAMENT.-SCENE AT THE BURIAL.-PERSON AND CHARACTER OF THE CON
DURING the latter years of the conqueror's reign, the English learned to regard the Norman usurpation as a grievance which was better endured than resisted. The feud of the two races was not finally extinguished for more than a century; but it was complicated with a very different struggle between royalty and feudalism. The great nobles of every country in those days, had the privileges and powers without the responsibilities of government; the plunder of a city was a loss to the exchequer, but gain to them; the nation might be desolated or conquered, while its barons would merely transfer their castles and following to a new lord. William Fitz-Osbern, a freehanded, adventurous knight, who abused his powers as lord-lieutenant to reduce the fines for military outrages, and Hugo Lupus, of Chester, fat, wasteful, and licentious, who lived in a harem, and drove the peasants to despair by his zeal for the chase, are good specimens of the Anglo-Norman nobility: the first had some statesman-like qualities, and was not personally brutal; the second honoured piety and learning in others, and restored the city of Chester. The character of the noble was not the only point of importance to his tenantry: Roger Montgomery, earl of Shrewsbury, was a just and well-meaning man, but his wife, Mabel, was so oppressive and bloody, as at last to provoke one of her own Norman vassals to murder her; and
ABUSES OF FEUDALISM.
their second son, Robert of Belesme, was the worst man of the exceptionally bad times under Rufus and Robert of Normandy. The church suffered from the prelates as the state did from its rulers. Eudes of Bayeux distinguished himself by the plunder of monasteries; and Ranulf Flambard died confessing that he had robbed the church he professed to serve from wanton lust of gain: that the wish to do evil had been even greater than the power. No doubt the oppressions of these men were excused, in the eyes of a weak or profligate ruler, by the fact that the people plundered spoke a different language; and in this respect the Norman conquest of England was a great curse. But generally speaking, difference of race could add little to the contempt which a noble of the middle ages felt for his inferiors. The Normans, under an incapable sovereign, were oppressed as pitilessly by their native lords as ever the English were; but the worst abuses of continental feudalism were never naturalized in England. The period preceding the conquest has been imperfectly described by native annalists; yet they tell us enough to prove that the courtiers of Ethelred and Edward were as rapacious and violent as those of the conqueror; the desire for Naboth's vineyard was no new thing to the generation which remembered Harold and Tostig. Whatever broke the power of the barons, was a positive good to the people; they rallied by turns about church or king, not so much from motives of superstition or loyalty, as because the untried or distant ruler was preferred to the native lord. Writhing under manifold oppressions, the subject-classes groaned for a strong government; there was no thought of democratic equality, no sentimental longing for wild liberty in the
1 Orderic, vol. ii., p. 220-410; vol. iii., 300-422; Malmesbury, lib. v., p. 626. 2 Ang. Sac., vol. i., p. 709; Orderic, vol. ii., p. 222; vol. iii., p. 191. 3 Thus, immediately on the death of the conqueror, "provincia tota (sc. Normannia) erat dissoluta et prædones catervatim discurrebant per vicos et per rura. Quotidie fiebant incendia, rapinæ et homicidia."-Orderic, vol. iii., pp. 289, 290. M. Prevost observes in a note on this passage, "Les plus grands seigneurs du pays; Guillaume Comte d'Evreux, Richard de Courci, Robert Bertran, Robert de Moubrai, et jusqu' au prince Henri lui-même n'avaient pas honte de prendre part à ces dévastations."