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THE SONS OF THE CONQUEROR.
woods; they wanted a church that would curse evil-doers, or a king who would hang them up.
The suppression of Raoul de Gael's revolt had given William a few years' peace on his throne. But as he grew old, the barons who murmured under his strong rule found a leader in his eldest son. Robert was strangely out of place in his own family. Easy-natured, but careless of results when his blood was up; ready to promise, but not very scrupulous of performance; grasping at everything in his reach, to give it away to a mistress or a parasite, he had every quality that could ruin a dynasty. The first knight among the crusaders, he proved to be the worst ruler in Christendom. As a young man, short, fat, and bow-legged, though otherwise not ill-looking, and a candidate for ladies' favour, he was jested upon with a freedom which commonly speaks ill for a man's character; his father called him Robelin Courtehose; his brothers once provoked him to a fray that might easily have been fatal, by throwing water upon his head in the little town of L'Aigle. But there were deeper reasons of quarrel between the brothers. Before the battle of Hastings, Robert, then only twelve years old, had been designated as heir-apparent, should the king fall in that great enterprise. Since then, the prince's dissolute life and unstatesman-like character had contrasted unfavourably with the conduct and abilities of his younger brothers; and it was whispered that William thought of dividing his succession. Robert was induced by his friends to put forward a claim to be associated in the government, as prince of Normandy and Maine; his father rejected the application angrily; and Robert, irritated by the refusal, withdrew from court, and tried to surprise Rouen, 1078 A.D. Foiled in
The date of this scuffle is difficult to fix.
Orderic seems to give it as the
reason of Robert's first quarrel, and attempt to surprise Rouen. If so, it cannot be much later than 1078 A.D. Henry was then only ten years old, and might well be guilty of such a boyish prank; but his youth makes it difficult to suppose that Robert would seriously resent his conduct or be jealous of him. Perhaps Richard, whose death is commonly assigned to 1081 A.D., was the real offender.-Orderic, vol. ii., pp. 295, 296.
PRINCE ROBERT'S REBELLIONS.
this attempt, he led a vagabond life in France and Flanders, accompanied by a little court of waiters upon his future royalty, and supported by remittances from his mother, which passed like water through his hands. At last he induced Philip of France to entrust him with the fortress of Gerberoy, on the borders of Normandy. The act was a gross outrage of feudal law, and Philip was presently compelled, on a requisition from William, his liege-man for Normandy, to unite his forces with the Anglo-Norman army that formed the siege of the fort, January, 1079 A.D. Robert, however, made good his post, and during a sally unhorsed his father, whom he did not recognize. Prince William was among the wounded. The nobles now interfered to stop this unnatural war; and father and son were reconciled. The king reluctantly consented to pardon Robert's associates, and assure him the succession to Normandy. In the autumn of the next year, Robert was employed in an expedition against Scotland, which had no other result than the strengthening of Newcastle-on-Tyne with a fort. But the feud between father and son broke out repeatedly; and in 1082 A.D., Robert quitted his father's court again, never to return till he was recalled five years later, by the news of the king's death. Perhaps the cause of this second breach was connected with Eudes of Bayeux's imprisonment. That turbulent prelate's ambition had been kindled by a prophecy, that he would succeed to Hildebrand as head of the Christian world. He bought a palace at Rome, sent over money and letters through pilgrims, and prepared to follow himself with a splendid retinue of Norman barons-Hugh Lupus, of Chester, among them,-who were to carve out fresh principalities on the banks of the Tiber. The king was displeased with the exportation of treasure and
1 This important illustration of feudal law is proved by a charter subscribed by Philip and William, “in obsidione regum prædictorum videlicet Philippi regis Francorum et Willelmi Anglorum regis circa Gerboredum anno incarnati verbi MLXXVIII."-Note by M. Prevost, Orderic, vol. ii., p. 387.
2 Florence adds a detail, which other writers of the time omit, that Robert, on recognizing his father's voice, dismounted and gave him his own horse.— Vol. ii., p. 13.
LAST DAYS OF THE CONQUEROR.
men, and forbade Eudes to proceed.
But the bishop disliked his position in England, where the real viceregal power was enjoyed by Lanfranc, and set sail in defiance of orders. ship was boarded off the Isle of Wight by William's direction, and he himself made prisoner. The king hastily crossed into England, summoned a court of his great peers, and charged Eudes with abuse of his viceregal powers, and faithlessness to his trust. Eudes pleaded that he could only be condemned by sentence from the pope. William answered that he condemned him, not as priest, but as count of Kent, and accordingly imprisoned him at Rouen, where he remained for the rest of his brother's life. Meanwhile Hildebrand had died, 1085 A.D.; and the papacy had been given to another.
The last four years of William's life were darkened by the loss of his queen, and occupied by petty wars in Maine, and rumours of Danish invasion. At last, in 1087 A.D., the old grudge against France broke out into war: the plunder of several Norman districts, and a coarse jest by the French king, enraged William beyond bounds; and, on surprising the town of Mantes, he gave it up to pillage and the flames. Churches and men were consumed; two recluses, who lived in niches of the city walls, were unable or unwilling to escape. William was riding round the town, enjoying the havoc wrought there, when his horse started on some burning ashes: the king was bruised by the pommel of his saddle; fever supervened, and the injury proved fatal. With the true sentiments of a Christian gentleman of the eleventh century, William ordered his treasure to be divided among the churches, the poor, and his household. He could not deprive Robert of Normandy; and he feared to dispose of England, which had been acquired by bloodshed: but he committed it to the hands of God, and instructed William how he might best secure it. To Henry, who had received his mother's inheritance, he bequeathed five thousand pounds, prophesying that he would one day transcend his brothers in greatness. He sustained his dying moments with the recollection that he had founded ten abbeys and twenty-three monasteries in Normandy alone. It was true
HIS DEATH AND BURIAL.
he had governed roughly, and had much bloodshed and some treachery on his conscience; but the law of God had taught him to put down evil-doers that they might not oppress the innocent. Nevertheless, as he hoped for mercy, he would now show mercy himself: Morcar, Roger de Breteuil, and all the prisoners except Eudes of Bayeux, should be set at liberty under pledge to keep the peace. He at last agreed to release even Eudes. Hitherto he had been in great pain, though his mind was clear; but mortification now set in, and he died towards morning, commending himself to the Virgin (Sept. 9, 1087 A.D.) The respite from suffering had been mistaken by his physicians for amendment, but when the mistake was discovered, the very shadow of royal state passed away from the dead king. The courtiers mounted horse to put their castles in defence; the servants stripped the house of everything-arms, furniture, and dress-and fled. William's body lay naked in the deserted palace till the archbishop of Rouen ordered it to be taken to Caen, and a private gentleman, Herluin, defrayed the expenses. When the funeral mass had been said, and the body was about to be lowered into the grave, Asselin FitzArthur stepped forth and forbade the burial to proceed. "The land where ye stand was once covered by my father's house, which this man for whom ye pray, while he was yet duke of Normandy, took forcibly from my father, and, denying him all right, built this church there. I therefore challenge and publicly claim back this land, and forbid in God's behalf that the body of the spoiler be covered with my turf, or buried in my inheritance." The bystanders testified to the truth of this statement: and the bishops and barons were compelled to buy off the claimant with sixty shillings for the place of sepulture,
1 How much of this last speech was invented by Orderic, is difficult to decide. I have extracted the parts that seem most in keeping with William's character and with the times. Wrong quotations from Scripture are common in medieval writers. I am very doubtful about the prophecy of Henry's greatness. The fortunes of three brothers-one violent, one wasteful, and the third thoughtful-are a frequent subject of old tales.-Percy Society, vol. viii., p. 36; De nobili Anglo et tribus filiis suis.
WILLIAM'S PERSON AND CHARACTER.
and a promise that the whole of his inheritance should be redeemed. Prince Henry has the credit of discharging this debt with a hundred pounds. By a strange chance, Gunilda, Harold's sister, who had lived a life of ascetic devotion in the convent of St. Ouen, died some days before the conqueror, and was buried within a few feet of him.
William was the founder of a line of princes who have never perhaps been surpassed in the world's history for vigour of character and statesman-like ability. It seemed as if William's mother, the tanner's daughter of Falaise, had tempered the fervid energy of Robert the Devil's nature with the practical broad sense of the Norman lower classes. Her son's physique was an index of his character: the forehead vaulted and high; the eye hawk-like; the body broad-chested and sinewy; the arm so strong that he could bend on horseback the bow which common men could not bend on foot. He was trained in rebellions and wars, and grew up self-reliant and implacable. The basest crime ascribed to him, the assassination of Conan, is probably false; Conan did not die till some months after the reasons for wishing him dead had ceased to operate. William's severity to the conquered Northumbrians admits of no excuse and no palliation; it was a bloody political crime. But his treatment of the great lords will be judged leniently by all who remember what the barons of those times were: how Morcar and Waltheof had been false to their own country before they were false to William; how Roger de Breteuil and Eudes of Bayeux were only anxious to let loose the worst horrors of feudal anarchy on the country.
'Malmesbury, lib. iii., p. 463. He was the only son present. There was, however, a respectable attendance of Norman bishops, abbots, and barons at the burial.-Orderic, vol. iii., p. 251.
Orderic, vol. iii., p. 253; note by M. le Prevost.
"Suivant l'épitaphe de Conan, il ne serait mort que le 11 Décembre, ce qui semblerait indiquer que les effets du poison ne furent pas immédiats."-Note by M. le Prevost; Orderic, vol. ii., p. 260. As William was accused of causing Conan's gloves and hunting-horn to be poisoned, the charge is not very probable. Pathology was so little understood in the middle ages, that the unexpected death of any eminent man was always ascribed to poison.