« PreviousContinue »
HIS DEFEAT AND CAPTURE.
high rank among his enemies, extorted a treaty which confirmed him in possession of all his hereditary estates, and threatened to reduce the duchy. Henry now affected to be anxious for the safety of his Norman possessions, and sent over troops to secure them. Next year, 1105 A.D., he invaded Normandy at the head of a well-appointed army. Caen was easily taken ; its citizens had already shut their gates against their beggarly and extortionate duke; but Bayeux was faithful to its native lord, and made a gallant defence before it was overpowered. Still the fate of the war was doubtful, as the Normans did not wish for a strong government, and as Henry's quarrel with Anselm impeded his operations. The king accordingly proposed that the duke should resign his government and be indemnified by a proportionate income. Robert rejected the offer as an insult. Henry then made a great effort, and raised money by plundering the English clergy and reducing the country to beggary. With an army thus supported, he encountered the Norman forces at Tenchebrai, near Mortain, September, 1106 A.D. The custom of heavy armour had come in, and when the front lines met, they were unable in the press of war to move backwards or forwards. While they stood shouting and pushing, Hélie of Mans, who commanded Henry's mercenaries, charged the flanks of Robert's army, where the unarmed retainers were stationed, who were only employed to give solidity to the column ; these men were easily slaughtered ; and Robert de Belesme, giving up the battle as lost, fled with his men. Only two or three hundred had fallen on the Norman side, but the battle was as decisive as that of Hastings had been to England. The duke himself, and the earl of Mortain, Henry's cousin, and Belesme's nephew, were taken captive. The latter was with difficulty saved from the soldiery, and for a worse fate than death : he was blinded in prison. Robert was so broken
· He was the son of Robert, earl of Mortain, and brother of William the Conqueror by Matilda, sister of Robert de Belesme. Munford's Domesday of Norfolk, p. 8.
by this misfortune that he instructed his brother in what way to win Falaise, where the duke's son, prince William, had been left in the guardianship of a faithful follower. Henry, anxious to conciliate public opinion, committed the young prince to the care of his half-brother, Hélie de Saint Saens; it was the only generous indiscretion of the king's life, and he lived to regret it. Robert was consigned to an honourable imprisonment at Cardiff: he had all he could wish for, except liberty and power; and he lived, probably with no great change in his habits, and unregretted, except by the disorderly, to the ripe age of eighty. His death, 1134 A.D., is said to have been occasioned by pique at the gift of a robe from Henry, which the king had tried and found too small for himself. The economy is in keeping with Henry's character, and the mad passion with his brother's. But the story rests on no sufficient authority. It is more certain that, during his brother's lifetime, the king did not assume the title of duke of Normandy.
Henry restored peace and order in the province he had won, but he never held it securely. Louis VI. of France, the young prince William, whose guardian had fled with him, and whose claims Baldwin of Flanders supported, and Fulk of Anjou, who inherited Maine from Hélie de la Fléche, were the enemies whom no defeat could intimidate and no peace attach. On the part of Louis, war with England was gross ingratitude. He had been sent to the English court with sealed letters, in which his stepmother requested the king to kill him; and Henry had declined the odium of an unprofitable murder. Ambition proved
1 It is one of the additions which Matthew Paris made to Wendover's Flores Historiarum.-Wendover, vol. iv., p. 214; vol. v., p. 64. The legend that Robert was blinded, is only found in one manuscript. Probably, therefore, some third annalist, who confounded Robert and the earl of Mortain, is responsible for it.-Wendover, vol. v., p. 59, note.
? Hélie had been allowed to recover Maine on the death of William Rufus, holding it of Henry, whom he so powerfully assisted at Tenchebrai. But he was originally vassal to Fulk, who accordingly claimed Maine at his death, and refused to do homage for it.-Orderic, vol. iv., p. 99.
a more powerful motive than gratitude. But two wars of four and five years' duration, from 1109 to 1113 A.D., and from 1116 to 1121 A.D., did not advance the French frontier an inch : the battles fought were mostly nothing more than the skirmishes of a few knights; and perhaps their most important result was the seizure of Robert de Belesme, who ventured as French ambassador into England, and was thrown for life into prison. Henry outlived Baldwin of Flanders, and his own spirited nephew prince William, who died 1128 A.D, when he was already count of Flanders, and might fairly look forward to the English succession. But Normandy, even if left to itself, was never quiet. In 1123 A.D. there was open
revolt, and only the king's energy carried him successfully through the crisis. He had anticipated the conspirators' schemes, and took the field before their plans were matured. Henry, however, knew that he was not a soldier, and the fate of war had not always been propitious to him. He therefore displayed what his contemporaries thought an undignified anxiety to secure the unprincipled Fulk of Anjou in his interests, and disgusted the Norman barons by marrying his daughter Matilda, heiress of England and dowager empress of Germany, to Geoffrey of Anjou, a boy, a Frenchman, and no fit match for royalty. The union was not a happy one. Matilda disliked her husband, and did her best to embroil him with her father, at whose court she resided by preference.
Henry's wars in Normandy had the good effect of forcing him to keep peace in England. His marriage with Maud, the aunt of the Scotch king, was a further reason for friendly relations with Scotland. He extended the Anglo-Norman power over Wales by demanding and obtaining that the Welsh prelates should obtain investiture from the see of Canterbury, and by planting a Flemish colony in Pembrokeshire.
These men were partly emigrants from the districts near the mouth of the Rhine, which had lately been inundated. But in part, also, they were old residents in England; the connection with Flan
i Malmesbury, lib. v., p. 626; note by Mr. Hardy.
MISERY OF THE COUNTRY.
ders was immemorial ; and the Flemish birth of Henry's mother
; attracted many of her countrymen. It is singular that, after at least twenty years' residence in the country, these men, brave, trustworthy, and industrious, should not have been absorbed into the nation. The fact that they had remained distinct and wanted a home, is a strong proof that the old order of things had never been very violently disturbed. A few thousand foreign soldiers, chiefly Norman, a few hundred barons, ecclesiastics, and merchants, evidently make up the sum of those who were permanently added to the population of England. This Flemish
? colony was an important experiment, as it proved successful, and the precedent was imitated by Henry II. Henry I.'s expeditions against Wales were conducted cautiously, and achieved their object by repressing the border forays, and by the exaction of hostages and fines.
Once at rest from war, the king set himself to relieve the misery of his subjects. The oppressions of Rufus had impoverished the land; and the first six years of Henry's reign continued the old misrule ; partly because the traditions of bad government were not easily set aside, but chiefly because foreign wars created an urgent need of money, which had to be obtained at any cost. At last all orders were in a state of suppressed insurrection, and troops of peasants used to meet the king as he rode out, throw down their ploughshares before him, and declare that they could no longer till the soil and live. It was clear that the old wealth of the country had been exhausted for a time. Although the castles which the nobles had erected in defiance of law, were dismantled or occupied by royal troops, there were still many men in the country who had been demoralized by feudal wars or military life on the borders. Many of the peasants in their distress had taken to
1 Malmesbury, lib. v., p. 628; Girald. Camb. Itin. Camb., lib. i., cap. 2.
The strong language of old writers about all foreigners not Norman is remarkable. Lanfranc, when he defeated Raoul de Gael, boasted of “purging the kingdom of the filthy Bretons.” On this occasion Malmesbury observes that Henry “velut in sentinam (sc. Flandrenses) congessit ut regnum defwcaret."A. S. Chron. A., 1125.
poaching or brigandage in the forests. The crime of false coining had become a national curse. There were men in every town who farmed the license to mint money; and as the smallest piece was silver, adulteration was easy and profitable: it increased, in the absence of care to prevent it, till money had become valueless for purposes of exchange; "the man that had a pound could not lay out a penny at a market.”
It is difficult to say whether Henry introduced any new principles into his government; but he struck vigorously at the great abuses. The most monstrous of all, the purveyance of the royal officers, was repressed. In 1125 A.D., the coiners throughout England were summoned to Winchester, and were there one by one blinded and otherwise mutilated. It does not that any
trial was held: it was mere Lynch law; but the people applauded it. A new coinage was issued, and the old withdrawn. The stern measure dealt out to outlaws was less popular. Henry revived the punishment of death; in 1024 A.D.
1 the grand justiciary was sent down into Leicester, which had been peculiarly infested with thieves, and forty-four men accused of burglary were hanged, and six mutilated, at a single session. The sympathies of the people were with the sufferers, of whom several were said to be innocent, while the guilty had probably practised upon the rich. These executions, however, effected their purpose: the land was restored to complete order; and Henry obtained the title of the Lion of Justice. In time he became less severe, and commuted the strict penalties of the law for fines. The sheriff in every county was the officer in whose hands the police really lay; he looked after the king's rights, and apprehended criminals. From time to time the grand justiciary or some other royal commissioner came down,
* The money hitherto had been stamped with a deep cross, and in trying it to see if it was good, it often broke into fragments, and became useless for exchange. Henry ordered the new coinage to be divided at the mint, so that each piece had a uniform value.-Flor. Wig., vol. ii., p. 57; Eadmer, Hist. Nov., lib. iv., p. 470. The cause of Henry's sudden severity was that his soldiers in Normandy had been unable to use their debased coinage.—Gul. Gemit., lib. vii.,