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HORRORS OF CIVIL WAR.
then passed by a rapid march into Cornwall, and quieted it. The horrible character of a war in which both parties employed mercenaries soon showed itself. A kinsman of the earl of Chester, Philip Gai, who had assisted to secure Bristol shortly before the empress landed, enjoys the infamous credit of having introduced the most barbarous tortures into English feudal war. Robert the Fleming, one of the adventurers who had swarmed over, took the castle of Devizes from the king and held it for himself, laying waste the country far and wide. He was a man who even in those times could scarcely be paralleled : he used to smear his prisoners with honey, and hang them up in the sun; he boasted that he had burned twenty-four monks in a church on the continent, and hoped to do the same by the brethren of Malmesbury. Neither party cared to waste their strength in besieging him fortunately he was seized before long in a treacherous attempt to surprize Marlborough, and hanged. The town of Nottingham had enjoyed peace and prosperity ever since the conquest. Being unprotected by walls, it was suddenly entered by a troop of imperialist cavalry, who plundered it pitilessly. A rich burgher, having been seized and forced to show the vaults in which his treasures lay, suddenly slipped from among his spoilers, closed the door upon them, and set fire to the house. The flames spread, and the town was consumed: many women and children perished in the churches; a few were driven off as slaves, and probably sold into Ireland. Stephen tried to negotiate a peace; but the clergy, especially his brother, were implacable. An unexpected event promised to bring the war to a close. About Christmass 1140 A.D., Stephen received a message from the citizens of Lincoln, to say that the count of Chester could easily be surprized in the castle, where he had only a few followers.1 Stephen had parted from the count on friendly terms not long before; but he suspected his fidelity as a son
Ranulph de Gernons, earl of Chester, was son of Ranulph de Meschines, count of Chester and Lincoln: hence probably his residence at Lincoln, although that earldom had been conferred after his father's death on John de Lacy.— Nicholas's Synopsis: Articles, Chester and Lincoln.
TRIUMPH OF MATILDA.
in-law of the earl of Gloucester. He therefore, without declaring war, appeared suddenly before the walls of Lincoln, by a breach of feudal usage as unprofitable as disgraceful, for the count contrived to escape, and his castle could not be reduced. While Stephen was still before it, the army of the empress appeared; impatient to close the war, they swam the swollen waters of the Trent. A division of the "Disinherited" whom Stephen had deprived of their estates, drove in the wings of the royal army, which were unduly weak, and closed round the main body. The shock of the first charge disordered the ranks, and Stephen, fighting desperately, alone, with his axe shivered to the hilt, was taken prisoner. The burghers of Lincoln knew what fate awaited them. They crowded into skiffs, which were overladen and sank; and five hundred perished in the water. Count Ranulph of Chester rewarded his troops with the plunder of the city.
A great council was now called at Winchester to confirm the results of the victory, and London was represented among the peers. Henry of Winchester declared, in behalf of the clergy, that Matilda was rightful queen, and expressed his own penitence for having ever sided with her rival; his brother was dear to him, but the interests of truth dearer. Stephen's queen and William of Ypres pleaded his cause vigorously, but in vain; only the Londoners sided with them; and it was agreed to proclaim the empress queen. Nevertheless, the men of Kent and archbishop Theobald remained faithful to their first lord. Before long Matilda disgusted her adherents by a haughty deportment and rude language; her uncle the king of Scotland, her brother Robert the legate, were all treated with caprice and insolence. No entreaties could induce her to secure peace by restoring Stephen to liberty, and investing his son Eustace with Boulogne and Mortain. A petition from London that the laws of king Edward might be substituted for those of Henry I., was rejected with scorn; Matilda brought up troops, and cut off the trade of the citizens, and wasted their lands, to punish their disaffection. It was known that Stephen's queen was approaching with an army. The Londoners sud
denly rose in arms, rang the tocsin, and stormed the palace, and Matilda was glad to save herself by a hasty flight to Oxford. London became and remained the head-quarters of the royalists. Before long it was known that Henry of Winchester was intriguing with the queen. The empress tried to surprize him in his palace; he escaped; and from that moment war recommenced.
The army of the imperialists now gathered in full force round the castle of Winchester. The defective mechanics. of the time favoured defence rather than attack; and although the city was burned down, and all supplies intercepted, the garrison still held out after seven weeks, (August 2 to September 14, 1141 A.D.) Meanwhile the queen brought up troops from London, and Henry of Winchester threatened the besiegers from the west. Robert of Gloucester had pushed his outposts too far; the position of Wherwell was stormed; and his lines being thus forced, he saw no safety but in retreat. His movements were watched and followed, and the march out soon became a flight. The empress, who was in the van, escaped, first in the disguise of a trooper, afterwards laid out as a corpse at Gloucester; the king of Scots got off by bribing his captors; but earl Robert, who led the rear-guard, was taken prisoner. This great loss restored the balance of parties, as Matilda was forced to ransom her brother by setting Stephen free. The legate lost no time in assembling a council at Westminster. He there read a letter from the pope in favour of Stephen's claims, regretted that he himself had been compelled to dissemble his affection; at present, since God had blessed his arms, and the king was at liberty, let every subject rally round his standard. The clergy listened in silence. But a lay envoy from Matilda stepped forward, and taxed the legate, to his face, with the blackest treachery; except for the bishop's letters, the empress would never have set foot in England. The legate sat through the speech with a bland impassive smile, and proceeded with the formalities of excommunicating the imperialist party.
From this time forward the events of the war, though it
DESOLATION OF THE COUNTRY.
lasted twelve years longer, are unimportant. The empress was once shut up in Oxford, and only escaped by flying, clad in white, over the snow-covered meadows at midnight (December 20, 1142 A.D.) Next year the balance of power was restored by a great battle at Wareham, in which Stephen was defeated. Geoffrey of Anjou remained in Normandy; he was too unpopular to be used in England; and his wife was well content to guide her party alone. Her son was brought over to Bristol, to be educated among his future subjects. Stephen's fleet kept the seas, and prevented the entrance into England of any large force from Normandy. But this advantage, and the death of Robert of Gloucester, did not compensate the king for the ill results of his own weak and violent character. Distrusting his barons, he tried to deprive them of their castles, and only drove them into rebellion; espousing the jealousies of his brother, he quarrelled with his own nominee, the primate Theobald, and was put under interdict. Meanwhile the condition of the country was deplorable. The land was filled with castles, and the castles with armed banditti. Often the very belfries of churches were fortified. On the poor lay the burden of building these strongholds; the rich suffered in their donjeons. Many were starved to death, and these were the happiest. Others were flung into cellars filled with reptiles, or hung up by the thumbs till they told where their treasures were concealed, or crippled in frames which did not suffer them to move, or held just resting on the ground by sharp iron collars round the neck. The earl of Essex used to send out spies who begged from door to door, and then reported in what houses wealth was still left; the alms-givers were presently seized and imprisoned.' The towns that could no longer pay the black-mail demanded from them were burned. A whole township would fly at the sight of two or three riders. Yet sometimes the peasants, maddened by misery, crowded to the roads that led from a field of battle, and smote down the
'The monks of Walden tell us that this earl of Essex was a religious man, endowed with many virtues. He died excommunicated, but with the habit of a knight templar thrown over him.-Addison's Temple Church, pp. 96-100.
TERMINATION OF THE WAR.
fugitives without any distinction of sides. The bishops cursed vainly, when the very churches were burned and monks robbed. "To till the ground was to plough the sea; the earth bare no corn, for the land was all laid waste by such deeds; and men said openly that Christ slept, and his saints. Such things, and more than we can say, suffered we nineteen winters, for our sins."1 Many men once rich fled beggared out of the country, which was no home for industry. Many soldiers, sickened with the unnatural war, put on the white cross, and sailed for a nobler battle-field in the east. Perhaps something of a kindred feeling, and a dim perception that a nation deserting its neighbours does not always prosper, explain the union of the English fleet with the Flemish, to recover Lisbon from the infidel.3
As prince Henry and Eustace, Stephen's son, grew up to manhood, the war resumed its old importance and proportions. But public feeling was now in favour of Henry, whose claim, to English notions, was stronger than his mother's. Perhaps the fierce character of Eustace was dreaded. Moreover, the new pope, Eugenius III., took part against Stephen. By the energy of Thomas Becket, a young canonist in the household of archbishop Theobald, a bull was procured forbidding the primate to consecrate Eustace as his father's successor. Prince Henry's marriage with Eleanor, heiress of Poitou and Acquitaine, increased his power, and the death of his father removed the dread of Angevine influence. In 1153 A.D., the two armies met near Wallingford, and the barons proposed an accommodation. Fortunately for the kingdom, Eustace died at the critical moment, of a fever caught in plundering the lands of St. Edmund's monastery, and heightened by rage at the prospect of concessions. Stephen had now little to fight for, and Henry, who had once been relieved in famine by his rival's generosity, was disposed to give liberal terms. It was agreed
1A. S. Chron., A., 1137.
Lappenberg, Eng. Gesch., band ii., p. 357.
2 Gesta Steph., p. 120.
The only authority for this act of Stephen's is the author of the Gesta Steph., p. 129.