« PreviousContinue »
to win the renown of a matchless knight and the offer of the kingdom of Jerusalem. William remained indifferent; knights leaving their estates unprotected except by the church's curse on spoilers, peasants filling waggons with their families to start for Palestine, monks founding new orders that they might pray for those who fought, were probably objects of cynical scorn to the king. Whether his policy was wise may be doubted. He did not live long to enjoy Normandy. He died obscurely at the chase, instead of falling by the side of Tancred or Godfrey. So far as he influenced Englishmen, his example kept in the country the very men under whom the land was groaning. The apathy of England in a European struggle left the glory of representing Europe to others; from that time forward Frank was the name for Christian in the East, and the crusades were recorded as "God's doings through the Franks." The incalculable good which those wars produced is too often underrated. The spirit of travel, of adventure, of intercourse with other nations, an acquaintance with decaying Eastern civilization, are among their lesser benefits. They broke the strength of feudalism in Europe; they created chivalry. War at this time was a constant quantity in states; the crusades did not add to it; but they gave men the feeling that it required to be sanctified by a purpose, and they diverted the restless energies of the West from petty feuds to a noble enterprize. We owe it to Godfrey and his companions that Eastern barbarism was rolled back upon Asia, and not first encountered, with doubtful issue and certain misery, on the Danube or the Rhine. Had the same feeling lasted to a later century, the brutal savages who have ruined the Byzantine empire and still desecrate its remains, would never have been suffered to expunge a state from the muster-roll of civilized nations. All the misery of the crusades is as nothing compared with the sufferings of nations subject to the Turks during four centuries.
1 "Videres maritum cum matronâ cum omni postremo familiâ euntem; rideres carpentis impositos totos in iter transferre Penates."-Malmesbury, lib. iv., p. 533.
INFAMOUS CHARACTER OF THE GOVERNMENT.
The government of William became intolerable in proportion as it was uncontrolled. When first stricken by illness, the result probably of hard living, he had been maudlin and penitent; but he had enough religion to ascribe his sufferings to God's anger, and swore on a fresh attack that he would never return good for the evil brought upon him. "Never day dawned," says his chronicler, "but he rose a worse man than he had lain down; never sun set but he lay down a worse man than he had risen." Yet his hand prospered in all that it found to do; the sea and the wind seemed to obey him; an old Greek might have seen the approaches of Nemesis in fortune so unvaried as to be ominous. His court were as lawless as their master, and plundered the houses in which they were quartered, or insulted the honour of women. What they could not carry off or sell, they often heaped before the owner's door and burned, and their grooms were encouraged to wash the horses' feet in ale. The primate was driven out of the country; the benefices were sequestrated as they fell vacant; five sees and eleven abbacies passed thus into the hands of Ranulf Flambard. It was said the king meditated turning all or most of the church lands into military fiefs. Where every man in the country not of his household had a direct interest in his death, it is not wonderful if vague hopes and belief in divine vengeance, and perhaps intimations of plots against him, passed into prophecy. The night before his death, William himself, it was said, dreamed that his blood spirting up to heaven had blotted daylight out. When he rose a more terrible vision was reported to him. A foreign monk had seen him in a dream insulting the crucifix, and at last spurned to the ground amid clouds of fire and smoke. Nevertheless the king, having drunk rather harder than usual, went out, as was his wont, to hunt. (Aug. 2, 1100 A. D.) That evening he was found dead, with an arrow in his heart, by
Eadmer, Hist. Nov., lib. ii., p. 422; Lingard, vol. ii., p. 94.
2 Girald. Camb. de Inst. Princ., p. 167.
3 These visions, which are told with many variations, are not unimportant, as they probably arose from vague intimations of a plot.
CIRCUMSTANCES OF WILLIAM'S DEATH.
some charcoal-burners; they threw the body upon a cart, and took it to Winchester. A low tomb of black marble, just one remove above the grassy hillock that marks a peasant's grave, tells where the second Norman king was buried in the cathedral. Popular belief said that Sir Walter Tire, aiming at a deer with a bolt given him by the king himself, had struck an oak; the arrow had glanced back and killed William. Tirel's flight into France appeared to confirm the suspicion; yet he himself, at a time when he had nothing to hope or fear, declared solemnly to a friend that he had not been in the same part of the forest with the king. His conduct is intelligible, if we suppose that accident made him acquainted with the secret of the actual murderer, whom it might be perilous to denounce or trust. Prince Henry was in the forest that day, and profited most by the king's death. In the times of Henry VIII., when monks were out of favour, it was currently said that they had delivered themselves of a persecutor. The grave of William Rufus, unwept and unhonoured, will never disclose its secret till it gives up its dead.
1 Suger (Vit. Lud. Gros., p. 283) is the witness to Tirel's protestations of innocence. He was a Frenchman, lord of Poix on the Somme, and seneschal of Pontoise. He had therefore no interest in the king's death. The charge against the monks is reported by Nicander Nucius.-Travels, pp. 34, 35.
HENRY'S ACCESSION AND MARRIAGE.-HIS CHARACTER AND TRAINING.-COMPROMISES WITH ROBERT.-CONQUEST OF NORMANDY.-PETTY WARS WITH FRANCE AND ANJOU.-FLEMISH COLONY IN WALES.-NATIONAL DISTRESS. -POLICE AND JUSTICE. SHIPWRECK OF PRINCE WILLIAM.—SUCCESSION TO THE CROWN.-HENRY'S DEATH.
ON learning the death of his brother, Prince Henry hastened to Winchester, and claimed the royal treasures. Their guardian, William de Breteuil, declared his intention of keeping them for the rightful heir, the Crusader Robert; Henry drew his sword, and William was half-overpowered, half-persuaded by the by-standers to withdraw his opposition. Two days later, Henry was crowned at London by its bishop, Maurice, as the primate Anselm was an exile on the continent. The only title which the new king could claim was derived from the wellknown intentions of the conqueror to disinherit his eldest son of England. But Henry was easily able to secure adherents; he bought over the clergy with the vacant benefices, the nobles with grants of money, and propitiated all classes with promises of reform. Old offences were to be condoned; the laws of king Edward enforced, and church privileges respected. Feudal dues were to be mitigated, and lands owing military service were freed from other burdens. The king's license for marriage was no longer to be put up to sale, and widows were not to be married against their will. The liberty of bequest, which Rufus had called in question, was restored. The only unpopular act was that by which the king kept the forests in his own hand. Lastly, to conciliate his English subjects, already
1 Charta Hen. Imi, A. S. Laws, vol. i., pp. 497-500. There is no authority for Thierry's assertion that Henry took away and destroyed the copies of this charter which had been deposited in the principal churches of the kingdom.
MARRIAGE WITH THE PRINCESS EDITH.
well disposed to a prince who had been born among them, Henry determined to marry the sister of Edgar Ætheling, who represented the claims of the Saxon dynasty. There was some difficulty in the way of the marriage, for it appeared that the princess Edith had taken the veil in the convent of Rumsey, where she was educated. But the lady deposed that her aunt, the abbess Christina, had thrown it over her to secure her from outrage, during the lawless reign of the late king, from himself or his followers.1 Anselm, who had now returned to England, decided that the princess was not bound by a profession to which the heart had not consented, and declared her free from the obligation of celibacy. Edith, on her marriage, assumed the name of Matilda, and was known among the people as "the good queen Maud." It was with reluctance she had consented to a marriage which brought her no happiness; unlovely in person and ascetic in tastes, she never won her husband's affections; and when she had borne him two children, he permitted her to retire again to a convent. Her last years were spent in the cultivation of church music, of which she was passionately fond, in the study of ancient
If he had done so, London, York, and St. Alban's, where Thierry supposes the copies to have escaped by accident, were the last places to remain unvisited.— Conquête d'Angleterre, tom. ii., p. 244.
Eadmer's testimony is express, and, as a member of Anselm's household, he must have known what reasons were officially given.-Hist. Nov., lib. iii., p. 426. Heriman, third abbot of St. Martin, who was also present at the conferences, states that the veil was first worn on the occasion of a visit by William Rufus, who came professedly to see the convent flower-garden, but whose vio lent passions were dreaded by the abbess. A week after, Matilda's father came, and ordered it to be laid aside.-Eadmer, Hist. Nov., lib. iii., pp. 429, 430; note by M. Henschen. But Malmesbury states that she affected wearing the veil to avoid being given in marriage to an unworthy favourite.-Lib. iv., p. 649. She was once promised by William to Count Alan of Brittany. It was clearly William's policy to get rid of the heir to Saxon royalty; he may at one time have meant to dishonour her; and later on to dispose of her to a husband who could not be a rival. Malmesbury's account is therefore not unlikely to be true. But it would not have justified Anselm in permitting the marriage. As it was, he gave his consent reluctantly, and prophesied that no good would come of it.