Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

themselves oppressed their vassals, in other respects. It must also be but bravely deteaded them againit confeffed, that, fo long as the all others; willingly intermixed Anglo Saxons were mafters of Eng. with the people they had conquer. land, that kingdom was of no ac. ed, and of all nations in the world count in the Tystem of Europe ; were the kindelt to foreigners, put. but grew to have weight and au. ting them upon an equal foot with thority on the continent under the th-mselves, if they came to settle government of the Normans, both among them.

from the dominions which the: Such is the picture drawn by princes of that race possessed in William of Malmsbury of the France, and from their active am. English and Normans compared bition, which, feconded by the and contrafted together : and no enterprising and warlike dispofi. writer of those times was better tion of all iheir nobility, rendered qualified than he to form a true the English name respected and iljudgment of their good and ill luftrious abroad. But whether qualities, or more impartial be- this honour was not purchafed too tween them; for he had very good dear, by the loss of that peace, sense, with much knowledge of which the fruation of England, the world, and was equally re. especially if united with Scotland lated in blood to both nations. and Wales, might have secured to it Nevertheless the diversity, which under the government and ifiand. he has observed in their manners, policy of the Saxons, may well be did not remain till the times in disputed. Besides the conftant exwhich he wrote. He tells us him- pence of blood and treafere, one self, that the English soon accom.

great mischief, occafioned by it, modated themselves to those of the was the taking off the attention Normans, after they had been of many of our kings from the forced to submit to their govern. important objects of agriculture, ment, except in one article, name. manufactures, and commerce. Yet, ly, their temperance in eating and on the other hand, it is certain drinking; but, instead of learn that foreign wars, by exercising ing that, they communicated to the valour, increase the strength them their own habits of dronk- of a nation, which, remaining enness and immoderate feating, long unemployeł, is very ape to which continued for many ages the decay, and fink into an infirm and pational vices of their common effeminate fofunefs; particularly posterity.

where the people are much ad. In weighing the merits of each dicted to commerce; the mer. people, as here described, it will cantile fpirit prevailing over the be found that the Normans were military more than is confiftent greatly fuperior to the English in with the safety or virtue of a ftate. politeness and knowledge, and it To keep up the energy of both may therefore be thought, that, these fpirits in a proper degree, by a mixture with them, the latter and without prejudice to each received fuch improvements, as other, is a very important and were a fufficient compensation for very difficult part of political wifthe many evils brought upon the in dom, which has been performed in

few

[ocr errors]

H the ,

few governments, either ancient or and by many grievous oppressions mod ern.

had só irritated the people, that, rising in arms, they drove him

out. Harold, having been sent Character of Harold, From the with a commission from the king to fame.

fuppress this revolt, was told by

the Northumbrians, « that they E so conducted the affairs of were born and bred freemen, and the reign of a very weak prince vernor, but had learnt from their most happy to the English; vic. ancestors to secure to themselves tory attended his arms on the either liberty or death.” Such a borders ; liberty and peace were language, by a man of a defpomaintained by him at home. There tic temper, would certainly have was much dignity, gracefulness, been deemed an unpardonable ágand strength in his person ; he had gravation of their offence ; but a courage and resolution which Harold respected it, admitted nothing could daunt, an easy flow their plea, and even rendered of natural eloquence, animated by himself their advocate with the a lively agreeable wit, and eleva king, (to whom his entreaties tion of sentiments with popular were commands) that they might manners. Besides all the lustre have for their governor the perhe drew ..from his political and son they desired, Morcar, the military talents, in which he had younger brother of Edwin earl of no equal among his own country. Mercia, whose father and grandmen, his character was embellish. father had been dangerous ene, ed, and rendered more amiable, mies to his father and himieif: a by a generous spirit, and a heart most laudable act, and which in which humanity tempered am- news that he was worthy to rule a bition. It does not appear that free kingdom! It indeed be his virtues were disgraced by the thought, that poicy joined with mixture of any vice or weakness, generolity and with juice, in dicwhich could dishonour him in tating to him this circorinary the eyes of the public. Upon conduct; for, beides de carts the whole, he was worthy of the of the people, he gained by it a crown he aspired to; which is connexion with two powertul no. confeft even by writers no way dif- bles, who never forgot the obliposed to judge of him too favour- gation, and whose warm adhe. ably, and still better proved by all rence to him muft have greatly his behaviour after he was on the contributed to raise him to the throne,

throne. His own brother Tofti, a man given up to the worst passions, and capable of gratifying them Character of William the Firs, by the worst means, was the first

From the fame. his realm. This lord, in the This heldom been fet in its

character this reign of Edward the Confeflor, had been earl of Northumberland, true light ; fome eminent writers

having

mily

B 4.

having been dazzled so much by to have a power of controlling and the more shining parts of it, that governing fortune itself. they have hardly seen his faults ; Nor was he less superior to while others, out of a strong de. pleafure than to fear. No luxury teftation of tyranny, have been-un- softened him, no riot difordered, willing to allow him the praise he no sloth relaxed. It helped not a deserves.

little to maintain the high respect He may with justice be ranked his subjects had for him, that the among the greatest generals any majesty of his character was never age has produced. There was let down by any incontinence or united in him activity, vigilance, indecent excess. His temperance intrepidity, caution, great force and his chastity were constant of judgment, and never-failing guards, that secured his mind presence of mind. He was very from all weaknefs, supported its ftrict in his discipline, and kept dignity, and kept it always, as it his foldiers in perfect obedience; were, on the throne. Through his yet preserved their affection. Hav. whole life he had no partner ing been, from his very child. of his bed but his queen : a moft hood, continually in war, and at extraordinary virtue in one who the head of armies, he joined to had lived, even from his earlicit all the capacity that genius could youth, amidst all the licence of give, all the knowledge and skill camps, the allurements of a court, that experience could teach, and and the feductions of sovereign was a perfect master of the mili. power! Had he kept his oaths to tary art, as it was practised in the his people as well as he did his times when he lived. His consti- marriage vow, he would have tution enabled him to endure any been the best of kings; but he inhardships; and very few were dulged other paffions of a worse equal to him in personal strength : nature, and infinitely more dewhich was an excellence of more trimental to the public, than importance than it is now, from those he restrained. A luft of the manner of fighting then in power, which no regard to justice use. It is said of him, that none could limit, the most unrelenting but himself could bend his bow. cruelty, and the most insatiable His courage was heroic, and he avarice, possessed his soul. It is possessed it, not only in the field, true indeed, that among many but (which is more uncommon) acts of extreme inhumanity some in the cabinct; attempting great shining instances of great clethings with means that to other mency may be produced, that men appeared unequal to such were either effects of his policy, undertakings, and steadily pro- which taught him this method of secuting what he had boldly re. acquiring friends, or of his magsolved ; being never disturbed or nanimity, which made him flight disheartened with difficulties, in a weak and subdued enemy ; fuch the pursuit of his enterprizes ; but as was Edgar Atheling, in whom having that noble vigour of mind, he found neither spirit nor talents which, instead of bending to op- able to contend with him for the position, rises against it, and seems crown. But where he had no ad.

vantage vantage nor pride in forgiving, his performed the duty of a sovereign, nature discovering itself to be ut- that he took care to maintain a terly void of als sense of com- good police in his realm; curbing passion; and some barbarities, licentiousness with a strong hand, which he committed, exceeded which, in the tumultuous state of the bounds that even tyrants and his government, was a great and conquerors prescribe to them. difficult work. How well he perselves.

formed it we may learn even from Moft of our ancient historians the teftimony of a contemporary give him the character of a very Saxon historian, who says, that religious prince ; but his religion during his reign a man might was, after the fashion of those have travelled in perfect security times, belief without examination, all over the kingdom with his and devotion without piety. It bosom full of gold, nor durft any was a religion that prompted him kill another in revenge of the to endow monasteries, and at the greatest offences, nor offer violence same time allowed him to pillage to the chaitity of a woman.

But kingdoms; that threw him on his it was a poor compensation, that knees before a relic or cross, but the highways were safe, when the suffered him unrestrained to tram- courts of justice were dens of ple upon the liberties and rights of thieves, and when almost every mankind.

man in authority, or in office, As to his wisdom in govern- used his power to oppress and pilment, of which fome modern lage the people. The king himwriters have spoken very highly, self did not only tolerate, but enhe was indeed so far wise, thai, courage, support, and even share through a long, unquiet reign, these extortions. Though the he knew how to fupport oppreslion greatness of the ancient landed by terros, and employ the pro- estate of the crown, and the feudal pereit means for the carrying on a profits to which he legally was en. very iniquitous and violent ad. titled, rendered him one of the ministration. But that which a. richest monarchs in Europe, he lone deserves the name of wisdom was not content with all that in the character of a king, the opulence : but by authorising maintaining of authority by the the theriffs, who collected his reexercise of those virtues which venues in the several counties, to make the happiness of his people, practise the most grievous vexawas what, with all his abilites, tions and abuses, for the raising he does not appear to have poffeft. of them higher by a perpetual Nor did he excel in those foothing auction of the crown lands ; so and popular arts, which some. that none of his tenants could be times change the complexion of a secure of possession, if any other tyranny, and give it a fallacious would come and offer more ; by appearance of freedom. His go- various iniquities in the court of vernment was harsh and despotic, exchequer, which was entirely violating even the principles of Norman ; by forfeitures wrongthat constitution which he himself fully taken; and lastly, by arhad established. Yet so far he bitrary and illegal taxations, he drew into his treasury much too equalled. For proof of this I fall great a proportion of the wealth of here relate some particular facts, his kingdom.

'which I could not so properly It must however be owned, that mention in giving a general view if his avarice was insatiably and of this reign. While he was be. unjuftly rapacious, it was not fieging Mont St. Michel, a formeanly parfimonious, nor of that tress in Normandy, which was fordid kind, which brings on a held against him by Henry, bis prince dishonour and contempt. younger brother, a small party of He supported the dignity of his horse belonging to the garrifon crown with a decent magnificence; approached near his camp, at the and though he never was lavish, he fight of which, being transported sometimes was liberal, more espe. by the ardour of his courage, he cially to his foldiers and to the furicully advanced before his own church. But looking on money as troops, and charged into the mida a necessary means of maintaining of them. His horse was kilied and increasing power, he defired under him, and the foldier, who to accumulate as much as he could, had dismounted him, not knowing rather, perhaps, from an ambiti. who he was, dragged him by the ous than a covetous nature : at foot on the ground, and was going Jcaft his avarice was fubfervient io 10 flay him, if he had not topi his ambition, and he laid up wealth the blow, by saying to him, with in his coffers, as he did arms in a tone of command, not supplica. his magazines, to be drawn out, tion, “ Rascal, lift me up: I am when any proper occafion required the king of England.” At these it, for the defence and enlarge. words, all the foldiers of prince ment of his dominions.

Henry, his brother, were it ruck Upon the whole, he had many with awe, and reverently raisirg great qualities, but tew virtues; him up from the earth, brought and, if those actions that most par- him another horse. By this time ticularly distinguish the man or the his own forces were come to his king are impartially confidered, we fuccour in such pumbers, that the fhall find, that in his character little band of the enemy could there is much to admire, but still make no resistance, much less carry more to abhor.

off the king as their prisoner. That prince, seeing this, vagited

into the saddle, and cafting his , Character of William Rufus. From eyes, which sparkled with fire, all

round about him, asked, who it

was that unhorsed him? For fome "HE character of this king

time all were filent: but, ac latt,

he who did it answered, " It was ared by many historians. li was, I, who did not suppose you to be no doubt, very faulty ; yet, not- a king, but an ordinary knight withstanding all his faults, he was “ By the face of our Lord, rea great man. In magnanity, the plied William, with a smile, thoa arst of roval virtues, no prince ihalt henceforth be my soldier, ever excelled him, and few have and receive from me the recom

be fame.

pente

« ForrigeFortsett »