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English birth were deposed—a stretch of power very singular in that age. Morcar, one of the most illustrious English, suffered perpetual imprisonment. Waltheoff, a man of equally conspicuous birth, lost his head upon a scaffold by a very harsh if not iniquitous sentence. It was so rare in those times to inflict judicially any capital punishment upon persons of such ranks that his death seems to have produced more indignation and despair in England than any single circumstance. The name of Englishman was turned into a reproach. None of that race for a hundred years were raised to any dignity in the state or church. Their language and the characters in which it was written were rejected as barbarous ; in all schools, if we trust an authority often quoted, children were taught French, and the laws were administered in no other tongue. It is well known that this use of French in all legal proceedings lasted till the reign of Edward III."-Ibid. vol. ii. p. 302, 303.
The condition of England under the Conqueror may be readily conceived from the account given with apparent impartiality by the Saxon chronicler:
" If any one wish to know what manner of man he was, or what worship he had, or of how many lands he were the lord, we will describe him as we have known him ; for we looked on him, and some while lived in his herd. King William was a very wise man and very rich, more worshipful and strong than any his foregangers. He was mild to good men who loved God; and stark beyond all bounds to those who withsaid his will. Yet truly, in his time, men had mickle suffering, and yet very many hardships. Castles he caused to be wrought and poor men to be oppressed. He was so very stark. He took from his subjects many marks of gold, and many hundred pounds of silver ; and that he took, some by right, and some by mickle might, for very light need. He had fallen into avarice, and greediness he loved withal. He let his lands to fine as dear as he could ; then came some other and bade more than the first had given, and the king let it to him who bade more; then came a third and bade yet more; and the king let it into the hands of the man who bade the most. Nor did he reck how sinfully his reeves got money of poor men, or how many unlawful things they did. For the more men talked of right law, the more they did against the law. He also set many deer-friths; and he made laws there with that whosoever should slay hart or bind, him man should blind. As he forbade the slaying of harts, so also did he of boars; so much he loved the high deer, as if he had been their father. He also decreed about hares that they should go free. His rich men moaned, and the poor men murmured; but he was so hard that he recked not the hatred of them all. For it was need they should follow the king's will withal, if they wished to live, or to have lands, or goods, or his favour. Alas, that any man should be so moody, and should so puff up himself, and think himself above all other men! May Almighty God have mercy on his soul and grant him forgiveness of his sins."— Saxon Chronicle.
Assuredly the Norman king had good need of the devout prayer of his Saxon subject.
2. Rufus.-Rufus was as reckless in the use of arbitrary power, and as fond of a rude joke, as some more modern rulers. Witness the following:
"For a while, the new monarch, William Rufus, made himself popular by pledging himself to rule with justice, and to relieve the native English from sereral irksome restraints; and by giving away or spending freely the accumulated wealth which came into his possession. But his temper was too violent to let him observe his promises. And when Lanfranc remonstrated with him, the king was not ashamed to reply in words which amounted to a confession that he neither had kept nor intended to keep them. “Who,' said he, can perform all he promises ? '
“ Instead of removing restraints, he probably added to those imposed by his father that severe one by which all families were compelled to extinguish their lights and fires at the sound of the evening bell, which was thence called curfew, that is, cover fire. As to the liberality of Rufus, it was but the extravagance of a thoroughly selfish man. The money he wasted had cost him no labor, and he therefore chose to set no bounds to his profusion ; caring nothing for the burdens which he thereby forced an unprincipled minister to impose upon his subjects. It is related of him, that his chamberlain having bought him a new pair of hose, William asked what they cost. "Three shillings,' was the reply; and this was at that time the price of a quarter of wheat. 'Away with them,' said he; 'a king should wear nothing so cheap ; bring me a pair ten times as dear.' The shrewd attendant brought him an inferior pair, but said he had with difficulty prevailed with the tradesman to part with them at the price named by the king. On which William replied: “You have now served me well; those I will have.'
“Such silly pride and wilful prodigality, when extended to all the occasions of expense to which a sovereign is necessarily subject, must as certainly consume the revenues of a kingdom as they would on a smaller scale destroy any private fortune. And a king, like any other spendthrift, will be too surely driven by his folly from pride to meanness. Though too haughty to wear clothes of ordinary goodness, William could lower himself to cheat a Jew. One of that unhappy race complained to him with tears, that his son had been converted; and be sought the king to command the youth to deny Christ, and return to the faith of his fathers. William gave no answer, but at the same time showed no horror at the request; so that the Jew was encouraged to offer his sovereign sixty marks as a bribe for compliance. On this he sent for the young man, told him what his father required, and bade him acknowledge himself a Jew again. The youth expressed his hope that the king could not be in earnest. 'Son of a dunghill,' exclaimed William, do you think I would joke with you ? Obey me instantly, or, by the cross of Lucca, you shall lose your eyes.' Though thus threatened by a tyrant, who was known to fear neither God nor man, and whose passionate tone and ferce look seemed to declare that his threats would be executed the next moment, the young man calmly replied that he must suffer whatever the king should choose to inflict; but that he had hoped a Christian sovereign would have protected such as embraced the Christian faith. Finding him thus firm, William neither punished the convert, nor continued his threats, but, turning to the father, demanded the promised sum. The Jew objected that his son was as much a Christian as ever. 'I did what I could,' said William ; "and do you think I will work without my reward? As I have been unsuccessful, give me half. The Jew was obliged to comply, and the king took his thirty marks.”_ Walter's Hist. of England, vol. i. p. 288-290.
3. Charter of Henry 1.—“Besides taking the usual coronation oath to maintain the laws and execute justice, Henry I. passed a charter which was calculated to remedy many of the grievous oppressions which had been complained of during the reigns of his father and brother. He therefore promised that, at the death of any bishop or abbot, he never would seize the revenues of the see or abbey during the vacancy, but would leave the whole to be reaped by the successor; and that he would never let to farm any ecclesiastical benefice, nor dispose of it for money. After this concession to the church, whose favor was of so great importance, he proceeded to enumerate the civil grievances which he purposed to redress. He promised that upon the death of any earl, baron, or military tenant, his heir should be admitted to the possession of his estate, on paying a just and lawful relief, without being exposed to such violent exactions as had been usual during the late reigns; he remitted the wardship of minors, and allowed guardians to be appointed, who should be answerable for the trust; he promised not to dispose of any heiress in marriage, but by the advice of all the barons; and if any baron intended to give his daughter, sister, niece, or kinswoman in marriage, it should only be necessary for him to consult the king, who promised to take no money for his consent, nor even to refuse permission, unless the person to whom it was purposed to marry her should happen to be his enemy. He granted his harons and military tenants the power of bequeathing by will their money or personal estates; and if they neglected to make a will, he promised that their heirs should succeed to them ; he renounced the right of imposing moneyage, and of levying taxes at pleasure on the farms which the barons retained in their own hands; he made some general professions of moderating fines; he offered a pardon for all offences; and he remitted all debts due to the crown; he required that the vassals of the barons should enjoy the same privileges which he granted to his own barons; and he promised a general confirmation and observance of the laws of King Edward. This is the substance of the chief articles contained in that famous charter.”—Hume, i. 313.
4. Sacon Serfdom.—The most perfect picture of the condition of England under the Norman princes I have yet found is in the “ Ivanhoe” of Sir Walter Scott. In language, costume, and all minor details, it is marked by the usual accuracy of that great and learned writer:
“The human figures which completed this landscape were in number two, partaking, in their dress and appearance, of that wild and rustic character which belonged to the woodlands of the West Riding of Yorkshire at that early period. The eldest of these men had a stern, savage, and wild aspect. His garment was of the simplest form imaginable, being a close jacket with sleeves, composed of the tanned skin of some animal, on which the hair had been originally left, but which had been worn off in so many places, that it would have been difficult to distinguish from the patches that remained, to what creature the fur had belonged. This primeval vestment reached from the throat to the knees, and served at once all the usual purposes of body clothing; there was no wider opening at the collar than was necessary to admit the passage of the head, from which it may be inferred that it was put on by slipping it over the head and shoulders, in the manner of a modern shirt or ancient hauberk. Sandals, bound with thongs made of boar's hide, protected the feet, and a roll of thin leather was twined artificially around the legs, and ascending above the calf, left the knees bare, like those of a Scottish Highlander. To make the jacket sit yet more close to the body, it was gathered at the middle by a broad leathern belt, secured by a brass buckle; to one side of which was attached a sort of scrip, and to the other a ram's horn, accoutred with a mouthpiece, for the purpose of blowing. In the same belt was stuck one of those long, broad, sharp-pointed, and two-edged knives, with a buck's-horn handle, which were fabricated in the neighborhood, and bore even at this early period the name of a Sheffield whittle. The man had no covering upon his head, which was only defended by his own thick hair, matted and twisted together, and scorched by the influence of the sun into a rusty dark-red color, forming a contrast with the overgrown beard upon his cheeks, which was rather of a yellow or amber hue. One part of his dress only remains, but it is too remarkable to be suppressed: it was a brass ring resembling a dog's collar, but without any opening, and soldered fast round his neck, so loose as to form no impediment to his breathing, yet so tight as to be incapable of being removed, excepting by the use of the file. On this singular gorget was engraved, in Saxon characters, an inscription of the following purport: “Gurth, the son of Beowulph, is the born thrall of Cedric of Rotherwood.” Beside the swineherd, for such was Gurth's occupation, was seated, upon one of the fallen Druidical monuments, a person about ten years younger in appearance, and whose dress, though resembling his companion's in form, was of better materials, and of a more fantastic appearance. His jacket had been stained of a bright purple hue, upon which there had been some attempt to paint grotesque ornaments in different colors. To the jacket he added a short cloak, which scarcely reached halfway down his thigh; it was of crimson cloth, though a good deal soiled, lined with bright yellow; and as he could transfer it from one shoulder to the other, or at his pleasure draw it all around him, its width, contrasted with its want of longitude, formed a fantastic piece of drapery. He had thin silver bracelets upon his arms, and on his neck a collar of the same metal, bearing the inscription: “Wamba the son of Witless, is the thrall of Cedric of Rotherwood." This person had the sa ne sort of sandals with his companion, but instead of the roll of leather thong, his legs were cased in a sort of gaiters, of which one was red and the other yellow. He was provided also with a cap, having around it more than one bell, about the size of those attached to hawks, which jingled as he turned his head to one side or other; and as he seldom remained a minute in the same posture, the sound might be considered as incessant. Around the edge of this cap was a stiff bandeau of leather, cut at the top into open work, resembling a coronet, while a prolonged bag arose from within it, and fell down on one shoulder, like an old fashioned nightcap, or a jelly bag, or the head gear of a modern hussar. It was to this part of the cap that the bells were attached; which circumstance as well as the shape of his head-dress, and his own half-crazed half-cunning expression of countenance, sufficiently pointed bim out as belonging to the race of domestic clowns or jesters, maintained in the houses of the wealthy, to keep away the tedium of those lingering hours which they were obliged to spend within doors. He bore, like his companion, a scrip, attached to his belt, but had neither horn nor knife, being probably considered as belong. ing to a class whom it is considered dangerous to intrust with edge tools. In place of these he was equipped with a sort of sword of lath, resembling that with which Harlequin operates his wonders upon the modern stage.
“The outward appearance of these two men formed scarce a stronger contrast than their look and demeanor. That of the serf or bondsman was sad and sullen ; his aspect was bent on the ground with an appearance of deep dejection, which mnight be almost construed into apathy, had not the fire which occasionally sparkled in his red eye, manifested that there slumbered, under the appearance of sullen despondency, a sense of oppression and a disposition to resistance. The looks of Wamba, on the other hand, indicated, as usual with his class, a sort of vacant curiosity, and fidgety impatience of any posture of repose, together with the utmost self-satisfaction respecting his own situation, and the appearance which he made. The dialogue which they maintained between them was carried on in Anglo-Saxon, which, as we said before, was universally spoken by the inferior classes, excepting the Norman soldiers and the immediate personal dependants of the great feudal nobles. But to give their conversation in the original would convey but little information to the modern reader, for whose benefit we beg to offer the following translation.
"The curse of St. Withold upon these infernal porkers !' said the swineherd, after blowing his horn obstreperously, to collect together the scattered herd of swine, which, answering his call with notes equally melodious, made, however, no haste to remove themselves from the luxurious banquet of beech mast and acorns on which they had fattened, or to forsake the marshy banks of the rivulet, where several of them, half plunged in mud, lay stretched at their ease, altogether regardless of the voice of their keeper. "The curse of St. Withold upon them and upon me!' said Gurth ; 'if the two-legged wolf snap not up some of them ere nightfall, I am no true man. Here, Fangs ! Fangs !'he ejaculated at the top of his voice to a ragged, wolfish-looking dog, a sort of lurcher, half mastiff, half greyhound, which went limping about as if with the purpose of seconding his master in collecting the refractory grunters; but which, in fact, from misap