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historians. The home marriage-market was thinned by the long wars in the south and the north, the east and the west. The young Saxon women were fair and florid, and the young soldiers and camp-followers that came from Normandy and other parts of France seldom, if ever, brought wives with them: the circumstances and natural feelings of these parties would be decisive of the matter; but, no doubt, it would enter into the policy of the Conqueror to keep these young soldiers (many of whom were not his own subjects) in England, and in his own service, by encouraging and promoting their marriages with the unprovided Saxon maidens. Although not specifically mentioned by the monkish writers, the only annalists of those times, we can glean incidentally that these matches became very common shortly after the battle of Hastings, that they continued throughout the long war, and that they became still more frequent when the Conqueror crushed the last great insurrection in the country north of Trent, and finally subdued the Saxon spirit of independence. And these marriages among the commonalty contributed more than any other single cause to the disarming of mutual animosities, and to the tranquillizing of the kingdom. William of Poictiers, the Conqueror's chaplain and chronicler, who is believed to have accompanied his hero and patron on his expedition to England, speaks with something like rapture of the beauty of countenance, the fair complexion, and long flowing hair of the Saxons. There is, however, no good reason to doubt the longestablished opinion, that physically, as well as morally, the fusion of new brisk blood in the great but somewhat sluggish Anglo-Saxon stream was highly advantageous. If the Northmen, or Normans, had achieved the conquest of England on their first starting from Norway and the other shores of the North Sea, they would have differed very little in race or breed from the Saxons and Danes; but during the century and a half or more that these Scandinavian followers of Rollo had been settled in the north-west of France, or in those regions to which they imparted the name of Normandy, they had been greatly intermixed with Frankish, and Celtic, and other blood; their princes and chiefs had intermarried with royal or noble Franks, their followers with the common people of the country or of the states adjacent to it. Hence black hair and black eyes, and hands and feet of comparatively small size, were common among the real Normans who first came to England with the Conqueror, and long before that event the Normans had entirely lost their original Scandinavian language, and spoke nothing but a dialect of the French, as afterwards in England the mixed race lost the use of the French language, and spoke nothing but English. If it took a longer time in England than it had taken in France to identify the language of the conquerors with the conquered, and if a good deal of the French dialect the Normans brought with them into England was fused and mixed with the staple of the growing English language, it was certainly not owing to the slow mixture of the two races, but to other powerful causes, such as the close and long-continued connection between England and Normandy and the adjacent countries, the infant and transition state of our language at the time of the Conquest, the somewhat more advanced state of language and civilization in France, the great influx of foreign churchmen, and the tendency of the Latin (the language of the Church) to promote the use of words that sprung from Latin roots, and that were taken from dialects which were but derivatives of the Latin. When Rollo obtained an undisturbed possession of his duchy of Normandy he retained no dominion elsewhere, and he appears to have given up almost immediately every connection with the country from which he had come; but the Conqueror and his descendants retained possession of Normandy and of other French-speaking states for more than one hundred and sixty years; and during all this period our kings were frequently on the continent for long periods at a time, and many of our barons held fiefs in Normandy, Maine, and Anjou, as well as in England, and passed a portion of their time in their castles abroad. Even after this period, or when King John and Henry III. had lost nearly every foot of territory in France, there was an intimate connection between the two people on the opposite sides of the Channel, and the conquests contemplated by Edward I. and achieved by Edward III. contributed to keep alive the use of the French language in England, and to engraft so much of it upon the Anglo-Saxon stock. But besides the real Normans, or the men of mixed race, who came over with the Conqueror, there were numerous adventurers from other parts of the continent, that came with the first expedition, or that repaired to his standard afterwards; for during the seven years' war he was frequently hard pressed by the Saxons, and compelled to bring over numerous bodies of recruits. In the first expedition there were men that came from Maine and Anjou, from Poictou and Bretagne, from central France and from southern France, from Burgundy and from Aquitaine; and to these were added volunteers and soldiers of fortune from the great plains of Italy at the foot of the Alps. All this enlarged and varied—and no doubt advantageously—the new blood which was mixed with the Anglo-Saxon. Of these more southern adventurers, many who had brought little else with them than a suit of chain armour, a lance, and a few hungry and bold followers, attained to high rank and command, married Saxon women, and became the founders of noble families.
40.--THE DEATH OF THE CONQUEROR.
At the end of the year 1086, when he had been seated nineteen years upon the throne of England, William went over to the Continent with a mighty army to wage war with Philip, king of France, for the possession of the city of Mantes and the country of the Vexin. But shortly after his arrival in Normandy he fell sick and kept his bed. As he had advanced in years he had grown excessively fat. King Philip said, as a good joke among his courtiers, that his cousin William was a long while lying in, but that no doubt there would be a fine churching as soon as he should be delivered. On hearing this coarse and insipid jest the Conqueror of England swore by the most terrible of his oaths—by the splendour and birth of Christ—that he would be churched in Notre Dame, the cathedral of Paris, and present so many wax torches that all France should be set in a blaze.” It was not until the end of July, 1087, that he was in a state to mount his war-horse. He soon came with fire and sword into the Vexin country. The corn was almost ready for the sickle, the grapes for the wine-press, when he marched his cavalry through the corn-fields and made his soldiery tear up the vines by the roots and cut down the pleasant trees. Mantes was soon taken, and consigned to the flames. Neither house nor cottage, nay, neither church nor monastery was spared. As the conqueror rode up to view the ruin he had caused, his war-horse put his fore feet on some embers, or hot cinders, and then swerved or plunged so violently that the heavy rider was thrown upon the high pommel of the saddle, and grievously bruised The king dismounted in great pain, and never more put foot in stirrup. Forthwith quitting the burning town, he was carried slowly in a litter to Rouen, and again laid in his bed. It was soon evident to all, and even to himself, that his last hour was approaching. Being troubled by the noise and bustle of Rouen, and desirous of dying in a holy place, he made his people carry him to the monastery of St Gervas
* It was the custom for women at their churching to carry lighted tapers in their hands and present them at the altar.
outside the city walls. He lingered for six weeks, during which he was surrounded by doctors, priests, and monks. On the nearer approach of death his heart softened, and though he preserved the kingly decorum and conversed calmly on the wonderful events of his life, he is said to have felt the vanity of all human grandeur, and a keen remorse for the crimes and cruelties he had committed. He sent money to Mantes to rebuild the churches and houses of religion he had burned, and he ordered large sums to be paid to the churches and monasteries in England, which he had plundered and impoverished. He released all his state prisoners, as well Saxons as others, some of whom had pined in dungeons for more than twenty years. Robert, his eldest son, who had had many violent quarrels with his father, was absent, but his two younger sons, William and Henry, who were successively kings: of England, were assiduous round the death-bed, waiting impatiently for the declaration of his last will. A day or two before his death the conqueror assembled some of his prelates and chief barons in his sick chamber, and raising himself in his bed, he with a solemn and ghastly countenance declared in their presence that he bequeathed the duchy of Normandy and its other dependencies to his eldest son Robert. “As to the crown of England,” said the dying monarch, “I bequeath it to no one, as I did not receive it, like the duchy of Normandy, in inheritance from my father, but acquired it by conquest and the shedding of blood with mine own good sword. The succession to that kingdom I therefore leave to the decision of God, only desiring most fervently that my son William, who hath ever been dutiful to me, may obtain it, and prosper in it.” “And what do you give unto me, oh" my father ?” eagerly cried Prince Henry. “Five thousand pounds weight of silver out of my treasury.” “But what can I do with five thousand pounds of silver, if I have neither lands nor a home?” Here the dying king put on the look of a prophet, and said, “Be patient, O Henry' and have trust in the Lord: suffer thy elder brothers to precede thee, and thy time will come after theirs.” Henry the Beauclerc, and the craftiest and cleverest of the unloving brotherhood, went straight and drew the silver, which he weighed with great care, and then furnished himself with a strong coffer to keep his treasure in. William Rufus left the king's bedside at the same time, and, without waiting to see his father breathe his last, hastened over to England to seize the royal treasures deposited in Winchester castle and to look after his crown. About sunrise, on the 9th of September, the conqueror was roused from a stupor into which he had fallen by the sound of bells. He eagerly inquired what the noise meant, and was told that they were ringing the hour of prime in the church of St. Mary. He lifted his clasped hands to heaven, and saying “I recommend my soul to my Lady Mary, the holy mother of God,” instantly expired. His last faint sigh was the signal for a general flight and scramble. The knights, priests, and doctors, who had passed the night near him, put on their spurs, mounted their horses, and galloped off to their several homes to have an eye to their own interests. The king's servants and some vassals of inferior rank proceeded to rifle the apartments of the arms, silver vessels, linen and royal dresses, and then were to horse and away like their betters. Some took one thing, some another; nothing worth the carrying was left behind—no, not so much as the bed-clothes. From prime to tierce, or for about three hours, the corpse of the mighty conqueror, abandoned by sons, friends, servants and all, lay in a state of almost perfect nakedness on the bare boards of the chamber in which he had expired. The citizens of Rouen either ran about the streets asking news and advice from every one they met, or busied themselves in concealing their money and valuables. At last the clergy and the monks recovered the use of their faculties, and thought of the decent duties owing to the mortal remains of their sovereign ; and, arraying themselves in their best habits, and forming in order of procession they went with crucifix, burning tapers, and incense, to pray over the abandoned and dishonoured body for the peace of its soul. The archbishop of Rouen ordained that the king should be interred at Caen in the church of St. Stephen, which he had built and royally endowed. But even now there was none to do it honour: his sons, his brothers, his relations, were all absent, and of all the Conqueror's officers and rich vassals not one was found to take charge of the obsequies. At length a poor knight named Herluin, who lived in the neighbourhood, charged himself with the trouble and expense of the funeral. “out of his natural good nature and love of God.” This poor and pious knight engaged the proper attendance and a wain; he conveyed the king's body on the cart to the banks of the Seine, and from thence in a barge down the river and its estuary to the city of Caen. Gilbert, Abbot of St. Stephen's, with all his monks, came out of Caen to meet the body, and other churchmen and the inhabitants of the city joining these, a considerable procession was formed. But as they went along a fire suddenly broke out in the town ; laymen and clerks ran to extinguish it, and the abbot and his monks were left alone to conduct the remains of the king to the church which he had founded. Even the last burial service did not pass undisturbed. The neighbouring bishops and abbots assembled for this solemn ceremony. The mass and requiem had been said; the incense was filling the church with its holy perfume, the Bishop of Evreux had pronounced the panegyric, and the body was about to be lowered into the grave prepared for it in the church between the altar and the choir, when a man, suddenly rising in the crowd, exclaimed with a loud and angry voice which made the prelates and monks to start and cross themselves—“Bishop, the man whom thou hast praised was a robber 1 The very ground on which we are standing is mine, and is the site where my father's house stood. He took it from me by violence, to build this church on it. I reclaim it as my right ; and in the name of God, I forbid you to bury him here, or cover him with my glebe.” The man who spoke thus boldly was Asseline Fitz Arthur, who had often asked a just compensation from the king in his lifetime. Many of the persons present confirmed the truth of his statement; and, after some parley and chaffering, the bishop paid him sixty shillings for the grave alone, engaging to procure him hereafter the full value of the rest of his land. The body, dressed in royal robes, but without a coffin, was then lowered into the narrow tomb ; the rest of the ceremony was hurried over, the people dispersed, the prelates went to their homes, and the abbot and monks of St. Stephen's went to their cloisters, leaving only one brother of the house to sprinkle holy water over the flat stone that covered the grave and to pray for the soul of the departed. The traveller may yet stand and muse over that grave in the quaint old Norman church at Caen ; but the equestrian statue of the Conqueror, placed against one of the external pillars of the church, has been wantonly and barbarously mutilated.
41. DEATH AND BURIAL OF WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR.
The Church of Saint Gervas, near Rouen. Wolfstan, a monk, stands absorbed in thought. His hands clasped. Two townsmen observing him.
First Townsman. He'll stand you thus whole days; his eyeballs fixed On one sole spot; his hands close clenched in prayer.
Second Townsman They look as if they clutch'd a sword, so swoll'n
First Townsman. Nay, 'tis of evil omen; if he speaks
Second Townsman. Ruin indeed—
First Townsman. Wolfstan, an English monk. I know no more;
Wolfstan—(mutters). It tarries long
Second Townsman. Is it a prayer he mutters, or a curse 7
Wolfstan. I have no blessing. You are young and strong;
[The two townsmen retire. Asselyn Fitzarthur—(in rags and misery)—I pray you, father, give your ear to me,
A broken man am I; wasted with grief—
Wolfstan—(lays his hand on Asselyn's shoulder). I know. I feel through
all my sense a glow,