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It held my fathers' graves; but swollen in pride,
Abbot. This is no time for bargain and for sale,
Asselyn. 'Tis but these narrow feet of burial soil
Abbot. Friends, proceed.
[They put the coffin hurriedly into the grace and disperse.
42.-CHARACTER OF WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR.
From the “Penny Cyclopaedia.”
The character of the Conqueror has been graphically sketched by the Saxon chronicler from personal knowledge—‘For we looked on him,' says the writer, ‘and some while lived in his herd (on his hirede). The feature that had chiefly impressed itself upon this close observer was what he calls his starkness, by which he seems to mean his unbending strength of will and firmness or tenacity of purpose. Thrce times in the course of his description he remarks this. But while he was stark beyond all measure, and very savage to those who withstood him, the honest chronicler states, on the other hand, that he was mild to good men who loved God, and that he was a very wise man, as well as very rich, and more worthful and strong than any of his ancestors. William indeed was far from being all devil, any more than his father (Robert le Diable), whom he seems to have a good deal resembled, and who was complimented by his contemporaries with the epithet of the Magnificent, as well as with the other expressive surname by which he is commonly remembered. With all his ferocity, William evinced throughout his life a reverence both for the ordinances and the ministers of religion; and, although he would not suffer either his clergy or the pope to erect within his kingdom an ecclesiastical dominion separate from and independent of that of the crown, he showed himself anxious on all occasions to maintain the respectability of the church by promoting able men to the chief places in it, as well as by upholding it in its legal rights and powers. That he was eminently endowed with the qualities, both moral and intellectual, that raise men above their fellows, is abundantly proved
by what he did. Few men have projected the influence of their genius across so wide an expanse both of time and space as the founder of the Norman dynasty in
England. In moral disposition William was passionate and ruthless; but he does not appear to have been vindictive, nor even, properly speaking, cruel or blood
thirsty, notwithstanding the destructive character of some of his military opera
tions. There was nothing weak, nothing little about this great king. In his latter days, the chronicler intimates, he fell into the vices of avarice and greediness; but this love of money was only one of the forms assumed by his love of power, the natural passion of all superior minds. So one of the forms in which the energy and ardour of his character were displayed was his passion for the chace. “So much he loved the high-deer (hea deor), naïvely writes the Saxon annalist, as if he had been their father. It is plain indeed that the deer and other ferae naturae had quite as much of his affection as his children; and somewhat more than his subjects. ‘He made laws,' says the chronicler, ‘that whosoever should slay hart or hind, him man should blind. As he forbade the slaying of harts, so also did he of boars. He also decreed about hares, that they should go free.' The principal portion of the laws of the Conqueror that has come down to us consists of a capitulary which is said to have been drawn up and agreed upon in an assembly of the principal persons of the realm whom he called together about the year 1070. It is for the most part a selection of the laws previously in force in the Saxon times, according to their last general revision by Canute the Great. It exists both in Latin and in Romance, or old French ; and the Latin version, which is preserved in the history attributed to Ingulphus, has usually been reckoned the original; but Sir Francis Palgrave, who has printed both versions from better manuscripts than had been before employed, in his ‘Rise and Progress of the English Commonwealth,’ Proofs and Illustrations, lxxxviii.-civ., has advanced some reasons for believing that these laws of the Conqueror were most probably originally written in Latin, which was the language in which legal documents were commonly drawn up in England for some ages after this date. The common statement that William attempted to abolish the English tongue and to substitute the French, whether in the courts of law or in the ordinary intercourse of life, rests upon no good authority, and is irreconcilable with well-ascertained facts. The wife of William the Conqueror was Matilda, daughter of Baldwin W., Earl of Flanders, surnamed the Gentle He married her before he acquired the crown of England, and she died 2nd November, 1083. Their children were, Robert, whom his father called Gambaron (Roundlegs) and Courthose (Shorthose), who died a prisoner in the castle of Cardiff in 1134; Richard, who was gored to death by a stag in. the New Forest; William, by whom he was succeeded on the English throne; Henry, who succeeded William ; Cecilia, who became abbess of the monastery of the Holy Trinity at Caen, and died there 13th July, 1126; Constance, who was married to Alan, Earl of Bretagne and Richmond, but died without issue; Adeliza, who died young before the Conquest; Adela, who married Stephen, Earl of Blois, by whom she became the mother of Stephen, king of England, and who afterwards took the veil, and died in the nunnery of Mareigny in France about 1 137; Gundred, who married William de Warrenne, Earl of Surrey, and died in childbed at Castleacre in Norfolk, 27th May, 1085; and Agatha, who was contracted to Alphonso, king of Leon and Castile, but died before her marriage. He had also a natural son, William de Peveril, by Maud, daughter of Ingelric, a Saxon nobleman, who afterwards married Ranulph de Peveril.
43.-WILLIAM RUFUS. THIERRY.
William Rufus, on his road to Fngland, had been apprised of his father's death, at the port of Wissant, near Calais. He hastened to Winchester, where the royal treasure was deposited, and gaining over William de Pont-de-l'Arche, the keeper of the treasury, by his promises, he got possession of the bags. He had it carefully weighed, and an inventory taken; it was found to consist of sixty thousand pounds of fine silver, besides a quantity of gold and precious stones. He then assembled all the Norman barons then in England, announced to them the death of the Conqueror, was chosen king, and crowned by Archbishop Lanfranc, in Winchester Cathedral, whilst the barons remaining in Normandy were deliberating on the succession. His first act of royal authority, was to imprison anew the Saxons Ulfnoth, Morkar, and Siward Beorn, whom his father had liberated ; next he drew from the treasury a large quantity of gold and silver, which he placed in the hands of Otho, the goldsmith, with orders to make it into ornaments for the tomb of him, whom he had forsaken on his death-bed. The name of the goldsmith, Otho, merits a place in this history, for the territorial register of the Conquest, mentions him as one of the great newly created proprietors. Perhaps he had been the banker of the invasion, and had advanced part of the cost or mortgage of English estates; this is not unlikely, for the goldsmiths of the middle ages were also bankers, or, perhaps, he had merely entered into commercial speculations upon the domains acquired by the lance and the sword, and given gold in exchange for their estates to the roving men-at-arms—a class common to that age. A kind of literary competition now sprang up between the Latin versifiers of England and Normandy, in the composition of the epitaph that was to be engraved on the tomb of the late king; and Thomas, Archbishop of York, carried off the palm. Several pieces of verse and prose in praise of the Conqueror, have been handed down to us, and among the eulogies bestowed on him by the clerks and literary men of the age, there are some exceedingly curious: “English nation,” exclaims one of them, “why hast thou disturbed the repose of this prince, who was the friend of virtue 7” “Oh England,” says another, “thou would'st have loved, thou would have esteemed him most highly, but for thy folly and thy malice.” “His rule was pacific,” says a third, “and his soul benevolent.” None of the vivá voce epitaphs and panegyrics bestowed on him by the conquered nation remain to us, unless we regard as a sample of the popular exclamations called forth by the death of the foreign tyrant, these lines of an English poet of the thirteenth century: “The days of King William were days of suffering, and many thought his life too long.” The Norman barons, who had not concurred in the election of William Rufus, returned to England, enraged at his having become king without their consent ; they resolved to depose him, and to place on the throne in his stead his eldest brother, Robert, Duke of Normandy. At the head of this party figured Odo of Bayeux, the brother of the Conqueror, who had just been released from prison, and many rich Normans, or Frenchmen of England, as the Saxon chronicle expresses it. The Red King, (so the historians of that time name him), seeing that his countrymen conspired against him, called to his aid his subjects of the English race, inducing them to support his cause, by hq.ding out to them hopes of thereby obtaining relief from their burdens. He assembled around him several of those who, in memory of their past power were still regarded by the Anglo-Saxon nation as their natural chiefs; he promised them the best laws that they could choose, the best that had ever been observed in the country; he restored to them the right of bcaring arms, and the enjoyment of the forests. He put a stop to the levying of the poll-tax and all the other odious taxes; but all this did not last long, say the contemporary annals. Influenced by these concessions, which lasted a few days, and, perhaps, also by a secret desire to fight the Normans, the Saxon chiefs agreed to embrace the cause of the king, and promulgated in their name, and in his, the ancient proclamation of war, which had formerly rallied around them every Englishman capable of bearing arms. “Let him who is worth anything, either in the towns, or out of the towns, leave his house and come.” Thirty thousand Saxons spontaneously repaired to the place assigned, received arms, and enrolled themselves under the king's banner. They were nearly all on foot; William led them in great haste, with his cavalry, composed of Normans, towards the maritime town of Rochester, where Bishop Odo, and the other chiefs of the opposite party had fortified themselves, awaiting the arrival of their candidate, Duke Robert, to march upon Canterbury and London. It seems that the Saxons in the royal army showed great spirit at the siege of Rochester. The besieged, hard pressed, soon demanded to capitulate, on condition of their recognizing William as king, and retaining under him their lands and honours. William at first refused this; but the Normans of his army, not entering with the same zeal as the Saxons, into this, which was to them a civil war, and not wishing to reduce their fellow-countrymen and relatives to the last extremity, thought the king too inveterate against the defenders of Rochester. They strove to appease him. “We, who have assisted thee in danger,” they said to him, “we implore thee to spare our countrymen, our kinsmen, who are also thine, and who aided thy father in conquering England.” The king relented, and at length granted the besieged free exit from the town, with their arms and horses. Bishop Odo attempted further to stipulate, that the military music of the king should not play in token of triumph at the evacuation of the garrison ; but William angrily refused, exclaiming that he would not make this concession for a thousand marks of gold. The Normans of Robert's party quitted the town which they had been unable to defend, with lowered ensigns, and to the sound of the king's trumpets. At this moment loud clamours arose from amidst the English of the royal army. “Bring ropes,” they cried, “let us hang this traitor of a bishop, with all his accomplices. Oh king ! why dost thou thus allow him to retire in safety He is not worthy to live : the crafty villain! the assassin the murderer of so many thousands of men!” At the sound of these imprecations, the priest who had blessed the Norman army at the battle of Hastings, left England, never to return. The war between the Normans lasted some time longer; but this family quarrel subsided little by little, and ended in a treaty between the two parties and the two brothers. The domains that the friends of Robert had lost in England, for having embraced his cause, were restored to them, and Robert himself abandoned his claims to the throne on receiving some landed estates. It was agreed between the two parties that the king, if he survived the duke, should have the duchy of Normandy, and that, in the contrary case, the duke should have the kingdom of England; twelve men on the side of the king, and twelve on that of the duke confirmed this treaty by oath. Thus terminated the Norman civil war, and at the same time the alliance which it had occasioned between the English and the king. The concessions that the latter had made were all revoked, his promises belied, and the Saxons returned to their former state of subjection and oppression.
44.—THE CASTLES OF THE NORMAN KINGS.
There are few prospects in England more remarkable, and, in a certain degree, more magnificent, than that which is presented on the approach to Rochester from the road to London. The highest point on the road from Milton is Gadshill, of “men-in-buckram” notoriety. Here the road begins gradually to descend to the valley of the Medway; sometimes, indeed, rising again over little eminences, which in the hop season are more beautifully clothed than are “the vine-covered hills and gay regions of France,” but still descending, and sometimes precipitously, to a valley whose depth we cannot see, but which we perceive from the opposite hills has a range of several miles. At a turn of the road we catch a glimpse of the narrow Medway on the south; then to the north we see a broader stream where large dark masses, “our wooden walls,” seem to sleep on the sparkling water. At last a town presents itself right before us to the east, with a paltry tower which they tell us is that of the Cathedral. Close by that tower rises up a gigantic square building, whose enormous proportions proclaim that it is no modern architectural toy. This is the great keep of RochestER CASTLE, called Gundulph's Tower, and there it has stood for eight centuries, defying siege after siege, resisting even what is more difficult to resist than fire or storm, the cupidity of modern possessors. Rochester Castle is, like the hills around it, indestructible by man in the regular course of his operations. It might be blown up, by modern science; but when the ordinary workman has assailed it with his shovel and mattock, his iron breaks upon the flinty concrete; there is nothing more to be got out of it by avarice,—so e'en let it endure. And worthy is this old tower to endure. A man may sit alone in the gallery which runs round the tower, and, looking either within the walls or without the walls, have profitable meditations. He need not go back to the days of Julius Caesar for the origin of this castle, as some have written, nor even to those of Egbert, King of Kent, who “gave certain lands within the walls of Rochester Castle to Eardulf, then Bishop of that see.” It is sufficient to believe with old Lambarde, “that Odo (the bastard brother to King William the Conqueror), which was at the first Bishop of Bayeux in Normandy, and then afterward advanced to the office of the Chief Justice of England, and to the honour of the Earldom of Kent, was either the first author or the best benefactor to that which now standeth in sight.” Odo rebelled against William II, and was driven from his stronghold and from the realm. The history of the Castle from his time becomes more distinct:—“After this the Castle was much amended by Gundulphus, the Bishop : who (in consideration of a manor given to his see by King William Rufus) bestowed threescore pounds in building that great tower which yet standeth. And from that time this Castle continued (as I judge) in the possession of the Prince, until King Henry the First, by the advice of his barons, granted to William, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and his successors, the custody, and office of Constable over the same, with free liberty to build a tower for himself, in any part thereof, at his pleasure. By means of which cost done upon it at that time, the castle at Rochester was much in the eye of such as were the authors of troubles following within the realm, so that from time to time it had a part (almost) in every tragedy.” Lambarde, who writes this, tells us truly that in the time of the Conqueror “many castles were raised to keep the people in awe.” Such kingly strongholds of oppression were like the “pleasant vices” of common men; they became “instruments to scourge” their makers. Thus, Odo held Rochester Castle against Rufus. The barons successfully maintained it against John. Simon de Montfort carried his victorious arms against its walls, which were