Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

William remained in Normandy nine kind; as Sir Francis Palgrave remarks months; he wished to bring Matilda with so graphically: him, that she might be crowned Queen of England; but news of the ill-conduct of "Each tall square dungeon tower, with its his justiciars, Fitz - Osbern and Odo,

fresh walls, harshly and coldly glittering in reached him, and hastened his return, for habitations which had been demolished, and

the sun, standing upon the ground of the he found that their outrageous tyranny the gardens and homesteads which had been and injustice had driven the people to re- wasted, to give a site to the fortress in the volt. The west of England and Kent midst of the people, bespoke the stern deterhad already thrown off the yoke, and in mination of the sovereign. They were trothe north, assistance froin Denmark was phies of the conquest in the strictest sense of supplicated and promised. William pro the term ; warning, threatening the native

race." ceeded into the west and subdued Exeter; and at Pentecost he caused Matilda But though overawed, England was to be crowned with much splendor at not at the end of three years won. It Westminster. Ere the close of the year, was said that a plot was laid for a general Henry, his youngest son, was born—the massacre of the Normans; most probably son who, either from his superior abili- this was but a pretence to justify the se. ties, or from the greater care bestowed verer measures, which from henceforward on his education, for Lanfranc was his William seemed determined to adopt, for instructor, gained the title of Beauclerc. doubtless the stern Conqueror, whose We may remark here that the stern Con- will had always been law to his followers, queror was an excellent husband and must have chafed with rage to find a peofather. From his wife he received the ple, whom he likely enough considered affection which was justly his due; but as thoroughly subdued at Hastings, open. his sons, almost from their boyhood, ly defying his power three years after were doomed to become the source of the crown had been placed on his head bis keenest sorrow.

as their king. Imprisonments, spoliaThe reduction of Exeter established tions, executions followed, and William tranquillity in Wessex; but the north again, though in the depth of winter, set rose in open revolt, under the brothers forth for the north, where the Atheling Edwin and Morcar, who had now quit- had been proclaimed king, and where a ted the court, and Waltheof, that power- large Danish force was shortly expected ful earl, had joined them. William ad- to land. The contest was carried on with vanced against them with his accustom- changeful success, but on reaching Dured success, and Edwin and Morcar yield- ham the Norman army was seized with ed a compulsory submission. Onward a panic, caused by the thick darkness he proceeded io Nottingham, causing that overspread their path, which was there a strong castle to be built, as he attributed to St. Cuthbert's anger, and had done at Warwick, and from thence William was compelled to return to Winto York, where an even stronger citadel chester. Ere long the Danes landed in arose within the city walls. These mani. Suffolk; they proceeded to York, welfestations of quiet strength seem to have comed right heartily by the whole counhad their intended effect upon a peo- try, and ere long, excepting the tall ple whose defences were of the simplest dungeon-keep upon which William Mal

let still unfurled the Norman banner, the ilized Goths, and the spoils of England with whole of Northumbria was again lost to much the same wonder as those from Rome or the Norman king.” William delayed Byzantium. To the great beauty of the English his measures; he was in Mercia suppressduring the whole of the middle ages, we have ing another insurrection on the borders abundant testimony, both of the illuminated of the Welsh marches, but after a battle manuscript and the monumental effigy, beside the remarks of the trouvères, who repeatedly in which he defeated the insurgents, he characterize them as “most fair.” The graceful set forth again for the north. At Pontebearing, too, of the female figure has often struck fract he continued long; it was said the as, in turning over Saxon manuscripts. The waters were out and the army could not drawing is rude enough, the proportions often extravagant, but the pose, and especially the pass over ; but William was engaged in turn of the head, have a grace that is almost negotiations with the treacherons Danes, elassical.

and ere long they departed, laden with

carcass.

English gold, leaving their too credulous Still the Fens held out, for hither Edwin allies to the vengeance of a Conqueror and Morcar bad retreated ; but the great who never knew pity. It was then that leader of this rising was Hereward the William, always à stern ruler and a Outlaw, nephew of the Abbot of Peterpitiless warrior," determined to waste borough, that true-hearted Englishman the whole country between York and whose name was a cherished household Durham, a course entirely unprecedent- word in many an upland homestead until ed, a crime of wbich “ the heathen them- the fame of the Saxon outlaw became dim selves, Dane, or Goth, or Vandal, had in the wider renown of the brave and never committed."

gentle outlaw of merry Sherwood. A "On every side the horizon was filled with pleasant and stirring tale is that “Geste smoke and smouldering flame, the growing of Ilereward,” an almost contemporary crops were burned upon the field, the stores narrative, and we have little doubt on the in the garner, the cattle houghed and killed whole authentic. It is like a gleam of to feed the crow. All that had been given sunshine in the midst of darkness and for the support and sustenance of life was tempest to turn from the chronicles so wasted and spoiled. All the habitations were filled with the records of William's cruel razed, all the edifices that could give shelter tyranny to the story of the gallant band to the people were levelled with the ground; in the Isle of Ely-how from their marshwandering and dispersed, the miserable inhabitants endeavored to support life even by girdled fastness they defied force after devouring the filthy vermin and the decaying force arrayed against them-how for long

Direful pestilence of course ensued. months they kept the fierce Conqueror at The same devastations were extended far be- bay, nor even when those hapless brothers yond the Humber, and during nine years sub- fell—Morcar, cruelly betrayed into his vicsequent the whole tract between York and tor's power, and Edwin so foully assassiDurham continued idle and untilled.”

nated—did Hereward yield. He still flung It is not surprising that, with this au- defiance to the armed host that had linthentic tale of unexampled cruelty, our gered on the borders of those treacherforefathers should have given a ready ous marshes, and when at length the galcredence to the apocryphal story of the lant band yielded, not to superior valor, New Forest ; but we are surprised to but to starvation, he alone never did find Sir Francis Palgrave alluding to it homage to the Conqueror. as an historical fact, for not only is the The great Saxon nobles were now all tale unknown to every contemporary slain or imprisoned, except Waltheof, chronicler, but the very character of the who having married William's niece was land proves that it never could have been restored to favor, and to his former rank cultivated. From the earliest times the as Earl of Northumbria ; but although barren soil was incapable of producing a eight years had now past since Hastings, single ear of corn ; how, then, could William was still in danger of losing the flourishing villages have been there? kingdom he had won at such a fearful cost

William kept his Christmas at York of bloodshed and crime. He had depopin grim and gloomy state, and he solemn- ulated and wasted wide tracts of land, ly wore his crown as King of Northum- and now his very followers, on whom he bria. It was then he made donations to bad bestowed so much, clamored at the his followers of the greater part of York- injustice of repaying their services with shire-mostly the possessions of Edwin sterile fields; he had imposed heavy and Morcar—and then again set forth to taxes on the land, and the Norman landsuppress the formidable revolt in the holder felt this as a heavy grievanceFens. But he was to meet with sterner even a wrong. So they leagued together opposition than he had yet encountered. against him, and at the bridal feast of Meanwhile worn out by their toilsome Guader, Earl of East Anglia, met to marches his foreign troops refused to pro- gether to mature their plans. With ceed. By threats and promises William, deep cunning hither they invited Walhowever, succeeded in persuading them, theof, and hither he unwittingly came. while his iron strength enabled him to . It seems doubtful whether he took part set an example by being foremost to in their counsels, but he was present climb the rock, or to try the marsh, when treason was planned. He, howsometimes even walking if his horse failed. ever repented of his connivance, and

took counsel of Lanfranc, who urged he was compelled to yield to their voice, him to seek the king. Waltheof passed and allow the body-insultingly buried over to Normandy, but William received at the foot of the scaffold—to be reverhim sternly, and proffered no forgive- ently conveyed to Croyland, with proness, for his perfidious wife had already cession and chant, and there placed beaccused him of active participation. neath a stately tomb in the chapterMeanwhile the Norman insurgents ad- house. And thither crowds repaired, vanced into the west, and also toward with blessings on his memory, and London ; but such was the hatred the curses upon the ruthless king; and far Saxons bore towards them, that they and wide among the Anglo-Danish popheartily coöperated with the king's ulation over whom he had ruled, was troops. Guader the chief, completely that rade lament sung, a fragment only defeated, escaped to Denmark, the oth of wbich remains to us: ers fled or were captured, and when

“ William came o'er the sea ; William wore his crown at the follow

A cruel man was he. ing Christmas, it was as judge in his

Cold heart and bloody hand High Court of Justice pronouncing their

Now rule in English land. sentences.

Savage were the punishments inflicted “ Earl Waltheof he slew by the king upon the meaner criminals ;

Waltheof, the bold and true. but as imprisonment had been the se.

Cold heart and bloody hand

Now rule in English land.” verest doom pronounced on the leaders who had not found safety in flight, a A strange retributive justice seemed milder sentence was anticipated for the to track the king, even from the day he Saxon earl, who had certainly taken no decreed Earl Waltheof's death. Never part in the actual treason. But the ra- again during the remainder of his reign pacious nobles hungered for his broad did he enjoy peace; never did he proslands; perhaps they found a savage per. The Danes again entered the pleasure in the thought of the last of IIumber, plundered York, and sailed the Saxon thanes dying on a scaffold. away with the spoil. Brittany took up The council, however, could not agree, arms against Normandy, and when and he was therefore committed a pris William advanced against the duke, oner to the Castle of Winchester. But be was repulsed, leaving stores and although the prison doors might open treasures behind him. But worse, his to a Norman, against the Saxon they eldest son, Robert, a youth already were closed for more than a twelve- distinguished by most profligate habits, month, and Waltheof passed his time and a most unnatural hatred towards in devotion, not improbably expecting his brothers, now claimed the duchy of his fate. And then arose reports that a Normandy, and ere long sought to take rescue was intended—a convenient plea up arms against his own father, aided for those who for so many months had by many of the discontented nobles. hungered for his broad lands; so, But Robert had not wealth at command

to maintain his followers, so he quitted “Very early in the chill gray of the dawn- Normandy, wandering from court to ing morn, was Waltheof brought forth upon the rising ground beside Winchester, where court, abusing his father, and seeking to the church of St. Giles afterward stood. He excite public opinion against him, for knelt before the block, and began to repeat nearly three years, all the time dependthe Lord's prayer, but before he could com- ing on the surreptitious supplies his plete the petition ne nos inducas in tenta- doating mother could send him. At tionem,' the sword of the headsman swung, length he received from the French king and when the citizens were coming forth to the castle of Gerberoi, and from thence their daily labors, the train of priests and he menaced Normandy. William laid beadsten returning, told them the fate of siege to the castle; be actually fought the last Saxon earl."

in person among the besiegers, and he William, in this cruel murder of engaged in single conflict with a knight Waltheof, seems to liave filled up the who wounded him. Ilis cry of anguish measure of his crimes against the Saxon stayed his foeman's hand, for it was race. But, crushed down as they were, father and son engaged in deadly com

bat! Defeated, humbled, chafing with been crushed in England, but it had grief and anger, the Conqueror of Has been followed by grievous taxation. tings "retreated from the single donjon Here it had been sullenly submitted to, tower of Gerberoi.” A reconciliation but in Maine it produced revolt, and was now attempted, in which the Pope again he took up arms. Four years did took part; peace was concluded, but the pride and flower of Norman chivalry William was compelled again to con- besiege the strong castle of St. Susanne, firm the reversion of Normandy to the only to see their bravest killed or shameson who had borne arms against him. fully repulsed from its walls. “The Ile gave the required promise, but he bravery which had gained a kingdom sealed it with a fatal curse, “and the was foiled by one dungeon tower,” and father's ban was fulfilled in the child's William was compelled to close the destruction."

warfare by restoring the chief rebel to No peace in his family, no peace in his former station and favor. The ConEngland, was there for the Conqueror. queror's last sojourn in England was Waltheof's northern possessions became marked by two very important acts. a curse to whoever held them. All the The first, the compilation of Domesdayterritory of St. Cuthbert was in arms, book, Sir Francis Palgrave thinks was and robbery and murder even of the probably undertaken at the suggestion bishop followed. The Scottish king ad- of Lanfranc. “ The calligraphy betrays vanced as far as the Tyne, and rich an Italian hand, and we also first find in spoils rewarded his successful raid, while Domesday those abbreviations, afterDenmark stood meditating a new inva- wards so common in our legal docusion. Weighed down with sorrow, ments, but which in fact are derived William returned to England with the from the Tyronian notes of the Roonly companion who really loved him, mans." A noble relic of an age called Matilda, but who was now fast sinking barbarous is this Domesday, the oldest into the grave. Meanwhile the myste- survey of a kingdom now existing in rious conduct of his half-brother, Odo- the world. It is scarcely surprising that now almost the only one remaining of it was viewed with indignation, for so his early counsellors — awakened his grievously heavy bad been the taxation, anxiety. Whether Odo had ever thought that each man's name and land, noted of really seizing the kingdom is very un down so formally in a book, must have certain, but that he contemplated attain- seemed proof that even farther exactions ing the papacy seems likely. Perhaps were in prospect. William's last act William equally feared either. He caused was that of summoning all his barons, him to be seized when crossing over together with all his landholders, to Sawith troops to Normandy, and placed rum, on Lammas Day, 1086, and there on his trial. Odo claimed the privileges imposing "the oath of fealty upon all, of the church, but William rejected the withont distinction of tenure”.

-a most appeal. “I judge not the bishop,” important act, since, as Hallam remarks, said he,“ but my accountant and minis- it “ broke in upon the feudal compact in ter Odo was consigned to barsh cap- its most essential attribute, the exclusive tivity in the castle of Rouen; but, re- dependence of the vassal on his lord.” leased from anxiety on his account, a This was the last public appearance of sorer trouble was about to befall the the stern Conqueror. Normandy now stern Conqueror. Ere the close of the claimed his care.

Robert was in open year, the only true friend, the only one rebellion against his father, and the whom he dared to trust, his faithful Duke of Brittany was preparing to wife, Matilda, died; and as he stood by throw off his obedience to his father-irher closing tomb in the church of the law, and against these, the foes of his Holy Trinity at Caen, he must have felt own house, he had to make war. Ruththat, hated by those around him, and less to the last, he inflicted a heavy imabhorred by the Saxon race, he was in- post on the land, already suffering from deed alone in the world.

storms, and blight, and pestilence, and William survived Matilda almost then crossed over to Normandy, never four years ; but these years brought no lo return. sofiening influences, Rebellion bad Still evil fortune pursued the king. He

was compelled by defeat to make peace brightness on its walls, William was half with his son-in-law, while his own son awakened from his imperfect slumbers by the incited the turbulent burgesses of Man- measured, mellow, reverberating, swelling tes to revolt.

A dispute arose, too, with tone of the great cathedral bell. It is the the King of France, and for the last answer to his inquiry. Then were the priest

hour of prime,' replied the attendants in time William braced on his mail. It hood welcoming with voices of thanksgiving was glorious autumn weather; "the the renewed gift of another day, and sending harvest ripening, the grape swelling, the forth the choral prayer that the hours might fruit reddening, when William entered flow on in holiness until blessed at their close. the fertile land.” As he advanced, the But his time of labor and struggle, of sin and corn was trodden down, the vineyards repentance, was past. William lifted up his rooted up, and the city wantonly set on

hands in prayer, and expired.” fire. William, aged and unwieldy in All was now confusion'; the men of body, yet fierce and active in mind, re high degree rushing to horse to secure joiced with a horrid joy amid this deso- their possessions, those of lower degree lation, as he spurred his steed through seizing whatever could be taken ; while the burning ruins ; but the steed stum- the wretches who hung about the court lled and fell, and his rider received his stripped the body even of its last gardeath-blow. He was taken to Rouen, ment, and left it on the floor. At length and from thence, for greater quiet, to St. the clergy, roused from their consternaGervase, but his end, attended by much tion, began to offer up the prayers of the suffering, drew near. It was then that church, and a knight of humble fortune, the cruel Conqueror deplored his birth, one Herlonin, took charge of the neglectbis whole career of crime and bloodshed. ed king's obsequies, and, as sole mourn"No tongue can tell,” said he, “the er, reverently attended the coffin to deeds of wickedness I have perpetrated Caen. At the gates the clergy came in my weary pilgrimage of toil and care." forth ; but a fire broke out, and the proBut his two younger sons are standing cession passed through streets filed beside him, not to soothe his sufferings, with stilling smoke, and crowded with but anxious to know who is to be heir. affrighted fugitives, to St. Stephen's “Let Robert take Normandy, for it has Abbey, where the grave was dug, and been assured to him ; but England ?". the service begun; but even now the “All the wide - wasting wretchedness body was not to be lowered peaceably produced by his ambition arose up be- into its last resting - place. Ascelin, fore him, and he declared he dared not a poor man, stood up, denounced the bestow the realm he had thus fearfully injustice of the king, and demanded won." But Rufus urged his petition, payment for his grave. Inquiry was until the dying 'man directed a writ to made; the land it was found had been be addressed to Lanfranc, commanding violently wrested from the rightful ownhim to place Rufus on the throne. Henry er; so the price was paid, the swollen was scantly quieted with a gift of five body was lowered bursting into the thousand pounds of silver. So they ground; and “thus was William the kissed him, and hurried off. But his Conqueror gathered to his fathers, with captives—those kept so many years in loathing, disgust, and horror.” How hard durance — not withont much en- must such a tale have addressed itself treaty did William, although agonized to the feelings of a superstitious age ? alike with pain and remorse, consent, for how must the Saxon peasant have dwelt implacable was he to the last. At length with stern delight on each revolting dehe gave assent that all, even Odo, should tail as he looked upon the daisy-strewn be set free.

mounds in the green churchyard where

his fathers slept, for when had even the * This act of grudging, coerced, extorted poorest tiller of the ground so deserted forgiveness was his last. A night of some

a death-bed, or so dishonored an obseqny, what diminished suffering ensued, when the troubled and expiring body takes a dull, pain

as the victor of Hastings ? ful, unrestful rest before its last earthly re

In what light shall we view the Conpose. But as the cheerful, life-giving rays of quest? It was a stern visitation, replies the rising sun were darting above the hori- Sir Francis Palgrave, for “in the same zon, across the sad apartment, and shedding manner as the sins of the European

« AnteriorContinuar »