Had Edgar Etheling been selfish and ambitious, he might now, at the head of his victorious Saxons, have had a fair chance of dethroning the tyrant William; but instead of this, his thoughts were fixed on the Holy Land; and embarking with his willing army, he came up with the Crusaders just in time for the siege of Jerusalem, where the English, under "Edgar Adeling," fought gallantly in the assault in the portion of the army assigned to Robert of Normandy.
Edgar and Robert returned together, and visited the Normans of Apulia, where Edgar had been some years before. Robert here fell in love with Sybilla, the beautiful daughter of the Count of Conversana, and soon after married her. It was in the midst of the wedding festivities that Ralph Flambard, lately the wicked minister of William Rufus, arrived from England, having escaped from prison, bringing the news that his master, the Red King, was slain, and Henry Beauclerc wore the crown. The hasty wrath of Duke Robert was quickly fanned by Ralph Flambard, and he set off at once to attack his brother, and gain the kingdom which Henry had sworn should be his.
However, on his arrival, he at first only amused himself with conducting his bride through his dukedom, and being feasted at every castle. When two knights of Maine came to tell him that Helie de la Fleche was besieging their castles, he carelessly thanked them for their fidelity, but told them he had rather gain a kingdom, than a county, and so that they should make the best terms they could.
Sybilla's dowry enabled Robert to raise a considerable army, and he had likewise the support of most of the barons whose estates lay both in Normandy and England, and who therefore preferred that the two states should be united; whereas those who had only domains in England held with Henry, wishing to be free from the elder and more powerful nobility of Normandy. The Anglo-Saxons were for Henry, who had relieved them from some of their sufferings, and had won their favor by his marriage, which connected him with the Etheling. Edith, the eldest daughter of the good Queen Margaret, had remained with her aunt Christina in the Abbey of Wilton, after her brother had been made King of Scotland. She was like her mother in many respects; and her aunt wished to devote her to the cloister, and secure her from the cruel sorrows her mother had endured, under the black veil that she already wore, like the professed nuns, to shield her from the insults of the Norman knights, or their attempts to secure a princess as a bride. But Edith remembered that her father had once said that he destined her to be a queen, and not a nun. She recollected how her mother had moulded her court, and been loved and honored there, and her temper rebelled against the secluded life in the convent, so much that, in a girlish fit of impatience, she would, when her aunt was out of sight, tear off her veil and trample upon it.
At length the tidings came that Henry, the new King of England, wooed the Princess of Scotland for his bride.
A marriage of policy it evidently was; for, unlike the generous love that had caused Malcolm to espouse the friendless exile Margaret, Henry was a perjured usurper, and dark stories were told of his conduct in Normandy. Christina strongly and vehemently opposed the marriage, as the greatest calamity that could befall her niece: she predicted that, if Edith persisted in it, only misery could arise from it; and when she found her determined, tried to prove her to be already bound by the promises of a nun.
Here Christina went too far: a court was held by Archbishop Anselm, and it was fully proved that the Lady Edith was under no vows. She was declared free to marry, and in a short time became the wife of Henry, changing her own Saxon name to the Norman Matilda, or Maude. In the first year of her marriage, when Henry was anxious to win the favor of the English, he conformed so much to their ways that the scornful Normans used to call him and his young wife by the Saxon names of Godric and Godiva. The Saxons thus were willing to stand by King Henry, all excepting the sailors, who were won by Robert's spirit of enterprise, and deserting, with their whole fleet, went to Normandy, and brought Robert and his army safe to Portsmouth.
This happened just as Edith Maude had given birth to her first child, at Winchester. Robert was urged to assault the city; but he refrained, declaring such would be an unknightly action toward his sister-in-law and her babe. Henry soon came up with his forces, the brothers held a conference, and, as usual, Robert was persuaded to give up his rights, and to make peace.
For the next four years Robert continued in Normandy, leading a gay and careless life at first with his beautiful Sybilla; but she soon died, leaving an infant son, and thenceforward his affairs grew worse and worse, as he followed only the impulse of the moment. From riot and drunkenness he fell into fits of devotion, fasting, weeping, and praying; his poverty so great that he was at one time obliged to lie in bed for want of garments to wear; and his dukedom entirely uncared for, fields left uncultivated, and castles which were dens of robbers.
The Normans begged that some measures might be taken for their relief, and King Henry came, and, with Robert's consent, set things on a better footing; but meanwhile he was secretly making arrangements with the barons for the overthrow of his brother. In two years' time he had tempted over almost every baron to desert the cause of their master, and in 1106 prepared to wrest the dukedom from him. The unfortunate Robert came to him at Northampton, almost alone, forced himself into his presence, and told him he would submit everything to him, if he would only leave him the state and honor due to his birth. Henry turned his back on him, muttering some answer which Robert could not hear, and which he would not repeat. In a passion, Robert reproached him with his ill faith and cruel, grasping temper, left him hastily, and returned to Rouen, to make a last sad struggle for his inheritance.
He placed his child in the Castle of Falaise, obtaining a promise from the garrison that they would give up their trust to no summons but his own, or that of a trusty knight called William de Ferrieres. Hardly a vassal would rally round him in his dire distress; his only supporters were two outlawed barons, whom Henry had driven out of England for their violence, and besides these there were two faithful friends of his youth, whose swords had always been ready in his cause, except in the unhappy war against his father. One was Helie de St. Saen, the other was Edgar Etheling, who quitted his peaceful home, and all the favor he enjoyed in England as uncle to the Queen, to bear arms for his despoiled and injured friend.
Henry invaded Normandy, and all the nobles came over to his side. Robert met him before the Castle of Tenchebray, and the two armies prepared for battle the next day. In the evening a, hermit came to the English camp; his head strewn with ashes, and a cord about his waist. He conjured Henry to cease from his unnatural war with a brother who had been a soldier of the Cross, "his brow still shining with traces of the crown of Jerusalem," and prevailed so far as to gain permission to go and propose terms of peace to the Duke of Normandy. On coming into his presence, the hermit begged to kiss the feet which had trodden the pavement of the Holy Sepulchre, and then exhorted Robert to be contented with the kingdom reserved for him in heaven. He declared Henry's terms very hard ones; but the Duke would have accepted them, but that he was required to own himself vanquished; and against this his haughty spirit revolted. He cast aside all offers of accommodation, and prepared for battle.
The fight of Tenchebray took place on St. Michael's Eve, 1106, the day forty years since the Battle of Hastings; and when the Saxons in Henry's army turned Robert's Normans to flight, they rejoiced as if they were wiping out the memory of the defeat of Harold. Yet in the vanquished army was their own Etheling, the darling of England, who was made prisoner together with the unfortunate Robert, and led before Henry. It was the last battle in which the two friends fought side by side; the disinherited prince had fought for the son of the despoiler for the last time, and soon they were to part, to spend the many remaining years of their lives in a far different manner.
Robert was made to summon the surrender of Rouen, and Ferrieres was sent to receive Falaise, and the little William, heir of Normandy; but the faithful garrison would not yield till Henry had conducted thither the Duke himself, who called on them to surrender, lest the castle should be taken by the wicked outlaw De Belesme. Little William was brought to the King, and his tears and caresses for a moment touched Henry's heart so far that he gave the child into the charge of Helie de St. Saen, Robert's faithful friend, and husband of his illegitimate daughter.
It was the last time Robert of Normandy saw the face of his only child. The boy went to Arques with the faithful Helie, while Robert was sent to England, and imprisoned in Cardiff Castle. At first he was honorably treated, and allowed to indulge in hunting and other amusements; but he made an attempt to escape, and was only recaptured in consequence of his horse having plunged into a bog, whence he could not extricate himself. After this he was more closely guarded, and it is said that his eyes were put out; but there is reason to hope that this may not be true. He was under the charge of Robert, an illegitimate son of Henry, who had married Amabel Fitzaymon, heiress of Gloucester, and who was a noble, high-minded, chivalrous person, likely to do all in his power to cheer his uncle's captivity.
Here Robert from time to time heard of his son: first, how Henry had sent messengers to seize him when St. Saen was absent from Arques; but happily they came on a Sunday morning, when the child was at church, and the servants, warned in time, carried him off to meet their brave master. Then Helie chose to forfeit lands and castle rather than give up his trust, and conducted his little brother-in-law from court to court, wherever he could hope for security, till young William was grown up, and raised an army, with the aid of Louis of France and Foulques of Anjou, to recover his inheritance and rescue his father. But Foulques was detached from the alliance by the betrothal of his daughter to Henry's son William, and the battle of Brenville ruined the hopes of William of Normandy. Next, Robert learnt that the male line of the Counts of Flanders had failed, and his son, as the representative of Matilda, the Conqueror's wife, had been owned as the heir of that rich country. Shortly after, the captive Duke was one morning found weeping. He had had a dream, he said, in which he had seen his son dying of a wound in the hand. The tidings came in due time that William had been accidentally pierced by the point of a lance in the hand, the wound had mortified, and he expired at the end of a week. The prisoner still lived on, till, in the twenty-eighth year of his captivity, death at length released him. There is a story of his having starved himself to death in a fit of anger, because Henry had sent him a robe after wearing it once; but this is very improbable. Robert had reached a great age, and his was a character which was likely to be much improved when absent from temptation and with time for thought. He lies buried in Gloucester Cathedral, under an effigy carved in bog oak, with the legs crossed, in memory of his crusade, but unfortunately painted in such a manner as to entirely to spoil its effect.
Edgar Etheling was soon allowed to ransom himself, and retiring to his own estates, lived there in peace. His niece, the good Queen Maude, lived on in the English Court, trying to imitate her mother in her charities, and being, like her, much beloved by the poor, to whose wants she ministered with her own hands; while her youngest brother David, then a gay-tempered youth, used to laugh at her for such mean toils, as he called them. No help, such as her father had given St. Margaret, did Maude receive from her husband; she had only the pain of watching his harshness, cruelty, and hypocrisy, during the eighteen years of her marriage. She died in 1118, leaving three children—Maude, already married to the Emperor of Germany, and William and Richard. William Etheling is reported to have been as proud as his sister Maude, and to have talked of using the churl Saxons as beasts of burden. But there are stories more in his favor. He seemed generously disposed toward his cousin, the son of Robert; and he met his death in an attempt to save life, so that it may be hoped that he was not entirely unworthy of the good old name of Etheling, which he bore as heir to the throne.
Our Etheling Edgar lived on in peace through all the troublous times of Stephen, without again appearing in history, till his death is noted in 1159, ninety-three years after the Norman Conquest.
It has been the fashion to call him a fool and a coward; and no doubt the ambitious men who broke oath after oath, and scrupled at no violence, so esteemed one whose right was the inheritance over which they quarrelled. Whether he was a fool, may be answered by showing that, after he was fourteen, his name was never once brought forward by factious men for their own purposes; that he conducted a treaty with Scotland, and restored his nephew to the throne: and whether he was a coward, no one can ask who has heard of him hastening to attack the Saracens of Apulia, invading warlike Scotland, leading the English to scale the walls of Jerusalem, and, lastly, fighting in a cause that could only be desperate, in a battle that must be lost, where he had no personal interest, and only came to aid a distressed and injured friend. No one can inquire into the history of the last of the race of Alfred without acknowledging in him one of the most perfect examples of true chivalry, in inviolate adherence to his word, and in redressing of grievances, for which his good sword was ever ready, though for his own rights it was never drawn, nor was one drop of English blood shed that Edgar Etheling might reign.
THE COUNTS OF ANJOU. (888-1142.)
Having traced the ancestry of our Norman kings from the rocks of Norway and the plains of Neustria, let us, before entering on the new race which succeeded them, turn back to the woodland birthplace of the house of Plantagenet, on the banks of the Loire.
The first ancestor to whom this branch of our royal line can be traced is Torquatus, a native of Rennes in Brittany, and keeper of the forest of Nid de Merle in Anjou, for the Emperor Charles the Bald. Of Roman Gallic blood, and of honest, faithful temper, he was more trusted by his sovereign than the fierce Frank warriors, who scarcely owned their prince to be their superior; and in after times the counts and kings his descendants were proud of deriving their lineage from the stout Woodman of the Blackbird's Nest.
His son Tertullus distinguished himself in battle, and died early, leaving an only son, named Ingelger, who was godson to the Countess de Gastinois, and was brought up in her castle, the school of chivalry and "courtoisie" to the young vassals of the county.
The lady was heiress of Gastinois in her own right, and as the monarch had the power of disposing of his wards in marriage, she had been obliged to give her hand to the seneschal of Charles the Bald, a person whom she much disliked. One morning her husband was found dead in his bed; and his nearest relation, whose name was Gontran, accusing her of having murdered him, laid claim to her whole inheritance.
The cause was brought before Charles the Bald, at Chateau Landon; and Gontran offered to prove his words by the ordeal of battle, taking off his gauntlet and throwing it down before the Emperor. Unless the countess could find a champion to maintain her innocence, or unless Gontran was overthrown in single combat, she would be completely ruined, adjudged a murderess, and forced to hide her disgrace in a convent. None of the knights present would undertake her cause; and after gazing round at them in despair, she fainted away.
Her godson Ingelger, who attended her as a page, could not bear the sight of her distress, and, as a last hope, threw himself on his knees before the Emperor, entreating that, though he was only sixteen, and in the last grade of chivalry, he might be allowed to take up the gauntlet, and assert the innocence of his godmother.
Permission was granted; and Ingelger, trusting to the goodness of his cause, spent the night in prayer, went in early morning with the countess to hear mass, and afterward joined her in giving alms to the poor; then she hung a reliquary round his neck, and sent him to arm for the decisive combat.
The whole court were spectators; the Emperor Charles on his throne, and the accused widow in a litter curtained with black. Prayers were offered that God would show the right; the trumpets sounded, and the champions rode in full career against each other. At the first onset Gontran's lance pierced his adversary's shield, so that he could not disengage it, and Ingelger was thus enabled to close with him, hurl him to the ground, and dispatch turn with a dagger. Then, while the lists rung with applause, the brave boy rushed up to his godmother, and threw himself into her arms in a transport of joy.
The countess, thus cleared, only desired to retire from the world, and besought the Emperor's consent to her bestowing all her lands on her young defender. It was readily granted; and shortly after Charles gave him, in addition, the government of the city of Angers, and the adjoining county of Anjou, whence he derives his title. [Footnote: Many similar tales of championship will occur to every one, in romance and ballad. The Ginevra of Ariosto, our own beautiful English ballad of Sir Aldingar, where it is an angel in the form of a "tinye boy," who appears to vindicate the good fame of the slandered and desolate queen, the "Sir Hugh le Blond of Arbuthnot, in Scotland." Perhaps this story may be the root of all the rest. It is recorded in the "Gesta Andegavorum," in the compilation of which a descendant of Ingelger had a considerable share.]
Little more is known of the first Count of Anjou, except that he bravely resisted the Northern pirates; and for his defence of the clergy of St. Martin of Tours was rewarded by a canonry, and the charge of the treasure of the chapter. He died in 888, and was succeeded by his son Count Foulques le Roux, or the Red. From this time the house of Anjou began to acquire that character of violence, ambition, and turbulence, which distinguished the whole family, till, six hundred years after, the last of the race shed her blood on the scaffold of the Tower of London. It therefore seems appropriate here to give the strange, wild story to which they were wont to attribute their family temper, though it is generally told of one who came later in the line. It was said that the count observed that his wife seldom went to church, and never at the celebration of mass; and believing that she had some unholy dealings to cause this reluctance, he put her to the proof, by causing her to be forcibly held throughout the service by four knights. At the moment of consecration, however, the knights found the mantle alone in their hands; the lady had flown through the window, leaving nothing behind her but the robe, and a fearful smell of brimstone!
From the witch-countess, as she was called, her sons were thought to derive the wild energy and fierce mutual hatred which raged for so many centuries, and at last caused the extinction of the line. Foulques le Roux was certainly not exempt, for he was believed to be the murderer of his own brother. His eldest son, Geoffrey, called the Beloved of Ladies, died before him; and Foulques, who succeeded him, though termed "le bon," had little claim to such a title, unless it was derived from his love of learning and his friendship with the monks of Tours.
He composed several Latin hymns for the use of the Cathedral, and always took part in the service on high festivals in his canonical dress, as hereditary treasurer.
Once, when King Louis IV. was present, he and his courtiers irreverently amused themselves during the service by making jests on the clerical count. A few days after, Louis received the following letter:
"The Count of Anjou to the King of France. Hail. Learn, my liege Lord, that an unlettered King is no better than a donkey with a crown on."
In spite of his devotion, to St. Martin, Foulques sacrilegiously robbed the treasury of two golden vessels, and did not restore them till a severe illness brought him to the point of death. The Bretons accuse him of a horrible crime. He married the widow of Duke Alan barbe torte, who brought with her to Angers her infant son, the little Duke Drogo. The child died, and the Bretons believed that, for the sake of retaining the treasure brought by his subjects, his stepfather had murdered him, by pouring boiling water on his head while his body was in a cold bath, so that, the two streams mingling, it might appear that he had been only placed in tepid water.
However this might be, a war broke out between the Angevins and Bretons, and there was bitter hatred between the two races, which is scarcely yet at an end. Indeed, an Angevin Count could hardly in these days be a peaceable man, bordering on such neighbors as Brittany, Normandy, and Poitou. The Angevins were much more French than any of these neighbors; and their domain being smaller, they generally held by the King. They were his hereditary grand seneschals, carving before him on great occasions; and Geoffrey Grise gonnelle, who succeeded Foulques le Bon in 958, was on the side of the crown in all the war with Richard the Fearless of Normandy. His ogre-like surname of Grise gonnelle simply means gray gown, and is ascribed by the chronicle of Anjou to the following chivalrous adventure:
In the course of the war with Normandy, when Harald Bluetooth's Norwegians were ravaging France, and were encamped before the walls of Paris, a gigantic Berserk daily advanced to the gate of the city, challenging the French knights to single combat. Several who accepted it fell by his hand; and King Lothaire forbade any further attempts to attack him. Count Geoffrey was at this time collecting his vassals to come to the King's assistance; and no sooner did he hear of the defiance of the Northman, than, carried away by the spirit of knight-errantry, he bade his forces wait for him at Chateau Landon; and, without divulging his purpose, rode off, with only three attendants, to seek the encounter. He came to the bank of the Seine in early morning, caused a miller to ferry him and his horse across the river, leaving his squires on the other side, and reached the open space before the walls in time to hear and answer the Northman's daily challenge. The duel ended in the death of the giant, and was witnessed by the French on the walls; but they did not recognize their champion, and before they could come down to open the gates, and thank him, he was gone. He had cut off the enemy's head, and, bidding the miller carry it to the King, crossed the Seine again, met his squires at the mill, and rejoined his vassals at Landon, without letting any one know what had happened.
Lothaire was very anxious to know who the champion was; but all the miller could tell him was, that it had been a man of short stature, and slight, active figure, a capital horseman, whom he was sure he should know again anywhere. In due time the nobles collected with their troops, and Geoffrey among them. When they were in full assembly, Lothaire introduced the miller, bidding him say whether the knight-errant was present. The man fixed his eyes on the Count of Anjou, who wore a cassock of coarse gray wool over his armor. "Yes," he said, "'tis he—a la grise gonnelle."
It is also said that Geoffrey took his name from his frequent pilgrimages to Rome, in which he wore the gray "palmer's amice." He was a favorable specimen of the Angevin character, the knight-errant element predominating over its other points, and rendering him honorable and devout, and not more turbulent than could be helped by a feudal chief of the tenth century. He died near Saumur, while besieging the castle of a refractory vassal, in the year 987.
His son Foulques was surnamed Nerra, an old form of Le Noir, or The Black. The name was derived from his complexion; but he merited it by his disposition, for he was the most wicked of all the counts of Anjou. He was very able, and, though little in stature, and lame, usually made his wars turn out much to his advantage. In personal prowess he by no means equalled his father; indeed, there was a Danish warrior, who guarded the town of Saumur for the Count de Blois, that he dreaded so much as always to gallop at full speed through the neighborhood, whenever he was obliged to pass that way. However, he was not backward to risk his person on occasion, and in a battle with the Count de Blois at Amboise was severely wounded, his standard taken, and his troops forced to retreat, when his vassal, the alert Herbert Eveille chiens, of Mans, came up with fresh troops, fell on the men of Blois as they were bathing and resting after the battle, cried the Angevin war-cry," Rallie! rallie!" [Footnote: "Go at then again!" evidently the origin of "to rally."] and taking them by surprise, turned the fortune of the day. This victory extended Foulques' domain to the bank of the Loire, and enabled him to lay siege to Saumur. The citizens were too few to defend both gates, and, by the advice of the monks of St. Florent, resolved to commit the defence of one to the relics of St. Doucelin, which had the reputation of working miracles. The reliquary was placed full before the eastern gate, in the hope that either the Augevins would be afraid to break through, or that some evil consequence might ensue on their attempting it, and the Saumurois went to protect their western gate. However, Foulques Nerra seldom let scruples interfere, and marched in without regard to the saint. He was very cruel to his prisoners, and with his own hand thrust out the eye of one who reproached him with his unworthy treatment. He built new walls round Saumur, for which he was obliged to destroy some buildings belonging to the monastery of St. Florent, and as he set fire to them with his own hand, he called out to the saint to beg his pardon, swearing to build him a much finer house.
It was the practice of Foulques Nerra to commit frightful crimes, and then to expect to atone for them by vehemence in penance and devotion. He was recklessly barbarous in his wars, and a cruel tyrant to his people, filling his castle with miserable prisoners. He married a lady named Hildegarde, a pious and gentle dame, whose influence had some effect in calming his fierce passions and lessening his cruelty; but their son Geoffrey Martel was as wild and violent as himself, though with more generosity. A quarrel broke out, Geoffrey rebelled, was conquered, and his father obliged him to come and ask pardon, crawling on all fours, with a saddle on his back.
"So, sir, you're tamed!" said the count, putting his foot on his neck.
"True! but by no one but my father," the proud youth made answer. And Foulques was so pleased, that he took him into favor again.
Foulques Nerra was a great founder of churches and convents, and made no less than four pilgrimages to the Holy Land, in the third of which he travelled part of the way with another ancestor of our kings, Robert the Magnificent of Normandy. In the last, his penance exceeded all that had yet been seen at Jerusalem. He stripped himself to his waist, and went barefoot to the Holy Sepulchre, followed by two servants, whom he obliged to beat him with rods, while at each step he exclaimed, "O Lord, have pity on the wretched, perjured traitor Foulques!"
Such violent penances are repugnant to all our ideas, and if these rude warriors believed that by them their crimes could be atoned, they were grievously mistaken: but at the same time it must be remembered that they were intended as tokens of repentance; and that, as we have seen in the humiliation of the rebellious son of the count himself, it was the fashion to punish the body, because the mind was too little cultivated to be alone addressed.
Foulques III. died at Metz, in the course of his return from this pilgrimage, in the year 1039. His son Geoffrey, called Martel, or the Hammer, was a great warrior. William the Conqueror was his chief enemy, and the curious challenge that once passed between them has been related. Indeed, Henry I. of France, who was in dread of both, promoted their quarrels by making a grant to William of all that he might be able to win from Anjou; and the Angevins had given bitter offence to the Duke of Normandy when he was besieging the town of Hambrieres, by hanging up hides over the walls, and shouting, "A la pel! a la pel!" (The hide! the hide!) in allusion to his mother being the daughter of a tanner.
Their chief dispute was about the county of Maine—a name of evil omen to their descendants. The only daughter of Count Herbert Eveille chiens (Wake-dog) was betrothed to Robert Courtheuse; and though she died before the marriage took place, William claimed the county for his son on Herbert's death. Geoffrey, who was the feudal lord of Maine, took the part of the next heir, and invaded Normandy. On the river Dive, Geoffrey, with his chief followers, was imprudent enough to cross by a narrow bridge, leaving the main body of the troops on the other side, where they were attacked by William. The bridge gave way, and the Angevin army was destroyed in the sight of its lord.
This disaster broke the spirit of Geoffrey Martel. He was still a young man, but he was worn out with disappointment. He had been twice married—the second time to a very learned lady, named Grecia, who is famous for having bought a book of homilies for two hundred sheep, twelve measures of cheese, as much barley and millet, besides eight marks of silver and some marten skins. Neither wife brought him any children: and at Whitsuntide, 1060, he sent for his two nephews, the sons of his sister Ermengarde, and divided his lands between them; giving Touraine and Landon to the eldest, Geoffrey the Bearded, and Anjou to Foulques, called Le Rechin, or The Quarrelsome, then only seventeen, whom he knighted. He died the next Martinmas, in the robes of a monk; and thenceforth Foulques proved his right to his surname by his perpetual wars and disputes with his brother. Geoffrey le Barbu is famed for nothing but his misfortunes, and for a curious suit which he had with the monks of St. Florent respecting some woods on the banks of the Loire, which they declared to have been granted them by Foulques Nerra. They brought witnesses to support their claim, as they had no title-deeds; and Geoffrey agreed to have recourse to the judgment of Heaven, as a proof whether the testimony was true or false. The ordeal was to be by hot water. A great fire was lighted in the Church of St. Maurice, at St. Angers, and a cauldron of water placed on it, into which was plunged an old forester who had borne witness for the convent. Without appearing to suffer inconvenience from the heat, he repeated what he had formerly said and Geoffrey was obliged to abide by the result of the ordeal. The monks proceeded to cut down the woods, and supplied their place by the vineyards which have ever since been the pride of the Loire.
The strife respecting lay investiture was the ruin of the bearded Geoffrey; he claimed the investiture of the Abbot of Marmoutiers as a temporal baron, and thus caused himself to be excommunicated. His vassals fell from him and he became an easy prey to his brother Foulques, who threw him into the castle of Chinon, and kept him prisoner for thirty years.
Foulques IV., le Rechin, was a scholar, and wrote a Latin history of Anjou, of which, however, only a fragment is preserved. He was as wicked as most of the race, fierce, violent, and voluptuous. He was no longer a young man, and had been twice married and once divorced (one tradition says that he was the husband of the demon-countess), when, in 1089, he cast his eyes on the beautiful young Bertrade, daughter of the Count de Montfort, and promised Duke Robert of Normandy to make over to him the county of Maine, if he would use his influence with her parents to obtain her for him.
The Count de Montfort would not give up his daughter to the wicked old Angevin, till Robert, in his usual weak, good-natured fashion, had yielded up a number of his own frontier castles as her purchase. Foulques did indeed put Maine into his hands; but he did not keep it long, for Helie de la Fleche set up his claim, and maintained it as we have seen. Nor did Foulques gain much by his bargain; for Bertrade had no perfection but her beauty, and, in the fourth year of her marriage, abandoned him and her infant son, and went to the court of Philippe I. of France, who had lately grown weary of his queen Bertha, the mother of his four children, and had shut her up in the castle of Montreuil.
Philippe found some pretext for declaring that his first marriage and Bertrade's were both null and void; but not one French bishop could be found to solemnize the disgraceful union he desired. He was obliged to look beyond his own dominion, and it is said that it was the brother of the Conqueror, Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, who consented to pronounce a blessing over their marriage.
They were not, however, allowed to sin unmolested. Bertrade's husband made war on them on one side, Bertha's brother on the other. Philippe's son Louis fled to the protection of the English; and the Pope laid them under excommunication. For nine years, however, they persisted in their crime; but at last they made a show of penitence; the King pretended to renounce Bertrade, and they were absolved.
Bertrade had forsaken her child; but she was very anxious that he should succeed his father, instead of his elder brother Geoffrey, a high-spirited youth, whom the peasantry of Anjou regarded as their friend and protector. She contrived to sow dissension between him and his father, and at last caused him to be assassinated.
Then she chose to come to Angers to see her son heir of Anjou, and actually brought the King with her; made Philippe and her husband behave in the most friendly manner, eat at the same table, sleep on the same couch; and Foulques was even base enough to sit on a footstool at the feet of this woman, who could scarcely have been better than the witch-lady herself.
After the death of Philippe she returned to Anjou, and went into the Abbey of Fontevraud, where she practised such rigorous penances that her health sank under them.
Her son, Foulques V., succeeded to the county in 1109, and was a much better man than could have been expected from the son of such parents. His wife was Sybil, daughter of Helie de la Fleche, an excellent, gentle, and pious lady, whom he loved devotedly.
His eldest daughter, the Alix, or noble maid of Anjou, whose name seems to have been Matilda, was betrothed to William the Etheling, son of Henry I., in order to detach her father from the cause of the unfortunate William Clito of Normandy.
Their marriage took place in the autumn of 1120, when the bridegroom was seventeen and the bride twelve. It was celebrated with great splendor, and all the Norman barons did homage to young William as their future Duke. Afterward the English court repaired to Barfleur, there to embark for their own island; but there was considerable delay in collecting shipping enough for so numerous a party, and it was not possible to set sail till the 25th of November. Just as the King was about to embark, a mariner, named Thomas Fitzstephen, addressed him, with the offering of a golden mark, saying that his father had had the honor of carrying King William to the conquest of England, and entreating that his beautiful new vessel, the Blanche Nef, or White Ship, with fifty good oarsmen, might transport the present King.
Henry, always courteous, answered that his own arrangements were made, but that no doubt his son, the Etheling, and his companions, would gladly make the passage with him. The King then sailed, taking with him the little bride, but leaving behind no less than eighteen ladies of the highest rank—among them his niece, Lucy de Blois, Countess of Chester, and his illegitimate daughter, Marie, Countess de Perche—also another illegitimate son, named Richard, and all the gayest young nobles, who were in attendance on the prince. Including the crew, the Blanche Nef was expected to carry full three hundred persons across the Channel. All were in high spirits, in that reckless state of mirth which the grave Scots deem as the absolute presage of a fearful catastrophe, as well as often its cause; and the young Etheling, with open-hearted, imprudent good-nature, presented the crew with three casks of wine to drink to his health and the success of the voyage. Such feasting took place, that all the rest of the fleet had sailed; but Fitzstephen boasted that he would overtake and outstrip every ship before they reached England. Some prudent persons—among them young Stephen de Blois—left the ship; but no one else had any fears; and though the night came on, there was a bright moon, and the water was calm. Every sail was set; the rowers plied their utmost strength, and thus it was with great violence that the ship ran foul of the rocks called the Ras de Catte. A lamentable cry reached the ships of the King's fleet; but no one guessed the cause. A boat was lowered; Fitzstephen handed in the prince and a few rowers, and bade them make for the shore; but just as they had pushed off, William heard the agonized calls of his sister, the Countess de Perche, and commanded the rowers to put back and save her. The masterless, terrified multitude no sooner saw the boat approach, than they all flung themselves headlong into it; down it went under them, and the whole freight perished. The ship itself soon likewise foundered, and there only remained, clinging to the mast, a young baron, named Godfrey de l'Aigle, and a butcher of Rouen. Fitzstephen, however, swam up, and called out to ask if the King's son had got off safe. When he heard their answer, he cried aloud, "Woe is me!" and sank like a stone. It was a cold night, and, after some hours, young Godfrey became benumbed, lost his hold, and likewise sank; but the butcher, in his sheepskin coat, held on till daylight, when he was picked up by some fishermen, and told his piteous tale.
Next day the news came to England, and every one knew it but the King. For some days no one could summon up resolution to inform him of this surpassing calamity; but at last a little boy was sent to fall at his feet, and, weeping bitterly, to tell him all. The stern heart was wrung: Henry fell senseless on the ground; and he, whose gayety had once almost hidden his hard, selfish nature, never smiled again.
The Count of Anjou sent for his daughter and her dowry. The daughter came, and afterward became a nun at Fontevraud; but no dowry was sent with her: and Foulques returned to the cause he had deserted, gave her sister Sybil to William Clito, and held with him till his early death.
On the death of his countess, Foulques vowed to go on a crusade. His eldest son Geoffrey was but seven years old, and before setting out, he solemnly placed the boy on the altar of St. Julian at Angers, saying, "Great Saint, I offer thee my son and my lands; be the protector of both!"
Foulques maintained a hundred men-at-arms in Palestine for a year, at his own expense, and signalized himself greatly. Baldwin I., King of Jerusalem, the brother of Godfrey, had survived his brother eighteen years, when, in 1118, the crown passed to Baldwin du Bourg, Count of Essex, who, according to the usual fate of the Defenders of the Holy Sepulchre, felt his health fast giving way under the influence of toil, anxiety, and climate. He had been twice a prisoner, and had spent seven years in captivity among the Infidels; but his kingdom had been bravely defended by the knights of the Temple and Hospital, aided by Crusaders from the West. Of these armed pilgrims the Count of Anjou was so much the most distinguished, that, after his return, a knight was sent to him by King Baldwin, to propose to give him the hand of Melisende, the eldest princess of Jerusalem, and with it that crown of care and toil.
The crusading spirit was, however, strong in the house of Anjou, and so continued for full three hundred years: and though Foulques was considerably past forty, he accepted the offer, gave up his country to his son Geoffrey, and set forth in 1127, married Melisende, and, four years after, became King of Jerusalem. It was an unloving marriage; but he was much respected and beloved, and his biographer observes that, though he had red hair, he had not the faults common in men of that complexion. He was continually in the field at the head of his knights, and won several victories, one of which gained the town of Caesarea Philippi. He was killed by a fall from his horse, near Acre, in 1142; and left two sons by Melisende—Baldwin and Amaury, who afterward both reigned at Jerusalem.
VISITORS OF HENRY I. (1120-1134.)
Henry Beauclerc was really a great King. His abilities were high even for one of the acute Normans, and he studied at every leisure moment. He translated Aesop's fables, not from Latin into French—which would not have been wonderful—but from Greek to English. He seems to have had a real attachment to the English, feeling that, in their sturdy independence, he had the best preservative from the "outre cuidance" of the Normans. Indeed, the English mind viewed Brenville as making up for Hastings. He wrote a book of maxims, even on etiquette; and though his heart was almost as hard as those of his brothers, his demeanor was far more gracious: moreover, he felt remorse, as his brothers never did, nor his father till his death. After he lost his son he had many a night of anguish; when all the men of his kingdom seemed to come and reproach him with their sufferings. But his reign, on the whole, was a breathing-time, when he carried out his father's policy, restrained the barons, and raised the condition of the English. He was also greatly respected in other countries, and had many royal visitors, among the chief of whom may be reckoned his brother-in-law, David of Scotland, and Louis l'eveille, the prince of France. In the Conqueror's lifetime Henry and Louis had met at the court of France, where they had quarrelled at chess, and Henry, in a passion, had struck Louis a violent blow. His elder brother, Robert, then in exile in Paris, came in at the moment, and was so alarmed for the consequences, that he dragged Henry down stairs, called for their horses, and galloped away, never resting till he had seen the youth safely on the bounds of Normandy, where Robert himself might not enter. King Philippe's anger is said to have been one of the causes of the war in which William I. met with his death.
Now, however, Louis was a fugitive from the persecution of the wicked Bertrade, and found shelter and protection in England till his father became reconciled to him.
Another royal visitor was Sigurd the Crusader, king of part of Norway. Eystein, Sigurd, and Olaf had been left orphans by the death of their father, King Magnus, when Eystein, the eldest, was only fifteen. According to the law of Norway, they all possessed an equal right to the kingdom; but this led to no disputes, and they lived together on the most friendly terms. Eystein was peaceably disposed and thoughtful, though lively; Sigurd, though enterprising and spirited, had a strain of melancholy which affected him when he was not actively employed: and one morning, Eystein, observing that his looks were gloomy, drew from him that he had had a dream. "I thought," he said, "that we brothers were all sitting on a bench in front of Christ Church in Drontheim, and our kinsman, Olaf the Saint, came out in royal robes, glancing and splendid, and his face bright and joyous. He took our brother Olaf by the hand, saying, 'Come with me, friend,' and led him into the Church. Soon after, King Olaf the Saint came forth again, but not so bright as before. He came to thee, brother, and led thee with him into the church. Then I looked for him to come to me and meet me; but it was not so: and I was seized with great sorrow, and was altogether without strength; so that I awoke."
Eystein interpreted the dream to mean that Olaf would die young and innocent; that the Saint was less radiant in coming for himself, because of his sins; and that Sigurd would be the longest-lived of the three. It fell out much as the dream had presaged, for Olaf died in early youth.
Sigurd had the restless spirit of the Sea-kings, and became a Crusader. He spent the first winter in England, the second in aiding the Christians of Spain against the Moors: he visited the Normans in Sicily, and, as the King of the whole Northern race, conferred on Count Roger de Hauteville the title of King of Sicily, and then proceeded to Jerusalem.
Baldwin I. received him splendidly, and availed himself of his aid to capture the town of Zidon. He left the Holy Land, taking as his reward a piece of the wood of the True Cross, and returned through Constantinople. There Alexius Comnenus gave him a magnificent reception, which he tried to requite by equal Ostentation, repeating Robert of Normandy's invention of the golden horse-shoes. He was entertained with grand games in the Hippodrome, where the ancient Greek statues were much admired by his followers and their Vaeringer brethren, who took them for their own ancient Asagods. On his departure, he gave Alexius all his ships, the figure-heads of which were made ornaments for one of the churches at Constantinople; and some of the presents which he brought away are still extant in Norway. In one little remote church there has lately been found a curious Byzantine picture, representing the rescue of the True Cross from the Persians by the Emperor Heraclius.
In the meantime, Eystein was leading a wise, beneficent, peaceable, and pious life in Norway. But their different dispositions are best shown in a discussion that the old Norwegian chronicle has recorded as taking place soon after Sigurd's return. The two brothers were, in the ancient fashion, sojourning in the house of one of their bonders, and keeping open table, when, one evening the ale was not good, Sigurd fell into one of his moods of gloomy depression, and the guests sat round silent.
The good-natured Eystein said, "Let us fall on some jest to amuse people; for surely, brother Sigurd, all people are well pleased when we converse cheerfully."
"Do you talk as much as you please, but let me be silent," returned Sigurd.
"Nay," said Eystein. "let us follow the old custom over the ale-table of making comparisons. I will soon make it appear that, different as we are, we are both equal, and one has no advantage over the other."
He succeeded in drawing his brother into the game; and Sigurd, who was the taller and stronger, answered, "Do you remember that I was always able to break your back, if I had pleased, though you are a year older?"
"Yes," said Eystein; "but you were not so good at games that need agility."
"Do you remember that I could drag you under water, when we swam together, as often as I pleased?"
"Yes," returned Eystein; "but I could swim as far as you, and dive as well; and I could run on snow skates so well that no one could beat me, and you could no more do it than an ox."
"I think," said Sigurd, "you could hardly draw my bow, even if you took your foot to help."
"I am not so strong at the bow, but there is less difference in our shooting near."
"Beside," continued the tall Sigurd, "a chief ought to be taller than other men, easily seen and distinguished."
"Nay," said Eystein, who was the handsomest man in Norway, "good looks may be an equal distinction. Besides, I am more knowing in the law, and my words flow more easily."
"Well, you may know more law quirks. I have had something else to do," said the rough warrior. "No one can deny you a smooth tongue; and some say you do not keep to what you promise—which is not kingly."
"Yes, I promise satisfaction to one party before I have heard the other, and then am forced to take something back. It would be easy to do like you—promise evil to all. I never hear any complaint of your not keeping this promise to them."
"Ay, and while I made a princely voyage, you sat at home like my father's daughter."
"There you take up the cudgel," said Eystein, merrily; "but I know how to answer. If I did sit at home, like my father's daughter, you cannot deny that, like a sister, I furnished you forth."
Sigurd continued: "I was in many a battle in the Saracens' land, and always came off conqueror; I won many precious goods, the like of which were never seen here before; and I was always the most highly esteemed where brave men met: while yours is but a home-bred renown. I went to Palestine, I came to Apulia; but I did not see you there, brother. I gave Roger the Great the title of King. I won seven battles; but you were in none of them. I was at our Lord's grave; but I did not see you there, brother. I went to Jordan, where our Lord was baptized. I swam across the river; but I did not see you there. A willow grew on the bank, and I twisted the boughs into a knot, which is waiting there for you; for I said that you should untie it, and fulfil the vow that is bound up in it."
"I have little to set against this," said Eystein; "but if you fought abroad, I strove to be of use at home. In the north of Vaage I built fish-houses, so as to enable the poor people there to earn a livelihood. I built a priest's house, and endowed a Church, where before all the people were heathen; and therefore I think they will recollect that Eystein was once King of Norway. The road from Drontheim goes over the Dofrefield, and often travellers had to sleep in the open air; but I built inns, and supported them with money, and thus wayfarers may remember that Eystein has been King of Norway. Agdaness was a bare waste, and no harbor, and many a ship was lost. Now, there is a good harbor, and a Church. I raised beacons on the high ground; I built a royal hall in Bergen, and the Church of the Apostles; I built Michael's Church, and a Convent beside. I settled the laws, so that all may obtain justice. The Jemteland people are again joined to our realm, and more by kind words than by war. Now, though all these are but small doings, yet I am not sure if the people of our land have not been better served by them than by your killing blue men in the land of the Saracens. Your deeds were great; yet I hope what I have done for the servants of God may serve me no less for my soul's salvation. So, if you did tie a knot for me, I will not go to untie it; and if I had been tying a knot for you, you would not have been King of Norway, when with a single ship you came into my fleet."
Eystein conferred many more benefits on his country, and on individuals many acts of kindness—such as his undertaking by his conversation to cheer and console one of his friends who had been disappointed in love. This excellent King died at thirty-five, and it was said that there was never so much mourning in Norway. Sigurd's fate was sad; the shadow predicted in his dream fell on him. His moodiness increased to distraction, and nothing could be more wretched in those early times than the condition of an insane king or of his country. He grew extremely violent, and often did fearful mischief; but he still preserved his generous spirit, and could always, even at the worst, be tamed by any one who would boldly resist his fury. Happily, this only lasted six years, for he died in 1330, at the age of forty.
This has been a long digression; but as Sigurd was the last of our Northern visitors, we hope it may be pardoned for the sake of its interest.
Henry I. gave his only daughter Maude in marriage to Henry V., Emperor of Germany, a rebellious son, who had taken advantage of the sentence of excommunication on his father, to strip him of his domains, and absolutely reduce him to beggary. Maude was married to Henry V. at eleven years old, when she was so small that she could not stand under the weight of her robes, and the Archbishop of Cologne was obliged to hold her in his arms during the celebration of the wedding. The principal favorites of the King of England were at this time the sons of his sister Adela, three in number: Theobald, Count de Blois and Champagne; Stephen, Count de Mortagne, whom the King married to Matilda, heiress, of Boulogne, the niece of good Queen Maude, and Henry, whom he made Bishop of Winchester.
Henry was persuaded to marry again, and his queen was the beautiful and gracious Alice of Louvaine, a fair young girl of eighteen. His daughter Maude returned from Germany in 1125; but there were strange stories that her husband, the Emperor, was not dead, but had fled in secret from his court, to dwell as a hermit in penance for his crimes. His funeral had, however, been performed with full solemnity. King Henry regarded her as in truth a widow, and was very anxious to bestow her a second time in marriage. He caused his vassals to take an oath of fealty to her as his heiress, and foremost in making this promise were David, King of Scotland—as Earl of Huntingdon, in right of his wife, Waltheof's daughter—and Stephen de Blois, Count de Mortagne and Boulogne; while Henry engaged at the same time that she should not be married without the consent of the Barons.
Very soon, however, he broke his word, with the desire of conciliating those troublesome neighbors of Normandy, the counts of Anjou. Foulques V. showed himself so much inclined to befriend the son of Robert, that Henry resolved to attach him to his own party, and proposed to him to give Maude to his son Geoffrey, whom he desired should be sent at once to Rouen, that he might see him, and confer on him the order of knighthood.
Young Geoffrey was only fifteen, but, unlike his ancestors, was very tall, and had also inherited the beauty and grace of his grandmother Bertrade. King Henry was delighted with him, and after examining him closely on all the rules of chivalry, as well as on other points, to which Geoffrey replied with much acuteness, showing himself a good scholar even in Latin, resolved to make him his son-in-law. His knighthood was conferred with the greatest splendor and all the formalities of the time. The first day he entered the bath, the emblem of purity, and then was arrayed in fine linen, a robe woven with gold, and a purple mantle. A Spanish horse was presented to him, and he was armed in polished steel, and with a helmet covered with precious stones; his gilded spurs were buckled on, and his sword and lance given to him. He sprung on horseback without putting his foot in the stirrup, and six days were spent in jousting with twenty-nine young nobles, who were knighted at the same time. At the close of the tourney, Henry conferred on him the accolade, or sword-blow, which was the chief part of the ceremony.
Henry had great difficulty in making his daughter consent to the marriage. Whether she believed her husband to be alive, or whether it was from pride, or dislike to take so mere a boy as her bridegroom, her resistance was long; and it was not till 1127 that she was brought by her father to Mans, where the wedding took place, just before Geoffrey's father departed for Palestine.
Maude was proud and disdainful, and treated her young husband in the most contemptuous way; and Geoffrey avoided her in return, spending most of his time in hunting in the woods, where he used to wear the spray of broom that became the cognizance of his house, and caused their surname of Plantagenet. Perhaps it was in contrast to his wife's haughtiness that he chose to adopt this plant, considered as the emblem of humility, and reminding her that she had married the descendant of the woodman Torquatus.
Geoffrey seems to have been of a gay, lively temper, associating freely with all who came in his way, and often doing kind actions. Once, as on Christmas-day he was entering the Church of St. Julian at Mans, he met a poor priest, meanly clad.
"What tidings?" said the Count.
"Glad tidings," returned the priest.
"What are they?"
"'To us a Child is born, to us a Son is given,'" the clerk made answer; and Geoffrey was so struck with his appropriate manner, that he gave him a valuable canonry.
Geoffrey was hunting in a forest, when he lost his way, and was benighted; and, meeting a charcoal-burner, asked the road to Loches. The man offered to become his guide, and accordingly the Count took him up on his horse, talking gayly, and asking what people said of the Count. The peasant answered that the Count himself was said to be friendly and free-spoken, but his provost committed terrible exactions, of which he gave a full account. Geoffrey listened, and in the morning rode into the town of Loches with the charcoal-burner still en croupe (if his haughty empress was there, he must have enjoyed provoking her), and there he summoned all his provosts, himself examined their accounts, put an end to their exactions, and ended by making the charcoal-burner a free man instead of a serf.
There is a report that Maude's first husband came to Angers in his penance-garb, and on his death-bed told his confessor who he was; that the confessor fetched the empress; and that she attended him in secret till his death; but the truth of this tale is very uncertain. Maude had been six years married to Geoffrey when her first child was born, Henry, called by the Normans Fitz-Empress.
This event in some degree cheered the latter years of his grandfather, King Henry, whose sin had found him out, in bitter remorse and fearful dreams. Nobles, peasants, and clergy seemed in turn to be standing round his bed, calling him to account for his misdeeds toward them. Many other victims of his ambition might have been conjured up by his remorse—such as the citizen of Rouen, spared by Robert, whom Henry threw from the top of a high tower, whither he had treacherously invited him; the Norman barons, with whom he had broken his faith; his gallant, generous brother, so cruelly betrayed and imprisoned; his persecuted nephew, William Clito; the unhappy troubadour, Lucas de Barre, whom he had blinded, for writing a satire on him, and who dashed out his brains in despair on the prison wall; and—almost the worst of all—the poor children of his illegitimate daughter Juliana, left to the ferocious revenge of Raoul de Harenc, by whom their eyes were put out and their noses cut off. With such recollections as these to haunt his later years, no wonder Henry's nights were times of agony and wakefulness.
He tried to lose the thought of these horrors in activity, and was constantly passing between England and Normandy. It was in the latter country that he made his fatal supper of lampreys, after he had been fatigued with hunting all day. A violent fever came on at night, and he died on the 1st of December, 1135.
The court of Scotland presented a far different scene. David, the youngest of the children of St. Margaret, inherited the crown in 1124, on the death of his brother Alexander, and was treading in the same course as his mother, his sister Maude, and his brethren. He belonged, indeed, to a family of saints, and brought piety, firmness, cultivation, and a merciful temper to improve his rugged country. He was a brave warrior: but he loved the arts of peace, and one of his favorite amusements was gardening, budding and grafting trees.
He administered strict justice, but shed tears as he ordered an execution; and was so tender-hearted and ready to hear the poor, that he would take his foot out of the stirrup when just ready for the chase, to listen to the humblest complaint. Though lively and social in temper, he spent some hours every evening alone, in prayer and meditation.
His wife was Matilda, daughter of that Earl Waltheof who was executed by William I. She had previously been married to a Norman knight, Simon de St. Liz, who died on pilgrimage, leaving her with two sons, Simon and Waltheof. Two sons were likewise born to David; but the eldest was killed in his infancy by an accident: and shortly after David took home as a companion to the little Henry, Aelred, the son of a Saxon priest at Hexham.
These four boys were brought up "in the nurture of good learning," and in godliness; but their different tempers soon showed themselves. Simon, the little Earl of Northampton, while a child, was always playing at building castles, and bestriding the "truncheon of a spear," as a war-horse. Waltheof was a builder, too, but his were churches, and his delight was in making the sign of the Cross and singing chants. It was still the same as they grew older; Waltheof ever drew more apart, and spent more time in reading and prayer. His stepfather, the King, would take him to the chase, and tell him to bear his bow; but he often found his bow in the hands of another, and, after a search, discovered Waltheof reading or praying in a secret glade, or under a tree. "Your boy," he said to the Queen, "will either die young, or leave us for the cloister."
Aelred was Waltheof's chief friend; but, though very pious, he was more of a scholar, and read both romances of King Arthur and such works of Cicero as had found their way to Scotland. He was lively in conversation; David was fond of him, and used to tell him stories of his own younger days; and Aelred became the loving chronicler of this happy court.
Prince Henry had the same holy temper, coupled with a bold spirit, that was needed by the heir of Scotland, and showed himself full of the noble qualities of his father and uncles. He was the true knight of the party, as bold as a lion, yet as strict and devout as a monk, even in the camp. Simon was no more than a rough, bold, tyrannical earl, and soon took up his abode in England.
Ere long Aelred became a monk, and Waltheof was not slow in following his example. Both entered the Cistercian order, and led holy lives, avoiding all preferment—a difficult matter for Waltheof, stepson to one king and cousin to another. His brother Simon took such offence at his lowliness, that he actually threatened to burn down the convent of Waldon, where Waltheof was living, because he thought it shame to see a descendant of Siward a common monk in a poor monastery.
However, in time, promotion was thrust on them. Aelred became Abbot of Rivaux, and Waltheof Abbot of Melrose.
Of the King and his son, more will be said in the next chapter.
THE BATTLE OF THE STANDARD. (1135-1138.)
_King of England. 1135. Stephen. 1137. Louis VII.
King of Scotland. 1124. David I.
Kings of France. 1107. Louis VI.
Emperors of Germany. 1125. Lothar II. 1138. Konrad II.
Earl Egbert of Gloucester was the son of Henry Beauclerc and of a beautiful Welsh princess named Nesta, who had fallen into his hands in the course of the war which he maintained for his brother William Rufus, on the borders of Wales. Henry was much attached to the boy, and gave him a princely education, by which he profited so as to become not only learned, but of a far purer and more chivalrous character than was often to be found among the great men of his time.
Henry I. provided for him, by giving to him the hand of the Lady Amabel Fitzaymon, heiress of Glamorgan, and a ward at the disposal of the crown, in whose right he became Earl of Gloucester.
Robert and his cousin, Stephen de Blois, both attended the death-bed of Henry I., and heard his dying words: "I leave to my children whatever I have gained. Let them do justice to those I have injured."
No sooner had the King expired, than Stephen set off for England, where he was already very popular, partly on account of his courteous manners and goodly person, partly for the sake of his wife, Matilda of Boulogne, who was treading in the steps of her aunt, the good Queen Maude. He landed at Dover in the midst of a frightful thunder-storm, and though he found that city and Canterbury closed against him, he met with a joyful reception in London and Winchester. He bribed Hugh Bigod, the late King's seneschal, to swear that Henry had on his deathbed disinherited Maude, and left the kingdom to him; and the Archbishop, William de Corboil, was credulous enough to believe the tale, and crown the usurper; but discovery of the falsehood hastened the old man's death.
While this was passing, Robert of Gloucester was conducting the funeral of his father; causing his body to be salted, instead of embalmed, and bringing it to England to be buried at Reading, an abbey that Henry had built and endowed for his burial-place. It is now completely ruined, and few vestiges remain to show what the buildings were, far less any trace of the tomb of the scholarly and cruel son of the Conqueror.
The Empress Maude was at the same time attending her husband, Geoffrey Plantagenet, in a dangerous illness; and thus Stephen was enabled to obtain possession of both England and Normandy, and received the submission of all the nobles. The Earl of Gloucester, thinking resistance vain, took the oath of fealty; reserving, however, the right of recalling it if any injury was offered to him or to his property.
The next year Geoffrey de Bel raised an army, and entered Normandy; but was met there by Stephen, wounded, and forced to retreat, leaving only a few castles still holding out for the Empress. Stephen was besieging that of Bertran, with an army composed partly of Normans and partly of natives of his wife's county of Boulogne, when, while he was taking his mid-day sleep, a quarrel arose between the two brothers. Waking in haste, and alarmed for his Boulognais, he took part against the Normans, calling out, "Down with the traitors!" The Normans were greatly offended, and, having retired to their tents, they held a council together, and ended by making him the following plain-spoken address:
"Sir, a folly is better ended than continued. By ill advice, we took you for our lord for a little while. If you blame us for it, you will not be wrong. You have beaten our men, and called us traitors. Certes, we were traitors when we left our rightful lady for a stranger. We have held with you against our lady the Empress, and we repent, for we have sinned against God and man: but we will no longer continue in the sin; and therefore we bid you mount, and leave this host, for we will not suffer you to remain in this country, unless it be the will of our lady the Empress."
Stephen begged them to let him remain till the next day but they swore that, if he did, it should be the worse for him, and immediately escorted him beyond the bounds of Normandy. They then brought back Maude, with her husband and children; and the dukedom continued in the hands of Geoffrey as long as he lived.
At the same time David, King of Scotland, recollecting the oath to Maude, which he and Stephen had together sworn, took up arms in her cause, and invaded England, forcing the inhabitants to take the oath of allegiance. His troops were a fearfully wild, untamed race, undisciplined and cruel, and it was a dreadful thing to let loose such a host of savage marauders without any possibility of restraining them. The Galwegians, Picts by race, were the worst; but the Highlanders and Borderers were also dreadfully cruel: and the English armed to protect themselves against the inroad of their ancient foes.
The clergy of the North even deemed it a sacred war, and, by the authority of Thurstan, Archbishop of York, gathered their flocks, and came, each priest at the head of his parishioners, to the place of assembly at York, where three days were spent in prayer and fasting; and then the old Archbishop administered to them an oath never to desert each other, and dismissed them with his blessing. Raoul, Bishop of Durham, was deputed by him to take the lead, and to have the charge of the consecrated standards of St. Cuthbert of Durham, St. Peter of York, St. John of Beverley, and St. Wilfred of Ripon. These were all suspended from one pole, like the mast of a vessel, surmounted by a cross, in the centre of which was fixed a silver casket, containing the consecrated wafer of the Holy Sacrament. The pole was fixed into a four-wheeled car, on which the Bishop stood. Such cars were much used in Italy, where each city had its own consecrated Gonfalone, on its caroccio, hung with scarlet cloth and drawn by oxen. The English collected under this sacred standard were the stout peasants of the North, the bowmen of Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire; each with a bow of his own height, and a sheaf of arrows two cubits long; and there were also many barons of Norman birth, of whom Walter L'Espee was the leader. Some of these barons held their lands under David of Scotland, as Earl of Cumberland, and two of them, Bernard Baliol and Robert Bruce, the last an old friend of the King, went to the Scottish camp, to remonstrate with him. Bruce begged him to retreat, described the horrors committed by his wild Scots, told him of the strength of the English force, and ended by declaring with tears that it would now become his duty to renounce his allegiance, and array himself against his beloved prince. Good King David shed tears, but William Macdonochie, the fierce lord of Galloway, burst out with the exclamation, "Bruce, thou art a false traitor!" and the insulted baron renounced all he held in Scotland, gave up his allegiance, and rode back to the English army, at Northampton, bringing tidings that the Scots were coming.
The host arrayed itself around their car, where the sacred standard waved above their head, and the Bishop of Durham addressed them from beneath it, reminding them of former victories. Walter L'Espee was the first to respond. Grasping the hand of the Earl of Albemarle, he exclaimed, "I pledge thee my troth that to-day I will overcome the Scots, or die!" "So swear we all," cried the other barons; and the whole host knelt down, the Bishop pronounced over them the words of absolution, they replied with one mighty sound of united voices, "Amen!" and arose. The knights and squires sat with gathered reins and knees in rest, the yeomen stood each with his good yew bow ready strung, awaiting the onslaught.
Less union was there in the hostile army, where it might be said that there was no authority, for David was unable to restrain his wild subjects from the North and West. The men of Galloway insisted on beginning the attack; but as they wore no defensive armor, and had no weapons but long, thin pikes, besides being more fierce than steady, the king hesitated. "Why trust to a plate of steel or rings of iron?" exclaimed Malise of Strathern. "I, who wear no armor, will go as far as any one with breastplate of mail." "You brag of what you dare not do!" said the Norman Alan de Percy. But the King found himself obliged to yield the precedence to the Galwegians, trusting far more to the lowland knights and men-at-arms, whom he arrayed under his gallant son, Prince Henry, while he himself commanded the reserve of Northern Scots.
The fierce Kelts of Galloway, guided by a tall spear, wreathed with heather blossom, and shouting, "Albin! Albin!" with harsh, dissonant cries like the roar of a tempest, fell headlong on the English ranks, and at first their fury carried them on so that they burst through them as if they had been a spider's web. But the Norman chivalry round the standard stood firm, and hewed down the undefended Galwegians, nor could the long claymores of the Highland clans, who next attacked them, break through their steel armor. The charge of Prince Henry's horsemen had more effect, and at one time the youth had almost won his way to the standard, when some traitor in the rear raised a bloody head on the point of a lance, shouting that the King was slain. In consternation the Scots gave back; the English saw their advantage, and pressed upon them: and though David rode forward and displayed the dragon standard which marked his presence (inherited from the Saxon kings), he could not rally them, and but just succeeded in protecting their flight to Carlisle, which then belonged to him as Earl of Cumberland.
This first of the long series of Scottish defeats was called the Battle of the Standard, from the banner of St. Cuthbert, which was always thought to bring success. It came forth at the battle of Nevil's Cross, and was again victorious, and it was preserved with great reverence till the Reformation, when, in 1549, Catherine Whittingham, the wife of the Dean of Durham, burnt it, out of zeal against Popery. It is some comfort that she was a Frenchwoman.
Stephen had left his Northern subjects to take care of themselves, because he was full of perplexities in the South. He had tried to please all parties, and by no means succeeded. He was a humane, kind-hearted man, and really wished to befriend the unfortunate Saxons; but, on the other hand, he was afraid to affront their Norman oppressors, whom he had allowed to build castles, and strengthen themselves in the very way which it had been Henry Beauclerc's policy to prevent. Almost every spot where green mounds and blocks of massive masonry remain within an ancient moat, is said by tradition to have been "a castle in Stephen's time," and we wonder, considering that he reigned but nine years, how such immense works could have been effected. Dens of thieves they seem to have been, and misery and destruction reigned round them; while the least attempt on the King's part to restrain the ferocity of their owners was requited by a threat of bringing in our lady the Empress.
Her party became continually stronger, and Stephen, living in constant mistrust, added to it by offending several Bishops, even his own brother, Henry de Blois, by trying, to deprive them of their fortified castles. Next he made an attack on the Earl of Gloucester, who, being thus freed from his engagement to keep the peace, after repulsing Stephen, went to Normandy to fetch the Empress, and inform her that this was the time for establishing her right.
Maude, gladly accepted his invitation, but her husband Geoffrey seems to have been glad to be rid of her ungracious company, and chose to remain in Anjou. She landed in safety, for Stephen was at this time extremely ill, and her brother placed her in Arundel Castle, which belonged to her father's widow, Queen Alice, lately married to William de Albini, the ancestor of the noble line of Howard. Here Maude remained, while her brother went to his own estates to raise troops; but in the meantime Stephen recovered, and advanced on Arundel Castle. Queen Alice sent to tell him that her stepdaughter had come to seek her protection, and beg him not to make her do anything disloyal; and Stephen, who had many of the qualities of a courteous knight, forbore to make any personal attack on the ladies, but allowed the Empress to depart unmolested to meet Earl Robert.
He brought her to his castle at Bristol, where she remained two years, while the warfare was carried on in a desultory manner, chiefly by the siege of castles. At last Stephen laid siege to Lincoln, where Robert's daughter was, with her husband Ralf, Earl of Chester. Her father came to her relief with an army of 10,000 men. Stephen was advised to retreat; but he thought his honor concerned, and gave battle. His forces were soon overwhelmed; but he fought on desperately at the foot of his standard, so fiercely that no one dared to approach him, though his sword and battle-axe were both broken. At last a stone brought him to the ground, and a knight, named William Kames, grappled with him and held him fast; but even then he refused to yield the fragment of his sword to any but the Earl of Gloucester, who came up at the moment and prevented any further violence.
Stephen was given into the keeping of Countess Amabel, and Maude was conducted in state to Winchester, where Stephen's own brother, the Bishop, proclaimed her Queen, standing on the steps of the altar. Her uncle, King David, came to visit her, and she held her court with great splendor. It was here that she disgusted every one by her disdainful manners, and treated her cousin, Stephen's queen, with such harshness as to drive her to take up arms again. London had always been favorable to Stephen, and two months of negotiation were necessary before David and Robert could prevail on the citizens to receive her. At midsummer, however, they consented to admit her, and she came to Westminster; but as soon as a deputation of citizens were in her presence, she showed her pride and hostile spirit. They asked for charters; she replied by ordering them to bring money, and telling them they were very bold to talk of their privileges, when they had just been aiding her enemies. Robert made speeches to try to soften matters, and David reasoned with her in vain, till she was convinced of her folly in a way for which he was little prepared. It is said that she actually flew at him and struck him; and if she could thus treat a royal uncle, how must not men inferior in rank have sped?
It was noon, and the deputies went home, as Maude thought, to dinner; but presently all the bells began to ring, and burghers, armed with bows and bills, began to swarm in the streets. The followers of the Empress were too few to resist; so, after a brief council, David galloped off to the North, and Robert rode with his sister to Oxford, while the Londoners opened their gates to Matilda, Stephen's wife, and her son Eustace.
Robert went to raise more forces, and Maude, hearing that Bishop Henry de Blois was conferring with his sister-in-law, sharply summoned him to her presence. He quietly made answer, "Parabo me"—I prepare myself; and Maude, in a passion, set out, intending to surprise him at Wolvesley, his palace at Winchester. She found it well fortified, and laid siege to it from the castle at Winchester, where she was joined by her uncle and brother; and the town was in a miserable state, burnt by both parties in turn. Twenty churches and two convents were destroyed, and the Bishop took Knut's crown out of the Cathedral—to save it from the enemy, as was said, but it was never seen again. At last Eustace de Blois and his mother brought such a force that the Empress was besieged in her turn, and completely starved out. Her garrison resolved to break through the enemy at all risks, and on Sunday they set forth, Maude riding first with her uncle David, and Robert following with a band of knights, under a vow to die rather than let her be taken.
At Stourbridge the pursuers came up with them, many of the knights fell, and Robert was captured. So closely were the royal fugitives pursued, that David at one time was in the enemy's hands, and only escaped by the stratagem of his godson, David Olifant. Maude and one faithful knight, by the speed of their horses, reached Devizes, whence she was carried in a coffin to Gloucester.
Maude could not make up her mind to release her foe, Stephen, even for the sake of recovering her brother; but the Countess of Gloucester, considering the King as her own property, acted for herself, and exchanged him for her husband. Queen Matilda tried to make Robert promise to bring about peace, to secure England to Stephen, and Normandy to Maude; but he would make no engagements which he knew she would not observe, and matters continued in the same state.
THE SNOWS OF OXFORD. (1138-1154.)
King of England. 1135. Stephen.
Kings of Scotland. 1124. David I. 1153. Malcolm V.
King of France. 1137. Louis VII.
Emperor Of Germany. 1139. Konrad II.
Popes. 1130. Innocent II. 1143. Celestine II. 1144. Lucius II. 1145. Anastasius II. 1154. Adrian IV.
On the 1st of November, 1138, Stephen was set at liberty, and Robert of Gloucester, being exchanged for him, rejoined his sister the Empress at Gloucester; and during this time of quiet her fierce nature seems to have somewhat softened.
Stephen, meanwhile, had one of his terrible attacks of illness, in which he lay for hours, if not days, in a death-like lethargy, and, of course, his followers did nothing but build castles whenever the frost would let them work, prey on their neighbors, and make the state of the country far worse than it had been under any of the Normans of hated memory. Maude's domain was in better order, as Robert's rule was modelled on that of his father's, in its best points. It is wonderful that Robert, whose mother was a princess by birth, and had been treated as a wife till the Etheling marriage had become a matter of policy, should have put forward no pretensions to the crown, but have uniformly given his staunch support to his proud and ungrateful sister. In a council held at Devizes in the course of the winter, it was decided that he should go to Normandy to entreat the Count of Anjou to bring succors to his wife. Geoffrey, however, had no desire to return to her haughty companionship, and represented that there were still many castles in Normandy unsubdued. Robert gave efficient aid in taking these; but Geoffrey still could not persuade himself to meet his wife, though, at Robert's persuasion, he consented to give into his charge Henry, his eldest son, a boy of ten years old, with a large body of troops.
Maude had, in the meanwhile, been placed in the strong fortress at Oxford; but no sooner had Stephen recovered from his illness, than he collected his army, and marched southward. In the end of September he besieged her at Oxford, where at first she thought herself safe; but he crossed the river, set fire to the city in several places, and blockaded her in the castle.
Her nobles collected at Wallingford, and sent defiances to Stephen to fight a pitched battle with them; but he knew his own advantage too well, and took no notice. Earl Robert, landing near Wareham, tried to create a diversion by besieging that seaport; but he could not draw the enemy off from Oxford. Famine prevailed in the castle, and, after much suffering, it became impossible for the garrison to hold out any longer. The depth of winter had come, the ground was covered with snow, and the Isis was frozen over. Maude, whose courage never failed, caused herself and three of her knights to be dressed in white, and let down from the battlements upon the snow, where they were met by one of Stephen's men, whom they had gained over, and by him were led, unseen and unheard, through the camp of the enemy, hearing the call of the sentinels, and trembling with anxiety. For six miles they crept over the snow, and at last arrived at Abingdon, nearly frozen, for their garments had been far too scanty for the piercing weather; but they could not remain a moment for rest or warmth, but took horse, and never paused till they reached Wallingford Castle. Thither, so soon as the news reached Earl Robert, he brought her young son, and her troubles were forgotten in her joy.
Thence she repaired with her son to Bristol Castle, where the boy remained under the care of a learned tutor named Matthew, who instructed him under the superintendence of Earl Robert.
This great Earl deserved the name of Beauclerc almost as well as his father; he was well read, and two histories were dedicated to him, William of Malmesbury's, and Geoffrey of Monmouth's wonderful chronicle of the old British kings, whose blood flowed in Robert's veins; that chronicle—wrought out of queer Welsh stories—that served as a foundation for Edward's claims on Scotland, and whence came our Lear and Cymbeline.
All that knightly training could do for young Henry was done by Earl Robert, and the boy so far answered to his care as to have that mixture of scholarliness and high spirit that was inherent in the Norman and Angevin princes. But the shrewd unscrupulousness and hard selfishness of the Norman were there, too—the qualities from which noble Gloucester himself was free. It may be, however, that the good Earl did not see these less promising characteristics of his ward; for, after five years of the boy's residence at Bristol, and the old desultory warfare between the partisans of King and Empress, Count Geoffrey sent for his son, to take leave of him before going on a crusade; and while Henry was absent, Earl Robert died, in 1147. It speaks much for Henry Beauclerc's court that such men should have grown up in it as Robert of Gloucester and David of Scotland.
Geoffrey, in the meantime, paid a visit to his younger brother, Baldwin III. of Jerusalem, a very gallant prince. On his return, Maude came back to him, and after their eight years' absence, they met with affection they never had shown to one another before. She did not attempt to take the government of Normandy, but left it wholly in Geoffrey's hands.
Stephen, meanwhile, was unmolested in England till 1149, when Henry sailed for Scotland, there to be knighted by his uncle, King David; while, curiously enough, his younger brother Geoffrey was at the very same time knighted by Stephen's elder brother, Theobald, Count de Blois.
It was a year of grief to that excellent King, who suffered a great affliction in the death of the chivalrous Henry, his only son, and the father of a numerous infant family. His barons feared he would sink under his sorrow, and came to comfort him; but they found him cheerful. "I ought not to lament my son's being taken away from me," he said, "since he is gone to enjoy the fellowship of my parents and my brethren, of whose souls the world was no longer worthy. Should I mourn, it would be to arraign the goodness and justice of God for removing him to the mansions of bliss before me. I should rather be thankful, and rejoice that the Almighty endowed my son with so much grace to behave himself in a manner to be so beloved and lamented. Soon do I hope to follow, and, being delivered from temporal miseries, to enjoy a blessed eternity with the saints in light."