Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland (2 of 6): England (2 of 12) - William Rufus
by Raphael Holinshed
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This prince, although euill reported of by writers for the couetous tasking of his subiects, and reteining of ecclesiasticall liuings in his hands; yet was he endued with manie noble and princelie qualities. He had good knowledge in feats of warre, and could well awaie with bodilie labour. In all his affaires he was circumspect; of his promise, trustie; of his word, stedfast; and in his wars no lesse diligent than fortunate. He gaue to the moonkes called Monachi de charitate in Southwarke, the great new church of S. Sauiour of Bermondsay, and also Bermondseie itselfe. He founded a goodlie hospitall in the citie of Yorke, called S. Leonards, for the sustentation and finding of the poore as well brethren as sisters. Towards souldiers and men of warre he was verie liberall, and to enrich them, he passed not for taking from farmers and husbandmen, what soeuer could be gotten. He was indeed of a prodigall nature, and therefore when in the begining of his reigne, doubting some troubles, he had assembled manie men of warre for his defense, there was nothing that they could aske which he would denie them, in somuch that his fathers treasures were soone consumed, by reason whereof he was put to his shifts to prouide more. For though substance wanted to shew his liberalitie, yet there failed not in him a mind still to be bountifull, sith continuall vse of giuing rewards, was in manner turned in him to a nature, so that to furnish himselfe with monie and necessaries, he was put to extremities vnbeseeming a king; and to bestow his beneuolence vpon some, he spared not to impouerish others. [Sidenote: The liberall hart of king William.] For in such sort he was liberall, that therewith he was prodigall; and in such wise stout of courage, as proud withall; and in such maner seuere, as he seemed cruell and inexorable. But what meanes he vsed to make his best of benefices and spirituall liuings, partlie appeareth before.

[Sidenote: Jewes.] In deed such was his condition, that who soeuer would giue, might haue, & that oftentimes without respect, whether their sute was reasonable and allowable or not, in somuch that it is said of him, that being in Roan on a time, there came to him diuerse Jewes who inhabited that citie, complaining to him, that diuerse of their nation had renounced their Jewish religion, and were become christians: wherefore they besought him, that for a certeine summe of monie which they offered to giue, it might please him to constreine them to abiure christianitie, and turne to the Jewish law againe. He was contented to satisfie their desires, and so receiuing the monie, called them before him, & what with threats, and putting them otherwise in feare, he compelled diuerse of them to forsake Christ, and returne to their old errors.

There was about the same time a yoong man a Jew, who by a vision appearing vnto him (as is said) was conuerted to the christian faith, and being baptised, was named Stephan, bicause S. Stephan was the man that had appeared to him in the vision, as by the same he was informed. The father of the yoong man being sore troubled, for that his sonne was become a christian, and hearing what the king had doone in such like matters, presented to him 60 markes of siluer, condittionally that he should inforce his sonne to returne to his Jewish religion. Herevpon was the yoong man brought before the king, vnto whom he said; "Sirra, thy father here complaineth that without his licence thou art become a christian: if this be true, I command thee to returne againe to the religion of thy nation, without anie more adoo". To whom the yoongman answered, "Your grace (as I gesse) dooth but iest." Wherewith the king being mooued said, "What thou dunghill knaue, should I iest with thee? Get thee hence quicklie, and fulfill my commandement, or by S. Lukes face I shall cause thine eies to be plucked out of thine head." [Sidenote: An answer of a good Jew.] The yoongman nothing abashed hereat, with a constant voice answered "Trulie I will not doo it, but know for certeine, that if you were a good christian, you would neuer haue vttered anie such words, for it is the part of a christian to reduce them againe to Christ which be departed from him; & not to separate them from him, which are ioined to him by faith." The king herewith confounded, commanded the Jew to auant & get him out of his sight. But his father perceiuing that the king could not persuade his sonne to forsake the christian faith, required to haue his monie againe. To whom the king said, he had doone so much as he promised to doo, that was, to persuade him so far as he might. [Sidenote: A prettie diuision.] At length, when he would haue had the king to haue dealt further in the matter, the king (to stop his mouth) tendered backe to him the one halfe of his monie, & reteined the other to himselfe.

[Sidenote: King William suspected of infidelitie.] Moreouer, to increase the suspicion which men had of his infidelitie, it is written, that he caused a disputation to be kept betwixt the Jewes & the christians, promising that if the Jewes ouercame the christians in argument, he would be a Jew: but the Jewes being ouercome, and receiuing the foile, would not confess their errors, but alledged, that by factions (and not by reason) they were put to the worse. Howbeit, what opinion soeuer he had of the Jewes faith, it appeereth by writers that he doubted in manie points of the religion then in credit. [Sidenote: Eadmerus.] For he sticked not to protest openlie, that he beleeued no saint could profit anie man in the Lords sight, and therefore neither would he nor anie other that was wise (as he affirmed) make intercession, either to Peter, or to anie other for helpe. [Sidenote: Praieng to saincts.]

[Sidenote: His stature. Whereof he tooke his surname Rufus.] He was of stature not so tall as the common sort of men, red of haire, whereof he tooke his surname Rufus, somwhat big of bellie, and not readie of toong, speciallie in his anger, for then his vtterance was so hindered, that he could scarselie shew the conceits of his mind: he died without issue, and vsed concubines all the daies of his life. I find that in apparell he loued to be gaie and gorgeous, & could not abide to haue anie thing (for his wearing) esteemed at a small valure. [Sidenote: Wil. Malm.] Wherevpon it came to passe on a morning, when he should pull on a new paire of hose, he asked the groome of his chamber that brought them to him what they cost? Three shillings saith he; "Why thou hooreson (said the king) dooth a paire of hose of three shillings price become a king to weare? Go thy waies, and fetch me a paire that shall cost a marke of siluer." The groome went, and brought him another paire, for the which he paid scarselie so much as for the first. But when the king asked what they stood him in, he told him they cost a marke: and then was he well satisfied, and said; "Yea marie, these are more fit for a king to weare, and so drew them vpon his legs."

In this kings daies John bishop of Welles ioined the monasterie of Bath vnto his see, and repairing the same monasterie, began to inhabit there in the yeere 1094. [Sidenote: Couentrie church ioined to the see of Chester.] The Church of Couentrie was in like sort ioined vnto the see of Chester by Robert bishop of that diocesse. Woolstan bishop of Worcester died about the same time, and Anselme hauing purchased bulles of pope Paschall, wherein was conteined an admonition vnto king William to desist from his greeuous oppressing of the church, and to amend his former dooings, was now on his returne towards England, and by the waie heard of the kings death. Hugh earle of Chester in this kings daies builded the abbeie of Chester, and procured Anselme (afterwards archbishop of Canturburie) to come ouer from Normandie, that he might erect the same abbeie, and place such religious persons as were necessarie and conuenient for so good a foundation.

Long it was yer Anselme would come ouer, bicause he doubted to be had in suspicion of an ambitious desire in seeking to be made archbishop of Canturburie. For it was talked that if he went ouer into England, he should surelie be elected before he returned into Normandie. But at length so it chanced, that the aforesaid Hugh earle of Chester fell sicke, and despairing of life, sent with all speed to Anselme, requiring him most instantlie to come ouer to him lieng in extremitie of sickness; adding, that if he hasted not the sooner, it would be too late, whereof he would after repent him. Then Anselme, for that he might not faile his freend in such necessitie, came ouer, and gaue order to the abbeie, according as it seemed best to him for the establishment of religion there.

thus farre William Rufus.

Transcriber's notes

There are no footnotes in the original. The original spelling and punctuation have been retained, with the exception of obvious errors which have been corrected by reference to the 1587 edition of which the original is a transcription.

[1] Original reads 'perceuie'; changed to 'perceiue'.

[2] Original reads 'mostaduantage'; changed to 'most aduantage'.


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