There had been but little resistance to their advance. The fifty-three great expeditions of Charlemagne had used up the fighting men and scattered the bravest of the nobles over widely separated tracts of conquered territory. The Frenchmen had disappeared, either in war or by a voluntary submission to the lords under whose protection alone could they find safety. No wonder that the chroniclers were obliged to account for the barrenness and weakness of the land by exaggerating the already certain slaughter at Fontenai....
"La peri de France la flor Et des baronz tuit li meillor Ainsi troverent Haenz terre Vuide de gent, bonne a conquerre."
The land was left uncultivated. Forests grew thicker between Seine and Loire. Wolves ravaged Aquitaine with none to hinder them. The South was still infested by the Saracens. France seemed given up to wild beasts. Nor were the pirates unaided in their work of rapine. Necessarily few in number, for they came from far by sea, their ranks were recruited by every reckless freebooter in the country, who was quite ready to bow down to Thor and Odin, instead of to the shrines of his own land, which had proved so powerless to protect it. Fast on the heels of the first band of pirates came another, and another yet. Only by the strength of Theobald of Blois was the Loire closed against continual invasion, as the Seine was held by Rollo, who was to fix the true race of the Northmen for ever in the land.
He made his settlement in Neustria in exactly the same way as Guthrum thirty years before had taken possession of East Anglia. But while it was an easy task for the Danes to become Englishmen, it was a far harder one for the invaders of the Seine to become so completely Frenchmen, as in fact they did. In the case of both Guthrum and Rollo, the invaded sovereign had been compelled to give up part of his lands to save the whole. Both the archbishop at Rouen and the "King" at Paris saw no other way out of their difficulties; and Rollo was as ready as Guthrum had been to go through the form of baptism and the farce of a submission, requiring as a pledge the daughter of the King, whose vassal or "man" he became. The treaty in which Charles the Simple purchased peace was a close imitation of the Peace of Wedmore. These things became more serious to the pirate later on. But his way was at first made easy for him. At Rouen, Archbishop Franco, remembering perhaps the gloomy prophecies of Charlemagne, gave up his ruined and defenceless city without a blow.
[Footnote 11: Chron. de St. Denis, iii. 99.—"Franco ... regarda l'etat de la cite et les murs qui etaient dechus et abattus," etc., or in Wace's verses:
"Li Archeveske Frankes a Jumieges ala A Rou et a sa gent par latinier parla.... ... Donc vint Rou a Roem, amont Saine naja, De joste Saint Morin sa navie atacha."]
Rolf found indeed very little except the "crowd without arms" described by Dudo of St. Quentin in a town where hardly a stone wall had been left upright and the population had been ruthlessly decimated by his predecessors. As Wace says of the expedition of Hastings the Dane:
"... A Roem sunt areste Tote destruitrent la cite Aveir troverent a plente Mesonz ardent, froissent celiers, Homes tuent, robent mostiers"....
so that it is almost astonishing to hear that even the church of St. Martin de la Roquette remained standing, if, indeed, that is meant by the phrase, "Portae cui innexa est ecclesia Sancti Martini naves adhaesit," which may refer to the "Saint Morin" of Wace, or the "Portus morandi" I spoke of on page 16. The town was still, it must be remembered, in its primitive watery condition, the chapels, not only of St. Martin, but of St. Clement and of St. Eloi, were on islands that are now part of the firm soil of the river's bank. The waters of the Robec itself formed one of the defences of the ruined city Rollo took. Just beyond the line of the old Gallo-Roman walls, rose the first rude monastery of St. Ouen; shrines were also consecrated to St. Godard, to St. Martin, to St. Vincent sur Rive; but most of the houses were still only of timber, and it was not till Rollo had closed up the wandering bed of the river between these shifting islands that the "Terres Neuves" were first formed that reached from the Rue Saint Denis to the Eau de Robec, through the Place de la Calende, down to the Rue de la Madeleine and the Rue aux Ours, and so to the Quai de la Bourse by way of the Rue des Cordeliers. What is now merely No. 41 Rue Nationale, was once the old church of St. Pierre du Chastel, and the name commemorates the spot where Rollo built his first square tower, the first of the many "Tours" that were built by the lords of Rouen, native and foreign, princes or pirates, from the river to the northern angle of the outer walls. Map B shows Rollo's castle and the three which followed it, one on each side beneath, and one above.
It was in 912 that Rollo thus marked the beginning of the Duchy of Normandy with the strong seal of his donjon-keep at Rouen, though he and his descendants for another century were still known only as the Pirates, and the Pirates' Duke. In that year he was baptised by the Archbishop of Rouen, and received from the Karoling King all the lands from "the river of Epte to the sea, and westwards to Brittany," with the hand of the Princess Gisela. Robert, Duke of the Franks, came back with him to Rouen to be his godfather, and for seven days the "King of the Sea" wore the white robes of innocence, and his followers eagerly joined him in the fold of Christianity, with results whose worldwide importance were only to be seen more than a century later. For the present the wolves were quite ready to lie down with the lambs, but they kept their brutal dignity and coarse jests throughout all the solemn ceremonial. The pirate who was sent to do submission for the Duchy, embraced the royal foot so roughly that the King fell backwards off his throne, and in a roar of Norman laughter the Norman rule began that was to last for three centuries in France and spread from Palermo to the Tees. The fable of this rudely-treated monarch reflects more than the anxiety of Norman chroniclers to hide the least appearance of submission; it suggests the fact of very actual weakness in these dying Karolings. Rollo's coming had decided for the French dynasty of Paris as against the Frankish dynasty of Laon. Both Karolings and Merovingians had been essentially of German stock. It was only late in the ninth century that Paris, the chief object of the Northerners' attack upon the Seine, arose as the national bulwark against the invader, and became a ducal city that was to be a royal. Its Duke, Robert the Strong, the forefather of Capets, of Valois, and of Bourbons, had a son, Eudes (or Odo), whose gallant repulse of the Pirates had given him a throne that was still held by his descendants a thousand years later, and he ruled in the French speech, while the Karolings of Laon still used the Teutonic idiom. When Laon was joined to Paris in 987 by the election of Hugh, modern France really began with a French king ruling at Paris, and a German emperor as alien to the realm of the Capets as was his brother of Byzantium. But there is still much to happen before the date of 987 can be safely reached, and the last ineffectual years of Charles the Simple gave Rollo every opportunity to strengthen his new possessions in security.
The young blood, the adventurous spirit, the thirst for conquest, that his Scandinavian followers brought to Rouen, was destined to work wonders on its new soil. For these pirates took the creed, the language and the manners of the French, and kept their own vigorous characteristics as mercenaries, plunderers, conquerors, crusaders. If in peace they invented nothing, they were quick to learn and adapt, generous to disseminate. In Rouen itself they welcomed scholars, poets, theologians, and artists. Their Scandinavian vigour mated to the vivacity of Gaul was to produce a conquering race in Europe. At Bayeux, where a Saxon emigration had settled down long before the days of Rollo, the type of the original Norman can still be seen. The same type comes out in every famous Norman of to-day, in that "figure de coq," with its high nose and clever brow that marks the bold nature tempered with the cunning, the lawyer and the soldier mixed. To these men Rollo gave land instead of booty. Of himself and his doings little accurate is known; but from the results of his rule his greatness can be fairly judged, for he held his sceptre like a battleaxe, and increased the bounds of his dominion. It was within his capital that his rule was chiefly beneficial. Here and there his Norman names have survived, as in Robec (Redbeck) Dieppedal (Deepdale) or Caudebec (Coldbeck), but in the main he proved at once the high adaptability of his race. His first assembly was of necessity aristocratic, and without ecclesiastics, for every landowner was Scandinavian, and the remnant of the aborigines were serfs whose revolts were pitilessly crushed. Twice a year his barons came to his court, as feudatory judges, the first faint beginnings of the Echiquier de Normandie. His laws were made then, and made to be respected, and it is even said that the cry of "Haro!" which was heard far later in the history of Rouen, originated in the "Ha! Rou!" with which the citizens then began their appeal to him for justice. The tale of the golden bracelets he hung in the branches of his hunting forest by the Seine, which stayed three years without being stolen, is an indication of the rigour of the laws he made. In about 930 he died, and was the first layman to be buried in the cathedral he had improved:—
"En mostier Nostre Dame, el coste verz midi Ont li cler e li lai li cors ensepulcri."
His son, William Longsword, succeeded to his Duchy, enlarged by the additions which Rollo had known how to secure during the strife between Laon and Paris that had been going on throughout his rule. That he had paid little attention to the weak King Charles is evident from the tale that tells of the first execution recorded in what is now the Place du Marche Vieux. For Charles, with a simplicity worthy of his title, had apparently sent two gallants of his court to console his daughter Gisela for the roughness with which he heard her husband treated her, and these two were promptly hanged. But there was more material profit to be had out of the quarrels of the country, and though he lost Eu for a time, Rollo had been able to gain from the war by which he was surrounded in Maine, in Bessin, and in Brittany; which meant that his son came into possession of Caen, Cerisy, Falaise, and that Bayeux, which had been colonised from the North in the last days of the Roman Empire, and remained Teutonic long after Rouen had been "Parisianised," where you may still see all save the tongue of England, in men and animals, even in fields and hedges. And William Longsword, though he wavered towards France and Christianity, remained at heart even more Pagan than his father, sending his son to these stubborn Northmen of Bayeux where the Danish tongue was kept in all its purity, and calling in fresh Danish colonists to occupy his own province of Cotentin from St. Michael's Mount to Cherbourg. It was in the battle that secured his hold on this new territory that 300 knights of Rouen, under Bernard the Dane, drove out 4000 from Cotentin under their leader Count Riolf, who had disputed William's suzerainty, upon the Pre de la Bataille that is now a cider market near the town. (Roman de Rou, v. 2239.) It was at this time, too, that Prince Alan of Brittany fled for refuge to England, and the crushing of the Breton revolt resulted in the addition of the Channel Islands to the Duchy of Normandy, which remained British after John Lackland had lost the last of his continental possessions, retaining their local independence and ancient institutions under the protection of England; a far better thing for them than any enjoyment of the privileges, either of a French Department, or of a British county represented in Parliament like the ancient Norwegian Earldom of Orkney.
Few of the occurrences of this confused period are so clearly prominent or have such far-reaching results as this; and after young Louis d'Outremer had been called over from England to the throne of France, this vacillating and weak Duke William was murdered by Arnoulf of Flanders at the conference held on the island of Pecquigny in the Somme, as William of Jumieges relates (III. cap. xi. et seq.). His courtiers found upon his body the silver key of the chest that guarded the monk's cowl he had always desired to wear. So upon a sixteenth of December 943 (in the year of the birth of Hugh Capet), the strengthless descendant of the Viking died and was buried in the Cathedral, and the Normans did homage to his young son Richard the Fearless who was fetched from his Saxon home at Bayeux and guarded by Bernard the Dane within the walls of Rouen. The boy was destined to a perilous and adventurous career, which began as soon as he had taken up his father's power, for the King of France came straight to Rouen and would have seized the little Duke had not the citizens arisen to protect him with such menaces of violence that the attempt was postponed. But he enticed the boy to Laon and there imprisoned him until the faithful Osmond got him out concealed in a bundle of hay and bore him off on horseback to Coucy. Then Bernard the Dane called on Harold Blacktooth of Denmark to bring his men from Coutances and Bayeux and to sail up with his long ships from Cherbourg to avenge the murder of Duke William. The King hastened to the walls of Rouen to see what could be done by treaty with the invaders, but the crafty Normans pretended that among his escort they saw the murderer himself, so they fell suddenly upon the French, slew eighteen of their nobles, and threw their king into prison from which he was only rescued by Hugh, Duke of the French, at the price of the city of Laon. The interference of Germany in the quarrel produced an alliance between Normandy and Hugh of Paris that led eventually to the independence of the Duchy and the downfall of the Karolings of Laon as soon as the German help had been withdrawn. But this did not happen until an energetic attempt had been made to crush Normandy and Paris by the new allies who failed to take either Laon or Paris, but ravaged Normandy and were only repulsed from Rouen after a siege in 946 that is one of the most picturesque landmarks in the early story of the town. In the Roman de Rou, and in Dudo of St. Quentin, the details of the fighting have been carefully preserved.
The combined host of Germans under Otto, French under Louis, and Flemings under Arnoul, advanced together upon Rouen, and their scouts reported that the town showed no signs of resistance. But behind the battlements the citizens were stacking piles of stones and darts. Masses of picked men were posted at various vantage-points for sallying forth. Spies were hidden in the long reeds and grass all round the city, and sentinels unseen were guarding all the walls, from the main road at the Porte Beauvoisine, round the heavy ramparts to the north and east. Upon their south-west was the river, and there was plenty of provisions stored inside. The quiet reported to the allies was but the confident repose of thorough preparation, and this the Germans discovered as soon as they drew near the city. The young Duke Richard suddenly dashed out over the drawbridge with seven hundred full-armed Norman knights on horseback shouting "Dex Aie!" behind him. They rode straight upon the German spears, cut their way through and back again taking fifteen captives with them, and slaying their leader, the "Edeling" himself who had followed them to the very bridge. Otto fainted at the sight of the dead body of the brave Edeling whose "Flamberg" and Castilian steed are often mentioned in the story though his name does not appear. Then the braying of aurochs' horns, of cornets and of trumpets, announced the coming vengeance of the allies. Their catapults rained missiles on the town, and their men-at-arms waited impatiently for a breach to be battered in the Porte Beauvoisine. But it remained steadfastly shut, and the Duke made another brilliant sally from a postern gate with the blood-red standard waving again above his Norman knights, and swept back once more the assailing lines of Germany until the French had to bring up their reinforcements from the rear and save the field. That evening, in Otto's pavilion, the funeral service of the Edeling was held. All night he lay beneath the silk of his funeral pall with tapers burning at his head and feet, and the low chant of prayer sounded till the dawn. All night had Otto stayed awake in sorrow and unrest. At last, with the rising of the sun he heard a burst of minstrelsy. Rouen was silent no longer; the songs of triumph and defiance burst from every parapet and tower, while the very birds (says the chronicler) seemed to join in the chorus of happiness all round the beaten camp. Then Otto rode moodily along the city walls and watched the waggons bringing in supplies across the bridge, and noted that the bridge-head at Ermondeville (St. Sever as it is to-day), was weakly held, so he rode back determined to starve Rouen into submission.
[Footnote 12: "As herteiches montent et al mur quernele." (Wace, R. de R., 4057.)]
But the council of his knights refused the plan, so he was obliged to veil his anger by asking the Normans for permission to pray at the Shrine of St. Ouen and bury his noble kinsman beyond the walls of their town. Safe conduct was immediately granted, and all the leaders except Arnoul of Flanders passed in procession to the abbey. There, after gifts of gold and precious carpets to the abbot, Otto proposed that Arnoul should be given up, but returned before the answer to these treacherous negotiations had been given. The night that followed was full of terrors and alarms. Suspecting that he would be betrayed, Arnoul took all his Flemish host as soon as darkness fell, and lumbered heavily out of the camp of the allies, his cumbrous waggons creaking noisily beneath the weight of the camp-furniture. Both French and Germans heard the sound and started to their feet imagining a night-attack from Rouen. Panic seized the camp at once. Men cut the cords of the rich tents, and scattered their spoil about the ground, rushing half clad in all directions and shouting for their arms; a fire broke out at headquarters; the camp-followers seized their opportunity, dashed upon Otto's tent and plundered it of armour and of all its royal ornaments; the rest fled hastily all ways at once not seeing where they went, and in an unknown country.
Meanwhile the rising clamour roused the sentinels of Rouen, and all the garrison made ready for attack, hurried to their posts, and waited steadfastly under arms until the dawn. As the light shone from the east they saw the rout and disorder of their enemies' camp, and loud jeers and laughter rose along the walls, and echo still in the rough verses of Dudo their historian. The Flemish had the advantage of an early start, and got clear away. The French had followed fast upon their heels, but the Germans had plunged in unwieldy panic into the labyrinth of the woods and fens. The Normans spread out at once and caught them. At the Place de la Rougemare they slaughtered so many that the fields were dyed red with their blood. At Bihorel more were massacred. In Maupertuis, or Maromme, hundreds were butchered. Then the peasants took up the bloody task. With sharpened scythes and pitchforks, with pointed staves and heavy truncheons and ironshod clubs, they killed the miserable Germans all day long, and the line of escape was marked along the Beauvoisine road by corpses almost to Amiens itself.
This strange victory seems to have pulled the men of Rouen together, and given them confidence. The Laws of Rollo had been restored to their old strength by Harold Blacktooth, and at last Neustrians and Scandinavians seemed in a fair way to amalgamate and produce that nation of warriors and lawyers which they afterwards became. In 954 King Louis died after a last flicker of expiring power in retrieving Laon. But though Lothair followed him as King of the French, Hugh Capet was ruling in 956 as Duke of Paris, and it was to Hugh that Duke Richard of Normandy did homage for his fief. Thirty-one years later the last Karoling was passed over, and Hugh Capet was crowned King at Noyon. In the starting of this new dynasty, which is the starting-point for the true history of France, Duke Richard of Normandy had played a most important part, for it was in no small measure by his help that Gaul had been made French and had won a French Lord of Paris for her King. At the coronation of Hugh Capet, Normandy ceased to be the Land of Pirates, and became the mightiest and noblest fief of the French crown, its most loyal and most daring vassal. In the years of Duke Richard too, Normandy was completed internally. Her army and her fleet were organised. Her frontiers, her laws, her feudal system came to perfection. Her national character crystallised. Already in the Norman Baronage we can find English names like that of the Harcourts, descended from Bernard the Dane, on a castle-wall we can read the name of Bruce, in a tiny village trace the name of Percy. Among the elms and apple-orchards that still faithfully reflect our English countryside, the square gray keeps are rising already which were handed on by Norman builders to the cliffs of Richmond or the banks of Thames. In 996 Duke Richard built one of these upon the right bank of Robec near the Seine, a new Palace-Prison, another "Tour de Rouen" to replace the fallen masonry of Rollo's ancient keep. It was founded where the Place de la Haute Vieille Tour preserves its memory still, with the Duke's private chapel on the spot where the Fierte St. Romain stands to this day.
Robert Wace preserves a story that indicates the close terms on which Duke Richard was with religion, and also shows that the steady growth in wealth and influence of the clergy through his reign, was not unaccompanied by an immorality which was conspicuous under Archbishop Hugh II., and became flagrant during the office of Mauger later on. It appears that the Sacristan of St. Ouen fell most uncanonically in love with a lady who dwelt on the other side of the Robec. On his way to meet her one dark night, his foot slipped from the plank that crossed the rapid little stream, and he fell into the water. Whereon a sprightly devilkin seized hurriedly upon his soul and was on the point of bearing it away to Hell, when an angel (mindful doubtless of the abbey's piety) arrived, objecting with a nicely argued piece of logic that the sacristan had not been carried off "en male veie," but before any sin had been committed. So the contending parties brought the case (that is the body) before the Duke for judgment. His Grace insisted that the soul should be put back into its mortal envelope, and he would then decide according to the action of the sacristan. The ardour of the resuscitated monk seems to have been sufficiently cooled by his involuntary bath in Robec, and he hurried back to his lonely bed in the Abbey of St. Ouen, and at the Duke's command confessed his wickedness to the abbot. But his escapade remains enshrined in a proverb that lasted well into the sixteenth century, and is given by Wace in its original form:
"Sire Moine, suef alez Al passer planche vus gardez."
[Footnote 13: Students of that invaluable vision of antiquity "Les Contes Drolatiques" will remember that it was also before Duke Richard that Tryballot, the lusty old ruffian known as "Vieulx Par-chemins," was brought up for judgment, and that the statue commemorating His Grace's sympathetic verdict remained in Rouen till the modesty of the English invaders removed it.]
In 996, the Fearless Duke himself gave up the ghost, after having enlarged the Cathedral of Rouen, and given it new pavement. His son, another Richard, like him in name alone, succeeded, and in the first year of the new reign, we hear of a peasant revolt that shows an extraordinary foreshadowing of the changes that were to come after the fateful thousandth year had passed. The keynote of the movement is struck in the strange word used by Wace, that occurs now for the first time in history:
"Asez tost oi Richard dire Ke vilains cumune faseient."
L'iglise de l'Arceveskie De mensam plus riche fie Fist abatre e fere graineur A la Mere Nostre Seignur Plus lunge la fist e plus lee Plus haute e miex empaventee
R. de R., 5851.]
These downtrodden serfs, of mixed Celtic, Roman, and Frankish parentage, had actually spoken that word of fear to every feudal baron, a "commune." They established a regular representative Parliament with two peasants sent from each district to a general assembly whose decision should be binding on the whole. This was a considerably higher political organisation than the aristocratic household of their masters round the King. And bitterly their masters resented such forward and unscrupulous behaviour. The Duke's uncle, Rudolf, Count of Ivry, crushed the "revolt" with hideous cruelty, and sent back the people's representatives maimed and useless to their hovels. "Legatos cepit," says William of Jumieges, "truncatisque manibus et pedibus inutiles suis remisit," adding with unconscious ferocity "his rustici expertis ad sua aratra sunt reversi." But the germs of freedom did not die, for villenage in Normandy was lighter, and ceased far sooner, than in the rest of France. These first martyrs did not suffer in vain.
If you look closely at the few carvings remaining on the churches of the tenth and eleventh centuries, you will understand the terror under which all men were crushed as the thousandth year drew nearer, which was believed to be the end of the world. Grimacing dumbly in their stiffened attitudes of fear, these thin anatomies implore with clenched uplifted hands, the death that shall save them from the misery of their life. A world so filled with ruins might well give up all hope on this side of the tomb. The revolt of the Norman peasants had been crushed in blood. The first religious persecutions had begun, in the slaying of the Manichean heretics at Orleans. The seasons in their courses seemed to fight against humanity, for famine and pestilence, storm and tempest swept down upon the land and the people died in thousands of sheer starvation. The Roman Empire had crumbled in the dust; after it fell that of Charlemagne into the abyss. The chronicles of Raoul Glaber are full of the most gruesome details of cannibalism, of diabolical appearances, of tortures that cannot be named. The only refuge seemed to be within the walls of the churches, where the shivering congregations gathered, mute in a palsied supplication like the stone figures carved upon the walls above them. At last the terrible year passed by, and the stars fell not, nor did the heaven depart as a scroll when it is rolled together, and the kings of the earth and the great men and the rich men and the chief captains and the mighty men and every bondman and every freeman came forth from their houses and from their dens and from the rocks of the mountain, and went with one accord to give thanks to Holy Church for their deliverance. The wave of religious feeling swept from one end of Europe to the other, and nowhere was it so strong as in Normandy. For the Normans saw their advantage in it, just as the first pirates had seen their gain in baptism. The laws of Rollo and his descendants were too strict for brigandage at home, so the more restless spirits started over Europe in the guise of pilgrims, "gaaignant," as Wace says, towards Monte Cassino, to St. James of Compostella, to the Holy Sepulchre itself. It was as pilgrims that they travelled into Southern Italy, where a poor Norman knight had been rewarded for his fighting against the infidels by the County of Aversa. Tancred of Hauteville, from the Cotentin, followed there. By 1002 the citizens of Rouen were already admiring the oranges, or "Pommes d'Or" which their adventurous "Crusaders" had sent back from Salerno, as the first-fruits of that Kingdom of Calabria and Sicily which a Norman, Robert Guiscard, was to make his own.
Meanwhile within the bounds of Normandy itself, the great religious revival went on side by side with growing civic and military strength. In 1004, Olaf, King of Norway, who had come over to help the second Duke Richard, was baptised in the Cathedral of Rouen. Sweyn, King of Denmark, and Lacman, King of Sweden, were in the city at the same time, and doubtless felt the same impulse to profession of the Christian faith when visiting their Scandinavian relatives. Rouen was indeed a gathering place for all the northern royalties, for Ethelred II. who had lost the Anglo-Saxon throne, was there as well, with his wife Emma the daughter of the Duke. It seems in fact to have already become the fashion for princes of the royal house of Britain to complete their education by a little tour in France. A curious trait of the manners of the time is recorded by Wace, who describes one of the many banquets that must have been given so often during all these royal visits. He speaks of the long sleeves and white shirts of the barons, and relates the first instance of aristocratic kleptomania at a dinner-table, when a knight took a silver spoon and hid it in his sleeve (R. de R. 7030). The reign of this second Richard and of his son the third passed without much incident, and then came the sixth Duke, Robert the Magnificent as his courtiers called him, Robert the Devil as his people knew him. He is chiefly famous as the father of his mighty son, and he did little in his capital of Rouen that is of interest beyond its walls, save the attempt to restore the Saxon princes Alfred and Edward to their father's throne, which failed because his fleet was stopped by persistent headwinds and could do nothing more than thoroughly subjugate the neighbouring fief of Brittany. After this, the Duke fell in, like all around, with the dominant religious passion, took up the pilgrim's cross, and died with his Crusaders at Nicaea.
"A Faleize ont li Dus hante,"
"Une meschine i ont amee, Arlot ont nom, de burgeis nee."
And from this love-match with a tanner's daughter sprang William the Bastard in 1028. Though his father had insisted upon this child's inheritance on his departure for the East, the election of a boy of seven to the Ducal throne was naturally bitterly opposed by such great baronial houses as those of Belesme and others. A period of anarchy and assassination was the obvious result. But Alan of Brittany, the Seneschal Osbern, and Count Gilbert stood staunchly by the heir. All three were murdered, and young William himself with difficulty escaped. Then Ralph of Wacey and William Fitz-Osbern attached themselves to the boy who must have shown promise of his greatness early to attract such faithful friendships through the twenty years of civil war that preceded his firm holding of the throne. He had been knighted young, and he was soon to prove the strength of his right arm. But his first actions strangely enough are connected with the Church that overshadowed so much of public life. He made the mistake of giving the See of Rouen to the profligate Mauger (though the error was sternly corrected later on) just as he gave the See of Bayeux to his half-brother Odo. Benedictine monasteries began to flourish all over Normandy, chief among which was the Abbey of Bec, which in Lanfranc and Anselm was to provide Canterbury with two prelates later on. Religion was responsible, at the same time, for at least one benefit to the land in the famous institution of the "Truce of God," which was fully confirmed later on, and proclaimed that from Wednesday evening until Monday morning in every week the poor and weak were to be free from the oppressions of their overlords and from the tyranny of private war. And a still more valuable result of the prevalent religious enthusiasm was the gradual drawing together of Normandy and the Papal See which had its greatest outcome in the "Crusade" against England.
But William had much to do in his own Duchy before he could find time for any extension of his dominions. At Val-es-Dunes he fought his first pitched battle, crying the "Dex Aie" of the Normans as he swept the rebellious barons, under Guy of Burgundy, off the field. Then feeling more secure in his own power, after he had taken Alencon and Domfront and laid his iron hand on Maine, while Anjou and Brittany were too bent upon intestine strife to trouble him, he pacified the continual quarrels with Flanders by taking Matilda the daughter of its Count Baldwin as his wife. Descended from the stock of Wessex, of Burgundy, and of Italy, with the blood of Charlemagne in her veins, Matilda was beautiful, virtuous and accomplished, and worthy to be the mate of one who set an example of domestic purity to all the princes of his time. What had been politic at first became a marriage of affection afterwards, strengthened no doubt by the opposition that at first arose. For the Duke's Uncle Mauger objected to the match as being within the forbidden degrees of relationship, and the Pope at the Council of Rheims actually pronounced against it. But now came the first-fruits of the policy which had already shown signs of drawing together Normandy and the Papacy. For it only needed a little pressure on the part of the Guiscards in Apulia to secure the consent of the Papal Legate to the banishment of Mauger to the Channel Islands, which he appears to have richly deserved for many other reasons, if Wace be right in his indictment; and after four years of waiting, Matilda was married to the Duke in the Cathedral of Rouen by the new Bishop Maurilius who finished the new church that was consecrated in 1063. Another objection to the marriage received very different treatment. For in Lanfranc of Bec William had recognised the clever Italian who would be useful in Council as much as in the Church, and it was through Lanfranc's personal intercession that the Papal authority had finally been brought to William. The "penance" inflicted for his wedding was, we may well believe, cheerfully performed in the building of the hospitals at Rouen, Bayeux, Caen and Cherbourg, and the two mighty abbeys (for William and for Matilda) that remain at Caen.
Meanwhile the power of Normandy continued to wax greater. Even two centuries after this time it comprised a third part of the wealth and importance of the kingdom, and in the days of our own Fifth Henry no advice more dangerous to France could be given to an English King than to preserve by every means the independence of this Duchy. To the France of the eleventh century, it was a far greater peril still. Sullenly hostile, or actively menacing, it was only by perpetual harassing that Normandy could be kept down at all. At last in 1054 the King roused all the cities of Central Gaul, Burgundian, Gascon, Breton and Auvergnat in one combined onset, and gathered them at Mantes, the natural frontier between Normandy and France. Duke William's strategy and daring were equal to his task. He divided the invaders into two, annihilated one division at Mortemer with very little loss, and watched the other with grim merriment as it vanished from his Duchy, afraid to strike a blow. Four years later France and Anjou came on for another attempt. Again the Duke was ready. He caught their hosts where the river Dive cut the army in twain, and fell suddenly with all his knights and clubmen and a thundershower of arrows on the division that held the lower bank. King Henry had to watch in idleness above, while his rear-guard was being helplessly cut to pieces. By the taking of Le Mans in 1063, William made still further preparation for the greater fight that was to come. Presages of the coming struggle were not long in making their appearance.
In 1064 Earl Harold on a pleasure-trip from England was wrecked upon the coast of Ponthieu. Duke William at once had him brought to Eu, where he met him and escorted him, in all good fellowship and chivalry, to Rouen. What actually happened during this important visit cannot be accurately determined. But of a few facts there seems to be no doubt. If Harold, for instance, received knighthood at William's hands, he thereby became his "man." More probably he swore brotherhood with the strong Duke. Certainly he took part in the expedition that crushed a Breton revolt, and chased its leader to the dangerous quicksands of St. Michael's Mount. Certainly too, an oath of some kind was plighted between the host and his somewhat unwilling guest. In this the Duke must have made mention of the promise given by Edward the Confessor as to the English Succession. This Edward it will be remembered was one of the Saxon princes who had lived for some time in Rouen, and was always fond of his Norman mother and her friends. Mention is also made of a betrothal of William's daughter to the Earl. In any case, we may be sure that Harold was sufficiently engaged to satisfy the politic Duke before he was allowed to return to England. Nor may we imagine that the next news which came across the Channel was wholly unexpected. For as the Duke was hunting with his courtiers and squires in his pleasaunce at Quevilly, across the Seine from Rouen, a messenger brought the tidings that Edward the Confessor was dead, and that Harold son of Godwin had seized the throne. Wace describes how Fitz-Osbern paced up and down the hunting-hall with his master as they discussed the news, and the Duke soon made his mind up as to the course to be pursued. A message was at once sent over to Harold, reminding him of the famous Oath, which had been taken, as some say, and according to the suggestions in the Bayeux Tapestry, over the sacred relics of the saints. What the Duke had expected and even hoped for, of course happened. Harold repudiated all knowledge of a binding agreement as to the Succession, and Normandy could thenceforth call upon the outraged Sanctity of Religion to help her in what was cleverly published as a Holy War.
Now the full effects of the religious trend in William's policy were seen at last, as clearly as was the wisdom of his own carefully religious life. The champion of the poor, the fatherless and the widow, the worshipper and communicant in Rouen Cathedral, the builder of hospitals and monasteries, above all the friend of Lanfranc, was easily able to secure the voice of the Pope in favour of a claim based not on heredity, not on election, not on bequest, but made by virtue of the personal injury done to him by Harold, and made to avenge the insulted saints of Normandy by recalling pagan England into the fold of Rome. Never were the highest motives so skilfully interwoven with appeals to lower instincts in the mingled crowd whom the Duke William gathered to his standard. He had before this crushed the Norman rebels, conquered the men of Maine or Anjou or Brittany, defeated the King of France. But this was a far greater task. Yet if Normans had won the Kingdom of the Sicilies, Normans should cross the sea to England and win that as well. And all the faithful of the earth should help them. It is a mistake to think that Normans alone conquered the land of Harold. From Flanders, from the Rhine, from Burgundy, Piedmont and Aquitaine, from all the northern coasts, an army of volunteers flocked to the standard of the Duke. And their leader went swiftly on to make preparations worthy of so great a host. While all the woods of Normandy are ringing to the axe, and all the shipwrights' yards are sounding to the hammer, we may pause and see what this mighty expedition means to Rouen.
To Normandy it brings at once the climax of her power and the beginning of her fall. For a Duchy that was but secondary to the Kingdom over seas could never claim again the full strength of the rulers who had raised her first. By degrees she fell away from the land across the channel and became absorbed in the kingdom of which she was territorially a natural part. But, as we have seen, she had already done much towards the making of that kingdom in her independence, and when she formed an integral part of it herself she was its firmest bulwark against invasion from the North. In Rouen itself the beginnings of commercial greatness had been indicated, even before the coming of Rollo, by the Mint which had been established there, as a branch of that founded by Charlemagne at Quantowitch, which was destroyed by the first Pirates. The money of Rouen was marked with the letter B to signify that it was the second in importance in the Kingdom. That the trade of the town soon justified this proud distinction on its currency is evident from the law of King Ethelred II., which exempted all Rouen merchants from taxation on their wine and "Marsouin" within the port of London. Other signs of commercial activity are to be found in bridge-building, and the numerous Fairs which arose under the Norman Dukes. In 1024 a toll upon the wooden bridge of Rouen is recorded, and when in 1030, it was destroyed by a revolt under Robert the Devil, the timbers were very shortly afterwards replaced, and remained until in 1160 the Empress Matilda built the famous "Pont de Pierre" that lasted for so many centuries. Of the great Fairs of Rouen, the first seems to be that of St. Gervais, instituted by the second Duke Richard in 1020, which was given with the church of the same name to the monks of the Abbey of Fecamp. It is still held in June in the Faubourg Cauchoise. The Foire du Pre was next founded in 1064 on the day after the Ascension by the great Duke William, under the auspices of the Priory of Notre Dame du Pre which his wife had built in the suburb of Emendreville across the river, where St. Sever now stands. The church itself took the name of Bonne-Nouvelle when the Duchess heard, as she was praying there, that the Victory of Hastings had made her Queen of England. Within its walls were buried the Empress Matilda, and the hapless Prince Arthur of Brittany. It was burnt down in 1243, and struck by lightning in 1351, destroyed during the siege by the English in 1418, and rebuilt only to be destroyed again by the Calvinists in 1562. In 1604 it was rebuilt for the last time, but the rights of jurisdiction and of the fair given it by William the Conqueror were only surrendered to the town of Rouen in 1493. In 1070 the Fete de l'Immaculee Conception, called the Fete aux Normands, was celebrated for the first time in memory of a vow after a safe voyage. The Confrerie de la Conception, sometimes called Le Puy, was founded in connection with this, with the poems that were written each year in honour of the Feasts, which gave rise to the jocund office of the Prince des Palinods, of whom we shall hear more later. Their first poem, written by Robert Wace (the author of the "Roman de Rou," who was born in Jersey in 1100 and died at the age of 84 in England) was called "L'Establissement de la feste de la conception, dicte la Feste as Normands."
The most famous Fair of all was founded a little later by Guillaume Bonne Ame, forty-eighth bishop of Rouen, when he transported the body of St. Romain in a new and precious shrine from the church of St. Godard to the Cathedral. At this first procession in 1079 both William the Conqueror and his wife assisted. The change had been necessitated by the great crowds of people who had come every year to receive pardons and indulgences at the shrine of the famous guardian saint of the city, and who thronged into the neighbouring field, called the Champ-du-Pardon to this day. When the saint's body had been removed to the Cathedral, the Foire du Pardon was held in his honour in the same open space, and the whole ceremony was without doubt the beginning of that Levee de la Fierte which preserved the memory of St. Romain until the end of the eighteenth century. By William, the fair was originally fixed on two days in October, and in 1468 its duration was still further extended. In the church of St. Etienne des Tonneliers, which was put under the protection of the monks of St. Ouen at this time, we can trace further evidence of the gradual consolidation of various trades; even the institution of the curfew bell, at the assembly of Caen in 1061, shows that increasing commerce had insisted upon greater security in the public streets. The Parvis of the Cathedral, too, was at this time not merely a place of inviolable sanctuary, but an open space on which merchants could display their goods and erect booths without any interference save from the canons. These shops were built up against the crenelated wall that surrounded the Parvis until the quarrel between canons and bourgeois pulled them down in 1192. The place was a frequent scene of conflict, and also of amusement, for in spite of the presence of a cemetery which extended over the Place de la Calende and the Portail des Libraires and was only abolished in the last century, the mystery plays were often given here, using the cemetery as a "background," as was frequently done. Till 1199 bakers sold bread here. Till 1429 the "Marche aux herbes et menues denrees" was held here, and then transferred to the Clos aux Juifs. In 1325 the working jewellers also frequented this locality, and in the name of the great north porch of the Cathedral is still preserved the memory of the booksellers of times far more modern.
[Footnote 15: The Champ du Pardon attained a grisly notoriety in the fourteenth century from the presence of the "fourches Patibulaires" or public place of execution upon the "Mont de la Justice" in one corner of the field.]
The foundations of another cathedral had been laid in 990, where Robec and Aubette still defined an "Ile Notre Dame de Rouen" whose inhabitants were under the jurisdiction of the chapterhouse. It was brought to a conclusion by Maurilius in 1063, and in the foundation and lower storeys of the northern tower of the west facade (known as the Tour St. Romain) are perhaps some of the few relics that remain of the architecture of these destructive years. But a far more beautiful and more authentic fragment is to be seen close to the Abbey Church of St. Ouen, in the exquisite little piece of architecture known as the Tour aux Clercs in the north-eastern corner of the apse, (see Chap. VIII.). This is part of the apse of the second abbey, which was begun by Nicolas of Normandy in 1042, finished in 1126, and burnt to the ground in 1136. Its fate was the common one of all ecclesiastical buildings of the time. In the next chapter we shall find but two more churches that can certainly be dated as before the years when Normandy became a part of France. The School of Art which gave a name to all those English buildings of which Durham Cathedral is the type and flower, left scarcely a stone in its own capital as a memorial of its source. Nor can Rouen point to a single building now remaining which was a palace or a prison of its Norman dukes. The greatest monument of its greatest duke is the Tower of London. Even the ruined Abbey of St. Amand, which was dedicated in 1070, does not now possess a stone that can be traced with certainty to the period of its Norman foundation. For whatever ruins now remain are those of the church built in 1274, whose tower was rebuilt after 1570, and whose last abbess, Madame de Lorge, died in October 1745.
The Conquest of England and the Fall of Normandy
"En Normandie a gent molt fiere Jo ne sai gent de tel maniere; Chevaliers sont proz e vaillanz Par totes terres conqueranz.... ... Orguillos sunt Normant e fier. E vanteor e bombancier; Toz tems les devreit l'en plaisier Kar mult sunt fort a justisier."
It is time to look more closely at the personality of the greatest Duke of Rouen. William the Bastard has been described as tall and very stout, fierce of visage, with a high, bald forehead, and, in spite of his great corpulence, of extreme dignity, whether on his throne or in the field. The strength of his arms, for which he was famous, was proved very early, when the chivalry of France went down before his boyish lance at Val-es-Dunes. He evidently possessed all the true Viking attributes of physical power derived from Rollo, his great ancestor. In mental type he reproduced much of that Norman cunning which we have noticed as a characteristic of the race. Both Maine and England he conquered by fraud as much as force. If he was a great soldier, he was a consummate statesman too. For as he used France to conquer Normandy, so he used Normandy to conquer France, and both to conquer England. Kindly to submissive foes, he was pitiless to stubborn opposition, and very dangerous to taunt. The town which hung tanners' hides upon its walls was answered by the sight of bleeding hands, and feet, and eyes, which had been torn from its prisoners and hurled across the battlements. The king who jested of the candles for a woman's churching, was answered by the blaze of a whole town. A comet flamed across the sky of Europe in the year of the great Duke's conquest. Amid fire and tumult he was crowned at Westminster. Upon the glowing ashes of Mantes he met his death-wound. Through burning streets he was borne to his burial. He was not only the strongest of the dukes of Normandy, he was also one of the world's greatest men, whose work was not only thorough at the moment, but effective for all time; whose purpose was fixed, and whose iron will none could gainsay. He rose above the coarse, laughter-loving, brutal, treacherous, Norman barons of his time, by the force of his own personal genius, and the acuteness of his own strong intellect. If it had necessitated a web of the subtlest intrigue to get together the vast host that was to conquer England, it needed a vigorous and dauntless personality no less amazing to keep together the fleet and army while they waited wearily for the wind, until Harold's own fleet (the one safety of England then, as ever) had dispersed, until the right moment came, and all his barons and their men-at-arms rushed eagerly on board, carrying their barrels of wine, their coats of mail, and helmets, and lines of spears, and spits of meat, and stacks of swords, as is recorded in the Bayeux Tapestry. With him went twenty ships and a hundred knights sent by the Abbot of St. Ouen. Another ship that must have carried especial prayers with her from Rouen was the "Mora," given by his wife Matilda, with a boy carved upon her stern-post, blowing his horn towards the cliffs of Pevensey. By the lantern on her mast the seven hundred transport galleys sailed at night, and early in the next dawn they landed, archers first, then knights and horses, and marched on to Hastings.
[Footnote 16: "Justae fuit staturae, immensae corpulentiae; facie fera, fronte capillis nuda, roboris ingentis in lacertis, magnae dignitatis sedens et stans, quanquam obesitas ventris nimium protensa."—Will. Malms: lib: iii.]
[Footnote 17: With the Bayeux Tapestry cf. Wace's description. R. de R., 11588, &c.:
"Une lanterne fist li Dus Metre en sa nef el mast de sus ... Une wire-wire doree Ont de coivre en somet levee...."]
How the Duke of Rouen conquered England, and how he wrote it in his Domesday Book, is no immediate concern of ours. By March in the next year he was back in his own capital, bringing with him, through the cheering streets, the Prince Edgar, Stigand the Primate, and three of his greatest earls. There his beloved wife met him, and gave account of the Duchy she had guarded with Roger of Beaumont in his absence. There he at once dealt out rewards to the regular and secular clergy of the city, among which were the lordships of Ottery and of Rovrige in Devonshire. Meanwhile the Normans were crowding to admire the trophies of victory. The banners from the battlefield, embroidered with the Raven of Ragnar, or the Fighting-Man of the dead Harold, and booty that brought wonder to the eyes even of citizens who had seen the spoils of Sicily. Nor did the Duke forget in the hour of triumph to be politic. He sent Lanfranc to the Pope at once, no doubt with news that Stigand would shortly be supplanted, and that England had been brought into the fold of Rome. For the warriors that Normandy had sent to the lands of the south, she was richly repaid in the learned doctors sent by Italy to the northern countries. Calabria and Sicily were counterbalanced by the archbishoprics of Lanfranc and of Anselm. At a synod held in Rouen some six years after his great conquest, William insisted upon reform in the morals of the Church, upon strict rules of marriage, on an exact profession of the orthodox faith. He was not behindhand in performing his part of the profitable bargain that had been made with Rome.
In 1073 Maine started into revolt under Fulk Rechin, nephew of Geoffrey of Anjou, and William punished it by reducing Le Mans from a sovereign commonwealth to a mere privileged municipality. After this the King of England was constantly in his Duchy, where Robert "Short Hose," his unruly son, was giving perpetual trouble in Rouen and elsewhere, as Regent. So imperious were his demands for independence and immediate provision, that his father's stern refusal roused an attempt at open rebellion in which Robert attacked the Castle of Rouen, with the help of a few turbulent young nobles of his own unquiet persuasion. But the Conqueror grimly took their revenues and with them paid the mercenaries that warred them down. His son was compelled to fly, but came back again unwisely to the quarrel, with help from the French King behind him. At Gerberoi he actually wounded his father, without recognising him, and the Conqueror was only saved by the swiftness of a Wallingford man who sprang to his assistance.
[Footnote 18: This was the prince who, according to Orderic Vital (Hist. Eccl. vii.) introduced the long turned-up boots called "pigaces" which were one sign of effeminacy among the dandies of the Red King's Court, where men wore long hair, shaved off in front, wide sleeves, and the narrow and flowing robes which were a very characteristic change from the short tunic of the Conqueror's men, which permitted them to run or ride, or fight in freedom.]
The truce that followed did not last. About this time occurred the marriage of William's daughter, Adela, to Stephen of Blois and Chartres, who became the mother of Stephen of England. The Conqueror's second son had died in the fatal New Forest, and in 1083 died his faithful wife, Matilda, and was buried at Caen. The next years were very heavy in both parts of King William's dominions, and by 1087 the strain seems to have told even upon his iron frame. For in that year he stayed for treatment at Rouen, just as he had done before in Abingdon, and while he lay in bed King Philip jested at the candles that should be lighted when this bulky invalid arose from child-bed. Then William swore one of those terrific oaths which came naturally to his strong temperament—"Per resurrectionem et splendorem Dei pronuntians"—that he would indeed light a hundred thousand candles, and at the expense of Philip, too. In August he devastated the Vexin with fire and sword, and as he rode across the hot embers of the burning city of Mantes, his horse stumbled, and he was wounded mortally by the high, iron pommel of the saddle.
"Qant jo, dist-il, releverai Dedeiz sa terre a messe irai Riche offrende li porterai Mille chandeles li ofrerai."
ROBERT WACE, ib.]
He came back dying to his castle of Rouen, and was there borne from the noisy streets of the city to the Priory of St. Gervais, where we have already visited the ancient crypt of St. Mellon. Here for some days he lay in pain, though without losing speech or consciousness, and sent for Anselm from Bec. But the prior himself was too ill to get further than St. Sever on his journey to his master. So the Conqueror disposed himself to death, giving much treasure to the rebuilding of churches both in France and England, bequeathing Normandy and Maine to Robert, and with a last strange movement of apparent compunction, leaving the throne of England in the hands of God:
"Non enim tantum decus hereditario jure possedi."
As to the crowning of his son William, he gave the final decision to Lanfranc. His youngest son, Henri Beauclerc, the truest Norman of them all, was given five thousand pounds in silver and the prophecy of future greatness. After releasing all the prisoners in his dungeons, the Conqueror lay on his couch in St. Gervais and heard the great bell of the Cathedral of Rouen ringing for prime on the morning of Thursday the ninth of September 1087. Upon the sound he offered up a prayer and died.
Within an hour his death-chamber was desolate and bare, and the corpse lay well-nigh naked. But the citizens of Rouen were sore troubled. "Malignus quippe spiritus oppido tripudiavit." The news travelled from Normandy to Sicily in the same day. The archbishop ordered that the body should be taken to Caen, and by the care of Herlwin this was done, and the dead Conqueror was floated down the Seine to burial. As the funeral procession passed through the town the streets burst into flame, and through the fire and smoke the monks walked with the bier, chanting the office of the dead. When the corpse reached the abbey, a knight objected to the burial, because the land had forcibly been taken from him. So the seven feet of the Conqueror's grave was bought, and, not without more hideous mishaps, the body of Rouen's greatest duke was at last laid to rest. In 1793 both the tomb and its contents were utterly destroyed.
Among the prisoners who were released at William's death was that half-brother, Odo of Bayeux, to whose skill and knowledge is due the marvellous pictorial record of the Bayeux Tapestry. Its inscriptions are in the Latin letters of the time, and its eleventh-century costumes, the short clothes easy to ride or run or fight, the arms depicted, the clean-shaved faces, are all very different to those which Orderic Vital describes as usual in the twelfth century. Neither Matilda the Queen, nor Matilda the Empress, could have embroidered the details on the border, and neither could have known so many facts as the Odo who was on the Council that advised invasion, who rallied the troops at Senlac when William was supposed to have been dead, who was made Regent of England, Count of Kent, and Bishop of Bayeux. It was to the advice of this rich, powerful, and intelligent prelate, that the new and feeble Duke Robert had to trust in the first year of his reign in Rouen. With all the vices of the Conqueror, Robert had neither his virtues nor his strength. The difficulties which met him first came from a cause too deep-seated for him to recognise either its value or its far-reaching issues.
[Footnote 20: According to Wace, Odo had been taken in the Isle of Wight and imprisoned in the "Tower of Rouen" for four years. See "Roman de Rou," v. 14,298.]
I have already described how the first attempts of Norman peasants to found a "commune" had been crushed with horrible brutality. The movement now began again. It is perhaps possible that the very pre-eminence of the Conqueror over all his barons helped to emphasise the fact that the feudality which he employed for his own uses only, and threw away when he had done with, was not to be an order of things fixed by any eternal providence. When the King rose at one end of the social framework the people naturally came into greater prominence at the other.
The truce of God, insisted upon by William himself, had helped to the same end. For every male of twelve years old swore to help the Bishop to keep that truce, and by degrees his parishioners combined to organise the safety of their town, "ex consensu parochianorum." They used the resources for which all subscribed, and placed them under the control of a "gardien de la Confrerie," or "fraternarum rerum custos." While these associations preserved the peace of the towns, the King was responsible for the peace of France. But the feeling of independence and the strength of union grew steadily among the citizens year by year. The rise of commerce, which has been already noticed in Rouen, also contributed to this. As cities grew in wealth, they became more and more desirous of escaping from feudal rapacity and of regulating their own affairs by magistrates chosen by themselves. In 1066 Le Mans had already done this. Ten years afterwards Cambrai followed the example. Noyon, Beauvais, Laon, Soissons, and many more clamoured for the charter of their liberty. In the absence of so many overlords at the Crusades the towns beneath the shadow of their castles seized the opportunity of strengthening their position. The same spirit of revolt began to work in Rouen as soon as the strong hand of the Conqueror was taken from the helm of government. But Rouen did not win her civic liberty until she had changed her own Norman dukes for the kings of France. The descendants of Duke William, feeble as they were, were still too near the feudal overlord to admit of rapid change. Yet the leaven was working already, and the disputes of the Conqueror's children fostered the unruly elements in the town.
Scarcely three years after Robert had attained the Duchy he quarrelled openly with his brother, the Red King of England; and Rouen was instantly in an uproar under Conan, a rich bourgeois, who probably sided with William Rufus, because he saw more chance of a commune under a distant king than in the presence of a duke at Rouen. In the days of the Conqueror there had been no tyrants or demagogues in the city, no armies in civic pay, no dealings of the citizens with other princes. But now the chance for an independent commonwealth seemed really to have come. However, the youngest brother, Henri Beauclerc, came from Cotentin to assist Robert in his difficulty, but not before the debauched and treacherous duke had been obliged to fly by the eastern gate of Robec into the faubourg of Malpalu, where he was cordially welcomed, and passed on to safety in St. Sever. Then Henri Beauclerc, "The Lion of Justice," took up the fighting for himself, swiftly beat back the soldiers of the Red King, threw Conan, the leader of the revolt, into the Tower of the Dukes by the Seine, and finally cast him down headlong from the battlements to die upon the stones beneath. The place preserved the name of "Saut de Conan" for many years, in the south-east corner of the Halles. So this first Artevelde of Rouen came to an untimely end. Henri Beauclerc, helped by Robert of Bellesme, one of the de Warrens (whose tomb is in the church of Wantage), and by the Count of Evreux, proved far too strong for him and for his companion in revolt, William, the son of Ansgar, who had to pay a vast ransom as the price of disobedience, while many of the rebellious citizens were massacred, and this immature attempt to form a commune ended.
The three brothers continued to quarrel, and to make it up again for some years. First, Robert and Rufus combine against Henry. Then Robert sends over troops to help the barons who were rebelling against his brother in England. Finally he went off with his Uncle Odo on the first crusade in 1096, pledging the Duchy in his absence to his brother the Red King, who, of course, seized it, and the real quarrel between England and France began. For when Normandy had been independent, Rouen blocked the road from Winchester to Paris. But as soon as it belonged outright either to one or to the other, the ancestral strife of French against English was certain to begin, and to go on. The revolt of Elias, Count of Maine, against the English King was repressed by his imprisonment—by Robert of Bellesme again—in the same Tour de Rouen that had seen the death of Conan. But Rufus never used his great gifts and power of ruling for anything but evil, and his brother Henry followed him, the husband of that descendant of Edmund and of Alfred who called herself Matilda at his coronation.
When the weak and incompetent Robert Short Hose returned from his crusading, he had the temerity to lay claim not merely to his Duchy but to the throne of England with it. He naturally lost both, at the battle of Tinchebray, where Henri Beauclerc won Normandy, and beat the Normans with his English soldiers. For many years Robert languished in English prisons until he died at Gloucester. And the Duchy he had lost throve infinitely under his brother's wise and prosperous rule, which gradually repressed more and more of the remnants of feudal anarchy and misrule. In 1114, his daughter Matilda gained her title of Empress by marriage with Henry V., but won her greatest fame by her second match—after this first husband's death with Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou, in 1125, from which Henry II. of England was to be born. But Henri Beauclerc was unfortunate in his other children. For in 1119 his sons, William and Richard, were drowned in the White Ship on their way to England. The occurrence caused a very painful and widespread sensation, for besides the brilliant young nobles of the suite, eighteen high-born ladies, many of them of royal blood, perished in the wreck. In Orderic Vital, in William of Malmesbury, in Henry of Huntingdon, the story is fully set forth. The captain was the son of that pilot who had steered William the Conqueror to Pevensey in the good ship "Mora" built at Rouen. The weather was calm and bright with moonlight, and as the young princes urged their captain to row harder after their father's ship, he took a short cut along the treacherous coast, and the boat split open on a rock on the night of the 25th of November. The only survivor was a butcher of Rouen, called Berold, or Gueroult as Robert Wace gives the name,
"Cil Gueroult de Roem esteit Machecrier ert, la char vendeit"....
and he was only preserved because of the thick clothes he wore through the frost of the night, to be rescued by some fishermen next morning.
"Un pelicon avit vestu Ki del grant freit l'ont defendu; Iver esteit, grant freit faiseit,"
says the "Roman de Rou" (15,319), so that in the Rue Massacre (close to the Rue Grosse Horloge) at Rouen, one home was gladdened with good news after a catastrophe that threw at least three courts into mourning, and gave the succession of the English throne to the great house of the Plantagenets of Maine.
Rouen had not remained entirely submissive to the Lion of Justice. In 1109 the King of France encouraged yet another rising of the citizens in Rouen and elsewhere against feudal power. And after the wreck of the White Ship, Fulk of Anjou took the opportunity to push the claims of Duke Robert's son both in England and Normandy, but the rebels were badly beaten at Bourgtheroulde (between Seine and Rille), and the Lion of Justice held a court in Rouen to judge them. Some were imprisoned in his Tower by the Seine, and some in Gloucester, while a satiric poet, named Luke of Barre, paid the penalty of being a pioneer in scoffing politics by having his eyes put out. At Henry's death in 1135, Matilda's infant heir was still very young at Le Mans, and the usual anarchy followed both in England and in Normandy that was inevitable when the direct male line of Norman Dukes died out. Of the two countries Normandy had perhaps the fate that was hardest to bear, for it was better to be ruled by any one than a Count of that Maine, with whom, as with an equal, so many centuries of battles had been fought. But the strong stock of Anjou and Maine soon took advantage of the weakness of the Northern Duchy, and in 1144 Geoffrey Plantagenet entered Rouen in triumph.
"Ceu fulmen ab alto,"
sings the poet,
"Neustria concutitur fulgure tacta novo."
To an inheritance so rich already, the boy Henry Plantagenet added all the dominions of Eleanor of Poitou by marriage, and after the anarchy of Stephen's reign in England had passed over, the Angevin Empire began from the Pyrenees to the Firth of Forth. At ten years old the second Henry had been recognised by Rouen as her duke, and it can be easily understood that the citizens used every advantage it was possible to win from the years of his minority, and from the days of uncertain authority before it. Already under Henri Beauclerc the municipality of Rouen had obtained ampler recognition than before. Its population increased accordingly, and was augmented by the extension of freedom to a considerable number of serfs. The bounds of the city itself were enlarged, and from the fact that a fire is recorded (in November 1131) to have destroyed the Hotel de Ville, near the Porte Massacre, in the Rue de la Grosse Horloge, we may gather that the municipality, whose rights in property were recognised, had been able to secure a common meeting-place for the discussion of its civic business. By 1150 these meetings had resulted in a league, definitely made by the burgesses, to defend their rights against all feudal encroachments, a league which very nearly deserves that name of "Commune" at last, which was apparently first given in Normandy to Eu and to St. Quentin. Geoffrey Plantagenet, during his government of the Duchy for his son, had recognised the strength of this civic movement, by confirming the privileges of the citizens, and favouring the growth of this industrial corporation. In May of that same year the first law court of the town, as opposed to feudal or ecclesiastical justice, was also established, and called the Vicomte de l'Eau. It had the charge of all civil and criminal cases by river and by land, and kept the standard of the weights and measures. Its importance may be judged from the fact that in the hands of the merchants of Rouen was the monopoly of all wines sent by Seine or sea towards the north. The Confrerie of these "Marchands de l'eau" had been accorded a special port, known as Dunegate, at Thames' mouth, by Edward the Confessor, and their monopoly extended also to the whole trade between Normandy and Ireland, a trade they kept until the reign of Philip Augustus.
Other corporations were also rapidly increasing in strength and importance. The tanners, whose especial church was St. Martin Sur Renelle, received the charter of their privileges from Henry II. of England. The "savetiers" and "cordonniers" enjoyed privileges that were more ancient still, which were confirmed in 1371, in 1660, and in 1715. The "cordonniers" were united in the confrerie of St. Crepin at the Church of St. Laurent. The "savetiers" joined the confrerie of the Holy Trinity at the Abbey of St. Amand. The Church of St. Croix des Pelletiers still preserves the traditions of another confrerie, that of the "Pelletiers-fourreurs," whose statutes dated from Henri Beauclerc. By 1171 the "Marchands de l'eau" secured a still further extension of their privileges through the French King Louis VII. They were allowed to come up as far as Pecq to load their barges without interference from the Parisian confrerie, whose commerce was limited to the same point. Forty years afterwards the two confreries united to make the best possible for each out of the commerce of the Seine; and the effects of reciprocity became evident so soon, that even in 1180 the merchants of Rouen and of Paris had already come to an agreement as to the transport of the salt from the mouth of the river which formed so important a part of every Norman landowner's revenue.
This gradual increase in self-confidence and power in Rouen soon proved of direct importance to the King of England in a somewhat curious way. For when the King of France had roused one of the English royal princes to revolt, and Henry Plantagenet himself was obliged to come to Normandy to the rescue of his besieged capital, it was by the ringing of the bell that hung in the town belfry that the city was saved from a sudden attack by the French forces that must have proved successful. This was the famous bell known as "Rouvel," which rings the alarum henceforth at every crisis in the history of the town, and its first public service to the municipality, which had hung it where the Grosse Horloge stands, was richly rewarded by King Henry. He freed the citizens of all duty on their goods on both sides of the Channel, he freed them from taxation and from forced labour, he confirmed their ancient privileges, and—most important of all—he gave them an established court of law, composed of burgesses, and presided over by a "Bailli."
When once the impulse had been given in the right direction, it is astonishing to notice how fast were the developments of civic freedom and of commerce which go henceforth hand-in-hand throughout the story of the town. When the last sad years of Henry's perpetual struggle with his sons were over, neither of them dared to infringe the privileges he had so solemnly granted or confirmed to the municipality of Rouen. The accession of the Lionheart was signalised in the Cathedral chapterhouse by the characteristic gift of three hundred barrels of wine, which the canons and the archbishops were to claim from the Vicomte de l'Eau, and this privilege the good ecclesiastics thoroughly enjoyed until the middle of the sixteenth century. The jurisdiction of the Vicomte de l'Eau itself, and of the new "Baillage" and the "Maire," was further developed and established in 1192; and the quarrels that are so persistent throughout the history of Rouen, between the civil and ecclesiastical authorities, found their expression two years later in a renewed and fiercely contested struggle about the rights over the Parvis of the Cathedral. The canons, as usual, held their own, and in the same year asserted their still more extraordinary right of releasing a prisoner by virtue of the Privilege of the Fierte of St. Romain, by giving their freedom to two men, on the return of Richard from the Holy Land, because the privilege had not been exercised during his imprisonment abroad. There is an extremely fine impression in wax of one of Richard Coeur de Lion's seals in the archives of Rouen, which is one of the few still existing in which he is represented on one side as the King sitting upon the throne of England, and on the other as the Duke of Normandy riding in full armour against his foes. His is a character that gains from the mystery of romance cast over it. His career in France shows little that is creditable either to his head or heart.
In 1197 the same spirit of assertive independence was evidenced in the building of stone crosses in all parts of the city, which lasted until 1562, and recorded that their Duke, Richard had bought the manor of Andelys and the rock for his Chateau Gaillard from the Archbishop of Rouen, at the price of two of the town's public mills, the manor of Louviers, the towns of Dieppe and Bouteilles, and the forest of Aliermont. The bargain had not been struck without great agitation, interdicts on the town, and outcries from laymen and ecclesiastics alike. But it was well worth any trouble and treasure, and the Lionheart's "saucy castle" became the key of Normandy. His miserable brother John would never have lost the Duchy had he kept the fort. But his reign was ever destined to failure and discredit, and after the murder of Prince Arthur, which is said to have taken place within the Tower of Rouen by the Seine, had added gross impolicy to unpardonable crime, the last descendant of Rollo, who was both a King of England and a Duke of Normandy, fell before the power of the King of France. Rouen surrendered to Philip Augustus, and Normandy became a French province. The change had been an easy one, for John was far more Angevin and English than he was Norman, and his Duchy was no longer the home that William the Conqueror had made a terror to his neighbours.
Englishmen might indeed regret the loss of that motherland of heroes which had conquered Sicily and England too, and mourn to see her seven great cities, her strong castles, her stately minsters, and her Teutonic people in a Roman land, all under the yoke of kings whom Duke William had beaten at Varaville, and King Henry had conquered at Noyon. But the loss was England's gain. It meant not only that England was united under a really English king, but that her Norman nobles had become her own Englishmen. Far more had resulted from the immigration from the Continent, led by the Conqueror, than is usually appreciated. Its results were not merely such tangible documents as that charter of the liberties of London, signed by the great Duke of Rouen, which is still the most cherished possession of the archives of the City. William's soldiers were swiftly followed by peaceful invaders far more numerous, whose influence was far more widespreading. Not only did every Norman baron and abbot bring his own company of chosen artists and craftsmen with him from France, but "many of the citizens and merchants of Rouen," says the chronicler, "passed over, preferring to be dwellers in London, inasmuch as it was fitter for their trading, and better stored with the merchandise in which they were wont to traffic." One concrete example of the resulting growth of trade may be quoted. Before the Conquest, weaving had not been practised in England as a separate craft for the market. By 1165 we find a kind of corporation of weavers at Winchester, who preserved their own customs almost as closely as the Jews, contributed independently (like other aliens) to fiscal demands, and even chose their own aldermen. Almost the only name that remains to us of those ancient "portreeves" of London, who were the predecessors of its mayors, is that of Gilbert Beket, a burgher of Rouen, whose son Thomas was afterwards the martyr of Canterbury. No doubt these wealthy immigrants assisted in the growth of the English towns, both in commerce and in freedom. The army, the navy, the universities, trade, and education, as we know them, had no real existence in England before the Conquest. The Normans brought in not only the most permanent, but the most important invasion of alien immigrants, who affected and directed the development of English habits and character, and of the English constitution. There is little wonder that William had no lack of followers in his attempt, for the England of the eleventh century must have appealed to the Normans, the Picards, and Burgundians, of his mingled company, much as South Africa still calls our younger sons to-day, as a land of the promise of indefinite success.
But a still further, and an even less recognised source of wealth that was a direct result of Duke William's invasion, may be found in the settlement of Jewish traders who followed him from Normandy, and especially from Rouen. These were the capitalists, who helped the King of England to collect his revenue in money rather than in kind. Though liable to special fiscal exactions, they were protected by the King from many of the taxes imposed upon their neighbours. They were established, as they had been elsewhere in Europe, in separate "Jewries," or places kept apart for them in every city. Never having been allowed to possess either land or the rights of citizenship, their wealth was nearly always in gold. The Jews, indeed, were already the capitalists of Europe. Many a castle and cathedral alike owed its existence to their loans. Everyone at once abhorred yet could not do without them. In Rouen their history is soon marked by massacre and crime. As soon as Duke Robert had gone to the Crusades in 1096, the townsmen rose against the inhabitants of the Rue aux Juifs, and murdered numbers of men with their wives and children. The great fire that took place in the Parish of St. Lo, between 1116 and 1126, may very likely have been caused by another attack of the same kind. In any case, it was the unhappy Jews who paid the penalty; and still more trouble must have been caused by the fire already mentioned in 1131 which raged round the Porte Massacre, close to their quarter. When Philip Augustus drove them all out of France in 1182, the town of Rouen seized the opportunity to take possession of the synagogue and houses in the Rue aux Juifs, and the Jews were only allowed to return sixteen years afterwards, on the payment of large sums of money. In 1202 they were again mercilessly "bled" by King John, and the protection naturally accorded by this needy prince to their usurious practices was bitterly resented by the burghers.
The fires that were of such continual occurrence even in the small space of the Jews' quarter were by no means confined, unfortunately, to that part of the city. I have had to notice several times already the repeated devastation caused in this way to a town that was still chiefly built of wood, and in the last days of the Norman Dukes the ravages of fire were exceptionally widespread and pitiless. The year 1116 was a peculiarly fatal one, and only ten years afterwards flames broke out in the Rue des Carmes, and devoured both the Abbey of St. Amand and the Abbey of St. Ouen, while the Cathedral itself only just escaped, and an earthquake that immediately followed the fire completed the destruction of what little had been left standing within its area. But the Metropolitan Church which had been struck by lightning and injured in 1117, was not spared by the soldiers of Geoffrey of Anjou in 1136; and before the end of the century the whole of the building that William the Conqueror had seen consecrated before the invasion of England was destroyed by the flames on Easter Eve, and of the Cathedral built by his Bishop Maurilius where the Lion Heart received his crusading sword and banner from the Archbishop Gautier, nothing now remains except the lower part of the Tour St. Romain. In that same terrible year of 1200 the first shrine of St. Maclou was also burnt to the ground with several other churches, and the fire swept through the southern parts of the city to the river itself, and even set alight some buildings of the Tour de Rouen which the Norman dukes had built, though the chapel must have been saved, for it is recorded that in 1203 this building was given to his chancellor by John Lackland. But the ancient donjon to which Henri Beauclerc had added the palace standing where the Halles are now, and the fortifications which were erected near the spot by the same Duke, whose walls were strong enough to resist for three months a close siege by Geoffrey Plantagenet after the faubourg of St. Sever had been ruined, all this was utterly destroyed by Philip Augustus in 1204, and the Chateau of the French Kings was built near the Porte Bouvreuil where the donjon still remains that preserves the most shameful record in the story of the town. Rouen has kept no memory of its native dukes.
All this will explain how it was that the French King began his rule in a Rouen that was almost as stripped of buildings as the Rotomagus that Rollo took. But there was the vital difference that the "unarmed crowd" had been replaced by burgesses conscious of their strength, by confreries whose privileges and statutes did not depend on bricks and mortar, and by citizens who had just begun to realise the value of their civic independence. The Knights Templars had of course their own commanderie in so important a centre of industry and wealth, but all vestiges of their habitation were swept away when the order was so mercilessly suppressed by Philippe-le-Bel. I have shown elsewhere that by 1312 this order had become as much the bankers of Europe as were the Jews of a century before, and that the charges of witchcraft had merely been trumped up by royal debtors who preferred hanging their creditors to paying their bills. The sign of the Barde or Barge Royale, now in the Musee des Antiquites is the only remnant of the Templars left in Rouen. A "Commanderie" that lasted far longer in the town was that of St. Antoine, which was established in 1095 to care for those suffering from the horrible disease known as St. Anthony's Fire. It continued its good work until 1790. Another foundation that had its origin in the same charitable instincts was the Hospital of the Mont-aux-Malades, founded to care for cases of the terrible leprosy brought back by the Crusaders from the East. This was first instituted by the citizens themselves in 1131, and a few years afterwards was placed under the care of a priory of Augustinian monks. The Church of St. Gilles was then founded on the same spot, and the hospital's funds were increased by Guillaume Baril of St. Maclou. In 1162, Henry II. of England still further added to the revenues of the priory and hospital by giving it the rent and privileges of the Foire de St. Gilles with half of the octroi duty. It was to be held for a week on the first of September every year, and fourteen years afterwards the same king rebuilt the hospital entirely and placed the new church under the patronage of St. Thomas of Canterbury.
This church is one of the few buildings of the time before Philip Augustus that you may still see. To reach it you go up the Rue Cauchoise, along the Rue St. Gervais, past the Abbey of St. Gervais, where the Conqueror died, and where the old crypt of St. Mellon still exists, then up a long and steep hill, on whose very summit is a village street with a broad iron railing that opens to your right into a pretty avenue of limes, with the worn steps of an old stone cross or fountain to the left of the church inside. At first you will be shocked and disappointed by the hideous modern restoration of the west front, with its side aisles, that are but poor specimens of pointed architecture. But go boldly inside and you will see the church of good, plain Norman work, dedicated by King Henry to the memory of the murdered English archbishop, and built by his chamberlain, Roscelin. The original building had the simple nave with its apse beyond, that we shall see on the other side of the town of St. Julien. There is a further disappointment in store when you find the incongruous windows inserted in the chancel and the aisles that were added later on to the original nave. To understand what has happened you must go to the outside of the east end, and there you will see how the old round Norman apse was cut off, and a squared end was stuck on instead with a large pointed window, and how a new outside roof was clumsily fitted on to cover both the aisles and the nave as well, a job so badly calculated that the tops of the eastern aisle-windows on both sides show above the line of roof, and the openings themselves are blocked. When I saw it in 1897 the church was in process of being joined on to the religious buildings which surround it, and the closed eastern openings had been altered, in the north aisle to a round-headed recess, and in the south aisle to the altar of a chapel. But the five round-headed Norman arches of the nave remain, with the four smaller ones in the choir. Above the nave arches are five narrow round-arched windows which do not correspond with the pillars beneath, but are merely holes in a thick wall instead of spaces between vaulting-shafts, as they are in the perfect Gothic of St. Ouen. But even so these windows are far better than the incongruous pointed work in the newer aisles. There is no transept, and the roof is a plain vault. The round columns, too, are quite plain, with slight carving here and there upon the capitals. And this is all that is left of the church which Henry II. ordered to be built in 1176.